Be the Change
UEI College is committed to supporting racial equality.
We stand in solidarity with the African American community for social justice.
Bakersfield Campus Finalist
As a black woman growing up in the United States, social injustice is something that has always been present in my life. From being listed as “negro” on my birth certificate, to being stood-up at my senior prom by my Greek boyfriend at the time whose family deemed that I, as a black girl, was not a suitable date for such an occasion. My race is something that I’ve always had to deal with. Most of us would like to think that racial prejudices happened in the “olden days” or that as time progresses, they will become a thing of the past. However, as I’ve come to see in my life and the lives of my children, racism remains alive and well.
When I think about an instance where my children have faced adversity when it comes to their heritage, a situation involving my 22-year-old son comes to mind. A few years back, when he was on his way to work, he was driving in his local town and was pulled over by two white police officers. He was driving through a predominantly upper-middle-class neighborhood in Northern California when he was followed and then ultimately pulled over. He had boxes of sports equipment in his vehicle and was asked why he had them. Apparently he didn’t give a good enough reason so he was told to step out of his vehicle and was handcuffed. He was searched and put to sit on the sidewalk while the officers went through each and every box from his trunk. After two hours of searching, the officers called his boss to verify that he should have this equipment, and only then was he released.
When my son told me about this event, I was immediately overcome with emotion. I felt grateful that he was home safe, angry that he was targeted and most importantly, confused as to why these officers felt that my son was suspicious just because he was in a certain location. Was my son a threat to anyone? No. He was simply driving in his vehicle, existing in the world as a black man, and evidently that fact alone was enough to warrant to stop and search. To this day, my son still isn’t quite sure why he was pulled over in the first place. I always knew that when I had children, I was going to have to educate them on how to conduct themselves in the presence of law enforcement. As much as I wanted to instill in them that they could feel confident that police officers were there to serve and protect them, I know that those feelings can change when you’re in a situation where you’re engaging with them directly. I know that my son was nervous... nervous that anything could happen and anxious about the outcome of this “routine” traffic stop. These are all feelings of powerlessness that no mother can prepare their child to face.
The police say that they want people to feel assurance and comfort when they see them, but for many African Americans and other people of color, oftentimes, it's only fear that is seen. George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Sandra Bland. Philando Castile. Oscar Grant. These are all names of individuals who had experiences with police officers where their race, something outside of their control, was a main motivation for them being targeted. These are all individuals who lost their lives as a result of racial bias and injustice. My son could have easily been one of them and that’s a thought that consistently keeps me up at night.
Racial profiling has been proven time and again in this country, and must be talked about. Wearing the right clothing and having the right speech gets you so far but even then there is no guarantee that it will keep a person of color-safe. Change begins at home. It starts by educating not only ourselves but our children. Racism and racial bias are not inherited. It is taught. If we all took a moment to teach our children to look for our similarities and to embrace our differences, we can inherently change the narrative that this country has so long followed; the narrative that we judge a person on the color of their skin rather than the content of their heart. I personally combat racism and racial injustice by teaching my kids to value their differences and to realize that every person they encounter in life has their own background and history that makes them who they are. I teach them that there’s always going to be people in life who may want to bring them down or to feel low, but that they can counteract that behavior by taking the high road and continuing to be a good person.
Early on, I realized that the more educated people are, the less likely they are to hold unfair biases and judgments, so I’ve also encouraged my kids to pursue their highest educational opportunities. I believe that the more my kids are educated, the more that they will be able to be a positive, contributing member to society. This is where my education here at UEI comes into play. While I tell my kids to pursue higher education, I know that I have to be the example myself as well. I hope that by attending UEI and earning my Business Administration diploma, I can show my kids that hard work and dedication pay off. I know that I can be a valuable member of any office and that my own background can contribute to a successful working environment. This is how I can be the change.