I have a recurring dream in which I sit my unborn, adopted children down to tell them, “be twice as good.” This is new for me, but black mothers have been doing it for decades. I tell them that their skin is twice as dark so they must behave twice as nice and say half the words in a quarter of the time; hold their two small hands up, ten fingers to the sky.
Scientists have proven that there is no biological difference between people of different skin color; no gene that once race has that another does not. I wonder why, then, that the 2015 Equality Index showed that “blacks experience less than three-fourths the quality of life experienced by white Americans.” This number eerily reminds me of the three-fifths-of-a-person compromise decided on in 1787, when the southern states wanted their slaves to count as part of the general population for voting and taxation purposes. 228 years have passed since then and black Americans have only moved from three-fifths to three-fourths? They have only become 15% closer to whites? Republicans and Democrats alike can wonder why.
This life quality statistic is reflected in the fact that racial disparities lie everywhere from life expectancy to probability of job interview call-backs. It is not being liberal to say that there is a massive gap between black and white children’s reading levels; it is empirically true, and it hurts the national job market and economy. It is not radical to want people of any race or ethnicity to be able to feed their own families; it’s human, and it makes for safer streets and better educational outcomes for everyone.
The problem lies in the belief that “Black America” is separate from “White America.” Yet, despite racially segregated neighborhoods, when a black man has a bullet hole in his chest, it is the entire United States that drains as we mop up the blood and tell our children to look away. In defiance of majority black and majority white schools, when a white woman loses her life it is the entire American family that sobs and struggles to understand. A dark-skinned mother feels the same pain as a light-skinned woman when she loses a child. The false dichotomy between races allows us to put up walls and create an “us” and “them” where there is only “we.”
Those who continue to separate societal issues by race could look at drug use for a perfect example of how such thinking leads to false conclusions. Historically, cocaine users have been split between two forms of the same drug, and on average, white people use powder, while black people use crack. In 1986, the prison sentence for having 100 grams of powder cocaine was the same as having 1 gram of crack. In 2010, this was changed to a ratio of 18:1. As expected, blacks are still imprisoned at a much higher rate than whites, despite data showing that white people actually use drugs more often. 24 years and “twice as good” is still not anywhere near enough. The U.S. has the highest prison population in the world and every citizen pays for it, literally. While black citizens are disproportionately paying with their lives, everyone else pays with their wallet. Issues like these are neither solely black nor white.
I challenge you think: what side of history do you want to be on? The skeptic says there are two sides to every story. Sure, there were two sides to the Holocaust, Mongol Conquests, and slavery. When you look back though, the side you would have wanted to be on is clear. We all would like to think that we would have taken a stand against the oppression. Yet, racism in 2016 is as real as it was when the Atlantic Slave Trade was at its peak. This is our problem, collectively. If you are not helping the oppressed in times of injustice, you have taken the side of the oppressor. White Americans need to look at the race issue with a macro lens: this has, does, and will affect us. This is not “just a black problem” or the burden of our ancestors.
Dear White America: please be an ally with your vote. We all need to do something. The only political candidate who is brave enough to say “we’ve progressed but we haven’t come anywhere near far enough,” is Sanders, who has been dismissed as a left-wing socialist. I challenge you to take a moment to see what he believes, and ask yourself if his ideas are liberal, or if they’re human. When you go to vote for the next president of the United States, ask who is expressing human values, not who matches your liberal or conservative preferences. It won’t be easy, but the worthwhile things in life never are. There is nothing more patriotic than saying that we can work toward something better than what we have, something twice as good.