We should all be a part of the movement to end police violence
Young people have the right to lead healthy lives. But this right is violated every day by institutionalized violence against people of color. The police killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are the latest in a seemingly endless stream of deaths of Black people at the hands of law enforcement. These two men were fathers, sons, friends. Their lives mattered, as did the dozens, even hundreds of others whom young people have seen struck down without reason.
Black youth are growing up in the shadow of violence from those who are supposed to protect them. They are trying to make their way in a world that threatens their very existence. As a society, we ask our young people to make healthy decisions, plan for their futures, and contribute positively to their communities. But how can they do this while living in pain, grief, and fear for their lives? Why should they believe what we tell them about personal responsibility, when as a society we have so badly failed in our own responsibility to them?
No group or person who works with Black youth should disregard the toll this atmosphere of fear and violence takes. It impacts all of our work, because it impacts the young people we work with. We cannot separate this trauma from the work we are trying to do with young people. We must, as advocates for youth health and rights, work for an end to police violence. Our young people certainly deserve opportunity, education, and fulfillment. And at a bare minimum they deserve safety in their communities and safety from those sworn to protect them.
Young people are leaders in the Black Lives Matter movement. We should be walking alongside them, acknowledging their leadership, and joining their efforts. It’s our job, our duty, and our moral obligation to speak out against injustice wherever we see it – and none of us can rest until young people are safe.