Our colleagues at Race Forward, the racial justice organization that publishes Colorlines, was one of the organizations that pushed back against Starbucks’ hastily conceived “Race Together” initiative in March 2015.
At the time, Executive Director Rinku Sen penned an open letter calling for a national conversation on race that centers systemic rather than individual forms of racism. Race Forward is now building on this statement with “What is Systemic Racism?,” a new 8-part video series.
The videos star, and were written by, Jay Smooth of Ill Doctrine fame, who does double duty as Race Forward’s Video and Multimedia Producer. In a minute or less, each video introduces a different facet of systemic racism in the United States: mass incarceration, housing discrimination, the race and gender wealth gap, infant mortality, and more.
The holiday season began on a distressing note late Tuesday night, when a police officer in Berkeley, Missouri — two miles from Ferguson — shot and killed 18-year-old Antonio Martin at a local gas station.
Authorities have released security camera footage they say justifies the shooting. They say the footage shows Martin pointing a gun at the officer. But the footage is grainy and only barely shows Martin, and was immediately questioned by residents and critics. Not only was there a demonstration within hours of Martin’s death, but protesters took to the city’s streets and a nearby interstate the following evening.
Martin’s death came not long after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio urged demonstrators in his city to postpone further actions in the wake of the fatal shootings of two NYPD officers, Wenjian Liu, Rafael Ramos. Their attacker, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, ambushed the two officers in their patrol car after coming to the city from Baltimore, where he shot his ex-girlfriend, Shaneka Thompson.
As Jay Smooth explains in this episode of The Illipsis for Fusion, while there are police doing good work in their communities, the choice by people representing them to adopt “wartime” rhetoric has only exacerbated tensions between them and the people they are supposed to protect and serve.
“People are not angry at police because of these protests,” he says. “People have been angry at the police for decades because the system is broken, and these protests represent people trying, once and for all, to change that system so they don’t have to be so angry all the time.”
Yesterday, Colorline’s publishers, Race Forward — formerly known as the Applied Research Center — released a two-part report covering both the common media mistakes when it comes to approaching race and the impact of racial justice initiatives looking to set the record right.
We’ll have a more in-depth look at Race Forward’s findings in a few days, but for now, here’s the great Jay Smooth with a video preview discussing one of the failings discussed in the report: media outlets’ tendency to talk about race in an individualistic fashion, rather than addressing the systems that enable it to thrive.
Heading into our annual holiday break, we want to wish all of you a good week ahead, a fun end to your 2013 and the best of times in the year ahead.
But let’s also take a moment for, “In Defense Of Humbug,” an episode of Ill Doctrine the great Jay Smooth re-posted on Monday, a message for those of us who may be dealing with a rougher situation than normal, or who face a rough situation around this time of year. As JS explains:
I know that this is the most stressful, most depressing, most unhappiest time of year for millions of people. And I know that if you’re one of those people who’s already unhappy, and then you gotta spend six weeks having everyone else come up to you like,
‘Hey, have a happy holiday!’
‘I hope you’re having a happy one!’
‘Don’t you go wearing a frown’
‘What are ya, some kind of Scrooge? Is something wrong with you? Society demands that you be happy!
If I’m one of those people who’s already unhappy, that is not helpful. That makes it worse. If I’m not having a happy holiday, it isn’t because I forgot to do it. I don’t need you to remind me.
As someone who only recently learned to manage my own “holiday blues” — basically it takes keeping my energy up the first 11 months of the year and trying to ride the momentum through this one — a lot of this message hit home for me.
But before ending this, let me just say thanks to the entire Racialicious community, staff, allies, readers, and contributors alike for another great year. Already starting to plot ahead for 2014. We’ll be back on Jan. 2, so everybody take care until then.
I thought W. Kamau Bell’s interview with Jay Smooth was worth sharing and getting our readers’ impressions.
After some talk about Kanye West’s run-in with Jimmy Kimmel and the appearance of a White Jesus character at the first show of West’s new tour, the discussion turns toward the LGBT community and hip-hop, and Jay acknowledges the generation gap at work — while acknowledging the presence of LGBT rappers — in commercial circles.
“There’s a sort of old-fogey, anti-gay Tea Party contingent among hip-hoppers my age,” Jay tells Bell. “They see the tide of history turning against them, so they’re becoming this really loud, freaked-out minority who thinks that our culture’s going to lose its moral center if people are openly gay or wear skinny jeans and things like that.”
Jay also name-checks James Baldwin and Bayard Rustin and points out that the modern LGBT rights movement began with a “bar fight” — the seminal encounter at Stonewall.
“There’s nobody more gangster than the LGBT community,” Jay explains “If they knew their history, like, Rick Ross would be pretending to be gay instead of pretending to be a drug lord.”