Racism in 2012: Year End Review

As 2012 draws to a close, I pulled together some of the biggest news in racism for the year.

Election Politics – Of course, much of the year we were focused on the racism in election politics.

White Male Shooters  – In some of the saddest news of the year, 2012 was bracketed by white male shooters unleashing violence on innocent strangers.

  • In January, Jared Lee Loughner opened fire on a crowd at an Arizona political rally, killing 6 and injuring 14.
  • In August, white supremacist Wade M. Page walked into a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, where he shot and killed 7 people.
  • In December, Adam Lanza killed 26 people, including 20 children at an elementary school in Connecticut. With this most recent shooting, some in the mainstream press began to identify white men as a group that “should be profiled,” a point that Joe Feagin has been making for many years.



Racial Profiling – Racial profiling was in the news a great deal this year, and was implicated in at least one death.

  • The senseless killing of teenager Trayvon Martin seemed to be case of racial profiling taken to a violent extreme when volunteer neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman perceived the unarmed Martin as a “threat” and shot him.
  • Racial Profiling is not only an issue in the U.S., it is also characteristic of policing in France as well.
  • In the city where I live, racial profiling combines with racial disparities in marijuana arrests and results in over 400,000 Black and Latino young men needlessly caught up in the criminal justice system each year.

Law & Economy  – Institutions, such as the law and the economy, are fundamental to the perpetuation of racism.

Athletics – There were some new stars in athletics who faced racism. 

  • Gabrielle Douglas won a gold medal in gymnastics at the Olympics, yet faced a huge wave of criticism about her hairstyle, which many saw rooted in racism.
  • Jeremy Lin played in the NBA after a less-than-stellar college basketball career, and sparked “Linsanity” from enthusiastic fans; others made racist jokes at his expense.
  • There remain significant racial barriers to becoming a coach in the NFL, as Michael R notes here.

Passages – We lost some people who played a role in racial politics.


  • Rodney King, focus of a shocking video of police brutality, and when officers were acquitted in that beating, he famously tried to quell rioting by asking “Can’t we all just get along?” – died.  He was 47.
  • Russell Means, a leader of the American Indian Movement (AIM), and an Ogala Sioux Indian, died.  He was 72.


Personal Essays – We were delighted to post a couple of really moving personal essays from guest bloggers.


Hate & Violence – Overt racist hate and violence continued in 2012.

Technology – Despite claims that Internet technology would usher in a new era in which “there is no race,” racism continues to be built into our technologies.



Culture – Sometimes, when I consider the progress that’s been achieved around racism, I think some of the most important progress is achieved in culture, both popular culture and more rarefied high culture.


Viral Videos – The year 2012 was a good one for viral videos about racism.

  • Stuff White Girls Say took off and made a point about the racism of white women.
  • Similarly, Randy Newman skewered white people in his spoof of his old song “Short People.”
  • Somewhat unintentionally, the highly crafted marketing video “Kony 2012” ended up being about racism as well in its facile portrayal of ‘evil’ in Africa in need of ‘white saviors.’

Documentaries – I continue to believe that documentaries can be a crucial tool in the effort to bring about racial justice.


May 2013 bring more racial justice!