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Golden Bear Voices - Josh Drayden

Jul 15, 2020

As a student-athlete at one of the top universities in the world, some may say I am privileged. Some may say – to me or any other Black person in a position similar to mine – that I am privileged to be at Cal and playing football.
Some may even go as far as to say that I haven't been through significant struggles in my life. Some would be wrong.
Coming to UC Berkeley to pursue my education and play football, however, has given me a platform to use my voice. I am currently using social media to help spread awareness about the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as empowering others like me to speak up for what they believe. 
We as student-athletes refuse to be reduced to a field or a court; rather we aspire to be leaders in our communities. We understand that we can be the role models we used to look up to for guidance. I hope to show the people around me that we don't have to wait to impact our communities and create change; we simply have to take the initiative to educate ourselves and not be afraid to use our voice. 
I recognize that the Black Lives Matter movement extends far beyond my life, and this means being critical of the state of our nation. I understand that there are good things about America, but I also believe that we need to fix systems that were designed to oppress Blacks and minorities. Understanding systemic racism means that you can't expect the same systems that built racism to be the ones to dismantle it.
The last couple of months have been overwhelming, and part of my unrest comes from the fear that this movement will die down if people lose interest in fighting for human rights. The way I see it, America has been stuck in a vicious cycle where movements that cannot maintain momentum are reduced to moments in history. Sixty years ago, Black people protested for equal rights and were met with violent backlash; today, we are still fighting for equality and facing similar types of repercussions. 
Every day I grapple with how I can create change – not just momentary change, but lasting change. While it is great to see massive support for the Black Lives Movement on social media, I understand that social media alone is not enough to dismantle oppressive systems. But it is still important to recognize that we live in an age of information, and social media can be a powerful tool in spreading awareness.
If I can encourage other athletes and football players to speak up about what they believe in, together we can start inspiring the next generation. The time is now to speak up and to create a more ethical society than the one that we know today. 
There are many people who see racism and injustice and are speaking up about it. Speaking turns into thinking, and changing someone's thinking can lead to positive change. The more this continues, the more we can normalize being comfortable talking about things that make us uncomfortable. 
We must show empathy and consider what other people are going through – what George Floyd's family is going through, what Breonna Taylor's family is going through, and what people whose injustices haven't been made public are going through.
In this country, all people should be able to thrive together because we all have something uniquely important to contribute. And treating every human equally and fairly – no matter what race, gender, and so on – won't bring America down; it will only make America stronger.
My hope is that through education and empathy we can start to actually make real change. My goal is to make this world a better place for my children and for the generations that follow.