Current Events Put Racism on Display, No Matter How Hard Some Try to Hide It

In the words of Mugatu, I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.

Defense lawyers in the trial seeking justice for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, apparently seeking to distract from the modern-day lynching committed by their defendants, repeatedly brought up the fact that Rev. Jesse Jackson was in the courtroom, unashamedly stating, “we don’t want any more Black pastors coming in here.”

In the very same news cycle, Kyle Rittenhouse was found not guilty of the shooting of three, and murdering of one; nevermind the fact that it was he who chose to travel across state lines with an assault rifle, violate a curfew, lie about being an EMT, and pose for pictures with white supremacists.

Meanwhile, again in the very same news cycle, Julius Jones, a Black man wrongly imprisoned since 1999 for a murder that mounting evidence says he did not commit, was spared a wrongful execution at the last minute, thanks in part to the millions of voices calling for commuting of the sentence.

And, finally, again in the very same news cycle, school systems across the country are contemplating banning, and in some cases burning, books such as Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison’s "Beloved," and "The Bluest Eye," August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Fences,” as well as any materials with “terms and concepts” such as “woke,” “whiteness,” “white supremacy,” “structural bias,” “structural racism,” “systemic bias” and “systemic racism.” 

So, to recap, in one news cycle we have:

  • White defense attorneys demanding the removal of Black pastors from the courtroom of a trial against three white men who ran down and murdered a Black man.
  • A white man found not guilty in the murder and shooting of three he drove across state lines to commit despite it being caught on camera.
  • An innocent Black man nearly executed for a murder he didn’t commit.
  • Schools attempting to ban books and ideas that interrogate American racism.

So, yeah, I feel like I’m taking crazy pills. 

Perhaps the most ironic aspect of all of this is the fact that the (I’ll just say it) racists who fight against whatever they think critical race theory is, are proving the very thing they are trying to discredit; that racism is, remains, and always has been, a central structure in American society.

As just one example, America’s inequitable school funding formulas are based upon the alignment of local property tax wealth to local school budgets. The higher the tax wealth, the greater resourced the school system. The result is a pattern of wealthy communities enjoying fully resourced schools while neighborhoods of poverty are left with under-resourced schools.

Real estate plays the role of segregator, thereby connecting systemic educational inequity with systemic residential inequity. 

The two systems work together to create a self-perpetuating cycle, an unjust feedback loop:  residential communities segregated by race and class means communities of color have the greatest amount of poverty, which means lower property tax value, which means under-resourced schools, which means less access and opportunity, which means lower lifetime income, which means living in a poorer community, which means having under-resourced schools, etc. etc. etc. 

It is therefore perhaps not surprising that a USA Today/Ipsos poll found that a majority of Republicans did not agree with teaching about the ongoing effects of slavery; just 38% supported doing so and school systems in Pensylvania, Texas, Tennessee, Wyoming, and Virginia have seen movements to ban, and in Virginia’s case, burn books.

This brings to mind a warning from Europe 100 years ago, “Where they burn books, they will also ultimately burn people.”

All of this from one news cycle.

Zachary Wright 
Zachary Wright is an assistant professor of practice at Relay Graduate School of Education, serving Philadelphia and Camden, and a communications activist at Education Post. Prior, he was the twelfth-grade world literature and Advanced Placement literature teacher at Mastery Charter School's Shoemaker Campus, where he taught students for eight years—including the school's first eight graduating ...

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