Racial Equality - A Complete Guide
“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”
- Major General Gordon
On June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas, Major General Gordon Granger notified the last enslaved people in the USA of their freedom. Fast forward a couple of centuries and the systematic oppression continued, rolling down the mountain like an unstoppable boulder, guided by the law of inertia. Many wanted it to stop but didn’t know how to. Over the centuries, the fight for Racial Justice has taken many forms, and so has the manifold evolution of racial oppression. Ever since the fight for Racial Equality in America is a journey toward one entropy-ian goal:
Freedom and justice that goes beyond the boundaries of race, color, gender, and class.
Racial Equality: Why is it important?
America has established itself as a hegemonic power since the 1970s. Ever since its soft and hard power dynamics have dictated the political and cultural shifts of the world at large. As a first-world country that stands as an example of a ‘free nation', there are a few fundamental human rights issues that the country has systematically failed to address.
There is now a growing awareness about the lack of secular representation within the communities that inhabit this free land and Racial inequality lies at the heart of it. Why Racial justice stands at the center point of political and social reformations today comes from a simple realization- As the fastest growing nation in the world, America needs to move beyond its systematic Racial bias, and create a safe environment for the communities that call it home.
What started out as a movement for the upliftment of the African American community in America, soon became a powerful platform for people of marginalized racial backgrounds to speak up.
The last decade stands as proof of the power of collective action: Never before now, has there been such an organized, impactful, inclusive, and global social movement that demands the one thing that lies fundamentally at the heart of humankind: Equality beyond the color of one’s skin.
As the social movement against racial inequality and police brutality persists, we wanted to share a timeline of how these movements have evolved, and the waves of change they left behind.
Extensive academic research has happened to quantify the kind of injustice that is meted out to the multi Racial communities in the USA. We call this oppression ‘systemic’ because of its deep, omnipotent roots that pervade their life as a whole. The following are just a few examples to understand the magnitude of the oppression:
COVID-19 and Racial inequality
The following chart shows USA deaths of COVID-19 per 100,000 people by race, through the beginning of June 2020. Mortality rates for Black Americans and indigenous people are more than twice as high as for other races. Out of each 100,000 62 black and 36, indigenous people died in America, as against 26 white people.
Racial Wealth and America
Over the last three decades, the Racial wealth divide in America has only increased. A report by inequality.org tells us that America is headed towards becoming a ‘minority majority’ nation by the mid-21st century.
What that means is that the middle class is thinning perpetually and people are pushed closer to lower economic status every day. What’s more alarming are the racial patterns that emerge:
Black and Latino families are also twice as likely to have zero or ‘negative’ wealth ( when the value of debt exceeds the value of assets). The Racial Wealth divide report highlights how the percentage of black families with negative or zero wealth rose from 8.5% to 37% between 1983 to 2016.
Student loans and debt
A report by National Center for Education Statistics shows us that African American students have to take larger loans for college studies than white students. In America, graduates of Black Bachelor’s degrees face 13%, and Associate’s degrees 26 percent more student debt than their White peers.
Racial inequality and Gender
While Gender-based pay gaps exist in all Racial groups, the largest pay gaps exist among whites and Asians. What’s interesting is what’s happening within the Black community. This doesn’t mean that Latina and Black women have higher equity. The Census Bureau highlights that average pay for a man in these communities is way lesser than the average pay of White and Asian men.
Early movements against systemic Racial inequality
CORE and the American Civil rights movement
The Congress of Racial Equality or CORE was an organization found by an interracial group of students in 1942. It became the leading activist organization during the first few years of the American Civil rights movement- a decades-long struggle towards ending institutionalized Racial discrimination against the African American community.
CORE pioneered the ideology of non-violent, pacifist, and direct action towards ending racial segregation in its early years. It took part in a number of important civil rights efforts, including the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Freedom Rides, and Freedom Summer. By the 1960s, a series of murderous and violent events led to CORE adopting a more militant approach to racial justice.
Black Liberation Movement
The Black Liberation movement was a political movement that gained momentum between the 1960s and 70s. Working on college campuses and in local communities, they expanded their group by recruiting people from the revolutionary African American and Black Power organizations.
In 1972 the movement led the organizing of The National Black Political Convention in Gary. The convention came to be known as a gathering which is probably the most important political, cultural, and intellectual political organizing of the Black Power era.
BLM: Birth of a once-in-a-century movement
In 2013, Trayvon Martin, an African-American teenager was shot dead while walking to a family friend's house. The killer, George Zimmerman, was subsequently acquitted but left the people of American wondering where they are headed as a country.
It was in the wake of this and many other such incidents that Black Lives Matter surfaced as a campaign launched on social media. It was co-founded by three Black Women Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, as a response to police brutality towards black people in America. According to Black Lives Matter, the movement is "an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise.”
As the movement gained momentum, one thing was clear: It was the largest, most peaceful, and fastest-growing movement for Racial Equality that America had ever witnessed.
Within the first few years, the campaign grew exponentially. It became a platform that united the voices that told stories of systematic oppression through a single thread- the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. Thousands of stories surfaced every day, highlighting the magnitude of injustice that people were facing in the name of color all across America.
Police Brutality and Mass protests
Over the years after the birth of BLM, racially profiled killings continued. Eric Garner, John Crawford, Michael Brown, Jamar Clark, Anton Sterling, Charles Kensey, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, are a few names amongst a list of many others. Mass protests spread across the country with thousands of people on the streets, demanding justice for the dead and living
BLM becomes Global
By 2016, BLM had become a global movement. Fuelled by collective movement, soon its presence was hard to miss
The year saw major American sports stars lend their voices to the cause of Black Lives Matter. In July 2016, basketball players including LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony opened an awards ceremony by speaking about recent deaths of Black people.
Then, from August, many sports stars began taking part in protests during national anthems at sports games, beginning with Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during the anthem ahead of an NFL game.
By May 1st, 2018, a study found that the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter had been used nearly 30 million times on Twitter since the first instance in 2013.
Get on the bus: The freedom Ride to Ferguson
Following the killing of Michael Brown, BLM chapters organized a bus ride over the labor day weekend to ride to Brown’s hometown. Over 600 activists arrived and peacefully protested under the Black Lives Matter campaign. The campaign established one thing: that the movement is here to stay, and will not let incidents of racial injustice remain unknown.
Black History month and BLM
Black History Month is celebrated in February in the USA. A celebration that began 20 years ago, became a part of the BLM campaign in 2017.
Black Lives Matter put on their first art exhibition timed to coincide with Black History Month in the US state of Virginia. It featured the work of over 30 Black artists and creators .
Intersectionality & Racial Equality: An evolution
The BLM campaign set the stage for a larger revolution that would open doors for multi-ethnic communities to speak up. Stories of systematic racial discrimination against specific communities like the transgender, Hispanic and Asian communities in America came together to create a larger movement. They were able to leverage the opportunities created by the BLM campaign, and soon the movement took a larger shape and had many marginalized voices joining the movement to demand justice.
Black Trans Lives Matter Movement
In 2015, the hashtag #transliberation surfaced and the campaign gained momentum. LGBTQ organizations started standing in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. Every passing year saw an increasing number of transgender deaths and stories of violence.
According to the 2017 LGBTQ Teen Survey, Only 11% of youth of color surveyed believe their racial or ethnic group is regarded positively in the U.S. In 2019, advocates tracked at least 27 deaths of at least transgender or gender non-conforming people in the U.S. due to fatal violence, the majority of whom were Black transgender women.
Such numbers exist across years. Soon, hashtags like #Black LGBTQ Lives Matter and #Transliberation, and the movement integrated as an all-inclusive BLM campaign.
BLM and Gender Equality
Jessica Watters, in her article titled Pink Hats and Black Fists: The Role of Women in the Black Lives Matter Movement, outlines a beautiful incident:
On January 21, 2017, nearly five hundred thousand people, many adorned in pink, cat-eared “pussyhats,” descended on Washington, D.C.—the flagship location for the official “Women’s March.”1 In total, 673 “sister” marches took place across the seven continents, including Antarctica.2 An estimated five million people participated worldwide, and the March was the largest single-day protest in United States history. One photo from the March belies the purported unity. In that photo, Angela Peoples, a Black woman, stands unbothered in a crowd of smiling White women wearing pink “pussyhats.” Ms. Peoples’ cap reads “Stop Killing Black People;”
The oppression faced by Black women in America is layered- It’s gendered, racial, and economic. As Black Lives matter evolved, it became a more and more inclusive space.
A growing number of Black Lives Matter activists—including the women behind the original hashtag—have been refocusing attention on how police brutality impacts black women.
Has America achieved racial equality?
The answer depends on whom you ask, and that’s part of the problem. A national study available on Pew Research Center tells us that there are profound differences between black and white adults in their views on racial discrimination.
While 88% percent of the black community said that the country needs to make changes for equal Racial rights, only 55% of the white community feels that the country needs to do more to combat racial injustice.
But what we need is to broaden our understanding of what Racial Equality actually stands for. Hispanic, Asian, Native American, African American among others are a few communities that call American as much a home as the white population does. Until we understand and deal with the struggles of these specific communities in their current demographic context, Racial Equality is a long road for America, and there is much to be done.
Racial Equality and Native Americans
"If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together."
- Lilla Watson, Aboriginal Australian (Murri) activist
Fighting against police brutality is not new to indigenous people. Historical events of deep-rooted trauma like the “Indian Removal Act” (1830), the “Trail of Tears” (1838-1850), the “Sand Creek Massacre” (1864), and even, the “Wounded Knee Massacre” (1890), perhaps surface first in our memories.
Today, their struggles continue in many areas of life, regardless of their geographic or neighborhood context. Healthcare, housing, and schooling are a few of the many areas where the community feels discriminated against. According to a study, more than one in five Native Americans (23%) reported experiencing discrimination in clinical encounters, while 15% avoided seeking health care for themselves or family members due to anticipated discrimination
But the Black Lives Matter campaign brought with it winds of change. As conversations around Racial oppression increased, the indigenous Native American community also leveraged the platform to talk about institutional discrimination specific to their history.
In Minneapolis and other parts of the USA Indigenous people have joined in on the demonstrations with Black Lives Matter protesters, yet again mobilizing in a centuries-long movement against state violence. Hashtags like #Native Lives matter have surfaced in the last two years and are gaining exponential momentum and support.
Racial Equality and the Hispanic community
The PRC states that by 2060 the U.S. population will be about 43% White, 13% Black, 8% Asian, 6% Other, and a whopping 31% of the population will identify as Hispanic/Latino.
Despite these numbers, Hispanics are America’s largest minority group today. According to a PRC poll, Latino people are the second most discriminated against ethnic group after African-Americans in the country.
People of Latin American origin in the US have been racially defined and redefined over the past 195 years since the US purchase of Florida, the Mexican-American and Spanish-American Wars, and its ongoing relationships with Latin America and the Caribbean.
While ‘Hispanic/Latino’ are terms that are used to refer to ethnicity rather than race, many Latinos believe that their relation to race is more nuanced. A survey conducted by the PRC finds that 2/3rd of Hispanic adults say that being Latino is both part of their ethnic and racial background.
Racial Equality and the Asian community
Throughout the course of history, Asian Americans have faced a long legacy of exclusion and inequality in many areas of life, particularly during periods of changing demographics, economic recession, or war. Their identity seems to get lost between the black and white binary outlook that dominates American politics.
Their inclusion in American history is marked with alienation. Before the 1950s and ’60s, Asian-Americans were branded as a “yellow peril,” - an undesirable, alien menace. But immigration reform in 1965 led to an influx of highly skilled and educated Asian professionals settling in America.
As the civil rights movement gained momentum, politicians, social scientists, and journalists extolled Asian-Americans as “model minorities”, which was a discriminatory way of accepting a community still.
Today around 76% or three-quarters of American Asians feel that they have been treated unfairly because of their racial difference.
“Racial equity is about applying justice and a little bit of common sense to a system that’s been out of balance. When a system is out of balance, people of color feel the impacts most acutely, but, to be clear, an imbalanced system makes all of us pay.”
- CSI President Glenn Harris
Racism’s legacy is complex and needs frequent revisiting to understand how it takes new shapes. Racial ‘Equity’ versus ‘Equality’ comes from an ideology that talks about a world where the distribution of resources and opportunity is not guided by race, racial ideology, or racial bias.
Racial Equity is a process that allows People (of all races, color, or class) to thrive and flourish in their multiple intersections that make up their identity. These intersections include race, religion, gender, orientation, ability, and socio-economic background. It is when the most vulnerable communities have access to mechanisms that foster social equality, which is when Racial Equity is truly realized.