The truth fears nothing but concealment…
By Stephen Hinds-Day: Culture Columnist
In 2020, the world face yet another pandemic; with America at its epicentre. On the 25th May, the day a US police officer asphyxiated George Floyd to death, an earthquake erupted from Minneapolis and the tremors reverberated worldwide.
For the first time in years, we removed the sheet from a cursed painting we discarded in the attic so many years ago.
But is the corrupted reflection we now see before us representative of individual immorality, or something bigger and systemic? The two concepts are comparably different, and the distinguishing element behind the latter lies within its clandestine nature.
‘Systemic racism’ isn’t easily identifiable on a surface level, unlike cases of overt racism, because it’s malignance festers underneath the floorboards of what we consider ‘everyday life’.
This broadened version of ethnic prejudice isn’t represented through images of burning crosses surrounded by men draped in white cloth, but hidden in the legislative laws and curriculum systems that continue to propagate the prejudicial ideologies of black disadvantage and inferiority.
“Structural racism perpetuates the barriers placed in the way of citizens solely due to their racial or ethnic origin” says The European Commission. But these barriers were supposed to be destroyed almost two centuries ago, so why do they still remain?
The reality is that history has been repeating itself for generations upon generations, and this repetitive loop can be traced back as far as 1865, when slavery was first abolished by the 13th amendment of the US constitution.
Although released from the iron shackles of slavery, the struggle for freedom and equality amongst up to 100,000 black men, women and children remained. The Reconstruction era, following the abolition, saw these ‘freedmen’ released into a society they had no economical or cultural place in.
With little to no educational nor financial resource, most were forced to work for previous owners in order to acquire the basic necessities for living. Working under the extreme conditions that resembled their previous enslavement, these liberated individuals became victims to a system they thought they were included in. The shackles thus remained, even if they weren’t visible to the naked eye.
It wasn’t until the 14th (1868) and 15th (1870) amendment that black individuals were finally ensured citizenship and voting rights, but even then these constitutional changes were hollow, as they failed to be protected by federal law.
States and districts, such as South Carolina and Mississippi, merely drafted up their own “loop hole” policies in order to perpetuate the disenfranchisement of their black citizens.
Here we have, again, a systemic impediment that fundamentally obstructed the progress of a post-racial America. Brittle promises made by a disingenuous government allowed for the constitution to become enshrined in the ideals of white supremacy.
It has been over 50 years since the revolutionary Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was instated to terminate almost a century’s worth of racial injustice. Yet the “land of the free” continues to find itself face to face with its colonial past.
Drastic inequalities regarding education, incarceration, housing, wealth and healthcare continue to tarnish the ‘American dream’. Adding to this, the inexcusably high number of black fatalities counted in 2020, at the hands of the US police, eroded the already fragile trust between black citizens and their government.
…history has been repeating itself for generations upon generations, and this repetitive loop can be traced back as far as 1865.
As a result, a “collective explosion”, in the name of Black Lives Matter, erupted in the heart of America. The streets were flooded with mass protests that exuded the same insurmountable energy as The Civil Rights Movement in the 50s and 60s; made all the more powerful by the fact those demonstrations were supported by up to 60% of white Americans.
This bittersweet sense of déjà vu is the manifestation of a narrative that has been repeating itself for centuries. It is the cyclical power of systemic racism reminding the world that history has not been as progressive as we thought.
“Hand in hand, we’ll walk right up to the sun” – Lauryn Hill
But ultimately, it is precisely because of this reminder that America, as well as the rest of the world, now finds itself in its strongest stance against racism to date. The world where the subject of racism was a feared and taboo subject has ultimately flourished into one where its reality is faced with open eyes; both by societies and international leaders.
Systemic reconfiguration is now a core incentive of governments across the world. An example is the UK and it’s ‘Change the Race Ratio’ project, which aims at fundamentally increasing ethnic inclusiveness and diversity in the workplace. Another example is the European Commission’s ‘EU Anti-Racism Action Plan’, which intends to substantially weaken the presence of systemic racism by 2025.
As for America, the newly elected 46th president Joe Biden now has his nation’s eyes firmly fixated on his action plan to eliminate racial injustice in his country. It is said he signed an executive order on ‘Advancing Racial Equity and Support or Underserved Communities’ within hours of holding office.
Understandably, an apprehensive attitude will permeate this process, where many changes will “feel like a step forward”, but also where “describing it as an accomplishment feels like a bit of a stretch”. But there is no way forward; no possible way to break this malevolent cycle, unless we all direct our attention towards a paradigmatic shift on an institutional level; as it happened individually for millions of us last year.
We must ensure that actions proceed the words from our world leadership, for “oratory and resolutions do not avail much. If they did, the Negro race would be in a paradise on earth”, as C.G Woodson so poignantly puts it in his 1970 manifesto: ‘The Mis-education of the Negro’.
Amidst this consuming challenge, we also cannot allow ourselves to be obstructed from the fluorescent beauty that is African and Caribbean culture. Nor can we allow ourselves to forget that, the cancer that is systemic racism, continues to metastasise all over the world. The Uighur population of north-western China’s Xinjiang currently face genocidal threat from its own government. A refugee crises continues to unfold in a world where “colonialism still casts its shadow over the immigration debate”. Antiziganism surges through the millions of Europe’s Romani population, allowing for hate crimes and government neglect to establish itself in their communities.
We must ensure that we outlive racism, not the other way around.
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