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We’ve made progress with systematic racism, but not enough

Sonny Singh/The Cougar

It has been 153 years since the slavery technically ended in the United States. Yet systematic racism, hate crimes and countless unarmed shootings of black people plague our country in the new Jim Crow Era.

Black Americans have gone from being considered three-fifths of a person and banned from drinking at certain fountains to having a black man as a former president of the United States. We should be grateful for the countless sacrifices past generations have made to contribute to our freedom today, but we would be fools to be satisfied with the progress we have made. It’s not enough.

We can’t say we’ve made enough progress when police killed at least 223 African-Americans in 2017 alone. When NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick spoke out against these injustices and chose to kneel for the national anthem to protest against the mistreatment of black lives, he was blacklisted and put out of work in an attempt to silence his voice and the impact he would later create.

When NBA player LeBron James discussed politics and shared his thoughts on being a black public figure in this racial climate during an interview, Fox News host Laura Ingraham came for him head-on.

“It’s always unwise to seek political advice from someone who gets paid $100 million a year to bounce a ball…keep the political comments to yourselves…shut up and dribble,” she said.

Although Ingraham insisted she’s been using variants of that title to call out celebrities. Referring to a book she wrote in 2006, her attitude and words used to describe James as “barely intelligible” and “ungrammatical” are racist and wrong. It sounds similar to slave masters who expected their jesters to perform obediently and quietly while their people suffered outside.

This is not progress; it is oppression.

Black people are accused of living in a made-up world of prejudice and false narratives, fueled by self-inflicted race talk that would all go away if they acted accordingly. Privilege is believing a marginalized group can simply pick themselves up by the bootstraps and achieve the same goals as white people but not understanding how centuries of systematic oppression can have crippling after-effects such as generational poverty.

The criminalization of black people, inadequate media representation and the endless list of black lives lost to police brutality show that this so-called post-racism does not exist.

Two weeks ago, two young black men were put in handcuffs and arrested in a Starbucks while they waited for another friend to show up. Philadelphia police received a 911 call from the Starbucks for disturbance and trespassing when the only crime they committed was—literally—doing nothing. Police were escorting them out with their hands cuffed behind their backs while the friend they were waiting on arrived.

Back in January, Brandon Ward posted a video asking why he was denied access to another Starbucks’ restroom when a white customer was granted access just a few moments before. The store manager refused to give him the code or answer why she had denied him access, instead asking him to leave immediately.

These microaggressions show how little progress we’ve made if African-Americans are still being asked to leave public areas because their skin color comes off as threatening. To deny someone access to public spaces because of the color of their skin is sadly reminiscent of the segregation that ended only five decades earlier. 

“Systematic racism still exists, and black Americans should continue to push forward,” said Monet Alexander, president of Alpha Kappa Psi’s chapter at UH. “As a black leader of a multicultural organization, I feel honored and inspired when I see strong black Americans take on large roles. I pray black children witness such leadership in our community.”

We can’t say we’ve made progress when black families are still being torn apart by police brutality. We can’t allow ourselves to believe racism has ended when the KKK exists and isn’t considered a terrorist organization, despite its repugnant history, but movements like Black Lives Matter, which was created to bring awareness and combat racism, is deemed as hateful and dangerous to U.S. society, and the protesters are labeled as thugs. 

History repeats itself. Disabling the Black Panther Party was an act to stop the unity and call to action in the black community, preventing black people from breaking free from the cage white America has put them in.

African-Americans have survived hardships unimaginable because of their skin color, yet they are expected to be satisfied with little portions of justice or representation given as scraps. Until black Americans can exist freely without the fear of being unfairly arrested, prosecuted, shot down or denied access because of the color of their skin, no amount of progress will ever be enough.

Only when the U.S. has consciously accepted its flaws and we work together to uproot the hate that tarnishes this country, progressively changing the system we have wrongfully accepted as the American way, including all of America’s colored people as a part of the American Dream, will we have made true progress.

Assistant Opinion Editor Bethel Biru is a broadcast journalism senior. She can be reached at [email protected].

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