Living with the nagging uncertainty of being racially discriminated against and worst not being believed shatters the psyche. The most devastating effects are that people of color start to accept their treatment as their unchangeable fate. Asking white friends to hail a cab at night, telling one’s kids to keep their hands in plain sight in a department store, slowing one’s rapid pace to catch an elevator, and learning to shrink into nothingness to avoid confrontations with the police. The resurfacing of those memories in my own experience are constant reminders of the repeated day-to-day microaggressions in the lives of black Americans. Telling oneself that it does not matter, or you did not see or experience what you just saw and felt are mind games black Americans have played for generations.
I was heartened to read the response of Carlette Duffy a resident of the historic Flannery Homes district in Indianapolis, Indiana to a blatant discriminatory practice in Indiana’s home appraisal process. Ms. Duffy received two home appraisals, one for 110,000 dollars and the other 125,000 dollars. She suspected something was wrong and came to the conclusion that her race—because she is African American, played a role. After shedding the tears many of us have when that momentary feeling of helplessness overwhelms you, she dried her tears, gathered her mental and physical faculties, and fought back.
To prove her point she whitewashed her home of its blackness. She removed photos, artwork, and all allusions to her blackness. She went so far as to ask a white friend the loan of her husband as her stand-in for a third appraisal. On her next home valuation, her home was appraised at 259,000 dollars. No one in their right mind believes this incident is isolated or that it is not going to happen again within the hours I put the period after the last word of this piece. So, when black Americans talk about systemic racism this is but one example. Since Dred Scott v. Sanford when the nation’s highest court ruled that free or enslaved blacks were not entitled to the protections of the Constitution, blacks have fought the systemic racism that has morphed into systematic forms of discrimination; separate but equal, and now 47 states seeking to renounce the Voter Rights Act. For many years bigots and racists had been relegated to recruiting through obscure pamphlets and faceless phone calls. They have recaptured the tools of government to pull their sled like a red-necked Rudolph, the light guiding the way to the unquestioned power they seek; free of the hindrance of fairness or having to please people of color with policy.
Homeownership is the platform by which white America has leapt into generational wealth and in the words of Andre Perry a fellow at the Brookings Institute, “You’re robbing people of opportunity.” History proves this out, in the recent recognition of the massacre of lives and fortunes in the Greenwood district in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Viola Fletcher who would have been 7 at the time of the massacre described her home as a warm wonderful place in a town that was the home of a [Williams] Dreamland Theater. Today she lives in poverty with her family wealth destroyed, the center of that wealth was her family’s home. One hundred years later Carlette Duffy suffered the massacre of her dignity and an attempt at massacring her dreams of generational wealth.
Continue to Vote for Change.