Copyright © 2019 Respond to Racism in LO

This Week’s 5: Ilhan Omar and the Read America Deserves

July 26, 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

White supremacist terrorism isn’t just a major problem, it is THE terrorism problem in the US. This hasn’t changed since the arrival of the Pilgrims, but just like the rest of US history, the people controlling the narrative continue to aggressively avoid acknowledging it. That said, it’s not because there aren’t people trying to sound the alarm. The latest instance occurred in a congressional hearing with FBI Director Christopher Wray. During the hearing, Wray was asked about the propensity of white supremacist terrorism and he confirmed, for the now seemingly millionth time, that they are responsible for the overwhelming majority of deadly domestic terrorist incidents. Before you rush to applaud Wray for the bare minimum, he went on to side-step any discussion of how Trump has perpetuated the myth of white supremacy not being a problem (In case you forgot, this was right after the New Zealand terrorist attacks) and how Trump’s racist screeds against “The Squad” are emboldening white supremacists. Needless to say, expect to see yet another repeat of this hearing and then no followup action because clearly, white America still isn’t concerned enough. I hope to be proven wrong, but so far, that hasn’t happened. Read more from the Root.

 

 

Institutional

ICE is terrorizing immigrants of color, as well as their family and friends. They have shown they will use any excuse whatsoever to persecute these communities, as demonstrated by Trump’s initial proposition that he would only target violent criminals, which has since evolved into classifying all immigrants as dangerous criminals. Every week, we see footage of people being crammed into cages like cattle. We hear about children dying in custody because of criminal neglect, such as the story of a boy recently being left to die alone in a cell because of an untreated case of the flu. There is only so much of this oppression porn that people can take and one group of people in Tennessee decided to literally put their bodies on the line to interrupt it. Specifically, when ICE came for a member of their community, they formed a human chain around the person. With others providing food and water, they eventually forced ICE to back down. As heartwarming as this story is, it’s also sad that people must go to these extremes to stand up to enforce some semblance of basic humanity. Our government’s job is to protect people. That a very visible, state-sponsored terror campaign is happening with the entire world watching is a stain on the US reputation that we will deservedly have to live with for generations to come. Read more from ABC Action News.

 

 

Critical Race Theory

Representation matters because microaggresions manifest in different ways for different groups and unfortunately, many people have decided that they need to see these incidents in action (specifically, packaged in media-friendly clips) before they acknowledge them. Recently, Representative Ilhan Omar demonstrated this when she responded to a clearly Islamophobic question from a reporter. Specifically, she was asked to condemn female genital mutilation, and instead of politely saying yes and moving on, Omar decided to make a statement. She called out the reporter for not acknowledging her long record of voting and condemning the practice and then pointed out that the media only asks this question to Muslim politicians. Why this is significant is because it plays on the assumption that Islam is a backwards religion (that also has over a billion followers, but who’s counting) and Muslim leaders must thus prove their human rights values at every opportunity. This has long been standard practice for media and because of lack of political capital, Muslim politicians have had to politely shrug it off and play along. With that in mind, Omar’s willingness to call the question “appalling” and then read the reporter for filth was a major moment in American politics. It should be referenced every time a smug reporter tries to pull similar tricks. Children should have it quoted on posters on their walls. Read more from Splinter News.

 

 

History

One of the most effective tactics to stop activism happens long before groups even think about organizing. By not teaching us about the organizers of the past, our education system effectively cuts us off from the necessary knowledge to build off the work of those who came before us. This both gives young organizers the impression that they must build movements from scratch and foments tension with veteran organizers who often go underappreciated, if not ignored, for their immense contributions to pushing justice forward. In order to combat this, we must both teach about radical groups of the past and push the education system to institutionalize these lessons into curriculum. For example, everyone should know about the Young Lords. The Young Lords were a group of radical Puerto Rican activists who formed 50 years ago to push for Puerto Rican self-determination, independence for the island itself, community control of land and institutions, freedom for political prisoners, and an end to the US involvement in the Vietnam War, among other causes. They occupied churches and hospitals to both make a political statement and provide the necessary services for their community members. Their membership also consisted of people from all ethnic backgrounds who were willing to make sacrifices to fight for the cause. Needless to say, they were a great model for the work that needs to be done now. Read more from Democracy Now.

 

 

The Fragility Breaker

There are certain words and phrases that set off mine and other people of color’s Spidey senses when it comes to white people. For example, if you use the phrase “cultural appropriation police,” I can tell a lot about you. Most importantly, I can tell that you care more about how criticism from Brown people makes you feel than the actual wellbeing of Brown people. In fact, you probably prioritize those feelings over Brown people’s actual lives. As much as I would like to indulge the “What about my white story?” crowd, I have no time for that. If years of cultural appropriation stories haven’t trained you not to have a visceral reaction to the Brown people harshly calling it out, you might not be the “ally” you think you are. With that in mind, let’s talk about a recent case of peak caucasity where a white woman not only claimed to invent the bonnet, but branded and sold this product that Black women have been photographed in for generations upon generations, for $98 a piece. It doesn’t get much more 53 Percenter than that. Perhaps five years ago, it would’ve been reasonable to politely correct her and move on, but if you’re still pulling this nonsense in 2019, best case scenario, you’re dangerously clueless and need to be made into an example. Thankfully, Black Twitter is on it, relentlessly dragging this woman as we speak. Hopefully every whiny, “I just can’t do anything right” ally is watching; not because we expect them to do better, but so they can’t say no one warned them. Read more from the Root.

 

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