Friday, May 1, 2015

More Things I'm Reading at Week's End: Baltimore, Racism, White Privilege, Recognizing African-American Contributions to American Culture

More stuff I'm reading as this week ends — these resources are about what's happening right now in Baltimore, about the need of white Americans to understand and address racism, about the manifold (and often unacknowledged) contributions of African Americans (including LGBTQ ones) to every facet of American life, etc.

At Alternet, Max Blumenthal points out who the real outside agitators in Baltimore are: noting that over 70% of the members of the Baltimore Police Department live outside the city, he writes, 

On Monday, the country watched as a band of outside agitators descended on the streets of Baltimore, attacked locals with blunt force, intimidated innocent bystanders, and even threw rocks at native residents. Every day, these gun-toting rogues come from as far as New Jersey and Pennsylvania to intimidate the good people of Baltimore, forcing communities to cower under the threat of violence. The agitators are known for their menacing dark blue garb, hostile behavior and gangland-style codes of secrecy and silence. Though many of these ruffians have attempted to conceal their identities from their victims, they can be easily spotted by the badges that signify membership in the widely feared Baltimore Police Department.

As the events in Baltimore are playing out, ugly online trolls are, as Kim Bellaire reports at Huffington Post, posting manufactured photos of "looters" in Baltimore, in an attempt to create racist memes about what's happening in the city:

Tweets using the hashtag #‎baltimorelootcrew have disseminated a series of bogus, out-of-context and otherwise inflammatory images -- like one of a destroyed KFC ... that's actually located in Pakistan. And was destroyed in 2012. . . . As a recent Medium posts notes, a simple reverse image search on Google can help to identify misattributed images that get slipped into the steady stream of Twitter updates that tend to accompany protests. Alternet points out that a similar campaign, with a similar hashtag, was perpetuated in the wake of Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

As Bellaire also notes, a recent Motherboard posting at provides valuable information tracking this racist trolling campaign.

As the events in Baltimore, following on the events last year in Ferguson, invite Americans to engage in a national conversation about racism and racial privilege, the Good Men Project asks why it's so hard for white Americans to examine their racial privilege and address racism honestly. Here's part of the answer this resource offers:

Most whites have a very limited understanding of racism because we have not been trained to think in complex ways about it and because it benefits white dominance not to do so. Yet, we have no compunction about debating the knowledge of people who have thought complexly about race. Whites generally feel free to dismiss these informed perspectives rather than have the humility to acknowledge that they are unfamiliar, reflect on them further, or seek more information.

The blind spot many white Americans have about racial matters and violence is all the more curious when one considers that, as A.J. Langguth and John Miller have pointed out, the United States were born in a revolution that comprised rioting and looting.

At The Nation, Dani McClain asks who's leading the national conversation about racial matters among African Americans, and whose voice now needs to be heard in that conversation: 

At a moment when the killing of black people by police officers and vigilantes is finally at the center of mainstream conversation, who are the black academics demanding that we dig beneath pat explanations? And do you have to be a man and over the age of 50 to be among their ranks?

Interestingly enough, the online GLBTQ encyclopedia is featuring in its 1 May email newsletter a series of articles on the Harlem Renaissance and the considerable contribution of GLBTQ African Americans to that important cultural event and to American literature, music, and culture in general.

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