Implicit Racism Rampant In My Community: The Bay Area Isn’t The Safe Haven We Presume It To Be

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San Francisco/Bay Student Racism

I have lived in, what I presumed to be, a predominantly progressive community my entire life. Not once did I question the level of acceptance garnered by minority groups in the Bay Area. 

I grew up with Pride flags, friends of different races, parents that used different vernaculars and languages, and the acceptance of different faiths/religious beliefs. I grew up in a community where we were not color blind, rather, diversity was cherished. I learned to celebrate my own identity as an Indian-American female, something that I recognize as an immense privilege on its own.

Not once did I question the level of acceptance garnered by minority groups in the Bay Area. Not once.

Communities have gathered in solidarity following the recent atrocities displayed in the news. George Floyd’s death was a tragedy, but his life was not taken in vain. Pride bloomed inside of me when youth leaders within my community immediately took it upon themselves to plan peaceful protests, spread resources to encourage allyship and instigate respectful conversations about what it means to be Black in America. 

 Police brutality is the product of a nation in which the mythology of a rapacious Black man and the subsequently impotent White female plagues the criminal justice system. It is the primary cause of mass incarceration and the criminalization of Black and Brown men. The 13th Amendment failed to address racial equity. 

You may have been taught that slavery was abolished by the 13th Amendment. This is false. “EXCEPT as a punishment for crime,” it reads. These were the beginning of the policing system in America; a system in which institutionalized slavery is legal. 

I was wrong to believe that this information was available to members of my community; even worse, I was wrong to believe that they would take the initiative to teach themselves. I was wrong to assume that in the Bay Area, we not only took it upon ourselves to condemn ignorance, but we conquered the inherent racial prejudice within us–as a community.  

A Black student and recent graduate of my high school released, via her Instagram story, a list of individuals accompanied by digital proof of their participation in the usage of derogatory language; specifically, the N-word. Many were quick to condemn her actions, treating the incident, and her choice to publicly release these names, with contempt. 

I was appalled by the behavior I witnessed. Many of the participants in said conversations were members of my Asian community. It was a difficult but necessary realization for me to make; that implicit racism, both within the Bay Area as well as my Asian community, is not as under control as I thought.

Racial discrimination is unequivocally abhorrent. I was disgusted not only by the sheer number of students who were denounced but the means by which they defended themselves. They contextualized the situation, claiming that they were merely quoting a song or video. They defended their ignorance by attributing it to our supposed “poor schooling system.” Worst of all, many refused to take ownership of their actions by choosing to remain silent and complacent with themselves and their choices.

I stood by the girl who released and tagged the individuals in an attempt to expose them. Many argued with me that she had other, more viable options. She could’ve talked to them privately in a dignified manner, they said. Many of the students, recent graduates of my high school, were promised athletic and merit scholarships and risked getting their admission taken away to prestigious universities. 

To the aforementioned students, and even the adults that berated her, this is what I say: these are the future leaders of America. Politicians, doctors, lawyers. I don’t want my life and personal justices in the hands of individuals unable to comprehend the consequences of their racism. If momentary shame was what it took for them to understand the breadth of their actions, as compared to the centuries of degradation Black people have endured upon the usage of that slur, I am all for her releasing the list publicly.

Many were also quick to argue that the student could have used her platform to inform, rather than vilify the students. I think my response to that allegation would be worded best by the student herself:

“I am not an activist. I am a Black woman.”The 'Some of My Best Friends Are Black' Defense - The New York Times

Black/African-American individuals have no obligation during this time to educate White/non-Black POC. And yet, she still did. Shortly after releasing the list of names, she posted a brief paragraph regarding the slur’s origins, as well as why it’s offensive to use if an individual doesn’t identify as Black.

And even after all of this, she offered vindication. Students that sent proof of their apologies were promised their removal from the list.

Racism has become increasingly apparent within my community. It is unacceptable to me that students felt the need to blame their actions on ignorance when our school has made the consequences regarding participation in derogatory language abundantly clear.

What I do agree with moving forward, however, is the implementation of more Black history education within not only my school but schools across America. Personally, I did not fully understand the aftermath of the 13th Amendment as well as the origins regarding the slur until I watched the Netflix documentary 13th (I will list a multitude of various other resources I’ve found helpful below). Black History is American history and should be taught as such. 

Conversations following the student’s posts, regarding a supposed “double-standard” behind the usage of the slur, have proved the importance of what I mentioned above. Black History must be taught in schools, and not just bits and pieces. Non-peaceful leaders of the Civil Rights movement, the Jim Crow era, and the founding of the Black Panthers are just a few of the many topics I personally have researched following George Floyd’s murder. These are topics that I’ve never heard mentioned in my History classes, and that must change.

The Bay Area, and more importantly California, is not exempt from these conversations. Our state prides itself on our acceptance. We are referred to as tree-huggers, hippy-ish liberals with love and arms open for everyone. Even I used to boast about my region’s progressiveness to my friends around the nation. I thought as Californians as the superior breed of the future; that we were one step ahead of the rest of our nation. But as much as many other Californians and I would like to think that we’re one step ahead, we must conquer both the covert and explicit prejudice and ignorance within ourselves and our communities to do so. 

 

RESOURCES LIST:

Television

  • When They See Us
  • Dear White People

Film

  • 13th 
  • 12 Years A Slave
  • Selma
  • Hidden Figures
  • Get Out
  • Moonlight
  • Mudbound
  • Black Panther
  • Creed

Books

  • Just Mercy
  • The Bluest Eye
  • The Hate U Give
  • Black Enough

Theatre

  • Slave Play
  • Fences
  • The Color Purple (musical)

Music

  • To Pimp A Butterfly 
  • Lemonade

 

PETITIONS LIST:

George Floyd – https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/peti…

Raise The Degree – https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/peti…

Arrest All Four – https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/peti…

Raise The Degree – https://www.change.org/p/minneapolis-…

George Floyd – https://www.change.org/p/mayor-jacob-…

George Floyd – https://t.co/ENgYhM2oEC

George Floyd – https://act.colorofchange.org/sign/ju…

Get The Officers Charged – https://t.co/lPsRQq6GqD

Charge All Four Officers https://www.change.org/p/change-org-t…

Breonna Taylor – https://sign.moveon.org/petitions/jus…

Breonna Taylor – https://act.colorofchange.org/sign/ju…

Ahmaud Arbery – https://www.change.org/p/federal-bure…

Ahmaud Arbery – https://www.change.org/p/human-rights…

Pass The Georgia Hate Crime Bill https://www.change.org/p/governor-bri…

Defund MPD https://secure.everyaction.com/eR7GA7…

Life Sentence For Police Brutality https://www.change.org/p/department-o…

Life Sentence for Police Brutality https://www.change.org/p/department-o…

Regis Korchinski – https://t.co/fqxvTJ76gE

Tony McDade – https://www.change.org/p/black-lives-…

Joao Pedro – http://chng.it/FjJ7ZD4q5p

Julius Jones – https://www.change.org/p/julius-jones…

Belly Mujinga – https://www.change.org/p/govia-thames…

Willie Simmons – https://www.change.org/p/alabama-gove…

Hands Up Act – https://www.change.org/p/us-senate-ha…

National Action Against Police Brutality https://www.change.org/p/national-act…

Kyjuanzi Harris –https://www.change.org/p/illinois-gov…

Alejandro Vargas Martinez – https://www.change.org/p/florida-poli…

Censorship Of Police Brutality In France https://www.change.org/p/gouvernement…