Copyright © 2019 Respond to Racism in LO

This Week’s 5: Please Stop with the Black People Field Trip Stories

September 20, 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

There are a lot of thoughts that come to mind when I read the headline, “Texas Teacher Who Asked Trump to Deport ‘Illegal Students’ at Her School Gets Fired.” The first is, how did she get through the screening process? I know all too well how white supremacists, like anyone else, can put on their best faces for job interviews, but it’s hard to believe that anyone bold enough to tweet about deporting her students would not have exposed herself at various points during a detailed vetting process. Nonetheless, a school district put her in charge of children and she repaid their trust by repeatedly threatening vulnerable students. Not only did Georgia Clark (who should never be allowed to work with children ever again) tweet to the president to suggest deporting Latinx students, but she used the same threat during school hours. In a time where ICE is literally rounding up people and throwing them in detention camps, anyone dismissing Clark’s comments as innocent jokes should also be prevented from working with children. Unfortunately, as many of us know, Clark is far from the only teacher in America spreading this bigotry to every child she touches. The question is, since we all know this is dangerous and patently unacceptable, what are we going to do about it? Read more from the Root.

 

 

Institutional

One of the more disgusting phenomenons of the last several years has been the intensity in which many Republican groups have approached voter suppression. The practice in itself is shameful, but especially following the election of President Barack Obama, it has taken on a “surgical precision” in targeting Black and Brown potential voters. Beyond just voting, these efforts seek to limit the political representation of marginalized people. A prominent example is the Trump Administration’s recent executive order that instructs the Census Bureau to collect citizenship data using administrative records. This executive order came in response to the Supreme Court rejecting the administration’s attempt to put a citizenship question on the Census, which would almost certainly intimidate undocumented Americans from participating, and thus, deprive their communities of the support and resources that are determined using Census estimates. Specifically, it would determine how voter maps are drawn and disproportionately disenfranchise Latinx communities. Thankfully, civil rights groups are suing the administration to block the executive order. Hopefully they win. Read more from Mother Jones.

 

 

Critical Race Theory

It’s no secret that many view climate change as an issue dominated by white voices in the media. Even though poor Black and Brown communities are disproportionately feeling the worst effects of climate change, collectively, we tend to associate climate change activism with white personalities. For example, many people were enthralled with Swedish activist Greta Thunberg’s Congressional testimony this week. As the founder of the youth climate strike, Thunberg is a powerful personality who is more than deserving of all the praise she receives. That said, while many are familiar with Thunberg, far fewer are aware of her domestic counterpart, Irsa Hirsi, a 16-year-old leader of the US Youth Climate Strike. This is especially odd considering that Hirsi just happens to be the daughter of Ilhan Omar, one of the most famous politicians in America. Even Hirsi admits that the whiteness of other climate change movements motivated her to do her own thing, noting in a recent Vice article that she wasn’t moved by a deep love of nature or the outdoors, which pervades a lot of white-led climate activist messaging. Instead, Hirsi focused on issues like polluted water poisoning Black and Brown communities. She was also deliberate in helping facilitate activism where young people of color could see themselves, taking the lessons she learned from participating in police brutality protests at the age of 12. Read more from Vice News.

 

 

History

Sep. 15 marked the beginning of Latinx Heritage Month (City of Lake Oswego, what are you doing to celebrate?). The observation runs from Sep. 15 through Oct. 15 and honors the contributions of Americans of Mexican, Spanish, Caribbean, and Central and South American descent. For those wondering why the observation starts on Sep. 15, it’s because the mid-September date coincides with the independence celebrations of Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Nicaragua. Latinx Heritage Month is as good a time as ever to remind people of the many foundational contributions Latinx people have made to this country. For example, transgender activist Sylvia Rivera is widely credited for the inclusion of the “T” in LGBTQ. This may come as a surprise to many who view the struggle for LGBTQ empowerment as a white-dominated effort based on media representation and the historical suppression of LGBTQ voices of color. In spite of these phenomenons and the transphobia within gay liberation movements of the 60s, Rivera still managed to make an indelible mark on the movement and the country. Rivera was a pivotal figure in the 1969 Stonewall Riots, established the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, co-founded the Gay Liberation Front, and is the only transgender person featured in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. Read more from the Huffington Post.

 

 

The Fragility Breaker

Let me give you a peak behind the curtain. Election season is a tricky time for columns like these. We try to stay away from commenting on candidates because any opinions can be taken as an endorsement or attempt to sway voters. However, the pressure of campaigning often creates a litany of case studies on what to do, and perhaps more importantly, what not to do when navigating issues of race. Former Vice President Joe Biden, in particular, has been on a role. His latest, for lack of better terms, gaffe, is his insistence on repeating the story of a run-in he had in the 60s with a Black man nicknamed “Corn Pop.” According to Biden, he volunteered at a public pool in the Black community in an effort to learn more about Black people, and on one occasion, he got into an argument with Corn Pop, who he characterized as a gang leader. The argument allegedly spilled out into the parking lot and included Corn Pop threatening Biden with a rusty razor while Biden came with a chain wrapped around his fist. Listening to this retelling, the only thing I could think was, why? Why do white people think taking field trips to see Black people in our natural habitat is somehow endearing? Even if the story is true, did Biden ever stop to think that reducing Corn Pop and his community to this one cartoonish experience could be harmful? Obviously not. Why let a little thing like thoughtfulness get in the way of a good conquering-the-scary-Black-people story? To Biden and everyone cheering this nonsense on, we see you. Read more from the Root.

 

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