This is an invitation, not an indictment.
It’s an invitation to identify a problem so we can begin the work of dismantling the mindsets, beliefs, systems and structures that have us bound.
So here goes: What else do we need to believe racism — in all its various forms — exists?
At this point, to borrow a term from the research community, I am experiencing a version of what researchers describe as “racial battle fatigue.” I don’t know if it’s because of the internalized racism I see, the interpersonal racism, the institutional and structural racism (e.g., digital redlining, school suspension policies), or if I’m weary because people still don’t believe that it exists. Being woke is literally making me tired.
Aren’t you tired of the debate, too? Frankly, what do you lose if you acknowledge that race plays a role in the inequities many people face? Saying that racism is real doesn’t make you a racist. I know sexism exists but it doesn’t make me a sexual predator. Claiming racism doesn’t exist doesn’t make it disappear.
So let’s start here: What if we agreed there are policies and practices in organizations and systems that result in disproportionate outcomes for specific groups based on race?
There’s a lot of evidence to support this. Just last month, Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools released a study, called “Breaking the Link,” that shows a relationship between poverty and race and student outcomes. Earlier this month, a report from the N.C. Justice Center’s Education & Law Project declared that Charlotte Mecklenburg is the most racially segregated school district in North Carolina.
Still reluctant? OK. How about a national study, released by Harvard and Stanford last week, that revealed how black boys raised in the wealthiest American families and neighborhoods earn less as adults than whites with similar backgrounds. The study also showed that black boys raised at the top are roughly as likely to fall to the bottom of income earners as they are to remain wealthy, while white boys are nearly five times as likely to remain wealthy.
Even in the same neighborhoods, with parents who earn similar incomes, black boys will fare worse than whites in 99 percent of the country.
The study traced the lives of millions of children. Millions. So when people argue that if one black person “makes it” that’s proof racism doesn’t exist, it stands to reason that millions of children not “making it” should prove that it does, right?
Because even when there’s overwhelming evidence from institutions of higher learning — evidence that says racism and implicit bias are the reason for these outcomes — we still look for alternate truth.
We blame lack of education. We blame single-parenting. We conflate outcomes with poverty. We cite indolence. We blame where people live. We blame political party affiliation. We blame the liberal media. We cite a lack of faith. We fault video games, music, clothing. We blame those experiencing racism for the racism. It’s just not the case.
Then your argument must be that black people, in particular, or people of color in general are inherently inferior. Is that it? That’s the very definition of individual racism. And that’s tired, too.
Tiffany Capers is a Charlotte Observer columnist.
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