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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Boyd: America is racist

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Dishonest. Disingenuous. Delusional.

Those three words came to mind when I heard Sen. Tim Scott say America isn’t a racist country and Vice President Kamala Harris later agree with him.

Scott has spoken about discrimination he’s faced and his being racially profiled by law enforcement. Scott, from South Carolina — the state that gave us staunch segregationist (i.e., racist) Strom Thurmond — even discussed the racist treatment his grandfather faced. Harris, on the other hand, while denying America is racist, said we must deal with America’s historical racism. So, both Scott and Harris say racist things have happened in this country, but America isn’t racist.
When did racism end?

I need the exact date. Last time I checked, history was as recent as yesterday, and I know racism existed yesterday. Scott says it’s not the country that’s racist, it’s the people in this country. Lord help me! What kind of mental gymnastics, semantics-splitting hairs is this man doing? This country is made up of people, “we the people,” as it states in the Preamble of the Constitution — that “infallible” document Republicans love to talk about. Scott says Democrats want to discredit the gains Black people have made over the last century.

In a matter of days, we had a Republican and a Democrat agree America isn’t racist. I don’t think either one of these parties is doing Black folks any favors.
Those of us who refuse to pretend this country isn’t racist are often viewed negatively. It’s said we always play the race card. We’re for reverse discrimination. We want to take from white people who have never held slaves. That’s such a purposely ignorant way to view what we’re talking about. We are saying America should live up to its ideals when it comes to Black people. It should repair the harm done to us through slavery as we’re still reaping the consequences of 200 years of unpaid labor and then Jim Crow segregation — and America (by and large white people) is still reaping the benefits. We’re saying we truly want our country to be what it says it is.

What we refuse to do is pretend the country wasn’t built on white supremacy. We (I) refuse to fall for the fallacy that calling out racism makes us racist or a race-baiter. The conservative right loves to play these mind games that will have you believing seeing race is racist — all while they’re using coded language to maintain the status quo of rich white men in power. Don’t even get me started on the misuse of Dr. King. They want you to be afraid to call out systemic racism while it runs rampant and knocks Black people out of opportunities. They want to use these pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps success stories as a way to mask this country’s failing as it relates to Black people. Yes, we have progressed, but how much more would we have progressed if laws were passed to end systemic racism in, say, 1865?

Scott brought up the employment rate, which he said was great for Black people before COVID. Really? There’s a slight of hand whenever we talk about employment and unemployment numbers. Is it the real rate or the standard rate for unemployment? The standard rate is usually lower. The real rate includes more unemployed adults. Take for instance March 2020 when the standard unemployment rate was 4.4% while the real rate was 8.7%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. When you talk about employment numbers, are you talking about people who are working but aren’t paid enough to live on, so they have to rely on food stamps and Medicaid, both funded by taxpayer dollars? Republicans always want to talk about lowering taxes. How about quit giving corporations government handouts that allow them to pay their employees so poorly that those employees must rely on “we the people” to help them survive. The poverty rate for Black people in Indianapolis is 28%. That tells me there are a lot of hardworking people out there who aren’t making nearly enough.

As far as homeownership goes, the data shows Black homeownership hasn’t changed much since the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Oh, it did trend positively until the Great Recession in 2008 when Black people lost their homes due to subprime lenders. No, Black people weren’t the only ones, but predatory lenders preyed on Black people trying to achieve the American Dream. The homeownership gap between Blacks and whites widened. It was 30 percentage points in 2017, which is larger than it was in 1968, according to the Urban Institute.

I could go on and on. There’s the wealth gap, wage gap, education gap and disparities in health care, maternal and infant mortality rate, the incarceration rate, etc., etc. Yes, these gaps exist because of historical events, but a fairy godmother didn’t wave her magic wand to stop America to fix these issues. America has kept plugging along and the disparities continue.

Closing your eyes doesn’t make you invisible and pretending racism doesn’t exist doesn’t make it true.

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