This Week’s 5: Keep Telling on Yourselves If You Want To

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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Why isn’t the infiltration of police departments by white supremacists considered a national emergency? In what other context would society be comfortable with heavily armed terrorists roaming the streets with the institutional backing of the federal government? The fact is, these stories come out too often to keep track. There was even a report way back in 2006 by the George W. Bush Administration’s FBI stating that this was a national problem. Nonetheless, we have to fight police departments for every inch of progress while being gaslighted the entire way. Consider a recent story out of Michigan where a Black homebuyer went to look at a property owned by a white cop and found not just a Confederate flag, but an actual application to the KKK. To make matters worse, this cop, Charles Anderson, killed of a Black man about a decade ago under very suspicious circumstances (and of course, escaped any charges). I’m not sure what stands out more, Anderson’s flaunting of his white supremacist ties or the fact that the Klansman cop killed a Black man and it has almost universally been an afterthought in the coverage of this story. One thing is for sure. The response from police departments throughout the country will continue to be damage control and inaction. I’d love to be proven wrong but there’s a good chance another KKK cop story will come out before I hit the publish button on this column. Read more from the Root.

Institutional

Despite how it may sometimes appear, as a society, we are incredibly hesitant to see the worst in people. The evidence can be as clear as day, but we still prefer to view bad actors as people who just got caught up in a problematic system rather than genuine purveyors of evil. Whatever plausible deniability we can find, we cling to it. That’s becoming increasingly impossible in the case of the recent Mississippi ICE raids. That the state-sponsored terror campaign ripped 680 people from their families was bad enough. The children caught on camera crying because they lost their parents was plenty awful on its own. Then details emerged that workers at these chicken processing plants had recently won a settlement in a massive sexual harassment lawsuit, prompting the suspicion that the ICE raids were, in part, retaliation. Now, to add insult to injury, the plants have laid off over 100 of the workers, bringing the total jobs lost numbers in the Mississippi town that was targeted to 450. Everything about this episode reeks of vindictiveness. More importantly, it demonstrates how law enforcement and private industry often work together to advance their interests and promote institutional racism, even if it severely harms the economy of the constituents they claim to be acting on behalf of (i.e. “forgotten” white Americans). Read more from Slate.

Critical Race Theory

As the language of social justice becomes more mainstream, many people are getting better at self-policing their own expressions of unconscious bias. That said, there are still plenty of venues for people to tell on themselves. For example, entertainment, and specifically, reactions to it, can speak volumes. Years ago, my family went to see the film “The Help” at Bridgeport Regal Cinemas and I’ll never forget when the predominantly white audience burst out laughing at the line “Mexican shoes.” It wasn’t a punchline or part of a joke at all, but the white people around us were clearly tickled by the phrase. Recently, writer Nancy Marie Withlo had a similar experience during a screening of “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” One of the characters uttered the line, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian” and the crowd laughed. While the line itself is accurate in portraying the casual racism of old western movies and American culture, the audience’s reaction is telling of how much that white supremacist culture persists. If your first reaction to a “dead Indian” joke is reflexive laughter, that signals that you most likely don’t view indigenous people with much, if any, humanity. I’m sure there were plenty of people in that laughing crowd who consider themselves allies. How they and their peers throughout the country respond to calling out this phenomenon will be just as telling as the laughter. Read more from Indian Country Today.

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