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This Week’s 5: Why Are We Still Debunking “State’s Rights” in 2019?

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.


White supremacists engage in all kinds of rhetorical gymnastics to justify oppressive behavior. In instances that are as clear cut as it gets, such as the gross human rights violations enacted by border patrol against migrants, white supremacist sympathizers will contend the agents are “just doing their jobs.” The evidence, however, disagrees. Recently, activists uncovered a private border patrol Facebook group where agents trafficked in exactly the type of disgusting racism you would think would come from people who oversee kids in cages and laughingly make women drink toilet water. Posts mocked pictures of dead migrant families and depicted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez being sexually assaulted by Donald Trump, among other things. The overwhelming theme of the group and its thousands of members was that the inhuman treatment they are currently giving migrants lines up almost perfectly with the dehumanizing views they expressed about their victims online. In a world where the FBI can direct its agents to go after “Black Identity Extremists” based on the whims of the white imagination, it should be a no brainer that we crackdown on border patrol agents committing human rights violations and gleefully bragging about it on Facebook. Yet, instead it’s still a debate. Read more from Democracy Now.


While many white supremacists are cartoonishly simple, white supremacy as a system is nothing if not thorough. If there is a rule that allows you to exploit and/or harm Brown people, you can bet white supremacy will be there to take advantage. For example, consider a recent lawsuit filed in Georgia over discrimination against Puerto Rican people looking to obtain driver’s licenses. The lawsuit claims that the state is requiring Puerto Rican applicants to pass an extra test that eerily resembles the tactics of segregationists who tried to bar Black people from voting during Jim Crow. These tests contain specific questions about Puerto Rico and ingredients in what Georgia has deemed official Puerto Rican dishes. Ultimately, these de facto citizenship tests would seem to be wildly unconstitutional because 1) Puerto Rican people are citizens and 2) The tests clearly single out Puerto Rican people as a race. Nonetheless, this case is working its way through the court system and in the state of noted vote suppressor Governor Brian Kemp, it’s hard to get too optimistic about justice being served. Read more from the Huffington Post.

Critical Race Theory

The difference between comedy and tragedy is how the story is told. Comedic elements are funny because of their absurdity. That same element of surprise can also be tragic because its ability to shock you is dependent on pain. This juxtaposition is readily apparent in news stories about police racial profiling. Consider a recent case where a Black man and his friends were arrested for disorderly conduct after police claimed he was trying to steal the IV that was still in his arm as he was taking a walk outside the hospital. The story reads like a comedy sketch. Police officers harassing a man in a hospital gown with an IV still in his arm right outside the hospital has satire written all over it. Yet, when you watch the video of the incident, there’s nothing funny about it at all. It’s just cops abusing their power to harass the most vulnerable of us because they can. Furthermore, it’s proof of just how deep the dehumanization of Black people goes in our society. We are seen as criminals so much that security guards and cops think it’s more reasonable that we would concoct a scheme to hijack and sell IV equipment online (complete with one man injecting himself) than it is that we would take a walk like normal patients. It’s so absurd that it should be hilarious, but we’ve all seen enough similar videos where the Black man gets shot in the end to know better. Read more from CNN.


One of the troubling things about the Democratic Primaries so far is that in 2019, we still have to explain why the “state’s rights” argument for segregation is inexcusable. You’d think a patented tactic that dates back to the Civil War would speak for itself, but nonetheless, a presidential candidate got on a debate stage and cluelessly tried to defend his state’s right position on busing last week. Specifically, Senator Kamala Harris, who was a product of school busing, challenged former Vice President Joe Biden on his opposition to federally enforced busing in the 70s. Busing was a policy that tried to promote integration by selecting students from Black neighborhoods to take buses to white schools and vice versa. Many white communities in the North, including Biden’s, opposed busing. This manifested in protests against Black students, as well as white students harassing and often assaulting Black students in predominantly white schools. These behaviors were essentially endorsed by politicians who tried to legitimize their opposition to integration under the guise of “ state’s rights,” claiming they weren’t against integration, just the federal enforcement of it. Of course, without federal enforcement, communities like Harris’s didn’t allow busing until 20 years after segregated schools were ruled unconstitutional. Read more from Vox.

The Fragility Breaker

If it weren’t so cliche, the aggressive ignorance of white supremacists would be a sight to behold. Every time you think you’ve got your fill of Urkel-invoking “Did I do that?” racism, all you have to do is scroll down a news feed for two seconds before finding another equally dumbfounding story. It seriously makes you wonder how there are so many people in positions of influence, or at the very least, ones that require them to provide services to people, that can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. Consider the case of a contractor in Atlanta who showed up to a Black couple’s house with a Confederate Flag and had the nerve to wonder what they were offended about. The couple promptly turned the contractor’s business away, as should be standard policy when someone rolls up waving the flag of the country’s most infamous terrorists (Yes, if you’re keeping score at home, the Confederates and the KKK are one in the same). While I’d like to think this would be a valuable lesson to clueless white people throughout the country, much like the supposed Kaepernick Betsy Ross flag controversy, I expect this to be spun into another poor, misunderstood white heritage story. Sure, equating white heritage with racist symbols is telling in itself, but that hasn’t stopped shameless pundits yet. Read more from the Root.

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

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