Anti-Racism

The posts in this category discuss issues relating to institutional racism (differential access to goods, services, and opportunities in society based on race) and anti-racism (social movements, policies, and actions aimed to undo institutional racism and establish equity).

Remembering Ki’tay Davidson

Although I have returned from my trip to Guatemala a more than one month ago, mentally, my time there feels much more distant. Caught up in my hectic life, I truly have to pause and really think deeply to summon the memories of a simpler, special time. Yet, when I was there, I had many moments where I found myself wishing I could be back in the United States.

My attention was mostly straying to the political–wishing I could participate in protests against the lack of indictment for Daniel Pantaleo, the officer responsible for killing Eric Garner, actions demanding justice for the 43 students murdered in Ayotzinapa, Mexico, and especially in actions that linked these two tragedies together due to their state-sponsored violence.

My feelings of homesickness shifted from the political to the personal when I learned that Ki’tay Davis had passed away. Ki’tay was someone I admired from afar at disability rights events, and looked forward to getting to know better this year. I am so saddened that I will not have the opportunity to do so.

Reading Ki’tay’s post on Black Girl Dangerous “Angry About the White Lesbians Suing For Having A Black Child? You’re Missing Something” and Lydia Brown’s heartfelt tribute to “one of the most awesome people who ever happened to me” on Autistic HoyaI so appreciate his talents at effectively advocating for justice with people at the intersections of race, sexuality, and disability. I want to express most sincere, albeit far too belated, condolences to his loved ones for an awesome person who I wish had happened to more of us.

 

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more thoughts on Michael Brown

During Washington, DC’s national moment of silence for Michael Brown at Malcolm X Park, the organizers read aloud the names of African Americans who had been murdered for living while black and brown–Eric Garner, Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo….each name in this litany was said with great care yet was also such a cruel reminder of their horrific unjust deaths.

Image Source: Jason Aq

Image Source: Jason Aqui. Say Their Names. August 23, 2014.

In an earlier draft of my post about Michael Brown, I reflected on how sad I felt as each name was read. And how I, as a white woman from a privileged background growing up under the impression that police protect and serve all people, first learned about the ever-present threat of police brutality experienced by people of color. I was a teenage bookworm, and one of the many books I read in my adolescence was Jacqueline Woodson’s young adult novel If You Come Softly. The title, I just learned, while doing some background research for this post, comes from an Audre Lorde poem that begins:

If you come softly
as the wind within the trees
you may hear what I hear
see what sorrow sees.

If You Come Softly tells the story of two teenagers who feel like they don’t fit in–Ellie and Jeremiah–who meet and fall in love at a Manhattan prep school. Because Ellie is white and Jewish and Jeremiah is African American, they are nervous to tell their friends and families about their blossoming romance. One night after a date with Ellie, Jeremiah, giddy with young love, starts running through Central Park, and is shot and killed by a police officer, who assumed that he must be fleeing a crime scene. Reading this novel where I so easily identified with Ellie and the world Jacqueline Woodson created, only to have it explode due to racist brutality deeply moved me. I do not want to dramatize the novel’s effect on me, but I truly believe in the power of reading to build empathy and expose people to different points of view, and I do believe reading If You Come Softly marked a first step in getting me to question my unearned privilege from being white and false belief of police as enforcers of safety.

I took this reflection out of my first post because Jeremiah is the son of a famous director and a famous writer. From when I first read this novel, I interpreted his parentage as a way of signifying that fame is not immune to racist violence. But since there has been a lot of discourse about how highlighting Michael Brown as a high school graduate about to attend college frames him as “a black man who didn’t deserve to get shot” as though there are those that do deserve to be killed by the police, I decided to leave these thoughts out. Michael Brown was exceptional though, to his friends and family, to the people who loved him. In a Democracy Now! interview from August 12, Michael Brown’s father described his son, “He was funny, silly. He’d make you laugh. Any problems that’d be going on or any situation, there wasn’t nothing that he couldn’t solve. He’d bring people back together.”

I had also taken this out of my post because I want to be very aware of my positionality as a white ally, and never take it for granted. I want to show up and listen, not make my contributions all about me and my point of view. This past weekend, I talked with a friend about how my earlier post felt unfinished, and my feelings of hesitancy to share all that was on my mind. She listened and encouraged me to not hold back in my writing and express these layers in my thought process. She added that it sounded like I was still working through how to be an ally and find myself in the movement.

I really appreciated her feedback, and I think there is a lot of truth in her perception that my navigation of allyship is a work in progress. I was also reminded of a scene in The Education of a WASP, a memoir that charts Lois Stavely’s evolution from a complacent white Midwesterner in the 1960s to a dedicated anti-racist ally. In this scene, Lois’s friend Barbara tells her about the different types of allies she has met over the years working in solidarity with white people.

“Look,” Barbara continued, she “was not going to stereotype whites as they stereotyped blacks, but white people did break down into certain categories….But it was the white liberals who, as she had come to believe were more destructive than the greedy or the damaged ego-whites.”

After Barbara enumerated on these categories of white allies, Lois asked, knowing that Barbara will give her an honest answer, “what group do I fit into? ” Barbara tells her, “I don’t know, and I don’t think you know yet yourself.”  Tragically so much of life rendered in this memoir casts a shadow to this day (it was eerie to re-read the scene I described in my post on Trayvon Martin about how the young developmentally disabled boy who had been lynched was left hanging as a “lesson” to the neighborhood). The author of this post gives a present day example of more harm than good wrought by white liberals co-opting the movement for justice for Mike Brown.

In some ways, I am much like Lois captured in that moment. I am unsure of my footing and how to contribute to the anti-racism movement in the most meaningful way, and about making mistakes that will hurt those I wish to support. As described in FreeQuency’s post, I did feel like I was appropriating the vulnerability experienced by African Americans confronted by the police by doing the “hands up, don’t shoot” chant with my hands raised, and even though the Black Panther Party declares, “all power to all the people,” I still felt as though I was mimicking a gesture that was not meant for me when I did the Black Power Salute. I wholeheartedly want to and will keep showing up for justice, but I know I need to be ever mindful not to appropriate and co-opt, yet I need to try not silence myself as I describe this journey and the missteps I have made and will continue to make along the way.

I want to bring this post full circle and emphasize that in this journey, the demand for justice for Mike Brown is a movement, and for those allies reading please reflect on these ideas, and get involved by educating yourself, supporting The Saint-Louis based Organization for Black Struggle, thoughtfully and respectfully participating in rallies and marches in your area, and although I have expressed ambivalence about my role as an ally in this post, I am never ambivalent about being an ally, we as white people need to come out for justice, but come softly when doing so.

 

New & Noteworthy: legacies of struggle, words from Hedy Epstien & Angela Davis

This short post shares interviews from two women–Hedy Epstein and Angela Davis–each speaking about the interconnections among different struggles for justice and equity.

The first clip is Democracy Now! Journalist Amy Goldman’s interview with Hedy Epstein, the newly famous 90-year-old Holocaust survivor arrested in St. Louis during a protest demanding justice for Mike Brown’s death. When Amy questioned Hedy about the arrest, and asked “what keeps her going?” Hedy responded that because of her experience being oppressed, she must act “because anyone who stands idly by becomes complicit.”

1. Democracy Now! “Stop the Violence from Ferguson to Gaza: 90-Year-Old Holocaust Survivor Arrested in St. Louis.” August 20, 2014. http://www.democracynow.org/2014/8/20/stop_the_violence_from_ferguson_to

The second clip comes from a speech Angela Davis gave when she was honored by the UK-based anti-poverty organization War on Want. Among the topics she addressed was the passing of Nelson Mandela, and how “Mandela urged us to see connections in freedom struggles” to find solidarity among the people of South Africa, the American South, Vietnam, and Latin America. She also commented that we are living in the legacies of these struggles, and quotes Mandela directly: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”

2. Colorlines. “Angela Davis on Palestine and the Prison Industrial Complex.” July 22, 2014. http://colorlines.com/archives/2014/07/angela_davis_on_palestine_and_the_prison_industrial_complex.html

Responding to the death of Michael Brown, what a sincere white person can do

On Thursday, I joined the National Moment of Silence in Washington, DC for Michael Brown’s murder at the hands of six-year veteran officer Darren Wilson. Scanning the crowd, I saw adorable children holding up signs reading “Don’t Shoot” as they sat on the shoulders of their parents, and among the signs demanding justice and decrying the horror of Michael Brown’s death, one stayed in my mind, perfectly capturing the cyclical nightmare of where we stood. On a white poster board was written lyrics from  2pac’s song Changes:

Cops give a damn about a negro?  Pull the trigger, kill a nigga, he’s a hero

Even though time has disproved the lyric we ain’t ready to see a black President, so much in the world 2pac described stands, well, unchanged. That night in Malcolm X Park surrounded by so many, I felt momentarily buoyed by the crowd’s active energy as we chanted “Brown lives matter. Black lives matter.”

Image Source: Alternet. August 17, 2014. "Woman Behind Powerful Mike Brown Protest Photo Defies 'Respectability Politics.'"

Image Source: Alternet. August 17, 2014. “Woman Behind Powerful Mike Brown Protest Photo Defies ‘Respectability Politics.'”

Less than a year ago, I wrote a reflection about Trayvon Martin’s death on this blog, and shared a quote from Malcolm X’s autobiography regarding his perspective on the role of white allies in the anti-racism movement. I had posed this quote as a rhetorical question, “what can a sincere white person do?”  Now less than a year later, I need to answer this question once again with Malcolm’ X’s own words.

“Where the really sincere white people have got to do their “proving” of themselves is not among the black victims, but out on the battle lines of where America’s racism really is—and that’s in their own home communities; America’s racism is among their own fellow whites. That’s where sincere whites who really mean to accomplish something have got to work.”

In an editorial in Saint Louis Today titled “Let’s Talk About Race,” Associate Law Professor at Washington University in St. Louis Dr. John D. Inazu, succinctly states “So let me implore my white friends and colleagues not to let this be a ‘black thing.'” Yesterday, I discovered a podcast called “Hyphenated,” and in Friday’s episode, the speakers advised would-be white allies to “show up, listen, don’t talk over black people, come in with open heart and open mind, and combat racism in your community.” Enacting this advice begins with informing oneself, and a post on Everyday Feminism has beaten me to an annotated resource list that includes Colorlines’ excellent Daily Newsroundups from Ferguson and link to Saint Louis based organization On The Black Struggle, which is on the ground in Ferguson demanding justice now.

Last night, I attended another vigil, one supporting children fleeing violence in Central America. The organizer addressed the crowd saying, “we stand in solidarity not just for our children and families at the border, but also with our brothers and sisters in Ferguson.” It is all to easy to connect the dots to the painful histories of militarized police violence pushing families to flee Central America and what taking place in Ferguson today. I held up a sign with a message that speaks to both tragedies and our need to start making some changes.” We demand compassion and justice for all children.”

New & Noteworthy: Shattering the Pedestal

In a brief post just before 2013 draws to a close, two stories have recently caught my attention. It is funny to note how 2013 has been a year full of Internet outcry moments in response to celebrities of all sorts. There is so much to unpack in terms of intersecting oppressions due to race, class, and gender, and the links below blend wit and insight into this analysis.

1. Tim Wise’s twitter rants undermining his professed principles. Critical Spontaneity.
“Tim Wise, informed by Tim Wise.” August 15, 2013. http://criticalspontaneity.com/2013/08/15/tim-wise-informed-by-tim-wise/

2. Ani DiFranco’s plan to host her “Righteous Retreat” on a Louisiana plantation. Bitch Media. “Five Perspectives on Ani DiFranco’s Planned Retreat at a Former Plantation.” December 31, 2013. http://bitchmagazine.org/post/five-perspectives-on-ani-difrancos-planned-retreat-at-a-former-plantation 

New and Noteworthy: Windows to African American History

1. “Slave Revolt in Jamaica, 1760-1761, A Cartographic Narrative.”  http://revolt.axismaps.com/map/

2. Malcolm X Diary & Family Lawsuit http://colorlines.com/archives/2013/11/malcolm_xs_daughter_to_release_his_diaries_this_week.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

3, Barlett’s Familiar Black Quotations http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/27/books/bartletts-familiar-black-quotations-covers-5000-years.html & http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=247166538

New and Noteworthy: 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom

On August 24th, I participated in the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. I had the sense that I was marching in a spiral–in the inner rung was a tribute to the past.  A tribute to the Civil Rights Heroes who marched 50 years ago, Myrlie Evers and John Lewis, who shared their resounding voices on the podium.  In the outer rung was one of many reminders of the dream unfulfilled of jobs and freedom  that I and so many were marching for, present in the fast food workers strike held the following day.

Recordings from March on Washington & 50th Anniversary via Democracy Now!

1. http://www.democracynow.org/2013/8/28/50_years_after_march_on_washington

2. http://www.democracynow.org/2013/8/26/50_years_after_march_on_washington

Present Day Labor Struggles — Fast Food Workers Walkouts 

1. http://www.alternet.org/one-day-after-50th-anniversary-march-washington-record-number-fast-food-workers-strike-nationwide

2. http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/fast-food-workers-to-stage-walkouts-in-cities-nationwide-to-demand-higher-pay/2013/08/29/a08db102-1074-11e3-a2b3-5e107edf9897_story_1.html

March set to Music

1.  http://www.okayplayer.com/news/the-music-behind-the-march-on-washington.html

New and Noteworthy: Parsing Inequality

1. The Economic Policy Institute created this fun website, which uses interactive accessible tools to dispell the myths and explain the causes, effects, and potential solutions to economic inequality http://inequality.is/fixable

2. Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce’s report examined enrollment trends at 4,400 postsecondary institutions over the past 15 years to draw the conclusion that America’s higher education system is increasingly reproducing white racial privilege from one generation to the next  http://cew.georgetown.edu/separateandunequal/