As you probably already know, some of the University of Maryland population found your most recent opinion column for The Diamondback, “The problem with today’s race war,” to be ill-informed, biased, factually inaccurate and, quite frankly, insensitive. While everyone is certainly entitled to their opinions, your clear lack of understanding about race-related issues in America makes us wonder why you would choose to write about them in the first place. Whatever your reasoning may be, we’re going to attempt to explain why a lot of the statements that you made in your article are problematic in a way that may actually help you to understand why people are so pissed off.
First and foremost, your title perpetuates the idea that black people, or rather the Black Lives Matter movement, is looking to incite a “race war” with our protest and opposition of the continued injustices against people of color (specifically those who are black) in this country. This is not the case at all. The fact that black people demanding equality is often taken as an act of war against white people should show you just how unequal things are. The majority of black people don’t support or condone the recent acts of violence against police officers that have occurred, the same way we don’t support unnecessary brutality by police; the two aren’t mutually exclusive. This is why organizations like Black Lives Matter exist. What we as minorities thought was obvious (that we matter as humans) seems to elude those who often hold the most power, so we came together and we made our voices heard. Just like how the activists who came before us did in the 50’s and 60’s during the fight for Civil Rights and just like our children will most likely have to because this problem doesn’t seem like it’s going away any time soon.
Onto the content itself. In the second paragraph you state: “What I find problematic about all of these issues and with people bringing racism back into the spotlight is that they escalate rather than alleviate racism.” So, you’ve acknowledged that racism is an issue, but you’re implying that the best way to solve this issue is by not bringing it up. You’re not the first to suggest this, but a pretty simple analogy might help explain why this isn’t the solution: if you’re sick, is the best way to handle this going to the doctor and getting treated, or should you just sit in pain and hope it goes away one day? Racism is a disease that has been plaguing this country since its founding, and while you may not be affected by it, suggesting that black people should sit in pain and just hope that one day it’s cured is only beneficial to those who don’t want to feel uncomfortable having to address it. Fact is, racism may have left your spotlight the moment you finished reading the 10 pages in your high school history book that covered it, but for those who wake up and enter into the day knowing that out there are people who hate them for simply being a person of color, racism is the spotlight that never stops shining.
You also state: “Actual laws and policies that promote racism or discrimination have long vanished, and unfortunately, the movement isn’t going to solve the root and sole cause of racism, which is culture.” Yes, many blatantly racist laws are no longer in place, meaning people who look like you can no longer buy, sell and own people who look like us…yay…progress! But here’s where your lack of understanding of systemic racism comes into play; there are actually a number of laws and aspects of our criminal justice system that tip the scales against black people. Tax laws, for example, make it so that schools are funded by the taxes paid by the people living in the area where the school is located. While on the surface this seems fair, logically speaking, low-income areas have less tax dollars coming in, meaning their schools are poorly funded, and the children in these areas receive a lesser education than their suburban (white) counterparts by no fault of their own. Drug laws, as a secondary example, frequently contain harsher sentences for the possession of drugs that appear more frequently in black communities. For example, while crack cocaine and powder cocaine are pharmacologically the same drug, the more expensive powder form of the drug is more frequently found in wealthier white communities, while crack is found in more low-income black communities. The possession of 28 grams of crack cocaine yields a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for a first offense, while it takes 500 grams of powder cocaine to prompt the same sentence. (Drug Policy Alliance, 2016) Then there are those pesky stop and frisk laws that allow law enforcement to initiate a stop of someone on the street “based on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.” More often than not, this really just gives cops the right to racially profile citizens on the street and search them without any real just cause. Black and Latino communities are often the targets of these searches. In 2015, the New York Liberties Union found that New Yorkers were stopped 22,939 times by police. Of those, 12,223 were black, 6,598 were Latino and only 2,567 were white. How can you look at those numbers and then say with a straight face that laws discriminating against people of color have “long vanished”? There are so many more examples of laws like these that don’t appear racist on the surface, but definitely disproportionately affect black and other minority populations. Consider researching them.
And lastly, one of the most inflammatory statements that you made was: “Rather, the movement has caused more conflicts between African Americans and law enforcement, and ultimately, it will continue to do so because what the movement teaches young black children is that they should fear and fight the police and that every issue they ever face in their lives will be because of racism.” We assume that you’ve been white your entire life, and that your parents are also white, so your claim that “black children are taught that every issue they face is because of racism” is based on what, exactly? Were you at some point in your life black? Have black parents been giving you lectures that they don’t give us? As we are faced with racism frequently throughout our childhoods and beyond, we don’t exactly have to be told of its challenges, and we surely don’t attribute every problem we face to racism. Do you want to know what black parents tell their children to do when faced with law enforcement? Don’t make any sudden movements, don’t say more than you have to, be respectful and make sure you come home at the end of the day. Yes, we are told to fear the police because what we have seen time and time again is that many of them have zero regard for our lives. We would challenge you to question whether “the movement” teaches black children to fear police, or the constant images of dead, unarmed black people shot by police officers is enough to allow them to draw these conclusions for themselves. You see, when you’re a person of color, red white and blue means justice, freedom and equality until you see them flashing in your rear-view mirror.
As someone who isn’t affected by systemic racism in your day to day life, your ignorance is, at this point, almost to be expected. Your opinions and attitudes (sadly) aren’t the most alarming part of this situation. The surprising part is that you’ve been given a platform to spread them. As is the case with most, you don’t see systemic racism because you don’t want it to be there. You aren’t forced to face it for the vicious monster that is. But, to be frank, your willful ignorance isn’t going to make the problem go away, and it surely isn’t going to make anyone shut up. We’d recommend reading up on and trying to empathize with black issues before writing about them again.
Two Young, Average & Black Girls
(Maya Dawit & Azsanee Truss)