The George Floyd killing stirs up all kinds of emotions. Why does this keep happening? Will it come to my door? What type of world have I brought my kids into? I am a married, black man living in a fairly affluent suburban community in New Jersey. My wife happens to be white. Our town is diverse while still being segregated. I am close friends with many police officers and hold them in high regard. However, living in this community and coaching baseball does not inoculate me from the realities of my existence.Read more
Yes, my name really is Karen. And it’s not a surprise: I am white and middle aged. I grew up in suburban, segregated New Jersey (a state that likes to pretend it’s not segregated, when it’s one of the most). I didn’t learn about race and racism in K-12. I didn’t learn that race is a social construct, much less that whiteness is an invention. I didn’t learn that I, as a white person, was benefitting from advantages that I did not earn but rather were built into our systems. I didn’t learn any of that because it was not taught.Read more
As it relates to America’s racial progress, a black elder recently said to me, "Ain't nothing changed but the weather." And then America saw the heartbreaking footage of the brutal murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a young black man who was out for a jog in Brunswick, Georgia. Arbery was murdered in February of 2020. There was a police cover up, but upon the release of the footage, murder charges were subsequently filed against the three vigilantes – two months later. The charges were not filed because the “authorities” saw the footage, the charges were filed because the public saw the footage and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation was forced to intervene.Read more
Messages from Media
We cannot underestimate the tremendous power of advertising and media to influence our perceptions and standards of beauty, particularly images in magazines, music videos, TV shows, and movies. Not only is there power in advertising and media, there is also great thought given by people who study how to get consumers to respond to an image. Research has shown over time and from the testimonies of people I’ve worked with, most of the images seen on television hold lighter skinned people in higher esteem than darker skinned people. Because of this messaging, many people hold lighter skinned people in high esteem and aspire to be lighter. This aspiration manifests itself in skin bleaching. Globally, one of the most popular products is skin-bleaching cream. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on skin bleaching products every year all across the world because of the idea that lighter skin is to be preferred over darker skin.Read more
PHOTO: Hazel Bryan, one of the nine black students to attend Little Rock, Arkansas' Central High School in 1957 after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that "separate but equal" segregated schools were unconstitutional.
Photo by Ira Wilmer Counts, Jr.
As public school segregation increases, what are the consequences?
According to a study published last year by the UCLA Civil Rights Project, nearly 50 percent of African-American students in New Jersey attend schools where less than 10 percent of the student body is white. And the typical white student attends a public school in which two-thirds of the population is Caucasian.
Racial segregation is not a problem that exists only in the past. Despite widely documented progress in U.S. history to limit racism, studies suggest that segregation is still an issue in today’s world. Especially right here in the schools of New Jersey.
Yes, it’s true.Read more
In 1963, Birmingham, Alabama found itself at the center of the Civil Rights Movement. Local black activists protested against Jim Crow laws and a decade of racially motivated bombings of the houses of black families who moved into new neighborhoods or were activists. Hoping to de-escalate ricing tensions, a group of local religious leaders wrote a public letter, "An Appeal for Law and Order and Common Sense."Read more
It's been said that if President Barack Obama were a dark-skinned black man, he would not have been elected president. This is debatable to some while others believe it wholeheartedly. In comedy circles, President Obama is referred to as someone who had the complexion for the protection and the connection. The idea that there is prejudice or discrimination, often among same-race people based solely on skin tone is called colorism. Essentially, it means that the lighter your skin tone, the prettier you are seen to be, the more value you are attributed, and the better you have it in life. It stems from the belief that beauty and desirability increase with the proximity to whiteness.Read more
[NOTE: Following the enactment of racist border policies, the discovery of white supremacist flyers and posters throughout our congressional district, and the lack of leadership from Congressman Lance on this issue, we have solicited blog posts from activists and concerned people about the issues. If you would like to add your voice to the discussion, please contact us.]
What does it mean for a white person today to look at white onlookers in an old photograph of a lynching? One piece in the recent Racial Imaginary Institute exhibit in New York City On Whiteness asks us this very question. I just visited this exhibit during its final week, and while there were many thought-provoking works, The Wonder Gaze (St James Park) by Ken Gonzales-Day has stayed with me (see his website for the image http://kengonzalesday.com/on-whiteness/). It is a giant photograph of part of an original photograph of a lynching, and we only see the people who attended, or perhaps even participated in the lynching, not the person who was lynched. White people who stand in front of this giant photograph are forced to look in a mirror of sorts. We ask: who are these people? The answers present several challenges that white people must confront if we are to dismantle white supremacy.Read more
People in America are at shock of what is happening at the Mexico-United States border. Images, especially of a 2-year-old girl from Honduras crying while a U.S. border agent pats down her mother has been seen by millions throughout the country and our world. Families being separated, children placed in detention or sold to human traffickers being combated by the slogan #KeepFamiliesTogether. But this is just the latest iteration of the crisis at the border. A crisis that has its foundation established centuries ago, and now, it’s apparatus well maintained into the 21st century. Washington D.C. need not look past a mirror to see how that monster had been created.Read more
One of my favorite movies is "The American President." (For those unfamiliar, Michael Douglas plays a progressive president fighting moral and political battles as he seeks reelection.) In it, President Andrew Shepherd (Douglas) begins an impassioned campaign speech by saying, "America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You've gotta want it bad, cause it's gonna put up a fight." Some of us only entered that fight for democracy following the 2016 presidential election, and are just waking up to the reality that we are not the country we thought we were.Read more