'Ask Yourself'. An Essay About Structural Racism
I cannot ask why I am discriminated against because I already know the answer.
The neighborhood in which my grandparents currently reside is now *up-and-coming*. When they were teenagers, however, they would not have even had the opportunity to set foot in such a neighborhood out of fear of direct racial violence. And before you say, “Well what do they expect? That was the 50s”, ask yourself: Why was one of the last reported lynchings in that same city; the lynching of Michael Donald, in 1981? And before you ask yourself that, consider Ahmad Arbery, 2020. A man gunned down, in broad daylight, for running in his own neighborhood.
Structural violence and micro-aggressions are very real components that define the life of minorities.
If you can express an interest in academia without being told, “Wow! You are so smart for a Black girl”;
If you can speak aloud in class without being asked, “Why do you talk so ‘white’?”;
If you can laugh at a moderate volume with your friends without being called "ghetto";
If you can go to a craft store in ostensibly one of the most 'progressive' cities in America without being watched, followed, and having security monitor your behavior; then you don’t know the pain of having to intellectually, emotionally, and physically monitor your self-being to accommodate fear others have of you.
These are not random, isolated scenarios floating within the media, but real experiences felt and absorbed by me, a Black woman. Even worse, these are situations that are not merely known by many of the Black women, Black people, and other POC, but rather, completely expected.
Let me ask this… why? Why does this happen?
I cannot ask why I am discriminated against as a Black woman, because I already know the answer. I cannot ask why forgetting my name (Tyler) and calling me “Shanaynay” or any other name you equate with blackness (real or made-up), is an acceptable behavior, because I already know the answer. I cannot ask why my family of distinguished veterans who put their lives in danger for this country—your country—are still treated as second-rate citizens, because I already know the answer.
I cannot ask why I am discriminated against as a Black woman; a Black person, because I already know the answer.
But you, as a white or non-Black person, can.
There is a severe misrepresentation of what POC, especially Black women, are expected to be. The way in which we are expected to act, to react, to think, to feel are all dictated by forces of oppression meant to differentiate us as a means to stay in power; as a function of the preservation of countless centuries of socioeconomic dominance founded entirely on the basis of greed. That and nothing else.
And before you justify these notions as purely historical, please consider these questions that we as Black people have to consider everyday: How exactly does a traffic stop become a death sentence? Does the presence of law enforcement instill fear in you, even when you haven't done anything? Even when you need their help? Will the ambulance even come to my neighborhood? Where should I position myself in the store so they can visibly see I am not stealing? Will My children be able to play outside today without being harassed, manhandled, or shot? Can I go for a walk, to the park, to a restaurant, to the gas station, walk my dog, clean my front porch, nap in a common area of the University I pay tuition for, and/or sit on a bench without it posing a threat to someone somewhere?
This the present. This is my present. This is your present.
We do not nor have we ever lived in peaceful times. There is no greatness to return to because there was little to begin with. Certainly not on a national scale. So much of our society’s “progression” is so interdependent upon the degradation of Black people and other people of color that when we even bother speaking about this inequality it is met with defensiveness at best; direct aggression at worst. The demand of equality as a function of the freedom that we are entitled is an act of aggression?
I cannot ask why I, a person; a Black person, am discriminated against because I already know the answer.