Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Blog Action Day 2014 - Inequality

 Blog Action Day

You knew it was coming. Let's talk about it: Being Black in America. And Yes, this is about race, just to clarify. And no, I'm not tired of talking about it, I'm tired of having issues to talk about. And you should too. As part of Blog Action Day I address the Inequality Black Americans may face in the world that is a problem we ALL need to work on fixing.

I love this quote by Martin Niemoller:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Tons of people have written pages and pages of commentary on Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, and countless other cases where unarmed Blacks have been killed or shot because they 'looked suspicious' or 'fit a profile,' when they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time and racially profiled. I am not here to debate the legal system or discuss those yet-to-be-closed cases in depth. What I am here to do is to convince those of you who do not see what the problem is or disagree that there is a problem that there is inequality for Blacks in America. You can substitute other minority racial groups and I'm sure there might be a similar case, but here, we are specifically discussing Blacks.

Let's start with money and education.  It may seem fair to think that two 18 year olds coming out of high school in 2014 will have the same opportunities, whether Black or White. With the same GPAs, same activities; it may all come down to finances. And that is a problem in the USA. Because while all may appear to be equal there is at least 100 years difference in the opportunities. Between the US declaring its independence (1776) and the abolishment of slavery with the 13th Amendment (1865), and really the Civil Rights Movement and the 14th Amendment in 1965, there is a significant gap of who may have been able to have certain opportunities and/or jobs. So one 18 year old may be the 5th or 6th generation in their family to go to college, meaning they have 5 generations of a higher income, and likely savings for college. The other 18 year old from a minority group, may be the 1st or 2nd generation to go to college. If they don't get a scholarship, they may not be able to afford to go to school.

The financial differences spill over into the social status: living in the city vs the suburbs, or deciding to stay at home with the kids or having a dual (or single) working family. Helping a child with homework, being able to attend their little league soccer games, or just keeping them out of trouble are factors that come into play based on socioeconomic status. This is not a pity party; you can certainly overcome circumstances. Sometimes. If you know that other options exist. And this is where the media plays a part in the inequality. The ratio of fast food restaurants in urban areas (where minorities tend to live) is astounding compared to those in suburban areas. Drive through a high urban area and you will most likely see billboards for joining the military, which is fine, but not the only option for an inner-city kid. Kids aught to be told they can be a lawyer, a doctor, an astronaut, an engineer, a chef, a President; wherever the sky leads, but society tends to limit those in certain places. And so kids grow up, and they only know what they see.

A Spiral Effect
The 80s Black Is Beautiful movement was just the beginning of everyone accepting that all shades of skin color are beautiful. We are still fighting the subtleties of the good cartoon characters being a lighter shade than the bad characters. We only just celebrated having a Black princess in The Princess and The Frog (2009) and there was unnecessary uproar when one of the characters in The Hunger Games (2012) was played by a Black actress. Seriously? Half of the problem is the issue itself: years and years of inequality. But nowadays, the other half of the problem is the fact that some can not see there is a problem. And that, is dangerous.

I'll leave you with a few more examples of the subtle inequalities that we need to be aware of.

  • The little old lady grabs her purse a little tighter as a Black kid walks by
  • Being followed in a store, as they pretend to offer you help
  • A jewelry store attendant leaving the diamond necklace in the case for the Black customer but taking it out for the White Customer. 
  • Gossip that the Black employee only got the job to fill a quota. or the student didn't properly earn their admission into college.
  • Looking down at someone who decides to wear their hair in its natural form
  • Telling someone born in America (where English is the official language) that they speak English well. Isn't that redundant? Why wouldn't they?
  • Waiters purposefully seating Black patrons at the back of the restaurant near the kitchen or bathrooms
  • That there's one Black student in the class of 50 in college
  • The media always asking one person for the opinion of their entire race

We are not able to fix a problem that we don't know exists. The absence of knowledge is ignorance. I hope that my first-hand observations make you at least think that there is indeed something that needs fixing. And let's fix it!

Please share your comments below. Let's talk about it!

**This is such an expansive topic, that I haven't even covered the top of it, but hopefully I've given you a thought-provoking essay and you can continue researching on the topic.