Over the years, I have often heard people say that racism doesn’t exist in the US anymore. I’ve heard them say that Trayvon Martin and so many others were not killed as acts of racism and that Black Americans are being “ungrateful, cry babies”. I’ve heard them say that protest marches in the streets were too violent and then turn around and say that quietly kneeling during the national anthem is too unpatriotic and dishonoring to our armed forces, all the while holding the Boston Tea Party in the highest esteem. I’ve heard them say that monuments and flags honoring a system of complete oppression and ownership for the black population are fine because it’s our heritage. I’ve heard them say that the media is only presenting the liberal agenda when speaking of Black Lives Matter and that white privilege is a lie. I’ve heard them say, “Well, really All Lives Matter.”
I could talk about each of these statements individually for hours, but instead I would just like to share what I have seen and know to be true.
My friends have been called the N word while in public or walking down the street.
A McDonald’s employee was shocked that my white mom would want to give her white granddaughter a black doll.
A billboard here in Arkansas reads, “Diversity equals white genocide” and then gives the website for a “christian” radio station.
One of my students pointed to a picture of Martin Luther King Jr. and said, “This man was great, and he wanted to end segregation, but then he died and it didn’t happen.” Looking past his lack of historical knowledge, this student was merely speaking of his experience because segregation, whether government enforced or due to systemic oppression, is still very much real.
Our robotics team spent this last Saturday in Mountain Home for the state competition and right outside of town was a house flying multiple confederate flags with swastikas in the center. They were then scared to use the restroom where we stopped because the truck outside was flying a confederate flag. I don’t care what you think of the confederate flag and it’s implications today, but no one, especially 7th grade students, should ever have to fear their safety because someone they have never met hates them for nothing they have done and without any knowledge of who they are other than the color of their skin.
And racism doesn’t just exist in rural, less educated America. Someone said to me that surely those things couldn’t happen in Houston–it’s one of the most diverse cities in the world! As if diversity automatically teaches people to love instead of providing them a target for their hate.
Even as I write about this, I don’t pretend that I will ever be able to fully understand what it is like to be a person of color. I won’t. I cannot begin to imagine the daily experience of my black friends. But instead of sitting aside and watching racism prosper, or sitting in my guilt of being a white person in a society that has systemically oppressed persons of color, I will fight to use my privilege to speak up when I can and always point to others who have experienced and therefore know far more than I do.
Racism exists. The killings of persons of color are acts of racist hate. Demanding rights and protection as US citizens does not make people of color ungrateful. Peaceful protest IS patriotic. The confederacy represents a time and a system that saw nothing wrong with the ownership and torture of people of color. I come from a place of privilege because of my skin color, and Black Lives Matter.