Racism: The Real, Enduring ‘Cancer’ in American Society

US First Lady Michelle Obama

US First Lady Michelle Obama

For those who know the United States of America only from what Hollywood puts out on TV, the US might be construed home of the brave, home of the smart, loving people.

A writer named Lindy West reminded the world this past week ending Saturday, May 16, there is another side to this democracy you only see if you live there; the side that says racists live in America.

Racism is real in the US, the writer quotes the US First Lady Michelle Obama as telling graduates at Tuskegee University in a graduation speech.

Tuskegee University is a black university based in Alabama, a state in the so-called ‘Deep South’ which  includes the states of South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas and the state of Arkansas–which are known to be notorious for their dislike of black people.  Also read our earlier story on racism in the US at the following link: Florida Police Practice Shooting Innocent Black Man

The first lady encouraged the black graduates to prepare for a life in that country which might at times feel isolated.

The first lady said in the mildest possible terms, that racism is real, and that the eager, bright-eyed Tuskegee graduates should devote their lives to some combination of the following anti-American subterfuge techniques: voting, doing a dance, having self-esteem, becoming teachers, following their dreams, fighting the kind of structural inequalities that historically forced black luminaries to build science labs out of literal garbage, and intermittently hula hooping.

Here’s an excerpt from [the speech] climax: “I know that these little indignities are obviously nothing compared to what folks across the country are dealing with every single day – those nagging worries that you’re going to get stopped or pulled over for absolutely no reason; the fear that your job application will be overlooked because of the way your name sounds; the agony of sending your kids to schools that may no longer be separate, but are far from equal; the realisation that no matter how far you rise in life, how hard you work to be a good person, a good parent, a good citizen – for some folks, it will never be enough.”

You can judge for yourself just how controversial the speech was.

Black people being disproportionately and spuriously detained by police; candidates with “black”-sounding names being passed over for jobs; black families being trapped in cycles of poverty by red-lining and mass incarceration and forced to send their children to unsafe, impoverished schools – whatever your feelings about our current first lady, these are not opinions. They are facts. Acknowledging them should not be radical. They are simply true, and you either care about them or you don’t, and this is not up for discussion.

And as for whether or not you can ever “be enough” for some folks, just look at the internet’s response to an erudite, beautiful, Ivy League-educated black lawyer-turned-first-lady-of-the-United-States stating (almost understating, even) the undeniable fact that racism still exists: “boo hoo.you can get the fuck out anytime you want cunt. Quit whining about how much this country hates you. YOU DON’T MATTER.”

Certain white people, it seems, are so fragile when it comes to discussions of race, they’re not even capable of absorbing and accepting basic, observable truths. Forget nuance. Forget dialogue, Lindy West wrote on the British Guardian Newspaper’s website.

The depth of white denial – of what’s happening right in front of us, and has been happening for centuries – is nauseating. A friend of mine, who grew up a sharecropper on a plantation in the deep south, put it to me the other day: “I’ll never understand it. Everything that black folks have put up with and swallowed over the years – and white people are mad at us? Scared of us?”

Here’s more from the first lady: “And all of that is going to be a heavy burden to carry. It can feel isolating. It can make you feel like your life somehow doesn’t matter – that you’re like the invisible man that Tuskegee grad Ralph Ellison wrote about all those years ago. And as we’ve seen over the past few years, those feelings are real. They’re rooted in decades of structural challenges that have made too many folks feel frustrated and invisible. And those feelings are playing out in communities like Baltimore and Ferguson and so many others across this country.”

Obviously Michelle Obama can do whatever she wants with the remainder of her husband’s term (a good portion of her speech emphasises as much), but I hope this is a harbinger of things to come. How impactful would it be if every speech from now until the end of the Obama presidency used this as a baseline?

Of course America is not the only place on earth where black humans are regarded as sub-human. The latest struggle elsewhere is in Japan, where a beauty contest winner is being rejected by elements of her Japanese society because she carries a black man’s genes.

Ariana Miyamoto

Ariana Miyamoto

A report on this subject was found on a webste: Japan‘s newest beauty queen is fighting back against critics inside the country arguing that she is a foreigner because the 20-year-old is half African American. Ariana Miyamoto was born in Nagasaki, Japan, on May 12, 1994, from a Japanese mother and an African-American father.

Miyamoto won the Japan Miss Universe title on March 12, 2015, and her victory instantly stirred controversy on various websites and social media platforms from the Japanese public questioning her eligibility in representing their country.

“Is it okay to select a hafu [bi-racial] to represent Japan?” one Twitter user wrote, according to the Japanese cultural news website Kotaku, while others said she didn’t look Japanese and that her face was “too gaijin [foreign].”

In response, Miyamoto said she wasn’t surprised because she was a target of discrimination when she was younger. Now, she wants to raise awareness against racial discrimination, according to an interview with Bloomberg.

“If there hadn’t been this kind of criticism, there would be no point in me competing,” she said, adding, “I don’t want to ignore it. I want to change those people’s attitudes.”

“Change happens slowly in Japan, but it does happen,” blogger Brian Ashcraft wrote on Kotaku.  Miyamoto will be competing in the 2015 Miss Universe contest.