The system is rigged. It was never fair. It’s ten dimensional chess.
My mother, father, ex, uncles and aunts always said I’m someone who overanalyzes everything. My mom said that God gave me brains to think too much for my own good. She’s right. I make sure I pay attention to every move, every action, every choice and every decision someone makes or something does. Maybe that’s a fault in my personal and emotional lives (I’m working on it actively) but that’s a story for another day. Today, I’m going to tell you a wondrous story about the condition of our societal hierarchy in our great continent of North America.
George Floyd was a living, breathing person. A bouncer in Minneapolis. A truck driver. He worked two jobs just to lead an honest life that he tried to rebuild. Despite being convicted for armed robbery, he truly made amends for his mistakes, served time and moved to a new city for a fresh start. However, his start was promptly halted by COVID-19 and the lockdown order issues by Governor Tim Walz.
I’m not sure if his job gave him unemployment security, or an emergency fund, or some semblance of covered healthcare, or even sick days to take; things I take for granted as I sit comfortably with my internship in Vancouver, Canada. But I know thousands of Americans of all creeds and colours who don’t get these benefits. Little did I realize that the lack of these services, combined with severe inequities in the availability for opportunity for disadvantaged Americans, layered the measurable and fixable biases that we humans carry on to the institutions that we uphold and thrive create a system that feels like ten-dimensional chess: no matter what move you make, there are dimensions and interactions that you don’t see unless you think ahead to a point where you just become nihilistic about this world.
In our current societal structure, you have to deal with the cards you’re dealt. It could be a poor family, a dilapidated neighbourhood, the food you eat, the culture you come from or yes, the colour of your skin. Did you know that in 2015, 77% of all black American babies were born to single mothers ? Single mothers, who have to tend to an eight-hour-a-day job to sustain herself and her kid, with a father that is statistically more likely to either be absent or in jail. Skewed incarceration rates have already thwarted the Black family structure and intergenerational dynamic . So what’s the mother going to do? Do you think this already disadvantaged American woman can raise her child in a safe space, in a nation that guarantees zero days for newborn mothers? So she might have to lose her job, or find another one, or live with someone else in some degree of poverty. She’s more likely to move to the ghettos of a city where property prices are low. Which means her child is more likely to attend an underfunded school . The kid grows up in an impoverished neighbourhood, vulnerable to antisocial influences such as addictive drugs and gang violence. Our kid could have just as easily lost the game of life if they got lost here.
But let’s say our child has a strong mental fortitude to say NO to all of this, but still has to work a part time job outside of his regular schoolwork (which he has to succeed in to get into a good college to do good in life, riiight?) to help sustain his single mother. This kid has no father figure or a dual, stable parenting unit to help him navigate through childhood and adolescene. So he wants to get into college. He has to write the SAT which costed US$64.50 per sitting or the ACT, which costed $67 per sitting. Maybe he doesn’t get a good score so he tried again. But he has to help his mother pay her bills, yeah? Looks like he can’t write the SAT. Or help out and volunteer at the local shelter. Or take a piano class. Or get a paid tutor to help him ace the standardized exams. Maybe he doesn't get into a nice school so he goes to the community college. He graduates, but he won’t get a cushy job with health insurance, sick days, unemployment benefits or basic income. Which keeps him at a loss every time he gets a fever, or has to go to the clinic for a checkup, or gets into a car accident which might remove his ability to work. He’s poor, and the cycle continues. Don’t even get me started on the biases the kid would face if they were a woman, or someone of a non-binary stature. Rape, drugs, gang violence, homophobia on top of all of these already structural issues is sure to be a fucking holiday for them. Meanwhile, their friend gets choked to death over an altercation with the cops because the store clerk thought he had a counterfeit $20 bill.
Compare this to me, whose parents could afford to pay for my AP tests, to pay for my sister’s singing lessons, who could pay for me to get my laptop to learn to become an engineer, who could afford to pay for my sister’s afterschool daycare, who could afford to give me a home as I study in a relatively prestigious school. Sure, not every black American’s experience is the same, but the cycle continues for some of them who are simply trapped. I just had it easier than most of them, and I’m neither black nor American. I worked hard, but I also had better cards in my hand.
But now, I want you to focus on the measurable biases that this kid could have faced when he’s trying to make it as an individual in society. He’s more likely to be harshly perceived in interviews, he’s more likely to be stopped by the cops at an intersection, he’s more likely to be shot by a cop in the split second when the cop’s internal fear leads him to pull the trigger, rather than taking a split second to think again. He’s more likely to be denied a loan because of his socio-economic status AND his race. People merely walking down the street are probably going to be afraid of him. Maybe he picks up a random person’s fallen wallet, and the local cop immediately assumes he’s robbing someone, and decides to give him six warning shots into his chest. The judge who is charging his parking ticket is more likely to give him a harsher fine simply because he has some unconscious bias motivating him to charge the black man more.
These are the measurable biases that we see everyday in America. These are the everyday challenges that black people, and to a certain degree, other people of colour face not just in the United States of America. Us Canadians are just better at masking these issues because we are a better welfare state than them. Ask our indigenous Canadians. They have a fucking boatload to unload about social inequities.
I want you to think about this for a second. Think about your preconceived notions. Think about your ideas, your perceptions, your biases. Before you call the cops because they ‘fit the description’, give yourself more than a split second to evaluate: do they really fit the description or are you letting your bias formulate your version of the description that you will happily agree with thanks to your own validated self-conformation? Are you forgetting to think about something else that you need to see before calling 911? THINK. A split second never killed anyone in a simple societal interaction.
But this is more than just measurable bias. Black Americans are more likely to protest, and since they are unlikely to have health insurance, if they contract COVID or any other disease when they go to protest against such inequities, how are they going to take care of themselves? They go to protest their own social problems, and then have a higher risk of death from the social problems they are fighting. Fucking nice isn’t it? This is why I really didn’t want protests to happen NOW; because I thought about the consequences of the system little further, but you know what? It’s gone too far. If small businesses impact the middle classes, or black owners and employees, how are they going to rebuild or even start a new business if the creditors outright refuse a loan to them, since all the fucking looters took their livelihoods away? Do you start to see how precarious the system is for them? THEY LITERALLY CAN’T FUCKING BREATHE. George couldn’t breathe. White people are richer in America, and they have the cops not suspecting them, they are more likely to have trust funds, they are less likely to be gerrymandered in their electoral area, giving their votes more power in the Senate and House of Representatives. They’re more likely to attend college, and actually lift their asses up if they have to. Their lives aren’t exponentially easier if they grew up in the ghetto and they’re white; their lives are just not being made harder by other people projecting preconceived notions on them to a T.
Do you see how the system works against them? Even if they work hard, and make it to the top, a cop can just shoot him for thinking that he’s sitting in a stolen Mercedes G-Class rather than just checking the fucking car documentation. The system is both simultaneously broken and not broken. People in power will do anything to keep them in power, and the rest of us suffer in a spectrum. It is ten-dimensional chess where any dimension can attack you and you have to think so far ahead while dealing with a system, an opponent which working actively against you at every turn as you try to make it in this world.
I have a list of examples of how the people in power actively keep marginalized communities marginalized. Not just in America, but in Canada too:
* Partisan gerrymandering to devalue black votes, who are more likely to vote Democrat than Republican. Check out someone called Thomas Hofeller.
* Loan discrimination of people of colour due to their socioeconomic status and the perception of their race
* Cops more likely to shoot a black individual than a white individual thanks to their perceptions and worries of a black person being inherently violent
* The failure of Batson challenges in jury removal by using race-neutral reasons to remove certain jury members.
* Indigenous Canadians being overrepresented in the Canadian justice system
George Floyd is a martyr. His death is not the problem. His death is the symptom that finally told the body to start fighting the problem of how racial bias pervades so many facets of our lives. Start talking to your family, your friends, and in your head, use the braincells that the dear Lord has given you to make this world a more accepting place.
Rest in power, George. For as long as I live, you will not be forgotten.
In music for this week, check this out. https://soundcloud.com/hannahfai/yesterdays-tomorrow-1