We celebrate #BlackHistoryMonth analyzing the situation from inside
🇪🇸 El siguiente artículo fue escrito originalmente en inglés por nuestro corresponsal en Nueva Jersey Denzel Jones. Puedes leer la versión en español aquí. Traducción y adaptación por Natalia Warrior y Álvaro Reneses.
🇺🇸 The following review was originally written in English by our New Jersey correspondent Denzel Jones. The Spanish version can be found here. Translation and adaptation by Natalia Warrior and Álvaro Reneses.
Even if the technology that exists today was around 100 years ago, I don’t think it would’ve been possible for anyone to read this article. In fact, I don’t think I would’ve been able to type this. Why? My family wouldn’t have been able to afford a laptop. And even we were, no one would’ve sold one to us. If they did they would have overcharged us. But should we have been able to purchase said overpriced piece of equipment and still have money for Wi-Fi, my only readers would be people who shared my complexion.
Life was extremely rough in 1917 for people of color, and only one ugly word can accurately sum up why: racism. Essentially, it’s what my country was built off. Am I proud to be an American? Yes. Am I proud of the creatives that helped design and advance my world? Many were racists, but sure. Am I proud of the culture that developed here? Parts of it. But I’ll never be proud of the steps it took to get here.
Am I proud to be an American? Yes. (…) But I’ll never be proud of the steps it took to get here.
December 6th, 1917 marked only fifty-two years since slavery was abolished. And aside from profitting off the backs of other humans, hostility and conditions weren’t too different. There were segregated schools and neighborhoods -because our highest government court signed off on it-, as well as segregated water fountains, low living wages, no voting rights, and lynchings, just to name a few hurdles.
Gruesome riots were held between blacks and whites but only two were started that year. One of which was drug out for three days in the beginning of July in east St. Louis (Illinois). Congress reported that between 40 and 200 people were killed, hundreds more injured, and 6,000 blacks were driven from their homes. The other race riot erupted just two months later in Houston (Texas) between black soldiers and white citizens. Two blacks and eleven whites were killed, but 18 black soldiers were hung as retribution. But those men weren’t the only ones killed. Another 36 African-Americans were also reported lynched that year.
It may not stand out that I’m mentioning that soldiers were black, but believe it or not, there was a time when black people weren’t allowed in the military. That was more than 200 years ago but no less, it’s odd. In the free states of the nothern U.S, black people fought alongside whites in the revolutionary war, but in the south they weren’t allowed to. It was forbidden. Slaves master feared armed slaves would take vengeance against them. But as presidents and wars came and went, the demand for black soldiers increased.
Actually, in 1917, during World War I, 370,000 blacks were in the military with more than half stationed in French war zones. Through it all, whites didn’t like the idea of giving black people weapons nor teaching them how to use them, so they were relegated to support roles and didn’t really see combat. If you really want to see what I’m saying watch the movie Red Tails. It’s an exciting action movie that shows you the struggle better than I can put into words.
What are the differences now? We’ve obviously progressed. Not just with civil rights but as a nation. I can’t confidently say that there aren’t as many racists, but most people, black and white, are more accepting. There are more black millionaires -compared to 1917, when there was just Madam C.J. Walker, the first African-American self made millionaire-, schools are no longer segregated, “affirmative action” protects everyone in the workplace from discrimination, we’ve had our first black president, and Taylor Swift can rap Kendrick Lamar songs on social media.
Now I don’t know if it’s our Constitution or the loopholes in them, but we just can’t seem to shake ourselves free from bigoted crimes that have even been caught on video. Examples given: Laquan Mc. Donald and Sandra Bland. 17 year old Laquan being shot 16 times by police officers, and Sandra Bland being abused by police during a pointless traffic stop, and found hung in her jail cell three days later.
Will racisim ever end? I don’t know. It’s hard to say. But I do know that hatred is taught; it’s not inherent. And I also know that children in some parts of the world aren’t even aware of the ongoing plight that people like me face. But like I try and explain to my friend who lives overseas, it’s not her fault she didn’t know. And now she’s enlightened.