This Week's 5: The Only Independence Day I Recognize is Juneteenth

Author's Note: This Week's 5 is a weekly collection of stories designed to provide insight into how racism works and serve as an easily accessible resource for people trying to have nuanced discussions about these issues. For more explanation on how This Week's 5 works and descriptions of each of the categories, click here.

Overt: Blackface is racist. Period. If you still have to ask in 2018 (shoot, even if you had to ask in 1918), it’s because you’re actively not listening. Nonetheless, a GOP Senate candidate finds himself apologizing for not just wearing blackface, but throwing on a bandana and a jersey and saying he was dressing up as a generic rapper for Halloween. I could go real in-depth to peel all the layers here, but instead I’ll leave you with this: the only thing worse than this brand of flagrant, lazy, “oh shucks” racism is when perpetrators try to excuse it by evoking their supposed Black friends. Dear white people, few things say, “I could care less about Black people,” quite like getting caught up for wearing blackface and then throwing Black people who had nothing to do with your stupidity in the line of fire. Read more from the Root.

Institutional: If you follow my writing, you’ll notice I use the word “intentionality” a lot. I’m all for having faith, but hoping and praying things will work out isn’t enough, especially when it comes to equity and social justice. That’s why I was ecstatic to hear a new California law will require filmmakers to provide written harassment policies, racial and gender demographics for their projects, and summaries of their companies’ internal diversity programs in order to qualify for tax credits. Set to take effect in 2020, this law creates tangible incentives for people to embrace equity, as opposed to hoping people will do the right thing out of the goodness of their hearts, which we have decades of data to show almost never happens when real money is involved. Read more from Color Lines.

Critical Race Theory: Divide and conquer is one of the most trusted strategies when it comes to weakening marginalized people. For Black Americans, this is probably best symbolized by the Willie Lynch letter, a document that goes into painstaking detail how to exploit every difference among enslaved Black people (i.e. dark skin vs. light skin, house slaves vs. field slaves, men vs. women, etc.) to keep them subservient. While the veracity of the letter is highly disputed, the phenomenon it describes is very much real and persists to this day. For example, while contrary to popular talking points, the Black community isn’t any more homophobic than any other ethnicity, it’s impossible not to notice allusions to slavery in homophobic rants against Black LGBTQ people. They are often slandered for being complicit with white supremacy, specifically for somehow attacking Black manhood by existing. It’s a ridiculous line of thinking that only makes sense when you realize it’s a coping mechanism for some men to deal with insecurities about their own sexual identities. That, however, is no excuse for something that has caused immeasurable harm to people in the form of everything from discrimination to verbal abuse to gruesome murders. It only adds insult to injury that many of the purveyors of this homophobia loudly claim to “love Black people.” Let’s be clear: you don’t love Black people if you only consider some of us worth loving. Read more from the Grio.

History: I’ve never been big on the 4th of July. Even before I ever read Frederick Douglass’s seminal speech “What to a slave is the 4th of July?,” I never felt a connection to the holiday. Instead, when I think about independence, I think about Juneteenth, or Freedom Day. This holiday, celebrated on June 19, commemorates the news of the abolition of slavery finally reaching the last remaining enslaved people in Texas. Chances are, like myself, you didn’t learn about this in school because it generally isn’t taught. Beyond conditioning our collective ignorance of history, there are a multitude of reasons why not teaching Juneteenth is patently unacceptable. Read more from Vox.