A brief refresher course on American history reminds us that since 1865 and the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, whenever Blacks have made advances toward full participation in our democracy, white reaction — usually in the courts and legislatures — have engineered an intentional and relentless reversal of those gains. Black Codes and Jim Crow or the so-called Southern Strategy and the War on Drugs illustrate methodical approaches employed to keep African Americans firmly entrenched in a state of second-class citizenry while white skin alone guaranteed their right to greater privileges — white privilege.
Of course, one would think that after 400 years, society would have evolved to a place where the rhetoric we espouse in our Constitution, our pledges and our personal proclivities would reflect a country where double standards, particularly in regard to race, no longer exist. But they do.
Just consider the distinctly different ways that Ralph Northam and Justin Fairfax are being tried in the court of public opinion where it seems that we’ve been asked to choose which of two crimes is worse — racism or rape? Northam, while admitting to his wrongdoings, appears to have made his case to stay in office following a persuasive, heart-wrenching “mea culpa.”
Meanwhile, Fairfax, subjected to America’s double standards, has been deemed “guilty until proven innocent.” That said, we were troubled when talk surfaced about the initiation of impeachment proceedings against Fairfax even before he’d been allowed to defend himself and refute the now two claims of sexual abuse in a court of law.
We are not so naïve as to hold fast to conspiracy theories that make all whites evil and all Blacks angelic. Bad spirits live in all kinds of people with all kinds of skin colors and ethnicities. But, as Northam has admitted to his wrongdoings, while Fairfax has not, why does it seem like folks have given the Virginia governor a “get out of jail free card” while Fairfax has already been found guilty, banished forever to the netherworld of purgatory?
Such is the way that white privilege continues to reign supreme in America where the more things change, the more they remain the same.
Wake up Black America. As the philosopher Thomas Hobbes once said, “Hell is truth seen too late.”