Oppression Born Into the System: How We Understand Race/History in 16 Points

This list was created by undergraduates at John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY at the very beginning of spring semester in 2016. Our course is focused on critical race theory and this list was collectively written, modeled after the style of the blogpost— “MY (APPARENTLY) OBLIGATORY RESPONSE TO ‘FORMATION’: IN LIST FORM.”  This list captures our initial discussions and definitions of race/racism and its roots and rootedness.

  1. America was founded on the extortion of Africans and the removal of the Indigenous. As a result, race/racism has roots in white supremacy, a now reoccurring cycle. Even though laws have been passed that address inequalities, ideology prevents us from achieving real change.
  2. White racism has never disappeared. Whites just became somewhat more careful in public spaces.
  3. talking-about-racismWhite supremacy is a powerful ideology that promotes the idea of whiteness as the one ideal for humanity. Even people of color describe the American dream and want a nice big house in the suburbs, white picket fence, a family, and a dog.
  4. Why does whiteness always have to come in first place? White supremacy moves around the world dictating what is right and wrong, judging by its own standards, in the cultures of different societies across the globe.
  5. The courts determined that whiteness was defined as the common understanding of white men. Who gave white men that right to make that decision and why did the courts support it?
  6. “Racism is not fluid in that it does not move back and forth, one day benefitting whites and another day benefitting people of color. The direction of power between whites and people of color is historic, traditional, normalized, and deeply embedded in the fabric of U.S. and Canadian societies.” ~Robin DiAngelo
  7. Sensoy and DiAngelo argue that “concepts of masculinity and femininity as well as sexuality, desire, adventure, romance, family, love, and conflict are conveyed to us through stories told in films. . . now consider that the vast majority of all mainstream folks are written and directed by white men.” Not only is history written by white men but so is the present. The way we perceive all identities is directed by white men. This limits the chance of authenticity in characters. We need . . . to imagine authentic queer blackness . . . critique the pretenders. . . and take back the pen and camera from white supremacist ideology.
  8. colorblindnessWhy do shows that take place in diverse cities not have diverse casts? The show “Friends,” based in New York City, had a white cast with the occasional character that was of another background. The show “How I Met Your Mother” had mainly a white cast. The same goes for Drake and Josh. Why don’t these shows have an interracial cast? These are dynamics of racial superiority and play in our homes regularly.
  9. In her documentary film, A Girl Like Me, 15 out 21 black children that she interviewed (71%) preferred white dolls for the same reason black children cited in the 1940s: the white doll was “good” and the black doll was “bad.”
  10. Since media portrays racial segregation and negative stereotypes of people of color, false perceptions are made about what someone who has colored skin is like in real life.
  11. It is possible to lose voting privileges in the U.S. based on convictions. With the high incarceration rates of black citizens, it would appear that this is a mechanism to further weaken black people’s say in anything political or to form larger mass resistance.
  12. In the United States of America, all young black men are estimated to be 210% times more likely to be shot dead by police than young white men.
  13. School has its origins in colonialism/colonization. The Gradual Civilization Act of 1857 was designed to “civilize” Indigenous children. Forced to convert to Christianity, speak only English, and leave their homes (never again seeing their families), 50% of the children died…in school! Schooling’s ongoing murders might be more symbolic now…but psychic death is still part of its work.
  14. Fred Toyosaburo Korematsuwas one of the many Japanese-Americans placed in internment camps, a policy by the United States Supreme Court in Korematsu v. United States. Korematsu argued that “you have to look like one otherwise you can’t tell the difference between loyal and disloyal Americans.”
  15. Race is rooted in the economic development and implementation of capitalism and reinforced and internalized by systemically racist science. An ready example: From 1932 to the early 1970s, Afro American men in Alabama were experimented on, purposely infected with syphillis because they were purported to be immune. Close to $500,000 was secured to run these tests.
  16. It’s easy to look at people and make quick, stereotypical judgments based on the racist history in which we are trained to see groups of people. Racial micro-aggressions based on these judgments disguise race and racism today but those who feel and experience the struggles see a different TRUTH.


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