As Long as Most Positions of Power are Controlled by White People, Brown People will Never Gain Equal Footing
The topic of race relations have been #trending since the lynching of George Floyd. Race was an important part of the conversation before Derek Chauvin murdered Floyd, but in reality, it was swept under the rug and people (especially outside of the US) widely believed that the race problem was “solved” in the States. We know, now, that this isn’t true. First, our country did a complete 180 after the presidency of Barack Obama ended. Donald Trump ran a divisive campaign that appealed to the bogus “forgotten majority.” The slogan he sold, “Make America Great Again,” basically was an homage to Ronald Reagan, but rebooted and retrofitted to suit Trump’s greatest advantage — that he is White.
The latest census.gov results show that those who are 100% White are no longer as dominant as they once were. Though our country was founded on being a bastion for those who were “tired and poor,” society laments the many black and Hispanic refugees that sit at our border waiting for entrance. Of course, this mentality of keeping “others” out is not new to the human condition. We’re animals, at our core, and we are tribal. Even when race is not the centerpiece, we flock to those who share our viewpoints. We’ll get behind Republicans when we’re Republican, even when they do awful things (just an example, because Democrats are pretty terrible, too).
The New York Times wrote an article about the “Faces of Power.” Though only sixty percent of America identifies as “White,” 80% of those who are in power are White. Now, what I suspect is that there are actually more white people than white people would like to admit. For example, if you’re a quarter white and look pretty white, then perhaps you tell the Census that you’re not white at all. After all, it’s a system that’s not exactly genetically testing folks. Hey, wasn’t Elizabeth Warren selling us all on her “Native American” roots for a while? Turned out to be a sham, and lots of others who would love to misappropriate more than the White Man already has from Natives will tell you the same thing. Side bar: as a lawyer, I’ve had clearly white individuals registered to no tribe tell me that they identify as Native. I’m sure Cherokee Nation would beg to differ.
The fact is, your race is what you tell the world what your race is. The US, despite its diversity (well, mostly in the greater NYC area and other “urban” parts of the US), is still pretty friggin’ white. The greatest “tell” of our true lack of progress? Watch a Utah Jazz game. With 197,000+ people in Salt Lake City alone, it’s scary to see that many white faces in a basketball arena, but also a reality check that us brown people are, yes, still very much in the minority.
There are many among us who cannot “hide” race. If you’re black, you probably cannot hide that you are black. If you’re Chinese, you probably cannot hide that you are Chinese. But what about “ethnic” groups that get conflated with race groups, like Hispanics? Many Hispanics are some of the “Whitest-looking” people I’ve ever seen, and that is because their ancestors hail from European countries like Ukraine or Spain or Germany. But lots of Hispanic people do not like to be considered “White.” Is that an advantage, though?
I listen to tons of sports-talk radio. Interestingly, lots of straight men are fixated on the good looks of Jimmy Garoppolo. Lots of straight women are fixated on his good looks too, but I digress. Jimmy has an advantage in this world that few people have — he is a stud. I have never seen more men ooh and aah over this dashingly handsome quarterback who honestly, with his stats, should have just gone into modeling. Jimmy has gotten a pass throughout his entire life because of how handsome he is. Carson Wentz was just traded to the Washington Commies (Peter Rosenberg’s affectionate name for his beloved Washington football team). Who will likely replace him? Jimmy. Jimmy’s numbers are not that great, and definitely worse than Carson’s. But what is Jimmy that Carson isn’t? Good-looking.
The way you look, affects the way you are treated. If you’re black, a male, and tall or big, and it’s dark at night, our inherent biases tell us that you might be dangerous. What if that same, black, male who’s tall and big, happens to walk into a board meeting where everyone else is white? What’s our perception then? The perception might be, “Affirmative action put this guy here,” or “There is probably some diversity initiative at this company,” or “He must be from some wealthy African family.” These are horrible things to say out loud, but these are all things that white people, and even brown and black people, say to themselves all the time. Someone who is white and handsome, like Jimmy Garoppolo, never has or had a problem like this in his life. But someone who is black or brown or Hispanic — he probably has dealt with this problem every single day.
So, why does any of this matter? This matters because if you’re a White billionaire, or White millionaire, or White average-income individual who is in a position of relative power, you hire people who look just like you. So, if you’re the white CEO of a Fortune 500 company, you end up hiring the people who look like you, talk like you and act like you. Those people are white. Those same hirees will also hire people that look like them, talk like them and act like them. The cycle continues. When will a Black or Brown person get hired?
Brown people need to pull other Brown people up. If we don’t do that for one another, then we will never fill the positions of power that have controlled our fates for so long.
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