Tikkun olam means black lives matter

Without a doubt, the people of the United States are living through a challenging time. The outbreak of COVID-19 and the damage left in its wake have gripped our country. In addition to this national pandemic, another scourge has returned to the forefront of public consciousness: police brutality and racism as a whole. Protests and riots have broken out across the country in response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of four police officers in Minneapolis.

Just like so many other Americans, I was utterly enraged by yet another instance of police brutality so I decided to become an ally of the black community by actively effectuating change in the form of protest. This past weekend, I participated in a peaceful protest at Dallas City Hall and marched throughout downtown Dallas. We chanted slogans that represented our frustrations and listened to speeches by various black leaders to gain new perspectives. 

In addition to this powerful emotional experience, I endured a powerful physical experience when my face burned as I found my way out of thick clouds of tear gas fired by Dallas police. Peaceful acts of protest were halted when long convoys of police vehicles began to show up at Dallas City Hall plaza. Unfortunately, the destructive actions of a few protesters were exacerbated by the sudden, heavy presence of police. Riot officers were relentless in their efforts to disperse the crowds as they fired even more tear gas into sparse groups of protesters behind City Hall who were resting from the first round of gas. 

The physical experience of pain at the hands of police officers gave me a very small taste of what it is like for so many black Americans and left me with a sense of disdain for the police in general. In no way do I actually know the pain that the black community feels on a daily basis. Although I believe that almost all police officers contribute to the oppression of black people, there are still good people who happen to also decide to wear that uniform. Police officers support institutional racism as they carry out orders that disproportionately target black people and uphold racist laws. 

My decision to be part of protests came from a sense of duty to defend the black community against acts of violence committed by the police force and other racist institutions. As a white man, I am part of the most privileged demographic in the United States. I will never have to fear for my life simply by being in the presence of police officers; I won’t have to worry about my son getting killed in the streets at the hands of the very people who are supposed to be protecting him simply because of the color of my skin. I recognize that it is important to use my privilege to support black Americans in their struggle for judicial justice and true racial equality. Additionally, the struggles of Jewish people throughout history constantly motivate me to contribute to this movement. 

If you are as troubled by these recent events as I am, here are some ways to catalyze change:

•I charge you to recognize the inherent privilege that is attached to the color of your skin and understand the power of this privilege. 

•I charge you to educate yourself on the struggles of black people with works of literature written by black leaders such as “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, documentaries that address these same struggles like “13th” directed by Ava DuVernay and/or any piece of media that helps promote understanding. 

•I charge you to initiate conversations with the people close to you. These conversations may be difficult and may cause emotions to intensify, but all of that is necessary to catalyze change. 

•I charge you to find local politicians to support and to donate to local grassroots organizations that support the black community like Next Generation Action Network. 

You have the power to make your voice heard, and the power to help eradicate the oppression of black people. 

Black Lives Matter.

Ari Appel, 16, is a rising junior at Greenhill School and the son of Gila and Noah Appel.

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