Khademian L. Analysis of the everyday struggle of black Americans . HPHR. 2023;77. https://doi.org/10.54111/0001/YYY2
The United States’ racist past is constantly trying to be erased, but its effects are felt and lived by Black Americans–specifically those who are African descendants of slavery. People both within and outside the system know that it has been specifically built to target and cause disparities for people of color; it is important for people to be aware of the actual impact that this imbalance has. Racism affects the quality of life of Black Americans due to racial disparities like the varying perceptions of persons based on racial bias and the lack of authoritative protection of Black people. This can lead to bigger problems such as hypersexualization, systemic neglect, and even death.
It is well-known that there is prevalent racial bias in the United States which contributes to great disparities thrown onto the Black community. However, this fact isn’t always well-recognized. Such disparities like lack of adequate healthcare and lack of protection at schools are the results of racial bias that is created by how the majority views the minority. We can see this in an article by P.R. Lockhart, which states that “Federal civil rights data has found that black girls are five to six times more likely to be suspended from their schools than white girls” (Lockhart 5). This statement shows that Black girls are often seen as more aggressive and less feminine (or “ladylike”) than white girls are. This stereotype causes them to be more likely to be penalized and treated more harshly than white girls in school. But this school-to-prison pipeline affects the entire community as well, not just women and girls. Black Americans account for about 13% of the U.S. population, yet somehow they are the most marginalized when it comes to being suspects of crime. The racial bias that law enforcement holds against Black people is reflected through the drastic numbers of those revealed in the data that the research team at PLOS ONE extracted from the NYPD “Stop, Question, and Frisk” database, which discloses as follows: “…of those we analyzed the 3,195,304 stops of males 18 and older, of which 10% were white, 53% were black, and 32% were Hispanic” (Milner, George, Allison 5). The numbers from this research help to explain the racial profiling and stigma that the police confer. There is a miserable history of police officers killing innocent and unarmed Black individuals, and white men are more likely to commit crimes than Black men are. Given this and the research previously stated, there is no logical explanation behind these results besides racial bias and the stigma that the Black men who were stopped seemed ‘suspicious’ or ‘dangerous’. If Black Americans are constantly being brutalized by police, it is inevitable that they will have a fear of law enforcement due to the pattern of their race being targeted.
Furthermore, racial bias can affect smaller areas of life as well, branching from how people of different races perceive each other. It also contributes to how they view the people in their own communities and themselves. The stereotype that Black men are aggressive and dangerous is proof of this and adds another hurdle to the already-existing obstacles that Black men must jump over everyday. These stereotypes can affect Black men of all ages and adds onto the feeling of hopelessness when fighting for freedom. George Yancy embodies this by describing an encounter he had with a white police officer, who assumed that the telescope his mother had gifted him was a weapon. Yancy reflects on this moment and theorizes, “He failed to conceive, or perhaps could not conceive, that a black teenage boy…would own a telescope and enjoyed looking at the moons of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn” (Knight 5). Black men and boys face immense amounts of stereotypes based on aggression and dehumanization, and such things could be detrimental to both their mental health and lead to death. People often fail to realize that Black men have a wider range of emotions than just angry or stoic. Tying more into this, Black people are very much aware of anti-Black racism and are struggling to balance those internal battles while also having to witness other folks that look like them get massacred by police. The subtitle of Ibram X. Kendi’s article from The Atlantic puts this into perspective: “To be black and conscious of anti-black racism is to stare into the mirror of your own extinction” (Kendi sub-title). It is a heavy but perfect example of the emotional and psychological trauma that Black Americans deal with. Even if it is not their individual name that becomes a hashtag in the news, they are still directly affected by the agony that comes with stepping out the house and not knowing if they will come back alive.
On the other hand, some would argue that Black Americans do not have it as bad as people imply, and that things were better off in times of slavery. There is the debate that Black Americans who were enslaved were actually physically and emotionally healthier than they are now. In Kendi’s article, the author writes about Frederick Hoffman’s views on the life of Black Americans 30 years post-emancipation. An excerpt from the article which talks about Hoffman’s book says as follows: “In 1896, Frederick Hoffman deployed data to substantiate racist ideas that are still building caskets for black bodies today” (Kendi 3). Hoffman stated that the supposed gradual extinction of Black Americans was inevitable and would come in due time. Despite the “abolishment” of slavery given by the 13th Amendment in the U.S. Constitution, Black Americans still face the consequences of systemic racism and are still being oppressed to this day. The criminal justice and law enforcement systems are inherently racist and have been the cause of many incarcerations and deaths among Black individuals, especially Black men. An article by Radley Balko notes on this by citing a study conducted by the National Academy of Sciences, noting that “…Black men were about 2.5 times more likely than white men to be killed by police, and that black men have a 1-in-1,000 chance of dying at the hands of police” (Balko 6). Police brutality is rooted in racial stigma and the power imbalance between Black individuals and police officers and is a direct cause of slavery. Even if Black Americans are no longer in chains, they are still brutalized and evidently have a higher mortality rate than white Americans do.
The basis on whether or not someone’s life matters should not be a political debate. Not being discriminated against is a human right, and Black Americans suffer from the effects of racism everyday, both on the systemic and civil levels. Even one small action can lead to an even greater consequence–what seems like the most minimal bias or prejudice can build up and lead to things like protective bills not being passed, or children being sent to detention centers, etc. It is important to recognize that so that history does not repeat itself.