PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — One of the newly prominent voices in the local civil rights movement says she grew up among routine, everyday racism in a tiny western Pennsylvania community.
Now an aspiring civil rights lawyer, she says the key to changing minds is to start young.
“I came from an extremely small town,” says Tanisha Long, founder of Black Lives Matter Pittsburgh and Southwest Pennsylvania. “Racism was a big thing there. It’s baked into the foundation. And a lot of people have no desire to change those attitudes.”
Long says her group and others are beginning to move past protests and toward concrete action. Long sees educating kids as the best way to fight bigotry.
“My goal is to stop it at the root,” Long said.
Key to that mission, Long says, is an online fundraiser that aims to get books about diversity and featuring characters of color into little kids’ hands, and books about “civil rights, diversity, black history, emotional management, and difficult conversations” to older children.
But Long says she is not necessarily giving up on older generations.
“If you don’t want to learn and your only goal is to kind of attack and berate, then I understand that I am watering a dead plant. But there’s so much of the older generation that does want to learn – or never learned better – that it’s still worth your time to reach out,” she says.
Already, Long says she senses, among some, a reckoning.
“Some of my old classmates are coming to me and saying, ‘I apologize.’ A lot of them are saying, ‘It was jokes, I didn’t understand that something like that actually wasn’t funny.’ There were people who said, ‘I was raised that way and it wasn’t until later that I knew it was wrong and I didn’t know how to make amends for that,'” Long said.
No grudges held, says Long.
“If you’re a person who changed and grew, I love it. It’s fantastic. I’m glad. That’s the point, isn’t it? To get some of that hate out of the world.”