Copyright © 2019 Respond to Racism in LO

This Week’s 5: When White Supremacists Come for Your Family History

April 5, 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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Recently, numerous archives at the Highlander Research and Education Center in Tennessee were destroyed in a fire. On Tuesday, officials with the center said they found a white supremacist symbol at the scene of the crime, bolstering suspicions that this was an act of arson. For those unfamiliar, the center was formerly known as the Highlander Folk School and was responsible for some of the most important organizing during the civil rights movement, training the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. Since the 1930s, the school (and now research and education center) has been a national symbol of organized resistance. Furthermore, this story is personal for me. My cousin, the late great Septima Poinsette Clark was an organizer with the Highlander Folk School. She mentored Parks and empowered countless Black people with voter education training, among other things. My father also went through classes at Highlander. That white supremacists would attack the center and more specifically, the archives full of critical, empowering documents and artifacts, is part of the oldest strategy in the playbook. Destroying historical records was an essential part of colonization throughout the continent of Africa. It effectively separated Black people from our history and gave colonizers the license to rewrite our narrative. The kindred spirit white supremacists of today are just following suit. Read more from CBS News.

 

 

Institutional

The Trump Administration is nothing if not relentless. Their game plan for implementing institutional racism appears to be testing our collective attrition. One example is the repeated push to put a citizenship question on the 2020 Census. There hasn’t been a citizenship question on the census in decades, in part, because it discourages undocumented immigrants from participating, and as a result, contributes to their communities not getting the resources they need by making them a statistically invisible population. With the recent state-sponsored terror campaign by ICE, it’s no surprise that the prospect of a citizenship question would legitimately intimidate undocumented people. ICE officers have been known to ambush parents dropping off their children at schools and people showing up to court to fulfill their immigration requirements. There is no question this same craven institution, responsible for the separation and detention of numerous undocumented families, wouldn’t hesitate to take advantage of census data to further accost these communities. These fears underscore the importance of resisting any efforts to normalize xenophobia in general and to stop Trump from forcing a citizenship question onto the 2020 Census in particular. Read more from the Root.

 

 

Critical Race Theory

While his proposed policy of universal basic income has dominated the headlines, presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s run is also shaping up to be an important moment for the “mainstream” discussion around Asian American identity. Many of us consciously or unconsciously accept the model minority myth, which on one hand, paints all Asians (particularly people of East Asian descent) as extraordinarily smart and hardworking, but also defines them as docile and obedient with unpleasant personalities. We can see this dynamic in politics. Countless white politicians use Asian academic and economic stats to justify their opposition to anti-racist policies, suggesting they are proof that anyone can “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.” Meanwhile, Asian Americans are woefully underrepresented in elected positions and both major political parties have poor track records engaging Asian American voters. By unapologetically campaigning for the most powerful position in the world, Yang is actively defying the model minority myth in real time. While his Silicon Valley background might fit with the stereotype, his articulation of the importance of identity and progressive economic policies defies the white supremacist ideal of putting Asians in their place with backhanded compliments. Read more from the Huffington Post.

 

 

History

Media personalities like Roland Martin have floated the idea that any politician who invokes the name of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. should be required to answer whether or not they support his policies, chief among those reparations for Black people. Enemies and allies alike oppose reparations on the grounds that they’re unrealistic government handouts. Yet, this ignores the fact that the massive income inequality benefiting many white Americans stems from government and/or institutional handouts of the past. This isn’t limited to the homestead acts that gave indigenous people’s land to white people or the profits gained from the exploited labor of slavery. Dr. King spoke of how this manifested during his lifetime in the form of low interest home loans, the GI Bill, and farm land grants that were denied to people of color. These measures literally created opportunities for generational wealth for white people that many are still building on to this day. Also, these measures were huge boosts to the American economy because they gave white people the means to grow their businesses and develop their more-often-than-not segregated communities. To this day, we carry on the legacy through inverted property tax and insurance rates that disproportionately benefit wealthy and upper middle class white people, and emergency government aid granted to disproportionately white farmers (even though we supposedly don’t have the money for initiatives that serve people of color). Read more from the Root.

 

 

The Fragility Breaker

If you choose to use your platform to spread white supremacist ideals, I’m a strong proponent of giving you the credit you deserve. For example, consider the prevalence of Islamophobia in US media. Despite attack after attack by white supremacists echoing the talking points of the Tucker Carlsons and Bill Mahers of the world, most lawmakers and powerful voices in media couldn’t be more skittish when it comes to calling these media personalities out for empowering terrorism. Compare that to the FBI’s infamous memo targeting so-called “Black Identity Extremists” on social media, supposedly to prevent them from inciting violence against the police. Was this memo misleading and based mostly on one incident in Dallas where a man, who was rejected by Black activist groups, went out and killed police officers? Yes. Did that stop the government from taking sweeping policy action on the supposed propaganda source? Not at all. Meanwhile, white supremacists are committing murder in the name of Donald Trump and parroting Carlson, Maher, and others who have platforms that reach millions of people. As someone who came of age during the George W. Bush years, I remember US media painting Al Jazeera as the terrorist propaganda network for simply interviewing Al Qaeda members. I would ask, how many more Muslims must die before we find that same energy for white supremacist propagandists, but we all know the answer. Read more from Al Jazeera.

 

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