It’s hard to find a celebrity more beloved than LeVar Burton. (Well, assuming you don’t count confused Trump supporters, anyway.) Whether you first saw him in Roots, grew up with him on Reading Rainbow or are a die-hard Trekker who loved his performance as Geordi LaForge, chances are you love and admire him. Well, here’s another reason why Burton’s so great — this recent LeVar Burton Parkland essay is as insightful as you’d expect from this brilliant man.
Burton’s essay talks about the intersection of guns and America’s racial history — and he doesn’t shy away from the difficult aspects of it. He points out that the first gun control movement was “white people trying to keep firearms out of the hands of people of color who had once been enslaved.”
But, of course, Burton doesn’t argue that due to its unsavory history, calling for gun control is inherently ruined. As Burton says, “The sooner we acknowledge our imperfections as a nation, the more chance we have of surviving this turbulent period in our history.”
It’s here where Burton starts to praise David Hogg, one of the Parkland survivors. He thanks Hogg and his fellow students for using their white privilege to address not only the gun crisis but to make it clear they’re only saying what #BlackLivesMatter has been saying all along. As Burton says:
People of color in this country, in this culture, tend to not matter as much as those who are white; that is the truth of America. In the Black Lives Matter movement, young black people have been shouting from the rooftops until their voices are raw and hoarse, and America hasn’t listened. But now that it’s white kids who are shouting at the tops of their lungs, people pay attention.
The LeVar Burton Parkland essay is yet another example of Burton’s life-long activism. In addition to being an advocate for children’s literacy, he’s long spoken out about how our culture sees race and our history of slavery. And Burton’s never shied away from criticizing those who need criticism — but in a constructive way.
That tone is on display in the essay. He writes:
I’m an eternal optimist, though: I think that anything is possible, including that America might acknowledge its imperfections. The probability that we do is up for grabs.
But, there’s a lot that I find inspirational in the Parkland kids. The idea that they have taken ownership of this issue and their lives, and the lives of their peers. The idea that they haven’t just taken ownership, but taken action in an era where my generation has absolutely failed.
This is perhaps what we love most about LeVar Burton — he’s not afraid to tell the truth, but he does so in hopes that we learn from it and do better. Let’s not let him down.
Read the full LeVar Burton Parkland essay here. Let us know what you think about Burton’s words in the comments below.
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