‘Race’ still matters….right?

By Nargis


I recently saw the documentary “Slavery by Another Name” based on a book by Douglas A. Blackmon. And it exposed a period of time after slavery when petty laws were created in order to target African Americans imprison them with felony charges and rented out as manual labor to businesses. I immediately saw the early on conspiracy to trap Black men in order to keep from the greater society. I generally have an issue with White people writing on Black topics but this was a very though provoking film. What it caused me to of think was how the more time that passes between when Blacks were enslaved and the reality that exists for Blacks today the farther away we want to get away from certain types of language.

I was raised in a household that promoted Black pride and knowledge of the history our family came from. Black authors and book topics filled my childhood library. As I have entered the education field and interact with the new generations coming up I realize that pride is not what they are receiving in their households. As generations are born further away from the time when Blacks were enslaved I recognize a disconnect with the youth and finding a purpose in their lives. I expressed to a professor once that the reason kids no longer rally and protest is because they do not feel a connection to struggles from the past. They have not witnessed blatant prejudice and racism, nor do they have the opportunities to hear stories of Jim Crow South and the Great Depression from their elders because they are not being brought up with actual elders who lived a separate generation from them.

The ‘White’ mans system of oppression has been transferred to our ‘in’justice system. Race however cannot be attached to this new system because law officers come in all shades of ethnicity. Just as slave owners saw they could use other slaves as overseers and other prisoners to commit violent acts on suspects arrested on trumped up charges. Law enforcement saw the necessity, the diabolical brilliance of simply changing the face of the crimes and injustice committed upon Blacks and their communities.

I get disheartened when I meet children who do not want to have a connection to Black history and have little knowledge of a world larger that the 5 block radius of their neighborhood. I am not a world traveler or a jet setter but I have a desire to learn and to understand and discover connections with history to the present. I recognize I come from a biased place but I feel that if we develop an appreciation and understanding for history then we can make strides to prevent it from repeating. There are days when I can observe t he world around me and point out modern day practices of slavery working overtime. Watching the documentary it showed documentation that our Black men have been targeted for imprisonment since the 1860’s after the Civil War. Misdemeanor offenses were changed to felony charges and Black males as young as 16 were imprisoned. I would think by now in 2012 that our community will have more insight into preventing long term imprisonment for male figures from the Black community.

I guess my question is, should race and race relations still be something that we need to discuss and resurrect to work towards undoing these centuries of abuse. Or does the center of dialogue need to continue in its natural shift to discuss other facts that are utilized in systems of oppression such as class status? Because if that is to be the case we still need to observe the historical trends. The last time people in positions of power found themselves on similar economic standings as the ‘have nots’ thats when the Jim Crow laws and the Klan emerged. So as this new generation is emerging, educated , but still unemployed how will they respond to the necessity in seeking government assistance, unemployment, or food stamps? Who will join together to address the glaring issues of inequality to make society a better place and who will step on the backs of others and hold then in the place they ‘belong’ for individual profit and success?

    • Darren J
    • June 25th, 2012

    “The last time people in positions of power found themselves on similar economic standings as the ‘have nots’ thats when the Jim Crow laws and the Klan emerged.” That’s deep! I’ve never thought of it that way before.

    To answer the question, I do think race relations is something that still needs to be discussed among this generation and passed along to the next. I think it’s important Black folks understand modern day discrimantory actions and know the history of slavery, the Jim Crow era and the like. But I also think it’s important that we are not so rooted in Black pride that we shut ourselves off from the rest of the world. Outside of major cities, the majority of areas in this country are either Rural, or mostly void of Black people and other cutures. When we reach success, at some point, we’re going to have to learn how to deal with and communicate with the White majority.

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