Friday, May 24, 2024

As a longtime resident of Cambridge, I can honestly say I am sick and tired of being sick and tired of racism in our city. I am sick and tired of my skin color being used as an opportunity that people capitalize on, ultimately all to benefit off of the oppression of my community. When will people wake up and realize that being antiracist means not identifying people by skin color? It is bizarre for a town to call itself liberal and democratic yet still uphold race-based ideologies. I have zero interest in upholding race-based ideologies. Historically I have discovered that race, like religion, causes more division and harm than healing and repair. What is Bipoc? Who are “people of color”? Why must people identify as simply white? Why are we upholding categories based on skin color, and how are these categories dismantling systemic racism?

The answer to this is: They aren’t. We all know you can’t reform white supremacy. Reform programs fail to address the core roots of systemic racism and therefore fail to dismantle systemic racism. For that to occur, we have to start telling hard, ugly, challenging truths and work toward reconciliation. We would have to acknowledge the need to repair and have community conversations on what repairing harm looks like.

I don’t want to be a person of color. Erasure of heritage and identity is not love,” said Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., last year.

I agree with Bernice. I have a community, and we have been here for centuries. My community is composed of Black Americans that are descendants of chattel slavery. Our lineage is mixed, and includes Native American people as well as Black Indigenous people who were here before Christopher Columbus, people of Africa who were brought over on ships for chattel enslavement as well as other heritages due to forced breeding during chattel slavery as a form of eugenics and genocide. Throughout the years we have been called negro, coloreds, black, African American and more. In fact, the first Black American in Massachusetts to obtain her status free of chattel slavery was Mum Bett, who went on to change her name to Elizabeth Freemen. The freedmen legacy has erasure due to institutional racism, but remains a cornerstone in our history of repair through the establishment of the Freedmen’s Bureau Act of 1865 and the Freedman’s Bank. I believe it is past time to end race-based ideology and take meaningful steps toward repair where we can pick up where we left off. Race-based ideologies cause more division and fails to address harm from institutional racism within our communities. Racism will never undo racism.

Before the Immigration Act of 1965, less than 1 percent of immigrants identified as Black in this country. Today this number has increased drastically. It is imperative as new settlers arrive to Turtle Island – the name, in many Native American cultures, for North America – that we stop the spread of institutional harm through forced race-based ideology immediately.

Ultimately, Cambridge, as well as surrounding towns, needs to hold much more space for public education on truth and reconciliation as part of reparations to address institutional racism. It turns out a bunch of my friends agree with me. So together we created a space where all of us who believe in a world based on human rights can come together and fulfill our dreams, a space that rebukes race-based ideologies. Phuck racism. I hope you join me as we learn, share, heal, and celebrate humanity together.

Saskia VannJames, Garden Street