​Everything Is About Race

Ted G. Waechter, Harvard Crimson, April 5, 2016

“Don’t make this about race.”

I’ve heard this sentence a lot recently, read it a lot online. Saw its use launch a Facebook flame war while I waited for my plane to board at the end of spring break. It’s the easiest way for white people to invalidate experiences of oppression and avoid fraught debates about justice in America.

But of course it’s about race–everything is. Our country was built on oppression, and race is everywhere, at every moment on my standard trip back to Harvard.

The view from my airplane window is about race. Colonizers killed Indigenous people for those tidy plots of farmland. We profited from those fields by exploiting and terrorizing slaves. We rejected demands for land return and reparations, compounding racist domination based on the pretext of “free market” capitalism, and we devised new ways to produce and preserve systemic injustice. It is impossible to separate the wealth that paid for my plane ticket from structural oppression. When I land at Logan, it’s about race.

Sometimes, my uncle picks me up at the airport, and we drive into Cambridge on the Central Artery. The Central Artery is also about race. Its construction tore Chinatown apart in the 1950s and ‘60s. Land that was home to generations of low-income Chinese immigrants–who lived there because they were unwelcome in more desirable parts of Boston–was seized through eminent domain. {snip}

{snip}

America’s wealth and power is derived from the violence of genocide and human bondage. We reify white supremacy through exclusion, eviction, and eminent domain, and we reinforce white supremacy by denying it. We say, “Not everything is a race issue. Don’t make this about race.” But Harvard exists on this land because of race, I pay for plane tickets because of race, and I get here on the Silver Line or by the Central Artery because of race.

Because in a country built on oppression, everything is about race. {snip}

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