Editor’s Note: Sandy Springs Together periodically publishes letters or comments from community members who raise a concern we feel should be considered by the broader community. Whitaker Swann is an impressive rising Junior at Westminster School in Atlanta. On June 6, he organized the Sandy Springs Rally for Racial Justice. The event drew in more than 300 people, along with several dignitaries, including State Senator Jen Jordan and Keith White, Director of Multicultural Affairs at Holy Innocents School. The Mayor of Sandy Springs also announced that he wanted to start holding community conversations about race, and also that he would be asking the council to change Lake Forrest Drive to Lake Forest Drive.
By Whitaker Swann
Before we start, I would like to have a moment of silence for the following people:
- George Floyd
- Breonna Taylor
- Ahmaud Arbery,
- Terrence Crutcher
- Pamela Turner
- Alton Sterling
- Philando Castile
- Laquan McDonald
- Sandra Bland
- Natasha McKenna
- Stephon Clark
- Corey Jones
- Botham Jean
- Eric Gardner
- Tamir Rice
- Trayvon Martin
and the many forgotten black men, women, and children killed by police officers here and around the world.
After my exams were over, my family and I went to the beach. While there, I decided for the first time in a while that I would check my Instagram. This was the day after George Floyd was killed. I don’t think it was a coincidence that I checked my Instagram to wake up and see on everyone’s story a police officer with his knee on someone’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.
I think I was meant to see that, and meant to bring everyone here. That night, I cried. I didn’t know what to do, how to do it, or if I should do anything at all.
But, I thought to myself: Why is it fair that I can feel safe going on a run at night? I remembered, Ahmaud Arbery didn’t. Why is it fair that I can feel safe in my own house when Breonna Taylor was murdered in her own house? I don’t have to constantly look over my shoulder when so many people do.
Like so many of you, I saw the outrage over the murders of George Floyd and Ahmaud and Breonna. I still see anger over Emmett Till. That is what has caused me to raise my voice and give others a chance to raise theirs.
I was very rarely vocal on the topic of racial discrimination because I didn’t know if I should get involved. But now I do. Every time I turn on the news, I see these shadows. I see a journalist getting arrested. I see peaceful protesters turning violent. I see policemen smashing their own cruisers. I see national guard troops moving peaceful protesters out from in front of the White House, the people’s house.
I thought to myself, where are these shadows coming from? Where is the origin of this tension? Then I remembered a quote that I had seen from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only love can do that.”
This tragedy has caused us to light our metaphorical candle, which in turn may have cast some of these shadows. But, if we light more candles, if every single one of us lights their candle, you’ll spread more of our light, and we can cast out this darkness to bring a new age of social justice and fairness, and show the rest of the world that all men are created equal, like it says in the Constitution of the United States of America.