What complex problem or social issue was most significant to you this year and why? How did you go about learning more? What are your goals and next steps around this complex problem or social issue?
I have always felt overwhelmed by the copious number of social issues that seem to engulf our world. From abuses of power within the Catholic church and school shootings in America to sexist arranged marriages and genocides in developing countries, there seems to be no end to injustice and violence. When looking at each issue individually, they all seem to be connected to each other, which makes a solution seem impossible. The extremely complex social issue that engulfed me the most, however, was the Black Lives Matter movement.
Every racial and social injustice issue is important to me, but BLM stood out to me for many reasons. It is undeniable that America was essentially built on racism; from slavery to segregation, the concept of race has been the impetus of change in our history. With the power of social media, we constantly witness acts of racism towards Black people despite the common belief that the Civil Rights Act ended all discrimination. As a white person I will never understand how it feels to be targeted and attacked because of my race, but after seeing the BLM movement take off over the summer of 2020, I knew I had to be a part of the fight for equality.
In early June last year, I masked up and went to a Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Cincinnati. There was a rally outside of the courthouse where I heard passionate speeches and songs from Black people about their challenges. I’ve never felt more empowered in my life; I learned more about unity and the fight for justice that day than I ever did on social media. I still felt like I wasn’t qualified enough yet to call myself an ‘activist’; I got most of my information from Instagram and short news segments. When registering for classes for the spring semester, I saw the Black Lives Matter class taught by Dr. Cudjoe and immediately signed up. In this class, I learned about not just the history of systemic racism, but also its presence today. I read articles about the structure of the Black Panther Party, gentrification, and the scarily large number of racist acts in 2021. Dr. Cudjoe provided statistics about Black families in Cincinnati concerning housing, wealth and education, and she even covered topics as controversial as the ‘n’ word and cultural appropriation. The class upset me many times; I remember learning about the government planning to release drugs to Black communities just so they can arrest them. However, the class empowered me. I learned about the Black women that started the BLM movement in the first place and the millions of people that have continued to fight for equality. I also feel more capable of educating others on the issue of racism. During my time in the class, I would call my parents and tell them about places they can donate to or businesses to buy from to support the Black community. I hope to continue to educate myself by taking more social justice and Africana Studies classes, and also educate others by encouraging them to take these classes. I also want to put my words into action and continue going to marches and supporting Black businesses. I also plan to volunteer with impoverished and predominantly Black schools, such as St. Francis Seraph in Over-the-Rhine.