America’s Problem

Chelsea Clark

“See Mississippi is not actually Mississippi’s problem. Mississippi is America’s problem because if America wanted to do something about what has been going on in Mississippi, it could’ve stopped by now… You see the flag is drenched with our blood because you see so many of our ancestors was killed because we have never accepted slavery. We had to live under it, but we’ve never wanted it. So, we know that this flag is drenched with our blood. So what the young people are saying now ‘give us a chance to be young men respected as a man as we know this country was built on the black backs of black people across the country, and if we don’t have it, you ain’t gonna have it either cause we gone tear it up’… They know what they done to us all across this country…” –Fannie Lou Hamer (1968)

Insidious is the fact that justice and democracy is not ours to have, but America’s to dish out when seen fit. We don’t have to have more discussions about the definition of privilege, systemic racism, or bias. America knows what these things are because when they’re discussed anger and avoidance present themselves, not curiosity or concern. I believe that America will never see the prosperity of its residents until we stop passing discrimination around like a hot potato, making it the problem of the oppressed and not the responsibility of the oppressor. If you think that this is only about a few recent murders by police officers, then you’re sadly behind the issue. Read the next sentence twice. It does not matter where we are, what we are doing, who we are with, where we are from, what school we attended, what job we have, or what crime we allegedly committed because Black people and Black lives are seen as targets and as less than in comparison to white lives. Although our race is the foundation of this injustice, the history of our social class and socioeconomic status has been a tool in our exploitation.

The American people know that the historical practices of law enforcement have been to corral, contain, and control Black people and their communities. Black people do not have the privilege of believing law enforcement to be a group that prioritizes their safety over the dated stereotype painting Black people as aggressors, criminals, and dangers to the rest of America. So, as Hamer said in 1968, we simply want to be regarded with the same care and respect as the rest of America. The fact that I want the American people to hold tightly to is that racism is not a burden of the oppressed to carry. Racism was created for a few to remain superior while keeping Black people powerless and voiceless. But, when will we consider equality and equity? Instead of pulling privilege over your eyes to avoid losing your spot at the top of America’s food chain, why not reflect on the prosperity of a country engaged in the uplift of Black people economically? We are completely exposed to every disadvantage in this country that one can conjure; the terror of police brutality and the hopelessness of stagnated economic progress are just two examples.

Black people could be the most patriotic group of Americans. America would not have become leader on the world stage without the free labor of slaves funneling profits into the pockets of white men for generations. Slaves were currency, securities, investments, and venture capital. And there are families still benefitting from the transactions of their ancestors centuries ago, yet Black people continue to fall victim to an income and wealth gap nearly untouched since the mid-20th century. Black people in poverty are more likely to remain in poverty than any other ethnic group in these fifty states. Black people earning six figures are more likely to live in neighborhoods housing low-income white people than communities where upper-class white people live. Although we are no longer physically bound by slavery, our road to economic, social, and educational freedom has consistently been paralyzed short of the potential we continue to march towards.

Two black men and a black woman speak into a microphone at a street protest.
Trayvon Martin’s father Tracy Martin and mother Sybrina Fulton at the Million Hoodies Union Square protest in New York against the shooting of Trayvon in Sanford, Florida.

Americans who believe that all lives matter is a response (or rather a rebuttal) to the Black Lives Matter movement could be experiencing a deep state of confusion. Black Lives Matter Foundation, Inc founded in 2013 following the acquittal of George Zimmerman. Black Lives Matter has an undying mission to eliminate white supremacy, which is more pronounced than ever in modern history, while instituting empowerment against the violence that continues to be inflicted on Black communities. Saying ‘all lives matter’ is a lie rooted in privilege and hate. If all lives mattered, Black Lives Matter wouldn’t have had to be founded because the murderers of Black people wouldn’t continue to avoid arrests, convictions, and consequences. White people aren’t forced to march in the streets in order to bring attention to murders of white victims because the justice system is already set up on their behalf. The message isn’t that one murder weighs more than the other, the point is that the justice system has relentlessly continued to value the loss of one life over the other.