The Crime of Color
Warning: This is 100% an opinion piece. With that I ask a simple question: Why does the world hate black people? I ask this not as an accusation, but as a legitimate question. Why does the world hate black people?
I always found it weird growing up. Now, I should note that my experience with this is from a place of privilege. I’m a young black man who has always lived in the suburbs of whatever city I inhabited. I rarely dealt with cops as a kid, and was essentially sheltered by my status. But even though I was sheltered, small bits of reality would pop up in my life.
I remember being in junior high and shocked to hear these words from my Korean crush: “My parents would let me date a white guy, maybe even hispanic, but a black guy? NO WAY. They wouldn’t approve.” I remember thinking, “Wait, why not me? What about me would your parents not approve of?” But I simply ignored it and went on my way.
(Shocking plot twist: That girl and I never ended up dating. I MISS YOU, KATHLYEEN!)
This is when I really started to notice the effects of racism in my daily life. Black people were considered inferior to everyone else in Asian culture. When I asked someone why that was (back in junior high), they couldn’t explain it. They said it was because of the way the media portrays black people—but I still didn’t understand. I asked people from other cultures, too, and the answer was always the same; when listing out problems regarding race, black people were always at the bottom.
Now, I could understand the prejudice if black people did something to the world. I remember reading sci-fi books as a kid, where a particular alien race would take over a planet, and thus became hated by the planet’s original inhabitants forever. Their kids’ kids would reap the same hatred that their parents did—and that made sense to me. If black people killed the majority of the population, then I could go, “Oh, okay, I get it.” But that didn’t happen. So, why are we hated again?
I want to understand. I do. Like when a black person gets killed on TV, people call them a criminal. But when someone who is not black does the same exact thing, there’s suddenly doubt. I have heard people say, “They were a good kid,” about a 22-year-old man who raped a girl. I KID YOU NOT: In the same social media feed, I saw the exact same group of people go after Tamir Rice, a child—a literal child—who was struck down after playing with a BB gun in the park. Again I ask, why are black people hated so much?
Hate is a strong word. And I use it on purpose. Why else would some Egyptians refuse to acknowledge they are African? I remember sitting on Facebook and watching a debate unfold, where a young person was referring to a group of people as Egyptians (WHICH IS AWESOME, BTW). But when someone said, “Oh, you’re African,” there was a really weird shift in the dynamic of the conversation. They refused to acknowledge it. Instead, they said, “I was born in Africa; I’m Egyptian, not African.” Guys, I laughed so hard. But then I became worried. Egypt is a part of the African continent. So, why do they refuse to be called African?
What’s even stranger are the lengths people will go to in order to hate black people. For example: Our favorite word from the last two years is “facts.” Everyone suddenly has them. Most just use them for their own gain. I once witnessed someone break out a literal graph to explain why people of African descent are less intelligent than caucasian people. But black people are not “dumber” than any other race. We’ve been given less opportunity to achieve at the same level as everyone else. But I digress.
I notice other things, too, as of late. Like being offered a seat in the back of a restaurant when other tables are open. Or being denied an Airbnb apartment. My girlfriend didn’t know I had to write a really long essay every single time I wanted to rent an Airbnb, so the host would feel comfortable with me.
“Oh, Seanloui, I have to do that, too,” you might say. That’s great, Bobby! But you don’t have to do that in order for them to feel like you’re “one of the good ones.”
So, where do we go from here? I honestly don’t know. Maybe an apology? It worked once. A former Prime Minister of South Africa once went before the entire country and apologized for the mistreatment of black people during apartheid. The rest of the country followed suit, though there is still work to be done there.
Part of the current conversation in America begins with “I shouldn’t pay for the sins of my ancestors.” I actually agree. You shouldn’t have to pay for what someone else has done. (You can quote me on that!) But you should—must—be open to having a conversation on how those very “sins” were the foundation of America—and are as American as apple pie. These established institutions only help continue to build upon these sins, and we must dismantle them at every chance we get.
Martin Luther King Jr. said it best: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Let us never choose silence.