Guest editorial: Park City protest organizer says white people must listen, learn and be better

Lance Rothchild
Park City High School student and member of Youth Against Police Brutality

As one of the organizers of the June 1 rally at Park City High School protesting police brutality against black Americans, I would like to sincerely thank everyone that attended and kneeled with us. We were grateful to do so alongside Park City Police Chief Wade Carpenter and Summit County Sheriff Justin Martinez, in solidarity. We appreciate the opportunity to provide a public platform for the speakers — State Rep. Sandra Hollins, Emma Tang, Jessica Hinojos and Evelyn Diego — to share their experiences and insights. Our role was to create that opportunity, acknowledge our own privilege and absorb their messages.

My hope is that the event provided a meaningful continuation to many residents’ dedication to activism. More importantly, however, I hope it served as a launchpad for our community’s activism and commitment to fighting for black lives. Already, several members of the community have reached out in an effort to learn more about the messages our speakers delivered.

One of these conversations took place on my porch recently, with a family friend I admire and respect. Some of the comments made by a speaker at the event appeared to be in conflict with my friend’s values and ideals. She came to the conversation asking me to share my perspective and to help her process the information. As we spoke, it was clear to me her shift in perspective understanding had very little to do with any information I shared, and very much to do with her desire to understand ideas that made her uncomfortable. I was grateful for the opportunity to learn from her example.

To me, this is exactly the kind of conversation we should be having — with empathy and open minds. I am truly inspired and encouraged by the positive and constructive desire to learn more that is present in our community. We understand that we need to learn to develop our allyship, and in order to do that, we need to be prepared to have difficult conversations. Our comfort zones are only comfortable because they’re where we spend most of our time. We should always be seeking to make them bigger, and, by nature, more inclusive by choosing to spend our time elsewhere.

This is how we can help. White people will never be able to fully understand the experiences of black people. And we can’t rely on black people to teach us how to be effective allies; that’s on us. But we don’t have to do that alone. Our group, as much as possible, wants to create opportunities for understanding and education. One of the greatest acts of nonviolent protest is education. Reach out to your friends and share what you’re learning, or ask what they’re learning. If you’re unsure where to start, seek out resources from the NAACP, ACLU, Color of Change, and Black Lives Matter. Look for black voices to amplify. The more you look, the more you’ll find. Please, use this learning to inform and strengthen your activism. We have all learned — through our education, and particularly through our participation in the Park City High School speech and debate team — leading with empathy is the first step in understanding, and it’s the first step on the path to change.

My co-organizers, Noam Levinsky and Carly McAleer, and I wish to thank the Park City Council; Mayor Beerman and Jenny Diersen; the Park City Police Department and Summit County Sheriff’s Department; the Summit County Council; the Park City School District; and Mary Christa Smith for their support of this community event.


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