There are rumors of some mystical realm out there where racism doesn’t exist so black people need to stop being such victims. (Apparently, in this realm there is also a war on religion but Christians aren’t being victims by constantly crying about it.) I keep hearing about this strange, foreign, magical realm, but I’ve never been able to find it. Seriously, they must have that shit more locked down than Narnia.
I cannot find the land where racism doesn’t exist so black people need to stop being such victims. I have genuinely, honestly tried. My mind has done more somersaults than it was worth just trying to find a grain of sand from this new wonderful world. I guess I need a map, unless I can GPS it. Can I GPS it?
Nothing I’m going to say here is radical, new, and hasn’t already been said better. I’ll probably end up offending some—and by some I mean the ones I don’t mean to offend, not the ones I absolutely mean to offend. Some of the hypotheticals I’m going to present may end up sounding racist. Alas, they are only hypotheticals, and they are my heartfelt attempts to find the mysterious land where racism doesn’t exist so black people need to stop being such victims.
As many of you know, I’m the content manager for the estate of Nina Simone. Working for the memory and legacy of Nina Simone is one of the most—if not the most—gratifying jobs I’ve had. It’s something I could do all day every day and it never feels like work.
Part of that job includes occasionally posting via social networking. Seeing as how it’s the legacy of Nina Simone we’re talking about here, it should come as no surprise that many of the posts deal with issues of race. The “it should come as no surprise” bit is important here because for some people it is surprising and upsetting.
There are people who believe pointing out instances of racism or even discussing issues involving race somehow perpetuates racism. Some of these people apparently follow the Nina Simone social networking accounts. I say apparently because they make sure to comment on how race shouldn’t matter, how we shouldn’t be talking about race and/or differentiating between the different races, and how focusing on race instigates more racism.
I’m not joking.
I’m not joking about the fact that they say these things or that they are following the NINA SIMONE social networking accounts. I know, I know…I must be joking. No one who has even cursory knowledge about Nina Simone—about what Nina Simone stood for, about what Nina Simone sang about—would ever say such things. Sadly, I’m really not joking. I promise.
It’s worth pointing out that these are mostly well-intentioned folks. They are optimistic and so badly want the world to be colorblind that they believe pretending race doesn’t exist is the only way to achieve total equality. We cannot fault them for wanting to achieve equality. They are good people. Misguided and misinformed, but good and decent.
There is this other faction of society though that believes similar things, but they are not well-intentioned and they really don’t give a goddam about equality.
According to them, racism doesn’t exist so black people should stop being such victims. If black people would simply stop being such victims, work hard, be accountable, act responsibly, and behave — poof — equality. It’s not the system that’s broken or needs to change, it’s black people. If they stop acting so….so black….problem solved.
That is the land I cannot find.
There are some reasons I can’t find it. I will go through those reasons and then maybe someone who resides in that place can correct me and put me on the right path to find the land where racism doesn’t exist so black people should stop being such victims.
You know, slavery really wasn’t that long ago. I know, I know…the damn “S” word. I’m probably going to lose the attention of 90% of the residents of this mysterious land by uttering the “S” word, but gimme a chance here.
Slavery really wasn’t that long ago. Now, I know you’re going to say that there have been other cultures with slavery, that blacks in Africa sold other blacks into slavery, that slavery is now illegal so it’s over and done with, that you didn’t own slaves so shut up. I certainly can’t argue with any of those points; however, none of those points negate the experience of slavery in the United States and how it affected our culture, infected our justice system, shaped our political environment, and skewed our economic reality.
So, I repeat—in the grand scheme of things, slavery really wasn’t that long ago. When slavery was abolished, it wasn’t as if all the slaves were suddenly equal, either. No, that took even more years. And years, and years, and years.
When black people were made equal (or at least as equal as they were allowed to be), it’s not as if they were given a level playing field. It’s not as if they were provided a running start. It’s not as if there were any sense of fairness or justice.
Things simply went like this:
1) We can own you. We can literally own you. You are property. We can own you, beat you, work you to death, rape you, kill you with impunity, do pretty much whatever the hell we want to you. You are barely human to us, and that’s putting it nicely. In fact, no, you’re not human to us.
2) Ok, ok, we can’t own you anymore. The rest of that shit still stands though, so don’t get too comfortable. Not human.
3) Fine. We will treat you a little better. But, you can’t vote or any crap like that. In fact, you can’t sit by us, drink from the same fountain as us, marry any of us. Y’all just stay over there. Y’all just stay in your place. Back of the bus. Not human.
3.5) Oh, you can fight in our wars and get killed for your country, though. You’re welcome.
4) Jeez wow ok, if you’re going to be all needy and whiny, then you can vote and stuff. Kind of human…we guess.
5) Ok, you’re free now. Everything is totally equal. I mean, most of us still pretty much hate you and will treat you like crap. You’re on your own and there’s no help for you, but you are now equal and you can’t complain about anything. If you complain about anything, then you are the problem. It’s not us. We made you equal. What more do you want? Human. Happy now?
If I’m incorrect in that timeline, please let me know. I’m willing to make edits.
Sooooooo…yes, a certain amount of equality was achieved. You all are absolutely right about that! I’m not so sure how “equal” it is to be relegated into abject poverty, treated as subhuman, and literally have every single social system work to your disadvantage, but technically you all are correct: EQUALITY!
I know, though: life isn’t fair for anyone. There’s lots of poor white folk. Everyone’s gotta work their way up. Now that black people were equal, all they ever needed to do was work for whatever they wanted. That’s what makes America so grand!
This must be where I make my first serious wrong turn in finding the land where racism doesn’t exist so black people need to stop being such victims. Maybe one of y’all can redirect me. My thinking must be all messed up.
Because the direction I take it is that the entire system wasn’t set up against white people from the very beginning. We weren’t owned as property and then made “kind of” free and then allowed to be “pretty much” equal. We didn’t have to go through all of that. We just came here, decided we owned “here,” and started living here.
Also, it’s not as if all those mistaken white folks who hated blacks, owned blacks, considered blacks as less than human (or at least less than whites) instantly stopped feeling and behaving that way after slavery was ended and equal rights were granted. Nothing changed overnight. Not attitudes, not treatment, not social systems. The only thing that changed were laws. Hell, the laws that were changed weren’t consistently enforced afterwards.
That’s the neighborhood I’m in now. I only get more lost from here.
Some of you are going to start yapping about how black people are violent, they are lazy, they are fatherless, they are criminals. I don’t know where all those points come from during a conversation about how blacks are obviously treated unjustly…but ok.
I’ll try to meet you where you’re at and then I’ll try to show you what direction I go with all of this. Because again, the direction I go with it really keeps me from being able to find the land where racism doesn’t exist so black people need to stop being such victims.
Let’s say—hypothetically—black people are all those things: violent, lazy, fatherless, criminals. Let’s say for the sake of argument (and it’s not my argument) that they are all those things. Let’s also pretend like no other race has any of those qualities; somehow those characteristics are magically linked to levels of melanin.
So we force people into abject poverty and second-class citizenship.
We pretty much keep on hating them solely because they are black.
They aren’t given equal access to things like proper education, good healthcare, comparable financial opportunities, or proportional government representation.
We put them in a no-win situation and then use the sickeningly few that do happen to beat the odds as proof that there is nothing holding any of them back.
Then, to top it all, our justice system essentially makes being black itself a crime.
That is the state of “freedom” and “equality.”
So let’s say—hypothetically—all the things you think about black people are true. Well…what the fuck else would you expect?
We’re not going to give you equal access to education, we’re not going to provide you equal access to healthcare, we’re not going to allow you equal access to financial opportunities, we’re not going to open access to government representation, and we’re not going to allow you equal access to justice — but y’all need to keep yourselves in check and behave yourselves. Work hard. Act right. Find joy.
(Oh, by the way, if you DON’T keep yourselves in check and behave yourselves, we’re going to go ahead and blame it on the fact that you’re black in the first place. It’s just must be something about y’all or your culture. Something inherent. All that damn melanin.)
I mean, the road to the land where racism doesn’t exist so black people need to stop being such victims is so twisted and winding and backwards and rocky that I don’t understand how any of y’all made it there. Did you fucking fly there? Is there some secret rocket ship that blasted y’all there? Seriously, how did you get there?
Because where I live, we don’t build a country on the backs of an entire population, then set them “free” (kind of) and make them “equal” (but not really) only to turn around about five minutes later and ask them why they haven’t caught up with the rest of us yet. We don’t blame everything that’s wrong with society on them, as if they had the power to make things go so horribly wrong. That’s the land where I live: a land of logic, compassion, and empathy.
Ahhhhh but that’s still not enough though, is it? Because not only must they act right and work hard, but also they must trust and obey.
Well ain’t that some shit?
If we treat an entire population like they are second-class, why would we ever expect them to trust any of us? (Or pretty much demand that they do.)
Especially the ones of us with guns and a badge who have historically abused them and killed them with impunity—just like the good ol’ days.
Why would we ever expect them to trust and obey? How realistic is that?
I need a spaceship, don’t I?
Really, you can tell me.
Don’t keep it secret.
There’s one more dead end I keep finding myself at, and it’s a doozy.
In your land, what is the difference between “racism” and legitimate racism? How can we tell? When is someone playing the “race card” and when is someone justified in pointing out that hmmmmmm maybe unfortunately there was a racial element to the situation?
In your land, when is someone a “victim” and a legitimate victim? I mean, if none of the treatment I listed above qualified as subjugating someone into victimhood against their will, what exactly does qualify as being a victim?
Because, in your land, it sounds like no matter what, nothing is racist and no matter what, no one is a victim.
I mean, I suppose that’s why you call it the land where racism doesn’t exist so black people need to stop being such victims. And I imagine you believe I live in the land where everything is racist and all black people are victims.
I don’t really live in that land though.
I live in the land where slavery wasn’t that fucking long ago, some shit is definitely racist, and there’s not a goddam thing wrong with being a victim if you’ve been victimized.
I guess you can’t find my land, either.
Maybe I don’t want your ass here then.