A one-sided narrative and how we got to where we are now
Although the protests happening around the world seem to be a result of the tragic and unjust death of George Floyd, his death was simply the straw that broke the camel’s back.
America has been controlling the U.S. history narrative for more than 400 years; a show where white people act triumphant and hardworking in the front of the stage, while minorities do the heavy lifting behind the scenes.
Admittedly, hard work is not race exclusive and this is not to say white people have not worked hard; but the reality is that throughout most of history, they have taken credit for and greatly benefited from the labor of minorities in this nation, and black people continue to receive the raw end of a deal they never agreed to.
Ever since the birth of our nation, the principle of white supremacy has been at its core. From stealing land that was already occupied, to kidnapping people from their homes and forcing them into labor; white people have a history of benefiting from the oppression of others that don’t look like them.
Our nation prospered because of our agricultural proficiency, and despite the great weather and fertile soil, the real reason why the colonies were able to become a respected nation is because of slave labor.
The first documentation of Europeans bringing Africans into the Americas was in 1619 when an English ship encountered a Portuguese slave ship and took between 50-60 captive African passengers. That English ship landed in what is now Hamptons, Virginia.
Slavery grew exponentially as colonists realized the benefits of exploiting the free and forced labor of Africans.
Eventually, the U.S. declared independence and claimed that every man was created equal and had certain unalienable rights; ironic that the men who called for liberty also held the principle of slavery so close to their hearts.
Developments in England’s textile industry increased the demand for American cotton, and with the invention of the cotton gin, the model of minority exploitation was nearly perfected.
Fast forward a little less than a hundred years of oppression and brutality, and the south begins to see slave rebellions accompanied by a growing Abolitionist Movement.
However, southerners began experiencing confirmation bias for how they viewed slaves; slave rebellions made racist southerners believe even more that Africans were a lesser, more barbaric race that needed to be controlled by force, instead of recognizing that the horrible conditions they experienced were the cause for their rebellions.
These “confirmed” beliefs turned into stricter laws and regulations for slaves, which further limited their voice in the narrative of U.S. history.
By denying education for slaves and silencing opposition, the south was able to solidify their racists beliefs as they no longer had to face a different view.
The Abolitionist Movement momentarily burst that bubble of supremacy as opposition to slavery became popular. The Civil War narrative, which to no surprise was controlled by white people, minimizes the central role freed men, women and runaway slaves had before and during the war.
Free but not equal
Once the Emancipation Proclamation was signed and the 13th amendment was put into effect, black people continued to face violence and discrimination.
The 13th amendment outlawed slavery, unless as a punishment for a crime, which created the perfect loophole for maintaining black people and oppressing other minorities.
The government started to give harsher sentences to minorities while white people benefited from the free labor that came from the prison system.
If you want to learn more about how the U.S. deliberately set out to bring black people into slavery through the prison system, the Netflix documentary 13th is a great place to start, and you can watch it for free here.
Additionally, the Jim Crow laws that were passed allowed for oppression and segregation to be the norm in everyday life.
By making a clear distinction between “colored” and white people, as well as making black people hold a lower status than that of their white counterparts, the government was able to create tension among citizens.
When the U.S. officially called for schools to be integrated in 1954, de facto segregation persisted as some white communities in the U.S. had grown accustomed to their privileges and not interacting with people who did not look like them.
So little change in so much time
Despite the Civil Rights movement and the constant Black Lives Matter protests after cases of police brutality surface, very little has changed.
School districts around the U.S. continue to be segregated; in 2016, a school district in Mississippi finally settled a segregation case that started 50 years prior.
Physical boundaries between communities have further divided the nation. A clear example being UH; our campus is “fenced-in” by the railroad track that separates our campus from Third Ward, which is a predominantly black community.
Today we see peaceful protests turn into riots and acts of vandalism, because supposed allies of other races are shouting over black voices; these violent actions will most likely be blamed on peaceful black protesters.
There are people who are not black, who are trying to speak for the black community when they should really be listening.
It is time that we let black people speak and tell their narrative that has been silenced for so long. It is time for us to listen, educate ourselves and support in ways that are productive, not destructive.
Gina Medina is a journalism senior who can be reached at [email protected]