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: One of my favorite underrated comedians is Dwayne Kennedy. He had a Showtime comedy special when I was a kid where he joked that because of changing demographics, the KKK would either go extinct or have to relax its admission standards. Fast forward to 2018 and we have the story of Joe Gomez, the former sole Latino employee of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), an anti-immigrant organization. Gomez actually defended the move to his friends, many of whom he ended up losing, only to find himself subject to regular racist slurs and abuse, as well as peers mocking his panic attacks. In other words, everything you expected to happen. Read more from the Daily Beast (via MSN).
Institutional: Institutional racism often manifests in the form of neglect. Consider a recent report on long-ignored contamination issues in East Chicago, Indiana, a predominately Black and Latinx town. Specifically, residents suffered from high levels of lead and arsenic contamination, but a 2011 federal report found no health threat in the air, water, or soil. Reuters would later call this report “embarrassingly bad.” A 2018 report by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry seemed to confirm that with findings that children in two East Chicago neighborhoods were three times more likely to have elevated levels of lead in their blood. From 2005-2015, a quarter of children, mostly Black, from one housing unit had lead levels “at or over the federal threshold for intervention,” according to an article from Rewire. Read more from the Root.
Critical Race Theory: People who try to shut down discussions on racism like to characterize white supremacy as either hate or a figment of our imagination. In reality, white supremacy is a spectrum. Whereas the white hood wearing terrorist is on one end, the white savior sits on the other. The white savior complex describes a mindset and trend among (often self-proclaimed) white allies who think people of color are hopeless without them and need to be saved. It robs people of color of their agency and allows the supposed white savior to not just maintain the position of power, but also be the hero of the narrative. This complex has been a media staple for generations and a new project from Terence Nance seeks to document the extent in excruciating detail. Nance’s new website, WhitePeopleWontSaveYou.org plays a collection of white savior clips from the 1960s to the present on a loop. This collection only continues to grow because Nance uses an algorithm and continuously adds clips from recent movies and TV shows. In theory, he’ll stop when programs stop using the trope, but something tells me this will literally end up being a life’s work. Read more from Color Lines.
History: As America watches the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Brett Kavanaugh, it only seems fitting that this week’s trip down memory lane revisits the time he used his platform to grossly misrepresent the history of Native Hawaiians. In 1999, writing in support of a lawsuit against the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Kavanaugh advocated for dismissing Native Hawaiians’ status as indigenous people and claimed that Hawaii’s “naked racial spoils system” was a threat to spread to other states. Utilizing all the affirmative action boogeyman dog whistles, he went so far as to say it could create a system where any “racial group with creative reasoning can qualify as an Indian tribe.” For those unfamiliar, the Kingdom of Hawaii, which itself was the result of a violent European colonization campaign against Hawaiian natives, was overthrown in 1893. During that overthrow, the US military helped white business interests force Queen Liliuokalani into house arrest. To make matters worse, European diseases decimated the native population while the aforementioned businessmen continued to rewrite laws giving themselves all the power. Eventually Hawaii became an official state in 1959. In 1993, President Bill Clinton signed the “Apology Resolution,” which acknowledged wrongdoing by the US government in its overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Kavanaugh’s op-ed was a direct attack on that resolution. Read more from the Honolulu Civil Beat.
The Fragility Breaker: This may go down as one of the greatest weeks for white tears ever. On its face, Nike choosing Colin Kaepernick as the face of its “Just Do It” campaign was already a great move. A top corporation choosing to bet its future on the Black athletes, style, and culture that have propelled it to where it is today, as well as its young consumer base, rather than white supremacists is a necessary statement in this political climate. Then white supremacists started burning their shoes on camera. That these clowns called these shoe burnings boycotts, including one genius who burned his shoes while they were still on his feet, only made it better. Normally people burning their clothes and fundamentally misunderstanding the meaning of boycott would be enough, but then a national police union came out with a predictable statement condemning Nike. In what was the cherry on the sundae (as of this writing), the Black police officers union came out with their own statement saying they stand with Nike and Kaepernick, and more importantly, echo his concerns about profiling and brutality. For those not keeping score, that’s an official statement from police officers not just confirming a serious need for reform, but exposing their national union for being boldly corrupt and a tool for laundering white supremacist messages for mass consumption. This isn’t news to some of us, but damn if it doesn’t feel good to see it documented. Meanwhile, white supremacists are burning their clothes because they have no idea what to do with themselves and are filming it all for our entertainment. What a week for white tears. Read more from the Root.