Before you judge the uproar and anger, make sure you understand where it is coming from
June 4, 2020
Disclaimer: If this article is too long for you, your mindset is wrong. Realize that this is only a small step towards understanding the feelings of African Americans. If you are not willing to read this, then you may as well stop right here. Also, if this makes you uncomfortable then I did a good job. You need to be uncomfortable in life or else you will not change. Lastly, for all the people reading for understanding, thank you. Together, we can change the world. If you have any questions or need encouraging words during this time you can contact me at my email, [email protected].
Many people are watching the biased news reports that only speak on how the looters are destroying communities and moments when peaceful protests turned violent. Not to mention, they show the few clips of police officers kneeling with protesters in order to shift the view on the police officers and make the protesters seem violent. If you are not personally going to protests or if you are not constantly surrounded by these actions, it is very easy to form a biased view or reinforce your already present biased views. Many people start with the wrong perspective when approaching this uproar. If you start at the looting and riots, of course, you’re going to disagree with the whole movement especially if you never understood it in the first place. Who agrees with riots? Who believes that stealing is right? I can guarantee you that most people don’t believe these things. You don’t necessarily have to agree with the way people are fighting for justice but you sure as heck have to understand it. In many ways, people are acting out over built-up trauma. Generations of stress due to blatant racism, systemic racism, police brutality, and silence can do that to you. I saw a post on Twitter comparing the actions of rioters to a student who is bullied. The student is bullied every single day with no help from other students or teachers until one day, they explode. You may not agree with the fact that they are throwing desks around but urging them to be silent and peaceful at that moment is an insult. Especially if you stood back and watched when they were suffocating in the back of the classroom each and every day. You also can not blame the student for not trusting any staff members after the silence of their own teacher similar to how African Americans don’t trust the police officers today. In a way, people reducing the protesters down to rioters and looters (Which by the way, there is a difference between the protesters and looters. In fact, many rioters come into peaceful protests to enrage the police officers. Let’s not forget that many of the looters and rioters are white Americans that are trying to demean the purpose of the protest. Many white Americans are using these protests as an aesthetic and as a chance to act out their “bad boy” fantasies on TikTok. Yea I’m talking to you, Jake Paul. When speaking on this subject, make sure you understand that there are looters and then there are protesters who are genuinely working for change. There are many videos and personal evidence of people turning peaceful protests violent in order to distract the public and frame black communities.) is like ignoring the struggles of African Americans in America and reinforcing the long-held belief that African Americans are nothing but thugs. It is crazy that when white Americans protest about not being able to get hair cuts, they are still good people but when black people protest about being killed by the hands of the ones sent to protect and serve us, they are violent beasts. This is also funny considering America’s violent past but that’s a conversation for a different day. It is an insult to demand peace when you don’t even know half of African American history due to the poor education system. You may say that burning buildings won’t solve anything and is doing more harm to our communities. This may be a valid point but many African Americans are tired of caring and want others to feel what they have been feeling for years. The current disheveled state of your community is what it has always felt like for African Americans to live in this racist society. Let’s take a look at the small number of things our black ancestors had to go through and why we, black people, are in the current mindset/position we are in now.
Before I get into this I want to debunk the belief that systemic racism means that everyone is racist. As Radley Balko said in his Washington Post article, “It means that we have systems and institutions that produce racially disparate outcomes, regardless of the intentions of the people who work within them.”
This is one of the only parts of African American history that is taught in our education system today. In the early 17th century, Europeans decided to stop using indentured servants and start using enslaved Africans. These Africans by the way were brought to the new world on cramped boats in iron chains. Slaves had no idea where they were going and faced long periods of starvation and thirst. Many of the slaves actually died before getting to their destination. This shows that Europeans were so focused on pleasing themselves that they didn’t even care that their doings resulted in the death of innocent people. Indentured servants were different from slaves in the aspect that they agreed to work for a certain amount of time in exchange for passage to the New World. Indentured servants chose this lifestyle though good treatment from each master was not guaranteed. After having experiences with African slaves, Europeans decided that slaves were easier and cheaper than their counterparts, indentured servants. Slavery grew so much that the economy could not run without the work of slaves. This is what black people mean when they say that America was built on the backs of our ancestors. Without African Americans, America would not be the America it is today. By the year 1860, the population of slaves had reached a whopping number of 4 million with more than half of the slaves living in the south. The south felt as though they needed slaves to produce tobacco and cotton. I say that the south was just lazy and was more concerned with money than the lives of African Americans but hey I guess we all have different opinions. Though not everyone in the south owned slaves because classism still existed, many of your faves that we were taught made progress for American history actually owned slaves. Examples include George Washington and 11 of the other US presidents. This is an example of the white male hero complex throughout history. Events like the Fugitive Slave Act (made it a crime to assist slaves in escaping) and the Dred Scott Case (said slaves were not citizens and had no legal rights) continued to prove that slaves were not viewed as humans with basic rights. From 1861 to 1865, the American Civil war was present in the United States. I don’t care how many people try to lie and say this war was about something other than slavery. I don’t care how many people try to defend themselves waving the confederate flag around. This war was based on slavery. Period. The south was afraid of losing their slaves and therefore, having its economy crash. They broke away from the north specifically to keep their current slaves. Supporting the confederate flag in today’s society can be seen as the support of the south’s enslavement of black people. I think that people can find another way to be proud of the south other than supporting a pro-slavery flag but that’s just me. The Declaration of Independence is a written piece of evidence that proves that America was built on anti-blackness and racism. It was created in 1776 and basically said that all men are created equal except for black people. Even as the colonies went to war over freedom with Britain, many people still owned slaves. What they don’t stress in school is that these slaves were once free. They were ripped from their families and were forced to work while being tortured with memories of their past life. Schools make it seem as though slavery was a gift to African Americans and as though it gave them an opportunity to leave a country people deem subpar. America stole freedom from these slaves and viewed them as property. Slaves were raped, tortured, killed, and denied the right to be educated. We need to stop trying to spare the feelings of Americans and admit the truth. Though slavery was technically abolished in 1865, African Americans are still not free and we are still suffering from the effects of slavery. Slavery is over but the American system is the same. A false sense of white superiority is intricately woven into different aspects of society. It is disgusting that my ancestors built America from the ground up but in the 21st century, African Americans are being killed in the streets. Many people try to sweep our history of slavery under the rug because they are simply scared to admit that the glorious United States of America has an ugly past. Yeah, maybe it wasn’t you who actually owned the slaves and maybe it was only your ancestors. But by pretending that slavery doesn’t exist and pretending that our American system does not share the same guidelines as slavery did, makes you the one at fault. Not to mention, white people share the same privilege and benefit from the same privilege as their slave-owning ancestors. This past is not only ugly but it is our reality. If we don’t admit to it or work to change it, it will become our future.
For more information on slavery, you can visit https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/black-history-milestones.
The War on Drugs and the Messed Up Prison System
In 1971, Richard Nixon declared drug abuse as the number one public enemy in the United States. He created the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement to enforce this movement. In 1994, Nixon’s counsel revealed that the movement was created to wage war on African Americans and people not in support of the war. This not only made African Americans look like drug addicts to the public but it also made the incarceration rates for African Americans rise through the roof. This broke African American communities and families up. It then led to a new generation of black children being raised by single parents and more generations of black parents following this example. Many of our black leaders were sent to prison while the news made us look like thugs much like it is doing today. The War on Drugs disproportionately affected black and Hispanic communities. Because of the war, the sentences for offenses were much longer even for low-level offenses. Even after they were released from jail, many could no longer vote. The war on drugs also changed the white perception of black people. It made people think that black people on average used more drugs than white people when in reality this is not true. The truth is that many police officers hold racial biases and therefore tend to target more black people when searching for drug use. Many people believe that this was not Nixon’s intent but I don’t think that it is a coincidence that the war on drugs had a negative effect on the black community just like many of America’s actions in the past. Now it is not slavery keeping African Americans bound but it is the prison system. Our criminal justice system today is filled with racial bias and discrimination. There are many examples of this including minorities being pulled over for drugs at a higher rate even though drugs are used quite equally among all races and the whole idea of Stop and Frisk. According to the Washington Post, only about 3% of the Stop and Frisks produce any evidence of crime. This means that the police are pulling minorities over due to their bias. A lot of people argue that minorities commit crimes at a higher rate in order to excuse these actions. My response to that would be one, there is no excuse for these actions, and two, many of the people pulled over are innocent! I don’t think that the police are doing this because of statistics, I think that they are actually the ones manipulating these statistics because their racial biases lead to things like over-policing in black communities and Stop and Frisk. Society has brainwashed many people today into believing that minorities commit more crimes than white people but what society doesn’t like to mention is that these crimes are often provoked by the police. It is proven that police presence can actually increase crime rates. Society also forgets to add that there an excessive number of police officers in white neighborhoods. The police in white neighborhoods tend to have biases that benefit white communities. Therefore, the crimes that are committed in these neighborhoods often go unnoticed. If the police were following statistics they would be finding the actual people who committed crimes instead of killing innocent minorities. Race can literally and does literally affect every aspect of the prison system from being wrongly arrested, to detention, to the amount of bail, and to the length of the sentencing. If you don’t believe me, there are many resources on the internet. Blaming this all on the assumption that minorities commit crimes at a higher rate is you choosing to be ignorant. It is obvious that there is racial bias in our prison system and saying anything else is you excusing this. You also have to realize that a portion of the black community lives in poverty due to racial discrimination and setbacks. Poverty and disadvantages encourage crime.
Redlining is a practice that puts services out of reach for certain areas based on race or ethnicity. This created housing segregation and made it harder for African American children to follow the path of the infamous “American Dream”. In an attempt to end the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created a new program called the New Deal. This New Deal consisted of the Public Works Administration and the Federal Housing Administration. The PWA created separate public housing for black and white people. This segregated cities. The FHA helped create what we know today as the suburbs. The FHA refused to guarantee loans for African Americans. The federal government literally created color-coded maps that told banks the areas that they could give out housing loans. Black neighborhoods were denied loans. Even neighborhoods that consisted of black people in the middle class were denied loans. Black people were not only denied financial assistance but they were quite literally blocked out of white neighborhoods by walls built by the government (sounds familiar, sorry I had to). Though redlining “ended” in 1968, to this day, banks have been caught using redlining maps. These areas consist of low-income brown and black communities. To this day, homes in black neighborhoods are valued 25% lower than homes in white neighborhoods even if they are similar. Redline neighborhoods have higher insurance premiums and higher interest rates. Redlining also impacts education. So see, we get most of our funding through local property tax. This means that black cities can not produce as much money as white suburbs. This can tax at a very low rate on high property tax. White schools tend to be funded more than schools that consist of minority students. These poorly funded schools tend to stunt the future of minorities. It is harder to get into college if you live in these redline communities. People in the redline communities are also 3x as likely to be arrested for the same crimes committed in nonredline areas. So basically what you can gain from this is that black people didn’t choose to live in poorer areas with fewer resources. Once again the system designed to fail minorities worked against them and made them suffer for generations upon generations. Before you judge a black person for living in the “hood” make sure you check your history. Of course, it is normal for white people to live in wealthier areas because their grandparents had access to low-interest loans on houses and were accepted into top universities that denied African American students in the past. They were able to pass this down to future generations while it was not the same for many African Americans. The fact that African Americans are still not given the same opportunities as white people to this day is beyond me.
You can watch this video if you need more explanation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2o-yD0wGxAc
- Job discrimination: Even when a white student and a black student with similar grades fill out a job application, it is more likely that the white student will get the job. Studies show that resumes with “white” sounding names get twice as many callbacks as identical resumes with “black” sounding names. The black unemployment rate is twice the rate of white unemployment even among college graduates. African Americans receive lower pay, poorer benefits, and fewer job opportunities.
- Of course, we have to mention the number one reason that black people are protesting: police brutality. I’ve already listed stats on how black people are more likely to be pulled over and mistreated by the police, therefore, I will list the names of a small number of people killed by the police:
Michael Lorenzo Dean Roy Lee Richards Lavall Hall Julian Dawkins
Eric Reason Alfred Olango Natasha McKenna Terry Laffitte
George Floyd Tawon Boyd Jeremy Lett Marlon Brown
Breonna Taylor Terrance Crutcher Philando Castile Jermaine Darden
Andre Horton Tyre King Bill Jackson Darrell Banks
- We can not forget the many stereotypes forced upon African Americans in society. These stereotypes are some of the main reasons why the system hasn’t changed in the past years. A few stereotypes: People believe that black women are always angry when in reality society has labeled us as angry. When we stand up for ourselves, we are often labeled as angry. This tactic is called manipulation and urges black women to keep silent out of fear of being labeled. Also, people need to understand that if we are angry, we have a right to be. Many reasons along with all the things I have mentioned above is more than enough evidence on why we deserve to be mad; Many people believe that black people are lazy, loud, and uneducated. If we were so lazy and uneducated, people wouldn’t have to steal our culture in order to create their personalities and fashion trends. I would also argue that half of America is uneducated on the real issues in society faced by minorities.
If after all of this, you still do not empathize with the black community and understand their current feelings, then you are being close-minded and ignorant on purpose. You cannot say all lives matter until black lives matter. It kills me how America is known as “the land of the free” and prides itself on democracy but when it comes to black lives all of this is thrown out of the window. So excuse me if I don’t want to stand for the national anthem or shuck and jive for a country that does not care about me. The American flag does not mean to me what it means to white Americans. As an African American woman raised in the suburbs, I can say that even I am privileged when it comes to racism in America. I have mostly had to deal with microaggressions instead of blatant racism. I can not imagine how African Americans in the city feel. I think I am angry now but if I had to deal with the weight of being disproportionately affected by the Coronavirus due to years of discrimination while at the same time seeing my brothers and sisters die by the hands of the police officers, I would be 10x as angry.
Ending racism is not a one-time thing, it is a lifestyle. It means that white people have to admit that they have been benefiting from it for the last 400 years. We can no longer allow the white savior narratives to be taught in schools and in society. We need to educate our children on the real facts as presented above otherwise, the racism will continue. I am tired of excuses such as being raised in a racist family. We are in the age of technology and we have more access to it than we’ve ever had before. You need to make it your job to educate yourself on black issues. People are old enough to know right from wrong. When it comes to worrying about your white children seeing the events of the world today, realize that it is a privilege to even wonder if you should talk to them about the protests. Black children don’t get a break from racism because they are young. Many black children experience their first act of racism when they are just 6 years old. Black parents have to teach their children how to behave in front of the police in order not to get shot before they can fully form sentences. George Floyd’s daughter, Gianna Floyd, was just six years old when her dad was killed by the police. Atatiana K. Jefferson’s black eight-year-old nephew was playing video games with his aunt (Atatiana) when she was shot by a white male police officer. An African American girl who was only four years old had to calm her handcuffed mother down in the back of a car after realizing that her lover, Philando Castile, was unjustifiably shot by a white police officer. Aiyana Stanley-Jones was seven years old when she was shot and killed by the police during a raid on her family’s home. So for god’s sake please stop saying that you could never be racist or your child could never be racist because you guys are “good people”. In this society, it is not enough to be a good person! You literally have to study how not to be racist due to systemic racism. Racism is drilled into every aspect of society from the education system glossing over slavery and never teaching about the true pain African Americans had to face to doctors allowing black patients to die due to false beliefs of higher pain tolerances. African Americans are automatically exposed to this injustice because of our skin color but white people get to avoid this. In many ways, this is why they are shocked to see the current state of the world and can’t understand it. That is why white people need to work harder to understand and be willing to get uncomfortable. They need to put themselves in the shoes of black people which may mean accepting a pay cut from your job due to you speaking out against injustice, living in a black neighborhood, or joining a club that educates others on systemic racism. Many people are not willing to step down from their lives of privilege in order to do this. If you find yourself being annoyed by the excessive news about the protests, being defensive now that the protests are reaching your beloved suburbs, or are planning to take a vacation in order to get away from the chaos, then you are part of the problem. Realize that black people don’t have that option to just leave racism and after the protests are over, we are still fighting against injustice EVERY SINGLE DAY. Arresting the killers of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor is not, I repeat, is not enough. The American system needs to be reformed and changed to a real system that supports ALL people.
So please stop referencing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (This is no disrespect towards MLK or other African American leaders. They are an important part of African American history and without them, I would not be where I am today. I just feel as though many people are using them for the wrong reasons) or other people in the past that have advocated for peace in order to silence the protesters. Especially if you don’t know the history of the violence that occurred after those peaceful protests. You can not shout about peace and search for an MLK quote on Wikipedia if you are sitting at home watching the news ma’am. Understand the anger and instead of finding ways to bash the actions of our people, maybe get up off your butt and find your own lane of fighting for justice. Whether it’s protesting, writing about injustices like I am doing now, or donating, action is the only way we can defeat racism. Quit with this “iF i WaS iN tHe CiViL rIgHtS mOvEmEnT” or this “hE/sHe WoUlD’vE dOnE tHiS…”. The time is now. If you are silent about the injustices of the American system then I don’t want to hear you nagging about when people finally stop sitting down and accepting racism. You got a problem with how people are fighting, then I want to hear an idea about how you think it should be done and don’t say “peacefully”. I’m going to need real examples if you disagree and it can not include simply posting a black square on your Instagram. “If you are not working for justice, stop calling for peace”- Dr. Bernice King.
P.S. During these hard times do not forget to check on the mental health of your African American friends and loved ones. For all my amazing black kings and queens please make sure to take care of your mental health despite the current state of the world. It is okay to take a break from ignorant people on social media. It is okay to celebrate milestones in your life. You can not fight for the future if you don’t take care of your current self. You matter! BLACK LIVES MATTER! Today. Tomorrow. Forever. ❤🖤