This Week's 5: Breathing in Your Apartment While Black

September 14, 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

Some white adults clearly view public racism the same way young children view trips to the candy store. For them, it’s like a reward for keeping their white supremacist thoughts to themselves for so long. Consider a recent piece by Australian political cartoonist Mark Knight that takes aim at Serena Williams. The drawing depicts Williams as a belligerent, hulking, mammy stomping on her tennis racket while a judge asks her opponent Naomi Osaka, who is depicted as a blonde white woman even though she is half Haitian and and half Japanese, to just let her win. This cartoon followed an incident at the US Open where Williams was repeatedly penalized by a judge for infractions that many male tennis stars routinely get away with. Knight and the Australian paper that published the cartoon, not surprisingly, responded to the backlash with the patented “Aw, shucks, I had no idea” defense. Apparently this is because, in the white imagination, just saying something isn’t racist with no actual evidence is an ironclad argument. Meanwhile, in the real world, we recognize that people don’t draw minstrel characters by accident. These tropes haven’t persisted on because people have no idea what they are. Otherwise, we wouldn’t keep seeing white artists conveniently pulling them out exclusively to target Black public figures. Read more from the Root.

 

Institutional

How do you know that you might have a real vendetta against Brown people? Well, if you’re the President of the United States and you’re coming off a disaster response in Puerto Rico where 3,000 people died, one sign might be when you divert $10 million from disaster relief to help ICE arrest and deport more immigrants. It seems satirical when you hear it but that’s exactly what President Trump did. With disasters on the horizon like the massive hurricane heading towards the Southeast Coast of the US, Trump still found a way to justify cutting $9.8 million from FEMA and giving it to ICE. To add insult to injury, he later claimed the death toll in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria was a hoax made up by the Democrats. As easy as it is to get caught up in the ridiculousness of the lies, the fact remains that countless people are being harmed by the policies behind them. Downplaying and deflecting when we can all see it with our own eyes, and most importantly, continuing to get away with it, is the epitome of institutional racism. Read more from NPR.

 

Critical Race Theory

 Some issues are hard to foresee. Others are obvious from the beginning. Following the Parkland school shooting, many decried the push by the NRA and craven politicians to arm teachers and/or put more armed guards in schools instead of enacting more gun control. They rightfully predicted that adding more weapons to the school environment would only exacerbate the issues already present in the school to prison pipeline, a term that loosely refers to the disproportionate discipline Black and Brown students face compared to their white peers. Now, in news that should shock nobody, it turns out that guards are deploying weapons like tasers on students of color at a disturbing rate. Whereas before these students would face suspensions and expulsions for minor infractions, now they are also constantly at risk of being the victims of brutality. Funny how an NRA proposed “solution” would just happen to work out that way… Read more from the Huffington Post.

 

History

 In 1934, Congress passed the Indian Reorganization Act. This legislation was designed to counter the effects of systemic, forced assimilation; empower tribes; and promote their historic traditions and culture. Much like other laws aimed towards empowering marginalized communities and righting historical wrongs, the Indian Reorganization Act was immediately met with resistance and has since been increasingly weakened. For example, Section 5 of the law mandated a land-into-trust process to address the decades of the federal government stealing tribal land. Yet, in 2009, the Supreme Court ruled that only tribes that were under federal jurisdiction in 1934 were eligible for land restoration provisions. Most recently, this weakening of the law has resulted in the Trump Administration attempting to seize the reservation from the trust of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in Massachusetts. If the administration is successful, it will be the first reservation taken out of a trust in several decades. Read more from Indianz.

 

The Fragility Breaker

If I weren’t so numb to it all by this point, I would truly be saddened by how predictable the script is when a police officer murders an unarmed Black person. No matter how ridiculous the circumstances, there will always be people jumping to defend the officer. Such was the cases following the murder of Botham Jean in his Dallas apartment by an officer who allegedly mistook the dwelling for her own. According to the story, Officer Amber Guyger mistakenly tried to enter Jean’s apartment and then shot him to death. Guyger’s story has since changed and police investigators have seemingly tried to explore every angle to cover for her. Nonetheless, the fact that she went into the wrong apartment and killed someone minding his own business is undisputed. That’s murder. Period. Yet, let some tell it, and the fact that Guyger was heard crying on a 911 call or that she allegedly worked a 15-hour day are excuses to give her a break. To the people who seem so willing to give Guyger a pass because she shed a few white tears, what the hell is wrong with you? Are you really that easily manipulated? Most of you, undoubtedly, probably consider yourselves “good white people” but how do you square that with the fact that you afford more humanity to a murderer’s crocodile tears than the Black man she killed who, once again, was minding his own business in HIS apartment? Let’s be clear, if you are working to justify these killings, you are complicit in the worst manifestations of white supremacy. You may not be the equivalent of the people holding the rope in old lynching photos, but you are definitely part of the picnic around them. Read more from the Root.

 

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