Since the murder of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement has garnered more attention than it has in a while. Frankly, it’s sad to think that we are living in 2020 and there are still people who feel the need to treat someone differently based on the color of their skin, sexual orientation, or gender identity. With Floyd’s death, though, it finally feels as though there has been some semblance of a wake-up call in America in terms of realizing that there is still a major issue in regards to the way the African-American community is treated both by police and by society.

Speak Up

I’m a big Peloton enthusiast, and instructor Tunde Oyeneyin has led a very impactful Speak Up series of rides in order to bring attention to the Black Lives Matter movement. On the first ride, one of the biggest things that stuck with me after is when she said “Black lives matter, they have always mattered. Why did it take us so long to figure this out?”

With that simple question, Oyeneyin draws a very valid point. Why have we allowed systemic racism to go on for so long? Why are people still treated differently because of the color of their skin? Why is it that a white person can walk outside with a hoodie on with no worry at all, but a Black person cannot? Why is it that people are faster to try to associate a Black person with a crime than a white person?

These sound like ridiculous questions to even have to pose, but they’re not. They’re things that are happening daily and they are things that need to change.

Personal Stories

In her second Speak Up ride, Oyeneyin revealed a few personal stories that hit hard, garnered my attention, and deeply had an impact on me.

One was that kids in her school- which, she mentioned, was predominantly white- had made comments about her skin being too dark. Oyeneyin recalls going home that day and asking her brother how to lighten her skin and he told her bleach. She drew a bath, put bleach in, and recounted that the smell being so bad was what made her stop from going in. This legitimately broke my heart into a million pieces, picturing this beautiful young girl feeling that she was “less than” or “uglier than” because of the shade of her skin? How screwed up are we as a society that we could make someone feel that way?

Another story Oyeneyin shared was more recent. On the Peloton Bike, when you login, you scan through classes to decide which one you want to take. You always see an instructor’s photo from the class and the music playlist.

During the second Speak Up ride, Oyeneyin shared that after her first Speak Up ride she had many white women send her messages saying they always saw her picture as they were scanning through classes, but never took a class with her because they didn’t think they’d have anything in common with her.

I found myself in the ride, completely enraged for her. The fact that someone wouldn’t think they had anything in common with someone just because of the color of their skin? Again, what is wrong in society that this is even something that goes through someone’s mind? We are failing and we need to do better.

What’s even more amazing about that particular story was how Oyeneyin was able to take their messages and be appreciative of them. She noted that these women telling her this obviously had to be uncomfortable, and it showed that they had been impacted by her ride and realized they needed to examine their own prejudices and change.

We Need To Listen

As Oyeneyin mentioned in her first ride, “Black lives matter, they have always mattered. But why did it take us so long to figure it out?”

This got me thinking… As an avid rap fan, there have been songs for as long as I’ve been listening to rap (over 26 years now) that have talked about the social injustices in the African-American community. It’s sad that some of these songs had messages about injustices and that, over 20 years later, we haven’t evolved that much.

I’m a big believer in the fact that in order to attempt to understand and empathize with someone’s experiences that are not ones we have personally gone through, we need to be able to listen with open ears and an open heart. I started racking my brain after Oyeneyin’s rides for songs I had listened to through the years that talked about issues related to the mistreatment of the African-American community. I felt as if there was no time like the present to share these songs with you and encourage you to sit down and listen. If nothing else, I hope they aid you in understanding how long there have been social injustices towards the African-American community simply based on the color of their skin, how much things still need to change, and how we need to do better.

Racism is NOT a behavior or mindset you are born with. Racism is a taught, learned behavior. We need to do better for our children, for humanity, and for our world.

Here are five of those songs (note: in no way is this list intended to be comprehensive; rather, here are five songs I believe are pertinent and command attention):

1- Nas (featuring Lauryn Hill)- “If I Ruled The World”

Relevant lyrics to note:

  • “Evidently, it’s elementary, they want us all gone eventually.”
  • “Better find out before your time’s out, what the f**k?”
  • “Black diamonds and pearls. Could it be if you could be mine we’d both shine.”

2- The Carters (Beyonce/Jay-Z)- “Black Effect” 

Relevant lyric to note:

  • “Get your hands up high like a false arrest, let me see ’em up high, this is not a test. Yes, put ’em up, this is not a test. Put your hands where I can see them, f**k a false arrest.”

3- A Tribe Called Quest- “We The People….”

Relevant lyrics to note:

  • “You in the killing-off-good-young-ni**a mood, when we get hungry we eat the same f**king food.”
  • “All you Black folks, you must go. All you Mexicans, you must go And all you poor folks, you must go. Muslims and gays, boy, we hate your ways. So all you bad folks, you must go.”

4- NWA- “F**k The Police” 

Relevant lyrics to note:

  • “F**k the police comin’ straight from the underground. A young ni**a got it bad ’cause I’m brown. And not the other color so police think they have the authority to kill a minority.”
  • “F**k that sh*t, ’cause I ain’t the one for a punk motherf**ker with a badge and a gun to be beatin’ on, and thrown in jail.”
  • “The police always got somethin’ stupid to say. They put out my picture with silence ’cause my identity by itself causes violence.”

5- Nas (featuring Amerie)- “Rule”

Relevant lyrics to note:

  • “I would think I’m a part of U.S.A. and be proud. Confronted with racism, started to feel foreign like, the darker you are, the realer your problems.”
  • “Men, women and children killed by the police.”
  • “World is hating, that’s forever. It’s time that we stand together.”
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