It’s really disturbing when injustices that are linked to racism are brushed aside and we’re called race baiters for bringing it up. As if I’m imagining things. As if I created race. As if being silent is going to make everything okay. And the coup de grâce is that some unfortunate souls actually believe that by pointing out racism, that makes someone a racist. I find this to be a signifier of the failure of the education system. So many people know how to throw around the term, but so few know what it really means.
For everyone that’s confused, racism is a historically rooted systematic structure based on the creation of racial hierarchies. It’s racially based prejudices reinforced by systematic power structures that design global economic disparities, social guidelines for imprisonment, medical apartheid, and the socially determined value of life.
Just being born a Black woman in this current state of affairs, I simply do not have the power or capacity to be racist. And if it’s hard for you to grasp this information from me, please do Ask The White Guy and this really cool Bangladeshi Australian guy who gets it:
Still, I don’t deny that as an African American woman in 2014 I am born with a certain level of privileges that my ancestors didn’t have. For one, I wouldn’t be writing on this blog because it would have been unlawful for me to read or write. I wouldn’t have gotten two master’s degrees (that I’ve been told Affirmative Action paid for) because that too is a punishable offense. For being an uppity negro wench, I would have been hanged and buried in some unknown location and it would have been deemed justified because I didn’t know my place. That fact is the disturbing root of this discussion. These seemingly innocent demands of my silencing are born out of that same legacy. These are “be quiet or we’ll reprimand you” statements.
Instead of trying to silence discourse, just admit that you’re a coward. Just admit that comfort and dare I say privilege is more important to you than justice. No we can’t talk about the prison system, the fall of the middle class or the military industrial complex without race. No, no, no! To exclude race from these topics is to participate in the erasure of reality and to disregard the validity of millions of lived experiences. These “reverse racism” and “race-baiter” accusations are built on nothing more than modern day fairy tales.
The racial divide is real:
- Unequal prison sentencing: Check
- Exclusion from the workforce: Check
- Sexual abuse: Check
- Segregated education: Check
- Insufficient medical attention: Check
Pointing out all of these issues is not divisive, but ignoring them is. It prevents us from fully exploring and understanding the crux of the problem. You’re not really for social justice if work ends when you feel uncomfortable. Perhaps you should ask yourself why your comfort is so dependent on avoiding the deconstruction of racism. If you’re not ready to have this discussion just admit that and move on. Remove your activist, social justice title and just “get to steppin.” But don’t try to silence people because you feel uncomfortable. Those times are long gone. Mammy retired, leaving us very details instructions…being quiet is not on the list.
Jessica Ann Mitchell