“I can’t breathe!” were the last words of a black American George Floyd before his life was taken by policemen on May 25th this year. Massive protests erupted not only all across the United States, but worldwide. Nevertheless, this murder was just the tip of an iceberg – protestors’ rebellions demanding equality have been a result of hundreds of years of racial injustice. Thousands of innocent black community members have been killed up to this day, making George’s case just the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Racism, which has been present practically everywhere, is deep-rooted especially in American history, with an official beginning in 1619. That year, the first African Woman on American soil, named Angela, was documented in Virginia, according to USA Today. Her arrival in Jamestown is marked as the beginning of African slavery and their subordination to the white people, which represents one of the most horrendous and obvious forms of racism, in the US.
But I can’t completely agree with 1619 being the historic date. In my opinion it is often forgotten what the word racism actually means. It is not only white people against black people, but a certain race against another race. In 1492, when Christopher Columbus came to America (although he was not the first to discover it as we are taught in school), he and his white team of explorers killed or enslaved numerous of Native Americans (also known as the Indians) and sent them to work on the fields or in mines in order to collect valuable raw materials. And this is just one of attention-grabbing historic events showing the white race trying to predominate over another, in this case non-black, native-American race. Therefore, I believe racism has been around for way longer than we think and definitely before 1619.
As learnt from history, it has been a part of American system since even before the USA has been established, and later couldn’t be solved even with the Civil War and the former president Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, with which he wanted to abolish slavery in the southern Confederate States. What’s more, the so known 13th Amendment, which would free all the slaves in the United States, became a part of the Constitution in 1863, but racism still made it through and persisted up to this day.
Although impacting different races or ethnicities throughout the past, it is indeed true that racism has left consequences on the black African-American community the most of all, and it is still seen nowadays in their day-to-day lives, in terms of their education, housing, jobs, equal treatment in the justice system and access to healthcare. According to DoSomething, black Americans are far more likely than white Americans to be stopped by the police, arrested, convicted and serve lengthy prison sentences which are on average 19% longer than those of white men, although committing the same crime. In the school year of 2015-2016, only 15% of students in the US were black, but yet they represented 35% of students suspended, and 36% of students expelled. From 2013 to 2017, 40% of Black patients in the US received worse quality health care than white patients. In addition, black women are 3 to 4 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women, even at similar levels of income and education. The chance of black individuals to be unemployed is twice as high compared to white individuals, also because job resumes of traditionally white-sounding names receive 50% more call-backs than those from traditionally black names. And even if these people do succeed in getting a job, they earn nearly 25% less than their white counterparts.
They are often afraid for their lives, not just because of uncertainty if they will keep the job and be able to pay the bills, or if their child will get bullied. I mean in literal sense, because these days, even the police, who is supposed to protect, often goes too far being too harsh and violent or even using weapons for no reason against those innocent black people and, in several times, claiming their lives as a result – because of what, their complexion, which is something they were born with and has nothing to do with who they are as people?
They want and deserve to live a normal dignified life and be respected as everybody else. They are human beings as everybody else, they work as everybody else, they have a family to take care of and love as everybody else, they even pay taxes as everybody else – and it is sorrowful that the authorities then don’t invest this tax money into education for example to help build an anti-racist society, but into police and army forces and weapons instead, which are then used to hurt or kill black people, although they paid for them. The USA is fighting against its particular group of citizens that support this country, so it is, ironically, actually fighting against itself.
Thankfully, many people see the problem and are willing to fight against it – not only to put a stop to racism and violent acting, but also to seek justice for the victims and not letting the culprits get away with their actions. That is why speaking out, demanding changes and spreading the message through movements, like Black Lives Matter, is so important. I believe consistency is the key to success, and also the protestors know it too damn well. Even though they have been falling on deaf ears of competent authority, they have been determined to unstoppably use their voices until they would be heard. Over time, their perseverance has achieved changes, starting off with some responsible people finally getting charged for their actions. This indeed isn’t an enormous difference because the lost lives can’t be revived no matter what, but it still brings us one step closer towards achieving systemic anti-racial changes in the society and this way protecting the rest lives in the future.
Fighting against racism is still a long way to go. Even though, everybody can do something, starting with themselves. I agree with so many, believing that it is not enough to be non-racist. To really make a difference, we need to be anti-racist. The ways to be so are endless – the first step is to be kind and treat people with the same respect no matter their race or ethnicity, or we can, for instance, make a presentation about racism and present the importance of fighting against it to our peers, or support movements on social media by sharing their posts, or even attend protests (but be careful as they might get violent).
As for the government and other people in charge, I have two simple suggestions: think about changing the state budget and putting more money into educating the youth – they are the future of this world, and how they are raised and taught will be reflected. Secondly, stop tolerating racist behaviors and punish them accordingly. Only this way, racism won’t be taken as something normal for our society and it will be stopped quickly enough. Doing so will be beneficial for the citizens’ safety and wellbeing, and also for the country itself, as it won’t have to spend so much money on dealing with huge protests and repairing the damage afterwards.
In my opinion, it starts with everyone knowing that their voice counts – as we have seen, with millions or even billions of people having that kind of mindset, great things can be achieved, and acting now will make our days, weeks and years after it better. Nevertheless, it will not only impact our lives in the future, but also the lives of many (hopefully anti-racist) generations to come.