The Year in Racial Amnesia

By Cord Jefferson for

All those who would look back to the "charms" of Olde America seem unaware that those days are not so far gone. The United States has improved such that we no longer have mobs that gather to watch a lynched body the way they might watch a fish struggle on a line. But we're lying to ourselves if we think Florida police arresting a black man dozens of times simply for going to work isn't an act underpinned by the old notion that some people's rights are worth less than the rights of others. We're kidding ourselves if we think that New York police arresting three black kids simply for waiting in an inadequate place for a school bus isn't underpinned by the old notion that black people should be treated with suspicion. We're refusing to open our eyes and acknowledge what's right in front of us if we think that that same fear isn't at the heart of the killings of Oscar GrantTrayvon Martin, Jonathan Farrell, Renisha McBride, and others.

In America we like to pretend that our statues and federal holidays are proof that we are humbled by and respectful to our shared national history. But how respectful are we, and to whom are we showing respect, when a monument to a "great" American fails to mention that that man once worked ceaselessly to subjugate an entire group of other Americans? How respectful are we when we publish in our newspapers headlines calling black women liars for proffering the ridiculous opinion that the racism they've known since childhood is a real thing? Whose history is being respected when a white American says she pines for the days when entire restaurant waitstaffs were composed of old black men? Why does it feel like some histories are more valued than others in America, where often the response to minorities who mention their difficult pasts is, "Get over it"?

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Donovan X. Ramsey