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This Week’s 5: ‘Nice’ Racism is Still Racism

January 18, 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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First off, let’s be clear. It is not the job of people of color to save the souls of racists. That said, Phenomena bless those who are willing to test their patience and sacrifice their safety to do that work. Filmmaker Deeyah Khan recently took on such a project, interviewing white supremacists and jihadists for a new documentary. Not surprisingly, she found these extremists to not just be two sides of the same coin, but essentially dependent on each other. Both forms of terrorism prey predominantly on men who feel isolated and are looking for meaning in their lives. Most of the followers are not particularly well versed in the extremist interpretations of religion or committed to the ideologies supposedly guiding these terrorists, but because these groups become their families and they fear being isolated if they leave, many stay involved. Through her documentary, Khan was able to successfully get a number of these extremists to leave their organizations. Specifically, their ideologies fell apart when faced with a real Brown person rather than a one dimensional figment of the white supremacist imagination. Go figure. Read more from Vox.

 

 

Institutional

Chances are, by now you’ve probably lost count of how many times the Trump Administration has been caught with its hand in the cookie jar. This week we added another moment to the list when a federal judge ruled that the Administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census violated the Administrative Procedure Act. This act requires federal agencies to consider “all important aspects of a problem” before implementing new rules. Numerous activists, organizations, and pundits argue that putting a citizenship question on the Census will intimidate undocumented immigrants from participating, specifically, out of fear of being rounded up, incarcerated, and possibly deported under the Trump Administration’s terror campaign against Brown immigrants. Vindictively adding a citizenship question to the Census without any forethought certainly seems to bolster that argument. However, before we all get our hopes up, many speculate this is headed to the conservative Supreme Court. If I were you, I’d keep my eyes on this case. Read more from Vice News.

 

 

Critical Race Theory

Dehumanization is one of the most effective tools of war. By stripping your declared enemies of their humanity, at least in the minds of your constituents, you can get permission to do just about any cruel thing you can imagine. To this day, this is why many Americans defend dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki as “necessary evils” even though they would never be so flippant if they or (more accurately) their grandparents were on the receiving end of those acts of mass murder. Likewise, the same line of thinking has given ICE and border patrol license to terrorize migrants. While images of migrant children locked in cages have horrified many Americans, there has once again been a steady chorus of people claiming “necessary evil.” Thus, it shouldn’t be a surprise that these same people weren’t moved by reports of border patrol agents destroying the food and water migrants depend on to survive and then imprisoning the activists who set it out for them. Why would anyone do that to families fleeing violence? What threat could they possibly pose that is worthy of death by starvation? But alas, these are questions one would ask if he sees these people as human beings. That doesn’t seem to be the case for the people with the guns and badges, and it gets more despicable by the day. Read more from the Root.

 

 

History

Misrepresenting the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is practically an American pastime. Let some disingenuous people tell it and Dr. King was nothing more than “turn the other cheek,” “I have a dream,” and any other snippet of a sentence misused to justify not challenging the system of white supremacy. They want us to forget the real Dr. King who once said, “I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government.” They want to paint themselves as longtime fans and we have to remind them that the majority of white America hated Dr. King before his assassination, according to polls, because of his opposition to the Vietnam War. Every time “Martin Luther Coon” slips out of someone’s mouth on TV, we have to remind people that it’s been happening since Dr. King was alive and instilling so much fear in powerful people that they too couldn’t help themselves. Contrary to the belief that Dr. King was ever some avatar of passivity, the reality is that his life was a master class in applying pressure to force change. In these times, we can’t afford to let anyone forget that. Read more from Al Jazeera.

 

 

The Fragility Breaker

Growing up in Lake Oswego taught me many things. One is that there is nothing many white people love more than racism loopholes. Perhaps none of these perceived loopholes is more popular than the “I can’t be racist because I’m a nice person” excuse. This commitment to supposed kindness is a subtle but effective tactic because the very act of confronting racism isn’t considered “nice” in predominantly white spaces. In other words, you can get away with just about any act of racism as long as you smile, don’t use any slurs, and/or align yourself with any explicitly racist groups (See: Steve King). The problem is, hiding behind intent only sounds good when you’re not on the receiving end. For those of us who constantly deal with being targeted and gaslighted by smiling racists, the “niceness” of it all couldn’t matter any less. In fact, it’s almost more disconcerting because it signals that these perpetrators of racism, whether intentional or not, care far more about their shallow feelings than the actual lives of people of color and will go to any length to protect those feelings. If that mindset sounds familiar, it’s because it’s a common characteristic of super villains in movies. Read more from the Guardian.

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