As a young person of color, only two years older than Michael Brown, I was outraged when news broke from Ferguson late last night. Like many of my peers, I turned to social media and watched the infuriation and disappointment pour from across our country. In my heart I was worried -- and I still am -- that this momentum would be just another moment, fading away without us understanding how to channel it into long-term, positive change.
As we return to our daily routines -- attending class, taking exams, going to work -- our voices turn from shouts to whispers, and we are left in the perpetual cycle of racially motivated violence and discrimination that has plagued our country since its very foundation. Michael Brown's family understands this cycle and has implored us to turn the murder of their son into meaningful change: "Let's not just make noise, let's make a difference."
We are left with the simple question: Where do we go from here and how do we get there?
The foundation of our advocacy must be education -- and we each have a unique role to play. As a generation defined by technology, we must use the media we have at our disposal as a platform to broadcast the stories of racial prejudice and to build meaningful connections across our various communities. Our world is smaller now than ever, and creating these social bonds will help destroy the notion of an "other" and will unite us as a nation against hate.
The most important step to sustain our advocacy is directly engaging with prejudice both on the grassroots level and through the political system. This engagement is defined in three distinct yet overlapping categories -- internal engagement, external engagement, and political engagement.
Our internal engagement is in understanding our own micro-aggressions and prejudices. These manifest themselves in many ways, whether it is joking about black people being good at sports or about Asians being good at math. It is on us to understand our own prejudices and be cognizant of how they affect our actions and decisions. Identifying and eliminating our own biases is paramount before we can advocate for the eradication of prejudice in the communities around us.
Our external engagement is defined by our standing up to racial prejudice and discrimination on within our social circles, such as through classroom discussions, social media, mundane interactions. It is time to stop letting it be okay to express racial prejudice and stereotypes in public. Taking a hardline on this issue will help us deprogram our individual and collective mindsets.
Lastly, our political engagement involves advocating for long-term systematic changes within the justice system. Whether it is signing the current change.org petition asking for the Ferguson Police Department to wear body cameras, developing a better diversity training for police departments, or writing to our local congresspersons about biased-based profiling by the police, we all have the power to effect significant change by advocating for long-term policy changes in our everyday lives.
Through these concrete ways we can move forward and drive long-term positive change in our everyday lives. This movement will inevitably be driven by our generation of youth that refuses to accept the racial prejudice and discrimination in the systems around us. Whether it is celebrating the culture and art of our neighbors, highlighting racial prejudice on social media, empowering communities through public service, or signing petitions online, we have a wide range of smart, effective ways we can be advocates in our everyday lives. Looking around me and seeing the passion, energy and resilience in our youth -- I am a lot less worried about the future.