Why being ‘not racist’ is not enough
Updated: Apr 7, 2022
• Contributing writer Noelle Blake and Today Magazine received a First Place SPJ award for this article in 2021 — it was originally published in Today Magazine, our monthly publication
By Noelle Blake — Special to Today Magazine
AS I GREW UP, my parents always warned me to be on my best behavior whenever I left the house. The phrase was standard, but their reasoning was anything but. They, like many other black parents, were worried about the way their child would be perceived solely because of their race.
My experience in Avon as a person of color is nothing in comparison to the discrimination that other people of color face across the country on a daily basis.
I am lucky to have people around me who support and accept me despite our cultural differences. I am lucky to have the opportunity to attend a public school in a district that has better funding than my own. But why is it that when I am given these privileges, I am lucky rather than deserving?
Connecticut ranks 39th on a list of states with the most racial progress. The reason I am afforded the luxury of attending school in Avon is because my state is one of the least integrated in the country.
Many people like to think that success is achieved only through hard work, yet how am I meant to succeed in a state that is known for its wealth but that struggles to provide proper education for people of color?
So, you are aware of the privilege that you have, whether it be because of your race, sex, social class or otherwise. You have friends who are people of color who you understand and appreciate.
That is not enough. Being an ally to people of color is not enough, because in 2020, over 50 years after the civil rights movement, there should not be people who are actively against people of color.
I would like to live in a world where being on my best behavior does not determine whether or not my life is in jeopardy
In light of recent events, you may be asking yourself how the death of George Floyd inspired protests across the country for his perpetrator’s arrest.
In short, the outrage among the black community did not come solely from the death of George Floyd. It came from the death of George Floyd and the countless other law-abiding black citizens who have been murdered by law enforcement. The same law enforcement that is meant to keep all people, regardless of race or ethnicity, safe.
If you are aware of the privilege you have, use it. People are too inclined to voice their true thoughts around a group of like-minded individuals. Advocate for those who are rendered voiceless due to unlawful oppression and systemic racism.
The primary reason this treatment has gone on for so long is because too often even the good cops are determined to defend the bad ones. There is no room for “bad apples” in a profession that deals with life-and-death decisions.
I would like to live in a world where being on my best behavior does not determine whether or not my life is in jeopardy. Black Lives Matter. +
• Hartford resident Noelle Blake has attended Avon schools since kindergarten and is a senior in the Class of 2022 at Avon High School — this article was published in July 2020, the summer before her junior year
• Blake and Today Magazine received a First Place SPJ award in 2021 for this effort in Connecticut's General Column magazine category — she also received a Second Place award for a separate story in the COVID News category
• SPJ = Society of Professional Journalists — the SPJ is widely considered the nation's leading journalism agency
• Awards Story — Nine more SPJ awards for Today Magazine
• This article first appeared in the July 2020 edition of Today Magazine, our monthly publication