Race Rant...and Education

4 years ago
This article was written by a member of the SheKnows Community. It has not been edited, vetted or reviewed by our editorial staff, and any opinions expressed herein are the writer’s own.

Race.  It seems everyone is talking about it -- finally.  While I, as an individual, am glad this is happening, I think the topic needs more focus and understanding, and understanding only comes through education.

I will never know what it is like to be an Asian, Latino, Middle Easterner, or Caucasian, but the people of those races will never know what it is like to be Black.

How can I explain my frustration when some well meaning person points out how articulate I am or that I don’t “sound” Black.  How do Black people sound?  Do we all speak ebonics or speak slang?  Is there a certain quality to our voices that differs from other races?  No one’s been able to answer this question accurately, but I must say I sometimes refer to Chris Rock’s explanation of my “sounding White” -- it’s called diction and an education. 

I don’t know how to explain my feelings about racial profiling -- government sanctioned citizen harassment.  I’m a 53 year old Black woman that gets followed by security guards in stores, pulled over by police (especially if I have young Black men in the car with me) for no apparent reason other than illegal attempts to search me, my car and passengers in hopes of finding something illegal.

I tire of training people with less experience than I have who are promoted over me because I hit the proverbial black glass ceiling because I don’t have a degree, despite the fact that I have enough credits for a degree, was trained in my field (computer programming) by the United States Air Force and have worked in this field for 32 years.  Yet, the people I train (all White) have degrees in philosophy, art, or some other non-computer related degree and far less experience.  In these situations, I  am not discriminated against because I am Black (or so I am told), I am discriminated against because I don’t have a degree; the fact that I am usually the most qualified for the job is meaningless without a degree -- or at least this is what I’ve been told.

I am highly offended when people I don’t know feel the need to tell me how pretty I am to be so dark, but even more so from people who think they know me.  Am I not supposed to be pretty because I am dark?  I actually had a co-worker say that she never realized how pretty I was until she met my mother.  You see, my mother is light complexioned, and I look a great deal like her and because my mother was deemed pretty, I too, despite my chocolate skin, was deemed pretty.  

I tire of people who don't know me touching my hair.  Yes, it is soft and spongy and curly.  Yes the style is interesting, that's why I choose it.  People need to realize and respect personal space.  I'm not a random animal and I don't belong in a petting zoo -- so you're touching a stranger's hair why?

When my son leaves the house, I worry he may be stopped by police (and he regularly is).  About fifteen years ago, I had a younger cousin who was killed by police who thought his cool, new, black phone was a gun.  The shooting was deemed a justified accidental shooting, not police killing an unarmed Black man with a cell phone.

 I recall the stories of family members that were killed by Whites in Mississippi -- yes there were more than one of my family members lynched and my relatives witnessed some of them.

I recall being a little girl of 3 or 4 and my parents building a library in our apartment building basement because the City did not feel a library was necessary in the Black area of Chicago we lived.  So to compensate for this my parents built a library (see http://www.blogher.com/library-my-parents-built).

 I remember Mrs. Moody, my Black 5th grade teacher.  She spent the year teaching us everything she could because she did not want any of us to be left behind.  Ninety percent of Mrs. Moody’s 5th grad class (roughly 30 out of 35) tested on the high school and college level during standardized testing because of the efforts she made; efforts she felt were necessary because we were Black.  God bless Mrs. Moody, where ever she may be now.

 I attended a high school biology class in a school with little to no funding.  It was impossible to get an ‘A’ in this class without doing extra credit.  Because we had no supplies and outdated books, we watched NOVA on PBS and wrote a report for extra credit.  This was the only science class I was required to take in high school; meanwhile, across town, in many different non-Black neighborhoods, biology and chemistry and even physics classes were well funded.

I tire of people assuming that I am on welfare.  I used welfare for exactly 16 months of my and my son’s life.  It was a needed helping hand that I moved beyond.  Before my son was born, I worked from age 16 to 25 (my age when he was born).  Fresh out of the Air Force, I was on welfare for 16 months.  From age 27 to present, I have worked the same job, full-time with no layoffs (yes I am blessed).

When shopping during working hours (on off days), I am offended by rude White people that assume I am using link (food stamps) who make rude comments (why don’t you get a job and stop using my tax dollars) only to see that they are actually using link after I paid cash.

I tire of White people that feel the need to comment on my little Mercury Sable being a waste of money.  Why do they care what type of car I drive?  Do they think their tax dollars paid for it?

This is a very small part of my race rant, but there is so much more and education is the key.  People are sympathetic towards the holocaust because they have been educated about it.  In the United States, it is time to stop hiding history, stop Black history month and begin teaching Black history as U.S. history, after all, that is the proper category since we (Black people) are legal U.S. citizens.   

Our citizens need to really learn of the horrors of slavery and have discussions of how the trauma and history of rape, molestation, mutilation, physical abuse, child abuse, sex slaves, forced labor and dehumanization (reducing people to the status of cow, dog, cat or chair) of an entire people not only affects them and their children (which is what chattel slavery did/was) but also the behavior and beliefs of other citizens and their children that encounter them as a result of being subjected to abiding by the governmental discriminations. 

Black Wall Street, the red summer of 1919, Rosewood and many other horrific events which transpired resulting in mass murders and lynchings of Blacks and improperly handled/investigated by police and/or our government should be taught.  Our citizens need to understand how it feels to be attacked/murdered and have the people that are supposed to protect you ignore your plight, essentially making them (the government) accessories to injuries committed or worst yet, participating in the injustices.

We need a better understanding of the effects of Jim Crow law on a people and their children (and how they feel because of the government sanctions committed against them) as well as the behavior that is created in the rest of the citizenry as a result.  

My first home was in an area of Chicago in which it was illegal to sell a house to a Black person, and stated so on the deed.  The law was abolished after the civil rights movement but up until the late 1960s it was the law and the government/police backed it up (and Black people paid taxes for this).  Many people don’t understand that the system of segregation created in housing stems from government sanctioned laws preventing the races from living among one another and now we just move to segregated areas instinctively.  Yes I know lots of people that don’t pay attention to who lives in a neighborhood, but many people still do.

Exposure to people like, Jan Ernst Matzeliger who revolutionized the shoe making industry with a machine to make shoes last longer that was so complex the patent office had to send an official to examine the machine because no one understood what it was or how it worked.  Yet without his invention we couldn’t walk into a shoe store and buy ready made shoes.

 People should know Oscar J.E. Stuart applied for a patent in 1857 for the double cotton scraper, an invention of his slave Ned Stuart.  The government denied the patent.  This brought attention to the issue of allowing slaves to patent their inventions.  In 1858 the government denied Ned Stuart’s right to patent his invention.  Later that same year the Attorney General put a stop to patenting inventions made by slaves because they were not citizens and could not be granted patents.  In 1861, of all places, the Confederate States of America passed a law granting patents to slaves, but usually, the master claimed the invention as their own.

It wasn’t until after the Civil War that the United States began to recognize Black ingenuity and innovation.  In conquering the wilderness of the United States, Blacks had brought with them a vast array of knowledge that resulted in the creation of everything from tools for simple household use to elaborate and multifaceted machinery.  The names of a great many of these people have been lost in time. After the Civil War Black men held patents on everything from a cooking stove to a locomotive.  Blacks held patents on inventions in the work place, on the farm, in the factory, on the railroad, in the mine and in almost every department of labor.

 Most people don’t know Norbert Rillieux revolutionized sugar cane refining and became one of the wealthiest and most important men in Louisiana.  He was admired because of his wealth and importance while others saw him as a threat because he was Black.  Those that viewed him as a threat were eager to deny him the same rights extended to Whites.  As laws changed, free Blacks began to lose rights.  When Mr. Rillieux was required to carry a pass to travel freely, he left the United States forever and went to France where he decided to create a refining process for the sugar beet which was just as successful in France as his sugar cane refining process was in the United States.  He also began deciphering hieroglyphics.  His refining process is still used around the world for many products, including evaporated milk and cocoa.

 Many people talk about the “real McCoy” but don’t realize it refers to Elijah McCoy. He was the inventor of the drop cup, the key device in perfecting the overall lubrication system in large industry today.  Machines without this lubrication system would have to be stopped to be oiled to prevent wearing out of parts or fire.  The drop cup would slowly drop oil on the parts of the machine that required oil without having to stop production.  Many imitators tried to develop drop cups, but none of them worked as well as Mr. McCoy’s.  As a result, people purchasing machines would ask if the machine was built with “the Real McCoy”.  Mr. McCoy also developed the ironing table, lawn sprinkler, a steam dome, a dope cup (measures medicine) and received fifty-seven patents for various machine lubricating devices including air brakes for cars.

How about Lewis Howard Latimer?  He was a chief draftsman who executed the drawings and assisted in preparing the applications for the telephone patents of Alexander Graham Bell.  He invented the incandescent light bulb utilizing the carbon filament, later to be sold and marketed by Westinghouse Company.  Mr. Latimer supervised the installation of his lighting system in New York, Philadelphia, London and Montreal.  Mr. Latimer wrote the first text book on electricity.  He was also an accomplished poet, musician, author and artist.  In an effort to give back to the community, he also taught English to new immigrants to the United States.

Or Granville T. Woods who was known as the Black Edison.  Mr. Woods formed the Woods Railway Telegraph company in 1884.  In 1887 he patented the synchronous multiplex railway telegraph, a system designed to prevent railroad accidents by keeping trains in touch by telegraph.  Mr. Woods secured more than fifty patents.   He was the inventor of a telephone he sold to Bell Telephone Company.  He also invented an electric railway system used at Coney Island.  He developed a method of regulating the electric motor, which reduced the loss of electricity, automatic air brakes, the steam boiler furnace and an incubator.  He had to sue Edison Company twice for patent infringement. 

 The list is too numerous to complete here but Garrett Morgan’s many inventions that stressed safety, including but not limited to the traffic light.

Or the work of Otis Boykin (resistors, a control unit for artificial heart stimulators/pacemakers, a variable resistor used in guided missiles, thick film resistors for computers, a burglar proof cash-register and a chemical air filter), George E. Alcorn (worked on secret projects for missile re-entry, defense design, building of space instruments, atmospheric containment sensors, magnetic mass spectrometers, chemical ionization mass spectrometers for experiments in planetary life detection, development of new concepts in magnet design and a new type of x-ray spectrometer), George E. Carruthers (designed the Apollo 16 lunar surface ultraviolet camera/spectrograph) and Harrison Allen Jr. (specialized in the development of high energy fuels for rockets, super sonic combustion and solid rocket propellant rocket motors).  Many also don’t realize that the combined work of Otis Boykin, George E. Alcorn, George E. Carruthers and Harrison Allen Jr. got us to the moon in 1969.

Many are also unaware that Vivien Theodore Thomas successfully treated blue baby syndrome in the 1940s while the White doctor, Dr. Alfred Blalock stole the credit for his work only to be later exposed as the fraud he (Dr. Blalock) was.  Or Dr. Charles Richard Drew, the Black man responsible for the start of blood banks and a system for the long-term preservation of blood plasma. Or Mae C. Jemison, a medical doctor and a surgeon, with engineering experience who flew on the space shuttle Endeavor.

This is the type of education that is required across the board not only in the U.S. but also in other countries, because believe it or not, many people have a problem actually seeing Black people as people, to them we are something else and as a result, we are treated like “something else” -- not people.

I have heard many Whites complain that they have held no slaves or their family wasn’t even here during slavery.  I note their anger, but telling Blacks to get over slavery is like telling Jews to get over the holocaust.  Millions died in transit to the United States.  Millions more were used as forced labor to help build this nation for free.  The horrors created by chattel slavery were unique to the United States.  It was the first time a slave was held for life and abused mentally, physically, emotionally, psychologically and sexually, in addition to destroying families and murdering them without remorse or reprisal of any kind.

The government backed the acts of the slave holders and supported them through laws created to not only deny Blacks (both slave and free) any sense of humanity, but to assist other citizenry do the same by teaching them and their children the horrid behavior was/is the law of the land.  (By the way, that 2nd amendment the NRA is so fond of was created to quickly gather a militia to hunt down run away slaves not protect their home from the government-- look it up).

After slavery the government created laws which continued to deny Black citizens equal rights and encouraged the other citizenry to deny rights earned and granted through the constitution.  In short, the problem isn’t White people, the problem is the indifference and co-signing by the government through laws created by -- ugh -- White people.


Please tell me why you agree or disagree.

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