In the three weeks since George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, Minnesota, that sparked worldwide protests and demonstrations, some critics of the Black Lives Matter Movement, who would rather that Black people remain silent, like to portray what is happening as whining and complaining rather than legitimate issues that need to be addressed.
As a point of historical reference I suggest they read works of poets Maya Angelou, “Still I Rise” (1978), and Langston Hughes, “Let America Be America Again” (1935).
More recently, though, when critics talk about the low economic status of Black people – African Americans – they want to place sole blame on the Black community.
A young woman named Kimberly Jones did an outstanding job of explaining how we arrived at the current economic imbalance of white wealth and Black poverty in the United States in a Twitter video post. I’m using direct quotes and paraphrasing parts of what she said for the sake of space.
Jones used the board game Monopoly, the game of wealth acquisition that many of us have played, to describe how the U.S. economy has evolved.
“We must never forget that economics is the reason that Black people were brought to this country,” Jones said. “We came to do the agricultural work in the South and the textile work in the North. Do you understand that?”
In the first 400 rounds of this Monopoly game – the 400 years of slavery – white players got all the resources on the board. Not only did they withhold all resources from Black people, but the Black people had to work for free helping white people accumulate more and more wealth. They didn’t allow Black people to have money. They didn’t allow Black people to have property. They didn’t allow Black people to have anything.
Then comes Emancipation and Reconstruction, the next 50 rounds of this Monopoly game.
“We played another 50 rounds of Monopoly, and everything you gained and you earned while playing that round of Monopoly was taken from you,” Jones said. “That was Tulsa (Oklahoma, 1921). That was Rosewood (Florida, 1923). Those are places where we built black economic wealth, where we were self-sufficient, where we owned our stores, where we owned our property. And they burned them to the ground.”
And now we’re in the current phase of the game, when white society says to Black people, “Now you catch up.”
But as Jones so passionately points out, at this point in the game the only way you’re going to catch up is if the other side shares the wealth. And the wealth-sharing efforts that society makes often bring Black people under attack from psychological warfare: “Oh, you’re an equal opportunity hire.”
Understanding the results of the systemic racism that is baked into the structure of American society couldn’t be more simple than that. (Jones’ 8-minute video is on Twitter at pic.twitter.com/l8zX4CULEg.)
Finally, I’ll close with an anonymous quote from the Internet: “Racism is real, even if you aren’t a racist. White privilege is real, even if you don’t feel it. Police brutality is real, even if the cop you know is kind and just. YOUR world isn’t THE world. Everything is not about you.”