There seems to be an endless stream of "misunderstandings" when black people are being criminalized for literally doing everyday things these days. The trend is black people having the police called on them for doing everyday tasks creating a potentially highly volatile situation for them. After which there are claims of a misunderstanding. Earlier this week, rapper T.I., whose birth name is Clifford Harris Jr., was arrested for not having the keys to his gated, suburban community. He was denied entry to his home and charged with three criminal acts.

Over the last month, black people have had the police called on them for waiting in a Starbucks, sleeping in a common area at Yale University, barbecuing in an area designated for barbecuing in a park, checking out of an Airbnb, and moving into their own apartment. These are just a few viral instances that need to be named for what it is. They are not misunderstandings but acts of racism.

Why is it important to name these acts as racist?

Calling racist acts misunderstandings, or anything less, tends to trivialize a serious matter.

It personalizes a systemic disease plaguing the social, economic, and political fabric of a country still steep in racist rhetoric. Naming racist acts maintains the sting needed for America to fully wake up to the ever-evolving elephant in the room. Some Americans believe that the civil rights movement sufficiently placed discrimination in the past and the society is now truly color-blind. Nothing is further from the truth as proven by the use of language like "feeling fearful" or intentionally naming the color of the person or their own when reporting any incident that involves black people.

These reports often solicit the use of unnecessary force by law enforcers who claim to only be doing their jobs while white suspects are treated more humanely, given the benefit of the doubt or given far lesser charges.

Thankfully, technology today makes documentation easy with the click of a button.

New videos and articles come out every day about how claims of misunderstandings are just plain being racist. These claims come from both law enforcers and ordinary white citizens alike. Words matter and the differences in the language used when dealing with black as opposed to white people sets the tone for racial profiling.

Social scientists will tell you that language is not simply how people communicate but the basis of how people form a community and a sense of camaraderie.

Language is critical to people feeling like a part of a community; like they belong. As it stands, the language being communicated is that black people do not belong in certain spaces across America for no other reason than the color of their skin. The black real estate investor whose white neighbor yelled at him to leave the neighborhood without a logical explanation is why black people feel like they do not belong. Similarly, the three black women leaving an Airbnb and had six police officers and a helicopter surround them because a white neighbor claimed they were not polite is communicating that they do not belong either.

The list grows exponentially each day and the language that fuels the who belongs where narrative is eerily similar to racial segregation systems of the past. However, the difference between then and now has more to do with the language used to justify it than a specific societal structure, according to Michelle Alexander in her bestseller book, "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the age of colorblindness." She further states that “rather relying on race, we use our criminal justice system to label black people ‘criminals’ and then engage in all the practices we supposedly left behind." In other words, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

And language is key to the racial justice facade that too many white and some black Americans want to believe. This cements the importance of naming racist acts for what they are.

To name racism is to take on the issue directly and address the root cause. This process will reveal that black people have been disproportionately affected for far too long. By mislabeling racist actions as misunderstandings take the power and relevance away from the issue. If this continues, decision-makers and the overall public will never change their attitude and behavior towards acts of racial profiling.

Going forward?

Naming racism is like calling out bullies.

It needs to be intercepted quickly and directly to have the desired effect. Being clear might be difficult at first, especially with so many counterarguments trying to prove otherwise. But eventually, more people will at least engage in conversations about racism and racial profiling. This is a step in the right direction if the country wants to rid itself of racist acts instead of evolving into another elaborate oppressive scheme.

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