We the people of America, we have a problem with racism.
Like many of you, I watched the events in Charlottesville, from the safety of my home, in horror, tears and blinding anger. Ostensibly, these folks are angry that a statue of Robert E Lee is being removed – because somehow this is erasing their history. In reality, the removal of this statue is erasing the false alt-fact, history of the Civil War, that somehow the lost cause of The Confederate South was noble or not *really* about slavery.
In reality, these people are angry because as white people they think they are superior to other people. There is no other way around it. If you want to try and argue this isn’t what it’s about – go and have a peruse of David Duke’s website, it’s pretty clear. I agree with every politician and pundit who says, this bigoted behavior is counter to the ideas of being an American, where all men (and women) are created equal. These people are also at the fringe. They are loud angry and violent, they are not like most of us. But our problem, America, is that racism goes much deeper than these lunatics. I think after Civil rights we just thought all of this lunacy would just gradually go away. That we’d just get rid of Jim Crow and it would sort itself out.
Most of us aren’t like those white supremacy fools; most of us find the KKK abhorrent; and most of the people that voted for either candidate in the last election find them abhorrent. Most of us don’t espouse that the white man is better than XXXX because this is (usually) a minority position and most of us aren’t nearly that stupid.
But we still have a problem in America. We the people have a problem with racism and we have a problem with denial. We the people have a problem with not looking at our history square in the face and dealing with it; for instance the Civil War was fought entirely over slavery- go read some books or just the articles of the seceding states if you don’t believe it. We try to distance ourselves from the reality of racism in America by saying, ‘we must not be racist because we are not like those idiot white-supremacists’ In reality, most of us are not neo-Nazis or members of the KKK. Regardless, we the people still have a racist history and an un-level playing field for all races in America. We the people need to be honest about this and we also need to figure out how to deal with it.
Racism still exists in our institutions. African Americans are five times more likely than white people to be incarcerated for the same crime. I am a Southern white girl. When I got in trouble with the police as an underage kid, I, like Jamie Davenport was spared and I got sent home with a pat on the head. This is unlikely if you are not white. How are we going to fix this? I have no answers, but I think it can start by being honest about our past and how things stand in the present.
I hope that we the people stop saying we are colorblind because we are not. While this is an inordinately well-intentioned thing to say, I fear this hurts more than helps. This implies that we all start with the same playing field and that we all have the same advantages and disadvantages as Americans and this is just not true. This implies that we can just condemn the neo-Nazis because we aren’t like that, without actually achieving the American dream of making all men and women truly equal in America. If we forget this, if we forget our fight for universal equality, then those Neo-Nazi white supremacist protesters in Charlottesville really have won. Let’s not let them do that.