RACISM + AMERICAN HISTORY
Historical Racism is not Simply “History” When It’s Continually Repeated
It’s hard to “get over” the past when the past is never past
When it comes to talking about race, racism, and racialized violence in America, far too often I have heard comments like: “get over it,” “it happened 400 years ago”, “that’s in the past,” or the classic — “we had a Black president.” All of these statements imply that racism is a thing of the past and no longer needs to be talked about, addressed, or confronted.
Rather than writing an essay providing a plethora of statistics that illustrate how America is far from being a “post-racial” society (whatever “post-racial” is supposed to mean), I simply want to illustrate for a few minutes how and why the “past” for many African Americans is not simply the past. The so-called “past” is a present reality that many Black people live with daily.
The past continues to exist in the present.
The recent racist-motivated shooting in Jacksonville, FL, has an interesting connection with the past that helps illustrate how and why the past continues to exist in the present for many Black people. On August 26, 2023, a white gunman wearing a tactical vest barged into a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, FL, and fatally shot three Black people. Manifestos left by the gunman, who killed himself after the attack, indicate that the attack was racially motivated.
The gunman had earlier been spotted on the campus of Edward Waters University, a historically Black college about half a mile from the Dollar General. When the gunman refused to identify himself to an on-campus security officer, he was asked to leave the university.
According to a statement issued by the university, “The individual returned to their car and left campus without incident. The encounter was reported to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office by EWU security.”
The school ordered its students to shelter in place amid reports of the shooting. It was not clear what, if any, intentions the gunman might have had related to the school.