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01

Apr

THIS WEEK IN WHITENESS: Shaken Bottles (1-04-12)

1 April, 2012

Although gags abound in celebration of April Fool’s day, the compilation of headlines today are no laughing matter.

Before we start, we’d like to highlight a headline from last week:

Last week in whiteness, Canada’s Supreme Court took a surprising but excellent turn for the better when it solidified legislation that would work in favor of indigenous Canadian Indians facing convictions. Judge Louis LeBel was quoted as saying:

“When sentencing an aboriginal offender, courts must take judicial notice of such matters as the history of colonialism, displacement, and residential schools and how that history continues to translate into lower educational attainment, lower incomes, higher unemployment, higher rates of substance abuse and suicide, and, of course, higher levels of incarceration for aboriginal peoples,” he said.

For more, check out the report at the Globe and Mail. Thank you to BiscuitMunroe for forwarding the info!

And now for this week’s news:

Rick Santorum and the Government Negotiator

During a recorded event in Janesville, Wisconsin, presidential hopeful Rick Santorum stopped himself from calling President Barack Obama a “nigger” during his speech, which is available here. “It has been suggested he was trying to say “-nik”, as in peacenik or beatnik,” the Guardian's Paul Harris writes. “That is possible. Or perhaps, it was some non-specific verbal tic: a random vowel-consonent flub.”

Here, Santorum has previous form. In Iowa, he stumbled when discussing conservative opposition to welfare programmes:

"I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money; I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money."

In the face of later outrage at singling out black Americans, he insisted that he had not said “black”, but instead vocalised “bleugh”, as his mind became confused over his own train of thought. Full article available here.

We at This Week in Whiteness have always believed that Santorum’s rather frothy brand of racism would eventually slip out in a blatant way.

Smear Campaign Against Trayvon Martin Continues

To add to the many problematic elements surrounding the open case of Trayvon Martin, the Sanford Police Department released video footage from George Zimmerman’s visit to the police station shortly after murdering Trayvon Martin. While Zimmerman’s lawyer claimed that Martin had broken Zimmerman’s nose, the footage shows that Zimmerman was not bloodied, nor showed any signs of injury. ABC reported gaining access to the footage on Wednesday.

There is, unfortunately, more. A white supremacist recently hacked into Trayvon Martin’s email and social media accounts in an attempt to prove that Trayvon Martin was a thug, and was seen gloating about doing so on 4Chan. Gawker’s Adrian Chen reports:

A screenshot of Trayvon’s Gmail inbox our source provided us is heartbreaking. Martin apparently used his Gmail account for his college search, and it’s filled with emails about upcoming SAT tests and scholarship applications. (“Trayvon, now is the best time to take the SATs!”) One email included the results of a career aptitude test, our source said. It “talked about his interest in aeronautics and stuff.”

The Huffington Post has more details available here.

Update: Chicago Residents Demand Justice for Rekia Boyd

On Tuesday, Chicago residents held a rally demanding justice for Rekia Boyd, the young woman who was killed by an off-duty cop while socializing with friends near Douglas Park. The Black Youth Project reports:

Around 1 am last Wednesday, an off-duty officer approached a group of people in his car and asked that they quiet down. One of the individuals, 39 year-old Anthony Cross, approached the officer. Thinking he was holding a gun, the officer open-fired, striking Cross in the hand and (inadvertently) RekiaBoyd in the head. Rekia died later that afternoon. Full article available here.

About 200 protesters gathered in front of the officer’s home. For footage, visit The Huffington Post’s recap of the event.

Liar, Liar, Comic on Fire

Amid a flurry of criticisms,the University of Texas (Austin)’s school newspaper pulled an incendiary comic that suggested murdered teenager Trayvon Martin’s innocence was a lie. The image, drawn by now former employee Stephanie Eisner, appeared in theTexan’s Opinion section on Tuesday. By Wednesday evening, the newspaper issued multiple statements, including one from the cartoonist herself:

“I apologize for what was in hindsight an ambiguous cartoon related to the Trayvon Martin shooting. I intended to contribute thoughtful commentary on the media coverage of the incident, however this goal fell flat. I would like to make it explicitly clear that I am not a racist, and that I am personally appalled by the killing of Trayvon Martin. I regret any pain the wording or message of my cartoon may have caused.”

The cartoon and several updates are available here at The Daily Post.

Black Parents Murdered For Asking Man Not to Shoot

Raeford, NC resident John Oliver Hill, Jr. was shooting his gun outside and near the home of Thalia Rebecca Mook and Tommy Brown this past weekend. Brown had been outside with his and Mook’s children when Brown asked Hill to stop firing his gun, expressing concern for the children in the area. Hill responded by shooting Brown in the head, then Thalia Mook when she came outside. Their three children were present for the shooting. Extra details are available at ABC.

Black College Student Killed By Cops

In yet another case of “we thought his wallet was a gun,” young college student Kendrec McDade was killed by police officers after Pasadena, CA resident Oscar Carillo called 911 reporting being robbed at gunpoint by two Black teens. The police stated that they were set in looking for someone with McDade’s description and, after cornering him, shot him multiple times from their patrol vehicle as he reached for his waistband. He was unarmed, and no stolen goods were in his possession. For more info on the case, check out this article at the Pasadena Star News.

White Woman Stands Her Ground, Attacks Black Teenager

We will offer two accounts of what happened without comment:

Here is a citizen reporter’s account; here is the report that we managed to find on MSNBC.

We at This Week in Whiteness want to take a moment to reflect upon whiteness and the concept of belonging. All of these events have occurred because a person of color was somewhere they didn’t “belong,” even in their own neighborhoods. While history books will help one conclude that people are willing to defend their spaces to the death - of themselves, but preferably others - what does that say about white spaces in the 21st century? And what happens when white spaces expand to include almost ever pocket of the country?

The answer is that we have an open season on people of color - and while POC have always been under attack, those who aim and fire feel significantly more comfortable acting violently in broad daylight. Trayvon Martin’s death has triggered the shaking of a bottle of emotions. What will become of us, then, when the cork pops from the pressure?

Stay Vigilant,

This Week in Whiteness

25

Mar

THIS WEEK IN WHITENESS: Through the Looking Glass (25-03-12)

25 March, 2012

Whiteness and white supremacy are a constant threat to the lives of people of color. This week’s major US headlines - some of which may not actually reach mainstream news broadcasts - may seem like life on the opposite side of the looking glass. But what we see, while seemingly bizarre, is our society’s own reflection. 

The following events are not isolated incidents, but threads of a common fabric that muffles people of color.

Occupy Black Movements

Thousands of people gathered in NYC’s Union Square on Wednesday for the Million Hoodie March, in which participants came together to mourn and demand justice for Trayvon Martin. After Trayvon’s parents addressed the crowd, the march began. However, Occupy Wall Street, which advertised the event in-house, ended up detracting from the movement. Elon James White, who hosts radio show Blacking it Up and the This Week in Blackness series (to which we are unrelated), reports at NewsOne:

With chants of “We are the 99%” and signage to that effect as well, I was a little thrown off. I thought the purpose of this march was to bring awareness to the death of a young boy. Soon after the march started confusion was all around. Which way were we marching? Who was leading the charge? After we walked a few blocks members of the Occupy section of the march started running down the street knocking down trash cans…At various points in the march, as organizers tried to make statements, they were drowned out by Occupiers chanting whatever they saw fit at the time. Full article here.

White is not the only one to have written this sort of account: many who witnessed Occupiers behaving badly expressed frustration at the confusion created. While Occupiers say that theirs is a mixed group of people from all walks of life, witnesses say that those who really distracted from the march were white. However, we express relief that while some Occupiers attempted to struggle with NYPD via upturning trash cans and screaming “Fuck the Police,” the police did not break up the march or confuse Occupiers with those who wanted to mourn Trayvon’s death. It is worth noting that the NYPD has a high-tension relationship with Black communities especially because of their profiling, and any attempt to rouse them during a non-violent march would have been both insensitive and in poor taste.

Justice for Shaima Alwadi

32-year-old Iraqi American Shaima Alawadi died in the hospital on Saturday, three days after being found beaten into unconsciousness in her California home. Her 17-year-old daughter, Fatima Al-Himidi, found the unconscious mother of five in their dining room with the note “go back to your country, you terrorist.” The Huffington Post quotes one of the investigators, Lt. Mark Colt, as saying the following:

"A hate crime is one of the possibilities, and we will be looking at that…We don’t want to focus on only one issue and miss something else." Full article here.

The note found with Shaima Alawadi was one of two, the first being sent earlier in the month. The young woman and her husband decided to move to California from Michigan, and had only been in their El Cajon home for a few weeks. The Al-Himidi-Alawadi family learned that Ms. Alawadi was brain-dead shortly upon hospital arrival.

The Facebook page One Million Hijabs for Shaima Alawadi has slightly over 1,500 “likes,” but that number is sure to grow as news of Ms. Alawadi’s death spreads. While we cannot locate any demonstrations at present, we will publish further details as they are made available.

Follow Trains More Offensive Than Racial Slurs

Tumblr Staff continues to keep the torch of fail brightly burning as they make updates to the Terms of Service agreement and Community Guidelines. While they say:

Malicious Bigotry. Don’t actively promote violence or extreme hatred against individuals or groups, on the basis of race, ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, or sexual orientation. While we firmly believe that the best response to hateful speech is not censorship but more speech, we will take down malicious bigotry, as defined here.

We all know that the real action’s here:

If we conclude you are violating these policies, you may receive a notice via email. If you don’t explain or correct your behavior, your account may be suspended and/or your IP address may be blocked. We do our best to ensure fair outcomes, but in all cases we reserve the right to suspend accounts or remove content, without notice, for any reason, but particularly to protect our services, infrastructure, users, or community. We reserve the right to enforce, or not enforce, these policies in our sole discretion, and these policies don’t create a duty or contractual obligation for us to act in any particular manner.

This wouldn’t be problematic if harassment of members of marginalized communities were not routinely ignored. While we won’t link to it here, it has been confirmed that Tumblr Staff uses the same cookie-cutter reply when POC report malicious users for harassment, no matter the case. This also applies to disabled communities on Tumblr and gender and sexual minorities; Sophie M. Herold, the person who has been outing LGBTQIA to bigoted Christian organizations, wasn’t taken down until mass outrage on Tumblr.

Please check out and signal-boost the blog POC Harassed, a steady-building archive of harassment folks have been receiving on a weekly basis.

We are looking for non-US headlines to discuss! If you’re aware of any, please forward a link to an article or drop a suggestion here. If you’d like to join This Week in Whiteness, please leave us a message!

Stay Vigilant,

This Week in Whiteness

12

Mar

The Monday “Early Bird” Special: White Folk Won’t Let POC Grieve (12-03-12)

Shout-out to Witchsistah for the heads up.

12 March, 2012:

This week, whiteness has served us an Early Bird Special: demands for inclusion (and complaints of exclusivity) in new Tumblr blog Let Us Grieve.

Let Us Grieve is a Tumblr about violence and police brutality against POC. It was created to give POC a space to discuss violence directed towards them without their voices being overridden and derailed by white opinions. However, whiteness demands inclusion in all spaces it feels entitled to and, as such, white people have begun asking why Let Us Grieve isn’t featuring white violence.

Seriously? Cut that out.

POC spaces are a place of refuge from racism, the harmful opinions of white people, and other ways in which white people unaware of their privilege attempt to interject in POC discussion. White discourses are available everywhere, from history books to the internet; far and few in between are POC perspectives presented and all in once place. Let Us Grieve is one of the pockets of safe spaces in which people of color can express themselves freely without being attacked. By invading it asking for inclusion, white people further prove the need for that type of space.

Whiteness demands that there are no places where POC can retreat and heal from the damage it levies on their communities. Those deeply enmeshed in white consciousness, therefore, will be offended by POC-only spaces. Why can’t I be included? What about my voice? After years of being marketed to and told repeatedly that their voices are important, it is almost incomprehensible, unconscionable, for a white person who isn’t an anti-racist that in some places, whites need not apply.

Or in this case, submit.

11

Mar

THIS WEEK IN WHITENESS: Living While Black (11-03-12)

11 March, 2012:

This week’s post only highlights a few of the major blows dealt to POC, specifically Black people, at the hands of white people unaware (or not so unaware) of their own racist tendencies. Although, as the subject of the middle topic suggests, the outcome is lethal.

Being Spoken For While Black: On Monday (5 March), non-profit organization Invisible Children debuted their new film “Kony 2012,” a film about the Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony. The film, which lasts about 30 minutes, decries Kony (pronounced Kohn) for his abduction of children in Uganda, turning them into tools of destruction and terror. “The arc of the video tells you that before, no one cared,” wrote Michael Wilkerson of The Guardian.

"But, thanks to technology and Invisible Children, everyone can now take the necessary action to earn Kony the infamy and arrest or death he deserves. But since Invisible Children as an organisation began with a few north Americans stumbling into a conflict they didn’t know existed and then resolving to help the child victims by making a movie, the base level of great white saviourdom is already high. Implying that finally now, by getting the word out about Kony via celebrities, bracelets and social media, can the LRA be ended plays into this narrative of white rescuers coming to help poor Africans and totally ignores the efforts, good and bad, by Ugandans to fight the LRA for 25 years."

Except one of the major problems with KONY 2012 is that it raises awareness without context, giving its newfound followers only one command: Stop at nothing. Apparently, this command has a corrollary: “Stop at nothing, even if Ugandans have told you to stop.” People from Tumblr’s own Amber Ha to the director of the World Peace Foundation to Anonymous have criticized Invisible Children, often citing its propaganda-like qualities and complete dismissal of African voices. Africans across the continent, especially in Uganda, have spoken out against Jason Russell and his organization’s film.

This case of drowning out Black voices is worse than The Help: should Kony 2012 enter US politics, the potential consequences - such as further US military intervention - will be dire for Ugandans. But this is lost on many of Invisible Children’s followers, who often cite supposed African helplessness and the US’s right to intervene.

The white savior supports brutal policies in the morning, founds charities in the afternoon, and receives awards in the evening,” tweeted Nigerian-American author Teju Cole. There’s truth in those words: They [Hollywood producers] are getting in touch with the Academy Awards. They want this to be up for an Oscar.”

Walking While Black: Although the event didn’t happen this week, 17-year-old Treyvon Martin’s untimely death at the hands of a white racist vigilante Neighborhood Watchman is making the news as more details are released. Website Sandra Rose reports:

On his way back from the store, carrying only a bag of Skittles and a can of Arizona ice tea, Trayvon was spotted by 26-year-old George Zimmerman. Zimmerman was the self-appointed Neighborhood Watch “captain” of the gated community called The Retreat at Twin Lakes in Sanford, 20 miles north of Orlando…A police report indicates that Zimmerman called 911 to report a “suspicious person” in the area. The police dispatcher reportedly told Zimmerman to “stand down” and wait for backup to arrive shortly.

But Zimmerman, who is white, ignored that order and exited his vehicle to confront Trayvon, who is black.

A fistfight ensued and Trayvon apparently got the best of Zimmerman. Police found him standing over Trayvon, who was dead from a single gunshot wound to the chest.”

Zimmerman has never been arrested; it’s worth pointing out that had Martin been holding the gun and Zimmerman was the one shot, Treyvon Martin would be sitting in a cell. The police cited Zimmerman’s “squeaky clean” record as part of why he has yet to be arrested and charged with murder.

Martin’s family’s lawyer asserts that race played a huge factor in Martin’s death, as it was “the 600 pound elephant in the room. Why is this kid suspicious in the first place? I think a stereotype must have been placed on the kid.” Zimmerman could very well plead self-defense, a plea that would unfairly shorten his prison time - if, indeed, he receives any.

Change.org has generated a petition demanding justice for Treyvon Martin, which can be signed here.

Arguing While Black: Today is the last day of “KBURD Week,” in which POC members of the Tumblrverse - especially Black tumblers - implemented an effective stonewall against the hateful, racist commenters flooding their inboxes. Tumblers such as thegoddamazon, thenegroxperiment, dumbthingswhitepeoplesay (who was actually threatened by Tumblr staff with suspension), and jwesterlings (who is being stalked and Tumblr staff have done nothing) have been under greater attack than normal for Black bloggers who dare to talk about race and white privilege. In reaction to Tumblr staff repeatedly ignoring harassment of POC on Tumblr while acting without discrimination whenever white bloggers cry wolf, the blog POC Harassment was created to archive the death threats, racial slurs and other terrible things that white people - some of whom claim to be Feminists and allies to POC - have hurled at them. It’s worth noting that the Tumblr staff is over 90% white.

If they continue to ignore the cases being built (and they shouldn’t have to be) by POC bloggers on Tumblr, the Tumblr staff and their replies to POC will be a regular feature of This Week in Whiteness. Racism and white privilege are never too hard to look for - and for many POC on Tumblr, it’s often right in their inbox.

Want to see a certain topic discussed? As you go through this coming week, feel free to send in any topics you want highlighted on This Week in Whiteness! Drop submissions here before 11:50pm EST Tuesday night (for the Mid-Week Highlight) and 11:50pm EST Saturday (for the Sunday post). If you want to become a regular writer for This Week in Whiteness, drop a message here.

Stay Vigilant,

This Week in Whiteness