Advice From A Black Man To His Grandchildren

As children born in America, you are not citizens of the United States of America. Do not think that you are. Nonetheless, you have a special status bestowed upon you by virtue of your parents and my parents. This special status is exclusively a function of your physical traits. Nothing more and nothing less. You are a black African-American, which makes you a resident [as opposed to a citizen] of the United States of White America — for you, there is no United States of America.

There is an unofficial but socially constructed caste system in this country that shoves you, and others who have physical characteristics similar to yours, at the dirt end of the totem pole. White males sit atop this pole. Most non-black people of this country will stridently disagree with what I just stated; research by their own institutions, however, confirm my statements and disproves their objections.

Given these facts, I offer the following grandfatherly advice about how to navigate this Neo-Jim Crow system:

First of all, never forget that there are some non-black people who genuinely respect others irrespective of their skin color or sub-culture status. These folks are not racists; they are authentic in judging everyone by their character and not by the color of their skin. When you stumble across such a human being, love him, love her, tightly for they are uncommon.

There is another group, however, that is equally and overtly authentic. These humans are self-proclaimed racists. They do not hide behind a façade of acceptance of black African-Americans. They hate you and deem you to be intellectually and morally beneath them. Avoid these people as much as you can. They are feculent, foul and stupid.

Between these two extremes lies the majority of non-black people. Members of this group wear a mask behind which lies their authentic selves. They will smile, act courteously and proclaim they are “color blind” or “race neutral.” Their contempt for you is hidden until circumstances make it advantageous to reveal it. Their civil behavior with regard to you is a cloak that they wear most of the time. Underneath, however, these people fear you, disdain you, think you inferior as they behave as if they do not. Again, you will see the genuine person when it serves them best to remove the cloak — often at your expense or loss.

Translated, this is your reality and the reality of your future children: White skin privilege will always trump black skin misfortune because that is what the system is designed to do.

Since, as a black African-American, you have practically no institutional power, any prejudice or bias you have will have a comparatively minimal effect. Stated otherwise my children, White people operate almost all government, economic/commercial, and social institutions in this country. They have the power to hire, fire, give, take, create, destroy, grant, deny, etcetera, at a level we have never had or are likely to have in the foreseeable future. In short, Whites can inflict far more damage or bestow many more rewards, as they see fit, on us than we can on them. And any resources they grant you will be because they realize you still cannot hurt them.

For example, academic and government research data reveal the following:

You are significantly more likely to be turned down for a loan than a White person with the same financial profile.

You are significantly more likely to be charged a higher interest rate for the same loan as would a White person — even if your financial profile is the same as or better than his.

Even though White police officers are significantly more likely to be killed by a White person than by a Black person, White police officers are significantly more likely to kill a Black person than kill a White person.

You are significantly more likely to be arrested than would a White person for the same offense.

Or, if you are tried for the same crime as a White person, you are significantly more likely to be convicted even if your criminal history is the same as his.

Then, if you and a White person are convicted of the same crime and you two have the same criminal history, you are significantly more likely to receive a longer sentence than the White person.

Given the same education and experience [or better] you are significantly less likely to be hired or promoted for the same job as a White person.

And I could go on and on.

This is not my opinion. Anyone with the IQ just above stupid cannot mount a cogent argument to dispute the above findings. As a Black person, we are stunted at every turn with respect to housing, employment, healthcare and justice. The point is, you will be penalized at almost every juncture for having black skin whereas your counterparts will be privileged for having non-black skin. That is your reality. Your lives as Black people are represented by the equation:

Social Standing divided by Melanin = PRIVILEGE. Recalling your math in elementary school, the lower the amount of melanin, the greater the privilege.

To some extent, however, if you are a famous singer, athlete, actor, or the like, then you are not perceived to be as threatening because you would be entertaining the non-black folks. Many will flock to you with shallow adoration but in the absence of your fame, you would be just another black person deserving of no more respect than necessary not to reveal their racism.

Another point to remember is that some White people will say they do not see race; they say they are colorblind. Do not be misled for I am raising you to be smarter than that. So-called “color blindness” results in their being less sensitive to issues defining race. They become willfully clueless to the nuances and trappings of white skin privilege and black skin misfortune. An authentic non-racist sees race, acknowledges and embraces it as simply being superficially, but not substantively different. They see color, but do not judge you by it.

Others will declare that they cannot be blamed for what others in the past did. They will assert that they did not own slaves or lynch Black people or deny them entry into certain establishments. They will state that that was in the past and that they have nothing to do with that. Such a belief ignores a salient fact: They did not wield the whip that beat the slaves or provided the rope that lynched the black man and they did not deny a job to a qualified or more qualified Black person BUT they enjoy the benefits that accrue to them for what their ancestors or other White people did to Black people. They may not have stolen the fruit but they are enjoying the pie made with that fruit while we still stand in the back waiting for crumbs.

Then there are some who would, out of discomfort or irritation, exhort us black African-Americans to “get over it”, or they accuse us of always playing the “race card”. We will get over it when they stop doing it and we will stop playing the race card when they stop dealing it. In this country, White people invented the race card and they play it each time they exert their privilege at the expense of a Black person.

Furthermore, many non-black persons will point to “black-on-black crime”, [as if White people do not commit crimes against other White people] poor academic performance, and the plight of the black family as evidence that we are not worthy of a place in their sun. They complain that we “should take responsibility”. On the surface, that argument appears sound, but it is specious. First of all, many blacks do “take responsibility” but they still receive treatment as second or tertiary class people. The instances are plentiful where highly educated, well-spoken and well-mannered blacks are still subject to the same treatments as blacks who are not as fortunate. Secondly, given the centuries of horrific slavery, oppressive Jim-Crow laws, and the current systematic racism that is sanctioned by all the major institutions, it is a wonder that blacks have even moved from the lowest point of the dirt end of the totem pole to the highest point on the dirt end of the totem pole. Any group of people who have been treated the way we have for a sustained period of centuries would be right where we are.

Heed my words and pass them on to your future grandchildren for they will serve them well long after I have left this planet. Keep fighting for fairness. Do not pity yourselves but do not be delusional. Do not lie down but understand that you are standing in a room designed to keep you from standing erect. Power and privilege will never be willingly shared. They will never be given freely. The only way we will be ‘judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin’ is when society determines that the social construct of race is no longer utilitarian. Until then, as long as white skin privilege is protected, the battle against racism must continue.

Published in: on November 27, 2014 at 8:00 PM  Leave a Comment  
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