This personal essay is part of the Chalkbeat Student Takeover: a weeklong project meant to elevate the voices of students at this pivotal moment in America. Read more from the takeover here.
The death of George Floyd in Minnesota has felt like the final straw for my community.
The number of cases of police brutality against African Americans is overwhelming. As a young Black man, it sickens me and makes me think my life doesn’t matter in this country. That thought process is dehumanizing, and trains you to lower the value of your existence and presence.
Now, Black youth in Detroit are taking a stand for our community and our existence. These protests represent our anger and frustration with a system that continues to fail Black and brown people.
We no longer want to live in fear of the individuals who take an oath to protect and serve us, but instead treat us like wild animals and kill us without punishment. Growing up as a young Black man, I have had to educate myself about how to respond “properly” to police misconduct during a traffic stop or arrest. Why should Black youth have to be taught how to respond to an unjust traffic stop or arrest so they don’t end up killed? Why should Black youth have to be taught the “proper” way to reach for an identification card?
I’ve seen school police officers handcuff students and use other harsh, physical tactics. My peers have told me similar stories of conflicts between students and police. That’s not the right way to handle these situations. We’re just kids. We’re still growing. Police shouldn’t respond to us with violence.
We are growing up in a society where we have to adapt to misconduct at the hand of a police officer, instead of being able to trust law enforcement to handle situations appropriately. This country lacks accountability for police officers who escalate neutral situations. This is the problem.
As I watch my community protest and plead respect for our existence, it motivates me. Black Detroit youth are doing everything in our power to support this movement. The majority of us don’t want to risk leaving the house and infecting our parents during the COVID-19 pandemic, so we are taking our thoughts to social media.
When we see a company that doesn’t support our movement, I encourage my friends to stop supporting them. That’s how we show our power to influence change. If your company doesn’t stand with Black and brown communities, we, as youth, don’t stand with you.
We will no longer stand on the sidelines and watch our people be abused and mistreated. It’s emotionally crippling for Black teenagers like myself to feel that our lives are not valued, respected, or cherished. I want to grow up in a society and environment that can accept me for who I am without ridicule, fear, or a negative stereotype pinned to my back.
During school, we always used to hear adults tell us we are the generation of change. That statement holds more value now than ever before.
Lamont Satchel Jr., 17, is a rising senior at Cass Technical High School in Detroit, Michigan.