White Folks Facing Race: Obstruction and Distraction to Prevent Change
[This is part of my White Folks Facing Race series, originally written on August 31, 2020 to an email group created for community members in the Washington, DC area.]
I have been so saddened by the passing of Chadwick Boseman. Michele L. Norris’s words really hit home for me.
I learned so much by reading this article by Felicity Menzies called “Nine Cultural Value Differences You Need To Know” at her blog Include-Empower.com. I appreciated the way it highlights the different ways different cultures VALUE things like individualism, power, uncertainty, time, gender, etc. It established a way to consider perspectives that differ from one’s own through a cultural lens, rather than a judgemental one.
Many of those in this group voted for Parisa Dehghani-Tafti for Commonwealth’s Attorney last November. Resistance to her reform agenda, that the voters overwhelmingly supported, has been swift. Here’s the latest coverage in the last week:
- Parisa Dehghani Tafti writes “Why I am fighting for prosecutorial discretion in Arlington” (Washington Post, 8/21/20)
- Washington Post Editorial Board writes “Judges are trying to reduce a reform prosecutor’s powers. She’s right to fight back.” (8/28/20)
- Tom Jackman writes “Arlington prosecutor goes to Va. Supreme Court against judges who challenge her new policies” (Washington Post, 8/28/20)
For those following the campaign to retire the Arlington County logo and other symbols that use “Arlington House” as its representation of our county:
- Julius D. Spain, Carolynn Kane, and Emma Violand-Sanchez write “Arlington County’s progress on race and social justice is poisoned by its official logo” (Washington Post, 8/14/20)
- Matt Blitz writes “Robert E. Lee’s Name Is All Over Arlington County. Now There’s A Push To Replace It” (WAMU, 8/10/20)
- Kelsey Jones writes “Rep. Beyers proposes legislation that could replace Arlington County’s logo” (Local DVM, 8/24/20)
- And related, Sydney Trent writes “At Arlington House, a push to remove Robert E. Lee’s name from the home he once occupied” (Washington Post, 8/24/20)
Recent attention has been paid to the health disparities in communities of color during the pandemic. As you might expect, health disparities are rooted in systemic racism and are perpetuated by those same systems in the health care people receive, the access they have to health care resources, and their living environments.
- Lola Fadulu writes “Black men in D.C. are expected to die 17 years earlier than White men. Here’s why.” (Washington Post, 8/27/20)
- Arlington County conducted a similar study and released the results in April 2019, showing a 10 year difference in longevity depending on what neighborhood a person resides in. Destination 2027 is working to take action to address those disparities.
The sports walkouts last week are worth acknowledging:
- Thomas Boswell writes “Athletes have the power to help America get it right, and they’re using it” (Washington Post, 8/28/20)
- Jerry Brewer writes “NBA players set a new standard of civil disobedience. Now there’s no going back.” (Washington Post, 8/27/20)
I don’t normally write about the current president because the number of offensive things he does daily would take over this work. However, I was struck by Paul Musgrave’s “Busy work: Trump’s secret political weapon: Wasting his opponents’ time” (Washington Post, 8/14/20) because it calls attention to a common theme — obstruction and distraction to prevent change. We see this tactic all the time in our efforts to dismantle systemic racism. Recognize it and keep pushing against it. It cannot endure against the groundswell of voices that are increasing in power every day.
- Petula Dvorak writes about “When ‘back to school’ means a parking lot and the hunt for a WiFi signal” (Washington Post, 8/27/20)
- Kara Harris writes “There’s a Movement to Defund School Police, Too” (CityLab, 8/24/20)
- Integrated Schools released two new podcasts, “Reopening Schools and Equity” (8/5/20) and “Checklists and Merit Badges: JPB Gerald on Whiteness” (8/19/20)
- The Learning Policy Institute released “Restarting and Reinventing School: Learning in the Time of COVID and Beyond” (8/25/20)
- Aaron Mak writes “How Teachers Are Rethinking the Way They Talk About Race in America” (Slate, 8/28/20)
- Peter Rousselot writes “Peter’s Take: New Restorative Justice Group Launches Expert Panels” (ArlNow, 8/26/20)
- Arlington Public Schools is working to ensure that every student has access to reliable internet at home.
- Arlington County is working to prevent evictions and feed families.
- View the recorded “Panel Discussion on the Digital Divide and Community Broadband in Arlington, VA” hosted by ArlFiber and the ArlDems Black Caucus on 8/21/20.
- The Arlington Police Practices Work Group is hosting a community conversation TONIGHT from 6:30–8:00 pm. I’m sorry I didn’t share this sooner — video may be available afterwards.
- White Awake has a “Roots Deeper Than Whiteness” course from October-November 2020.
- Service Never Sleeps is offering more virtual Allyship Workshops in September and October.
- Challenging Racism is offering a discussion on How to be an Antiracist on September 20 and 27.
A few more resources:
- Theresa Vargas writes “An enslaved person’s words provide painful context for mayor’s post about Biden picking ‘Aunt Jemima as his VP’” (Washington Post, 8/15/20)
- The National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE) has some great resources and is in the middle of hosting its virtual annual conference via a series of webinars.
- Cassie Miller and Howard Graves write “When the “Alt-Right’ Hit the Streets: Far-Right Political Rallies in the Trump Era” (SPLC, 8/10/20)
- Virginia Humanities shared that their “Short Film About Virginia Slave Dwellings Receives Regional Emmy” (you can view the film on their site).
- I heard about an amazing organization called Get Shift Done, which connects skilled shift workers with non-profits with needs, focusing on distributing food and meals to people in need. It was created out of the challenges of the pandemic and is having a big impact.
- Patrick Sisson writes “Can Planting Trees Make a City More Equitable?” (CityLab, 8/28/20), coupled with Brentin Mock’s “Why Detroit Residents Pushed Back Against Tree-Planting” (CityLab, 1/11/19). People may think they know what will make something more equitable, but if those who are supposed to benefit most from the changes are not consulted, then the changes are not truly for them.
Listen. Amplify. Follow.