“THAT’S RACIST!”

If one can agree that chattel slavery existed (and still exists) around the world, you would think that one could agree that racism exists as well. Unfortunately, many people would like to believe that racism is simply an ideology that people made up in the 2000s to divert from some “real” problem, like the ending of the world, who wins the next Super Bowl, or animal cruelty. It is unfortunate that black people are still attempting to convince others of their situation – but here we are, still preaching about the injustices and mistreatment of our people. Because I am totally sick of reiterating myself to people who do not even know the basics of our lovely American history, here are five things to remember about racism:

Now, slavery has existed around the world since the beginnings of time in one way or another and began being considerably recognized during the rise of the Roman Empire. It was not until the discovering of the New World (or the “new world” for European eyes) 1492 by Christopher Columbus that chattel slavery became normalized across the Atlantic, Mediterranean, and many discussions. He became the first white man since the Vikings to travel to unfamiliar lands. It has been proven that he did not discover the Americas, but he did bring awareness to all of his European buddies about the brown people living in San Salvador, Dominica, and Hispaniola. Columbus actually ended up carrying some of these brown people (against their will) to work as slaves, before knowing the legality of chattel slavery at the time. Prior to 1492, there had been slaves transported from Africa consistently to European countries, particularly Portugal (1441).

Slave Trade
Small visual of the slave trade that began in the late 1500s. Most slaves were not transported to North America, but to South America.

The sugar-slave complex (1452) is the birther of chattel slavery, and perhaps the complex that changed the world. Sugarcane was first planted and harvested in Madeira, Portugal and people went nuts. People could now have people work for free on plantations harvesting sugarcane. Since then, economics and race relations have never been the same. Even though other forms of unfree labor were familiar in Europe throughout its history, historians see chattel slavery differently because slaves are seen as commodities that are being bought and sold rather than them solely treated as servants doing work. Even further than this, chattel slavery being brought to brown countries with brown people gave way to the birthing of colorism.

Colorism is racism, too.

download-2.jpgColorism (which is the belief that lighter your complexion is the better), perpetuates racism. Colorism is a sub-category of racism, and is the “prejudice” aspect of what makes racism. It is the idea that having mixed children absolves prejudice and eliminates the possibility for socially ‘unattrimages-2active’ offspring. It is the idea that having lighter complexion gives you a softer look and even softer personality. It is the idea that having darker skin makes you dirtier, more likely to commit a crime, more rugged, less refined. It is hearing Kodak Black reiterate words about dark black women being “too gutter” or hearing the constant praise of mixed-race people. It is putting European phenotypes on a pedestal and forcing contouring kits down throats. The fetishization of mixed children is sometimes looked at as proof that implicit bias still exists. If you place racial bias in any setting where there is power, racism is created.

Having mixed children can not, and will not “fix” racism.

First of all, there is no real way to “fix” racism unless you are strengthening it since racism is a powerful construct. This means that racism is defined as ‘prejudice plus power,’ which could not possible by knocked down by mixing phenotypes and genotypes. The correct way to end racism is to completely decimate the source. In essence, the only way to destroy racism is to stop teaching it. The roots of slavery lie in the history of not only our nation but the world. Colorism was spread as quickly as produce across borders, and the repercussions are still seen today.  

Reverse racism does not exist

Remember,

Racism = power plus prejudice

Before you get ahead of yourself, think again “what does it mean to be racist?” well, based on the idea of racism as a power construct, a racist would be someone who promotes its power and each. Now, don’t get me wrong – racism is not only black and white – but I will say it is white, and whatever else isn’t white. Based on our good friend history, racism was not created until European travelers decided to sweep some brown nations and see what is up over there. Because that is when and how racism was created, I believe it is safe to say that white people (Europeans) created racism in order to control people and make an economic profit. You cannot be racist if you do not hold power, however, you can be prejudiced, bigoted, and biased if you are not white. If someone black discriminates against someone white because of their skin color, they are subjecting someone to prejudice but not racism. It is important to understand how racism works because it is the only way to know how to stop its impact.

Slavery birthed racism, and racism is still seen today

If you ever believed that everyone in this world was treated equally, you were not only optimistic – but perhaps naive. Battles fought, lives lost, words written, songs sung, etc. cannot be undone and each has their own place in the world. What occurs throughout history has a direct and indirect influence on how we view, and what we view in the world. Slavery reached its hand in history and gave way to Jim Crow Laws, redlining, and Tignon Law. If racism was a thing of the past as soon as one deemed it so, we would not continually see new cases where minorities had to fight for their rights. It is seen in cases like Dred Scott Decision (1857), Strauder v. West Virginia (l880), Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), Korematsu v. United States (1944), Sweatt v. Painter (1950), Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Levy v. Louisiana (1968). Other cases of justice and injustice based on racial struggle can be seen with a click of a mouse or keyboard. Although others stand in agreeance that America has yet to real racial equality, we have long ways to go.

African-Americans have been enslaved longer than they have been emancipated in this country, yet we are continually having the debate over whether the consequences of racism are still prevalent and/or detrimental. Most African-Americans (or black people in general) are only a couple generations from slavery. In fact, my great-grandmother is still alive and was a sharecropper in Mississippi. At the same time, families that used to own black slaves were able to build legacies, leave homes, and generate economic wealth. Matter of fact, this wealth is still being distributed and disbursed. 

You cannot “fix” racism because it must be destroyed not mended

The first step to dismantling racism, eliminating prejudice, and removing hate are to discuss history – literally. Read history and weep until it hurts, because people are still hurting from ignorance. If there is one thing that is sure, it is that ignorance is a breeding ground for control and compliance. 

Read up on American history, talk with people about their experiences, knowledge, and feelings, and most of all – work on yourself. Feed yourself knowledge. Here are a few articles I found pretty neat about the eerie history of our country:

“10 Eeerie Slave Hauntings of the Deep South”

“In Charleston, Coming to Terms With The Past” 

“Is There A Right Way To Put Slavery Onscreen?”

“Slave Stories”

Stay woke, everyone.

 



Black History Month: Should It Exist?

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Black History Month, held every February of each year, is known as a time to reflect, recognize, and show respect to the black Americans who have paved the way for other Americans to reach many social and economic milestones.

Black History Month: To be or not be? That is the question. Over the past decade, growing controversy has arisen over whether Black History Month is effective in its purpose of celebrating and spreading knowledge of many influential black figures in American History. When first asking others if Black History Month ought to exist, the typical response is “Absolutely!” When delving deeper into the purpose of Black History Month and why it was initially established, the answer becomes less obvious.

After being frustrated with the misrepresentation and underrepresentation of Black Americans in school after obtaining his Master’s degree and Ph.D., historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson coined a week in February as” Negro History Week.” He did so in the year of 1926 in order to honor the birthdays of civil rights activist, Frederick Douglass, and President Abraham Lincoln, who static1-squarespaceis often known as the leader who emancipated the black slaves. It wasn’t until 1976 that the week Woodson set aside would turn into a month-long celebration known as Black History Month. For decades since the adoption of the holiday, it has been recognized as a month for reflection and is also celebrated by Canada and the U.K. Now first – let me say that we have made immense progress over the past decades, with going from a one-week celebration to a whopping four weeks! But before we rejoice in the achievements, let’s look at Woodson’s reasoning for creating the week of acknowledgment once more.

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Many are aware of the accomplishments of Frederick Douglass (thanks to the redundancy of primary and secondary education), yet many do not know the significance of Abraham Lincoln’s executive actions and how his intentions for change are far from heartwarming. President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, legally freeing around 3 million slaves in designated areas of the  South. While many rejoice at those numbers and idolize President Lincoln for being moral, caring, and understanding of the black experience in America, they are unaware of his intentions. As Philip Randolph expressed, “freedom is not given; it is won,” so why did Woodson base Black History Month’s precursor on a man who debatably “gave” black slaves freedom without honest intentions of bettering the lives of Black Americans? In fact, the  Emancipation Proclamation was signed as a military measure and did not free slaves on the border states like Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri (all of which had remained loyal to the Union).

In early schooling, Black History Month often focuses on civil rights leaders who are deemed less “threatening” and are able to be watered down to fit the idea of Black cooperation while remaining peaceful and complacent. James Baldwin says that “Education is indoctrination if you’re white; subjugation if you’re black.”This is not to say that leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, and Frederick Douglass remained complacent because that would be far from the truth; all of them suffered physical, legal, and emotional repercussions. Although these leaders assisted in paving the way towards equality and equity, much of the dialogue from black America is missing. Textbooks will frequently provide MLK’s iconic and moving speeches, tell stories of Park’s courage to remain seated on the bus, explain the Underground Railroad, and mention Douglass’ journey from a slave to a free man; however, we are not taught of MLK’s internal battles with remaining peaceful, the woman who did not give up her seat prior to Parks, Tubman’s relentless attitude in the face of death, or Douglass’ many famous speeches or books. What is clearly missings from these teaching of famous black Americans are the details, which leads me to the main reason Black History Month should not exist: Black History is American History. 

“Black History is American History.”

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Black Americans have contributed to the upbringing and current hegemony of the country, yet school districts are still told to dedicate one month per year in educating students on their contributions (it is no wonder the racial tensions remain so high in the country, we never address history!) Perhaps if we taught history in accordance with chronological events (regardless of race/ethnic background), we would have a more accurate and inclusive view of history. Imagine all that we would learn through incorporating more about the Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, the Black Panthers, Angela Davis, W.E.B. Dubois, Sojourner Truth, Nina Simone, Booker T. Washington, Muhammad Ali, and many more years long! In theory, Negro History Week should be celebrated 52 times each year, and we should always be ready to celebrate.

As  James Baldwin once wrote,

“…any Negro who is born in this country and undergoes the American educational system runs the risk of becoming schizophrenic.  On the one hand, he is born in the shadow of the stars and stripes and he is assured it represents a nation which has never lost a war.  He pledges allegiance to that flag which guarantees “liberty and justice for all.”  He is part of a country in which anyone can become president, and so forth.  But on the other hand, he is also assured by his country and his countrymen that he has never contributed anything to civilization – that his past is nothing more than a record of humiliations gladly endured.  He is assumed by the republic that he, his father, his mother, and his ancestors were happy, shiftless, watermelon-eating darkies who loved Mr. Charlie and Miss Ann, that the value he has as a black man is proven by one thing only – his devotion to white people.  If you think I am exaggerating, examine the myths which proliferate in this country about Negroes.”