We stand at a pivotal time, not only for our county but also for our state and especially our community. This summer people from across Kansas City came out to protest the predominant systemic racism and white supremacy in our country. We must change the system or we will continue to see the killing and disparaging of Black people nationally and locally, right here in our community. The Minneapolis Police Department’s murder of George Floyd might have been the catalyst sparking a renewed commitment to the Black Lives Matter protests, but we have our own George Floyds right here in Kansas City.
We never wanted our reality to erupt into a national racial justice crisis, but here we stand, still facing a system of oppression that was not built to uplift, but to disparage and make low. Thanks to the work of many, the public is becoming swiftly educated on the pervasiveness of systemic racism in education, transportation, healthcare, nutrition, housing, jobs, and many other industries vital to communities of color in Kansas City and nationally. We are finally having tough conversations here in our community and will continue to protest, holding our leadership accountable to take action and address these disparities.
I grew up in Kansas City and was born into government housing at Hocker Heights in Independence, Missouri. Throughout my life I knew I was different from the other kids because my father was Black and Indigenous, and my mother was Caucasian and Pacific Islander. I knew growing up that my family had to work harder because the standard was set higher for people of color. We learned rather fast that many of us don’t make it out or have the same chance at a better life. A diverse background guided many paths in my life and also propelled my fight for visibility of people of color as a person in the LGBTQ+ community. Those closest to the pain should be closest to the power.
We recognize that we stand on the shoulders of giants in learning the history of those who paved the way before us. It is our duty to accept the torch passed by those who bled for the opportunities we have today. Our actions and continued commitment honor them and their sacrifice. As someone who has been the first at a lot of things, it is also my duty to make sure I’m not the last. There are seats at the table waiting to be filled and our presence has never been more important. We are our fathers’ wildest dreams and must continue to lift others.
At this crossroads in history, racism and white supremacy must be addressed with an unlearning of racial bias and a dismantling of incorrect and unjust systems. We can no longer look the other way regarding racism. We must actively adjust to become an antiracist society. I believe there are brighter days ahead, but only if we fervently tackle the issues that have lingered and festered in our country for far too long. From racism and sexism to phobias against sexual identity and orientation, this must all be addressed before we can move forward as one United States of America.
I am committed to endure with my brothers, sisters, gender queer, and nonbinary folks in this fight for justice until every child who looks like me lives in a community that reflects true equity. I will not rest until every Black child feels the support of a government that affords them the same opportunity and access as their white counterpart. We all deserve a community that enables us to thrive and encourages us to dream.
We have complex problems that need real solutions, and we must fully understand the task at hand. Change comes when we persist in unity. We must be smarter, stronger, and better than ever to successfully overcome these challenges. We appreciate those who are saying “Black Lives Matter,” and we invite them to gain a deeper understanding of systemic racism and its direct impact on Black Lives. For us to change a system, it will require knowledge, fortitude, and unwavering energy exemplified in all of us. We must be the change we want to see in our community.
Justice T. Horn
Community leader, political consultant, and social justice activist.