Race Inquiry Digest (May 10) – Important Current Stories On Race In America


Richard Wright’s Novel About Racist Police Violence Was Rejected in 1941; It Has Just Been Published. By Amy Goodman / Democracy Now

Nearly 80 years ago, Richard Wright became one of the most famous Black writers in the United States with the publication of “Native Son,” a novel whose searing critique of systemic racism made it a best-seller and inspired a generation of Black writers. In 1941, Wright wrote a new novel titled “The Man Who Lived Underground,” but publishers refused to release it, in part because the book was filled with graphic descriptions of police brutality by white officers against a Black man. His manuscript was largely forgotten until his daughter Julia Wright unearthed it at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University. Listen to the interview of Julia Wright here.

Political / Social

Black voting rights and voter suppression: A timeline. By Brandon Tensley / CNN

“We are witnessing right now a massive and unabashed assault on voting rights unlike anything we’ve ever seen since the Jim Crow era. This is Jim Crow in new clothes.” That was newly elected Georgia Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, giving his maiden floor speech in March. His focus on the past — on how racial hierarchies persist — makes good sense. Much of this legislative blitz, which follows Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump in the November presidential election, disproportionately targets voters of color — in particular Black voters, who played a critical role in winning both the White House and the US Senate for Democrats. The timeline below lays out some important dates in this history, as well as dates that mark significant advancements in voting rights. Read more 

Related: Republicans continue their nationwide campaign to restrict voting. By Fredreka Schouten / CNN

Related: Black Progressives Get Personal And Political About Right-Wing Voter Suppression.

Trump and his perpetrators and bystanders own a Republican Party incompatible with democracy. By Colbert I. King / Wash Post

In a 1998 speech to Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag, Holocaust scholar Yehuda Bauer said, “I come from a people who gave the Ten Commandments to the world. Time has come to strengthen them by three additional ones, which we ought to adopt and commit ourselves to: Thou shall not be a perpetrator; thou shall not be a victim; and thou shall never, but never, be a bystander.” Read more 

Related: Liz Cheney’s dilemma: Cast out by the Republicans — but hardly cut out to be a Democrat. By Lucian K. Truscott IV / Salon

The GOP’s ‘Critical Race Theory’ Fixation, Explained. By Adam Harris / The Atlantic

On January 12, Keith Ammon, a Republican member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, introduced a bill that would bar schools as well as organizations that have entered into a contract or subcontract with the state from endorsing “divisive concepts.” Specifically, the measure would forbid “race or sex scapegoating,” questioning the value of meritocracy, and suggesting that New Hampshire—or the United States—is “fundamentally racist.” Ammon’s bill is one of a dozen that Republicans have recently introduced in state legislatures and the United States Congress that contain similar prohibitions. Read more 

We speak about Asian Americans as a single block. Here’s how incredibly complex they are. By Nicole Chavez and Priya Krishnakumar / CNN

Asian Americans are often labeled as a singular group, but the fastest growing population in the US is far from a monolith — and their complex history and cultures are often glossed over. While they have been in America since the nation’s infancy, Asian Americans continue being harmed by stereotypes like the “model minority” as well as racial violence. Much of the recent anti-Asian bias is a result of many people being ignorant of the group’s history in the country and xenophobic messaging around the Covid-19 pandemic, experts and lawmakers say. Here’s a look at how diverse Asians in America are and why we can’t speak about them as a single block. Read more

Related: In Just One Month, Advocates Collected Nearly 3,000 More Reports Of Anti-Asian Racism. /HuffPost 

Related: Asian American health workers detail racial harassment at work. By Maura Hohman / Today

Related: A guide to combating anti-Asian racism — from relationships to the workplace. By Kimmy Yam, Sakshi Venkatraman and Caitlin Yoshiko Kandil / NBC News 

Federal Grand Jury Indicts 4 Ex-Police Officers Involved In George Floyd Death. By Amy Forliti and Mike Balsamo / HuffPost

A federal grand jury has indicted the four former Minneapolis police officers involved in George Floyd’s arrest and death, accusing them of violating the Black man’s constitutional rights as he was restrained face-down on the pavement and gasping for air, according to indictments unsealed Friday. Read more 

Ahead of Supreme Court’s decision on split juries, New Orleans DA tackles ‘Jim Crow office.’ By Erik Ortiz / NBC News

When Jason Williams took office as New Orleans’ top prosecutor in January, he said it came with a mandate to overhaul the way criminal cases are handled in a city long plagued by crime. But he didn’t just start with cases moving forward. He also wanted to look back: to the trials of people convicted by nonunanimous juries, a practice rooted in the Jim Crow era and devised to deny equal representation to Black residents of Louisiana in the courts and essentially invalidate votes of Black jurors. Read more 

Congress faces the gut-wrenching facts of the Black maternal mortality crisis. By Julia Craven / Slate

“I didn’t think that there could even be a possibility that there could be a complication,” Missouri Rep. Cori Bush told the House Oversight Committee Thursday. Bush was testifying to her colleagues about the premature birth of her own son, Zion, as part of a hearing focusing on America’s ongoing Black maternal mortality crisis, as Congress considers the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2020. Bush and other speakers offered gut-wrenching testimonies about the realities of Black experience with pregnancy and childbirth. Black people who give birth in the U.S. are three times as likely to experience maternal death during or after delivery as their white peers, who themselves die at a higher rate than in any other comparably wealthy nation. There’s no definitive reason for this atrocious outcome, but systemic racism, poor healthcare access, apathetic clinicians, and weathering all play a role in why the phenomenon transcends class and educational lines. Read more 

Keisha Lance Bottoms Won’t Seek Second Term as Atlanta Mayor. / NYT

Keisha Lance Bottoms, the first-term Atlanta mayor who rose to national prominence this past year with her stern yet empathetic televised message to protesters but has struggled to rein in her city’s spike in violent crime, will not seek a second term in office, Ms. Bottoms announced on Twitter on Thursday night. Read more 

EMILY’s List Bets On Cheri Beasley As North Carolina’s First Black Senator.

A powerful and well-funded Democratic group is endorsing former state Supreme Court Justice Cheri Beasley in the North Carolina’s 2022 U.S. Senate race, providing her with an early boost in her effort to become the state’s first-ever Black senator. EMILY’s List, which backs Democratic women who support abortion rights, announced its support for Beasley on Wednesday, a little over a week after she officially announced her bid for Senate. Read more 

San Francisco To Redirect $3.75 Million From Law Enforcement To Black Business. / HuffPost

San Francisco will redirect $3.75 million from the city’s police budget to organizations supporting Black businesses and entrepreneurs. In an announcement Wednesday, Mayor London Breed said that the funding would go to more than a dozen local organizations and come out of the city’s Dream Keeper Initiative, which was announced last year and will reinvest $120 million from law enforcement budgets into San Francisco’s Black community. Read more 

Blinken’s battle to make State Department more diverse will face steep resistance, diplomats of color say. By Nicole Gaouette / CNN

The Black diplomat who was handed a set of keys in the State Department parking garage by a White colleague who seemed to assume he worked there, not in the offices above, and could fetch her car. The young Latina in tears after an older White diplomat counseled her on being “too vibrant.” Her boss, another older White man, told her to ignore the reproach and keep shining. The unofficial list of colleagues to avoid because of their perceived hostility to diversity that diplomats quietly share among themselves. Asian American diplomats who say they face a tougher struggle to get security clearances than their non-Asian peers. Read more 

Court Overturns Fraud Conviction of Corrine Brown, Ex-U.S. Representative.

Black Americans And The Racist Architecture Of Homeownership. By Ailsa Chang, Christopher Intagliata and Jonaki Mehta / NPR

Owning a home is an undeniable part of the American dream — and of American citizenship. It is also the key to building intergenerational wealth. Over the last 15 years, Black homeownership has declined more dramatically than for any other racial or ethnic group in the United States. In 2019, the Black homeownership rate was about as low as in the 1960s, when private race-based discrimination was legal. Read more 

How Systemic Racism Continues To Determine Black Health And Wealth In Chicago. By Terry Gross / NPR

There is a 30-year gap in the life expectancies of Black and white Chicagoans depending on their ZIP code. On average, residents of the Streeterville neighborhood, which is 73% white, live to be 90 years old. Nine miles south, the residents of Englewood, which is nearly 95% Black, have a life expectancy of 60. Journalist Linda Villarosa says the disparity in life expectancies has its roots in government-sanctioned policies that systematically extracted wealth from Black neighborhoods — and eroded the health of generations of people. She writes about her family’s own story in The New York Times Magazine article “Black Lives Are Shorter in Chicago. My Family’s History Shows Why.” Read more 

Historical / Cultural

Maryland Governor Issues Blanket Pardon For Lynching Victims.


National Geographic was ahead of the curve. While it took last summer’s uprisings after the police killing of George Floyd for many media outlets to address bias in their reporting and newsroom culture, the magazine announced its own racial reckoning in 2018. That year it dedicated its April issue to the topic of race, and Susan Goldberg — the first woman to be the magazine’s editor-in-chief — publicly acknowledged the publication’s long history of racism in its coverage of people of color in the US and abroad. Read more 

The Stealth Sticker Campaign to Expose New York’s History of Slavery. / NYT

Last month, Vanessa Thompson stepped outside the juice bar where she works on Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn and noticed a green and white sticker on a light pole. She leaned in for a closer look. “John van Nostrand was a slave owner,” it said. “According to the US census in 1790, the (Van) Nostrands owned 6 people.”Ms. Thompson, who is Black, was dumbfounded. “I didn’t even know anything about that,” she said. “He could’ve owned me.”The sticker was partly the brainchild of Elsa Eli Waithe, 33, a comedian living in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, who, along with two collaborators, has been on a mission to let New Yorkers know that a good number of the city’s streets, subway stations and neighborhoods are named after enslavers. Read more 

The Ridiculously Racist History of Menthol Cigarettes. By Kali Holloway / The Daily Beast

When the Biden Food and Drug Administration announced its plan to ban menthols, it cited the fact that “out of all Black smokers, nearly 85 percent smoke menthol cigarettes, compared to 30 percent of White smokers who smoke menthols.” Other kinds of flavored cigarettes—which apparently once included cinnamon, toffee, vanilla and bourbon, among so many other disgusting tobacco flavor profiles—were banned back in 2009, but not menthols, which continued to be sold. Read more 

Lloyd Price, singer and early rock influence, dies at 88. By Hillel Italie and Andrew Dalton / AP and PBS

Singer-songwriter Lloyd Price, an early rock ’n roll star and enduring maverick whose hits included such up-tempo favorites as “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” “Personality” and the semi-forbidden “Stagger Lee,” has died. He was 88. Price died Monday at a long-term care facility in New Rochelle, New York, of complications from diabetes, his wife, Jacqueline Price, told The Associated Press on Saturday. Read more 

Barry Jenkins on Bringing ‘The Underground Railroad’ to TV Form. By Camonghne Felix / Vanity Fair 

When the trades reported that he would adapt Colson Whitehead’s novel The Underground Railroad into a TV series, it was incredibly well received, but with a side of some fair and familiar skepticism—skepticism that Jenkins has the patience to sit with, because he gets the overarching critique, but also because he thinks that with Underground, he’s gotten it right. “Read more  and watch the trailer here

The mothers of Malcolm X, MLK and James Baldwin: New book explores how they shaped their sons. By Gillian Brockell / Wash Post

When Anna Malaika Tubbs set out to write a book about the mothers of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and James Baldwin, she wasn’t trying to connect the women’s lives to their sons’ achievements. “I just wanted to tell these stories because I knew, within their own right, these women deserved to have honor, deserved to at least be known,” Tubbs told The Washington Post. But when she dug into her research, something else happened. “What was shocking to me was how obvious the connection was between the mothers and the sons. I wasn’t even looking for that, but it was so clear,” she said. Read more

Stacey Abrams Contains Multitudes.

“I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: inclusion rider.” When Frances McDormand ended her Best Actress acceptance speech at the 2018 Oscars with those two words, it was the first time most people had heard of the concept of an inclusion rider. The inclusion rider is an attachment to a film or television contract which delineates that the project’s production team must take steps to seek out and hire cast and crew members from historically underrepresented backgrounds. In 2018, the team posted a template online for any actor, director or other industry leader to use when negotiating a new project. Read more 


N.C.A.A. Chief, Pressured by State Laws, Pushes to Let Athletes Cash In. / NYT

The University of Miami has long been able to make a glossy pitch to the students it hopes will star on its sports teams: an exceptional athletic tradition, respected academics, South Florida’s sun-kissed glamour. For months, though, coaches at Miami — and every other college in Florida — have had a new selling point: Play here and, thanks to a new state law, maybe make some money off your athletic fame. Florida and four other states are poised to allow players to make endorsement deals starting this summer, and with universities in other states anxious about losing recruits, the N.C.A.A. is moving anew toward extending similar rights to college athletes across the country. Read more

Zion Williamson’s Year in College Was Worth More Than He Got. / NYT

Responding to queries from Bowen’s legal team seeking information about payments to college-bound recruits, an Adidas lawyer wrote in a court filing last month that the former head of the company’s grass-roots basketball program “may have transferred $3,000 per month to the Williamson family for an unspecified period of time.” The papers also show Adidas reps doled out $5,474 to the junior circuit team for which Williamson starred, and his stepfather coached. What shocks about this latest news is not necessarily that it points again to the murky underworld of college sports. It’s that, if the claims in the Adidas case are true and the relatively paltry amounts mentioned are any guide, Zion Williamson got jobbed. Read more 

Naomi Osaka celebrated at ‘Oscars of Sport’ as Lewis Hamilton’s social justice work is recognized.  By Ben Morse / CNN

Naomi Osaka’s continued excellence has been celebrated at the 2021 Laureus World Sports Awards. The 23-year-old was named Laureus Sportswoman of the Year for 2021 after winning her second US Open title, but it wasn’t just her success on the court that contributed to her claiming the accolade. During her run to grand slam success at Flushing Meadows and in the midst of the Black Lives Matter campaign, Osaka wore a different face mask for every match, each one featuring the name of a Black victim of alleged police or racist violence in the US. Read more 

Lewis Hamilton steps out in stylish green camouflage dungarees ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix. By Amelia Wynne / Daily Mail

Lewis Hamilton stepped out in stylish green camouflage dungarees on Thursday ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix this weekend. The seven-time world champion, 36, caught the eye in his striking ensemble which he wore off one shoulder as he strolled around the circuit in Barcelona. He completed his suave look with a plain white T-shirt and chunky white and green trainers while taking in the surroundings ahead of his big race. Read more  and watch race highlights here 

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