Robinson Students Champion Change Amid National “Black Lives Matter” Protests

“Black Lives Matter” protests rocked the nation last spring in the midst of public outrage at the death of George Floyd—an unarmed black man—at the hands of Derek Chauvin, a Minnesota police officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nearly ten minutes (much of which was caught on film by witnesses who voiced their concerns as the situation progressed). Robinson students were no exception to the mass influx of young, disenchanted activists taking to the streets of their communities to voice their frustrations and call for change. 

Joey Planchich, a junior at Robinson, was among those who participated in the protests. From her perspective, protesters were “there to spread awareness and show [their] support of the movement and try to create change.” Planchich is in a unique position with regard to the movement, as she acknowledges, because while she is half white, her mother migrated from Bolivia and has been the victim of racism that has informed Planchich’s perspective on America’s current racial reckoning. Planchich says the movement is important to her because she believes “if everyone acknowledged everyone’s differences and accepted them with love and respect, that we could live in a better world.” Planchich also calls upon fellow high school students to take action if they hope to correct the issues of a broken justice system, police brutality, and systemic racism that plague the country because “we are the future generation and how we handle this situation and movement will definitely impact the future and make a difference.” 


But Planchich is also careful to note that activism does not only take the form of physical protest. Particularly during a global pandemic, social media has played an important role in developing a concerted movement for change. Social media, personal education, conversations with family members, signing petitions, and donating to organizations are all different ways that people can involve themselves with the movement. Generally, Planchich has a positive mindset when it comes to the way social media has affected the movement, saying that people use social media “as a platform to use their voices and speak up about the movement.” The movement remains important, Planchich says, because “racism has not disappeared” in America, it has instead become a “norm.” These protests were not in response to the single incident of George Floyd’s death, but rather the accumulation of “pent up anger towards the systemic racism in America.”


Lorelei Loughran is a senior at Robinson who has also been involved with advocacy and participation in Black Lives Matter protests. Loughran feels similarly to Planchich in that they do not see Floyd’s death as an isolated incident—for them, it was just “the straw that broke the camel’s back” in a line of racial injustice that black people “have faced for centuries.” Loughran traces their involvement with Blacks Lives Matter back to eighth grade, when they began to research social issues and engage in conversations with friends—many of whom were black. 


Loughran has one overarching idea that commands their understanding of the movement: “the system is fundamentally flawed.” They describe that they “feel like I’m doing as much as [they] can to educated [them]self and spread as much factual information on everything that is happening, however [they] feel a pit in my stomach” when thinking about their “own limits.” Grassroots support seems to be crucial for this movement: as Loughran says, “we the people are strongest in our numbers.” Loughran also expresses support for the expression “ACAB,” an acronym for the expression “All Cops Are Bad.” As Loughran says, “all cops—good or bad—contribute to a justice system that oppresses and targets minorities.” They describe police forces as a microcosm of the broader American justice system, comprising an “entire system” that is racist. Loughran also blames the media for contributing to this system, describing them as “propaganda outlets” on which images of “good” cops are given a platform. 


As the trial of Derek Chauvin, the officer charged with murdering George Floyd, comes to a close and the jury prepares to hand down its own verdict, the nation seems prepared to continue to reckon with racial injustices that persist today. Protestors around the country, including young student advocates at Robinson, are geared up to take on this challenge head-on. As Loughran says, “we want equality and we want it in every respect.”