Let’s take this as a given, that the color of someone’s skin does not determine the content of their character. In other words, that the premise of racism is inherently false, and people cannot be accurately judged by their race.
Now consider the following facts:
- African American children are three times more likely to live in poverty than Caucasian children. (Source: http://www.apa.org/pi/ses/resources/publications/factsheet-erm.aspx)
- Unemployment rates for African Americans are typically double those of Caucasian Americans. African American men working full time earn 72 percent of the average earnings of comparable Caucasian men and 85 percent of the earnings of Caucasian women. (Source: http://www.apa.org/pi/ses/resources/publications/factsheet-erm.aspx)
- The 1,217 deadly police shootings from 2010 to 2012 captured in the federal data show that blacks, age 15 to 19, were killed at a rate of 31.17 per million, while just 1.47 per million white males in that age range died at the hands of police. (Source: http://www.propublica.org/article/deadly-force-in-black-and-white)
- Black Americans are 3.6 times more likely to be arrested for selling drugs and 2.5 times more likely to be arrested for possessing them. (Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/01/black-people-arrest_n_5914566.html)
- One in every three black males born today can expect to go to prison at some point in their life, compared with one in every six Latino males, and one in every 17 white males. (Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/04/racial-disparities-criminal-justice_n_4045144.html)
- African-Americans With College Degrees Are Twice As Likely to Be Unemployed as Other Graduates (Source: http://www.nationaljournal.com/next-america/education/african-americans-with-college-degrees-are-twice-as-likely-to-be-unemployed-as-other-graduates-20140527)
- The unemployment rate among blacks is about double that among whites (Source: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/08/21/through-good-times-and-bad-black-unemployment-is-consistently-double-that-of-whites/)
- Whites with felony records fare as well in job interviews as African American men with clean records (Source: http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2008/08/09/study-black-man-and-white-felon-same-chances-for-hire/)
These facts point to systemic racism in American institutions. If you deny that racism is still a problem in America, I challenge you to offer another explanation for these statistics.
In the aftermath of the recent Michael Brown shooting, I want to share the following thoughts. First, the protests happening now are not only about the death of Michael Brown. They’re about the statistics listed above, that people are tired of losing family members to violence simply because they happen to have the wrong skin color. Second, the comment that “Well, at least things are better now than they used to be.” White Americans, surely we can do better than slavery, segregation, Jim Crow? Surely we can do better than that!
So let’s do better. Let’s call out racism when we see it, in our personal interactions with people and in institutions. Let’s stop standing by and watching when African Americans get shafted. Let’s LISTEN when black people try to talk to us about their experiences with race in America and not express disbelief that maybe they don’t really know what their own experiences are.
Let’s educate ourselves. Let’s live with our eyes open, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us. Because our discomfort is not comparable to the suffering our willful ignorance allows to occur.
So… let’s talk. Let’s listen to each other. Let’s be brave in our interactions, but not cruel. Most of all, let’s be willing to learn.
Let’s do better. Let’s be better.