Race Inquiry Digest (May 20) – Important Current Stories On Race In America


Let’s pause to mark ‘Brown v. Board of Education’ — and its lessons for our time. By Colbert I. King / Wash Post

It is hard to imagine that the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education could come and go without being duly noted in the halls of Washington, D.C., or the national press. But, sadly, that is the case today. The landmark school desegregation decision, reached unanimously on May 17, 1954, is also a cornerstone in U.S. history. The Brown decision not only established that it was illegal to segregate public schools on the basis of race; it also overturned the 1896 Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson permitting segregation in public facilities across the board, so long as it could be maintained that the facilities for Whites and Blacks were somehow “equal.” The Brown decision destroyed Plessy’s “separate but equal” doctrine. The court plainly declared: “Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” Read more 

Related: We’re Still Waiting For The Promise Of Brown v. Board Of Education To Be Fulfilled. By Sharon Washington / HuffPost 

Related: In Camden, School Closures Revealed How Unequal the System Can Be. By Rann Miller / The Progressive

Political / Social

In aftermath of Andrew Brown’s killing, echoes of North Carolina’s awful history of scapegoating Black people. By William Barber and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove / CNN

The morning after Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder for choking the life out of George Floyd, a SWAT-like unit of sheriff’s deputies arrived in full tactical gear to serve a warrant for Andrew Brown Jr. at his home in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, Within seconds, Brown was shot in the back of the head while apparently trying to flee in his car. Elizabeth City sits on the northern shore of the Albemarle Sound, just south of the James River, where the first recorded enslaved Africans arrived in 1619. The rich soil, which stretches between these two bodies of water, is the delta where America’s plantation economy was first established. Here Black bodies were claimed as human property by people of European descent who imagined that their Whiteness conferred a divine right to own other people and the land beneath their feet. Read more 

Related: Minneapolis Suburb Approves Changes To Policing After Daunte Wright’s Death. B

NPR Poll: Race, Discrimination, Policing, Chauvin Verdict. By Domenico Montanaro / NPR

White and Black Americans have very different views of race in America and have had very different experiences when it comes to dealing with discrimination and trusting police, a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll details. And three-quarters of American adults agree with the guilty verdict for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, though about half of Republicans and Trump supporters think it was either the wrong decision or they aren’t sure. Read more 

Related: Only 17% in US say race relations better one year after Floyd’s murder, poll finds. By Alexandra Villarreal / The Guardian

Democrats confront reality on voting rights: Congress probably isn’t coming to the rescue. By Mike DeBonis / Wash Post

Asked about the path to enact new voting rights laws, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has repeatedly offered a pat reply: “Failure is not an option.” Faced with a barrage of new state laws aiming to restrict voting outside Election Day — pushed by Republican legislators who have been egged on by former president Donald Trump’s false claims of rampant fraud — most Democrats agree with Schumer that the need for a federal backstop is essential. But failure is very much an option — it is, in fact, the most likely one. Read more 

Related: A new era of incivility in Congress brings ‘The Birth of a Nation’ full circle. By Ann Hornaday / Wash Post 

Rep. Liz Cheney Calls Trump A ‘Continuing Danger,’ Urges Unity Against Him. / HuffPost

“He’s causing people to believe that they can’t count on our electoral process to actually convey the will of the people,” she said of his refusal to accept the results of the 2020 election in an interview with “Fox News Sunday.” “We have to be a nation of laws. If you continue to reject, if you work against the rulings of our courts, then you really are at war with the Constitution. And he is a continuing danger to our system.” Read more 

Florida Rep. Val Demings planning to run for Senate against GOP’s Marco Rubio. By Rachel Scott / ABC News

Now in her third term representing Florida’s 10th Congressional District, Demings has been on the fence for months — considering a run for the U.S. Senate or Florida governor — but one source tells ABC News her decision came down to her increasing frustration with Senate Republicans and what she sees as their “obstruction” of critical legislation. The source said Republican opposition to Biden’s massive COVID-19 relief package “pushed her over the edge.” Read more 

Ed Gainey to Become Pittsburgh’s First Black Mayor As Bill Peduto Concedes. By Jack Dutton / Newsweek

“One person can’t change a city,” Gainey said on Tuesday night. “A city is changed with all of us. A city is changed when we all come together, to change the quality of life for everybody. That’s why I ran for mayor because I believe that we can have a city for all. And we will work hard, not just I as mayor, but we as a community, we as a city, will work to build a better city called Pittsburgh for everybody.” Read more 

How Kamala Harris became a victim of the barriers she broke. By Anita Kumar / Politico

Seated at a table in the ornate, ceremonial vice president’s office, Rep. Ami Bera described to Kamala Harris how he felt when he saw the ubiquitous photo that accompanied the coverage of her selection as vice president, of her as a child standing next to her mother clad in a traditional Indian sari. “When I see those pictures with her mom, I see my story in there,” Bera (D-Calif.), the longest-serving Indian American member of Congress, said after the May 11 meeting. “I see my story in her story.” Read more 

After Helping Her Husband Gain Freedom, Maya Moore Savors Her Own. / NYT

When you speak with Maya Moore and her husband, Jonathan Irons, a single word comes up with drumbeat constancy. Freedom. “It’s everything to us,” Moore said during an interview last week. She wasn’t talking just about the fact that Irons is out of prison after serving 23 years for a crime he always insisted he did not commit. She was talking about how, after struggling to overturn his conviction, she has more time and energy to fight for criminal justice reform. Read more 

Related: Two brothers were wrongfully convicted of rape and murder. Nearly 40 years later, they are getting $75 million in compensation. By Nicole Chavez and Christina Carrega / CNN

Hate crime bill propelled by anti-Asian attacks passes House, awaits Biden’s signature. By Sarah D. Wire / LA Times

The House voted Tuesday to approve a bill aimed at addressing hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, responding to a massive surge in attacks against Asian Americans since the pandemic began. The bill, which passed on a bipartisan 364-62 vote, establishes a point person at the Justice Department who would review hate crime incidents reported to law enforcement agencies and provide more guidance to state and local entities to make it easier to report hate crimes. Read more 

Related: How purity culture and anti-Asian racism intersect in some white evangelical circles. By Sarah Ngu / NBC News

After she concealed her race, Black Indianapolis owner’s home value more than doubled. By Antonio Planas / NBC News

A Black Indianapolis homeowner who had a nagging suspicion that her house was lowballed in two appraisals last year went to great lengths to conceal her race in a third. She removed photos of herself and her relatives and had a white friend pose as her brother for the appraiser’s home visit. The result? The appraisal of Carlette Duffy’s home more than doubled. Read more 

UT-Austin’s Latino enrollment reflects Hispanic progress, legacy of racism.  By Suzanne Gamboa / NBC News

In a low-key announcement last fall, the University of Texas at Austin declared that it had reached a significant milestone. UT-Austin, which is in the state with the second-largest number of Latinos nationally, had finally enrolled enough full-time Latino undergraduates to be considered a Hispanic-Serving Institution, or HSI. UT-Austin’s full-time or equivalent undergraduate population was 26.1 percent Hispanic last fall. The threshold for the federal designation is at least 25 percent, and if it meets other federal criteria, the university can compete for grant money. Read more 

Historical / Cultural

Tulsa race massacre survivors, advocates testify before House committee. By AP and PBS

The House Judiciary subcommittee will hold a hearing on Wednesday to discuss the centennial of the Tulsa race massacre. Lawmakers will hear from Tulsa race massacre survivors Viola Fletcher, Hughes Van Ellis, and Lessie Benningfield Randle; massacre descendant and Oklahoma State Rep. Regina Goodwin, in addition to other testimony. In 1921, the “proud, rich, black” community in Tulsa suffered a brutal massacre — up to 300 black Tulsans were murdered by white residents, and a thriving neighborhood of that Oklahoma city burned to the ground. What made the 35-square-block Greenwood District stand out was also what made it the target of the violent attack: black prosperity was seen as a threat to white supremacy. Watch here 

Examining the American Medical Association’s racist history and its overdue reckoning. Yamiche Alcindor and Claire Mufson / PBS

The national calls to action over racial justice have brought new awareness of past injustices in many parts of our society, including the fields of science and medicine. Yamiche Alcindor speaks to Dr. Aletha Maybank, the American Medical Association’s chief health equity officer, about the organization’s racist history, how it plans to reckon with it, and the intersection of race and medicine. Watch here  

From Charleston to Minneapolis, America grapples with symbols of slave-owning past. By Kimeko McCoy / The Undefeated

The push to publicly remove monuments tied to America’s slave-owning past is long overdue, but it peaked in the last five years. Some were removed by local governments while others were toppled from their pedestal by protesters in the name of racial justice. In some instances, protesters moved to create countermonuments, casting holographic images of Floyd over Confederate statues. Earlier this year, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported that more than 100 Confederate symbols were removed across the United States in 2020. Most of them came down after Floyd’s killing in May 2020. Read more

The Achievement of Barry Jenkins’s “The Underground Railroad.”  / The New Yorker

In Barry Jenkins’s reimagining of Colson Whitehead’s popular novel “The Underground Railroad,” it is as if the land speaks. In the light of high noon, cotton fields are menacingly fecund, owing to the work of the enslaved laborers who stand painfully erect among the crop, like stalks themselves. At night, a path leading somewhere—whether to freedom or execution, we don’t know—pulses with death. We have known Jenkins, the director of “Moonlight,” as a portraitist. Here, working again with his longtime collaborator, the cinematographer James Laxton, he is a virtuosic landscape artist. Read more  

White supremacists attacked Johnny Cash for marrying a ‘Negro’ woman. But was his first wife Black? By Sydney Trent / Wash Post

On Oct. 4, 1965, country music star Johnny Cash was arrested near the U.S.-Mexico border after buying amphetamines and sedatives from a drug dealer in Juárez and stashing them in his guitar case. His long-suffering first wife, Vivian Liberto Cash, left their daughters in California and journeyed to El Paso to be by his side for the arraignment. As Vivian stood with Cash in front of the federal courthouse, wrapped in a dark coat, her eyes downcast beneath her bouffant hairdo, a newspaper photographer snapped a picture. In the image, Vivian, whose father was of Sicilian heritage and whose mother was said to be of German and Irish descent, appeared to be Black. Read more 

Breaking up with your favorite racist childhood classic books. By Valerie Strauss / Wash Post

Philip Nel is the author of “Was the Cat in the Hat Black?: The Hidden Racism of Children’s Literature and the Need for Diverse Books,” a 2017 book that helped launch a conversation about racism in children’s books that led to a recent decision by Dr. Seuss Enterprises to stop publishing six of the prolific author’s books. Nel, who is a professor of English at Kansas State University and director of the children’s literature program there, spoke with me about the book a few years ago. I republished the conversation here earlier this year when it was falsely reported that a Virginia school district had banned the books of Dr. Seuss, the pen name of Theodor Seuss Geisel. Read more 

‘Respect’: Trailer for Aretha Franklin Biopic. By Daniel Kreps / Rolling Stone

The Queen of Soul finds her voice in the new trailer for Respect, the Aretha Franklin biopic starring Jennifer Hudson that arrives in theaters this August. The first full preview for the Liesl Tommy-directed film opens with a young Franklin showcasing her gospel talents at the piano. “Singing is sacred, and you shouldn’t do it just because somebody wants you to,” her mother tells her. “What’s most important is that you are treated with dignity and respect.” Watch here

‘What’s Going On’ at 50 – Marvin Gaye’s Motown classic is as relevant today as it was in 1971. By Tyina Steptoe / The Conversation

Motown wasn’t really known for its politically conscious music. Then came “What’s Going On.” Released on May 21, 1971, at the height of the Vietnam War, Marvin Gaye’s album became a monster, spawning three hit singles on its way to becoming Motown’s best-selling album to date. The album also marked a turning point for Motown and for Marvin Gaye as an artist. As a scholar of race and culture in the U.S. and the host of the weekly radio show “Soul Stories,” I am struck by how many of the themes Gaye explores remain as relevant today as they were when he first wrote about them 50 years ago. Read more 

Dawn Richard, ‘Second Line’: Album Review. By Jon Dolan / Rolling Stone

Dawn Richard has taken a winding path through her nearly 20-year career.  Now, she finds herself on the North Carolina indie-rock label Merge with her sixth LP, Second Line. It may be an unexpected place for her, but the record feels like a culmination of all her experience, suffused into an album that threads decades of music and heritage into a thrilling, organic whole. The adventurous R&B artist takes her sound to bold new places, while creating a New Orleans funk utopia all her own.  Read more

The Making of ‘High on the Hog,’ Bringing Black Food History to TV. By Kim Severson / NYT

There is a breathtaking moment near the end of the first episode of “High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America,” a new four-part Netflix documentary based on the 2011 book by the scholar Jessica B. Harris. The scene unfolds in Benin, a country Dr. Harris has visited a dozen times in her work chronicling the connection between the foods of West Africa and the United States. She tenderly leads the series’ host, Stephen Satterfield, to the Cemetery of Slaves. The beachfront memorial marks the mass grave of thousands who died in captivity before they could be loaded into ships at one of the most active slave-trading ports in Africa. Read more 

Related: Black barbecue gets a long-overdue spotlight in two new books. By Tim Carman / Wash Post


Life Lessons from Georgetown’s Basketball Coach John Thompson. By Maurice Jackson / AAIHS

John Thompson Jr. often said, “I tell everyone I speak two languages fluently—English and profanity.” He used language and stories just like Maya Angelou and Satchel Paige, always with a lesson. “Not only am I Black,” he writes, “but I have dark skin. My feet are big, my body is big. Sometimes I’m loud . . . because I’m composed of big things” (154). In selecting the autobiography’s title from the poem “Nocturne Varial” by his uncle, Harlem Renaissance writer Lewis Grandison Alexander, Thompson shows that his mind is one of the “big things” that make “Big John.” Read more 

Even with the recent push for diversity, fewer Black coaches getting top FBS head-coaching jobs. By Adam Rittenberg / The Undefeated

“Once I saw jobs start to open up, I wanted to see if there was going to be anything different, whether there would be more minorities, coaches of color, hired as head coaches,” said Michigan State coach Mel Tucker, who is Black. “I didn’t see a noticeable difference. I didn’t see anything that showed me that there was any type of change in behavior in the hiring process.” Read more

How Naomi Osaka Became Everyone’s Favorite Spokesmodel.

“You don’t really know people, by looking at their profile,” Ms. Osaka said recently. “You feel like you can sort of catch a glimpse into their life, which, in a way, is a bit wrong.” She said she has to remind herself to post on Instagram: “My mind hasn’t been able to keep track of it.” But certainly her profile, well outfitted as it is, provides a glimpse into her business — and like the meme decrees, business is boomin’. Ms. Osaka is covering everything from ears to rears, making headphones with Beats, athleisure with Nike and denim with Levi’s. Dresses? She designed them with Adeam, a Japanese-American brand. Swimwear? She crafted a collection with Frankies Bikinis. Read more 

Watch “Why Lewis has won 92 F1 races – by Peter Windsor / You Tube

In his analysis of Lewis Hamilton’s win in Portugal, Peter Windsor explains why Lewis was able to extract more from his Pirelli medium tyres than his Mercedes team-mate, Valtteri Bottas – and why this characteristic has been an intrinsic part of his record-breaking career. Watch here 

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