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Why Accountability Matters, and It Starts with Us: A Love Letter to my Generation Z Colleagues

Why Accountability Matters, and It Starts with Us: A Love Letter to my Generation Z Colleagues

Published Feb 23, 2021 Updated Feb 28, 2021
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Why Accountability Matters, and It Starts with Us: A Love Letter to my Generation Z Colleagues

Where I Identify:

So far, the year of 2020 has thrown the world for a big loop.

Before COVID made its rabid attack on the US and before the Black Lives Matter movement grew into something that would soon be impenetrable, I was floating along my busy life, knee-deep in school work and struggling to set aside time for non-academic activities, such as reading and writing for my site.

I always felt some sort of pressure to be intellectually productive when I wasn’t working on school stuff, and I knew that simply attending college wasn’t going to provide me with every tool I needed to understand the ugliness of the world, even at the surface level.

Outside of my life as a college student, the world was beginning to burst at the seams, unraveling with every racial dispute, act of discrimination, infection and death that occured as a result of the two global pandemics we currently face: the Coronavirus and a surge in blatant racism and politicized white supremacy.

As part of a generation that is effortlessly and awfully attached to real-time social media, I felt the weight and pressure of having to be in the know 25/8.Each second I wasn’t checking the Times or reading CNN was time that was growing and gleaming with ignorance and confusion. I did not want to confine myself and add to the multiplying pool of people who use information overload as an excuse not to self-educate.

My job as a writer is to ensure that others don’t place themselves in this category, regardless of the issue at hand. Our humanity has approached a state of anguish that no longer affords us extra time to, “get around to it later,” or skip out on the next difficult and rather uncomfortable conversation at the dinner table.

The last three months couldn’t have been more urgent, constantly providing me with the strongest reflections of why I write. For the majority of 2020, I have made it my mission to observe, read, listen, watch, learn, and share all that I possibly can in order to bring awareness to the extremities of racism that America is currently refamiliarizing itself with.

 

My Self-Education

Before all of this transpired into chaos, when possible, I’d attribute a good portion of my time to reading online articles about current events, reading books about developmental psychology and sociology, and listening to podcasts that helped me learn about the broken function of modern American politics, the justice system, and immigration.

It helped that the material I was learning in class was strongly based on these issues, as those conversations were often centered around ethical communication in corporate and political climates. But, they didn’t connect all of the dots and not every pocket of discrimination was uncovered. Sadly, this contributed to the reason behind my reaction of disdain and disappointment when social media began exploiting the pitfalls of federal and state authorities, in other words, COPS!

I wanted to learn about social justice issues that weren’t always accurately represented in the media. The stuff you see on television or read about in the newspaper doesn’t cover a fraction of what is actually happening. And when it does, federal and political wrongdoings are euphemized by authorities and people in positions of power, while bystander footage is edited by the time it hits our screens. How in the hell has that been the norm for so long? If you’re feeling lost, look at any number of examples of police brutality that took place over the summer as the Black Lives Matter movement exploded across America. And what’s worse is it doesn’t stop there.

Here we are, talking about toxic masculinity, gender equality, immigration reform, the flaws of college tuition systems and framing in the media, and somehow, race and police brutality never really made its way to the center of any of those discussions, despite the role it plays in the severity of most of these issues. We’ve seen discrimination for years; we’ve watched it happen in front of us and we’ve even allowed ourselves to believe that things weren’t all that bad for people of color. This, of course, is not an overt observation, but rather a pattern that has shown how infrequently race and the brutalization of the black community is discussed in classrooms.

About halfway through my degree program, I figured out that I was going to have to do a lot of research about stuff that wasn’t talked about in class. Even if certain topics were ripe with urgency at the time, they weren’t always included in my classroom discussions. It’s insane how much you miss out on when you depend on your college experience or degree program to teach you everything you need to know about the world: the good, bad, and most importantly, the corrupt.

The Black Lives Matter movement has unveiled to me that we, as a country, have abruptly failed to educate each other on the dangerously hardy roots of racism in America. It is immeasurably present in our institutions, communities, workplaces, and homes. No, it never went away, it just manifested into various modern acts of hatred, prejudice, discrimination. Be it redlining, voter suppression or mass incarceration, the conditions with which the black community are faced today are inhumane, at the least.

I wish it didn’t take the world falling apart to get people to pay attention. When we don’t self-educate, we become part of the issue. How can we contribute meaningful change if we don’t know where it needs to be made? How can we help when we aren’t listening to those who are hurting? If there’s anything 2020 has taught me, it's to use your voice, and that there is never an ideal time not to.

Learning is a passion that hardly ever lacks momentum. It manifests itself into meaningful conversations that bring people closer together, enlightening thirsty entities of curiosity and inspiring younger generations to pursue their innermost ambitions. I think those of us who operate under the passion to drive social impact are introspective and attentive to the sometimes subtle, cultural shifts that occur in our day to day lives. I’m speaking on behalf of those who feel they have a social responsibility to make positive societal change, be it quietly or with great volume–artists, creatives, thinkers, problem solvers, activists, educators–all of us play a role in dismantling racism across the world.

Too many times, we fall short. We see it daily and yet somehow we are still too reluctant to be loud about our feelings. There isn’t a more crucial time in history to take more steps to learn how to be better, all the time, every day. The learning never stops. It can’t.

Every American is and should be subject to this single, one responsibility: If you see something, say something. The majority of you are likely internally thinking that it’s easier said than done, and you’re right.

And the utterly self-evident truth about the last seven months is that change is not and never will be easy.

Sometimes I believe we fear our voices are too small to be heard, and our ideas may not cut through the clutter. Admittedly, I’ve experienced these feelings but I’ve learned that experiencing this fear alone doesn’t justify one’s reluctance to self-educate on what is currently taking place around the globe. I’ll forever advocate for media literacy for this reason. I’ll forever shine light on the importance of advocating against injustice, regardless of the country you were born in and the community you are a part of.

These are utterly harsh realities to come to terms with. I often respond to these sorts of hardships with the mantra, “accept the things you cannot change.”

When the DREAM act failed in the senate in 2010, I knew that phrase did not apply.

When the shooting at Sandy Hook happened in 2011, I knew that phrase did not apply.

When President Trump was elected back in 2016, I knew that phrase did not apply.

When the American opioid epidemic reached an all-time high in the year of 2017, I knew that phrase did not apply.

When Harvey Weinstein was arrested and charged with rape in 2018, I knew that phrase did not apply.

When the Coronavirus first sickened America in 2020, I knew that phrase did not apply.

When George Floyd was killed by police this year, I knew.

I watch, I listen, I speak, and I learn. I never appreciated the way our culture avoids forcing people to take accountability. I know money has more to do with it than most realize, but at what point are we really going to take a stand against injustice in American culture? Be it in the media, the corporate world, or White House, now is most definitely not the time to accept the things we cannot change.

Now is not the time to speak in a neutral tone. Black lives matter now, they will matter tomorrow, and for the rest of time.

 

In fierce solidarity,

Gill

 

Social Justice Initiative at Southern Connecticut State University

Learn more: https://sites.google.com/view/blm-website-capstone/home

 

To be a part of more important conversations, take a trip over to:

https://gillianmattern.wixsite.com/behearnow

 

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Yann Rigo 1 year

Really interesting

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