MONTHLY HIGHLIGHT

HOW TO BE ACTIVELY ANTI-RACIST | JUNE 2020

Meeting Questions

*For the 2nd half of the meeting on June 24/28

1) How did your perspective change after analyzing the media you chose?

2) What do you think anti-racist means?

3) How did your media influence your thoughts on how you can be actively anti-racist?

4) What was an interesting insight you learned from the previous discussion with those who analyzed the same media?

FILM: LA 92

Rated R - Trigger Warnings: Graphic Footage; Disturbing Violence, Bloody Images, Gun Violence

Synopsis

        LA 92 is a documentary film directed by T. J. Martin and Daniel Lindsay comprised of press, home video, and security camera footage. It examines the chain of events leading up to and following the acquittal of the 4 policemen who savagely beat Rodney King, a black motorist, in 1992 focusing mostly on the rioting and looting that occurred.

Personal Reflection

By: Amari Parker & Amanda Altarejos

       This was an extremely powerful film that evoked many emotions. It caused me to experience anger, despair, optimism, and so much more. The raw footage from many angles allowed me to experience a variety of perspectives and events. It made me realize that not enough has changed in the almost 30 years since the riots and furthered my understanding as to why protesters are currently expressing themselves this way. LA 92 shows us the perspective of the victims, such as Rodney King and the despair he felt as a result of the violence, and the agitators/suspects, such as the four police officers during their hearing and where their heads were at during the encounter, which somewhat humanized them.                                     

        I felt that I gained a well-rounded understanding of the events which gave me the chance to form my own opinions about the injustice of the officer’s acquittal, how some aspects of the riots were justified, the ignorance of Ja Du’s punishment, and the rest of the events.

       The majority of the production team, except for co-directory T.J. Martin, does not identify as African American, yet they wanted to make a film that amplifies black voices. This makes the film a tangible example of non-black individuals being actively anti-racist.

Notes

Discussion Questions

  • What do you think the Korean store owner thought when she was having that interaction with Latasha Harlins? What do you think the police officers thought before and while they beat Rodney King? How do implicit, or underlying, biases affect our actions?

  • What is your reaction to Rodney King’s speech? How do you think he is feeling as he speaks to the community? What kind of shift does this result in? 

  • Why do you think the creators used these different kinds of footage and didn’t include any narration or current interviews?

  • What do you think the Black Lives Matter movement is trying to achieve today? Are the protesters in these riots trying to achieve the same thing? What influence did these riots have on the movement today?

  • Do you think the 1992 Los Angeles Riots have an effect on how police respond to riots today?

ARTICLE:

"WHAT IS AN ANTI-RACIST READING LIST FOR?"

No Trigger Warnings

Synopsis

Journalist, professor of English and African-American studies at Northwestern University, and American culture critic Lauren Michele Jackson brings attention to the rift between the desire to educate oneself and actually taking action to do so. Jackson points out that, despite the good-natured intent, there are few people that will go out of their way to research and truly understand anti-racist writing in its entirety. While there is a plethora of writing to choose from, most people would not go out of their way to find a book and read it, which is a problem. 

           While anti-racism is needed, the broken system in which we all inhabit must be addressed. We must also understand how the system lives in us. Jackson also explains that while reading anti-racist literature is only beneficial, there other accessible and enjoyable ways to educate oneself through different types of media. Regardless of which media we choose, we must choose to educate ourselves by listening to the black experience and close the rift between desire to learn and actually doing so.

Personal Reflection

By: Ania Ocasio

​      Lauren Michele Jackson wonderfully explains the depth with reading anti-racist books, and why we should take the time to not only read, but fully understand anti-racism and its meaning in the societies that we live. While I take the time to educate myself, I admit that I am guilty of saving book recommendations and never getting around to reading them. I will take the time to read an article or sit down to watch a film, but I never take the time to read the giant list of recommendations I have compiled, which honestly is a problem. While reading in itself is not the only way to educate yourself, it is one of the most thorough and most personal ways to understand and learn about anti-racism.

 

      Thankfully, due to the Anti-Racism Education project, I not only have the chance to read, but to do it with a group of people that can share their own ideas and experiences. As well as bringing light to the action that must be taken to educate yourself, Jackson’s article also emphasizes the need to understand that anti-racist literature covers a broad number of topics that overlooks the experience of black people. We should strive to be anti-racist, but in doing so, we can’t ignore the treatment of black people currently and throughout history.

      This article wonderfully articulated that the best way to learn about anti-racism is to actually take the time to read books about the black experience.

Discussion Questions

  • ​​How do you feel about the rift between educating yourself and taking the steps to actually do so?

 

  • Are there other forms of media that are better than reading books about the black experience? Or is reading the best way to fully educate yourself? 

  • What are ways that we can expand the number of people that will take time to educate themselves through anti-racist reading?

  • For those who have the resources to read, what stops them from reading anti-racist books?

  • How can people create an environment in their work or academic spaces that promote reading about the black experience? 

  • Have the teachers in your school provided your classes with anti-racist literature? (Do you read solely books that revolve around white characters such as the Great Gatsby, or have you gotten the chance to read classic examples of black literature such as Their Eyes Were Watching God?) 

  • Do your teachers discuss the treatment of black people in literature and your communities?

  •  How can we hold ourselves accountable to read?

PODCAST:

WHEN DENOUNCING RACISM ISN'T ENOUGH

Trigger Warning: This podcast episode has an explicit rating (according to Apple Podcasts)

Synopsis

Eli Saslow grew up in the epicenter of white nationalism and white supremacy. He was born into generations of white supremacy and into colossal racism and hatred towards black people and POC. In 2018, Eli Saslow published a Pulitzer prize winning book, “Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist” in which he relayed his story and experience of not only leaving his white nationalist roots, but also learning that being a non-racist wasn’t enough. He learned he needed to be actively anti-racist. In this interview-style podcast, he tells his story in brief and argues why it is imperative to be anti-racist, and why that and “not being racist” are not synonymous terms. He depicts the struggles he had with his family and some pivotal moments in his journey when he learned hard truths.

Reflection & Discussion Questions

By: Sophie Wilcox

     When listening to this podcast we challenge you all to think about a time in your life when you have had to confront a family member or peer on an issue you feel passionately about (race related or not) and compare the outcome of your experience to Saslow’s experience. We also challenge you to take what Saslow says about anti-racism and apply it to your life, what you as an individual or you as a member of your community can do to consciously and actively dismantle racist systems and be anti-racist.  

DOCUMENTARY:

THE ANGRY EYE (2001) with Jane Elliot

Synopsis + Commentary

The Angry Eye shows a social exercise that caused severe emotional distress to a temporarily discriminated group of students. It includes aggressive arguments, discriminatory and somewhat abusive language as well as curse words, which might be inappropriate for sensitive viewers or minors. Viewer discretion is advised

By: Emre Güler

      After the day that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, school teacher Jane Elliott conducted an “exercise” with her class of white third-graders. Posing the question "How do you think it would feel to be a [Black] boy or girl?” to her audience, Elliott divided the children into two groups of brown-eyed and blue-eyed students, where the brown-eyed ones were, she proclaimed, “the better people in the room” who are “cleaner and smarter” than the blue-eyed ones. She supported her claim with the faux scientific fact that people with brown eyes are smarter because they have more melanin in their bodies. Suddenly, the blue-eyed group became the “inferior” group that was heavily discriminated against by the “superior” group of brown-eyed kids, who benefitted from extra privileges such as longer recess time, whereas the blue-eyed kids were not allowed to drink from the water fountain like their brown-eyed classmates. Usually shy or reserved brown-eyed kids became more confident, even bullying, and many blue-eyed kids who experienced discrimination firsthand began showing timid and coy behavior and underperforming on assignments. Elliott’s small exercise quickly sparked a national controversy, and her exercise received fierce backlash. Nevertheless, Elliott’s artificial status quo of brown-eyed and blue-eyed groups proved that racial bias is learned behavior and can be unlearned.

 

       In the documentary The Angry Eye (2001), Elliott revises her famous exercise with a group of college students, where teenagers with blue eyes were judged and criticized for their eye color. As she uses a mean attitude to build a microcosm of contemporary American society, the blue-eyed group is humiliated and ground down because their bodies have no melanin—just like the original exercise. Though this session lasts only two and a half hours, Black people confront this type of discrimination every day of their lives and have no chance to ignore the problems they face by exiting the room, Elliott argues. The Angry Eye also includes post-session reflections by Jane Elliott and the participating students, who seem to have had an eye-opening experience on the racial prejudice that minorities have to battle constantly.

Even though we like to avoid the fact that systemic racism is still deeply rooted in the society of modern America, most of us have the privilege to turn a blind eye to the problems that Black people have to deal with every day. By turning the status quo upside down, Elliott uses this exercise as a powerful tool to generate empathy and awareness in the group of college students, especially the blue-eyed group, who had to deal with discrimination only for two and a half hours but developed emotional distress by the toxic atmosphere of Elliott’s microcosm.

Discussion Questions

  • The white female student with the spectacles and headscarf (Stephanie) tolerates some unfair treatment when she says she is ‘unsure’ as to which card she should read. However, she becomes increasingly frustrated and belligerent when she is unable to argue her point. When she raises her hand while Jane is speaking, it is considered to be evidence of poor listening skills. Stephanie bursts into tears as Jane points out that she is not in any physical danger. Stephanie gets up and leaves. Later Stephanie returns but, as she is able to exercise a freedom that people of color don’t have i.e., the freedom to walk away from a racist environment, Jane says she can only rejoin the group if she apologizes to every person of color. Her words "I’m sorry there is racism in this country." are not acceptable because, although she is acknowledging that there is institutional racism, she is refusing to take responsibility for her own actions.

  • Does Stephanie choose to leave the exercise or is she forced out? When have you felt uncomfortable in a group? How did you react and what did you do? Have you ever made somebody uncomfortable in a group?

  • Even though some of the students may not have been conscious of a ‘system’ beforehand, when Jane said that their blue-eyed colleagues were going to be "on the receiving end of the treatment which we mete out to people of color on a daily basis in this country", they immediately understood that that meant treating them as though they were inferior.

  • Even when their blue-eyed colleagues were being treated harshly none of the students in the “superior” group challenged Jane or asked her to stop. For the students of color was this because of the recognition that such treatment, and far worse, is part of their everyday experience or is it just not wanting to buck authority?

  • The brown-eyed participants recognized that language is used to reinforce inequality. When asked "What do we call men to keep them in their childlike state?" their instant response was "Boys." It is easy to see how ‘bluey’ can therefore become a derogatory term. Compare “bluey” with other offensive labels.

  • Jane refers to one of the blue-eyed male students (Ben) as ‘darling’. Ben does not say whether or not he minds being called ‘darling’ but if he does, do you think he would say so? Particularly as he appears to be trying to fit in - as a ‘good’ one - and not draw attention to himself. How is this similar to harassment in school or in the workplace? Have you ever been in this position?

HELPFUL GUIDE:

"THE BASIC GUIDE TO WHY BLM IS NEEDED"

black lives matter

By: Emre Güler

​​     This quick guide to all things BLM, created by a team of editors and writers of diverse backgrounds led by Amelia Aversano (Instagram: @ameliaaversano, @theblmbasicguide), is the ultimate go-to source for understanding why the Black Lives Matter movement exists and should exist. In this Q&A document, you can find thorough answers to many questions you might have such as “Why are protests happening?”, “Aren’t violent protesting and looting just too much?” or “What does ACAB mean?”, as well as thoughtful explanations to many oppositions you, your friends or your family might have. All of the answers and explanations are easy-to- understand and supported by historical facts and substantial research data. To top it all, the document is frequently updated by the Guide’s team with additional resources such as other guides and informational pieces, videos, and more! So go ahead and inform yourself and the ones around you—this BLM-101 guide is the perfect place to start.

POETRY:

“5 Times My Skin Color Did Not Kill Me” by Jared Paul

“Enlightenment” by Natasha Tretheway

“Sneezing is Like Racism” by S.C. Says

No Trigger Warnings

Synopsis

Personal Reflection

"5 Times"

     Why is it that so much of white America is unwilling to talk about race, racial violence, or inequality without feeling the need to defend themselves?Jared Paul, renowned spoken word poet,  examines his experience clashing with police as a heterosexual, cis-genered white male, with instances where black and brown Americans had similar interactions, but received vastly different treatment. Paul challenges white America to view racial violence objectively. Are you willing to really listen and put yourself in his shoes or any of the shoes of those he compares himself to? You may be genuinely shocked. 

     Trethewey uses Thomas Jefferson and his affair with Sally Hemings as a way to discuss her own identity as a Black daughter to a white father. She goes into the contradictions between what her father says are Jefferson’s moral code and what she knows to have been his actions.

     Poet S.C. Says uses the common, yet equally unique sneeze as a way to explain his experience of racism to non-BIPOC. He addresses a sneeze as a replacement to the term “racism”, which are alike in the sense that both are very apparent to the human eye when they are happening, yet only one receives a “bless you”. Racism against Black people has been apparent all along, but some choose to willingly ignore it, while others choose to barely acknowledge it. This spoken word piece can be used as a way for non-BIPOC to check their privilege and ignorance of the world around them.

"Enlightenment"

"Sneezing is Like Racism"

By: Serene Lurie

        I think the use of personal examples (5 times) and metaphors (Enlightenment and Sneezing Is Like Racism) were incredibly powerful and helpful in understanding the topics at hand here. Folks are often told to check their privilege or think of times when they’ve benefited from privilege, and it’s helpful -at least for me- to get to watch Jared Paul applying that concept to his own life and his own experience, especially as he turns it around in the second half of the piece by giving examples of how each of these incidents could have ended entirely differently if he hadn’t been white.

 

     “Enlightenment” took me a little longer to understand, but I think especially considering that it wasn’t written about the current “slacktivism” issues, it does an impressively good job calling it out and discussing the gap between what we perceive our morals to be and what they actually are. “Sneezing is like Racism” was, for one, a brilliant metaphor, and also just so necessary, especially in terms of addressing white defensiveness and white fragility. If it’s easy enough to understand the value of impact over intent in the metaphor, I hope it will be just as easy to take that lesson into the real world.

Discussion Questions

"5 Times"

  • What’s an experience you’ve had or know of that’s similar to the ones mentioned in the poem?

  • Trethewey mentions “the distance between word and deed” - what do you think that means in the context of antiracist work?

  • In response to those who put aside/ignore racism as a current issue, believing it is only something of the past, what do you think is the best way to confront this?

  • What are some lines in this poem that one can use to oppose that way of thinking?

  • Have any of you or have people that you know of experienced something similar to what Says expresses in his poem?

  • After reading these  poems, did your thinking/stance change or stay the same on how you view racism?

"Enlightenment"

"Sneezing is Like Racism"

General Questions

SHORT STORY:

“The American Nightmare” by Ibram X. Kendi

Trigger Warning: Mentions of racial violence/lynchings/police brutality, nothing graphic

By: Mai Ly Hagan and Allegra Walker

Synopsis

        Ibram X Kendi is the author of the acclaimed “How to Be Antiracist” and “Stamped From the Beginning.” In his latest essay, he grapples at the dichotomy presented by the American Dream and its inverse: the American nightmare. Depending on your race, the “nightmare” is different. Kendi begins by looking at racist 19th century writing, and then connects it to the modern day COVID-19 epidemic and police brutality. The message, regardless of the era, remains that black lives are a threat to the white American Dream. On the other hand, black life in the constant threats of danger and degradation of your own existence. To be conscious of this is to confront your own role in a realistic horror movie.

Creator Highlight

     Ibram X. Kendi is a history professor and anti-racist researcher. He is the author of four books including the #1 New York Times Bestseller How To Be an Antiracist. He frequently contributes to The Atlantic and CBS News, and he’s also published many academic essays, written many op-eds, and given many speeches. He is known to be an expert on antiracism, a leader in his field. Now, more than ever, his voice has become relevant on national and even global scale. 

       This essay on racism and antiracism is somewhat of an introduction to the topics that will be discussed in more detail in July. It’s Kendi’s most recent essay and will be an interesting way to connect his ideas about anti-racism, which we learn more about next month, to current events

Notes

Discussion Questions

  • What is your perception of the “American dream?” How does that compare to Mr. Kendi’s perception? How does it compare to what Mr. Kendi calls the “American nightmare?”

  • When Mr. Kendi says, “the American nightmare has everything and nothing to do with the pandemic,” what does he mean? How does the “American nightmare” relate to current events?

  • When Mr. Kendi told you to “step into their [the victims’] souls,” did that change the way you see the issue? If so, how did it affect your perception of anti-black racism?

  • Throughout the essay, Mr. Kendi discusses an influential racist text from the turn of the 20th century, Race Traits and Tendencies of the American Negro by Frederick Hoffman, and connects the racist ideas expressed in the book to racist policies and patterns that exist today. Why is it so important to connect racism of the past to racism of the present? 

  • Were you surprised by anything in the essay? If so, what surprised you?

TV SHOW:

"David Makes Man" Ep. 1 

By: Josh Harris and Amanda Altarejos

Trigger Warning: TV-14. Frequent cursing, use of the N-word, crude jokes, violence. David is asked to be a lookout for a drug deal and this becomes an important plotline in the episode. Bruises from parental abuse are seen.

Synopsis

       A young David races from his home at The Ville (a Housing Project) just in time to miss his school bus. David finally arrives at school where he transforms into a class clown and sees his best friend Seren, who is distressed at the sight of his stepfather, Mr. Kelly. David and Seren enter the class of Dr. Woods-Trap. When Seren's oral presentation is met with enthusiasm, David whispers something charged into Seren's ear. Stung by his words, Seren strikes David. Upon arriving home, David is given an ultimatum by Raynan, the neighborhood badass. David tells his mother, Gloria, about his fight with Seren, and she unravels. He then delivers babysitting money to Ms. Elijah. Later, at Raynan's request, David is the lookout for The Ville, but he reminds his younger brother JG that Raynan is not trustworthy. David later laments to Sky. The next day at school, David spots Seren covered in bruises, and David talks to Sky about it. Their conversation leads to a deeper revelation about Sky.

Personal Reflection For Participants

  • This episode made me feel…

  • This episode helped me understand…

  • I thought this episode was…

  • Something I didn’t like about this episode was...

Discussion Questions

  • Double consciousness is a term coined by W. E. B. Du Bois, the first famous black sociologist and co-founder of the NAACP. This term can be described as an individual sensation of feeling as though your identity is divided into several parts, making it difficult or impossible to have one unified identity. Du Bois spoke of this within the context of race relations in the United States and asserted that since black Americans have lived in a society that has historically repressed and devalued them, it has become difficult for them to unify their black identity with their American identity. How does David experience double consciousness and what different personalities does he adopt when he’s in different environments?

  • What additional set-backs is David forced to tackle that his white peers do not have to confront? How does this relate to your daily life? Do you experience similar obstacles or does your privilege prevent you from dealing with these issues?

  • Black men are often socialized to have emotional stoicism and invulnerability. Black folx* in general, are encouraged to repress their emotions due to emotional over-criticism and “tone policing” from white individuals. When David is encouraged to attend a therapy session, he is anxious and uncomfortable discussing it with his mom. David has many responsibilities in his home and school life. Do you think he has a lot of time to process his complicated emotions? We often forget to recognize our emotional privilege and our privilege in our ability to process our emotions. In what ways do you have emotional privilege?

  • During the scene after being sent to the principal’s office, David and Seren seem to have an unspoken conversation with each other, only visible to the audience with effects unique to this series. Piggybacking on the previous question, this is one of the instances where David internalizes his emotions and actions. Later in the episode, there is a moment where he feels compelled to hug his mother but does not. How do you think this compartmentalization impacts/will impact David’s interactions with others- maybe especially his white peers? Does this alter their perception of him?

Creator Notes

      David Makes Man is created and written by Tarell Alvin McCraney, a popular playwright and Academy Award Winner for writing the screenplay for the Best Picture winner, Moonlight. Also involved in the creation of this series are executive producers Oprah Winfrey and Michael

B. Jordan.

The rest of the series is available at OWN.com

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