racism in the north
Life, Opinions

Racism In The North, Deconstructing The Conservative South and Progressive North


Since moving to Connecticut from South Carolina, I’ve made many friends from the north. Most of them have fairly similar thoughts on the south. “The south is racist homophobic. xenophobic.” I’d like to argue racism in the north is just as prevalent.

Racism does exist in the south, in both a direct form and systematic form. People of color experience micro-aggressions and structural aggressions on the daily such as voter suppression, non-existent disciplinary actions against hate crimes and discrimination by large southern universities. However, racism in the north persists as well. And not just a few “bad apples” as some may like to think. Rather, racism has been present throughout the north’s history and is still present today.

We learn almost nothing about slavery in the north in history class. Many abolitionists and northerners intended to advance their economic imperatives during the Civil War. It was often financially helpful to free slaves for the northern economy. These intentions were made clear when the North offered little advocacy for Reconstruction efforts, which would have supported freed black people.   

“We often hear of the slayings of black people at the hands of law enforcement in the South, but we know police brutality cases span the East Coast”

Today, gentrification pushes communities out of their homes. Police surveillance is high in certain black and brown communites. Geospatial discrimination, where zip codes are used to divide cities by income levels, is a racist tactic in the north and the south. The divide keeps tax money within the same tax brackets. Wealthy students from affluent neighborhoods benefit from better funded schools, while students from lower income zip codes attend schools with little to no funding. Equal opportunity does not exist in a system that perpetuates cyclic poverty, which is a shame for a country that prides itself on The American Dream.

We often hear of the slayings of black people at the hands of law enforcement in the South, but we know police brutality cases span the East Coast, Eric Garner of Brooklyn New York, Freddie Gray of Baltimore, Maryland, and lets not forget Kalief Browder, a tragedy of a failed justice system out of The Bronx. Officers, however, are not held accountable for their actions, often simply receiving leaves of absence, but no charge for brutally harming, or even killing black and brown people.

There is also a political binary created to perpetuate the North as progressive.We often only think of the republican party as racist, homophobic and patriarchal while we dismiss the democratic party of such biases. Northern states are typically blue, while southern states are  red. The reality is that politicians from both parties uphold the same political, economic, and policing structures that harm black and brown people. Of course, the republican party represents these stances in ways most often discussed, but democrats are not free from the responsibility of sustaining these stances.

One example is of democratic presidential candidate, Elizabeth Warren compared to Donald Trump or almost any other republican politician. They both support and believe in the need for ICE, America’s discriminatory, violent, policing system against immigrants. 

Politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez once stated that “in any other country, Joe Biden and I would not be in the same party“. She holds different political stances on a number of issues, including a desire to abolish racist institutions like ICE, calling for corporations to redistribute their hoards of wealth, issues to which both republicans and democrats are opposed. This is all to say that the ideas of politics in the current bipartisan system camouflage the desire of both parties to uphold the patriarchal, capitalist, racist, and nationalist systems that have upheld the social hierarchy to-date. So when we think of the democratic states, often those in the north, as the “good” ones, it is not always a thought founded in actual nuanced differences between the political parties. 

Pretending the south is the sole problem in America, or even claiming that the “red states” are the only states with the racism present is just untrue. Rich white northerners tout the north as an emblem of progressive justice, while they continue to benefit from systems that privilege them over minorities. For this reason, we must acknowledge instances of racism, overt and covert, in all regions. The south may have a pervasive racist culture, but the north is not so far behind. 

Featured Photo by Byron Smith for New York Times, Eric Garner Protest

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