Tag Archives: racism

Voter Registration in Mississippi, from 1964 to 2012

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Tonight a few of us on the board attended a documentary screening in Bronfman, “Mississippi: Is This America? (1963-1964)”, which is part of PBS’ “Eyes on the Prize” Civil Rights series and a discussion on the topic of Nonviolence versus Violence in terms of the Freedom Summer of 1964. Chris Williams, along with myriad other college students, went down to Jackson, Mississippi in 1964 to register black voters and now ironically lives here in Williamstown and was able to share his story with us.

About 20 years after the fall of Reconstruction in 1890, Mississippi created a series of eligibility requirements for voters specifically aimed to disenfranchise blacks and poor whites with poll taxes, literacy tests, and grandfather clauses. In a state with a ratio of roughly four blacks to one white, Mississippi effectively reversed the voting strength of black voters with fear and bureaucratic red tape.

In order to end this stark voter suppression, The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965, but by that time, the KKK and other racist groups violently campaigned to preserve their segregated, white-dominated society and power structure. Perhaps the best-known victims are James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner.

On the first day of the Freedom Summer, June 21st, Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner went out to investigate a black church bombing in Philadelphia, Mississippi, and were arrested later that afternoon on alleged traffic violations and held into the night. Their release from jail was the last time they were seen alive before their badly decomposed bodies were discovered under a nearby dam six weeks later. Goodman and Schwerner had died from single gunshot wounds to the chest, but Chaney, the only black of the group, was also savagely beaten.

What is more disturbing than that tragic story is that history seems to be repeating itself in Mississippi as the state’s Voter ID Law divides blacks and whites all over again. Mississippi voted in favor to amend the state’s constitution that requires voters to present government-issued photo identification at the polls, which was seen as a strong public affirmation of the Republican initiative.”The future of the South is rushing to the past,” says Rickey Hill, a professor of black politics and theory at Mississippi Valley State University. “If you look at the new immigration laws proposed throughout the South and the voter ID laws, which amount to racial disenfranchisement, and you take these things together, what we are seeing in the American South is a racial redemption”.

While it can be hard to tell the difference between racial and partisan politics, in Mississippi there is a very clear racial dimension to this when we remember historical context. Democrats have complained about the wave of new election and voter ID laws across the country as a “continued assault on key Democratic voting blocs, including black and Latino voters” voting blocs which will be key for 2012 elections.

The Obama Family and the Micro-Aggressions that Surround Them

Recently, Michelle Obama has been in the news after two congressmen made public statements about her that were offensive. Some may say that these statements were racially motivated due to the language used against her. I’m not extremely familiar with the amount of press coverage that past First Ladies have received and so I did a brief amount of research before making this post. Wives like Mrs. Kennedy, Mrs. Reagan, Mrs. Clinton, and Mrs. Bush were all noted for their public outreach and power while in office. However, while researching press coverage about these women, I did not come across articles that  demeaned the physical appearance of these ladies, but for Michelle Obama, it will be part of her legacy as a First Lady. From the electoral races of 2008 to now, Mrs. Obama has consistently been the butt of appearance jokes.

For a photo gallery:http://www.thegrio.com/politics/michelle-obama-and-the-angry-black-woman-stereotype.php

Some may not think much of animated photos or comments here and there. Some may not even categorize these actions as racism. While there may be disagreements about these actions, at the end of the day, it is safe to say that these actions,words, and photos are extremely hurtful and insensitive. Many deal with micro aggressions daily, but never know how to put into words. They are everywhere from the classroom, cafeteria,  and our private friend circles. For those of you not familiar with the term microaggressions, read below:

‘Microaggressions’ is a word coined by psychiatrist Chester M. Pierce, meaning “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of other races.”

Microaggressions, like racism, may be around for a long time to come. However, finding the courage to stand up when someone does something hurtful to you is the first step to correcting a wrong. Take a look at the article below to see how microaggressions have been affecting the Obama family lately.

http://colorlines.com/archives/2012/01/michelle_obama_racial_microaggressions_and_why_apologies_are_besides_the_point.html

Hate Crime at Williams College

On November 12th, 2011, an unknown individual wrote the phrase “All Niggers Must Die” on the walls of the dormitory on campus. At first, the exact words that were written on the walls of the Prospect dormitory were not revealed to the student body. Instead, the administration sent out this email to the student body:

To the Williams Community, It is both saddening and upsetting to report that a racially hateful phrase was written last night on a wall in a student residence hall. It did not seem targeted at an individual. The writing was removed and a full investigation begun. There is no place at Williams for such behavior. In addition to the effort to indentify whoever is responsible, we will be in touch regarding ways that we can together respond to this attempt to disrupt our community.

 Sincerely,

Adam Falk ,Sarah Bolton,Steve Klass  

The email that was sent allowed students to make many assumptions. They include: 1) the targeted group was probably “Blacks,” the racial graffiti was more than likely a racial slur and/or phrase, and finally that the racial graffiti definitely did not include a death threat. Another factor that many believed played a role in the reporting of the incident to students was the fact that Homecoming was the same weekend. Did administration send out a vague email to prevent a campus-wide scare? The administration insisted that Homecoming activities had nothing to do with the reporting process. Many to this day wish that the administration had been more transparent in their initial email because they believed that it definitely could have changed the way that students, faculty, staff, and alumni organized their actions and moves that day.

A select group of students were notified about the incident later that night after most of the Homecoming activities had come to an end. During the series of meeting that night, students voiced their frustrations with the administrations initial response. Many students also demanded that the college take several immediate ; these actions included that  a more transparent protocol in place for future events, officially labeling the incident as a “hate crime,” and the cancelling of classes on the following Monday. Out of the three listed, efforts and progress were made on all three. The willingness from the administration to meet all of the demands made by students gave many the impression that significant changes would be made.

To date, the college has reported information on the efforts and progress that has been made in their investigation. The perpetrator has not been found, but efforts are still being made to figure out this crime.

Below are some responses and official reports of the Hate Crime at Williams College.

 http://president.williams.edu/letters-from-the-president/1174/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tracey-e-vitchers/violent-hate-speech-incid_b_1093846.html

http://pjmedia.com/rogerkimball/2011/12/22/hate-crime-at-williams/?singlepage=true

http://thedartmouth.com/2011/11/16/news/vandalism

http://orient.bowdoin.edu/orient/article.php?date=2011-11-18&section=2&id=1

               

 

Yes, We’re Still Protesting This Shit

Believing in that procrastination can (occasionally) be a productive habit, I’m going to talk about this poster I keep seeing.Yes, we are. And? I used to find this image both hilarious and insightful but, in reality, it’s not. It’s an attempt to channel understandable frustration into snark that unintentionally shows how much people don’t get how oppression works. Institutional racism (or any marginalizing ideology) isn’t going to evaporate because we’ve supposedly progressed as a nation or won a few battles in terms of civil rights and equality. People who have power are not going to be easily be convinced that giving it up is the right thing to do.

We’re still protesting this shit because it never went away. Racism in particular morphed into something much more insidious as a passage in Sam Greenlee’s The Spook Who Sat by the Door speaks to:

“[Freeman’s] job was to be black and conspicuous as the integrated Negro of the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States of America. As long as he was there, one of an officer corps of thousands, no one could accuse the CIA of not being integrated.”

Images of diversity in schools or in the workplace alone do not address why diversity was fought for in the first place. Likewise, one only has to look at how quickly any discussion of race and/or racism becomes Pulling the Race Card™. Preventing discussion and erasing difference through ideas like colorblindness are now fine-tuned tactics to keep us ignorant of our past and our present. We have to acknowledge contesting narratives and participate in difficult conversations to both understand and effectively address today’s problems.

Knowing what I do now after courses like Haiti: In History & Imagination  and Civil Rights to Black Power, I can’t buy into the idea that intellectual progress (whatever that is) as a society or the passage of time would have counteracted racism. As long as people are being victimized, struggle should exist and that’s not a bad thing. The fact that we’re addressing similar (if not the same) issues is not unbelievable to me because of how racism is still embedded in American society.

And what if we were to eventually overcome oppression?

Protest should still exist because a critical eye is essential to progress. Progress should never be a fixed, linear goal: we should never stop striving to be better as individuals, as communities, as a nation.

So, yes, if I see you posting this in agreement, I’m probably going to side-eye you and think, “You’re missing the point.”

— E.