Copyright © 2019 Respond to Racism in LO

This Week’s 5: Demanding What We Actually Want

August 23, 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

Using your position of power in a major political party to cover for white supremacist terrorism is nothing short of despicable. Nonetheless, it appears many in GOP leadership are willing to throw the full weight of the party behind PR for white supremacists, as evidenced by the recent leak of a GOP strategy document on how to respond to mass shootings. According to the House Republicans’ document, when asked about whether white nationalism was fueling mass shootings, GOP officials were instructed to say hate is evil but there is violence on both sides. The talking points went on to falsely link the El Paso shooter to leftist ideology, even though he published a white supremacist manifesto, and instruct politicians to hyper focus on leftist violence, even though literally all of the deadly domestic terrorism incidents in 2018 were connected to right wing extremism. It’s important to note (over and over again) that this isn’t happening in a vacuum. The Trump Administration has slashed funding for law enforcement efforts and other programs targeting white supremacy. Channels like Fox News that have millions of viewers are claiming white supremacy is a “hoax.” At the very least, these forces are creating all the circumstances for a disaster much worse than the one we are already in. Read more from Newsweek.

 

 

Institutional

As each week goes by, it bears repeating that the state-sponsored terror campaign against immigrants hasn’t missed a beat since a white supremacist shot up an El Paso Walmart to terrorize Latinx people. In the past, common decency compelled the government not to follow in the footsteps of domestic terrorists with laws echoing their sentiments, at least not this transparently. Nonetheless, those days apparently are over. This week, the Trump Administration is reignited its efforts to rescind the Flores Settlement, an agreement that bars the government from detaining immigrant children for more than 20 days. This rule has been one of the few things protecting some families from being detained indefinitely. Yet, barring a court order, it could be rescinded and the new rules allowing indefinite detention would go into effect in the next two months. Doctors, phycologists, and child welfare experts all agree that detention is extremely damaging to children’s mental and physical health. With an estimated 430,000 family units apprehended by border patrol since October, we are looking at an obscene amount of children who will be forever scarred by this trauma. To make matters worse, the common refrain continues to be that these immigration policy decisions are a matter of “appealing to the base.” In other words, brutalizing millions of people is just part of a cynical political game and many people seem to be just fine with that. Read more from the Huffington Post.

 

 

Critical Race Theory

One of the universal frustrations of many underrepresented groups in politics is that people who proclaim to be our allies are only willing to walk that walk until a point. Usually that point is when it threatens their power. Then they have no problem leveraging that power to silence you, be it through threatening your finances and/or reputation. As a result, underrepresented groups have been conditioned to be afraid of demanding what we actually want. Even though our constitution says we are all created equal, underrepresented people are either afraid to say we want power or have to “safely” frame it as rugged individualism because we know that deep down, a real power shift is what a lot of white people, including some of our self-proclaimed allies, really fear. Perhaps that’s why it was so encouraging to see the Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders Rising & Empowering (ASPIRE) political action committee challenge the Democratic National Committee to assure the presence of at least one moderator of Asian American/Pacific Islander descent in the presidential primary debates. In the past, this request might be refuted with references to three candidates with AAPI ancestry or simply, the presence of moderators of color period. However, the fact is that moderators shape the debate and having a variety of perspectives matters. One can only hope that the DNC doesn’t ignore this critical representation issue. Read more from the Huffington Post.

 

 

History

This week, we recognized the 400 year anniversary of the first enslaved Black people arriving on US soil. Aug. 20, 1619 would go on to influence how countless Americans move throughout the world to this day. That most certainly includes white women. Author Stephanie Jones-Rogers gets to the root of this dynamic in her recent book, “They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South.” The book, in part, is a response to historians of the past who relied on the writings of Southern white women to draw their conclusions on the role of white women in slavery. Unsurprisingly, these portrayals made white women out to be innocent bystanders and caregivers while their husbands drove the institution. Instead of giving the benefit of the doubt to these narratives, Jones-Rogers looked to interviews conducted with formerly enslaved people as part of the Great Depression era Federal Writers’ Project. What she found was that in reality, many white women were slave owners themselves and many more were active participants in all aspects of the brutality. Jones-Rogers notes in a recent interview that some white girls were gifted their own slaves at very young ages. This helped build a sense of ownership of other people before they could even understand what that meant. Fast forward to 2019 and you can see the lingering effects, not just in white women who overtly support white supremacy, but self-proclaimed allies who, through their actions, insist Black people stay in their place. Read more from Vox.

 

 

The Fragility Breaker

James Baldwin famously said, “We can disagree and still love each other, unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and the denial of my humanity and right to exist.” When it comes to white supremacy, it’s really that simple. We’ve seen a rise in white supremacist terrorism and despite what many self-proclaimed allies would like to think, it’s not just the fault of overt bigots and “bad people.” The fact is, many white people who now fashion themselves as allies actively chose to avoid the discomfort of confronting both the overt and institutional racism all around them, often providing cover and gaslighting people of color all along the way. One of the more disingenuous manifestations of this is the notion that white supremacy is simply a difference of opinion. People who push this idea insist that white supremacists should be entitled to a legitimate political platform even though they are advocating for the exclusion and harm of communities of color, with many following through with violence and harassment in the streets. This is especially ridiculous considering that some politicians are actively trying to get Antifa (Antifascists), who, it should be noted, haven’t killed anyone, labeled a terrorist organization. What’s even more frustrating is that simply pointing this out will make some self-proclaimed allies even more defensive. After all, it’s uncomfortable to hear they’re part of the problem, but apparently not as uncomfortable as doing the work to make actual change. Read more from the Nation.

 

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