By Brianna Mack
June 16, 2020
Generally speaking, cryptids are animals that people claim are real but are never proven to exist. Fuzzy footage of yetis (Abominable Snowman), sasquatches (Big Foot), and aquatic dinosaurs (Loch Ness Monster) is available online, and their photos still appear in tabloids at your local grocery store. They’re considered legends and tall tales to everyone except those few people who saw and/or interacted with them firsthand. What would happen if irrefutable evidence of Big Foot’s existence were released to the public? What if there are hundreds of thousands of sasquatches living throughout the United States? Would fearful individuals have a meltdown over the realization that their world is not what they believed to be? Would they join forces with the long-believing locals to create a response and/or solution that respects and protects all parties involved?
Less than a month ago, millions of people across the world watched irrefutable evidence that a cryptid does in fact exist in America. On May 25, we saw filmed footage of the scariest and most dangerous cryptid—lethal racist behavior. For almost 9 minutes, people watched Officer Derek Chauvin press his knee on the neck of prone-positioned George Floyd, leading to his death by asphyxiation. Three police officers on the scene chose not to intervene in the act to save Floyd or stop Chauvin from abusing his power as a government employee.
Cryptids don’t have to be mythical or supernatural creatures. They don’t have to be a creature. A cryptid is simply a hidden phenomenon yet to be determined to exist in the past, present, and/or future.
Generally, Racism is the prejudiced, discriminating, or antagonistic behavior or ideology towards a person or group of people based on their perceived inclusion in a racial or ethnic group that’s marginalized or considered less-than in society.
America has a long and complicated history with the scariest cryptid. Racism helped develop America into the world-leading powerhouse it is today: from the mass genocide of indigenous people, perpetual enslavement of Africans and descendants, and the exclusion of Africans, Asians, and their children from citizenship to creating extremely strict guidelines limiting political participation among certain groups and limiting legal protections against individuals of different religions and sexual identities. America has never been the absolute shining beacon of equality, freedom, and liberty as detailed in her founding documents.
However, knowing this, people strove throughout the years to make America better and become the ideal country she always said she is. They fought the Civil War and passed amendments and federal laws abolishing slavery, granting citizenship, politically enfranchising women, protecting indigenous groups, banning a majority of exclusionary practices in the electoral, social, educational, and economic spaces, and expanding access to everything in the aforementioned realms to improve the number of and quality of life choices for everyone—so everyone can have “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” America worked hard to eradicate Racism in the 1960s through the Civil Rights Movement—or so most people thought.
Black people as well as some allied whites have been stating for years that Racism is not dead. Racism is like Hydra (a multi-headed creature from Greek mythology). In order to kill it, you must simultaneously sever all the heads or it’ll regrow stronger and sturdier replacement heads. America didn’t kill Racism. She didn’t sever all of the heads, and now that creature is scarier and stronger. That deplorable monster is still terrorizing Black people by limiting life choices from the uterus to the grave—perpetuating inter-generational poverty, limiting equitable access to educational and economic programs, forcing individuals to live in environmental wastelands and food deserts, limiting access to quality medical care, and finally, killing Black people.
However, when these frightened individuals share their evidence of Racism being alive and thriving, it’s discounted as fuzzy and fake footage. Then these concerned individuals are forced to fight the scarier and stronger cryptid by themselves.
What are the names of new heads on Racism? Overt Racism, Covert Racism, Systemic Racism, Environmental Racism, Colorblind Racism, and the conjoined-twin-headed Symbolic Racism and Racial Resentment.
Imagine trying to fight a vicious monster and there are people who could help you kill it. These bystanders are instead refusing to believe that creature is not real, and in doing so, they help it terrorize you and your community. You’d experience a swirl of negative emotions, because you don’t understand how they can’t see Racism wreaking havoc for decades.
Even worse, there are folks who know and love Racism. They even take care of it. What would happen when America finally receives irrefutable evidence that that damned cryptid Racism is still alive, stronger than ever, and destroying Black people?
America is experiencing a meltdown in the wake of Floyd’s death:
“Racism isn’t real anymore, we had a Black President.”
“Floyd was a bad man. He didn’t deserve to be killed, but I think all this fuss is inappropriate.”
“This is a ploy by the [insert political party you oppose] to drum up support in the upcoming election.”
“We should defund every police department in the country.”
Cities like Minneapolis, Atlanta, and New York City have been burning for weeks. Companies release solidarity emails, and the mass media air support messages every hour. Some elected officials wear kenté cloths and kneel while others experience police brutality while out protesting. Multitudes of people demand change.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 has limited educational, social, political, and economic developments for the foreseeable future. Yet, Racism is so real and scary that individuals are risking exposure to the virus in order to publicly demand change. Others riot, loot, and destroy property in response to America’s extremely late acknowledgement of her state of affairs or to as a way to exploit the meltdown.
So what do we do now? Racism is alive and well: guiding the behavior of individuals and residing in the institutional behavior of the nation.
We now know that America is not the colorblind and democratic utopia we were taught, and believed, it is. Should we all pull out the hair from our collective scalps, rip open our shirts, scream, and run about chaotically in the streets? Should we ignore all of this and continue to obsess over finding the last rolls of toilet paper at our favorite grocery stores?
How and when will we know Racism is finally dead?
I don’t have those answers. I only have academic knowledge and lived experiences. My research examines the ways in which racial identity influences the political behavior of African Americans. My teaching interests describe American political behavior: the inner mechanisms of campaigns and elections; the relationship between mass media and American politics; conceptualizing public opinion and political psychology; and describing the nuances of racial and ethnic political behavior.
Since childhood, I’ve known Racism is real and scary. I grew up in the Deep South, raised by my grandparents who came of age at the height of the Jim Crow era in Georgia. Their experiences fueled their desire for their descendants to have access to everything they couldn’t even fathom having or experiencing. They sent me to mostly white schools that promoted interracial unity and cooperation. Yet my grandparents always reminded me to be vigilant because Racism still lurks about and attacks Black people and that one day, it could wreak havoc in my life.
I’ve seen Racism attack my family, friends, and others. The monster also attacked me.
Over the years, I’ve learned that Racism is an international cryptid. Social, political, and economic oppression of differently skinned people happens worldwide and has for centuries.
I’ve engaged with scholars who introduced me to the academic subfields that examine Racism’s relationship with and influence on American political behavior. I’ve also engaged with scholars who believe Racism is not real and instead espouse alternative and “more plausible” theories that attribute its deplorable behavior to other phenomena.
I believe my responsibility is to inform and educate people on the dynamics of Racism. I’m helping eradicate Racism by identifying and detailing its various heads and encouraging dialogue on the history of its existence and the legacy of its behavior.
I encourage my students to think about how Racism could be eradicated through involvement in the American political system. I also advise students who express interest in my (or related) fields of study and support students who just want to be in the presence of a Black professor. (Black professors make up less than 6 percent of full-time faculty at colleges and universities across the country. Every year there are thousands students who will graduate without taking a course or interacting with a Black professor).
It is my belief that people who know better will do better. I try to teach students what they need to know so they can become better people.
I’ve been doing my part to fight Racism. What will you do to help eradicate this scary cryptid?
Brianna Mack is an Assistant Professor of Politics & Government with research interests are in American political behavior, political psychology, and race and ethnicity.