This Week's 5: The Only Independence Day I Recognize is Juneteenth

June 22, 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: Blackface is racist. Period. If you still have to ask in 2018 (shoot, even if you had to ask in 1918), it’s because you’re actively not listening. Nonetheless, a GOP Senate candidate finds himself apologizing for not just wearing blackface, but throwing on a bandana and a jersey and saying he was dressing up as a generic rapper for Halloween. I could go real in-depth to peel all the layers here, but instead I’ll leave you with this: the only thing worse than this brand of flagrant, lazy, “oh shucks” racism is when perpetrators try to excuse it by evoking their supposed Black friends. Dear white people, few things say, “I could care less about Black people,” quite like getting caught up for wearing blackface and then throwing Black people who had nothing to do with your stupidity in the line of fire. Read more from the Root.

 

 

Institutional: If you follow my writing, you’ll notice I use the word “intentionality” a lot. I’m all for having faith, but hoping and praying things will work out isn’t enough, especially when it comes to equity and social justice. That’s why I was ecstatic to hear a new California law will require filmmakers to provide written harassment policies, racial and gender demographics for their projects, and summaries of their companies’ internal diversity programs in order to qualify for tax credits. Set to take effect in 2020, this law creates tangible incentives for people to embrace equity, as opposed to hoping people will do the right thing out of the goodness of their hearts, which we have decades of data to show almost never happens when real money is involved. Read more from Color Lines.

 

 

Critical Race Theory: Divide and conquer is one of the most trusted strategies when it comes to weakening marginalized people. For Black Americans, this is probably best symbolized by the Willie Lynch letter, a document that goes into painstaking detail how to exploit every difference among enslaved Black people (i.e. dark skin vs. light skin, house slaves vs. field slaves, men vs. women, etc.) to keep them subservient. While the veracity of the letter is highly disputed, the phenomenon it describes is very much real and persists to this day. For example, while contrary to popular talking points, the Black community isn’t any more homophobic than any other ethnicity, it’s impossible not to notice allusions to slavery in homophobic rants against Black LGBTQ people. They are often slandered for being complicit with white supremacy, specifically for somehow attacking Black manhood by existing. It’s a ridiculous line of thinking that only makes sense when you realize it’s a coping mechanism for some men to deal with insecurities about their own sexual identities. That, however, is no excuse for something that has caused immeasurable harm to people in the form of everything from discrimination to verbal abuse to gruesome murders. It only adds insult to injury that many of the purveyors of this homophobia loudly claim to “love Black people.” Let’s be clear: you don’t love Black people if you only consider some of us worth loving. Read more from the Grio.

 

 

History: I’ve never been big on the 4th of July. Even before I ever read Frederick Douglass’s seminal speech “What to a slave is the 4th of July?,” I never felt a connection to the holiday. Instead, when I think about independence, I think about Juneteenth, or Freedom Day. This holiday, celebrated on June 19, commemorates the news of the abolition of slavery finally reaching the last remaining enslaved people in Texas. Chances are, like myself, you didn’t learn about this in school because it generally isn’t taught. Beyond conditioning our collective ignorance of history, there are a multitude of reasons why not teaching Juneteenth is patently unacceptable. Read more from Vox.

 

 

The Fragility Breaker: I have a theory that because we are inundated with more technology and content than ever, many otherwise thoughtful people take for granted that the rest of us are keeping score. For example, consider the Democratic Party. During former President Obama’s two terms in office, we witnessed Republicans exhaust and exploit every tactic, no matter how shameless and transparent, to obstruct him. Whether it was branding the Affordable Care Act as Obamacare to the point where millions of Americans still don’t realize they’re the same thing or fanning the flames of birtherism or sabotaging programs like ACORN that served poor people, we saw that there was no shortage of ways for politicians and their allies to exploit their leverage if they really wanted to. Conversely, in the face of gross human rights violations like the Trump Administration separating immigrant children from their families and holding them hostage for border wall funding, the Democrats have offered little more than speeches and sad videos that pull at our heartstrings but don’t have any teeth in the actual debate. While this is only the latest incident, the fact is, marginalized people are being terrorized every day in this country and perpetrators are openly invoking the name of Trump when they do it. If there was ever a time to take the gloves off politically, this is it, yet Democrats continue to play nice. Why? Because many of them benefit from white supremacy too. Just like they have access to the same tools as Republicans, they also take donations and run in the same lobbying circles as them too. Plenty of historically racist unions donate to Democrats and never have to worry about being called out because of it. Many powerful Democrats are more worried about being criticized by relentless ad campaigns than truly standing up for their marginalized constituents. They know how to say the right thing for the camera while getting away with doing nothing because, frankly, a large swath of liberal white voters could care less too. What happens to people of color is gripping infotainment for them, but their lives can go on just fine whether or not justice is served. In fact, if you look at the history of school busing in places like Boston or even Portland, they often prove to be just as apprehensive to equity as their white supremacist counterparts. Read more from the Root.

 

 

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