I’ve been reading your blog for only two days. And I’ve been reading blogs like it for only two days. I’m sending this your way because I want you to know the effect your blog has had on me, and because I’d like to hear your thoughts on it, if you have the time. Either way, thanks for writing your blog. It has changed me. I’m a 28 year old white guy… And I always thought I was where I wanted and needed to be when it came to race relations in the U.S. I thought I knew something. But I didn’t speak out against racism and I didn’t much care about those who live with it every day. Now, I’m angry with myself for living like that, and infuriated with our society insofar as it tolerates and even promotes racism. I will no longer be silent. I wrote what follows earlier this afternoon during a slow time at work. It is more or less an open letter to my contemporaries. “Slavery ended in the late 1800’s The civil rights movement occurred in the 50’s and 60’s. If you were born in 1972 you’d be 35 now.
If you’re a black man born in ’72, you’re 35, and you’re living in a system in which someone just 10-15 years your senior was raised and molded in a pre-civil rights era. Meaning, that a black man (or Lord have mercy – literally, have mercy – a black woman) just entering the prime of his life and career is navigating a system largely formed by the ideas and prejudices (which, by the way, we all have to some extent as a result of being human beings) of people (most often white men) who’s conception right and wrong is colored (pun intended) sometimes very subtly and unconsciously, and often overtly and deliberately, with racist ideology. God help us. God help me!
How can we, white, proud (arrogant?!) America expect of a people not more than 2 life spans removed from SLAVERY, and only two generations removed from out-right and government sanctioned racism to “rise above” (the effects of a system designed to cripple you), and to “take personal responsibility” (for that which you are not responsible)? I’ll tell you how we can. We can because it’s comfortable (if you haven’t a heart), it’s easy (to buy the lie), and it’s ok (’cause anyone can make it in America today!) The playing field is level right?
Not quite and even if it is (ha!) there are yet many ill-equipped to take the field. And ill-equipped to our shame. Thus the privileged go on being privileged, go on encouraging a system that neglects those it purports to help, all the while turning a blind eye to those they throw under the bus. Forget moving to the back of the bus! Throw em under it! So much more can be said about this!
This is a matter of race for two reasons (at least). One: It seems to me to be objectively obvious that slavery in the U.S. was a racist practice. And it seems equally obvious that the problems and difficulties suffered by the black community today can be, in large part, ultimately traced back to slavery (and the underlying racism). I believe that racism still plays a major role in our American Dream (Nightmare?) Two, even if you reject that line of reasoning, it is indisputable that blacks in the U.S. today face issues which track neatly (too neatly to not be suspicious) along lines of race. Why are so many more young black men in prison than young white men? Why is the poverty rate among blacks significantly higher than among whites? Are black people just more likely to fail at living the American Dream? If so, why? Is it in their DNA? Or do we need to dream a different American Dream? For more evidence that this can be traced back to slavery, ask yourself why Asians in America generally are much more affluent than blacks? Think about it. Racism isn’t always white vs. black, or vice versa. But sometimes it is just that.
Reparations… What an idea and what a polarizing word! So, for a moment, let’s do away with it. And in its place let’s speak of personal responsibility. Yeah that one thing most of those blacks just don’t seem to get! (sarcasm) Let’s appeal to our individual American personal responsibility and thus our collective American responsibility to the oft lauded ideals of our founding fathers, namely that business about “freedom and justice for all” and “all men are created equal.”
(By the way, do any of us feel a responsibility to ideals anymore? Maybe appealing to them is a waste of time.)
Anyway, back to equality. It seems that the only time the privileged are worried about equality is when it’s them getting the short end of the stick, which is almost never. But, why is the incarceration rate among young black men so high in these United States? (And why don’t we give a damn?) And why in 2007, do we live in a land so full of opportunity, and yet so heart-breakingly failing so many of our American brothers and sisters? (And why don’t we give a damn?)
And forget about “white guilt.” Too corporate for me. Forget about the sins of our fathers. (Though millions of people will never be able to.) What about my (white) guilt? And what about yours? Are we not at the very least guilty of not being who we say we are and who we wish to be (i.e. Americans and all that that supposedly means), so long as we do not care for our own? We started as a nation of rebels against oppression. We started with liberty on our lips. We started as hypocrites. We wander in that wilderness yet! God forbid my generation end up like Moses, seeing the Promised Land but not able to enter in because of unbelief. Unbelief in our own people, and our responsibility towards each other.
So, yeah I too have a dream. Mine is that we all will wake up. That my contemporaries will wake up, will get off the road of good intentions, and will fight injustice where we see it. I’m new to these thoughts and feelings. Thank you to Field Negro for being largely responsible (through his blog) in waking me up. Thank you to all the other writers out there that I was fortunately enough to read.
I always thought I was reasonable and guiltless. I wasn’t. This stuff matters. And if you’re silent, you’re guilty. I cannot be silent any longer. ”
That was an e-mail and subsequent essay I recieved from a young man by the name of Drew P. The guy was so on point that I thought it was more than worthy of a post in the AfroSpear.
We need more people like this gentleman in the majority population; speaking out and calling out prejudice and injustice whenever they see it.