The United States of America has a racist past that is so intertwined in our systems of government that to expose systemic racism is to also scrutinize white America’s path to power, status and privileges. You’ve heard it before, “the country has never been divided like this”, or “America is not a racist country.” Sure, we’ve come a long way from the likes of segregationist Sheriff Willis V. McCall of Lake County, Florida; one hundred years past the Tulsa race massacre disguised as a race riot; and yes, we are 156 years past the signing of the 13th amendment—ending chattel slavery—except as punishment. American society has made significant progress towards equality and justice for all, but to say that we are no longer a racist country is an overstatement.
Black Americans and other people of color continue to be affected by the legacy of slavery and segregation. Armed with legislative powers, and reminiscent of the Jim Crow south, elected officials across the country are reintroducing policies targeting civil rights movements. Movements that are critical at empowering Americans to speak out against injustices.
In Georgia, it is now illegal to hand out water to people in line waiting to vote. In Florida, if you’re at a protest, you can be held accountable for the actions of everyone there. In part, you are guilty by association. In other states like Oklahoma and Iowa, bills granting immunity to drivers whose vehicles strike and injure protesters in public streets have overwhelmingly passed. A despicable attempt to discourage Americans from protesting. And even today, the use of cannabis medicinally and recreationally in one state, is a crime in another—regardless of whether or not you are a decorated war veteran (look up Sean Worsly).
This country has been divided since its inception. The Civil Rights movement of the 50s and 60s, along with countless other movements in history revealed our divisions. The increasingly growing gap in wealth, education, and health care between the races today affirms it.
The American people have been sounding these alarms for decades—with half of the country in denial. The racist and exclusionary core of American society is shifting, and those in power are in disarray. In a last-minute attempt retain power, local governments want to silence and punish—the very people who empowered them.