I question what divides truth from belief. In the undertones of both words at least, I find a distinct difference. When one uses a word like truth, the connotation of discussion is understood. It is supposedly based in fact and lived experiences, and therefore it is given integrity and is far less contestable. Belief, on the other hand, does not carry this weight. Less contestable, one is entitled to their belief(s). It seems to me that this is the difference between being white or being a person of color in this country. Whites have the choice to believe or not to believe in racism. If they do believe in it, then they get to decide how far-reaching it is, where it comes into play not only in their own lives, but in the lives of oppressed people of color.
These consistently downtrodden people have to live this truth of racism. They are not given the ‘privilege’ to simply ignore the facts that create the reality of racism. On page 24 of Joe Feagan’s Racist America he describes people of colors plight,
“They know too well the oppressive world that hits them in the face on a routine basis. This gives them a well-developed knowledge base from which they can develop sophisticated, usually collective, understanding of everyday racism.”
Beyond a reasonable doubt, this country’s history is racist. We all live in this world affected by race and racism in most of our daily interactions – and even not-so-daily interactions – like buying a house, going to jail, or voting for elected officials. It is not my choice as a white person to live in a racist reality, it is my choice whether to believe in it or not. In other words, it is the very bottom rung of what is expected of us – whether or not to believe that racism exists. Personally, my own morals and upbringing call me to action to understand and address racism as well as other forms of injustice.
People act on their beliefs. So this distinctly white choice creates a safe space for white people to ignore the facts and the truth of race in America. Often the difference in their beliefs lead to the quality of life and death of millions of people of color globally. These beliefs create and change the truth of racism.
We must now expect that beliefs must be backed by facts. No longer may it be acceptable to have unquestioned beliefs. To allow the truth of racism to be continued at the whims of white apathetic sympathy cannot be tolerated. This is why it’s important to read Feagan in the first place. I now am challenged to make my beliefs informed by well thought-out arguments. To give an example of one such argument, Feagan says at the top of page 39, “In one 1671 declaration Virginia’s General assembly put ‘sheep, horses, and cattle’ in the same category as ‘negroes.’” The racist people who wrote this declaration forced their beliefs on thousands of black lives thus causing, “the whipping, castration, or killing,” of innocent human beings. Hundreds of years, 1962 to be precise, blacks had an unemployment number three times that of their white counterparts.