Don’t Change the Subject

Race in the United States of America – one of the most uncomfortable topics we avoid talking about. As a Black person, it is often tiring to answer questions or have to defend something you know exists. Blending into a society that wasn’t built for you. Demanding a seat at the table, knowing full well your voice isn’t always wanted. The tireless effort of constantly having to validate your existence. Meanwhile, you see others go through the same interviews, hang out in the same crowds, and not have to endure what you have to endure. This doublethink you must do Every. Single. Day. Because as a Black person in America, you not only have to watch what you do, but you have to watch the perception of what you do, because it could cost you your life. The most recent events unfolding are not new, unfortunately. It’s just that they are being filmed and recorded, and now that we have documented proof, it’s a little harder to ignore our truths, which have always been there.

In case you are reading this later, I’m writing this in June 2020, after Ahmaud Arbery (Feb 23), Breonna Taylor (3/13), George Floyd (5/25), and countless others have been murdered on the spot, simply because of the color of their skin. Because had they been White, we all know the outcomes would have been very different.

The system will not be fixed in a day; especially since it’s been over 400 years in the making, but we can not continue to deny the results of systematic racism in the United States. I present to you a series of historical facts that have allowed for the system to be the way that it is. The first key to solving this problem of Systematic Racism and White Supremacy is to first acknowledge that it does in fact exist.

I hope this is not the first time you have heard of the following information, but if it is, I’m glad that you are reading. Please educate yourself and learn more about this American History. It is often squished into the month of February in schools, if taught at all, but with the age of technology, there is so much more online to learn, so I encourage this to be a stepping stone in the direction of learning. I also pray that those reading this have open eyes and open hearts, because I do believe God is needed to help change this mindsets that exist.

(This is not just a Black/White issue, but for the purposes of being direct, the issues faced here can usually be relatable to other People of Color, so the conversation will be directed as such.)

Let us begin in the 1600s when the first slaves were sold in what is now the United States. Black people are labeled as property and enslaved to do work. (You can follow the struggle with race along with the premises of economic growth). There’s a Revolutionary War between the US and the British, as we separate from the crown. The slave trade continues on, deemed unconstitutional in 1808 as states are deciding what they want to do now that they are not under British rule. North versus South, the debate went on about what was morally right. Enter the Civil War in 1861.

North wins! (Complete shade to the fact that there are still Confederate flags made and sold in the United States. People argues it’s our history, ok but point to me other flags around the world that are still being hung for the losing side of a war). The North becomes free, a safe haven. The South drags their feet and so many slaves escaped to the North or died trying (read on Harriet Tubman, The Underground Railroad). The 13th Amendment gave slaves their freedom in 1865, but took 2 years for the final slaves to be free (reason for the Juneteenth celebration).

And so now you have a country of people that are all supposed to be free. Yet there are still extra restrictions placed on Blacks:

Separate but “Equal” and Jim Crow laws

Automatic death penalty

Denied the right to vote

Denied public education

Denied the job of your choosing

Denied possession of firearms

Denied, denied, denied

These unalienable rights that Whites were given, were not given to Blacks until much later.

Freed slaves are not seen as citizens. Continued setback after setback disguised in loopholes and laws to restrict freedoms, directly correlated to the anger of the slave owners who had lost their free labor. Not only was their economy affected, but the same people they thought of as property now had the same rights as them? As you can imagine, there was outrage and anger from many in the White community.

In 1868, you’d think there’s finally a break for the Black people as the 14th Amendment is passed, deeming all individuals born in the US as American citizens. Previously (another loophole) in the Dred Scott Case that went to the US Supreme the justices said that a Black person whose ancestors were sold as slaves was not entitled to citizenship.

(A reminder to vote in the local elections, and not just the Presidential elections, as the local officials often influence a lot of decisions that are made in your state and county and can be nominated for federal positions)

There are a lot of things that happen over the next 100 years. Please read up on it, I’m not going to cover everything. So we fast forward, closer to present day. Read up on the Civil Rights Movement and learn about Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Malcolm X, and several others. In Montgomery Alabama buses were only desegregated after a year long bus boycott by the Black community (1956). Again – now that I’ve affected your wallet, you are willing to listen. Hmm.

Schools are integrated

With Resistance

Businesses are integrated

With Resistance

Days, Months, and Years of protests to fight for freedoms that other citizens were given. With resistance.

After the depression in 1929, the economy was rebuilt with the housing market

However, Blacks were banned from the more desirable areas (Redlining). Home Loans for Blacks were rejected in neighborhoods where they were not welcome. Even though Redlining was banned in 1968 with the Fair Housing Act, much of the segregation for the US was already done. Since schools are based on property taxes, Education in Black Neighborhoods was dramatically less funded than in White neighborhoods. And so the ability to build wealth; this American Dream; is constantly being teased away from the Black community.

Let’s pause to discuss White Privilege. So imagine buying a home in 1970 as a White person. You’re not racist. You don’t have a problem with Black people. But when you go out with a realtor you can choose whatever you want. The equivalent Black person is not. That is privilege. It’s not your fault you have the privilege; it’s just a fact of the system that country has built. So now, 40 years later, your home is paid off and your property value has doubled or tripled. You can sell the house and make some money or you can pass the house off to your kids. You kid takes the home or goes to college with the money you made from selling it. They don’t have tons of debt following them around and can use their free cash to invest or travel. Their Black roommate is struggling to make ends meet because of their debts and the White roommate doesn’t really understand why ‘they would put themselves in that situation.’ This is where we need empathy. Because of a system of oppression, there was never going to be the same situation for the Black person. They didn’t even have the opportunity. And so now when they complain about their debt that they will pay, the response is – “why should the government pay for a loan that you took out?” “How is it my fault that you weren’t wise with your money?” “If I can do it, you can do it.” And it shows the ignorance of how different a Black and White life can be in America. When White people start to understand this, we can really begin to make progress.

And now, the same redlined districts that were not desirable have a much lower property value. They are near train tracks and easy access to public transportation. So now, investors want to swoop in and fix these up to sell them at much higher costs. This gentrification displaces low-income families to move to much less affordable spaces.

The list of injustices against the Black community goes on and on. On top of having to deal with all of that you have authority figures, particularly cops, who are supposed to protect the well-being of everyone, who take it upon themselves to deliberate in the field. Cases of police brutality. The latest case of a police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, causing Mr. Floyd to die of asphyxiation while he was in handcuffs, restrained. And 3 other officers just stood there and let it happen. It took a week of petitions, protests, and outrage to get the men arrested. How is that justice? Where are the repercussions for people that abuse their power? How many victims do not have the video? This is why we are outraged. How are we 155 years into a free America, and the Black community still has to deal with this?

The numerous questions we must constantly ask ourselves to fit into this society:

Do I wear my natural hair the way I want or do I straighten it for work?

Do I stand further away so I look less intimidating?

Do I turn my music down so they don’t think I’m unruly?

Do I wear my hoodie today or will I be perceived as a thug?

Can I put my wallet in my front pocket so it doesn’t get pickpocketed or will that look like a gun?

Can I drive the car I bought with my own money or must I borrow someone’s older car for going to that richer neighborhood?

Do I name my child a mainstream approved name or do I stick to ethnic cultures, which may hinder them in finding jobs down the road?

Must I smile so that I’m not perceived as angry?

Must I have impeccable grammar so they don’t think I’m unintelligent?

Must I always be the one speaking up for my race?

Do I have my ID on me?

Should I really take the trash out so late at night in this neighborhood?

Did I not get the job because I was not as qualified or because of my race?

I need this product, but I don’t need this person following me in the store; do I want to just get it and leave or use my money elsewhere?

Am I their token Black friend?

When does society try to make space for us? White person reading this – what have you done to make sure you have been inclusive to your Black colleagues/neighbors/friends?

So I leave you with this: It has been a hard couple of weeks in American History. With the Corona Virus World Pandemic and Stay-At-Home orders for the past 8 weeks, people are extra frustrated. And then something horrible happens – murder of a Black man in broad daylight, with no immediate repercussions – the Tipping Point – that sets off a movement. We are tired. And we are tired of being tired. There needs to be accountability for crimes committed because of race. We need to have more conversations so that people understand their unconscious biases and how to correct them. So, as tired as you are as seeing injustice in the form of videos, of watching the news and hearing about protests, being asked to sign petitions, don’t change the subject. Go read the books and understand the material that is being presented. Look through the references I mentioned above. Feel the pain that the average Black person knows all too well. Talk to your kids about racism and teach your family what they can do to move forward with love and not hate. And speak up. Now is not the time to be silent. Because the system is rigged against Black people, it is important to have the White participants validate our truths, to convince other White people that there actually is a problem and there are concrete things to do to start making a change.

Black Lives Matter.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment below.

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  1. Thank you for this blog. I promise I will continue to learn and do more/better as I learn. I have been heart-broken for a long time. And I thank you again for your words.

  2. Wow Melissa, well said. And you couldn’t have picked a better title. I have to admit that the redlining was an eye opener for me. Thank you for sharing.

    • Thanks for reading. Please continue to learn more and teach your kids/friends/family to be anti-racist.

  3. Great blog. Thank you for writing and sharing. I will continue to educate myself and others.

  4. Melissa,

    Thank you for sharing. An excellent summary highlighting the challenges to rectify.

  5. Nice job! Hope this gives White people an incite into some the systemic injustices that are in place that doesn’t allow for everyone to “pull themselves up by their boot straps”. The system has been set up strategically for White people to win and Black people to lose. That is what privilege is about.

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