Systemic Racism Is Neither A Self-Inflicted Nor A Self-Correcting Wound

Systemic Racism Is Neither A Self-Inflicted Nor A Self-Correcting Wound

During the 2016 NFL season, then San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality. Even though retired Green Beret Nick Boyer convinced Kaepernick to take a knee and not sit - backlash ensued. Kaepernick has yet to find employment in the NFL after that season. Despite the right to protest guaranteed by the constitution, the President of the United States said of players who chose to exercise that right to '“get that son of a bitch off the field.”

In an impassioned speech, T.I. referred to Atlanta as “Wakanda” which is interesting in two ways; Wakanda is a fictional place. In Black Panther, it was an isolationist state that refused to help black people on the outside which lead to the creation of the antagonist of the movie, Killmonger. Also, Atlanta is home to the worst inequality gap in the country. Afterward, Killer Mike spoke wearing a “Kill Your Masters” shirt urged for the protests to end and to “be better than this moment”. The same Killer Mike who a day before advocated for Black Americans to embrace the 2nd amendment in an op-ed for protection purposes.

In order to take up arms, there has to be an inherent fear, right? Killer Mike does speak about CNN and yes, media does play a part. However, I would like to amplify the fear of a black mother somewhere in America hoping that her son or daughter gets home alive. As Will Smith said, “racism is not getting worse. It’s been filmed.” Much of the media and camera phones are peeling back America’s ugly underbelly.

For the record, nobody is advocating looting or burning down livelihoods. That would be irresponsible to do. However, what’s the message and who are you sending it to? We can go home and put plans on a whiteboard. Download apps on our phones to set plans and dress in our Sunday’s best to be as respectable as we can be. They say that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Why are leaders urging many of the disenfranchised to play their hands in a system that clearly doesn’t cater to them?

“Go out and vote! :” In 2013, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was effectively undone by the ruling of the Supreme Court in the case of Shelby County v. Holder. It’s the same act that put an end to things like literacy tests and poll taxes. Local officials again had carte blanche to change their voting rules the way they saw fit without informing the federal government. So, what happened after that you ask? Not even two hours after the ruling, Texas’s voter ID requirement that was previously struck down was enacted. In Jacksonville, where one of the highest turnouts of African American voters existed had their polling place suddenly moved. There’s perverse gerrymandering. Also, minorities usually work two to three jobs and have to find the time to stand in line at their only polling place for hours on end.

This also perpetuates an untrue stereotype that African Americans do not vote. It’s not true. Black Americans in reference to voter turnout were the highest out of all minority groups in the last three elections.  In 2016, Killer Mike advocated black voters to stay home if certain policies weren’t present and that Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump were the same. The vicious cycle then continues - figures like Killer Mike and T.I. who state these things should also know of the roadblocks in making them a reality.

I’m pretty sure that the Atlanta youth would love to have something to look forward to in a time of 40 million people being unemployed and 100,000 and counting dead from the COVID-19. I’m also certain that they would like for themselves and their loved ones to be alive. Not die by the hands of an authority figure televised for all to see with no consequences for it.

So I pose this question - what’s the preferred method of protesting? Kneeling? Well, tried that. How about sit-ins? In 1963, the Birmingham Campaign of sit-ins saw law enforcement unleash dogs and firehoses on men, women, and children. I got it!  Journalism! Consider that I’m writing this retort from my own newsletter. The rash of media layoffs has extremely disrupted the voices of black journalists everywhere. If our methods to reveal the disease of racism keep getting eradicated or chastised, then we are not doing our jobs in a nation that was built upon protest. Or is that just for certain people and we have to continue to turn the other cheek because someone slaps the other one?

Therein lies the overall issue - the push to tailor black peoples’ response to racism, thus lessening the responsibility that both systems and non-black people role within them. The splinters of the broken U.S. system has failed many and continues to. Black people are not architects of their own systematic destruction. This is what happens; phrases such as “go out and vote” are said by certain leaders. Then non-black people echo those points and take them as gospel. Not only does it implement that these failing systems are going to cure a 400+-year-old problem themselves, but it takes away from the real reasons they are failing. While I believe in the black community constructing things that last for generations, I reject that we have to be the hamster on a greased wheel. Black people have been talking. It’s just that nobody listens until they scream or when they no longer can talk.

Nobody is seeking to diminish the positive impacts that either T.I. or Killer Mike has had on the black communities - it only a wish that like in the lyric stanzas within their music - they be more careful with the words that they use. Racism is a choice. Don’t give any more ammunition to those who choose it. Killer Mike ended his speech saying that he doesn’t have the answers. Maybe none of us do. Then again, maybe it’s time for more voices to be at that podium than a chosen few.