Everyday Racism

In the aftermath of Trayvon Martin's death and George Zimmerman's trial, we need to see racism for what it really is

Since Saturday, when George Zimmerman was found ”not guilty” of murder or manslaughter for killing Trayvon Martin, there has been outrage from the African-American community. But this racially charged trial has sparked a heated conversation between races, from angry blacks who feel justice wasn’t served to whites who want African-Americans to stop ”pulling the race card.”

Privilege is a dynamic force with harmful consequences. The societal power of men, heterosexuals, adults, able-bodied individuals – and yes, whites — has internalized privilege for too many, and inflicted harm on those minorities without it.

AJ King

AJ King

(Photo by Julian Vankim)

One of the biggest issues we face is asking people with privilege to acknowledge and be accountable for that power. Looking in the mirror means admitting actions that you may have done to others, intentionally or not. It means seeing the reflection, whether you expect what you see or not.

But there is confusion on what racism is though. A person’s first thoughts of ”racism” are whips, the Ku Klux Klan, the word ”nigger,” segregation.

Although those are all elements of racism, let me school you for a minute.

Racism is the white person who is nervous sitting next to a black man on the Metro.

Racism is the fear I have walking home at night when a black man is behind me, and the relief I feel when I realize it’s a white man.

Racism is Band-Aids created specifically for a skin tone that does not match the complexion of people of color.

Racism is the surprise you feel when you see a black person in an Advanced Placement class.

Racism is the black person in that AP class being the only black person in that class.

Racism is a former client of mine with a stereotypically black name who changed it to a ”white” name because he didn’t think he could get a job otherwise.

Racism is the overflow of liquor stores, strip clubs, and unhealthy carry-outs in urban black communities, as opposed to the organic grocery stores in suburban areas.

Racism is the 3-year-old, dark-skinned black girl who chooses to play with a white Barbie because she says because the black Barbie is ugly.

Racism is calling a black woman’s naturally kinky hair ugly and pressuring her to treat it.

Racism is me growing up in a predominately white school and when I try to interact with black people my white friends tell me to ”Stop acting ghetto.”

Racism is the dictionary definition of the color ”white” as holy, clean, beautiful and pure, while the color ”black” is scary, dirty, ugly and dark — and how we subliminally make the connections.

Racism is when a non-black person approaches me for the first time and says, ”Yo, what up, homie? What’s good, son? Where that good weed at? You like Dr. Dre, aight?”

Racism is 12 years of school learning about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, World Wars I and II, John Adams, et al, over and over, with the exception of that one time during Black History Month when we study Martin Luther King Jr.

Racism is me not knowing my black history until I took a black history course in college.

Racism isn’t a race. The race is over. People of color have lost already. Now is the time to organize, educate and come together so we can get to a new finish line — as a human race, together.

AJ King lives in Washington and is a research assistant on HIV prevention and treatment at George Washington University. He is a winner of the 2013 Metro Weekly Next Generation Awards.

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