2014 was a great year for bringing attention to issues of social justice. It was also a sad year, as too many lives were lost due to ongoing racism, homophopia and transphobia. The price was too high, but these issues finally received a fraction of the attention they deserve. We must educate ourselves on the events of 2014 so we can begin 2015 with knowledge and compassion.
The unfortunate and volatile deaths of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner and many other young African American males due to police brutality have served to spark a national conversation about institutionalized racism. Many Americans were shocked to learn that these prejudices still exist not only in the police force, but within the country. For most people of color living within America, however, these injustices are a daily reality. If any good at all were to come of these incidents, it was that hundreds of thousands of people recognized a problem for the first time. Many protests, walkouts and sit-ins were organized all over the U.S as a show of defiance in protest of Darren Wilson’s not being charged with the murder of Mike Brown.
Later incidents were met with the same amount of outrage. Campaigns such as #BlackLivesMatter and #IcantBreathe spread throughout the internet, prompting an online conversation as well. Media outlets were criticized for their biased reporting of the incident. Holes were poked in the investigations of the police officers. For the first time on mainstream media, attention was openly brought to the unspoken institutional racism that has existed since the establishment of the U.S.
The death of Leelah Alcorn was another story that struck a chord in 2014. A transgender teen from Ohio, Leelah (born Josh Alcorn) committed suicide when she was unable to gain acceptance from her parents. Her anguished suicide note, which she posted on Tumblr before walking into the path of an oncoming truck, pleaded for us to “fix society”. The internet seemed to explode with sadness at hearing this news, but along with that also came an outpour of support for other transgender teens. The hashtag #RealLifeTransAdult began to trend on Twitter, where transitioned adults shared their stories of hope. Moreover, this event and Leelah’s letter caused many to begin thinking about transgender issues. It has sparked a conversation about tolerance and made many think of what they can do to support the current teens who are struggling.
The year 2014 taught us many lessons and at a very high price. It is important to go into 2015 with full knowledge of these events and to know for what it is that these individual died unjustly.
In 2015, we must strive to use the platform that that we have gained to continue to listen, write, relate, understand and fight for freedom, justice and acceptance.
By: Tina Madani Kia