How do we know racism isn’t dead?

Racism is dead, “they” say.

“They” never say when it died.

“They” never say how it died.

“They” simply say that it died.

“They” are racism deniers.

“They” are overwhelmingly white (though a few house negroes perpetuate this incredibly harmful and 100% false belief) and despite having never been on the receiving end of racism, think they have a good understanding of the concept. To them, racism is about keeping African-Americans as second class citizens unable to vote, hold political office, or achieve significant financial success.  Racism, “they” say, is making African-Americans ride in the back of the bus, drink from separate water fountains, or enter through the back door of an establishment. Since African-Americans like Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey have achieved tremendous financial, social, and/or political success, and since African-Americans can enter restaurants through the front door, use the same water fountains as Caucasians, and can even ride in the front of the bus, clearly racism is dead. And don’t forget the biggie: it’s no longer socially acceptable to call a black person a nigger (or so “they” claim). It’s as if they’re thinking “since this stuff doesn’t happen any more, racism is over”. Such attitudes reflect a layperson’s understanding of racism. Unfortunately that understanding fails to acknowledge that racism is more than just individual interactions involving race-based prejudice and discrimination:

The privilege that prejudice rationally defends is a product of racism. Racism, however, is more than just prejudice and discrimination combined. Racism is a socially constructed reality at the heart of society¹s structures. Racism is the deliberate structuring of privilege by means of an objective, differential and unequal treatment of people, for the purpose of social advantage over scarce resources, resulting in an ideology of supremacy which justifies power of position by placing a negative meaning on perceived or actual biological/cultural differences. Racism and prejudice are not mental illnesses or psychological problems people have. Neither are they the product of “psychological abnormalities.” Both are rational, cultural and structural phenomena to defend power. Racism goes beyond prejudice (an attitude) to structure this power advantage politically, economically, culturally and religiously within a social system, whether it be simple (as in personal bias) or complex (as in the role apartheid played in South Africa), which gives social advantage to some at the expense of others perceived to be inferior and undeserving.

In its essence, racism is culturally sanctioned strategies that defend the advantages of power, privilege and prestige which “Whites have because of the subordinated position of racial minorities.” This deliberate political, economical, religious and sociocultural structuring of privilege, does not take place in some moral vacuum. It has behind it the moral force of an ideology of supremacy, an ill-will that claims racial superiority and pride of position. By ideology I mean a system of ideas and beliefs about the universe, to which a people adhere in order to justify their attitudes and actions. This ideology can have a religious or a scientific basis, depending on which one shapes our worldview. Nevertheless the outcome is the same, where one group benefits and the other does not.

The strategies that benefit white people at the expense of People of Color exist structurally. In their 2004 paper Chronic Disparity: Strong and Pervasive Evidence of Racial Inequalities Poverty Outcomes, authors Keleher and Lawrence define structural racism as

"[...] the normalization and legitimization of an array of dynamics...that routinely advantage whites while producing cumulative and chronic adverse outcomes for people of color."

The authors do not limit their research on racial inequalities to African-Americans. Instead, they recognize that the bias in favor of white people in this country comes at the expense of all People of Color-from Blacks and Hispanics to Pacific Islanders and American Indians (incidentally, this is another area where the defenders of racism betray a deep ignorance of racial inequities in this country-they tend to think of African-Americans as the main victims of racism). From history to culture to politics, structural racism, the authors say, pervades society and consequently provides the foundation for institutionalized, individual, and internalized racism. According to Keleher and Lawrence, manifestations of structural racism are

 "[...]  inequalities in power, access, opportunities, treatment, and policy impacts and outcomes, whether they are intentional or not."

Specific examples of structural racism in the United States include income inequality, racial inequalities in the criminal justice system, racial inequality in the labor market, and racial housing discrimination. Unfortunately, untrained eyes don’t see these examples of structural racism. They don’t see that institutional policies and guidelines can have a negative impact on the lives of PoC because of their race/ethnicity. To untrained eyes, racism looks like it is dead.

Funny thing, that.

When I observe the landscape of USAmerican culture, I can see examples of the very racism that racism deniers claim is a thing of the past. If racism is dead then how does one account for the following five stories:

1. A defiant rancher savors the audience that rallied to his side

Mr. Bundy’s standoff with federal rangers — propelled into the national spotlight in part by steady coverage by Fox News — has highlighted sharp divisions over the power of the federal government and the rights of landowners in places like this desert stretch of Nevada, where resentment of Washington and its sprawling ownership of Western land has long run deep.

His cause has won support from Senator Rand Paul, the libertarian Republican from Kentucky who is likely to run for president. Senator Dean Heller, a Nevada Republican, referred to Mr. Bundy’s supporters as “patriots.” Senator Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat who is the Senate majority leader and has a long history of pushing for protection of public lands, denounced the rancher’s supporters as “domestic terrorists.”

The dispute spilled over this week into Texas, where Greg Abbott, the attorney general and a Republican running for governor, challenged the Bureau of Land Management on reports that it was looking to claim thousands of acres along the Red River.

For now, Mr. Bundy appears to have won, forcing the government to back down after its rangers were met with armed Bundy supporters this month.

“The gather is now over,” said Craig Leff, a deputy assistant director with the Bureau of Land Management. “Our focus is pursuing this matter administratively and judicially.”

But if the federal government has moved on, Mr. Bundy — a father of 14 and a registered Republican — has not.

He said he would continue holding a daily news conference; on Saturday, it drew one reporter and one photographer, so Mr. Bundy used the time to officiate at what was in effect a town meeting with supporters, discussing, in a long, loping discourse, the prevalence of abortion, the abuses of welfare and his views on race.

So let me get this straight. If you are a white man stealing from the federal govt, you are a patriot. But if you are a black woman legally receiving benefits from the federal govt, you are better off as a slave?

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”

Cliven Bundy believes that black people had it better under slavery when they were nothing more than chattel to be bought and sold like property rather than human beings. He makes sweeping generalizations about black people-generalizations that are simply not true for black people as a group While there may be individual black people who exhibit the qualities Bundy speaks of, one cannot generalize to all black people, or even all poor black people, yet he does so anyway. Broad generalizations of a negative nature about a group of people based on their race? Last time I checked, that’s racism.

2. Top Louisiana deputy threatens repairman, calls him ‘stupid ungrateful nigger’ for blocking parking: lawsuit

Hey look! It’s more of that non-existent racism again. This time from a member of law enforcement.

An Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office employee who claims he was “verbally assaulted” and called a racial slur by Sheriff Marlin Gusman’s top deputy has filed a discrimination lawsuit in federal court.

The employee, Ronald Coleman Sr., claims Chief Deputy Jerry Ursin threatened him and referred to him as a “stupid, ungrateful n*****” during an argument over parking last summer.

The encounter was widely discussed within the Sheriff’s Office at the time and even was witnessed by some outsiders, according to sources familiar with the incident.

Ursin, a longtime veteran of the New Orleans Police Department who now serves as Gusman’s second-in-command, is white. Coleman, an engineer who has worked at the Sheriff’s Office since February 2014, is black, as is Gusman.

In his lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court, Coleman said he had been summoned in early August to investigate a “hot complaint” on the second floor of an administrative Sheriff’s Office building known as the CWA, located next to the Conchetta detention facility on Tulane Avenue.

Coleman said he examined the air-conditioning units on the roof but also needed to check some units inside the building, a task that required the use of an 18-foot ladder.

He said he parked his department vehicle in the parking lot and encountered an irate Ursin as he returned to the vehicle.

“Do you know that you are blocking my parking?” Ursin said, according to the complaint.

I wonder…does Ursin’s use of a dehumanizing racial slur like ‘nigger’ indicate that he might hold some racial biases against black people?

I wonder…if you view black people as human beings deserving of respect, you wouldn’t refer to them as niggers, now would you?

I wonder…if you do not think that there are inherent difference between blacks and whites-differences that indicate that one racial group is superior or inferior to the other-would you use a term that is often meant to imply “remember your place”?

3. SCOTUS will hear an almost comically egregious case of race discrimination

Timothy Tyrone Foster was convicted of murder and sentenced to die by an entirely white jury after prosecutors struck all four members of the jury pool who were African American. Some time after the trial, Foster’s attorneys obtained the prosecution’s notes on jury selection, and, as his attorneys explain, the notes provide compelling evidence indicating that the black jury pool members were struck because of their race:

The notes reflect that the prosecution (1) marked the name of each black prospective juror in green highlighter on four different copies of the jury list; (2) circled the word “BLACK” next to the “Race” question on the juror questionnaires of five black prospective jurors; (3) identified three black prospective jurors as “B#1,” “B#2,” and “B#3”; (4) ranked the black prospective jurors against each other in case “it comes down to having to pick one of the black jurors;” and (5) created strike lists that contradict the “race-neutral” explanation provided by the prosecution for its strike of one of the black prospective jurors.

In most jurisdictions, lawyers in criminal cases are permitted to make a certain number of “peremptory challenges” to potential jury members. As a general rule, these challenges permit a lawyer to remove a juror for any reason they want. In Batson v. Kentucky, however, the Supreme Court held that peremptory challenges may not be used to engage in “purposeful racial discrimination.”

As a practical matter, however, Batson challenges are extraordinarily difficult to win. That’s because Batsonpermits prosecutors to “articulate a neutral explanation” for why they struck a juror of color when they are accused of engaging in race discrimination, and then leaves the question of whether the prosecutor had racist intent largely up to the trial judge. In nearly every case, the prosecutor will be able to come up with some reason other than race that could ostensibly justify removing a black juror — they claim that one juror in this case, for example, was removed largely because she had a son who was convicted of a felony; another was removed, they claim, in part because she “appeared confused, was very easily swayed, irrational, bewildered, and incoherent.” Unless the trial judge is a mind-reader, it will be difficult for them to assess what the real reason for removing the juror may be.

Which is why the documents uncovered by Foster’s legal team — a team that includes the Southern Center for Human Rights’ Stephen Bright, a giant of the capital defense bar — are so significant. They paint the prosecution in this case as the Keystone Cops of race discrimination, meticulously documenting the one thing that would allow Foster to prove that he actually was a victim of such discrimination. The fact that these records even exist is either a stunning act of incompetence or, more likely, a testament to just how little prosecutors fear a Batson challenge.

Notably, the Georgia court system refused to grant Foster relief even after they were presented by the documents obtained by Bright and the rest of Foster’s legal team.

The Supreme Court rarely takes cases such as this one, where the primary dispute is over the facts of a case and not some abstract legal principle. The fact that they chose to take this case is probably a good sign for Foster, as it suggests that at least four justices were so bothered by the evidence in this case that they were willing to depart from the Court’s normal procedures.

It takes only four justices to agree to hear a case, however, and five justices to rule in Foster’s favor. If Foster cannot find a fifth vote on this Court, a decision against him could destroy what remains of the prohibition on race discrimination in jury selection. After all, if a set of documents documenting the prosecutor’s efforts to identify black members of the jury pool — combined with notes such as “if we had to pick a black juror then I recommend that [Marilyn] Garrett be one of the jurors; with a big doubt still remaining” — aren’t enough to prove race discrimination, then it is unlikely that anything will suffice.

I’m sure there will be those people who deny the racism inherent in these actions because no one was called a nigger or thug.

4. Ann Coulter: Mexican culture “is obviously deficient”, and Hispanics are “not black, so drop the racism crap”

Remember how I mentioned that some people think of racism terms of black and white (people), as if only black people can be the victims of racism? Yeah. Ann Coulter is someone who apparently believes that (her vile opinions don’t stop there).  Because Ann Coulter knows racism.  My eyes may or may not have rolled out of my head.

On Fusion’s “America with Jorge Ramos,” syndicated conservative columnist Ann Coulter promoted her new book “Adios, America” by repeatedly insulting not only everyone in the room and on the set, but their families, as well as the entire country of Mexico.

For example, in response to a question about racism in America from a young immigrant man from Honduras, she replied, “you’re not black, so drop the racism crap.”

When Gaby Pacheco, an immigration activist, asked Coulter for a hug to celebrate their shared humanity, Coulter shot her down, saying that she had just recovered from “the worst flu I’ve ever had.” When Pacheco said that would only make the conciliatory gesture all the more meaningful, Coulter shot her down again, brusquely saying, “no, let’s get on with the question.”

Host Jorge Ramos also caught flak, after he questioned her about a comment she made, that “Americans should fear immigrants more than ISIS.” When he pointed out that most immigrants “aren’t terrorists or criminals,” she replied, “I have a little tip for you — if you don’t want to be killed by ISIS, don’t go to Syria.”

“If you don’t want to be killed by a Mexican,” she added, “there’s nothing I can tell you.”

She appeared to leave herself some wiggle room, not fully pronouncing the word “Mexican,” just saying what sounded like “meh-an” in a move reminiscent of then-presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s 2012 statement about “blah people.” However, she quickly demonstrated that she meant what she almost managed to say.

Ramos asked her if she believed that certain peoples were genetically predisposed to crime, and replied, “no, but there are cultures that are obviously deficient, and if they weren’t deficient, you wouldn’t be sitting in America interviewing me, I’d be in Mexico. You fled that culture!”

Here’s the video:

5. Middle schooler hurls offensive racist insults at Oxford teen

The scene played out at Oxford Middle School Monday afternoon as a group of kids waited to be picked up from class shortly after 3:00. Seventh grader Tatyana Harris was at the center of it all.

“I was minding my own business – I had my phone, I had my headphones in – I was minding my own business and then he came over and snatched the headphones out of my ear,” Harris said.

The 13-year-old says she’s been having problems with the 14-year-old eighth grader for months. On Monday, he delivered a racist rant that will make your skin crawl and even admitted to her that he was “extremely” racist.

She and her friends hit record on their phones and captured a disgusting and possibly criminal rant.

Tatyana says the bully not only verbally assaulted her but physically assaulted her as well. She says he pushed her and she hit her head and on Tuesday, her doctor diagnosed her with a concussion. The alleged bully also took a swipe at another kid recording the altercation.

Principal Dacia Beazley say they regularly talk to the students about bullying and this kind of bullying is unacceptable.

“I couldn’t watch it. It was disturbing; I cried because it’s hurt,” Beazley said.

She also said teachers spent the first period Tuesday with students talking about what happened and what can be learned from from what was caught on camera. That video was immediately uploaded to Facebook by a student and viewed on social media thousands of times.

“Everyone is very very upset with the situation. It’s not Oxford,” Beazley said.

As for the 14-year-old who appears to be both a bully and a racist, he was disciplined Monday by school officials who eventually broke up the fight. He’s not in school and the investigation continues while his ultimate punishment is not yet known.

As for Tatyana, her mother, Florissa Bell, says she’d like to send her daughter back to school but is worried about her safety.

“Something could seriously happen to my daughter. It’s sad. Racism is alive and well, it’s crazy!”

Further examples of racism can be found here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Racism is everywhere in the United States. It is present in our courtrooms, in our classrooms, in our boardrooms, in our government offices. It is found in civilians, CEOs, and politicians. It is found in doctors and lawyers, cashiers and flight attendants, tv hosts and political pundits. Whether it’s bound into systems that benefit the privileged majority or white people dehumanizing black and brown people, racism is not only alive and well, it is thriving.

No matter what “they” say.

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How do we know racism isn’t dead?
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