Oh boy. Here we go again. I received a text from my brother on Monday, March 4: “Do you know about the Spain Park video?” So, I got on YouTube and typed in “Spain Park Video.” It was the first thing that came up. If you look up just “Spain Park” the first thing to come up will be commentary on the video.
And now comes the outrage, the shock, the guilt and the cover-up. There’s always a cover-up, quick actions taken by various people to dismiss or sweep what happened under the rug, to convince everyone that the problem has been addressed and all is well.
There seems to be a strong push in the United States of America to claim that far more was accomplished by the civil rights movement than actually occurred. It’s far easier to say that the problem was fixed than to admit the truth, after all.
And the truth is this: America is a nation built upon the backs of enslaved people.
The truth is we wrote our history in blood, and then did our best to cover it up.
The truth is that nothing those teens said in that video was surprising; disheartening and disturbing, yes. But not surprising.
Why should it surprise us that a group of white children – who exist in a primarily white city, which was founded by a man who was a member of a white supremacist group and whose city’s growth can largely be attributed to white flight – would express racist viewpoints?
Of course, there are many who would deny this, who would claim that a few teens throwing around some racial slurs about Jewish people and African Americans doesn’t mean that the whole community is racist.
The words and deeds of a few individuals do not prove the character of an entire community.
But what has Hoover done to make us think otherwise? People say that it is extreme to assume that Hoover is racist, but why should we assume differently?
Hoover was originally a haven for white people fleeing from forced integration. The city’s job was to keep the place white and the police’s job was to scare off those dangerous Black hoodlums.
It may seem that I am throwing Hoover under the bus, but I actually don’t think that the people of Hoover, Alabama are all terrible, insensitive racists. I look at their situation and view it as a symptom.
Civil rights writer James Baldwin once said, “[White people] are endlessly demanding to be reassured that Birmingham is really on Mars.” The sentiment of this quote endures in Hoover. People want to believe that the problems of Hoover are just that, but Hoover is not unique.
At the end of the day, Hoover may be worse than some cities, but its residents have only revealed the rot that festers at the heart of America. Throughout its history, our country has committed atrocities and then attempted to pretend that nothing happened.
We slaughtered the Native Americans and then herded them onto reservations to die. We threw Japanese-Americans in concentration camps and then gave them a pittance to make up for all that they lost. We enslaved African Americans and then having freed them, kept them in social bondage through acts of terrorism. Once that was no longer allowed, we pretended to have somehow solved the problem and tried to move on.
You’ll notice that none of these situations were ever really resolved. Native American reservations are some of the poorest communities in the country and suicide rates among those who live in them are high. Japanese-Americans were never properly repaid for the losses they endured. African Americans still fear police brutality and live in less wealthy neighborhoods compared to their white counterparts.
In the end, we all want to pass the buck, to blame the other party, to assume that someone else will eventually take care of it, or to just flat out look away.
The truth is that if we are American, then we have a responsibility to change this situation. If we stand by and do nothing in the face of systemic racism, then we are proving that all of the blood spilled over fighting racism was for nothing, and nothing has truly changed at all.