Just Get Over It

confederate statue topped in Durham, North Carolina

Just get over it.

Such an easy phrase for some folks to utter. Give me a second, tho, and let me spell out for you why this is something that, in the case of race relations, is easier said than done for some folks up in these United States.

It all started around 500 years ago. And yeah, Friend…I have a feeling you’re probably getting ready to jump all in and bash your keyboard with something to the tune of “oh oh oh but WAIT Jonah…they’re not slaves anymore”…

But hold up for a second and finish reading before you lay down that tired old line for me to read for what must be, at least, the thousandth time.

Way back in the day…white folks came here to what is now the United States. We engaged in the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade with England, which, over the course of a few hundred years affected about 60 million black folks from various countries in Africa. We did this even before we became the United States.

White folks…white men, in particular, were in charge of everything. They made the laws. I think you’ll probably agree with me that the laws, especially back then, favored…you guessed it…white men.

There were laws such as: who can own property (white dudes), who can vote (white dudes) and guess what? To vote, the white dudes had to own property – which also included owning slaves – which meant that to be eligible to vote you had to be a *rich* white dude.

Now…imagine several generations passing, as wealth is accrued and passed down from generation to generation…really think about it for a second.

Those folks with the money have the power, right? Well, in this case, those with the money were white men. They had hundreds of years worth of a head start against everyone else. This wealth fed the political machine (as it still does today). The only people who could be Representatives, Senators, Supreme Court Justices, or Presidents were…yep…white men. Usually only rich white men.

Trust, Friend…the laws they sought to pass weren’t intended to help people who weren’t white, or weren’t men.

Well, after the Civil War, in 1865, the 13th Amendment was passed, which formalized the emancipation of slaves. The 14th and 15th Amendments were passed, as well. The 14th Amendment granted citizenship and equal protection under the law to former slaves and the 15th Amendment gave black men the “right to vote” (women, of any race, still had a ways to go there…).

This looks pretty good in writing…but it was far from perfect. It opened the door for “black codes” also known as “Jim Crow Laws” in the South. This included requirements for things such as literacy tests. property ownership, and poll taxes, amongst other hurdles, just to vote.

So you have newly freed blacks…with no education, no jobs, no property…and they can’t vote. Things weren’t much better in the North because now they had all these black folk from the South coming up to where things were “more progressive”.

Now keep in mind…the 15th Amendment was passed in 1870. The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964. This is nearly 100 years of institutionalized racism that held black folks back from economic success (which, in a capitalist system, is your measure of power).

Do you really think that 400+ years of damage can be undone in 56 years?

Maybe it could have been…if poverty weren’t allowed to fester in ghettos…if schools and education were truly equitable and fair. If hiring practices actually were also fair (they often are not and in more ways than you might suspect – part of the work I do includes working to make hiring practices equitable at the university I work at).

Like I said…there’s a lot here to cover. We haven’t even talked about the Prison Industrial Complex yet, which is real and scary. Suffice it to say that African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites…according to the ACLU, 1 in 3 black boys can expect to go to prison in his lifetime compared to 1 in 17 white boys (see my source below).

33.33% of black boys.

There is your source for single parent families for black folk. This is also an example of systemic, institutional racism…but it’s another one of many big ol cans of worms.

This is just a small example of why it is so fucking hard for black folk to “just get over it”.

Would you tell a Jewish person to “just get over” the Holocaust?

Just to put things into perspective, Friend, the Jewish Holocaust lasted about five years and claimed around 11 million Jewish, Roma, disabled, and queer people.

The Transatlantic Slave Trade lasted around 300 years and affected over 60 million people then, with ripple effects that stretched out to today.

Just get over it.

This is an exceptionally privileged thing to say.

Enjoy your privilege.

https://www.aclu.org/issues/smart-justice/mass-incarceration

Published by Jonah Sheridan Fenn

Nerd herder, word wrangler, working on the next chapter...

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