Racism is Not a Game

I do not get to pick and choose the color of my skin, where I grew up, or how I grew up, much like I cannot control or change anyone else’s experiences. However, some things are inherently and systemically racist, and I am not “playing the race card” when I bring up historical context and how people have been affected by it.
America was built on the backs of slaves and laws making people of African descent as a lower than the average white person. America has better jobs and better living situations than those of African American descent. America is not the melting pot it claims to be. Neighborhoods seem to be segregated, and if it is a black/African American community, the property value automatically goes down, which is absurd, considering two houses could be exactly alike, but one is worth more because of the neighborhood it is in.
Therefore when I say that something is racist, I am NOT playing the race card. Racism in the United States is systemic. Today’s events definitely relate to things that have happened in the past. For example, white people have always dominated life in the United States. When slavery ended, sharecropping developed to keep the situation where white people were in power. White people have dominated (and still dominate) most industries.
Furthermore, black people have always been a sort of “lesser than.” I already alluded to slavery, in which black people were seen as property and only 3/5ths of a person. Even when the Civil War was over and the 13th amendment passed, black people were still not seen as equal. There was no equal treatment between the races, despite the “separate but equal” ruling in Plessy v Ferguson. If a black person was accused of a crime, there was no “jury of their peers;” it tended to be white people, and their verdict was almost always guilty. For example, George Stinney Jr was a boy in North Carolina, who at 14, became the youngest person in the electric chair because he was forced to plead guilty to killing two white girls.
Racism is also couched in language, but some things are apparent and clear. For example The Boston Herald, a newspaper in Boston, published (and then later apologized for) Jerry Holbert’s cartoon of President Obama in the bathroom brushing his teeth with the White House intruder in his bathtub, asking Obama if he had tried “the new watermelon flavored toothpaste.” In this cartoon, President Obama’s features start to resemble those of a monkey. He has larger ears and his eyes are widened at the mention of watermelon. Not only is this a problem, but the idea of black people liking watermelon also traces back to slavery (and Africa in general). For those that do not know, black people liking watermelon is a stereotype against black people that started spreading after slavery (which is why it was wrong for thee newspaper to print).
Because of perpetrated stereotypes and multiple acts of violence, I am not pulling the race card when I address issues that are racist. If I am uncomfortable, I point it out. If something is racist (or could be considered racist), address it. People may or may not change their minds, but it is not a game to be played. If it is a game, a lot of lives have been affected by this “game.”

Published by

Ashley Elizabeth

Ashley Elizabeth (she/her) is a writing consultant, teacher, and poet. Her works have appeared in SWWIM, Rigorous, Mineral Lit, Sante Fe Writer Project, Knights Library, and Kahini Quarterly, among others. In June 2020, Ashley was the featured writer at Drunk Monkeys. She is also the author of the chapbook, you were supposed to be a friend (Nightingale & Sparrow). When Ashley isn't serving as assistant editor at Sundress Publications or working as a member of the Estuary Collective, she habitually posts on Twitter and Instagram (@ae_thepoet). She lives in Baltimore, MD with her partner and their cat. Once COVID is over, they plan on going on a foodie road trip.

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