Estimated reading time: 12 minute(s)
by Nzinga Muhammad
When people say that “slavery was in the past”, they don’t want to deal with the aftermaths of it. They put the struggles of black people in an imaginary world in order to silence us about our issues. They brush off our experiences as unimportant, and add on a list of arguments that are evidently believed and repeated. I’ve decided to debunk them.
Here’s part two:
“Slavery was a good thing. It helped America become the nation that it is today.”
It has to be understood that America became a great nation at the expense of human lives. That can never be a good thing; not to mention that oppression is still a thing in the 21st century. The glorification of slavery happens often, and usually by those who might have had ancestors who owned black people. There has been justifications for slavery while completely ignoring the nightmarish facts about it: The separation of families, the rape of women and men, the torture, lynching, killing and absolute terrorism of black people.
“There is no racism anymore. I don’t even see color, because we are all human.”
The evidence that racism still exists is overwhelming, and shouldn’t require a “source” from a major university to see if it still happens. I think it is easy to forget racism exists when it isn’t as obvious. There aren’t as many “Colored Only” signs anymore, and not every black person is picking cotton right now. But racism did not go away with the Emancipation Proclamation. Racism has systemic, institutional, structural, and even ideological forms that give privilege to some and oppresses others based on race. Racism is global, but from an American standpoint, racism is the very foundation that this current system was founded on. How does that very structure of this nation disappear miraculously because of a piece of paper?
As for being “colorblind”, it is a harmful statement to make. We actually don’t live in a “colorblind” society and we shouldn’t. To willfully not see color, is to willfully not see oppression that people of color face. It also places people of color in a box of sameness, and erases unique identities simply because the privileged don’t have to worry about their race/ethnicity. Being “colorblind” dismisses and devalues real experiences that people of color have with racism, in the name of “we are all human”.
How privileged you must be to choose not to see color, while institutions and systems won’t, simply because it won’t impact your life. Seeing black isn’t a bad thing, devaluing blackness is.
“If white people can’t wear cornrows because that’s appropriating black culture, then black people can’t speak English or wear jeans because that’s appropriating white culture.”
While black hairstyles such as cornrows have historical and cultural importance in black communities, jeans have no significance in “white culture”. Jeans are a universal item created for everyone. Speaking English for black people (especially Black Americans) is an example of assimilation, not appropriation. When you appropriate a culture, you are taking things from a culture that might have meaning to them, yet often times they are ridiculed in a dominant society for being who they are. Cultural appropriation often leads to harmful stereotypes about a group. Cornrows have been deemed “ghetto” on black people, and many have been punished at work or school for them, but white celebrities wear them and make it “high fashion”. Yes, that’s racist.
Assimilation is when people have to resemble dominant society in order to fit into the customs of that land/society. English was actually forced upon black people when being taken to the shores of America. Many Black Americans don’t know our original languages fluently. Assimilation. Not appropriation.
“White privilege’ was made up by black people to shame white people. What if a white person is poor? They are not privileged.”
The term “white privilege” was coined by Peggy McIntosh: a white woman. A white person who is underprivileged economically, still has the advantages of being white. Privilege comes in many forms, and everyone has them in some form in society. However, racially, white people have privilege over people of color on a plethora of levels.
(Nzinga Muhammad is based in Rochester, NY. Follow her on Twitter @QueenNzinga13)