On a regular Thursday night, three of my classmates and I squeezed into an undercover cop’s truck to drive around East Fort Worth. We drove a route that I was very familiar with, down Berry Street, past I-35 to an area that many sheltered TCU’s students deem ‘scary Berry.’ With only three miles between the luxury of TCU, we had the opportunity to see different criminal activities that many of us had not experienced before. We had the opportunity to go to a car wash where there were drugs being bought and sold. We went to a motel and talked to several women being prostituted and encounter their relationship with their pimp. We drove past notorious drug houses and, essentially, brothels. We were offered to buy cocaine off the street by a woman. It was more action in one night that many experience in their entire life.
|A motel we went to where we met a pimp and two women
who were being prostituted
As Jimmy was driving along East Fort Worth, he gave us a disclaimer. He described the dangers of internalizing all that we were seeing out of context. He explained that many of the people we would be encountering would be individuals of color and that it would be easy to assume that all people of color are pimps, drug dealers, prostituted women, and criminals or that all pimps, drug dealers and prostituted women are people of color. But we needed to understand we were going to a primarily black community so we would see many black individuals. As a student, I have had the opportunity to engage in classes that discuss the systems of oppression that hold down minority communities- especially in regards to race and gender. As I was driving around this primarily black neighborhood, all I could think about is the way systemic racism has caused the chaos around me.
Looking at our society today, many people would say that the United States has made many successful strides in being an anti-racist country. And while we do not see racism exist like it did in antebellum slavery or Jim Crowe, racism still is very prominent, and we see that we aren’t as ‘progressive’ as we may think we are. Systemic racism is the kind of racism that has tainted all structures of our society.
If we look at the unemployment rates for the black community in the United States, black college graduates are 2x as likely to be unemployed than their white counterparts. This is because non-white sounding names are 50% less likely to be called back than a more ‘white sounding’ name. If we look at education, a study looked at the suspension rates of black students when compared to white students. Black students are 3x more likely to be suspended for the same infraction as their white counterparts. The last aspect of injustices that come against this community is in regards to the criminal justice system. Black individuals make up 13% of the population but 40% of the prison population. Black individuals are more likely in being arrested and convicted more years than white people. They have harsher sentences and are in jail longer than white individuals who are convicted of similar crimes. When you have a criminal charge against you, you cannot vote, you cannot get satisfactory and safe housing, you do not have access to decent jobs, and lose many of the freedoms United States citizens should be given. The United States was built on the abuse and removal of power of individuals with black and brown skin. Although the type of racism has changed, it has morphed into something that silently takes away power from minorities.
Arundhati Roy, an Indian writer and human activist once said, “There’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless.’ There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.” If we want to address economic equality, building communities that are safer and have less crime, end sexual exploitation, we must give voice to the individuals that our white culture has tried to silence. We need to understand the systems in place that have brought individuals into the circumstances they are in. As we drove away from this community and into the comfort of TCU I couldn’t help feeling the disgust of the extreme contrast these two communities are to one another. I felt the burden of those who have suffered in the hands of the white community. As a white individual who has so clearly benefitted from the privilege of my parents’ socioeconomic status and skin color, I hope that this blog post can start critical internal wrestling and conversations with other privileged individuals to further give voice to the ones who have been deliberately silenced so close by.