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We need you NOW to stand with us for Ahmaud Arbery

I want to start this off by saying happy birthday to Mr. Ahmaud Arbery. Ahmaud, you’re a man who should be here today. An all-American athlete, and kind and loving person as described by family. I’m not going by these false media reports and narratives working to put you, the victim, on trial. In my course at American University entitled Intercultural Communication, we talk about a wide range of issues from Islamophobia and homophobia to anti-Semitism and sexism. One of our sections deals with #blacklivesmatter and unarmed killings of people, primarily of black people by law enforcement, but also in situations like this as well as the case with Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, who were slain by vigilantes. I stopped watching videos of black people being slain until it’s time to teach this course so I have not watched the video of Ahmaud Arbery being slain.

One of the questions that I ask to my majority white students in class is the same question I’m asking you if you are not black: do you see yourself or your family members or people you know who are not black in those same situations? And the overwhelming response for the majority of my students is that they do not. And this is where the problem lies. This thing we call common humanity, many people don’t have it as it relates to black people. There’s still this mentality of “Well, he must have done something…” or “Well if he wasn’t running…” then Arbery would still be alive. These questions are never asked of white people.

There is always a reason to justify black death because we all don’t see ourselves in the lives of black people. People don’t see themselves in our predicament. When I see somebody get killed who’s Jewish in an antisemitic attack, I see myself and people I know in that situation. When I see somebody get attacked and beaten or bullied because they’re gay, I see myself in that situation even though I’m not gay because they’re human beings. As Dr. Maya Angelou said that, we’re human beings so nothing should be foreign to us. If we are going to find common ground in these uncommon times, I need you to start seeing your own children, your own mother, your own father, and your own brothers and sisters in these situations and really take a deep reflective stance as to how you’re going to be an upstander for all humanity. If all lives really matter, then we need you to join the fight to prove it!

The Arbery tragedy is every day for us. Many of us don’t even click on these videos anymore because we’re tired and it hurts in our soul. A recent study spoke about how racism itself should be considered a disease or linked to disease because of the way it shortens our lives. Do you think about this if you are not black? Do you just call yourself an “ally” and call it a day? We don’t need allies right now. I don’t believe in allies. I believe that the term allies has become a very arrogant term. And it’s the term that people have used to act like they’re kind of better than people. Allies go to sports games, cheer their home team, and go home. We need people to see common humanity and do something about it!

We have to get out there and do the work. We need all of you to get out there. Keep Ahmaud in mind when you’re running because he can’t run anymore. Keep Ahmaud in mind when you get out and exercise. Keep him in mind when you’re out there doing your best and forgetting the rest. Think about his parents and think about his mom on Mother’s Day, his father and Father’s Day and all of the people out there from the Sandra Blands to the Trayvon Martins of the world. Live and fight for the people who we won’t be able to get back.

We don’t have time to wait. We need you to get out there with us in solidarity because we are human beings and we deserve that respect that we have given to so many of you all across diverse communities around the world. That support has always been shown, oftentimes at the expense of our own community and now we’re asking for just a little of that back. I think that’s the least that many of you out there can do. We’re not waiting for you. Whenever you’re ready, come out and hit the streets, hit the airwaves, hit whatever with us because we are hitting it hard to get justice for Mr. Ahmad Arbery and so many other people. So I say to Mr. Arbery, rest in peace and rest in power. Whenever the rest of you are ready to join us in this common fight for humanity and dignity and decency, you have a place with us. Peace.

Melania Trump’s Be Best program is a farce for marginalized youth

This week, First Lady, Melania Trump is celebrating the one year anniversary of her Be Best campaign, an initiative designed to focus on overall wellbeing for young people, help end the opioid epidemic, and stop social media bullying. It’s so easy to talk about the fact that the third aspect of it, ending social media bullying, is a policy with no teeth because she has no ability to check her husband who was called people online everything from “sleepy” and “low IQ” to “horseface” and a “dog” all within the year that this campaign was launched. Beyond the faux-social media bullying platform, however, there are other serious flaws with the other aspects of Melania Trump’s initiative; youth well-being and the opioid crisis.

The Trump administration put forth a good sum of money towards ending the opioid epidemic, but only a small portion of the funds have actually been released, therefore the work needed on the ground to fully challenge the epidemic is not at full capacity. In the area of improving overall youth well-being, let’s look at what’s happening with our kids. Be Best is working with Department of Education on parts of its initiatives. Right now under Secretary of Education Betsy Devos, there are cutbacks to many different programs designed to help children.

The Department of Education is making it harder for students with disabilities to get access to services in schools. They’re making it harder for students who are labeled severe emotionally disturbed and have other mental challenges to get assistance. They are rolling back civil rights work that was designed to ensure that our children can be treated fairly in school. Add to this lack of support teachers receive and one can see how every day, the Trump administration has worked with to make sure that our children cannot “be best” in school.

Outside of school, it is still challenging for youth who come from marginalized communities to “be best.” For example, President Trump consistently touts the job numbers, even though job growth was larger under President Obama. Few seem to report the fact that, in Chicago for example, the black male youth unemployment rate is at 45%. Without access to jobs, many of these youth are heading to street activity, which would of course lead to increases in crime, that President Trump and his supporters love to mention when discussing the plight of America’s inner cities. Should not African American youth be considered part of the Be Best well-being program?

The fact of the matter is that marginalized youth have been targeted under the Trump administration. Children are being separated at borders, families are being evicted from homes at record rates, and poorer people live under the daily possibility that they may lose what little health insurance they may have received from the Affordable Care Act. Our children are suffering for across the country. They’re suffering in the streets and in our schools, and it is shameful that the media and so many other outlets out there simply watch this go by and look at it as some type of joke.

When I first saw Be Best rolled out, which was the playoff for someone to work, Michelle Obama was doing, I thought the media was going to do its job and called out the hypocrisy that it represents. Unfortunately, the media wants to be engaged in this farce of we call the presidency. When I say “farce”, I am calling it a farce for the marginalized I’m calling it a farce. For the people who feel like they’re working hard every day and they’re getting played as from healthcare to tax policy. Just look at what’s happening to Gold Star families and the GOP tax plan is hurting them.

My hope is that those who are out there, particularly those of us who are educators, will to continue to do our work every single day to uplift our children and, help them really be the best they can be because we have an administration that has turned their backs on them at every single juncture. It is really unfortunate because education is supposed to be the great equalizer, but this an administration that scoffs at the idea of public education and everyone being able to live their best lives. We should not be celebrating Be Best. We need to be doing the real work on the ground to really help our children be the best that they can be because the Trump administration is putting them in situations and conditions where they can only be their worst, and I know that we can and do better as a nation. Let’s get out there and do the work because our government has failed us miserably.