In a recent interview with The New York Times, Chris Rock shared an observation about racism he’s made before. When the color line is broken by a Jackie Robinson or a Barack Obama or some such trailblazer, it isn’t progress for Black people. It’s progress for white people. Rock says, “[T]he real narrative should be that these people, the Black people, are being abused by a group of people that are mentally handicapped. And we’re trying to get them past their mental handicaps to see that all people are equal.”
That “mental handicap”—prejudice and racism—affects the lives of all people of color and minority groups in this country.
State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta is the first openly gay person of color elected to hold a seat in Pennsylvania General Assembly’s history. He was selected as one of the 17 “rising stars” and a keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention, yet his political success and newfound fame are secondary. The true payoff for him will be in 30 years when “some young Black kid, young queer kid, young poor kid” knows that they can be who and what they want to be because they can see the success he has had.
Brandi Aulston was born and raised in Philadelphia, but she never took a hike on the Wissahickon until she was 29. Now she leads women for biweekly hikes and online meditation through her group, Hike+Heal.
“I didn’t know a hiking group that was headed by a Black woman, another woman representing my background,” Hike + Heal Hive member Marie-Renee Malvoisin says. “It helped me to see that.”
Keziah Ridgeway, a history teacher at Northeast High School, presents the American story in a way that addresses the barbarity of our colonial heritage. She wants her students and society at large to reckon with, and to truly see, our history and how it affects what is happening today. Ridgeway says, “I’m painfully aware that I look different than the majority of the teachers in my department, who are mainly white males.” Not only will her honest portrayal of history benefit her students, so will the fact that she is their teacher.
There have been 45 presidents and 48 vice presidents since our republic was founded. 92 of those 93 office holders have been white. All 93 have been men.
While a winning Biden-Harris ticket would feel like a tremendous relief right now for reasons too numerous to list, the long-term impact of a Kamala Harris vice presidency might be an even greater gift. White people must overcome our “mental handicap,” so that people of color can dare to dream.