Photograph taken at the March on Washington. Black protesters putting their feet in the reflecting pool. Colorized.
Photo by Unseen Histories / Unsplash

๐ŸŒฑ Our Great Stumbling Block

Part III: The Evolving Face of Racism in the U.S.

Sam Chavez
Sam Chavez

Table of Contents

๐Ÿค“ Bite-Sized: Sometimes being an anti-racist activist feels like playing wack-a-mole, but taking a more expansive view allows us to see how each is interconnected and what that means for our movement.

In Case You Missed It: Resetting the Terms of Debate: The Right's Media Trap

What You Can Expect
๐Ÿ’Œ A Note to Loyal Readers
๐ŸŒ The Sum of Us
๐Ÿ‰ Palestine Resource Guide
๐Ÿ—ณ Texas Voting Guide for Progressives
๐ŸŽง Racism is the Water Not the Shark

Playing Whack-a-mole

The thing about white supremacy is that itโ€™s like Hydra (the villain's league from Marvel, greek myth, or a freshwater organism depending on your style of geek). Chop off its head and it will grow three more. We chopped a few heads off and agitated the many-headed serpent in the last decade, which has sprouted more heads and reactionary fear than we can count.

Sometimes, I feel like the work of being an anti-racist activist is like playing whack-a-mole. In our newsletters this month alone, weโ€™ve covered:

  • The witch hunt of Harvardโ€™s first Black woman President
  • Modern-day slavery is alive and well in prisons where McDonald's, Target, General Mills, and Coca-Cola use Black and brown prisoners for cheap labor
  • The right-wing media infrastructure that is shifting the mainstream media towards overtly racist stories
  • JPMorgan Chase CEO, Jamie Dimon rejecting DEI efforts by using right-wing talking points
  • And of course the violence and genocide of the Palestinian people from the right-wing Israeli government which is supported by the United States government to the tune of billions of dollars in weapons and aid.

And thatโ€™s only touching the surface! It can feel crazy exhausting. ๐Ÿ˜ซ Itโ€™s normal to feel that way and we each must have the support and resources around us to keep raising our voices and working towards change. Itโ€™s also important for anyone whoโ€™s entered the movement since 2016 to understand that for many, this backlash is only a continuation of the normal of being a marginalized person in our society.

While it can be daunting, the idea that thereโ€™s been a continuous struggle for social justice and an equitable world since before the United States was founded. I've also found hope in it. These roots go back deep, yโ€™all. The escalation of racism and other -isms is not because of a few โ€œgreat and powerful white menโ€ like Jamie Dimon and Elon Musk. They are just vehicles to make what already is there louder. Ultimately white supremacy is deeply embedded in everything.

White Supremacy is Not a Person, Itโ€™s the Air

The sad truth is that itโ€™s not these men that are racist. It is the air that we breathe. It is in our institutions, in our governmentโ€™s decision-making process, in business, in education.

It is in our lungs too.

We are raised in a white supremacist society, we all have it in our bones no matter our skin color. Sometimes it's internalized hatred about parts of ourselves that are rejected by such a society. And sometimes itโ€™s in how we communicate and interact with other humans. Either way, these feelings and actions ripple out into society and perpetuate.

I recently listened to Pod Save the People (another amazing resource to catch up on the news the media doesnโ€™t cover!). DeRay Mckesson interviewed Dr. Uchรฉ Blackstock about her new book Legacy: A Black Physician Reckons with Racism in Medicine. In her story of the research she did to understand why medicine is racist, she noted a simple fact that changed the course of history. In the United States, there used to be 7 Black medical schools that were training Black doctors to be forces for good in the world. There was a coordinated effort to close the schools. White men disguised their efforts with the Flexner Report, about medical education in the U.S. including higher standards for schools. Those standards were incredibly and intentionally racist. They closed five of the seven Black medical schools by 1935 and weโ€™ve had a shortage of Black doctors ever since. That was one small decision that has led to more Black women dying today in child birth and for Black people to feel they have to perform to receive medical care. Dr. Blackstockโ€™s response?

โ€œWhen people say everything comes back to race yโ€™all, they ainโ€™t lying.โ€

This is one small droplet in an ocean of white supremacy, but it illustrates the levels of involvement within a white supremacist society. I can easily blame the men who created the report, but itโ€™s also true that they werenโ€™t the only ones perpetuating this racist policy. The medical field, the U.S. government, and other institutions got behind this report as well as the public. Thousands of people were involved in making this one decision. Imagine the outcomes if more people in that chain of decisions chose to speak out and stop the report. Imagine what the ripple effects can be when people speak out.

Our Stumbling Block

To talk about this in today's context, we can look to Nex Benedict, a sweet 16-year-old non-binary, Indigenous high school student, who died after being beaten by their classmates in a girl's bathroom. They were forced into that bathroom because of anti-trans legislation the Oklahoma state legislature passed including a bathroom bill. They also were bullied because of the hateful environment that school and community leaders fostered whether directly or through their actions in condoning such hateful policies. The woman who runs Libs of TikTok wasn't just randomly on their Oklahoma library media advisory committee. These were intentional choices.

And to be honest, Joe Biden and the Democratic Party have some responsibility for Nex's death. We know that the GOPโ€™s hateful policies are responsible for Nexโ€™s death, but the Presidentโ€™s talk about LGBTQ2S+ hasnโ€™t led to any action to stop the oppressive laws. Merrick Garland could be doing far more to protect LGBTQ2S+ and fight back against the overreach from GOP-gerrymandered states. Countless people have made choices that have led up to Nex's death. It only takes a few different choices to avoid such a tragedy. (For context, I used LGBTQ2S+ to recognize two-spirit folks.)

"First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action;" who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season.โ€

- Martin Luther King Jr.

It breaks my heart to know Nex Benedict because they should not be in national headlines. Nex should just be a kid who gets to love nature and watch The Walking Dead. Everyone deserves to have that. It has hit me especially hard because I think we would have liked each other had we known each other in life. I feel a connection to Nex. I also know the experience of being a queer kid in a conservative high school just south of them. I hope Nex can find their peace and joy now. And I hope for more folks can find their voice and push back the tides of white supremacy. As Fannie Lou Hamer reminds us, "Nobody's free until everybody's free." 

Next week, we're going to end this month's series on active hope. My hope doesn't just come out of nowhere, it comes from all of us. See you next week. โœŠ๐Ÿผ๐Ÿณ๏ธโ€โšง๏ธ๐Ÿ’š

๐Ÿ“ฉ Did you enjoy this post even just a little? Consider forwarding to a friend!

Getting to the roots, evaluating the news with a social change lens
  • ๐Ÿ“š Palestine Resource Guide 2024 - Want to know what actions you can take to support Palestinians? This guide lays out a ton of easy actions you can take in a visual zine.
    • ๐Ÿค“ The Root ๐ŸŒฑ - Itโ€™s okay to feel overwhelmed and not know where to start. Thatโ€™s why there are amazing creators and community organizers like Robin Divine. Check out her newsletter, Poverty Sucks.
  • ๐Ÿ“š Texans! Get Your Progressive Voting Guide - Hey yโ€™all, my home state has its primary elections coming up. Check out this voting guide before you go to the polls. Early voting has started and election day is March 5.
    • ๐Ÿค“ The Root ๐ŸŒฑ - Down ballot races help us bring in new progressive leaders. Texas can be a competitive state when we pass voting rights reform!
  • ๐Ÿ“š The New Lie From AIPAC to Hurt Progressives - Progressive Jamal Bowmanโ€™s primary challenger funded by the pro-Israel attack lies about Hamas funding.
    • ๐Ÿค“ The Root ๐ŸŒฑ - AIPAC specifically recruited him to run. This is the new playbook to suppress progressive voices who are overwhelmingly black and brown.
  • ๐ŸŽง Equity in Medicine - In this episode of Pod Save the People, DeRay McKesson interviewed Dr. Uchรฉ Blackstock about her new book Legacy: A Black Physician Reckons with Racism in Medicine.
    • ๐Ÿค“ The Root ๐ŸŒฑ - This conversation is amazing and eye-opening. It never surprises me how much our country's past decisions are harmful to our present.

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let's grow together! reflections, ideas, and curiosities of the week

Find our latest videos on our ๐ŸŽฌ Quick Bites page.

Listen ๐ŸŽง to my conversation with Sharon Hurley Hall. We discuss the audiobook release of her book, Iโ€™m Tired of Racism, and how racism is the waters that we swim in, not just the shark. Many themes we touch on are also included in what I wrote today.

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Sam Chavez

Sam is a writer, strategist, and curious human. She founded the roots of change agency in 2020. Sam is a queer, white, LatinX activist whoโ€™s passionate about a livable planet & equitable societies.


Navigating heart-first activism & storytelling. We explore the ๐ŸŒฑ roots of our world to support communicators, organizations, and activists ๐Ÿฅต to avoid burnout and ๐Ÿ“š tell empathetic stories that cultivate connections that ๐ŸŒ empower โœŠ๐Ÿฝ social change.

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