One of the truly horrifying things about our race problem is the ever-present pressure of social and cultural judgment placed on communities of color. The West has established a great and persisting pointing finger of judgment which is always wagging condescendingly – and let's not forget fatally – at its targets of varying ethnicities.
What I mean is that regardless of your race, if someone tells you that you are a mean person, this judgment doesn't have to be necessarily permanent. It is much easier to negotiate this judgment and even escape it, as you can argue all you want about why you aren't mean, or you can take steps to be a nicer person.
But even worse, if someone tells you that there is something intrinsically wrong with you because of your race, there are no steps you can take to reconcile the effects of that judgment. You are considered the race you are by society and that is that; there is nothing you can do to challenge this judgment if the judgment is ingrained deeply enough in mass culture. It is an incredibly brutal form of judgment that refuses redemption. When you go out in society, you go out with this perpetual social weight that is pressing upon your chest, upon your very person. Society claims the power to define what you as a person can be, and if you desire to step outside of that definition, you are shown very quickly that it will not be allowed, especially if that restriction has to do with race.
Kim, a woman of color, has this to say:
“Power leaves people of color no choice but to cower in the small identity box chosen for them by white people; otherwise people of color must suffer the concrete consequences. No matter what I say or do, I have to perform these gymnastics to try to make people feel safe around me. The second they don't feel safe, there are agencies everywhere that are ready to support character assassinations and even the imprisonment and destruction of people of color.”
It is crucial to recognize this ever-present social and political brutality which is constantly pressing itself on communities of color. When people of color talk about this figurative – and literal – gun which is constantly pointed at them, and when they talk about feeling as if they are constantly in danger of having their basic human dignities – and their lives – taken away from them, one should listen. This is a psychic and spiritual violence that can have profound individual and social effects, as we've already seen.