Community Voices: Teens talk about racism and community

In preparation for this summer’s public art show, RACE AND REVOLUTION, I asked teens to ask teens some questions about race, how they learn about history, and their roles in their communities.

Meet Julian, 16, from NYC

Julian, 16

Q: How would you describe or explain racism in the United States?

A: Rampant. From the beginning of the US through modern day racism has been a systemic part of our society, fueling relations, economic policy, foreign policy, and causing more horror and pain than any system in American History.

Q: What might the phrase historical trauma mean?

A: The phrase historical trauma might mean lasting damage caused to a specific race, ethnicity, or people by a historical event or occurrence. For instance, the systemic racism present in American culture against African Americans since slavery.

Q: What role does an individual have towards making a community better?

A: The individual is the basis of the community, so the individual has a huge effect on making the community better. The individual, in working to better themselves and to keep themselves safe and happy, inadvertently keeps their community happy by promoting ideas, causes, and actions that are beneficial to all.

A: What does it mean to hear the words, “I’m sorry”?

Nothing. They’re words, just like every other sentence, every other idea, speech, lecture. The intentions can be good, the intentions can be to make the receiver feel better about something, but more often than not they’re empty words. “I’m sorry simply” means someone doesn’t like feeling guilty. Being sorry, more often than not, is selfish. It is the first defense mechanism humans are taught to use.

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