Letter: Racism has permeated our nation from the start

Posted 7/15/21

Dear R. Lamb, thank you for your concern over my “self-righteous indignation.” As an ethnic minority in this town, I am constantly aware of how I, and other POC, are …

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Letter: Racism has permeated our nation from the start

Posted

Dear R. Lamb, thank you for your concern over my “self-righteous indignation.” As an ethnic minority in this town, I am constantly aware of how I, and other POC, are viewed in Barrington. I was one of four Asian students in my graduating class, and one of ten students of color out of a total 269.

I led social justice events throughout college, attended lectures, donated money, signed petitions, protested, etc. Writing to the Barrington Times is just one of many ways I have voiced my disappointment towards the injustices I’ve witnessed.

When talking about systemic racism, and the argument whether it exists, we are looking at how our nation’s foundation and laws have nurtured disproportionate inequities among racial minorities. Look through the US Census data. The national poverty rate is 25 percent Indigenous, 20.8 percent Black, 17.6 percent Hispanic, and only 10 percent White and Asian. Rhode Island’s poverty rates are 24 percent Black, 29 percent Hispanic, and 10 percent White. 

Poverty affects housing, housing affects education, education affects job opportunity, crime, economics etc.

Barrington tops public education in RI with a graduation rate of over 95 percent in the past 10 years. The average household income in Barrington is $117,000. The average house costs $533,000. Contrastingly, Rhode Island’s lowest graduation rates are: 64 percent from Mount Pleasant, 71 percent from Woonsocket, 88 percent from East Providence. All areas where the average household income and home value are both less than half of Barrington’s respective rates. 

What’s interesting is that these are all concentrated areas of racial minorities. This kind of segregation is what limits better education, better job opportunities, better healthcare, and tolerates over policing and racial profiling in these neighborhoods.

Nationwide, the incarceration rate of Black people is 5.1 times higher than that of White people. Rhode Island’s incarceration rate of Black men is almost 9 times higher than White men. 

In Barrington, I witnessed my white peers drink underage, drive under the influence, and use illegal substances with no more than a slap on the wrist. And yet for equal demeanors, we cannot deny the abhorrent abuse our justice system inflicts on BIPOC. George Floyd was pulled over and murdered for an alleged counterfeit $20 bill. Not fined, not put in jail, murdered. Derek Harris was sentenced to life for selling 0.69g of marijuana (a second hearing released him after 9). Breonna Taylor was murdered by police without committing a crime. Police performed a no-knock raid on her home under a suspected narcotics investigation. No drugs were found; an innocent Black women lost her life.

Systemic racism exists. Our country was founded on the deaths of millions of indigenous people. Our constitution was written by slaveholders that said a black man was only 3/5ths of a person. Our districts are still segregated. Our prisons are still overrepresented by people of color. Under the guise of immigration reform, we created concentration camps, separated families, and withheld basic human rights to refugees. Flip through a history book; racism permeated our nation from the very start, and never left.

Amy Sutherland

Barrington

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.