Accepting the harsh reality that racism still exists


Reese Clemens

Today, the meaning of racist has switched to a police officer who murders a young black boy, or a boss who fires all the black people in their office. But racist refers to anyone who calls a black person the n-word. Racism is someone who crosses the street when a person of color is approaching their way.

On Dec. 11, 2018 I was threatened by a white classmate that they were going to lynch me.

The classmate was upset at me because he was caught saying the N-word casually, and I confronted him on the subject. In response he decided it would be appropriate to joke around about committing this act.

Yes, we have made some progress when it comes to keeping racist acts in America to a minimum, but from this event, I have learned that saying racism has disappeared is far from the truth.

There are no public lynchings, segregation of bathrooms and transportation systems or aggressive acts of racism like there were before the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. In 2019 minorities can walk around not having to worry about these horrific things happening to them.

Sure, we do not have to worry about segregation, but we do have to worry about the name calling. We do have to worry about the police brutality. We do have to worry that one day the invisible target on our backs will be shot.

We do have to worry about racial discrimination in the workplace. We do have to worry about our race being the reason for our failure. We do have to worry about the constant reminders that we do not fit into our race’s stereotypes.

We — and when I say this, I mean people of color — have to worry.

I can’t even count the number of times I have sat down to think about the things that happened to my people years ago because it lives with me. It lives with me because I know instead of it being my great-grandmother, it could have been me. It could have been me leaving the house not knowing if I would make it back because people hated me for something I couldn’t control.

And because of this idea, a lot of people ask the question of why we keep bringing it up. They ask why everything has to be about race. They ask why race still needs to be talked about; this stuff happened 100 years ago.

They say it’s over.

But coming from me, a black girl who has had fewer than two blatant acts of racism thrown my way in my life, I can tell you that it will never be over.

It will never be over because discrimination does not work like that. Discrimination never goes away. The ideas that white people had in the 60s still live on because they had the power and that sense of power will forever live with them.

And just like the superior narrative they have been given, the inferior narrative given to people of color will forever live with us.

And just like we have to deal with the hardships of our skin color, white people have to deal with the idea that it was their ancestor’s fault. That does not mean that white people are bad people, but it does mean that we need to acknowledge the problem and understand it exists.

When I confronted the aforementioned classmate about him saying the n-word, he told me that he didn’t say it to a black person, so it was OK. He told me that it was not rude. He told me that the meaning of the word has changed.

The only thing that has changed about the word is that people have altered it to their liking. They have used the past few years between slavery, segregation and today to try and justify the idea that time heals. Racism does not bend over time, time is truly the thing that allows racism to continue to live on.

Just over the weekend, a video surfaced of a white student from DGN writing the n-word with the hard r on a board in her cheer uniform. There has been outrage throughout the district because of this and for right reason.

Once again, this is not a problem of the past.

But each year, as we get farther and farther away from the peak of racism of the early 1900s, it seems as if racism has been given new titles because the word has become too harsh. Racist people are now just a few bad apples. They are uneducated and aren’t “with the times.”

No, these people are not bad apples. They are racist. Say it; they are racist.

When I called the classmate racist, he looked at me as if I was crazy and continued to deny the fact that he was racist.

Today, the meaning of racist has switched to a police officer who murders a young black boy, or a boss who fires all the black people in their office. But racist refers to anyone who calls a black person the n-word. Racism is someone who crosses the street when a person of color is approaching their way.

Racism is believing and acting as if you are above someone because of their skin color or ethnicity.

This classmate believed racism had gained a new meaning and it was no longer a big deal for him to say those things, and that is why he did. He thought that since racism is no longer a thing I wouldn’t react. And when I did react, he felt as if he was being attacked.

Like I was being the bad guy.

What we all need to do moving forward is react.

When we see even the smallest acts of racism, we should react. When we hear someone say something out of line, we should react. We need to make it clear to our peers and everyone around us that racism is still thriving and won’t go away anytime soon.

We have not done our job yet. And even if the end of racism isn’t in sight and won’t be anytime soon, we can continue this process towards equality that is worth the wait.

We can make time in our favor.

So after the incident when I went to the counselors to report the problem, she told me she was sorry for what had happened. For me, I was not hurt because I knew he wasn’t serious, and I had nothing to be afraid of. It was all talk because he was embarrassed that I called him out on the fact that his privilege was showing.

Yes, racism exists and no, it won’t stop me from being the best version of myself. It will never stop me from living my life. It only motivates me to show that our outsides mean nothing, the inside is where the story occurs.

On Dec. 11, 2018 I encountered my first true act of racism that was supposed to make me feel how my ancestors did 100 years ago. It was supposed to make me feel low and below everyone else but instead I educated him and turned it into an experience that will allow me to love others even more.

You do not have to experience something this extreme to be an advocate for those whose voices are silenced because of their heritage and race. Start aiming to stand up for those who need it by supporting their causes and saying something when you see wrongful acts being done.

I challenge you to advocate for others.

I challenge you to take action.

I challenge you to love everyone no matter their appearance.

Do you accept?