Race In America

This past week was an eventful and historic Thanksgiving Holiday across the United States. By historic we do not mean the fairytale of the pilgrims and Native Indians eating dinner together, but of the protests that occurred on behalf of Ferguson, Missouri, Mike Brown, and the countless acts of violence and injustice that people of color face on a daily basis.

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Our blog has been on the funny and lighthearted side, but as women of color we felt the need to use this powerful platform as a tool to also cover issues that go on within our people and community.

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Our generation and this newer generation have been receiving a lot of shit for being the most clueless of generations. We are so focused on technology, social media and entertainment that we fail to realize that these are the things that are keeping us brainwashed. The majority of us have no idea as to what is going on in the world, let alone in our own backyard, but we do know which magazine cover Kim Kardashian posed nude for again. Throughout the 1960’s to the 1990’s people our age (18-25) were always holding demonstrations, protesting and standing up for what they believed in. We have been a disappointment to those people because we haven’t been standing up for any causes and there is still a lot to be angry about. We need to be upset over cops terrorizing black and Latino neighborhoods, we need to be upset over the crap that is being put into our foods and making us sick, we need to be upset over racism and sexism that still exists whether people would like to admit it or not, we need to be upset over the insane wealth gap between the poor and rich…the list can go on!

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However, this past week people finally began to wake up. People finally stood up against terrorist cops and the unjust justice system and are still fighting. The uniting of people is something to be proud of, however the reasons for it are sad. People are fed up, especially people of color. The verdict allowing Mike Brown’s killer to walk free only proved to us that the American system was not made for people of color, and you don’t have to be black or Latino to see it. Legal Analyst Lisa Bloom, who is white, said it best, “I’m ashamed for my justice system that is so good at protecting celebrity figures and authority figures, and so pathetically bad at protecting an ordinary person, especially when it’s an African American person assaulted by a white person…”

Since Michael Brown’s murder, there have been 13 more killings at the hands of the police in the month of August. These are some cases:

Eric Garner, Staten Island, New York / July 17, 2014: Eric Garner, a  43-year-old father of six from Staten Island, was confronted by New York City police for allegedly selling loose cigarettes on the street. However in the video you can hear a person saying that Garner was “only breaking up a fight.” When Garner resisted being cuffed an officer proceeded to put him in a choke hold that has been banned by the department since 1993. The shocking video shows  Garner, who was also asthmatic,  gasping,”I can’t breathe!” while officers continue smother him. The New York City medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide, saying neck compression from the choke hold killed him. However the officers involved may not face charges if the homicide is found to be justifiable.

John Crawford, Beavercreek, Ohio /August 5, 2014 : A 911 call was made about a man waving a gun at customers inside a Wal-Mart store in Ohio. According the Beavercreek police department, 22-year-old John Crawford refused officers’ orders to disarm before being fatally shot in the chest. Crawford’s gun turned out to be a .177 caliber BB rifle that he’d picked up from a store shelf. During the confrontation, Crawford was on the phone with his girlfriend in which she heard his last words being, “It’s a toy! It’s a toy!”  “Why did John Crawford, a Wal-Mart customer, get shot and killed carrying a BB gun in a store that sells BB guns?” asked Michael Wright, the family’s attorney, during a joint press conference with the NAACP.

Let us also not forget about accounts from the past:

Oscar Grant, Oakland, California/ January 1, 2009: A former BART transit officer was responding to a fight that had broke out on the train and randomly selected 22-year-old Oscar Grant. While handcuffed, the officer fatally shot unarmed Grant while he laid face down and handcuffed. The infamous shooting occurred in front of all passengers and was recorded for the world to see. According to the officer, Johannes Mehserle, he “mistakenly used his service revolver instead of his Taser.” The federal jury ruled in favor of the white officer.

And as of recently:

Tamir Rice, Cleavland, Ohio / November 23, 2014:

12-year-old Tamir Rice was playing outside with a toy gun when he was shot to death by rookie cop Timothy Loehmann only seconds after arriving on the scene. Apparently he and his partner were responding to a 911 call in which the caller added that the toy was “probably fake.” Rice did not receive any medical attention until four minutes later, after two other officers responded to the scene.

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The continued dehumanization of people of color has sparked the conversation of race throughout the country. The problem with America is that young black and Latino boys are always perceived as threatening and dangerous no matter what their age. Their crimes are not held to the same standards as crimes committed by white people. Conservative media like Fox News will try to portray children of color as being much older than they are and as “thugs” to justify the police’s wrong doings.

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Even with this fraction of evidence to support our frustration with white America, there are still white people out there who don’t see it as anything to be upset about. The racist comments that are flooding the internet and social media are so disheartening and sickening it would leave you questioning what time period we are in. The response that is constantly being tossed around is Black people kill each other all the time. NEWSFLASH: THIS DOES NOT JUSTIFY THE WRONGDOINGS OF WHITE PEOPLE. Yes, black on black crime is an issue, especially in our city of Chicago. Although the media may not cover much of it, there are protests, rallies, and community demonstrations being held to put an end to the violence here as well. The only problem is that kind of news is just not sexy enough for the media. Black on black crime does not justify a cop killing an UNARMED boy, especially when the whole point of their job is to PROTECT and SERVE. It really should be the cops are that are coming up with peaceful strategies to end the violence, not promote it.

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The majority of white America fails to understand how privileged they are, sometimes to the point of being desensitized to the issues people of color face. We want a fair chance at the “American Dream” which seems like it is only reserved for white people. The odds are incredibly against us. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, since October 2014 the unemployment rate for whites was 4.8 percent, while 6.8 percent Hispanics and 10.9 percent Blacks were jobless. Author of The American Non-Dilemma: Racial Inequality Without Racism, Nancy DiTomaso, also white, states the reason behind this is because of “how opportunities are hoarded and how most white Americans think their career and economic advantages have been entirely earned, not passed down or parceled out.”

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When you bring up the subject of white privilege to white people they usually hit you with the What about the Holocaust? Jews were discriminated too! Or, What about reverse racism?! Reverse racism does not exist. Can people of color be prejudice? Yes, but not racist because racism is a system created by white people to oppress a group of people based on their skin. Calling a person of color racist is like calling a woman in an abusive relationship an abuser once she decides to defend herself. And yes, the Holocaust was absolutely terrible and unjust, and nothing can justify it; however rich or poor, white skin will always be rewarded certain unearned privileges in America that people of color won’t. Although most white people may not see it, people of color are reminded of it every day. American feminist and anti-racism activist Peggy McIntosh, also white, explained white privilege thoroughly in her famous 1988 essay “Unpacking The Invisible Backpack.” Here is an excerpt as well as a few points selected at random:

I decided to try to work on myself at least by identifying some of the daily effects of white privilege in my life. I have chosen those conditions which I think in my case attack some what more to skin-color privilege that to class, religion, ethnic status, or geographical location, though of course all these factors are intricately intertwined. As far as I can see, my African American co-worker, friends, and acquaintances with whom I come into daily or frequent contact in this particular time, place, and line of work cannot count on most of these conditions.

1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.

2. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area, which I can afford and in which I would want to live.

3. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.

4. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.

5. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.

6. When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.

7. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.

10. Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of my financial reliability.

11. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.

12. I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of my race.

15. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.

19. If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.

20. I can easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys, and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.

26. I can choose blemish cover or bandages in “flesh” color and have them more or less match my skin.

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Black or white, we have got to be real with ourselves when having these discussions. No matter how you put it, we all know there is no way in hell a white kid’s body would have been left out in the blazing heat for four hours like Mike Brown’s did. In order for things to get better, white people need to accept their privilege and understand how it effects people of color. They need to feel our pain and see how much the odds are against us, instead of judging or feeling pity. Once there is an understanding then we can move towards empathy, and compassion, and changing society. Peace can be achieved.

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XO,

Rebecca

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