Teen Views: Black Lives Matter and Coping with Covid-19
Khabar invited young people to share their perspectives with readers on two urgent issues of the day—the Black Lives Matter movement and the coronavirus pandemic. Here are some of the best responses we received.
BLM: My Perspective on the BLM Movement, and What I Did for It
As an Asian American teenager living in the United States, the Black Lives Matter movement doesn’t have any direct impact on me, but I feel that as a member of a society that assigns different value to different minorities, we should be striving for equality for all. One cannot hope to cause any change by not supporting movements whose goal is simply to help all people.
In fact, it can be argued that by staying silent during these times serves only to help the status quo. Silence speaks volumes because if you’re not speaking out for change, nothing will happen. I wholeheartedly believe that it is necessary, and I support this by speaking out and using my social media as a platform to educate others. I also try to change people’s minds who hold different opinions on the movement, so as to help make a more informed public. Casual racism and stereotyping is something that happens to people of all nationalities and races, so if people are speaking out against the mistreatment of black lives now, other lives can also be lifted when the world realizes the unconscious biases that most people hold.
However, the overall community response to the movement has been less than ideal. What is mainly being seen now are changes or statements put out by corporations that have little to no real importance or meaning in their messages. Simply tweeting out that you support the movement doesn’t serve to do anything except make the corporation seem like the “good guy” in the situation. These companies don’t say that they will change anything in their policies or work culture. The movement is calling for actual change in the way society treats minority lives and these actions aren’t enough. And on the other side we see movements such as “Blue Lives Matter” and “All Lives Matter” arising in opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement which shows that no matter how positive the change that is being attempted to be made, there will always be people who will try to hinder them. These movements don’t actually have any goal but to hinder BLM which one should realize isn’t good. All lives cannot matter until black lives matter. I encourage others to do their own research into the reasons for these movements and support them in any way they can to help build a better and more equal tomorrow.
—Abhirup Chatterjee, 16, Madison, MS
It has been 244 years since the United States was founded, 155 years since the abolition of slavery, and about 50 years since Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Yet, despite the many hassles and dangers civil rights activists faced to eliminate racism from the face of America, we still encounter racist ideas, deeds, etc. as it happened recently in the case of George Floyd.
Is Black Lives Matter movement really working? Honestly, it works to some extent, but not entirely. We have achieved many successes, such as integrating the school system after winning the Brown vs Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas in 1954, and President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Still, will passing laws and winning cases truly solve racism? Sure, they are milestones, but weak patch-ups to what’s going on internally—they fail to address the core problem. Simply passing laws will NOT eliminate those racist ideas embedded in the heart and mind of a person. Have laws that prohibit crime stopped crime entirely? They may deter one from committing a crime, but it still happens often. Similarly, by not addressing the real problem, and continuing with protests and the like will only temporarily hide the problem and we will undoubtedly have sudden skirmishes. And so, the discrimination against blacks will only continue.
Of course, there is no denying that America is far better than it was two centuries ago. Still, we haven’t removed racist tendencies from the minds of people, despite our great endeavor. What is our solution? What can we do to completely erase the propensity to discriminate such that even if the Civil Rights act were withdrawn, we wouldn’t give racism a second thought?
It happens only when we realize we are not this body. In the ancient wisdom of India, we have the knowledge of the spirit soul, which pervades our body with consciousness and life. Suppose a young person has passed away due to a heart attack. If one is simply a combination of chemicals and matter interacting with each other, can’t we resurrect the person by artificially starting the brain, lungs, and other organs which are in perfect condition? No. Because the spirit has left the body, no matter how much effort we put in, he/she will not come back to life. When we teach this knowledge of the soul, everyone realizes that we are not this body; that the sprit covering our true selves is neither black nor white, American nor European, man nor woman; and through this realization we can transcend this misconception of discrimination based on color, caste, creed, class, and gender etc. We will thus attain real equality, by understanding that we are all equal spirit souls trying to serve God unitedly as brothers and sisters. And in this, King’s dream of both races coming together as brothers and sisters will be fulfilled. Our effort should focus on spreading the knowledge of the soul, i.e. our true identity.
Now you may ask: won’t this view affect other religions? Can’t we take up a more secular stance? Let me ask you—were civil rights activists MLK and Malcolm X secular? In fact, it was Malcom X’s trip to Mecca that changed his view on racial justice, “…while praying to the same God—with fellow Muslims, whose eyes were the bluest of blue, whose hair was the blondest of blond, and whose skin was the whitest of white…We were truly all the same (brothers)—because their belief in one God had removed the white from their minds, the white from their behavior, and the white from their attitude.”(Letter from Mecca, 1964)
Similarly, King is quoted as saying before his 1963 speech, “I am now going upstairs to my room to counsel with my Lord,’ he told them. ‘I will see you all tomorrow.” (The Guardian) King attributed his influential speech and ability to God.
As a student, I have many black friends and talk to them about the science of the soul and how we are not these bodies. Many of them ask questions like: Is religion useful for taking us out of this crisis? I answer by saying that religion is that which is the, “occupational duty of the spirit.” Identifying oneself as Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jew, or Buddhist is also identifying with the body. Our occupational duty is to serve God unconditionally, and when we all have the same goal, we work unitedly together, overcoming so-called skin color, gender, caste, etc. This is my perspective on how we should get involved in Black Lives Matter movement.
—Amrut Ramaswamy, 16, Cumming, GA
Covid-19: My Perspective on the Pandemic, and What I Did for It
On March 18, we got a call from DeKalb County stating that all schools are closed for the next two weeks. At this point, less than 100 cases were confirmed in the state of Georgia and the Covid-19 pandemic was still centralized in Europe. Many people were skeptical of the effect this disease would have in America. As a junior in high school, hearing this news was shocking. A pandemic has almost always been seen as the topic of sci-fi movies and never the grim reality. At that point, we did not understand the severity of Covid-19 and how it would ultimately change our lives.
Now, at almost the fifth month of quarantine, life before the pandemic seems almost unreal. At the time of my writing this, Georgia has more than 160 thousand confirmed cases, and the U.S. is nearing 4.6 million. Personally, my family and friends have not been affected by the disease, and I am thankful for my position every day.
Nevertheless, my perspective on global preparedness and the U.S. government has changed dramatically. Before the pandemic, I knew that the American medical system was overly capitalistic, but I never thought we would run out of capacity for patients. Now, I see how deeply flawed the system is in that millions have lost medical coverage during a pandemic, and medical workers are forced to place themselves in danger while not being provided proper PPE. Furthermore, the U.S. medical supply chain is very expensive with the presence of excess middlemen, including the U.S. government. President Trump’s administration refused to take authority in the distribution of medical supplies leading to shortages. In addition, the concept of personal freedom in this country has been magnified immensely. Recently, I saw partisanship increase dramatically as many issues, such as wearing masks and SIP, became pitted as protecting personal freedoms vs protecting the common good. These issues go back to the addition of the Bill of Rights before the ratification of the Constitution, but I never thought people would put their political beliefs over their safety. Masks, the simplest form of protection, have become party-based while many elected leaders refuse to wear one in public. As a country, we have to progress past partisanship as parties take extreme and sometimes fatal decisions to try to protect their majority in the next election. Additionally, it was truly disconcerting seeing people my age posting Instagram pictures at the beach in the middle of a pandemic. This lack of empathy that is often misrepresented as American Individualism has led us to fifty disagreeing states that are further divided at the regional level. This all undermines the power of the federal government which in many other countries was able to enforce proper safety measures. As we approach the next Presidential Election, it has become essential for my generation to vote and protect others’ right to do so as well.
During this time, my family and I have followed all safety measures as closely as possible. Additionally, my siblings and I have helped my mother cook for an organization called Food 4 Lives, which provides meals for medical workers. One of the most difficult things has been the social environment—my siblings and I usually spend many hours of the day interacting with others at school, and losing that constant social contact required adjustment. I transitioned to talking to many of my friends online and continued attending karate and other club gatherings through Zoom. One of the benefits of quarantine is that I have had a lot more time to bond with my parents and siblings through gardening, watching TV, cooking, and playing games. This is often not as possible under normal circumstances, and I am very thankful for this time. I have also learned not to overexpose myself and others to news, and always find a good note to end my day on. As a kid, it is hard to put death in perspective and the numbers can be depressing, but the resilience of our essential workers and advocates continues to give me hope for the future. As our country progresses in the Covid-19 pandemic, we need to see that this is very real but also preventable.
—Roma Joshi, 17, Dunwoody, GA
The pandemic started when the virus known as novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes Covid-19, “jumped species” from bats via an exotic animal called the pangolin. How could we have prevented this pandemic from starting in the first place? Or how can we possibly prevent this disease from spreading further? David Benatar, an author and philosopher, stated in a New York Times article dated April 13, 2020, “Simply put, the coronavirus pandemic is a result of our gross maltreatment of animals… In the future, we should fully expect our maltreatment of animals to wreak havoc on our own species.”
Firstly, we desire to eat exotic animals like bats, pangolins, scorpions, octopuses, and the like, even though we have so many types of food already like grains, legumes, a whole range of vegetables, and a large variety of fruits all over the world. The tiger does not eat grass, nor do cattle eat flesh. Similarly, we should respect how we have been designed by nature to comfortably digest and cut back on consuming the flesh of animals. Nature has allotted us our fair share of foodstuffs.
Second, the government did not respond properly to this virus. When China first reported that there was an outbreak of coronavirus in Wuhan, both the WHO and the Chinese government should have warned other countries to take preventative measures like enforcing lockdowns and quarantines across the world, even before it could spread outside of China. They also should have advised countries to stop all air travel in and out of China as well as the surrounding nations for the few months after last November.
So, due to the failure by the Chinese government and WHO to do these things, what should have other countries done?
All nations should have shut down both incoming and outgoing air travel, as it would have reduced the chances of bringing in new carriers of the virus. Countries should have enforced strict lockdowns for at least a month, during which only one person per household should have been allowed to shop for essentials.
As commerce reduced, they should have pumped money into the economy. All taxpayers in the US received stimulus checks, regardless of whether they were rich or poor. The US and other countries should have provided stimulus checks only for those who were poor or unemployed. For those who hold jobs that allow them to work from home, and for those who have both employment and much savings, stimulus checks should not have been given. Instead that money should have been used for increasing the testing.
So what did I do personally to not get exposed to the virus? The first step that I did was to follow basic guidelines like washing my hands with soap regularly, not touching the face, etc. In fact, our ancestors followed these basic rules for cleanliness, but due to our lethargy, we find it so difficult to follow these rules. We also avoided going outside at all and wiped down anything we bought from outside with antiseptic towels or washed them with water/soap as appropriate.
Humanity needs to get the message: We may come up with a vaccine sooner or later, but that is not the solution; change in our eating habits is the real solution. We must stop exploiting nature for our gain. We believe that we are in control of nature; on the contrary, nature is very much in control of us, and we are a part of it. She will find a way to bring us back on track from our deviant ways, whether it is by releasing a virus, or a natural disaster such as a hurricane or a tsunami.
Most importantly, we should all pray to God to absolve us of our sins for our crimes against nature like deforestation, burning fossil fuels, large-scale slaughter of animals, and so forth. We must change the way we use the resources of the world and live in harmony with the other creatures and nature. Only then will we be able to survive.
—Krishna Ramasamy, 14 years, Cumming, GA
Enjoyed reading Khabar magazine? Subscribe to Khabar and get a full digital copy of this Indian-American community magazine.
blog comments powered by Disqus