Category Archives: inequality

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Watch: Race + Police Discussion Featuring Eric Garner’s children, Latoya Peterson, and Franchesca Ramsey

By Arturo R. García

Racialicious owner Latoya Peterson took part in a panel discussion moderated by Yahoo News host Katie Couric on Thursday regarding not only the death of Eric Garner, but the distrust characterizing the relationship between the New York Police Department and residents.

The discussion began with Couric interviewing Erica Garner and Eric Garner Jr., Garner’s children.

“Why didn’t the EMS help him if their job is to help people?” Erica Garner asked at one point. “I feel they treated him like an animal.”

Peterson and blogger Franchesca Ramsey then joined Couric to discuss how the case has stimulated conversation online.

“It’s just raw emotion, what’s happening,” Peterson said. “It’s not just unfortunately Eric Garner’s situation. It’s also in the aggregate, looking at everything that’s happened, with the summer, every 28 hours and all these campaigns, it’s really leading people to organize on social media and to be able to rise up and say, ‘We do not want to accept this any longer. This isn’t gonna be our world, and it shouldn’t be our world.’”

The discussion continued with a panel featuring comedian W. Kamau Bell, former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and journalist Dion Rabouin, a talk that featured several clashes between Kelly and Bell, who admitted he did not feel safe with Kelly in the room.

“I’ve been taught to treat cops like pitbulls,” Bell says at one point.

“Who taught you that?” Kelly responds.

“The Black community,” Bell shoots back. “Would you like their names and numbers?”

Must Read: Guernica’s take on Class

From Guernica

From Guernica

Guernica, the magazine of arts and culture, dedicated their latest special issue to the class divide. But, as most of us reading this blog know, race and class are not so easily separated. And in spite people online and in activist circles arguing that the social issue of our time is no longer race, only looking at one issue in a vacuum means that our proposed solutions to societal ills will always feel incomplete.

Two essays in the issue beautifully and painfully explain the paradigm Patricia Hill Collins outlined in Black Feminist Thought. Race, class, and gender are interlocking systems of oppression:

Viewing relations of domination for Black women for any given sociohistorical context as being structured via a system of interlocking race, class, and gender oppression expands the focus of analysis from merely describing the similarities and differences distinguishing these systems of oppression and focuses greater attention on how they interconnect. Assuming that each system needs the others in order to function creates a distinct theoretical stance that stimulates the rethinking of basic social science concepts.

The first piece is Margo Jefferson’s “Scenes from a Life in Negroland.” A sample:

We thought of ourselves as the Third Race, poised between the masses of Negroes and all classes of Caucasians. Like the Third Eye, the Third Race possessed a wisdom, intuition, and enlightened knowledge the other two races lacked. Its members had education, ambition, sophistication, and standardized verbal dexterity.

—If, as was said, too many of us ached, longed, strove to be be be be White White White White WHITE;

—If (as was said) many us boasted overmuch of the blood des blancs which for centuries had found blatant or surreptitious ways to flow, course, and trickle tepidly through our veins;

—If we placed too high a value on the looks, manners, and morals of the Anglo-Saxon…

…White people did too. They wanted to believe they were the best any civilization could produce. They wanted to be white just as much as we did. They worked just as hard at it. They failed just as often. But they could pass so no one objected.

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Quoted: Payday Nation

Lone Hill said she had no problem with the loans because they were not made on the reservation.

Besides, she added, the Oglala Sioux have suffered long enough. “We’re getting hurt here too by our own people and our government and our country, who are not treating us fairly,” she said.

“When you deal with people who are impoverished, they will go for any idea that promises cash,” said David Mills, the director of the tribe’s economic development office and Catches the Enemy’s boss.

Catches the Enemy said her opposition to payday lending didn’t make her “a popular person” on the reservation. But she knew she was right to oppose the project: Her daughter, Yolanda, had lost the title to her truck several years earlier after taking out a car title loan, which like a payday loan comes at a high interest rate.

Elizabeth Rowland, who serves as treasurer of the Wakpamni district, agreed with Catches the Enemy. Her son, she said, had almost lost his van after taking out a similar loan.

After that experience, Rowland said she gave him some simple advice: “Don’t ever get involved with one of those loans again.”

– The Tribe That Said No (via Al Jazeera’s Pay Day Nation series), by Nicholas Nehamas; published 6-17-14

Colorlines on the Importance of Discussing Privilege

In response to recent, prominent online discussions of privilege on Thought Catalog and Gawker, Jamilah King at Colorlines spoke to experts in institutional racism and structural inequality to find out why having these discussions is important, still.

Terry Kehlerer, training director at the Applied Research Center, Colorlines.com’s publisher

“I think that it’s really important for white people to understand that they are racially privileged. Regardless of how anti-racist or racist or racially clueless they are, they still have privilege. No amount of guilt or shame about it, if that’s where they want to go, is going to change the fact that they have privilege. Rather than trying to hide your privilege or step outside of your privilege, it’s more important to figure out how to utilize your privilege in ways that are going to be constructive. And privilege can actually be an asset. When you have money or access to information or access to relationships, those can all be delivered in service to racial justice and social justice. You have to do it ways that are thoughtful and skillful and accountable and not recklessly or in ways that are patronizing.

I think what’s problematic is that they’re often treated as individualistic notions when really [privilege and oppression] are structural concepts. You can’t pit different identities against each other and treat them as if they are personal attributes when in fact the identities are fluid and they’re relational and they’re part of a larger social construct and a larger social context and they have to be understood in that way. And I think by reducing it in the way that the Gawker piece does, to just personal attributes that can be pitted against each other, it’s just not useful.”

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The American Standards of Media Consumption

By Guest Contributor OnTay Johnson

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Illustration by Joseph Lamour.

According to the powers that be, I just may not be “with it” when it comes to American pop culture.  In my 30-plus years of life, I’ve noticed from time to time I’m made to be a fool because I haven’t seen some movie, didn’t recognize the face or name of some celebrity (dead or alive) and the list goes on.  I use to attribute this to growing up in a small city but as I got older and more socially conscious, I recognized that there was a pattern to this projection of person, places or things that I “should just know”.  That pattern adhered to the social construction of the status quo—whiteness.

Don’t get me wrong, as an African American in America, I’m hip to most things considered “popular” in our society.  Our education system alone makes sure you get peppered with the whiteness of American culture.  It’s the media that really hammers it home though.  How can one not be aware of whiteness when this country’s information systems constantly feed it to you as a diet day after day?  When a majority of magazines have a person that’s white on the cover and when a majority of television is white and our history books cover the “heroic” deeds of white men from the beginnings of this “unsettled” country until now, then it’s inevitable to not be aware of the whiteness screaming at you.  So yeah, I’m familiar with most things but it’s the fact that I’m a minority that I don’t always swallow everything fed to me.

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Quoted: Colorlines on being ‘masculine of center’ while black

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The weekend after the George Zimmerman verdict came down, Erica Woodland of Oakland stayed close to home. She could identify with the righteous anger expressed at the protests. But rather than join in, she canceled plans with family, postponed a trip to the laundromat and limited outings to work and the grocery store.

“I decided for my own safety, I need to stay in the house,” Woodland recalls”I knew I could be putting myself at risk for anything.”

The possibility of being targeted by police or by a fearful, overzealous civilian on account of her race was one consideration for Woodland, who is black. But so was gender. She describes herself as masculine of center, which means that her way of expressing herself – clothes, mannerisms – falls toward that side of the spectrum. It also means that like many of the black men and boys at the center of the recent conversation advanced by everyone from President Obama to Questlove, she’s been profiled as criminal or suspicious.

“We walk through the world and some of us pass as male,” Woodland, 33, says. “We get left out of this conversation.”  Read more…

Gender, Race, And Going To Class: A Call For A Feminist Reading of For-Profit Colleges?

By Guest Contributor Tressie McMillan Cottom, cross-posted from The Feminist Wire

Most of us have seen the ads exhorting us to “call today!” to start on a new future with a college degree. How many of us have noticed the faces in those ads?

The gender, race, and affect of the faces and voices in for-profit college marketing are the kinds of things I  notice in the course of my research about schools like Strayer, Everest, the University of Phoenix and any number of name brands that seem to pop up every month. We know a lot about how much for-profit colleges cost (as much as the most elite college degrees) and we know a little about whom they serve but we do not ask a lot about why they serve whom they serve.

It is difficult for me to not ask that question. I interview for-profit students to ask of them what many of us have asked ourselves when one of those ads pops up at the train station or on late-night TV: why would someone enroll in a for-profit school?

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Does Black Life Matter More When Raised and Nurtured By White Hands?

Man at Amadou Diallo protest. Image courtesy of Elvert Barnes on Flickr.

Man at Amadou Diallo protest. Image courtesy of Elvert Barnes on Flickr.

 

By Guest Contributor Chad Goller-Sojourner

In preparation for my one man show, Riding in Cars with Black People & Other Newly Dangerous Acts: A Memoir in Vanishing Whiteness, I did a significant amount of research, most of it unpleasant — like the weeks I spent combing the Internet for stories about unarmed black men shot down by the police. Talk about depressing. To be young, black and innocent is to live in a world full of folks who will always see you differently than you see yourself ─ a world where folklore, statistics and conjecture deem you dangerous until proven otherwise.

As I combed through story after story, I noted a disturbing trend that, contrary to what you might think, isn’t just happening in big cities, but everywhere–big cities, small cities, north, south, east and west. Wherever there are unarmed black men, there are police (and wannabe police) shooting them. When it comes to unarmed black men, what does it take to be proven innocent–to  have your keys, wallets, cellphones and candy bars  be seen as keys, wallets, cellphones and candy bars, rather than guns?

Twenty-two-year-old Amadou Diallo was shot dead in his Bronx doorway by four plain-clothed police officers who mistook his wallet for a gun and opened fire, unleashing 41 bullets, 19 of which struck his body. He had just returned from a late meal and was resting on his stoop–a rest interrupted by four white men in street clothes, getting out of an unmarked car, bearing guns.  Diallo fled to his apartment, reaching at some point for his wallet, perhaps for a key. We’ll never know, because all those officers saw was a gun [that wasn't there]. It was only later, at a trial in which they were all acquitted, when officers admitted that they had failed to consider the situation from the point of view of an innocent and unarmed black man minding his business on his stoop and suddenly confronted by four white men in street clothes brandishing guns.

Of course, the killers of black men don’t even need to report seeing anything resembling a weapon. They can, for instance, claim to have seen the victim reaching for his waistband.

Portland police were sent to do welfare check on Aaron Campbell, who had been distraught over his brother’s death. Campbell emerged from the Northeast Portland apartments with his back toward officers and his hands behind his head. But the officers wanted more. They wanted his hands in the air. And so they fired six beanbag rounds at him. (Nothing gets your hands in the air quicker than being shot in the back.)

As Campbell ran for the cover of a parked car, he was shot in the back with an AR-15 rifle. Later, officers would claim, they saw him reaching towards his pants for a gun. This despite police brass testimony stating Campbell did not–DID NOT– pose an immediate threat. The officers’ actions were not only inconsistent with their training, but they also failed to consider, that 1) Campbell may have been unarmed and 2) he may have been reaching for a part of the body just struck by beanbag rounds. The Grand Jury returned a finding of no criminal wrongdoing.

One must wonder: When it comes to unarmed black men being shot down by the police, why do so many of them go reaching for non-existent weapons in their waistband? If the number one reason given by the police for shooting unarmed black men is that they are reaching for their waistbands, what black man in his right mind would be reaching anywhere near that area in the presence of law enforcement?

Clearly there is something missing here. How else do you explain a system where, mistaking a Snickers for a gun is par for the course? It occurs to me: Would this reasoning be palatable to the public if the victims’ parents were white? Not if the victims were white–I think we all know that answer–but if the victim’s parents were white. Like mine.

Would an officer, police department, city or even a nation, be okay with telling my parents: “We’re sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Goller, but your son, Chad, was killed by an officer tonight. No ma’am, he wasn’t armed, though it appears the officer saw him reach towards his waistband. Again, we’re so very sorry.”

Would society abide delivering that excuse to white celebrities with black kids? Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw? How about the white gays and lesbians raising black boys?

I suspect not. 

In fact, I suspect in all of these scenarios, nothing would be okay for a really, really long time. This is the ultimate question: Does black life matter more when raised and nurtured by white hands?

Sadly–Yes.

One of the first things I learned about having white parents was that when it came to dealing with people in authority, they got listened to. In sixth grade, after still another racially-charged incident, mom threatened to go to the papers and for the rest of the year things actually got better. In junior high, the Black Parents Association enlisted Mom’s help. Suddenly, it got a whole lot harder for the school administration to write them all off as hysterical, over-reactive black parents.

By high school it was clear that, at least in the eyes of the authorities, having white parents was a powerful thing. With white parents comes white neighbors, friends, classmates, relatives, privileges and experiences.  With white parents comes witnesses– white witnesses [able to use their privilege] to vouch for me, go to bat for me and stand in the gap for me. And should the police have killed me, it would be they who spoke from my grave for me.

Have you any idea what that’s worth?

The above is an excerpt from the author’s Solo Performance, Riding in Cars with Black People & Other Newly Dangerous Acts: A Memoir in Vanishing Whiteness. For info and/or booking inquires please visit www.ridingincarswithblackpeople.com