By Chris Hotchkin

On Saturday June 6 about a thousand people peacefully marched through downtown Hinsdale, and on Sunday June 7 four to five thousand peacefully gathered in the streets by Downers Grove North High School, in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and to protest for equal justice and racial equality. Both events were organized by young people and mostly attended by young people. The Hinsdale event was organized by Hinsdale High School students. The Downers Grove event was organized by Kessie Olekanma and Prevail Bonga, graduates of Downers Grove High Schools. People of all ages, skin tones, and cultural backgrounds walked together and sat in silence together for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in memory of George Floyd and the all too many people of color in America who have been murdered by police action. Along the route of the march families sat in their yards with signs of support. We joined hundreds of thousands across America and even throughout the world in saying we want justice and fair treatment for all.

My late father-in-law, who was African American, served in WWII. When Corporal Childress returned home from fighting on Guadalcanal, he was not allowed to sit at a lunch counter and order a Coke, not even while wearing the uniform of the U.S. Army. Can you imagine how angry that would make you? Multiply that anger by thousands and thousands of individuals so disrespected across our nation and hundreds of years of terror and subjugation. We who are white and privileged cannot know what this is like. But we are tired of watching videos of fellow Americans being killed, having their lives choked out or bled out because of the color of their skin. We are tired of watching videos of people of color or who speak a different language being judged and persecuted. So we march—because we know it is up to us to fight the racism that has been our heritage and continues to be an ugly disease in America. We are the problem and we must educate ourselves and our children and stay resolved to eliminate the disease and heal our divided and unequal country.

When I saw the crowds in Hinsdale and Downers Grove I thought, this is how we begin to heal. We are healing from a ravaging pandemic, and hopefully we will soon be able to heal our democracy that has been ravaged by a racist, ignorant, self-serving president. But the Black Lives Matter movement and the participation in it by so many Americans is a beginning of the healing of systemic racism. We need laws to reform policing. We need more and more education into the long history of racism in America and its systemic effects. We have made progress, sure. Jim Crow was outlawed (but redlining continued). Voting rights laws were passed (and diluted by the Trump administration and voting by people of color is currently being suppressed by the GOP). Schools were integrated, (although many have de facto segregation and there is great disparity in school funding). People of color must live in this America fearful of the police, fearful of jogging through their neighborhood, being falsely reported on by prejudiced people while gathering in a park. People of color still live in an America where they go to poorer schools, earn less, have less health care, and are judged guilty by the color of their skin.

What can we do? VOTE! And get everyone we know to vote, especially young voters! Trump’s America is a divided, unequal, unjust America and we must rid this country of him and the legislators who support him. Call out prejudice and racism whenever we see it, every time. Do not turn away. Be actively anti-racist. Advocate for laws that reform policing and adequately train police to preserve and protect human rights for all individuals with whom they have contact. Advocate for better and fair funding for all schools that will help to create an American that provides equal opportunity for all. Advocate for teaching our children the truth about racism in our country. We must face our very ugly history and the persistent cancer of racism honestly and openly and then work toward an America that truly embodies liberty and justice for all. The young people who are organizing and marching in these protests will lead the way.