RACISM IS REAL
Racism is a relatively new concept to me, though I have experienced it now to some degree, it is still beginning to soak in my psychic as it has for most westerners.
As a mid career journalist and a media trainer seeking for opportunities to advance myself professionally, I have at least traveled to a few places including African countries, South East Asia, Europe and now America.
FEW OF MY EXPERIENCES
I am from West Africa. As I visited some nations, (not African nations) but other places that I have named, I have experience walking into shopping centers, shops and restaurants and noticed a few persons: come to attention, some would unconsciously hold their pulses tighter, if it’s a shopping center, someone would either began to follow me around (pretending not to be doing so though) probably thinking I might shoplift. Such experiences sometimes suggest to me that they don’t trust me because I am black.
I had gone to the flea market during the course of training in Europe when I had a guy coming up to me and asking me to come with some of my friends to meet him and his friends for some sexual exchange arrangement.
This is after the guy had asked me what I was doing in that country and I had already told him that I was there on a study visit. I felt so embarrassed and humiliated there, yet he went on and even began calling his friends to take a look at me. I had to leave the place without buying, ashamed and angry at the same time and wondering why he didn’t do that to the few white girls I had noticed around the market.
Sharing my experience with the class later, the others (including the Organizers of the fellowship, all Europeans) were quick to voice aloud my thoughts and concluded that it was racism.
Even now as I study here in the United States, racism still shows up in my daily interactions with a few persons who may not seem conscious of it, but it’s there still the same like it is with most “African American”.
In 1999 on a fateful day of Febraury 3, Police Officers: Ken Boss, Sean Carroll, Edward Mcmellon and Richard Murphy killed Amadou Diallo a 22 year old Guinean at Wheeler Avenue in the Soundview neighborhood of the South Bronx.
The jury reportedly concluded that, “Officers have to make life-or-death decisions in conditions of uncertainty”. So Boss, Carroll, Mcmellon and Murphy were acquitted of murder charges.
An interesting phenomena that comes out of this is a song that was said to have been written and performed by Bruce Springsteen in Diallo’s honor called, “41 shots”, with the chorus, “You can get killed just for living in your American Skin.”
The Wheeler Avenue is said to have been renamed Amadou Diallo Place.
As I followed the Ferguson situation few weeks ago and repeated heard some Americans (Blacks) been referred to with distinction and adjectives like: Native Americans, Hispanics, African Americans, I began to wonder why attached adjective to some groups of persons and not to others. I even asked an American or two, why are they referring to the blacks as African American… and the responses from the two individuals though asked at separate locations and time, were the same, “well because that’s just how they refer to the”. When I asked but who refer to them like that, and the responses were that the media refers to them as African American.
In fact, one of the individuals I asked, (a white) said to me, “that’s how they are generally refer to in America”, and I held my tongue from retorting, then why aren’t they referring to you as Polish Americans, or German Americans or something American since some of your parents and even you came from other places and continents to America.
I believe the bottom line is, because they are whites. No one calls them white Americans; they are considered Americans, plain and simple.
And that, in my understanding is RACISM already because it is divisive.
Racism can be in several forms and manners. It can be unknowingly and unconsciously perpetrated against others without the perpetrator’s consciousness.
History is replete with different cases of racism in America and it continues even today.
Just to revisit a few, from the book Blink, authored by Malcolm Gladwell, here is an excerpt from a recent report by the nonprofit group Human Rights Watch: “Nationwide, the rate of drug admissions to state prison for black men is thirteen times greater than the rate for white men. In ten states black men are sent to state prison on drug charges at rates that are 26 to 57 times greater than those of white men in the same state.
In Illinois, for example, the state with the highest rate of black male drug offender admissions to prison, a black man is 57 times more likely to be sent to prison on drug charges than a white man.”
According to Gladwell in his book Blink, during a talk he gave at the Harvard Law school to a group he refers to as some of America’s brightest young minds, there seemed to be a general consensus, or, to put it exactly as he wrote, “a little disagreement with the idea of doing something to reduce the shameful disparity in the way we treat people in the legal system based on the color of their skin.”
Gladwell states that there were many legitimate concerns about the practicality of the idea he proposed that courtrooms put up screens, or that an accuse be in another room entirely, answering questions by emails or through the use of an intermediary. “And I think that all evidence and testimony in a trial that tips the jury off to the age or race or gender of the defendant ought to be edited out,” writes Gladwell.
Most times, people do not mean to discriminate against blacks, or others, but they do – as Gladwell puts it in Blink, “overwhelmingly and punitively”, – because we as humans are subject to the kind of biases that many of us carry around in the nether regions of our brains, which affect our behavior as much as the opinions that we knowingly hold.
2 Comments on “RACISM IS REAL”
I’m so sad to hear that you’ve faced racism just in your travels in Europe and America. Of course, there is a deep history of racism in the United States. Your experience as a Liberian is particularly insightful given that you are African, but not “African American,” as you say.
I’m sure you know that your own government was born, in part, out of American racism. For those reading this and do not know, Liberia was colonized by African Americans, as many white Americans at the time thought black former slaves would have more opportunity in Africa.
Priscilla, I feel sad to hear your experience. I think you are right to some extent, but the main issue is there are some gaps of understanding among blacks because they psychologically feel deprived of their equal rights. According to the US Constitution, both blacks and whites have equal rights. So black people should not feel embarrassed, and instead they should exercise their equal right.
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