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This Week’s 5: Harvard’s Affirmative Action for White People by the Numbers

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.


Here’s a story that should make your blood boil. A group of six grade boys recently assaulted a Black girl at a Virginia private school by holding her down and cutting her hair. According to the little girl’s family, this apparently was just the latest incident in an ongoing, racist harassment campaign at Immanuel Christian School (which should sound familiar because it’s where Vice President Mike Pence’s wife, Karen, teaches). The little girl was understandably traumatized by the attack and the family wants justice, which remains to be seen. In the meantime, I don’t know about you, but when I read a story about little white boys pinning down a Black girl, cutting her dreadlocks, and mocking her, my first thought is, “The parents sure do teach them early.” This kind of cruelty isn’t natural. It’s empowered by parents and community members who have no problem perpetuating overt racism in their homes and the safe spaces they have cultivated for expressing their bigotry (while simultaneously, ironically railing against marginalized people creating safe spaces to get away from this toxic behavior). In a reasonable world, such a horrifying incident with a direct connection the White House would lead to seismic institutional changes. Instead, expect a chorus of “boys will be boys” and yet another Black family being told by the world that their child’s suffering doesn’t matter. Read more from WUSA 9.


Few things embody institutional racism more than the Trump Administration’s supposed travel ban. This policy that targets mostly majority-Muslim countries was first branded as the “Muslim ban.” Federal judges twice rejected it because President Donald Trump had made it clear in campaign speeches that his intent was to ban Muslims, which is obviously discriminatory and unconstitutional. Nonetheless, after agreeing to rebrand the policy as a “travel ban” and include some non-Muslim majority countries, the Trump Administration was able to get the ban enacted on its third try. To say this is an egregious example of rewarding bad faith is an understatement. Now, as more data comes out, we are all seeing just how detrimental the travel ban really is. According to a testimony by Edward Ramotowski, the deputy assistant secretary for Visa Services in the Bureau of Consular Affairs, to the House Judiciary Committee, approximately 31,334 people have been refused entry into the US as of Sep. 14, 2019, because of the ban. When Trump originally pitched a “complete and total shutdown” of all Muslims entering the United States, he claimed it was to make the country safer. The idea was racist and absurd on its face, but since the ban has been enacted, the US has been increasingly terrorized by mass shootings by predominantly white men. That should tell you all you need to know about the travel ban and everyone who supports it. Read more from the Root.

Critical Race Theory

People of color are no strangers to divide and conquer strategies. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop wealthy white supremacist interests from finding individuals of color who are willing to throw everyone else under the bus for personal gain. This is why the Harvard affirmative action lawsuit is so disappointing. For those unfamiliar, the lawsuit boils down to wealthy white, longtime affirmative action opponents using Asian American students to promote the idea that Black and Brown students are getting unfair advantages in the admissions process. In reality, these marginalized groups are all incredibly underrepresented and the majority of Harvard students benefiting from policies that admit “under qualified” applicants are, wait for it, white. According to research published in a paper titled “Legacy and Athlete Preferences at Harvard,” 43 percent of white students admitted between 2009 and 2014 were either athletes, legacies, or children of donors and faculty. Furthermore, only a quarter of those students would have been admitted without these admissions advantages. To put it plainly, this data exposes how affirmative action for white people works. While marginalized groups of color are pit against each other based on false assumptions about affirmative action programs, white students continue to reap the rewards of the discriminatory policies that built the foundation for their disproportionate representation in the first place. Read more from Slate.


One of the most common misconceptions about heritage months is that they force people to choose between recognizing a marginalized groups’ history for either one month out of the year or all year long. Not surprisingly, many of the same people who claim to be concerned about only learning about a group of people during one month, tend to be the same ones who make excuses to ignore this history throughout the rest of the year. One could even ascertain that’s not an accident. Meanwhile, in the reasonable world where we can walk and chew gum at the same time, we can take advantage of heritage months to put a special spotlight on the contributions of different cultural groups while still celebrating these things during the other 11 months of the year too. As we continue to celebrate Latinx Heritage Month, one activity you can do both during the observation and throughout the year is read. Remezcla recently compiled a list of books to better expand our understanding of the history of the Latinx diaspora. They include selections such as “Racial Migrations: New York City and the Revolutionary Politics of the Spanish Caribbean” by Jesse Hoffnung-Garskof, “Becoming Julia de Burgos: The Making of a Puerto Rican Icon” by Vanessa Perez Rosario, and “The Tupac Amaru Rebellion” by Charles Walker (and yes, Tupac Amaru is who the iconic hip-hop artist is named after). When even just scrolling through this list, it becomes clear how foundational these historic contributions are to Americans and the world as a whole. Read more from Remezcla.

The Fragility Breaker

Black women have long been the heart and soul of social justice movements throughout America. As such, some people get the wrong idea that they should be entitled to Black women’s labor. Enter Bette Midler. In an attempt to rally potential voters, Midler mused that Beyoncé should use her platform to encourage more people to vote. On its face, this might seem like an innocent thought. After all, Beyoncé is incredibly popular and if she were to lend her platform to promoting voter engagement, that would be nothing but positive. The thing is, Beyoncé already has done as much. She does lend her name to massive voter engagement campaigns and endorses candidates who promote progressive policies. Furthermore, the heart of her fan base, Black women, are arguably the most reliable voting block in the country. Meanwhile, 53 percent of white women voted for Donald Trump. That would seem to suggest that 1) Midler is talking to the wrong audience and 2) She really needs to do her research before projecting her assumptions onto influential Black women who are doing their job and then some. As you can expect, “Black Twitter” has since lambasted Midler for this micro-aggression-filled tweet. While some might see this as negative or even antagonistic towards the idea of white allyship, I would challenge them to spend more time understanding why so many Black people are frustrated. Here’s a hint: Being expected to fight the good fight while carrying white people on your back is not a compliment. Read more from the Root.

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

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