Hey guys! This article is one that I hesitated to write, but I realized that the topic is an important one to discuss. As a minority, I don't usually talk about racial issues much because it can be uncomfortable, but I think it's important to talk to you all a little bit about Black History Month since we are currently in it. The national theme for the month this year is "African Americans and the Vote." This article isn't really about the theme, though. It's more about a general overview of racism and Black History. (I have a challenge for you this month, so keep reading until the end to see what it is!)
Often, people think that racism doesn't exist in society anymore, but it is still ever-present. Just because you don't see it, doesn't mean it's not happening elsewhere. We proclaim race to be meaningless, but we are still deeply divided by racial issues. It's happening with our prison system, to an extent with police brutality, and in many other areas of our society. Racism isn't always overt. It can consist of little, subconscious things such as rude comments, mean looks, or naturally gravitating away from people with a different skin color.
There are also negative stereotypes associated with people of color, that originated during the Civil Rights Era, or long before, that are still around today. A few examples include saying that Black people are crack heads, less intelligent, loud, wild, or out of control.
Everyone is responsible for helping to end racism, not just Black people or White people.
I read a great article written by Dr. Robin DiAngelo where he talks about why it's hard sometimes to discuss racial issues with the white majority in our country. Part of it reads, "The most effective adaptation of racism over time is the idea that racism is conscious bias held by mean people. If we are not aware of having negative thoughts about people of color, don’t tell racist jokes, are nice people, and even have friends of color, then we cannot be racist. Thus, a person is either racist or not racist; if a person is racist, that person is bad; if a person is not racist, that person is good. Although racism does of course occur in individual acts, these acts are part of a larger system that we all participate in. The focus on individual incidences prevents the analysis that is necessary in order to challenge this larger system."
At times, it seems to me that many people get the sense that bringing up issues of race is associated with White shaming. Let me be clear: Being White is not bad and has never been bad. White privilege absolutely exists, but it's not a bad thing. Being aware of the privilege that you have and using it to bring about more equality in our world is what we need. When one uses their privilege in a way that negatively contributes to society, then there's an issue. There is nothing wrong with having inherent privilege, but there is something wrong with using it in the wrong manner.
For fun, I thought I'd interrupt this article to insert a few powerful quotes about the Black struggle for equality in our country:
“Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.”
—Dr. Mae Jemison, first African-American female astronaut
“Freedom is never given; it is won.”
—A. Philip Randolph, civil rights activist
“I can accept failure. Everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” —Michael Jordan
“I knew then and I know now when it comes to justice, there is no easy way to get it.” —Claudette Colvin
“Diversity is not about how we differ. Diversity is about embracing one another’s uniqueness.” —Ola Joseph
“Racism is man’s gravest threat to man – the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason.” —Abraham Joshua Heschel
Keep reading below:
This country was founded upon the very principles of the Word of God, yet so many of its White citizens for hundreds of years hated their Black brothers and sisters simply because of the amount of melanin in their skin, that of which none but the very God they claimed to serve could control.
1 John 4:20 says, Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.
How can you love God if you don't love the people God put on earth with you? How can you love God if you have a racist mindset? You can't love God without doing what he says, and he commands us all to love our neighbors as unconditionally as we possibly can.
The Bible isn't outdated, so of course this still applies today. How can we love God if we treat people differently because of their skin color, even if it's subconscious? If we claim to love God, shouldn't we be interacting with people of all colors? God is colorblind, and we ought to be too!
God controls the amount of melanin in each person's skin, but only you, my friend, can determine how to treat someone with a different amount of melanin than you.
Conversations regarding issues of race are necessary if we as a country want to move forward. We have to talk about things like this if conditions are going to improve. We've come a long way in America as far as treating African Americans right, but there's still much farther to go.
Read the book Just Mercy by Brian Stevenson. In the summer before my sophomore year, our entire school was assigned the task of reading this book. It's honestly one of the best books I have ever read. It was so powerful I almost cried while reading it, and I never cry when reading! Oh, and did I mention it's a NY Times Bestseller?
It was recently turned into a movie, and I plan on seeing it sometime soon. It's something I highly recommend you read and watch!
The Sun Does Shine is another excellent book you ought to read. It's one I've never read, but plan to read someday. It was written by Anthony Ray Hinton, a black man who unfairly spend 28 years on Alabama's death row for a murder that he did not commit. The book tells his story and essentially how he managed to stay sane being in solitary confinement for so long. Last year I got to hear him speak on this, and it was a phenomenal experience!
I hope you will do at least one of these this month. Whatever you choose to do, let me know your thoughts by commenting messaging me, emailing, etc.
My friends: Thank you for reading! Have courage, never be afraid to stand up for what you believe in, and play your part to help the world become a more inclusive place for all races and ethnicities!