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This Week's 5: Hate Crimes for Racist 911 Calls? Yes please!

August 24, 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 might come as a shock to some, but there are people with white supremacist ties in the White House. Over the weekend, one of those individuals, policy aide and speechwriter Darren Beattie, left his job after a CNN report revealed he spoke at the 2016 H.L. Mencken Club Conference, or white supremacist speech-a-palooza. While Beattie claims his speech “wasn’t objectionable,” it’s impossible to believe he didn’t at the very least take influences from the orgy of white supremacist thought around him into his job at the White House. That he wrote an editorial as a Duke professor advocating for the travel ban (see: Muslim ban) and decided to fully support Trump because of his stance on immigration (see: arresting and deporting as many Brown people as possible) only further establishes the pattern. Fancy suits and conferences don’t change the fact that influential bigots and those willing to not just cover for them, but offer tactical advice, are organizing to spread white supremacist ideas. Nor do those things make the presence of a presidential speechwriter at such an event any less scandalous. Read more from CNN.

 

Institutional: Discussions about systemic disparities are often derailed by arguments about intent. As a result, we continuously fail to address these disparities, even when they are cartoonishly disproportionate and right in front of our faces. For example, consider the maternal mortality rates for Black and white women. According to the CDC, between 2011 and 2014, white women had 12.4 deaths for every 100,000 live births while Black women had 40 deaths. To look at such an outrageous disparity and think that it’s only acceptable to address it if you can establish malicious intent is in itself an act of aggression towards Black women. In light of this problem, Senator Kamala Harris is proposing a bill that will provide millions in grants for racial bias training and incentivizing addressing maternal mortality. Read more from the Grio.

 

Critical Race Theory: If you want to see how the military industrial complex and orientalism, or the reduction of Asia and the Middle East in particular to colonialist stereotypes, work hand in hand, look no further than Yemen. During the Obama Administration, the military decimated communities and killed scores of innocent civilians with drone strikes. The Trump Administration has continued that legacy by supplying Saudi Arabia’s military with weapons and intelligence as they pound Yemen with bombs in what is now a civil war and massive famine considered the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet. So far, the defining moment of the Trump Administration’s role in this disaster was the bombing of a school bus in a crowded market that killed 51 people, including 40 children. Specifically, the administration found itself implicated in the tragedy after the revelation that the bombs were US made and sold to the Saudis in a recent arms deal. Furthermore, the US military provided the intelligence to bomb the bus full of children. In addition to being a gross human rights violation in Yemen, this callous disregard for life fuels orientalism in the US that manifests not just in explicit Islamophobia, but attacks against Sikhs and other people demonized as Brown “others.” It makes bigots feel as if they have permission to act upon their fears by accosting anyone they deem “Muslim” (see: Brown person from the Middle East) in public. If that weren’t enough, it allows apologists to silence any objection to the actions of our military by characterizing it as sympathizing or even colluding with terrorists. With each bombing and the numerous innocent lives taken and permanently altered, the cycle continues. Read more from Al Jazeera.

 

History: I experienced a lot of lazy racism growing up. Corny affirmative action jokes. Someone saying the word “black” then pausing to awkwardly stare at me. Someone saying “monkey” and doing the same thing. Rinse and repeat with “watermelon,” “welfare,” and any other term that fits the pattern of stereotype word association. That said, for every thousand lazy racist jokes, there was one by someone who did some research; perhaps a ⅗ compromise pun or a quip about what happened to the last Black man to have a dream. One bar in Connecticut certainly went the extra mile when it decided to name one of its drinks the Tuskegee Experiment. For those who don’t know, the Tuskegee Experiment was a 1932 research project by the US Health Service that found poor Black men infected with syphilis, gave them a placebo, and refused them from getting treatment even after doctors found a cure. This included attempting to convince the military to refuse giving treatment to the 250 men who eventually registered for the draft. 128 of the original 399 participants died of syphilis or syphilis-related complications while 40 wives were infected and 19 children were born with congenital syphilis. The aforementioned Connecticut bar apparently thought this would make for a hilarious cocktail name. That should tell you all you need to know. Read more from the Root.

 

The Fragility Breaker: Recently a New York state senator proposed a bill that would make false 911 calls targeting people of color for no reason a hate crime. Some might argue that laws don’t change people’s hearts, as evidenced by Brown v. Board of Education or the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. While that may be true, I don’t care about the salvation of white supremacists. I just don’t have the time. In addition to systemic racism, the west coast is currently on fire and Portland had the worst air quality of any major North American city at one point this week. As long as white people have the option to weaponize 911 calls against people of color with no consequence, there will be some who do it. These are not good people who just have a difference of opinion. They are malicious actors endangering people’s lives. Prosecute them. At the very least, give them something to think about when they pick up the phone and start weaving together their “suspicious Black guy” stories. If you think some well-meaning but confused white people might get caught up in this, tough for them. Perhaps this law could be incentive for them to behave like reasonable adults towards people who don’t look like them, as opposed to entitled children that think the police are customer service for removing Black people. Read more from the Huffington Post.

 

 

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