Yes, black people today are still affected by what happened to black people in the past. Too often, African-Americans’ claims of racism are invalidated by those who tell them that the sins of our past do not still have an effect on the present. But, they do.
After the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, and the Civil War ended, slaves were freed. Thus, those who weren’t negatively affected by slavery believed that former slaves, and the African-American community in general, should be satisfied. But, with practices like sharecropping (in which white landowners would profit off of the work of poor black workers), and the harsh realities created by groups like the Ku Klux Klan, black people were still being treated as lesser.
Over a century later, in 1968, historians classify the Civil Rights Movement as having ended, after multiple pieces of legislation were passed with the purpose of securing equal rights for African-Americans. The harsh realities of the Jim Crow era were supposed to have ended, but a new era was just beginning.
Due to the tragic circumstances many African-Americans were subjected to during segregation, even after the Civil Rights Movement ended, many still lived in poverty-stricken neighborhoods. During the 80s, Ronald Reagan began the “War on Drugs.” Legislation passed during this time harbored a harsher mandatory sentence for drug crimes relating to crack-cocaine (a drug more commonly used by African-Americans), as opposed to the mandatory sentence for drug crimes relating to white-powder cocaine (a drug more commonly used by whites).
This, of course, led to a very unbalanced population in state and federal prisons. A substantial amount more of prisoners in those facilities were African-American than white. This led to a tension-filled relationship between African-Americans and law enforcement, resulting in the epidemic of police brutality now plaguing the African-American community.
So, yes, these past atrocities do still have an effect on young people of color. The different forms of malicious and systematic racism that have formed a dark cloud over the black community for centuries are all connected. They have all resulted in this era, in which black men ages fifteen to nineteen are twenty-one times more likely to be shot by police than their white peers of the same age group.
The bottom line is, the next time you see a black person on TV protesting for real civil rights, for their people to stop being shot and killed by the police while unarmed, for real freedom, and you want to ask them to stop being “overdramatic,” or you want to tell them that they are complaining about nothing, or that things that happened in the past don’t still affect them, think again.
Picture courtesy of frank.jou.ufl.edu