Famous literary stalwart James Baldwin once said, "I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually."
As the words "not guilty" fell from the lips of the six jurors in the Trayvon Martin murder case on Saturday night, I thought to myself how those two words have never been applied to African-American humanity in America.
This opprobrious verdict reaffirmed everything African-Americans thought about this country that our humanity and citizenship isn't recognized under the laws of the United States. I've never been more disappointed in the country of my birth. The American justice system continues to set a double standard when it comes to dishing out prison sentences to African-Americans and whites.
As a young African-American man living in the south, it made me pause and realize that this ruling can give anyone the opportunity to take my life whenever they feel threatened because of my skin color or how I walk, talk or dress. What is a black life worth? The answer was already abundantly clear from history, but those six jurors confirmed our deepest, darkest suspicions.
Since arriving on the shores of Jamestown, Virginia in 1619, African-Americans have been convicted in the court of white supremacy as being less than human. Our hellacious suffering provided whites the capital to build a country based on the principles of white hegemony. African-Americans were never part of their equation other than providing a consistent source of free labor. When the founding fathers were writing the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, they couldn't fathom the humanity of their slaves and their offspring. For 394 years, we've been America's doormat and punching bag.
The cancer of racism thrives in America because the ones with the power refuse to acknowledge minorities as their equals. Race was devised as a social construct in order for whites to establish and maintain their dominance in political and economic affairs in America. The truth is we've been living in two Americas based on race and class. The United States of America is in name only. If we were truly united, African-Americans wouldn't have to endure systematic subjugation and degradation on a daily basis.
The cancer of racism thrives in the halls of Congress, state legislatures, educational institutions, judicial proceedings, and the evidence can be seen in the refusal to work with the first African-American president to pass laws to uplift minorities out of their perilous conditions. If it's not gerrymandering or redistricting to dilute our voting power, it's constructing private prisons and using the War on Drugs as a conduit to incarcerate African-Americans at an astronomical rate. If it's not closing schools in impoverished neighborhoods across the nation, it's cutting social programs that ease the strenuous burden put on our households every day.
Racism is as American as Uncle Sam and his red, white, and blue outfit. Then, you wonder why African-Americans have the highest rates of high blood pressure, prostate and breast cancer, diabetes, among other ailments. It's because we're stressed out and tired of being confined in an unjust system that was never intended for us to become successful. But it's a testament to our character of how we've been able to rise above it and achieve numerous successes.
There have been countless examples ranging from police brutalities, murders, and passage of laws that continue the troubling trend of psychological and physical oppression. This white hegemonic system has stalled the progression of African-Americans for far too long. These latest atrocities of Jordan Davis, Marissa Alexander, and Gabby Calhoun are an extension of this system, which is pervasive throughout our culture. Most of our white brethren still refuse to acknowledge these facts as well as the statistics proving black disenfranchisement. Before we can fully progress as a society, this ignorant denial has to cease.
The cancer of racism fools poor whites into voting for a political party that has no interest in solving their financial and social ills. The cancer of racism makes voting damn near impossible in the south after the Voting Rights Act was dismantled. The cancer of racism has the Republican Party wanting to turn the clock back to 1913 through their divisive policies. The cancer of racism allows defense attorneys Don West and Mark O'Mara and jurors to exercise their privilege in portraying Trayvon Martin as a criminal when he was an innocent child. The cancer of racism provides the opportunity for police militarized states to stop and frisk young African-American men every day.
For every person in this society to begin receiving a fair shake, each one of us has to become proactive in fighting on the side of right and not on the side of privilege. America will never be a post-racial society unless serious dialogue and actions to reform these inadequate measures begin. The work needs to take place in American homes and to a larger extent our schools and lawmaking bodies. The responsibility of tackling this dreaded disease falls at the feet of Generations X and Y.
To my white brothers and sisters, it must begin with you all. The time has arrived for racism to be discussed, denounced, and deposed of. No more standing on the sidelines. If our country is to become truly united, these unlawful injustices and practices must be addressed and policies must be enacted to curtail the centuries of damage already done. African-Americans have been fighting on the battlefield of justice for as long as you've been conspiring against us. While you hold the cards, we've more than earned our seat at the playing table to start this process of gaining racial conciliation and economic empowerment.
The future of our society is contingent upon this potential of mutual respect. It's 2013, start treating us like family instead of like strangers. Otherwise, the cancer of racism will destroy this country.
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