Thursday, October 23, 2014

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Race and Racism: Why won't you believe me?

"I don’t like using the word racist because if you use it it means you are an angry black person. Angry black people are the old black and everyone knows that’s pathological. The new black is accomplished, assimilated, and integrated. The new black reaches across the aisle. The old black is positioned in a no-win situation where to express an opinion based on what you see, experience, feel or deduce risks falling right into some white folk’s notion of black insanity." An Open Letter, by Claudia Rankine 

"A few years back, white Americans were asked whether or not we believe that racial discrimination was still a significant national problem for people of color, or whether it was just a problem, you know, like junk mail...6% said yes, it was a significant problem...In 1962, when Gallup asked, 'Do you think that black children receive equal educational opportunities in your community?' 90% of white folks said yes. Nothing to see here. What is all this complaining? What is this march on Washington? I don’t get it.

"[I]n every generation, the members of the dominant group have said there is no problem, and in every generation, without fail, we have been wrong. And in every generation, people of color, those who were the targets of that oppression and subordination, have said there is a problem, and in every generation, without fail, they have been right. So the question for us today, what are the odds, honestly, that people of color, who have never gotten it wrong, have suddenly lost their minds? - Tim Wise, white anti-racism activist in The Pathology of Privilege (video here)

When living and working in a white world as a non-white individual, one accretes a collection of little slights. One hears a inappropriate comment here, a strange reaction there, the occasional illogical decision followed by a nonsensical explanation. Sure, these things happen when you're white, too. But the big difference between experiencing these things as a white person and as a non-white person is that if you're white, you can generally just wave these things off and think to yourself, "That person is just weird" or "That's just how it goes in academia!"

Microaggression statements from the photo project by Kiyun at Fordham University (nortonism.tumblr.com)
However, as a non-white person you are almost always left with one additional lingering concern, "Was that because I'm not white?" (Okay, I'm keeping things general in writing here. In my mind it sounds more like, "Wait, was that because I'm Black?")

Monday, October 20, 2014

Tweeting the Kepler Dichotomy, feat. Sarah Ballard






Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A brief history of whiteness

This is a brief version of this history recounted in American Freedom, American Slavery by Edmund S. Morgan. He covers the origin of whiteness in the 1600's, the deal with the devil made by working class whites who chose whiteness over wage-worker solidarity, and then takes us through present day debates around immigration and New Orleans. This is anti-racist essayist and activist Tim Wise, leveraging his white privilege to directly assault the structure of racism in our society:



Here's the full version, which starts with this introduction (full PDF transcript):
I want to thank all of you for coming out. I want to start off by telling you that I think it is probably a good idea when somebody stands in front of you and is proclaimed by virtue of their bio and by virtue of their curriculum vitae, their resume, that part of which is read to you, by way of their nice comments made of them by others, proclaim to be an expert. Ask yourself why it is that you are listening to that person and not somebody else. In this culture, we are lead to believe that if someone stands before you, a proclaimed expert, that it must be that they are the brightest bulbs in the box – that they know something that the other people don’t know.

I am not standing in front of you, and you are not listening to me, because I am the most informed person in the country on racism or white privilege, not because I am the best speaker on the subject. I am fairly good, and I intend to demonstrate that to you amply in the next hour. It isn’t because I am the best writer on the subject, though I am ok with that as well. It is instead because I, and I know this, fit the aesthetic that is needed on too many campuses and too many communities around the country in order to come in and give this talk.
Nothing that I am going to say tonight, or at least very little, originated in my head. Nothing that I am going to say tonight, or at least very little, is in fact new. Almost every single thing that I am going to say this evening is wisdom that has been shared with me either patiently, or sometimes not so patiently, by people of color who have in almost every instance forgotten more about the subjects of racism and white privilege since breakfast yesterday than I will likely ever know, and yet they will not be asked to give eighty five engagements around the country this year or next on this subject. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Happy Kleptocracy Day!

Kleptocracy (n): a government or state in which those in power exploit national resources and steal; rule by a thief or thieves.

Today is what most Americans know as Columbus Day, in the honor of Christopher Columbus. Ol' Chris was a murdering, thieving, trifling, evil little turd of a man who "discovered" the Caribbean Islands. The "New World" that we often think of Columbus of "discovering," namely North America, had been occupied for about 12 millennia---yes 12,000 years---before any European arrived. The first European to arrive in the Americas was probably a Viking, Leif Ericson, about 500 years before Columbus was born. Also, the Earth was known to be round since the time of the Greeks by Erastosthenes; a discovery replicated by Arab scientists hundreds of years before Spainish rule. So, yeah, most of what I learned about Columbus in school was a flat out lie: Columbus didn't discovery anything except a new, quick way of obtaining gold: straight up stealing it from other people.

When Chris arrived, he encountered peaceful natives who helped his men come ashore and readily traded with them. Chris and the Spaniard soldiers with him then proceeded to brutally enslave the Natives during several subsequent visits to their islands, working them literally to death and cutting off the noses, ears and limbs of those who protested their treatment. They also forced the native women and girls into sexual bondage, and shipped Natives back to Spain as fealty to the Queen. The trip left the majority of the Natives dead before arrival. Classy, right?

Screen capture of a larger illustrated history by theoatmeal.com. In case there is anything vague in the wording,
Columbus casually states in his journal that his soldiers prefer girls of age 9-10 years as sex slaves. Since he's
such an upstanding Catholic hero, I'm sure Chris preferred his sex slaves to be a bit older.
This is a true historical account of our national "hero." We have a day off because a white dude stumbled onto occupied lands and stole gold and people. Here's a quick account based on Columbus' own journal. Here's a cartoon account with more details. Here's an excellent essay on the evolving perception of Columbus. 

This is why we have a day off work. This is just one of many racist aspects of our society. Please don't turn away. This is our history. This informs who we are today as a nation and a people. 

Happy Kleptocracy Day!

So instead of just celebrating just one thief, I propose that we celebrate a long history of nation-building via thievery. I propose that today be known as Kleptocracy Day. To celebrate, I suggest we all go out, "discover something" (Oooh! A microbrewery!), and steal whatever we want. Then I propose that on Tuesday we name a sports team after the owner of the store we stole from, force his family to live in a desert, and call ourselves exceptional heroes. Because America!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

What happens when you just stop and listen to young Black men?

You discover humanity, rather than stereotypes. You find passion mixed with frustration. You find potential inexplicably bottled up. Why can't we do better for the citizens of this country? 

This is happening right now. This is in your neighborhood, or more likely the next neighborhood over. This is in your university or school. This is your world.

Read, learn, discuss, help. Please.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Race in the media: individual vs. systemic

Here's the original post at illdoctrine. Here's the video post that tackles one way in which the popular media gets race and racism all wrong: