Why is it so difficult to talk about racism?
Last year ended with white people phoning law enforcement for Black people utilizing city parks, being real estate agents and cleaning their yards. Then followed 2020. It feels like we are living in some really dark times.
First, it was the pandemic. It left us sheltered-in-place for weeks on end. Then we learned that Blacks and Hispanics are being affected by COVID-19 at a higher rate than whites. Yet there are no testing units in their communities. And health treatment disparities are preventing these minorities from seeking treatment. Then came the armed white civilians, mostly males — openly carrying firearms — going to the homes of governors and statehouses demanding to be set free from self-protective restrictions.
As the shelter-in-place orders were lifting, a group of law enforcement officers pinned an unarmed black man to the ground. One of the officers placed his knee on the man’s neck and held it there until he stopped breathing. All this happened in broad daylight, in front of cameras, with the knowledge that it was being recorded with sound.
Disparity and inequality
After that, it is one incident after another of the disparities and inequalities that Black Americans face in this country: A well-dressed Black man going into a bank to deposit a check, the police are called and the man detained until he can prove the check is legitimate. A Black male working in his yard, the police are called and the man is questioned, surrounded by police with guns drawn, until he proves he is “legit.” We also hear about the Black males who don’t survive these encounters. Black males who were not given the opportunity to prove they were “legit.”
On social media, the conversations on the topic of racism are hostile with name-calling. Long-time friendships are shattered. Conversations are deflected with “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter.” But what about Black lives? Do our lives matter?
Infrastructure of oppression
I don’t speak for all Blacks. I don’t speak for all People of Color. Each group — African, African American, Asian, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, Pacific Islander — can speak for themselves. But the fact is, People of Color, people of African descent in particular, have been through many dark times. The infrastructure of our country is built upon the oppression of Native Americans, then African slaves, later Chinese immigrants. This country has had a love-hate relationship with Mexicans since we borrowed/stole/bought their land from people that did not own it. Every few years, this country finds a reason to send them back over the border. Today, it is no longer just Mexicans who are targeted.
Less pay for the same job. Higher interest rates charged. Higher food costs. Higher housing costs for inadequate living conditions. What does all that equal?
The real question that should be asked? How have People of Color survived this oppression for nearly 500 years?
People of Color internalized their oppression as a means of survival. They developed strategies, actions and emotions to help live within these disadvantages. We learned that we had to be better, try harder, endure more. We know where the invisible lines are drawn. We got more education, more skill training, becoming overqualified to do a job for less pay than our white counterparts.
Subtract the higher cost of living from less income for the same job, and you get oppression. You get living an American dream that does not give you upward mobility.
I saw a post on social media that explains the “equality” in this country. “When the rich rob the poor (Blacks), it’s called business. When the poor (Blacks) fight back it’s called violence.”
I’ll sum up with a quote that is attributed to Malcolm X. “If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, there’s no progress. If you pull it all the way out that’s not progress. Progress is healing the wound that the blow made. They haven’t even pulled the knife out, much less heal the wound. They won’t even admit the knife is there.”
This is why it is so difficult to talk about racism…
(Originally published in the Fall 2020 issue of HOPE magazine.)
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