For those of you that believe there is no race issue in America I want you to be patient with me and ask yourself a few questions. Have you ever inherited something from your family? Perhaps it was money? A house? A piece of land? It could be the name of the city where your great grandmother was born. Maybe your last name? Or the knowledge of the country where your ancestors came from. As a person of African descent living in the United States these are things I did not inherit.
It's not that my family isn't proud of who they are, it's that we were brought to this country as livestock. Like many others, my family's name was chosen arbitrarily. It could be the surname of a slave owner that once owned of my kin. It could have been assigned by a city official or hospital worker. Like many people who share my skin tone, their family may have multiple birthdates and surnames in county records. Black people weren't allowed to pass things onto future generations. Any record of who they were was also against the law to record. Any clue as to where we came from was purposefully erased. Imagine growing up knowing you weren't supposed to be here but having nowhere else to go.
My parents grew up during the Civil Rights movement. Seeing people that looked like them being lynched, denied basic human services, killed with no consequence, sprayed with firehoses, their churches bombed. They raised me to be aware that because of the color of my skin, I should expect to be treated differently. I would have to work harder for people to get to know me rather than the stereotype that they were familiar with. There were times in school, like when I was eight, where my teacher assumed I wasn't very bright. I woke up with stomach aches every morning before school. The thing is, even today I don't know if she was racist. That's the thing about it, racists rarely come out and say it. She may have not even known. Was it a different reason entirely that she treated me differently than everyone else? When no one in your class looks anything like you and you're singled out, you ask yourself why. A child shouldn't be concerned with the motivations and personal perceptions of an adult.
As an adult my kids get called "mixed race." I usually correct the speaker by saying no they are just one, the human race. I didn't get impregnated by an alien afterall. Yet will I have to revert back to what so many previous generations have had to tell their children?
I didn't want to do that to my kids. Make them afraid to travel to southern states, expect them to be arrested for "driving while black," receive dirty looks from people due to the hue of their skin. But in 2016 with a presidential candidate spewing hate and giving the voice of radical racist leaders a platform, I fear for my son's.
What America will they face? The America that is culturally diverse and aware of its dark past but willing to face it so we all can heal? Or the America that denies there is a problem in the first place?
Race scientifically has been refuted as a legitimate category. But the fact that we still rely on it as a signifier, used to profile others, means it's not going anywhere.
After the horrific events of WWII, Germany built museums, they labeled the sites of death camps. They did this so they would never forget and never repeat. In America black cemeteries, left over from a time when whites and blacks couldn't be buried in the same land, are overgrown. Sites where human beings were once sold are long destroyed. There is no trace of what happened. It's painful but necessary that we remember our shared history. We can't keep erasing and therefore minimizing what an entire country and people experienced.
I understand it's uncomfortable but it could save lives. It could eradicate the voice in so many people of colors minds. The voice that says, you're getting pulled over, is this because of what you did or the way you look? That women glared at you, is it because she has resting B face or because of your complexion?
Racism, like sexism, was literally written into our Constitution - yet there is no reason for black people to feel they need to state that our lives matter?
Val Day-Sanchez is a professor, author, activist, mom, wife, social justice warrior.
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