When Thomas Jefferson voiced America’s outrage at British oppression, he wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” For our Founding Fathers, where there was life, there was liberty and possibly happiness for all men. (I will not touch on the status of women; that’s another article altogether.) Then again, as they wrote these words, our Founding Fathers also owned slaves: not all of them, just most of them. And there starts our problem. Race has always mattered in America, and it still does.
“Race has always mattered in America, and it still does.”
We have come a long way since the Declaration of Independence, the Civil War, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but it is clear to me that much more work needs to be done. The all-too-common, wrongful shooting of black citizens and members of other minority groups by police officers makes this fact painfully evident. I’m sick of seeing hateful images and videos of people trying to somehow justify the wrongful shooting of a black or Latino man or woman by saying, “Well, he looked menacing” or “Well, what would you do?” or, the ultimate denial: “It has nothing to do with skin color!” How many African Americans and Hispanic men and women need to be killed on the streets to make it known to the whole country that YES, we do have a problem with police officers reacting not only to “menacing” looks, but, of course, skin color.
Making matters even worse, posting racist and discriminatory images or videos does nothing to “prove” why you’re a supporter of police officers; it just shows a lack of acknowledgment of a problem that is prevalent in our society: color still matters in this country. Some people do not know the true message behind movements like Black Lives Matter and refuse to admit that yes, there is a problem, and yes, it needs to be addressed. Moreover, by posting and sharing disgusting videos that attempt to justify a person’s murder or death, people ignore the problem or trivialize it by blaming the victim.
Of course, not all police officers are bad people. As a matter of fact, I’m sure most of them are good people who follow their code. What we have to address and stay on top of is the issue of blacks and minorities being targeted for no other reason besides the color of their skin. How many lives will it take? I know that when it’s a white police officer or white male hurt or killed by an individual of color, the most strident calls for reform and demands for justice to be served go out. The response is not the same when the racial tables are turned. But the core issue is not solely police violence. That is just a microcosm of the larger problem.
The simple fact is that whenever black unity is shown there is always negative energy that follows and consumes it. For some, it is easy to work with someone of color or watch them play a sport, however, it’s a radical idea to see them as equals and even something more to see them as a human being. Unfortunately, when people have to “raise their voices” to be heard, it is met with backlash.
“Unfortunately, when people have to ‘raise their voices’ to be heard, it is met with backlash.”
The phrase that makes me cringe is, “We need to be colorblind as a country to become equal.” Frankly, that is the furthest thing from the truth. I want people to see me for who I am, and while it’s not the defining factor, my race is a part of what makes me. We need to be more accepting of people of color and the culture from which they originate. I will not condone the belief or practice that “because people are different from you, they’re not equal to you.”
What bothers me the most is that we allow these things to happen. We see the effects that race still has on society today. We see these inequalities at play in the criminal justice system at large, both in the courts and on the streets. When will the people who have the power to create change hear our voices? It becomes tiresome and frustrating to have to watch blood be spilled over and over again before any change even comes up in conversation. While I have never faced the level of extreme hate that many people of color in this country have, I have experienced a different side of it.
I am Hispanic. Both of my parents were born in the Dominican Republic and came to the United States at a young age; both are Ivy League educated citizens with well paying jobs, and I am lucky to have them in my life.
Because my parents are well educated and I speak a certain way, some people no longer consider me to be Hispanic. To people of color, I am white. On the other hand, I can’t tell you how many times white friends have told me that I am “one of the better Hispanics” because I sound “like them.” I sit here and think to myself, this is a problem.
“Because my parents are well educated and I speak a certain way, some people no longer consider me to be Hispanic.”
I see a mindset that equates being well spoken to being white. While this is upsetting, I have to admit that I benefit from it: my voice is often heard because people don’t associate it with a Hispanic male, but with someone who is white. This bothers me. It should bother you, too. It should make you feel uneasy that we are perpetuating the notion that some people’s voices are heard and others are not simply because of their skin color. Everyone’s voice deserves to be heard, no matter how they look or speak. Unfortunately, when people have to “raise their voices” to be heard, it is often met with backlash. It is up to all of us to make our voices heard, despite the backlash. Whether race will always matter in America remains to be seen, but the truth is that right here, right now, it does.
Rutgers Student studying Political Science & Government with a minor in Journalism who has an interest in the intersection of journalism and political movements.