GUEST COLUMN: Systematic Racism
BY KEITH TUCKER
Special to The Enterprise
The story of George Floyd has led many to ask about systemic racism. The story of racism in America did not begin with imported slaves. It began when the Europeans began arriving on these shores. If the native Americans had done what was best for themselves, they would have killed every person that stepped off of a ship and burned every speck of lumber. We would have still gotten here, but the timeline would have been much delayed. What followed is what we called colonization, but in reality, it was an invasion of an inhabited foreign land and subsequent subjugation of an indigent population. It’s not the history as we like to recall it, but the winners always write history as they see it.
Now, there was violence and war between Indian tribes, but Europeans seemed to have advanced the ability to kill one another at a much faster and more-efficient rate. Indians also raided and took slaves from other tribes, but there is some question as to their long-term treatment.
There is an historically-logical argument that had America not been colonized, world history could gave taken a terrible turn without our industrialized America available to help win two world wars. So, did the sacrifice the native Americans made by being forced into reservations lead to a better world? That, unfortunately, is beyond my comprehensive abilities. I have wrestled with the notion that left alone, would the American Indians have developed into a modern, industrialized society.
My opinion is no, but I fear I have an underlying bias that I don’t even know about. Which brings me back to the premise of systemic racism. Let me put forward an experiment. In Israel every able-bodied person spends time in the military. It makes every person have some experience at defending the country and have some skin in the game.
On a similar notion, if every Caucasian person in this country spent a year as a person of color, oh how respect and attitudes would improve. It’s a walk-a-mile-in-my-shoes concept. On a similar, but different note, maybe everyone needs to spend another year understanding how women are discriminated against. I have debated writing about this subject for fear that some would find something offensive in it, even though that is the very last thing I would want.
In a nutshell, what this says is that when history is so full of systemic racism, not only against people of color, but anyone not like you, it’s not surprising that it is still here and so difficult to combat. The answer might be to treat this like alcoholism. The first step is to admit it’s here and take steps to keep it from reoccurring with everyone helping each other.
There is plenty of room for improvement. I would like to take a second to explain a situation that is very much of our own making and is rooted in historical racism. The inner city is populated by a high percentage of people of color. Do you know why? After World War 2, the returning soldiers got a low interest VA loan to buy homes. But black soldiers were expressly prohibited access to these loans. They, instead, were given low-rent apartments in the then-new-inner-city, high-rise apartments. This kept them from living in the same neighborhoods and earning equity from home ownership. This one thing alone caused an economic inequality that, when multiplied over generations, has created financial and educational difficulties that have yet to be overcome.
Editor’s note: Keith Tucker is a Greenfield resident and owner of The Marble Shop. He may be contacted by email at email@example.com.