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This Week’s 5: High Stakes Implicit Bias

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.


People who still say they aren’t aware that racism is such a big problem are either lying or shouldn’t be allowed to roam the streets unaccompanied. Just this week, over ten different white supremacist terror cases went through the courts, including the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting and the murder of Heather Heyer (along with injuries sustained by dozens of others) at the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally. To put that in perspective, when the FBI released its infamous memo targeting “Black Identity Extremists,” it was based on about five incidents questionably and/or outright falsely tied to Black liberation movements. Considering that white supremacist terror attacks and plots are becoming increasingly common, maybe, just maybe, law enforcement should actually take it seriously. How much more data and, more importantly, preventable deaths and injuries do we need to witness? Read more from Vice.


If we had just left it at a picture of Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and the husk of Mike Pence debating immigration policy in the Oval Office, surrounded by pictures of past white presidents, that would’ve been plenty emblematic of institutional racism in itself. However, we also got a video of the entire stunt. On one hand, Trump belligerently argued for $5 billion to build a border wall that would do little more than serve as a lasting monument to intimidate immigrants. Meanwhile, Pelosi and Schumer, despite challenging Trump, ultimately came into the meeting to get the number down to about $1.5 billion. If you’re keeping score, that’s $1.5 billion more than should ever be allocated this project rooted in fear mongering around Brown immigrants. Pelosi, Schumer, and others in the Democratic Party might argue that it’s better to avoid a government shutdown by capitulating to put some money towards the wall and/or border security, but if the only choices are shutdown the government or allocate billions to further persecuting immigrants, then the problem is with the game itself. One has to wonder what that Oval Office meeting would’ve looked like with people who actually stood something to lose… Read more from NBC News.

Critical Race Theory

The continuing fight for representation in Hollywood is an ongoing case study in high stakes implicit bias. Major production studios are consistently hesitant to put out films starring leads and casts of color, especially when they tell culturally specific stories. They claim these films are risky because they may not appeal to the “mainstream” (white) audience. Thus, when films like “Black Panther” get greenlit, they are held to a higher standard where they must exceed expectations both critically and at the box office, or Hollywood executives will use them as the impetus for rejecting culturally specific projects in the future. Even when these films do well, they are often treated as outliers. Meanwhile, these same studios produce film after film starring white male leads, many of which bomb in theaters and get lambasted by critics. These films come and go and the directors and white stars continue getting work without the failures hanging over their heads. Contrast that with “Black Panther,” which is the highest grossing Marvel movie in the US all-time and yet, whether or not that success will translate into more culturally specific superhero films is still very much an open question. Read more from Vox.


When discussing slavery, many like to focus on the physical oppression. After all, the tales of murder, rape, and torture are seemingly endless and viscerally arresting. That said, the physical terror was paralleled by the assault slave masters enacted on the minds of enslaved Black people. Many of us are familiar with rules that prohibited enslaved people from reading but that’s only the beginning. Numerous enslaved people were encouraged to practice Christianity by their colonizers. As part of that practice, some were allowed to read the Bible. However, these Bibles were often stripped of chapters that might encourage the enslaved people to fight for their freedom. This insidious practice continues to this day in the form of school curriculums that omit virtually all Black history besides US slavery, the civil rights era, and (sometimes) former President Barack Obama’s election. The same can be said for curriculum that barely highlights other groups of color and their contributions and concerns. Read more from NPR.

The Fragility Breaker

I recently participated in a housing discrimination role playing activity where I got to play a 1950s California real estate association president. What struck me most about the lesson was the amount of detail white supremacists put into strategies like “blockbusting,” which is where they would scare white homeowners into selling their homes for pennies, only to sell them back to Black homeowners for two and three times the price. It was evil with a clear endgame. Today, it just feels like evil because they don’t know any better. For example, consider the revelation that the Trump Administration paid a company $13.6 million to hire thousands of agents to arrest immigrants at the border, only for an audit to find that they hired all of two people. How does this incredible mix of vindictiveness, ineptitude, and corruption happen? Simply put, it takes a village. While it would be easy to put it all on the orange swamp monster, the fact is, he’s only able to keep doing this because millions of supposedly well-intentioned white people keep giving him the benefit of the doubt. The same white people willing to bring the hammer down on the leaders of the Women’s March or the Marc Lamont Hills of the world at the first opportunity, continue watching the persecution of immigrants with no sense of urgency whatsoever. Even in cases where the government is wasting millions and billions of their tax dollars to commit these human rights violations in their name, they just don’t seem to care. To them, it’s just how things are. It’s effectively their culture. The thing is, when your culture is built around punishing Brown people for existing, that doesn’t make you any less complicit. Read more from the Root.

#thisweeks5 #racism #overtracism #institutionalracism #criticalracetheory #history #fragilitybreaker #lakeoswego

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