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.
When it comes to extremist violence in the US, a lot of people are quick to make the “both sides” argument. Presumably, I would guess it feels better not to have to single out a “bad guy” in a story, especially if you’re white and surrounded by other white people. The problem with that instinct is that people keep statistics. For example, 78% of the extremist murders committed in the US in 2018 we’re connected to white supremacists, including one where a white supremacist converted to Islam and then killed his former comrades/roommates. Furthermore, all 50 of those murders, which were the most since 1995, were connected to right wing extremism. None of this should be shocking. White supremacist terrorism is easily the oldest and deadliest strain of domestic terrorism in the US by an order of magnitude. As long as we ignore it or divert the conversation towards the false pretense of this being the responsibility of “both sides,” the problem will only continue to metastasize. Read more from the Root.
In the ever growing collection of the Trump Administration’s impeachable offenses, it’s almost amazing that his vindictive treatment of Puerto Rico isn’t at the forefront of more people’s minds. A recent University of Michigan study found that within nine days of similar massive hurricanes making landfall in Texas and Florida, those states received $100 million in FEMA support compared to $6 million for Puerto Rico. Similarly, the island topped out at 19,000 federal employees while Texas received support from 31,000. While some have tried to make the asinine argument that Puerto Rico didn’t need the federal aid, the fact remains that nearly 3,000 people died, largely because of the Trump Administration’s indifference, which quickly morphed into vindictive negligence when Puerto Rican people dared to challenge the President to actually help them. Read more from CBS News.
Critical Race Theory
Despite what hysterical conservative pundits and some old, confused Democrats might say, congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is winning politics right now. She continued her streak of effectively highlighting issues her colleagues struggle with by taking aim at implicit bias in artificial intelligence during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day speech. How does this work, you ask? Programming experts note that computers learn much like children in the sense that they take their cues from the people who program them. Since these programmers are predominantly white and AI relies on language already present on the internet, AI is consequently exposed to a disproportionate amount of racial bias. For example, since so many English language discussions about Black people on the internet are disproportionately negative, AI often associates Black people with being undesirable. This can take the form of AI programs recommending longer prison sentences for Black people and rejecting Black sounding names on job applications, among various other things. Read more from Vox.
The whitewashing of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a master class in perpetuating collective delusion. It would be one thing if all Dr. King’s speeches and writings, the numerous book and articles on him, and the countless hours of archival footage were permanently destroyed, but we have this evidence. We know Vice President Mike Pence’s recent statement claiming Dr. King would support a border wall is disingenuous because there is footage of Dr. King standing next to the Berlin Wall, condemning it both specifically and in principle. Likewise, there are quotes upon quotes from Dr. King calling out moderate whites, advocating for “radical” anti-poverty measures, and making plain, not just the existential threat of white supremacy, but it’s direct connection with capitalism and militarism. For every deceitful pundit and politician that tries to weaponize a sanitized version of Dr. King to smear present day Black protesters, there’s a King quote that makes it clear he would always side with the protesters, and even rioters, over the forces upholding white supremacy. Read more from the Root.
The Fragility Breaker
The past several days have been many things, but a banner week for holding white supremacists accountable was not one of them. On Saturday, a group of boys from Covington Catholic High School, including many donning MAGA hats, traveled to D.C. to rally against women’s reproductive rights. During that rally, they got caught on video mocking an indigenous elder who also happened to be a Vietnam War veteran. This included doing the “tomahawk chop” and chanting “build the wall.” Many progressive-minded people were outraged until they found out that prior to the video, the students had been yelled at by a group of Black Hebrew Israelites, a group mostly known for yelling terrible things on the street and making goofy Public Access TV shows. Nonetheless, many people rushed to apologize to the young white supremacists and they have since been invited to the White House. Privilege doesn’t get more transparent. It doesn’t matter that further video showed the boys harassing a young woman or that the school was barely removed from a major blackface incident. In the minds of far too many white people, anything short of a lynching caught on video, complete with hooded Klan members, is worth defending. As long as the perpetrators are white, there’s always a valid excuse. Meanwhile, the same media outlets now bending over backwards to appease Covington are the same outlets that had no problem smearing murdered Black children like Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, and Rekia Boyd. Read more from Deadspin.