Racism Is Thriving Everywhere
Systemic racism exists. On purpose. (And by accident, circumstance, history, and geopolitical realities.)
Much of the way the world works was deliberately designed. And some of those who’ve benefitted the most, whose grandfathers were at the wheel of oppression or the handle of the whip, love denying their privilege. They bristle at the suggestion that they were lucky and are quick to tell anyone about all the hard work and sacrifice that opened doors for them. They think racism was some trite misstep of a distant past, unaware of its role as the tailwind that propelled their success.
But racism is still here. Alive and well and kicking in a world where saying black lives matter is somehow divisive. It’s everywhere you look. Consider.
Black people are 3 times more likely to be killed by the police.¹ They’re 5 to 10 times more likely to be arrested.² They’re convicted at a higher rate,³ spend more time in prison,⁴ and are overrepresented on death row.⁵
African American households are twice as likely to face hunger and getting enough to eat is a struggle for 1 in 4 black children.⁶ Even when there is enough, food deserts are more abundant in minority neighborhoods, making healthy choices more expensive and harder to find.⁷
It’s easier for black voters to be disenfranchised and harder for them to register and have their vote counted.⁸
Black authors face a greater uphill battle to get in print, and publishing has a diversity problem.⁹ As does advertising,¹⁰ banking,¹¹ the legal field,¹² entertainment,¹³ STEM industries,¹⁴ and pretty much any other white-collar industry.¹⁵
Tell this to your kids. Tell them all of it. Let them know racism can thrive without overt racists and how it’s doing everything it can to stick around. Tell them it’s in every business, at every stage or status, and across every facet of life. Beg them to help you unmake a world that’s segmented into layers of inequality because this generation is not going to get it done.
In schools, black students are more likely to be suspended or expelled, less likely to be placed in gifted programs, and are subject to lower expectations from teachers.¹⁶ That leads to a lower high school graduation rate for black teens.¹⁷ And the students who do make it through college, leave with greater debt and are forced to pay it off for much longer.¹⁸
People of color are far more likely to be uninsured.¹⁹ Yet they’re more likely to get coronavirus²⁰ and to die from it.²¹ Black women in labor are less likely to have their complaints of pain taken seriously and are 3 to 4 times more likely to die in childbirth.²²
Black Americans have less access to high-quality mental healthcare even though they are 10 percent more likely to report serious psychological distress.²³ Likely due to race-based exclusion, socioeconomic realities, and trauma from being mired in an oppressive criminal justice system.
It’s 2021. We’re going to get out of this pandemic. Probably slowly and like idiots. We’ll back our way into normalcy as our immune systems receive and build antibodies. Healthcare workers will continue in their thankless trade and offices will buzz back into operation, pretending to be more chill.
But this plague of racism — that’s something we won’t accidentally stumble out of. That’s an inconvenient evil that can too easily be buried, shuffled aside by the next trending topic until another gust of wind uncovers the horror. And the pattern of shock and outrage giving way to the ho-hum workaday moving-on will continue.
Black people hold just a tiny percentage of executive or senior-level leadership roles.²⁴ But even if they grow up wealthy, economic challenges persist. Compared to white children, black children are more likely to lose wealth and less likely to rise from poverty when they reach adulthood.²⁵
The net worth of a typical white family is 10 times that of a black family.²⁶ This is surely aided by white workers being paid more than black and Hispanic workers at nearly every education level.²⁷
Homeownership among black families is lower than white families, and it continues to grow. In fact, homeownership is lower for black college graduates than for white high school dropouts.²⁸
This all means retiring (if it happens at all) occurs much later with far less.²⁹ Somehow I think a lower life expectancy doesn’t make it easier.³⁰
I have a confession. Last summer, whenever “polite society” was talking about how things needed to change but looting and rioting were never okay, I always chortled. Even the most well-intentioned can miss the point. This has been an open wound in our country for centuries, and it’s infuriating to hear people decry rioting when they’ve never worried about racism. I watched and couldn’t help think…
Go ahead. Burn the flag. Smash those windows. Take whatever you find in the store and litter the streets with your outrage.
Because the injustices are happening everywhere, all the time, and the other half would sooner board up their swanky downtown businesses and get back to their vegan soy lattes than have one conversation with you. Because the suburbs and the c-suite have conspired to disregard your livelihoods unless they can be exploited, and those who would serve and protect other communities, brutalize and imprison yours.
They will take your life and walk away with their jobs on desk duty. They will take your freedom just because you walk around in that skin. They will lock you up for years for minor, nonviolent offenses with the clearest consciences and teach their children that justice is blind, America is exceptional, and racism is over.