The Fight For Floyd and a Safer Stuyvesant

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Issue 16, Volume 110

By The Editorial Board 

Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old African American man, was shot and killed on February 23 by two white men who seemed to believe that he might have been involved in several break-ins in the area. The men who shot Arbery—a father-son pair—were not prosecuted until the second week of May, when a video of the shooting was leaked and caused widespread outrage almost three months after Arbery’s death. Six days ago, George Floyd, an African American man accused of paying for cigarettes with a counterfeit 20-dollar bill, was murdered by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes despite Floyd pleading for help and claiming that he could not breathe.

These horrific incidents have captured the attention of, and sparked an outcry from, people all over the United States. Immediate access to information and social media has hastened the spread of this grassroots movement protesting the reckless killing of George Floyd. and subsequent protests have flooded news outlets as well as our social media feeds, where Instagram stories are filled with captions and petitions about #JusticeForGeorge and requests for donations to the Minnesota Freedom Fund. Notably, headlines regarding Floyd’s murder have overtaken those surrounding the coronavirus: the first eight articles featured on The New York Times website on Friday, May 29, were about Floyd’s death, placed before news reporting that New York City was on track to begin reopening in early June.

Repeated violence against African Americans has exposed the entrenched systemic racism within our country, seemingly transporting us 50 years backward. Chairman of the Illinois Black Panther chapter Fred Hampton was murdered by the Cook Country police officers in 1969. Despite clear evidence indicating that the murder was intentional, the police officers involved were not charged, leading to massive protests. The Hampton case is yet another example of the oppression African Americans have endured and continue to face despite claims that we have made “progress.”

As New York City high school students witnessing these incidents of racism against African American men, we feel both disappointed and overwhelmed by the recurring violence against African American communities. And we realize, that as members of a predominantly white and Asian student body, we cannot begin to fathom how devastating and frightening these incidents of police brutality are for those who are in danger of being the target of a similar incident. The fact that we attend a school in which the majority of both the students and faculty are white or Asian, however, is part of that problem. The severe underrepresentation in the student body—in recent years, the percentage of African American and Hispanic students has remained under five percent—has led African American and Hispanic students to feel unwelcome. The lack of racial diversity at Stuyvesant has led to a toxic culture within our community, as evidenced by students’ use of the n-word, and the all-too-frequent remarks crediting African American students’ admissions to elite colleges solely to their race.

Because of our place of privilege as students who are not living in fear of police brutality and violent racism, we have a responsibility to stand up and support our African American friends and peers, especially with regard to the growing conversation about anti-African American sentiment in Asian American communities. Not only must we stand in solidarity with our African American peers, but we must also actively work to create a safer environment for them by condemning racially charged microaggressions and encouraging productive discussions surrounding race at Stuyvesant. While we may be limited in our ability to affect any major change as teenagers confined to our homes, creating a more welcome school environment is surely a first step. As our country fights for Floyd, we hope to fight for a safer Stuyvesant.