2020 will go down as one of the most challenging and transformative periods of redefining the role of racism in modern and future society. Being a Black person in the United States is a complex experience that encompasses the realities and fears of living in a sizeable White-dominated community and workspace. Without a doubt, Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement might be the largest one in the United States history, which has also impacted the rest of the world and people’s mindsets globally. Branch and Jackson define the BLM slogan as a “powerful reminder of the structural violence against Black Americans” (88). Despite the long-lasting fight for being heard and valued equally with the white population, the Black Americans continue to encounter unfair and brutal treatment, particularly from the police forces. This research investigates and presents the current struggles and mistreatment of the Black part of American society because the reality of being a Black person is not changing fast.
The Historical Context
Almost every single Black person in the United States has faced the sting of discourtesy and potential threat to life because of being black. The deeply-rooted, subtle discrimination of Black society has its origin in the transatlantic slave trade between 1525 and 1866. Slavery significantly affected the position of Black society and placed it “at the bottom of the American racial order” (Anderson). Such a complex and hazardous position for the Black people enabled the possibility for every white American person to feel superior to the people of color. Even after Emancipation in 1862, when Black people were migrating to cities in the north and south of the United States, they were still experiencing the pressure of racial biases and stigma toward blackness. The unstable historical conditions and general misinformation of white society caused a serious gap in cultural knowledge and cultural awareness, promoting racial intolerance until today. This has contributed to the formation of racist generations in the country.
It is also important to note the ground-breaking role of African American activist Martin Luther King and his efforts to address racial inequality in a peaceful matter. Moreover, the Black communities were usually separated from the white ones, and they were deprived of the privilege of living in safe central areas of the towns. Nowadays, the least desirable areas of the cities, the “black sections,” are commonly known as the iconic black ghetto (Anderson). In addition, this is the only space for the Black community to feel secure and safe from the white people and their viral attitudes. However, there is still a general agreement that white people control the racial reality in the ghetto places, including their “financial, legal and criminal justice systems” (Anderson). From the ideological perspective, the past and modern American societies have been widely known as the place for privileging equal opportunity, although the reality is different.
Racism Impact on Health
According to many research studies, Black Americans keep disproportionally facing mistreatment for the last decades, including abuse and racial bias. Moreover, such attitudes derive from the powerful social forces, including the criminal justice system in the country. However, the Black community does not only struggle with poverty but also has to deal with fewer job opportunities, lower-performing educational facilities, higher crime rates, and increased public health problems. The latter issue is the primary concern for the Black part of American society. It is genuinely hard to imagine how the person, or even the entire race, can avoid any health-related problems while living in very stressful and life-damaging conditions.
In her interview with a woman named Kiarra Boulware, Khazan examines the complexity and frustration of being a Black woman who constantly seeks guidance for her health to address her weight problems. As Boulware shares her story, it becomes more evident that there is systematic oppression along with the living situations against Black people. In segregated communities, it is tough for Black Americans to maintain their health and ensure it is protected. Experiencing racism might also have a severe impact on one’s mental health. Recent studies revealed the association between racial discrimination and changes in methylation on genes that, in turn, promote “schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and asthma” (Khazan). The research also demonstrates that racism directly impacts the disturbing statistics: Black women are about 50% more likely than white women to have a premature birth and twice as likely to have low-birth-weight babies. The stress Black women experience because of racial discrimination is the leading cause of such dangerous health outcomes.
In the United States, the lack of access to the healthcare system and appropriate treatment, as well as the risk of devastating health issues among the Black people, forms a distressing national phenomenon. Across the country, the Black community continuously suffers from many severe illnesses and health issues, including “cancer, diabetes, maternal mortality, and preterm birth” (Khazan). Furthermore, African Americans are stuck in these devastating conditions because of the impoverished and unhealthy neighborhoods in which they live. Khazan believes that the “legacy of racism” is the primary reason that Black people lose their lives more often than the white population. The racism and segregationist history keep affecting Black people in the United States in the most intimate ways.
Racism in the Employment
The deeply embedded discrimination in the United States in terms of employment is surprisingly legal. Because of such a hazardous experience, being Black in America is nowadays characterized by the struggle for equality. Yuan analyzed how the nonblack colleagues perceive inclusivity and implement this knowledge while working with Black employees. After the death of George Floyd caused by the white police officer and the advent of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, the country has been following the protests against systemic racism. This has motivated American companies to advocate for racial justice in the workplace. The movement has pervaded the places of employment across the country along with sound statements, promises to social justice organizations, and declaring Juneteenth as a company holiday (Yuan). Leaders in modern organizations in the U.S. apologize for the mistreatment and quitting because of the complicated corporate culture.
Nevertheless, the situation with racism and employment opportunities for Black people in the United States is still volatile. The systematic racial intolerance in the workplace cannot be resolved in one day or even a month. In fact, one year has passed since the beginning of the protests and the BLM movement, and racism is still prevalent in the country. According to Yuan’s research, more than half of Black employees still experience racism at work. More specifically, only 3.2% of executives and senior manager–level employees are people of color, and there are only five of them on the list of Fortune 500 CEOs (Yuan). The statistics show that Black men are paid 13% less than their white male colleagues. In addition, Black women are paid 39% less than white men and 21% less than white women. Despite their attempt to ask for promotions and pay raises, Black employees suffer defeat. White society must recognize that Black Americans fight for their equal identification and the ability to contribute to the decision-making process at work.
Racism in Law Enforcement
The tragic death of Black American George Floyd one year ago has been undoubtedly an overwhelming and devastating representation of racism and inequality in American law enforcement. Floyd’s death became a tragic embodiment of how brutal and inhuman the police can be towards the Black community. It is outrageous how the many deaths of Black Americans have only recently forced the white society to rethink the whole jurisdiction system and policy-making in the U.S. In his article, Thomas, a retired NBA player, and Black American discusses the reality of being Black in America and how long it takes to rebuild a tolerant and respectful society.
The reality is that most Black people, including children, are afraid to walk out of their homes. They are convinced that their skin color remains a threat to their lives and safety. Black Americans and white Americans are treated differently by the police forces. The police far more often interrogate Americans of color compared to white people in the country. Therefore, watching police murder Black people is what the reality was and still is nowadays. As the one who is Black in America, Thomas himself teaches his kids all the important safety precautions and how to behave with law enforcement when in public. This is not the reality of childhood that white children have; this is the “privilege” and the necessity for the Black families. Thomas emphasizes that white parents do not experience the same fears or worries for their children as Black parents do.
The massive shootings and killing of Black Americans by the police remain the major societal concern in the United States. Peters acknowledges the common senseless killing of Black individuals by white people and/or law enforcement. Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, to name a few, were all killed within four months period by the police. This has adversely impacted the safety and trust of Black communities in the entire American government and policy system. Such tragedies have influenced how Black people feel about their lives, families, opportunities, and justice. As described by Gibbs, to be Black in America, one has to endure white supremacy and fear the police (Peters). Being Black in America is to hope someone recorded the compliance because one may any longer be present to defend himself or herself.
Conclusion: The Modern-Day Reality of Being Black
The above-mention factors wherein racism is still prevalent nowadays cover all the main aspects of Black Americans’ lives in the United States. As such, it is fair to say that the Black communities demonstrate some of the best evidence that modern American society is not a post-racial society. The ongoing struggle and fight by many communities of color are united by the shared goal to achieve freedom, equality, and self-respect. The United States is still far from being defined as a post-racial nation. Racial inequality remains the defining social problem across the states. In order to fight the social fact of racism, white Americans must understand race itself as producing such inequalities and biases. Being Black in America is indeed a harsh reality today. Most importantly, Black Americans must never remain silent anymore to prevent history from repeating itself. By facing the racial history and its present state, modern society, including both Black and white Americans, needs to reimagine justice and keep fighting for it.
Anderson. Elijah. “This is What it Feels Like to Be Black in White Spaces.” The Guardian, 2018. Web.
Branch, Enobong Hannah, and Christina Jackson. Black in America: The Paradox of the Color Line. John Wiley & Sons, 2020.
Khazan, Olga. “Being Black in America Can Be Hazardous to Your Health.” The Atlantic, 2018. Web.
Peters, Maquita. “Being Black in America: ‘We Have a Place in This World Too’.” NPR, 2020. Web.
Thomas, Etan. “The Reality of Being Black in America isn’t Changing Fast Enough.” The Undefeated, 2020. Web.
Yuan, Karen. “Working While Black: Stories from Black Corporate America.” Fortune, 2020. Web.