Once again, our country has been shaken by the murder of an unarmed Black man. As young adults, we’ve all heard this narrative over and over for the last 10 years. Racial problems fly under the radar until another unarmed Black man is murdered. Next, protests shock the country and destroy cities and young people across the country post on Instagram and sign petitions in response. We are sent back into the same vicious cycle that hurts all of us in various ways.
While the same tragic events keep occurring, the response remains largely the same. Trends like Blackout Tuesday and the circulation of the phrase “Black Lives Matter” are common. Many people protest, but often there is no common goal or clear agenda expressed. This summer, there has been a big push to support Black owned business. This is the most effective step that has been taken in promoting the racial healing that we need.
Two of my close friends started a lawn care business this summer because they lost their jobs to the COVID pandemic. Many of their clients ended up being Black. They were criticized by others that we know for preying on Black people and trying to steal their money. It was especially looked down upon considering the timing of the murder of George Floyd. They were criticized by the people who consistently posted on Instagram in support of protests and anti-racist movements.
In reality, my friends did more to support racial healing in this country than anyone I’ve heard of all summer. I had the privilege of working with them for one week, and I gained more perspective on Black Americans in that time than I have in all my education learning about social justice. The simple act of knocking on someone’s door, collecting $30 and cleaning up their lawn creates camaraderie among Black and White Americans. Blacks and Whites almost never engage with each other over something so simple because we live separately and don’t make an effort to have everyday interactions. With these interactions being so scarce between Blacks and Whites, networking disparities are created. Getting ahead in life and finding opportunities is often associated with your networking abilities and who you know. Networking between Blacks and Whites will help to close the opportunity gap.
With every client we approached that day, I walked away more confident about my relationship with Black people than I had before, and my hope is that the client felt the same way about a few White college kids. And it really is just that simple. We each will probably be less impressionable to extreme news stories that we read on social media. This will lead to each race having a much more realistic view of the other.
One of the easiest ways to create small talk interactions like these is through supporting Black owned businesses, but it really has nothing to do with money like many activists have suggested this summer. It’s all about having a conversation on the phone or waiting in line next to someone who doesn’t look like you. Unfortunately for me and for a lot of us, I’ve grown up interacting with people that look pretty similar to me while seeing people who look differently than me on the news at night. Race relations in this country will only be healed through simple interactions that are second nature to all of us. Until we close Twitter and go make a stupid joke about how hot wearing a mask is to a person who looks different than us, the next round of race riots will emerge by the time we’ve all graduated from Xavier.