Living within a lie
Even a person who does not believe a lie may be forced to live within it.
For generations, people of color, while not believing in white supremacy, have been forced to live as if it was real. And we are still forced to live that way today.
But the one glimmer of hope is truth. And critical race theory is one means of delivering the truth.
White supremacists are now attacking critical race theory, hoping to destroy the truth and force all of us to continue to live within a lie.
The orthodoxy of white supremacy, reinforced by a willingness to employ gunpowder in a pan-global rampage, allowed white supremacists to amass most of the material resources of the earth and the means to exploit them solely for their own benefit. What school-aged child has not seen Europeans cast in a heroic light while gunning down indigenous people of North America, South America, Africa and Asia? The oppression and annihilation of people of color have been characterized by British author Rudyard Kipling as “the white man’s burden” to bring civilization to the rest of the world.
Yet there are those who take offense at the assertion that America is a racist country. While there are innumerable instances that evidence this fact, one clear example stands out for me.
When the feature film “The Hunger Games” was released in 2012 based on a young adult book, many white fans were enraged by the fact that one of the main characters, Rue, was portrayed by Amandla Stenberg, a mixed-race actress with an African American mother and a Danish father — even though author Suzanne Collins described Rue in the book as having “dark skin.” A blizzard of offensive, racist posts filled with the n-word and other derogatory terms flooded social media because a little Black girl had invaded their imagined white space of innocence and bravery. A particularly telling post was a tweet by someone with the handle “KK” who wrote: “Call me racist but when I found out rue [sic] was black her death wasn’t as sad #ihatemyself.” There can be no more clear affirmation that some people cannot even imagine that Black lives matter.
This race hatred began in America with European invaders, arriving with Christopher Columbus. The genocide of Indigenous Americans, combined with the importation of enslaved Africans as unpaid labor, created wealth for the European invaders founded upon stolen land and stolen labor. The encroachment on Indian land and exploitation of people of color through immorally low wages continue to underpin this disproportionate accumulation of wealth by white Americans. Current policy decisions by lawmakers and corporate leaders, such as refusing to legislate a livable minimum wage, redlining, discriminatory hiring practices, gerrymandering and more, continue to obstruct wealth accumulation by people of color.
The facts are clear, written in the blood-soaked soil and the countless unmarked graves of people of color who were murdered, massacred and worked to death so that certain white people could accumulate wealth and live as they pleased. This includes mistreatment of the Chinese, who were barred entry into this country after they helped build its railroads, and Japanese Americans who were herded into concentration camps during World War II without due process of law.
In 1940, approximately 1.2 million individuals born in Germany resided in the United States. Another 5 million had both parents born in Germany and 6 million had at least one parent born in Germany. Of these people, approximately 11,000 were detained during World War II and most of those were German nationals.
During this time, almost every Japanese American was placed in concentration camps. Approximately 127,000 Japanese Americans lived in the continental United States in 1940 and it has been reported that more than 120,000 were interned in concentration camps, despite reports from the FBI and the Office of Naval Intelligence stating that the vast majority of Americans of Japanese ancestry were loyal to the United States.
Despite many white supremacists wanting to avert everyone’s eyes from the truth, America’s racism has followed a long and winding path, leaving a history too lengthy to recount here. But critical race theory is an effort to place the facts before the world so that people, armed with the truth, can make meaningful change and not be forced to live within a lie.
Oscar H. Blayton is a former Marine Corps combat pilot and human rights activist who practices law in Virginia.