[On race and society]
By: Christopher Ryan Crisanti
A white woman walks her off-leash dog in a leash-mandated park. A black birdwatcher asks her to leash her dog. She calls the cops on him because she feels threatened.
A black man goes on a jog in the neighborhood. Two white men suspect he may be responsible for two break-ins, with the last one being reported nearly two months ago from that point. The two white men interrogate the black man, harass him and after a scuffle ultimately shoot him, resulting in murder.
Two white officers arrest and detain a black man after he tried to use counterfeit money. One white officer pins the black man to the ground, presses his knee against the black man’s neck and suffocates him, all after the threat (if any) was neutralized.
A black NFL quarterback kneels during the national anthem as a silent protest against police brutality. He is viewed by some as un-American, antagonizing and disrespectful of the American flag.
Albeit all of the progress American society has made on race relations since the civil right’s movement of the 1960s, this is America in 2020, in the 21st century.
We bolster at how the brave Martin Luther King, Jr. stood up to the white supremacists of the south and the struggle he endured to defeat racism, yet racism is still very much alive and well.
In fact, it has never gone away.
We are taken as a fool, blinded by our own socio-economic reality and subjecting to the notion that the American experience is defined to one American experience.
This idea is not only ominous, but perhaps is the primary issue why progress and reform has been impeded in this country.
In 1948, the first major attempt at passing universal health care reform, under the Truman administration, was blocked and lobbied against by Southern segregationists, arguing that universal health care would lead to integration of U.S. hospitals.
Beginning in the 1950s, the federal government redlined certain neighborhoods, almost all predominately black, cutting them off from mortgage opportunities in an attempt to limit gentrification.
Further, between 75% to 90% of the homes sold to blacks were sold as Land Sale Contracts, where ownership and equity was gained only after the mortgage was sufficed. A 2019 study by the University of Illinois-Chicago has estimated that black families in Chicago had lost between $3 billion and $4 billion in wealth due to such contracts.
The inconvenient reality in story of America is that for minority groups opportunity is suppressed, as we cling to our own socio-economic bubble and criticize those who do not behave like we do without asking the fundamental question “why,” as if their reality is the same as ours.
When in reality, at birth some are dealt a certain set of cards; a losing deck. We are told go to school and get on education, yet the quality of schools relies highly on a strong property tax base. This overemphasis on property taxes results in a high likelihood of economic mobility being determined on one’s zip code. And when members of the community call for more investment in their schools, the response is often met with excuses of “fiscal conservatism” and instead a pivot toward reforming the system which puts more emphasis on vouchers,” further depleting a community’s property tax base and perpetuating the problem.
We are told to exercise and eat healthy. Yet, for some they need to travel 2 miles by bus just to get to the grocery store (e.g. the South Shore recently opening a Local Market six years since Dominick’s left).
We are told to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, for some they do not share that privilege due to the nature of their job, thus risking higher exposer to the virus. And this has been a major prevalent problem, just here in Chicago blacks are dying at a rate of six times that of whites. Moreover, with blacks representing just 30% of Chicago’s population, they account for 52% of all COVID-19 cases and a staggering 68% of all deaths; compared to a white population of about 33% with 23.6% of cases and 13.6% of deaths.
So when black people see another black person mistreated and murdered just because they look different, it is no wonder why the net reaction is “a language of the unheard” (although I believe rioting is unacceptable and hurts the modern day civil rights movement).
Black people and communities have been mistreated and disinvested for years and for years they (and others) have protested against a system that suppresses and perpetuates institutional racism. And despite all these years of trying to call attention to this, the result is that the voice of reason and call for justice continues to go unheard. The anticipation of a positive dialogue ends in disappointment, as it’s almost like talking to a wall.
And when this is brought up to a white person the same old argument against is, “we’ll they should behave like the rest of us,” or “they do this to themselves” or “those thugs should be shot.” Again, blinded by another person’s socio-economic reality and content with the status quo.