Today’s struggles in black communities a direct byproduct of slavery
October 9, 2017
The treatment of black people in this country is no secret. From the arrival of Africans into the United States until now, the black experience has never really been easy. In the past, it wasn’t even condemned or considered shameful, it was just a way of life. After racism became more discreet, black people, among other people of color, have been called lazy and entitled, when in actuality they have just never been given the chance to play catch up after years of oppression, and the effects of this is still seen today in the black community.
Almost all Americans know the basics of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. They know that black people and their children were enslaved for hundreds of years, treated horribly and eventually emancipated in 1864. This is extremely watered down. Most Americans would say that the effects of slavery is the racism that prevailed after, such as with Jim Crow laws. Though this is true, there are other effects, mostly psychological, that are less known, but most very much affect black people even today. One of these effects includes something known as ‘colorism’, or praising a shade of skin over the next. This can be attributed to the belief that lighter skinned slaves worked in the house whereas darker skinned slaves were in the fields. It’s a misbelief that house slaves were treated better than field slaves because they were in the comfort of a home, were cooking instead of doing more intense labor and some even go so far as to say that house slaves were treated like family by slave owners, though this is not true. House slaves experienced a different type of torture, such as being right under the thumb of slave owners, which included being raped more often and being forced to birth their children. Either way, it created a hostility in the black community between people with light and dark skin. Now, people with lighter skin are considered prettier, gentler and somehow ‘less’ black. In contrast, dark skinned people are considered angrier, uglier and are considerably dehumanized more, especially dark women. This imaginary division between light and dark black people can be seen in Hollywood or on TV, where the already limited amount of black people seen on screen are usually light.
Another effect of slavery is consumerism. Black people are huge consumers in this country and hold a large amount of buying power, yet they don’t own most of the leading industries that they’re buying from (The Atlantic). This is not to say that black people don’t create their own businesses or aren’t entrepreneurs, but after slavery there was a complex that was created that made black people think that the more they acquired, the more they became separated from slavery and poverty and blackness in itself, which is why they were enslaved and impoverished. The same mentality is seen today. It’s as if the more name brand one owns the further it proves that there is no way they could be poor. There is nothing wrong with owning expensive brands, but there is something clearly disproportionate with the amount of buying power black people hold and how much this dictates pop culture and what’s ‘cool’ and how little the black community profits off of it. If all of the black dollars are leaving the black community and going into white pockets, how will the black community ever grow? It’s unfortunate that slavery, which seems so far away, is still directly impacting black economics.
The ways that Jim Crow laws affect the black community is a little more obvious to people outside of the community than the psychological effects of slavery. In order for Jim Crow laws to end and the Civil Rights Movement to begin, black people, among other marginalized groups, had to take matters into their own hands. This meant provoking law enforcement in order to get the media’s attention as to how the police officers would treat them. Though this had a good effect in that it helped give civil rights to the people that enjoy these rights today. The negative effect is that it publicized the already bad relationship between black people and the police, and a there were more people that sided with law enforcement than one would think. Police apologists would claim that black people deserved the brutality that was given to them, and this is still seen at an alarming rate today. With phones being as popular as they are, videos of police brutality are constantly going viral, and just like during the Civil Rights Movement, people place the blame on black people when is most cases there only crime was their skin color. This negative relationship with the police only leads to what plagues this country today, which is mass incarceration.
Mass incarceration is the imprisonment of millions of black and Latino people. For profit prisons and other disgusting businesses can be traced back to the Reagan Era and the infamous War on Drugs. The War on Drugs places a longer sentencing on crack cocaine than cocaine, which is largely seen in black and poorer communities. How this drug was placed in the black community causes controversy, but it is a belief that the drug was placed into the black neighborhoods. Once the over policing of black neighborhoods is factored in, it is obvious why the penitentiary is filled with people of color. But as sick as it is, the multimillion dollar private prison industry can only exist if the mass incarceration of black people continues, and beds in these prisons need to be filled.
Even with all of this, there are still those that say black people need to stop making excuses. That there are rich and successful black people that exist, therefore racism cannot be a serious threat anymore. That black people are lazy, and bring turmoil onto themselves. That black people use racism as a ‘crutch.’ A system can’t do everything in its power to hurt people and then punish those same people for not knowing how to heal.