Symbols of hate have been on my mind lately, largely because they’ve been in the news.
Yesterday, just a day before the first game of the NBA Finals was set to begin, a report surfaced that a home owned by Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James had been vandalized with racist graffiti. According to TMZ, who first reported the story, someone had painted “nigger” on the front gate.
James spoke to the media yesterday afternoon and put the incident into a broader context. He did an extraordinary job:
Hate, in America, especially for an African-American, is living every day. Even though it’s concealed most of the time — people will hide their faces and will say things about you and then when they see you they smile in your face — it’s alive every single day. And I think back to Emmitt Till’s mom, actually. It’s kind of one of the first things I thought of. And the reason that she had an open casket is because she wanted to show the world what her son went through as far as the hate crime, and being black in America.
No matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, being black in America is tough. And we’ve got a long way to go for us as a society, and for us as African-Americans, until we feel equal in America. But, my family is safe and that’s what’s important.
And no matter how excellent LeBron James is at his chosen game, in his philanthropy, in his business success, and at life, he’s still just a nigger.
Just three days earlier, a family in suburban Arizona woke up to find the same horrible word painted on their garage and house. In a much quieter moment with the press, Tishonda White told the local ABC affiliate in El Mirage, Ariz. that it was breaking her heart. “I think the worst of the words was ‘Monkey go home,'” White said. “This is one of the most degrading words you can call an African American and telling me to go home — like, this is not my home? This is my home and they just defaced it.” The word “Trump” was also scrawled on their home. Neighbors of all colors spent last weekend helping the family clean the mess, and even kicked in for a security camera to help them feel safer. But the Whites says they just want to move.
But where? Everywhere you go these days, you’re still just a nigger.
Now imagine being a security officer, and finding a noose hanging in a tree on your watch, on the grounds of the Hirshhorn Museum. Or imagine being a tourist visiting the hottest museum in the land – the National Museum of African American History and Culture no less – only to discover a noose in one of the exhibits.
That’s what happened this week at the Smithsonian, in Washington, D.C. Two nooses, in two separate incidents.
David J. Skorton, the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, said in an email, “The Smithsonian family stands together in condemning this act of hatred and intolerance, especially repugnant in a museum that affirms and celebrates the American values of inclusion and diversity.” The noose was found in a public exhibition space, part of the Segregation Gallery on the second floor.
Now imagine being a student in Massachusetts after swastikas were found in your schools here or here. Or showing up for your Little League game in Virginia only to see that your locker room bathrooms have been smashed and filled with racist graffiti and hate speech. Or a voter in Nova Scotia who wakes up to find that racist slurs have been painted on election signs all over town. Every symbol of hate sends a message, every lash leaves a scar.
All this was just one week. There’s more, but I’m on deadline.
Should this happen near you, here are the necessary talking points: The incidents are shocking. The police are investigating. Vandals are cowards. We don’t tolerate this sort of thing.
Except here’s the dirty little secret: We do tolerate this sort of thing. LeBron, the pride of Cleveland and his nation, has it exactly right. Until we all affirm that symbols of hate do long-term damage to people, then we will never feel equal in America. But it’s Tishonda, and the millions more like her, who currently bear the burden of our terrible history.
And until we can all learn to share her American fear, she can never fully share in our national promise.
|An organization devoted to eradicating urban poverty discovers they were not as woke as they thought|
|Living Cities is a twenty-five-year old organization that works with foundations and the financial sector to improve the lives of low-income people living in U.S. cities. But this piece, which is part of an series on diversity in the non-profit sector, is about the work they needed to do on themselves. While race is an implicit part of what they do, it was not explicitly central to their mission. “How was it possible, we were asking ourselves, to achieve our mission without addressing the intersections between poverty and race with intentionality?” This question lead to conversations inspired mostly by junior staffers, who then raised it with the organization’s CEO, who seemed a bit rattled by the discontent. After his initial surprise, a task force was created, a moderated all-hands conversation took place and a plan was developed. Click through for how their collective soul-searching turned into a strategy for change.|
|Martina Navratilova has a word with the legacy of Margaret Court|
|The tennis great published an open letter to the Margaret Court Arena, named for the legendary Australian tennis champion, Margaret Court. Court has long been a lightning rod figure for her vocal support of apartheid in South Africa, and for her alarming comments decrying lesbians in sport and linking homosexuality to Nazism. More recently, Court announced a boycott of Quantas Airlines because their CEO supports same-sex marriage. In response, Marina Navratilova has asked that Court’s name be removed from the Arena. “It is now clear exactly who Court is: an amazing tennis player, and a racist and a homophobe. Her vitriol is not just an opinion. She is actively trying to keep LGBT people from getting equal rights,” she wrote. “How much blood will be on Margaret’s hands because kids will continue to get beaten for being different? This is not OK. Too many will die by suicide because of this kind of intolerance, this kind of bashing and yes, this kind of bullying.”|
|Oberlin College welcomes its first African-American president|
|It’s long overdue for the progressive institution; Oberlin, founded in 1833, was the first college in the U.S. to admit students of all races. Now, it’s welcoming Carmen Ambar, former president of Cedar Crest College in Allentown, Penn. She was selected from a pool of 150 applicants. Ambar, an attorney, was the assistant dean of graduate education at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University in a former life.|
|News 5 Cleveland|
The Woke Leader
|“The white people are killing the colored people!”|
|Today is the anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riots, now better remembered as a massacre or a pogrom, according to John W. Franklin, who has spent years working on reconciliation in Tulsa. It began the evening of May 31. By this time tomorrow, all of what was known as Negro Wall Street would be gone, destroyed by an angry white mob who burned, looted and murdered with the full support of the Tulsa police. This extraordinary podcast from the Smithsonian explains what happened. Olivia Hooker, a 101-year-old retired psychology professor, remembers being hidden under a table, men sneaking into her backyard to set fire to doll clothes that had been hung on a line to dry. “The damage that was done was not only the material things – a house destroyed, the entire neighborhood destroyed, the businesses destroyed, all the services destroyed,” she said. It was also the future that was taken from them. “But our school was gone on the day that we should have been getting our report cards to move up to the next class. The children of Tulsa were devastated.”|
|A love story that reminds us how complicated even simple lives are|
|This searing short story by Samantha Hunt is not about race, but it is about the love and dread and loss that takes place as we settle into middle life, with kids to protect and identities to re-imagine and marriages that end up in unexpected crevasses, fallow and bruised. I’m not doing a very good job blurbing this, am I? Well let me say this: A diverse group of at least a dozen 40-something women forwarded it to me and said it was the most beautiful or heart-breaking thing they’d read in ages. And as I found myself holding my breath until the last line, I understand why.|
|A college graduate misses his ceremony because of a stalled subway, the passengers stage a graduation of their own|
|Nursing student Jerich Marco Alcantara was so looking forward to his graduation ceremony at Radio City Music Hall, that the Hunter-Bellevue School of Nursing grad left his home with plenty of time to spare. Resplendent in his cap and gown, his fate was decided by an emergency brake system run amok. Stalled for hours, the friends and strangers on the subway threw him a makeshift graduation of their own, complete with soundtrack. Enjoy.|