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.
There are too many reasons to list why President Donald Trump’s racist border wall campaign is highly problematic. To that end, we’ll just focus on the symbolism of it. Whether or not a dollar is appropriated for the wall or a single brick is laid, the fact is, the call for a wall is a dog whistle that has emboldened some of the least subtle white supremacists you’ll ever find. Consider the case of Mark Wilson, the Assistant Director of the Raleigh County Emergency Operations Services in West Virginia. This man, who just happens to be in charge of vital emergency services, decided to take to social media to post a picture of an old school colonizer standing by a wall covered with the decapitated heads of African men, along with a message saying we’re lucky because if he were in charge, that’s what Trump’s border wall would look like. He has since been suspended. For the trolls arguing that this is an attack on free speech, please tell me, in what world would any person of color in Raleigh County trust this man with authority over emergency services? Read more from Newsweek.
If you want to see someone’s true character, observe how they behave when they know they can get away with horrific acts. Countless ICE agents and other immigration officers have shown that they’re no better than some of the worst actors in world history who claimed they were “just following orders.” In fact, that would actually be better, because in many cases, immigration officers are being proactive and quite creative in their persecution of Brown immigrants. Consider a recent case where ICE set up a fake university in Michigan just to monitor and eventually arrest Indian students who may have overstayed their visas. Let ICE tell it and they’re cracking down on hardcore criminals, but the reality is, the vast majority of their targets are Brown people who enrich our economy at all levels of the employment spectrum. Donald Trump gave ICE permission to be as vindictive as they want to be and week after week, we witness gleeful ICE agents terrorizing Brown immigrants as if they’ve been given the keys to the oppression candy store. Now we can add another 129 victims to the list. Read more from Al Jazeera.
Critical Race Theory
Being a world famous chef doesn’t exempt you from being a cultural appropriator. Gordon Ramsay seems to be going out of his way to provide us with a case study. The white chef, known just as much for his intense cursing as his food, plans to open an “authentic” Asian restaurant without so much as a head chef of Asian descent. Furthermore, Ramsay makes a point to advertise the cultural significance of the “Lucky Cat” name without a hint of irony or self awareness whatsoever. If that wasn’t enough, he is also planning a reality show that will feature him traveling to different countries to test his versions of their cuisine against that of the local residents. A loud white man traveling around the world to yell at people about how he is so much better at their culture than them doesn’t sound like something with the potential for disaster at all… Read more from the Huffington Post.
No matter how far removed we get from certain historical figures’ time on this earth, we must resist the urge to view them as 2-dimensional characters. People’s stories are so much bigger than labels of “good” or “evil.” While the idea sounds nice, it’s never really fair to simply boil someone down to the sum of their accomplishments. How are we supposed to relate and pick up the torch of history’s heroes if we don’t allow ourselves to truly see the humanity in them? This is an issue Portland author David Walker tackles in his latest graphic novel, The Life of Frederick Douglass. Besides telling the fascinating story of how Douglass escaped from slavery and became one of the most prominent abolitionists and political voices of his time, Walker also exposes readers to Douglass’s fears, constant self-criticism, and frustration with white allies, all of which are issues that resonate just as much then as they do now. Walker also makes sure to not do what so many authors, historians, and pundits especially like to do when it comes to discussing slavery: sugarcoat the details. He includes the slurs and harsh descriptions of torture and bondage, not just to paint a picture for the reader, but to illustrate that part of what made Douglass so great was the extent of the obstacles he had to overcome. Read more from the AV Club.
The Fragility Breaker
It feels like there have been as many different blackface controversies as there have been days so far during Black History Month 2019. From the governor of Virginia to Gucci, there have been no shortage of apologies and, not surprisingly, no shortage of people saying it’s no big deal or that it’s understandable that so many people don’t get why blackface is racist. This is classic Caucasian jujitsu. Blackface has been widely regarded as extremely racist longer than any of us have been alive. The fact that white people admitting to it also say that they did it for a prank suggests they knew what they were doing was wrong. In Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s case, he even knew the details of how difficult it is to get certain specific amounts of shoe polish off your face. Let’s make this clear: whether you donned blackface yesterday or 30 years ago, you were wrong. Your alleged ignorance is not an excuse. Read more from the Root.