“There they go, playing the race card again.”
Let’s be clear. I’m not even talking about individual attitudes. Any person may say, “I’m not racist,” and it may or may not be true. I can’t see into your heart or your mind, and I don’t care. I’m sure an individual person of color can go through life knowing an individual white bigot hates them and really not give a crap.
That’s not the point of this post.
Prejudice is the individual attitude, fueled by upbringing, fear, ignorance, and, all too often, the twisted and uglified teachings of a prophet, a prophet seen as a messiah, who was probably a pretty righteous guy and who would be spinning in his grave if he hadn’t risen from it. (And by the way, I’m still waiting for people to tell me two things. The first is where in the Bible it says to hate people whose skin is different from yours. The second is where they get the idea that Jesus was white, considering he was a Jew of Middle Eastern lineage born some 2,000 years ago. I’m just sayin.’)
When we speak of racism in this country, we are talking about an institutionalized, systematic, national attitude. You truly may not hold prejudice toward people of color, but if you are white in America, you benefit from living in a society that is geared toward keeping people of color down. If you’re not aware of this, think about the fact that you have the luxury of not having to be aware of it. A large percentage of our population does have to think about the color of their own skin in almost every way they interact in our society, on pretty much a daily basis. That is what racism is.
Educational researcher Jean Anyon did a groundbreaking and seminal study spanning 25 years that followed the curriculum and methods of teaching in different schools in one district, and what she found was astounding. Yes, the education system is where the racist system starts. At the inner-city schools, the ones attended by students who were generally of color and generally poorer, teaching centered around step A, step B, step C, until you come to the right answer, which had better match what’s in the answer key in the teacher’s book. No creative thinking or development of individual ingenuity. No thinking outside the box. Color inside the lines. When you move up to private schools and the public schools in more affluent neighborhoods, even within the same school district, teaching centers around the study of history and applying it to the world today, critical thinking, problem-solving, free association to create new things. Even the SAT’s are racist, when you factor in the difference in curricula and that only the wealthy parents can afford SAT coaches for their children, to boost their chances for admission to a prestigious college. Put simply, poorer students, primarily kids of color, are being mass-educated to fill lower-paying jobs. More affluent, and therefore predominantly white, students are educated toward better colleges and white-collar, managerial jobs and high-status professions. Racist.
You want that angry black man to get a proper education and better himself? Start paying teachers the same salaries from one district to the next. Start teaching all of America’s students how to succeed. Start funding schools on a per capita basis.
In my state, for health care access determination, they just dropped the poverty line, redefining what poverty is, a typical government solution. Don’t want to solve the problem? Just adjust the parameters that make it a problem. There, all fixed. The low wages haven’t been raised, and the costs for necessities like food and housing haven’t gone down. But it’s been officially declared that poor people can somehow now afford these things, just because they moved the line. And with the majority of poor people being people of color, guess who just took another blow in their struggle to get and keep access to basic health care, decent housing, and food? Right. Racist.
Then there’s finance. Of course it is illegal to deny a mortgage or other financing to anyone based on their race. That’s discrimination. Guess what else is illegal, but goes on all the time? Denying financing to people based upon address. It’s called redlining, and it targets not specific people, but people who live in certain geographical areas. People in those neighborhoods are denied insurance coverage, home and auto loans, jobs, and other things the rich and the white take for granted, not because of their employment or creditworthiness or potential for success, but simply because of where they live. Guess who lives in those neighborhoods? The poorer people, single mothers and people of color. Racist.
Affirmative Action. How many times have you heard, “Oh, he’s the token black.” Here’s the scoop on what Affirmative Action is, and what it’s not. Decades ago, it was deduced that minorities were not getting their fair shake at going after good jobs because job listings were posted only where people of privilege would have access to them: the men’s room, say, or the break room, or the bulletin board of a sister company. Posted, in other words, where other white men (not women, and not people of color) were likely to see them. Affirmative Action is simply the requirement that all people shall be given an equal opportunity to apply for the job. To do that, they need to know it exists and be told what the application process is.Affirmative Action does not require that minorities be hired; only that they have a chance. Affirmative Action is not a quota system. Quotas are discriminatory, and illegal. Hell, it’s still perfectly possibly to discriminate racially even with Affirmative Action; all a hiring manager has to do is pick the white guy, even though the black one was more qualified. If you want to read something about the white attitude of entitlement, check out sociologist Michael Kimmel’s article, “A Black Woman Took My Job.” Racist.
Sure, we have laws against discrimination. But when a law isn’t enforced, what kind of a law is it? It’s going to take a lot more than lip service to fix this corrupt system.
No, I don’t approve of the intentional destruction of other people’s property. But — I have mentioned before that I have the kind of temper that at full boil can only be assuaged by the sound of breaking glass — I absolutely understand why people are rioting. To paraphrase a very dear friend of mine: When you keep a certain group of people face down for decades, centuries, and the talking and the talking and the legislation and the talking doesn’t change anything — something’s going to give. When you have been hated and acted against — financially, legislatively, educationally, socially, violently — persistently and consistently and vengefully — something’s going to give.
Are riots right? No. Are they effective? You bet. One way or another, people in America are paying attention just lately, what with Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown and Freddie Gray and so many others.
Hey, if that’s what it takes.
I am so sick of this phrase I want to hit people when I hear it: “There they go, playing the race card.” You know what? Every time a person of color is born in this society, they are dealt that race card. I’m pretty sure they would much rather have true equality than a card that usually doesn’t get them a fair deal anyway.
If you don’t want people playing the card, take it out of the deck.
Eliminate the racism.
It’s that simple.
And, just so we remember that it all starts with each one of us: