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Students Of Color Recognize Racial Divides Won't End Anytime Soon

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The violent invasion of the U.S. Capitol was painful to watch - for many people, anyway. But some young people who spent much of last year organizing and marching for social justice say they were not shocked. They say the violence and hypocrisy was all too familiar. Max Larkin of member station WBUR are spoke to a group of students and shared this report.

MAX LARKIN, BYLINE: Khymani James is a senior at Boston Latin Academy. And at 17, he's already a political thinker. He was watching the congressional floor debates even before chaos broke out on Wednesday.

KHYMANI JAMES: And that moment - it was truly troubling, and it was deeply saddening. I was frightened for members of the United States Congress. I would say that I was not surprised.

LARKIN: As the student member of Boston's School Committee, James has tried to change the establishment from within, so the violence by mostly white extremists hit hard.

JAMES: This is the system upon which America was built - for white people, especially the white man, to be the only one to wield the power of the democratic republic. And once that is upsetted (ph), all hell breaks loose.

LARKIN: As soon as the attack began, he fired off a group text to his school's Black student union. Turn on the news.

AJANEE IGHARO: I don't think I really understood the magnitude of everything when I first heard it.

LARKIN: Junior Ajanee Igharo was still in math class but eventually flipped to MSNBC.

IGHARO: And my first thought was like, why were they allowed to get so close? During the summer, when Black Lives Matter protests were at, like, I guess, its peak, there were people guarding the Capitol in, like, riot gear and things like that.

LARKIN: The next day, teachers made a point of discussing what had happened. Senior Reanna Bhagwandeen was alarmed by a white classmate's response.

REANNA BHAGWANDEEN: He just basically legitimized the protesters, the terrorists, trying to compare them to the Black Lives Matter movement, saying, oh, both sides have done bad things.

LARKIN: What got Khymani James was what he saw as the hypocrisy on display Wednesday. Last summer, he supported the Black Lives Matter protests, which were met with heavy police force.

JAMES: Donald Trump says when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Well, there were literal images of people taking podiums and walking out with them, footage of United States Capitol Police holding the hand of a terrorist and walking them down the stairs to freedom. This is America.

LARKIN: After all that's happened, Igharo doesn't see the country healing anytime soon.

IGHARO: You can't go back to the normally scheduled program and be, like, ha, ha, like, everything's OK now. It's not going to end with Trump out of office. There were problems before that, and they still need to be addressed.

LARKIN: These three students, budding activists, have no illusions about America today, but they feel some hope for tomorrow - that their generation can succeed where others failed and build a new country across racial and political divides.

For NPR News, I'm Max Larkin in Boston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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