Bridgid is a Junior at Hopkins High School and a third year peer minister at Saint Joan of Arc.
I want to preface my reflection by saying, it’s pretty chaotic but that’s just a reflection of how I’ve been feeling these past couple months and especially weeks, so bear with me.
I think that in this time it’s really easy to get caught up in how much this all sucks and how different life is because of the pandemic and everything that has been piling on top of that. Especially this past week. Since I’m a junior I was lucky enough not to miss too many milestones of my school experience but it still is completely uprooting my world, which I’m realizing is smaller than I thought. And just as I was getting used to this new world, thinking it would be the worst it’s going to get, all the sudden there’s also giant killer bees, the sunspots are disappearing, trillions of cicadas are going to resurface and also there might be a parallel universe? And once I was getting used to all of that, the horrific killing of George Floyd took place, reminding me once again just how scary, unjust and unfair this world can be.
And at first it all felt really overwhelming. This is not what I had planned for 2020. I turned 17 on May 24th and I had thought that when I turned 17, it would be my turn to be the dancing queen! Instead, I’m stuck at home, seeing my friends through a screen, and taking AP tests in my basement. When I talk to people about this situation, one of the things that they tell me is that they don’t really remember their junior year at all. And I get that what they’re trying to say, that missing out on these small things is not as bad as it seems right now. But the truth is, this is my whole world right now, school and the experiences that come with it is all that I know. High school is so much more than just the classes that I take and what I’m learning about. It’s more about the people that are constantly around me who are teaching me how to interact in different social situations and how to express myself and what it means to be in community with people that are so different from me. Losing all of that is much more than just losing out on a little bit of school.
And yet everything seems to be so much less important with the events of this past week. I had the opportunity to attend a protest on Sunday and it was a surreal experience to go to my state capitol and see it surrounded by the national guard and other police officers that were fully armed and even had gas masks. It’s such a scary sight, but as my brother pointed out, that fear that I was feeling was nothing compared to the fear that people of color have been faced with for their whole lives. Driving around on our way we were able to see all the shops that had been boarded up and even buildings that had been burned that were still smoldering days later. Seeing the community destroyed like this made me really sad but I feel like as a white person that has never experienced any kind of oppression, it’s really hard for me to understand either side to its full extent. However it has made me feel better to hear that it seems public sentiment is more or less feeling the same things that I’m feeling, that it’s hurting the community to have essential things like grocery stores looted and burned down.
Despite the news of so much negativity, there has also been very uplifting news about how many people are going into Minneapolis and Saint Paul to help clean up the damages and to collect food for the people that had lost their sources for food and other products. Also, especially Sunday night, I’ve been hearing more from the protestors that are peaceful and hearing them express how their only mission is to continue to call for justice for George Floyd and other people that were hurt by police brutality and that they didn’t want any kind of altercations with the police. They continued this mission even when they were surrounded and arrested.
When I went to the protest today, my family stopped by 38th and Chicago, the place where George Floyd died, on the way there. That was a really intense place to be, but it was intense in a good way. There were many people there but everyone was really somber and wanted to pay respects to George more than anything. There were so many flowers around and murals and signs that made it all so special. But at the same time, it was really hard for me to be standing in the same place that another man lost his life in an extremely unjust way. This man was a father and a son and a kind man and what hits me the most is that his death was completely preventable and should not have happened. Especially when he was killed by people that we are supposed to be able to trust with our lives and our safety. When this fact is getting called out and these same police officers and national guard and sheriffs are getting called to intimidate people that are protesting this cruelty, it makes me realize what people of color have been confronted with for a long time, which is that if we can’t trust the police, who is keeping us safe? It feels so scary to be in a place where I don’t know what authority will be able to protect all of us equally when the system that was set up to do just that is completely failing us.
Some people I’ve been talking to have suggested that we need to completely disband the police and create a new system. At first, this sounded really extreme to me, but the more that I am hearing about, the more I realize that the change that needs to come might not be something that we feel comfortable hearing. But if we’re comfortable, we can’t grow! So something that I have been focusing on is trying to lean into my discomfort and figure out why I’m feeling this way. Especially when it comes to my own biases and assumptions that I make, I find that calling myself out on that has been really helpful for me.
So my challenge to everyone for the future is to lean into what makes you uncomfortable. Figure out why, and you might learn something about yourself that you had never considered. Because we need everyone to be moving forward with an open mind and ready to listen, collaborate and create change.
Our youth at SJA have amazing things to say. Our goal is to give them a platform to share their thoughts on topics they want to talk about. Their thoughts are uniquely theirs. From politics to faith, school issues to our church, this blog shares their voices with our community.