I want to be able to say that the events in Charlottesville today represent a new low in racial prejudice. The sickening truth is that this is not anything new, and it has been worse. Mary Turner. Emmett Till. Ida B. Wells made a career of documenting and bringing to light racially motivated lynching in America, yet we don’t read about her in school. From the beginning, America was structured to favor white people over people of color. This started with the atrocious institution of slavery and continued after the Emancipation Proclamation with the passing of laws in the south that practically recreated slavery and continues to this day.
For people who are saying, “not all white people” or that this is an aberration, I recommend reading Carol Anderson’s White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of our Racial Divide, as well as Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America.
Both detail the shameful history of institutional racism in the US, and the more I read about it, the more I see that you can’t understand our current political climate without understanding the history of racism in the US. More often than not, this nation fails at the lofty goal of “liberty and justice for all.”
What’s more, this institutional racism, while hurting people of color the most, does not spar white people. For instance, when Brown v Board desegregated the schools in the south, white people decided to shut down school districts rather than comply and the white people who could afford it sent their kids to private school. The reason schools are failing in the south is because, rather than seeing that every child has an equal education, white people decided to cut funding to public schools and run them to the ground to avoid having their children go to school with black children. This hurts poor white people as well as black people, and it hurts our nation, because rather than investing in all children, we are setting up our children to fail. Yet rich white people have poor white people blaming black people for their problems. It is truly a sickening situation.
I don’t know what the solution is, yet, I feel that the first step must be education. We must educate people about the ways that racism is enshrined in our democracy. We must educate about how slavery was a harmful institution, something that should be obvious, but for too many people, it isn’t. Flowing from that education about how racism is embedded in our nation, we must create laws to fix this, and white people must demand that this be fixed. Fellow white people must demand that our children go to school alongside with children who are black, Hispanic, Asian, Native, etc. We must demand that mass incarceration end. We must demand an end to policies such as stop and frisk. And we must vote for people who pledge to end these policies and put more equitable ones in their place.
Right now I am sickened and saddened by what is going on in the country, and how little progress we have made. There is a long way to go before freedom and justice for all means for all, and not for white men.