Race Inquiry Digest (February 4) – Important Current Stories On Race In America

Featured – Northam’s ugly yearbook photo and the racist origins of blackface. The image of a man in blackface standing beside a figure in Klan robes has deep roots in American history. By Michael Brice-Saddler, Jessica Contrera and DaNeen L. Brown / Wash Post 

The racism was present the moment he took the stage. Using something black to darken his face, Thomas Dartmouth Rice didn’t hold back in his singsong performances, which date to the 1830s. The white man danced like a buffoon and spoke with an exaggerated imitation of black slave vernacular to entertain his audiences. His fictional character also had a name: “Jim Crow.” David Pilgrim, curator of the Jim Crow Museum in Michigan, noted how Jim Crow and other performances featuring white men in blackface captivated white crowds up until the mid-20th century. Now blackface is back in the spotlight after a photograph emerged Friday from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook page. It shows one man in blackface standing beside another figure in a Ku Klux Klan robe. Read more

Policies that harm black bodies deserve the same outrage as blackface. By Shanita Hubbard / The Guardian

Governor Ralph Northam faces calls to resign over a yearbook photo. That’s good, but voter suppression and other racist policies deserve equal outrage. Read more
On Langston Hughes’s 115th birthday, read his ambivalent ode to America. By Constance Grady / Vox

Friday is Langston Hughes’s 115th birthday. That means it is a perfect time to remember that in 1936, Hughes wrote what is still the most eloquent rejoinder to cries of “make America great again” that anyone could hope for. It’s a poem called “Let America Be America Again,” and it calls for a country that is open and welcoming to all, a land “where Liberty / Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath / But opportunity is real, and life is free / Equality is in the air we breathe.” Read more

The Super Bowl is a showdown of America’s dueling values: commerce and conscience. By Kareem Abdul-Jabbar / The Guardian

Super Sunday is the biggest promotion of capitalism in the world and I’m good with that. But is there any room left for social conscience? Read more

European colonizers killed so many Native Americans that it changed the global climate, researchers say. By Laurent Kent / CNN

European settlers killed 56 million indigenous people over about 100 years in South, Central and North America, causing large swaths of farmland to be abandoned and reforested, researchers at University College London, or UCL, estimate. The increase in trees and vegetation across an area the size of France resulted in a massive decrease in carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, according to the study. Read more

A federal law is hurting Native American children. It must be struck down. By Ken Paxton / Wash Post

In 1978, Congress enacted the Indian Child Welfare Act. It was intended to address concerns that public and private entities were too willing to break up Native American families unnecessarily. But the law, and its implementation over the years, went too far. Read more

The Will to Kill, in Black and White. Race has played a heavy hand in the fates of soldiers facing death sentences in the U.S. military. By Bill Lueders / The Progressive

Richard A. Serrano, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former reporter for The Los Angeles Times, in his new book, Summoned at Midnight, tells the important but overlooked story of the role of race in the fates of former soldiers sentenced to death by the military. It’s a book that manages to be both dark and enlightening. Read more

Fighting Without A Gun: Being Black In World War II. By HuffPost Video

When Kenyon Parker served in World War II, the Army was segregated. He and other black soldiers were denied guns, had separate facilities and were often forced into behind-the-line jobs of servitude. Kenyon drove an amphibious DUKW vehicle across Europe and Japan, all without being allowed a machine gunner on board like their white counterparts had. Watch here

Lift Every Voice and Sing ( The Undefeated Mix) Featuring Aloe Blacc and special guests The String Queens / By The Undefeated

It’s called the Black National Anthem. First penned as a poem in 1900, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” is the melodic cornerstone of the African-American experience, a quiet but steadfast declaration of the pain and resilience of our ancestors.   Watch the video here

Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman” is one of the greatest speeches in American rhetoric. By Constance Grady / Vox

The message at the core of “Ain’t I a Woman” rings powerfully true 168 years later: that women can change the world, and that Truth’s blackness did not make her not a woman. That’s the kind of intersectionality that Truth was immensely skilled at navigating, despite the enormous pressure on women of color at the time to choose between the women’s movement and the abolitionist movement. Read more

Cory Booker’s 2020 policy agenda: ‘Baby bonds,’ criminal justice reform, action on climate change. By Jeff Stein / Wash Post

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) announced on Feb. 1 that he is running for president in 2020. “Booker and his team are engaged with tangible policies that can really change our trajectory of hoarding resources among the elite to a more egalitarian, inclusive economy,” said Darrick Hamilton, a professor of economics and urban policy at the New School who has worked closely with Booker and his staff. Read more

Will Anyone Save Black Colleges?  By Adam Harris / The Atlantic

Bennett College needed to collect $5 million to survive. The historically black women’s college in Greensboro, North Carolina, was appealing a decision to revoke its accreditation—based largely on its feeble financial situation—and wanted to show that it could raise funds. The valiant effort, and the accompanying headlines, overshadows the fact that one large donation could have solved the school’s problems. Black colleges rarely receive transformational donations, the ones that get glowing press releases and New York Times–worthy rollouts. Read more

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