The N-Word

There are many conflicting views about the N-Word, and by N-Word, I mean both the words “nigga” and “nigger.” Although the word is rooted in history and originally only meant the color black, it quickly became a very derogative term for those of African descent living in the Americas through slavery and discrimination. Even more quickly, the N-word has become something of a controversy in the United States. Since the reclamation of the N-word by African American people, others have wanted to use it, despite its racist history and are offended when told they should not say it. The reasoning goes a lot deeper than “because I said so.”

The word “nigger”  is derived from the Spanish word “negro,” which ultimately comes from the Latin word “niger,” meaning “the color black,” as mentioned earlier. The word was used in reference to a group of Africans brought to what is now the United States as early as 1619. Through slavery and lasting through modern society, Black people have been referenced as the N-Word through bills of sales, advertisements for products, movies, books, songs, and several other instances, but no matter the instance, the word was always used in a racist and demeaning way.

In addition to the N-word, the word “Black” when referring to those of African or African American descent can also be demeaning depending on the context in which this word is used, although the using N-word packs more of a punch. By the 1800s, the term was used in a majorly diminutive and derogatory manner. From the point of contact, the original N-word “negro” has taken on many forms including, but not limited to, the following: niggur, nigga, and niggah.

When used by black people, the word is considered a reclaimed slur in most cases, similar to those in the LGBTQ* community who use the word “queer” to identify themselves; however, when white people use the N-word, it is  offensive due to its racist undertones. With this logic, a black person cannot be racist towards another black person by using the N-word. Although many black people do not like using the word (like my mother who all but banned the word from the house while I was growing up), the N-Word is still our word to use as we please.

Please do not treat this as the end-all be-all to the conversation about the N-word. I am but one Black person, and everyone has their own interpretations on what to do with it. There are truly no legitimate reasons to use the word; being in a rap song is not a legitimate excuse. However, let’s leave it to black people to use the N-word. If you are invited to use the word and you are not African American, only use it in the presence of the particular person that granted you permission. Do not say the word around others and justify yourself by saying that one person gave you permission. One person cannot grant you an all-access pass to something that can offend an entire community.

Furthermore, do not justify using the N-word by saying you have the first amendment right to freedom of speech. Although that is true, and you legally can say whatever you want, there should be a line drawn. As stated earlier, non-Black people have no legitimate reason to say the N-word. Next time you want to say the N-word, first ask yourself why.

Toya Graham is Not Your Hero

Toya Graham, the woman all over the media for slapping her 16 year old son on camera in order to stop him from rioting in Baltimore, is not your hero. She was not trying to embarrass him. She was trying to save his life; she didn’t want him to be another hashtag, another Freddie Gray. However, most of the world is looking at this video and laughing despite the fact that it wasn’t funny. There is no understanding of the black mothers plight.

For those that are unaware, April 12, 2015, Freddie Carlos Gray of Baltimore, MD was illegally arrested and detained, and died on April 19th from a severed spinal cord after numerous cries for medical services during his arrest and the hours that followed. On April 27th, the same day as Gray’s funeral, several protests and riots occurred in the streets of west Baltimore. Some peaceful, others not as peaceful, resulting in several burned and looted buildings including but not limited to CVS, a senior citizens home, a mall, various liquor stores, and other locations.

That afternoon, Toya Graham’s son, Michael Singleton who was dressed in mostly black and a face mask and wielded a rock, attempted to join the riots, and Graham attempted to pull him away, smacking him while doing so and yelling at him to “take the f-ing mask off,” “I didn’t raise you like this,” and other similar phrases. A bystander who eventually uploaded it onto social networking sites and shown on many news stations videotaped the scene. Many people have applauded her actions, calling her a hero for attempting to end the violence (at least in some aspect). Others have been thrown into fits of giggles over her actions even though this is no laughing matter.

Michael is Graham’s only son, and as stated earlier, she does not want his name to be the next hashtag; she doesn’t want to bury her son. Graham understands the dynamic between black men and the justice system where black men are targeted and feared more than their white counterparts. Graham understands that if her son were to go out at night (or out at all) he could have a target on his back due to his skin color, and she does not want him to do anything to make the situation even worse. She does not want to give anyone a reason to kill her son.

However, due to Graham’s parenting style and despite the fact that she has been hailed as “mother of the year” and only wants the best for her child, Baltimore’s Child Protection Services will be investigating Graham and her home because of what was shown since she has five other children. She was merely looking out for her son and following up with what she said (Graham had previously told him not to join the rioting(; Child Protective Services should not have had to intervene especially because they had never gotten a report about her or one of her other children before.

No, Not “Pretty for a Black Girl”

I’m not pretty for a black girl; I am simply pretty. When approached with the line “You’re pretty for a black girl,” what I actually  hear is, “You are too pretty to be black,” especially when followed with the question, “What are you mixed with?”

Whether or not I have multiple races that make up my genetic code is irrelevant. I want to scream from the top of my lungs that my black is beautiful and that one drop of white does not make me pretty. On the contrary, I am beautiful despite this backwards “one drop” rule.

When this “compliment” is thrown around, it is hard to believe that the person saying it is aware of exactly what they’re saying. The perfect response to this is, “You’re beautiful for a (insert whatever race the speaker is here).” Not only does this turn the tables onto the original speaker, but also makes that person uncomfortable and puts her in your shoes so she can hear how ridiculous such a statement sounds.

“You are pretty for a black girl” is not a compliment, and I do not have to respond after hearing those words escape from someone’s lips. At most, this “compliment” is actually borderline racism. At the bare minimum, it shows blatant disrespect for that person and her heritage.

When you say, “You are pretty for a black girl,” you  are saying that Africa is dirty, that it needs a purification, that it needs a relaxer, that it needs a good wash;  you are also saying that I am better than every other black girl out there.You are saying that out of the billions of black women in the world, I am the only pretty one, which is impossible. I can name several gorgeous black women (and even the ones I cannot name are beautiful).

The phrase, “You are pretty for a black girl” seems to stem from the many years of denigration of the black body and holding European features as the commonly accepted beauty standard. In the United States especially, being anything other than white or light skinned was thought to be ugly. If you had one drop of black in you, you were considered black and therefore ugly no matter what you actually looked like, and some people argue that this ideology has trickled down into modern thought. This flaw in modern thought has the power to really shape someone’s self esteem, causing her to question herself and the motives of other people.

If you google, “beautiful girls,” black girls or women are not listed. Although other people of color show up, they have pale skin similar to those of white people. Furthermore, the media—magazines and advertisements especially—lighten the skin of black people so they seem more “attractive.”

Ironically, the tables seem to have turned and black features are seen as beautiful on everyone but black bodies. Tanning is considered attractive and healthy. Fuller lips are considered sexy. Large hips and buttocks are sexy. In no means do these traits exist solely in black women, but they are regarded as typically black features.

The bottom line is that the phrase, “You are pretty” is a complete sentence. There is no need to add anything else. There is no need to turn a compliment into an insult by categorizing a person based on one of their other traits.

Why I am Not Here for Kylie Jenner


Recently Kylie Jenner, half-sister to Kim Kardashian, was spotted on Instagram with darker skin. She captioned the image, “What I wish I looked like all the time.”  While some people have claimed that she looked more like an avatar with metallic looking skin, I interpreted the picture as a wanting to be black. When I think of Kylie, I cannot help but to think she is disrespecting and appropriating black culture and black bodies.

Her Instagram is a mix of images, ranging from a normal Kylie to a Kylie full of enhancements. Though she is still quite young, nobody’s body changes that drastically overnight. She has gone from having thin lips and a flat butt in pictures to having curves that could rival any 17-year-old black girl. Her chest has also doubled in size, something that is impossible to do overnight without the help of surgeries or digital enhancements. Her lips are now extremely plump, causing a trend of “Kylie Jenner lips.

In March, the online magazine Styleite published an article titled “Beyonce Tries Kylie Jenner Lips”.  Although the site acknowledges the criticism they have received over this post and have posted several articles since that highlight the hypocrisy of the photo, I cannot help but continually roll my eyes at the article. I can see where Beyoncé overdrew her lips in the picture, yes, but it is not about the makeup here. It is about stealing from a black body and only loving it after a white person has done it. It is racially insensitive considering the considerable inequalitiy in the fashion world and it’s standard of beauty. Beyonce does not need to overdraw her lips the way the Kylie does. Kylie’s oversized lips mimic those of Black women. By saying that Beyonce has Kylie’s lips is ridiculous since Beyonce is already a Black woman. She doesn’t need to alter herself to look like one.

Black women have had these features forever, but when white women have them, it is a fashion statement. In turn, this means that something is only beautiful if a white woman does it despite black women looking that way much before white women. Black women are beautiful. Black people are beautiful. Yet, society tells us the exact opposite. Ironically enough, our looks are mimicked by the same people who sell us hair relaxers and skin lightening cream. Everybody wants to be black, until the fun time is over. Black people never get to remove their skin and have a day off.

This is not all Kylie has done. Despite the rumor that she is dating 25-year-old rapper Tyga, Kylie uses the black body as something to draw inspiration from constantly. She, like many others, has indulged in a culture simply because someone she dates identifies with that culture. Altering her body to turn into a black woman is offensive. She is clearly trying to be someone she’s not just because of who she is dating, turning these aesthetics into a fashion statement as mentioned above.

In February, Jenner was on a photoshoot as a “rebel” with dreadlocks and decided to keep the hairstyle for a little longer as seen in her Instagram photo.

Not only is a white person having dreadlocks cultural appropriation, but it carries a negative or outlandish connotation. People were in awe and considered her a rebel in the family by shaking things up. This is even more offensive because it is always black women who get comments saying that their natural hair is ugly and should fit more to the European standard of beauty. It is hypocritical to praise black features but criticize the people who have them naturally. Many people have tried to talk me out of getting my dreadlocks as they wrongly believe the style is dirty or unkempt, but when white people have them, they are interesting or a rebel, and that is frustrating.

Dreadlocks are a natural hairstyle for the Black community. The hairstyle goes back before Rastafarianism (where many people think it started) to the horn of Africa. In different cultures, they hold special meanings due to the role of some of the people with locks including shamans and warriors, and in Nigeria when babies are born with naturally locked hair, they are called “Dada.” Because of this history, it is disrespectful when white people lock their hair since it is tied to the roots of Africa and their type of hair does not naturally lock.

However, later in the same month, Zendaya, who is mostly known for being a former Disney Channel child star and a singer, is ousted for having dreadlocks, a hairstyle that is appropriate when it comes to her race. On the Fashion Police’s Academy Awards special, Guiliana Rancic said since Zendaya had dreadlocks, she must smell of patchouli oil or weed. Since then, Zendaya has written a powerful defense of her hair and Rancic has gone on to apologize as well as claim that she did not write the joke about Zendaya’s hair. But there was never an attack on Kylie for the same style of hair.  A Black woman with a natural hair style is seen as dirty where a white woman with an unnatural hair style is seen as edgy and rebellious. Those do not add up.

Society is all about policing black bodies to conform to the European centered standard of beauty, but whenever a white person has seemingly black features, they are praised. However, the copycat is never the original and it will never be as beautiful. The Black body is not a commodity and should not be treated as such.

Names Are Not Innocent

I have a “white” name. When it is put on an application without any other background information, many people would assume that I am white. I am not white. My white name does not define me just as culturally sounding names do not define anyone else. When you stereotype someone because of their name from whatever perspective — class, race, or sex included — you are ending any opportunity to get to know that person further because you have already decided who they are for yourself. People with names that are not of the “norm” face damaging consequences.

In September, the Huffington Post and Buzzfeed commented on a job seeker who dropped one letter from his name while applying for jobs (sending between 50 and 100 a day), and the responses rushed to him. He went from José Zamora to Joe Zamora. He did not change any of the details on the résumé, and his experience remained the same. However, with that name change, he effectively whitewashed himself.

Studies have shown that despite the online efforts made by digital job applications, it is exactly the opposite. Also, employers subconsciously — sometimes consciously — discriminate against names that sound black or Latino or have extensive affiliations with black or Latino companies and organizations. You’ve got to “calm down the blackness” as one person the New York Times quoted said.

“Calming down the blackness” means denying who you are, what you are, and where you came from – something that only people of color have to do. No one else has to constantly prove their worth or downplay parts of who they are. In a way, this is similar to the scene in Roots where slave Kunta Kinte is being whipped repeatedly until he said that his name was Toby – the name that his master had picked out for him.

Subconsciously or not, there is no excuse in judging someone by their name. Names are not all-encompassing to a person; they are the beginning. People have feelings. Make the conscious decision to get to know them because names do not tell you everything.

Respectability Politics Aren’t So Respectable


In 2004, Bill Cosby remarked “Are you waiting for Jesus to pull his pants up” to supplement his point that black men are not good fathers or role models for their children because of how they appear.

Telling someone to “pull their pants up” does not do as much good as you think it does. In fact, it does the opposite. Although people should take note of where they are, having sagging pants does not mean that you should not be taken seriously or respected. It does not give the ultimate title of thug; it is just what society finds unacceptable. On the other hand, when girls’ bra straps (and other undergarments) show, they are automatically given a slap on the wrist.

Respectability politics —when members of a marginalized group police their actions into being more “mainstream” or “acceptable”—undermine the actions of that specific marginalized group. It does not add to the conversation; it detracts from it. It gives the dominant group of people in a community more power, and it shames the marginalized group.

Black people use respectability politics to police one another’s style of dress, attitude and to denigrate each other’s personalities. Pants should be belted at the waist instead of lower on the butt. Hair should be neat and permed. Dresses and skirts should stop below a certain length. Shirts should not be revealing. Proper English should be spoken. This is done in order to assimilate as best they can with the white community. It has the idea that if they look a certain way, respect will come.

A person’s value should not come from how they look. However, we hear and see many comments on this saying “If he pulled his pants up, more people would take him seriously” and similar comments. Many activists of the Civil Rights Era wore suits, but they were still brutalized despite the nonviolence of it’s members. Politicians wear suits, but that does not mean that they do not have the potential to be bad people.

Recently, their have been ordinances and laws passed to ban saggy pants in Louisiana’s Terrebonne Parrish, Ocala, FL, Pikeville, TN, and Hampton, GA with the punishment starting with fines to awaiting a judge’s order to jail time because sagging pants have been deemed as “disrespectful.” In 2008, Obama stated that he believed that pants should be worn at the waist, but did not believe that there should be laws against it since there are other, “real” problems out there.

Everything that is claimed to be “respectful” is anti-black. For example, certain schools have restrictions on hair. A school in Oklahoma banned one of its students because she had dreadlocks.  Their dress code stated: “Hairstyles such as dreadlocks, afros and other faddish styles are unacceptable.” Dreadlocks are not unnatural to black communities; neither are afros. The code insinuates that hair cannot be natural for the student to be admitted.

Something similar occurred in the United States Army as well. The only hair styles that were allowed are ones that are similar to white hairstyles. Twists, dreadlocks, and large cornrows were all banned in the military as they downsized. However, Black hair grows differently than the “norm” of white hair which they use as a baseline. Black hair has several different textures, but most of it tends to be curly and difficult to pull back into a bun (or any other hair style deemed as acceptable) without having to chemically straighten it, and black women who serve — any one who serves — should be able to wear their hair as they see fit. They shouldn’t have to change it to look “neat” because to them, their hair is neat.

The whole idea of respectability is not only seen in racial occurrences either. Sex workers are typically not respected because of their services. Women are not respected because of either what they wear or who they sleep with. Gay people are not respected because being gay is “unnatural.”

However, if you see a certain group of people one way, nothing they say or do will be able to change your mind. If you see black people as criminals, they will be crimanals no matter what they wear.

Respectability politics assume that the problems faced by marginalized group can be solved by the marginalized group. The problem is not the marginalized group; it is the people around them. Not everyone respects themselves in the same way, nor do people have to be uniform in order to get respect. People should be accepted for who they are instead of what society wants them to be.

Love Hurts But Not This Much

During the Grammy Awards, President Obama appeared in a video in which he prompts musicians to end the violence against women because they have the power to set an example and change others’ viewpoints. He says more than one in five American women have been a victim of rape or attempted rape, and more than one in four American women have been the victim of domestic violence. He claims that it is everyone’s duty to create a culture where violence isn’t tolerated, and he is absolutely right.

Regardless of gender, nobody should have to deal with domestic violence: physical, verbal, emotional, financial, or sexual abuse. Domestic violence can be subtle, coercive, or blatant. It can start with comments and grow into physical altercations or death. Similar to sexual abuse, it is about asserting power. Domestic violence is not limited to heterosexual relationships; it can happen with any couple or relationship. Violence does not discriminate.

Sometimes victims stay in their situation, not because they want to, but because they feel like they do not have a choice. They feel hopeless and powerless. They believe that their abuser will change. They may not have the financial means or the physical means to leave, or because they’re scared for their children if they do leave, so they stay as protection. Most women’s shelters accept children; however, some only accept boys up to age sixteen or seventeen. One last reason the victims stay is love, but love should not hurt like this.

There have also been cases where women are shamed by their friends, families, or law enforcement officers when survivors tell their stories or escape from their situation. This must stop. Our rhetoric should not include: “Why did you make him angry?” or “What did you do?” This form of thinking should be replaced by: “How can I help you?”

During The Super Bowl this year, the campaign NOMORE ran a commercial in which it portrays a real telephone call to 911 where a woman is being abused and reached out for help, but to do so had to act like she was calling for pizza. The key here is listening. I commend the dispatch that picked up the call and did not write it off as a prank. I commend this commercial for not making abuse humorous which, in Western culture, happens often.

Lenore E. Walker created this chart of what a cycle of domestic abuse can look like.

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As you can see, the cycle doesn’t end. The perpetrator claims that it won’t happen again, but a new problem arises, and the cycle works itself out until the next problem. And the next. And the next.

There is no reason a partner should make you feel less than you are worth. Barack Obama is right; it is on us to stop the violence. It is on us to listen when people speak up. Abuse is not funny.


Her Name is Quvenzhané

Quvenzhané Wallis, the star of Annie, is an absolute powerhouse. Her acting skills are undeniable, and she is absolutely adorable on screen and in interviews. Wallis is the youngest actress to receive a nomination for the Academy Awards for Best Actress, and has worked alongside countless other great actors and actresses including Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz. Despite only appearing in a handful of roles, she has been nominated for several awards and won quite a few of them. Despite her youth, innocence, and sunny disposition, Wallis has still been torn down by critics for various reasons.

Since working on Annie, interviewers have been shortening Wallis’ name and calling her by her character’s name claiming her name is “too hard to pronounce.” However, Annie and Quvenzhané are two different people; one is a character, and one is a real person. Wallis should be treated with respect, no matter what her age. Wallis even gives an adorable step by step demonstration of how to pronounce her name which can be found here:

Despite this, the young actress always tries to find the silver lining. In an interview with Nicholas Haramis of T magazine, Wallis is quoted, saying, “I’m not gonna name names, but sometimes when reporters are talking it gets a little boring because I don’t have any jokes to tell because the questions are so serious.”

She tries to tell jokes to ease the tension, but she’s right; it does get serious. During the 2013 Oscars Awards gala, someone at The Onion attempted to make a “joke” and called Wallis the C-word on Twitter. At that time, she was only nine years old. They quickly retracted their statement, but the damage was done. During one of her more recent interviews, David Muir asks Wallis, the Person of the Week, if she had watched the previous version of Annie as a little girl. Without skipping a beat, Wallis scrunches up her face and answers, “Well, I’m still a little girl,” which is true; eleven is still seen as “little” by many people. She is only in sixth grade. She still has a life at home, reading and playing video games.

Wallis is only being treated this way because she is something different. Her name is different, her skin is different, and her story is different. She is an African American girl in the spotlight. If people can learn to pronounce, spell, and made Tchaikovsky, Dostoevsky, and Galifianakis (among others) household names, people can learn to spell and pronounce Quvenzhané. It is uncertain if America is scared of her race or of something else about her, but America is reducing her power to something it can comprehend instead of embracing her for what she is. Instead of making fun of her, learn about her. Learn from her.

Whitewashing in the Media

 Whitewashing is the practice where a director, producer, or fan takes a character who is originally of color and replaces them with a white actor or a white FC claim.  Whitewashing makes a character look more “white” or European in order to appeal to the white masses.

People of a minority descent (i.e: everyone but white people) have always been underrepresented in the media and whitewashing provides a disservice to them. It strips away the little comfort they had and leaves them with no real representation. It is difficult to get adequate representation in the first place, and whitewashing strips it away. Not only is the public underrepresented but whitewashing also hinders actors of other skin colors from landing major roles. White people are already cast in the majority of  roles in Hollywood so why can’t people of color be cast for the roles that were written for them?

White people are not underrepresented in the media therefore they cannot be “washed out.” Giving roles to people of color does not deprive white people of the opportunity;  they have had and will have many more opportunties than minorities. I find it difficult to believe that directors and casting officials cannot find people of color that are as talented as the white actors they find though it is often used as an excuse in the industry.

This also happens among black actresses- Nina Simone and Zoe Saldana being an example.  Instead of picking a darker skinned actress that resembled Simone (such as Adepero Oduye) to portray her in a biopic, the directors and casting crew chose Saldana. By choosing the lighter skinned actress, they had to alter her appearance –  darkening her skin tone and giving her a wider nose and fuller lips. It begs the question: weren’t there other actresses that could have fulfilled Nina Simone’s look without having to alter her appearance?

People in our society are conditioned to see characters in a book or movie as white unless explicitly stated. This is problematic.  Our media casts only white actors and actresses to represent all of us yet other races exist on the planet, and they should be represented accordingly. The lack of people of color cast as heroes, good guys, and main characters is a reflection of the skewed view of minorities in this country.  It is even clear in our refusal to cast people of color in roles of fictitious creatures – why are even imaginary characters cast as white people? In the land of Middle Earth, why were none of the Hobbits brown?

Whitewashing did not begin in the media, history has been whitewashed for centuries. Beethoven was part Moor, which means that his skin was considerably darker than they paint him. Jesus of the Christian faith was also a person of color. Coming from that area, there is no way that he could appear as many churches view him: white, blue eyes, long flowing hair. Another person that is whitewashed consistently is Queen of the Nile, Cleopatra. A scientist discovered her sister’s body and tested it for sampling, finding that she had African ancestry. More recently in Exodus: Gods and Kings, the cast is all white, except for the people of color that are playing the enemy. This seems strange because neither the Egyptian Gods or their people were white. When hieroglyphics are examined, the people are portrayed as darker-skinned, white actors should not have been cast in these roles.

It is time to reexamine the way our media is structured and how it portrays groups of people unfairly, if at all.  Exodus is another blatant attempt to rewrite history in favor of the racial majority.  We need to take a stand and reject films that ignore historical fact to pander to racism and the exclusion of people of color in this county.


Upon the decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson who shot unarmed teenager Mike Brown, the hashtag #blacklivesmatter has reappeared all over social networking sites. The hashtag originally started with the unjust killing of teen Trayvon Martin, and with each new black life unfairly lost, it comes up again. The hashtag is a call to action or reaction against the perpetrators of the crime. However another hashtag that seems to be taking the center of attention away from #blacklivesmatter has appeared. That hashtag is #alllivesmatter.
Although all lives do matter, it is imperative that #alllivesmatter stops and #blacklivesmatter is the main hashtag when discussing events such as what’s happening in Ferguson, the Eric Garner case, John Crawford, Tamir Rice and many more black lives lost. #alllivesmatter takes that attention away. It has already been proven that white lives matter; they have been running the world for centuries. It is now time to acknowledge the power and meaning of black lives. It is not white lives that are left in the middle of the street for hours. It is not white lives that are shot multiple times or are killed without being brought justice. It is not white lives that are the victims of a systematic oppression.
From multiple sources, it has been noted that one black person every twenty-eight hours is killed unjustly by the police. This year alone the following names come to mind: Mike Brown, Eric Garner, John Crawford, Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley, Rumain Brisbon, and Darrien Hunt. There are probably more, but this is what the media has mainly focused on. All of these men were unarmed and innocent. There was no threat to anyone’s lives. There are also numerous women who go through this as well, so do not think this solely impacts black men. Some of the women include Tanesha Anderson, Rekia Boyd, Aiyanna Jones, and Miriam Carey.
Black lives matter because African American people and white people are treated very different in the United States. This is systemic. People of European descent with lighter skin have privilege over descendants of Africa whether they realize it or not. Though today’s generation may have never owned slaves, they still benefit from it. The American Psychological Association (APA) published an article this year that found that white cops over-estimated a black child’s age by up to four and a half years and also found them the least likely to be innocent of committing a crime. Black children are being dehumanized before they even get a fair chance.
As the #blacklivesmatter website states, “This is not a moment, but a movement.” Join the movement. Be in solidarity with black people in this hard time, but do not let your voices overpower theirs.