On September 15, 1963, the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama was bombed by white supremacist terrorists. Four black girls, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robinson and Carol Denise McNair were killed that day more than 50 years ago. The bombing was a testament to the vile oppression of white racism taken to extreme and violent levels.
Fast forward to June 17, 2015. A young white male gunman named Dylan Roof opens fire in the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Nine people were killed, most of them women, all of them black. Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, Dewayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Myra Thompson and South Carolina senator Clementa C. Pinckney were all tragically murdered.
Between these two events, and many others that have occurred in and around the timeline, it’s clear as day that racism, when taken to the limit, can and will produce tragic consequences. Innocent victims are caught in the crosshairs of angry white people willing to do whatever it takes to maintain the status quo of white supremacy. The rash of police murders of unarmed black men and women are more signs that racism is still strong and lethal.
Now, there are those who believe that racism occurs through isolated incidents where individuals have problems with others simply because of the way they look. However, that’s the elementary school’s definition of what it’s all about. Racism is also institutionalized and systematic affecting numerous lives. It doesn’t have to carry a gun to be dangerous. It doesn’t have to wave confederate flags around. It doesn’t even have to wear a badge. But when it does, someone, a person or group of people of color must pay for being…themselves.
Yet, America’s denial is strong. It constantly denies that it – it meaning ‘white mainstream America’ – has a problem with racism. Instead, some will blame the victim, proclaiming them as the true racists while the dominant group is seen as actual victims. Some will claim that racism ended when the 1960s ended as if there was an expiration date. Some will widdle down racism into acts of angry individuals while rejecting the truth that it’s an institutional game of oppression where white supremacy always win. Whatever the case, racism is never seen as a major problem.
But America, here’s the reality. Racism is what you are. And you are racism. You were born out of racism. And you will likely die from racism unless you see that you are in terminal condition.
Racism is like a serious wound or a terrible disease that rots you from the inside out. Instead of being aware of this, this nation chooses, over and over again, to ignore it. Why? Because the mainstream is benefiting too much to have it cured. It wants racism to continue. It wants the status quo to remain. The ideal of white supremacy is somehow too valuable to let go, and America is seemingly not giving up without a fight. And it is indeed fighting right now.
This is why the Civil Rights Movement was born. This is why Black Lives Matter was born. It is not to undermine white people, but to promote and fight for equality and fairness. It is to dismantle the systems of white supremacy and white privilege that has entrapped all of us. In order to take this system apart, the problem must be fully acknowledged, and it already has by many activists. The rest of the nation may be tight-lipped on the subject of racism. But the voices demanding a change can not and will not be silenced.