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How to Be An Antiracist Ep. 5

Podcast Description

Ethnicity

Ethnic Racism: A powerful collection of racist policies that lead to inequity between racialized groups and are substantiated by racist ideas about racialized ethnic groups.

Ethnic Antiracism: A powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to equity between racialized ethnic groups and are substantiated by antiracist ideas about racialized ethnic groups.

Homework

  1. Page 58: Have you ever told ethnic jokes? If you have, do you still? If not, why?
  2. Page 66: What are stories and messages you received growing up regarding your ethnicity and its place in hierarchical value?
  3. Because this is a largely white audience, I want you to think about and write down the racist thoughts you have when you’re the only white person in a largely Black situation i.e. regarding your safety, intelligence, what you deserve, etc.

Transcription

00:10

Hello, everyone. And welcome to chapter 5 of “How to be an Antiracist”. This is episode 5 of the “How to be an Antiracist” series on the #causeascene podcast. I want to begin by again giving you, if you want to share any questions, comments, concerns, you can do that at podcast@hashtagcauseascene.com.

I want to start by just saying something. Doing this is very uncomfortable for me. I do not like reading aloud. I don’t know if it’s an undiagnosed learning disorder or something. Sometimes I get my letters and numbers mixed up, so I really am uncomfortable reading out loud. When I’m reading to myself, I’m fine, but reading out loud, I become very uncomfortable and it’s really been a challenge for me to do this podcast because I know I stumble over some words, I mispronounce words. But I’ve decided to do it anyway without many edits, just because I’m human. And this is my lived experience, and I hope that I’m able to demonstrate, be a model of the grace we need to give, particularly to people from marginalized, underrepresented communities who put themselves out there, who make themselves vulnerable in order to positively impact our community.

So moving forward, just know that I will stumble over words, I will mispronounce things, I will forget how to say something, and I’m gonna be okay with that. I just had to, I guess that’s my learning for chapter 5, you know what? I’m okay with that. And I’m not gonna be hesitant during these podcasts anymore. I’m just gonna read, I’m gonna stumble. But I’m gonna be me. So I wanted to just get that out of the way because that was kind of an ah-ha moment that I have because my producer and I have been talking about this, and I just really don’t like reading aloud. But it is what it is.

And also a lesson for doing recorded sessions. Do not drink carbonated water before you do this because you will have gas. You’ll have belching and whatnot. So okay, it’s probably a little too much information. But I felt it was to add a little levity to the conversation before we get started, because this was a pretty heavy one for me.

02:37

So this is ethnicity. And so we start with the definitions as usual.

Ethnic racism: a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to inequalities between racialized ethnic groups and are substantiated by racist ideas about racialized ethnic groups.

Ethnic antiracism: a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to equality between racialized ethnic groups and are substantiated by antiracist ideas about racialized ethnic groups.

03:13

And so he talks about, he starts his chapter talking about the O. J. Simpson trial. And I’m gonna tell you, I’m new to this language. I’ve had this lived experience. But it’s only recently that many of us, due to social media, have been able to put names to things or experiences, and so we talked about O. J. Simpson. 

I didn’t really care. I wanted O.J. to run free. I had been listening to what the Black adults around me had been lecturing about for months in 1995. They did not think O. J. was innocent of murder any more than they thought he was innocent of selling out his people. But they knew that the criminal justice system was guilty, too.

I wrote in the margin, for once a black person had enough power and privilege to get away with something. And that’s all I think I remember at that time. I was young enough that I didn’t connect to the physical abuse that he alleged to have for his wife, you know, any of that. The only thing I thought about even at that young age was a black man getting away with things that I knew that white people have been getting away with forever. And this, as they said, this came after the Rodney King hearing, and then after this incident, you had the Haitian immigrant who was sodomized in police custody. And then last, sorry, I’m on page 57:

It didn’t matter if Black people breathed first in the United States or abroad. In the end, racist violence, did not differentiate.

04:59 

And I’m gonna make that point there, kind of bring it up again. Because I’ve said this a lot. I make a very clear distinction between people of color and Black people and women of color and Black women. And here, and I’ve said this because there is this racist hierarchy, which we’ll get into, that a lot of African immigrants, Caribbean and from the continent of Africa have against Blacks from the US. And I’ve said, it’s everybody wants to be anything but Black, and I love having positioned this because I’ve said this also, for whatever reasons, whatever the racist rhetoric Blacks here in the United States or Blacks abroad have internalized about Blackness, which is basically, I’ve said this before: we all have a level of internalized anti-Blackness when it comes to the criminal justice system, when it comes to health care, when it comes to education, in the United States, when it comes to any of those things, what they see is a Black person. They don’t ask us, are you Haitian? Are you Jamaican? Are you from Senegal? No one asked that, are you from the United States? We’re treated all as Black and this is why again I say whiteness, because the opposite of Blackness is whiteness.

06:41 

And so if Blackness is gonna be lumped into a group then to me, the the equivalent is for whiteness to be lumped into a group. And that’s just basically how we relate to whiteness when I hear, people say “I’m Jewish, I’m not white.” To me, you’re white. I don’t go by… you look at me, you see Black, you don’t try to figure out where I’m from, it’s Black. So I’ve learned that when you present yourself as white, that’s what it is, until I know something else. And because you present yourself as white and because I believe that whiteness is racist by design and can’t be trusted by default, whatever you are, I’ll go by that baseline. So yeah, so it’s really interesting to read this, and it’s also really uncomfortable. I’m gonna tell you why.

Because I recognized in the majority of my followers… followers, I don’t even like that term. The majority of the #causeascene community is white people. And to read a chapter that’s specifically, it’s like basically about Blackness, makes me really uncomfortable because whiteness has always used this lens to evaluate, to scrutinize us. And so I feel I’m under a lens as I read this. So just know that I am not comfortable, but it is what learning is.

08:10 

And so he goes on page 58, he talks about you know, these jokes he used to make about the two immigrants in his class, and he talks about the movie “Coming to America.” And he says that:

Ethnic racism is the resurrected script of the slave trader. The origins of ethnic racism can be found in the slave trade’s supply-and-demand market for human products. Different enslavers preferred different ethnic groups in Africa, believing they made better slaves. And better slaves were considered better Africans.

08:47

But what got me about the jokes is, until very recently, I can be honest and say I used to… my students loved me and we used to crack jokes on each other all the time. And a lot of my jokes to my African students and my Latino students were racist. They were racist jokes. They were rooted, I see now, in racism. Does that mean, again because of how I define racism, and I’m gonna give this now because I know somebody’s gonna question it.

How I define racism is that not only race prejudice, but power system. I don’t have that. And I wasn’t, I didn’t realize it was racist. What I realized, it was funny to me. And that goes back to a live video that I created that, you know, once I know better, and once I recognized that to say or do something causes harm to someone else even if I didn’t intend it to, then I started rethinking what’s funny. So a lot of the things that I used to think were funny, because I used to literally think that anything could be made into a joke, literally anything. I no longer think that. I no longer believe that everything is up for laughs.

So that really made me think about that, and I was like, wow… I mean, the students gave as good as they got. But it’s still, I was like, “mmm, that didn’t feel good” when I read that because I used to do like, jokes of… I’m not gonna detail you here what they were, but they were racist in nature. They were rooted in some of the things we’re gonna talk about here.

10:24 

And so on page 59:

My friends and I may have been following the old script when it came to ethnic racism, but our motivations weren’t the same as those old planters’. Under our laughs at Kwame and Akeem was probably some anger at continental Africans. “African chiefs were the ones waging war on each other and capturing their own people and selling them.”

And so he talks about how they, and you hear this, I see this on Twitter a lot. And this is another thing that’s funny, and this is why I want to bring your attention to this, because I see this when white people challenge racism, I mean literally challenge racism and go into, “well, Africans sold each other, so if it was OK with them, they were… why are you talking about it? It’s over.”

And he gets into this, and it gets into that group thing because again, it’s not… US society and society period is not asking, are you Haitian? Are you Jamaican? Are you Cuban? Latino, you know, are you Mexican? Guatemalan, Colombian, and and and unfortunately, the default is usually, you’re just Mexican. That’s just racist. They don’t think about Latina or they use the term Hispanic. And then for Blacks, it’s just Blacks. You just paint them all together. And this is really interesting:

The idea that “African chiefs” sold their “own people” is an anachronistic memory, overlaying our present ideas about race onto an ethnic past. When European intellectuals created race between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries, lumping diverse ethnic groups into monolithic races, it didn’t necessarily change the way that people saw themselves. Africa’s residents in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries didn’t look at the various ethnic groups around them and suddenly see them all as one people, as the same races, as African or Black. Africans involved in the slave trade did not believe they were selling their own people—they were usually selling people as different to them as the Europeans waiting on the coast. Ordinary people in West Africa—like ordinary people in Western Europe—identified themselves in ethnic terms during the life of the slave trade. It took a long time, perhaps until the twentieth century, for race making to cast its pall over the entire globe.

13:09 

So they weren’t selling their own people. They were selling other people. They weren’t the same. He talks about this later in the chapter when he’s talking about hierarchy. But when people say Native Americans, they’re different tribes of Native Americans, they don’t consider themselves the same. But our policies have lumped all Native Americans together. And then they created a hierarchy between that. Then he talks about on Page 80 about the policies that have been were put in place to help ease:

Throughout the 1990s, the number of immigrants of color of in the United States grew, due to the combined efforts of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, the Refugee Act of 1980, and the Immigration Act of 1990. Taken together, these bills encouraged family unification, immigration from conflict areas, and the diversity visa program that spiked immigration from countries outside Europe. Between 1980 and 2000, the Latinx immigrant population ballooned from 4.2 million to 14.1 million. As of 2015, Black immigrants accounted for 8.7 percent of the nation’s Black population, nearly triple their share in 1980.

14:33 

And so we have to understand what people are saying, “oh these immigrants, all these immigrants.” It’s only been white immigrants that have been allowed to come into this country freely until very recent history. About how… I don’t want to get deep into this because you can read it. And again, I don’t feel comfortable, just like feeling all of this to you because you’re white audience and I don’t need to bare my soul like that to you. So he talks about the differences, how West Indians see African Americans. And then he talks about, on page 61, that:

The loosening immigration laws of the 1960s through the 1980s [correction: 1990s] were designed to undo a previous generation of immigration laws that limited non-white immigration to the United States. “America must be kept American,” President Calvin Coolidge said the 1964 [correction: 1924] law.

Which was the Emergency Quota Act and the Immigration Act in 1964 [correction: 1924].

But Coolidge and the congressional supporters determined that only immigrants from northeastern Europe—Scandinavia, the British Isles, Germany—could keep America American, meaning white. […] Nearly a century later, U.S. senator Jeff Sessions lamented the growth of non-native-born population. “When the numbers reached about this high in 1964 [correction: 1924], the president and Congress changed the policy. And it slowed down significantly. We then assimilated through to 1965 and created the really solid middle class of America with assimilated immigrants. And it was good for America.”

16:33 

All right. So I apologize, I had a question back when I was talking about making jokes. So on page 58, gonna go back. I said, assignment number one:

Have you ever told ethnic jokes? If you have, do you still? If not, why?

So this goes back to the ethnic jokes section on page 58.

Have you ever told ethnic jokes? If you have, do you still tell them? And if not, why don’t you tell those jokes anymore?

17:09 

And so now we’re on page 62, it talks about:

The current administration’s throwback to early 20th century immigration policies—built on racist ideas of what constitutes an American—were meant to roll back the years of immigration that saw America dramatically diversify, including a new diversity within its Black population, which now included Africans and West Indians in addition to the descendants of African slaves. But regardless of where they came from, they were all racialized as black.

So it didn’t matter. They don’t… people again: folks don’t ask where we’re from. We all put in the same thing. 

The fact is, all ethnic groups, once they fall under the gaze and power of race makers, become racialized. […] The racialization serves as the core mandate of race: to create hierarchy of values.

Then he goes on to talk about Anglo Saxons that discriminated against Irish Catholics and Jews and what not, and even in the Native American population, the Indigenous population, they created a hierarchy between them.

18:23

On page 63:

We practice ethnic racism when we express a racist idea about an ethnic group or support a racist policy toward an ethnic group. Ethnic racism, like racism itself, points to group behavior, instead of policies, as the cause of disparities between groups.

And I’ve had this… so he talks about, he says, people ask like where you’re from, and I’ve had people to ask me that several times, particularly when I was younger. I used to have long pony—my hair is jet black and I used to have two ponytails, long ponytails. And for the texture of my hair, people were like, “So what are you made off? Where did you come from?” Because they were like, “You can’t be all Black, are you? Are you, you know, are you Indian?”

And I’m like, I could say I know I had some Native American, some Cherokee in my family. But I also have some white, because slave owners raped, so I don’t know what that is, but the fact that people try… it’s like I’m different because I did not meet the standard of what people thought Black people look like, and my hair texture was different, there was always the assumption—it wasn’t even an assumption, it was a knowing on their part that there was something different about me. So it was like, “What are you? What are you made of?”

And I love how he goes to this whole thing, “I’m from Queens,” you know, “my parents are from this” and whatnot.

19:46

And then he says, on page 64:

To be antiracist is to view national and transnational ethnic groups as equal in all of their differences. To be antiracist is to challenge the racist policies that plague racialized ethnic groups across the world. To be antiracist is to view the inequities between all racialized ethnic groups as a problem of policy.

And so, on page 66, he talks about, “How can I critique their ethnic races and ignore my own?” He just talked about a student and and how Blacks from the US have a perception of—we’re just gonna call them Blacks—Blacks from Africa and Blacks from the West Indies and and the Caribbean. And they also have these ideas about us. So he says:

How can I critique their ethnic racism and ignore my ethnic racism? That is the central double standard of ethnic racism: loving one’s position on the ladder above other ethnic groups and hating one’s position below that of other ethnic groups. It is angrily trashing the racist ideas about one’s own group but happily consuming the racist ideas about other ethnic groups. It is failing to recognize that the racist ideas we consume about others came from the same restaurant and the same cook who used the same ingredients to make different dishes for us all.

21:24

And so this is where your second question comes in your homework assignment. 

But just as I’m reading this again, this made me think of some of the the things that I’m seeing within the LGTBQ community and how many trans individuals feel that the “T” is silenced. Because you want to speak up for gay rights and that be the default. And the trans individuals, particularly Black trans women are being slaughtered. But how do you talk about that? You’re not seeing the value of their lives and their experiences as equal to gay rights. 

And so these are things that this system creates for us that caused us to infight. And this is one thing that—I wrote this note—it’s that this chapter reminds me how effectively structured white supremacy is that creating distinctions and distractions among groups which keeps them, us, divided rather than building coalitions for challenging the systems of oppression. And so, I’ve been doing a lot of talks lately on how to prioritize the most vulnerable in our communities because when they feel safe and protected, everybody else feels safe and protected. And yet it requires for us to do that, it requires us to step out of our own oppression, step out of our own pain, step out of our own anger and frustration and justified hate and evaluate,  “Am I the most vulnerable in this situation?”

23:11

And it takes a lot of self discipline to be able to say I stepped out of this, but I don’t I don’t ignore my own. What I’m doing at the moment is, by helping the most vulnerable who is experiencing far more than what I’m even experiencing by helping to alleviate their struggle, by aligning with them so that they feel safe and secure, I benefit as well. And that’s hard because we’re all self serving individuals, and the systems of white supremacy are created for us to continue to propagate that, to continue to be distracted and seeing each other as, again, these hierarchies. There’s somebody above me. And then, but I’m above someone else, so I get pride in being above someone and else, another group, but I hate being not on the top. And so it requires us to step out of our own and just evaluate, because in any situation you may be the most vulnerable. But if you’re not, it requires us to step out of that, put that aside and focus on protecting and uplifting the most vulnerable because we go pick back up our burden, it will not be as heavy.

24:27

And so question two, on page 66, from what I just read is:

What stories and messages have you received growing up about your value and your ethnic place in that? Where did you fit on the hierarchy and what value was communicated to you from there?

It says:

Ethnically racist ideas […] cover up the racist policies wielded against Black natives and immigrants. Whenever Black immigrants compare their economic standing to that of Black natives, whenever they agree that their success stories show that antiracist Americans are overstating racist policies against African Americans, they are tightening the handcuffs of racist policies around their own wrists.

On page 67,

In fact, immigrants and migrants of all races tend to be more resilient and successful when compared with the natives of their own countries and the natives of their new countries. Sociologists call this the “migrant advantage.” […] With ethnic racism, no one wins, except the racist power at the top. As with all racism, that is the entire point.

25:55

Okay, so that’s all I’m gonna read there. And so your last homework assignment is—number three—because this is a largely white audience, I want you to:

Think about and write down the racist thoughts you have when you are the only white person in a largely Black situation or largely Black and Brown situation regarding your safety, intelligence.

So you use examples of what are your thoughts regarding your safety? What are your thoughts regarding your intelligence with the rest of this group? What do your thoughts about what you deserve? That kind of thing. Those are the things I want you to ask yourself. And really be honest because again, you cannot be antiracist if you’re not willing to do the work of examining your own racism.

So again, the questions are:

  1. (page 58) Have you ever told ethnic jokes? If you have, do you still tell them? If not, why?
  2. (page 66) What are the stories and messages you received growing up regarding your ethnicity and its place in the hierarchical value?
  3. Because this is a largely white audience, I want you to think about and write down the racist thoughts you have when you’re the only white person in a largely Black setting. It could be walking down the street. It could be at a conference, which is rare. It could be at a club. Wherever you’re not the majority, I want you to think about those racist ideas that you may hold.

27:26

And so, the last part, what I’m gonna do, I’m gonna read an email that came to me from a listener in Germany. And I’m gonna leave out this person’s name and identifying factors, and I just want to read to you what they wrote to me. I think this is very apropos.

Dear Kim, thank you for creating the “How to be an Antiracist” book club. I really appreciate your work, and I will try to contribute back to you as soon as my situation allows. Surely, after listening to the first “How to be an Antiracist” podcast, I decided to join. So I thought I’d say hello. My name is [redacted] and we have met in Berlin. And my privileges I’m already aware of are being white in the global north, cis, hetero, able, young, and graduated. I also interned at a larger tech company but stopped working there due to unreasonable employee and company policies.

I want to learn how to be an antiracist because I don’t want to harm my Black friends and friends of color as well as my partner who is of color, because after starting listening to your talks in a podcast, seeing works that you recommended, I understand that whiteness is racist by design. And as you’re saying, I’m not excluded from that. Rather I have to work actively against this default. I deeply care about the people around me, and I also don’t want them to be harmed by others, which I cannot prevent unless I challenge the systems that are in place to hurt the most vulnerable. I’m also not here to save anybody but to have people’s back in the liberation struggle.

Once, after challenging a white person, they said to me, “are you a lawyer of black people now?” But that was not what I was trying to be. I guess that just shows that I have to improve my arguments and there is so much more I need to understand and learn.

29:38

And then she put in parenthesis, she’s also reading “Stamped from the Beginning” by Dr. Kendi at the moment. So this is his history book, which really breaks down the economics, because people think racism came first and as we talked about in chapter one, it did not. In this book, “Stamped from the Beginning” by Dr. Kendi… and there’s a new version coming out that’s more aligned with present day, I believe. So, it’s a retelling, I think that’s how they’ve positioned it, a retelling of that book, and we will add that to the book club when that comes out next year.

I also understand that I will not be an expert on antiracism and should give way for Blacks and Indigenous people and People of Color to share their experiences. So here’s some thoughts from your last podcast.

And so she’s referring to episode three of the #CauseAScene “How to be an Antiracist” podcast.

I think in the second podcast you mention coming up with an anti-tech agenda after reading the book. I really like this idea. I can imagine that there will be a struggle, like the struggle we have when introducing codes of conduct to tech events. But it will be a needed step forward to challenge the system, to find terms and find acceptable and unacceptable ways of working together.

On the third podcast, you gave the listener some homework, which I also think is great. I actually like homework in school, as I could concentrate better at home and wrap my head around the topic. These questions that you ask really got me thinking, and they are not easy. I thought I’d give you a short overview of my findings, so I apologize if it is not elaborate due to the time constraints, I will definitely continue to think and research about this.

31:31

So I didn’t read these questions and answers. I didn’t read these answers ahead of time because I like to be in the moment. Now mind you what I said at the beginning, sometimes my reading gets a little fumble, so I have not read these, so just give me grace.

So, page 38, “find three examples of being of it being a crime of non-whites to be themselves and empower themselves”. My focus this time is on Germany.

32:00 

One from the past: Something I discovered recently was the harsh human rights violation migrant workers, mostly from Cuba, Vietnam, Mozambique, and Angola faced in Socialist East Germany before reunion when they founded a family with an East German citizen or another immigrant worker. They were deported as soon as the news that they would be new parents go public without a chance to reunite and stay in contact with their partner or children. Some of them have reunited only this year.

32:50

From the present: German officials in about half of German states have banned wearing religious garments and signs in the public works sector, such as teaching and public authorities. This ban is mostly affecting Muslim women striving to be teachers in Berlin. They even call it the Neutrality Law, which as we have learned from Dr. Kendi, is probably not neutral, but rather maintaining the white supremacist German teacher default in school.

33:20

One in which technology is used to enable the racist crimes of being non-white: Last year, I read a book by Edwin Black on how the Nazi regime used punch card computers—machines created and sold by IBM’s predecessor company…

I don’t know how to pronounce this… D E H O M A G as I’m sure for me is “De Helmig”, but I’m sure that’s not it in Germany.

… Dehomag to enlist and categorize especially Jews, but also many others. With the systems in place they then organized the forced labour and killing of these people. I think this is a powerful example we need to always keep in mind, especially since these practices are now in use again in East Turkistan to control and extinct…

I don’t know how to pronounce this is… U Y G H U R S. OK, I apologize for that, cause that’s an ethnicity or a group of people, and I cannot pronounce it. So but it’s U Y G H U R S. So then she, this person goes on to—and I say she by default, so that doesn’t mean this is from a female, or from a woman, I mean. See, and that’s—I have to use inclusive language—from a woman.

34:55

Number two, page 40: “Do some research and find examples of a time between 1410 and 1474 that challenged the assertion that the Black race of people were lost and living like beasts without the custom of reasonable being.” What I am asking myself here is: what does “lost and not reasonable” even mean for the invaders at the time. That they found people not being like them very different and thus inferior?

Actually, I’m not sure anymore if that picture of completely different peoples holds anymore. I’ve been looking a bit—and not yet exact though—it’s the peoples and kingdoms that existed in the time of Ghana. So I came across the Akan people of the Bondo states. In 1741, there was a large town called Big Hole, a trading town where goods like salt, leather, gold, and much more were traded. This must have required a lot of infrastructure and a level of organization that probably was on a similar level as European towns of that time.

36:27

And then question three: “List five racist ideas that are being used to justify racist policies and redirect the harm of racist inequalities away from the policies and onto people. Look beyond the obvious. How is technology being used to facilitate racist policies?” I will mention three things that I thought about, and I’m learning about others too in Germany.

Number one: Germany has implemented deportations policies for immigrants and asylum seekers, as they blamed them for their economicfor being economic refugees who just want to make use of the social systems. Example one: they started deporting Afghans because their country is safe to return to. Example two: the right wing party of Germany is using social media to spread segregationist ideas, blaming Muslims and other immigrants for problems that have nothing to do with them and pushing through their white supremacist policies. Example three: during my thesis, I read a term “developing countries” in a lot of papers, and I now figure that the term “developing country” is racist and assimilated bullshit.

Ah! That just made my heart sing!

As we learned from Dr. Kendi, this means that these countries are being seen as inferior and also erases the history of colonialism and exploitation most of these countries in the Global South face and instead maintains the image of laziness and own fault.

I think I have to wrap my head around the last question, but this email is already pretty long. Again, thank you for offering the book club. Looking forward to the next episodes!

Warm greetings from Germany.

38:21 

So with that, I’ll leave you, and thank you for tuning in. And I welcome you to again, reach out to me with questions, comments, and concerns at podcast@hashtagcauseascene.com. Have a wonderful day!

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How to Be An Antiracist Ep. 5

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