“When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” This deeply racist phrase reentered the public conscience last week after a series of protests surrounding the tragic and brutal death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. The phrase dates to 1967, when Miami, FL police chief Walter Headley used it as part of a series of instructions to the police force in his city. Its return is unwelcome, and yet understanding why it was said and what makes it racist can help all of us start a meaningful conversation on race and racism. Here are a host of resources to help you learn about, cope with and combat the events of the past week.
First, it is helpful to know that racism extends throughout the history of the United States, long before the Declaration of Independence. For a series of essays and creative works on slavery, check out the 1619 Project, a collection of works centered on the 400th anniversary of the first arrival of slaves to what is now America.
While we may be in a post-slavery society, we continue to be influenced by its legacy, along with a stream of false and misapplied science intended to show the superiority of white people. Historian Ibram X Kendi, who is the founding director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University, has put together two reading lists which discuss race and racism in explicit, historically relevant terms. The first, which combines fiction and creative works with personal narrative and “scientific” literature, covers the entire history of the US in terms of race decade by decade. The second complements the first, with targeted areas of focus including the queer black experience, class and body policing.
What can you do today that can help fight racism? There are a number of excellent lists available – Teen Vogue released a list with one primary call: Take action. Taking action can mean a number of different things, but one of the more important things you can do immediately is identify racism in your daily life and call it out. Don’t let racist jokes slide by. Point out that statements like “all lives matter” are hurtful and intended to demean people of color.
What else can you do? The National Network to End Domestic Violence encourages you to identify your own implicit biases. Implicit bias refers to the set of preconceived notions and ideas that you possess about other people. Everyone has them; the challenge, however, is to identify them and learn how to overcome them. These implicit biases guide your judgments of others, which is why it’s so important to figure out what they are. You can check your implicit biases by taking a test from Project Implicit, a nonprofit founded by researchers from the University of Washington, University of Virginia and Harvard University.
But another important thing to do is to keep informed. Read black-owned and black-oriented publications so that you know what the black community is saying and doing. The Root, located in New York, is a national, broad-spectrum publication that covers a wide variety of topics. Ebony Magazine, founded in 1945, covers black and urban culture, fashion and entertainment. Black Business News focuses on black owned businesses, with news, grant resources and more information for those who own or patronize black-owned businesses. The Crisis, published continuously since 1910, was established by W.E.B. DuBois and serves as the official publication of the NAACP.
Also, museums dedicated to black history are a trove of resources. The National Museum of African American History and Culture, located in Washington, DC, opened its doors in 2016. With a collection of over 36,000 items, the museum aims to provide a fuller perspective on American history through an African American lens. The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History was founded in 1965 and serves almost a half million visitors each year. Located in Detroit, it is one of the largest collections dedicated to black history and culture. Closer to home, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, located in Cincinnati on the Ohio-Kentucky border which separated slave and free states, hosts a number of exhibits that focus on the continuing legacy of slavery and the centuries-old struggle for freedom. Finally, the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia, located at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, MI, demonstrates painfully how mocking, demeaning imagery of African Americans continues to influence how mainstream culture views black people today.
Remember, IU East is here to help, not only with information, but with support as well. If you are experiencing emotional distress, please contact Jennifer Claypoole, the director of behavioral health here on campus, student advocate Cole Lane, or Deanna Cooper in the Center for Health Promotion. These are troubling, stressful times, and IU East cares about your health and well-being. Please take advantage of what we offer if you are in need.
And if you have questions regarding the history of racism, misinformation and its role in promoting false theories about race or any other information-based question, Ask Us: firstname.lastname@example.org