‘So Now We Move. And Now We Change. And Now We March.’
Editor’s Note: Ethan Richmond and Dylan Richmond spoke recently during a protest in Madison last month. Here, in their words, are why they are taking part in this historic Black Lives Matter movement. If you have the text of a speaker at a recent event that you think we should share with our readers, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org and put “Speakers” in the subject line.
Ethan Richmond: Good afternoon. Thank you for being here. My name is Ethan Richmond, I’ve lived in Madison for 15 years, and I’m a 17-year-old senior at Daniel Hand High School
Dylan Richmond: And my name is Dylan Richmond, I’ve also lived here for 15 years, and I too am a 17-year-old senior at Daniel Hand High School.
Ethan: When I was in kindergarten, and the teachers went around the room asking us, “What do you all want to be when you grow up,” I said I wanted to be an astronaut. Somehow, the idea of floating above the earth through the realms of the universe excited me. How wonderful it would be to zoom past our blue dome of familiarity, disappear behind the clouds, and finally become an observer instead of the observed. When you are constantly the only person who looks like you in a room, why wouldn’t you dream of escaping reality? In the sea of homogeneity, I was an anomaly, and it stung. Every single day, even at that young age, I found myself slowly gaining awareness of a cold, sharp ignorance, and its lacerations forced me to crave a slow and unnoticeable disappearance into the oblivion of outer space. As Maya Angelou wrote, being aware of my displacement was the rust on the razor that threatened the throat. I remember thinking that up there, blackness is ordinary. Oh, how deeply we wished for ordinary.
Dylan: When I was in 1st grade, someone told me I was dirty. I asked where and he said “your skin.”
Ethan: When I was in 2nd grade, I came home crying when a classmate called me “Black” because I thought it was a swear word.
Dylan: When I was in 3rd grade, a girl told me to go back to where I came from. “Manhattan,” I asked? And she said, “No, where you’re really from.” I didn’t have an answer.
Ethan: In 4th grade, I heard a racist joke for the first time. I laughed because I was scared not to.
Dylan: When I entered 5th grade, people I’d never even met began to touch my hair without asking. It was if they thought they were entitled to me.
Ethan: When I was in 6th grade, I heard the N-word used for the first time.
Dylan: In 7th grade, I was called the N-word for the first time. And the second time. And a third.
Ethan: When I was in 8th grade, a white woman told a white man that I looked suspicious and that I was following him. He was my father.
Dylan: By high school, we had become accustomed to feeling uncomfortable; cohesion was a dream we felt we could not afford to imagine. The racism we continued to encounter, whether implicit or explicit, became so normalized, that it did not faze us when we were told we were only accepted to certain schools due to our race and not our hard work.
Ethan: Or when we asked for a skin color crayon in art class and were handed the color you’re most likely thinking of in your head right now.
Dylan: Or when Band-Aids and dance shoes and school curricula were simply not made for us.
Ethan: Or when not one of our teachers growing up looked anything like us.
Dylan: Our parents told us this, how the world would not like how we looked. One White and one Black, this battle, between white and color, was the same war we inherited within the confines of our skin. If you were to unzip it, you would find bones jutting against each other, some the slaves and the others the masters. We wondered why ending this war of racism was such a debate.
Ethan: I’m sure you’re all familiar with the infamously dreaded “talk” that parents give to their kids at one point or another, but some of you may not be aware of another conversation many Black children are subject to, a conversation not just of rules, but of means of survival.
Dylan: If you’re pulled over or stopped by a cop, be respectful. Be polite.
Ethan: Don’t become what they might think that you are.
Dylan: Say yes sir.
Ethan: Yes ma’am.
Dylan: And under no circumstances argue with the police.
Ethan: Keep your hands firmly on the dashboard. No sudden movements.
Dylan: Do not resist.
Ethan: Do not run.
Dylan: Because at another time, in another place, George Floyd’s name could have mine.
Ethan: People keep asking me how I’m feeling, and I struggle to find the words. I dig and I dig and I dig but I crawl out of myself empty-handed every single time because how do I find the words to explain how I’m feeling about watching a man be suffocated to death by those sworn to protect him in broad daylight? To put it in the simplest way I can, I’m in pain. It hurts to wake up every single day in a world where people like me are being murdered systematically with impunity and without any change, and it hurts that these lynchings are being justified by not only people who I thought were my friends, but by my own country, that was built on the fragile lie “liberty and justice for all.” There’s this branch of biology called epigenetics, and if you’ve never heard of it, it’s the study of changes in organisms caused by the modification of gene expression. Geneticists in this field have recently found that not only traits but experiences, like trauma, can be inherited. This means that the shrapnels from slavery are not solely sewn systemically into every facet of this nation’s government, law enforcement, housing, and education system, but into every fiber of blackness in our skin. Pain is in our DNA.
Dylan: So when someone tells you they’re hurting, you don’t say “no you’re not,” you say “where.” When someone tells you they’re bleeding, you don’t tell them there’s no blood because you can’t see any from where you’re standing, you ask them where it’s coming from and how you can help. Black people have been bleeding for hundreds of years, and America keeps telling them they’re lying. The time has come where we as a society can no longer ignore all of the red. Ignore the hate. Ignore the truth: This is not a debate between the left and the right, between Black and White, between police and civilians, or even a people and their country. It is a war between right and wrong.
Ethan: Last Sunday, we went to a protest in Branford, and one of the speakers said something that has stuck with me. When it comes to discomfort, do not shy away from this feeling. Embrace it. Because when you truly sit with and lean into the feeling of being uncomfortable, what do you do?
Dylan: You move.
Ethan: You shift.
Dylan: And most importantly you change.
Ethan: You change your position.
Dylan: And you change what you are doing.
Ethan: You know, I’ve been hearing from a lot of people that living in 2020 feels like we are trapped in a movie about the end of the world. Instead, we say let this be the beginning.
Dylan: Leslie Dwight asked, “What if 2020 is the year we’ve been waiting for?” and I think she might be right. It’s the knife that will dig itself so deep, the pain will finally have a way to escape. It’s the hurricane which will flood the earth, forcing us to rebuild our world better than before. It’s the year we will breathe so much fire, the dragons will cower in shame, and the one where we will scream so loudly, they will have no choice but to finally listen. 2020 is not the apocalypse; it’s the revolution. The year where, together, we are unstoppable.
Ethan: It is no longer enough to be silently not-racist.
Dylan: We must be anti-racist.
Ethan: It’s been said recently that what we are doing is unpatriotic, and that we are being too loud. To that I say the contrary, and that using your voice is the most inherently patriotic thing there is. By being here today, and by urging your friends, family, and neighbors to continue to be here tomorrow and the days that follow, you are exercising your rights in the bravest way there is. Thank you for listening.
Dylan: Keep listening.
Ethan: Thank you for learning.
Dylan: Keep learning.
Ethan: And thank you for using your voice.
Dylan: Keep using your voice.
Ethan: We all know America is called the home of the brave. I know that the courage in everyone here today is enough to begin to better the world into a place where a Black child will want to be an astronaut for the love of outer space and not the hate of our earth, but this will not be our home until it is everyone’s home.
Dylan: So now we move.
Ethan: And now we change
Dylan: And now we march.
Ethan: Thank you.
Ethan Richmond and Dylan Richmond just graduated from Daniel Hand High School (DHSS) in Madison. Both were members of the DHHS Habitat for Humanity Club, and participated in the Raise the Roof Dancing with the Stars fundraiser, and were members of the award-winning VIBE show choir, where Ethan served as the dance captain for the past two years and Dylan was president this year. Both were members of the National Honor Society for the last two years, are members of the Diversity Club at Hand, and both have received the Helping Hands Award, after being nominated by classmates. Dylan Richmond will attend the University of Southern California. Ethan Richmond will attend Williams College.