Rut: A Story of 'Black America' as Told by Shaun King

102. That’s how many unarmed black men and women Shaun King said were killed by police officers in 2015 alone. The last time that many unarmed black men and women were killed by police officers, King stated, was when McKinley was president, the microwaved hadn’t been invented yet, and it was 1902.

The United States of America has a problem, and Shaun King has dedicated his life to figuring out the solutions. On November 1st I attended a Middlebury College: Meet the Press event with UVM’s Black Student Union. Mr. King, a journalist for the New York Daily News and formerly the Daily Kos, spreads awareness about police brutality, racism, #BlackLivesMatter, and how these three entities intersect.

The main goal of his speech was to encourage students to understand why we need social change as a society and inspire us to implement these changes with our own vessels of activism. First, he wanted us to know that we are in a “rut.” Mr. King explained that we are led to believe that humanity is improving just because technology is improving, but this is simply not true. In the last 200 years, humanity has done terrible things, like the slave trade, the Holocaust, and genocide in Rwanda. Regarding the U.S., we currently have 700 per 100,000 people incarcerated, which is a number far ahead larger than that of any other country. 

We’re in a tumultuous time in history right now. Like Mr. King said, “it’s really difficult to understand a moment in history if you’re in it.” But he did put it in perspective when he spoke about The Atlantic’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton. 

The Atlantic has only ever endorsed two presidents before October 2016: Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon B. Johnson. Although they repeatedly pride themselves on being unbiased, they felt compelled to endorse Abraham Lincoln because he would abolish slavery. They also knew that Lyndon B. Johnson would take care of our nation after John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and he most importantly would advocate for civil rights. If these are the historical moments in time that they saw worthy of a presidential endorsement, how is our present any different?

We need to raise this generation to be unafraid of police officers. We need to raise this generation to be compassionate and kind. We need to raise this generation to get the United States out of a “rut.”

But first, we must unlearn racism, unlearn brutality, unlearn hatred. Compassion and human decency cannot grow where hatred of any kind exists. We must cultivate these qualities in ourselves and in our youth. Like Shaun King said in his speech, “we must pivot from awareness to change,” and we must start now.