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This Week's 5: ...And Then They Appropriated Slave Songs

June 29, 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: This shouldn’t come as news to some of you, but white supremacists are shameless. One of the plethora of ways that manifested this week was when a Black man working for the Tennessee Highway Department found an actual document titled “The Nigger Owner’s Manual” in his file cabinet, according to his lawyer. That he had been subject to racial harassment at the job before should come as a surprise to no one. Read more from the Root.

 

 

 

Institutional: For many, this week has felt like an unaired episode of Schoolhouse Rock entitled “How Racism Becomes Policy.” Perhaps the most prominent example of this is the Supreme Court upholding President Trump’s travel ban that was infamously introduced as a Muslim ban. That Trump repeatedly made statements targeting Muslims, including retweeting anti-Muslim propaganda from universally recognized white supremacists, and then openly said he was adding Venezuela and North Korea to the list so that he could get his Muslim ban passed, should’ve been automatic disqualifiers. Anyone with common sense could see the obvious bias and bad intentions. Yet, the conservative majority on the Supreme Court willingly exploited every technicality and scoffed at precedent to uphold this form of legalized bigotry. For what it’s worth, in her dissenting opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor catalogued Trump’s anti-Muslim attacks and called out her peers on the bench for the hypocrisy in their ruling. It won’t wipe away this stain on our democracy but at least the receipts are on public record. Read more from the Root.

 

 

Critical Race Theory: Nuance seems to escape a lot of people. For example, consider anyone who learns about the model minority myth, or the idea that Asians succeed where other minorities don’t because they’re smarter and more hardworking, and wonders why it’s a bad thing. “What’s so wrong with being stereotyped as smart and hardworking?” these people, often white, wonder aloud? What they don’t seem to understand or want to acknowledge is that the model minority myth only affirms supposedly positive stereotypes to keep Asian people in their place in the larger system of white supremacy. Specifically, it’s willing to concede intelligence and work ethic because it also castrates Asian people, and Asian men in particular, in the cultural zeitgeist. The prevalence of phrases like “No Asians” on dating apps is just one of many examples of the stigmatization of Asians that comes from the flip side of the model minority myth. Recently, comedian Joel Kim Booster detailed his personal journey in dealing with these persistent, societal attacks on his self-esteem and identity as a gay Asian man. Read more from the Huffington Post.

 

History: Following White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders getting kicked out of a restaurant in protest of the Trump Administration, Congresswoman Maxine Waters urged supporters to continue publicly shaming members of the administration. As usual when a Black woman calls for aggressively advocating for our rights, there was no shortage of people chiding Waters for her “lack of civility.” By their logic, while locking up children in internment camps is bad, there’s nothing worse than disturbing white professionals on their off hours. Many have pointed out that this smacks of the same condescension from supposed white moderates that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once castigated is his landmark “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” In that letter, he said the white moderate “who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season’” is worse than the Ku Klux Klan because that moderate uses his position to not just shield the Klan from consequences for their actions, but also actively obstructs Black people under the guise of allyship. Read more from Jezebel.

 

 

The Fragility Breaker: In what can only be described as peak caucasity, this week I learned that there is a hit musical out called “SLAV” that features an all-white cast singing slave songs. And, as per usual, there’s a bunch of white people shrugging their shoulders, asking, “What’s the big deal?” Some are even evoking their First Amendment rights. What they don’t seem to understand is that there is a difference between criticism and actually violating the First Amendment. The same laws that give white people the right to make an all-white slave song musical are the same ones that gives the rest of us the right to call it out for being a tacky, tone deaf Adult Swim satire come to life. White people loving Black culture, just not Black people, is nothing remotely new. From blackface minstrel shows to white ripoffs of Black soul food restaurants that don’t even bother to change their logo, we know this is just what colonizers do. That there is an actual all-white cast doing a slave song show is just the absurd but logical conclusion of this cultural cluelessness. So to the people that brought this rejected script for It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia to life, I hope it was worth it. Sure, you can fetishize slavery all you want. Just understand that it says a lot about you and we won’t be keeping those thoughts to ourselves. Read more from the Root.

 

 

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