It is the bitterest child that has no empathy for their elders. I fear for the day when those born in the last few decades, growing up in their relatively comfortable domestic suburbia and with no memory of race riots, try to run this country on the pretext that our nation has come to terms with its bigoted past.
America as a whole still grapples violently with both current and historical racial oppression, and in fact its regions and counties are almost ubiquitously inept when handling the subject. Headlines abound involving police violence towards minorities or barrel rolling cops scattering black kids congregating by a pool, and it is not uncommon to hear about disproportionate incarceration rates.
Warrior cop culture is cultivated in poverty, and as anyone who likes to joke about the ghetto knows, black people are more likely to live in the ghetto than white people. A quick explanation of this process from a white boy with an unabridged history book goes as follows.
As slaves, education was unheard of, families were forcibly separated when an owner decided to sell, and owning property was illegal. A century past abolition and the civil rights movement came to address the fact that the black population were still intentionally being given substandard education, families were forcibly separated by an era of police which defined a new low for American self-harm, and what little property had been earned from white America was being foreclosed upon.
Hundreds of years of truly rapacious inhumanity slowly giving way to subtler forms of extortion culminates in the tumult of the Civil Rights Movement. It’s easy to forget how many people were alive when the last state abolished bans on interracial marriage, or how recently people of color won the right to vote.
It defines shortsightedness to believe the disgusting excesses or subtle depravity of bigotry disappear when five out of nine justices rule against racism, or 60 percent of Americans vote for a black president. A majority opinion does not mean that the rest of the country disappears, nor does it mean that there aren’t states that are mostly racist, which the country as a whole has mostly agreed is abhorrent. Further, simply taking an oppressed people and setting them free does not erase the effects of history.
If one does not believe a thing has roots, one will act like a child and pinch the dandelion off where it meets the earth. A thing must be pulled from the roots.
But racism is not simply some historical scar that neo-Nazis look back on with nostalgia. In many states with the largest disproportionality of death sentences, judges are elected on their tough on crime stance, which essentially equals political incentive to put convicts on death row regardless of the strength of evidence. Convicts are disproportionately black, because aggressive cops are disproportionately put into poor neighborhoods, which are disproportionately black for the same socioeconomic reasons ghettos are disproportionately black in South Africa.
The goal of today’s civil rights defenders is not simply to censor bad words, to imply so is juvenile and discredits past struggles as jokes. It is to make sure that prisons are housed by races proportionate to the area, not by giving get out of jail free cards, but by providing an equal education so that black Americans aren’t more likely to be poor. This needs to be achieved not by the occasional president who parcels out a dozen clemencies, but by the retroactive restructuring of a legal system (and intrinsically the policing system) which has dogged the intersections of race and poverty in the form of the war on drugs.
But even if monumental and sincere changes are made, it cannot be said that America will be a post-racial society for generations. It takes centuries for a culture of shame to assimilate fully, for hate and pain to be forgotten, not relegated to a hidden or distorted truth but a thing truly without relevance that can be acceptably forgotten.