(OPINION) Why Race Matters in 2023

Congratulations to America for 158 years free from slavery, 58 years since racial integration began, and only 6 more months till Flint, Michigan’s lead-leaching pipes are fully replaced. Remember Flint?

“I Don’t Care if Someone Is Black, White, Green, or Purple” is the well-meaning unionizing cry of allies around the globe but what do we miss when we ignore the role race plays in daily life?

First, we need to know what race really is.

The simple answer, and an answer that is easy to stop at, is that race is a social construct.

That answer leaves out context.

Race was engineered by early white people to justify slavery and genocide. Race is the systematic othering of groups based on physical features to suppress them.

When people of color outnumbered whites, “whiteness” expanded. Groups accepted “whiteness” because of the privilege that status accords them.

In America, individualism plays a critical role in the ways we perceive race. The idea here is that with some hard work and determination, you can be anything, and the truth of the matter is that isn’t realistic…

While yes, the only real race is human, and we need to take personal responsibility, hiding behind these talking points downplays the aspects of hardship that come with navigating our Eurocentric society as a person of color.

Because racism is just as much ignorance and structures already in place as active hate individual choice, it isn’t always going to be as clear as the KKK riding into town or the hard “R” being thrown around like a hot potato.

It can be easy to forget it’s even happening if it’s not happening to you.

Racism is in the way Black men are 2.5x more likely to be killed by police, and people of color are more likely to have force used on them.

Racism is people of color being more likely to be human trafficked and less likely to be seen as victims.

Racism is thinking that because people of color get to be in the media and win awards on TV, everyone is now equal.

Representation In media will equal equity in society when people of color have as big of an impact on education as in pop culture.

The creation and use of race resulted in the rewrite and erasure of history. A defining characteristic of nonwhite people was their so-called lack of history.

AP African American history and Critical Race Theory have come under fire in attempts to maintain the narrative of history, partly because of white guilt.

Race matters in 2023 because racial inequality is woven into all aspects of society.

We all want to skip to the part where race and racism are truly relics of the past, but to make race a noncrucial factor in life, the upending of white supremacist systems has to be done first.

The work is in facing history. The good, the bad, and the ugly of history, regardless of how it makes you feel.

The work is in acknowledging your position on the ladder and the systems that keep you there.

The work is actively pushing against these systems so everyone can access the same opportunities.