From racism that kills to polite racism

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The experience of visiting an African-American museum in Iowa, in the Midwest of the United States, contrasts with the presence of few blacks in the place. When I said, for example, that I was in Iowa, as part of the studies, I heard from high-ranking members of the US government the following question, in a surprised tone: “Are there blacks in Iowa?”.

One of the goals of the professional leadership program, with black Brazilian journalists, is precisely this: to show how American states live different realities about racism and inclusion.

The doubt is justified, since the daily photograph of the state is of white people, especially students, inhabiting the streets and social places. And where are the blacks? In a pavilion of popular food and handicrafts in the city they are not. That’s because among the hundreds of options to eat, there were no black exhibitors, despite the proximity to the Afro museum.

We obviously found blacks in the museum administration and some visitors as well – like ourselves. After driving around the city, I found black people in the role of app drivers, in small groups of students and professors at the University of Iowa, and occasionally in some professions, such as journalists and cleaning workers.

“I am the only black reporter [na minha cidade]. Someone has to open the door, so that decisions are not made at tables where only white people are seated. Here is polite racism, polite racism,” says Ty Rushing, a black journalist from Iowa, who spoke with my study group to introduce his new documentary, out this month, about racial struggle, Telling Our Own Story: Ending Racism. (Telling our own stories: end of racism).

Iowa has blacks in different positions in the job market, but a small number of residents for a city that boasts a museum entirely dedicated to Afro culture.

In 1994, a group from the Missionary Baptist Church decided to build this interactive and educational museum about American racism. The timeline goes from the removal of slaves from Africa and sending them to the Americas until the election of Barack Obama, passing through the harsh years of segregation, which imposed precariousness on the black population in the country.
Life-size replicas of slaves star in the exhibition area dedicated to Africa. Also called the Door of No Return.

A small roulette wheel, used as an interactive game, gives options about possible destinations for an African-American slave, among them: going to Brazil; to die of some disease caused by the terrible sanitary conditions; between others.

In another wing, two doors are capable of transporting to the past, even for those who know this part of the racial struggle only from the history books. One of the doors is accompanied by the warning that only whites could enter. Next to it is a large white porcelain drinking fountain. Only the other door could be used by non-whites, or “colored”, as a written sign warns. Next to it, there is also a drinking fountain, only because it is so small, it looks more like a sink – purposely organized in this way to serve blacks with very little.

I wonder what was going through the minds of those who organized spaces in this way, it would be the architecture of segregation. There is tension in the air, the state breathes division on various issues, with police action, use of weapons and civil rights.

Last Thursday, Iowa entered the circuit of states marked by shootings, as a sign of protest by those who defend arms. A man shot and killed two women in a church parking lot and then shot himself, according to police. “Moments before, [o presidente Joe] Biden called on Congress to ban assault weapons, expand background checks and implement other gun control measures to deal with the mass shootings. ‘Enough, enough!’ the president said,” according to Reuters.

In recent weeks, the United States has seen mass shootings that killed 10 black residents in upstate New York, 19 children and two teachers in Texas, and two doctors, a receptionist and a patient in Oklahoma.

Source: CNN Brasil

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