I’ll demonstrate my opinion through a simple analogy:
You break your leg. The bone has broken through the skin. You are bleeding both internally and externally. The bleeding is the symptom. The broken leg is the problem.
If you do nothing about the bleeding, it will kill you… just like racism.
However, just because the external bleeding has been stopped, you are not out of the woods yet. You’re also bleeding internally,though not obvious or observable, if left untreated, it will create additional problems and eventually kill you… just like institutional or passive racism.
My opinion is, while blood loss is a problem, it is always a symptom of another, more serious, injury. Broken bone, stabbing, gunshot wound, etc…
To me, racism is a form of oppression that is a major symptom of the problem of financial exploitation by the rich and wealthy.
While the kidnap and enslavement of Africans and later African Americans was a travesty, it was not because the rich slavers hated blacks for the color of their skin, it is because they refused to pay a livable wage to their workers, so they used slavery to obtain free labor. The rich slavers then adopted racist justifications, in an effort excuse and hide their oppression. The wealthy dehumanized their slaves to justify their abuse. There are too many gruesome examples in American history, so I will not present them here.
As horrific as the history of Slavery in the United States was, African Americans were not the first, the last, or the only group to be financially exploited through slavery and a campaign of dehumanization. The wealthy have exploited different groups throughout the history of the world. Ancient Romans were slavers of all races and creeds.
Financial exploitation by the rich still exists today.
Walmart employees file approximately 5000 lawsuits, per year, protesting poor working conditions, while advocating a livable wage. Corporations, business interests, and our government advocates and implements financial exploitation of detainees in our prison systems. Adding insult to injury, prisons were constructed on the top of slave plantations. Debtors prisons are alive and well.
Corporate lobbyists are advocating laws across the country to criminalize more behaviors, so they can take advantage of cheap labor and legally violate equal opportunity labor laws.
Prisoners are being trained and working in jobs that were once controlled by labor union and vocational apprenticeship programs. Once these prisoners are trained, they are used as cheap labor, often working for pennies an hour to create products that corporations use to fill government contracts. Prisoners have even started receiving tech training. Will the tech industry be the next job sector to financially exploit prisoners?
Once a citizen is imprisoned for felony, they are often denied voting rights, denying these financially exploited Americans their ability to use their firsthand experience to change the system and reform it through the power of their vote. In fact, when prisoners protested this under the Voting Rights Act, the Federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals stated in 2010:
Reviewing the reports of Plaintiffs’ expert witnesses, the district court found that Plaintiffs had presented “compelling evidence of racial discrimination and bias in Washington’s criminal justice system.”…Moreover, “contrary to Defendants’ assertion that these reports are based solely on statistics and are thus insufficient evidence for a VRA claim,” the district court found that “these experts’ conclusions, drawn from the available statistical data, are admissible, relevant, and persuasive.” The district court also found it significant that Defendants had not “presented any evidence to refute Plaintiffs’ experts’ conclusions.” Thus, the district court concluded that it was “compelled to find that there is discrimination in Washington’s criminal justice system on account of race,” and that such discrimination “clearly hinders the ability of racial minorities to participate effectively in the political process, as disenfranchisement is automatic,”…
Racial discrimination was clearly, without refute, demonstrated by federal prisoners and the Court agreed that racial discrimination exists in the justice system. Yet the Court ruled against allowing prisoners voting rights, allowing their exploitation to continue.
So how do we meaningfully confront this problem?
You might be black, white, or brown, or some shade in between, and that makes you different… not better. We are all Americans… diverse in background… united in cause.
I believe we need to avoid clinging to racial and ethnic identities, to the exclusion of others. If we, as citizens, dismiss others based on our differences, we continue to do our oppressors job for them, by oppressing each other, thus remaining divided.
I believe the only valid long-term solution is to vote against those who support financial exploitation. Then they cannot appoint their oppressor allies to positions of power or create laws that oppress further. These oppressors could be Democrat, Republican, Independent… it does not matter. Vote in every election… Mayoral races, Council Races, School Board Referendums… every chance you find… You have power through your vote.
Teach the value of voting and talk about the issues. Educate and challenge each other.
More importantly, find out more about the people standing for election and what proposed laws actually say. Don’t blindly trust news outlets without attempting to verify the facts for yourself. Only through exercising our right and power to vote, will we start to fix the problem of financial exploitation in the United States.
Remembering your broken leg from the analogy above, this will take time to fix and heal, through care and constant tending.
Once healed, you will always remember the injury, the symptoms and the pain it caused. When it gets cold, your once-broken leg will ache… but never let it prevent you from standing strong.
Bob Lewis is a married father of four, grandfather of two (so far…), who lives in Washington State. His goal is to inspire his readers to consider my words and hopefully address these issues individually through civic and public engagement. You can reach and find more of Bob’s writings at One Citizen’s Opinion