This Week’s 5: When White Supremacists Come for Your Family History

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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Recently, numerous archives at the Highlander Research and Education Center in Tennessee were destroyed in a fire. On Tuesday, officials with the center said they found a white supremacist symbol at the scene of the crime, bolstering suspicions that this was an act of arson. For those unfamiliar, the center was formerly known as the Highlander Folk School and was responsible for some of the most important organizing during the civil rights movement, training the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. Since the 1930s, the school (and now research and education center) has been a national symbol of organized resistance. Furthermore, this story is personal for me. My cousin, the late great Septima Poinsette Clark was an organizer with the Highlander Folk School. She mentored Parks and empowered countless Black people with voter education training, among other things. My father also went through classes at Highlander. That white supremacists would attack the center and more specifically, the archives full of critical, empowering documents and artifacts, is part of the oldest strategy in the playbook. Destroying historical records was an essential part of colonization throughout the continent of Africa. It effectively separated Black people from our history and gave colonizers the license to rewrite our narrative. The kindred spirit white supremacists of today are just following suit. Read more from CBS News.

Institutional

The Trump Administration is nothing if not relentless. Their game plan for implementing institutional racism appears to be testing our collective attrition. One example is the repeated push to put a citizenship question on the 2020 Census. There hasn’t been a citizenship question on the census in decades, in part, because it discourages undocumented immigrants from participating, and as a result, contributes to their communities not getting the resources they need by making them a statistically invisible population. With the recent state-sponsored terror campaign by ICE, it’s no surprise that the prospect of a citizenship question would legitimately intimidate undocumented people. ICE officers have been known to ambush parents dropping off their children at schools and people showing up to court to fulfill their immigration requirements. There is no question this same craven institution, responsible for the separation and detention of numerous undocumented families, wouldn’t hesitate to take advantage of census data to further accost these communities. These fears underscore the importance of resisting any efforts to normalize xenophobia in general and to stop Trump from forcing a citizenship question onto the 2020 Census in particular. Read more from the Root.

Critical Race Theory

While his proposed policy of universal basic income has dominated the headlines, presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s run is also shaping up to be an important moment for the “mainstream” discussion around Asian American identity. Many of us consciously or unconsciously accept the model minority myth, which on one hand, paints all Asians (particularly people of East Asian descent) as extraordinarily smart and hardworking, but also defines them as docile and obedient with unpleasant personalities. We can see this dynamic in politics. Countless white politicians use Asian academic and economic stats to justify their opposition to anti-racist policies, suggesting they are proof that anyone can “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.” Meanwhile, Asian Americans are woefully underrepresented in elected positions and both major political parties have poor track records engaging Asian American voters. By unapologetically campaigning for the most powerful position in the world, Yang is actively defying the model minority myth in real time. While his Silicon Valley background might fit with the stereotype, his articulation of the importance of identity and progressive economic policies defies the white supremacist ideal of putting Asians in their place with backhanded compliments. Read more from the Huffington Post.

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