Racism, a theory, condition or illusion?

Updated: Aug 20, 2020

For some, this seems like a ridiculous question. However, it's a question many people are jumping on social media to indirectly answer. Across social media channels you can find post being shared proclaiming the Black Lives Matter (BLM) Movement is a political conspiracy. Others post proclamations that people of color have every opportunity white men do, yet the majority act in ways that contribute to racism and stereotypes, thus blaming the would be victims. They also label people protesting for BLM as ignorant, entitled and puppets for media and radical democrats. These self-validating post are seeing a lot of activity during this pivotal moment in our world.

Of course, we have to mention the few videos being circulated, which were produced by people of color like Candace Owens, aka; the opportunist. Although Candace Owens has no authority or education on the subject (Owens pursued an undergraduate degree in journalism at the University of Rhode Island and dropped out because of an issue with her student loan) social media users are loving her take on racism in America. People who would rather not confront their lifelong racist conditioning and have latched on to her video, giving her over 90 million views. Those numbers are staggering and can be contributed to the clickbait title,

"I DO NOT support George Floyd....."

Candace calculated in her journalistic approach to win over the racist in America, and win a token spot on Trump's team . Candace herself has experienced racism and sued 'the white government' she now is trying so hard to be accepted by. Still she is playing into the hands of a racist system to be included in a club of elite white people. But she is not the problem in America, we are. We must ask ourselves;

Why is it so easy for us to believe and follow things which validate our racist conditioning?

This is perhaps best answered by David McRaney in a fascinating and pleasantly uncomfortable look at why “self-delusion is as much a part of the human condition as fingers and toes”.

He writes, "Once something is added to your collection of beliefs, you protect it from harm. You do this instinctively and unconsciously when confronted with attitude-inconsistent information. Just as confirmation bias shields you when you actively seek information, the backfire effect defends you when the information seeks you, when it blindsides you. Coming or going, you stick to your beliefs instead of questioning them. When someone tries to correct you, tries to dilute your misconceptions, it backfires and strengthens those misconceptions instead. Over time, the backfire effect makes you less skeptical of those things that allow you to continue seeing your beliefs and attitudes as true and proper." This disagreement between what people want to believe about America, and the reality of the true nature of how the nation has mistreated blacks is where the conflict and dissonance occurs.

A friend of mine who is white and married to black man called me to discuss the Candace Owen's video as it was circulating facebook. She said "the video had some good points, like how black people are arrested more but they commit more crimes." Having researched this exact topic and written an awarded piece on it during my college studies, I was able to have a calm and educated discussion with her about this question. First pointing out that, the 'facts' in the video are positioned to support Ms. Owens opinion. However, if you look under the rug you will find the 'why' beneath the 'what'.

Crime doesn't follow race,
Crime Follows Poverty.

Low-income and African American communities have a higher percentage of adult males behind bars (many for misdemeanor or lesser crimes than whites). That means fewer fathers, grandfathers and mentors for younger generations to look up to. Without a stable father figure, young men are more likely to follow the paths of their father.

In a controversial 1975 article, titled “White Racism, Black Crime, and American Justice,” criminologist Robert Staples argued that discrimination pervades the justice system. He said the legal system was made by white men to protect white interests and keep blacks down.

Let's review a few facts that prove his theory.

  • Black people are 50% more likely to be wrongfully accused and convicted.

  • People of color are more likely to be pulled over, accused and arrested for non-criminal activity.

  • If you struggle to pay your bills and don't know where your next meal is coming from, studies show you are more likely to be incarcerated.

  • People living in poverty are more likely to commit burglary, larceny or theft.

  • It is a fact that neighborhoods where the poor are concentrated are prone to high crime rates, and poor residents are the most common victims of crimes.

  • In America, black families are two and a half times more likely to fall below poverty lines.

  • Incarceration also has a crippling effect on wealth accumulation, ensuring long-lasting damage to individuals, families, and communities of color.

  • Study after study read like this one from Maryland showing that while only 17% of traffic violators are black, 72% of all traffic violators searched were black.

  • The "war on drugs" has traditionally targeted low-income, minority communities where many street dealers live instead of the often white and well-to-do suppliers.

  • A criminal record reduces one's opportunities for employment; thus, they are more likely to turn to crime again.

  • Cornell law professor Sheri Lynn Johnson reviewed a dozen mock-jury studies. She concluded that the “race of the defendant significantly and directly affects the determination of guilt.”

You might argue that we all know very successful black men and women so if a person wants to succeed they can. This is a fair argument. What you must take into consideration is how much harder it is for people of color to reach this success simply due to the color of their skin. Even Black boys from affluent families run a greater risk than their white peers of ending up poor. Racial profiling by police isn't something affluent black people get a pass from. Hundreds of affluent black people have been pulled over and asked how they got this car. Men who have broken no laws, accused, sometimes beaten and many times arrested just because the officers suspected their nice car was stolen or they were illegally making money to have nice things.

So although crime is more prevalent in the poor communities, getting out of that poverty level is only part of the fight.

So many times I have heard complaints about Affirmative Action employment laws. Complaints from my own employers and business owner friends. The main complaint is that this law forces them to hire less qualified candidates simply because they are black. My personal witness to this can be counted in many stories, but I will share just one today which sums up most of the experiences I had.

When I was married I went by a different name, one many mistook as the name of a black female. At the end of an hour long interview I was offered the job. The interviewer and I really hit it off and I was excited to join the team. Then before we parted, he said, " I am so glad I decided to call you in for an interview. I almost didn't because based on your name I thought you were black. I had no intentions of hiring a black person but decided to call you in for an interview so it looked good on paper." He then suggested I change my name so I would not scare away any potential clients. Therefore, when people say its just as easy for black people to get a good job as white people I must disagree.

What about equal housing then? An argument I heard recently was,

"We have 'given' people of color everything they need for equality, it's their own fault if they refuse to take advantage of it."

Let me tell you a true story about a biracial couple's experience looking for a home to lease in a good school district. This couple applied for 6 different homes and were turned down every time. The husband, a black man, told his wife to stop putting him on the application so they had a chance to get approved. She was appalled at this suggestions. Even though they were well qualified for every house they applied for, she refused to believe they were turned down because of his skin color. The next house she applied for however, she did not provide his identification until after they were approved and had put down the deposit. When she went to pick up the keys and provide them with her husbands ID as required, they went to make a copy of his ID and get the keys for her, when they came back they handed her back her deposit and said unfortunately there was a mistake and they did not get approved. Devastated to face the truth in what her husband already knew, she conceded to his suggestions. On the next home she applied as an individual and was approved.

There are, in fact, successful people of color. There are people of color in good school districts and affluent areas, but one must look at the overwhelmingly obvious hardships most face to get there. I would say it is slightly easier now than it was 20 years ago, but change has been slow. Too slow, discouragingly slow.

Hundreds of years of protest have gotten us little movement with equal rights. I am hopeful that the current protest, joined by so many white allies, politicians and celebrities will bring forth real change in policies, education and action. However change happens one mind at a time, and there is a lot to be torn down and rebuilt. Many do not understand what racism actually is.

ANGELA Y. DAVIS explains it in her Smithsonian Article

  • Individual racism refers to the beliefs, attitudes, and actions of individuals that support or perpetuate racism in conscious and unconscious ways. The U.S. cultural narrative about racism typically focuses on individual racism and fails to recognize systemic racism.

Examples include believing in the superiority of white people, not hiring a person of color because “something doesn’t feel right,” or telling a racist joke.

She goes on to break it down further;

  • Interpersonal racism​ occurs between individuals. These are public expressions of racism, often involving slurs, biases, or hateful words or actions.

  • Institutional racism occurs in an organization. These are discriminatory treatments, unfair policies, or biased practices based on race that result in inequitable outcomes for whites over people of color and extend considerably beyond prejudice. These institutional policies often never mention any racial group, but the intent is to create advantages. Example: A school system where students of color are more frequently distributed into the most crowded classrooms and underfunded schools and out of the higher-resourced schools.

  • Structural racismis the overarching system of racial bias across institutions and society. These systems give privileges to white people resulting in disadvantages to people of color. Example: Stereotypes of people of color as criminals in mainstream movies and media.

As we know, Candace's argument isn't a new one.

We've heard the argument time and time again, that the black community is to blame for the way (racists) view them. That the men and women who have died by the hands of police or even 'citizens arrest' somehow deserved it.

The Black Lives Matter movement is not a movement against white people, it's a movement against racist. It is not a movement against police, it is a movement against police brutality.

It's not a movement to say black lives matter more than yours, it is a movement asking for black lives to matter just as much as yours. The only ones disputing if all lives matter are the white racist who believe a white lives holds more value than a black lives. This is what Black Lives Matter is fighting against. If you are offended by BLM I encourage you to figure out which one of these categories you fit into.

The Black Lives Matter movement is not a group of undisciplined looters and criminals, this movement is fighting back against the 1% who is committing these crimes too. You must get your information from multiple sources and not just those which fall inline with your conditioned beliefs.

It is our job as humans, to do the hard work of questioning our conditioned response to the Black Lives Matter movement. In recognising and taking action against racism in our world. One person, one house, one family at a time. We will never be able to put ourselves in the shoes of our darker skinned neighbors, but maybe we can end it with our generation so that the next generation has equal opportunity to make their own place in history.

You can stand up for equal rights without posting on social media or going to protest.

I know it is not easy to stand up to your peers, bosses, clients and friends against racism. Even some of my black friends are afraid to post about it on social media for fear of losing their jobs or clients. It's okay, but it's not okay to do nothing.

Here are some action items I encourage you to take:

  1. Look at your life and see where you could support more local black business, black artists, black authors and your black neighbors. You can find these listed in social media groups and even through google.

  2. Find a way to support, to listen, to learn, any way you can and continue to grow in doing so.

  3. Teach your children better than you were taught, take time to befriend your black neighbors, stop yourself when a stereotype pops up in your head, and support those black entrepreneurs trying to get ahead.

  4. Educate yourself through channels you normally do not use. Expand your image of our country and our community.

"We have inherited a system that since slavery has valued those with white skin as more valuable. While laws have changed, the thinking largely remains intact. It is reinforced so pervasively that we don't see the messages as anything but normal. "


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