Race Inquiry Digest (Mar 29) – Important Current Stories On Race In America


These two photos from the Georgia Capitol reveal what the state’s new voting law is all about. By John Blake / CNN

If you’re trying to figure out the impact of the new Georgia law restricting voting rights, two photographs will tell you everything you need to know. The first photo shows Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signing the sweeping law, which many argue will make voting harder for people of color. He is sitting at a table in a stately room, flanked by six men in suits and before a portrait of what seems to be a painting of an antebellum, plantation-styled home. The second photo shows two beefy White police officers arresting a distressed-looking Black woman — Georgia state Rep. Park Cannon — after she knocked on Kemp’s office door repeatedly while he announced the signing of the bill into law. The symbolic contrast between the two images, both taken within minutes of each other Thursday evening at the Georgia Capitol, is hard to miss. Read more 

Related: Georgia governor Brian Kemp signs new voter bill next to slave plantation painting. By Natasha Chen / CNN

Related: Calls for economic boycott grow after Georgia adopts voter restrictions. By Dennis Romero / NBC News

Related: In Georgia County, Elections Bills Have Consequences. By Stephen Fowler / NPR 

Related: The High Cost of Georgia’s Restrictive Voting Bills. By Jelani Cobb / The New Yorker

Political / Social

What Jim Crow looks like in 2021. By Nicole Hemmer / CNN

Even at its violent peak, Jim Crow had another side, one that always wore a suit and tie, especially when it came to voter disenfranchisement. Required to navigate around the 15th Amendment, which explicitly prohibited barring Black men from voting, White Southern legislators innovated a kind of colorblind racism that would go on to become the right’s preferred tool for opposing civil rights advances in the post-Jim Crow era. Looked at through that lens, the current rush to restrict voting rights is less proof of the resuscitation of Jim Crow than evidence that it never really went away. Read more

Republicans have taken up the politics of bigotry, putting US democracy at risk. By Robert Reich / The Guardian

People around the world witnessing the fragility of American democracy “want to see whether our democracy is resilient, whether we can rise to the challenge here at home. That will be the foundation for our legitimacy in defending democracy around the world for years to come.” That resilience and legitimacy will depend in large part on whether Republicans or Democrats prevail on voting rights. Not since the years leading up to the civil war has the clash between the nation’s two major parties so clearly defined the core challenge facing American democracy. Read more 

Related: Democrats, Republicans hold dueling border trips. Their takeaways couldn’t be more different. By Suzanne Gamboa, Rebecca Shabad and Dareh Gregorian / NBC News 

Raised to identify as Black, Harris steps into role as a voice for Asian Americans amid rise in hate incidents. By David Nakamura / Wash Post

After emerging from the meeting with local Asian American leaders, Harris told reporters: “Sadly, it’s not new. Racism is real in America, and it has always been. Xenophobia is real in America, and it always has been. Sexism, too.” With President Biden standing behind her, she ticked through laws discriminating against Chinese immigrants in the 1860s, the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and attacks against Muslim Americans after 9/11. Read more 

Related: Stop Asian hate: Asian Americans across US demand reforms. By Marc Ramirez / USA Today

Related: How Vincent Chin’s Death Led To A Wave Of Asian American Activism. By Karen Grigsby Bates / NPR

Related: Attacks Blaming Asians For Pandemic Reflect Racist History Of Global Health. By Joanne Lu / NPR

What Derek Chauvin’s trial in the death of George Floyd means for America. By Holly Bailey / Wash Post

On Monday, a White former police officer will go on trial here for the killing of a Black man in a case that many view as a barometer of racial change in the United States as much as about Derek Chauvin’s guilt or innocence. Chauvin is charged with murder for his actions on Memorial Day when, during an investigation, he held his knee on George Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes while he was handcuffed, facedown on a street, begging for breath and calling for his dead mother until he went limp. The incident, which was filmed and viewed by millions of people around the world, sparked a summer of nationwide protests and forced a national reckoning on issues of race, policing and social justice. Read more 

Researchers put a number to the lives lost due to Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic: 400,000. By Mark Summer / Daily Kos 

From the beginning, it was clear that Donald Trump was handling the COVID-19 pandemic poorly … where “poorly” can be read as any synonym for “in the worst way possible.” Trump disbanded agencies meant to deal with pandemics, ignored the outbreak long after it was a clear threat to the nation, failed to make tests available, failed to provide nation standards for social distancing, failed to create a national system of testing and case management, promoted phony cures, discouraged the use of masks, undercut health officials, and even encouraged his supporters to engage in armed insurrection against governors who were trying to take effective action. And that’s just a select list of ways Trump screwed this thing up, down, and sideways. Read more 

Trump tried to defund DOJ peacemakers used to ‘repair race relations.’ By Kevin Johnson / USA Today

As racial tensions spilled into America’s streets, the Trump administration repeatedly sought to eliminate a long-standing Justice Department unit that for decades has mediated racial, ethnic and gender clashes that are once again surging across the country. For four straight years, DOJ’s Community Relations Service (CRS), established nearly 60 years ago by the landmark Civil Rights Act, was variously targeted for severe staffing reductions and outright elimination, according to Trump budget proposals. Read more 

Pelosi Names D.C. National Guard Commander As New House Sergeant-At-Arms. By Barbara Sprunt / NPR

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tapped Maj. Gen. William Walker, the commander of the D.C. National Guard, as the next sergeant-at-arms for the House of Representatives. Walker will be the 38th person and first Black American to serve in that position, which Pelosi described in a statement as “foundational to the functioning of Congress [s]ince the earliest days of our Founding.” Read more 

A Volunteer Army’s Mission: Vaccinate Black People in the Rural South. By Andrew Jacobs / NYT

Across the Southern states, Black doctors, Baptist preachers and respected community figures like Ms. Oliver are trying to combat lingering vaccine skepticism while also helping people overcome logistical hurdles that have led to a troubling disparity in vaccination rates between African-Americans and whites. Read more

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says only 0.1 percent of Trump administration’s covid farm relief went to Black farmers. By Laura Reiley / Wash Post

A tiny fraction of the Trump administration’s coronavirus relief for American farmers — just 0.1 percent of the overall package — went to Black farmers, according to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who was confirmed in February with strong bipartisan support for a second stint in the role. In an interview with The Washington Post, Vilsack for the first time noted the extent to which the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic exacerbated existing disparities across the American economy. The distribution of coronavirus relief increased those gaps, he said. Read more 

Maryland to Pay Four Black Colleges $577 Million. By Douglas Belkin / WSJ

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan signed a bill Wednesday to pay four historically Black colleges and universities $577 million to settle a 15-year legal battle to address chronic underfunding. The legislation marks a turning point in the suit brought by a group made up largely of alumni of the schools. The organization, Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education, alleged that the state failed to adequately fund HBCUs while investing in predominantly white schools. Read more 

The Social Justice Purge at Idaho Colleges. By Michelle Goldberg / NYT

The claim that the right’s war on critical race theory doesn’t threaten academic freedom is also wrong. Consider what just happened in Idaho, where last week Boise State University suspended dozens of classes, online and in person, dealing with different aspects of diversity. This week, they were reinstated, but online only and “asynchronously,” without any live discussions. These suspensions happened the day before the Idaho State Senate voted to cut $409,000 from the school’s budget, an amount meant to reflect what Boise State spends on social justice programs. The budget bill also banned state colleges and universities from using any appropriated funds to “support social justice ideology student activities, clubs, events and organizations on campus,” and requires schools to report all social justice spending to the Legislature. Read more 

Evanston is the first U.S. city to issue slavery reparations. Experts say it’s a noble start. By Char Adams / NBC News

The historic plan by Evanston, Illinois, to make reparations to its Black residents — including housing grants for a fraction of the city’s families — has prompted questions about whether funding such programs, as opposed to direct payments, can be considered reparations for slavery and racial discrimination at all. The first phase involves giving 16 residents $25,000 each, for home repairs or property costs. This plan, however, is far from the direct payments that have come to characterize reparations — redress for slavery and the subsequent racial discrimination in the United States. But experts say Evanston’s plan is a noble start to a complicated process. Read more 

Ethnic studies pioneer Rudy Acuña on neoliberalism, Trump and the future of academia. By Jeff Biggers / Salon 

As the debate over ethnic studies brews in California and the Biden administration transitions into power, the 88-year-old founding chair of the landmark Chicana and Chicano Studies at California State University, Northridge, has little time for small talk. Notwithstanding a host of serious health setbacks over the past year, Rodolfo “Rudy” Acuña is in the process of putting together a collection of his nearly 1,000 essays, tentatively titled, “My Journey Out of Purgatory.” Read more 

I Survived 18 Years in Solitary Confinement. By Ian Manuel / NYT

Imagine living alone in a room the size of a freight elevator for almost two decades. As a 15-year-old, I was condemned to long-term solitary confinement in the Florida prison system, which ultimately lasted for 18 consecutive years. From 1992 to 2010. From age 15 to 33. From the end of the George H.W. Bush administration to the beginnings of the Obama era. For 18 years I didn’t have a window in my room to distract myself from the intensity of my confinement. I wasn’t permitted to talk to my fellow prisoners or even to myself. I didn’t have healthy, nutritious food; I was given just enough to not die. Read more 

Historical / Cultural

Why don’t we treat Asian American history the way we treat Black history? By Michael Eric Dyson / Wash Post

The struggles of the Black American narrative — the arc from slavery to Barack Obama — are celebrated, contested and even sometimes disparaged. But there’s no denying that this narrative is well-known. We all grasp the importance of Black history to the American story, even if we argue over the proper emphasis. The relationship between Asian American and Pacific Islanders and their place in American history is not, to many, nearly as obvious. The American racial conversation, in which African Americans are the default minority group, has impoverished our understanding of — and provided a poor platform for — the stories of others. Read more 

Georgia voting: Why these slave narratives compiled after the Civil War are more relevant than ever. By Eva Rothenberg / CNN

According to Adrienne Jones, a political science professor at Morehouse College in Atlanta, firsthand accounts of slavery and Jim Crow America are a reflection of where our democracy could be headed if voting restriction laws keep being passed in state legislatures around the country. “Reading slave narratives, you’re experiencing the lives of people who are cut off from participation in their society, who did not have full citizenship. It allows us to view what society will be like from a fully disempowered state,” she told CNN. “The right to vote was essential in the transition from being a slave to being a citizen. And now these rights are in danger again.” Read more

The Life and Work of Mary Church Terrell. By Malaurie Pilatte / AAIHS

Alison M. Parker’s Unceasing Militant: The Life of Mary Church Terrell is the first full-length biography of Terrell and fills a vital gap in our knowledge of nineteenth and twentieth century Black activism. Although Terrell’s life and work spanned almost a century (1863-1954), her contributions to racial and gender equality in the U.S. and abroad have remained underexplored. Read more

Sure, erase the names of history’s racists. That won’t undo their messes. By Noam Cohen / Wash Post

What could be wrong with obliterating the name of this “dean of American architects,” as he was known? Or, for that matter, the name of Abraham Flexner, the “father of modern medical education”? Or that of August Vollmer, the “father of modern policing”? In recent months, prominent civic institutions have made a show of at least partly cutting ties with past leaders because of their offensive comments and ideas. Read more

Related: Uproar erupts at U. of Richmond over building names with ties to racism. By Nick Anderson / Wash Post

Charlottesville mayor’s poem about city, racism ‘hits nerve.’  By Ben Finley / AP and ABC News

America’s Black politicians have a long history of calling out the nation’s racism. But few have taken to poetry and written that their city is “void of a moral compass” and “rapes you of your breaths.” Nikuyah Walker, the first Black woman to be mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia, has posted poetry on Twitter and Facebook that has drawn national attention for descriptions of a picturesque college town that is indelibly linked to a slave-owning U.S. president and a deadly white nationalist rally. Read more 

Capturing how Aretha Franklin could “alchemize her pain into sonic gold.” By Melanie McFarland / Salon

“Genius: Aretha” is an eight-episode work Parks brings to life through executive producer and director Anthony Hemingway and most crucially through the astronomical talent of Cynthia Erivo’s personification of Aretha Franklin. Erivo sings on all the limited series’ tracks, but she channels Queen of Soul through every note – interpretive genius layered atop of the story of an extraordinary person. Brian Grazer and Ron Howard selected Franklin as the third subject for their National Geographic series following seasons celebrating Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso, and after drawing criticism for featuring two white men to personify the term for two seasons in a row. Read more 


With Captivating Performances, Black Figure Skaters Strike More Than Gold. By Patrice Peck / NYT

Starr Andrews remembers the stares she received in locker rooms at her earliest figure skating competitions. She remembers the requests to touch her coiled, textured hair. Videos of her performance have received more than 200,000 views online. Fans include Guyton and Michelle Obama, who shared one of the videos and wrote: “To all the Black kids out there striving for excellence in the face of those who doubt you: Keep going.” Read more 

How Black Players Propelled Cleveland To A 1948 World Series Win. By Scott Simon / NPR

A few months after Jackie Robinson broke modern baseball’s color barrier in 1947, Larry Doby became the first Black player in baseball’s American League. A year later, Satchel Paige joined the Cleveland Indians as the team’s second Black player. The two Black players, and the team owner’s willingness to sign them, propelled Cleveland to win the World Series in 1948 in one of baseball’s most notable seasons. It’s the story told in Luke Epplin’s new book, Our Team: The Epic Story of Four Men and the World Series That Changed Baseball. Read more

Charli Collier of Texas Honors Her Father’s Memory With Resilience. By Giullian R. Brassil

Charli Collier has spent her last season in college basketball adjusting to a new coach, to a coronavirus-safe form of training, to disrupted classes and to conferring with her teammates over video calls. All the while, she coped with the expectation that she would become the top pick in the next W.N.B.A. draft. Read more 

From prized QB to pariah: What don’t we know about the Deshaun Watson situation? By William C. Rhoden / The Undefeated

One month ago, Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson was considered a paragon of virtue and a coveted commodity. Football analysts were singing Watson’s praises as a rare talent and franchise player beloved by teammates. In the realm of players’ rights and player activism, Watson was an emerging hero of player resistance. In a public and protracted battle with the Texans, whom Watson accused of reneging on a promise to include him in personnel decisions, Watson demanded a trade. He seemed to have the franchise in a bind. A month later, Watson’s name is muddied and his options have shrunk to near zero. In the last week, more than 20 women have stepped forward to accuse Watson of sexual assault and misconduct in connection. Questions outweigh answers. Read more 

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