The Arrogant American: Notes on the Fight for Racial Justice in the U.S.
Note: The following does not reflect SGA or any SGA affiliated organizations.
“I call on the workers, peasants, revolutionary intellectuals, enlightened elements of the bourgeoisie and other enlightened persons of all colors in the world, whether white, black, yellow or brown, to unite to oppose the racial discrimination practiced by U.S. imperialism and support the American Negroes in their struggle against racial discrimination.”- Chairman Mao Tse-tung, August 8th, 1963
I first came across this quote from Chairman Mao in October of 2019, where the world seemed drastically calmer, bigger and quieter. I remember reading articles across major world news outlets that were covering escalating protests in Hong Kong, elections in Argentina, and bodies being found in a container truck in Essex. To the arrogant American, these headlines served as nothing more than stories- things to read on the morning commute or talk about while eating lunch. To the arrogant American, these headlines served as nothing more than evidence to support the idea that the United States was not as bad as “those other countries”. I say that because I remember having conversations about those exact headlines, only to be met by a tone of amusement rather than genuine concern when discussing such serious topics.
The events over the last five months have been a wakeup call for America. What happened to George Floyd and countless others is far from an anomaly in America. We live in a country where black Americans are 3.23 times more likely to be killed by a cop than white Americans, according to Harvard University. A statistic like that is so angering that the only thing that angers me more are the memories of arrogant white Americans dismissing statistics like these as nothing more than an issue within the black community (or black culture) rather than confront the idea that this issue has been imposed on communities of color since the country’s founding. So far has the arrogant white American’s fight to retain its systemic dominance gone that I saw it unfold in this very city. Joliet’s mayor Bob O'Dekirk assaulted protestors on camera yet he remains in office.
The arrogant white American is not ignorant of the racial injustices that exist in America today. On the contrary, the arrogant white American is intelligent enough to understand the plight people of color face every day of their lives. However, they do everything they can to construe data and anecdotal evidence to convince themselves and others that the United States has moved on from its deep seeded racism and that what is being said in regards to racial injustices today, is in itself, racist. I cannot tell you how many times over the past few months I have had John Doe from the Middle of Nowhere, USA, try and convince me that the data and my experiences are wrong, as if I were crazy.
A thought that has crossed my mind constantly well before the explosion of protests and calls for system reform came to the forefront of American and world news is change on all aspects that make up our society. A difficult question that comes to mind is “What changes can we make in our own lives to combat racial injustice?” To answer this question, I reached out to Miryam Perez, president of Unidos Vamos A Alcancar, a club on campus that looks to organize Latinx students as well as other people of color to provide a safe space for minority students to discuss their experiences and learn. When asking her about what she feels her role is in the struggle for racial justice she said, “In being a part of the Latinx community, although the hope is to see solidarity or at least an understanding of what black people are going through, I instead see a lot of ignorance which forces you to reassess your own culture, or even your own family. You start to see that there is an anti-blackness that is embedded in your own culture. It takes time to struggle against it and unlearn it so you can properly support your black brothers and sisters but it must be done. That is at the top of my agenda as president of UVA. We have to re-educate ourselves and see that our hands are not clean of the anti-blackness that exists today even though we ourselves are people of color. We must learn to be self-critical if we expect any progress to be made.”
Dear readers, this is your wakeup call. To the people of color who are reading this, to paraphrase Malcolm X, no one can give you equality or justice- you must take it. There is never a time to accept an injustice, no matter who supports it or however close that injustice is to your home or your identity. You must fight to destroy the root of the injustice, by any means necessary. To the arrogant American reading this, watching what is unfolding as if it does not apply to you, I encourage you to smarten up and reflect, for there is no debate nor civil discourse when it comes to human rights. We must change in accordance to our history or we are doomed to repeat it.