This Week’s 5: Killing Us Softly With Stress

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.

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This week, Facebook decided to go through with something it should’ve done years ago. Starting next week, it will ban white supremacist content and divert searches for these topics to the website for Life After Hate. For years, white supremacists have been organizing in plain sight on social media with no action whatsoever because organizations like Facebook claimed they needed to protect free speech. It would be one thing if this were a consistent policy, but social media platforms acted much more quickly to block ISIS content, even though it used eerily similar tactics to America’s white supremacists. Then there’s the fact that white supremacists have been killing a lot people. Hate crimes stats have spiked since Donald Trump’s election and there are a number of cases, such as the murder of Lt. Richard Collins III by an active member of an online white supremacist group, that don’t get counted because they don’t meet the absurdly high bar for establishing a hate crime (i.e. yelling racial slurs or explicitly spelling out your hatred for groups of people while attacking them with a critical mass of witnesses). It is well documented that much of the organizing for white supremacists is happening online. Why would a social media platform allow years of murder and ultimately the worst mass shooting in New Zealand history live-streamed on its site before taking action? We all know the answer, but thanks for coming to your senses eventually. Read more from Al Jazeera.

Institutional

One of the reasons environmental racism gets little coverage is because pundits and politicians alike tend to do a poor job of communicating the issue and telling frontline communities’ stories. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t have that problem. In response to a “stunt vote” on the Green New Deal and one senator mocking the resolution on the floor of Congress with a series of goofy pictures, including Ronald Reagan shooting a machine gun while holding an American flag and riding a dinosaur, Ocasio-Cortez delivered a now viral rebuke. She referenced children in Flint, Michigan who will be permanently affected and possibly brain damaged by the lead in their water, as well as children in the South Bronx who suffer from the highest rates of asthma in the country. In the past, stunts like the vote and the joke pictures would effectively shut down the debate. Instead, Ocasio-Cortez’s passionate plea on behalf of both communities of color and predominantly white areas affected by climate change has put these issues back in the national spotlight. Specifically, her challenge to the idea that advocating for places like Flint and the South Bronx is “elitist” drew plenty of praise for highlighting how disingenuous politicians use code words to dismiss people with little political power. Read more from Yahoo News.

Critical Race Theory

I’ve often wondered if white supremacists had grandparents who taught them that, instead of donning hoods, all they had to do was take advantage of our predisposition to high blood pressure. After all, why risk getting caught for murder when you can just repeat racist tropes to us and shave 5-10 years off our lives? I may never know if there’s any truth to this theory, but there is plenty of data to suggest that the stress of racism is actually killing people of color. Consider these stats: Black women are 4 times more likely to die from pregnancy than white women. They are also twice as likely as white women to experience premature birth. Black infants, meanwhile, are twice as likely to die as white babies. Among the factors that lead to pregnancy-related death is PTSD. A new study from the University of Washington has found that the chronic stress of constantly dealing with racism and discrimination is associated with PTSD. While reproductive rights is a gigantic subject in itself, the findings of this study should be applied to healthcare across the board. Communities of color and Black people in particular have been suspecting racism is a detriment to our health for a long time. With more and more data proving just that, there is now no excuse not to take significant action. Read more from the Root.

History

Mar. 27 marked the third annual Muslim Women’s Day. As you can hopefully guess, this holiday highlights the contributions of Muslim women and is especially important during times like these where Muslims are institutionally demonized. There is no shortage of women who deserve recognition and that includes Amani Al Khatahtbeh, the founder of Muslim Women’s Day. As the creator of Muslimgirl.com (when she was a teenager), Al Khatahtbeh has been an influential figure in American media and pioneer in projecting Muslim women’s stories to the rest of the country. With Muslim Women’s Day, she has created a platform (to go with the rest of the year of course), to lift up other trailblazers like Ruqsana Begum, a champion professional boxer (and the only Muslim champion in her sport) and sports hijab entrepreneur; Halima Aden, the first international hijab-wearing fashion model; Lisa Vogl, the owner of Verona Collection and the first woman to sell hijabs in US department stores; and Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, the first Muslim women to serve in Congress and the targets of repeated political attacks for their unapologetic progressive advocacy and leadership. While highly influential, these are only a few of many stories of inspiring Muslim women making their mark on the US and the world. Read more from Romper.

The Fragility Breaker

I wish this weren’t true (and if you feel a way about it, I challenge white people collectively to prove me wrong), but one of the biggest impediments to equity work is the white ego. Every presentation, workshop, dialogue, etc. is a balancing act where, on one hand, you want to disseminate helpful information, but on the other, you have to manage white people who are convinced it’s all about them. Is this every or even most white people in a room? Of course not. But one or two fragile white people can derail any otherwise productive session by simply insisting, whether explicitly or microaggressions, that their feelings are more important than marginalized people’s mistreatment. If you’re not making them feel better about the stories in the news or giving them tools to instantly alleviate their white guilt, they’ll question the validity of everything you do. If you don’t center white people as the stars of the discussion, they’ll protest about reverse racism. And Phenomena forbid you call them out on their racism. They’ll crumble, cry, and run away, never to come back again, almost as if they were looking for an excuse to cut short their vacation into anti-racism. With this constant dynamic at play, it’s tempting to just give in and cater to the white gaze, or more specifically, the white fragility gaze. After all, people get jobs, grants and awards based on their talent for making white people comfortable and teaching whenever they can. However, there’s also a name for that dynamic. White supremacy. Read more from the Guardian.

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