tearing down the walls of structural racism
This article is Part 4 in a four-part series from Gerald Torrence on The Truth About Racism.
More than one hundred sixty years after the Civil War and the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, the walls of structural and institutionalized racism continue to be erected. Rather than being torn down, these walls remain through the clever manipulation of voter registration laws, and the creation of new barriers to equality through the Criminal Justice System, and the quasi criminal institutions that control the social and societal norms of acceptable behavior in this country. Despite the passage of a number of Federal laws like the Civil Rights Acts of 1864 and 1964 aimed at state and local legally sanctioned discrimination against blacks, commonly referred to as Jim Crow; the vestiges of separate but equal doctrines; and outright monuments to white supremacy still exist. Although abolished in principle by Brown vs. The Board of Education, the white power structures that run this country continue to find new and ingenious ways to maintain white supremacy and deny equal opportunity to the heirs and descendants of those who were undeniably responsible for creating much of the vast wealth of this country through slavery and free labor. Not only has America failed and refused to acknowledge this huge financial debt to the heirs and legatees of slavery, the rich and powerful white beneficiaries of the toil and sweat of generations of Negro slaves continue to reap the financial rewards of riches and vast wealth, paid for with the blood and sweat of dead Negro slaves. This insult is added to the injury of additional modern day laws and legislative enactments which further cripple the already limited prospects for African American advancement in a society still rife with the stains of centuries of unequal treatment based on race.
Recent legislative and legal attacks on black people such as the War on Drugs, has resulted in a disproportionate number of black men incarcerated which nears 65% although blacks make up less than 13% of the U.S. population. The other war on “dead beat dads,” masquerades as state and federal policy to hold fathers accountable, but in reality results in the further marginalization and incarceration of black men. The U.S. Constitution specifically forbids the incarceration of U.S. citizens for a debt, yet millions of black fathers face incarceration and loss of basic liberties such as access to drivers’ licenses and international travel for judgments for back child support, which are sometimes decades old. Furthermore, tens of thousands of black males within the workforce, are plucked out of gainful employment after being arrested sometimes on the job for child support delinquency. This type of moronic logic not only further reduces the number of gainfully employed black males but also feeds and swells the prison industrial complex, further depleting African American participation in the social structures of family and pursuit of liberty and happiness. After release from prison and jails, the African American male is almost guaranteed no job, or at best a menial one that fails to provide enough income to sustain his family or freedom, and thereby avoiding the revolving door of recidivism and perpetual poverty.
Furthermore, once incarcerated blacks often haven’t the basic resources to obtain bond, thereby insuring that they remain imprisoned for months at a time, often for petty and minor offenses. This form of legalized oppression then geometrically multiplies the incidence of fatherless homes and single black mothers raising children with no male support. Then after release from prison, and having paid their debt to society they are forever penalized and denied full citizenship by the external stigma and the loss of voting rights resulting from a criminal record. It’s a vicious and morally indefensible cycle. Surely the learned white men of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are smart enough to realize the catastrophic and genocidal effects of the legislative policies and legal enactments that they pass on Black men. Assuming arguendo that they do not, then they are too dumb to be in office. If we correctly presume the former, then it follows that their actions and intentions are consistent with the results—a legal and social system and that disparately impacts and punishes black Americans, irrespective of presumed constitutional protections and basic principles of justice and equality.
The systemic problems of structural racism and white supremacy are multi-faceted and complex, but we can’t continue to look the other way, or be content with the snail’s pace of incremental progress, and the clever but oppressive tactics of addition by subtraction. The budgets for food stamps, unemployment insurance, aid for families with dependent children, social security, reduced school lunches, public education, and a myriad of other programs to help the poor are slashed or eliminated by wealthy white men, while the Federal government spends trillions on death and destruction abroad through its’ war machine, and the top 1% of Americans get richer while everybody else continues to lose financial ground.
The values and priorities of this country are reflected by these disparities. Despite potent and consistent propagandist rhetoric that suggests things are okay, the disparate realities for black and brown people are in stark contrast. When the white man catches a cold, the black man gets the flu. We can’t continue to wait on white folk to give us equality—this they will never do willingly. We must lift our voices and our ballots to demand the only remedy for 500 years of systemic racial and financial inequality in this country.
Reparations Now! It is only through the payment of the debt owed to African Americans, representing trillions of dollars in economic benefit to this country from centuries of slave labor by our ancestors, can black people hope to attain any level of economic and legal equality in this country. Otherwise the vast ocean of distance between white wealth and Black, is a distance that will never be closed. “America was built on the backs of Blacks, and they haven’t been paid yet.”
Gerald Torrence is a lawyer, educator, writer, social and political activist, and motivational speaker living in Atlanta. You can find more insightful opinions from TheTruthTeller at the-truth-teller.com. You can follow Gerald on Twitter @tttspokentruth.