Thursday, January 24, 2013

Maybe It's Beautiful

One of my all-time biggest pet peeves is when people say things to the effect of "Well, we have a black president," with the implication that because Barack Obama, a half white man as much a half black man, is president, clearly racism isn't a problem in America.

I'm taking a class this semester called Race and Incarceration in the U.S. Whether you believe it is a systematic and intentional phenomenon or not, you have to be able to look at the numbers and see that blacks are incarcerated in this country are disproportionately affected by the penal system. Another student in my class said yesterday, seeming exasperated with some of our more close-minded cohorts in the way I frequently find myself to be, "Just imagine if in Germany Jews were six times as incarcerated." Take a second to really think about that. The world would be in utter uproar if something like that were occurring, so why is blackness a ticket to being ignored in this country, and, quite frankly, around the world? It cannot be that black people are simply more prone to commit crime (and yes, I agree that poverty breeds crime, but check yourself for a second, climb off your I-know-everything horse, look up some statistics, and realize that there are far more whites in poverty in this country than blacks, even though a larger percentage of the black population lives at a lower socio-economic level). I hope you can tell that this is an issue that absolutely infuriates me.

But then another student said something really remarkable.

"The people that cant see that more black people are being arrested and that that must mean something: that's beautiful, because that means they don't have frame of reference."

And you know what? Maybe. Maybe it is kind of beautiful (in a twisted and really counterproductive way) that some people don't see American racism as a problem that exists because they simply never see it happening. I think it might be beautiful to have my children grow up in a world where they can't comprehend what racism is because they never see it affect anyone.

But, one the other hand, I'm not quite sure if I'm ready for us to forget, even if we do manage to keep fixing the problem. 

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