When We Talk About Race, We Need to Talk About Institutional Racism

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In the early 1990s, five Black men founded a clothing company called FUBU. The original meaning of FUBU was "Five Urban Brothers United" but the "For us, by us" motto later took root as the clothing line expanded. The "us" is Black folks. I think about or discuss race and racism fairly frequently. As a Black woman living in the United States, it is pretty difficult to not think about race. Recently, however, I have been doing a lot more in-depth thought about the status of Black people in the United States. As a public defender in my secular life, many of my clients are Black.  As a minister, the church I attend is located in a Black neighborhood and has a majority Black congregation. Also, last week, I had the opportunity to attend a training called "Undoing Racism" that was given by The People's Institute for Survival and Beyond (PISAB).

FergusonAug. 12, 2014 - Ferguson, Missouri, U.S.- Terrell Williams El, hugs his daughter Sharell while standing with his wife, Shamika Williams during protests, Image Credit: David Carson/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/zReportage.com via ZUMA Press

I often think about why we, as a people, are in the state that we are in. I wonder how we, as a people, can overcome the barriers we face. Black people are disproportionately involved with the criminal justice system, the welfare system and other systems. How Black people are treated in the United States is the direct result of systemic institutionalized racism.

We think they [Blacks] are not [citizens], and that they are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word "citizens" in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States. On the contrary, they were at that time considered as a subordinate and inferior class of beings who had been subjugated by the dominant race, and, whether emancipated or not, yet remained subject to their authority, and had no rights or privileges but such as those who held the power and the Government might choose to grant them.

~ Justice Taney writing the opinion in the Dred Scott case (Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S.393, 404-05 (1856))

I remember reading the Dred Scott case when I attended law school It's not one of those cases that you can easily forget. We discussed this case during the "Undoing Racism" training. Most of information discussed in the "Undoing Racism" training was not new to me. The racism information was painfully familiar. Between the training, the killing of Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer, the killing of Eric Garner by a Staten Island, New York police officer, and the constant violence we face, I became angry, frustrated and sick and tired of being sick and tired.

  • I am angry because they are systematically killing us in the streets.
  • I am angry because James T. Crow, Jr. Esq., is doing his level best to keep the masses of Black folks incarcerated.
  • I am frustrated because I encounter Black folks who don't or can't see institutional racism, despite my attempts at trying to enlighten them. They cannot or will not understand how the systems created during the formation of the United States were created by whites for the benefit of white folks.
  • I am frustrated when I cite events from the system that support institutional racism and folks respond and say "that's over" because those events happened "so long ago." Folks fail to realize that racism is the glue that keeps these systems in place.
  • I am frustrated when I talk to white folks who are in denial about white privilege.
  • I am frustrated by Black folks who are complicit in their own oppression.
  • I am frustrated by Black folks who actively work to maintain the status quo.
  • I am frustrated by white folks who use the term "reverse racism."
  • I am frustrated by Black preachers who do not preach or teach about the existence of institutional racism or its effects on Black folks.
  • I am frustrated by Black folks who are so colonized that they see me as an enemy and treat me as such.
  • I am frustrated by respectability politicians who say "If you pull up your pants, you'll be fine" or they calibrate their "outrage" based on the favorable characteristics of the victims.
  • I am frustrated by folks who discuss the propaganda of "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" for people with no boots.
  • I am sick and tired of reliving these nightmares of Black folks getting assaulted, killed and unjustly incarcerated. Some psychologists have opined that Black folks who are confronted with violence regularly are battling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I would submit, however, that we need to remove the "P" because there is no "post." For Black folks, we deal with a CONSTANT barrage of violence or the threat of violence, whether it is assault, murder, unjust incarceration, etc. How is the traumatic stress "post," when the violence never ends? Is there any wonder why some Black folks have high blood pressure, NOT related to diet?

Are you angry, frustrated and/or sick and tired? What are your thoughts on institutional racism in the United States? What strategies do you have to combat racism? Please share your thoughts. Feel free to leave a comment at the end of this post, on the Facebook fan page, Tweet me or use the form on the Contact page. Be blessed. Remain encouraged.



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