Advice to Class of 2020: Don’t Be A Bystander

Congratulations, Class of 2020! You’ve graduated, now what?

COVID-19 came to your city. You completed the last quarter of the school year online. Your prom was canceled. Your traditional graduation ceremony was canceled.

As you were participating in senior car parades on the last weekend of the school year, an African-American man was killed in Minneapolis while in police custody. Peaceful and violent protests erupted across the country and you were officially introduced to Black Lives Matter as an adult.

Class of 2020 by Erika Woollett-Chiba IG: woolly.chiba

In 2008, you were a young child when the first African-American president was elected. People were excited about the election. With Barack Obama in office, our country was headed in the right direction. Women, People of Color, Immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQ, and other marginalized groups were finally being heard.

When you were a freshman, just when our country was about to elect the first woman president, Donald Trump was elected. The popular vote wasn’t enough to make a difference. Our country entered another dark period in our nation’s history. Most of your teachers were not alive during the Civil Rights Era and can only base our experiences on the last 5 or 6 presidencies.

Trump’s tweets have referred to Hispanic immigrants as rapists and murderers, Muslims as terrorists, and African-Americans as thugs. He continuously berates women reporters. His Executive Orders and Supreme Court appointees have and will continue to roll back civil and human rights.

Make America Great Again is another way of telling us to STFU.

Your great-grandparents were verbally abused, spat on, or beaten for being black or for helping those who were black. Your great-grandparents were verbally abusing, spitting on, or beating others who were black. Your great-grandparents were protesting in the streets. Your great-grandparents were at home screaming at the news on television. Your great-grandparents were at home enjoying their favorite shows. Which one are you?

You are your descendants’ great-grandparent. You are their ancestor. Let them know you cared about other human beings. 

If you’re not already 18, your birthday is around the corner. Register to vote. While unicorns may tell you to vote for your favorite candidate, logical people will tell you to vote for the best candidate. We learned our lesson 4 years ago. Many of us voted for a third party candidate or stayed home and indirectly voted for Trump.

If you truly want to make a difference, vote for Joe Biden. He is likely to pick a woman as his vice-presidential running mate. Bernie Sanders and other former candidates are influencing his campaign. YOU are influencing his campaign.

Stand up for those killed in mass shootings. Stand up for African-Americans killed while in police custody. Stand up for immigrants who are mistreated and whose kids are in cages. Stand up for Native Americans who don’t have clean water. Stand up for Muslims. Stand up for refugees. Stand up for women. Stand up for LGBTQ. Stand up for the homeless. Stand up for those with disabilities. Stand up for those who don’t look like you.

If you are white male, use your privilege to help. Hear them first before speaking.

If a family member speaks negatively about any marginalized group, educate them. 

If you see a person with a MAGA hat, protect yourself and those around you.  

As you enter the workforce or university – if you see a threat of violence or an injustice, RECORD, REPORT, and if necessary, CONFRONT.  

We hope to see you at the next protest.

In the meantime, wash your hands often and wear a face mask when you go out. 

Class of 2020, please don’t be a bystander.


Your Brown-Skinned Teacher

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s