THOMPSON: Systemic racism alive and well in America | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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THOMPSON: Systemic racism alive and well in America



A uniform, badge and gun mean one thing in America if you’re white, and more often than not, something very different if you’re not white. This has long been the case.

The almost universality of Smart Phones with cameras, and to a lesser extent body cams worn by officers in many law enforcement agencies, have brought new light to actions that for too long were cloaked in darkness. And far too often - when secrecy didn’t work - killings were covered up the old fashioned way, with lies.

Black Lives Matter - a political and social movement that started 10 years ago - has often used photographic and video evidence to call out incidents of police brutality and racially motivated violence against Black people.

The video-taped deaths of Mike Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice at the hands of police over a five-month span in 2014 focused new attention on how differently police handled encounters with Black men than white.

Men - black and white - have an upper hand though in a society weighted historically more favourably toward males. Men have more wealth, more power, more say on virtually every point of life than women. Don’t believe it…despite a majority of Americans supporting a right to abortion…look who’s telling women what they can do?

And if you’re a Black woman…well, for most of the past couple hundred years in America you’ve been virtually invisible. Until just recently if a Black woman was killed…by a police officer or anyone else…the story maybe made it on local news…almost never on national news. Often, truth never left the police station.

That is changing…thanks to people and organizations calling out the injustices. The #SayHerName campaign is making formerly invisible names visible…and stories of Black women and girls victimized by racist police violence…known.

Two groups - the African American Policy Forum (AAPF) and the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies (CISPS) - started telling the stories of violence against Black women and girls nearly eight years ago. And it is making a difference.

Hundreds of family members of Black women killed by police came together from across the country for a vigil back on May 20, 2015, at Union Square in New York City. This event - “#SayHerName: A Vigil in Memory of Black Women and Girls Killed by the Police” - gave the movement traction.

Black women and girls like Alberta Spruill, Rekia Boyd, Shantel Davis, Shelly Frey, Kayla Moore, Kyam Livingston, Miriam Carey, Michelle Cusseaux and Tanisha Anderson are dead, but for the first time people beyond their families and friends know their names…and their stories.

Even the way police deal with Black folks when it comes to policing is dramatically different. Black men and women are more likely than white folks to have police show up unannounced at their home with warrants for lesser crimes - misdemeanours - like traffic violations. Black folks are more than 20 percent more likely to be stopped while driving…even though their vehicles and behaviours are similar.

But Black women face higher risks in most every aspect of life…not simply being unjustly persecuted by police and courts.

It is a fact that Black women face greater health risks due to racism - both from health professionals who don’t take the concerns of Black women as seriously as white women - and from living lives of more or less chronic stress.

Black women in the U.S. are more than three times more likely to die from pregnancy and childbirth than white women. That dramatic difference occurs no where else among advanced countries worldwide.

The United States has never faced its issues with institutional racism. And while Black men and other men of colour suffer from a deck stacked against them. It is true that women face more discrimination than men. But it is Black women and other women of colour who suffer the most today.

The disparity in justice - whether from law enforcement or health care - should not exist in America, and yet it does. The data is clear on the causes. Women of colour aren’t treated as well as white women. Now, people should ask why, and then simply care enough to do something about it.

— Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines.

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