Essay: Racial healing will take real work, and the first step is saying that racism is real.
By Addie Ellis
“Racism is not the shark, it’s the water we swim in every day.”
Sit with that statement.
This means those who identify as Black can’t escape racism. We can’t run from it. We can’t hide from it. We rarely have peace from it.
Breonna Taylor, Ahmad Aubery, George Floyd and the latest (on camera) Rayshard Brooks are merely the ones we see. They are not the first, nor will they be last.
Consider this: My mom had to go to the back door to be served at restaurants, she is 74.
I was bused from my neighborhood school on the Black south side of Stockton to the white north side. I still remember the comments from the adults at the “white school,” angry that we little Black first, second and third grade students would somehow hurt their white kids. This was 1977 in “liberal California.”
I remember in Sacramento when they bused kids from Black Del Paso Heights to white Rio Linda, and when there were Klan rallies and cross burnings in Elk Grove. This was the 1980s and ’90s, and we still see signs of this today.
I remember driving from my house in Natomas to my mother’s home in North Highlands and a man in the next car saying, “Nigger die” as he held up what looked like a gun. This was a few weeks ago, 2020.
We are replaying 16th century problems in a 21st century context. We are all complicit. Instead of plantations and lynchings, we have a prison industrial complex and police shootings. We have hospitals that still believe Black women can tolerate more pain, and schools where we limit Black History to February, with the standard poster of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks.
To paraphrase the Declaration of Independence, we hold these truths to be self-evident, racism is woven in the fabric of the United States by the blood and tissue of the Black, Brown and Native bodies who were exploited to build it. I know some of you are tempted to say: “But there were Polish, Jewish, Italian and other white people who built this nation, too.” Stop! You are invalidating an experience.
“Stop invalidating, dismissing, ignoring, explaining the experiences of those who live racism first hand. My dear white liberal friends, accept that the world is not about you.”
Now what? How do we move forward with racial healing in America?
Admit there is a problem. The first step in treating any disease is first admitting there is a problem that needs to be treated. We all have a different lens by which we view it; however, say it with me, “Racism is real.”
Seek understanding. Stop invalidating, dismissing, ignoring, explaining the experiences of those who live racism first hand. My dear white liberal friends, accept that the world is not about you. Come from a place of inquiry, and understand that sometimes the response to your inquiry will be anger.
Acknowledge the hurt. Stop trying to manage our feelings. I don’t need to smile and be happy just because you are uncomfortable. Every person in the United States who is identified as something other than White can tell you about the first time they experienced racism personally.
Lean in and fight with love. There is a difference between being a “non-racist” and an “anti-racist.” By being a non-racist you are continuing to benefit from the unmerited favor by being white. An anti-racist understands that they have to put some “skin in the game.” In every interaction ask yourself: How has race, racism and bias influenced my actions? How am I upholding and perpetuating a system of inequality and inequity? Have I called out racism when I’ve seen it?
Examine root causes. People identified as Black are not a monolith; however, there are shared experiences of disenfranchisement. If we, as a larger Sacramento community, do not treat the root causes, we will continue to get the same results.
Provide financial remuneration. The wealth of this nation was built on the bodies of enslaved people. Wall Street, itself, was a slave market before it was rebranded as the center of finance. As a nation we must acknowledge and figure out how to make things “right.”
“Racism is not the shark, it’s the water we swim in every day.” How are you going to heal the waters?
This is the type of article that just fuels racial resentment and is counter-productive unless that is her goal, and it does seem the author has an incentive to increase the racial divide. My main issues would be:
1.) Holding up Ahmad Aubery, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks as examples of the problems she is trying to address. Aubery was, at a minimum, routinely going into partialyl built homes and likely burglarizing them. Floyd was a career violent criminal hopped up on meth and Fentanyl that CHOSE to resist arrest or he would have arrived safely in jail in the back of a police cruiser. Brooks was a child abuser out on parole due to covid knowing that a DUI would land him back in jail so he CHOSE to fight with the police and try to use a taser on them before being killed. Honestly, if this is your best cases of racial injustice of a country of 330M people, you don’t have much to whine about.
2.) “And schools where we limit Black History to February” Did you not attend school? History is taught based on HISTORICAL EVENTS AND PEOPLE for all 12 months of the year including black, white, brown, Asian, etc. It is just that IN ADDITION to those other 11 months, you get extra focus in February. If you wanted equality, you would shout down “Black History Month”.
3.) “Stop invalidating, dismissing, ignoring, explaining the experiences of those who live racism first hand.” EVERYONE on the planet has experienced racism. Why is this author making it about her? In addition to that, they have experienced sexism, heightism, lookism, ageism, and countless other “isms”.
4.) “Every person in the United States who is identified as something other than White can tell you about the first time they experienced racism personally.” And everyone that is white can tell you when they were discriminated against too. Right now, you can find thousands of job postings stating ‘women and minorities are encouraged to apply’ – not a single one encouraging white males though. Accept your privileged position in life. As a female minority, don’t use drugs, commit a felony, give birth out of wedlock, and try to fit into mainstream culture and your life is on easy street, much more so than the poor white male in West Virginia.
5.) “In every interaction ask yourself”. Nah. I will just live life like I always do and treat everyone equally. Your position taken to its logical conclusion would force me to assess every situation by analyzing all physical traits of those with whom I interact. Did I treat that guy with the gap tooth the same as I treated with guy with straight teeth? It is moronic to live your life in such a fashion.
6.) “Black are not a monolith; however, there are shared experiences of disenfranchisement.” But you want to be granted a position on a pedestal based on your skin color. Sorry, but Obama’s black children did not face more discrimination in life than that poor white male in West Virginia. They had a much harder road so why would you ever make a judgment based solely on skin color? Sorry, seems pretty racist to me.
7.) “The wealth of this nation was built on the bodies of enslaved people.” No, it wasn’t and repeating this line does not make it any less of a lie. America is not wealthy today because of slavery, it is wealthy today due to hard work, innovation, and some luck. If slavery translated to prosperity, Brazil, the Middle East, and Africa would be swimming in riches now as slavery was much more rampant there than in the US and went on much longer. In fact, slavery is not even correlated with wealth creation.
In conclusion, I find this author completely misguided – and unfortunately, she is the rule and not the exception in the race hustle industry. Like MLK Jr., I choose not to see the color of a person’s skin but instead the content of their character. As that will never be sufficient for people like the author, I would propose a one-time reparations package for slavery. I propose the amount of $150,000 for every man, woman, and child in the US that can prove a direct decedent from an ancestor that was a slave in the US. However, there is a catch. If you take the money, after 48 hours you will lose US citizenship and residency and must leave the country. If you choose not to take the money, then you will just need to shut your mouth and accept the fact that the benefits this country provide far exceed any reparations amount for an injustice that you never personally endured committed by people dead for generations.
Racism cannot be removed, neither can sunset. Both have been here since people were created or evolved. People of substance adapt to conditions. Look around at the millions who survived and thrived. That seems to be the natural order of things. HM