The tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in Minnesota sparked an unprecedented uprising fueled by decades of deep-rooted pain and anguish.
For weeks, passionate protests provided a national platform to face the sobering realities of racism, oppression, inequality and discrimination — but there’s a necessary element missing.
While we can search for more progressive ways to amplify the politics of race and privilege, nothing changes without the acceptance of a few unpopular truths and assuming accountability for that truth.
Although America’s history affirms a lineage of racial hate dating back centuries, the revelations of our past are pointless to those that deny them. More specifically, the severe consequences of racially charged hatred provokes no empathy or emotion in people who have been subconsciously granted immunity from it.
Regardless, one undeniable fact stands: racism not only exists, but the mechanics of it, both psychologically and systematically, are actively abrading the remaining sense of humanity in the United States. More notably, the divisiveness of racism continues eroding our perceived social progress, making it glaringly evident that America has become insensitive to its own afflictions.
In America, race is socially constructed. While racial superiority is, in essence, a myth — this practiced ideology serves as the foundation from which the pillars of this country were established. This accounts for key categories such as economics, education, politics and the criminal justice system.
As a result, what we see too often are sensible solutions and sound demands meeting blind eyes and deaf ears. It is impossible to show a blind person what you see. It’s also impossible for a deaf person to hear the words you speak. To heal the open wounds damaging race relations in America, white people must first take collective responsibility for their role in the ongoing attacks, both covert and overt, against Black and brown people.
By avoiding accountability, the real problems persist unchecked and unresolved. Instead, we are forced to witness white people rally around a narrative that attributes the condemnable faults of America to a skewed perception of the Black and brown experience. A perception that fails to note the ways in which a history of white privilege and systematic racism purposefully caused the extreme disparities in wealth, mass incarceration, the drug epidemic, the poverty crisis and the rapid emergence of black-on-black crime.
Properly confronting such issues stemming from America’s enforced racial hierarchy requires acknowledging the fraudulence of its foundation. More specifically, white people must accept that everything America has been built upon, structurally and systematically, is birthed from a vicious lie.
Getting to the root of this lie requires looking beyond the visible symptoms, outcomes and circumstances. Effectively addressing these conflicts calls for tracing all the way back to the source. It demands diagnosing the deep-rooted trauma, inherent triggers and how each directly impacts a personal belief system.
Our beliefs shape our values. Our values mold our thoughts. Our thoughts inspire our actions. As such, our lives are merely a reflection of the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and the world around us.
The projection of white superiority implies that white people operate under a collective belief that other races are inferior — in talent, intellect, physical ability and personal potential. Therefore, white superiority suggests that Black people are incapable of being equal across categories. Yet, digging deeper into the complexities of this ideology suggests that, in fact, white people could suffer from an inferiority complex.
Inferiority breeds insecurity. Insecurity breeds jealousy. Jealousy breeds self-hate and irrational rage. Irrational rage speaks to an anger that is not justifiable or grounded on a basis of truth, but is self-derived. As a result, the existing racial hierarchy within America may not only be an expression of insecurity and inferiority, but more so an intentional method of defense against the suppressed understanding that other races are undoubtedly capable of being stronger, smarter and more advanced than white people.
Even in the face of blatant hate, discrimination and systematic oppression, people of color have diligently persevered to excel at the highest level across spaces. They have risen from the lowest points to become groundbreaking pioneers, fearless revolutionaries, legendary political leaders and iconic public figures.
Despite every attempt to reduce their worth and deny their power, people of color have prevailed to develop a shared identity and design a culture that carries unparalleled influence on a global scale. Not only have people of color been at the forefront of prominent shifts and movements, they have generated unprecedented social, cultural and economic value.
The most evident examples of this can be found within music and sports.
Although the power structure in these industries has historically mirrored the power structure in America, people of color have been almost single-handedly responsible for sports and entertainment growing to become two of the largest global exports for the United States.
From Michael Jordan and Oprah Winfrey, to Jay Z and Barack Obama, we’ve witnessed contemporary examples of gifted Black men and women defying the odds to reach unseen heights. They redefined the rules by not only becoming the first Black President or the first Black billionaires in their respective fields, but by also shattering limitations to become iconic cultural leaders.
For decades, we’ve also watched Black women carry the country on their shoulders with admirable grace, becoming heroic symbols of hope and solidarity that continue showing the world what compassion looks like.
Seeing these undeniable realities raises the question: What gives merit to the idea of white superiority in today’s America? Why should white people today be granted the same unwarranted privileges they’ve so freely enjoyed throughout history? Could white people not want other races to have equal access because they’re secretly afraid of being considered less valuable, less capable or less powerful themselves?
Prejudices are universal. Every living person, based on our exclusive and unique set of experiences, develops a personal depiction of the people, places and things we encounter. That’s human nature. It’s a challenge each of us, regardless of race, must honestly confront within ourselves and work to operate in truth before assumption. From childhood, we are taught what’s right and what’s wrong; who is accepted and who is not. As such, racism is a learned weapon of misplaced hatred matriculated through generations. Reversing this trend means introducing a new way of thinking that is anchored in honesty, not idealism.
Until millions of white people march the streets, soaked in tears while lifting signs that say Black lives matter, the change we so relentlessly seek will not be realized. Until you can show up to work amongst your white coworkers and see them naturally concerned about the troubles of Black and brown people, there is an abundance of work to do. Until the lives, lifestyles and social conditions of the privileged are threatened, headlines of Black deaths will be recycled for decades to come.
Suppressing the value of Black lives not only stifles the growth of America, it cripples the progress of communities across the world. We have global case studies of reconstruction that prove new ideologies, systems and socioeconomic frameworks are achievable. In order to rewrite history for the millions of Americans who follow this critical moment, it’s time we have the uncomfortable conversations that will bring us closer to truth, and ultimately bring us closer to each other.