Race and Class Complacency in America: What Happened to Love Thy Neighbor?

If a gunman was holding you hostage, with a weapon at your head, what perfect words would you tell them in an attempt to save your life?

I ask myself the same question every time I sit down and try to conjure up the proper words to convince others to care about social justice movements, the perfect words to plead for recognition that mine, and many other marginalized lives, matter. It pains me to perceive that, from my friends and family that remain ignorant, your complacency is an indirect message that your fondness of me is not worth as much as some time spent educating, participating in, and supporting social reform. I understand everyone has their own life filled with conflicts and careers that demand your time, but they do not demand your conscience, and it is timeless to simply listen to the millions of Black voices that are crying out today. 

Do you not believe it is true, the vehement racism, sexism, and other isms that dominate this country? I could cite research articles from the National Institute of Health that acknowledge the negative health impacts that racism has on minority groups directly, making us more susceptible to illness; which is only heightened when coupled with the food desserts preventing access to affordable, healthy food. I could cite the systemic lack of support for Black schools that has crippled the education of Black youth for generations, and continues to do so today. Yet, even so, we are labelled as ignorant thugs and barbarians without any further thought into the proven link between crime, miseducation, and poverty. 

I could testify to my personal struggles with health that have surmounted from a stressful existence in this country as a queer, black woman; giving the gory details of every waking moment that I spend in excruciating pain, begging for some reprieve, only to find discrimination at the door of various health “professionals”. 

I could reference the millions of direct testimonies from nonwhite Americans that suffer so deeply, experiencing both direct and indirect acts of prejudice. My entire family has accounts of acts of hatred, from the casual to the deadly. For every “good cop” story you could tell me, I could tell of ten times as many instances where I or someone I know has felt their life endangered, needlessly, by the presence of a police officer. The historical role that police have played in suppressing nonwhite communities, from returning slaves to enforcing segregationist laws, is often overlooked despite its proven implications in today’s law enforcement. How can you claim American prisons are any sense of just with the predatory profit generation of mass incarceration and the existence of a massive monopoly of private prisons? The facts, the resources, and the proof is readily accessible for most of you, yet you turn a blind eye. 

I could – and thousands of scholars already have – quite literally lay every piece of evidence in front of you, and yet it would make no difference. The reality is that people do not care about our struggles no matter how credible and frequent all the accounts are, and it puzzles me to find that I cannot inspire empathy in my fellow Americans despite how much floral rhetoric and niceties I employ. 

(Photo Credit: The Guardian / Phil Bergerson)

About Sierra Snead

Sierra Snead is studies Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Stockton University, working towards social activism when not studying towards her future in medicine. You can reach her under the Twitter handle @1sierrasnead, or on Instagram as sierra.snead.