I was asked to reflect on what my race can do to improve for a class in my Master’s program. This is what I submitted, the last sentence seems so appropriate right now.
This topic, as the colloquial parlance goes, requires a lot of unpacking. I was born and raised on the twin island republic of Trinidad & Tobago and immigrated to the United States as an adult. This gives me a unique perspective as someone raised in a country where the majority of people looked like me, including political and industrial leaders. The other major difference in being raised in a country run by people of color is a difference in historical perspective. While US history tends to whitewash atrocities against people of color, the Caribbean perspective of our neighbor to the North is somewhat less rosy, particularly when it comes to race relations.
As a person of color one of the options available is open rebellion. But this has never really been successful, from superior firepower to biological warfare, the native people of the Americas paid the price. There are tribes who only exist in historical records, while many surviving US tribe were forcefully removed from their lands and corralled in reservations. While the most successful slave revolt took place in Haiti between ongoing indebtedness to France and US intervention in internal politics at the turn of the 20th century, the country remains in shambles.
Another option available to people of color is isolation. There have been a number of successful black communities in the US and almost of all of them have ended with death and destruction and the hands of their white neighbors. One of the largest and most successful black communities in the US was the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, OK, know as Black Wall Street. This community was destroyed and many of its citizens killed during the Tulsa Race Massacre which included firebombs dropped from aircraft by Tulsa authorities.
Finally there is the option of integration. As much as people of color have tried and succeeded in the US in the last 50 years, the propensity for discrimination in everything from hiring practices to housing has been well documented. While there have been successes, anything outside the fields of entertainment and sporting endeavors has been subject to excessive scrutiny.
Additionally for people of color to succeed they have to work much harder and present a much cleaner image than their white counterparts.
People of color in the US have tried every that has been asked of them but still continue to face systemic racism. This system perpetuates micro-aggressions on the low end, to redlining, excessive incarceration, and unnecessary police violence that leads to death. At this point I am unsure what else is left for us to do.
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