I must preface this by stating that I am a white female. When I use the term “whites” instead of the term “we”, I am in no way absolving myself or disassociating myself from that group. However, for the sake of fluency I will use these terms interchangeably at times.
American History holds a dark secret. A deep dark past propagated through a religious and social lie proclaimed to justify it in order to separate one human being from another. Here we are today; a nation who has forgotten its past – a past which directly exemplifies what we have become today. We wish to forget about the atrocities we have committed and what culpability we carry. We deny that our present condition is a direct result of the shameless legacy of racism, interwoven into present-day life so subtly that we are blind to its lasting ramifications.
Today unarmed Black men, women and children are being killed by “peace officers” at an alarming rate and we not only tend to blame the victim but we also claim race has no relevance. How does this happen? How have we become so disconnected from history as to feel it has no bearing on our present state? Few white people can even conjure up any empathy to the fact that a human life has been taken. This is reminiscent of when Black folks were lynched at BBQ’s as whites looked on with smiles on their face and coldness in their hearts. Personally speaking, it feels no different that what occurs nowadays on a regular basis. We have been tricked into believing a history that is inaccurate and therefore we are incapable of giving the Black race anything resembling human dignity. Their lives hold very little value as they are deemed as dispensable except to the family and friends that are left to deal with the unimaginable pain of losing someone they love. Coupled with this, is the confusion from white people to see these events as anything more than isolated incidents completely unrelated to any historical context. The only thing we can see is the rage from those affected and we wonder why are these people so angry.
We prefer to deny that racism exists, however I feel strongly that it exists with more power than ever before by virtue of denial. We are willing to acknowledge slavery and even condemn it to a certain degree but we ignore what happened after slavery. That part of history has been covered up and disguised to make it appear as if actual progress has been made. I contest that no substantial progress has been made at all. Blood is all over our hands and we persist in our refusal to acknowledge it.
Obama’s presidency has brought to the surface anxiety amongst white people, manifesting itself in many forms. Racial tension is rising and white people are uneasy about losing what they have gained from their own privilege. White people are more bold today, it seems, to talk about “Black on Black crime”, to criticize the Black community and blame them for not rising above circumstances beyond their control in a system that WE created. We have the audacity to call Black people lazy when they built this country so that some white people could live a life of leisure. In this country, the dominate culture is the ideology of white supremacy which has set the tone as well as the code of conduct since America was first colonized. However, we prefer to claim that racism ended when slavery did. Or at the very least we want to believe racism died after the Civil Rights movement. This happy ending, make ourselves feel better, approach to history is taught in our schools, taught to our children and thus the lie has evolved into “truth”. The “middle part” and the details of factual history, however grotesque they may be, have been conveniently omitted and buried in falsehoods.
Although it may not occur in the literal form of their ancestors, the lynching of Black people continues everyday. This form of lynching has taken on a life of its own and in some ways is much more insidious, considering it hides behind a warped sense of reality. It lurks behind the distortion of the truth. Nevertheless, it is the same sickness of racism transformed, taking on a different form, into something possibly much darker and more ominous than the former.
To change the future we must first courageously face the truth about the past and relay that truth on to the next generation. Because of my newly acquired awareness, I cannot begin to fathom how a human being armed with the truth cannot see and feel the pain of the legacy we have left behind, to Black folks in particular. One must live in a complete state of denial to achieve the ability to dissociate from feeling any sort of empathy. When we as a nation can look history in the eye, take full responsibility for what has transpired and FEEL the pain we have caused, then we can begin to heal from the legacy of racism. Then, and only then, can we begin to genuinely repair the past. If we continue to say “it wasn’t me”, no peace or resolution will come. Until then we will continue to battle an invisible opponent because we are too afraid to be accountable to the reality. Divide and conquer is a tactic that has been used over and over in history to pit one group against another and it works just as proficiently today. When will we understand that the enemy isn’t each other but the myth that has been deliberately recited for over 400 years?