In the last several years the dominant population in America has displayed a lack of comfort with equitable solutions to racial injustice
Equality seems like a utopian dream for the dominant population in America. The majority of American society appears to believe that finding equitable solutions to racial injustice and inequality is someone else’s responsibility. Namely, those who are oppressed by the same system that supports and upholds the majority. In other words, those who benefit greatest from the systems of oppression are largely unwilling to allow others the same privileges they enjoy.
Since the George Floyd protests, it has become evident that the majority of the population will say they believe in equal rights but the reality is, they don’t want to see it in their neighborhoods. For example, the protests from the summer of 2020 certainly brought attention to the term ‘racial justice’, but discussions about actual racial justice outside the realm of police brutality went largely ignored. Making it appear as though the majority isn’t interested in real reforms that would require them to make changes in their lives. Something they’re clearly unwilling to do.
I’m often curious how many social justice advocates would be comfortable with Black or Latino or Muslim neighbors. Would they be kind neighbors or would they be kind with accompanying micro-aggressions because of preconceived notions? Implicit biases play a role in everyday interactions between the majority population and Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC). Do those same implicit biases lead the majority to take measures that would prevent the advancement of minority populations? They do. Because diversity scares them.
The majority isn’t bothered to care enough about injustice and inequality because it does not impact them in the same way, if at all. Injustice and inequality are a tax burden to them. They see government programs that help poor and underserved communities as handouts for lazy people who just don’t want to work. They don’t care to see how many families couldn’t survive without the same programs that can sometimes provide a stepping stone out of poverty.
In fact, data suggest government assistance to poor and minority communities doesn’t go far enough. But the dominant population refuses to entertain investing tax dollars into social services. Helping people escape poverty, providing quality healthcare, creating after-school programs, and opportunities allowing citizens to invest in their own communities are all good things both socially and economically. Equal opportunity and access across racial boundaries set by the builders of this nation would move us forward helping restore a sense of community.
Real unity in America will remain out of reach as long as so many in the majority continue to push and maintain the systems of oppression that create socio-economic disparities that lean heavily against BIPOC. From lower wages to unaffordable housing to lack of quality healthcare and economic opportunities, all of it impacts a large population of Americans who are disproportionately Black, Latino, and Indigenous.
Unity will come when equality and justice for all are achieved without protest.
A Long Way To Go
Police brutality earned the spotlight in 2020, if even for a short time. Conversations about systemic injustice and inequality were taken over by newly self-appointed advocates for social justice. Social media influencers and corporate America alike represented the majority population’s thinking. They pointed to police misconduct as if that alone was everything about racial injustice revolved around while drowning the messaging of advocates out.
They sold us slogans declaring their unity to save Black lives and the majority bought it because it made them feel good about themselves. It gave the appearance of tangible action being taken in what was simply good marketing. Corporations are openly profiting from the largest civil rights movement of our time and Americans shrug it off because it’s all so normal. The donations and sloganeering amount to a budget-friendly sales campaign that undoubtedly lead to huge profits.
Corporations donated millions of dollars and influencers were fundraising all over social media generating millions more. Where did it all go? Did it go to Black communities? It may sound simplistic in the grand scheme of things but maybe all that money would have been better served by giving it to the people among the hardest hit by the pandemic. Instead, most of the money is likely paying the salaries of the privileged at non-profits while millions face eviction and hunger.
Meanwhile, police misconduct is still on the rise, systemic racism and bigotry still undermine the most marginalized, and now, battles are being fought to reopen school buildings in the middle of a pandemic. Representatives of the majority population are pushing BIPOC communities that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID to end remote learning and herd their children back into structures that will incubate the virus.
As Myriam Gurba pointed out about the education system, “This pandemic has snatched the hat off the head of public education in the United States, revealing that our current system amounts to a glaring bald spot that no comb-over can fix.” She couldn’t be more right.
Coronavirus has exposed systemic inequalities behind how the government takes care of its populace. It not only allowed wealth to grow unfettered among the wealthiest Americans, but it also subsidized that growth. All while poor and marginalized communities continue to suffer from the disproportionate impact of COVID and pandemic-induced economic disruptions in their lives.
Racial injustice is far too pervasive throughout American society. Police brutality and the over-policing of minority communities are just the beginning. From healthcare disparities to lack of quality affordable housing to a growing wealth gap to a lack of economic opportunity and investment, these are problems that must be addressed. If America maintained the same energy from the George Floyd protests and took it into statehouses across the country, we can finally begin the journey to a more equitable, and therefore, more equal society.
It’s clear we haven’t even begun that journey.
Doing The Work
Aside from discussing the tyrannical over-policing of BIPOC communities, the dominant population must look to the myriad issues that affect communities of color. There is no question that we must rebuild the entire criminal justice system. However, there are many more systemic issues that operate similarly to our law enforcement apparatus that must be addressed.
Police brutality tells but one portion of the racial injustice story. There are many aspects of our society where social inequities are pervasive. Many are upheld by the everyday actions of the majority population. Some do it purposely. Others as part of the course of their lives without even realizing it because it comes naturally to them. Far too many Americans think that declaring their non-racism is enough, but they know it’s not. They are the same people who refuse or are afraid to confront the extremists in their lives allowing hate to go unchecked.
It serves no one in America to overlook the inequities of our modern society that lead to crimes of desperation, poverty, homelessness, addiction, and various health problems that are all on the rise due to the pandemic. Americans must address the discriminatory disparities in healthcare and education, in quality affordable housing, in economic opportunities, and in our everyday lives. The same contrasts in access to resources have kept BIPOC communities poor and struggling to advance in a society that laments their distress by blaming BIPOC for their own suffering.
Instead of ignoring the disparities in healthcare, workers in the industry could easily begin taking action by ensuring the health and well-being of people of color, particularly Black women. They could easily call out racist or culturally insensitive behavior. They could check-in on BIPOC more often and ensuring they’re comfortable. There are many things that can be done.
Similarly, addressing the disparities in education can be done with some minor changes to the way everyday activities are implemented. Again, being culturally sensitive goes a long way and makes life easier for all parties. We know that every child learns differently. Educators must be willing to address it instead of tossing BIPOC children into the school to prison pipeline that has become a tool for far too many teachers who call the police when BIPOC children struggle. Again, it takes action, some little, some big, but Americans have to be willing to make those changes.
Quality affordable housing is another contentious issue that the majority must address. They could watch for prejudicial behavior and language and call it out. They could take steps to prevent using discriminatory practices when dealing with BIPOC. Some of the biggest issues in housing can be addressed by realtors and lenders becoming advocates for minority communities instead of working against them. Sometimes all it takes are baby steps.
The first step in making a difference begins with addressing our own implicit biases and prejudices. If the majority population made subtle changes in the way they think, they can make huge differences in the lives of BIPOC. Americans may think that the little things won’t mean much, but they could mean the world to the person receiving them. Awareness is the key to eliminating the systemic issues that plague BIPOC in American society.
The majority must be willing to change.
In order to address the rise in hate crimes and the normalization of hate speech, we must all be aware of those around us that hold discriminatory beliefs. We must also take note of allies that will stand with us should we decide to call out prejudice in the workplace and among coworkers who function in society outside of work. In order to achieve true unity, the majority population can no longer sit on their hands allowing hateful beliefs to dictate how BIPOC are treated in society.
The sooner the majority starts taking action in their everyday lives, the sooner America can begin to heal. It’s on the dominant population to pay attention to what’s happening around them in their communities. They must get involved and speak out on some of the issues mentioned here. No matter what industry you work in, there is something to speak out on and it must be done. Pay attention to what BIPOC are telling you and don’t assume you know how to address any of these issues. Education about social inequities is crucial to prevent doing further harm.
If it is unity Americans seek, then the majority needs to listen to BIPOC and act at the direction of those who are disproportionately impacted by discriminatory policy agendas. The last thing anyone wants or needs is the majority dictating what should be acceptable to the oppressed minority.
NOTE: The omission of a specific phrase regarding a social group (the majority) was purposeful and with intent. It’s meant to reflect dog-whistle politics and to help prevent social media algorithm bias.