Opinion: The legacy of white supremacism and why race still matters

Julian E. Wright

Like any great book, the previous words written, paragraphs punctuated, and chapters completed, all do a small part to create context. You couldn’t simply begin reading in the middle of War and Peace without starting from the first page and reading the first couple of chapters. The same goes for the story of race in America. To fully comprehend the narrative, we can’t just look at 2011 and at our Black President; we have to go back to 1776 and Willie Lynch to really get it. I chose this topic to highlight those who see America only for what it is today, only for the integrated classrooms or only for the Black President. I see a growing trend in people who claim that there’s a “double standard” in regards to race in which people of color are entitled to things others are not, despite the fact that in the entire history of America there has always been a double standard in regards to race.

It’s the reason why the nation has seemed to reflect upon the shooting of Trayvon Martin. Whether it was because he was black or wasn’t, because of the legacy of race in America, we are forced to face the issue, however difficult it may be. 

So, what is the legacy of race? 

Race was initially created as a device to seperate and distinguished. Slavery originally started as a economic asset but as the income inequality began to rise, the idea of being “white” was invented to prevent poor whites from siding with poor blacks, even though, economically and socially speaking, they had much more in common. Although they couldn’t be wealthy or attain a high social status, they could be “white”, which meant a great deal.

As time progressed the American government began to subsidize, underwrite, and protect the formal system of white supremacy that had been built into the fundamental structure of the country. From 1934 to 1962  the Federal Housing Administration Home Loan Program & Veterans Administration Home Loan Program guaranteed, underwrote, and subsidized over $120 Billion worth of home loans to largely white families. Despite the fact that the tax dollars of Blacks were going to underwrite these loans, they weren’t able to reap those same benefits because of the way the government and these banks had wrote the criteria. By 1960, %40 of all mortgages white families were receiving were written under these preferential policies. Much like many other policies and programs the American government had instituted, Whites were allowed to reap the benefits of those policies and programs, while minorities weren’t.

Now that it is 2012, the President of the United States is Black, and by all appearances everything is equal, the debate of the double standard in race rages on. The legitimacy of the Congressional Black Caucus, NAACP, or Black History month is questioned based on the idea of being “equal”. Critics say that while we strive to promote a free and equal society, we can not have institutions that are divided based on race. Some even argue that racism is close to non-existent and everything is nearly “equal”.

Those who maintain the need for groups such as the NAACP or the CBC rely on the consequences of 300 years of a formal system of white supremacy, which ultimately is the reason for the need of the aforementioned advocacy groups, as well as the lack of need for a National Association for the Advancement of White People or a Congressional White Caucus. White culture has maintained a sense of normalcy and is the status quo and, therefore, doesn’t have to be racially designated by book shelf or aisle or month or caucus or association. It is the very reason there is no White History Month, because it’s called names like May, August, December. That’s why there is no Congressional White Caucus, because it’s called Congress. That’s why there is no National Association for the Advancement of White People, because it’s been called the United States Federal Government.

The legacy that’s been inherited in regards to race is a deep, profound, and troubled one, and it can’t be ignored and pretended to be non-existence just because the current generation didn’t create it. The impact of that legacy continues forward like inertia. It will continue to stay in motion until something of equal or greater weight stops it. While past generations have sowed the seeds of race relations in America, the current generation is reaping all the consequences. The impact is grave, but people are so wrapped up in being righteous that the problem can’t be fought.