Oppression in America: 'To root this out we need a movement against racist policies'

Demonstrators protest outside the Starbucks cafe in Philadelphia where two black men were arrested. Photograph: Ron Todt/AP

To root out racism, academics and activists say, talk of healing is not enough: the bias at the heart of American politics, policing and society must be addressed.

It seems as though every single day, the list grows.

Waiting in a coffee shop while black. Selling real estate while black. Moving in while black. Napping while black. Working out while black.Ever since a Starbucks in the Philadelphia area came under national scrutiny for calling the police on two black men waiting for a business associate in one of the company’s coffee shops, new attention has been focused on the long list of mundane activities that black Americans can’t confidently engage in without being treated as suspicious or having the police called.“It’s just part of daily living. It’s what you expect as a person of color when you head out the door in the morning,” said Jeff Chang, the author of Who We Be: A Cultural History of Race in Post-Civil Rights America. “A moment like this just sort of galvanized folks to be able to express all the different ways in which they’ve been impacted by daily racism.”In many ways the newly energized conversation parallels how Black Lives Matter emerged as an ideological clearinghouse for the problem of racialized police violence several years ago. Neither phenomenon was new, but in both cases a stream of high profile incidents managed to snowball into its own trope, in part thanks to social media and smartphone videos. In this case that’s the trope of “everyday racism”. A national, widespread effort to reorient Americans’ racist ideas – that has never happened beforeFor experts, the genesis is clear. While the US has ended the formal, legal codes of enslavement and segregation that stood for most of the nation’s history, little has been done to change the minds of too many about the racist ideas that those structures rested on.“There has not been a society-wide and intensive challenge to racist ideas in the US,” said Ibram Kendi, the director of the Antiracist Research & Policy Center at American University. “You’ve had people saying we need to have ‘national conversations’, You’ve have people calling for ‘healing’, because in their minds it’s just that people are hateful and they need to start loving ... But in terms of a national, widespread effort to reorient Americans’ racist ideas – that has never happened before.

“Non-black people in this country have been fed a steady diet of propaganda from their parents, their schools, their churches, and from the media that tells them that people of color, and particularly black folks and Latinx people are not to be trusted.“They’ve been taught that we are criminals, that we are violent that we are predators and think we need to be monitored.

”Hope and change

Barack Obama’s 2008 election was seen by much of white America as the dawning of a new, post-racial age. The logic held that, if a black man could attain the highest office in the land, then no goal could be considered out of reach for an individual black person in modern America.

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