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This Week's 5: The N-Word Test

May 25, 2018

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.

 

Overt: Calling groups of people "animals" is about as old school racist as you can get without whipping out an obvious slur. That said, in addition to appealing to racists, the President releasing a report calling members of MS-13 animals in the title also has the practical function of giving police permission to treat them like, you guessed it, animals. Dehumanizing your target is a tactic of war. It's also a method for introducing profiling that only expands over time. If you're willing to allow the denial of basic human rights to gang members, then it becomes easier to do the same to innocent people you suspect of being gang members (in this case, Latinx people), and from there, anyone else considered "other." Don't take my word for it though. Ask history. Read more from Vice News.

 

 

Institutional: Institutional racism thrives on flagrant hypocrisy and exploitation of loopholes. The Trump Administration's push for "work for welfare" rules is just the latest example. These laws would require anyone receiving welfare to provide proof of employment, which is difficult, to say the least, if you're dealing with things like major illness, rampant employment discrimination, or the general struggles people have finding work between jobs. However, there's a catch. Areas with the highest unemployment can get waivers, but this just so happens to benefit mostly white, rural, conservative communities. Meanwhile poor, urban, Black and Brown communities get no such benefit because they are often surrounded by wealthier suburbs that obscure the unemployment numbers. Read more from the Root.

 

 

Critical Race Theory: Hip-hop was a culture created, nurtured, and shared with the world by predominately Black and Puerto Rican youth from the South Bronx. Over the last nearly 50 years, it has facilitated a massive cultural exchange across the globe. That exchange, among other things, has exposed the intersectionality of racial issues in Black and Asian communities. Specifically, it exposes the anti-Black racism and Orientalism that often go unspoken, yet manifest in both art and daily life. Read more from Refinery 29

 

 

History: How can we know where we're going if we don't know where we've been? While we have plenty of discussions on gentrification in Portland, the narrative of the displaced Black community is almost exclusively focused on crime and dysfunction. These narratives fit comfortably for both white supremacists and those with a white savior complex alike, but strip Black people of their humanity. What about the families, the friendships, thriving businesses, and vibrant culture? What about all the rich stories? Luckily, historians and artists are doing their part to keep these stories alive through a variety of mediums, including photo archives. Read more from the Portland Mercury.

 

 

The Fragility Breaker: I'm going to let white people in on a little secret. Whenever the opportunity arises for you to use the word nigger (or any of its variations), it's a litmus test. If you want to pass, all you have to do is not say it. Period. If you have a Black friend who gives you permission, I hate to break it to you, but that friend doesn't give a damn about you and is setting you up for failure. That friend doesn't speak for the entire Black community and the last thing you want to do is find yourself on stage for the world to see, learning that lesson the hard way. Also, don't think it gets lost on us when the same people who are silent about things like police brutality and racial profiling, are the loudest ones crying foul because they can't say nigger. Aggressively prioritizing your right to spew racial slurs over the actual lives of Black people does in fact make you a white supremacist. However, as previously mentioned, there is an easy answer to this problem. Read more from the Guardian.

 

 

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