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.
Have I mentioned that I despise the “kids will be kids” excuse for acts of racism committed by young people, especially against other young people? It really is one of the more cowardly things adults do. Not just does it give the parents a pass for more than likely passing their racist ideals on to their children, but it teaches the young perpetrators how they can game the system at an early age and in fact, emboldens them by framing them as the real victims. Short of grotesque violence, these cases mostly go uncovered because white supremacists rally behind racist children and intimidate their victims from speaking out. A recent case out of New Jersey, however, crossed that threshold. After a 12-year-old reported xenophobic threats from other students to his teacher, the students followed the 12-year-old and his mother on their way home and one of the boys assaulted them, sending the mother to the hospital with facial fractures and other injuries. Since the incident, other parents have reported that their children have also been bullied by the same group of boys. Passaic Gifted and Talented Academy, the school in question, has offered to pay the mother’s medical bills but there haven’t been any further statements on how they plan to handle the racist bullying going on in their building. If nothing else, it’s clear that the “boys will be boys” approach is not acceptable and anyone still hiding behind that platitude is disgusting. Read more from CNN.
Few things make me roll my eyes as much as white people complaining about affirmative action. Some of this annoyance, I’m sure, comes from white peers telling me every day that I somehow got into Lake Oswego High School, the public school closest to my childhood home, through affirmative action. It also comes from the reality that there are white people scamming programs designed to serve historically oppressed communities at the highest level and these affirmative action critics couldn’t be trying harder to ignore this. Consider a recent report from the LA Times that found white business owners fraudulently claiming Cherokee heritage have bilked the federal government for over $300 million in contracts in 18 states since 2000. To many who follow minority business news, this isn’t a revelation. Reports of white business owners claiming indigenous ancestry or using their spouses of color to qualify for programs designed to support Black and Brown entrepreneurs is so common it's cliche. Nonetheless, it continues and those seeking to keep our collective attention on hypothetical people of color using affirmative action to fill our institutions up with unqualified people of color rather than the reality of white business owners scamming these programs are only seemingly more emboldened to peddle their dog whistle racism. Read more from the Root.
Critical Race Theory
There’s a tendency among some white women to tighten up when you call out “white feminism” because it’s uncomfortable. That said, when we use an intersectional lens to analyze social justice issues, it’s a pretty safe bet that women of color, and Black women and Black trans women in particular, will be bearing the brunt of whatever the issue is. Workplace sexual harassment is no different. A recent study published by the journal Gender, Work and Organization found that workplace sexual harassment complaints have dropped by nearly 40 percent between 1997 and 2017. When you dig deeper into the data, you find a huge chasm between the rate of complaints made by white women versus Black women. Specifically, sexual harassment complaints from white women dropped by 70 percent in the 20-year time period while Black women’s complaints only dropped by 38 percent. In other words, Black women are still far more likely to be harassed and it’s hard not to extrapolate that the reason boils down to their collective lack of political capital in comparison to their white counterparts. To put it even more simply, perpetrators believe they have a better chance of getting away with harassment when their targets are Black women. Based on the societal narratives that oversexualize and paint Black women as hyper aggressive, these perpetrators are usually right. Read more from the Root.
Believe it or not, many laws used to exploit racism today were *gasp* rooted in racism from the beginning. Consider Section 1325 of US Immigration Law. Section 1325 allows the federal government to deport people simply for crossing the border illegally. It has been up to different administrations whether or not to enforce it and most recently, the Trump Administration has seized on Section 1325 to terrorize immigrants. Congress first passed a law in 1924 to appease immigration restrictionists and eugenicists that radically curbed European immigration. However, while this built upon laws that already banned Asian immigration, it didn’t target Latin America. Then in 1929, white supremacist senator Coleman Blease created a law that enforced blanket criminalization of unauthorized entry. Over 44,000 cases were prosecuted over the next decade and then the law was more or less ignored until the George W. Bush Administration brought it back to kick off our post 9/11 era of rampant Islamophobia. Now, just as the original intent of these efforts was to target other immigrant groups, it has again shifted to Latin America with deftly precision. Thus, it shouldn’t be a surprise that some candidates are zeroing in on Section 1325 and saying we should repeal it altogether. After all, history has a habit of repeating itself. Read more from Vice News.
The Fragility Breaker
Let’s be clear. The Confederates were terrorists. They were responsible for one of the bloodiest conflicts on American soil in the form of the Civil War, all in the name of protecting the institution of slavery. I have no time for anyone trying to legitimize and/or glorify Confederate terrorists. Taking down and replacing EVERY Confederate monument is one of the many jobs programs America needs right now. The idea that any of this could be considered a fringe position is just further evidence of white privilege and specifically, our country’s unwillingness to treat the legacy of the Confederacy with the same energy we treat anyone else we consider traitors and criminals on a far smaller scale. Recently, while promoting his new HBO show, Bryan Stevenson explained how the South, and specifically the Confederacy won the narrative war despite losing the Civil War. He noted that the vast majority of Americans can’t name a lynching victim pre-1950s even though the time period from Reconstruction through the 40s was the height of these acts of terrorism in this country. In fact, the common refrain that slavery was 150 years ago and we need to get over it just proves how lasting this deliberate mischaracterization of history has been. This isn’t innocent. It’s not a matter of perspective. If you’re still giving Confederate sympathizers the benefit of the doubt, you are part of the problem. Read more from CBS News.