By Margherite Cermak
Everyone in this country knows that the conditions black and brown people are subjected to here in America is a result of racism except for the racists who believe it’s genetics. When you scan the USA you will find that there ins’t a single privileged, or for the simple folks, “good” black community. You can have one of two beliefs as to why that is. You either believe that it’s because black people are genetically inclined to be less productive, less intelligent, or in some way unable to take proper care of themselves and their families. Or you believe it’s because society makes it so that black communities can’t get ahead by making it more difficult for black people to accomplish things than white people. You may not know or understand exactly how Systemic Racism works, but if you don’t blame poverty on genes, then somewhere in your mind you know that it exists, and that it’s effective.
Millions and millions of racist people will swear to you that they are not at all racist. They will pledge that they have friends and family and black people whom they love. The’ll name all their favorite black celebrities and tell you all about why their opinions aren’t racism. But no matter how much a person wants to deny that they are racist it doesn’t change the facts. Racism isn’t a broad, vague term. It’s very, very direct and it’s very simple.
Racism: The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.
So, if you don’t believe that society in America keeps black communities poor, then you believe it’s due to genetics because aside from how people are treated, the only difference between people of one race and people of another are genes. Just like your genes are different from the genes of your neighbor or any other person for that matter. The question you have to ask yourself now is, do you really believe that your genes so strongly effect and influence your personality to the point of determining whether or not you’ll be rich or poor? Do you believe that the person that you are, and the condition of your life is due to your genetic makeup and not how you are treated, the opportunities you’re presented and the experiences you’ve had? Do you believe that if you were of a different race that you’d be more or less able to do something if everything else was exactly the same? If you do, that’s racism; if you don’t, then you recognize society’s role in systemic racism.
Whether or not people want to admit where they stand is irrelevant. It’s clear to everyone where a person stands because it’s not a complicated issue. When people argue or debate with others they already know where their opponent stands, how they feel and what they believe. What we need to recognize is that those people also know where they stand, how they feel, and what they believe and are only arguing because they want to feel justified for what they know to be true. Most people who believe genetics are responsible for our behavior and abilities don’t want to be shamed for their feelings so they try and convince others that’s their feelings aren’t racist. And many people who believe society is responsible for our behavior and abilities don’t want to take responsibility for their participation, or lack of, that contributes to the horrible conditions of blacks and browns in the United States.
And of course not. Taking responsibility for the role a person plays in the systems of society that oppress the underprivileged in this country can be absolutely terrifying. As long as a person denies responsibility for something, they at least have a small chance that they may be deemed innocent if they can possibly convince the judging party that they just didn’t know any better. But admitting that you see and understand that something is wrong and that you participate in it, or at least, participate in allowing it means that you’ll be judged and pay consequences.
The goal here for an activist is not to convince someone that their opinions are wrong, but to make absolutely clear that you know that they know the part they play in this disgusting oppressive mess. Instead of trying to define racism for people, state that you know they know what it means and insist that for as long as they hold on to their beliefs that they will be in your eyes seen as an oppressor, a contributing factor. Insist that if they wish to be seen differently they must prove it. They must prove it passionately with action, and that if they don’t then they put themselves on the side of a people who are being fought back against. That we, the revolutionaries, the activists, the oppressed, the people who believe that all people should be respected based on their person and not their nation, are fighting and willing to continue fighting, with passion, with fury and with all of our strength, wisdom and intelligence until this oppression is annihilated.
Instead of explaining to people why what is happening, explain what is and will continue happening. Don’t explain why we do what we do or why people are responding with force. Just make it known that this is what's happening. If you’re going to explain something, explain that people are going to act, and react whichever way we have to in order to protect our people. Remind people that dirty fights are fought dirty, that violence is fought with violence. You don’t need to explain to anyone why that is, they understand that already. You don’t need to explain that some people are peaceful and some people are not, they know that already too. All you should spend your time explaining to anyone is that this is happening; oppressive thumbs are to be lifted and that we don’t have a choice but to fight.
Explain that we are all kinds of different people, with all kinds of different tools, that we must fight with. Some of those tools are words, some of those tools are influence, some of those tools are money and some of those tools are weapons. Explain that the only thing anyone can do to stop us is obliterate the systems that oppress people based on the things they cannot change such as race. The dumbest of the dumb will understand that and if they claim they don’t then they are lying. Don’t waste your precious time and energy explaining to people that there is a problem, spend it explaining what they can do to help solve it. Explain to them that their resistance, guilt and fear are all normal feelings considering the circumstances but that none of it deserves pity or empathy. Explain that we don’t have room or time for that. Speak to them in a non judgmental tone but hold them accountable. Instead invite them to be part of the solution and explain that it would relieve their guilt and fears.
Understand that such an invitation may be intimidating or overwhelming, even for those who really do recognize and dislike the injustice of our land. Changing the world seems impossible especially for someone who hasn’t ever done anything for anyone but themselves. Most of us would much rather wait for someone else do what we want done instead of doing it ourselves even if that means waiting forever to get something done. So when presenting someone with an opportunity to do something to improve the community it’s important to present easy, tangible, concrete options, tasks and direction. Again, maintaining a non judgmental tone will always increase your likelihood of being heard and will decrease resistance to what you’re saying. Be practical and simply present them the why and then the how.
For example, here’s a why…
We need to hold police officers accountable Because innocent black and brown people all over the country are being killed since police officers are rarely reprimanded.
And here’s a how…
To stop this we need to get the attention of our police commissioners, city council members, and mayors across the country and demand they raise the standards of conduct within our police departments and enforce harsher penalties for using force. We can do this by writing and mailing letters by the hundreds or by showing up to their doorsteps by the thousands with our expectations.
A straight, clean, concise, factual message.
Examples like that may make participation less intimidating and overwhelming for someone who doesn’t know what to do, or that they can do anything at all. One truth that I find amongst the sea of people who claim impoverished black and brown communities can’t possibly be the result of society, is that these people truly don’t believe that they themselves can do anything to change it which is why it’s so easy for them to believe that these issues can’t be a result of society. They believe that society is made up of millions of people just like them who are just as incapable of making a difference as they are. So presenting that kind of a person with a concrete thing that they can do, that will be effective, is a guaranteed way of showing someone that they are wrong about that. And the truth is, anyone who still doesn’t do anything just doesn’t want to, and those people we have no time for so move on.
Blacks and browns in America are oppressed. People may want to call that an opinion, but it’s a fact. No buts, no exceptions, no debate. We don’t have room for you if you disagree. We don’t have room for you. We don’t have time to explain to you the things you want to pretend you don’t know. And we don’t have patience to hold your hand and coddle your embarrassment. We are busy. The people we love are being killed. People we love are being targeted, oppressed, abused, and we don’t have time or patience or energy to waste on you or anything else. So just get out of the way, because if you don’t, we are going to plow right through you, anyway we can, until the people we love are safe. And that’s all there is to it.