It’s taken me a long time to write this post. Because honestly, it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that we’re still fighting this battle. Why does the color of someone’s skin matter? Why does it mean they should be treated differently?
And then there’s the fact that I really didn’t want to say the wrong thing. Because everyone knows that anything you put up on the internet follows you for the rest of your life. Hell, it follows you into the beyond.
But then I read something that Megan Markle said when speaking virtually to a group of high school graduates at her alma mater. “The only wrong thing to say, is to say nothing.” And while I don’t think it’s always true when it comes to discrimination, I do agree that for me to say nothing would be a mistake. So here goes.
When I was in high school, I truly thought racism would end with my generation. I had friends from every race and at the small school I attended, we didn’t have racial tension. At least not that I saw.
It wasn’t just a willful blindness to it on my part. As a first generation American born from two mixed race people, I’ve always felt in between. Not white, not black, not Asian, not Hispanic, but a perfect blend of nearly every race this planet has to offer. There’s a growing number of people like me, people who don’t check just one box on the census forms. And because of that, I thought our tolerance of others was getting better.
Obviously, I was naive.
Segregation in the United States supposedly ended before I was born. The Civil Rights Act was supposed to put an end to the Jim Crow laws that had institutionalized racism, basically since the end of slavery. Instead, politicians and other leaders just found other ways to be more subtle about it. By gerrymandering voting districts. By destroying affluent black neighborhoods. By refusing loans or segregating schools or all the countless ways that people of color have been oppressed.
And if like me you haven’t experienced it, then it’s easy to assume that the problem isn’t there.
That’s not to say I haven’t experienced prejudice. I’m a mixed race female in a wheelchair, so take your pick. I’ve been discriminated against on every count. I’ve even had people say they can fill their equal opportunity quota in one fell swoop just by hiring me. Thanks, but no thanks. #NotYourToken
But my experience pales in comparison to what black people have to live with every day. What gay people still have to fight for. Equality. Respect. Common human decency.
Why is it so hard for human beings to be kind to each other?
It feels like our country has reached a tipping point. The rest of America is finally admitting what our eyes have been seeing and our brains have been excusing for decades. We’re finally truly acknowledging what black America has been putting up with for more than a hundred years. Lower wages. Unlawful incarceration. Intimidation. Murder.
I hope the anger, the passion for change, doesn’t die in the coming news cycles. I hope it brings about lasting change. Not just in the police force, but in every part of this society that has unfairly held back minorities. Cops need to be held accountable for their wrongful murders. They need to learn how to peacefully approach unarmed people. Our history books need to talk about the MOVE bombing in Philadelphia in 1985, the Tulsa Race Massacre in 1921. The Red Summer of 1919. Our banks need to offer equal opportunity lending. Our local governments need to stop using eminent domain to destroy black neighborhoods. Our neighborhoods need to abolish covenants that restrict homebuyers who aren’t white. Our politicians need to be true representatives of the people they serve and not just answering to the wealthy few. And we need to treat people exactly the same way we want to be treated. With kindness and respect regardless of our skin color, our gender, our sexuality.
It won’t happen overnight. The things worth having often require hard work. But it’s my hope that we’re finally ready to do that hard work. The blinders are off. It’s time to stop this cycle of oppression. It’s time for this generation to make good on the promises that have been more than a hundred years coming. For every woman, man, trans, gay, black, brown, white – EVERYONE – to be treated equally.