By Joyrenzia Cheatham, The Whetstone
I’m sitting in the parking lot in front of Gooding Hall, excited, 18, ready to take on Wesley College as a freshman.
I’m talking to my parents and they are saying the usual “be safe, have fun” goodbyes.
The last thing my Pops told me before he left is still with me.
“You have to work twice as hard for half of what they have,” he said.
That was nearly four years ago, and I knew what Pops was talking about: I am a black woman who needs to work twice as hard for half of what white people assume is theirs.
I’ve discovered even more since.
The truth is, racism is the foundation of our “great” country. Not just for African-Americans, but, for a long time, for Italians, Russians and Jews, immigrants who 100 years ago were not considered white.
But it goes much deeper than that for African-Americans.
Racism can be seen at Wesley College, whether you believe it or not.
That is why Christian Bailey, Zahra Marcus, Kierra Whitaker and I decided to write the article, “Divided We Stand?” that ran in the last Whetstone issue
We noticed this problem on campus.
Did we meet resistance in the process? Hell, yeah. Unanswered emails, skipping out on scheduled interviews and even one person who tried to recant what she said just a few hours after we interviewed her.
No one wants to talk about it.
But you can’t fix a problem if you don’t address it.
When you close your eyes and think of the average American, what do you see?
I see a straight white man, along with an old Ford F-150, a Confederate flag on the back, and a tiki torch (I live less than an hour from Charlottesville, Va.) with a “make America great again” hat.
I cringe every time I hear that slogan.
When exactly was it great? When your father gave you a small loan of $1 million?
When George Zimmerman was found not guilty?
When my ancestors were forced against their will to leave everything they ever knew life was?
When we were considered three-fifths of a person?
When blacks and whites were segregated?
When hundreds of African-Americans were lynched every year?
When Native Americans were slaughtered on their own land?
When Mexico pays to build a wall?
Where were all these immigration laws when Christopher Columbus “discovered” America?
Not one of us students, black or white, did this. We were born into it.
Racism is built into the DNA of the United States. It was in the Constitution before the Civil War.
But it’s not in our DNA, black or white. For us, it is learned behavior. And it’s internalized.
It’s in the white community’s prejudice and feelings of privilege.
No other race has to fear for their lives when they are pulled over.
No other race has to worry about being accused of you-name-it because they “fit the description.”
Or are assumed to be part of gangs. Or live in poverty. Or take drugs. Or are victims of police brutality.
And it’s also internalized in the black community.
No other race openly calls themselves a word that was once used to mark them as property.
Yes, I say it, too, and no, you still can’t say it. Even when it’s in a song.
No other race has a “team light skin” vs. “team dark skin.”
Systematic racism is real.
How can we expect to be treated equal when we were set up for failure in the first place?
How can we succeed in a system that was never designed for us?
I am not asking for a handout or a participation trophy.
I am asking to be treated like a human being. I am asking to have the same opportunities as my white counterparts.
I am asking you to understand where I am coming from.
That is why we wrote the article.
And that is why I’m writing this.
You follow me?