Believing in that procrastination can (occasionally) be a productive habit, I’m going to talk about this poster I keep seeing. I used to find this image both hilarious and insightful but, in reality, it’s not. It’s an attempt to channel understandable frustration into snark that unintentionally shows how much people don’t get how oppression works. Institutional racism (or any marginalizing ideology) isn’t going to evaporate because we’ve supposedly progressed as a nation or won a few battles in terms of civil rights and equality. People who have power are not going to be easily be convinced that giving it up is the right thing to do.
We’re still protesting this shit because it never went away. Racism in particular morphed into something much more insidious as a passage in Sam Greenlee’s The Spook Who Sat by the Door speaks to:
“[Freeman’s] job was to be black and conspicuous as the integrated Negro of the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States of America. As long as he was there, one of an officer corps of thousands, no one could accuse the CIA of not being integrated.”
Images of diversity in schools or in the workplace alone do not address why diversity was fought for in the first place. Likewise, one only has to look at how quickly any discussion of race and/or racism becomes Pulling the Race Card™. Preventing discussion and erasing difference through ideas like colorblindness are now fine-tuned tactics to keep us ignorant of our past and our present. We have to acknowledge contesting narratives and participate in difficult conversations to both understand and effectively address today’s problems.
Knowing what I do now after courses like Haiti: In History & Imagination and Civil Rights to Black Power, I can’t buy into the idea that intellectual progress (whatever that is) as a society or the passage of time would have counteracted racism. As long as people are being victimized, struggle should exist and that’s not a bad thing. The fact that we’re addressing similar (if not the same) issues is not unbelievable to me because of how racism is still embedded in American society.
And what if we were to eventually overcome oppression?
Protest should still exist because a critical eye is essential to progress. Progress should never be a fixed, linear goal: we should never stop striving to be better as individuals, as communities, as a nation.
So, yes, if I see you posting this in agreement, I’m probably going to side-eye you and think, “You’re missing the point.”