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.
Representative Steve King saying racist things is about as consistent a bet as the sun rising and setting every day. He was back at it again recently, this time using his platform to spread casual Islamophobia. While speaking at a town hall, King decided to address the Chinese government’s abuse of Uighur Muslims, which includes mass roundups and detainment. He found the thought of the Chinese government forcing the Muslim prisoners to eat pork particularly amusing, laughing and telling the crowd, “That’s actually the only part of that that I agree with is, everybody ought to eat pork. If you have a shortage of bacon, you can’t be happy.” Sadly, this bad Bill Maher impression (i.e. an unfunny politician mimicking an unfunny comic) is somewhat mild for the same congressman who once asked what’s wrong with white supremacy and told the country we can’t build our civilization with “other people’s babies.” As much as I’d like to focus on the terribleness of Steve King, the fact is that he has supporters who continue to vote him into office. Clearly there’s a large contingent of people who love this racist talking point machine. So what do we do when not just has the system legitimized white supremacy, but continues to rub our faces in it? I don’t have the answer, but maybe we should start with applying pressure to those that continue to give white supremacists cover. Read more from the Huffington Post.
No one has yet to give me a good explanation for why the Trump Administration’s treatment of Puerto Rico shouldn’t be an impeachable offense. Their cruelty and vindictive neglect has heavily contributed to the deaths of thousands of Americans following Hurricane Maria and the administration has taken every opportunity to further the damage and mock Puerto Ricans since. The latest disgusting act is a two-for-one deal of institutional racism. In order to detain more migrants, the Trump Administration has diverted funds from the FEMA disaster relief program to go towards more beds in migrant detention centers. This is especially cruel because it comes as Puerto Rico braces for another massive hurricane. Furthermore, the president took to Twitter to call the US territory corrupt and imply that they don’t deserve more aid money. The strategy is about as transparent as it gets. By recognizing that an embarrassing percentage of Americans view Puerto Rico as another country, the administration is able to get away with treating US citizens with cartoon-villain-like cruelty. In this particular case, they are using control of funding to literally and figuratively starve Puerto Rico while bolstering the resources for ICE’s terror campaign against migrants. Everyone can see it and yet, these stories quickly become afterthoughts. Read more from Al Jazeera.
Critical Race Theory
In this week’s episode of “Bigots Expose Themselves in the Darndest Ways,” the Alabama Republican Party State Executive Committee passed a resolution calling for the expulsion from Congress of Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar. In their statement, the Alabama GOP members justified their resolution by saying Omar is “unpatriotic” and ungrateful. This all stems from their alleged anger towards Omar’s comments criticizing Israeli lobbying groups. If you haven’t been paying attention and just read the preceding sentences with little or no context, you might be wondering how any of this adds up. How can someone be unpatriotic for criticizing a lobbying group representing another country (and specifically, that lobbying group’s efforts to provide cover for human rights violations against Palestians)? For that matter, why would state representatives in Alabama use their time to call for the drastic measure of expelling a representative from Minnesota from Congress, especially when there are national figures like Steve King and Donald Trump who revel in the anti-Semitism that these GOP members are supposedly so upset about? It couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the fact that Representative Omar is a Black woman and one of the two first Muslim women to serve in Congress, right? That couldn’t possibly be why they thought such an extreme measure would be acceptable… Read more from CNN.
I’m not a big fan of watermelon. As much as I hate to admit it, a lot of this distaste for the fruit has to do with the white gaze. Something about growing up with white peers who had a seemingly endless supply of Black people and watermelon jokes (and by joke, I mean saying the word “watermelon,” looking at me, and giggling), made it easy to never give the fruit a real chance. My peers, of course, didn’t create this trope. It has deep historical roots. According to historian William Black in a recent article titled, “How Watermelons Became Black: Emancipation and the Origins of a Racist Trope,” one theory is that following the Civil War, Southern white supremacists took issue with newly freed Black people selling watermelons and having the nerve to also eat the fruit. Black people making money and expressing any kind of enjoyment, according to Black, disturbed the “natural” order in the minds of white supremacists. As a result, they pathologized the activity, not just in media, but in medical journals. In an 1888 report by Dr. D.Z. Holliday, the doctor claimed to have found 820 watermelon seeds inside one Black man after a night of apparently feasting on an entire watermelon patch. These ridiculous stories, masquerading as science, have been repeated so much that the stereotype persists to this day, making many Black people like myself self conscience about eating watermelon around white people for fear of what they might think. Read more from Vox.
The Fragility Breaker
White fragility is usually annoying, but every now and then (when you’re not the one dealing with it), it can be funny. Consider the recent dispute between George Washington University professor David Karpf and New York Times columnist Bret Stephens. Karpf took to Twitter earlier this week to call Stephens a “bedbug.” That’s it. The tweet didn’t go viral but Stephens, who wasn’t tagged, still found it and wrote a long response decrying the lack of decency and inviting Karpf to come meet his family and see if he still feels the same way. Karpf shared this response, leading Stephens to deactivate his Twitter account and do a TV interview further decrying the lack of civility. What made this even more absurd was Stephens’ very recent history as a supposed warrior for free speech. Not only has he defended others who have used the veil of free speech to spread obvious bigotry and willful ignorance, but he has trafficked in plenty himself. Some of Stephens’ greatest hits include climate change denial, calling campus rape epidemics an “imaginary enemy,” and claiming anti-Semitism is “the disease of the Arab mind.” One would think that the same man who would dished out these attacks would be able to take being called a bedbug in stride. Yet, that’s not how white fragility works. Logic and consistency be damned, once a white man get his feelings hurt, we must stop everything to attend to him. Meanwhile, ICE is still putting kids in cages. Read more from the Root.