Letter writer: Living with the burden of racism is not right

Graphic by Lori Deaton

I saw this news report as [President Barack] Obama appeared to address himself particularly to white America — implicitly making a point that alienation and a sense of injustice permeating the African-American community must be understood by everyone.

“This isn’t a matter of us comparing the value of lives, this is recognizing that there is a particular burden being placed on a group of our fellow citizens,” he said. “And we should care about that. We can’t dismiss it. We can’t dismiss it” (copied from The Huffington Post).

And there it is! Acknowledging that African-Americans have a much heavier burden. And in all reality, we all know that. Yet we choose to shut our eyes and not see it. Not react to it. To make the change that needs to be — living with this burden is not right!

Yet everything in American culture has fostered and constructed this burden! From the continuation of the plantation slavery system, to the prison industrial complex, to the legal system that infamously says black men are not good fathers, to black men being pulled over by police for driving black. Not to mention being murdered.

There is no difference here between lynching in the ’40s to driving black now!

Was the fight for civil rights merely an exercise in allowing a steam vent of frustration to escape? Was it a misguided smoke-and-mirrors way of ensuring that African-Americans be the brunt of gentrification and life in prison?

Since the era of civil rights, have we seen a huge influx of black Americans in the political system? Have we seem more African-Americans in places of power? No, the only places of marked influence of power has been in the entertainment and sports industry.

And even in the entertainment industry, blacks are portrayed not for their ability but for a stereotype. And then not even rewarded for their work!

So I am begging to ask this question: At what point does white America say it’s enough. We can no longer live with this atrocity.

At what point does black America say this is enough? I am equal and I will be seen as such! And know I can protest without fear of being murdered? Or I can drive my car, and I will not even give a second thought to not making it home to hug my child tonight because I was stopped by law officials.

At what point do we as Americans connected by our living in the same country finally say we all will make sure that not another child is left parentless because of our categorical prejudices.

At what point do we empower each other to share this terrible burden until there is no longer a burden?

At what point do we all take responsibility for change? From the way we use language to the sensationalized media to music that denigrates and then to eradicating institutionalized racism.

And please, if we accept the call to change, it is not the change of political fluff. But the change of deep divisional prejudicial divides.

Do we need to implode before we can change the negativity of our DNA? Is this truly the legacy we want to continue?

— Ariel Harris


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13 thoughts on “Letter writer: Living with the burden of racism is not right

  1. boatrocker

    Aaaaaand, here come the ‘blacks are animals and bring it on themselves” comments. 3…2…1…
    Show time!

    The White Man’s Burden is not so heavy America will lay it down until forced to.

    If 2016 America still functions under a British ideal from the 1800’s,
    well, with recent news events, let’s resurrect another quote from the good ol days.

    I think it had something to do with the “chickens coming home to roost”?

  2. Richard B.

    The letter writer is so inflamed with hate that it is highly improbable that any attempt at a reasoned response would be received with an open mind. However, I am curious about one aspect of the letter. The comment re African-Americans not achieving positions of power seems to ignore the fact that the current President, though in fact bi-racial, is widely thought of as the first black president. Would you not agree that this is a mighty high level of power?

    • Emily

      I think you bring up a great point – one made often. And it is definitely great for black & brown boys and girls to see someone who looks like them in the White House! But, unfortunately one outlier (Pres Obama) doesn’t make the rule. Of Fortune 500 companies, only FIVE actively have black CEOs. (There have been a total of 15 black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies over the years.) Furthermore, less than 4% of Fortune 500 CEOs are minorities, though 37% of the American population are minorities. I’m not saying it needs to be equal as a rule, but 4% : 37% is pretty pathetic.

      • Richard B.

        Your point is taken. You could also have pointed out the statistics of people of color in our prisons, which likewise is out of whack with population segment percentages. I did read recently, I believe it was a NY Times source, that young men of color have committed felonies at a rate of eight times the population ratio, which, if true, would certainly account for the prison statistical imbalance.
        I believe the NY Times writer referenced a Federal Bureau of Prisons report, as well as a Dept. of Justice source.
        My comment on your note above, is that your numbers support the intense need for an emphasis on education, that and the importance of family that is supportive and safe, which, alas, the President has also failed to take the lead on when he could have been so effective in doing so.

  3. The Real World

    Yes Richard, you nailed it. The letter writer has allowed her brain to be completely hijacked by mainstream media. She has no rational perspective and is boiling over with largely imagined atrocities. Given that, it’s not worth trying to reason with her.

    But, I’ll pose two rhetorical questions as food for thought:
    1 – Ariel, to what degree does personal responsibility factor into the outcome of each of our lives?
    2 – A huge number of Americans have mostly achieved what they wanted. Did the majority of them succeed because they worked diligently for it or because they sat back and waited for others to hand it to them?

    • Emily

      Curious where your perspective comes from… i.e. – half of the people living in my home are minorities. Was curious if you had a similar experience. You know, never can know what it’s like to walk in somebody else’s shoes, but sometimes with proximity we get perspective of others’ experiences.

      • Richard B.

        I don’t believe I did offer a perspective. Would you not agree that the writer is angry? Angry at me as a Caucasian, whose Yankee great, great uncles fought and died in order to bring justice to our country as proclaimed by Lincoln? By extension, to the author’s forbears and to herself? From my reading of the letter, it appears that her experience has not been a positive one, either from her formative years, or from situations that she found herself in, and so forth. From those experiences, she has come to her world view, which, simply, I and others have every right to debate and disagree with. The message conveyed in the letter is attenuated toward a thoroughly unjust society, legal system, and racism that is pervasive everywhere in the U. S., and, further, that people born of a certain light skin tone, who we may call Caucasians, are responsible, no matter THEIR worldviews, efforts at bringing justice to the world, and carrying with them a distaste for injustices in every form, everywhere.
        If I have presented any perspective, it is that I have found, from my life experiences, that this type of approach has, in fact, never been very effective in solving problems that called for unity and working together. There is no doubt that people of all stripes and pigments carry with them prejudices and biases, mostly formed during early years of development through family (we have to be carefully taught) and circumstances. My blue eyed, blonde niece went to Namibia, twice, to teach English following her graduation. The first time, she sat alone at meal times, shunned by the R. C. nuns (of color), for many weeks. It is the human condition. It is beholden to each and every one of us to be aware of these inbred prejudices, of which no color is exempt, and, in my humble opinion, might have been a good place for President Obama to have used his powerful pulpit from which to encourage such a movement in this country, which, sadly and amazingly, he has not done. Quite the opposite, in my opinion.
        Can there be any doubt that “privileged whites” are looked upon today in July 2016 by more African Americans for being responsible for some facet of their present situation, or national crises involving race than eight years ago?

        • Emily

          I’ve read it a few times – initially with a tone that sounded more like a plea for help, and then with an angry one as you suggest she has, and finally with as little tone as possible. (I think I learned that trick with poetry in a college course.). I don’t agree she sounds angry. Passionate, but not angry. Try re-reading with a different tone in your head. Give her the benefit of the doubt. You may be surprised.

      • The Real World

        Thank you for asking, Emily. Most wouldn’t have…while making 5 incorrect assumptions. (Side note: folks, see how much further humanity can progress when we inquire rather than assume?)

        Yes, I have been a minority for most of my life and have the numerous ugly tales of harrassment and workplace discrimination as well as social disregard to show for it.

        It has not been an easy road which is, partly, why it gets in my craw when a single group is selfish enough to stomp around claiming special discrimination status. I say to them, “grow the h_ll up”! There are many, many people of both genders, all colors, and disabilities who have experienced difficulty in America. It’s a similar fight for every minority group, so why are African Americans ignoring the others? And why is the rest of the population paying no attention?

        You’d have to ask them but often the answer is as simple as: they scream the loudest, they’re being instigated by people with agendas and others won’t speak up about the hypocrisy, as I’m doing now.

        Another question: how do so many people not understand that it’s a massive slap in the face to all minorities who worked hard & smart and have achieved amazing things? That list of achievers is VERY long. Studying how those people did it is the answer not ranting that they deserve something they haven’t earned.

        Lastly, what I meant above about being a minority for most of my life is this: over 30 years I have acquired solid business and social skills that allow me to compete with anyone in my field. I don’t consider myself a minority any longer since my skill set far surpasses any obstacles that may be there. Acquiring knowledge and skills is the answer and no matter how many doors are opened for a person if they can’t then perform as needed they will fail and it’ll be no ones fault but their own.

        • Richard B.

          Real World, you really do live and function in the real world, neither a fair one, nor an ugly one, sometimes even a beautiful one.Your words qualify you to speak for many of us, even the so called privileged whites, who, having struggled mightily, some more than others, having worked hard, having sacrificed, helped others with no regard to skin tone, dialect, or hair style, are seeking some voice of light to come out of the darkness that has enveloped our dialogue, or lack thereof, on being a responsible citizen of this country.
          Your words should be a balm for people such as the angry (okay passionate in a nod to Emily) letter writer. You are right on in every aspect of your comments. How many more people of color who have overcome whatever obstacles faced them, as you have, how many more do we need to prove that color is not a viable excuse for lack of success. Yes, Obama represents the ultimate achievement, yet there are so many other African Americans in every aspect of our culture and economy, who have achieved their definition of success.
          Thanks Real World, for injecting a sense of realism into the discussion. Realism based on substantive and genuine life experience rather than regurgitating generalities recalled from a diversity course.

          • The Real World

            Thank you for your kind comments, Richard. And for speaking your mind overall. There are many voices missing from the public debate today. A particular and highly hypocritical crowd has willingly handed their “thinking” over to others who have convinced them that any differing views are to be suppressed rather than heard and considered. And that makes those followers very easy to manipulate.

            Here is an outstanding example of someone who, through diligence and intense effort, has achieved a great deal…..and has extraordinary courage to speak forthrightly while meeting plenty of resistance: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carol_M._Swain

            (Btw, the seething anger of the letter writer is impossible to miss. And, yes, our President could have done so much more to encourage and lift many Americans but he chose not to. Rather, he decided to foment racial strife and pit citizens against each other. You’ve perceived that accurately too.)

    • boatrocker

      Before you imply that blacks ‘sat back and waited for others to hand it to them’, please address the biggest draw on social welfare programs in this country- single white mothers.

      No, that doesn’t make them bad, it just destroys your argument that some have more initiative to succeed than others. These facts are available through fact checked federal websites.
      Never mind that the 2 biggest draws on our GDP are (still the reigning champs), Social Security for Baby Boomers and the military.

      I never will understand how pointing out the elephant in the room makes one guilty of being brainwashed by mainstream media. Mainstream media is owned by folks like Rupert Murdoch whose network currently holds the highest viewership for getting their mainstream media ‘news’ and sweeping this issue under the rug unless it is to blame the victim.

      As for personal responsibility and the outcomes of our lives, it matters- to a point.
      Has something ever happened to you that sucks that you had no control over like being sideswiped at an intersection, having your house broken into while being out of town or slipping on ice on the sidewalk? How about being born into Jim Crow laws and struggling for it because you are viewed as a second class citizen? Etc etc etc.

  4. A Free Man

    Two quotes to consider…

    “There is another class of coloured people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs — partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.”

    “I am afraid that there is a certain class of race-problem solvers who don’t want the patient to get well, because as long as the disease holds out they have not only an easy means of making a living, but also an easy medium through which to make themselves prominent before the public. ”

    Both of these quotes come from a great American hero (my opinion but shared by many). When someone like me (white) echoes this sentiment today… we are attacked as racist. If the messenger is black… the “Uncle Tom” label is applied. But I’ve often found giving voice to truth invites attack… it’s biblical after all…

    Of course these quotes come from Booker T. Washington one of the generation of black leaders who were born slaves. He said this in 1911 (Chapter 5: The Intellectuals and the Boston Mob). Author of “Up from Slavery”, and founder of the Tuskegee Institute, Mr. Washington sought to raise up the black community though self-reliance, entrepreneurship, pride through accomplishment, education, economic advancement… (aka… conservative principles). To accomplish these goals he “mobilized a nationwide coalition of middle class blacks, church leaders, and white philanthropists and politicians”. (Wikipedia)

    “Black militants in the North, led by W.E.B. DuBois,… set up the NAACP (in 1909) and tried to challenge Washington’s political machine for leadership in the black community. Decades after Washington’s death in 1915, the Civil Rights movement generally moved away from his policies to take the more militant NAACP approach.” (Wikipedia) …which is why the black community a century later finds itself with the same problems (only worse). They are still blindly following the poverty and race pimps beholden to the Democratic party.

    A quote attributed to Booker T. Washington that was actually from George (our founding father and first President) says, “Associate yourself with people of good quality, for it is better to be alone than in bad company.” — George Washington (from a late 16th century French maxim)

    Do you keep company with the likes of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Julian Bond, or Bobby Rush?

    A century later there is nothing new under the sun…

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