“A system of racism…is much more important than the individual racists.”

tito-jackson-boston-city-councilFollowing another round of bigoted tweets from Boston Bruins fans, Boston City Councilman Tito Jackson wrote a very long Facebook post arguing that it’s time to move beyond the entry-level “gee whiz, Boston says a lot of racist stuff, doesn’t it?” and start talking about how Boston makes life terrible for its Black residents all life long, from poor health outcomes to chronic unemployment to micro-aggressions on a daily basis. Here is an excerpt from the full post:

At a time when the Supreme Court strikes down affirmative action, arguing erroneously that race doesn’t matter anymore, and makes a case that we live in a post-racial society we can point to this and other high profile cases and show race has, does and still matters more than ever. In Boston, race does matter in life expectancy with the difference in life expectancy in the richest part of the Back Bay at 91.9 years and the poorest part of Roxbury at 58.9 a 33 year difference in life expectancy at birth.

I think the most important part of these conversations is that the high profile cases are just the tip of a huge iceberg, that exists in a system of racism, that is much more important than the individual racists. The relevance is not the sentiment but the reality that racism has undeniable effect on who is incarcerated, who is educated, who is nominated, who is elected, who is incarcerated, who graduates and who is effected.

As a black man, I face racism on a daily basis even though I wear a suit, have a degree and an elected office. You see, it is not my achievements, my mind that this insidious system categories but the potential threat that I am as a black man large or small. The high profile incidents pale in comparisons in frequency to the everyday elevator rides where folks grab their purses, the dehumanizing interactions with cab drivers who don’t want to bring me home to Roxbury and the times that I have been pulled over by police (not only in Boston) for no reason.

The teachable moment is simply that we cannot fix what we do not face. Racism is real. Racism is alive and well.

Boston cannot and will not live up to the true meaning of Boston Strong until we acknowledge the present issues: double the dropout rate for Black and Latino boys in schools, achievement gap, 3 fold unemployment rates, address the issues of the past i.e. busing and decide collectively on what we want our future to be for our children.

And he has a particularly strong reminder for the Millennials who want to wish away racism:

We know that the younger generation does not see themselves through the same racial lenses, but when they take their glasses off, the rose tinted virtual reality game of “We are all the same” is replaced with the black and white reality of disparity…

We must use this special, important and urgent moment in time to not walk away, silence and avoid these issues.

We can’t just say “we’re all part of the human race, mannnnn” and suddenly make everything better. Race may be a biological fiction, but race as a social construct exists, and it results in racism. We can’t change it without first accepting that the system exists (and goes well beyond just tweets with the N-word or recordings of NBA owners saying stupidly vile things).

Jackson’s post — and specifically the admonition to younger folks — calls to mind a recent article by the ever-great Ta-Nehisi Coates:

…liberals do not understand that America has never discriminated on the basis of race (which does not exist) but on the basis of racism (which most certainly does.)

Ideologies of hatred have never required coherent definitions of the hated. Islamophobes kill Sikhs as easily as they kill Muslims. Stalin needed no consistent definition of “Kulaks” to launch a war of Dekulakization. “I decide who is a Jew,” Karl Lueger said. Slaveholders decided who was a nigger and who wasn’t. The decision was arbitrary. The effects are not. Ahistorical liberals—like most Americans—still believe that race invented racism, when in fact the reverse is true. The hallmark of elegant racism is the acceptance of mainstream consensus, and exploitation of all its intellectual fault lines.

Bill Humphrey

About Bill Humphrey

Bill Humphrey is the primary host of WVUD's Arsenal For Democracy talk radio show and a local elected official.
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