Editor’s Note: Amid social justice demonstrations across the country and locally, we are reviving our “What I Wish You Knew” series. The campaign was selected two years ago to be a part of the national Poynter College Media Project. The goal is to examine misconceptions surrounding social issues and daily realities of our diverse campus community.
As protests erupt nationwide in response to police brutality and other discriminatory actions against the black community, Christen King, senior criminal justice major from Medina, Tennessee, not only advocates for change but plans to create change as a lawyer.
Reflecting on the protests, King is hopeful that the change she plans to make is within reach.
“It should give everyone hope that people aren’t done. People aren’t done fighting for others and what they deserve,” King said. “It’s a beautiful thing to have social media now and see so many people fighting with you. You see support from all over the globe right now. It’s so important because our generation is leading the charge.”
King believes social media plays an important role in the Black Lives Matter movement, but it has opened her eyes to how much information goes unnoticed and is ignored.
“We grew up in the hashtag generation: hashtag this man, hashtag this woman, hashtag this child,” King said. “For black people, we got sick and tired of these hashtags, because these aren’t the only black people that are being unjustly murdered in the streets. These are only the ones that everybody’s seen.”
During the movement, many have opted for silence, counter protests or even conspiracy theories surrounding the deaths shown in the media. King is hurt to witness people partake in these responses.
“At the end of the day, if I became one of those hashtags, would you stand up for me?,” King said. “It’s hurtful to know that people you’ve grown up with, people you’ve interacted with, people that know your heart, wouldn’t, solely because of the color of my skin. They don’t want to believe something, even if it’s right in front of their eyes.”
Part of the movement is embracing people of diverse backgrounds and cultures. Moreover, it’s about recognizing these differences and acknowledging the privileges and injustices existent within our society because of them.
Beyond embracing diversity, King chooses to embrace the stereotypes that come along with her skin color.
“I’m a black woman that loves her black skin, and I wouldn’t change a damn thing about it. I know black women go through struggles that I can’t even begin to explain,” King said. “So, I am a black woman. I accept all the stereotypes. I am the angry black woman because I want change. And I want my [future] children and my black daughter to feel accepted.”
Although she embraces the stereotypes, King does not allow such assumptions to define her life.
“I do not fit in a bubble, and I don’t fit in a box. I’m a black woman that grew up in an all white town, and people would call me Oreo. I’m a black woman that’s had some privileges that other black people haven’t,” King said. “I don’t know what it means to be burdened with the struggles of an urban black person. But, I’m a black woman that’s going to fight for all my black people.”
King plans to fight for her community and other minority communities in her future criminal justice career.
“I want to be a lawyer. I want to change the system. I don’t want to just sit here and keep complaining about it. I want everything that has been wrong to our people and to different minorities to be fixed,” King said. “I want that for the black community. I want that for Native American community. I want that for the Asian community. I want that for the LGBTQ community.”
Historically, social justice has progressed quite slowly for affected groups. King said she feels this is disheartening but not hopeless.
“I feel like we are moving in the right direction, and we have leaders in place. We’re just not there yet. It’s hard to believe because people love to say ‘we’re in 2020’ as if that means a lot,” King said. “It feels like it should; it feels like we should be farther ahead. There shouldn’t be a reason that we’re still having the same discussion that my grandparents were having 60 years ago.”
King believes that although the past is bleak, the future can still be bright.
“I want to be able to not have to sit down and tell my children or my grandchildren about inequality: discrimination, the school to prison pipeline, the war on drugs,” King said. “I want to be able to say, ‘Look here, if you work hard, there should be no reason that you won’t succeed’. You shouldn’t fail because of your name, your race or unfair policies.”
Faced with the many injustices which need to be resolved, King feels allies should step up and continue the progress that has been made.
“I just want to see progression at this point. I feel like minorities hold America at such a low bar because nothing ever happens. Our bar is so low because we don’t expect a lot from this country,” King said. “So literally any progression is what I’m looking for. Show up. Share kindness. Try to understand.”