Trump’s Policies: Killing Immigrant Latino Children

As I plan a beautiful summer filled with fun with my family, my heart is heavy knowing that there are hundreds of immigrant children from Latin America who are locked up in modern day concentration camps–U.S. detention centers. These children are waking up on concrete floors, do not have access to toothbrushes, or soap, and most importantly, do not know when or if, they will ever see their families again. They are suffering both physical harm leading to deaths under our government’s watch and great psychological abuse that will create long-lasting trauma for them.

On June 21, 2019 the PBS News Hour reported on the horrible conditions in one of these detention centers in Clint, Texas where some of these immigrant Latino children from toddlers to teenagers were being held until yesterday when they were quickly relocated to another detention center. They lacked basic needs such as food, water, or proper sanitation. Willamette University law professor Warren Binford was interviewed by the News Hour after visiting the facility. She states:

Basically, what we saw are dirty children who are malnourished, who are being severely neglected. They are being kept in inhumane conditions. They are essentially being warehoused, as many as 300 children in a cell, with almost no adult supervision….We’re seeing a flu outbreak, and we’re also seeing a lice infestation. It is — we have children sleeping on the floor. It’s the worst conditions I have ever witnessed in several years of doing these inspections.

Under these horrific and inhumane conditions, it should come as no surprise that children are dying under our government’s care.

President Trump’s racialized immigration policy is killing immigrant Latino children. Six migrant children have died in U.S. custody between September 2018 to May 2019 for the first time in a decade. The recent origins of this situation began last April when more than 2600 undocumented children were separated from their parents at the U.S. border and locked up in detention centers that were not designed to house children under Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy. Child separations and detention is an example of the kind of tragic policy Bill Hong Hing argues brings shame to us as a nation and violates our constitutional rights. Hing states:

The age of hysteria over immigration in which we live leads to tragic policies that challenge us as a moral society. Policies that are unnecessarily harsh—that show a dehumanizing side of our character—are senseless. They bring shame to us as a civil society.” (2006: p. 7).

Rather than feeling shame for these appalling practices, US government lawyers have been justifying this abusive policy in the courts. Lawyers for Good Government, a nonprofit organization that formed after the election of Donald Trump, states:

The Trump administration argued in court this week that detained migrant children do not require basic hygiene products (like soap and toothbrushes) to be held in “safe and sanitary” conditions. Lawyers who recently interviewed detained children report that kids are living in “traumatic and dangerous” conditions – insufficient food and water, going weeks without bathing, kids as young as 7 years old being told to care for the babies and toddlers.

These conditions will cause more deaths in these modern-day concentration camps. This weekend alone four more children under age three at a detention center in Texas, were hospitalized with life threatening conditions.

While most of the children from the Clint, Texas facility have now been moved to another detention center since the story broke, the larger problem is the underlying policy that allows for children to continue to be locked up and separated from their families. Taking them to another detention center doesn’t solve this larger policy issue, or remove the suffering these policy create.

This Administration’s cruel policy is exactly the kind of policy the President likes. Why? Because it serves his ends and displays his bully power over the most powerless. President Trump targets the vulnerable in order to please his white base, and immigrant children from Latin America are among the most vulnerable. It is a politically calculated strategy designed to gain emotional support from an anti-immigrant, and often, racist base.

Many of the greatest problems facing the Latinos stem from the consequences of the racism we have experienced in this country because of the still dominant white racial frame. Caging and abusing innocent Latino toddlers and children could only happen after centuries of the dehumanization of Latinos, who are situated within a systematic racialization of people of color in the United States. As Feagin and Cobas argue, Latinos have been and continue to exist within a particular racial frame, as part of a white-imposed “hierarchy of racialized groups in this country” (2014: p. 48). Their analysis traces the subordination of Latinos through the white racial frame, which has resulted in discriminatory actions towards them by racist whites and in continued race-based exclusion at all levels of society. They state:

For more than a century and a half, Latino groups’ positioning on this society’s racial ladder has been a powerful determinant of their members’ racialized treatment, socioeconomic opportunities, and access to various types of social capital (2014: p. 15).

It is in this context that this appalling abuse of immigrant Latino children can take place without massive large scale civil unrest by Americans throughout the nation. While there have been and are some protests developing across the globe such as the upcoming one on July 12, 2019 by the Lights for Liberty, can we imagine the continued national uproar that would occur if these children were Swedish immigrants being locked up in cages, denied beds, adequate food, water, and sanitation resulting in some of them dying? If it were Swedish immigrant children being treated the way Latino immigrant children are then more people would be protesting in the streets. This abuse will go down in history among the worst atrocities committed by the U.S. government towards people of color along with the taking of Native American children from their families, the terror of Jim Crow, or the Japanese Internment.

Donald Trump’s framing of immigrants from Latin America immigrants as “criminals” and “rapists ” proved so successful to his election to the presidency in 2016, that we should be prepared for more of what political scientist Peter Andreas calls “performative art” as the 2020 election season intensifies. And the paint is going to continue to be the blood of immigrant children.

How can we continue to dehumanize children to the point where separating them from their families and holding them in these conditions becomes our public policy? Why aren’t the Democrats calling out how this Administration’s policies are killing children? Why aren’t we insisting Congress pass comprehensive immigration reform? Why is there not greater large scale civil unrest to this situation? Why aren’t we all calling out how President Trump’s policies are killing immigrant Latino children?

As we plan for our children’s summer of fun, we should all remember there are Latino immigrant children who are interned in modern day concentration camps–alone, scared, in metal cages, and without adequate nutrition, hygiene, or medical care. They are children, just like our children. Our government and our president are treating them WORSE than animals. There are animal cruelty laws that exist that prohibit people from leaving dogs unattended in inhumane conditions. These immigrant Latino children are receiving no such protections. The contrast between our healthy kids’ lives and the lives of these Latino immigrant children is truly heartbreaking.

Black Counter Frame and Basis for Reparations



In my The White Racial Frame book I not only discuss this age-old white racial frame, which accents both white virtue material and anti-others material, but also the important counter frames to this dominant white frame that people of color have developed. In the U.S. case African Americans have developed an especially strong counter frame over centuries, perhaps because they have had the longest period of time situated firmly within this systemically racist society.

This counter frame has for centuries been an impetus for many important black protests, and thus in large part for the few major changes that have been made in this country’s racist system over the centuries.

It also helps us to understand the reasons for reparations of many kinds that are necessary for what whites have done over twenty generations. I recently did a post on theconversation.com that explains why reparations are morally and demonstratively necessary. See here.

One feature of U.S. systemic racism involves a rather intentional collective forgetting by whites of key African Americans who articulated and often organized around a strong counter frame. Let me remind our readers of a few of these great Americans and their clear moral and empirical understanding of the basis for reparative changes.

One of the first to put counter frame down on paper was David Walker, a young African American abolitionist working in Boston. In 1829 he published a strong manifesto, entitled Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World. Demanding full equality, he wrote to his fellow African Americans with revolutionary arguments in an anti-oppression framing, so much so that slaveholding whites put a large cash bounty on his head. (He died young, probably as a result.) Walker analyzes slavery and racial segregation for free blacks quite bluntly. Most whites are “cruel oppressors and murderers” whose “oppression” will be overthrown. They are “an unjust, jealous, unmerciful, avaricious and blood-thirsty set of beings.” Whites seek for African Americans to be slaves to them

and their children forever to dig their mines and work their farms; and thus go on enriching them, from one generation to another with our blood and our tears!

He then quotes the words “all men are created equal” from the Declaration of Independence and challenges whites:

Compare your own language above, extracted from your Declaration of Independence, with your cruelties and murders inflicted by your cruel and unmerciful fathers and yourselves on our fathers and on us–men who have never given your fathers or you the least provocation! . . . . I ask you candidly, was your sufferings under Great Britain one hundredth part as cruel and tyrannical as you have rendered ours under you?

A little later in the 19th century, an admirer of Walker, the African American abolitionist Henry Garnet, gave a radical speech, “An Address to the Slaves of the United States of America,” at a National Negro Convention. Garnet’s counter framing is very assertive and to the point, and it is also an address to those enslaved. He offers a structural analysis of “oppression,” arguing too that the white “oppressor’s power is fading.” African Americans like “all men cherish the love of liberty. . . . In every man’s mind the good seeds of liberty are planted.” He calls on those enslaved to take revolutionary action:

There is not much hope of redemption without the shedding of blood. If you must bleed, let it all come at once—rather die freemen, than live to be slaves.” He concludes with a strong call to rebellion: “Brethren, arise, arise! Strike for your lives and liberties.

One of the most brilliant of the 19th century analysts of systemic racism was the great abolitionist, Martin Delaney, who among other actions worked in revolutionary efforts to overthrow the slavery system. (In May 1858, he and John Brown gathered black and white abolitionists for a revolutionary meeting in Chatham, Canada. Four dozen black and white Americans wrote a new constitution to govern a growing band of armed revolutionaries they hoped would come from the enslaved US population.) Directing a book at all Americans, Delaney emphasizes the

United States, untrue to her trust and unfaithful to her professed principles of republican equality, has also pursued a policy of political degradation to a large portion of her native born countrymen. . . . there is no species of degradation to which we are not subject.

His counter framing is one of resistance and extends the old liberty-and-justice frame beyond white rhetoric:

We believe in the universal equality of man, and believe in that declaration of God’s word, in which it is positively said, that ‘God has made of one blood all the nations that dwell on the face of the earth.’

Delaney attacks whites’ stereotypes of African Americans with a detailed listing of important achievements of numerous free and enslaved African Americans and emphasizes how enslaved workers brought very important skills in farming to North America that European colonists did not have. African American workers were the “bone and sinews of the country” and the very “existence of the white man, South, depends entirely on the labor of the black man.” Delaney emphasizes that African Americans are indeed very old Americans:

Our common country is the United States. . . . and from here will we not be driven by any policy that may be schemed against us. We are Americans, having a birthright citizenship.

Let us bring these and other important 19th African Americans back into our contemporary history, as they were both thinkers and activists in the long tradition of people fighting for liberty, equality, and justice in the United States. Note too essential elements of the black counter frame in these and many other black thinkers and activists too often forgotten writings from the 19th century: a strong critique of racial oppression; an aggressive countering of white’s negative framing of African Americans; and a very strong moral accent on the centrality and importance of liberty, justice, and equality for all Americans. African Americans have been perhaps the most central Americans in keeping these liberty and justice ideals constantly alive and imbedded in resistance organizations over four long centuries of freedom struggles in the racist history of the United States.

“Something Wrong with This Picture?” Lack of Diversity in Law Firms

“If you’re arguing that you’re better than most firms, it’s not a good argument. Because most firms have a very difficult time actually bringing real diversity and inclusion into those spaces.”

Tsedale Melaku quoted in New York Times

The recently published New York Times article discussing the very white and very male partnership class announced by Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP in December 2018 has indeed put Paul, Weiss in the hot seat. So, what did I mean by my quote in this New York Times article? (See law firm photo here)

Several things came to mind as I read the article. I was, of course, very excited and waited with anticipation for what I believed would be a deep and thorough articulation of the disconnect between law firm diversity missions and the reality evidenced.

Timing
The timing of the article’s publication gave Paul, Weiss an opportunity to regroup, put plans into action, and explain the reasons why the partnership class was indeed all white, and practically all male. The firm was essentially able to engage in damage control, to save face at a time when diversity and inclusion efforts are touted as being intrinsically part of firm culture. Despite Paul, Weiss’ attempt to explain away their “outlier” new partner cohort, the justifications and the timing of those justifications seem to be an attempt to cloud the realities of systemic racial and gender imbalances that exist in elite law firms.

At Least We’re Better than the Rest
To simply say that Paul Weiss fares better than their peer firms is a weak argument that lacks any substantive reflections on the practices of the firm. At the end of the day being better than their peer institutions is a mere attempt to be perceived as the lesser evil. A mirage that has no tangible manifestation of a truly inclusive work environment that provides advancement opportunities for all. The idea that we celebrate firms for being slightly better than firms that are already doing terribly at affecting real substantive visible change at the top is not applaudable. What this does, in actuality, is it sets the bar very low and continues to maintain elite white male dominance.

Scorecards and Surveys
Paul, Weiss’ chairman, Brad Karp stated, “We’ve always been ranked at the very, very top of every survey.” To accept Paul, Weiss’ argument that their diversity track record garners accolades from varying surveys and scorecards implies that these measuring agencies take into account all critical information about diversity. Diversity scorecards often provide superficial representations of diversity that give law firms agency to ignore the underlying causes of low numbers of black and brown lawyers, particularly as it relates to retention and advancement.

Many scorecards and surveys incorporate statistics that include all lawyers of color and other marginalized identities in their assessment, including Hispanic/Latinx, Black/African American, Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander, Asian, American Indian/Alaska Native, Multiracial, Persons with Disabilities, Openly LGBT, and Veteran. While this is useful in showcasing the numerical representation of marginalized groups in firms, it also increases the potential ranking of law firms that have low numbers of black and brown lawyers. If we were to examine black and Latinx partners specifically, we would find that they are severely underrepresented. We need to start challenging these surveys and scorecards to explicitly call out the dearth of black and brown partners, which will demand law firms to consider the visible racial and gender disparity evidenced in terms of retention and promotion. Surveys and scorecards should call attention to the need for improving diversity by highlighting the lack thereof, not celebrating the little that exists.

Everyone Is Diverse
Diversity can literally include everything, from race, gender, sexuality, class, political leanings, religious affiliation, ability, and more. Let’s actually be clear about what we are talking about and what is missing when we talk about diversity – racial and gender diversity. The fact that Paul, Weiss is a pioneer of diversity is not the argument. What stirs debate is the reality that having been the first firm to hire a black lawyer, male and female, the first to promote a woman to the partnership, a firm committed to fighting for justice and equality, why has it stalled in terms of their own progress? If they are so progressive, why is it difficult for black and brown lawyers to reach parity within their own ranks?

There’s More Work to Be Done
In the firm’s nearly 150-year history, Paul, Weiss elected its first black female partner in 2016. While an important milestone for the firm, having one black female partner is not a valid argument to demonstrate progress as compared to their peer firms. It is a way to control the narrative and to save face, when in reality there is still so much work to be done. I understand that progress is progress regardless of timing, but this certainly should not preclude the fact that there are systemic racial and gendered issues in law firms that prevent women and people of color from becoming partners. So while recruitment efforts over the years have improved to attract talent to the firms, the reality is that very few are actually able to rise to the rank of partner. The underlying reasons for that are multifaceted of which I discuss and explain in depth in my forthcoming book, You Don’t Look Like a Lawyer: Black Women and Systemic Gendered Racism.

Value, not Tolerance
One of the central weaknesses at the heart of elite institutions’ diversity efforts, which tend to focus more on hiring than retention, regardless of gender, is the notion that people of color are linked to low performance and affirmative action advantages. The insidious nature of white racial framing allow whites, and often people of color as well, to operate out of a frame that includes racist stereotypes, narratives, imageries, ideologies and emotions privileging whites over people of color. Consequently, this often leads some partners and senior associates to view women and people of color as unqualified, reinforcing the white racial frame and perpetuating racial and gender inequality. This is what shapes individual and institutional discriminatory practices that help to maintain elite white male dominance.

For example, white narratives of affirmative action, which suggest people of color are not qualified to be there in the first place, work to create discriminatory practices that exclude from access to the resources that support advancement. Resources in the form of substantive training, mentorship, social and professional networks, and most importantly, sponsorship are critical. Women and lawyers of color, like any professional, want to feel that their presence is valued, not tolerated. These lawyers do not want to feel like they are a part of a strategic marketing tool employed to signal diversity as core and intrinsic to the firm. Or that they are evidence of the firm succumbing to social pressure.

The Onus is on Us
Another, rather interesting, observation is that the article sourced a lot of information from current black partners in the firm. For example, Theodore V. Wells Jr., a nationally recognized prominent black partner at Paul, Weiss, said “I fear that African-American partners in big law are becoming an endangered species.” What is he supposed to say, as one of seven black partners out of 159 in the entire firm? Wells, along with other black partners including Patrick Campbell, David W. Brown, and Amran Hussein, are forced to publicly acknowledge Paul, Weiss’ deficiencies, while simultaneously working to soften the public relations nightmare and signaling diversity. All of these demands add invisible labor to what these partners are already burdened with, precisely because there are so few of them. This is one of the many nuanced experiences discussed by the black women lawyers interviewed in my forthcoming book. A disproportionate amount of responsibility often falls on women and racially subordinated partners due to the shortage of women and partners of color.

In Their Own Words
In conversing with several associates about their reaction to the article, this is what one former BigLaw associate stated:

It is mind blowing how the onus is put on disenfranchised (highly educated) professionals to spontaneously become whistleblowers. Without any of the whistleblower or collective bargaining protections.

Another poignantly stated,

Obviously, the vast majority of women and people of color will not come forward out of fear of retribution, or imposter syndrome, or racial Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This allows firms to continue thinking that this is not a serious problem worth addressing given that few lawyers were put on a public platform to admit grievances that could very well be detrimental to their employment and opportunity.

Reproducing and Maintaining the Status Quo
What is clear is that Paul, Weiss, whether they would like to admit it or not, engages in reproducing and maintaining the status quo. That is why in 2019 the majority of partners and associates are white, and male. This ensures that the pipeline is saturated with people that not only look like the top, but also learn to adopt the firm’s culture and to do business as usual. To invest time and resources into people of color is a way to share the wealth and foster true competition among all races. The coveted law firm partnership is in fact a means to create the foundation for generational wealth. And that as it stands, appears to be reserved for whites, and mainly males. If you look very carefully at who made partner – they are mostly laterals, mostly did not do the work of lawyering in Paul, Weiss for the 10-14 years prior to walking into a partnership position. The one woman promoted worked up through the ranks from associate, to senior associate, counsel and then partner, a journey that took a little over thirteen years. So it is still all the women and people of color who are doing the actual work — but the white men are taking home the money.

Comprehending and acknowledging how elite white men create, control, and reproduce a racialized system run by white male actors is imperative to understanding the experiences of women and people of color, regardless of industry. Finally, and to be absolutely clear, Paul, Weiss has made a grand effort to win accolades for diversity. So, if they feel “singled out” for falling down on their promise – they should be disproportionately lambasted. As one of the many former BigLaw associates who aspired to be partner but was met with disinterest, lack of opportunity for development, mentor-less, sponsor-less, and exclusionary practices clearly states: “The emperor has no clothes – and still no one is willing to tell him.”

Tsedale M. Melaku, Ph.D. is a sociologist at The Graduate Center, CUNY and author of the forthcoming book, You Don’t Look Like a Lawyer: Black Women and Systemic Gendered Racism to be released in April 2019. I am at @TsedaleMelaku

US Open: Much Gendered-Racist Framing

[This post is jointly authored by Kristi Oshiro & Anthony Weems]

The recent US Open women’s tennis singles championship has garnered significant attention from fans and non-fans alike. However, the attention hasn’t been on Serena Williams’ return to championship form just one year removed from giving birth or the triumph of 20-year-old Naomi Osaka over her tennis idol on one of the sport’s biggest stages. Instead, both Williams and Osaka have had to deal with the steady onslaught of racialized and gendered backlash from various media outlets. In a seemingly unconscious attack on Serena Williams and her frustration with the referee of the finals match, Mark Knight of the Herald Sun portrayed a caricatured version of Williams and Osaka that only a white male could have put together. Given the long history of anti-black, caricatured images produced by white men, the photo immediately drew criticism on social media. Following the Herald Sun’s publication, a battle over the framing and racial/gender implications of such a photo erupted.

Although many news outlets are claiming the photo was really about Williams’ “bad behavior,” this form of gendered racism has a long history rooted in white racial framing. Therefore, the purpose of our piece is to further explore the nuanced nature of gendered racism in the aftermath of the US Open. More specifically, we interrogate how the white-male framing of both Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka reproduces the white racist and male sexist frames. The framing and ongoing defense of Knight’s depiction not only dehumanizes Serena Williams and presents her as a hyper-visible subject in what is traditionally a white-oriented spectator sport, but it also invisibilizes Naomi Osaka presenting her as a whitened and docile figure passively looking on in background. To make matters worse, Knight and his colleagues at the Herald Sun have since vehemently defended his depiction and have explicitly positioned themselves as victims of political correctness. Thus, we problematize these narratives here and seek to further explore the implications for sport, media, racial framing, and the intersection of white racism and sexism on a global scale.

White Racial Framing

In his book, The White Racial Frame: Centuries of Racial Framing and Counter-Framing, sociologist Joe Feagin outlined the extensive white racial frame that both informs and rationalizes systemic racism. In addition to the anti-other and pro-white subframes that are central to the overarching frame, Feagin noted that an “important dimension of the dominant racial frame is its gendered-racist character” (p. 105). On top of a long history of racist framing of both men and women of color by whites, Feagin pointed to the role of the white-run media in perpetuating the gendered-racist character of the dominant frame: “The mostly white [male] media executives generally decide what blatantly racist elements from the dominant frame can be openly used by commentators and entertainers on their programs” (p. 106). Feagin later added to this by discussing how the dominant gendered-racist framing had been resisted over time:

These gendered-racist framings of black women, some of which are also applied to other women of color, persist because they are fostered by white-dominated media and undergird recurring discrimination. In research on black women, researchers like [Angela] Davis, [Philomena] Essed, [Patricia Hill] Collins, Elizabeth Higginbotham, Yanick St. Jean, and Adia Harvey Wingfield have regularly emphasized the importance of liberating women of color from racial, gender, and gendered-racist stereotypes and discrimination. (p. 181)

Since the publishing of the original Knight photo, many prominent voices, such as the journalist Jemele Hill, have taken to Twitter and other media outlets in defense of both Williams and Osaka. One Twitter user even posted her own reframed drawing of Williams who was depicted as saying “It’s almost like it’s pretty easy to draw a black woman without being racist!” However, in the midst of the backlash to the gendered-racist framing of both women, Knight and the Herald Sun have adamantly defended their original publication. In a follow-up issue of the Herald Sun titled, ‘Welcome to PC World’, the news outlet – run by mostly white men – dismissed the backlash tweeting that the cartoon “had nothing to do with gender or race.” Falling in line, Knight’s white-male colleagues weakly emphasized that the cartoon was “about bad behavior, certainly not race.”

But as Lonnae O’Neal stated in her article for The Undefeated, racism is always part of the story. And this is certainly the case given the long history of white obsession with the “behavior” of women of color. Still, as the battle over media framing continues to take place in the public sphere, one aspect is being consistently overlooked: the actual white-run media conglomerates and their male-sexist framing of both Williams and Osaka. In the media’s weak attempts to refocus on Osaka’s victory, an attack on Williams’ behavior as “wrong” has taken over the headlines. Moreover, as Williams’ behavior has now become the central media narrative in the U.S., Knight’s racist cartoon takes on a symbolic role along with its blatantly racist framing. The drawing has become symbolic in the sense that mainstream media outlets in the U.S. and around the world have ultimately echoed the sentiments represented in the photo. These media outlets and their mostly white and male producers have effectively created a lose-lose situation for Williams and Osaka; a reality that has long plagued women of color in white racist societies.

Intersection of Race and Gender

As the mainstream media remains central to the perpetuation of this gendered-racist framing (Feagin, p. 105) intersectionality is a powerful analytic tool that can be used to better understand and deconstruct said power relations and interlocking systems of oppression imposed upon women of color. Moreover, it allows us to shed light on the similar, yet, distinct ways in which both, Williams and Osaka, were victimized by the framing of this emotion-laden caricature. Here we see a dichotomy of hyper-visibility and invisibility reflective of society at large. In regards to the former, one cannot ignore the “re”presentation of Williams front and center. In the words of O’Neal, the photo

…[depicted] Williams as an enraged behemoth. She is drawn with big lips as well as an outsize chest and arms that make her tutu and ponytail (i.e., indicators of femininity) part of his editorial judgement. She is jumping up and down on the wreckage of a tennis racket destroyed by her thunderous legs.

Interestingly, in stark contrast to a hyper-visible Williams, in the background is Osaka, portrayed as a much smaller, thinner, docile, observably white female with blonde hair taking direction from the official. The black-white conceptualization of race illustrated in this caricature gives way to a host of topics worthy of discussion. However, in this particular case we argue there is a bigger issue at hand and many are overlooking a prominent piece of this puzzle: Naomi Osaka is not even a white female. In fact, she has been explicit and proud in embracing her biracial identity as a woman of Japanese and Haitian descent.

While many have criticized the ignorance and racist/sexist undertones of Knight’s illustration primarily focusing on Williams, fewer have problematized the invisibility and misrepresentation of US Open tournament champion, Naomi Osaka – the first Japanese player ever to win a Grand Slam singles title. In direct juxtaposition to Williams, the attack on Osaka may not seem quite as severe, although in reality she is being subjected to many of the same white-male racist gendered frames herself. In being reduced to a white female in Knight’s caricature, a new identity was imposed upon her. As the Huffington Post’s Zeba Blay suggests “Osaka was robbed of something else: her agency, her identity, her story, and her blackness.” Furthermore, her soft spoken demeanor represented here as a submissive, innocent bystander plays directly into white anti-other framing and asian (American) stereotypes such as the model minority myth, the perpetual foreigner, and the exotization of Asian women imagined as hypersexual, submissive sex objects. In turn, despite Osaka being secure in her identity as a biracial female, we witness the media struggle with this notion and impose their own narratives as if her identity is theirs to name.

Nevertheless, following in a rich tradition of strong resilient women, particularly women of color in sport and beyond, both Williams and Osaka have stayed true to themselves and persisted but also resisted these intersecting forms of oppression. However, this is not to undermine the very real burden of the emotional and cognitive labor internalized when one falls victim to forces of systemic oppression. In an event that could have easily divided two competitors, amongst boos from the crowd Williams and Osaka literally came together in solidarity in an emotionally charged trophy ceremony following the match. Perhaps this would have been a more accurate illustration to capture the essence of what had transpired that night.

While this particular incident took place on U.S. soil, the omnipresent white racial frame and its ability to legitimate, produce, and reproduce multiple forms of systemic oppression transcends national boundaries. In this piece, we call attention to the predominantly white-run media conglomerates and their male-sexist framing as a primary outlet to mobilize such ideologies, although others may be equally applicable. The events that transpired at the US Open and subsequent press released in the Australian based newspaper, the Herald Sun, is just one of many incidents in a series of controversies that have been associated with the sport in recent months. For example, the ban against Williams’ Black Panther “Wakanda” inspired catsuit at the French Open – for no reason other than suggesting it was disrespectful to the game and space – shows that these microaggressions on the premise of race and gender are not isolated occurrences, but rather, an ongoing structural problem present on a global scale. In contemporary times, it is undeniable that sport and society are inherently intertwined as these social issues are reflective of the broader politics operating both in and through sport. Thus, it is imperative that we view the institution of sport as a legitimate platform to continue to deconstruct and better understand the implications for sport, media, framing, and the intersection of white racism and sexism worldwide. As social justice scholars it is important that we listen to, support, and stand alongside these athletes and strive to produce emancipatory research that challenge these unjust interlocking systems of oppression.

White Nationalism in the NFL

[Note: This post is coauthored by Anthony Weems and Thaddeus Atzmon

In a recent press release via their web page, the National Football League (NFL) issued a policy statement that was clearly designed to stop future players from participating in on-field anti-Racist protests that draw attention to the systemic and foundational racism of the U.S. This embedded white racism is evident in The Star Spangled Banner–particularly at the end of the third verse, which celebrates slavery in the U.S. In creating this new policy, the NFL has, in effect, chosen to actively engage in the promotion and sanctification of white nationalist displays while simultaneously banning any form of protest against them.

What do we mean by this? We mean that not allowing players who are on the field to show their protest for the US anthem, which celebrates the enslavement of people of color by whites and was composed by a major white slaveholder, is a means of protecting an openly white nationalist display that takes place before every NFL game. This coerced censorship is accomplished through the rules laid out in sections one, four, five and six of the NFL policy statement which require “personnel” on the field to “show respect for the flag and the Anthem” and outline possible ways to discipline those who do not. Coerced censorship is also accomplished by hiding players who choose to protest the anthem off the field where they can not be seen during the televised white nationalist display of the anthem. This is accomplished through sections two and three of the new NFL policy, which remove a previous requirement for all players to be on the field and state that players who choose not to stand for the anthem in protest “may stay in the locker room or in a similar location off the field until after the Anthem has been performed.” Herein, we delve into the way that coercive patriotism is used in the NFL, how the dominant white racial frame and white nationalism are reproduced through NFL games, and how past white nationalists have also used coercive patriotic displays of white nationalism in US sport activities. We end by noting the ways that athletes are pushing back against this form of coercive nationalism through discussions about denying their labor to the NFL.

Coercive Patriotism

Interestingly enough, NFL players even being on-field for the national anthem is a relatively new phenomenon. For example, sports analyst Stephen A. Smith has noted the following on how and why NFL players came to be on the field for the playing of the anthem:

Until 2009, no NFL player stood for the national anthem because players actually stayed in the locker room as the anthem played. The players were moved to the field during the national anthem because it was seen as a marketing strategy to make the athletes look more patriotic. The United States Department of Defense paid the National Football League $5.4 million between 2011 and 2014, and the National Guard $6.7 million between 2013 and 2015 to stage onfield patriotic ceremonies as part of military-recruitment budget line items.

The NFL’s new policy that requires players to “stand and show respect” to the US flag and during the national anthem builds upon and goes well beyond this “marketing strategy” to a much more coercive form of patriotism. According to Tricia Jenkins (2013), coercive patriotism in the sport context is problematic for athletes and fans alike, as nationalist politics are packaged and sold “through the pageantry of sport, rather than through more thoughtful explorations of a conflict” (p. 247). In other words, coercive patriotism serves as a sort of nationalist sedative that further advances the politics of white nationalism through the emotion-laden arena of sport. Critical outcomes of this coercive form of patriotism by the NFL are both the reproduction and the dissemination of the white racial frame and its central role in mainstreaming white nationalism.

Reproducing the White Racial Frame

Sport provides a cultural skeleton for communicating the politics of nationalism to the American public. In the context of a globalized sport/media complex, protests led by predominantly African American players against policing and other racism have effectively challenged many Americans to take seriously the claims of liberty and justice for all. In reality, this challenging of espoused American ideals extends back well beyond Colin Kaepernick’s first protest in 2016. As the great scholar W.E.B. Du Bois opined nearly a century ago, African Americans’ challenging of the legitimacy of (white) “American values” since the foundation of this country has significantly pushed the nation in a more just direction. Today, the taking serious of these values remains a central element in many counter-frames developed by various communities of color resisting systemic racism.

However, in the aftermath of the NFL’s new policy the spectacle of coercive patriotism and the production of resistance-less nationalism serves not only to silence anti-Racist player-activists but also to reproduce the dominant white racial frame and stimulate a nationalist base. Through coercive tactics and mediated agenda-setting therein, the NFL is able to frame what is and is not “patriotic” for millions of NFL viewers across the nation. What this has accomplished so far is it has emboldened white nationalist groups and “patriotic” Americans in general to support nationalistic practices and to act in accordance with the nationalist elements of the white racial frame. Indeed, when the President of the US frames protesting athletes as being disrespectful “sons of bitches” while legitimizing neo-Nazis as “very fine people,” and the NFL adopts a policy that seeks to hide and/or punish players for protesting, a reflection on the gravity of this new policy is warranted.

For example,while there are clear differences between the German Nazi system of oppression during the second world war and systemic white racism in the U.S. today, we also see disturbing parallels in the ways elite white men protect white nationalist displays and promote dominant white racial framing through coercive patriotism in public sporting events within these two contexts. Take this newspaper article dated January 7th 1934, which details the Nazi punishment of German soccer players for refusing to give the Nazi salute during a game. In this instance, the Nazi white nationalist salute is help up as sacred and those who dare not respect and honor it were subject to serious punishment. Today, the white nationalist display of the US anthem is held up as sacred and the anti-Racist athletes who choose to openly protest the history of white racism it represents are subject to punishment or forced off-field by the elite white men who own NFL teams and set the league’s policy in an attempt to silence them.

White Nationalism and Resistance

According to one important history of white nationalism,

African Americans in particular had changed American life at every one of its critical junctures since the advent of New World slavery. Ideological thinkers on the white-ist side of politics remain completely blind to this aspect of the twenty-first century. And from this failure, vanguardist and Aryan killers will continue to pop up, at odds with the direction of American life. (Zeskind, p. 542).

Recent information that has come to light as a result of Kaepernick’s collusion legal case against the NFL owners points to the central political role of President Donald Trump in the development of the NFL’s new nationalistic policy. As if the President’s publicly white-nationalist comments in response to protesting athletes weren’t enough, NFL team owner Jerry Jones’ sworn disposition claimed that Trump told him the following:

This is a very winning, strong issue for me… Tell everybody, you can’t win this one. This one lifts me.

In light of the NFL taking on a major role in white nationalist politics, its new policy aims to censor the voices of those actively fighting against racist sport systems. However, athletes and activists alike will not be quelled so easily, as many look to continue resisting systemic forms of oppression hidden behind the veil of white patriotism. Several NFL players have already discussed the possibility of sitting out this upcoming NFL season until both Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid are signed to NFL rosters. In addition, several players have told journalist Shaun King that they intend to stop paying their NFL Players Association dues following the Association’s failure to adequately represent the players and their interests. If anything, it seems as though the new coercive NFL policy has provided more justification for athletes protesting or withholding their labor altogether. At this critical juncture in time it is imperative that we, as social science scholars and social justice activists, seek to contextualize and understand the NFL’s sanctifying of white nationalist politics, the active resistances to the NFL’s new policy from players, and how we might be able to work with and support social justice athlete-activists moving forward.

Royal Wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry: Black Counter-Framing

Royal Wedding

[Part 2 of 2]
Afua Hirsch—quoted in Part 1—contends that Meghan “Markle used her wedding to introduce her new peers to blackness.” I think more was at work than simply presenting blackness to the British elite. Counter-framing was at the heart of the Royal Wedding. Indeed, Hirsch’s fantastic article gives example after example of counter-framing by Markle, though she does not name it as such.

As sociologist and social theorist Joe Feagin explains:

Counter-frames are grounded in counter-system thinking and have been very important for Black Americans in surviving and resisting oppression over many generations. In these anti-racism counter-frames whites are defined as highly problematical, and strategies on how to deal with whites and white institutions are expressed and foregrounded.

As observed by anti-racist leaders and media pundits in the immediate aftermath of the Royal Wedding, thanks to Markle, counter-framing was distinctly conspicuous during the ceremony. “A beautiful service and a beautiful couple. Making my beautiful mixed heritage family’s shoulders stand a little taller,” tweeted the British Labour Party politician, David Lammy. But equally important was Lammy’s caveat about giving too much importance to the ceremony’s counter-framing. He said to a British newspaper:

Clearly one wedding isn’t going to fundamentally alter the lives of Britain’s ethnic minorities, many of whom are still subject to different forms of discrimination. … These are paradoxical times, with a post-Brexit environment with rising hate crime, with the Windrush story [which exposed an immigration system developed by the British government elite that basically harassed tens of thousands of legal Caribbean residents] that brings us international shame. The multi-cultural future of Britain is contested. The ceremony was hopeful. It spoke both of our Commonwealth past, our history, but also of a future. But we shouldn’t read too much into it.

What symbols did Meghan Markle draw on in her counter-framing? What was her approach to the expression and foregrounding of whites and white institutions?

In the direct aftermath of the wedding, Lindsay Peoples—fashion editor for New York Magazine’s The Cut—put it memorably, referring to the wedding as incredibly unapologetic with its “black moments,” and adding that Markle “did not come to play—the melanin came all the way through.” Here is a summary of what Peoples dubbed the “Best Black Joy Moments”:

1. Doria Ragland: “Single black mother … showing up in her locs in a twist out and her nose ring.”
2. Bishop Michael Curry’s wedding address, with two references to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
3. Rose Hudson-Wilkin: The first black female chaplain to a British monarch.
4. The All-Black Choir: “I had already lost my cool at this point,” writes Peoples, “Every single person’s hair in this choir was laid. I got hair inspiration for days from these three minutes. And the song “Stand By Me” was the perfect choice, just enough soul to rock side-to-side to.”
5. Sheku Kanneh-Mason: At only 19, he is the first black cellist to win the BBC’s Young Musician of the Year award.
6. The wedding dress and flowers on Markle’s veil, which represented the 53 nations of the British Commonwealth. As Peoples put it, “The duchess literally had black nations on her back, using one of the biggest days for the royal family to subtly note to their history of colonization and showing the world that all British people of color should be represented.”
7. The Gospel songs: “As if the choir wasn’t enough,” writes Peoples, “on [Meghan’s and Harry’s] way out of the chapel [the gospel choir] sang “This Little Light of Mine” and “Amen,” gospel songs that are sung in practically every black church because of their significance in the Civil Rights Movement.”
We might add to this list, the presence of Oprah Winfrey, Serena Williams, Idris Elba, and other (albeit influential and affluent) people of color, such as actress Priyanka Chopra and Lebanese-British barrister Amal Clooney.

Another anti-establishment symbol on the wedding day came compliments of Queen Elizabeth II herself, who bestowed the titles Duke and Duchess of Sussex on Harry and Meghan. In so doing, the newest member of the Royal Family became the first legal Duchess of Sussex. That she is the first is not even what is most significant. Like Markle, the earlier Duke of Sussex, sixth son of King George III, defied white Anglo-Saxon royal tradition. He refused to obey the Royal Marriages Act of 1772 and married who he wanted (hence, there was no legal Duchess of Sussex before Markle). He advocated for the emancipation of Roman Catholics. He fought for the elimination of civil restrictions on Jews and dissenters. He supported parliamentary reform. And he was an anti-slavery advocate. It remains uncertain whether the Queen considered his anti-slavery advocacy when selecting the title for the newlyweds. Regardless, it is a fitting designation because not only has Markle long been an advocate for democratic causes; like the first Duke of Sussex, she is a counter-framer of white Anglo-Saxon tradition. We can only hope she will continue to buck (white) royal traditions and the centuries old and still dominant white racial frame in the process.

As we reflect on “Black Joy Moments,” we would be wise to remember the astuteness of Black Britons like David Lammy. Or Herman Ouseley, a former executive chair of the Commission for Racial Equality, who like Lammy noted that the ceremony will not, of course, rid Britain of racial and class oppression.

There is also Stafford Scott, a consultant on racial equality and community engagement, who did not watch the wedding. Even less enthusiastic about the significance of the wedding than Lammy and Ouseley, Scott remarked:

I heard there was a black choir and some people felt that was very symbolic. I just think it was that we have got some really good black choirs. … I have nothing negative to say about what took place yesterday, though online some people did. … I don’t think people should be getting carried away because of somebody’s personal choices. [Harry choosing a “mixed-race” bride was “personal choice” rather than statement, Scott said.] I do hope that it does, somehow, become something going forward. But, in terms of the black community’s standing in this country, the difficulties we face are structural. White and black people have been mixing for generations and it hasn’t, necessarily, led to any improvements, or deepening of understanding.

The history of white racism in Britain is extensive and deep-seated; an understanding of this fact is largely lost on most whites (and some others). Reni Eddo-Lodge, author of Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, examines systemic racism in Britain and her efforts to persuade white folks that racism is their problem too, and adds, for example, that Black British history—especially white slavery—is mostly framed as a North American issue. Yet over the course of 200 years, white British traders forced three million Africans onto ships and into slavery in the British colonies.

Systemic racism, as Feagin explains, is a highly developed, well-institutionalized, structurally embedded, historically deep, white-defined racial oppression that significantly shapes virtually every facet of society. It will take far more than a Royal Wedding or a biracial Duchess to change a systematically racist society like Britain. It will take, among other things, the following:

1. Eradicating exploitative and discriminatory practices that target Britons of color.
2. Eliminating the dominant British white racial hierarchy and its defence of white privilege and white power.
3. Eliminating the British white racial frame (WRF) that rationalizes and implements racial oppression, including racial prejudices, stereotypes, images, ideologies, emotions, interpretations, and narratives.
4. Ending racial inequalities long-ago established in Britain by social reproduction apparatuses.

Like in the U.S., dedication to ending white racism in Britain will require a focus on systemic racism as opposed to individual racism. Perhaps then, but certainly not because of a Royal Wedding, we will be able to genuinely rejoice in progress on race relations in Britain.

Straight Out of the White Racial Frame: Racialized Emotions and the Royal Wedding

[Part 1 of 2]
During and in the direct aftermath of the May 19, 2018 wedding ceremony of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, the media generally framed the giggles, smirks, eye-rolls, and jaw-drops by some members of the British Royal Family during Bishop Michael Curry’s wedding address, as apolitical, descriptive, and/or as inoffensive, and even understandable due to the “quintessentially American address.” White British journalist and CNN international anchor, Richard Quest, defended the royals:

Look, there’s nothing wrong [with the negative reactions]. He went on for 30 minutes. [Note: Bishop Curry spoke for 14 minutes, not 30 minutes.] He could have taken a minute or two out and not done any damage to it. . . . This is a high church of England service in St. George’s Chapel. . . . You did not necessarily, normally expect to have an American-style preacher. … And I assure you, nobody was thinking oh, this is dreadful, this is awful. … don’t forget, multi-cultural Britain, there are large populations, Asian, Indian, African populations right across the country. So they will have welcomed. And the Prince of Wales, by the way, interesting, the Prince of Wales . . . has said he does not want to be defender of the faith. . . . He has said he wants to be defender of faiths. So multicultural Britain is really where it’s at in the future.

Live on the air, white British CNN contributor and author of Harry, Conversations with the Prince, Angela Levin, said that the Bishop and the gospel choir made her “uncomfortable.” Later in the day, she told CNN’s Don Lemon she changed her mind and liked both.

In the immediate aftermath of the wedding, an uncommon article by Afua Hirsch, who like Meghan Markle has white European and African heritage, counter-framed the wedding ceremony as “a rousing celebration of blackness.” Hirsch wrote about the wedding this way:

. . . talented black people were more than adornment. The sermon, delivered by the Episcopalian church leader the Rev Michael Curry, began with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr before enlightening the congregation on the wisdom of spirituals . . . and casting Jesus as a revolutionary. … Zara Phillips [grandchild of Queen] was visibly in a state of shock. … The teenage cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason . . . revealed the depth of talent that made him the first black person to win BBC Young Musician . . .. The Kingdom gospel choir sang soul classic Stand By Me: a love song, yes, but one that first rose to fame in the midst of the civil rights movement ….”

But even Hirsch, who has a significant book on racism and the British, did not take them to task.

As Bishop Curry—a US champion of civil rights—spoke, Queen Elizabeth II’s granddaughters, including Zara Phillips, with mouth wide open, and Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, who donned matching smirks, were excruciatingly visible. As the Bishop addressed the mostly white congregation, the future Queen consort and sister-in-law to Prince Harry, Kate Middleton, side-rolled her eyes to another future consort and Prince Harry’s step-mother (Camilla Parker-Bowles). Clearly the eye roll was not meant to convey appreciation for the Bishop’s address. Future King William V also had a fit of giggles.

I argue that the white racial frame (WRF) is the core reason white adult royals, with assumedly every opportunity to learn proper manners and who should be exposed to the multi-racial nation in which they live (not to mention the world), would think it appropriate to giggle, smirk, open mouths wide in disbelief, and/or eye-roll during the Bishop’s address. The WRF also helps explain why so many whites (and others) are inclined to swiftly dismiss as harmless, or find amusing, or not even notice, such behavior. In the facial expressions of these white royals, the pro-white subframe, firmly reinforcing white superiority, civilization, virtue, and moral goodness, was on full display.

In his ground-breaking books Systemic Racism and The White Racial Frame, sociologist and social theorist Joe Feagin proposed the analytical concept of the WRF. According to Feagin, since at least the seventeenth century, this frame has provided the broad white-generated perspective from which whites (and others) in western countries commonly view society. Like a typical frame, with its customary edging meant to enhance, display, and protect a photograph or painting, the WRF includes five elements which heightens and preserves white superiority, civilization, virtue, and moral goodness. The elements are: the verbal-cognitive aspect (racial stereotypes and prejudices); the integrating cognitive aspects (racial narratives and interpretations); visual imagery and auditory aspects; racialized emotions; and tendencies towards discriminatory action. Within the wider WRF is the pro-white subframe and the anti-others subframe. “Others” are regularly framed as lesser than whites and all things deemed white are framed as superior in the minds of most whites (and some others).

Imagine if African American wedding guests Oprah Winfrey, Serena Williams, or Gina Torres had giggled, smirked, or dropped their jaws when the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke. Imagine Williams’ eye-rolling to Torres as the white male Archbishop spoke. Would their conduct be framed as a harmless response to a “quintessentially British address”? Would it go unnoticed or be deemed endearing? I doubt that even Queen Oprah could get away with such bad behavior because the difference is this. Bishop Curry’s “quintessentially American address” is code for “quintessentially African American address.” As Afua Hirsch put it, “For people used to being part of the majority, these may be symbols they don’t easily see.” I will put it less gently. Mocking the Bishop is in keeping with the WRF; whereas, mocking the Archbishop of Canterbury, a white male Briton with a history of whiteness behind him and who in many ways signifies white Britain, is in direct opposition to the WRF and its pro-white subframe. Mocking one is acceptable, if not tolerable; mocking the other is not. Incidentally, the Archbishop of Canterbury “gushed” very positively over Bishop Curry’s address.

This is not the first time that bemused royals captured the media’s attention for their (white racist) giggling and were excused for it. In 2017 Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, visiting the Canadian Arctic, laughed so hard when Inuits were throat-singing, that one reporter remarked, “The royal couple did everything but stuff handkerchiefs in their mouths.” Nevertheless, the same journalist admitted to finding “royals who get the giggles quite endearing.”

In contrast, in his address,* Bishop Curry honored Markle’s African American heritage. This was no laughing matter. The address may not have been relatable to the mostly elite white guests at the wedding. However, to the majority of people who occupy the Commonwealth, not to mention planet earth, Bishop Curry surely was more relevant than the elite (mostly white and male) British establishment. That’s too bad as he clearly has much to teach the giggling, smirking, jaw-dropping, eye-rolling royals. Dr. King’s daughter certainly approved. She understood what some of the royals could not. According to CNN’s Don Lemon, “Bernice King tweeted out after the MLK quote at the royal wedding, ‘Your life, teachings, and words still matter so much, daddy. Congrats Harry and Meghan.’ ”

*The full text of Bishop Michael Curry’s wedding address is here.

White Terrorism: The Ordeal of Black Philosopher George Yancy

On Christmas eve in 2015 the leading Black philosopher and New York Times opinion writer, George Yancy, penned a poignant “Dear White America” article in the Times. Yancy bravely sought to encourage each white reader to, as he summarizes in his disturbing new book Backlash

risk yourself, to undergo a process of moral and existential perplexity” and to assess very deeply what being white in America means. He also sought action from white readers, calling for “a refusal to lie, a refusal to live another day within a white supremacist system where Black people and people of color continue to be oppressed. . . . I wanted you to tell the truth to yourselves and tell it to others.

Yancy is writing from what I have termed in the The White Racial Frame book as strong resistance counter-framing. Counter-frames are grounded in counter-system thinking and have been very important for Black Americans in surviving and resisting oppression over many generations. In these anti-racism counter-frames whites are defined as highly problematical, and strategies on how to deal with whites and white institutions are expressed and foregrounded. As Backlash illustrates, a well-developed Black counter-frame includes deep understandings of how white racial hostility and discrimination operate and how to deal in everyday practice with white discrimination, including teachings about safety for Black youth and passive and active strategies of anti-racism resistance.

Resistance counter-framing like that demonstrated by Yancy is necessary in this highly racist society. The “Dear White America” letter was not long out before white America roared back angrily in reply. Hundreds of whites replied to Yancy’s honest pleas and counter-framing with vicious replies developing most of the major racist themes long common in this country’s omnipresent white racial frame (defined below). These came as online comments, emails, phone messages, and letters, and have continued to the present. Many missives were filled with intense emotions and extensive and venomous “nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger” language (no exaggeration). This is indeed, as Yancy puts it, “21st century white terror.

The impact on Yancy and others around him has been severe. He has feared for himself and family and colleagues, to the present day. Campus police have monitored his Emory University office, patrolling his office floor; his department has had to quit providing his office hours to callers; his department chair, higher administrators, and other colleagues have been attacked as well, some called “nigger lovers.” At other universities, his talks have required the presence of police officers to protect him from possible white violence. His colleagues across the country have circulated large-scale supportive petitions on his behalf.

Yet Yancy did not submit to this extreme, often violence-oriented white onslaught quietly. A major countering effort can be seen in his Backlash book, in which he critically recounts and counter-frames many white-racist responses. This book clearly took great personal strength to write and has much that Americans, whites in particular, must read and heed if this country is to survive even remotely as just and democratic. Here he emphasizes the personal impact of everyday racism most African Americans face–some more than others, but virtually all too often, and ranging from subtle, to covert, to blatant discrimination. Yancy’s book makes clear what it means today to be Black, to live in an often threatened Black body, and to be a recurring target of chronic racist framing. As he insists, this is a “window into the life of a Black philosopher who believes that the practice of philosophy, the love of wisdom, must speak to those who formally reside outside of” academic settings.

What is this horrifying white racial frame to which Yancy has had to respond? It is far more than just prejudice (bigotry, animus, etc.) Some years back, in the books Systemic Racism and The White Racial Frame I suggested the analytical concept of the white racial frame. Since its development in the 17th century, this white racial frame has been dominant, a framing that provides a generic meaning system for a highly racialized U.S. society. For centuries this powerful racial frame has provided the broad white-generated worldview from which whites (and many others) regularly view society. It includes (1) racial stereotypes/prejudices (the verbal-cognitive aspect); (2) racial narratives & interpretations (the integrating cognitive aspects); (3) racial images (the visual aspects) and preferred language accents (the auditory aspect); (4) racialized emotions; (5) and inclinations to discriminatory action. This broad framing has a very positive orientation to whites as generally virtuous (pro-white subframe) and a negative orientation to racial “others” frequently viewed as unvirtuous (anti-others subframes). The pro-white subframe aggressively accentuates white superiority, civilization, virtue, and moral goodness.

There are numerous major themes from this old white racial frame’s anti-black subframe in the messages Yancy received. As he underscores in his book, these commentaries are far more than signs of “white fragility,” for they signal old white racial “world-making” that is usually imbedded in white character structure. Some of these white racist messengers, often angry white men, use racialized sexual references (e.g., speaking of the supposed threat of Black men to white women) or references to Blacks being excrement (“shit,” this and that). There is a recurring animalizing of Yancy and other Black Americans, including President Barack Obama, something whites have been doing at least since the founding era. White messages regularly describe African Americans as apes or ape-like. White images of Africans and African Americans as ape-like or ape-linked date back to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and are another way of portraying Black Americans as racially inferior. For example, our third president Thomas Jefferson, a theorist of supposed “liberty and equality,” wrote in his book, Notes on the State of Virginia, that Black Americans are racially inferior to whites in many ways, including reasoning, imagination, intelligence, and beauty. He further asserted that even black Americans prefer white Americans’ beauty, “as uniformly as is the preference of the Oranootan [Orangutan] for the black women over those of his own species.” That is, as a prominent white-racist thinker, Jefferson believed the imperialist myth that in Africa nonhuman primates actually had intercourse with oversexed African women.

Sadly, such ape imagery remains commonplace not just in the attack messages Yancy has received but also all over the Internet. One recent online study of 447 self-proclaimed white nationalists found that, using a scale from zero (as ape-like) to 100 (as human), they rated blacks and other people of color as much more apelike and much less human than whites. Numerous other studies (see here) of ordinary whites, the latter mostly not openly connected with white nationalist organizations, reveal this regular linking in white minds of apelike imagery to Black people, such as in the commonplace form of everyday “nigger” joking.

Perhaps most disturbing in these white commentaries to Professor Yancy is the constant threatening of violence against him and other Blacks. Most of these violent verbal attacks appear to come from white men of various ages and classes. There is much anger in their messaging, like this one: “Somebody needs to . . . knock your fucking head off your shoulders.” As Yancy underscores,

there was very little love shown toward me. There were white threats of physical violence, talk of putting a meat hook in parts of my body, threats of knocking my “fucking head off” (their words), of beating me and leaving me dead, and vile demands that I kill myself immediately.

This viciousness came in response to Yancy’s honest pleas seeking to move whites to understand who they are racially and the scale of the racial oppression they have created.

Striking too in these hundreds of attack messages is the high level of white emotion. Many whites, especially white men, pride themselves on not being emotional; they reserve emotionality for those who are not white or male. Yet white men are probably the most emotional Americans when it comes to racial issues, especially when their racial status, enrichments, and privileges seem endangered, Coming through the many white verbal attacks on Yancy is stunning white emotionality, including anger, fear, outrage, bitterness, and, almost always, arrogance. Hundreds of the comments have a tone like this: “Dear nigger . . . fuck you. I am a racist. I’m ok with that now thanks to your nigger community and their actions over the last few years.” These hundreds of comments clearly demonstrate how most elements in the dominant white racial frame are very emotionally loaded.

Yancy’s belligerent responders also demonstrate great ignorance about many racial matters. For example, their white comments often reflect a serious illiteracy in regard to what the word “racism” means, especially in its origin. They periodically call Yancy a “racist” for calling out the white-racist ideas and discriminatory patterns of whites. The term “racism” is widely used by whites and many others for an individual’s ideas and actions, yet the modern term “racism” was originally constructed to refer to collective ideological and systemic racism. The first modern use of term “racism” was by German researcher Magnus Hirschfeld (in his 1933 book) for what German Nazis were systematically doing to European Jews, Roma, and Africans —that is, extreme ideological and institutional racism. This was far more than a matter of Nazi prejudices. Today, white racism also involves the deep structures and surface structures of racial oppression. It includes a complex array of white anti-other (e.g., anti-black) discriminatory practices, the unjustly gained economic/political power of whites, the continuing economic and other resource inequalities along racial lines (unjust enrichment/unjust impoverishment), and the white racial framing created by whites to rationalize white privilege and power. This racism is a material, social, racially framed reality—that is, manifested in all societal sectors, institutionally enabled, and socially reproduced for about 20 generations. White attempts to apply the term racism to yet other groups demonstrates not only ignorance of its history and reality but also, and quite remarkably, that most of these whites actually do understand at some level that racism is undesirable and immoral.

The many racially hostile messages recorded in Backlash further suggest that our contemporary era of overt and politicized white racism has liberated many whites from the necessity of suppressing their extensive white racist framing of society in public settings. For example, there is recurring positive reference in these attack missives sent to Yancy, and in similar hostile communiqués on white nationalist websites, to the white nationalism of our current president, Donald Trump, including recurring phrasing similar to Trump’s main slogan (e.g., “make America white again”). Such racially framed sentiments are not just limited to more extreme white supremacist missives and websites, for much recent social science research shows that central to the thinking of many of Trump’s many white voters has been great worry about their losing their “superior” racial status in US society.

Perhaps the most poignant and deeply insightful aspect of Backlash is Yancy’s reflections on being Black and the matter of death resulting from white terrorism’s many forms. Yancy describes an incident when he was growing up in an impoverished urban area. Having gotten a telescope as a present, a white officer saw him with it, and framing him as a poor Black youngster, almost shot him because he thought it was a weapon. Reflecting in the book on this incident, Yancy concludes that he cannot be a complete pessimist because he is alive today, yet “being alive feels like borrowed time.” Being Black, that is, means the constant and well-institutionalized possibility of racially marked death at any time of life. This is the critical difference between blackness and whiteness, for no institutionally grounded practices have marked “whiteness as a target for death” at any time. So, given the entrenched reality of persisting white racism, Yancy also concludes he cannot be truly optimistic in regard to the possibility of substantial racial change in this society.

White Men Reeling: #BlackStormtrooper and the White Racial Frame

The latest Star Wars film titled, The Last Jedi, is scheduled for release on December 15, 2017. As Richard Lawson wrote in Vanity Fair prior to the theatrical debut of 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens:

Star Wars has never been a bastion of diversity. Lando and Leia were the only non-white and non-male main characters (among the humans, anyway) in the original franchise; George Lucas’s dreadful prequels at least made some attempts at racial diversity, with Samuel L. Jackson and Jimmy Smits playing large roles, though it mostly forgot about women. (And some critics took issue with ethnically charged alien characters, but that’s a different story.) So [The Force Awakens] was [J. J.] Abrams’s chance to issue something of a corrective, to open up this universe to more people.

In white fans’ reactions to the casting of a black man in a lead role in The Force Awakens, key elements of systemic racism were distinctly present, including white power and entitlement rooted in the U.S. racial hierarchy, the dominant white racial frame that rationalizes and defends unfairly gained white privilege and power, and the pro-white and anti-others sub-frames. Tweets posted by white fans to twitter hashtag #BoycottStarWarsVII (see below) typify the white racial frame and its sub-frames. For example, the director, producer, and writer of The Force Awakens, Abrams (a white Jewish American male) was targeted for allegedly endorsing “white genocide” given his racially diverse cast, including Nigerian descended British actor John Boyega in the secondary lead role.

A white racist framing was plainly evident in the whitelash against this casting of Boyega. #BlackStormtrooper is a hashtag related to virtual whitelash besieging John Boyega’s appearance as a Stormtrooper in the teaser trailer for the 2015 Star Wars. In November 2014, the trailer was released on the Movieclips Trailers YouTube channel. It opened with a shot of a Stormtrooper, played by Boyega, abruptly appearing on what appeared to be a desert planet. Twitter (most of whom appeared to be white male) users instantaneously started to comment on Boyega’s “race” with the hashtag #BlackStormtrooper, questioning the legitimacy of a black Stormtrooper. Shortly after, Boyega posted a message on Instagram thanking supporters of the new film. To those posting to #BlackStormtrooper, he simply said: “Get used to it.”

“#BoycottStarWarsVII because I am sick of muds being casted in white parts,” wrote #StopAppropriatingWhiteCulture. For this particular Twitter user—who identified “as a neoreactionary … with the Pro-Trump white supremacist ‘alternative right,’” and who earlier had tweeted that he hoped Trump would turn out to be a fascist —- Star Wars “belongs” entirely to whites. In response, a pop culture critic sort of agreed, writing:

[W]hen George Lucas made Episode IV: A New Hope in 1977, 99 percent of his cast was either Caucasian, or extraterrestrial aliens covered in prosthetics. “George, is everybody in outer space white?” John Landis says he asked Lucas after watching the first Star Wars. An emphasis on diversity increased as the sequels went on—Billy Dee Williams showed up in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, earning instant legend status.

The whitelash against Boyega’s casting also included important elements that Joe Feagin outlines in his white racial frame, including: racial stereotypes and prejudices; racial narratives and interpretations; racial images and preferred language accents; racialized emotions; and inclinations to discriminatory action. The broad framing also included an especially positive placement of whites as superior and virtuous (Feagin’s pro-white subframe) and an especially negative placement of racialized people as inferior and unvirtuous (Feagin’s anti-others subframes). Tweets included the following:

“Anti-racist is a code word for anti-White. #BoycottStarWarsVII #WhiteGenocide.”

“#BoycottStarWarsVII because it will be ghetto garbage.”

“#BoycottStarWarsVII – I know the trailer is short, but it’s pretty unrealistic that we don’t see the black guy committing murder or rape.”

““Diverse” casting is both a symptom of #WhiteGenocide, and a conditioning tool to help facilitate it. #BoycottStarWarsVII.”

To reiterate, the #BoycottStarWarsVII hashtag was purportedly created to incite a boycott of the 2015 film The Force Awakens. While Internet news media sources extensively reported that the hashtag was genuine, other commentators have surmised it was a ruse contrived to produce controversy. In October 2015 twitter user @DarklyEnlighten posted a tweet encouraging readers to boycott The Force Awakens because of the alleged absence of white lead characters and because of the casting of Boyega in the secondary lead role. @DarklyEnlighten tweeted for followers to create the hashtag #BoycottStarWarsVII.

To some observers, #BoycottStarWarsVII was far more troublesome than a few white trolls; it was an exemplification of the poor state of U.S. race relations in the 21st century. African American activist and social commentator Earl Ofari Hutchinson, author of numerous books on the black experience in the U.S., called the #blackstormtrooper remarks “alarming.” He viewed the virulent racist discourse on #BoycottStarWarsVII as yet another fervent example of how badly U.S. racial relations have deteriorated, starting with Trayvon Martin—the unarmed black teenager who was shot and killed in 2012. The #blackstromtrooper comments “are indicative of just how polarized the discussion has become,” remarked Hutchinson.

Kimberley Ducey is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Winnipeg

Debating Racial “Microaggressions”

What constitutes a racial micro-aggression and when does it become a macro-aggression? Is the concept of micro-aggression misleading? Are they really macro-aggressions?

Following the Civil Rights era, second generation forms of discrimination replaced more overt, egregious acts of discrimination with subtle, repeated, cumulative exclusionary actions and behaviors. The term “racial micro-aggressions” was first introduced by Chester Pierce to describe the subtle insults experienced on a daily basis by black Americans. In his seminal work, Micro-aggressions in Everyday Life, psychologist Derald Wing Sue describes micro-aggressions as

brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership (p. xvi).

Sue introduces a taxonomy of racial micro-aggressions that include three categories: micro-assaults; micro-insults; and micro-invalidations. This taxonomy, while valuable in identifying the dynamics of everyday discrimination, does not yet provide clear distinctions by which to evaluate or differentiate the different types of aggressions.

Are micro-aggressions conscious or unconscious? Sue indicates that perpetrators of micro-aggressions are “usually unaware that they have engaged in an exchange that demeans the recipient….” (p. 5). Similarly, in his view, racial micro-aggressions occur “below the level of awareness of well-intentioned people” (p. 9). Yet when he differentiates the three types of micro-aggressions, he indicates that micro-assaults are “likely to be conscious and deliberate” and expressed as “explicit racial derogations” (pp. 28-29) whereas micro-invalidations and micro-insults are often unconscious.

The distinctions among the three types of racial micro-aggressions are also unclear. Sue gives examples of verbal micro-assaults as phrases like calling Chinese Americans “chinks” and gays as “fags.” He gives an example of a micro-invalidation as telling a Latino/a individual, “If you don’t like it here go back to your own country.” In another work, Microaggressions and Marginality, Sue provides an example of a micro-insult as when an African American student who has done outstanding work in his economics class is told by the professor, “You are a credit to your race.” He finds this to be a micro-insult rather than a micro-assault because it allows the perpetrator to adhere to his belief in racial inferiority, even if unconsciously and “denigrates in a guilt-free manner” (pp. 9-20). This example, however, seems to be at the very least a micro-assault.

Challenging Sue’s theoretical perspective, psychologist Scott Lilienfeld assails the micro-aggression concept as vague, subject to misinterpretation, and often referring to innocuous statements or what he terms inadvertent or unintentional cultural slights. He cautions against an overemphasis on micro-aggressions in diversity training, suggesting that such training can produce the opposite effect by increasing defensiveness by majority group members. Lililenfeld worries that the term “aggression” denotes negative intent and could cause pushback that would defeat the purposes of diversity training and cause the opposite effects. Further, from an empirical standpoint, Lilienfeld indicates that few studies have controlled for the experiences of the perceiving person, including that individual’s sensitivity, depressions, and other personality traits and attitudes. In addition, he notes that correlational evidence does not yet sufficiently support the causal link between micro-aggressions and negative mental health outcomes.

A new study brings greater clarity to these questions and probes the source and causes of micro-aggressions. The study focuses on whether or not slights or subtle derogatory messages delivered by majority group members to racial minority group members are symptomatic of more deep-seated racial animus and attitudes. Jonathan Kanter and colleagues surveyed a sample of 118 white, non-Hispanic students and 33 black students at a large public university and found a positive correlation between delivering micro-aggressive messages and the presence of racist attitudes. For example, when white students selected the item “a lot of minorities are too sensitive,” this selection was found to be the greatest predictor of negative feelings toward black students.

In seeking to understand this evolving body of evidence, Joe Feagin’s conceptualization of the underlying “white racial frame” offers a broad perspective and explanation for the manifestation of micro-aggressions. Feagin indicates that the white racial frame represents the composite of elements that come into play in everyday practice by those white individuals who seek to impose, emphasize, or retain racial identity. No one, in his view, uses the frame in exactly the same way. Each individual invokes a different internal hierarchy of selected racialized images, emotions, and ideas. Individuals can accept certain elements of that white racial frame while consciously or unconsciously rejecting others.

The “micro-” terminology itself seems inadequate in describing verbal and nonverbal acts of discrimination and hostility which often have long lasting and painful effects. In our survey study of diverse administrators in higher education, Alvin Evans and I found that the outcomes of acts of everyday discrimination can have lasting career impact. One of the most prominent examples is when Claudia, an African American administrator, was singled out by her white male supervisor while he was speaking during a staff meeting about African Americans in general. The supervisor uttered what Sue might term a micro-insult, “Oh, I don’t mean you. You’re different. You’re an Oreo.” He would often ask her, “How do black people feel about… “ (any number of subjects). Soon the supervisor would not take her phone calls or provide her with direction or feedback. He repeatedly tried to push her to the edge and force her to resign, sometimes calling her at 11:00 p.m. and giving her assignments due at 8:00 a.m. the next morning. Not long afterward, when Claudia would not comply with an unethical directive, he fired her and had security walk her off campus.

This example and others cited in our study suggest that research attention needs to focus on the material, social, career-related, and economic impact of micro-aggressions as well as the underlying causes of what Joe Feagin describes as the socially inherited white framework of numerous racialized images, emotions, stereotypes, and interpretations that give rise to day-to-day acts of exclusion.

The accumulation of micro-invalidations, micro-assaults, and micro-insults suggests patterns that require much further analysis as to whether they are conscious or unconscious–and whether their impacts on people of color are really “micro-” or almost always “macro-” We also need to study ways of coping and resistance that are effective in situations that involve power differentials between majority and minority group members in order to offer psychological support to those who experience everyday forms of exclusion.