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This Week’s 5: Arbitrarily Contentious

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.


Zachariah Manahan of Minnesota is the latest white supremacist to find his face on America’s Summer Jam screen. Manahan was charged with felony stalking and misdemeanor property damage and disorderly conduct after spraying a Somali teenager and her siblings with a garden hose while yelling racial slurs. According to the teen, Manahan sprayed the water through an open second floor window, soaking the walls, a rug, and another piece of furniture. To put this in a larger context, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, there have been over 500 incidents of anti-Muslim bias or harassment reported in the US this year. Imagine how many incidents of white people literally being hosed it would take before the FBI decided it was a matter of national security. How many of these incidents targeting whites would it take to at least become a national discussion? My guess is all of one. Meanwhile, Muslim Americans get to wonder what new indignity they might encounter on a daily basis because the white power structure is still exhausting all its options before taking any real action. Some people say the state of racism has changed, but what does that mean when civilians are taking the job of spraying Black people with hoses from the police? Read more from Al Jazeera.


How cruel can the Trump Administration get? When it comes to immigration policy, it seems the well is bottomless. In its latest move, the administration has cancelled English classes, recreational programs, and legal aid for unaccompanied, detained minors. According to the White House, these services are “not directly necessary for the protection of life and safety.” Beyond basic cruelty, it’s also a means to further criminalize children who have already been criminalized for existing. With ICE already targeting Brown people for not speaking English, it’s not hard to see how this will make these detained children even more vulnerable after they’re released. Furthermore, the lack of recreational programs and legal services are a direct impediment to their physical health and wellbeing, positioning them for generational trauma and poverty, and ultimately a return to the justice system that disproportionately targets poor people of color. Some people might think this move is just cruelty to be cruel, but it is very much calculated and a means of enforcing not just punishment now, but for the foreseeable future. That this is all being done to scare immigrants away and rally Trump’s voting base only makes it that much more cynical and disgusting. Read more from the Root.

Critical Race Theory

One of the biggest markers of marginalization is invisibility to “mainstream” society. This can take many forms but it’s characterized in North America and Europe by a different or, more specifically, lack of reaction to situations facing people of color in comparison to white people. Consider the epidemic of murdered and missing indigenous women in Canada. A public inquiry report leaked to Canadian broadcaster CBC found that indigenous women and girls face disproportionate levels of violence because of “state actions and actions rooted in colonialism and colonial ideologies.” Official estimates state that between 1980 and 2012, nearly 1,200 indigenous women and girls were killed or went missing. Organizations like the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls say this figure is most likely low. Some might find it arbitrarily contentious for me to point out that if this were happening to white women, the coverage and political reaction would be much different but the reality speaks for itself. Western governments allow police to terrorize entire communities and send military forces to bombard foreign countries behind the rhetoric of protecting white women. Meanwhile, shocking numbers of indigenous women get murdered or go missing for decades, only to eventually get reports and a pledge from the government to hopefully do better. See the difference? Read more from Al Jazeera.


2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the injustice done to the Central Park Five. The five boys, four Black and one Latino, were wrongly arrested and convicted for raping a woman in New York’s Central Park. They all served significant prison sentences that effectively robbed them of their youth and ruined their lives. One of the most infamous parts of the saga was when now-President Donald Trump took out full page ads in New York papers calling for the death sentence for the boys. Despite the real rapist eventually admitting his guilt years later and DNA evidence corroborating it, Trump still has yet to apologize. Likewise, Linda Fairstein, the lead prosecutor from the case, has also continued to double down in the years since. Thankfully, award-winning director Ava DuVernay is putting pressure on these lynch mob leaders with her new miniseries “When They See Us,” which is based on the story of the Central Park Five. While Trump continues to terrorize immigrants, among many other communities, with impunity, Fairstein has received backlash since the series’ release. She has had to resign from a number of boards and social media campaigns have not relented (nor should they). It’s a testament to the power of film that DuVernay’s project has done more to hold Fairstein accountable than the justice system. Hopefully there is more long deserved justice to come. Read more from the Huffington Post.

The Fragility Breaker

When we talk about white supremacy, it’s often through the narrow lens of overt, white bigots. While these mascots for white supremacy are obviously a major problem, we have to get beyond this remedial, entry level understanding of the subject so we can also address how white supremacy manifests in seemingly less obvious ways. Consider the prevalence of anti-blackness across cultures. This was personified in a recent incident at a Texas high school where the valedictorian’s speech was cut off for mentioning the names of Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice. What makes this story even more interesting is that the student is Iranian and the principal who had her mic muted is Eritrean. According to the story, the student was told not to say the names because they were “too political,” which is code for “this might hurt white feelings.” What this highlights is how using Black bodies as a ladder is far from a whites-only sport. Whether it’s the Harvard affirmative action lawsuit or this case in Dallas, there is no shortage of examples of other people of color, including Black immigrants, simultaneously stepping on the heads of Black people while benefiting from the Civil Rights gains powered by Black struggle. Cowardly principal Temesghen Asmerom is just the latest case study of this reflexive anti-Blackness. To others who think they can get away with it because everyone is focused on the Black and white binary, just know we see you and yes, we’re keeping score. Read more from NBC News.

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

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