It’s the reason why Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a peaceful activist hoping to reach equality between all races, was murdered.
It’s the reason Black and Latina women only make sixty-five and fifty-nine cents, respectively, to the white man’s dollar.
The tireless chant of “Our system is broken!” has become a broken record, played amongst us all. We root and work for positive change for those who are marginalized. Alas, this saying, much older than I, is false.
Don’t you think that after all this time, money, voices and acts afforded to cause that things would have changed by now if they were meant to? That if it was really wanted, our governments and communities would have done a lot more to change oppressive systems? We can carry around signs from the Civil Rights era to this day and as people of color, women (also inclusive to POC) and the LGBTQ community have come to find out, we are hitting brick wall after brick wall, even after tireless years of working to get basic equalities.
I won’t go as far as to say that racial and gender reforms are futile, as data shows there have been some positive changes, though slight. That “slight” is one of the key reasons as to why we are not as far along as many would like to think.
Our governments like to throw us breadcrumbs, hoping to quell our hungers for progress just enough so they can say, “Hey, we did do something!” without relinquishing all their power. Some instances are written clearly in the Constitution. The Emancipation Proclamation was afforded to release Black people bounded by chains—a victory! But not quite, because in the Constitution, penal labor, a form of slavery or involuntary servitude, is explicitly allowed by the 13th Amendment. It states: “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Slavery was stealthily embedded between the promises of freedom.
That’s the reason why Black people make up nearly 40% of the current prison population in the United States, despite only being 13.3% of the total population (as of 2014). That’s the reason why inmates are given labor that pays mere cents an hour. These breadcrumbs are a psychological tool to manipulate people.
The state of how women are treated in this country has more to do with society than the government, but let us not ignore who mostly runs the government and how that situates its role in its expressed sexism. Even in the United States, the country that claims to be so advance, there’s still a 1 in 5 chance of a woman being raped in her lifetime, women often must be conventionally attractive to get various jobs and countless other instances in which a woman’s body is up for grabs. Why haven’t there been more regulations? Why are women still being slut-shamed, violated, disrespected? Because it makes it easier for the men in power.
In these past few months, there have been countless accusations made by women against powerful men in Hollywood, many of which have been proven, but many of the incidents happened as far back as over twenty years ago. Why did it take so long for women to say so something? Because they were afraid to lose their jobs, they were afraid to lose opportunities, they were afraid to lose themselves. Powerful, manipulative men, as they have been for centuries, use that fear as their means of control, as their means of keeping their hierarchy, their power. They relied and still rely on that fear to keep them dominate and the marginalized silent.
I can go on, as I’m sure many others could as well, but the point I hope to get across is this—the systems in place have not moved, stagnant as the heads of power would not necessarily be compensated if they were to shift positively. And if they do shift, it is at a snail’s pace, because the further along they go, the faster they go and the quicker their power depletes. And who would they be to relinquish that power? After so many years of being rewarded for their cruelty, why choose to suddenly become moral if it is of no benefit?
These systems are not broken. They are working the way they always intended to.