July 24, 2013

This white girl's take on racism

When I imagined a national dialog on race in my head, it wasn't a bunch of old white guys yelling about how black people are thugs and they should stop complaining about racists because it's not the white guys killing them (except that one time...).
The assumption of thuggery is a terrible way to perceive another human being based solely on their skin color, but we'll give these old white guys the benefit of the doubt and add the elements of youth, gender, and sartorial choices to the mix. By this definition, all young men in sagging pants, turned baseball caps, and *yes* hoodies are a threat. ("You kids get offa my lawn!! And pull your damn pants up!") Apparently we've moved from judging others based on the color of their skin to the content of their wardrobes.
The problem with this argument is that it deteriorates once the old white man implies (or proclaims outright) that the problems of (dog-whistle term) urban inner-city youth have no basis in racism. The systematic oppression of people of color for 200 years has nothing to do with the poverty and crime affecting the predominantly minority populations in larger cities? Really?
Yes, black-on-black crime is bad. Yes, inner-city violence is epidemic. But the system is and has been rigged against minorities, specifically African-Americans, for centuries.
Blacks historically receive stiffer penalties for all crimes, serve more prison time, attend schools with inadequate resources, are less likely to attend college, are less likely to become financially successful. The Civil Rights Act has tried to level a playing field that was skewed so drastically due to the generations of slavery and segregation that it will take generations to repair the damage. Generations.
Are we seeing successful African-Americans more often now than in 1980? Yes. We're seeing them buying homes in lovely suburban communities where their sons can grow up away from the dangers of the inner-city violence. Only to be shot down because no matter where they go, our unacknowledged racism still perceives a threat.

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