Copyright © 2019 Respond to Racism in LO

This Week’s 5: “But I Have a Black Partner” and Other Poor Excuses for Racism

June 14, 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.

 

 

Overt

This may come as a surprise to some (*cough* white people *cough*), but the NYPD doesn’t have a good reputation when it comes to racism. 22 -year-old Fatoumata Camara put this on full display recently when she investigated a violent hate crime against her because the NYPD essentially refused to do their job. Camara was robbed and assaulted by a group of people yelling anti-Muslim slurs on May 10. The attack sent her to the hospital with a broken nose and a head injury. When she went to the NYPD to investigate the crime, they dragged their feet and said, because she couldn’t identify her attackers while still very much injured and disoriented, that they couldn’t do anymore. Instead of leaving it at that, Camara went to a business close to where the attack occurred and obtained surveillance footage. Of course, this footage confirmed the attack, identified more assailants, and ultimately proved to be the latest in damning evidence against a police department infamous for supporting white supremacy. As we continue to see a rise in white supremacist terrorism throughout the country, this is just another reminder that calls for angry people of color to meet the police halfway are disingenuous and more importantly, active attempts to ignore the real problem. Read more from the Huffington Post.

 

 

Institutional

One of the things that frustrates me the most about the police brutality debate (besides the fact that it is a “debate” in the first place) is that disingenuous police, politicians, and pundits go out of their way to grossly oversimplify situation, then debunk those straw man arguments as if it’s a legitimate excuse to dismiss people’s concerns. For example, police brutality is often framed as white police officers killing Black men. Even if you’re just looking at Black victims, that does a disservice to all the Black women and gender non-binary people who are also disproportionate victims, not to mention the police officers of all races who engage in this abuse of power and the white supremacist systemt that fuels it. Likewise, the limited narrative also obscures the fact that indigenous people actually have the highest rate of being targets of police killings and that ethnic minorities across the board face similar staggering statistics. This is why the efforts of a broad coalition of ethnic minority groups in Washington to fight police brutality and their recent successes, like pushing the state to reform de-escalation and mental health training for officers, are so necessary and powerful. Justice shouldn’t be a numbers game but until basic human decency becomes the law of the land, leveraging our numbers is imperative. Read more from the Huffington Post.

 

 

Critical Race Theory

Colorism is a touchy subject, especially when it’s perpetrated by people of color. It’s even worse in predominantly white environments where many people lack cultural competency and don’t know how to process narratives without easily identifiable “good guys and bad guys.” Hollywood is a great example. For years, the creators of Black-ish and its spinoffs have been lavished with praise for their groundbreaking work and specifically, telling Black stories that weren’t being told in the mainstream. However, the show and especially it’s spin-off Grown-ish, have also received criticism for the lack of visibility of darker skinned Black people. Centering the discussion on whether this was done to be intentionally harmful obscures the fact that the damage is real regardless. At the bare minimum, it reinforces the idea that our value is determined by our proximity to whiteness. Furthermore, the urge by some to silence critics because of all the good things that Black-ish, Grown-ish, and the upcoming Mixed-ish do, just tells darker skinned Black people that their feelings don’t really matter. How is it that shows that are praised for encouraging difficult conversations should be immune to having difficult conversations about their own production? To be clear, this isn’t a call to “cancel” Black-ish and everyone associated with it. It’s simply a challenge to do better by darker skinned Black people because we, as Black people, arguably know better than anyone else how our white supremacist society treats them worse than almost everybody. Read more from the Black Youth Project.

 

 

History

Many throughout the country recognize June 12 as Loving Day to honor Mildred and Richard Loving, who with the help of the ACLU, sued and ultimately led the Supreme Court to rule that interracial marriage is protected by the Constitution. Mildred, who was a Black and Rappanhannock woman, and Richard, a white man, got married in 1958 and were arrested when they returned to their home state of Virginia, based on the state’s anti-miscegenation laws. The ACLU helped the Lovings file a lawsuit, which went to the Supreme Court and on June 12, 1967, the judges unanimously ruled that anti-miscegenation laws violate the 14th Amendment. In addition to legalizing interracial marriage, it also set the precedent for the court to rule in favor of same-sex marriage decades later. While the Loving Decision was undoubtedly groundbreaking, it also inadvertently led to a new genre of bad excuses for racism by whites people: the “but I have a Black partner” defense and every variation of it. Perpetrators essentially claim they can’t be racist because they have sex with people of color, which is ridiculous considering the long history of sexual violence against different groups of color as means of reinforcing their oppression. It also ignores that sexual objectification and racism can often go hand-in-hand. Read more from Color Lines.

 

 

The Fragility Breaker

Self-proclaimed white allies hate to hear this but “white people are gonna white people.” The evidence keeps pouring in every day and it’s not a collection of isolated incidents, it’s a continuous stream of systemic behavior. Consider Democratic Party leadership and the case for impeaching Donald Trump. Perhaps no one better exemplifies the issue than Nancy Pelosi, who despite all the evidence daring her to push for impeachment and her own statements claiming she wants to see Trump in jail, is also the face of Democrats who are actively blocking the impeachment process. It doesn’t matter that she has the Mueller Report and a multitude of other open investigations on her side. It doesn’t matter that the Trump Administration has proven itself a clear and present danger to the health and safety of communities of color (with Puerto Rico arguably being the most horrific example), among others. Pelosi continues to find excuses not to hold Trump accountable in any tangible way, even suggesting that we should let the voters decide (the same majority white voters that voted Trump into office and lied to pollsters about their allegiance in all the months leading up to it) in 2020. That Pelosi and others have actively pushed for measures that will tangibly hurt emerging, progressive candidates of color, presumably out of fear of losing power, but have to be pressured to take even rhetorical stands against Trump committing crimes says all you need to know about how deeply ingrained white supremacy really is across the political spectrum. Read more from the Root.

 

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