At the beginning of this year, we set out to explore the Many Shades of Black, looking at Blackness, not just through skin color but also through cultural and abstract elements like music, food, immigration and achievement. We explored Blackness through our own eyes but did not look at how others see us and the consequences of that. We did not expect to get to the end of this year and find ourselves in the middle of a national crisis—Black men being gunned down and choked without consequence by the authorities that are supposedly meant to protect us; Black men being gunned down by police because their skin color carries a stigma of criminality and violence.
We’re in a precarious moment in America because bias has evolved; it’s not as easy to see as it once was—no chains, shackles or Whites Only signs. There are no longer laws that legalize racism (although one of the last ones was repealed only in the year 2000); there are instead laws that make racism illegal so the idea that racism still exists might be hard for some people to grasp (bless their hearts). Thus the difficulty of this much needed American evolution is that not everyone sees the need for it. And the idea of that is scary. I’m comforted, however, by the thought that every revolution had it’s detractors. Ending slavery didn’t happen through consensus nor did giving women the right to vote. But now looking back slavery is abhorrent and women’s suffrage feels inalienable. My hope is that, if this revolution is to follow the same paths as revolutions before it, then we’ll get to the point where institutionalized and unconscious bias is just as abhorrent as overt bias; and we’ll get to the point where the negative associations attached to Blackness are greatly reduced or even eliminated.
In the upcoming final essay under our Many Shades of Black series, we’ll take a close look at what this current strain of racism actually really is and what it might take to cure it.