Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The "O" Factor...

Or "3 Reasons White Folks Deny the Existence of Systemic Racism"

In my post yesterday I talked about standing with oppressed people as an act of love for our neighbors. I am sure there are people who read it and thought, "the slaves were freed in 1863, what are they complaining about?!" or "the Civil Rights movement happened 50 years ago, it's their own fault if they aren't succeeding!" 

Statements like these are heartbreaking, because it means we truly do not see what is all around us. We have convinced ourselves of a narrative that the day Dr. King dreamed about has come and everything is fine. The idea that we are all judged by the "content of our character" and not the color of our skin makes us feel good, but the truth is we are not there yet. The following are actual things I have heard people say as reasons they do not believe racism (systemic and personal) exists:

1. "I love Oprah and she is black!" or "Oprah has more money than God and she is black!" 
2. "OJ wasn't convicted and this proves the system is not rigged against black people!" 
3. "We elected Obama. We can't be racist because we have a black president!" 

Here's my brief response to each of these statements:

1. Oprah is amazing. She has worked extremely hard for everything she has and is an inspiration to many people. However, we (white Americans) have a history of using black people for our entertainment. The fact that you love Oprah does not convince me that you are not racist. Especially when you say things like, "she's not like other black women...most black women are angry and all Oprah wants to do is give people new cars." I'm just gonna leave that one there. 

2. A couple weeks ago I watched ESPN's "OJ: Made in America." It was really well made and extremely painful to watch. The commentary on race relations and the history of LAPD's violence against the black community made me weep. After hearing all the 911 calls Nicole had made over the years and seeing photo after photo of her bruised face from OJ beating her, I nearly threw up when I saw the crime scene photos. When it was over I thought two things, "you don't stab someone you don't know that many times..." and "I suppose if I were black in Los Angeles in the wake of the Rodney King verdict, I would've been rooting for OJ's innocence too." 

The problem with using OJ's acquittal as proof that systemic racism does not exist is the Mark Fuhrman tapes. That trial hung on 2 things: tapes of Mark Fuhrman (who you can catch on Fox News as an "expert") detailing racial profiling and use of excessive force against the black community and a glove that didn't fit (for reasons I won't give away here). The reality is that (because of their poor choices) the prosecution failed to prove their case and OJ's history of spousal abuse was overshadowed by the history of the LAPD's abuse of the black community. Both are tragedies because, like I said before, injustice is everywhere. 

3. Barack Obama is the 44th president of the United States of America- we have arrived! The fact that we are "proud" of this (like posting on social media that we helped an elderly woman cross the street) shows we have so far to go. He is 1 of 44. Yes, we elected a black president. We also have never seen people try to disprove a president's birthplace like what we have seen against President Obama. It pains me to say that even in the last year of his presidency I've heard people say, "but he wasn't even born in America!" Let me put your mind at ease, my friend's neighbor is the doctor who delivered him here in Hawaii. He's American born (and even better- he is Hawaii born!). 

These examples or, The "O" Factor, are household names because they are exceptional. Their stories are not the norm. We know them and cite them as examples of our progress because we don't want to be racist. Racism = bad morals and we want to think of ourselves as moral people. However, the fact remains they are exceptions to a not-so-silent truth that black people cannot get as far as white people in our country. 

This must continue to change- but it won't happen by pretending we don't see color...

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