Racism amongst many other things has been a common theme in American history. Throughout the years many different people groups have be objectified, abused, taken advantage of and denied their basic rights. One specific group that I would like to focus on is black people in America. As a country we have progressed in many ways but racism still lives heavily in our country and our everyday lives.
Years ago when America was “found” and taken over by white men they automatically claimed America to be theirs. They overshadowed the fact that when they “discovered America” it actually was already populated by a small few and home of Native Americans. Our country’s history is always told from a winner’s perspective which is the white man’s perspective. Clearly that is what we are taught in schools and from a young age black children especially are taught who is more superior in society and who the “winners” are in society.
If we go back to when Emmett Till was killed on August 28 1955 there is a blatant story of racism and hatred amongst blacks in America. The story of Emmett was one of many, but the story told is that he was in a store talking to a white woman by the name of Carolyn Bryant and he had returned home after leaving the store. A Couple nights later Bryant’s husband found out about Till and went to his house, kidnapped him and took him to the Tallahatchie River where he later sunk his body after beating him to death and destroying his face. Till’s body was discovered and rescued three days later and his mother, Mamie Till Bradley insisted on a public open casket funeral because she “wanted the world to see what they did to her baby”.
Emmet’s death not only capitalizes the racism in America but also shows the vulnerabilities and limitations of American Democracy. In September 1955, Bryant was acquitted of Till’s kidnapping and murder and they used the fact that Emmett’s face was hard to identify as a reason to get off so easily because they could not identify if it was Till or not. Bryant admitted in an interview with Look Magazine that he killed Emmett Till. Emmett Till’s murder was consider a catalyst to the next phase in the Civil rights movement and events taking place today in America can relate to Emmett Till’s case.
Fast forward 57 years and we have a situation similar to Emmett Till’s, the death of Trayvon Martin. Trayvon was shot and killed in Florida on the night of February 26, 2012. The story told is that he left from his dad’s girlfriend’s house to the corner store to pick up tea and skittles for his younger brother and on his way home a “neighborhood watchman” gunned him down because he thought that Trayvon looked suspicious because he had his hood up. Trayvon had no weapons, he did not attack George Zimmerman, he did not threaten him or in any way purposely make George Zimmerman feel unsafe. George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon because he was a young black teen with his hood up and he looked like he was up to no good. This seems to be the famous racist stereotype that a lot of white people have about black men and people. Like many cases before Trayvon, Trayvon’s killer was let off because the Florida state police chief said there was not enough evidence to deny Zimmerman’s claim of acting in self defense. The reality of this case and many other cases is that if it were the other way around and Trayvon would have killed George Zimmerman and then tried to claim that he did it out of an act of self defense, there would be no way that any police chief or court would believe him. They would have kept him in custody for as long as they needed, they wouldn’t have treated him for head wounds like they did for George and they would have not been as nice. Police, like many other people affiliate black with danger and see black people as a threat. 2.3 Million people are incarcerated in the U.S and 1 Million of those people are black men and women. UCLA did a study last year and found that 80% of white people and white cops view black youth older than they view white youth, causing them to use more force when dealing with an altercation. UCLA also found that white people and white cops have less empathy for black people in pain compared to their counterparts.
After Trayvon was Freddie Gray, the young black man who was 25 years old at the time was killed by Baltimore police on April 12, 2015 for having what the police considered an “illegal switchblade”. Freddie was taken into custody and placed in the back of a police van and he was handcuffed sitting on a seat with no seat belt so he had nothing to keep him secure. The Baltimore police department has been being investigated for many years now for what they call “Rough rides” a technique the police use which consists of the police taking the longest way back to the station and the bumpiest way back to the station, causing the passengers in the back of the bus to lose control and fall off of seats and are tossed around. This is what happened to Grey. He slipped into a coma and was taken the the hospital where he died. His death was said to be caused by injuries to his spinal cord. The six Baltimore police officers involved, were suspended with pay.
Freddie Gray had a switchblade, he didn’t have a gun, he didn’t lunge at the police or resist arrest. He was only carrying a switchblade and was arrested. When he was arrested he was fine. He was conscious and doing well as far as physical mobility.But by the time the police got him to the hospital he was in a coma and was having complications in his spinal cord. His death would not make any sense without the knowledge of Baltimore police’s history of giving “rough rides”.
Now before Freddie Gray’s death there was also the death of Mike brown, an 18 year old black male who was hot and killed in Ferguson Missouri and there was also the death of Eric Garner, yet another black male who was shot and killed by a white officer is New York city after being caught selling cigarettes. The pattern in all of these situations is that all of these victims are black and are male and their murderers were white and let off easy. Not one of these men was given justice, not one of them received the justice that they deserve. I so often see people comment on these incidents on facebook and other social media sites and I see comments like “well they probably deserved it”, “they’re just thugs” “ALL LIVES MATTER” and it saddens me to see that white people will just truly never understand how it feels or how it is to be black in America. They will never experience having to teach their kids to keep their hands out of their pockets while they’re in a grocery store because they might look “suspicious”, they will never have to be taught what to do and what not to say when you interact with a police officer or they will not have to constantly be reminded not to act a certain way in public because people might think it’s “ghetto” or “ratchet” and they might use the color of my skin to judge everyone else like me. White mothers will never have to fear for their sons when they are out in public or when they are pulled over by a cop but black mothers have the constant worry of if their sons will even make it home at all. White people will never know how it feels to literally be hurt because of the color of your skin.
From really young black people are taught that they are “different” and that we are less and should be feared in society. This is where racist stereotypes stem from. You almost never hear of negative stereotypes of white people. White is affiliated with purity, grace, wealth and importance while black is affiliated with death, disruption , destruction and dirtiness. These stereotypes are what fuel racism today and are the same things that fueled racism years before now. I deal with racism everyday in fact I tweeted about the black lives matter movement and how proud I feel to be black and a white male felt the need to tweet me back saying that I am “emotionally stupid, and a borderline uneducated negro”. That is just a simple situation but that is what a lot of African Americans go through on a day to day basis whether it’s someone following us around in a store or someone asking if they can touch our hair or if our hair is actually “real”. The reality of racism in America is that it has been so prevalent that it almost feels like it will never go away. We invest our hope in moments like the Black Lives Matter movement because yes! Black lives do matter and it is important to realize that if people had always cared about black lives we would not have to have the movement but since for so many years people have been pushing black lives to the side and discrediting black people and making them feel less of who we are, we needed to create a platform that voiced our frustrations with the racism in this world.
Racism in America is not something that can be fixed over night and I am not even sure if it can be fixed at all but I feel that it is my duty as an African American female to always stay true to who I am and always stay unapologetically black and I have come to the realization that I will always be too black for someone and I am okay with that because I find strength in my blackness. It is also my duty to try and teach love to everyone around me regardless of their race because hate is something that is taught. We have a natural instinct to love and I think it is important to encourage that instinct all of the time. Like the late Martin Luther Jr once said “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”