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You’ve Just BeenTruth-Smacked

A Socially Speaking Commentary from Perry Redd

A Socially Speaking Commentary from Perry Redd

I was born at night, but it wasn’t last night. On the facts of race in America, I’ve heard the truth twisted and contorted. This is not a new phenomenon, but lately, this phenomenon is in an enhanced state. The only straightening salve has been the horse’s mouth.

In the past few weeks, we’ve seen incidents that illuminate the facts about race in America. One, there is no such thing as a “post-racial America.” Two, racism is both a micro and macro dynamic and three, actualized anecdotes validate the claims of racism made by people of color.

As I opined on last week, a state’s voters are free to outlaw the use of race as a factor in college admissions. The Supreme Court ruled in a blow to affirmative action that “state’s rights” are back in vogue and that ruling also exposed tensions among the justices about a continuing need for programs that address racial inequality.

The 6-2 decision upheld a voter-approved change to the Michigan Constitution that forbids the state’s public colleges to take race into account. That change was indeed up to the voters, the ruling said, over Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s impassioned dissent that accused the court of simply wanting to wish away inequality. Justice Antonin Scalia said that affirmative action protects every one, not just blacks. What’s so utterly offensive about that comment is that whites needed no protection. Whites in America were always in a position of protection and to attack everyone else.

White Americans argue against race-based preferences because they discriminate, but they support legacy-based preferences, though those are predicated upon race in a racist society. This country was founded upon racial preference; whether voting, property ownership, political representation, court testimony or personhood, white males were always protected. This ruling simply ensured that we go back to those times in history. Georgetown Law professor Sheryll Cashin’s new book, “Place Not Race” argues that legacy preferences should be scrapped.

College admissions at higher-end institutions have dropped dramatically, so you can’t tell me with a straight face that Affirmative Action wasn’t an effective race-erasing tool. Black and Latino enrollment at the University of Michigan has dropped since the ban took effect. At California’s top public universities, Blacks are a smaller share of incoming freshmen, while Latino enrollment is up slightly, but far below the state’s growth in the percentage of Latino high school graduates.

But Affirmative action is but one facet of this racial epoch. Guns play a defining role in this heightened racial onslaught. When we all got wind of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s stand against the US government over fees assessed on his cattle grazing on government land, it was framed as an “oppressive government” fight. But how many people do you know get to aim guns at government officials doing their jobs and get away with it?

Philadelphia city police dropped a bomb on a whole city block and let it burn. Five children and six adults, members of a small radical collective called MOVE, died; 61 homes in a middle-class neighborhood were destroyed. As the nation watched, Philadelphia became the city that bombed its own people—Black people. Just an affirmation of how they feel about Black people in America.

Just for good measure, Cliven Bundy felt compelled to smack you upside the head with another American truth: whites believe Black people were better off during slavery. This coming from a man with a gun in his hands. Guns, gun ownership and gun control are simply about race. White males dearly believe that guns are the final arbiter of their right to be racists.

But now comes NBA team owner Donald Sterling’s racist comments surreptitiously captured in a heated moment. Many knew he was a racist, but that didn’t matter to them, as long as they got paid and his offenses were under the rug. You’d better know that the rugs threads will grow bare and racism will show through. Too many people walk on that rug—i.e., the fabric of America—and wear that rug thin. Now, Black people want to boycott and strip Sterling of his ownership. Fine time for remedy…

I’ve heard the buzz around the recently created “MicroAggressions Project.” The project is a response to “it’s not a big deal” – “it” is a big deal. I initially saw the project as “soft soap” to the bigger issue of race, but I re-assessed my opinion after coming back to the reality that white people feel no role in the obvious institutional nature of racism and racial inequalities. For the record, the project states:

”It” is in the everyday. ”It” is shoved in your face when you are least expecting it. ”It” happens when you expect it the most. ”It” is a reminder of your difference. ”It” enforces difference. ”It” can be painful. ”It” can be laughed off. ”It” can slide unnoticed by either the speaker, listener or both. ”It” can silence people. ”It” reminds us of the ways in which we and people like us continue to be excluded and oppressed. ”It” matters because these relate to a bigger “it”: a society where social difference has systematic consequences for the “others.”

I too often hear the hyper-defensiveness of whites when confronted about the issues surrounding racism. Whether it be wealth disparity, class preference or overt acts, it is too often attributed to “a few bad apples.” Those apples came from a tree! Racism is learned behavior and action with its roots grounded in the foundation of America. If you’re not willing to confront it on the front end (say, a microaggression), it will surely turn into a Goliath—say, mass incarceration—that cannot be slayed. By that time, the truth will smack you upside the head, and with no helmet (like Affirmative Action), you won’t be able to recover.

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