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This Week’s 5: White Supremacy is a Spectrum

January 4, 2019

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.

 

 

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Oregon has been in national headlines the past couple of weeks with not one, but two additions to the annals of the “Nickname Avengers.” First it was #HotelEarl and last Friday, we met #StabbyGabby of McMinnville. #StabbyGabby apparently was upset at a Black family for parking crookedly and began harassing them. This included spitting on one of the people. Eventually, she pulled out a knife and threatened the family before making sure there was nothing ambiguous about the moment by calling the woman recording a “stupid nigger bitch” and claiming “self defense.” Furthermore, in case people outside of Oregon were asking themselves whether or not this was normal, the woman recording the video can be heard saying, “It’s not worth it today. We’re in a white-ass town.” In other words, McMinnville, like the state itself, has a reputation and this is just the latest incident that further and rightfully stains its image. Perhaps we should do better. Read more from the Root.

 

 

Institutional

One of the strongest expressions of institutional racism is the collective shoulder shrugging white Americans do when it comes to making real strides for equity and diversity in private business. Despite decades of rampant employment discrimination and workplace racial harassment, even after the passage of landmark civil rights legislation in the 60s and 70s, there is a visceral hostility towards any government push for equity. Meanwhile, white CEOs and business owners either ignore or refuse to do the work, so the hamster wheel keeps turning. The latest instance came in response to the House Financial Services Committee’s proposal to put more pressure on businesses to provide opportunities for minorities and women to attain top corporate positions. Studies show that more diverse companies tend to perform better in a variety of metrics. Yet, despite that, the stunning inequity statistics in corporate America, and the seemingly weekly headlines that leave people wondering, “If only there were people of color in the room,” there is still a chorus of white pundits decrying the scourge of “big government” and blowing dog whistles about supposed unqualified minorities. Oddly enough, this same lack of urgency doesn’t seem to extend to the “white working class.” Go figure. Read more from Politico.

 

 

Critical Race Theory

Contrary to white popular belief, “white supremacist” is not necessarily synonymous with the KKK and Nazis. White supremacy is an ideology. The KKK and Nazis are some of the most overt and extreme practitioners of it, but white supremacy is a spectrum. It takes many forms, from violence to subtle microaggressions, and isn’t exclusively practiced by white people, but white supremacy is characterized by an inherent notion that white people are superior. Former Senator Claire McCaskill’s recent press tour lands somewhere on the microaggression side of the spectrum. For weeks, the recently defeated politician has taken shots at incoming freshman congress members, most notably Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and threatened that they could cause the Democratic Party to lose “white working class voters.” It’s no coincidence that Ocasio-Cortez and the other women McCaskill referred to are young women of color who have not, it should be noted, capitulated to flagrant white supremacist policies and ideas like sending the military to the border to respond to migrants seeking asylum. McCaskill, however, did and still lost white working class voters. Maybe, just maybe, her anger is misplaced. Read more from the Huffington Post.

 

 

History

The start of 2019 marks two important occasions. First, this is the 400 year anniversary of the first enslaved African being captured and brought to the United States. Along with the genocide of indigenous people, this was one of colonialism’s original sins in America and reverberates loudly to this day. In that same vein, Jan. 1 specifically marked the annual Emancipation Day holiday, which observes the day enslaved people were recognized as free by the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. While widely recognized by some  as the act that freed the slaves, what this war time measure really did was allow Black people (especially those who were now technically free in Confederate states) to fight in the Civil War. Even though the details of the measure may have actually put more people back in slavery than it freed, it was crucial to the North’s eventual victory. Slavery was officially abolished in 1865, following the end of the war and the passage of the 13th Amendment. Read more from the New York Times.

 

 

The Fragility Breaker

If news media has shown us anything over the last few years, it’s that there are some funny white people around the country. They’re not funny in the sense that I would pay to see them perform. It’s just that in the face of some of this shameless hypocrisy, you can’t help but laugh. Consider a recent case from UMASS, where a student responded to a swastika drawn on a residential advisor’s (RA) door by hanging up a sign that said, “Fuck Nazis You Are Not Welcome Here” in her window. Even though the sign didn’t violate campus rules, an RA saw fit to email the student and ask her to take down the sign, not because of the profanity, but because other students allegedly complained it didn’t promote inclusivity. Beyond the obvious irony of the sign coming in response to UMASS’s lack of response to swastika graffiti, there is something especially Caucastic about the same people who struggle so mightily with critical race theory suddenly being able to grasp the terminology when the opportunity arises to defend Nazis. Do white supremacists and their sympathizers really think we don’t notice when they play dumb one moment, then appropriate all the language of social justice to advocate for their right to discriminate the next? News flash: We see you. Read more from the Root.

 

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