What most people don’t realize is that SLAVERY ended at the very least, 3 to 4 generations ago. My own grandfather was born just 7 YEARS AFTER slavery ended! He was 61 years old when my father was born. That means my grandfather was immediately and deeply affected by systemic racism, the KKK, and Jim Crow laws because he was still treated as a slave while he and his parents (former slaves) “sharecropped” on some of the very plantations that enslaved them. My grandfather experienced that… Then, my parents had to drink out of “Blacks Only” fountains and had to use back doors, not be served at the restaurant counters, had to sit in the back of buses, etc. before the Civil Rights Act was signed in 1964(the year I was born). This country can never move forward until it acknowledges that the generational effects of slavery still exists today.
It’s important to note that when Blacks—in present day America—continue to speak against atrocities we still suffer, it is because it has only – ONLY been 51 years since the CIVIL RIGHTS Act was signed. That’s barely a generation ago! We are still fighting to be treated like human beings and with dignity and respect. It took 100 years after slavery ended before our 15th Amendment Rights were upheld with the Voting Act of 1965. Here we are 50 years later still fighting for the right to be treated as human beings during encounters with law enforcement. We’re still fighting for promotions we worked hard for. We are still trying to dump the “slave mentality” mindset among our people. Systemic Racism is a generational stain on our civilized society.
Therefore, we ask that you please stop telling us we’re using the “Race Card” when we continue to point out the ways in which we are still being disenfranchised. Don’t “remind” us that because we now have a Black President, it means we’ve “arrived” as a race and are being treated equally. There were MANY “successful Blacks” back in the days after slavery but at the end of the day, they were still less than human to racist whites and had no rights. And… President Obama is still the most hated and disrespected President ever to be in office and the only one that is referenced in a derogatory way due to his skin color.
Please do not compare our struggle to the people who are crossing the Mexican border and fighting for US citizenship or, the LGBT community who are fighting for “equal rights.” Mexicans came here by choice – they are not experiencing generational pain and suffering. They did not have children snatched from their arms and sold at auction. Regardless of how life is for them in Mexico, they can still go back. Their homeland is simply across a border. The LGBT community are not forced to be who they are. Their fight to marry cannot be compared to a people who were transported over the ocean in rancid ships, put on display at auction, and brutalized for 400 years. They are not a transplanted people still vilified because of something they cannot hide – their color. If they did not say they were LGBT, chances are, no one would notice. Color cannot be hidden. I am not downplaying their struggle but it is not the same as ours and the continued comparisons actually downplays what Blacks have suffered (and still suffer) in this country. The only group of people–in this country–who can truly have a voice by comparison are the Native Indian due to their annihilation in their own land. They were invaded and victimized and sent to reservations as this country went to Africa and brought us here. That is the harsh truth and hopefully one that we can overcome.
We ask that you stop “tone policing” us when we attempt to tell stories of our daily struggle as a Black person. Tone Policing is when a non-Black (usually White) person tries to tell a story that has the appearance of a ‘struggle’ in an attempt to downplay our experience. For example, if I tell you that I was the only Black in a classroom and was bullied by other kids, don’t tell me that you were bullied as well. It is not the same thing. Also, don’t tell us to not be angry in the face of blatant injustice. That is tone policing.
Understand that it is not a reflection on you as a person (unless, of course, you are racist). It’s our life and something we cannot apologize for if it makes you uncomfortable. Maybe we would like you to simply listen and realize that the pain is real and the anger is justified. Maybe we’d like to know that you have the character to stand up to anyone in your circle who is racist and doesn’t understand that we are people too. Maybe we’d like you to bring up the latest atrocity in the news and ask us how we feel about it. Or.. tell us how you feel about it. But whether you do this or not, we will continue to speak out and be our own advocates to the best of our abilities.
This must sink in…It took 100 YEARS before we got Civil Rights and were able to vote without taking a “test” or being killed and again, that was ONLY 51 years ago. Please don’t tell us to “get over it” because it’s not over yet… Systemic Racism, and its affects, are still very much alive in the United States. Blacks are still experiencing the GENERATIONAL RIPPLES within our communities.
Copyright 2015 Kim R Woods
all rights reserved