A Note to White America


 

Image from breitbart.co

Image from breitbart.com

The crisis in Baltimore is an event that I’ve been trying to avoid as long as possible. It was not that I did not care about the struggle that African-Americans face in this country, nor was it because I felt that we as blacks were powerless to enact he change that we have been fighting for. Ironically, the news that made me care about the Baltimore race riots was not in Maryland but in Detroit, where an immigration officer shot a 20 year-old black man accused of armed robbery ten times, killing him instantly. And, although this story seems no different from the countless other examples that I have read over the last five years, this one hits home just a bit more than the others.

I am twenty years old. I am black.

It doesn’t make much sense on the surface. How can I suddenly feel sympathy for someone just because he was my age? Well, the real reason is that I do not feel more sympathy for him than, say, Eric Gardner or Freddie Gray. The truth is that, even though I knew the racist foundations that this country was built upon, I never suspected that it could happen to me. Sure, Trayvon Martin was about my age, but for some reason I was different. All the victims may have been black, but I always managed to convince myself that, since I am half-white, my life somehow was more protected than the victims of police brutality that I heard all of the time.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

It wasn’t brainwashing, or at least I did not think that it was. But all the signs were there. The news organizations portrayed my African-American brothers as violent, aggressive, idiotic, worthless, and lazy; in my mind, I ended up looking at reality in those terms, distorting the true image that lay hidden in a dark corner under the famed “American Dream.” My time in an inner-city high school was an era of experience and growth, but also a time when I felt elitist. Some students dropped out of school; others decided to have children, and a few were even arrested. I saw fights, a stabbing, and an occurrence that I thought (and still think, though I am not entirely sure) was a drug deal. And the common thread? All these deeds were all done by the black student and faculty. So it made sense in my mind that Trayvon Martin, Eric Gardner, and even Michael Brown must have committed some crime in order to end up murdered.

The thing I didn’t realize was that what I saw was not nonsensical, unnecessary violence, but a method that African-Americans have created in order to survive in a country that has brought them out of slavery and into poverty.

Imagine a family living in Africa. A member of that family gets captured, taken to the United States, and works their entire life as the property of another human being. Now, take his children and also make them slaves, and continue the cycle for the multiple generations. Along the way, these slaves sweat and toil as they almost singlehandedly build up the American economy on tobacco and cotton plantations, which, by the way, only their white slave masters will receive credit for. After a few hundred years, suddenly slavery is outlawed, and these African-Americans leave the plantations of their slave masters. Great news, correct? Well, it would be if these newly freed men and women had some financial support in order to stand on their own two feet. Otherwise, as history tells us, they simply become sharecroppers, slavery under a new name.

Eventually, some of these black families move up north to the more industrialized cities of the north, such as New York and Chicago. After spending what little savings they managed to collect, often there were no jobs for them in these urban areas, and, if there was, these jobs certainly didn’t pay them enough to survive. So they turn to doing illegal activity in order to earn enough money to survive in this country, one that still promoted the notion of upward social mobility for all Americans.

This is the story of thousands of African-Americans across this country.

Some critics, mostly those who benefit from this systematic method of oppression, will blame blacks still for the crimes they commit. According to them, history is unimportant; what really matters to them is that African-Americans be put in exorbitant numbers to prison, or they get murdered by the police. And it is this fact that disgusts me the most.

Blacks have been abused by the white populace for hundreds of years. We have been lynched, robbed, raped, hung, tortured, and cut of all ties to our original cultural roots by this country. And what did we do for this “Land of the Free”? We built one of the largest economies in the world through our work; we fought in wars for the freedoms of those whose previous generations abused and owned us; we made some of the largest contributions to American culture through the blues, rock n’ roll, gospel and hip-hop. Basically, the United States owes us.

It’s almost comical how some members of the white populace, the ones who know nothing about the African-American experience, even dare to say that reverse racism exists. These are the same people who complain about the “violent” rioting in Baltimore, the ones who would have protested the sit-ins of the 60’s. To them I ask: Was it violent and vicious when a police officer snapped Freddie Gray’s neck, fracturing his vertebrae and leaving him without medical assistance long after the injury occurred. Was it violent when another officer shot a black man in the back dozens of times? How about when Trayvon Martin, a boy, was murdered by George Zimmerman, a grown man, because he was considered a threat, even though there was not logical reason to come to that conclusion? And, probably the most important question of all: when the police are responsible for murdering black people every year, what makes you think that we can use them at all in our quest for equality?

Plenty of these questions will not get answered simply because the white, privileged populace will victim blame these African-American men. And, on some level, I understand how they come to that conclusion. Of course Eric Gardner was selling cigarettes illegally, Michael Brown must have been committing robbery, Freddie Gray clearly had a switch blade. But, we must remember what exactly caused this illegal, survivalist attitude in blacks in this country in the first place: the oppression of African-Americans by the same whites who accuse us of being lazy and unnecessary violent.

So, I think I finally understand this country. They’ve destroyed everything that we’ve ever had, leaving us impoverished and self-destructive as we still chase the mirage that the American Dream applies to anyone with pigment in their skin. Bringing this back to the Baltimore riots, to anyone who sees these riots as somehow worse than the dozens of unlawful deaths of my people, we are not the problem with this country; you are.

 

 

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