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.
If coming up in the LO school system taught me anything, it’s that white supremacists love nothing more than an excuse to be as racist as they want to be in public. As long as they can find even the thinnest veil of cover, they will lean into it. Sure enough, when a New Hampshire teacher assigned students at Dover High School to write Reconstruction songs, one group came up with such catchy lyrics as “KKK, KKK, Kill all the Blacks.” That would’ve been more than enough but the Ku Klux Klan carol goes on and on. Thankfully, another student recorded this proud moment for Dover High. While I don’t have much hope that the caroling white supremacists will actually face the kind of the discipline that will make them change their ways, one would hope this serves as a lesson for schools throughout the country. Hopefully Dover’s shame compels others to address the culture of racism that is so prevalent in countless communities so that their schools don’t find themselves in the same situation. But once again, I wouldn’t count on it. Read more from the Root.
The stories that often get lost in the aftermath of major natural disasters are those of the most vulnerable communities. Consider the case of undocumented immigrants coping with the California wildfires. The myriad of wildfire-related issues these communities have dealt with include pressure to work in smoke-filled fields for fear of deportation, a lack of resources in Spanish and other non-English native languages, and inconsistent resource disbursal in general because of inaccurate population data. Ultimately, this just adds insult to injury to people who are already being persecuted by ICE and the rabid white supremacists aiding and abetting them, not to mention those violently taking the law into their own hands. Read more from Al Jazeera.
Critical Race Theory
If you’re looking for a textbook case of whitewashing, there are no shortage of tributes to George HW Bush for you to choose from this week. Let the news stations and those invited to the funeral tell it and Bush was just a kind, good natured man who never stopped serving his country. In these narratives, he’s cast as a pinnacle of decency. Yet, what’s so decent about the Willie Horton Ad, still considered one of the most racist political ads of all time and the template for modern racist dog whistle campaigns? What was so decent about Bush’s team luring a Black drug dealer to the White House for a publicity stunt, all so Bush could escalate the war on drugs, which disproportionately targeted Black and Brown people? How were the massive civilian casualties Bush authorized in the First Gulf War considered decent, especially since the only purpose they seemed to serve was crippling the infrastructure and the people, and making Iraq and Kuwait dependent on the US for assistance going forward (also known as war crimes)? These are just samplings of Bush’s legacy of either empowering or enforcing white supremacy both in the US and abroad. Call me crazy, but I don’t think we should forget these things just because Bush wrote a few nice thank you notes. Read more from the Intercept.
The FBI originally instituted COINTELPRO, it’s counter intelligence program, to target communism. However, COINTELPRO really made its name targeting Black social justice advocates with everything from media smears, spies, police harassment, and even murder. Perhaps no moment exemplifies the depths for which J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI was willing to sink better than the assassination of Chicago Black Panther leader Fred Hampton and member Mark Clark. Hampton had made a name for himself by brokering truces between rival gangs and effectively uniting poor Black, Puerto Rican, and white people. As such, he was considered a threat. On Dec. 4, 1969, Hampton’s home was raided by police who immediately opened fire despite his wife being pregnant and no Panthers returning fire. Hampton, who was later revealed to have been drugged (most likely by an informant planted in his group), was riddled with bullets in his sleep while Clark was also shot to death in the midst of firing the only shot (out of between 83 and 90) that didn’t come from a police weapon. Nonetheless, Chicago police and media allies painted the story as a shootout with terrorists and it wasn’t until later, following the tireless reporting of a few journalists and a federal grand jury investigation, that the true story came out. For those wondering why some of us were so concerned about the current FBI’s memo targeting “Black Identity Extremists,” this is why. Read more from the Root.
The Fragility Breaker
There has long been a double standard in social justice circles where Black people, despite being the vanguard throughout American history and the present, are expected to be flawless, tireless advocates for everyone else while white people get Stanley Cup-sized participation trophies just for acknowledging white privilege exists. This subtle anti-Black bias isn’t just a phenomenon among white people either. Hollywood has been littered with examples recently, including the emergence of campaigns like “Oscars So White and Black” and actors like Gina Rodriguez claiming Black actors enjoy systemic privilege without acknowledging that the vast majority of Black gains in Hollywood have been the result of Black-owned productions and loud, often sacrificial advocacy on behalf of all actors of color. That’s to say nothing of the consistent backlash Black people receive when we dare to advocate specifically for ourselves. Non-Black people of color, despite a track record of either advocating for their specific groups and/or pushing for outright assimilation, seem to have no hesitation in lecturing Black people about how grateful we should be for what we have and how we’re supposedly hypocrites every time we want to focus the discussion on Black issues instead of the big tent of equity. Meanwhile, even prominent Black voices talk about throwing rose petals at the feet of actors like Ellen Pompeo for publicly acknowledging she benefits from being white. Seems fair... Read more from the Black Youth Project.