We have all heard about the horrors of slavery. It’s taught at school and most people believe that the end of slavery meant black liberation in this country. But black people were “freed” into a society that made no place for them. A society that decided that the value of one’s life was based on the colour of their skin. How were black people meant to experience freedom in a system that kept them enslaved? The horrors experienced by black people in this country have not lessened in scope.
During the Great Depression, the government started to build public housing. One part of a city was dedicated to providing white families that lost their homes. Later, the government built a few African-American housing in another part of the city. This effectively segregated the city, arguing that when black people moved into a neighbourhood the property value would decrease. The public houses created in different parts of town solidified the racial divide in cities. After WWII, the government began to incentivized the transition into suburban life for white families. I have read that it could give mortgage payments of around 60 dollars a month for no down payments for white single families to afford their new life. Not only were black people not able to get anywhere near as low of mortgage payment and often denied loans, but they also were legally not allowed to live there. The Federal Housing Administration prohibited black people from moving into the suburbs from 1940s to the ’60s. While a large percentage of white families could now live and work in heavily invested neighbourhoods and benefit from the appreciation of their houses, black people were unable to gain economic prosperity as easily.
The quality of life differs heavily from where you live and the colour of your skin. The government are complacent in creating a divide that will forever separate our communities. During an economic downturn, African American workers will witness unemployment rates go up first and it will take longer for their unemployment rates to go down when the economy is doing better. Although schools were desegregated in 1954, the US Supreme Court in 1974 ruled that the federal courts could not enforce integration in every school district. In fact, “school districts that predominantly serve students of colour received $23 billion less in funding than mostly white school districts in the United States in 2016, despite serving the same number of students, a new report found.” We have seen how intercity schools lack serious funding, how teachers in those school lack the resources to teach their kids and how it has become more profitable for kids to stay in the streets rather than to attend school. Many cities enforce zoning boundaries, making it so schools remain segregated racially and economically.
We witnessed the War on Drugs, and how it was used to target minorities. The government placed special rights on those meant to enforce the law. It is shocking how many complaints police officers can receive with no retribution. How many lives they can wrongfully take by using excessive force, even when their lives are not in danger. Similarly, doctors can play a factor in the life and death of a person yet if they receive one complaint, they can never practice again. Illegal actions committed by police officers more often than not, completely ignored. A police force is trained to instigate a situation before it fully manifests. And they are allowed to act at their sole discretion. When you equip police officers with an offensive mentality and throw them into a society that views black people as a threat; the outcome is not surprising. Several black lives have been unjustly claimed by police members. From accusing an innocent black man of a crime or a judge passing an excessive sentence for a minor offence, all the way to ending a black mans life for sport. Policemen are meant to immediately act when they perceive a threat. The United States of America has emboldened the perception that black men, women and children are a threat to society. Only when we realize that racism is a government-sponsored system is when we will finally be able to demand change.
This has always been happening, its just that now we are all paying attention
US’s system of hate has affected the lives of black Americans for generations. When some of our black men succumb to gang activities, they say its because of the genetical makeup of a black person. They refuse to admit the economic, social, mental and physical chains that the system has kept on black people. Black people are constantly denied from the same opportunities, the same public education, the same resources and the same safety as other members of society. And when they are denied all of that, how can you possibly believe that people will not find other ways to survive? They use gangs as an excuse, a way to further the criminalization of black bodies… And they target us through the pretence of Law and Order.
Statistics will show that although black people make around 13% of the population they make 40% of the prison population. And you can be tempted to make the conclusion that this proves that a large percentage of black people take part in criminal activity. Never mind the fact that a shocking number of black people are unjustly convicted for crimes that they did not commit and the planting evidence by law enforcement is not uncommon. But say 50 black people and 50 white people commit the same crime. If all of the black people are treated with intense suspicion unlike the white people in this scenario, it isn’t a surprise that the numbers will represent an incomplete picture. In fact, the Supreme Court in 1968 ruled in the arrests of African-American John W. Terry that police could stop and frisk anyone that warrants ‘reasonable suspicion’. And if the colour of your skin is alone enough for suspicion, policemen will continue to terrorize black communities. When the NYPD reinforced stop and frisk, it was the minorities that were getting searched. It wasn’t a war on drugs, it was a war on them.
And its a war that we aren’t always aware of. We had black men from the streets becoming our favourite artists. We witness our unprecedented talent glorified by the media. Black people from all over were becoming successful artists, athletes, doctors, lawyers, politicians, scientists etc. We entered in a state of false belief that society was accepting us. Yet, when senseless killings, racial discrimination and targeting and white supremacy remain a present feature in our communities, we realized that it is was all delusion. We are not respected citizens of society. Our lives are treated as arbitrary at best.
Can you remember the times where policemen killed a black person and it was clear to everybody but the justice system that the perpetrators were undoubtedly guilty? How hopeless and powerless did you feel each time justice was not served? Police brutality isn’t new a topic. It’s becoming more documented by the public. And the public has finally become sensitive to the plight of African-Americans and black people from all over the world. However, before the murder of George Floyd, all police officers that committed racially motivated murders never faced criminal charges. Our country constantly reminds us that they do not believe that black lives matter. This society is screaming at us that black lives do not matter. How could they matter? When black women disproportionately lack adequate medical treatment when they report serious health concerns at hospitals nationwide. When black communities suffer from drug addiction, they are criminals and receive life sentences. But when white people fall to drug addiction, it’s classified as a mental illness. When the chances of a run-in with the police ending up in murder are exponentially higher if you are black. How is it that black rights and black lives matter significantly less in society that we help build? We have to constantly prove our worth. Black people have to be the smartest, the most talented and the most committed to be able to gain opportunities that can come by much easier to white Americans. Because of the senseless murders of black people, we are all as a nation opening our eyes to that fact.
How can you receive justice from an oppressor if you do not demand it?
Why would an oppressor willingly free those who it oppresses? Yes, many Americans are harmfully racist. But its the system that aids and justifies a place for hatred in our society. And despite the odds, black people have prospered. We make continuous and impressive contributions to society from graduating from high school to being the first to break records in many industries. As easy as it is for us to fight the odds and fight for a better life. It is much easier for our lives to be taken from us with no retribution. We cannot allow our lives to be dictated by a racist system. We have blurred the lines between individual responsibility and the oppressive authority over black lives. When black people don’t make it in this system, they are torn down. We blame it on the people that “lost their way”, the “thugs”. And although, we are the only ones that can assure our success; the system of racism has an active part in our failure.
Racism is not always perceivable. Not every tragic incident gets a #Justicefor_____. Many are violent and many more exists in our society, without us being able to receive justice for such treatment. Like the story of a young black girl being sent home from school because of her hairstyle to a black family receiving extortionately high-interest rates. The violent crimes against black people, although underreported have attracted major attraction. Entire movements gained widespread because we were all able to see the byproduct of America’s racist system, clearly through the laws and practices that govern this country. Policemen that are sworn to protect the law, have much more success in using the law to cripple entire communities. But the racism that exists in our everyday life, is less known. It’s taken less seriously. When a black person speaks up because of unfair racial discrimination that hasn’t resulted in a violent crime, their pain is often belittled. Ignored. They are told they are overreacting. What needs to be realized is that racism claims the lives of black people in several different ways, each of them worthy of justice.
the only way to change the system is to fight.
….and I am so glad to see so many of us are bravely doing so. They want us to protest in a way that does not upset them. That doesn’t interfere with their agenda. But how long can a people calmly ask for equality before the cries grow louder? Before the pain continues to become unbearable? Black people have pleaded for liberation for over 400 years. When you look at the world around you, as a black person, do you consider yourself free? Of course, freedom is subjective. But when black people look at white people in society, do you feel that you experience a similar freedom? And when white people look at black people, do you really believe that we are all equal after looking at the injustices largely felt only by black communities and other minorities?
Realizing this is not meant to cause division. Its a call for us to unite. No matter the colour of your skin, we are all in a fight to liberate a group that has been oppressed for centuries. We cannot move forward as a society if our population functions on the idea that some lives are worth less than others. We cannot continue to allow the failure of our justice system to assist in terrorizing black communities. We need to speak up. We need to fight.
For many black people, this is not new. I have always carefully paid attention to police brutality and the countless stories of injustices in black communities. Similarly to how we have become used to Donald Trump’s harmful and divisive rhetoric, I have become used to the pain I would feel when I would hear these stories. As much as I am embarrassed to admit that, it is true. It has been happening for centuries, this isn’t a trend or phase. We’ve been asking how many more Rodney Kings? How many more Trayvon Martins? How many more Mike Browns? How many more Sandra Blands? And now we are asking how many George Floyds? It hurts every time, it really does. But it had lost its element of surprise on me. I had come to the understanding that this is the way society treats black lives and they will continue to do so with no retribution. As the ‘not guilty’ decisions rolled out from judges for murders like clockwork, it was hard to ignore that fact. I felt powerless when Ferguson protestors were hunted down and killed. I felt powerless when school shooters were treated with less violence than a black person would receive for a petty crime, all because they were white. And I felt hopeless when a man is able to use propaganda to further the racial divide in our country.
When George Floyd was murdered, I was still mourning Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. And his death furthered my sadness and continued to make me feel small. Yet, all of sudden, George Floyd’s death went viral. My sense of inadequacy in doing something was replaced when support for our movement became a global phenomenon. People from all over the US, all over the world are finally taking a firm stance to stop centuries of black enslavement. We are done courteously pleading for liberation. It is time to fight, and I hope you will all join us.
By Camille Hoy, Politics and International Relations