Guest editorial: Park City’s student-run protest of police brutality and systemic racism left me inspired
Regarding the student-led protest of police brutality on June 1 at Park City High School.
On Monday, June 1, my pride in the next generation of voters brought me to tears. I’ve been reflecting on where those tears came from and it is simply this: Hearing kids acknowledge privilege and white supremacy and proposing next steps is the sound of hope that systemic racism is, in fact, fracturing and doomed. Here in Privilege Mountain, there ARE kids who see beyond this bubble.
Park City High School students took the initiative to organize a protest of police brutality, acknowledge white privilege and white silence. They were permitted to use Dozier field as the gathering place. They called for independent, civilian complaint review boards, more effective police training, donating to Black Lives Matter, 18-year-olds to get out and vote, and to remember that when we think about looting, we happen to occupy this land as a result of broken treaties with Native American nations. They are well aware that Utah’s largest voting block, by age, is made up of 18- to 24-year-olds. Students earned a visit from state Rep. Sandra Hollins, who reminded them that achieving systemic, racial equity is a dance consisting of two steps forward, and one step back. She reminded them to hold the line no matter what.
My first ever impression of Dozier field was nothing short of an episode of Friday Night Lights, bubbling over with the “God, country, football” mantra. A house of sacrosanct football culture, in which Kaepernick knelt in protest of police brutality and as a result suffered blacklisting from teams. On June 1, we ALL knelt for 8 minutes and 46 seconds on the turf. On that afternoon, Dozier was a house of youth power.
During those nearly 9 minutes, I became conscious of how many thoughts and decisions I was making. “My right knee is getting a little uncomfortable, should I switch to my left? Yes let me switch. Now my left quad is feeling strained. Think I’ll distribute my weight more to my calf. Yes that’s better. Why is rioting more outrageous than incidents of black men and boys dying in police custody? Because, black lives don’t matter more than property in our culture. Where are these students headed in life? Anyone need a written recommendation?” On and on. Nine minutes, was therefore, plenty of time for that officer to acknowledge that he was cutting off airflow and circulation to George Floyd’s brain, and make the decision to remove his knee. It was plenty of time for the other officers to recalibrate and do the right thing. There was plenty of time to assess for the need for CPR. It was pure evil and disregard.
So what can older adults do in this charming little community? We can act upon what students called upon us to do on Monday. We can ensure they have space to deconstruct systems of oppression, examine internal bias and turn viewpoints upside down for deeper understanding. We can help them dig deeper. We can help them hone constructive proposals for change. And, when they speak, we must listen. Electeds, appointed officials and candidates must include student voices and expertise on policy decisions. The young adults who organized Monday’s gathering are no doubt empowered by their abilities to mobilize voters (and press) for the purpose of changing conditions they find unacceptable.
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F. Joseph Feely III writes in a guest editorial that he is concerned about the “likely impact of the extreme policy positions” Democrats will pursue if they win control of the White House and both chambers of Congress.