Ever since the United States granted citizenship to black people, African Americans have been pushing the nation to acknowledge that promise. Yet discrimination still systematically limits African Americans’ right to live, move, gather and participate fully in our democracy and our economy. When outrageous public incidents happen, we can recall some of the names and details, but most often, these events slip wordlessly into the passage of time.
Despite the long legacy of discrimination in public accommodations—a central battleground of the civil rights movement—looking at each of these incidents individually allows us to believe the fiction that these are aberrations. However, the indignities thrust on Rashon Nelson or Tshyrad Oates or Myneca Ojo or Chikesia Clemons send a broader message about who belongs, who matters, who deserves respect—and who does not.
In our nation’s operating system, aggressively controlling black people in public spaces is a feature, not a bug.