By-and-large, the mainstream environmentalist movement in the U.S. is decidedly white. This is in spite of the large body of activists of color attempting to combat environmental injustices. On the ground, environmental degradation disproportionately impacts working-class people of color, but such concerns over the actual, immediate impacts of environmental damage remain marginal to the mainstream movement. Instead, the popular environmentalist discourse seems to be more focused on the planet than the people on it (“Save the planet!,” “Protect the environment!,” etc.).
Perhaps the worst case of this is in the conversation around climate change. Those of us invested in this discourse have come to recognize a few tropes, the worst of which is “humans are destroying the planet.” Scholars, ever enthralled by the prospect of using a big, new word to unnecessarily label a phenomenon, the age of climate change has come to be referred to as the “Anthropocene”; simply put, the term refers to the time in which humans have been a geophysical force on a global scale. The issue with this label is perhaps best capture by Nicholas Mirzoeff’s essay, “It’s Not the Anthropocene, It’s the White Supremacy Scene.” What Mirzoeff’s essay highlights is not simply that the current environmentalist discourse is misguided in its focus, but that the causes of climate change have its roots in the white supremacist enterprise of colonialism. Foregrounding the connection between colonialism and climate change means that environmentalism that does not focus on issues of race and (neo)coloniality is not simply misguided, but entirely inaccurate.
Recently I came across a new Netflix mini drama series that will be coming to Netflix at the end of May. Enticed by the title of the series, I clicked on it in curiosity. What I watched lead me further and further into learning about the cases of the Central Park Five and how unjust and terrible their experience was. The Central Park Five case is a 1989 case involving a white jogger who was beaten and rapped while jogging in the park at night. Around the same time, a group of youths who were in the park were suspected of assaulting other joggers, throwing rocks at bicyclists and harassing a homeless man. The police department wrongfully assumed that five boys from that group were the ones who raped and injured the jogger. What unfolded was a series of alleged mistreatment towards the five boys charged with her assault, depriving them of necessary resources like food and water, interrogating them without their parents in the room and forcing them to corroborate their stories. After a series of trials and (in my opinion) unfair trials, the boys were convicted. In 2002, all five (now) men were vacated of their charges.
I hope that this series will shed some light on the issue of racially charged police treatment and corrupt justice systems that were happening then and are still happening today. I also hope it shows how quick people are to negatively judge youths who are not white. I think that this series will educate a new generation of youth about the Central Park Five and their stories. I was born and raised in New York, but I didn’t know about their stories and cases of wrongful (and extremely unjust) convictions until this year. It will be interesting to see how the public receives the series and if it leads to more discussion and action towards corrupt and racially motivated police cases.
On April 29th, Delaware State University announced their plans to open up a Center for Global Africa. The center is going to focus on re-educating the descendants of slaves in the United States. It is also meant to “renew and strengthen descendants connections to their continent of their ethnic origin. Doctor Ezrah Aharone, a professor at the university, commented that it would connect HBCU scholars with scholars in Africa. The article also states that “The new center already has plans to conduct an African economic development project involving asset mapping.”. I think that this topic is especially interesting in todays political and racial climate. While it is an opportunity for African Americans to connect with something I believe our country is still trying to stray away from recognizing, I do have my doubts. I wonder if people will be able to connect with the countries their ancestors were taken from like the Center hopes to. I remember reading about how hard it is for some African Americans to feel like they belong when visiting the country of their descendants. Still, I think that the center will be a great place for people who want to re-explore their descendants history to do so.
One article I looked at in the journal “Sociology of Education” examined how racial bias intersected with school choice. They conducted a survey that asked white parents if they would send their children to the hypothetical schools described in the survey. There were several independent variables in the described schools including the ratio of white to black students, security presence, academic rating, and the state of facilities. Then respondents were asked if they believed whites and blacks to be equal on a number of factors such as criminality and intelligence.
What the results showed was that race played a significant role in whether or not the family chose a particular school, even when controlled for all other factors. White favorability dropped by around 30% when the hypothetical school became 65-80 percent black for those who stated that black and whites were equal and 50% for those who stated that blacks and whites were not equal. The other factor white parents were unusually responsive to was a security presence. Generally speaking it is a useful study because it quantifies unstated biases. It is also important because often times discussions about school segregation deemphasize personal biases. It is also important due to increasing presence of school choice due to the rise of charter schools.
For the class “Education in the Socio-Cultural context” we spent some time learning about modern segregation in American schools. One source we looked at was the 562nd episode of “This American Life” which looked into the Normandy school district in Ferguson Missouri. As the events around Michael Brown’s murder and the later protests took place, the Normandy school district lost its state accreditation. Normandy had not been up to state standards in decades and had been on probation for 15 years. Upon losing accreditation a relatively unknown law was triggered where the school had to provide the option for students to commute to another school district, with Normandy paying the cost. The school chosen to take the students who decided to transfer was Francis Howell, a wealthy mostly white school more than an hours drive away from Normandy. The Hope was that very few students would choose to transfer but instead 1000 students opted in to the program. Overall it was both interesting and disheartening to see the same patterns desegregation, resistance and resegregation occur in the 2010s as opposed to the 1960s or 1970s. Just like with earlier generations of busing, the parents of Francis Howell were strongly opposed to the students, showed racial stereotypes, and used dogwhistles. The main difference was that the Francis Howell parents claimed to not be racist. I would highly suggest listening to the episode for the full context, as well as informative interviews with some of the participant in the case of accidental desegregation.
Earlier this year I read Benito Cereno, a story write by Herman Melville. It is based off a true story about Captain Delano, a ship captain from Massachusetts that see a boat floating off in the distance and sees if it needs help. It was a slave ship. When he gets on the ship, he learns that they had no food or water and they had been stuck out at sea after getting caught in a storm and lots of their crew died. There are some things that surprise him when he is observing the ship. The first is that the slaves on the ship walk around with no chains or anything and are free to basically do what they want. He found this to be weird but he rationalized it by thinking that the captain of this ship was just easy on his slaves. Another thing that Captain Delano was strange about the boat was that the slave Baba was so close to the captain of the ship all the time. He found it weird that Babo would never leave the captains side, even when Captain Delano was making it clear that he wanted to speak to the other captain privately. He took this as Babo just being a loyal and attentive servant. In the end of the story though, it is revealed that the slaves had overpowered the slave traders and taken control of the ship.
In the story Captain Delano is a good example of Northern racism at the time. Although he doesn’t have slaves, he definitely doesn’t think that enslaved people were the same a white people. There are many things that looking back at in the book should make it clear to Captain Delano that the slaves had taken over the ship. Because of his internalized racism though, he is not able to to conceive of the idea that the slaves were capable of taking over the ship. He knows that something weird is going on but doesn’t know what it is. He even thinks for a bit that the people on the ship are pirates but after he learns that they slaves had taken over ship he is more scared of that idea then he was when he thought they were pirates. There as a few different ways that the book Benito Cereno could be interpreted and there are counts details that add to the books interesting commentary on slavery and racism.
This is a very interesting article which talks about how African Americans can connect with their roots by making a trip back to Africa. This article is written in the form of a reflection by the author who talks about comfortable he was connecting with his roots. Ghana has started a development called the year of return where it encourages black people from all over the Diaspora to visit. To commemorate the 400-year anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans to English North America in 1619, President Nana Akufo-Addo has encouraged descendants of Africans who were enslaved in the Americas to return to the country. The author also talks about elements of African heritage such as the food, customs, and various traditions. The author makes an interesting claim when he says that “, I would be one drop in the sea of black people at every event I attended and in every social situation. I wouldn’t be subjected to as many off-color remarks and subtly bigoted insults. I wouldn’t have to question whether I should respond to those or stay quiet to avoid being judged through the lens of racist stereotypes. I wouldn’t wonder whether people would think I’d been hired as a token rather than for my potential” I was very glad that the author felt a sense of belonging even though he had not even stayed in the continent. I believe that efforts have to be made to ensure that Black Americans have the opportunity to connect with their roots
With playoff hockey season in full affect, I started supporting my home team and watching some of the Bruins games again. It would be hard not to notice the lack of diversity in the NHL. There is very little diversity in both the fans of the sport, and the players. The first black hockey player in the NHL was Willie O’Ree, a Canadian that joined the Boston Bruins in 1958. That is almost 10 years after Jackie Robinson joined the MLB. Out of the over 700 roaster spots in the NHL in 2018, only around 30 were filled by players of African descent making it around 4 percent. If we were just talking about African Americans, the number would be less than 1 percent. There are a lot of different theories on why hockey lacks diversity. While it is true that many players in the NHL come from northern European countries like Finland, Sweden, and Russia, 26 percent are American and 45 percent are Canada. Some say that part of it is regional. The places with the biggest emphasis on hockey in America is the north, states like Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Massachusetts. These states tend to have less black people living there in general. Other people think that there just isn’t a strong enough black culture in hockey yet. Black children don’t see people that look like them playing hokey so they don’t play hockey and then the same thing will happen to the next generation.
Right now P.K. Subban is the best and most famous black hockey player. He is a Canadian who signed a 72 million dollar 8 year deal with Montreal in 2014 but is now playing for the Nashville predators. He has played 9 seasons of major league hockey so far, has over 400 points as a defender, and played in the NHL all star game in 2016, 2017 and 2018. He has been vocal about not having many black hockey players to look up to when he was a kid and wanting to make sure that he is a good role. He says that he wants to show kids, especially black kids, that they can play whatever sport they want, regardless of race.
This is a very interesting article which talks about how South Africa’s business sector is dominated by the white minority. The article talks about how the South African government which consists of the black majority ANC has sought to provide opportunities for the country’s majority black population to achieve greater economic status and influence.
I was very blow by some of the statistics such as black South Africans makeup nearly 80% of the economically active population, but they hold just 14% of top management jobs. It is very shocking that even after the apartheid there seems to be a gap in economic class. South Africa’s labor minister commented on these findings, “A white, male-dominant organizational culture still prevails. I am very shocked that apartheid indirectly exists in Africa. It makes me question the governments in these countries who are made up of a majority of black people. This issue is very similar to that of the United States, the only problem being that the US is a white majority. I believe African leaders have to rectify this situation. They owe it to their people, this is a complete disgrace to the struggles of great leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah and Nelson Mandela.
On Dec. 2, Johnathan Hart and two other homeless men entered a Walgreens, where the man who shot Hart, Donald Vincent Ciota II, claims the three were in the middle of robbing the store. When Hart attempted to turn and run out the store during the incident, Ciota shot him in the back of the neck and Hart would die later in the hospital. Ciota has been charged with murder and if found guilty, will face up to 50 years to life in prison. Now Ciota’s lawyer claims his client was just defending the store and it’s customers. Ok, let’s imagine the store was being robbed by the three men. Ciota claims one of the other men struck him in the face and then he shoots the guy trying to run away? that just doesn’t add up in my head. I could never seriously find a good reason for shooting someone above the waist with their back turned and they’re running away. This was a cowardly and malicious murder. What I wanted to ask from commentators is how do we solve a national issue like authority figures shooting unarmed black people when the shootings are on the fault of the individual? I guess what i’m trying to say is that clearly not all cops are going to fatally shoot a black person, so how do we find the people who have prejudice?