by Marques Jones, Candidate SD12
We don’t talk about racism enough. It’s in our schools and our politics. It’s part of our vocabulary. It has defined our history and continues to do so. Yet we don’t talk about it. We talk about racists and racist acts; isolated tragedies that can be condemned and moved on from. We talk about Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, Dylan Roof and David Duke – but we’re not talking about the big picture, and it’s time we start.
A lot of people are shocked and upset by the racist photo that recently surfaced from Governor Northam’s yearbook page. There is a man in blackface next to a man in a KKK costume. Virginia AG Mark Herring has also admitted to wearing blackface to a college party. I am upset too, but not shocked. This is nothing new. As a black man living in Virginia, I’ve seen White Supremacists and Nazis march on Charlottesville. I’ve seen black boys systematically discarded into our prisons. Black people experience racism in countless ways, and it is rarely covered by the news.
When I was a senior in high school, I had the honor of standing on a stage to receive an award presented by my dad. A white “friend” and classmate of mine stood up from the crowd and called him a nigger. Our “friendship” was over. Years later he called me up, apologized and asked for my forgiveness. He said he had been lost in a world of drugs at the time and wasn’t in his right mind when he said what he said. We never became friends again – but his effort did give me hope. It showed an evolution of character. It showed someone taking responsibility for their actions and trying to make peace even when a full embrace was highly unlikely.
The way we treat racism needs to evolve. In order to work towards a world with more love and less hate, we have to allow people to change and become better. We have to participate in a conversation that encourages that. We should never look the other way. People need to be held accountable – but there has to be a light at the end of the tunnel, be it forgiveness, awareness, or simply betterment. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi – “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”