Reading this article from Vox yesterday about the ignorance surrounding prejudice and racism—specifically against the black population–made me think of this exchange between my mom and a young, black man (let’s call him Joe) in a grocery store.
Joe: So, what do you do?
Mom: Oh, I’m a college professor.
Joe: Oh, yeah, yeah. That’s cool. You know, my dad’s been giving me books and stuff and I’ve been reading them and stuff, you know.
Mom: Oh, really?
Joe: Yeah, you know, I’ve been reading about black people and do you know what I found out?
Joe: Black people aren’t from America. You know we came all the way from Africa.
Mom: Yes, yes I did know that. You know, you should read this book called The Slave Trade
Joe: You know what, I think I will. Thank you.
So, that was my mom and Joe. It’s sad enough that other people are ignorant about the history of black people in America, but for you to be ignorant of your own culture is far more depressing and telling about what we choose to highlight in this country. Now, here’s an exchange between a friend (let’s call her Sally) and I about three years ago.
Sally: Does racism still exist?
Me: [Silence. Then laughter] Um, yeah.
Me: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s different depending on where you are. No one’s ever called me the n-word or anything like that. But I was always one of the two (or the only) black kid in any of my classes in high school. And people would always say things to me like “You don’t sound black” or “You don’t act black.” And my parents have always experienced prejudice in their lifetime.
Sally: Huh. I guess I thought we’d be past that.
Me: Yeah, you’d think.
All of the questions she asked were asked in innocence. But it saddens me that she would have to truly ask. People think that because the president of our country has a little color in his complexion, that the past hundred years of grief suffered by black Americans has just “poof!” vanished.
Cops killing kids isn’t a new phenomenon. It’s been happening for years. People shooting up black churches and setting them on fire isn’t new. Aggression, racism, hostility—none of these things are new. It may be shocking and horrifying to those watching the news in recent months, but to the black population it’s nothing new.
How depressing is that? That I’m not surprised at all that some kid would shoot up a church—a place of worship—because of racism and hate. I’m not surprised that every day, a new case arises where cops have show hostility to black people.
And I’m not surprised at rioting either. Why can’t they riot peacefully, people ask. Well, there comes a point when you’re tired of peace. Peaceful protests have been going on for years and kids are still being shot in cold blood. Patience only lasts so long before anger and frustration manifest darkly.
I don’t think I’ll see the end of prejudice in my generation. I don’t know when it’ll end, but we can start now by trying to rid our country of ignorance.