While the recent civil injustices nationwide have been both disheartening and alarming, there is something that has also been of great concern to me.
It saddens me that instead of trying our hardest to unite towards a common goal, we instead are ready to bash one another. We use moments like these as divisive tools. We use moments like these to bash our community. We are belittling and justifying tragedies instead of understanding why people are tired of being devalued in a country that their ancestors built with their very own blood, sweat, and tears. I don’t want to specifically address the situation in Ferguson because I feel as though there is a plethora of content available that takes on every angle, but I would love to just quickly address a number of things related to this soon-to-be historical and game-changing event.
1. Respectability politics are invalid. To think that you will receive some one’s utmost respect because you are constantly in business dress and speaking the Queen’s English is a lie that you must stop telling yourself. As a woman in the Ivy League, I have been put in situations where I was not respected due to my race. Me being a black woman who speaks “proper” English and has worked hard to earn her spot in a top tier institution does not mean shit to someone (or something) that is inherently racist. Furthermore, we should not have to make ourselves accountable for why people are racist. Why must I brush up on my image in order to gain the respect and value that has been lost due to the melanin in my skin? (With that being said, I also should not use the forces working against me as a means to not better myself. Please, please, please always be the best that you can be. But…for some people, the forces are working so hard that it is difficult for them to do this. Not everyone lives under identical circumstances. As a black woman at Cornell University, I understand that I have a lot more privilege that many of my beloved community members do not have.)
2. Black-on-Black crime is a myth. Why are we so quick to dismiss the cold murders of black men that stem from the devaluation of their bodies because black people are killing other black people? From 1976 to 2005, The Bureau of Justice Statistics data shows that white victims were killed by white defendants 86% of the time and black victims were killed 94% of the time by blacks. Simply put, white people largely kill white people while black people kill black people, yet we only choose to coin this “black-on-black crime” term. While the homicide rates may be higher amongst the black population, let’s take a look at socio-economic situations. Let’s look at where these people were pushed, contained, and under which circumstances.
3. Dismissing an entire movement due to looting is a bit extreme. I won’t even discuss the Boston Tea Party and its participants. All I will say is that when you learn that your body means nothing in this country, the only thing that seems logical to you is to destroy something that is seen as valuable. One would start with the businesses in their neighborhoods that are not owned by them but are profiting from them. We live in a largely capitalistic society where the only place to hit them where it hurts is through taking a hit at their pockets.
4. Colorblindness is not an effective means to solve racism. As a white person, you telling me this fails to impress me when race was a social construct thoroughly created by your ancestors. I am not saying it is your fault, but instead of taking the easy way out by “ignoring” race, why don’t you learn more? As a black person, you telling me that we should all be colorblind merely suggests that you really do not understand the complexities of race. You also probably believe in 1-3 of this list, and you should just read them again. Basically, we should all always be willing to learn about our differences and to celebrate them. We take pride in being this “melting pot” in which all of the ingredients are blended together when we are actually a tossed salad—different ingredients that can make for a pretty freakin’ great dish if we try to appreciate the unique flavor that each ingredient brings to the table.
We are so terrified to say that things are racist, especially when they just are. We’ve been told that we are “playing the race card” so many times that any accusation of racism takes a hit at the “credibility” of the accuser. Eradicating the conversation surrounding race and taking on a “colorblind” mentality will not assuage the situation at all. We have to be ready to join these uncomfortable conversations, and we have to be able to learn, learn, and learn. It’s going to take some tough love, it’s going to take some time, but it’s going to have to happen. Do me a favor, and stop thinking that you have the quick fix, end-all solution for racism. It was never that easy.