It’s Time to Be Honest About This Relationship
In every relationship there comes a point when the people in the relationship have to reevaluate.
Black folks, it’s time we engage in a long conversation about White people and their racial hang-ups. It’s time we reevaluate where this “situation” is going. We’ve been working at this “relationship” with White America for quite some time. It’s time we face the facts—this just may not end well. Frankly it’s hard to see how it could end in anything positive. Especially when you recognize just how deeply entrenched White America’s racial issues are for them.
In case you missed it, White America has a problem: it can’t seem to let go of the White privilege and false superiority complex that its ancestors created in order to not feel guilty about benefitting from the destruction of entire continents of people. In its current version—that sickness is killing us.
For example, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know that the Department of Justice released its report on the state of racism in the Ferguson Police Department. You should read it, especially if you need a lesson in how separate parts of an American democratic government can conspire to commit decades (centuries?) of racial terror against Black people. And get away with it.
If nothing else, the report proves that Michael Jackson was right when he sang these words:
Tell me what has become of my life
I have a wife and two children who love me
I am the victim of police brutality, now
I’m tired of bein’ the victim of hate
You’re rapin’ me off my pride
Oh, for God’s sake…
All I wanna say is that
They don’t really care about us
All I wanna say is that
They don’t really care about us
If Ferguson is representative of the rest of America—and we have no reason to think that it is not—then Black folks are in trouble. Because these people are crazy. And I’m beginning to wonder whether or not there are enough of them who are not crazy who would be willing to stand up for what is right? Are there enough White people who are not racially crazy enough to defend our right to freedom against their crazy cousins? The realities in Ferguson would suggest that there are not.
Because in addition to the people who proactively made the choice, on a daily basis, to violate the rights of Black people; in addition to the cops who set their dogs on innocent Black children; in addition to the court clerks who accepted fees Black people paid in order to pay off fines based on non-crimes; in addition to the judges to allowed Black people to be prosecuted and found guilty for non-crimes…
In addition to all of those people were their wives. And husband. And friends. And neighbors. And other people who knew what was going on…and were ok with it.
That’s why we need to talk. WE need to talk openly and honestly about THEM because THEIR racial crazy is killing US.
Systems (especially theirs) Are Not “Fair” for Us
Ferguson shows us how institutional racism works. In real time. Which is another way of saying the Ferguson shows us how people with racial beliefs allow those beliefs to influence their decision making at the office and in day-to-day life.
With deadly consequences for us.
For example, we say that in the American justice system you are innocent until proven guilty. Americans like to pride ourselves on the fact that the American justice system is “fair” and “objective.” Mainly because the Founding Fathers White slave owners who started this country wrote down words like “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness,” “inalienable rights,” and “all men are created equal” and other such nonsense.
For some reason most of White America seems to think that this slice of history ensures that their governing systems are “fair.”
I remember moments in law school when many White classmates assumed that once someone became a judge they became fair and impartial. Because judges are part of a “fair” system. In their minds, even a blatant racist had to become “objective” once s/he became a judge because judges are required to be fair in order to operate within an “impartial” system.
So lets say you are a card-carrying member of the Ku Klux Klan, who also happens to be a judge, a lawyer, police officer, etc. For people who believe in the independent “fairness” of the system, those KKK members could do their jobs and still be “fair” despite their racist beliefs.
Because the “system” mandates “fairness.”
Which it does…for White people.
The DOJ Ferguson Report (and every report ever complied on racism in policing and in the legal system) however, shows us that this is simply not what happens for Black people.
We conveniently forget that a system like the American justice system is a tool and tools aren’t inherently “fair” or “unfair.” Systems are only as “valid”, “legitimate” or “fair” as the people using and in charge of them. This means that despite the fact that we scream from the mountaintops about how “fair” the American legal system is—in fact it is only as fair as the people who are in positions of power will allow it to be.
The courtroom is as fair as the judge presiding over it.
The police precinct is as fair as the police officers that are working within it.
The legal process is as fair as the lawyers, court reporters and bailiffs who make it move every day.
Now replace the word “fair” with “racist.”
The courtroom is as racist as the judge presiding over it.
The police precinct is as racist as the police officers that are working within it.
The legal process is as racist as the lawyers, court reporters and bailiffs who make it move every day.
See how that works?
How Institutional Racism Happens
The Ferguson DOJ Report gives us countless examples in which the people who worked in the legal system knew or should have known that their behavior was racist and that their behavior would negatively impact Black people.
Why? Because they knew that they couldn’t do any of it to White folks and get away with it.
Institutional Racism is not a shadowy boogey man. It’s what happens when people with racist beliefs (be they mild or extreme) work in institutions and don’t stop those racist beliefs from motivating their choices and actions.
It’s how court reporters like the one mentioned in the DOJ report can send racist emails to judges, lawyers and police without fear of reprisal.
It’s how police departments hire cops like Darren Wilson with the knowledge that the only reason Darren Wilson was available to work is because his last police department was disbanded because of…wait for it… racist policing.
It’s how judges, cops, lawyers and court officers work together to increase the fines and fees that Black people pay while erasing fees that White people owe.
It’s how every time a police dog is told to attack someone the person they’re attacking is Black.
It’s how a woman can spend 10 years fighting a parking ticket and end up owing more than 10 times the original fee. (And yes. All of these incidents, and many more, are detailed in the report. I. Kid. You. Not.)
Institutional racism is one way that Black people end up being the battered spouse in a long term relationship with an abuser who has always seen us as animals to be kicked anytime the abuser feels like it.
Black People: White America’s Battered “Spouse”
Listen, we’ve been working at this “relationship” with White America for quite some time. We’ve given it all we’ve got.
Despite the fact that we are still barely limping along in the aftermath of slavery and colonization, we’ve tried to make it work.
Despite the fact that White folks will excuse away our death and suffering with racist logic in order to get rid of their own guilt, we’ve tried to make it work.
Despite that whole destruction of our homeland, enslavement and constant rape thing.
Despite the selling away of our families and proactively breaking apart our communities.
Despite emancipating us and then implementing the Black Codes so they could imprison us.
Despite convict leasing us and building a prison industry off of our newly freed backs.
Despite lynching campaigns against us.
Despite Jim Crow.
Despite a Civil Rights Struggle that White people today are pro-actively trying to dismantle.
Despite flooding our communities with drugs.
Despite creating programs to create wealth that we couldn’t participate in.
Despite declaring war on our communities and locking us up.
Despite all of that, Black people we tried to make this shit work. And now, after much thought and deliberation, it is time for us to concede the following:
- These people don’t seem to like us much at all;
- Too many of them are so sick with racial crazy that they’d be perfectly happy if we all disappeared; and
- We can no longer tie our future to the likes of folks who see us this way.
What Solutions Could There Be?
Having said all of that, we need to think more proactively about how we heal from them. Because just like any battered spouse, the longer we stay in this crazy abusive relationship the more likely we are to be killed. The longer we stay the more likely we are to believe that THEY are right about US.
We need to remind ourselves that our healing cannot depend on waiting for them to get this right. Just like a rape victim has to heal regardless of whether the rapist ever acknowledges what he did or is punished. The rape victim cannot tie her healing to the health of the rapist.
We need to talk about who we allow to police our neighborhoods. There are literally tests that can measure someone’s racial bias. If you are a cop (White or Black…but… this is its own post…) with racial animus towards Black people—we should know that before you are allowed to patrol our communities. If you can’t keep your racism in check, then you should not be allowed to police within our community borders.
If you are a judge with a pattern of racial bias that can be measured both in a test and by the pattern established by your judgments, then you should not be allowed to preside over our cases.
If you are a teacher with racial bias who believes “Black kids just don’t want to learn,” you should not be allowed to teach in our schools.
If you are a doctor with racial bias who gives out different medical advice for the same sickness based on the race of your patients, then you should not be allowed to work at hospitals that serve us.
Now, of course this means we have to also accept the fact that this type of framework could leave the Black community under serviced. Severely under served. That is a risk we have to take. Because even if that is true, then it is high time we start doing what other healthy communities do and meet our own needs.
Listen—we’ve buried our heads in the sand long enough to know that these people have a racial sickness of their own making. And us loving them more than we love ourselves ain’t the answer. Like any victim of the type of beastly domestic violence we’ve endured, we must figure a way out of this relationship. Because if White America is like Ferguson most abusers, they’d rather kill us then let us leave amicably.
We need to plan accordingly. Much love to the folks in Ferguson who are actively engaged in self determination.
Looking for more thoughts from an Afro State of Mind? Check out my book Afro State of Mind: Memories of a Nappy Headed Black Girl now available on Amazon.com in paper back or available here for e-book download! And if you want to stay connected follow me on Twitter, “like” Afro State of Mind on Facebook or catch up on my latest youtube videos!