From Black Lives Matter to Jim Crow 2.0

The problem with progress is the assumption we make that it will always continue moving forward—but the truth is that progress requires diligence, attention, and not getting complacent.

For over two years, I worked out several times a week with a personal trainer, specifically working on weight training. Late last summer, I decided that it was time to work out on my own, as my consulting practice was experiencing a major downturn and I could no longer afford my trainer.

I figured I would be able to keep up the same or a similar regimen that I did with my wonderful trainer. Fast-forward eight months later and—while I have continued exercising several times a week—I didn’t keep up with the weight training and now my well-defined arms have a little less definition than they had a year ago, and a bit more jiggle.

To the casual observer, it probably isn’t too noticeable. After all, I am a slightly over 50-year-old woman. How defined are my arms supposed to be? The thing is, there is a softening that I absolutely can feel and see. Two years of progress with a trainer slowly reversed.

Sure, I stuck with exercise and incorporated it into my life, but a key piece of that, the weight training—which is important for aging bodies—is no longer there. My stats on Fitbit look the same, averaging 150 minutes per week of exercise, but the specifics matter if you really pay attention.

Similarly, race relations in this country are going backward and in four years’ time, we have gone from a global Black Lives Matter movement to dancing dangerously close to Jim Crow version 2.0. The thing is, for most non-Black people, it isn’t noticeable. But more and more Black people are aware that a shift is underway. A shift that is slowly happening under the watch of a Democratic administration with a Black vice president.

While everyone seems to be aware of the rollback of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programming and overall moving on from racial justice, people seem less aware of how that is playing out practically for Black folks. In the years since George Floyd’s death and the supposed affirmation of Black life, the reality is that Black life seems to matter less and less.

In just the last week, several deeply disturbing stories have emerged that point to a large racial landscape shift underway that white allies seem to be oblivious to.

Raven Baxter, Ph.D., a 35-year-old Black molecular biologist, made a $749,000 offer on a condo in Virginia Beach—only to be told after finishing the inspection that the owner did not want to sell to her because Baxter is Black. Sit with that: A nationally known scientist makes an offer on a three-quarter-of-a-million-dollar home and her own broker calls her to inform her that the elderly white woman selling, upon learning Baxter’s race, doesn’t want to sell her home to her. In 2024. This is illegal, and as Baxter tweeted “Baby, I’m either buying your house or buying YOUR BLOCK. CHOOSE ONE.”

Four years after the great racial awakening of America, decades after laws were created to prevent this sort of thing, here we are. The story has picked up national attention and, well, it will be interesting to see how this unfolds.

Earlier this year, eight unrelated Black men were thrown off an American Airlines flight for allegedly having bad body odor. Apparently, a white male flight attendant made the compliant. Again, these were eight unrelated Black men who from reports weren’t even seated together, and they all supposedly had a body odor so bad that they needed to be booted from the flight?

Sounds like bullshit to me, and a lawsuit was filed last week against American Airlines for blatant and egregious racial discrimination.

Again, this is 2024, and Black people can just be removed from planes for so-called body odor.

Switching gears ever so slightly, do you know how hard it is for Black female entrepreneurs to access funding? Well, having once dreamed of this site becoming a Black media hub in Northern New England, I can tell you it is damn hard. It’s why 16 years later, I am still asking for individual support with many readers never paying for the writing and I could never access institutional support to grow this into a larger media hub. It is what it is. At this point, I am grateful for the faithful few who do support my work.

It’s also why groups like the venture capital fund known as Fearless Fund are vital. Fearless Fund makes grants to Black-women-owned businesses—or rather they did until white conservative activist Edward Blum alleged that the fund was violating a 19th century federal law that bars racial discrimination in private contracts. It would be laughable except it is not. Blum is the conservative activist behind the successful U.S. Supreme Court challenge to race-conscious college admissions policies.

A divided U.S. appeals court ruled and sided with Blum’s group that sued over the program.

Earlier this week, the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the group’s discrimination lawsuit was likely to succeed, reversing a judge’s decision that the program should be allowed to continue while the case moves forward.

Black-women-owned businesses get less than 1% of the 288 billion dollars in venture capital funds. But some white guy has a bee in his bonnet over Black women being able to get what in essence is token amounts of money that a Black-owned firm wants to give to Black women entrepreneurs, and the courts at the moment are agreeing with him.

So, when Black folks aren’t still being killed or harassed by the police, misdiagnosed by the medical establishment, and subjected to premature death and overall struggling to survive on less because of how racial wealth works in this country—even if we endure and succeed against all odds—it is now cool to strip away the gains we have fought hard to achieve. Increasingly, the courts and other powers-that-be are okay with it.

From the older generations and yes even the younger generations of white people, Black folks are seen as having too much access—when they still get a pittance—but those white people never acknowledge why the laws were in place to begin with and why dedicated funding streams are needed. Racism. It’s the fact that is right there, plain to see, but ignored even as it dictates unfair and unequal treatment that favors white people overwhelmingly.

No, we are living in dangerous times, as the gains and visibility for Black people in recent years are increasingly looking to become a tsunami instead taking us back to a new iteration of Jim Crow. While there may never be another “Coloreds Only” section in obvious sight, the undercurrent brewing says that is where we are headed for all practical purposes. Thanks to the almost complete decimation of media and the rise of AI, most are oblivious as they no longer trust what they read to be true and assume that we as Black people are still progressing forward.

It is often said that Black folks are the canary in the coal mine. Well, this canary is telling you that society as a whole is moving backward—from the attacks on reproductive rights and bodily autonomy to the rise of trad-wives, from the subtle to not-so-subtle voices clamoring for an America of yesteryear, where heterosexual cis-gendered white men can reclaim their place at the top of the human hierarchy and keep their foot on all our necks. All of our rights are subtly being stripped away, mostly by conservatives, across racial lines. That’s true. But when white America gets a cold, Black America gets double pneumonia. Do Black lives still matter? Whose lives matter and how are we embodying those beliefs? For those of you who don’t want progress reversed and erased, these are among the many questions you need to start taking very seriously.

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Image by Jaakko Kemppainen via Unsplash

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