Members of the ONU community participated in the Unity Walk on September 8th to fight social injustices that are seen today. The wrongful deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Jacob Blake, and countless others have sparked a fire to push harder than before to make a change. 

The start of the Unity Walk began near the Fraternity Circle, where senior James McDougald welcomed participants with a speech to expand on the importance of coming together to walk and explain what attendees should expect from this event. Participants of the event were separated into groups upon arrival to social distance and to discuss the social injustices that people of color see today. 

James McDougald starting the event by speaking about the importance of unifying together to get past racial bias (Northern Review photo / Chloe Lovell)

Each group leader and co-leader asked questions to drive the conversation, bringing clarity and awareness to the racism we see today. The questions revolved around what students can do to help, what they can continue to do following the event, what changes are needed to work towards a better future. 

The group I was a part of discussed multiple actions that can be taken, such as having hard conversations about racial inequalities and doing your research to vote, to show support and to create change. It’s important to fully look into the policies and beliefs of the person you may vote for because how they decide to rule will directly affect the people who are discriminated against for their skin color. 

Not only this, but it is important to make decisions that will benefit these people in need even if it will not directly benefit you. Hearing the thoughts of my peers and professors were insightful to me and it made me think more about what I can do daily to be an ally for people of color. As a white woman, I can use my privilege to promote the needs of people of color and help them in whatever way I can. 

After each group finished their discussion, they began the walk to the Martin Luther King Junior statue. ONU’s Gospel Ensemble led the crowd in singing “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers once all participants finished the walk. Multicultural Administrative Intern, Holton Watson, conducted a wrap-up following the song to recap that the Unity Walk is not just a one-time event, but a lifestyle and that uncomfortable conversations must continue to take steps needed to end racial injustices.

Students walking from Fraternity Circle to the Martin Luther King Junior statue to support those who are discriminated against due to skin color (Northern Review photo / Chloe Lovell)

It is so sad to me that because of racial discrimination, people are still dying, people are being bullied, people are looked at differently, and so on. I will never know what it feels like to be judged and discriminated against because of my skin color. I will never know the fear that people of color experience when passing by a police officer.  But I can use my white privilege for good to lift those who experience racial bias. 

Holton Watson recapping the Unity Walk event by reinforcing the ideas discussed in the break out groups (Northern Review photo / Chloe Lovell)

There are actions to be taken to work towards ending racial injustice. Be empathetic and open-minded with people of color. Don’t simply brush off their feelings and experiences because you don’t experience them yourself. Stand up for our brothers and sisters who need you. We are all human and we are all different and unique and that is beautiful. Use your different skin color for good and fight for change.

Again, VOTE! Think about each candidate and the policies that will be put in place if they take office. The policies that are beneficial to you could have the potential to hurt someone else who is already struggling because of the system. Knowing who you’ll vote for and what they support is something each individual must be cognizant of. It is additionally important to vote for the candidates who recognize the injustice in the system and will work to aid those who are struggling. Please, don’t be selfish with your vote when there are humans who are in need of change to have basic human rights. 

More efforts must be made to have hard conversations and as well stepping outside of our comfort zone to show support. We grow and learn through conversations, which is a way to continue educating yourself on the problems that need to be fixed. 

Overall, solving racial injustice and bias is not an overnight fix. It takes time, dedication, and effort to get to a world where skin color does not determine a person’s worth. There’s a long and hard process to achieve racial equity. As James McDougald said in his introductory speech:

“This isn’t something that just happens. It’s a daily choice you have to make… This isn’t about a moment or even a movement. It’s a lifestyle.”

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