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How can whites help #BlackLivesMatter without co-opting its message?

The following piece, written by the editorial editors, reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board.

Last week, Black Lives Matter founders Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi spoke on Miami's campus.

They were met with a full house, but also with hostile Yik Yak comments.

As the editorial board discussed the hateful Yaks, we grew increasingly frustrated - not only with the negative opinions of our peers, but also with our own lack of knowledge on how to support the cause.

As a predominantly white editorial board, we didn't feel we were in a position to discuss this with much authority.

"Clicking 'like' doesn't get us closer to justice," Garza said at the event last Monday. "Retweeting doesn't get us closer to justice."

So what does? What can we do to support the Black Lives Matter movement without co-opting what it is all about?

In August, Sally Kohn published a piece in the Washington Post, titled, "This is what white people can do to support #BlackLivesMatter." In it, she articulates what we on the editorial staff were grappling with: the notion that "Many [white] people are reticent to speak out, for fear of misspeaking; others want to do something, but don't know what to do."

A crucial first step is accepting that racial inequality exists. It is a real issue, and although it might not be affecting us directly, that doesn't mean we shouldn't be concerned.

Many people consider themselves free of blame. They think, "I'm not racist. I'm not contributing to oppression."

This reasoning is flawed. Ignorance and apathy are no different than active participation, because it leads to the same outcome - continued oppression of certain groups. If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. We are all responsible.

When we hear the retort "All Lives Matter," or that police brutality and other injustices are "not a big deal," those are times to speak out.

Furthermore, to those who critique the #BlackLivesMatter movement: to say that #BlackLivesMatter is racist and should be replaced with #AllLivesMatter is to deny that white privilege exists in our society.

"All lives do matter," Garza said last week. "We are all working for a world where all lives are valued. But that's not the world we live in now."

Unfortunately, in our society, it seems white lives matter more than other lives. We don't need a hashtag or a movement to say this because we already know it's true.

In July, the MTV campaign "Look Different," which is designed to decrease racial prejudice, released a satirical commercial for "White Squad," a company offering "professional white advantage services."

The commercial opens by asking, "Is your skin color holding you back? Are you tired of systematic racial prejudice ruining your day?"

If so, the White Squad can help. They promise to hail a cab, carry bags through airport security or even "appear in court for you, giving you the full benefits of being a white person in the legal system."

Critics complained the commercial was overly humorous, downplaying the seriousness of racial inequality. However, the message is clear: white privilege is a real problem and we cannot ignore it any longer.

A lot of people don't realize these are advantages, either because we are so accustomed to them, or because it can be uncomfortable to acknowledge a phenomenon that benefits us at the expense of others.

TIME magazine reported on the commercial and said, "Acknowledging the inequities of white privilege is not the same as endorsing them; on the contrary, frankly discussing these imbalances is the first step in diffusing them."

We understand that we have little first-hand knowledge of the oppression minority groups face each day. But we recognize this oppression exists.

We are compassionate. We are supporters. We are allies. What can we do to act like it?

In her article, Kohn asked activists in Black Lives Matter to share their "hopes, asks and even demands for white people in America today."

Some of the feedback she got included advice like observing less and doing more, being invested even if it means taking risks or experiencing discomfort, and not only identifying as an ally, but acting as an accomplice, as well.

We would like to do the same as Kohn and invite minority groups or individuals to share their views.

It might not be our time to talk, but that doesn't mean we aren't here, listening.

We are not here to talk about the struggles that we do not know ourselves - or at least not to claim them as our own. But we can provide a platform for those who do own these struggles.

We shouldn't hold the microphone, but we can be a captive audience.

The Miami Student would like to serve as a medium for organizations in Miami's diversity community to publish Letters to the Editor (200 to 400 words) and essays (500 to 1000 words). These can be submitted to the editorial editors at editorial@miamistudent.net.

It's a week after the founders of BLM spoke at Miami and we don't want the conversation to stop. We think this starts with campus leaders speaking out.

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