(Pictured: Eamon C., Age 13, Rochester, NY)
“There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America – there is the United States of America.” – Barack Obama, 2004
I believe racism is a problem that we must work together to solve. Racism is caused by many factors that are themselves problems. For example, if we put an end to police brutality alone, racism would still exist. This is why we need to address all of the symptoms of racism. These include police brutality, segregation, and social and economic inequity. Some people, like Cornel West, an American philosopher, say we would need a miracle to end racism: “A spiritual and democratic awakening.” Everyone’s eyes would just have to open so we can face the problem. President Obama, too, has said we have to elect leaders who understand our country’s problems and know how to fix them.
I agree with Obama, but I also get what Cornel West is saying. We will never be able to stop racism by arguing with racists. We must show them what we see from our side of the issue. In this case, we will not be able to fight with our words; we need to show them the harm that they are causing. When Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published, many people realized for the first time what was going on in the South. Their eyes were opened. They could see it.
As a white person in a majority African-American school, I understand how integration is a very important part of fighting racism. I’m somewhere where I can see what’s going on. Being in a diverse community means I can learn and work better because I see everyone is different, and I see what that adds to our community. The diversity means everyone has different ideas based on their background and experiences. Unfortunately, many schools are not as diverse as they should be, and this is based in the history of racist housing and city planning. Due to redlining, for years African-American families couldn’t buy houses wherever they wanted, and therefore couldn’t develop the kind of equity or generational wealth that families need. Integration and economic equity are two things that will help fight racism and also make life more just for African-Americans.
America is still a very racist country. I believe that the only way we could have prevented racism would have been to prevent slavery entirely. The system of unpaid, coerced black labor created the condition for the systemic racism that exists today. For example, when slavery was abolished white officials even tried to keep a system of unpaid labor that was like slavery. Unpaid labor was kept as a part of society by turning prisons into a plantation-like environment of coerced black labor. They also made it way too easy to be sent to jail if you were black: the police could arrest you if you were just standing around. I find this kind of racism completely villainous and evil. They were putting black people in jail merely to act superior and to try to make Blacks think they were inferior. Abolishing slavery was not enough: the government should have also done something to stop the people who would try their hardest to bring slavery back.
Although brutal police are not the only symptom of racism, they are a major factor. One big problem with police is that they act like and are armed like they are the military. When the police are militarized, they are likely to
feel that their duty is to fight, when really it should be to “protect and serve.” This can have horrible consequences, especially when racism is systemic. We need different training for police: for example, to be less impulsive when making decisions that have life and death consequences. Training police officers, however, will not change the fact that some of them are racist. We will need to confront the system that powers their racist attitudes.
Overall, some things we will need to do to eliminate racism are (1) train officers to use their words and not their weapons, (2) elect leaders who can assess the problems and find solutions to solve them, (3) show racists exactly how their opinions are racially unjust and biased, (4) integrate schools and neighborhoods, and (5) address social and economic inequality. To confront racism, we must not only confront the racist people who have caused damage, but the racist system that powers them. The recent protests that have happened across the country have brought issues to light that should have been addressed a long time ago.