Friday, August 28, 2020

TLDR; remember situation today was intentionally created

TLRD (too long, didn't read) is a great acronym for when things get carried away in explanations and then in the end of a long rant you want to make it easier to grasp "what is it I wanted to say".

I really had planned writing about #covid19 and how international travel has made me be very tired lately.

However, as with best laid plans, they aren't where you end up. I'll write about the covid19 things later. For tonight I feel that I want to clarify something that's been eating me up when listening and being asked to comment on current situation in the USA.

As an immigrant in the USA, living for over 13 years in the South of USA, I feel that I have gathered a lot of information and insight into things that I barely grasped when moving.

I grew up in an intellectual family in Sweden. Lots of reading, lots of politics, lots of knowledge of history. My formative years were times discussing South Africa (apartheid), the Palestine-Israel conflict, USA in Vietnam, colonial powers in general (France and Algeria for example) and Chilean (really several South American countries) dictatorship. I thought I had grasped quite a lot as a protected white native Swede. As one does when reading and meeting a lot of people and discussing on a theoretical level.

However, as usual, when living in the place where things happen - you grasp a different angle. You are forced to encounter situations that you never thought would happen (especially not when you perceive yourself as "knowing"). And most of all, you learn to be humble to a degree that is leaving you with only a few choices. One of them is "I will listen to and accept the reality that these people describe to me is their reality".

And that's what happened when I moved to the South.

I realized after half a year living in the South that something was off. What? Well, at starters I didn't - at the time - feel that my reality was that different from living in Sweden. (In hindsight, which is as we all know 20/20, that's a given red flag that something is strange..... ) My city where I lived was demographically very different from the Sweden city I grew up in.

To make it easy; my home city was easily 90% white, my new city was over 60% African-American. Despite this, the bars and restaurants (and church and work) where I hung out were probably at least 80% white. Or at least "as similar to my home town that I didn't feel that it was too different".

This gave me pause and made me question a few things. Mainly where I was hanging out, why this was and if there was something else on how this was happening.

(side note; it was like this partly because at the time I hung out with other white immigrants at the places they showed me, and then some other places where "middle-class/affluent" people frequented.)

After a few more years in the South I had gathered anecdotal evidence that I'm "passing as an American, specifically a white American woman" and that this fact opened a lot of doors for me. Note, the doors that opened were also where people greeted me as "you're not a real immigrant" since it was perception I spoke English as a native language in my home country Sweden (we speak Swedish), and I am a Christian, and - of course - being white.

However, that's not the point of this blog post. The points of this blog post are to link to a few articles that explain fundamental historical facts that has made the situation we are in today. Where African-Americans and People of Colour (PoC) are more likely to get shot, get arrested, get non-invited for interviews, get looked upon with distrust etc.

It's too long (as I mentioned in the beginning, it's a long story) for me to be succinct.

I mainly want you to know one fact I've learned after all this time living in the South.

It's intentional politics that have gotten us where we are. It's intentional to hinder non-whites and non-wanted people from voting. From owning their own homes. From having the thriving neighborhoods that once were. From excluding a lot of the history about this from schools and public education. (Like the fact that schools in Oklahoma didn't include the Tulsa Massacre in 1921 in the public school curriculum until this fall in 2020 (and who knows how that will happen now with covid).)

The reconstruction after the civil war, the backlash, the Jim Crow laws and the Civil Rights Movement and voting rights. And that are the voting rights that are hot contested in the USA today. It's not like in Sweden, and other EU countries, where you are automatically registered to vote on your 18th birthday - no action required. Nope, there is a process to get registered to vote, and on top of that the voting day is a regular work day with complications to get time off if you aren't a salaried worker.

And the fact that USA system, while it is a lot based on income and that there are a lot of poor white people as well, is based on a right that was for a very long time classifying a non-white African-American as 3/5 of a person. And that the District of Columbia being classified a district and not a state, therefore not having representation in the House of Representatives, is stemming from the fact that there was only "State representatives from real States, and slaves and servants" living there, and since the State representatives and their aides had voting in their home states - there was no need for the other people to have voting/representation rights.

To me, there is no way to see all these historical facts and not draw the conclusion - this is not "natural" this is a "created, systematical way of excluding people that are not wanted".

At the bottom are some links for further reading. There are many many more. And if you ever come by Memphis - the National Civil Rights Museum is a must. It'll take you more than 3 hours to go through it and you will still learn more things afterwards. There is a lot to take in. And it will not be easy. It is difficult things to see and understand.

Final comment; "If not now, when?" There is no waiting. It will be painful to acknowledge that regardless of your own intention or wanting, if you are white - there is a huge burden to take on and work on making things right and just. Nothing else to say or make excuses. It's something we just have to do. And it starts by listening to other peoples' experiences and acknowledging that there are a lot of things we have to change. Now.

Links to read:
Segregation myth - Richard Rothstein This is a GREAT explanation and video interview of the systematic idea behind suburbs among other things
NY Times 1619 project 
Role of Highways in America - The Atlantic
Highway protests - Facing South
Reconstruction era - black congress members
Breaking up slave families