PerspectivesNikesha Elise Williams Jacksonville Today Contributor
The late Justice Joseph Hatchette was the first Black Florida Supreme Court justice. | Florida Supreme Court

OPINION | I’m at a loss over racism

Published on April 18, 2022 at 9:17 pm
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I am trying to understand racism. I know what it is. I know why it exists. I know the history of how it came to be the barometer by which all of mankind is measured, but I don’t understand it. I don’t understand that level of hate.

I don’t understand why some will go to such extremes to kill people, hold them back and make their lives difficult, or subjugate them to endless humiliation when subservience is not readily assumed. I don’t get it.

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I don’t understand why as a city, we still don’t know what to do with the Confederate Monument in Springfield Park – a place that until recently was named Confederate Park. 

If the name of the park was changed – I’m assuming because it’s offensive and steeped in the odious ethos of the Civil War – then why also shouldn’t the Confederate monument be removed? It is still evidence of the hateful heritage from which it was cracked out of marble and erected for some to marvel at.

I don’t understand why Gov.Ron DeSantis is so hell bent on weakening the power of Florida’s Democrats in Congress and of minority voters. Florida Republicans already have more U.S. House seats than Democrats, so why the need to obliterate and erase two minority access districts including Duval’s own Congressional District 5?

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Yes, I know that the governor’s actions serve the far right fringes of his base – voters who rabidly supported the former president and who DeSantis believes will support him in his 2024 presidential bid. I know his motivation may be purely political in the preservation of his own power. I know the 19th Century quote from a British lord applies here: Absolute power corrupts absolutely. But I don’t understand.

I don’t understand why Republican House members in Congress — including many from Florida—voted down a bill to name a federal courthouse in Tallahassee after the late Justice Joseph W. Hatchett, the first Black man to serve on the Florida Supreme Court. That bill failed despite being sponsored by Florida’s Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott. 

I know one of Justice Hatchett’s decisions to ban student prayer at graduation—a decision that affected the outcome of a Duval County case in the 1990s—was circulated before the House vote. I know the party closed rank and retreated to the comfort of its conservative evangelical church house roots, but I don’t understand.

I don’t understand why in the signing of a restrictive abortion access ban there are not even exceptions for rape, incest and human trafficking. This issue cuts at the intersection of race and gender. Black and brown women are more likely to seek an abortion. Black and brown women and children are also more likely to be trafficked in the U.S. Yet the hoops that women — all women, but especially Black and brown women — have to jump through to end a pregnancy that they don’t want, for whatever reason, is baffling to me.

It’s more than just that men do not know what it is to carry a child, or birth a child, or to give up life and body for a child, and then for that own child’s life to subsume your own. It’s more than just my body, my choice.

The ability to control reproduction, be it through birth control or abortion access, is one of the foundational tenets of the reproductive justice movement, which is really an outgrowth of women’s liberation, women’s equality, feminism and womanist theology.

I don’t believe for one second that it’s the love of Black babies or the belief that life begins at conception that is the undergirding of these measures. Rather, it’s a need, a want to control. 

Women with children are more easily controlled, economically disadvantaged and less likely to improve their socioeconomic status. These conditions of the mother are also passed down to their children, which sets them at a disadvantage. I know control is a response to fear and how easily fear becomes a harbinger of hate, but still, I don’t understand.

I don’t understand why, in a life where I’m doing my work, drinking my water, paying my taxes, minding my business and trying to love my neighbor as myself, some neighbors can’t, won’t, and refuse to do the same. I really don’t understand.

author image Jacksonville Today Contributor

Nikesha Elise Williams is an Emmy-winning TV producer, award-winning novelist (Beyond Bourbon Street and Four Women) and the host/producer of the Black & Published podcast. Her bylines include The Washington Post, ESSENCE, and Vox. She lives in Jacksonville with her family.

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