I found out about the death of George Floyd, not on the news or in a newspaper, but on my 11-year-old son’s Instagram story. It ran with the hashtags #EndRacism and #BlackLivesMatter and shared a series of images depicting the fight against police brutality and racial injustice. It turns out, kids support #BLM, too.
When asked what inspired him to post about George Floyd, he said: “Because without racism everything would be fairer.”
As protesters rally together in support for the Black Lives Matter movement, young demonstrators are amplifying the calls for racial justice. One of them was nine-year-old Aubrey Johnson, who delivered a powerful message at a protest in Ohio: “Black lives matter as much as white lives.”
Historically, children have been important in the fight for civil rights. For example, in 1963, thousands of black children marched against racial segregation in Alabama. The move was part of a strategy to help keep the protests nonviolent.
Using social media as a megaphone
Thanks to modern technology, today’s kids have even greater tools at their disposal to voice dissatisfaction with the status quo. Tech-savvy GenZ-ers are proving that anti-racism messages shared on social media are just as powerful as those shouted on the street.
Keedron Bryant, a 12-year-old gospel artist from Florida, shared a moving song about racial equality on Instagram. It immediately went viral, generating millions of views and even getting shared by Barack Obama.
Along with social media protests, another thing that sets today’s kids apart from those protesting in the 1960s is that white youngsters are much more involved.
White, young, allyship
Research shows that younger white people are radically less supportive of racial stereotypes than their older white counterparts. Exploring the effect of Barack Obama’s presidency on whites’ perceptions of African Americans, Susan Welch and Lee Sigelman found that negative stereotypes of black people were least pronounced among white youngsters. This implied that such stereotypes will continue to fade in the future.
Schools are also playing a role in this. A former headteacher at a primary school in the predominantly white, working class town of Macclesfield, Cheshire, said encouraging racial tolerance and treating everyone with the same respect was a key ethos of the school.
“Anti-racism was often a discussion point of assemblies and in Circle Time and the children would always embrace it with maturity and passion,” she told me.
Black Lives Matter at School
Black Lives Matter At School is a national coalition for organising racial justice in education in the United States. The initiative was born as a response to harsh discipline policies that push black students out of schools at disproportionate rates to their white counterparts.
The measures it stands by include: ending “zero tolerance” policies, implementing restorative justice, hiring more black teachers, making black history and ethnic studies mandatory and funding counsellors instead of cops. This way, the Black Lives Matter At School initiative aims to create greater equality and inclusion, and to elevate black students.
Whether it’s the result of being taught about anti-racism at school, following and sharing anti-racist content online, or the natural tendency for each generation to be more tolerant than the previous ones, it is clear today’s youth – black and white – are not willing to tolerate racism. Their response of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement is giving us hope for a better future.
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