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This Week's 5: Remember the Time Philadelphia Police Bombed MOVE?

August 3, 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: The only thing more predictable than a racist incident in the US is the perpetrator swearing it wasn’t racist. It doesn’t matter if a white man follows a Black man for 2 miles, confronts him in his driveway, and repeatedly calls him a nigger. As long as the sun rises every morning, that white man will have an exhibition of mental gymnastics ready to convince himself that he is not a racist. Sure enough, that is exactly what happened when Ohio contractor Jeffrey Whitman not only did all of the above to a Black resident, but also did so in his work vehicle. Luckily, the Black man filmed the encounter and posted it to Facebook. Since, Whitman has complained that his life is ruined and he can no longer do business in Ohio. In other news, I seem to have misplaced all of my sympathy. Read more from the Root.

 

 

Institutional: Sometimes institutional racism is subtle, like automatic soap dispensers that don’t recognize Black skin. Other times, it’s gruesome and in your face. That is perhaps the nicest way to describe the Trump Administration’s family separation policy that has literally kidnapped immigrant children. This week, a federal judge ordered the Administration to stop forcing detained children to take psychotropic drugs without their consent. These horror stories include physical abuse preceding the injections and debilitating side effects afterwards. Read more from the Washington Post.

 

 

Critical Race Theory: Implicit bias refers to our internalized preferences and prejudices towards different groups of people, which are most often developed based on the communities where we live and the media we consume. It can manifest in a variety of areas, including technology. A recent study found that Amazon digital facial recognition technology disproportionately matched Congress members of color with mugshots. Considering that many groups of color are disproportionately underrepresented in the technology industry, it should come as no surprise that concerns like this curiously continue to go overlooked. Without investing in more STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) opportunities for youth of color and fighting deeply ingrained institutional racism in the tech industry, we can only expect to see more of these automated evolutions of racism. Read more from the Root.

 

 

History: When we hear stories of US drones bombing families and decimating villages half the world over, many of us can’t conceptualize anything like that ever happening here. But what if I told you it already has? In 1985, the Philadelphia Police dropped a bomb from a helicopter on the MOVE house, killing 11 people, including 5 children, razing 61 homes, and leaving over 250 people in that Black neighborhood homeless. MOVE was a Black-liberation group founded by John Africa in 1972. In addition to Black liberation, their principles included communalism, environmentalism, and animal rights, to which they owned 48 rescued dogs. Disputes with some neighbors and the police eventually led to infamous standoffs in 1978 and the aforementioned bombing in 1985. During the 1978 standoff, a police officer was killed in a shootout. However, a search later found that none of the MOVE members’ weapons were operative and some witnesses have claimed the killing was from friendly fire. Nonetheless, 9 MOVE members (who became known as the MOVE 9) were convicted for the killing. We don’t have to look far for similar events with white groups and very different outcomes. As referenced in a previous edition of This Week’s 5, the Hammonds, of Malheur Wildlife Refuge Occupation and Shootout fame, were flown home on the private jet of a wealthy Mike Pence ally following a pardon from President Donald Trump. Meanwhile, Debbie Africa of the MOVE 9 was released on parole this past June. Of her fellow prisoners, 2 have died and the other 6 are still behind bars. Read more from the Guardian.

 

 

The Fragility Breaker: What happens when you mix football, hypocrisy, and white tears for a viral social experiment? You get what happened when Frederick Joseph (whose name you might recognize from the Black Panther Challenge earlier this year) decided to walk around New York City wearing a parody of the Washington Redskins t-shirt featuring a picture of a white man with the word “Caucasians.” Predictably, Joseph was bombarded by white people who saw no problem with the fact that the Washington Racial Slurs are an actual NFL franchise, yet were viscerally offended by him daring to wear a “Caucasians” t-shirt. Caucasian obviously isn’t a racial slur, so it speaks volumes that a mere t-shirt with the word and a picture of a white man could cause so many white people such emotional distress. And yet, that is the reality of the white fragility epidemic. Would it be better for our collective well-being and the prosperity of our nation if more white people grew up and experimented with empathy across the color line? Of course. But that would require engaging with reality and *gasp* possibly experiencing some discomfort. While we’re waiting, I couldn’t think of a better team to represent the official sport of plantation politics than the Washington Racial Slurs. Read more from the Huffington Post Black Voices.

 

 

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