We need to listen to—and fight for—Black youth

The young people in our city are a driving force toward an anti-racist future.

By Ariana Cadet and Caitríona Taylor (Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts CEO)

It is important for each of us to acknowledge the countless deaths at the hand of racism, and think about our individual and collective roles in fighting racism in our country. Business leaders have a responsibility to address systemic racism through actionable policy change. As the CEO of Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts, I have a responsibility to create equity among our staff and membership, and I am focused on using my privilege, as a white person and a CEO, to amplify Black voices, especially those within our membership.

Ariana Cadet, a 16-year-old Girl Scout and high school Junior from Mattapan, wanted a platform to lift her voice on her experiences and beliefs on racism in Boston, and I am honored to introduce you to her now:

Imagine being a young black female with the hope of being a lawyer one day in order to cure the world of ignorance and prejudice against black people. How can this happen when the people who are supposed to protect us are the same ones who are harming us?

When I think of government, I think of three branches that work together to provide safety and public services for citizens. However, through the recent and historical attacks on the black people, it feels like government officials are sitting back and watching this all happen. When is it going to be time for the people we elect to step into their roles and say enough is enough?

When I become a lawyer, I want to help people who are being incarcerated and unable to pay for a lawyer to properly help them. I want them to know that I have their best interest in heart. I will not wait until it is too late; I want to start now.

As protests sparked all around the world, I knew when it came to Boston, I needed to be there, even though my mom did not want me there for my safety. I needed to be there not just for me, but for future generations of children of color who cannot choose what color they are born. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “There comes a time when your silence is betrayal.” He had a dream 57 years ago, and as a 16-year-old now, I have this same dream.

As a black young woman, my skin is a threat every day; my life is not guaranteed. When I am around white people, I have to prove myself just so they do not make judgments about me. I do all that I can to speak clearly and without slang, to make sure I smile, and censor any experiences that others could use to create negative beliefs about my culture or environment.

For hundreds of years, the image of black people has been attacked through stereotypes and the media—big lips, big noses, poor living conditions, uneducated, teen mothers, violent, drug addicts, and alcoholics. Through slavery, Jim Crow laws, mass incarceration, and poverty, it has never been easy for black people to succeed. When it feels like the world you live in—the only world you know—is always against you, you are forced to surrender and accept your reality.

In the video of George Floyd’s murder, he was calling out for his mother. That caused a flood of tears from my eyes. This is when I realized he was judged on how he looked before he was recognized as a person. Stereotypes have been instilled in the minds of people so much so that even in the hands of law enforcement, we are not safe. Who do we call in an emergency?

I want to become a lawyer so that I have the power to change the narrative, bring justice to those accused of doing wrong, and to fight for the rights of people like me. As members of our community, we need to educate ourselves, understand our privileges, and use them to fight for what is right. We need justice for the black individuals who are dying by the hands of those in power. Let’s fight against the inequality and racism in Boston, and fight for the change we want to see. Fight for me.

Ariana Cadet is a Girl Scout, Junior at Roxbury Prep High School, and resident of Mattapan. Caitríona Taylor is the Chief Executive Officer of Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts.

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