14-year-old Royce Mann wrote and recited a poem this past spring that for months stayed pretty quiet. But with the recent resurgence of violence over police killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, followed by the killing of five Dallas police officers, the video resurfaced and is going viral. More than 8 million people have viewed it. Some people love it; some people hate it, calling the 5th grader “brainwashed.”The critics say he’s “brainwashed” because Royce believes: “Everyone should have the privileges that I have. . . . “When I see a police officer I see somebody who’s on my side.”
Royce’s message is the plea of a young white male for a change in thinking of young white males towards women, blacks, Hispanics and Asians. “Everyone’s story should be written so all they have to do is get it read… I get that change can be scary but equality shouldn’t be…”
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But we are still battling the war of commonly held perceptions. Here are two examples:
This photo, depicting black men with guns, is portrayed negatively as “Group of Black Gangsters with Guns.”
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While this photo, depicting white men and women also carrying guns, is treated much differently:
At the young age of 14, Royce is willing to tell the truth about privilege as he sees it, and how it feels to live life on the top rung of the ladder.
“To be honest I am scared of what it would be like if I wasn’t on the top rung, if the tables were turned, and I didn’t have my white boy privilege safety blankie to protect me. . . . ”
But speaking words of power– and inclusion– to his fellow eighth-graders, Royce says it’s time to stop thinking its ok to live life with other people beneath your feet.
“It’s time to let go of that fear,” he recited. “It’s time to take that ladder and turn it into a bridge.”
Good for you, Royce. The golden rule works: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” There just may be hope for America yet. Only love can conquer hate.