Black People Should Not Have to Die to Feel Alive [Op-Ed by K. Sparks]
“You’re not to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.” – Malcolm X
It has been exhausting being Black, living in these United States of America. Recent events have highlighted a culture of racism that is ingrained and deeply rooted in the fabric of this country. From watching an unarmed Ahmaud Arbery gunned down in broad daylight, to watching Amy Cooper weaponizing her White privilege while calling the police on an African American male for simply and rightly asking her to leash her dog. The moment the movement that has galvanized the world, seeing George Floyd die at the hands by way of police brutality and the use of excessive force. If you’re tired of hearing about racism, imagine how tired Black people are of living it.
Racism In America
Racism isn’t anything new to Black people. We see it every day, experience it every day, and are constantly reminded every day by simply existing that we are Black. The outcast and disenfranchised, we wear the scars and carry the weight of the chains daily. It takes on various forms and subtle mannerisms, if you aren’t Black the stigma is unrecognizable.
Noticing the vast difference in how store clerks treat you as opposed to White customers. Being followed around stores and shopping malls by security when they presume you are deemed a higher risk to shoplift based purely on your skin color. Walking into establishments finding yourself to be the only person of color, and often feeling that vibe from others that you do not belong, “your kind” is not welcome.
Making it known due to the lawless and senseless killings of unarmed people of color, crying out “Black Lives Matter,” but only to have our protest met with a nationalist counter-protest vehemently proclaiming “White Lives Matter.” That logic is like holding a rally for breast cancer awareness, only to have a person stand up in the crowd to say “HIV matters too.”
This self-righteous, privileged approach within this stance alone is problematic. We’ve become numb to constant images of minorities being victimized by excessive force, and extreme brutality at the hands of so-called would be law enforcement. Racism has become so acceptable in the United States that even when you oppose racism, you are labeled as unpatriotic. We saw a prime example of this with Colin Kaepernick. After kneeling peacefully during the national anthem in opposition to the rampant slaughter and murder primarily of Black Men, we watched President Trump refer to those Black players kneeling as “sons of b*tches.” On the flip side, when questioned regarding what he felt about the recent killing of George Floyd, he never referred to the Police Officer as a “son of a b*tch.”
It is specifically those types of minimal nuances, that play a major role in racism. The response garnered towards people that oppose racism is swift and hateful rebuke, meanwhile, the offenders receive more accommodating retribution. A perfect example of this is Dylann Roof. The White supremacist who on June 17, 2015, commenced shooting and the murder of nine African Americans during a Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. After the shooting, he was taken into custody without incident and taken to Burger King. No excessive force, no police brutality, just cheeseburgers and french fries for a mass murderer of Black parishioners.
America is caught up in dual pandemics: Corona Virus, and the never-ending hate of racism. Both are killers.
United and Armed with Cell Phones
As social media posts invade our timelines, we are witnessing millions of people of all races united to protest and bring awareness to racism. Countless people flooded the streets within their states to show an outpouring of unity and condemnation towards hatred, racial bias, and police brutality. These moments are reminiscent of the civil rights movement that consisted of individuals standing united in the face of hatred.
History has taught us that united we stand and divided we most certainly will fall. What also makes things even more impactful is the use of cell phones and social media. People utilizing cell phones as not only viable means of recording but distributing the footage in real-time. These images and footage have shown even more acts of police brutality towards non-violent and unarmed protestors. The recording and distribution of these clips of footage are not only impactful but life-changing. Cell phones have provided black people with more protection than any law enforcement organization has ever done.
Disparity + Silence
Given the recent death of George Floyd, several companies have chosen to utilize various avenues to support African Americans. Some companies have chosen to donate to Black organizations and utilize their platform to spread awareness. Some companies have chosen to conduct internal “cultural audits” to determine productive ways they can promote integration and social inclusivity, while others have chosen to participate in blackout Tuesday. Millions across the globe utilized the hashtag in solidarity to recognize the continued senseless killings of Black people. Although I appreciate the sentiment, I’ve noticed a major disconnect. When viewing several of these companies’ websites their board of directors has no minorities. This shows these companies are color blind in regards to what true equality means. I’ve always expressed that within the music business “the content is diverse but ownership is not.”
For centuries companies continue to reap the benefits of Black culture, such as Black music, Black fashion, Black trends, but choose not to empower minorities in ways that are impactful and tangible. For these companies, I implore you to dig deeper than a blacked-out social media post. The reality is that systemic racism is real, and if you are not choosing to address these issues within your company then you are part of the problem. Do some due diligence to research, seek out, and hire talented minorities on the business end. For systemic racism to cease you have to play your part and no longer be implicit on a conscious or subconscious level.
On the flip side, I’ve also noticed several companies that have remained silent during these turbulent times of racial injustice. They’ve chosen to play it safe not issuing any media statements, and simply waiting for things to die down. To those companies I want to be explicitly clear, moving forward silence is unacceptable. Businesses that refuse to address the current climate that demands social justice, minorities have received your message loud and clear. Silence is consent and we will no longer do business with companies that continue to remain silent. Companies that gladly accept the black dollar, yet choose to straddle the line when addressing racism and discrimination head-on. We will no longer patronize and favor your businesses with our dollars.
Everything I do has and continues to remain solution-based, actionable. I continue to support all organized protests and advocate against racism. However, moving forward I do understand the importance of two things. Laws/legislation and economic spending power. We’ve seen in the past that laws drastically affect how cases such as George Floyd and countless others before him were mishandled, wrongly, improperly adjudicated. When the district attorney’s office often overcharges the jury and fails to pursue the appropriate charges, we find justice falling short while the offenders receive a minimal penalty. We need to lobby at the state and local levels to ensure people at the local level share our common interest in regards to pursuing the issues that matter to us when it comes to race and politics.
Implementing laws that will ensure that when we are faced with clearly blatant cases of excessive force and abuse of authority that there is accountability and appropriate redress tailored specifically to try and convict the perpetrators regardless of their social standing.
Lastly, economic spending power is key. As a Black business owner, I realize the importance of supporting Black-owned businesses, companies with a cultural pulse, and are not colorblind to the issues we face. Moving forward we need to ensure we are spending our money where it matters. No longer should we choose to economically empower those that choose to remain silent on issues of life and death importance to minorities. No longer can we afford to do business with those companies that restrict, exclude us from the board rooms, that profit from Black culture while our communities languish in the red. After centuries of racism, constantly being denied a seat at the table, we will continue to rise, build a coalition, find collaboration and partner with comrades in this fight, we’ll widen the tent-making room for all who believe in humanity, equality, justice for all, the embrace of sisterhood and brotherhood—and importantly, vote.