My Fellow White Folks: It’s Up to Us to Stop Racism

Racism is our problem to solve.

White people like myself are the ones with the problem, and the ones with the vast majority of the power. You may not feel like it. You may want to believe you’re a minority, too, that you’ve experienced racism, that you’re not a racist and never do racist things, that everyone you know is double-plus good, and anyway, it’s hard and not your problem. I’ve heard you. I’ve lived with you, and gone to school with you, and slept with you, and worked with you, and I have been you. And I’m tired of the excuses. So don’t make them here. If you aren’t willing to be the solution, if all you want to do is say, “Well, yes, but…” and come up with excuses as to why the systemic racism in our society isn’t your fault, then you’re not going to be happy with what I’m telling you. I wasn’t happy when I realized it myself, honestly. But shut up and bear with me. Practice your listening. Don’t stop listening until you’ve reached the end of this post.

Listen to Yemmy, for a start: [Read more…]

The Micro- and Macro-aggressions White Folk Don’t See

My friends of color face scenarios I remain blissfully unaware of. I’ll never forget the shock I felt when my half-Mexican friend told me he’d been pulled over for not making a complete stop at a stop sign on a dead-quiet residential street at two in the morning. Six cop cars showed up on short notice. This is in a town of a few thousand people. As one of the few people of color, he was often given increased scrutiny. It was an issue I’ve never faced. My skin color is invisible to most people, especially police.

If I’d listened, I would have heard many more stories. We white people, we need to listen.

Tony posts a cartoon on black folk sticking up being mistaken for stick-up robbers, and comments: [Read more…]

11 Racist Caricatures Infesting Popular Culture

When I was little, my mom wants a Picaninny doll. I had no idea what they were, but the word was odd and sounded sort of cute. That’s what it’s like being a little white girl: racist caricatures that harm other people didn’t strike me as wrong. I had no idea they had anything to do with race, much less that they were based on horrible stereotypes.

Image shows an ad for Picaninny Freeze. A drawing of a black child with enormous lips and a huge slice of watermelon is being used to sell the product.

This ad from 1922 is incredibly racist… and people like my mother didn’t get that even recently. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Deeceevoice

There are all sorts of caricatures that infest our culture. If you’re not the target of the caricature, you can easily miss the racist connotations. You can be oblivious to the messages being sent, the harm they do, and the way they perpetuate the othering of black people. You can unthinkingly perpetuate racist stereotypes, have your opinion colored by them, even if you’re staunchly anti-racism.

Tony recently curated a series explaining eleven of these caricatures. I urge you all to read about them. In becoming more aware of them, we can avoid perpetuating them, and push back when others use them.

[Read more…]

Crowdsourcing Sociological Research on Race and Ethnicity

Anne Fennewick would like a post exploring some of the sociological research we have on race and how it impacts activities like applying for jobs and policing:

I hope some of the posts will look at strategies for overcoming these problems temporarily or permanently. For example, what happens when we anonymize all or part of the application process, and why don’t we, given how easy it would be? Do some police forces do better than others and if so, why? Do black/Hispanic police do better than white police? If so, can we capitalize on that? What social factors are associated with racial prejudice and under what circumstances are they diminished? It would be nice to start taking the sociological research more seriously – we might even end up with better sociological research!

I think this is a fabulous idea, but damn it, Anne, I’m a geologist, not a sociologist. Happily, I’m blogging on a network with lots of bloggers and commenters who know all about sociological studies, and often have many good ones right at their fingertips. So, my darlings, I beg of you: link me those studies, and blog posts about those studies! Send me pdfs, even! You can leave links in the comments, or email me at dhunterauthor at gmail.

I’d also love links to recommended sites discussing race and racism at various levels, from 101 on up. While you’re at it, point me at your favorite books, documentaries, and other resources. I can create a page here with everything gathered in one place. [Read more…]

“The One Thing No One Seems to Want to Remember is How Much Opposition There Was to King”

David Futrelle reminds us that Martin Luther King, Jr. faced plenty of violence, frenzied opposition, and attacks by police and public. Sometimes, we recall the speeches without recalling the chaos. We hear “civil disobedience” and “non-violent opposition,” and forget that those opposed to civil rights used the power of state and terror in an effort to maintain white supremacy.

We should never forget that he didn’t back down in the face of those arrests and attacks. We should never forget his work isn’t finished.

It takes a lot of courage to change the world.

Image shows MLK Jr. in a pale suit and hat, sitting at a counter, surrounded by police.

AP photo of Martin Luther King Jr. getting arrested for loitering, Montgomery, AL, 1958.

Martin Luther King, Jr.: “A Riot is the Language of the Unheard”

Sixty years ago, the color of your skin determined your treatment on Montgomery, Alabama busses:

Under the system of segregation used on Montgomery buses, white people who boarded the bus took seats in the front rows, filling the bus toward the back. Black people who boarded the bus took seats in the back rows, filling the bus toward the front. Eventually, the two sections would meet, and the bus would be full. If other black people boarded the bus, they were required to stand. If another white person boarded the bus, then everyone in the black row nearest the front had to get up and stand, so that a new row for white people could be created. Often when boarding the buses, black people were required to pay at the front, get off, and reenter the bus through a separate door at the back. On some occasions bus drivers would drive away before black passengers were able to reboard.

Rosa Parks wasn’t the first person to challenge that treatment. Martin Luther King Jr. wasn’t the only community leader who fought for an end to Jim Crow. But they rightfully become icons of the Civil Rights movement. We remember them for their peaceful protest. MLK Jr., especially, we remember for nonviolence and civil disobedience. So much so that he’s now thrown in the faces of angry and upset protestors in an effort to shut them up.

On this day, let’s remember more than “I Have a Dream.” Let’s remember that King also said that “A riot is the language of the unheard.” Let’s remember “The Other America.” [Read more…]

Racism and Society Week: The Unequal Opportunity Race

This past year saw a warranted wave of anger at white oppression, as the people of Ferguson, Missouri demanded justice for yet another unarmed black teenager murdered by police. Mike Brown, Eric Garner, John Crawford, Tamir Rice, and far too many others didn’t get justice last year. But I hope history records 2014 as the changing of the tide.

It won’t happen unless we take a stand.

Image is the British crown on a red background atop the words "Stand up and fight racism."

[Read more…]

Ferguson: Some Concrete Actions You Can Take

Things are calming down in Ferguson, but that doesn’t mean we’re done. There’s still a dead teenager, and a culture that finds it all too easy to throw black lives away, and a police department absolutely determined to do nothing, not even fill in a police report on the shooting.

You may feel helpless. You may feel like there’s nothing you can do, but there is. [Read more…]

White America Has Outlawed Existing-While-Black

That’s the only conclusion I can come to after a day spent reading about 18 year-old unarmed black kid Mike Brown’s murder by a white cop with a god complex. It’s 2014, and we’re still a society in which black parents have to explain to their kids how not to get killed by the police, and a society in which a black man can get executed for selling untaxed cigarettes, a black woman for opening her door to police, a young black man for lying face-down as the police compelled him to., and a black man can’t be assaulted by a white one without getting pepper-sprayed and detained. Meanwhile, white people can carry assault rifles wherever they wish, and even brandish them at police without getting shot instantly, but a black man can’t carry a BB gun in Wal-Mart without getting executed by police. An unarmed black teenager gets murdered by a policeman, and a white pundit wants to know why President Obama won’t offer the murderer condolences for having given in to the impulse to destroy an innocent human being.

Are we happy, white Americans? This is the country we’ve made. Remember all that tough-on-crime talk that’s kept us electing people who’ve promised more cops with more powerful weaponry? Remember how we all panicked after 9/11 and decided it was okay if our police were turned into paramilitary units? And how we’ve put all this heavy weaponry in the hands of white people who disproportionately target black people?

I want you to look at what’s happening in Ferguson, to the people who are peacefully protesting a black teenager’s murder.

An unarmed black protestor retreats from police, who have enough firepower to reduce him to random chunks of meat. Image credit: Whitney Curtis, NYT

An unarmed black protestor retreats from police, who have enough firepower to reduce him to random chunks of meat. Image credit: Whitney Curtis, NYT

[Read more…]

Crowdsourcing Books By and/or About Women and People of Color in the Geosciences

You know those moments where you suddenly notice the ism in the background? Had one recently meself. I spent a few weeks going through every single geology book available for Kindle on Amazon. I downloaded a ton of samples. And then I started sifting through them.

I noticed a few disturbing trends.

First, the samples are overwhelmingly by men. Not that this surprises me, but I’d hoped for a larger ratio of women. There were practically none. Hullo, background sexism!

A white peacock's gaudy display overshadows a peahen. Image courtesy Darkros via Wikimedia Commons.

A white peacock’s gaudy display overshadows a peahen. Image courtesy Darkros via Wikimedia Commons.

Second, the samples are overwhelmingly white. Again: disappointed but not surprised. Hullo, background racism!

A black swan lost in a crowd of white swans. Image courtesy Colin Smith via Geograph. Click photo for details.

A black swan lost in a crowd of white swans. Image courtesy Colin Smith via Geograph. Click photo for details.

Third, most of the books by women are either for children, or they’re fiction. That one really got to me. And it got me to thinking of cultural assumptions. [Read more…]