After growing up in a predominantly black community then living in an all-white community, you see the stark differences of each other’s perceptions of race. When I lived in Cleveland, the first person who had ever called me out on my race was six years old and he called me Chinese. He was black and I was so stunned I didn’t say anything at all because until then I was color blind. In my mind though, I knew I was Filipino, not Chinese, but little did I know I was going to have to listen to that presumption for the rest of my life. I was very shy all through elementary and middle school, which is the time I lived in Cleveland, and if I said anything, someone would bring up my race or call me Chinese again. Why? I have no idea. It wasn’t ever relevant and if it was, I didn’t see a reason.
There were two kinds of black people. There were the ones who looked past the race because possibly it was their innocent minds or their parents that had taught that it wasn’t nice to discriminate. Then there were the ones who could only see race. What struck me most was how much they hated white people and everything affiliated. It was bad to act white, look white, talk white, be white. Obviously, as we got older and we went to school with white people, this shushed down a bit but I knew it was still a living thought inside their heads. When I grew up, my version of learning about slavery and black history month is very different from the white perspective. When we learned about lynching and how the slaves got beat, you could see shame and sadness in my fellow classmates eyes but you could also see anger. So that’s the root of this. So that’s why we live one way and they live another. Although it was beneficial to learn about our history, I felt like it created an even bigger divide because racism clearly isn’t over. I vividly remember watching this cartoon in fifth grade about what would happen if segregation didn’t end and how this kid couldn’t talk to his black friends because they didn’t even go to his school anymore and the Mexican girl he was friends with didn’t even speak English and she was mopping up the floor. My teachers didn’t teach us how to get over discrimination. They just told us about it. So subtlety, they passed down this bit of information and engrained in our little 10-year-old minds is how white people treated black people badly because they were black. Now at this point, it seems obvious what was currently going on but no one was going to come out and say it, no one was going to come out and admit it.
As for the other side, when I grew up in Kirksville, there were almost no black people. None of my peers or friends outright ever said anything about black people for fear of being racist. They liked their music, movies, clothes, etc. No one talked about race but once again, but that’s because no one had to, they didn’t have to worry about being white. But racism runs deep and hides, just waiting for that crucial moment to reveal itself in the ugliest fashion. And it comes out in spurts, unknowingly adding to that divide I was talking about earlier. I’ve heard white people call black people niggers, even though the term is derogatory. I’ve heard white people call black people colored, which is incredibly discriminatory because not too long ago, there was a white line and a colored line.
In my cross-cultural class, we learned about a term called legal lynching. When Lincoln abolished slavery, there is a clause in the Emancipation Proclamation that says black men are free until they commit a crime. And what do you know? A clause that continues slavery. There are more black people in jail now then there were black slaves in 1860. America has the highest incarceration rate. Slavery hasn’t ended. Instead of burning black people at the stake, lynching them, dragging them through town on a horse… they are thrown in jail. Still ripped apart from their families. Still unable to qualify for a good education or job. Still viewed at, differently, because of his skin. Black people don’t have to have shackles around their ankles or a sign that announces that they’re black. They are born into systematic racism and there is nothing for them to do about it. And without this tidbit of knowledge, it’s easy for black people to hate whites. It’s easy for white people to say these things without knowing about it’s consequences. Adding to the divide. Adding to the racism that has never properly been taken care of. It’s hard to wrap your mind around this. It’s hard to undo everything you’ve ever heard or seen because that’s what you’ve grown up to knowing. But this is the truth. It is cleverly hidden, using the media to portray only black criminals therefore pushing that divide even more.
What upsets me the most is how in recent events, I have found out who my racist friends are and they don’t even know it. I understand the riots in Ferguson are unnecessary and violent but both sides are to blame. This is beyond Michael Brown. He is just another casualty, another piece in the puzzle of racism. Everyone is acting how racism wants them to. What do you know, violent black people? What do you know, white people who are still talking shit over a problem they created? Instead of being peaceful and understanding and wanting to make a change, everyone is letting their anger take over. Everyone is quick to jump the gun and point fingers and find someone to blame. On both sides. I’ve never been so disgusted by social media. Oh, think of Darren Wilson’s family. Think of the tax payers who have to clean up this mess. Tell them to shut up and get jobs. We have our guns to protect us from them! If it was a white guy who got shot, no one would care. All uneducated responses. Irrelevant. This country is still racist and this is going to happen again because of your indifference.
I want this all to end. I want everyone to stop hating each other. I want to be able to meet someone without them seeing my race first. This goes beyond black and white. This country doesn’t even want Latinos here, even though they are running from persecution. I wish I could tell everyone not to immigrate here because it is not worth the discrimination and hate. It’s not fair to be six years old and my first lesson in America is how I’m different and how I will be treated different because of my race for the rest of my life. Don’t come here until this problem is fixed. As for everyone else, please be conscious of your words and actions. Stop the divide. Do your homework before you speak. Open your eyes. Think of the consequences and maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to get over this once and for all…