Tag Archives: racism

Africville: Nova Scotia’s blacks remember

DEBORAH JONES: FREE RANGE
July 02, 1988

Halifax, NS, Canada —  In Halifax today, what used to be Africville , with all the rich and negative connotations of that name, is a little-used park on the windswept edge of Halifax harbor. From a stark concrete building nearby emanates the clamor and stench of the city’s garbage transfer station, which replaced the dump where many Africville residents once scavenged a living. Nearby, cars speed past on a busy artery.

Women walking from Africville towards Halifax in 1917. Photo: James & Son, Nova Scotia Archives Photo Collection, Public Domain

Little is left here of the vibrant and controversial community of about 400 black people who had to leave the area in the mid-sixties because it was thought to be unfit for human habitation. The exiles continue to feel their loss.

“There was one family on social assistance in Africville,” said Irvine Carvery, who was 12 when his family left their Africville home. “Now we have third-generation people on social assistance.”

The dispersion of residents from Africville, mostly into public housing, remains a sore point for Nova Scotia blacks. Africville is bitterly and romantically remembered as an impoverished but solid community wiped out by discrimination.

At the time, the government-organized move was supported by black leaders outside the community. Critics now charge that they considered Africville only as a blight affecting the stature of the rest of Nova Scotia’s blacks.

Linda Mantley, whose family roots in Africville went back to the last century, was a teen-ager when her family was moved into public housing in the North End of Halifax.

“I only wish I had been older at the time,” she said ruefully. The objectors to the move, mostly young people, were hushed by others who did not want anyone branded as a troublemaker, she said.

“If we had been older . . . if we knew what we know now, we would have fought it. We would have asked for money to fix up the houses and install city sewers and water.

“Now a lot of people got a lot of heartaches.”

“I really think it was just incredible naivete – you don’t solve a community problem by eliminating the community.” — Alexa McDonough

Despite being a distinct community for about a century, Africville did lack public services such as sewers and drinking water. Houses were condemned in several reports as woefully inadequate. And as government officials investigated ownership of the land before the relocation, they found only a few deeds and some claims of squatter’s rights. The ownership of some land was simply untraceable.

Nonetheless, residents liked the place.

“The community was independent; it functioned on its own without the help of the city, with its own school, hall, church, a number of stores and a post office,” Ms Mantley said. “A lot of people, if it was possible to get their land back somehow, would live back there again. I don’t blame them. Home is home is home.”

In 1981, the Africville Geneology Society was formed by a group of ex- residents to bring people from the neighborhood together each year “and to deal with past, present and future fears that involve Africville,” said Ms Mantley, a founding member. More than 3,000 are expected to gather in what is now Seaview Park for a reunion July 28 to 31. Mr. Carvery says they will come from throughout Canada and the United States.

“The word Africville continues to have powerful meaning for many of the former residents, and indeed for Nova Scotian blacks in general,” said Donald Clairmont, a sociology professor at Dalhousie University. Last year, he and Dennis Magill of the University of Toronto published the second edition of the Life and Death of a Canadian Black Community.

“Gone are the people, their community, their – and especially others’ – debris. Yet Africville still generates warm memories and purposive identity for its relocated people and their children and is still a rallying symbol in the black subculture,” they wrote. “Subsequent to the relocation, Africville became a kind of red alert, signalling danger to black community and traditions in the guise of city development projects, area upgrading and gentrification . . .”

Africville life was not sanitized or homogeneous, but offered a rich texture, Prof. Clairmont said. “And the fact that the community was taken away from them rather than they themselves migrating from it adds a profundity to their grievance.”

Ms Mantley now lives with her family in Uniacke Square, a dilapidated public housing project in Halifax’s rough North End which the provincial and federal governments are renovating. Elderly people who were moved from Africville found the change especially difficult, and are still struggling, she said. When the restoration of Uniacke Square was announced in 1986, for example, many feared it would mean another relocation.

One main reason why the memory of Africville remains a bitter one, observers say, is that promises of better housing and job training made at the time were not kept.

People “never did get the new start promised them in the relocation rhetoric. Many indeed are still suffering from socio-economic disadvantages, and live in more crowded and bureaucratic public housing,” Prof. Clairmont said.

“Very little groundwork had been done to really help people deal with what was an absolutely massive transition,” recalled Alexa McDonough, whose first job as a young city social worker was to help with the relocation, and who says she had doubts about it even then.

“People had rent and other expenses to pay all of a sudden. There was no really coming to terms with the amount of disruption, massive transition. There was a community support and way of life in Africville that was devastated in the relocation,” said Mrs. McDonough, who is now leader of the Nova Scotia New Democratic Party.

“Although I think it’s not entirely accurate to have romantic notions about how idyllic existence was in Africville . . . what they gave up was not compensated for.”

She noted that many “have taken advantage of new opportunities . . . but there is also an overwhelming sense of loss of cultural identity.”

Critics of the relocation have charged that the city simply wanted the land. Mrs. McDonough has another explanation.

“I really think it was just incredible naivete – you don’t solve a community problem by eliminating the community.”

“People did feel then you could solve all the problems,” Prof. Clairmont said. “Put a social worker in there and he would look after their interests. When I (later) went to the human rights group and asked them what happened, most of them were surprised to learn there never was any employment program. Yet they were the ones who were supposed to be the watchdogs . . . Many of them were naive. They felt the relocation had been successful.”

“Nova Scotia blacks remember Africville . . . also because of what has happened to the rank and file of Nova Scotia blacks,” added historian Bridglal Pachai, director of the provincial Black Cultural Centre. “A few black professionals are in good places . . . but for as long as some 50 to 70 per cent unemployment rates apply to many of the predominantly black settlements of Nova Scotia, Africville will also be a symbol of the difficulties facing blacks in Nova Scotia.”

Most former residents admit Africville will never spring back to life. But Ms Mantley, for one, wants more information about it to be available in libraries and schools, and for its story to be told in history classes.

To no avail, Mr. Carvery petitioned the city last year to review the lot of Africville residents, and make good on promises of housing, job training and job opportunities.

Copyright Deborah Jones 2017

Contact: djones AT factsandopinions.com (including with republishing queries.)

This story was originally published in the Globe and Mail FOCUS section, on Saturday, July 02, 1988

If you value this story, the author would appreciate a contribution of .27 Canadian to help fund her ongoing work and pay for this site. Click on paypal.me/deborahjones to be taken to Deborah Jones’s personal PayPal page.

Updates and links:

The United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent criticized the destruction of Africville in a report on Sept. 25, 2017.  See the Canadian Press report here. 

Wikipedia page for Africville: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Africville

A video made 50 years after the relocation of Africville and the razing of its church:

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DebJones in Spain

Deborah Jones is a partner in and founder of Facts and Opinions.

Her bio is here. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is ad-free and spam-free, and we do not solicit donations from partisan organizations.

 

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I Cover Hate. I Didn’t Expect It at My Family’s Jewish Cemetery

Traditions don’t protect you from death, or the life of anxiety in preparation for it.

 

ARIANA TOBIN, ProPublica
February, 2017

When it comes to death, my family honors all of the Ashkenazi Jewish traditions: We name our children after dead relatives, we sit shiva for a week, we gather around trays of fruit and lox and cream cheese, we cover the mirrors, we say the Kaddish prayer, we each toss three shovelfuls of dirt into the grave, and we wait a year to put a stone on top of it. When I got my driver’s license at 16, my mom asked me not to sign the organ donor card because Jews are supposed to be laid to rest in one piece. When I turned 18 and signed it anyway, I couldn’t stop imagining her face when she found out after I’d died in a car accident.

But traditions don’t protect you from death, or the life of anxiety in preparation for it. When I told my grandmother — her mother called her Malka, her sisters called her Mollie — that I had an opportunity to teach English abroad, I knew what to expect in response: “That’s nice, baby, but why don’t you find a teaching job around here where it’s safe?” That, and a $20 bill she couldn’t necessarily afford to give.

But when I added, “I’m going to a place in Belarus called Minsk; it’s a big city,” her reply took me by surprise. “Minsk!” she exclaimed. “That’s where my mother was from! I guess you could go. Maybe you’ll see where they lived?”

I did go. I didn’t see where they lived because that place does not exist anymore, thanks to World War II and the Soviets. To identify the symbols of Judaism left in a city that was about 37 percent Jewish in 1941, you have to squint at the stone facades of buildings and say, “Yes, I think that might be a Hebrew character.” You have to stare hard, and wonder, “Hmm, is that Yiddish?”

There are statues and plaques here and there. But look as one might, there are few relics of Jewish death. When you visit Khatyn, a memorial to the victims of “the Great War,” you learn about the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians, but little to nothing about what religion they practiced. Nor are there signs marking entire villages of Belarussians, Jews and non-Jews, that became unmarked mass graves. When I would ask my students and co-workers and friends, “What happened to the Jews here?” all most of them would say was, “They left.”

Here, of course, we know why they “left.” My relatives who stayed in Eastern Europe died. Those who moved to America lived. Every single one of my great-grandparents was a first- or second-generation Eastern European immigrant to St. Louis. If you’ve been following the news this week, you probably know where this story is going: Almost all of my immigrant ancestors are buried in the Chesed Shel Emeth cemetery, where nearly 200 graves were vandalized this past weekend.

I’ve been to only one funeral at Chesed Shel Emeth, which is in University City, about 15 minutes from where I grew up. I certainly wasn’t there when they buried my grandmother’s mother, Alice, the immigrant from Minsk, more than 40 years ago. Her tombstone wasn’t among the ones vandalized. But I know the idea that it might have been desecrated — that it is even a possibility — is on Grandma Mollie’s mind today, and on my mother’s as well. I know because for the last several days all we’ve been talking about are relatives like “little Grandma Alice,” who never grew to 5 feet, who cooked elaborate noodle kugels, whose husband died young, who never really learned to drive or speak English and who was scared of strangers unless her family was around.

I’m privileged to have grown up in St. Louis, a place where my grandparents wanted me to stay because it felt “safe” to them — a place they’d made their way to with the help of documents that we know weren’t entirely accurate or complete, and they became citizens anyway. So when a news link about my family’s Jewish cemetery popped up in the group chat for a reporting project on hate crimes that I’m involved in at ProPublica, I wasn’t prepared. Nor was I prepared when I called home and my mom told me that she was going to exchange cash for gold in case “things get worse” and that my dad — who has never considered shooting anything in his life — had wondered out loud about getting a gun.

I wanted to say, “You’re overreacting.” But I can’t, really, in part because it’s so hard to gauge the threat. Data on hate crimes — against Jews and everyone else — is miserably incomplete and poorly tracked. My job is about presenting facts to contextualize the news of the day, horrible as it may be. This time, I had to tell my family that I didn’t have them.

We don’t know if the vandalism at Chesed Shel Emeth was technically a hate crime. The motives behind it may well be uncovered. What we do know is that there is a long tradition of desecrating Jewish cemeteries, from Nazi Germany to present-day France and New York. And whatever the particulars, the news hit at a time when the Jewish community has been put on edge by threats to Jewish community centers where kids go to preschool and their retired grandparents take Kabbalah-infused yoga classes.

That’s why our project, “Documenting Hate,” an attempt to create a reliable database of hate crimes and bias incidents, asks victims to submit their stories. When I read the submissions, it’s clear that defining “hate crimes” can be as elusive as reliable data tracking them. It’s just as clear that we need to make the attempt to define them, report them, investigate them — to gather enough, at least, for context.

Yes, it’s about confronting the ugliness and comforting the scared. But it’s also about giving real answers, using actual numbers and telling true stories when our children ask questions like, “What happened to the Jews?”

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ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.

Ariana Tobin is an engagement reporter at ProPublica, where she works to cultivate communities to inform our coverage. She was previously at The Guardian, where she was an engagement editor focused on audience analytics, social media, and SEO best practices. Before that, she worked at WNYC, producing the technology-focused Note to Self podcast. There, she helped launch the multi-platform Bored and Brilliant and Infomagical series, which analyzed information on nearly 30,000 participants’ smartphone habits.

Ariana has also worked as digital producer for APM’s Marketplaceand contributed to outlets including The New Republic, On Being, the St. Louis Beacon, and Bustle. She graduated from Washington University in St. Louis, and studied on a Fulbright grant in Minsk, Belarus.

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

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Oceans Apart, United in Hate Crime Worry

Nigel Farage, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), reacts at a Leave.eu party after polling stations closed in the Referendum on the European Union in London, Britain, June 24, 2016.  REUTERS/Toby Melville

Nigel Farage, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), reacts at a Leave.eu party after polling stations closed in the Referendum on the European Union in London, Britain, June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville

by Patrick G. Lee, ProPublica
January, 2017

Anti-Trump demonstrators protest in front of the White House following Republican Donald Trump's election victory, in Washington, U.S. November 10, 2016.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Anti-Trump demonstrators protest in front of the White House following Republican Donald Trump’s election victory, in Washington, U.S. November 10, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

A divisive vote, with jobs and immigrants the most combustible issues. An outcome that surprised the experts. A nation left on edge, with many anxious about intolerance and the violence that can stem from it.

No, not just America today, but also the United Kingdom seven months ago. Last June, voters there opted out of the European Union, ushering in a new prime minister who has since backed controversial proposals, including one that would require pregnant women to show papers that prove their “right” to use the national health system, before being allowed to give birth in a hospital.

So, were the worst fears of racial, ethnic or other hate violence realized? A mix of government agencies, academics and other organizations have been laboring to offer answers.

In the week after the British went to the polls — widely known as the Brexit vote — there were more than 2,400 accounts of hate crimes reported through Twitter, according to a report from the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at Demos.

In July, the first full month after the Brexit vote, police in England and Wales recorded more than 5,000 racially or religiously motivated hate crimes, a 41 percent jump from a year earlier, according to a report from the U.K. Home Office. Those numbers declined in August, but were still higher than reported numbers from before the referendum, the report said.

Another analysis tabulated 636 online reports of hate-crime incidents in the month after the vote. About a third of the accounts involved targeting ethnic minorities, particularly South Asians. Among attacks targeting Europeans, Polish people were the most frequent victims. The report, which is based on combined data from three separate social media campaigns, found that more than three-quarters of the incidents consisted of verbal abuse and another 14 percent entailed physical violence or threats of it. The aggressors referred to the referendum in more than half of the incidents, which tended to occur in urban areas, according to the report.

Those doing the research recognize the data is far from perfect: Verifying reports of bias incidents can be difficult; capturing every crime is near impossible. But one aspect of the information has been surprising. The incidents often did not involve the likeliest of suspects: the fringe, ultra-nationalist and Neo-Nazi groups long familiar to many in Britain.

“What we’ve found in Britain is that the vast majority of hate crimes here are not carried out by members of extremist organizations, but carried out by quote-unquote ordinary people,” said Nick Lowles, the director of Hope Not Hate, a research and anti-racism organization that tracks court records and media reports on the prosecution of hate-crime offenders.

A December report from the Institute of Race Relations in London analyzed 134 racist incidents covered by the media in the first month after the Brexit vote, among which the most frequent victims were Muslims and Southern or Eastern Europeans. In only 11 instances were those involved affiliated with far-right groups.

Lowles said that element in the data suggests more significant issues for Britain around the question of racial, religious and political tolerance, beyond the challenges of addressing extremist minorities.

“It’s societal, it’s about racism in society, it’s about economic deprivation, it’s about supremacy,” Lowles said. “The answers are much more difficult.”

An earlier study — a two-year effort based in Leicester, England — found that about a third of hate crimes involved perpetrators who knew their victims, a conclusion based on the experiences of more than 1,400 people who had suffered hate crimes.

“The problem with hate-crime terminology is that it allows us as a society to kind of let ourselves off the hook and say, ‘You know, hate-crime offenders are clearly bigots, and thank God I’m not a bigot,'” said Neil Chakraborti, one of the 2014 study’s authors and a professor of criminology at the University of Leicester. “The majority of hate-crime offenders come from everyday communities, they come from environments and neighborhoods and professional occupations which are typical of us.”

The emerging scholarship in Britain may be of use to law enforcement, academics and advocacy organizations in the U.S. In November, the FBI announced it had seen a rise in hate crimes in 2015 over the previous year. The police in New York City saw a similar pattern during 2016 as the country experienced a divisive vote with jobs and immigration among the lightning rod issues. And civil-rights groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League have noted both an uptick in incidents and a direct relation to the 2016 presidential election.

ProPublica in 2017 is launching a project aimed at better recording and verifying reports of hate crimes. The effort will involve a number of news organizations and technology companies.

In Britain, politicians have condemned the violence and intimidation in the aftermath of the Brexit vote. Then-Prime Minister David Cameron declared that “we will not stand for hate crime or these kinds of attacks. They must be stamped out.” About a month later, the U.K. government published a new hate crimes response strategy that touted tolerance as “a cornerstone of British values” and promised “to ensure that perpetrators are punished.” In October, newly installed Prime Minister Theresa May said in a statement that hate crimes have “absolutely no place in British society” and that government and police agencies had already taken steps to improve their response.

Critics of the government have attempted to highlight what they argue is a disconnect between its worries about violence and its sometimes harsh measures to tackle the volatile issue of immigration.

For instance, following the Brexit vote and widespread denunciations of hate crimes, the U.K. government backed a pilot proposal that would require pregnant women to produce identification before being allowed to give birth at one London hospital. May has also supported a new “targeted visa system” to help limit the number of immigrants that enter the country.

May’s efforts follow earlier action taken during Cameron’s administration. In 2013, when May was Home Secretary, the government launched “Operation Vaken,” a public awareness initiative meant to encourage immigrants without legal status to leave the U.K. voluntarily. The message was delivered in part through mobile billboard vans that drove around six London boroughs, telling people that they should “go home or face arrest.” And just last May, the Immigration Act of 2016 received final approval, making it a criminal offense for undocumented individuals to work and imposing harsher punishments on employers who hire such workers.

In February 2016, Hope Not Hate released a report on public attitudes toward immigration, race, religion and identity in the U.K., which found that those who were the most opposed to multiculturalism and immigration were also the most pessimistic about their own economic futures and that of the country. A follow-up survey conducted just after the referendum found that these same segments of the population — which had largely voted to leave the European Union — had flip-flopped and were now “remarkably positive about the future” given their revived hopes for limited immigration and economic security post-Brexit.

If these citizens’ newly raised expectations are not met, many will feel angry and betrayed by the political establishment yet again, according to Lowles of Hope Not Hate.

“Many people look to the immediate spike after Brexit, just like the immediate spike after Trump’s election, in hate crimes, and that’s obviously shocking enough,” Lowles said. “But our concerns are that the big problems are still to come.”

This story was produced by ProPublica, and is republished here under a Creative Commons licence

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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Canada’s dark time might be closer than you think

TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA
November 19, 2016

After the election of 2015, Canadians probably thought they were safe from the kind of racism and bigotry that has gripped the United States after the election of Donald Trump.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau waves during a campaign rally in North Vancouver, British Columbia, October 18, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau waves during a campaign rally in North Vancouver, British Columbia, October 18, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

After all, the Stephen Harper-led Conservatives party made racism one of the key components of its re-election strategy, especially the idea of the registry where you could call and report on your neighbors if you thought they were engaged in “suspicious activities.” The election of the Liberals led by Justin Trudeau, his appointment of a cabinet composed of 50% women and visible minorities, his welcoming stance to Syrian refugees, reinforced Canadians’ smug notion that “we are above all that American stuff.”

Well, I’m sorry to break your little “we’re so great” bubble, but that’s not true. Over the past week Trump-inspired xenophobia has found a willing audience among Canadians.

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A CBC story on Facebook, that Mexicans would not need a tourist visa to visit Canada after Dec. 1, included a headine suggesting government officials are worried about an “overflow” of Mexicans into Canada. Perhaps that gave the piece a twist that opened the door to a flood of comments, few of which could be termed open-minded towards Mexicans.

In Ottawa, a teenager was charged after an Islamic mosque, a Jewish synagogue, and a Christian church with a black pastor were hit with racist graffiti. I first heard from a friend that the word “kike,” with a very large swastika, was sprayed on a synagogue in Ottawa’s Glebe area, near where I lived in the 60s when my dad was working the federal government.

Trudeau suggested he hoped to to triple Canada’s population, from about 35 million to some 100 million. That led to predictions Canada would boost, to 450,000, the number of admitted immigrants. Instead, 300,000 are now expected because, a well-connected Canadian friend told me, the government fears “a backlash.”

Canadian media are reporting an increase in incidents of racism following the US election — officials dance around Trump as the cause, but I am convinced his rise is the catalyst.

Encouraged by the victory of racially tinged politics in the United States, the tactic has been seized as a path to victory by some candidates in Canada’s upcoming Conservative leadership convention. Emboldened by evidence some Canadians think that the government is moving too fast with its Syrian refugee program,energized by the growing public profile of white supremacist and nativist groups in the United States, Canada’s own voices of racism and bigotry are growing louder.

My son, who is studying media and politics and their effects on the broader culture, has the best description I’ve heard of what is powering racial outbursts in Canada and the US: ‘white inadequacy culture,’ the fear that white culture will disappear.

“At its root,” he told me, “I think what all these white folks fear is that they are going to be forgotten about, that their ‘culture’ will be forgotten about, when it’s really just their own fear of death and the ‘alien’ finding root. It’s a complete fiction that whites are in any way vulnerable of cultural extinction.”

But in a post-truth world, fiction can have as much, or more, force than the truth. And if the problem is, as my son put it, a fear of white inadequacy, how do we as a society deal with that? How do we find a way to calm the fears of whites who feel this way, while at the same time continuing to denounce this fear’s most virulent, dangerous forms? This is our challenge.

Canadians ignore this at their own peril. It wasn’t enough to renounce this kind of open hatred in the 2015 election.

It must be done every day, every week, every month, every year. Those of us who care cannot allow ourselves to be lulled into thinking “Well, we have gay marriage, we have no abortion law, we welcome Syrian refugees into our country, we defeated the bad guys in 2015. We can just relax.”

The 2016 election in the United States showed that this is not true. The reality is, things we care deeply about can be taken away. The truth is, the struggle never ends, the battle against those who would have us go back 50 years to a different time and a different country, for whatever reason, never ends. Yes, it is tiring to think that. But it is the reality of the world that we live in.

I can assure you the other side will never give up trying to pull us backwards. We must never give up trying to prevent them from doing that

Copyright Tom Regan 2016

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com

LINKS:

Teen charged after spate of racist graffiti in Ottawa, CBC: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/arrest-racist-graffiti-ottawa-1.3858947

Is Donald Trump’s victory emboldening hate-mongers in Canada? The Globe and Mail:
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/is-donald-trumps-victory-emboldening-hate-mongers-in-canada/article32941905/

Liberty moves north, the Economist:
http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21709305-it-uniquely-fortunate-many-waysbut-canada-still-holds-lessons-other-western

Prest: In the age of Trump, Canada might be the last defender of small-l liberal values. Ottawa Citizen: http://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/columnists/prest-in-the-age-of-trump-canada-might-be-the-last-defender-of-small-l-liberal-values

Meet the surgeon who hopes to be Canada’s Donald Trump. Washington Post:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/11/09/meet-the-surgeon-who-hopes-to-be-canadas-donald-trump/

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Tom Regan Tom Regan has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association in the U.S., he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92. He is based near Washington, D.C.

Return to Tom Regan’s page 

 

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded only by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we need a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Visit our Subscribe page for details, or donate below. With enough supporters each paying a small amount, we will continue, and increase our original works like this.

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Facebook Lets Advertisers Exclude Users by Race

By Julia Angwin and Terry Parris Jr., ProPublica
Oct. 28, 2016

Imagine if, during America’s Jim Crow era, a newspaper offered advertisers the option of placing ads only in copies that went to white readers. That’s basically what Facebook is doing nowadays. The ubiquitous social network not only allows advertisers to target users by their interests or background, it also gives advertisers the ability to exclude specific groups it calls “Ethnic Affinities.” Ads that exclude people based on race, gender and other sensitive factors are prohibited by U.S. federal law in housing and employment.

Here is a screenshot of a housing ad that we purchased from Facebook’s self-service advertising portal:

ProPublica

ProPublica

The ad we purchased was targeted to Facebook members who were house hunting and excluded anyone with an “affinity” for African-American, Asian-American or Hispanic people. (Here’s the ad itself.)

When we showed Facebook’s racial exclusion options to a prominent civil rights lawyer John Relman, he gasped and said, “This is horrifying. This is massively illegal. This is about as blatant a violation of the federal Fair Housing Act as one can find.”

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 makes it illegal “to make, print, or publish, or cause to be made, printed, or published any notice, statement, or advertisement, with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.” Violators can face tens of thousands of dollars in fines.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 also prohibits the “printing or publication of notices or advertisements indicating prohibited preference, limitation, specification or discrimination” in employment recruitment.

Facebook’s business model is based on allowing advertisers to target specific groups — or, apparently to exclude specific groups — using huge reams of personal data the company has collected about its users. Facebook’s microtargeting is particularly helpful for advertisers looking to reach niche audiences, such as swing-state voters concerned about climate change.

ProPublica recently offered a tool allowing users to see how Facebook is categorizing them. We found nearly 50,000 unique categories in which Facebook places its users. Facebook says its policies prohibit advertisers from using the targeting options for discrimination, harassment, disparagement or predatory advertising practices.

“We take a strong stand against advertisers misusing our platform: Our policies prohibit using our targeting options to discriminate, and they require compliance with the law,” said Steve Satterfield, privacy and public policy manager at Facebook. “We take prompt enforcement action when we determine that ads violate our policies.”

Satterfield said it’s important for advertisers to have the ability to both include and exclude groups as they test how their marketing performs. For instance, he said, an advertiser “might run one campaign in English that excludes the Hispanic affinity group to see how well the campaign performs against running that ad campaign in Spanish. This is a common practice in the industry.”

He said Facebook began offering the “Ethnic Affinity” categories within the past two years as part of a “multicultural advertising” effort. Satterfield added that the “Ethnic Affinity” is not the same as race — which Facebook does not ask its members about.

Facebook assigns members an “Ethnic Affinity” based on pages and posts they have liked or engaged with on Facebook. When we asked why “Ethnic Affinity” was included in the “Demographics” category of its ad-targeting tool if it’s not a representation of demographics, Facebook responded that it plans to move “Ethnic Affinity” to another section.

Facebook declined to answer questions about why our housing ad excluding minority groups was approved 15 minutes after we placed the order.

By comparison, consider the advertising controls that the New York Times has put in place to prevent discriminatory housing ads. After the newspaper was successfully sued under the Fair Housing Act in 1989, it agreed to review ads for potentially discriminatory content before accepting them for publication.

Steph Jespersen, the Times’ director of advertising acceptability, said that the company’s staff runs automated programs to make sure that ads that contain discriminatory phrases such as “whites only” and “no kids” are rejected.

The Times’ automated program also highlights ads that contain potentially discriminatory code words such as “near churches” or “close to a country club.” Humans then review those ads before they can be approved. Jespersen said the Times also rejects housing ads that contain photographs of too many white people.

The people in the ads must represent the diversity of the population of New York, and if they don’t, he says he will call up the advertiser and ask them to submit an ad with a more diverse lineup of models. But, Jespersen said, these days most advertisers know not to submit discriminatory ads: “I haven’t seen an ad with ‘whites only’ for a long time.”

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This story was reported and published by ProPublica, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.

Related on F&O:

Monika Bickert, Facebook's head of global policy management, is interviewed by Reuters in Washington DC February 2, 2016. REUTERS/Gary Cameron/File Photo

Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of global policy management. REUTERS/Gary Cameron/File Photo

Facebook Feels Heat of Controversies, by Kristina Cooke, Dan Levine and Dustin Volz

Facebook has often insisted that it is a technology company – not a media company. But an elite group  directs content policy and makes editorial judgment calls. Facebook has long resisted calls to publicly detail its policies and practices on censoring postings, drawing criticism citing a lack of transparency and a lack of an appeals process. Meanwhile, some governments and anti-terror groups are pressuring the company to remove more posts.

 ~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.
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“Race” does not exist

Julian Fong Creative Commons

Julian Fong Creative Commons

TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA
October 22, 2016

One weekend, about 25 years ago, when I was fortunate enough to be on a journalism fellowship at Harvard in Boston, I went to something called the Saturday class. The Saturday class was specifically started to help African-American students find what we might call these days a “safe space” to discuss ideas and issues that were important to them, but that anyone could attend.

This particular morning a couple of other white people had come to the class to hear Henry Louis Gates speak. Gates, a leading scholar on African-American history, would later go on to “fame,” in his role hosting a PBS show about the genetic history of well-known people, and the “beer” incident, in which he was accosted by a Cambridge cop as he was trying to get into his own house. (Gates, the cop and president Obama later had a beer together to talk about the incident).

At that time there was a great deal of discussion about the African-American community’s efforts to reclaim significant black figures who had been portrayed as white, or forgotten. Gates wanted to talk that morning about one of these figures in particular – Cleopatra.

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His argument was that while his students may have shared the same skin color as Cleopatra, they did not share the same experiences. As he said, in words I have never forgotten, “If Cleopatra came back today, she wouldn’t be doing the Moon Walk” (a reference to Michael Jackson’s then-popular dance.) What he meant was, there was no such thing as inherent “blackness,” no racial component that all black people shared.

What was shared among his students, he added, was the experience of being black in America. (Which Cleopatra did not share, and thus no moon walking.) The way people treated you because of the color of your skin. The odds you faced, the choices you were forced to make, how you raised your children.

Race was not a genetic or biological thing, he argued, but a social construct, a product of the way we act towards each other. Nothing more, nothing less. Racism is a reflection of that construction – where we treat people different based not on genetic factors (although racists like to see it that way so they can call other people “Inferior”), but entirely on the color of their skin.

In fact, science proved LONG ago we are all one race, with different skin pigmentation and susceptibility to certain diseases based on the environment our ancestors had to deal with.

In a 2015 article in the Guardian, Adam Rutherford wrote that human genome  studies increasingly show that “race” does not exist.

“There are genetic characteristics that associate with certain populations, but none of these is exclusive, nor correspond uniquely with any one group that might fit a racial epithet. Regional adaptations are real, but these tend to express difference within so-called races, not between them. Sickle-cell anaemia affects people of all skin colours because it has evolved where malaria is common. Tibetans are genetically adapted to high altitude, rendering Chinese residents of Beijing more similar to Europeans than their superficially similar neighbours. Tay-Sachs disease, once thought to be a “Jewish disease,” is as common in French Canadians and Cajuns. And so it goes on.”

I bring up this issue in response to the alt-right movement that has crawled out from under its rock and has taken up a place in the sun thanks to the candidacy of Donald Trump. The predominantly white alt-right folks, along with their kissing cousins in the KKK and similar white supremacy movements, are loudly arguing about the need to discriminate against those who look different, piggy backing on the fear that Trump has trumpeted about illegal immigrants taking over the country, Syrian refugees being secret agents of ISIS, etc.  Much of this, in America and Europe, is born of a fear of no longer being part of a dominant group, and the loss of power. (Loss of power is also why the alt-right hates women, even white women, because the alt-right is supremely patriarchal at its core.)

And while Donald Trump will lose by a lot on November 8th, the alt-right movement will not go away so easily. Thanks in particular to things like social media and the Internet, count on them spreading their lies and hatred for a while to come. Losing to a woman will only make it worse, coming on the heels of losing twice to an African-American president.

Which makes it all that more important for the rest of us to fight back and remind people that biology is NOT destiny. That we really can make a better country by changing the way we treat people. Cultural differences, based on things like economy, religion, environment, will always exist – they exist within individual countries, for heaven’s sake. But if we understand people are who they are not because they are biologically or genetically inferior, but because, like Cleopatra, they just never had a reason to do the moon walk, it will be much easier to counter the arguments of the alt-right forces and show that “race” is not what they want us to believe it is.

Copyright Tom Regan 2016

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com
LINKS

There is no such thing as ‘race’: Newsweek http://www.newsweek.com/there-no-such-thing-race-283123

Why racism is not backed by science: Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/mar/01/racism-science-human-genomes-darwin

~~~

 

Tom Regan Tom Regan has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association in the U.S., he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92. He is based near Washington, D.C.

Return to Tom Regan’s page 

 

 ~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded only by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we need a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Visit our Subscribe page for details, or donate below. With enough supporters each paying a small amount, we will continue, and increase our original works like this.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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F&O this week

Bob Dylan playing Toronto, 1980. Photo by Jean-Luc Ourlin via Flickr/Wikipedia

Bob Dylan playing Toronto, 1980. Photo by Jean-Luc Ourlin via Flickr/Wikipedia

F&O’s Fresh Sheet this week features:

Focus on Bob Dylan, who this week won the Nobel Prize for Literature:

His Bob-ness joins Yeats, Beckett, and Eliot, by Rod Mickleburgh

In the winter of 1990, I waited with a handful of reporters and photographers in a grand salon of the Palais-Royal in Paris for Bob Dylan. More than 25 years ahead of the Nobel Prize people, the French had decided that Dylan’s lyrical prowess was worthy of the country’s highest cultural honour, Commandeur dans l’ Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. T.S. Eliot was one of the first to receive the award in 1960. Borges followed in 1962. And now, following in the footsteps of Sean Connery (1987), it was Bob’s turn.

No, Bob Dylan isn’t the first lyricist to win the Nobel, by Alex Lubet

A Bengali literary giant who probably wrote even more songs preceded Dylan’s win by over a century. Rabindranath Tagore, a wildly talented Indian poet, painter and musician, took the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913.

Are Bob Dylan’s songs “Literature?” by David McCooey

Dylan’s Nobel Prize shows up what the Swedish Academy has so far ignored in their award system: film, popular music, and the emerging forms of digital storytelling. Perhaps what this Nobel tells us more than anything is that “literature” or “poetry” are categories of our own making. To move beyond the page seems long overdue.

xxx

In Commentary:

Why Putin Fears a President Clinton, by Tom Regan  Column

Why would Russian work so hard to elect Trump? There are several theories– but I believe the reason is Vladimir Putin is terrified of Clinton.

“Only White People,” the Little Girl Told my Son, by Topher Sanders  Essay

I saw the messy birth of my son’s otherness … They were playing on one of those spinning things — you know, the one where kids learn about centrifugal force and as a bonus get crazy dizzy. They were having a blast. “Only white people,” said a little girl.

International Affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe is on the road this week. In case you missed it, his 2014 piece about Thailand’s succession is a must-read in light of Thursday’s death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej:  Uneasy lies the head that wears Thailand’s Crown.

To our supporters, thank you. To newcomers, please know that reader-supported Facts and Opinions is employee-owned and ad-free. We exist only because readers like you pay at least 27 cents per story, each, on an honour system. Please contribute below, or find more payment options here.

Believers receive communion during a service in a chapel at Camp Crame, the headquarters of Philippine National Police (PNP) in Manila, Philippines October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Believers receive communion during a service in a chapel at Camp Crame, the headquarters of Philippine National Police (PNP) in Manila, Philippines October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

In Dispatches:

Nations Agree on Binding Pact to Cut Greenhouse Gases, by Clement Uwiringiyimana

Nearly 200 nations agreed to a legally binding deal to cut back on greenhouse gases used in refrigerators and air conditioners, a major move against climate change.

Drug Killings Divide, Subdue, Philippines’ Powerful Church, by Clare Baldwin and Manolo Serapio Jr

Catholic priests from the Philippines Church, an institution that helped oust two of the country’s leaders in the past, say they are afraid and unsure how to speak out against the war on drugs unleashed by new President Rodrigo Duterte. More than a dozen clergymen in Asia’s biggest Catholic nation said they were uncertain how to take a stand against the thousands of killings in a war that has such overwhelming popular support. Challenging the president’s campaign could be fraught with danger, some said.

 

Greko 1. Photo supplied by FISH-i Africa

East Africans thwart illegal fishing, by Emma Bryce

Eight East African countries are waging war on illegal fishing — and sometimes winning.

~~~

Notebook:

The biggest, most important, most noteworthy news this week is in our dispatch listed above, Nations Agree on Binding Pact to Cut Greenhouse Gases.  Nearly 200 nations agreed this week to cut a greenhouse gas. It’s a story that’s not sexy. It’s about an Issue rife with bureaucracy, procedure, negotiation. And it’s an example of the only answer we have for the rage and misery infesting the world. It shows that we humans actually can tackle our problems, even the global-sized ones.

From elsewhere on the ‘net:

Mug shots of Curtis Allen and Gavin Wright, charged in Kansas bomb plot. Photo: Police handout

Mug shots of Curtis Allen and Gavin Wright, from a Kansas group police called “a hidden culture of hatred and violence.” Photo: Police handout

If this is not a case of “terrorism” I don’t know what is.  Three men in an American group called the “Crusaders” were arrested and charged in a FBI sting Friday, for allegedly plotting to blow up a Kansas mosque and apartment building, housing people from Somali.  Read the BBC report here. Like the 1995 Oklahoma city bombing by Timothy McVeigh with co-conspirators, it’s a reminder that terror comes in all skin colours, with fanaticism one common factor.

~~~

October 16 is World Food Day. The focus, set by the United Nations, is on smallholder farmers in the poor countries most affected by climate change. And in the meantime,  the U.S. Agriculture Department said American producers have dumped 43 million tons of excess milk so far this year. The WSJ report is here.

~~~

Opposition by one region of Belgium may have scuppered CETA, the Canada and European Union (EU) Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, which proponents hoped to sign this fall. Find the AP report on CBC, here.

~~~

US First Lady Michelle Obama gave a speech this week that will resonate throughout history. Watch below — the first six minutes are marred by technical problems — or read the full text on NPR.

A contagion of clowns struck long before Halloween loomed, marauding everywhere, garishly populating all news and social media feeds. I have not seen one decent explanation of why this is happening now — best guess is that clowns and our fears represent our crazed state of politics, economics and environmental security. This piece on The Conversation by psychologist Frank McAndrew explains that many of us dislike clowns because we can’t read them, and are unsure how to react.

~~~

A Wall Street Journal feature, Blue Feed, Red Feed, aims to pull the tarps off our silos, and reveal the partisan and polarized compartments that trap us in polarization on social media.  “Facebook’s role in providing Americans with political news has never been stronger—or more controversial,” notes the report. ” Scholars worry that the social network can create “echo chambers,” where users see posts only from like-minded friends and media sources.” To demonstrate these the WSJ built an interactive feature.

~~~

Two pieces in the Guardian are especially provocative. Asks Washington writer David Smith: How did WikiLeaks go from darling of the liberal left and scourge of American imperialism to apparent tool of Donald Trump’s divisive, incendiary presidential campaign? And Sarah Smarsh takes aim at journalism’s blind spots in a piece titled, Dangerous idiots: how the liberal media elite failed working-class Americans.

~~~

Last but not least, F&O columnist Jim McNiven recommends US election watchers catch this 1980 video of Billy Joel, You May Be Right. “BJ predicted Trump and the Trumpites years ago,” notes McNiven.

 ~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

Posted in Current Affairs, Gyroscope Also tagged , , , , |

“Only White People,” the Little Girl Told my Son

by Topher Sanders, ProPublica,
October, 2016

Few things are more awesome than listening to kids playing on the playground. There’s magic in that mix of laughter and exhausted breaths — giggle, pant, giggle.

Just the other Saturday at Maplewood’s Memorial Park, I was watching my 5-year-old playing with his friends from day care. The kids have just started kindergarten and are now split up among four schools. Some industrious mom had the idea to get them together again.

It was a great idea. It was also the moment when I saw the messy birth of my son’s otherness.

They were playing on one of those spinning things — you know, the one where kids learn about centrifugal force and as a bonus get crazy dizzy. They were having a blast.

“Only white people,” said a little girl.

I heard it, but I wasn’t quite sure that’s what I heard.

“Not you, you’re black,” said the girl, reaching out to touch my son. “You’re not white. Only white people can play.”

What to do? How to do it? What to say? How to say it?

I couldn’t escape the searing historical parallels of a little white girl telling a little black boy — my son — what he can and cannot do because of his skin color.

My instinct was to go over and drop science on her and all of the other little children.

But then my systems kicked in. My automatic scary-black-man recalibration systems. The infinitesimal adjustments that black men employ not only to succeed in school and at work, but also to help us keep it 100, stay woke, all while trying to make white folks feel comfortable enough to keep us around.

Whether it’s turning down your Kendrick Lamar when the white woman gets on the elevator or flashing those disarming smiles at white women you pass at night on the sidewalk, black men learn to present safeness.

Why do I always have to make white people feel comfortable at the expense of who I am and my mood and my music and my thoughts?

Walter Scott — and every other unarmed black man killed by police officers — is why.

To support a family is why.

If I scared the white people at the playground with my reaction, what would be the impact on our little family in Maplewood? Would we be on the next email thread for a play date? Would the other families talk about my son’s angry dad?

I made all these calculations in the five seconds after he was told he couldn’t play because he was black.

Then I noticed my son. When the little racist girl reached out to touch him, he moved out of the way and laughed. He kept right on playing.

The garbage that came out of that child’s mouth meant nothing to him. Yet. It marks the beginning of what is likely to be a gradual process. One day he’ll wonder why, when he plays with a certain group of friends, he is always the villain. Similar inquiries will follow, until he has his own system of recalibrations and adjustments.

I knew a moment like this would happen eventually. I just didn’t think it would happen at age 5 on the playground.

And what of the little girl? She, too, is a casualty in this — infected by racism before she can even spell the word.

It would be easy to dismiss the whole exchange as kids being kids. She’s young enough that she hasn’t developed the filters to catch what she’s being taught at home. There’s a direct line from what she’s learning to her mouth. I thought about all the time my son spent with this child in his day care class. What else had she expressed to him, or to the other students about him?

Besides the idea that, just by virtue of her complexion, she is more entitled to something as simple as spinning on the playground.

Who will she become when she grows up? Will she be a prosecutor, a manager at a tech firm, a politician? Systemic racism apparently begins at the playground.

I was still processing the incident while my son and his friends ran over to the slides.

I turned to the parent closest to me, who hadn’t heard the exchange.

“Who is that child?” I asked.

The dad told me the girl’s name and pointed out her mother. The mom was standing about a dozen feet away in a group of other moms talking about how the kids were adjusting to kindergarten.

I tried to imagine a productive confrontation, but couldn’t get beyond my opening line: “Excuse me, can we talk about the racist trash that just came out of your daughter’s mouth?”

I told the dad next to me what had happened. He didn’t know what to say, because honestly, who really does? He unfortunately did what a lot of white people do in these moments: He tried to explain it.

“Really?” he said. “That’s not her personality.”

In the end I did nothing.

I agonized over it, of course. My wife and I have since had several discussions about what we could have done, what should have been said, and to whom. At one point I decided that the thing to do would have been to bring the matter directly to the parent. But leaving the children out of it didn’t seem right.

I recalled a moment from my childhood in Hawaii. One of my best friends, Dominic, was white. He was from a big family and being at his house was like stepping into an ’80s sitcom. I was over there all the time. Dominic’s dad was my mom’s boss on the Air Force base.

But one day, when I asked my mother if I could go to Dominic’s, she said no. She said the same thing the next time I asked, and the next. After a few weeks, I gave up.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I heard the story. Dominic’s family was having a party. We kids were probably in front of the Nintendo or running around the yard. The parents were inside, talking about the New York Knicks’ full name, the Knickerbockers. “Their real name should be the New York Nigger-bockers,” Dominic’s mom said, with a laugh.

My mother, the only black person at the party, gathered her things, found me and told me it was time to go.

I don’t blame my mother for not explaining. But I would have benefited from knowing what had happened.

Two years later, my mother and I moved to Montgomery, Ala. I walked into the halls of Alabama’s public schools completely unprepared for the racial dynamics that would meet me there. It was an intense couple of years as I received a middle-schooler’s crash course in racial truths.

Sitting here today, with the string of black men dying on camera at the hands of government agents who are often not held accountable, and with a major presidential candidate who passively, if not wholeheartedly, accepts the admiration of the K.K.K. and other white supremacist groups, I must make a different decision from my mother.

My son has watched too many boys and men that look like him die before his eyes on television. We don’t shield him from those images.

“What happened, Daddy?”

I explain.

“What did he do wrong?”

His mother and I exchange looks. I try to answer. Best I can. He pauses, then he’s back to his Hot Wheels races.

So as I mulled how I could have handled the incident at the playground and how I will handle it the next time — because, sadly, there will be a next time — I rejected the idea of simply talking to the parents.

Instead I will interrupt the children as they play, or study, or swim in the pool. I will do this for three reasons.

First, the children being groomed to be racist need to learn that acting on their racism has consequences, the least of which is that they will be met with resistance. The children have to see that people will stand up to them and call out their ignorance.

Second, all the white children in earshot also need to see that resistance and be taught that standing by silently is an endorsement.

And most important, I have to model for my children ways for them to confront racism without going all scorched earth. They need to see from their parents how to speak to ignorance, wield their dignity and push back against individual and systematic efforts to define, limit and exclude them.

During the walk home from the playground, my wife, my son and I talked about race while our 2-year-old daughter listened from her stroller.

My son nodded and said, “Yes, sir,” the way a 5-year-old does. It wasn’t our first conversation on the subject. My wife and I have been very deliberate in our attempt to introduce him to concepts of race and history. The goal is for him to be confident, keen, yet still open-minded about those around him — a goal many adults are still striving for.

It’s clear that someone in that little girl’s life is pursuing a different goal.

We don’t have a choice but to talk to our son about Ferguson, Eric Garner, workplace frictions, Baltimore, Charlotte, Alton Sterling and on and on. And yet I mourn each of those conversations. With each degree of awareness comes a corresponding loss — of silliness, of whimsy, of childhood.

Creative Commons

photo_10261Topher Sanders covers racial inequality for ProPublica. He has reported on education and city government for The Florida Times-Union since 2008. Named to the investigative team in 2013, he became the paper’s investigative editor in 2014.

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.

 ~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

Posted in Also tagged |

Rage over Racism: America Asked For It

In Chains, by Marcela, Creative Commons

In Chains, by Marcela, Creative Commons

TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA
September 17, 2016

Many years ago, I was waiting in Boston’s Park Street T-station on my way to Cambridge, when a group of African-American teenagers came down the stairs.

They were a swarm of loud, boisterous kids. Was my reaction one of amusement? Or perhaps happiness at seeing so many young people having a good time? No. I had a white person’s reaction. I felt myself tense. I moved away from the group. I gripped my luggage bag tighter. Honestly, I was a bit afraid.

Then suddenly I caught myself. What was I doing? These kids weren’t bothering anybody. They weren’t even aware I was there, they were too busy laughing and singing with each other. I relaxed, they caught their train, I got my train and that was that.

Before you continue: please know that reader-supported Facts and Opinions is employee-owned and ad-free. We are on an honour system and survive only because readers like you pay at least 27 cents per story.  Contribute below, or find more details here. Thanks for your interest and support.

But my reaction bothered me deeply. I asked myself over the few next days why had I reacted in such a negative, bigoted way. Then it began to dawn on me that almost all the news or entertainment I had seen about African-Americans was biased against them. This was pre-The Cosby Show, pre-Obama, pre-any positive depictions of African-Americans. They were drug dealers, they were violent, you couldn’t trust them, they would rob you or hurt you just as soon as look at you, etc.

And although I had several good African-Canadian friends back home, and had reported on the large black community in Halifax for many years and so should have known better, these negative images were planted in my mind. Worse, because I had quietly let them infiltrate my thought process, they were affecting the way that I acted.

But that’s how racism works, especially institutionalized racism. It’s like an unseen deadly virus. Many people, including myself, would never consider ourselves racist or bigoted. The very idea would seem laughable. We have black friends, we follow black sports stars, we listen to black singers and performers, we read black authors.

But underneath, we’ve been infected. Perhaps by the messages we got from our parents. Perhaps we were swayed by friends growing up.  Perhaps we pay too much attention to the stereotypes we see in movies and on TV. Perhaps we let media coverage of black lives, which rarely depicts positive images, quietly undermine the reality of black lives, which are just as complex, rich and fulfilling as any others.

Many good things have happened over the past quarter-century. There are many more black men and women in positive roles on TV and in movies. America elected a black president. Many African-Americans earn an income that would’ve been unthinkable in the 1960s. Donald Trump was wrong when he said that African-Americans have never had it so bad, which only illustrates another subject on which he is ignorant.

Yet I find myself pessimistic, some 25 years after I stood in the Park Street T station, that America will ever be able to deal effectively with its racism problem. Racism is THE problem that the haunts this country, and has since its birth.

Now Trump and the alt-right movement have opened a Pandora’s box of racism and bigotry, and made it okay again for people to be openly racist, in a way they’ve haven’t since the 1950s. Add to this vile brew the repeated shootings of unarmed African-American men by police across the country, and the unhinged often hysterical reaction to Pres. Obama, and America’s long-standing racist streak has been laid bare again.

Perhaps the moment that illustrated this best recently week was the Trump campaign’s Ohio State official who, on camera, claimed that racism “had not existed” in the United States before Pres. Obama, and that Obama was to blame for all its current manifestations. When she was growing up, she continued, she never saw any racism.

This is, of course, ridiculous. But the fact that a person involved in a presidential campaign in a somewhat important regional role thought it would be okay to make such a statement illustrates how much many Americans have lost their way.

A couple of days ago a friend of mine, an African-American university teacher who is normally the voice of calm reason in such events, who tries to keep a cool perspective on the racism question, reached the breaking point. They were angry and they let everybody know they were angry in a voice that shocked me. And I thought to myself, if this person is saying enough is enough, then we are just in the beginning of what might be a very bumpy ride for white Americans.

It’s not as if we don’t deserve it. We’ve been asking for it for a long, long time.

Copyright Tom Regan 2016

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com

~~~

 

Tom Regan Tom Regan has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association in the U.S., he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92. He is based near Washington, D.C.

Return to Tom Regan’s page 

 

 ~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded only by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we need a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Visit our Subscribe page for details, or donate below. With enough supporters each paying a small amount, we will continue, and increase our original works like this.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

 

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The American Dream is undermining America

Todd Hoosear/Creative Commons

Todd Hoosear/Creative Commons

TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA
July 23, 2016

It is perhaps the most famous myth about the creation of America:  the “American Dream.” The belief that no matter what your background, where you’re from, or who your parents were, that if you work hard enough added, you can achieve anything, any goal, any dream.

The American Dream is not some inconsequential fantasy. For more than 200 years it has helped make America a land of meritocracy, given hope to many that they can rise above the circumstances of their situation, and powered a dream for many around the world that, if they can just make it to America, their lives will change and they will find hope and opportunity they have never known before.

But the American Dream has become a problem for America. Saying that does not come easy. Yet the evidence grows day after day that instead of creating a meritocracy, along with  all the other good things the American Dream symbolized, it has been taken over and corrupted and it is now being used to divide Americans.

The American Dream has always been more of a reality for certain groups than others. If your ancestors were Irish, or Polish, or Russian or English, the American dream was something you could grab and use to motivate yourself to new levels. The only thing that really stood in your way were the limitations that you created for yourself.

But for African-Americans (especially), Native Americans, Asian Americans and Arab Americans, for many years, and women of all races and sects, the American Dream was more a fantasy. And for some of those groups it remains stubbornly so. Institutionalized racism, misogyny, and bigotry kept many Americans from achieving the full potential that the American Dream was supposed to offer to all.

Here’s what else it’s done — and for this we can look to conservative politicians and media talking-heads: the American Dream has been used to not help but to attack certain groups.

Since we have this long-standing belief that everyone can pull themselves up by their bootstraps if they work hard enough, the American Dream provides an excuse to criticize  individuals for whom the American dream has never really been possible. This twisted use allows people to point their fingers at others and chide “It’s your own fault; you just didn’t work hard enough at it.” And anyone who relies on any form of help, like government assistance or even private charity, is really just lazy. (This is one of the reasons that when many conservatives confront protesters of any kind, one of their most frequent insults is “Get a job!” – because taking the time to protest means that you’re not working.)

But an interesting thing happens when those individuals who have been pointing the finger suddenly find themselves in dire straits because of a lost job, a downturn in the economy, medical bills, or some other catastrophe. Do these people then turn to themselves and say, “Well it must be my fault, because in this country anything is possible, so these events must be my fault and I’m just being lazy”?

Not at all. The normal reaction is, actually, to blame the government or some of the groups mentioned above. And when those tough times affect a large number of people, it becomes easy for a demagogue to twist these feelings and say “I am the only one who can help you find the American Dream again, by turning back the clock to a time before all these changes happened, before the world became a scary place, back to a time when the American Dream was a reality for all [read ‘white] Americans.”

But America is a different place now. This is a very big nation with a very large population. And the reality of this nation is that without help many people will not be able to achieve or come close to the American Dream. It’s understandable why people don’t want to hear that, but only when we face the reality can we restore meaning to the American Dream, and  have it available to as many people as possible.

Finding the American Dream again will not be achieved through the racist threats and rantings of a half-baked celebrity demagogue. It will only happen when all involved – the government, private business, charity organizations, churches, you name it – work together to create a country with opportunity for all, and make America that beacon of hope we are all led to believe in.

Copyright Tom Regan 2016

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com

 

~~~

Tom Regan Tom Regan has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association in the U.S., he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92. He is based near Washington, D.C.

Return to Tom Regan’s page 

 

 ~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded only by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we need a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Visit our Subscribe page for details, or donate below. With enough supporters each paying a small amount, we will continue, and increase our original works like this.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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