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This Week’s 5: Why is Gerrymandering Still a Thing?

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.


Believe it or not, this gets tiring. We know white supremacist terrorism is on the rise. Experts continue to report that they’ve been responsible for the overwhelming majority of deadly extremist attacks in the last decade. They do much of their organizing online and connect with similar terrorist groups in other countries for tactics and sometimes even hands-on training. None of this is news. You’ve seen me write these words in this section of this column too many times to count. Yet in all that time, there has been no movement by federal law enforcement to do anything about this existential problem. The least they could do is treat white supremacist terrorists like they do Islamic terrorists. Instead, thanks to changes made by the Trump Administration, resources to deal with white supremacist terrorists have been cut and people with the power to do something make the excuse that there are no applicable rules to go after them for domestic terrorism. Sure, there’s the violence and collaborations with white supremacist terrorists overseas, for which there are terrorism laws, but why let a little thing like the truth get in the way of a lame excuse? Read more from Vice News.


In a surprising instance of good institutional racism news, the Supreme Court recently ruled against Virginia Republicans’ attempt to gerrymander the voting map because it was obviously disenfranchising Black voters. That gerrymandering is an acceptable political strategy at all has always been baffling to me. What exactly is democratic about one political party getting to draw voter maps to give its candidates an unfair advantage? When case after case of this strategy results in one party (usually Republicans) targeting voters of color, why are we still giving credence to the claim that it’s not intentionally racist? I’ve been told too many times to count that it isn’t about race, it’s just an unintended consequence of trying to hurt Democrats, but the consistently discriminatory results speak for themselves. At the end of the day, if you’re more concerned with protecting the loophole that allows your party to practice racism than the actual people who have been systematically disenfranchised, then it’s safe to say you don’t care about racism and your opinion shouldn’t carry any weight in this discussion. Read more from Al Jazeera.

Critical Race Theory

As someone who has contracted with a university equity department for the last few years, I’m very familiar with discussions around recruitment and retention. There are no shortage of predominantly white institutions that want to have a more diverse workforce, both for superficial and very much genuine reasons. Yes, sending out blindingly white promo materials is not a good look in 2019, but on a more practical level, the research shows that diverse workforces perform better because they problem solve using a larger pool of ideas and life experiences. To that end, universities are leading the way in showing what intentionality looks like when it comes to serving the needs of historically marginalized students. Consider the example of University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center. UNM ranks fifth in the country in terms of its medical school’s graduation rate for American Indian and Alaska Native students. It was recently profiled in a report titled “Reshaping the Journey: American Indians and Alaska Natives in Medicine,” that praised UNM and three other schools for their commitment to hiring indigenous faculty, creating physical space for indigenous students to organize and build community, making indigenous communities part of their institution’s mission, and more. Read more from Indian Country Today.


This past weekend, you may have seen (or seen pictures) of the Juneteenth parade in Portland’s newspapers. You may have also noticed a lot of people really excited about Juneteenth this past Wednesday, June 19. If none of that motivated you to do some research, let me give you a quick primer. Juneteenth, or Emancipation Day, is a holiday that recognizes the day, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, when enslaved Black people finally got the news of their freedom in Galveston, Texas. The holiday is celebrated on June 19 and as far as my Black self is concerned, is the only independence day that matters in the US. Juneteenth especially resonates with communities in Texas, where families are deeply connected to the stories of how their newly freed ancestors formed communities in the face of obstacles like lack of resources and resistance from slave owners who purposefully withheld the news of their freedom. One community built Freedman’s Town and then pooled their resources create Emancipation Park, which still holds Juneteenth celebrations to this day. While some Juneteenth celebrations put the spotlight on the white man who brought the belated news of freedom, it’s especially important to highlight the Black visionaries whose labor of love created the foundations for new Black realities in this country. Read more from the Root.

The Fragility Breaker

Growing up in Lake Oswego has taught me many things. One of those lessons is that white people are funny when it comes to compassion. Sure, everyone likes to say they care about all people regardless of race or ethnicity, but put that into practice, and the actions often say different. When a Black child is murdered by the police, a seemingly endless line of white people forms to make excuses for the cop, lecturing us on all the things the victim could’ve done better, as if their life amounts to a chair test for band class. Meanwhile, when white people like Kyle Kashuv, a Parkland shooting survivor who went on to become an NRA darling and member of racist propaganda machine Turning Point USA, get their Harvard acceptances rescinded over their overtly racist baggage, the same killer cop apologists run to their defense in the name of precedent. In fact, it doesn’t matter if it’s Kashuv saying nigger 11 times in a Google Doc because he has “a lot of practice” or a straight up white murderer seeking permission to visit a school; vocal white people never cease to appear, armed with excuses for why we should practice forgiveness. This glaring white fragility would be funny if it weren’t such an effective distraction tactic. Read more from the Root.

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

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