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.
Here’s a general rule of thumb. If your real self tends to come out when you drink and that real self is really racist, maybe don’t go to the bar with your colleagues. Also, don’t run for elected office or be a public servant at all for that matter. Unfortunately for Maryland Democrat Mary Ann Lisanti’s future employment, she didn’t follow that advice. Instead, she got drunk with her colleagues and decided to call a majority Black county a “nigger district.” According to the story, she made this comment to a white colleague when she apparently thought one of her Black colleagues was out of earshot. This person wasn’t and now Lisanti is begging for forgiveness from the state’s Legislative Black Caucus. Allegedly, Lisanti doesn’t recall the comment, as if being blacked out drunk makes it better. Actually, that just says she is both racist and has poor judgement in general. I’m sure her Black constituents must feel well represented… Read more from the Root.
A new study by EdBuild makes plain the realities of school segregation. First off, according to the report, predominantly white school districts received $23 billion more than districts serving mostly students of color. On average, every non-white district received $2,226 less per student than their white counterparts. In case you were wondering if the stats even out once you control for poverty, the answer is no. Actually, high-poverty districts made up of mostly students of color received $1,600 less than the national average per student. Meanwhile, high-poverty white districts only received $130 less. A number of factors go into these institutional disparities. First and foremost is housing segregation. A close second is the lack of people of color in elected positions. The combination of these two factors not only prioritizes the needs of the country’s majority-white population at the expense of people of color, it bakes this disregard into the system. Read more from NPR.
Critical Race Theory
The wide web of mass incarceration entangles people from various walks of life. However, no matter where you go or what people are being targeted for, there’s a good chance that the harshest crackdown is on the people with the most melanin. This is no different when it comes to the sex worker industry. In fact, anti-prostitution laws disproportionately affect immigrants and LGBTQ sex workers of color. Perhaps that’s why many met the news of Senator Kamala Harris proposing to decriminalize prostitution with both excitement and significant skepticism. As a prosecutor, Harris was a major proponent of laws that cracked down on sex workers. Her seeming evolution on the issue signals that decriminalizing prostitution and de-stigmatizing sex work are becoming much more mainstream discussions. Mass incarceration feeds off of demonizing people for nonviolent crimes. This demonization makes it okay in the eyes of “mainstream America” (see: white people) to disproportionately target people of color under the guise of fighting crime. Decriminalizing prostitution would eliminate one more avenue in which to carry out this institutional bias. Read more from the Huffington Post.
American history is full of Black women unsung heroes. The barriers faced because of both racism and sexism have led to Black women forging their own movements and carving out their own spaces time and time again. One area where this is particularly under recognized is organized labor. As we move from Black History Month to Women’s History Month, what better time (besides of course, the rest of the year) to recognize Black women who were pioneers in the growth of the American labor movement? Consider the story of the Washerwomen of Jackson. These Black laundresses formed Mississippi’s first labor union in 1866. They women formed their union after sending a resolution to the mayor that said they were going to charge a uniform rate going forward. Their stance inspired the Atlanta Washerwomen’s Strike a couple decades later. Following the strike, the Atlanta Washerwomen grew from 20 members to 3,000. They also invited white women, pioneering a vision for interracial solidarity for many at the time. Read more from Teen Vogue.
The Fragility Breaker
The Michael Cohen hearing was full of memorable moments, including Representative Mark Meadows putting on a master class in white fragility. It all started with Meadows’ wildly racist response to Cohen’s testimony on Donald Trump’s racism. Despite Trump’s record of housing discrimination, birtherism, various other racist public statements, and Cohen’s anecdotes about his racist statements behind closed doors, Meadows thought he had a rock solid defense when he brought up a Black Trump employee to stand behind him and do literally nothing else. He then proceeded to claim Trump couldn’t be a racist because the Black woman, who wasn’t allowed to speak, said so. When other representatives called Meadows out, he turned red in the face, cried, claimed he had people of color in his family and a Black a friend, and demanded Representative Rashida Tlaib’s criticism be struck from the record for accusing him of being a racist. What Tlaib actually said was that it was a racist act, but we all know colonizers like Meadows crumble the moment they hear the word “racist.” Could they, instead of acting like preschool children, hold themselves accountable when challenged on flagrantly racist and demeaning acts? Sure. But why would we ever hold white men to such bare minimums… Read more from Slate.