Wrecking Racism— Youth voices needed now
- Published: February 10, 2021
Last May 25, the country witnessed the horrid murder of 46-year-old George Floyd by Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin. It was perhaps the method of the murder that shook so many across the nation so deeply. Chauvin perched himself upon George’s neck with a look of total disregard for George’s life, pressing his knee into George’s neck for nearly nine minutes despite the pleas of onlookers.
George, handcuffed and sensing his life was draining from his Black body, called for his mother, finally telling her one last time that he loved her. His mother had died two years earlier, which speaks to the desperation he must have felt. I’ve had people tell me that even some of their most racist friends and family members were shaken by it. Personally, I felt twinges of some of the pain and anger I have felt while reading about the violent instances of white on Black violence.
Chauvin remained perched on Floyd’s neck with a look of nonchalance and privilege, glaring into the cell phone camera trained on him for three minutes after Floyd went silent and motionless. Two other officers had helped hold Floyd down and another stood guard against the onlookers, assuring that Chauvin would not be interrupted. Chauvin finally relented at the prompting of an EMT. Floyd’s lifeless body was dragged across the pavement onto a gurney like roadkill. It was the most startling treatise on the disregard for Black life that anyone could ever witness.
Protests spread across the country like wildfire. It seems we had almost become accustomed — but not really — to the regularity with which Black men and women are killed by police, followed by the cops escaping justice. Wash, rinse, repeat. Floyd’s murder was different, however. It was the pinnacle of in-your-face white supremacy and privilege. Enough was enough. It was determined that the monster of white supremacy must be dethroned.
Yellow Springs staged its own series of protests. I will venture to say that our antiracism rallies and marches here were the most prolonged and most unique in our area. Jen Boyer initiated the first protest and named it YS Speaking Up for Justice, or YSSUFJ. Youth organizers stepped in early and led the way, planning the weekly rallies and marches.
The rallies evolved into antiracism teach-ins. Organizers called on local community members, including the superintendent of schools, teachers, counselors, historians, poets, artists, professionals and nonprofessionals. A number of projects were initiated in the schools, Village government and other institutions aimed at eliminating institutionalized racism. People initiated and joined antiracist book study groups. Our public library established an antiracist book club. Someday, someone should perhaps evaluate the impact that the organizing efforts of the youth have had on our community. The 365 Project and other organizations and individuals lent support to the organizers, whom I came to call “The Antiracism Wrecking Crew.”
The initial group consisted mainly of recent high school graduates and college students. The oldest one was just 26. The second wave, Wrecking Crew 2.0, consists mainly of high school students. The demands of school and the onset of cold weather brought the rallies and marches to an end after 25 straight weeks.
The most recent project of YSSUFJ will be a monthly column entitled “Wrecking Racism.” The youth organizers settled on the title. I consider it a tribute to the Wrecking Crews and the need to state a sense of urgency for reversing the rising tide of white domination. The purpose of the column will be to provide an avenue for youth of the village to express their ideas, observations, experiences and thoughts about racism, race relations and related topics both locally and nationally. We believe that their voices and ideas need to be heard if we are to formulate working strategies to dismantle white supremacy. Like the “showcase” murder of George Floyd, the rise of Trumpism and the recent white supremacist insurrection at the nation’s capital signal that we have much work to do.
Many of us were moved by the youth essays presented during the recent MLK Day virtual program. I am looking forward to hearing more from our youth.