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This Week’s 5: White Supremacists Just Won’t Leave the Emmett Till Memorial Alone

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.


If you want to know how committed white supremacists are, look no further than the Emmett Till Memorial. Vandalized, destroyed, and rebuilt over and over again, the latest monument to the murdered teenager is now bulletproof. That in itself is ridiculous. Yet, white supremacists apparently still aren’t satisfied with their terror campaign. In the latest incident, a group of bigots was caught on film gathered around the memorial, yelling about the lack of white people being honored. The one positive of the story was that, in addition to the bulletproof renovation, the memorial also installed an alarm system that sounds like police sirens. When that alarm went off, the white supremacists scattered like roaches. America’s Funniest Home Videos moment aside, this is yet another attempt to intimidate Black people and all those engaged in the fight for Black lives. One would hope that catching such an embarrassing moment on film would make it more likely to be the last of these incidents, but we all know better. Read more from the Root.


ICE doesn’t do subtlety. They separate and lock families in cages after ambushing them at schools, churches, and courthouses. When ICE agents recently rolled down the streets of Queens, New York in a large, armored military vehicle, no one should have been surprised. As long as their state-sponsored terror campaign continues unabated, they will only get more emboldened. This latest stunt just displays how little ICE even cares about pretending they’re protecting people anymore. During their traverse through Queens, they sent the tank past a school full of small, soon-to-be traumatized children. Everything about the episode was a cartoonish show of force, all for the simple reason that ICE agents know they can get away with it. We all know good and well that police often don’t show this much force when taking in active school shooters. Furthermore, we know plenty of places (see: white, usually wealthier areas) where rolling a tank through the streets wouldn’t be tolerated, regardless of the excuse. Read more from the Huffington Post.

Critical Race Theory

Growing up in a place like Lake Oswego, I was always amazed at how many people genuinely thought they were comedians. Specifically, so many of my white peers had racial jokes, seemingly for days. While plenty were out and out racist, most were what I would later come to understand as microaggressions. Microaggressions are the subtle expressions of implied racism that take the form of things like making affirmative action jokes at the mere presence of a Black student or, in the recent case of a group of indigenous students at the University of Arizona, the school’s president making a joke about his “high cheekbones” during a campus tour. Specifically, the president, Robert Rollins, made a crack about not pulling “an Elizabeth Warren” after getting a negative DNA test for Native ancestry. Needless to say, the students weren’t thrilled about being put in such an uncomfortable position, especially when they were supposed to be advertising the university to other prospective students. Rollins has since apologized but this incident ultimately amounts to a powerful institution digging an endless ditch somehow even deeper. Read more from Indian Country Today.


Sometimes I get incredibly frustrated by all that students miss out on because we don’t mandate teaching about things like the radical social justice movements of the late 60s and 70s. Then I remember that, as a friend recently put it to me, “Schools weren’t made to start revolutions. They were made to prevent them.” Thus, when it comes to major historical moments like the 1969 occupation of Alcatraz, the duty of keeping the story alive falls on us. This moment was particularly important because the 19-month occupation of Alcatraz Island by indigenous activists sparked an era of Red Power activism. What made this action so inspiring was not just how long it lasted, but that the activists were able to build a new community that was genuinely based on their cultural and spiritual traditions. Following their lead, indigenous activists throughout the country would go on to occupy various federal lands and buildings. The largest occupation occurred at Wounded Knee, which resulted in a 71-day siege that captivated the country. Fast forward to 2019 and powerful protests at Standing Rock and Mauna Kea are catalyzing the imaginations of many despite efforts to keep these stories out of the regular news cycle. Read more from the Nation.

The Fragility Breaker

Some people subscribe to the belief that since there are no shortage of issues that need attention when it comes to racial justice, we can’t afford to scare any white people away. As a result, they tailor their approach to accommodating white fragility, even if it’s at the expense of people of color. If you’re familiar with this column and this particular section of it, then you should know that I don’t have that problem. I know that putting a spotlight on whiteness makes many white people uncomfortable. I also know that when it comes to thoughtful engagement with this work, white women far outpace their male counterparts. Nonetheless, the reckoning of the 53 Percenters continues. A recent viral trend known as #BeckyCon2019 has inspired numerous social media users to have some fun with the all-too-familiar ways many white women choose to weaponize their privilege. Specifically, users have riffed on mock lectures about being curvy without being “too ethnic” and how to handle white daughters who bring home Black boyfriends. While some white women will inevitably scream “reverse racism,” it will only further reinforce the privilege and weaponized obliviousness that #BeckyCon2019 was created to satirize in the first place. Read more from The Root.

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