From the BSU: We are strong, but with you, we are stronger

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Vanessa Martinez

Andre Diaz Jr '20 and Jordan Noeuku '21 attended a youth rally for Black Lives Matter at San Francisco City Hall.

By Na’im Pierce ‘21, Co-President of Riordan’s Black Student Union 

During our time away from one another, while sheltering in place, different events have occurred on a global scale, ranging from 100,000 plus deaths from the coronavirus to the re-emerging importance of racial issues. 

With the recent death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, the importance and safety of Black lives has once again become a prominent issue in America and the world. In the month of May alone, at least three Black individuals, male and female, have fallen victim to police brutality or murder and are still awaiting justice. 

As a young African American male, witnessing the murders of other Black people and the overall racism and hate in the world has been heavy and taxing personally. It is also upsetting to know that individuals feel as if they can mock and laugh at the circumstances I live through every day, through dehumanizing language and promoting a flag that is backed by a hateful group and is stained with the blood of my stolen Kings and Queens of the African continent. These gestures strike emotions so deep that it reaches and feeds generations of hate. 

But racism is not always overt. It is often hidden within the education system and used to make terrible historical figures seem as if they were the heroes. Racism in our society is evident in complaints about tearing down statues and retiring flags that represent oppression, not culture.  

Although the Black students at Riordan are few, we are strong. Although we are strong, we need your strength, too.  Although many adults on campus have reached out to the BSU to support us as a club and as individuals, we need more. We  cannot profess “Strength in Brotherhood” when some eyes are turned away from the brothers who need your help. The community as a whole needs to be united and supportive of students of color. The Black Lives Matter movement and many recent statements addressing the ongoing issues are not just because of the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmad Arbury, but the thousands who have been slain before them and the ones who will fall after unless something is done. 

Another important concept to acknowledge is the message being delivered when responding to #blacklivesmatter with #alllivesmatter. The statement is used to diminish the importance and sanctity of Black lives. All lives cannot matter until Black lives matter, until Native people’s lives matter, until LatinX lives matter, until Asian lives matter, and until Middle Eastern lives matter.  When people of color say our lives matter, it is not saying yours does not, but saying that our lives, like yours, also matter and we need your help to save our lives. It is simply not enough to just say Black lives matter, but you must also change your actions and habits. Think first before you ask that LatinX person if they speak Spanish; think first before you ask an Asian person if they are from China; think first before making comments on Muslim headwear; think first before you ask a Black girl if you can touch her hair;  and think first before you ask other presumptuous questions to members of different ethnic groups based on racial ideologies. 

As a community, we are quick to come together and fight for climate change or other issues, but stray away from fighting for racial inequality. We are quick to accuse racism when statements are made about building a wall or “the Chinese virus,” and although these statements are truly racist, Black men, women, and children are still seen as the assailant and are portrayed as the true instigators of their unfortunate life-threatening circumstances. 

While it’s great to see many other racial/ethnic/religious groups, big corporations, foreign countries, and communities coming to show support with physical demonstrations or monetary donations to the Black Lives Matter movement, it is also heartbreaking to know we must prove to others that our lives are worth living in the first place. This message is not intended to target or offend specific people, but to inform you of my personal feelings and what other Black people experience their entire lives. However, if you are offended by this statement, myself and other Black people ask that you reflect on your own self-awareness, as you may be playing a role in continuing to oppress Black people and other people of color.