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.
Some white supremacists make a point of covering their tracks. By making their bigotry appear subtle (or even questionable to the untrained eye), they provide themselves with cover to enact racially targeted policies. Then there’s Stephen Miller. As a leading voice in the Trump Administration, Miller has crafted policies like the Muslim Ban and led the charge to embolden ICE to terrorize immigrants. While plenty of videos exist of him making openly racist statements, dating back to high school, the transparency of his intentions got even more clear with the release of 900 emails between him and white supremacist bullhorn Breitbart. In those emails, Miller pushed for stories to demean Black and Brown people, immigrants in particular, and championed a wildly racist French novel about an immigrant invasion. As of this writing, over 100 congresspeople have called for his firing. Read more from the Root.
One of the most effective ways to get away with institutional racism is to codify the dehumanization of groups of people into law. This is happening on steroids at the border where law enforcement has criminalized the act of simply leaving food and water for migrant families in order to prevent them from starving to death. In spite of this, a number of brave people have continued the work of providing basic necessities for these families and as a result, the government is attempting to make an example of them. Scott Warren, arguably the most high profile case, was facing up to 20 years in prison but was recently acquitted for his efforts. In addition to a win for Warren, this was a major victory for the cause of true allyship and basic humanity. Crossing the border shouldn’t be a crime and the fact that many in the government and law enforcement have tried to make it punishable by death is a stain atop a country already covered in them. Read more from Time.
Critical Race Theory
A lot of environmental racism stories don’t have happy endings or even significant positive developments. After all, environmental racism, which refers to policies and practices that disproportionately harm the living conditions of communities of color, often involves citizens attempting to fight large companies and government agencies who won’t hesitate to crush them. For example, the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes have been fighting for years with the FMC Corporation over an annual fee for the company storing hazardous waste on the tribes’ reservation. From 1998 to 2001, FMC paid the $1.5 million fee, but stopped after their phosphorus plant quit operations. Despite the plant’s closing, the effects haven’t stopped. The waste is now a Superfund site that could take decades to clean up. Perhaps even longer. FMC would be far from the first company to get away with this destruction (and for 18 years, they did) but the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. In addition to the fee, the tribes are also calling on FMC to pay interest. Read more from Indian Country Today.
Growing up, I couldn’t tell you the number of times other kids yelled, “Geronimo!” before jumping off a play structure or small hill. Conversely, I can count the number of times we learned about the real Geronimo on one hand and have fingers left over. For such a legendary warrior, this makes no sense, unless of course, the education system is designed to prevent resistance, which it is. Geronimo epitomized resistance. The Apache shaman, or medicine man, turned guerilla warrior spent 25 years eluding American and Mexican troops. His penchant for escaping capture led some people to believe he had supernatural powers. In reality, Geronimo and other Chiricahua warriors were vastly more familiar with the land. Geronimo, in particular, was adept at stealing horses from the enemy to utilize both for transportation and food. He led raids for years during the Apache Wars, which began in 1862. Geronimo didn’t surrender for good until 1886. He then spent the rest of his life appearing in Wild West shows, taking photos with tourists for money, and even riding in President Theodore Roosevelt’s inauguration parade. Legend has it, however, that Chiricahua associates removed Geronimo’s body from the reservation, providing him with one last act of resistance. Read more from the History Channel.
The Fragility Breaker
There’s no shortage of racist stupidity in the media. As someone who tries to address a tiny portion of it, I have the utmost respect for people like Soledad O’Brien who seems to have the time for any and everyone who wants to bring ignorance in her sphere. The longtime reporter has become one of the loudest voices criticizing media for its complicity in the Trump era. If you follow her on social media, you know she doesn’t let much go. When reporters at major networks shy away from calling out racism, you can bet on a snarky, biting tweet from O’Brien. Attempts, whether intentional or otherwise, to whitewash history get ruthlessly picked apart by the award-winning journalist. As a result, she has made enemies at many of the networks she used to work at. However, O’Brien could also care less and it’s made her easily one of the most refreshing voices in the country. Throughout American history, people of color have often not been able to see themselves in media, both because of the lack of numbers and the tokenizing of those who do get through the door. When voices like O’Brien unapologetically push back, it shows young, aspiring journalists of color that they can pursue these careers while bringing their whole selves to the job. Read more from the Daily Beast.