Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. Nina Pop. George Floyd. Tony McDade… Say their names and remember them and all the Black people who have lost their lives to police brutality. Say their names and remind yourself (if it was not already obvious to you) that the U.S. is built upon the exploitation of Black and Indigenous bodies – the pain that you see erupt in recent protests has accumulated over generations. Say their names and insist that Black Lives Matter even and especially when people complain, “But also…” Because Black lives matter.
At NYRA, we advocate for the liberation of all young people. This includes young people who are Black, Indigenous, or otherwise people of color (a.k.a. BIPOC); who are transgender or queer or women; who are poor or working-class; who are disabled; who experience ageism compounded with other forms of oppression and marginalization. NYRA recognizes that Black youth, who are disproportionately targeted, penalized, or even killed in schools and communities, will not be fully liberated until racism is completely dismantled from U.S. society. Thus we stand by those who are protesting unchecked police brutality and exposing the racism in U.S. law enforcement and judicial systems.
Many of those who have been demonstrating both in-person and online are young people angry about insidious structural racism in our society that impacts them or people they know. Some protests have been organized by people under 18 (for example, in Anchorage, AL and Appleton, WI). Other actions are being led and championed by college students such as those at University of Minnesota (UMN). On Friday, May 29th, several hundred UMN students participated in a rally to protest the murder of George Floyd and the racism and excess use of force in the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD). UMN had already severed some of its longtime collaboration with the MPD, but students demanded further reduction of the power of the police both on campus and in the city at large.
During the rally, University of Minnesota Police Department officers intruded in full riot gear with assault rifles, sparking outrage that has led UMN students to campaign further this week against the threatening presence of police on campus. The struggles at UMN show clearly that issues of youth oppression and anti-Black racism intersect: excessive policing in educational institutions can impact all young people (see our Policing and Punishment in Schools page), but it especially harms Black youth, who are led to fear for their lives.
As someone who has been with NYRA for a year and has learned about the history of the organization from others, I realize that NYRA was not built to confront racism and other issues of oppression, though they intersect with ageism and are brutal realities for many young people. The faces that are most prominent on our website homepage are white. We are a flawed organization, and it will take honest self-reflection, difficult dialogue, and deep commitment to action in order to deconstruct the inequities embedded in our practices and generate ways of functioning that uphold integrity and social justice.
As a young, nonbinary, non-Black person of color, I know how crucial it is for the movement of youth rights and liberation to come out of the sidelines of the broader fight for justice. I also understand the importance of naming my unearned privileges and using them for the benefit of those without such privileges. I challenge you – especially older white folks – to also examine your privileges and positionality, and with them in mind, to act deeply.
In these times of crisis, we all must offer our help in whatever ways we can. If you are able to, please sign petitions, make calls, participate in protests, donate money and other resources, and support people you know who have been physically or emotionally impacted by what is going on, especially people who are Black. Movements for liberation do not operate in isolation: we must fight together for freedom for all.
Some useful links:
75 Things White People Can Do For Racial Justice
National Center of Youth Law’s message to youth demonstrators
Directory of Community Bail Funds
9 Black LGBTQ organizations to support right now (Nina Pop and Tony McDade are among numerous Black transgender people who have been murdered by police and subsequently misgendered and deadnamed by media)
UMN student campaign to defund the police
Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? (currently free ebook)