One of the thoughts I had back before I started educating myself, was that the NON-racist position was to believe poverty and race were two separate conditions unrelated to each other. Yes, per capita more Black Americans were poor, but I didn’t know how to explain that without denigrating African Americans so I kept them separate. The same goes with crime and education. I would blame poverty rates on a lack of education, or I would blame incarceration on poverty. I never once allowed myself to put race into the conversation about the disparity between the general race breakdown in our country and how it was broken down in poverty, education, and incarceration.
The truth is, by ignoring race I was actually being racist. I feared the only way to look at race in those situations was to end up in the place of: African Americans Are Somehow Less Than and that is why they are poorer, less educated, and incarcerated more. Here’s the thing: I 100% knew that was wrong, but I couldn’t bring myself to somehow blame white people, then I avoided it all together. I knew not to denigrate people of color so I thought I was not a racist, but since I refused to put blame on white people…I was being VERY RACIST. By avoiding looking deep at the way white supremacy created unfair burdens on black Americans, even after the end of slavery, I was being the worst kind of racist…one who doesn’t even realize she’s supporting racist systems by simply refusing to acknowledge them.
Through educating myself and opening myself up to painful truths, I have realized that no domestic issues in this country can be separated from racial injustice and white supremacy. NOTHING. Healthcare, infrastructure, student loans, the environment…NO issues can be truly dissected without also taking time to look at how white supremacy and systemic racism has played a part in making any of these issues harder for people of color.
I recently posted this on Facebook as people in my community were debating student loan payoffs:
There’s a lot of debate about the proposals of student loan payoffs by candidates on the campaign trail and I worry we are not discussing enough about how race plays into the burden of student loan debt in ways that add to the systemic disadvantages Black Americans have in our country. There are two important racial factors to consider when thinking about 20’somethings and their college debt, factors which make college debt payoff a good step in removing systemic disadvantages to Black Americans which is one of the many reasons I support student loan payoff. (A few sourced articles in the first comment…although there are plenty more out there.)SOURCES
1) The student loan numbers are much worse for Black Students than White Students:
— At graduation, black students owe $7,375 more than their white peers ($23,420 versus $16,046). This difference represents less than a third (30 percent) of the nearly $25,000 black-white gap in total debt that exists four years later.[xii] For blacks, undergraduate debt at graduation accounts for less than half of total debt owed, compared to 62 percent for white graduates.
— Student loan debt balances for African-American women take up 111% of their first-year income (White Women is 92%) and African-American men it’s 89% (White Men it’s 70%)
2) Black Americans are less financially prepare for retirement. Meaning their 20’something children (with the student loan debt) will have to help them out.
—Higher-income whites have saved six times more money than higher-income blacks.
—Fifty-seven percent of black households have no retirement savings, compared to 44 percent of the general population. Among those with retirement savings, the average for black households is $23,000, vs. $154,000 for white households.
—Only a third of blacks own homes, compared to 58 percent of the general population.
– Black Wealth/White Wealth – A New Perspective On Racial Inequality
– REPORT: Black-white disparity in student loan debt more than triples after graduation
– Aging African-Americans are hit with a double-whammy: health and financial troubles
– Average Student Loan Debt in America: 2019 Facts & Figures
– Black Debt, White Debt
I have conditioned myself now to ALWAYS LOOK AT RACE. Because the more I educate myself, the more I realize how racist systems built by white supremacy have put more hurdles in front of Black and Brown Americans and have often lowered the hurdles – if not removed them all together – for White Americans. And even more specifically, how system after system has been set up to benefit the founders of our country and those who SOLELY defined laws and legislation for the first 150 years – WHITE MEN.
(For the record: This is why I’m really struggling to get behind any white male candidate for President. Pete at least has seen the world through a disadvantaged minority in terms of his sexuality, giving him a unique perspective, but that is not something that you can SEE in him so he still benefits in many ways by being a White Male that I’m not sure he realizes.)
There are a lot of people who think people like me talk about race too much, but I really think until we’re all analyzing how racist systems influence every issue on the table, we are not talking about race enough. I have curated a Twitter list of “important voices” which includes journalists and activists and legislators who I believe use Twitter to push ideas and content challenging systems of power and signal boosting the voices and the issues that minority groups face. Feel free to look at that feed or follow it or find your own favorite voices to open your heart to. Also? On top of the links I included about student loans and race above, I’ve been slowly but surely trying to build important resources that I can give people that were helpful for me in my education process. Here are issues and links to articles or videos or podcasts that dive into how race plays a part.
- Poverty – Listen to this 5-part series that goes through the poverty myths we tend to use to justify the scorn we have to people benefiting from government assistance.
- Crime/Drug Laws: Vice News: The war on drugs remains as racist as ever, statistics show & Salon: Racist then, racist now: The real story of Bill Clinton’s crime bill
- Education: Why America’s School Have A Money Problem – The disparity in our schools affects minority children at a much higher rate.
- Criminalizing Poverty – Watch John Oliver’s piece about municipal violations.
- Segregation Now – This Pro-Publica’s in-depth reporting on segregation in our country.
- Fair Housing – Part of that Pro-Publica piece highlights Nikole Hannah-Jones (if you only follow one person on Twitter, follow her) who I first discovered on this podcast where she introduced me to the history of our “fair housing” legislation and how we prevented black men from buying homes in white neighborhoods – starting the lines of generational poverty that still plague minority families today.
- Achievement Gap – One more plug for Nikole Hannah-Jones is reporting she did on integration in shrinking the achievement gap.
- Criminal Justice -Watch The 13th and read The New Jim Crow and see how we have a criminal justice system that favors white people. Also watch the new HBO documentary True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality.
This is very much just the tip of every iceberg of every issue I see being discussed on the campaign trail. I want a candidate who acknowledges race and how any issue discusses impacts minority populations more in our country. I want people who are willing to look at their own privilege and listen to the voices of the disenfranchised when looking at ALL problem solving.