The death of Freddie Gray at the hands of Baltimore police sparked outrage and protests by thousands of Baltimore residents and people of color around the world. It seems that almost daily, the headline "Unarmed Black Man Killed By Police" has pulled back the veil on what many white Americans, liberal and conservative alike, have been blinded to by privilege: racism is real in American society. Our new film, which we have shared here, highlights it.
With the 2008 election of Barack Obama, the success of entrepreneurs like Oprah and Tyler Perry, and the increase in African Americans attendance in college, about half of white American's have wrongly concluded that the US has entered a "post-racial" phase, where race is no longer the determining factor in inequality.
This couldn't be further from the truth.
The crux of much debate surrounding the death of Freddie Gray and the subsequent civil unrest by both moderate and conservative media and pundits lay the blame squarely on the backs of the protestors and victims of such assaults. They contend that these deaths and protests are a result of those unwilling to take responsibility for their actions. That criminal activity and arrests are a result of poor choices and poor moral character. That, in this post racial society, everyone has equal ability to change their circumstances if only they try hard enough.
What happens when we try to qualify those beliefs?
Well, we find that blacks and whites use marijuana at similar rates, but blacks are four times more likely to get arrested for it, and six times more likely to go to prison. This certainly proves that arrest has a whole lot more to do with what you look like than the actual crime.
Or what about when we compare resumes, and find that identical resumes sent to the same employer have a 50 percent less chance of being called if they have a "black sounding" name. This certainly demonstrates unequal ability to change your circumstances.
Want to complain about all of this to your local Congressperson? Good luck. People with black sounding names consistently see less responses from their representatives — in both parties. So much for taking responsibility!
The truth is, Jim Crow grew up, cleaned up, and started writing laws. Laws that create institutionalized racism without having to have a sign that reads "whites only." Our current policies and criminal justice system do that implicitly. To get a real handle on what is going on in Baltimore, Ferguson and around the nation; to understand why people feel stuck, angry, and frustrated, we have to be willing to face the fact that racism has not disappeared. It has instead morphed into less conspicuous white privilege and social and economic inequality. One that many American whites are unwilling to face out of guilt and the belief that they have somehow "earned" a position in life that they have, in fact, inherited by virtue of simply being white. At Brave New Films, we have produced a short film entitled Racism is Real that can be seen here. It highlights institutionalized racism in America. It is by no means exhaustive. But it is a start. If America wants to hold onto the belief that what we inherit is unabashedly what we deserve, then we must be willing to acknowledge that we force minorities to inherit inequality at no fault of their own.
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