It’s 2014. There is technology that makes it possible to know anything about anything in a matter of seconds, you can have a face-to-face conversation with someone on the other side of the world using your computer, and see that Kim Kardashian and Kanye West got married. Our society today may not be as futuristic as Stanley Kubrick might have expected, but things are blossoming and being created at such a quick rate that it’s hard to keep up with it all from time to time. Almost everything seems to be progressing and getting better… except for some of the most major and basic societal foundations. These regressions strip groups of people of their humanity, making them feel less than, unimportant, and worthless. This thing only targets Indians, African Americans, the Latino community, and all non-white groups of people in America. This thing is called racism.
I have been black for as long as I can remember, and I might reaching a bit, but I’ve probably been black since I was born. I was raised by my black parents alongside my black brothers, and my church as a child had a predominantly black congregation. At an early age, my parents would teach me about color and the importance of loving who I am as an African American woman, but I never truly understood until recent years. The schools I attended were mostly white, and despite my parents’ teachings, I began to adopt the ideologies and beliefs that the white students had about race, not realizing how flawed and racist their opinions were. Maybe at the time, it was mentally safe for me to not understand, especially in my middle school days when I already had enough emotional baggage to deal with before ever thinking about discrimination and racism. But now that I truly understand it, I see it everywhere, and I recognize that the only way to move past it is for everyone to properly understand what it really is.
Racism is an institution created by white men that makes it more challenging to succeed politically, socially and economically when you are a person of color. It isn’t about hurt feelings or being made fun of on the Internet once or twice about drinking Starbucks or eating copious amounts of flavorless foods, all “seasoned” with mayonnaise. It’s destructive emotionally, mentally, and in extreme (but not rare) cases, physically. It is embedded in the very fabric of America, and although there have been many attempts to abolish it, it is still a very serious issue that people of color are left to deal with every single day.
Yes, we have a black president. Yes, slavery is in fact over in America. Yes, Malcolm X was such a powerful civil rights icon that people might wear his image on a shirt, even some daring white people! But these things are so trivial and are merely band-aids that are covering an internal wound. This is something that affects you from the moment you’re born until the day you die, but it only is applicable to people of color.
How can you be a victim of something that was designed by your ancestors to help you succeed? That’s the question to ask when white people want to be victims of racism. They want to refer to the one time on the playground in 4th grade when the Puerto Rican boy called them pasty. Sure, it might have hurt their feelings, but the difference between that one incident and true racism is that racism is unavoidable. No matter what I may do as a black person, I will always be faced with racism in one way or another. It’s inevitable for people of color: as where a white person might be able to count their experiences with “racism” on one hand, people of color hardly ever keep track because the experiences are either too traumatic or too frequent to remember. When white people try to talk about their pseudo-victimization, it diminishes the injustices of people of color, as if to say “well, someone said something mean to me once too”, not realizing that despite this fact, they are less likely to have a difficult time finding work, less likely to be incarcerated, and less likely to struggle with self hatred that comes from feeling like you are less than because of the color of their skin. And yeah yeah, we know you weren’t a slave owner, and you’re not responsible for slavery itself, but white people do benefit from the system created through slavery. That’s just a fact, neither good or bad, and there is no way around that. Choosing to ignore it because it makes you uncomfortable, however, only makes you look like you don’t care much about the experiences of people of color, and would rather complain about relatively trivial things than understand that the world is so much bigger than you.
Racism is so multi-faceted and ingrained in society that it’s easy to go unnoticed. It is a ceiling built over people of color that has been there so long it becomes their sky. People of color are often accused of saying everything is about race, but most things are, in one way or another. For once, this is an issue that doesn’t directly concern white people, and instead of being upset that it isn’t about you, white people should do their best to listen to and understand what people of color have to say when it comes to our experiences.