The below infographic is making the rounds on social media and, on December 2nd, made its appearance in the homes and public spaces of Americans.
Leave aside for the moment that it aired on the O’Reilly Factor and, without challenging the veracity of such statistics, let’s stop and think a minute, contextually, about what is wrong with this picture. Context is important.
Let’s back up and get a wider view. Isabel Wilkerson can help us get oriented; in August, she wrote in the Guardian, “the rate of police killings of black Americans is nearly the same as the rate of lynchings in the early decades of the 20th century.” She’s referring to the extra-judicial killings of black people–I almost wrote men, but I’m not at all certain that lynching was gender exclusive–by mobs of white people in the Jim Crow era. Wilkerson’s article offers insight that should make any intelligent American feel shame that the Fox infographic exists. That it was aired on network TV and embraced by many white Americans should be stunning; unfortunately it is not. Because this is simply the way America operates.
So let’s back up further and acknowledge that America was built by slave labor. Without slavery, we would have had no industrial revolution. Think on that. Let’s acknowledge that the black people who built the country, both physically and economically, were treated as property. Let’s acknowledge that we’ve never addressed slavery in a meaningful way as a country, that the descendents of those slaves have never been even economically compensated for their ancestor’s labors. Let’s acknowledge that by the time slavery was formally abolished, the racist structure was solidly in place, and that the brief period of Reconstruction did not correct the structural inequities, nor did the 20th century’s Civil Rights Era.
Let’s acknowledge that all Americans have a lot of work to do before we arrive at a just society.