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February 22, 2022

“This is living Black in America”—4 Pieces of Black History that we Don’t Know (but Should).

“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” ~ Marcus Garvey
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Before I start, let’s engage in an exercise in imagination:

Suppose you were given a job to put in a fence around a large property. While the pay is not bad, you are working alone.

Every day you dig fence holes in the hopes that when you finish, you can find some additional help to actually put up the fence. However, every night someone comes behind you and fills those same holes in. Over and over again.

In truth, you are being paid to dig only a few holes. But you will never progress because progress is not the goal. The goal is to keep you motivated in the hopes of one day being able to complete this one f*cking job.

That is living Black in America.

My goal with this article is not to bemoan all the ways non-white people are mistreated in this country. It’s instead an opportunity for us to discover and dig deeper into why there is so much distrust of white folks, even supposed allies, in the Black community.

Because let’s face it: the information is out there but if you’re not willing to do the work, I shouldn’t have to do the work, type it out, give it to you, and still have you not bother to read it.

So, if you are interested, here are some topics covering how systemic racism works and why no one but those impacted seems to care. I hope you will take this opportunity to learn more from these stories of Black history that are often overlooked. By the way, what I’ve shared here is easily google-able; while I’ve included one or two links per topic, there is always more learning to do.

Let’s get this education party started:

The Chicago Police Department’s “black site”

Back in 2015, the public learned that the Chicago Police Department had been operating an “off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site,” according to The Guardian.

Per an article in The Atlantic, “over 100 black men were tortured by officers in order to force confessions, drive them to incriminate co-defendants, or to intimidate possible witnesses to police brutality.”

Baltimore’s Notorious Gun Trace Task Force

Not only are there multiple articles about this gang of criminals in blue, but a book and soon-to-be movie. According to The Washington Post, the Gun Trace Task Force was “an elite plainclothes unit of the Baltimore Police Department tasked with getting guns and drugs off the streets.” Instead, these officers “robbed suspected drug dealers (some of whom may not have been dealers), sold stolen drugs, illegally used GPS devices to track robbery targets, and planted evidence…Eight members of the nine-person squad ended up going to federal prison after being convicted on corruption charges.”

Just imagine, if these men were your introduction to policing, it’s a wonder anyone in the city survived. And according to The Baltimore Sun, the officers’ victims were all Black men.

The Systematic Undervaluation of Minority Neighborhoods

It is critical to understand the link between owning a home and building generational wealth. When your home is consistently undervalued, you do not get the full value of owning real estate. And when this occurs in minority neighborhoods, it is intentional.

My neighborhood is becoming integrated again. Why? Because the neighborhoods that white folks used to buy homes in are no longer affordable. So, our houses are being purchased, flipped, and sold at a much higher dollar value than the current stock dictates. This makes taxes higher and makes it more difficult to access what should be “beginner homes” or homes for lower-income people and families.

Coupled with this travesty is Baltimore’s (and many similar cities’) lack of interest in preserving historically Black housing. We have had several homes of prominent Black leaders destroyed. Today, there is a fight to keep what were the first homes available to free Blacks in 1870 from being demolished for a New York development firm. Baltimore leaders either don’t see or don’t care about the irony of destroying a piece of history for a firm that isn’t even local.

How the United States used National Highways to systematically Ruin Black Neighborhoods

This tactic has been used in every city in America, but New York City elevated it to an art form. It’s the process of creating parks, beaches, and other sites for the rest of the city while removing the “undesirables” from our midst.

According to NPR, “Planners of the interstate highway system, which began to take shape after the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, routed some highways directly, and sometimes purposefully, through Black and brown communities. In some instances, the government took homes by eminent domain.”

Again, these topics are just a start, but I wanted to share information I find both educational and beneficial before Black History Month comes to an end.

Thanks for reading!

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