By Ernesto Saavedra
During my studies at Fresno State , I read the second edition of a book titled White Racism by sociology professors Joe R. Feagin, Hernán Vera and Pinar Batur. White Racism provides evidence challenging and refuting the too often, and rather ignorant, notion that racism does not exist anymore.
Feagin et al. go on to define racism as “a system of oppression of African Americans and other people of color by white Europeans and white Americans.” Furthermore, white racism is “a centuries old system intentionally designed to exclude Americans of color from full participation in the economy, polity and society.”
Feagin et al. argue that white racism, in turn, has material and moral costs that directly and indirectly affect the oppressor and, of course, the oppressed further obscuring the “American” ideals of freedom, justice and equality. If anything, the only ideals that are truly “American” are hypocrisy and irony.
“The first part of the Capitol building in Washington, DC, which has long housed the deliberations of a white-dominated U.S. Congress, was built by enslaved African Americans, whose white owners were paid for that labor…This history is even more ironic, for it was enslaved African Americans who put the statue of Freedom at the top of the Capitol dome in the 1860’s,” Feagin et al. point out.
June 18, leading up to the weekend of Juneteenth, white racism manifested itself in the form of a terrorist that murdered nine people inside the historical Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. Ethel Lance, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Myra Thompson, Tywanza Sanders, Rev. Daniel Simmons, Sr., Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Rev. Depayne Middleton-Daton and the Honorable Rev. Clementa Pinckney join the long list of victims of this racism prevalent since the inception of the United States. Unfortunately, this is not the first case, and it probably will not be the last.
“Over 60 years ago 4 little girls were blown up in a church. Not in Japan, not in Europe, not in Nigeria. But here in America. Four innocent little girls whose lives were taken for no reason,” said Rev. Floyd Harris, Jr., of New Light For New Life Church of God in West Fresno referencing the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, September 15, 1963.
“If our babies cannot come into the church house where the civil rights movement was birthed out of. If our young babies cannot come here and feel safe…because we have sick folks in our community, then we’re really in trouble,” said Harris. “What do we have to do now, put metal detectors at the door?”
“It was terrorism…and that terrorism had to be bred somewhere…I put blame on the media and talk show personalities on Fox News and other conservative talk show hosts that push this agenda,” said Juan Avitia, president of the Mexican American Political Association.
When asked what were the connections, if any, between what happened in Charleston and what has been happening throughout the nation with rampant police brutality and discrimination, Avitia said the system is unjust and unequal.
“Look at the way they’re treating this guy. He’s ‘psychologically unstable’ on ‘medication.’ Yet, look at how they treat a Black child, Black men when they get pulled over [by police]. The way they treat a migrant farmworker in Salinas, shot dead…that’s a double standard…you got the judge feeling sympathetic for this guy that just shot people…the system is unjust, it’s unequal,” said Avitia, and I couldn’t agree more.
What happened in Charleston is an obvious case that there is something wrong with the systems and culture of this country. However, one must not ignore the everyday subtleties that people go through on a daily basis. Here in Fresno, for the most part, if you live south or on the east or west side, you encounter a difference in quality and access to green spaces, live in a food desert and experience constant harassment from police. Head over to north Fresno and the grass literally is greener, there are more grocery stores than liquor stores, and the police are your neighbors. Call it white racism, oppression, what have you, the bottom line is that there is a double standard on how we treat people that do not fit the mold of the “founding fathers” of the United States.
There is a double standard when challenging the status quo; we are threatened and our voices silenced. There is a double standard on what is important and or covered in the media; people get more in an uproar when people say “fuck the police” than they do when police shoot our people in the streets. People get more in an uproar when the U.S. flag and the Confederate flag are on fire than the killing of nine people in a historical Black church built by former slaves on the week of Juneteenth.
How many more people have to suffer; how many more people have to die before everyone “gets it”? I am sorry, but in this country, it is obvious that not all lives matter.