Cover photo: “Unsplash”
During the course of this year, many catastrophes have come our way. While COVID-19 was able to turn our whole world upside down within a few months, there’s yet another pervasive virus that has existed for far longer: racism. Anti-Blackness, to be specific. Undoubtedly, the issue of racism has been passed down over decades, generations, and centuries. It is a war that just doesn’t seem to end.
Racism as we know it is the belief that different skin colors determine different characteristics, mannerisms, and behaviors and thus people should be divided based on superiority of one race over another. It means being prejudiced against a person for the ethnic group they belong to. Anti-Blackness is hostility and oppression towards Black people. It is when people are antagonistic and resistant towards the values, morals, and objectives of Black people specifically. So, simply put, Anti-Black racism is the purposeful prejudice and aggression shown towards the Black race solely due to the fact that they are Black.
Irrespective of the environment, conversation regarding Black people has always been seen as the elephant in the room. Not only is racism rarely talked about in schools, most households do not hold conversations around race. The shortcomings of the education system within the realm of racism result in a lack of awareness and understanding of the history behind modern-day events. The recent crimes against Black bodies have proven that history is now repeating itself. The wildfire spreading of news via social media has enabled many to come together and try to protest against injustice. Now, more than ever, we are seeking revolutionary change that can only prosper with the aid of proper knowledge and action.
Aside from the actual injustice occurring, an even more pressing matter is the overall tonedeaf response to the severity of anti-Blackness by older generations. Adults that deny racism and deny Anti-Blackness perpetuate these problems we are facing today. This is prevalent everywhere, but even more so within immigrant households. The fact that the countries our parents come from are rooted in racist ideologies attributes to even more bias against Black people. Case in point: aspects of Asian culture having to do with colorism such as “white-washing” is a direct indication that those who are darker are inherently inferior. As immigrants have to learn how to adjust their lives in a supremacist society, it is no surprise that their ideologies around racism and Black people end up leaning towards what white people deem is “correct”. America was built on immigrants, and we make up the majority of the country overall. So you can see how this is a major problem: to have that many people complying with racist tendencies, especially against one specific race.
So how do we stop these vicious cycles? Conversation. What racism is, what Anti-Blackness is, and how it is toxic. Realistically, we have to realize that when we hold conversations with others, they are free to have their own opinions just like ourselves. You can never force a person to change their mind. If you are trying to convince a parent or guardian, a good way to start off the conversation might be by giving them credit for raising you to be a person of free thought. By acknowledging their hand in making you a better person, you can then move on to stating that due to your ability to be open minded and non-discriminatory, you believe that Anti-Blackness is wrong. Then, continuing on with your reasoning without being hypercritical of their perspective may lead you to have a stimulating conversation.
Once you figure out your approach in speaking to your loved ones, there are some things that are at the forefront of being discussed. One important conversation to have is the one about “All lives matter.” This rhetoric is problematic because it directly erases the systemic oppression that Black people have faced for centuries and continue to face currently. The prejudice that Black people have faced pertain specifically to Black lives but are neither acknowledged nor seen as major. Therefore, it is hypocritical to say “All lives matter” when Black lives have never been seen as equal to other lives in the first place.
Bringing up privilege is another must. The main goal is to be able to hold a conversation that includes acknowledging our own privileges versus Black people not having access to privilege. It is okay for us to feel mixed about being privileged but speaking about it can help people understand how to further use that privilege to benefit Black lives.
I acknowledge that in many households, controversial topics of conversation can create rifts in relationships. One way of approaching family and friends who are more hesitant to have these conversations is to simply be curious. Ask them questions as to what their beliefs are and why they hold them so that you can understand more about them. Bringing up the topic subtly in the beginning may be a better approach for those who automatically reject talking about race. Being gentle in the way you get to know their perspective sets them up for an exchange of views that they are more willing to cope with.
It is vital to remember that no matter what, you must not try to fight the other person head on if you disagree with them. Trying to change a person’s worldview is not easy and affects the other person greatly. If you notice a person getting aggravated at what you are saying, it may be in your best interest to back off and hold off on discussing at a later time when they are calm. Some people will never listen, and it is wise to understand this and try to focus on engaging with those who will. However, this does not excuse us from calling out toxic behavior.
The rise of COVID-19 has negatively impacted many Black communities yet their neighborhoods and areas are left overlooked. The way the system subjugates Black communities to be left helpless in the face of disease, poverty, crime, etc. supports a cycle that is hard to break away from. The upcoming election is a great opportunity to show our support for Black lives. By voting, we are taking control of who gets to run these systems that are in place. We also give activists a better chance at breaking stereotypes, dismantling age-old ideologies, and pushing for change in policies that lead to the oppression of Black people.
Holding constructive conversations and taking action leads to progression. The goal should be to create a safe society where our Black brothers and sisters have a better platform, feel free to express themselves, and have the same rights as everyone else. We have to be able to engage in better discussion with them and be willing to learn to serve as powerful allies. As tough as it may be, all of this is part of the work that needs to be done. As quoted by Desmond Tutu, “being neutral in these states means taking the side of the oppressor.” I believe this needs to be understood by anyone who wants to be on the right side of justice.