2020. Here we are. CoVid-19 has killed over 110,000 Americans. People of Color are twice as likely to die from the virus when compared to their white counterparts.
1,099 people were killed by police, those sworn to guard and protect, in 2019. 54% of those were People of Color, despite comprising only 29% of the population. This is a 4% increase from 2014. We are getting worse.
Yet, for many of us, these are just numbers, somewhat dehumanizing figures that people fail to grasp. Think of the person you love most. Imagine them ripped out of your life due to sleeping in bed, eating ice cream in the living room, running for exercise, or going to the grocery store. Someone you love, gone. Unjustly gone. What is justice, anymore? The mundane becomes murderous if your skin is the wrong color in this country of freedom and liberty. Freedom and liberty for whom?
It is more comfortable to ignore injustices than to fight them, yet we need the discomfort. America has become complacent, confident she remains “the best.” The best in police violence, predominately towards People of Color, civilian gun ownership, and mass shootings. We have to battle systemic violence and systemic racism. For George Floyd, for Breonna Taylor, for Ahmaud Arbery, for Eric Garner, for Antwon Rose. For everyone unarmed or unjustly murdered for the color of their skin. For everyone, for our children, our students, our friends, our futures.
Yet we continue to hear nonproductive echoes of : “All lives matter.” “Systemic racism? Huh? Naaaah.” “Liberals are fabricating problems to further their agenda.” “Fake news.” Understanding and progress stem from education. We have failed our society, and society is failing us. We have to all work together to twist this ugly thing around like a tornado and reverse our current trajectory, because this level of hate and hurt is unsustainable.
Fighting for police reform is fantastic and integral to saving lives, but it is another beginning. Racism has been ingrained in our society for over 500 years–we still have far to go in addressing the following:
- Incarceration Rates: Despite the decline in imprisonment rates since 2007, there are still 5-6x as many Black and 2x as many Hispanic incarcerations when compared to white Americans and adjusted for percentage of the population. 21% of the world’s prisoners are in this wonderful land of the free, although we consist of only 5% of the world population. More facts here. (Watch 13th, listed below under resources.) We must switch from a white-advantaged, purely punitive system!
- Police Prejudice and Brutality: American Police officers kill over 1,000 people per year, on average. That’s about 3 people per day. 24% of those killed last year were black, despite comprising only 13 or so percent of our population. Not only are black people sentenced longer and more often than white, they are beat more, killed more often by our justice system. George Floyd and Breonna Taylor are a continuation of this poignant story. (More on mappingpoliceviolence.org and this Criminal Justice Fact Sheet.)
- Inequity and Inequality in Education is still at atrociously bad levels; I could write a post on this alone. First, some statistics: check out this study. Boys of Color have an only 8 % chance of reaching affluence after being born in poverty, as compared to 26% of white males; rather, 21% of boys of color were incarcerated. Better integrated schools help to narrow this achievement gap, yet, despite racial segregation becoming officially illegal 66 years ago, over half of our children are learning in racially-concentrated districts. Check out the South v. the North, still!
The social class into which we are born is still the highest indicator of academic success (so much for an American Dream), and in a 12-year period, the relationship between SES (socio-economic status) and cognitive skills have not changed. Rather, there is still a glaring gap between students of high and low SES and learning. And let’s not forget how our schools are funded, thereby reinforcing a sort of social stagnation and stratification. School districts serving primarily Black students have about 23 BILLION less to work with due to public schools being funded in part by property taxes. The richer the community, the richer the school…how much more inequitable can you get? Money does not solve all issues, but having one-to-one technology and no black mold eating away at your learning space sure help. More information here.
- The Wealth Gap and income gap are still incredibly skewed. White families, on average, possess 6.5 times the wealth of black, which then creates, exacerbates, or is caused by inequality in access to good health care, housing, and public schools. It’s the never-ending, heretofore unbreakable loop. What came first, the chicken or the egg? Even after the Civil Rights Movement in the ’60s, the wealth gap has remained largely unchanged. Over 60 years of the status quo. Black men still earn about 87 cents to the white man’s dollar; black women, only 62 cents. Check out the wage gap for black women by state–it’s atrocious.
- Access to Fair and Quality Medical Care: Along with wealth and education disparities come the racial inequalities in health care–logical, right? However, when examined more closely, the National Academy of Medicine found that “racial and ethnic minorities receive lower-quality health care than white people—even when insurance status, income, age, and severity of conditions are comparable.” Not only lack of access, but implicit bias in physicians lead to less effective treatment of people of color when compared to white individuals. More here. You would think, from a purely monetary standpoint, the federal government would care about this disparity in health care: the U.S. loses over $60 billion a year due to inferior treatment of Latinx and black people (30-40% worse health than white). As yet, they don’t (read more here). CoVid-19 just reiterates the inequality.
- Housing Discrimination: While statistics would indicate a decline in active discrimination in the housing market, the issue is more complicated. People of color are shown fewer units and homes and are more likely to be denied loans. Far too many neighborhoods in America are still segregated, tracing their histories back to restrictive covenants outlawed in 1968. “Based on the 2010 Census information, the ten most segregated metropolitan areas in the United States, from greatest segregation to least, are: Milwaukee, New York, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles (aapf.org).” We return to the loop that is systemic racism: born into a poor community -> attend school of poor community with less funding and resources -> lower academic achievement -> less likely to obtain higher education -> less income -> remain in poor community with poor schools and poor opportunities. Many families living in areas with high poverty are devoting over half their paychecks just for housing!! Check out the aapf.org for more information and video clips.
- Racial Discrimination in the Workplace
- Lack of quality leadership: a vote is a voice. The voice of America right now is Donald Trump, much to my chagrin, a man who has no ethics, no scruples, and not an ounce of empathy. He has made it more acceptable again to be vocally racist, to stomp on whomever to make yourself feel more powerful.
- And more; this is by no means a comprehensive list, merely some of the more glaring issues.
Resources to learn about systemic racism in America:
- Systemic Racism is Real: Ben & Jerry’s
- Systemic Racism Video Series: Race Forward
- 13th: A Documentary. Usually on Netflix, they have made it available on YouTube.
- Read! Apart from actually conversing with people, this is the best way to gain insight into other perspectives that white people cannot have because, well, we’re white. Some great options: NPR list of books and podcasts; books and films; Understanding and Dismantling Racism; Smithsonian’s 158 resources to understand race in America
- Talk to people. Ask questions. Have an open mind and try to learn from people whose experiences differ from your own.
So, now mildly more aware of the injustices facing black Americans, immigrants, & People of Color, what do we do? The short answer: anything. But don’t remain silent.
- Vote. As I’ve already mentioned (very passionate about this), your vote is your voice. Do whatever you can to get to the polls for any election, be it local, state, or national. Oftentimes, local and state have far more influence on your daily life, yet Americans tend to show up for mainly the national elections. Read or listen to President Obama’s words on this. Do your research on candidates beforehand, show up, & use your voice.
- Defunding the police: what does that actually mean, and what does it look like? Short answer: defunding the police means to reduce their responsibility, and, thus, their power. Far too many roles are expected of the police in the U.S. (read here). The money would be reallocated to social welfare programs; for example, rather than phoning the police for help with a homeless man, a social worker is called. Policing is not necessary nor beneficial for many societal issues to which they are expected, in the current system, to respond. Read more in the Deseret News. A shocking city as an example? Camden, NJ. Growing up even in corn-ville, Illinois, I knew this was a “bad place.” Read about how dissolving and reimagining their police force in 2013 changed what was one of the most violent cities in the U.S.
- Reach Out: Phone calls; Emails; Petitions. Call or email your representatives. Demand justice. Just a few minutes of your day can be some of the most productive. Be actively anti-racist.
- Donate. Here are 115 ways to donate for Black Lives Matter and People of Color.
- Awareness & Self-education. As Ghandi said, “be the change you wish to see in the world.” Do not just make your opinion known; live it. Investigate both sides of the story, the aisle. Read accounts from People of Color; learn more about all perspectives. Vote with new knowledge and research. Here is a gallery of great books to go along with the resources list above:
- Education. Apart from bettering the whole education system and how it is funded, we teachers have huge voices. We educate the future politicians, voters, citizens of America. We have the tools to foster open-mindedness, critical thinking, and asking valuable questions. We can teach more Black Literature, Black History, Black Art, Significant Figures, etc, across curricula. We cannot ignore “small” discriminatory comments in our classrooms. Children will go home to their parents and bubbles, but in our classrooms, they are our children. Speaking of, here is a list of anti-racism material for children.
- Protest. Speak out. Come together.
- DO NOT BE SILENT. Complacency is the enemy of progress.
***Disclaimer: I’m just trying to do what I can, so any helpful tips/advice to add in would be much appreciated! During the school year, I have my students, whom I try to teach how to think, examine critically, have a positive voice, and be open-minded. We have extraordinary, insightful conversations about stereotypes, prejudice, racism, and how to better our world…how to never forget the integral question: why? Alas, it is summer, so this is my attempt in lieu of classroom time. I couldn’t remain silent.
Please share any thoughts/comments/ideas below!