By Kalama Hines
When she walked onto a college campus for the first time Sarah Omer was, like most, filled with excitement. Sacramento City College was supposed to be the home of her higher education, a place where she could grow.
As she attended her first class meeting for Cultural Anthropology everything seemed to go as expected. That is, until the class session completed and the professor pulled her aside.
If you need any help with the material let me know, the instructor told Omer, “I know it can be hard for people like you.” Omer was “taken back,” her innocent mind delayed the realization that her teacher, who just learned her name, expected her to struggle with college-level courses because she is black.
Now the President of Las Positas College’s Black Student Union (BSU), Omer is a Political Science major who plans on receiving a law degree before pursuing a career in diplomacy as an ambassador.
With the recent rash of violent crimes committed by white police officers against African-Americans, the social networking world was taken over by the slogan “black lives matter.” It did not take long, however, for that slogan to lose the word black, and have been replaced by “all.”
While it is, and should be, that all lives truly matter it is also evident that in the societal opinion some lives just don’t matter as much, especially given current temperature of race relations.
More than 55 percent of the population of the Santa Rita Jailhouse, for example, is made up of African-Americans, while the county it serves, Alameda County, is made up of less than 15 percent African-Americans.
The cultural segregation, however, goes far beyond the prison system. African-Americans are 3.3 times more likely to be searched than whites, according to stop data released by Oakland PD. Also, Black men are 21 times more likely than whites to be killed by police, according to the New York Daily News.
Continental Philosopher, Judith Butler, discussed racial segregation with the New York Times earlier this year.
“One reason the chant ‘black lives matter’ is so important,” Butler said, “is that it states the obvious. But the obvious has not yet been historically realized. So it is a statement of outrage and a demand for equality.”
You may hear other groups attempt to quantify the plight of the African-American by bringing up the struggles of their own group. However, while many groups have a grotesque history of mistreatment, not many were stolen from their land, shackled and enslaved for 400 years.
In fact, the only group who has just cause for comparable outrage is the Native-Americans.
And while those Native-Americans continue to fight for the rights they are owed, African-Americans still find themselves having to validate their very existence, According to the Vice President of the BSU Alby Ungashe.
For many African Americans, there is constant cause for the “justification of our own humanity.” Simply being stopped and searched by police officers is not even viewed as an out-of-the-ordinary occurrence.
The fact that this has become the norm for so many young blacks is an indictment on our society’s ability to look past the color of another person’s skin.
“Every year, dozens of black lives become victims of police brutality,” Ungashe said, “its time that we let it be known that black lives matter.”
For Ungashe change can be facilitated through cultural exchange, as she said, “When it comes to truly understanding each other, we’re lacking somehow.”
While culture swapping is a definite staring point Omer believes that, given the current state, more drastic measure must be taken.
“I think its time for our government that claims to be secular, to actually follow that,” Omer said. “It will take a change of all the systems that have been imprinted in this country from the day the writers of the constitution sat down.”
In an era where so many are afraid of change, the thought innovation of this magnitude would seem unfathomable. But remember, at the time of the writing of this countries constitution a black life was worth one-third that of a white life. So perhaps the consideration of wholesale change is worth consideration.
After all, the word “equality” is nearly impossible to define without the inclusion of clauses and stipulations. While words like “slavery,” “genocide” and “racism” are universally understood and describable.
We cannot hope to provide each other with something we cannot even define.
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