Good Riddance To Black History Month

Today we say good-bye the worst-ever Black History Month, and not a moment too soon:


Item one: Wait A Cotton Pickin’ Minute

Virginia first lady Pam Northam was forced to apologize after handing out raw cotton to black school children on a tour of the governor’s mansion. She had been showing the students a cottage that had once served as a kitchen, then asked the children to imagine picking the crop as enslaved Africans. The news came to light after the daughter of a state employee who was on the tour, complained. The employee was moved to write a letter. Mrs. Northam’s actions “do not lead me to believe that this Governor’s office has taken seriously the harm and hurt they have caused African Americans in Virginia or that they are deserving of our forgiveness,” says Leah Dozier Walker, who oversees the Office of Equity and Community Engagement at the state Education Department.

We are all the blinking-blonde-guy GIF.


Item two: Some Of My Best Friends Are Racist

Michael D. Cohen’s testimony to the House Oversight and Reform Committee took an odd twist yesterday when North Carolina Representative Mark Meadows took issue with Cohen’s characterization of President Trump as “racist.” To bolster his point, he forced Lynne Patton, former event planner and the head of the New York region for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, to stand behind him, silently, as evidence that Cohen was wrong. “You made some very demeaning comments about the president that Ms. Patton doesn’t agree with,” Mr. Meadows said, prompting a lengthy Congressional discussion about the racist implications of making a black woman stand silently behind you as a prop. Mr. Meadows also has nieces and nephews of color, he’ll have you know, and Committee chair Rep. Elijah E. Cummings said that Mr. Meadows is “one of his best friends.”

We are all the Lebron-taking-his purse-and-leaving-the-press-conference GIF.


Item three: The Forgotten White People

Former Maine Gov. Paul LePage expressed strong opinions about a bill working its way through the Maine legislature that proposes joining with other states to eliminate the Electoral College and replace it with the popular vote. LePage called into the morning show of Maine’s WVOM Radio from his home in Florida to say that the move would make whites “a forgotten people.” He went on to actually his way through it. “Actually what would happen if they do what they say they’re gonna do is white people will not have anything to say. It’s only going to be the minorities that would elect. It would be California, Texas, Florida.” As a reminder, LePage once held a press conference in which he announced the “the enemy right now” is “people of color or people of Hispanic origin.” The Maine Beacon, who is now the toddler-face-down-being-dragged-by-a-merry-go-round GIF, wearily reported, “The proposal would actually, if adopted by a sufficient number of states, ensure that every voter, regardless of race, has the same say in electing the president.”


All that was just the last twenty-four hours. Let’s also say good-bye to, “Shithole” countries. “Nigger” districts. Blackface. More blackface. Even more blackface. Aragorn saving black people, and Liam looking to kill them.

Luckily, a plan to hit the reset button is in the works. Earlier this month, former South Carolina representative and current lawyer Bakari Sellers, called for a Twitter motion to have Black History Month canceled and rescheduled for a later date. Brittany Packnett, educator, activist, orator, writer, raceAhead treasure, and TED2019 speaker seconded his motion and called for a public vote.

All were in favor, and all said aye.

Black History Month has officially been redesignated #BlackHistorySummer.

Eunique Jones Gibson, a social activist, creative powerhouse, and digital campaigner (be sure to check out Because of Them We Can) has already reserved the URLs. “Don’t worry guys,” she tweeted. “I just bought BlackHistorySummer and BlackHistorySummer2019 and before it got into the wrong hands. We may proceed with the plans.”

I’ll bring the red Solo cups.

Until then, please enjoy this short video of Sherrie Shepherd pretending to be Octavia Spencer to get access to Delta’s VIP lounge. It’ll tide you over until the chicken is ready.

On Point

A prominent disability rights activist dies after being denied medication by insuranceCarrie Ann Lucas was a disability rights attorney who worked tirelessly to help pass legislation in Colorado to help include protections for parents with disabilities from child welfare discrimination. She was also arrested in 2017 at a sit-in protesting Medicaid budget cut. According to a post on Facebook, Lucas, who lived with a form of muscular dystrophy, had been denied coverage for an antibiotic which triggered a host of other health issues. Lucas leaves behind four adopted children living with disabilities, Heather, Adrianne, Azisa, and Anthony. Her memorial will be held tomorrow in Colorado. You can learn more about her life here, her bio is here,and her website is below. She was 47.Disability Pride

Racism is why black women face higher complications in pregnancy
Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy related complications, a fact that should be considered a public health and human rights emergency, says Ana Langer, professor from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and director of the Harvard Women and Health Initiative. “Basically, black women are undervalued,” she said. “They are not monitored as carefully as white women are. When they do present with symptoms, they are often dismissed.”

Opinion: College athletes should be paid, and Nike should support this
David Grenardo, a law professor and former Rice University football player, points out that college student-athletes provide free labor for the $11 billion-a-year college football and basketball industry alone, yet don't get any compensation besides scholarship money. Or, in Duke’s Zion Williamson’s case, shoes that break. It’s time to ask the sports apparel makers to advocate for athletes, he says. “Nike and other companies should work together to end university athlete exploitation by suspending their support of college teams until players are paid,” he says. It will take some sacrifice, he says. “The NCAA and member institutions continue to wield the outdated notion of amateurism as a shield to paying college athletes while everyone else involved—NCAA executives, coaches, athletic directors, television networks, and apparel companies—makes money.”


On Background

Black women are invisible, a superpower nobody really wants
In this poignant essay, Mia Brantley, a doctoral student in sociology, shares a story about her own invisibility. She is listening as a fellow white student tearfully shares her academic travails with her parents. Outperformed by the other black woman in their program, the white student uses a derogatory term, knowing full well she is in a public place. “[O]utside of an office where she should be able to clearly see me, a Black woman, at my desk,” says Brantley. “This was the moment when I realized she could not see me…because she had already stripped me down as well. To her, I was invisible.” The inability to see black women as fully human is not new, and has serious implications, she argues. As black women become leaders, competing with others for jobs and academic slots, it encourages others “to believe that it is okay to not see Black women or to strip us of our magic unless we are coinciding with your thoughts and actions.”
Black Girl Nerds

How one bridge and a racist joke defines the divide in Wisconsin
Milwaukee is one of the most segregated cities in the U.S., with a history of racial discrimination that links back to Great Migration. Running through Milwaukee is the Menominee River Valley, which has long separated primarily black neighborhoods on its north-side, with white, European immigrant neighborhoods on its south-side. The 16th Street Viaduct (localese for “bridge”) was one of several that connected the two sides. The joke about the bridge: It was called the “longest bridge in the world” because it connected Africa and Poland. Wisconsin Historical Society’s Bricelyn Stermer has put together a short but helpful presentation that helps explain the history behind the joke, and how the viaduct became the route for civil rights activists in the 1960s who demanded an end to restrictive housing covenants.

From the archives: The racial horror stories of Texaco, 1998
How’s this for a headline? “A former employee of the oil giant describes a corporate culture that treated minority workers to pay discrimination, periodic harassment, and outright ridicule.” Fortune unpacked the race discrimination suit filed against Texaco, which included leaked audio of executives conspiring to destroy evidence related to the action. (Two executives were later found not guilty on obstruction-related charges.) One of the plaintiffs in the case, Bari-Ellen Roberts, was called “uppity” and had her performance review tampered with. When she earned a coveted office with two windows, one staffer said, "Well, Jesus Christ, I never thought I'd live to see the day when a black woman had an office at Texaco." The man in charge of human resources referred to HBCUs as the militant rantings of Black Panthers. Even Black Sambo made an appearance. In 1996, Texaco agreed to pay the plaintiffs $176 million, which was one for the record books. A horror story, yes, but a good reminder that the conversations we’re having about diversity now are being built on a foundation of bigotry that is more recent than we may care to remember.


Something I've been thinking about since the hearing yesterday is the way that proximity to people of color is often used as a means of absolving a person of their racism. But proximity, by itself, has never something that inevitably mitigates someone's racist actions or beliefs. Slaveholders were *proximate* to the ppl they enslaved. People who colonized other countries were *proximate* to indigenous populations. People who work in prisons are *proximate* to the incarnated. It's not just about proximity, it's about the dynamics of power that shape it.
—Clint Hill

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