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    COMMENTARY: Call it what it is: racism

    Talking about and understanding issues related race is tough for some people and some organizations. News organizations, like the Associated Press, recently changed the way it will address race, which has the potential to impact news outlets across the country. How do explain ongoing racial problems? What do we call the system that serves as the engine for the race-based train that has passed through every American epoch, including contemporary times?

    Call it what it is:  racism.

    Much has been written in scholarly works and in the popular press about how racial disparities in America have over the past several decades been increasingly explained in non-racial terms. Colorblind racism, new racism, and the New Jim Crow are all terms that seek to describe how the dominant racial group in America, en mass, changed expressions of anti-Black sentiments from overt to covert expressions due to social and political changes. However, recent events involving the targeting of symbols associated with the Jim Crow era point to the enduring power of racism.

    What is striking about the attacks on these symbols of an era gone by is that many of the perpetrators of these cowardly acts were not even alive during the Jim Crow era and undoubtedly never learned about it, especially from the perspective of Black people.

    How do we explain this white rage? Understanding racism for what it is and what it is not is an important step forward. Racism is a multilevel, multidimensional system of oppression whereby the dominant group scapegoats racial minority groups.

    When we understand racism for what it really is then we can see how, why, and in what ways misery is heaped upon Black people and other people of color. We see the manifestations of misery not only in the embers of 150-year-old churches in rural Louisiana, or on a legendary civil rights training ground, or in the glare of tiki torches, but also in persistent racial differences in wealth and access to a quality education.

    We can see clearly how race continues to matter in outcomes associated with interactions with the criminal justice system, including who lives and who dies, and which lives truly matter to whom, how—if at all.

    We can better understand why investments are disproportionately made in some areas, while others remain chronically underdeveloped. We can more easily comprehend why access to an emergency room and other health care routes is hard and adequate transportation systems and housing remains elusive.

    Let’s be clear. Racism is dangerous. Racism has been aptly described by many, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as a cancer. Anyone who has the unfortunate experience of watching a loved one suffer through any type of cancer knows how the disease can take over, attacking the basic building blocks of the body.

    Racism in America is at once a fundamental and foundational building block of society and one of the greatest threats to itself. Much like many auto-immune diseases, it attacks itself.

    It is important that we understand racism for what it truly is. While functioning much like a disease, racism is not about biology.

    We must understand the myriad ways racism manifests in the lives of individuals, communities, groups, and in the nation as a whole.

    The nation can not afford to lull itself into a false sense of security with claims that the nation is not where it should be on matters about race, but the nation is not where it used to be. There is an abundance of evidence to the contrary.

    Let us agree not to disagree on this one. Racism is what it is. There’s no new racism. There’s no new Jim Crow.  There is just racism and the evidence of it is all around us.

    We should express the same degree of indignation at public policies and private practices that consistently place black people at a disadvantage in virtually every area of life as when historic symbols are attacked.

    Dismantling America’s racialized social system is no easy task but generations of Black people have slowly chipped away at it. We owe it to them, to ourselves, and to future generations to make our own marks however insurmountable the task may seem and irrespective of how bleak our pace of progress might seem.

    Lori Martin

    Lori Martin

     

    Lori Latrice Martin, PhD
    Professor, Department of Sociology and African & African American Studies Program
    Louisiana State University
    Feature photo from Black Metal Music.
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    COMMENTARY: ‘Mardi Gras, big fat lies’

    Saturday, February 6, 2016, was a historic day in Baton Rouge.  It was also a day filled with contradictions that are characteristic of the State Capital.
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    In one section of the city residents gathered to remember the 1953 Baton Rouge bus boycott with the dedication of a memorial bench by The Toni Morrison Society.

    In another section of the city confederate flags were waving and a float was preparing to parade down public roadways mocking the killings of unarmed Black men and women.

    As shocking as the images were for some—and as predictable as they were to others—what was even more disturbing and revealing were the efforts by some people to justify and rationalize the presence of confederate flags, but especially the float as mere satire. 

    Furthermore, descriptions of the float as a joke that may have gone too far and dismissals of the negative reactions that followed revealed what many people have already known; the idea that we are living in a post-racial or colorblind society is a big fat lie.  Race matters as much today as it did more than 60 years ago when blacks were legally forbidden from owning their own buses lines, saddled with a bus fare increase, and forced to stand while seats reserved for whites remained empty.  Through collective action, the community forced changed.  The change was not necessarily the type everyone in the community envisioned, but it helped move hundreds of thousands of people to renew or establish a commitment to social justice. 

    Now more than ever there is a similar need for people of all walks of life to demand more of their friends, family members, neighbors, and colleagues.  Remaining silent about things that matter cannot be a viable option in the face of such offensive and unjust actions.  Mocking a contemporary iteration of a struggle as old as the nation itself is no laughing matter.  We should all feel a sense of righteous indignation when unarmed mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters are killed not on foreign battlefields, but on American streets.  In far too many cases, the victims’ families are left to not only mourn but in the case of the shooting of a young man in Chicago and his neighbor, now they also have to ward off l

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    awsuits from the very person who pulled the trigger. 

    Sadly, the float during the Spanish Town Mardi Gras Parade that displayed a brutalized pink flamingo and baton meant to resemble one carried by a law enforcement officer, and bearing the moniker, “Pink Lives Matter,” points to the sad truism that throughout our nation’s history the lives of people of African ancestry have mattered less to some people than animals or even beloved cultural symbols. 

    Mardi Gras season is a time for celebration. Sadly, the season is also a time when big fat lies about race and racism are on parade. 

    By Lori Latrice Martin, PhD
    Guest Columnist

    Lori Martin is an LSU associate professor of sociology and African & African American studies

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    300,000 nationwide expected to Stand Against Racism

    YWCA Greater Baton Rouge is calling on all individuals, organizations, businesses and religious institutions to join us in taking a Stand Against Racism on Thursday, April 23. YWCA Stand Against Racism will unite our community in a bold demonstration that delivers a clear message: Racism can no longer be ignored nor tolerated.

    “Racism continues to be a pervasive issue in our community and communities across the United States,” said Jennifer A. Shoub, CEO of YWCA Greater Baton Rouge. “Participating in ‘Stand Against Racism’ is just one way we can make change by coming together to organize and show our commitment to eliminating racism.”

    YWCA Greater Baton Rouge will take a Stand Against Racism in unison with others throughout the country. On Thursday, April 23, YWCAs will join in a National Day of Action to urge Congress to pass the End Racial Profiling Act. From Thursday through Sunday nationwide, more than 300,000 people are expected to participate in a range of locally organized events involving public policy advocacy, community education and trainings that will lead to a commitment to working for racial justice by taking the pledge Against Racism.

    The local event, sponsored by YWCA Greater Baton Rouge with partner East Baton Rouge Parish Library, 4pm, Thursday, April 23, 7711 Goodwood Boulevard. Registration begins at 3pm. Participants will register, have an opportunity to sign the YWCA’s pledge to eliminate racism, make a personal statement on a provided sign, and stand with like-minded people committed to eliminating racism. Social media opportunities will also be available.

    Founded in 2007 by YWCA Trenton and YWCA Princeton, Stand Against Racism is a signature campaign of YWCA USA. This campaign is designed to build community among those who work for racial justice and to raise awareness about the negative impact of institutional and structural racism. Stand Against Racism is one part of the YWCA’s national strategy to fulfill our mission to eliminate racism.

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