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.
As a graduate of Lake Oswego High School, I’m quite familiar with “kids just being kids” racism. For the uninitiated, this is when (usually) white kids engage in obviously racist behavior, but (also usually white) adults try to excuse it as a harmless joke. Sure enough, that script played out just as expected when a photo of Wisconsin high school boys throwing up a Nazi salute became public this week. While the (you guessed it, white) photographer tried to claim the boys were just waving, a tweet bragging about even getting a Black student to make the gesture blew his paper thin cover. Now these boys’ faces are all over international news media and there’s no shortage of white people crying foul and even daring to say the young Nazi sympathizers are the real victims, as if there aren’t kids of color and Jewish students who don’t have to deal with their bigotry on a daily basis. To the parents who find this harsh, consider teaching your kids not to be Nazis and there won’t be a problem. It’s really that simple. Read more from Vox.
History won’t be kind to ICE. Created in 2001, the agency already didn’t have the greatest reputation under the Bush and Obama Administrations, but their institutional bigotry more or less fell in line with the “professional” racism we had come to expect from law enforcement. Then Trump won in 2016. Many ICE officers clearly took that as their clarion call to let go of any restraints and become the Brown people hunters they always wanted to be. What has followed has been nothing short of persecution of immigrants in general, and Latinx people in particular. We’ve seen no shortage of videos of ICE officers stalking parents dropping off their kids at school and targeting people making mandatory court appearances. The Trump Administration has diverted hundreds of millions of dollars from programs like FEMA (despite being in the midst of hurricane season) to fund ICE’s detention of immigrants, including thousands of children separated from their families. A new report has found that not just is ICE imprisoning a record 44,631 people on average per day, but that this figure exceeds the number of beds in their budget by nearly 4,000. That the Trump Administration continues to divert funds from things like disaster relief and cancer research to keep this ethnic cleansing campaign going is about as transparently vindictive as it gets. Read more from the Daily Beast.
Critical Race Theory
Although the discussion has become more prominent in recent years, what often gets lost in organizing circles is the importance of self-care. A huge part of this work, whether in the streets, online, City Hall chambers, or back rooms, is conveying urgency. In addition to being well-researched, you have to be animated enough to win the competition for attention, not just with opponents and dishonest political actors, but other causes and of course, the endless rabbit hole of entertainment options. No matter who you are, it’s a drain on your mental health. Furthermore, it’s a recipe for either personal and/or public disaster. That’s why taking breaks is so important. This is marathon work. Systemic problems like white supremacy are centuries old. Fighting them isn’t just a matter of committing a couple years of your life to an exciting adventure. Thus, when media personalities like Lilly Singh who engage in raising awareness make a public point of taking time off, it goes a long way towards painting a realistic picture for people, especially young people who are drawn in by the triumphant stories, but rarely told what their heroes had to do keep themselves sane. Read more from the Huffington Post.
American history is filled white people telling Black people “If you just *insert respectable action here*” then bad things won’t happen to you. Just ask security guard Jemel Roberson, who aspired to be a police officer, yet was murdered by cops this past weekend after subduing an active shooter and checking every box for the proverbial “good guy with a gun.” One generation that knew this contradiction all too well were the Black soldiers who served during World War 1. Many thought fighting for their country would be the ticket to equality when they came back home to America. Instead, white people doubled down on Jim Crow laws and in many cases, resorted to mob violence to try and put Black soldiers and the larger community in its supposed place. Numerous Black people were murdered and countless were terrorized, not in spite of, but because Black soldiers actually called white people’s “If you just…” bluff. Fast forward to 2018, and history continues to repeat itself. Read more from Time.
The Fragility Breaker
The 2018 midterms were historic for women of color and Black women were a huge part of that story. While we heard many stories about Black women winning, what got lost in the election night narrative was that they did it largely without the support of the Democratic Party. Whether it was Congresswoman-elect Ayanna Pressley, Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, or Mississippi Senate candidate Mike Epsy (who is currently in a runoff with a Republican who likes to make lynching jokes), the Democratic Party chose to either back supposedly safer white candidates in their primaries or withhold resources altogether because the general elections were supposedly unrealistic to win. It’s an old pattern that Boston state representative Nika Elugardo put on front street in a recent panel when she said the Democratic Party’s institutional choices are “straight up racist.” With President “I’m a nationalist” and the GOP openly colluding with white supremacists, that charge may seem like a lot, but how else does one explain the Democrats repeatedly shunning Black candidates who electrify the base, only to keep losing to the aforementioned double-dutching-with-the-Klan GOP? Contrary to popular belief, white supremacy has no problem playing both sides. Read more from the Root.