Acknowledging Social Injustice in America: In Times of Chaos We Need to Find the Helpers by Whitney Hudson
Many have heard the quote by Mr. Rogers, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping,’” and it has comforted many of us during scary and unsure times.
But right now when I turn on my television, I am having a difficult time figuring out who those helpers are. It is chaos. People are vandalizing buildings, violence is breaking out across the nation and the police in the videos are often those causing the hurt. So who do we turn to?
I would expect a unifying message from our government that acknowledges the pain and discusses the next steps the nation needs to take, so we can get on the road to healing. But no message has come. The recent tweets from our president seems to have added fuel to the fire. So, who do we turn to?
On May 31, 2020, in New York City, I attended a vigil for George Floyd. It was hosted by my state senator, Robert Jackson. He asked everyone to practice social distancing and wear their masks, as a reminder that during the fight for justice against police brutality, we are also in the midst of a pandemic. In attendance were local social justice advocate groups and as many people of all different ages, colors and backgrounds as can be found in my local Washington Heights neighborhood.
We also had a handful of other elected officials there to speak, including the Manhattan borough president, Gale Brewer, our house representative, Adriano Espaillat, and New York City council member Mark Levine. Each acknowledged the pain that people are feeling right now.
They acknowledged the police brutality that snuffed out George Floyd’s life and then read the names of 38 other black and brown individuals who lost their lives from police violence. They acknowledged that at the root of all of this pain is systematic racism. They acknowledged that the protests in New York City over the last two days had shown that many in the police were once again answering these cries with excessive force. They acknowledged that we need to do better.
They said that they are angry, they are listening, and they will be conferencing over the next few days to come up with legislation to work on correcting the injustices of police violence on the local, state and federal levels. That is what we need right now. We need people in positions of power to acknowledge our country’s pain, the pain of the black and brown community, and to say, we need fundamental change.
If we take a step back and a big deep breath, we will see that although there is chaos, there are also helpers. Look for the videos of police who decided to take a knee with the protesters in a show of solidarity. Look for the videos of volunteers showing up to clean neighborhoods that were burned or looted the night before. Look to the journalists who are on the front lines, making sure that the protests are documented. Look to your representatives and listen to what they are saying during this time, and if they have been silent, write to them, call them and demand answers.
During a time when our nation is lacking unifying and cohesive leadership, we need to help each other find the helpers and amplify those much needed voices.
Photos and Video: CBS News
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