Photo by Kayla Sim
A local activist who is a Georgia native and is studying public relations gives us thorough tips on how to affect change at a grassroots level and shares their lived experiences. Change starts from within—to see large scale effects it is pivotal to start with your own community. This interviewee has wished to remain anonymous, to amplify the message and make space for minority voices instead.
Jaiden: What movements pique your interest the most and why?
Anon: Since I was a young teenager, I was aware that there were racial tensions in America, and I knew that people of color faced serious threats in their everyday lives. I felt desensitized to it. It was just a part of life—not my life. It was the killing of Ahmaud Arbery that really began to heighten things in my mind. I saw the video, heart shattering isn’t even close to the way it made me feel. That’s when I started educating myself, and I learned about the Vera Institute, whose mission statement is to end mass incarceration, which was implemented as a legalized institution of slavery against black men. That organization means the most to me, because mass incarceration and the school-to-prison-pipeline is probably the most important issue to address.
Jaiden: Was there a moment while participating in a movement, protest or event that moved you?
Anon: I spoke at a Town Hall meeting over the summer in support of removing a confederate monument from our downtown area. After speaking, I was generally well received by the audience. Walking back to my seat, I got snide comments from the crowd that was opposed to removing the statue. They called me “racist” “,communist” “,fascist,” you name it. However, when I sat back down, an older white man approached me and began yelling in my face, telling me that my college degree wasn’t worth anything and that I needed to get a better education. Usually, I think I’d fold under that kind of scrutiny, but I felt so strongly that I was right that it didn’t bother me. I told him to leave me alone, and a kind gentlemen walked to me and sat behind me, saying he was going to sit there until the meeting was over in case someone tried to hurt me.
Jaiden: How do you feel our youth will overcome societal issues and enact change?
Anon: I think that our generation has been very fortunate to have the access to the things that we do. It reminds me of the anti-war movement in Vietnam that gained popularity after the war was largely televised, broadcasting the evils of war into living rooms across America. Things don’t seem so bad if we don’t know about the evils. With our access to the internet, the world is smaller than it ever has been, and we can see injustices firsthand, then we can act accordingly.
Jaiden: What are some similarities and differences in the movements and protests from the past? How do you think our generation has reinvented it?
Anon: I think the motive is fairly similar. It can be boiled down to one word: equality. In the 1960s, it was about enfranchisement and equal protection under the law. While recognizing that disenfranchisement in black communities is still a large issue that needs to be addressed, the movement has shifted from equal protection under the law to equal protection from the law.
Jaiden: Do you have any current plans geared towards contemporary movements and making change?
Anon: Right now, I am more focused on listening. I think I talk a lot and can sometimes speak over people, and I recognize that. For now, I am taking a step back and listening.
Jaiden: How has being involved in making a change benefited you as a person? Has participating in such emotional movements placed a strain on your mental health?
Anon: I would classify this as an overall good change to myself. Five years ago, I’d probably say that race relations aren’t a pressing issue. That was my privilege and ignorance talking. I think I’m more aware of my own issues and I feel that I can address them much more effectively.
Jaiden: How do you feel as a whole we could improve on racial injustice issues?
Anon: As I mentioned earlier, simply listening. White people have a bad habit of speaking over POC, whether that be due to white guilt or a savior complex. We are trying so hard to be allies that we are unintentionally causing harm. Take a step back and listen and understand.
Jaiden: In this political climate, how do you feel society can come together and overcome division?
Anon: I think that the prevalence of social media has been more helpful than harmful. People are seeing the injustices on camera and there is no way to ignore it. Positive discourse and an attempt to educate rather than ridicule can help even the most disconnected individuals understand.
Jaiden: How do you take time for yourself and recoup during stressful times?
Anon: I am in school right now, and it’s completely online. I have not been able to be as active in these movements as I wish I could be, but focusing on my schoolwork has been helpful in terms of escapism. Reaching deadlines, completing assignments, attending Zoom meetings every day has been all on my mind right now and it has helped me take a step away from the dreariness of the world, but I know I can’t be distracted forever.
Jaiden: Lastly, do you have any advice or other comments you’d like to share?
Anon: I’m a white woman and I know that white women have a tendency to speak for the experience of all women. We need to understand that our struggles as women are not related to our race, and women of color have a world of experiences that we aren’t able to understand.