When an object of significant size is dropped into a body of water, it causes a ripple effect. How far the ripples travel is contingent upon the force and impact of the object that hits the water. Even water, the most powerful force and source of energy, is vulnerable to becoming a dangerous force to be reckoned with. The same can be said of African-Americans and our influence on culture when it comes to fashion, literature and music, despite the perseverance of Black Americans through the most horrific period in America’s history and contributions to the western civilization. Though our contributions are denied today when conservative congressman of Iowa, Steve King, asked, “Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?” It is evident that, beyond the success Blacks have created for themselves and the economic power they’ve become, the ripple effects of slavery are still relevant.
There have been many battles in the ongoing war between Blacks and Whites and the oppression imposed upon minorities by the United States government. During these battles, Blacks have managed to triumph and prosper tremendously over time. Blacks were victorious as soldiers fighting with the union for their freedom during the Civil War, again with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the ending of Jim Crow and again with the Nomination of 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama.
Black-on-Black crime has become a major problem within inner cities throughout America. An FBI study showed that between the years of 1980 and 2008, Blacks committed 52% of all homicides. This is the very statistic used by right wing conservatives, political commentators, and racist bigots when discussing police brutality in an attempt to undermine the real issue. The real issue when addressing Black-on-Black crime should be the subpar living conditions where these crimes occur and the failing school systems that children of such communities are subjected to. These communities are often abandoned and forgotten, that eventually become the Flint Michigan’s of the country. The fact an entire city that is 57% Black is failed by local government and poisoned, yet no one held accountable, is a direct ripple effect of slavery. The effect is that Black lives are devalued and deemed disposable in America.
Another ripple effect that has plagued the Black community is colorism. Colorism is defined as the prejudice or discrimination of those with darker skin tone and generally happens within the same ethnic groups. Since slavery, the seed has been planted that those with a lighter skin tone were of more value and were often given favoritism over slaves with darker skin. Slaves with lighter skin typically worked in better conditions; they worked has cooks, nannies, maids, etc. Though conditions were somewhat better this should in no way be misinterpreted as fair or equal treatment.
The idea of colorism goes back to 1712 when Willie Lynch addressed slave owners by the James River in the colony of Virginia. The speech was given with the intent to gain control over slaves—or as Willie Lynch put it, “Keep the body, take the mind.” This “taking of the mind” was imperative to “breaking” the slaves, and it used shades of skin tones as a means to cause division among the slaves.
This division can be found throughout the Black community in present day. Some take the idea of colorism as a mere fallacy with no truth to support its foundation. The reality of colorism is a
very harsh and real reality that is tough to refute. Actress Viola Davis was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey in 2013 about race in Hollywood. Davis was quoted in saying, ‘There have been times where my own people would tell me not to audition for a certain role because that was for the “cute Black girl.”’ The “Black cute girl” being one with European features such as fair skin and longer hair.
Ripple effects of slavery, years of oppression, social and economic inequalities can be found throughout the Black community. The lack of leadership and subpar living conditions cause the ripple effect that is Black-on-Black crime. It also causes the division among Blacks in the idea that one is more greatly valued over the other because of the hue of their skin. Black Americans have won many battles in the ongoing war against racism and the fight for equality, but there is indeed more ground to break. Regardless of the ripples caused in the short 151 years since the abolishment of slavery, Blacks have persevered, showing the world the definition of what it means to be unbroken.