In a virtual Black Lives Matter Youth event that took place on June 30, elected officials and activists agreed racism in this country is systemic.
The program was hosted by CEO and founder of I’RAISE Girls & Boys Int’l Corporation, Shanequa Moore. Moore was joined by Councilman Andy King, Breaion King, star of the Oscar-nominated documentary “Traffic Stop,” Shania Chisholm, I’RAISE ambassador and Katelyn Cai, Miss Arizona’s Outstanding Teen 2019.
The panel spoke about racial inequity and discussed strategies for community and legislative change and best practices for engaging youth leaders.
“It’s [racism] a system, so it does require systemic changes,” Moore said.
The councilman said Floyd’s death was the kick in the pants that everyone needed to see the blatant racism that exists today. People do not just wake up one day and become a racist, he explained. It’s usually in their family or environment.
He said too often people, especially cops, are afraid of someone because of their skin color and that should not be the case. King noted that not every cop is racist or bad but every police officer is not qualified to be one.
“Racism is the makeup of the United States of America,” King said.
In 2015, Breaion King was pulled over for speeding and then violently assaulted and arrested by a police officer. While in custody, the cop blatantly admitted to being a racist. Eventually the charges were dropped and the policemen were fired.
While it has been five years since the incident, her life will never be the same. She had tremors and PTSD.
“I didn’t realize it could happen to me,” she explained.
King said the small percentage of cops who are racist ruin it for the rest. Moreover, police need mental health training and education on how to treat people.
Someone should not be a threat because of their skin color, she said.
“One rotten apple does spoil the bunch,” she remarked. “We have to cut the head off the snake. We need them, but we also need them to do their job.”
She questioned why cops typically don’t get fired for being bad at their jobs when most other people would get fired. King added that cop get away with murder and stay employed, while people in other professions lose jobs all of the time.
However, she said that defunding the police is not the answer. Instead, local government should hold police officers accountable for their actions.
“I pray for Sandra Bland’s family,” she said. “I pray for Trayvon Martin’s family. We’re all going through this as a nation. We need to love ourselves.”
Chisolm, who grew up in a violent area of the Bronx, is a cosmologist, entrepreneur and a freshman at Lehman College.
She said as a young black female she faces challenges that white people do not. Chisholm felt that people often look at her and other black people with a lower standard.
“They see your color before they actually get to know you,” Chisholm said. “I feel like that’s disrespectful and degrading. Unless you know who I am, you cannot judge me based on what you see.”
According to Chisholm, she feels if she dresses appropriately for a job interview but has her hair in an afro people will look at her strange and not hire her.
With a dream of having her own business one day, she hopes people start to see people for who they are and not their skin color.
“We’ve been stuck for a while because we don’t understand and it’s sad in my eyes,” she said.
Cai said although she is not black, she and others like her must do their best to engage with African Americans and try to grasp what they have gone through.
“If you aren’t Black or African American you really can’t understand their experiences,” Cai explained. “I don’t want my generation or my kids to grow up in a world of racism.”