NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the protests following his death reignited the conversation so many people don’t often talk about.
“To call out racism is to call out America itself. It is in the DNA of America,” Rev. Cherisna Jean-Marie said.
Within America’s DNA, Jean-Marie with the Scarritt Bennett Center said lies systemic racism.
“Systemic racism is this idea that you have individual ideas about other people, right, that speaks in ways in which we see and understand one’s humanity. Now what makes it systemic is you have a group of people who identify the same way. And they control systems, and when we speak of systems, we talk about they control systems in terms of education, criminal justice system, health care right, employment, income, wealth,” Jean-Marie said.
Racial Equity Coach Cecilia Olusola Tribble said systemic racism is broken down typically into four areas: Ideological, Institutional, Interpersonal and Internalized racism.
“The idea that we get about who is human and who is not. Who should be free and who is not. Who is criminal and who is not. All of these ideas are permeating our reality, whether we like it or not,” Tribble said.
Those ideas and inherent biases, experts say, have passed down from generation to generation.
"The ways in which slavery is always - and criminality - have always worked together. And the ways in which they are constantly being reinforced in our society is how all of this works together with policing,” Tribble said.
From the protests over the past two weeks, it’s clear what thousands across the country are marching for: justice, police reform, equality and an end to what they say is systemic racism.
Jean-Marie feels systemic racism remains prevalent in everything, from housing discrimination to policing.
“It’s happening all over the country. The same response. The same incident. The same issue! That police officers who have weapons, yet fear for their lives when they’re in my presence. And their defense is ‘I pulled out and shot because I was afraid for my life.’ And they go free! That’s systemic!” Rev. Jean-Marie said.
Vic Sorrell, an HIV educator and anti-racism advocate, said addressing this oftentimes becomes a difficult conversation, but one he believes is long overdue.
“A lot of white people easily become offended when we question the greatness of America. Unfortunately, in my opinion, that is an unfounded fear. We stand to gain so much more, by being able to embrace all that we are as a country. But, unfortunately, not all my white family sees it that way yet,” Sorrell said.