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This Week's 5: Happy Frederick Douglass Reads America Day

July 6, 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: There’s not a lot of great news coming from the courts these days. That said, nazis losing in court is always welcome news, which is what happened this week when a federal court ruled against Andrew Anglin and the Nazi website the Daily Stormer in a defamation suit. Specifically, the website fabricated information to smear Arab American comedian Dean Obeidallah as the “terrorist mastermind” behind an attack on a 2017 Arianna Grande concert in Manchester, England that left 23 dead and 250 injured. For an organization that has a prolific reputation for this behavior, it shouldn’t be surprising that Anglin and his site are being held accountable for their actions. Yet, after years of waging a Nazi propaganda campaign that has included a number of these intense harassment campaigns, Anglin is only recently facing any kind of justice. Hopefully there is more to come. Read more from Al Jazeera.

 

 

Institutional: I don’t like framing what the Trump Administration is doing to the judiciary as affirmative action for white supremacists because that demeans the purpose of affirmative action. Affirmative action refers to policies and programs designed to create equitable access to opportunities for underserved populations, including poor whites. What Trump is doing, on the other hand, is rigging the judiciary to ensure that white supremacists sit in as many seats of power as possible, qualifications be damned. This is perhaps best exemplified by Brett Talley, a noted Ku Klux Klan defender who had to withdraw his nomination for federal judge position last year because the American Bar Association unanimously determined he was “unqualified.” Unfortunately, the nominee who had never tried a case has since secured a job as a federal prosecutor with a focus on low-level drug and immigration cases, also known as ground zero for mass incarceration and the disproportionate criminalization of Black and Brown people. Read more from Splinter News.

 

 

Critical Race Theory: There are a number of tropes I could permanently do without. Right near the top of the list is the trope of the “angry Black woman.” In a nutshell, this stereotype paints any Black woman who aggressively advocates for herself or others, or in some cases, simply displays strength, as out of control and dangerous. It has recently been used to misconstrue Congresswoman Maxine Waters’ calls for publicly challenging Trump Administration officials as calls for violence. That many of Waters’ powerful political allies played into the trope with condemnations and calls for “civility” only made the situation worse. Of course, this isn’t new. Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s healthy eating and fitness initiatives were smeared as socialist takeovers of schools and she was constantly depicted as a gorilla by conservative pundits. Tennis great Serena Williams continues to have people disrespect her dominance by suggesting she’s a man in disguise. In all of these cases, the “angry Black woman” trope is used to silence successful Black women and add an extra layer of self-consciousness to every move they make in the world. For Maxine Waters, it has resulted in increased death threats (emphasis on increased). Most notably, the pushback from powerful white allies has been minimal, if not non-existent, in all three ongoing cases. That is perhaps the most stinging indictment of all. Read more from Vox.

 

 

History: For me, every July 4 marks Frederick Douglass Reads America Day. It’s a celebration where we honor the great abolitionist for a landmark contribution to the time honored tradition of telling America about itself. Delivered on July 5, 1852, Douglass’s “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro” lays bare the hypocrisy of America’s Independence Day holiday with such passages as:

 

“What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is a constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes that would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour.”

 

Sound relevant? Read more from Democracy Now.

 

 

The Fragility Breaker: While the Supreme Court’s Janus decision, which ruled non-members don’t have to pay government employee union dues, has many people worried about workers’ rights and the Democratic Party worried about campaign donations (I’ll let you guess which one I’m more sympathetic towards), one of the positives that might come out of it is less police union foolishness. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice that for every news story about police brutality, there’s one voice (well, besides Fox News) that is consistently smearing the victims and offering up every shameless excuse for the offending officers, the local (and sometimes also the national) police union. Under the guise of protecting workers, they’ll readily smear police murder victims like Philando Castile even though we all watched video of him getting shot in front of his family despite following all of the officer’s directions. Of course, police unions don’t stop at smearing murder victims. In South Carolina, one union is trying to ban award winning books from a high school reading list because they discuss police brutality. For an organization that traffics heavily in “snowflake” rhetoric and tough guy cliches, it is cartoonishly hypocritical, never mind dangerous, for a police union to use their resources to censor the education system. That said, it’s on brand. Police unions will ruthlessly attack anyone who dares speak out against them rather than taking any accountability for reckless and often criminal officers. That is, unless it’s the case of the Muslim cop who shot an unarmed white woman in Minnesota. They left him out to dry. I wonder why… Read more from the Root.

 

 

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