I never thought this had to be explained, because I assumed that everyone would have some kind of basic understanding about what happens. Of course, this isn’t the first time my naïveté has led me to hope for the best. Optimistically, that would be my thought, that people would have a general understanding of what happens to the black community, not just in America, but throughout the world. Unfortunately, despite the stories we continue to see, I still have people question why I get so passionate and upset when I see more instances of police brutality and instances of racism. This is nothing new by far, and the origins date as far back as before slavery.
Whiteness as a concept has become so integral to the way we see things in life that we don’t realize just how much we hurt and alienate the Other in the process. We allow ourselves to either accept the information that we receive from our basic education, or we challenge that information and understand that we shouldn’t take everything we learn as solid. Most people accept the information they receive in schools, mostly because they never doubt that the information they get is wrong. We learn our history by Eurocentric standards, which means that history has been taught from the viewpoint of whiteness. In this process, so much information is warped and left out, and we as a people are left struggling to figure out why history continues to repeat itself.
Black people and other minorities were never meant to be free. Speaking this truth, the pain hits you over and over, but while it’s a hard truth to face, people need to understand that it is deeply embedded into our lives. Once we move on from that, we can go on to gain a better understanding of how these people of color were viewed by those who fit into the sphere of whiteness. In the times of slavery, not only were slaves viewed as free labor, they were considered equal, if that, to cattle. What people get in the mainstream is the romanticization of slavery, which leads to people validating the status of the slave as a whole. In actuality, American chattel slavery was not like any other forms of slavery in that it took away all rights from the slaves, and it created a social vacuum which made it impossible for slaves to rise against the system of white supremacy. Slavery replaced indentured servitude because indentured servitude had only been a short term solution. Slavery, though not formally put in place, was designed to be a more permanent structure. Slavery was the way the colonialists found to keep their production up without having to do the work themselves.
As slavery became more organized, slaves became more and more valuable; not as people, but as property. Prices of slaves varied depending on what their body build was, whether they were within child-rearing years, and so on. Men were valued more than women because men could pull more of the literal weight of some of the jobs. Women were used for cotton-picking, child-rearing, housekeeping, and making clothes. Slaves of all sorts were killed in the name of early “science,” as some masters used them to practice medical experiments that continued on even after slavery. Because no slave owner wanted to lose their property, as it affected their productivity, the established slave patrols. In addition, there were more formal laws written into the government of the country, such as the Fugitive Slave Act, that enforced the capture of slaves. Rewards also icentivized citizens to take matters into their own hands in capture slaves. Property. They took it upon themselves to capture, return, and protect property. And not just any old property. The property of white men. This is the basis of the police system that we know today.
There are other forms of policing in America. But this is the foundation for the mainstream police system that we rely on today. Former slaves evolved into today’s prisoners, for even the smallest and most ridiculous charges that have brought against these people. In addition, these minorities have been unfairly and disproportionately been extorted for money that has been used to fund local governments throughout the country. This practice has gone on literally at the expense of millions of minority citizens, and no one has so much as batted an eye at this information. This is because, per the system of white supremacy, which has reformed and evolved so much that you don’t even have to be white to carry out the intentions of white supremacy, minorities aren’t valued as human beings and were never meant to be.
People question why minorities, black people in particular, why they are afraid of the police all the time. This is a metaphorical spit in the face, letting us know that you took absolutely no time looking up black history, nor do you have plans to. Black people and minorities who don’t fit into the sphere of whiteness have been physically assaulted and harassed for years, either by police or by civilians. Police have been making shows of black prisoners for years. All of these instances of police brutality have been documented for over centuries, yet none of these people attempt to understand that. This was all done in an effort to ensure that minorities understood their place in the social hierarchy. They were not, and still aren’t seen as people, even though they are legally free. Legally being free means nothing to them, as they understand that they have the privilege to continue to commit violent acts against minorities for the sake of their supremacy.
With all of the receipts that minorities hold from history, it’s clear to see that the criminals you seek are in the forms of police and government officials. Yet the white supremacy is so ingrained into you that you would rather blame me for “making this a racial issue” than acknowledging the fact that this is a real thing, and that black people are much more afraid to walk around than you are seeing them wal around.
So the next time a friend or family member or even you question why police brutality is a big deal, understand that this is by no means solely a black problem. This is a problem that effects everyone, and we must come together. But we must also understand that minorities have a deep history of fear instilled into them, leading to the ever-present fear of encountering a police officer.