A History of Race and Racism in America

“I’ve selected the most influential books on race and the black experience published in the United States for each decade of the nation’s existence — a history of race through ideas, arranged chronologically on the shelf. (In many cases, I’ve added a complementary work, noted with an asterisk.) Each of these books was either published first in the United States or widely read by Americans. They inspired — and sometimes ended — the fiercest debates of their times: debates over slavery, segregation, mass incarceration. They offered racist explanations for inequities, and antiracist correctives. Some — the poems of Phillis Wheatley, the memoir of Frederick Douglass — stand literature’s test of time. Others have been roundly debunked by science, by data, by human experience. No list can ever be comprehensive, and ‘most influential’ by no means signifies ‘best.’ But I would argue that together, these works tell the history of anti-black racism in the United States as painfully, as eloquently, as disturbingly as words can. In many ways, they also tell its present.”

-Ibram X. Kendi, “A History of Race and Racism in America, in 24 Chapters.” The New York Times. February 22, 2017.

To accompany Ibram X. Kendi’s, “How to be an antiracist.”

Alternative Influence

“These strategies reveal a tension underlying the content produced by these influencers: while they present themselves as news sources, their content strategies often more accurately consist of marketing and advertising approaches. These approaches are meant to provoke feelings, memories, emotions, and social ties. In this way, the “accuracy” of their messaging can be difficult to assess through traditional journalistic tactics like fact-checking. Specifically, they recount ideological testimonials that frame ideology in terms of personal growth and self-betterment. They engage in self-branding techniques that present traditional, white, male-dominated values as desirable and aspirational. They employ search engine optimization (SEO) to highly rank their content against politically charged keywords. And they strategically use controversy to gain attention and frame political ideas as fun entertainment.”

-Rebecca Lewis, “Alternative Influence: Broadcasting the Reactionary Right on YouTube.” Data & Society. August 2018.

More than you ever wanted to know about how the “alt-right” uses YouTube, and Google’s role in giving them a “platform”.

h/t O’Reilly

Cracker Country

I met someone recently. And during the course of conversation, we discovered we grew up around the same area. The conversation went along these lines:

  • Stranger: I’m from X.
  • Me: Oh, really? I grew up near there.
  • Stranger: Where are you from?
  • Me: The Y/Z area.
  • Stranger: Don’t take this the wrong way, but we used to call that, “Cracker Country.”
  • Me: *laughs* There’s probably some truth to that when you and I lived there [a long time ago], but it’s probably less true now.

Everyone involved in this conversation was white, whatever that means.

The Y/Z area was a place in the gap between rural and suburban. It used to have large blocks of pastureland for cows. They have since been converted into a suburban landscape. I remember a school dance that featured a “hoe down” as a theme. It was telling choice, walking a fine line between irony and actuality.

It was a town of the middle and lower classes that was white, which is true even today. I have no memories of any black people in my school or in the area. Issues of race were, and in many ways still are, invisible.

I shared this exchange with a family member from that area. They took it “the wrong way.” They found “cracker” offensive. My reaction to the term is closer to this one in the Gawker. It doesn’t bother me at all.

But, why? What is the difference? I don’t live there. I didn’t feel like I belonged when I was there. I left when I came of age and never returned. Maybe it doesn’t bother me because I don’t identify with the place.

But, would it be different if I still lived there? What if I were someone with stereotypical “cracker” interests? What if I attended a Baptist church? Loved fishing, hunting and/or shooting at the range? What if I worked construction or raised cattle for a living?

Conversations on race and class are always complicated. The closer you are to a stereotype, the more you’ll resent that stereotype. The other side of intersectionality is that the lower someone is on an axis such as class, the more they will focus on other axes, including white supremacy, patriarchy, heteronormativity, etc. to help increase their social standing.

Black Skinhead

“The skinhead subculture was originally tied to working-class youths in London, England in the 1960s. Considered the first wave, this iteration of the movement was an offshoot of another youth subculture called mod. Skinheads were categorized as such because of their close-cropped or bald heads, but their fashion was inspired by mod as well as the Jamaican rude boy subculture.”

—Elijah C. Watson. “Black Skinhead: Vic Mensa And The Distortion Of The Skinhead Subculture.” okayplayer.com. June 12, 2018.

Never heard about skinheads originally coming out of mod and rude boy subcultures and how it was commoditized to promote a fascist ideology. But, I find it interesting that the same tactics are in play with the attempt to create “Proud Boys” in the United States.

Irony and the New White Supremacy

“If a group’s only MO is destruction, it stands to reason that eventually it will destroy itself. What The New York Times calls the “alt-right” isn’t a monolith, but a swarm of tribes with different agendas, some of which radically oppose one another. Ultimately, it’s not difficult to imagine them all simply tearing each other apart as the entire movement implodes. Until that point, I wonder if we shouldn’t broaden our perspective. We should not only work on undermining the white supremacist agenda, but also the cultural environment that helped it thrive and grow in the first place. Irony was an integral part of that cultural environment. I wonder then if sincerity is the last radical act left. Perhaps it is time to say what we mean.”

—Sarah LaBrie. “Irony and the New White Supremacy.” LARB. March 31, 2018.