By Candace Brown, legal studies major
One may ask why people are so angry about the events in Ferguson. They remark, “The black boy was dangerous!”, “He robbed the convenience store!”, “He’s a thug!”, “He deserved it!” People who are unaware of the institutionalized racism in St. Louis commonly make these comments. Their privileged thinking makes it difficult for them to analyze the events in Ferguson and all across America.
In America, institutionalized racism is the unequal distribution of resources within a system that privileges whites and puts blacks and other minorities at a disadvantage. The system was never created to distribute those resources fairly and equally. It was designed in a particular and systematic way so the means and resources would only be extended to the ones the system was created for:the whites. It was meant to last perpetually, and so far it has been successful. Structural racism still exists within our very city and community.
What’s been occurring in Ferguson seems new to a lot of people. People may be wondering why blacks are behaving in such a way, what they are fighting for or why they are even upset. But after constantly seeing friends, family and neighbors mistreated and misused by the government, the very system created to protect us, it is normal for us to be upset. Heck, it’s normal to be livid.
But wait, this system wasn’t meant to protect us. This system was not built for us. Racial ideologies shaped this nation, shaped the institutions and shaped its structures. Since the beginning of urban unrest within our city, blacks were not given the same opportunity and resources.
This system wasn’t meant to protect us. This system was not built for us.
To understand a bit of why blacks are upset, one first has to understand the history of urban unrest in our community. Since the 1950s, blacks have not had equal access to the same resources as whites. As blacks returned home from the war, they were moved to decrepit, inner-city slums, while whites moved to homogenous, exurban areas. There were little-to-no resources in the black neighborhoods, as whites often took their wealth and businesses with them. Restrictive covenants were provisioned on nice pieces of real estate, demanding owners not to sell to whites. Blacks had no place to go but to the slums, where businesses fled at their arrival.
Race and ethnicity determined the value of property housing. This is evident today, as blacks aren’t given the same opportunity as whites. We are viewed as high risk, and given subprime loans and unfair housing opportunity. As a result, our neighborhoods suffer, and we’ve had enough.
Constantly, we are seeing our black men and women fall at the hands of racism and injustice. Too often are we not given the same resources and opportunities as our white counterparts. Too often are we targeted by the police. Too often are we stereotyped. Too often do we hear racial slurs directed at us by others. Too often are we represented as “disorderly,” “ghetto,” “unruly” blacks, “deserving” of our mistreatment and abuse. Blacks have had enough of the mistreatment, the misuse and being judged by the color of our skin.
Black lives matter. If you don’t know how it feels to be judged solely based on the color of your skin; to fear for the lives of your brothers and nephews and cousins; to see the targets police enforcement and the courts paint on their backs; to be blamed for your struggles; to be categorized, stigmatized and misrepresented; to fear cops; to fear bringing your kids into the world because they will face social rejection; to not have your views and opinions matter; to be viewed as dumb and rejected because of the color of your skin; to be compared to whites; to not be valued; to know the history of your ancestors, beaten, slaved, killed, lynched, tortured, and live in present day where the same things are still happening to your people, personified through the institutions and make-up of this country; to be systematically targeted and eliminated — all because of the color of your skin: please do not trivialize black lives and our reasons for saying no to injustice!