Everyday Racism

This short clip (7:08) is the second half of a story that the ABC “20/20” news show did called “True Colors.” It features Julianne Malveaux as one of the experts. The whole piece is 19 minutes long (part 1 is here) and is one of the most powerful teaching tools I’ve ever used for demonstrating how everyday racism works:

Basically, what the ABC crews does is set up a “matched study” – a white guy and a black guy are matched on every quality except skin color – and films the results. They put these two gentlemen, both recent college grads, in St. Louis, Missouri to establish themselves. They are sent to find work and a place to live. Hidden cameras record the very different treatment that they receive at almost every turn. It’s a compelling look at how everyday racism operates and the way that it “grinds exceedingly small,” as Malveaux says.

You can purchase a licensed copy (the one above is definitely a pirated copy) of the full video here. Unfortunately, the official copy is priced for institutional buyers ($595), not the individual user. The original story aired in 1991, about the time current college sophomores were born, so the video is vulnerable to being dismissed as “the kind of thing that happened a long time ago, in the distant past.”

Of course, those of us who study racism know that this continues to happen and it continues to “grind exceedingly small” for those who experience it. It’s definitely time for some enterprising investigative reporter to re-make this classic video about everyday racism.

Russian Neo-Nazis Killed 71 in Racist Attacks in 2009

Racist neo-Nazis in Russia killed 71 people in 2009, according to reports from Sky News (h/t: Hope not Hate). A group known as “Slavic Union,” is intent on eliminating anyone who appears to be “non-Russian” from Russia, including through violent attacks. A leader of the group, Dmitry Dyomushkin, says that he is interested in cultivating a “respectable image” for himself and the group, claiming that 60% of Russian citizens support the groups’ goals. However, he asserts that “even with this majority we are not allowed to be part of the political process because the government has squeezed out opposition.The whole new generation of Russians are nationalists – our influence on young people is very strong.” This short video clip (3:16) about the group is chilling:

This news story also mentions that the neo-Nazi group has made digital videos of their attacks on immigrants and posted them online. Despite this bold move, no one has been arrested in this attack. This form of cyber racism, which seems to be characteristic of Russian neo-nazis, is one that I highlighted a couple of years ago on this blog. In 2007, CurrentTV featured a story called “From Russia with Hate,” about neo-nazis in Russia who are filming racist attacks on immigrants, then posting these digital videos online.

The rise of neo-Nazi violence in Russia, and the use of digital video to publicize their racist violence, is an alarming trend that warrants our attention.

White Privilege 101

There’s been some discussion in the comments section about what “white privilege” looks like. There is a documentary called Mirrors of Privilege (by Shakti Butler), available in five parts on YouTube (about 10 minutes each), that is something like a white privilege 101 course:

It’s worth watching all five parts, especially if you’re new to thinking about these concepts, as it includes interviews with experts and non-experts. Changeseeker has a good discussion of how these clips have been useful in her sociology class, at Why Am I Not Surprised?

What Would You Do? Racism in Public Surveillance

The ABC news magazine show 20/20 features a regular feature (and erstwhile show) called “What Would You Do?” that poses ethical dilemmas and then films them using a hidden camera. This one highlights the stark differences in the way white and African American adolescents are treated in a public park in the northeastern part of the U.S. (Ridgewood, NJ). This seems like a clear case of racism in public surveillance, but watch for yourself and decide. The video is long for digital video at 6:43, but worth watching all the way through:

In this clip, three white youths who are actively engaged in overt acts of vandalism in broad daylight are barely given any notice. After literally hours of engaging in this clearly illegal behavior, someone finally calls the police. Yet, three African American youths – whose only offense seems to be sleeping while black – have the police called on them, not once but twice.

This social experiment illustrates the way that people who would never identify as ‘racists’ (or even ‘white nationalists’) see the world through a white racial frame. Looking through this frame, the white vandals are given the benefit of the doubt (e.g., “Is that your car?”) while the young black men, even while asleep, are regarded with suspicion (e.g., “They look like they’re getting ready to rob someone.”)

Really people, we’ve got to do better than this as a culture. This video and the recent discussion in comments on a previous post about anti-racism makes me think that the time is right for some enterprising DIY-videographer with a commitment to racial justice to start actively shooting digital video like this one to highlight racial inequality. That’s one way we could do better as a culture.