There's another pandemic among us
Let me start off by saying one thing unequivocally: I stand in solidarity with Black lives as a person and as a business.
There's another pandemic among us and it has been spreading for hundreds of years. It's racism.
While overt racists are real—it’s the ones who don’t see themselves as racists, but “realists,” who are compounding the issue. These are the people who think racism is historical and now, everyone has the same opportunity and it has made many white people apathetic because they assume that others could help themselves if they really wanted to. That it's all about taking responsibility for your own life and that anyone who wants that "American dream" can get it if they just work hard enough. This is dangerous because it sounds logical. Things that sound logical get repeated and the more you hear something the more you believe it-so it spreads, like a virus. It provides a ready-made argument for people to blindly follow and repeat - regardless of the lack of truth.
The truth is ...the deck has been stacked against black people for hundreds of years.
When I hear people say things like "we all have an equal opportunity". REALLY?
How is it possible for a population of people who started out as slaves to catch up when we white people had such a head start? (I know! Just ignore history and pretend that it's a fair competition now.)
Let' s have a little peek at why it shouldn't be ignored - a short history lesson.
It started way back in 1619 with slavery - lots of very bad things happened for 241 years. Then...
In 1860 Lincoln ran for president on a platform to "halt the expansion of slavery" and won. (hurray! wait, what happened next?)
7 states broke away from the union to form the confederacy and then started the Civil War. (Oooh, so the confederates started a war so they could continue to own slaves? Yep. Should anyone really be asking why the confederate flag is offensive? Nope.)
In 1865—some 241 years later—the emancipation proclamation and the ratification of the 13th Amendment abolished slavery, made all black people citizens, and reallocated land for settlement by black families in 40-acre plots. (Ever heard of 40 acres and a mule?) Which would have been great until Lincoln was shot and Andrew Johnson became president and, one year later, said “NOPE, JUST KIDDING, F**K YOU,” and took back all of the land. (What the...? Where did they go?)
The Freedman Bureau was established at the end of the war to provide relief to the thousands of "refugees" black and white that had been left homeless because of the war. It had great intentions to build good schools and teach trades and provide medical assistance and housing and so on and it tried. But there was very little funding and some fraudulent activity by people in charge and it eventually folded. The Freedman Bureau was also the bank where Black people were allowed to save. When it went under, black people lost $1 million dollars of the little savings they had, putting them even further behind.
Meanwhile, back on the plantation...white Southerners resented black Americans, who represented their defeat, so they intimidated and vandalized black people who did accumulate wealth in the form of their businesses. (Oooo, look who the original vandals were.) *A quick note here about the freed slaves - slavery was abolished Except as a punishment for a crime. (Guess who gets to be criminals now?) So there is also a whole lot of false accusations and trumped-up charges going on.
While the 15th Amendment banned voting rights discrimination, there were "black codes". Which were restrictive laws that strictly governed black citizens' and denied them certain rights. So voting laws changed and you needed to be literate to vote! (CONVENIENT.) Except! If you were white and illiterate, you got a pass. (I'm not making this up...)
Then the government (with all its misguided wisdom) steps up with, hey I know, let’s make Jim Crow laws and force segregation so we can remove political and economic gains made by blacks during the Reconstruction period! This meant that facilities for black people were consistently underfunded, inferior, or nonexistent. (How long did that nonsense go on? Until 1965 like, 85 years!) This is where another catchphrase came from "separate but equal" (repeat, repeat, repeat, believe)
Eventually, World War II happens and African American men go off to fight for their country. Once they got back they thought, you know, maybe now we will be treated as full citizens. But no. They did not get the re-entry training or job placement that their white comrades received nor did they get the full benefits from the GI Bill.
Enter: The Civil Rights Movement. But uh uh uh, not so fast! As federal courts started attacking Jim Crow statutes, the white-dominated governments of many southern states countered by doing things like, ohhhhh, REFUSING to prosecute murderers of black people! (Kinda like now? Sadly, yes.)
Then The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is passed, right? (And you’re thinking, fucking finally.) That prompted the white backlash. Which is a word for the lame argument that whites started making saying that their families who immigrated to America did not receive the benefits that were given to African Americans in the Civil Rights Act. (What?!! That was an argument?) People had to fight for these rights. Protests, sit-ins, marches, riots (Kinda like now? Yes! Because change does not occur quietly in safe spaces.)
Then in the first half of the 20th century, blacks started migrating to cities in the north and west. This seemed like a good idea to get out of the south until The Federal Housing Administration literally prohibited black families from buying homes in the suburbs! Literally! Maps were divided up along racial lines with different colors on the maps, and black neighborhoods were outlined with the color red—hence the term “redlining.” (I didn't make this up!) Then, of course, the Home Owners Loan Corporation decided to give out mortgages based on where you were located on a map—as an assessment of your “risk.” Redlined neighborhoods were “hazardous” with low property values, which meant high loan risk and No.
So even though they kept getting roadblocks thrown up at every turn, the black community persisted. And then right as they’ve started to establish a sense of belonging and community lawmakers would come up with an idea like, "Lets put a highway through the little bit of community that black people have been able to build." It will really benefit the commuters from the suburbs, you know the place black people were prohibited from living! Of course, white people got tired of the commuting, the construction, the traffic and decided to "gentrify" the neighborhoods and move back to the city!
So no, We do not all have an equal opportunity. It might look like it on paper, but we certainly do not have the same odds. People are biased in white people's favor even if it’s unintentional.
I'm irritated by the lack of understanding about what is actually going on in our country right now. Change is forced by activists standing up against oppression. That is where we are at.
I'm hoping that this gives you some facts that you can use to educate others when they say to you, “Can we get over racism already?" Use your privilege to sway the minds of those whom your privilege allows you to reach. It's so much easier to talk to like-minded people -It is hard work to speak with someone you know will disagree. But I bet you will learn something from them as well. (I did not say agree! I said learn) Have the courage to say what needs to be said to the people who need to hear it.
Take care of yourself and take care of others
P.S. My list of historical events are all true (go on fact-checkers) but in no way, shape, or form did I list even half of the atrocities that were done to African Americans at the hands of white people. (And I'm too tired to list resources so you can look them up for yourself, just don't check your history book - the information is not in there.)
LISTEN: I think everyone should listen to this podcast
Scene on Radio: Seeing White series is an in-depth, fourteen-part documentary series released between February and August 2017 by producer John Biewen with regular guest Dr. Chenjerai Kumanyika. The series takes a look at where the notion of “whiteness” comes from and what it means. This series is really eye-opening about a lot of things in our history. Listening to all 14 episodes is worth every minute of the time investment.