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Posts tagged racism

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How the Civil Rights Act pioneered anti-discrimination laws in America

On July 2, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act. In honor of the fiftieth anniversary, the LBJ Presidential Library in Texas has been holding a summit, with speeches by four Presidents and so on.

At the summit, Gwen Ifull of PBS NewsHour spoke with four folks on the topic of what the Act did and meant and represented:

SHIRLEY FRANKLIN, Former Mayor, Atlanta: Over the years, we have seen the explosion of political figures from all walks of life. And so it opened the door for people from all backgrounds, whether gay, lesbian, people from limited means.

There was a sense when I was growing up that you had to be from a certain side of the tracks in order to be an elected official. You had to be lucky to be an elected official. And with the passage of the Civil Rights Acts and the Voting Rights Act and all that that entailed, all of a sudden, a child like me could not be mayor of Atlanta when I was born, when I graduated from high school, when I graduated from college.

But, some years later, I had the opportunity because of the legislative initiatives, but also because of the shift in the cultural forms and the cultural traditions.

But we’ve still got a long way to go.

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Named after KKK leader and slave trader, Nathan B. Forrest High School in Jacksonville to be renamed

Derek Kinner, AP:

A Florida school board has decided to end a decades-long controversy and rename a high school now named for a Confederate general and honorary Ku Klux Klan leader that some historical records say ordered the execution of hundreds of black Union soldiers.

Forrest High opened as an all-white school in the 1950s. Its name was suggested by the Daughters of the Confederacy, who saw it as a protest to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that eventually integrated the nation’s public schools.

Yep, spite naming of schools is a thing that happened.

I think the coolest part of this story is that a good majority of the students at the school thought the name should be change and the school board based its decision on what the students wanted, not what the faculty and alumni wanted.

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Knockout King: Kids call it a game. Academics call it a bogus trend. Cops call it murder.

So, unfortunately, this “knockout game" thing is making the rounds again. Just like several years ago, there doesn’t actually appear to be any sort of increasing trend in this rare type of assault; the only rise is in news and social media’s caring about and sensationalization of it. But hey, racists gotta keep us in constant fear of the endemic violence of black culture or whatever dog whistle they’re trying this week.

I’m going to take this opportunity to link John H. Tucker’s award-winning article for St. Louis’s Riverfront Times in 2011 on the subject:

Mike Males, a research fellow at the nonprofit Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice and who runs the website, says the media have made habit of cherry-picking isolated instances of “knockout games” in order to gin up sensational stories that demonize youth. “This knockout-game legend is a fake trend,” Males contends.

Given that 4.3 million violent attacks were reported by U.S. citizens in 2009, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey, Males says reporters should know better than to highlight a handful of random attacks by kids and call it journalism. It’s the same thing as plucking a few instances of attackers with Jewish surnames who beat up non-Jews and declaring it a “troubling new trend,” he argues.

Still, over the years a handful of reports of “knockout” have emerged from cities in Missouri, Illinois, Massachusetts and New Jersey. And most criminologists and youth experts agree that unprovoked attacks by teenagers on strangers are a real, if extremely rare, phenomenon. “Knockout King” might be a new name, but it fits right into the timeworn litany of drifting, aimless kids who travel in packs and accost the vulnerable. The infamous Central Park Jogger case of 1989 popularized the term “wilding.”

This shit is literally just the “wilding” of the 2010s, and thanks to YouTube and CNN we’re going through another cycle of outrage.

I don’t want to make it sound like these assaults never ever happen, though, so please do read the article. It was written shortly after the murder of Hoang Nguyen from the knockout game in St. Louis, and Tucker devotes a lot of time to it.

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The Speech That Shocked Birmingham the Day After the Church Bombing

Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama. Andrew Cohen of The Atlantic has written a short biography of lawyer Charles Morgan, Jr., who the day after the bombing gave a speech about the event and Southern racism to a business club.

The piece also quotes Morgan’s entire speech. Here’s a bit:

And who is really guilty? Each of us. Each citizen who has not consciously attempted to bring about peaceful compliance with the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States, every citizen who has ever said “they ought to kill that nigger,” every citizen who votes for the candidate with the bloody flag, every citizen and every school board member and schoolteacher and principal and businessman and judge and lawyer who has corrupted the minds of our youth; every person in this community who has in any way contributed during the past several years to the popularity of hatred, is at least as guilty, or more so, than the demented fool who threw that bomb.

Pretty powerful, and a good read about someone I’d never heard of before.

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Vote suppression alleged in close Florida election

Weird story out of Florida, reported by Brendan Farrington for the AP:

A small Florida Panhandle town best known for its annual Worm Grunting Festival is at the center of an investigation into charges the white city clerk suppressed the black vote in an election where the black mayor lost by a single vote and a black city commissioner was also ousted.

Preventing anyone from voting because of race remains illegal under state and federal law. But if the claims in this Southern town of fewer than 500 people are substantiated, activists are likely to seize on the case as an example of how racial discrimination at the polls has not been eradicated — and why protections like those overturned by the Supreme Court should remain in place.

Three black voters filed complaints, which is a very small number, but 121 votes were cast, so those three voters make up nearly 2.5% of the voting population.

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Here’s a segment from the July 30 episode of All In with Chris Hayes, featuring West Coast editor of Gawker Cord Jefferson:

A very special “All In” investigation looks at the dangerous elements in White Culture, as seen on display during the Huntington Beach surfing riots this week. Chris Hayes talks to Cord Jefferson of Gawker to find out what can be done about this menace to society.

Colin: Chris Hayes: one of the best humans

'Ili: Props to that other guy I've never heard of before for mostly keeping in character too.

'Ili: “She used to ride horses and do that whole thing” I lost it there

Colin: Hahahaha yep

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Trayvon Martin and the Irony of American Justice

Ta-Nehisi Coates on the not guilty verdict for George Zimmerman over at The Atlantic:

The injustice inherent in the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman was not authored by a jury given a weak case. The jury’s performance may be the least disturbing aspect of this entire affair. The injustice was authored by a country which has taken as its policy, for the lionshare of its history, to erect a pariah class. The killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman is not an error in programming. It is the correct result of forces we set in motion years ago and have done very little to arrest.

Perhaps the best single paragraph I’ve read on this subject yet.

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Enough: An Open Letter to Dan Snyder

Dave Zirin wrote a piece for Grantland arguing that the Washington Redskins football team should change its name, on account of the racial caricature of its mascot and slur of its team name. The argument isn’t anything new and this probably won’t change anyone’s mind, but I liked this for a couple of reasons orthogonal to the actual argument.

First, I had no idea that George Preston Marshall, the owner of the team when it changed to the Redskins, was scary, scary racist.

Second, the last two paragraphs are really mean in an over-the-top way, and I just had to laugh at how brutal Zirin was being.

Finally, I just like reading things on Grantland. Check out those footnotes.

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Wickham: '42' overlooks black journalist

DeWayne Wickham on Sam Lacy, the first black person admitted to the Baseball Writers Association of America:

Once, during a game in New Orleans, Lacy was forced to sit on the roof of the press box because no blacks were allowed inside. That outrage sparked several white sports writers to join him atop the press box. That act of protest helped shatter baseball’s other color barrier — the one that long relegated black sport writers to only covering Negro Leagues baseball games.

The column is generally about Lacy’s relationship with Jackie Robinson and how he was apparently omitted entirely from the recent film 42.

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Racism in Hawaii. It needs to be discussed.

Today’s a heavy reading kind of day.


Okay, okay. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, and I need to get this out because I feel that it’s important to explain, even if nobody is probably going to read it. So bear with me.

It is a common (mis)perception that Hawaii is racist “against” haoles*/white people.

*”Haole” is a Hawaiian language term that is best translated as “foreigner” or “outsider”. It could be contrasted with the term “malihini” which is often translated as “newcomer” or “visitor”. “Haole” has some modern racial connotations but was not, to my understanding, originally limited to people of Caucasian ethnicity. In my experience of the modern understanding, it both has a descriptive connotation (in other words, analogous to “white” but not necessarily with racist overtones, or representative of certain specific cultural characteristics associated with mainlanders/foreigners/white people, such as entitled attitude, brash or loud modes of expression, “touristy” portrayals/understandings of Hawaii, or simply being very ignorant of local culture.

This is true…. ish. It is, however, not taking into account many bits of context that, while not justifying individual behavior, set Hawaii’s “anti-white racism” against a backdrop of privilege and colonialism that negates any oppression implied by racism.

Let’s start with privilege. For those of you who are not aware, the sociological/social justice world uses the term “privilege” to define ways which participating in a certain social class (e.g., race, gender, heteronormative/cisnormative status, able-bodied-ness, socio-economic class, etc.) provides intrinsic social benefits not offered to people of a different class. It is often defined on an “axis of oppression” - that is, there is one (or sometimes several) class at the top of the metaphorical food chain and others on the bottom.

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Race relations in Hawai’i are weird compared to the rest of the United States, and this is a really long and good read on how and why this state came to be.

To go off on a tangent, one topic keakealani doesn’t cover is local humor, which largely comprises racial stereotypes. I’m being extremely loose with ethnology there, but there’s kind of an agreement among the “constituent Hawai’ian races”—native Hawai’ian, Filipino, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, Caucasian, etc.—that we can all tell racist jokes about each other and all have a good laugh.

Local comedians like Frank De Lima have built careers on this sort of material. Jokes are traded with friends at work and get-togethers. You can even hear them on the radio.

On a personal level, I grew up idolizing De Lima, and I could recite many of his skits and songs from memory. (I probably still can.) I have distinct memories of trading jokes during elementary school. And members of my family, to this day, occasionally refer to doing boneheaded things as having a “Portagee moment.”

But it’s never done with any sort of malice. Was a person ever offended if I told a joke that applied to them? Probably not; far more likely, they would tell one right back that applied to me. We’d even tell jokes about ourselves. The popular sentiment is that it’s how we people of widely different origins deal with our differences.

So the question is, does that make it okay? If it’s all in the name of camaraderie and there’s no visible harm, then is there still a problem?

As someone who was born and raised in that culture, I have a really hard time answering “no” to the first question or “yes” to the second. I was there! I saw the laughs!

But as someone who now knows vaguely about such things as stratification, I have a hard time accepting that it should be okay.

In Vol. 30, No. 1 of the University of Hawai’i Law Review (winter 2007 issue), Karyn R. Okada wrote a piece titled “An Analysis of Hawai’i’s Tradition of ‘Local’ Ethnic Humor.” In section V, she analyzes the connotations of the common stereotypes levied against various races and some very real discrimination and inequality in the state that they reinforce:

On an individual level, evidence of harm inflicted by the racist messages conveyed in local humor is quite prevalent. Scholars have noted that amongst the local Filipino population, for example, feelings of self-doubt and shame of cultural background are especially prevalent.

This is all some very difficult stuff I haven’t figured out how to deal with yet.