Photo from emaze.com
By Nicolas Nogueira
I have found myself becoming more and more fascinated and mortified at American politics.
In 1993, the year I was born, Rodney King testified in trial against the four police officers that beat him, a van parked below the north tower of the World Trade Center exploded, President Bill Clinton ordered a cruise missile attack on Iraqi intelligence headquarters in the Al-Mansur District of Baghdad and Colin Ferguson killed six and injured 29 on the LIRR with his 9mm Ruger.
People expect progress in our social and political strata to just happen over a period of time. Two years ago, police officers outright murdered Eric Garner. Almost 4 months ago, terrorists went on a rampage in a 19-ton cargo truck in Nice, France and killed 86 people. Today, while war is raging in the middle east, the U.S. and Iraq find themselves working together to eliminate the rogue sovereignty, ISIS.
The old saying, “nothing is new under the sun,” is true. However, 23 years later, we have made progress in this country. We had the first black president, and the possibility of the first female president does not seem far away. The Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage. Cannabis is gradually becoming legalized around the country. It is hard to believe that almost 60 years ago, we were told reefer made us eat people and black people were not equal under the law.
Some things change, and some things do not. A man I once saw giving a little boy directions to the bathroom in a children’s film almost two decades ago is now the President-elect. That same man wants to build a massive wall between Mexico and the US.
In a single day of adventuring in New York City, you can witness the outright consumption of cannabis with no consequence, a police officer at his post in Penn Station armed with his automatic assault rifle, a street peddler hawking movie scripts and a white man unapologetically calling a black man a “nigger.”
It is like being in a constant state of culture shock in the city. You get a taste of the melting pot that is one of the most diverse places in the world. It can be a wondrous, beautiful thing. But it can also open your eyes to those events you thought ended a long time ago.
Black Lives Matter spawned from the outrage of the black community. “I can’t breathe,” they cry in rallies. And indeed, there is a disproportionate amount of negative attention those with authority has directed to people of color. This network has in and of itself been the cause of controversy. Apologists say that there is an implied “too” at the end of the statement, “Black Lives Matter Too.” They want those who ignore the plight of blacks in the US to open their eyes to the racism that still runs rampant.
The movement is a result of the boiled over emotions of an embattling race. They are angry, for good reason. However, there has been a recurring narrative that is seeded by that anger. There is this idea that people of color cannot be racist. That the white man is the arbitrator of discrimination, bigotry and racial intolerance.
I personally fear that only those with authority can cause and manipulate the terrors of racism.
Let me propose a thought experiment:
Three black men approach a white man. He is wearing an “All Lives Matter” patch, often viewed as a derogatory statement to the Black Lives Matter movement. The three men felt he was a racist because they believed he was downplaying the importance of their civil rights and liberties. They call him a white devil, claim that all white people are the same and further harass him by pushing him to the floor. They start walking away shortly after, shouting other obscenities as they leave earshot.
The argument that racism only comes from those in a position of power is technically true. Racism does have an element of power due to the nature of its definition. Regardless, we cannot forget that part of the definition of racism also involves a belief in superiority. Those beliefs can cause any kind of prejudice, discrimination or antagonism against someone of a different race. Where those beliefs stem from are irrelevant to the issue at hand.
In that example, the three men were inherently in a position of power over the one. They had the numbers and could easily overpower him in an altercation. Would this situation not be considered racist? Does that not mean that racism can come from anyone regardless of skin color?
Groups like BLM come from a good place. They want meaningful change, equal rights and liberties. The problem lies in how they define these words they are fighting against. If a person of color believes they cannot be racist, we find ourselves running on a slippery slope. We segregate ourselves and create all inclusive spaces rather than cooperate with everyone in establishing unity.
Is this not the kind of ideology Martin Luther King Jr. had fought against? To bring an end to the division of man? To end the laws that prevented blacks from participating equally in social and political spectrums? From truly living as free men and women?
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