The State of the US
By Abina George
The time had come. I had finally run out of groceries and my pantry begged me to refill it. I was dressed in a beautiful bodycon dress, leggings, blazer, and heels. I had just come from work and was looking for a quick dinner. The elderly white man in the fish department greeted me and exclaimed: “I love your dress!” It seemed weird to me, but I welcomed the compliment and thanked him. We had a short conversation, he packaged my fish, and I was on to the next item.
Next on my list was garlic. Someone had left their shopping cart in the vicinity, purse on display but it’s common for a lot of women to do this while shopping. I began walking towards the garlic and a woman sprinted from across the produce section, grabbed her purse and cart and in one swift motion, moved directly in front of the garlic to get away from me. Nothing of my appearance or my gait was frightening. I was dressed as a business professional and nothing about my countenance was threatening.
This might seem like a minor aggression and while it aggravated me, it wasn’t openly racist. The problem centers around the fact that this happens all the time with my melanated skin and I’m sure to others like me. In fact, instances like this, racist comments, and stereotypical presumptions about my intellect seem to inundate society as of late. While there are some, like the grocery store employee, that remain polite and cordial towards me, more and more white people view my presence as an intrusion upon their space. I live in a predominantly white city, and by predominantly white I mean 97.99%. While most days are uneventful, I have undergone hair-raising situations such as being followed through my neighborhood while walking my dog and blatant discrimination while trying to vote.
My situation is nothing new to people like me. The United States has often failed to prove itself as the home of the brave and the land of the free. As a result, I currently do not feel like America is a safe home for me. My predecessors were kidnapped and stolen from their homeland to work as unpaid and abused slaves by European usurpers. And while supposed freedom was granted by this new government, oppression, segregation, and persecution continued to flourish in this ripe environment.
Then the civil rights movement became irrevocable and the government had to grant equal rights to the only people, save the Native Americans, that never immigrated here. It then became taboo to loudly voice prejudices and discriminate against people of minority ethnic backgrounds.
Fast forward 50+ years and our nation is a cesspool of vehement hatred and open bigotry. Laws still stand to protect the formerly disenfranchised citizens but increasingly, it’s becoming more acceptable to commit atrocities against minorities. While white privilege reigns supreme and white juries and judges overlook crimes committed by our fair brethren, minority victims are viewed as frightening, or as the “other” and are given corresponding sentences. The majority terrorize minorities and men take advantage of women. It seems that all the progress that has been celebrated for years has in fact quietly disintegrated.
What kind of freedom do I have when my fair skin neighbors hurl torments and abuse toward me for simply existing and being unable to control my hue? Why should I have to suffer from comments like “Go back to Africa,” and the overall assumption that I am far less intelligent and capable than a white person? I’m followed through stores and expected to steal due simply to the tone of my skin and often unable to enjoy the normal thrills of retail therapy as my peers. Why is it deemed appropriate by so many Caucasian people to ask me if I even know who my father is upon our first meeting or insist that I’ve had a multitude of kids even though I’ve just told them that I’m unmarried and childless? There is so much stated agitation and superiority complex exhibited by the portrayers of these comments and I frequently find myself considered lowly and belittled by their assertions.
Welcome to the United States of America in 2018. Once again, it’s okay to publicly spew hatred towards your brown neighbors despite regulations that state otherwise. The words of Emma Lazarus have become moot, for her words “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” are no longer celebrated for humanity, but only for our fair skinned, Caucasian brethren.