Charlottesville Is Not Unique, but a Reminder of America’s Ignored History

By Jamari Jordan

The following questions and statements are no longer acceptable. Please remove them from your vernacular:

  1. “I don’t see color.”
  2. “We’re living in a post-racial society.” 
  3. “Why do black people always play the race card?”

Let’s start with the latter. 

“Why do black people always play the race card?”

First, there is no such thing as a “race card.” Black people aren’t throwing it on the table like it’s the guaranteed joker in spades. Secondly, racism has been part of the fabric of America since its inception. The White House, much like most of America, was built by slaves. Charlottesville shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, at least those that know America like I do. 

I grew up in Stone Mountain, Georgia. Home to the No. 1 high school in all of America (my alma mater Stephenson High School), the best hot-lemon pepper wings anywhere, numerous musicians/actors such as Donald Glover, and an ode to the confederacy. Unfortunately, Sherman’s March didn’t incinerate all the racism too.

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Courtesy: AJC / Vino Wong vwong@ajc.com

William Hoyt Venable and Samuel Hoyt Venable, better known as The Venable Brothers, owned rock quarries. The two bought Stone Mountain in 1887, and some 30 years later, it was the site of the second founding of the Klu Klux Klan. So, every 4th of July or any random day for hiking, families and all those can see Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and good ole Stonewall Jackson carved into the side of a rock that my hometown is named after.

So, believe me when I tell you, what happened in Charlottesville is not an isolated incident. Instead, it’s something that could happen in a number of locations in America, including where I attended college.

“We’re living in a post-racial society.” 

No, we’re not and to be blunt, we never will. The election of Barack Obama didn’t absolve this country of all its sins in regard to African Americans. If anything, it showed how much work was needed. How many times did someone call President Obama and his family a racial slur or talk in “coded language?”

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A picture taken by me during #WordToMizzou, an event organized to stand in solidarity with African American students at The University of Missouri.

During my four years (2012-2016), African Americans made up approximately 7 percent of the student body, African American men comprising only 2.7 percent.

To say attending the University of Georgia was a culture shock would be an understatement. My high school 99.9999% African American, and due to white flight, much of the surrounding neighborhoods were as well. UGA was the school I grew up rooting for on television on Saturday afternoons, but I never put one thought into the demographics of it.

During my four years (2012-2016), African Americans made up approximately 7 percent of the student body, African American men comprising only 2.7 percent. I was in uncharted territory, but so where my white peers.

As I quickly figured out, many of them went to predominately white high schools and grew up in predominately white areas. Even though UGA barely had a splash of melanin, it was an adjustment for them as well.

While my experience at UGA was overwhelmingly enjoyable, there are a few sore spots. My sophomore year, at The University of Alabama, a female black student attempted to gain entry into a white sorority, and despite her near “perfect score,” she was denied.

A few weeks later, The Red & Black, our school paper, put three black greeks, from traditionally black greek letter organizations, on the cover to show UGA is “progressive.” 

They’ll rap every word to Bad & Boujee, attempt (and fail) to dab, and even use our lingo, yet deny us civil rights.

A few months later, someone left anonymous posts of the Black Affairs Council’s and LGBT Resource Center’s FaceBook walls throwing racist and derogatory remarks. Leadership in those two organizations came together and held a march in protest. #Home4Who: a question I asked myself the rest of my time at the University of Georgia.

Even to this day, I find it interesting how racists pick and choose what about black people they enjoy. They’ll rap every word to Bad & Boujee, attempt (and fail) to dab, and even use our lingo, yet deny us civil rights.

Our skin tone, hair, size of our lips and our women’s asses were mocked, but now all I see is spray tans, braids, and lip and butt injections. Just interesting, very interesting.

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University of Georgia’s symbolic Arch standing for the three pillars of the institution: Wisdom, Justice, and Moderation

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

I decided that I wouldn’t let hate win. I refused to let anyone make me love the school I grew up idolizing any less. So, I created a documentary called: Oh, to be Young, Gifted & Black: BUGA Under the Lens.

I wanted to show that even through all the micro-aggressions, anonymous posts, and anything else that was thrown at the black community at the University of Georgia, a light still shines.

“I don’t see color.”

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A counter demonstrator is splashed with water after he was hit by pepper spray from an white nationalist demonstrator after he threw a water bottle at the entrance to Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency and police dressed in riot gear ordered people to disperse after chaotic violent clashes between white nationalists and counter protestors. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

I saved this one for the last because it’s the most agitating. How do you not see color? How do you not grasp the concept that race is matters? If nothing else, not seeing color ignores the beauty and individuality of each race and culture.

America has been trying to sweep race under the rug since the first ship docked in Jamestown, Virginia in 1607. Not for a lack of trying, it can’t seem to find a big enough rug for it to fit under.

Charlottesville and Jamestown are separated by 132 miles and guess what lies in-between? Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy. There are reminders of America’s past everywhere you look. As someone who has lived in the South all their life, often, I feel like the Confederate flag follows me.

That blue X on that red background isn’t a source of southern pride, but instead southern shame. Sometimes, it makes me wish I was from the North. When I see it on the back of old, dusty pickup trucks or hanging in someone’s front yard, I want to rip it down and burn it. I want to have a not-so-civil conversation with the owner for “reparations sake.”

The truth is African Americans aren’t taking handouts, constantly complaining, or even lazy. We are tired. So, sometimes we kneel during the national anthem because we’re tired from standing up for our civil rights for the past 400 years.

We are tired of having to explain ourselves. We are tired of feeling like we don’t belong. We are tired because the burden of change shouldn’t be on the oppressed, but sadly enough, it is.

Charlottesville can happen anywhere, and in many places, it already has. 

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