Racism’s Acclimation: Then and Now – A Commentary on Racism’s Immortal Grip on Black Empowerment
12th August 2020
Seemingly finite, black oppression has had a full and assorted life. What began as the slave trade has since regenerated, allowing racism to maintain an extended legacy. Historically, as notions of autonomy have developed in the black community, racists have sought to preserve injustice through Trojan Horse mechanisms that grant only false autonomy. The 13th amendment was introduced and an end to slavery in the U.S. was ratified, but a ninety year stretch of legalised segregation by dint of Jim Crow Law followed. Today, 2020’s socio-political climate is not dissimilar as racial discrimination has adapted and evolved into systemic abuse and institutionally shrouded brutalities.
It may be safe to assume that few are unaware of the death of George Floyd, an American black man, at the hands of Minneapolis police in an example of needless force. Indisputably, police brutality is an issue protected by authority, an issue that is in dire need of elimination. However, there are far more nuanced yet equally prevalent forms of discrimination weighing heavily on the black communities of 2020’s developed nations.
Racist atrocities today are veiled thinly by badges of authority, discriminatory policies, and structural loopholes. This includes government-approved policy. In Ta Nehisi Coates’ ‘The Case for Reparations’, the extended legacy of racism is exposed through its presence in America’s housing policy. The income gap between black and white households was the same in 2013 as that in 1970 despite the general decline in poverty among the black community, pointing to a system favouring white elitism.
In Ireland, direct provision saw refugees forced to live liked kenneled dogs, their humanity implicitly disregarded by withstanding bias. In light of such issues and the Black Lives Matter movement, it is questionable how progressive we really are in the 21st century, and if we as a white, privileged majority realise on an equitable scale the extent of damage that has been done to the black community.
“Indisputably, police brutality is an issue protected by authority, an issue that is in dire need of elimination”
Such is the case in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where the once affluent neighbourhoods of Greenwood are now underdeveloped and under resourced. Formerly labelled the ‘Black Wall Street’, Greenwood was one of the wealthiest black communities in the U.S.; a place wherein African Americans could flourish socially, economically, and politically. However, in 1921 when a young black man named Dick Rowland was arrested for assaulting a white woman, this affluence came to an abrupt and unjust end.
A white mob called for him to be lynched, and members of Rowland’s local community, Greenwood Oklahoma, fought against this. What began with a baseless arrest quickly snowballed into a massacre, as white mobs retaliated against a community trying simply to protect its own. An attack on Greenwood began the morning of the arrest, lasting throughout the day where looting, bombing, and shooting all took place. Thousands of black residents were taken prisoner, and it is estimated that over three hundred residents of Greenwood died, 1,200 black-owned houses, schools, businesses, and more were torched, and tens of millions worth of today’s dollars in damage was amounted.
In short, a once thriving ethnic community was intersected and suppressed, its chrysalis overturned, the effects of which are still being felt today. Evidently, a debt has been unclaimed by those who remain unaccounted for times like the Tulsa Race Massacre. It is also by those who are in a vantage position to redress these crimes for a people disadvantaged. This is why a Case for Reparations has been made under the Human Rights Watch, asking for the failure to invest in and rebuild the Greenwood community by government and city officials to be amended, and relieve some of the impacts that are still felt today. ‘Ongoing racial segregation, discriminatory policies, and structural racism have left black Tulsans, particularly those living in North Tulsa, with a lower quality of life and fewer opportunities’. The document follows in a similar vein to the HR 40, a Bill calling for an investigation to be made into the institution of slavery, its fallout and recommendations to be made for appropriate remedies.
Black oppression has had a full and assorted life. To isolate historical instances of racism like the Tulsa race massacre from those of today is to undermine its unfortunate vitality. This succession of abuse has hindered the development of the black community and only continues to do so. On these grounds the Black Lives Matter movement is as applicable today as it was two hundred years ago when slavery was rife.
What the Tulsa Race Massacre shows is both the aftershock and evolution of racism. What it shows is how harmful it is to dismiss accountability, and the error in not learning from past mistakes as much of the world has done today. It results in further harm and related action and inaction. In modern society, poverty among the black community has been preserved by a thickly laid oppression, and the black lives matter movement may very well be its stripper.
Featured photo by Aaron Fulkerson