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Changing Systems, Changing Ourselves session 3 on Anti-blackness Facilitator’s Guide

Changing Systems, Changing Ourselves session 3 on Anti-blackness Facilitator’s Guide

 

Check in 

Homework check in

What’s one thing that surprised you from the Immigrants for Sale video? 

Is there a law like AZ SB1070 in your city or state? What is it like?

Is there a Sanctuary bill in your city of state? What is it like?

 

Life check in

How is your heart today? 

What is one thing you need during this time?

What’s one gratitude you have to share?

 

Reflect in a go round with introductions and pronouns, as needed.

 

Impacts of coronavirus on immigrants, people of color and Black people in particular

  • Here is a brief overview of the coronavirus and its impact on people of color in general but Black people specifically. As we know the coronavirus has had a detrimental impact on individuals in the US and around the world. We have already witnessed loss of life, loss of jobs, social distancing and lock downs in several parts of the world. It’s important to note, that in the US, while all communities are being impacted, the impact on Black communities is even more devasting. In a March 11th article in the Root by Michael Harriot he says, “There is an old black saying that goes: “When white folks catch a cold, black people get pneumonia.”

  • Black communities in the United States face higher risks for heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, hypertension and chronic illness. This puts Black people at greater risk for contracting and succumbing to the coronavirus. 

  • There are also issues of access and quality of care for Black people in this country. A 2005, National Academy of Medicine found that “racial and ethnic minorities receive lower-quality health care than white people—even when insurance status, income, age, and severity of conditions are comparable.” There is also the issue of distrust, among many African-Americans, of a medical system with a history of mistreating and exploiting us.

  • Additionally, as a result of 400 years of laws and policies on the local, state and federal level that disadvantaged Black people, there is a large wealth gap between Black and whites in this country which makes Black people more economically vulnerable during times of crisis. Black people are more likely than whites to work jobs that pay hourly wages. This makes several days or weeks without income close to impossible for them. Furthermore, the two industries that are facing immediate shutdowns in response to the coronavirus are the restaurant and hotel industries. These are both industries that are largely represented by Black, Asian, and Latinx workers. 

  • In a March 19th, 2020 article titled, “The Coronavirus Pandemic and the Racial Wealth Gap” Danyelle Solomon and Darrick Hamilton say, “Black workers often hold occupations that are less stable, such as jobs in retail and home health and jobs as nursing home aides. In addition to being more likely to hold low-paying jobs, Black and Latinx workers are more likely to hold jobs that are less likely to offer comprehensive benefits. Just 16 percent of Latinx workers and 20 percent of Black workers have the ability to work from home, compared with 30 percent of white workers. Black and Latinx workers also have less access to paid sick leave and paid leave for child care. When considering the intersection of race and gender, this inequality is particularly daunting for Black and Latinx women, who often have a greater share of caregiving responsibilities. They are also more likely to hold low-paying service jobs than their white counterparts.”

  • The effects of the coronavirus are even more daunting for those connected to the prison and immigration systems. The US has the largest prison population in the world. African Americans are incarcerated in state prisons across the country at more than 5 times the rates of whites. As the number of infected inmates and prison staff members continue to rise, there are increased concerns about the spread of the virus in tight spaces and how it is impacting inmates and their families as well as those who work in prisons. Our already broken prison system is unprepared to deal with this crisis. There is lack of hygiene in overcrowded cells and hallways; you can’t cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze when you are handcuffed; hand sanitizer is considered contraband due to its alcohol content; and social distancing is close to impossible in cramped cells. Currently social visits have been restricted for at least a month (which we know has a detrimental impact of the mental health and well-being of inmates). Since the outbreak of the coronavirus in the US, there have been calls to release prisoners in order to mitigate the crisis from prison advocate groups and politicians alike. New York, Cleveland and LA have released hundreds of inmates. Several other cities are pushing for their local and state officials to do the same.

  • Similarly, in detention centers people live in close quarters, there are no gloves, no hand sanitizer, and no masks. Also, ICE announced a temporary end to social visitation at detention facilities. At the Essex County Jail in Newark detained immigrants are on a hunger strike, demanding release on bond or deportation to their home countries because they fear dying inside from coronavirus.

  • Although Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials recently told congressional staffers it will change its “enforcement posture”, raids and deportations have continued in many parts of the country. Also, the Department of Justice has postponed some immigration hearings, but many hearings across the country continue as people wait in long lines at immigration courts. 

  • For immigrants as a whole, those who don’t have access to health insurance, nutritious food or safe, affordable housing are very vulnerable during this crisis. 

  • For Black immigrants, things continue to be challenging. They face the same issues as other immigrants as well as the anti-blackness that African-Americans face as a result of structural racism in the US. Black immigrants make up about 8.8% of the 3.7 million U.S. immigrants are black. They come mostly from the Caribbean, Latin America and Africa. There are a large number of black immigrants that are nurses, doctors, health aides, nursing home assistants and social workers (which makes them vulnerable to the coronavirus); they also work in manufacturing, hotels and restaurants (the industries that will be heavily impacted by the shutdowns across the country).

 

Grounding

 

Anti-Blackness: Roots, Manifestations and how to disrupt it

 

“But all our phrasing- race relations, racial chasm, racial justice, racial profiling, white privilege, even white supremacy - serves to obscure that racism is a visceral experience, that it dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth…. You must always remember that the sociology, the history, the economics, the graphs, the charts, the regressions all land, with great violence, upon the body.” - Ta Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

 

I want to start by acknowledging that the great majority of us, as we shelter at home, are residing on stolen land, on indigenous land, the house I “legally own” is on stolen Leni Lenape land. The erasure of indigenous folks is very intentional, very real in the construction of the colonial United States, the dispossession and slaughter of indigenous peoples was the first act of the colonization of these lands, the second was the theft of (often indigenous) Africans as enslaved people and transporting them in horrific violence through the triangle trade to steal their labor and erase and control and shackle, incarcerate and harm their bodies, their selfhood. It is important as we focus on anti-Blackness to also acknowledge the erasure and genocide of indigenous folks, who are still here, striving and working for justice.

 

As was focused on in the Decoded video that was shared, anti-Blackness arises from slavery; in order to enslave folks and hold them in bondage, the creation of whiteness was the justification. Whiteness does not exist without Blackness, the codification of a racial superiority that emboldens and justifies the horrific violence of enslavement and continued racial caste/exclusion. Anti-Blackness produces a continuum in which those with greater proximity to whiteness are granted higher status. This originated with enslaved people who were given greater privileges based on light skin privilege. Those enslaved who were closer to white people, most often as a result of the white slaveholder raping those he enslaved, were assigned positions while enslaved of greater relative privilege of domestic servitude in the slaveholders’ house rather than in the field or other harsher forms of labor. Those people of color who are perceived to be in closer proximity to whiteness are often perceived to have greater value. This proximity to whiteness deeply shapes individual’s experience in this culture, when slavery ended anti-Blackness mutated. Here is a brief overview of examples of the way anti-Blackness presently shows up in policy besides all those ways Anyango highlighted in her discussion of the Coronavirus. This list comes from the work of Robin DiAngelo

 

  • Employment discrimination

  • Education discrimination

  • Sub-prime loans and discriminatory housing practices

  • Biased laws and policing practices

  • White flight

  • Mass incarceration

  • School to prison pipeline

  • Disproportionate special education referrals

  • Testing, tracking

  • School funding disparities

  • Biased media

  • Voter suppression

  • And so much more.

 

The white collective has been in the position to impose and enforce these policies on the Black collective. Reverse racism is an impossibility because Black folks do not hold power institutionally to shape policy. Though individuals of color (esp. lighter skinned folks) may be co-opted into the system of white supremacy (like those who were enslaved who worked in the slaveholder’s house or “overseers”) they cannot enact racism in the way the white collective can and does.

 

Ibram Kendi, author of Stamped from the Beginning and How to be Anti-racist argues that racial sentiment and cultural assumptions/racist ideas were created to justify racist policy; that the policy came first, and that there is a limitation to changing racist systems through shifting racist ideas only; that we must fight for a shift in racist policies, create more justice while educating and shifting culture; but that ultimately racism is enacted through racist policies. 

 

This is why our homework today is to take some action to shift racist policies, not just educate one another to unlearn racist ideas. This is also why we emphasize accompaniment as a practice: if you are more closely in principled relationship with those who feel the visceral impacts of racist policies in the day-to-day, the way those of us with privilege can abstract those lives becomes disrupted and we are more able to act with an understanding of the urgency to such change to lives/people with whom we are in intimate relation. 

 

These policies are upheld by attitudes within the white collective. As Robin DiAngelo says in White Fragility, some of those attitudes which assist in perpetuating anti-Blackness among “good whites” include:

 

  • White people are the saviors of Black people

  • Some Black children may be innocent but Black adults are morally and criminally corrupt

  • Whites who are willing to save or otherwise help Black people, at seemingly great personal cost, are noble, courageous and morally superior 

  • Individual Black people can overcome their circumstances, but only with the help of white people

  • Black neighborhoods are “bad,” inherently dangerous

  • Virtually all Blacks are poor, incompetent, and unqualified for their jobs, they are drug addicts, belong to gangs, and are bad parents

  • White people are willing to deal with individual “deserving” Black people, but white people do not become a part of the Black community in any meaningful way beyond charity

 

So, how do we work to disrupt these policies and attitudes? The first step is to acknowledge our complicity with them. Then to unravel how we can work consciously to upend the attitudes and actively work to shift policy, always in relation and accountable to those most impacted by racist policies and practices. 

 

I am going to read one time I enacted interpersonal racial injustice and I would like you reflect on a time when you enacted such an act. Now, I understand we are white and Black and people of color on this webinar, so I’d like to invite the white folks to consider how they have enacted such an act themselves and for people of color/Black folks to choose between a story of how you have enacted anti-Blackness OR how you have experienced anti-Blackness. I will invite a few of you to share momentarily.

 

Lucy’s story:

I went to college at a very white liberal arts college, we studied “great books,” the term itself implies the nature of the curriculum. We read mostly dead white guys who were the “great” shapers of western civilization. We did not read even one woman until my senior year, which tells you a great deal about whose voices were centered, whose lives and meaning making was centered. This college was on the side of a mountain, close to the wilderness, a veritable ivory tower. There were only about 400 students, classes were small, there was an art studio, a great hall where we had waltz parties and listened to a required lecture once/week. Most of the classes were seminar based with conversation and the privilege of teaching/engaging with one another. The professors were called “tutors” and were intended to be the coaches or guides or the best students in the class. 

One day over a meal several of us were chatting about why there weren’t more Black people at the school. I said, “Oh, it’s because they are more interested in making money, this kind of education would not appeal to them.” It’s interesting because I felt a flash of shame at the time, but it did not lead me to deeper inquiry about my racist ideas until much later. It did not occur to me that the curriculum we were breathing in was rooted in white supremacy and that it would be made really clear why Black folks were not welcome in this context, that only certain voices mattered, that “greatness” did not include the likes of W.E.B. DuBois or Richard Wright or Zora Neal Hurston. It did not occur to me that my privilege that enabled me to attend the school was built on the economic and racial oppression of Black folks. I did not have consciousness of the depth of the unconscious curriculum that I was being constantly taught, as it was/is pervasive beyond this space. It did not occur to me that the foundation of the school and approach and the erasure of Black lives was enough to turn Black folks off of wanting to attend the school. Why would they want to? What was there for them?

 

Think of a story of a moment in which you carried out anti-Blackness or (optionally) when you experienced it, if you are a person of color. Just pause for 30 seconds as you consider this question. 

 

Invite 2-3 people to share their stories, invite white folks in particular to reach for a story they can share.

 

Anti-blackness, criminalization, and immigration

 

The Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) educates and engages African American and black immigrant communities to organize and advocate for racial, social and economic justice.

 

Black immigrants from Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America experience racial discrimination as they navigate U.S. society and systems. They also face a more difficult immigration process and are racially profiled, leading to disproportionate rates of immigration detention and deportation. Among immigrant populations, black immigrants have the highest unemployment rates and earn the lowest wages, even though they are among the most educated.

 

BAJI has issued a list of organizing demands to combat these vulnerabilities which we are going to put up on the screen. I will read each of the demands out loud, and ask that you pay attention to any feelings that come up for you as I do. You might want to write down any impressions or thoughts that pop up for you. Afterwards, we will breathe together for a few minutes then ask you to reflect in the chat on some questions.

 

including:  

 

(i) removing convictions, including aggravated felonies and drug offenses, as grounds for deportation and exclusion; 

(ii) ending the retroactive application of the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (“IIRIRA”) and the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”); 

(iii) restoring judicial discretion and due process for all individuals coming in contact with the criminal justice and immigration systems; 

(iv) ending permanent deportation; 

(v) ending mandatory detention; 

(vi) ending police-Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) collaboration programs; 

(vii) eliminating the three and ten year bars to reentry to the U.S.; and 

(viii) providing a “right to counsel” in immigration proceedings for all immigrants.

 

Before we start reflecting together, I want to note that there are Black immigrants and non-immigrants on this call. Though we can’t ensure that we will never harm anyone, I do want us to remember that our words have an impact on those around us and we are talking about anti-blackness which already does a great deal of harm to those folks. Please keep that in mind as you share and be open to any feedback you get about the impact of your words.

 

  1. Who do we talk about and who do we ignore when it comes to immigrant solidarity?

 

  1. In what ways has this course played into that dynamic? How have we as planners failed? How has this played out in your groups?

 

  1. Which of the BAJI demands did you have an immediate pushback against? Maybe you felt afraid, got defensive or immediately thought of why we shouldn’t do that?

 

  1. Share in the chat any reflections on how anti-blackness in our society contributes to that pushback?

 

  1. Take a moment to reflect on how those demands would combat the effects of anti-blackness on immigration injustice in this country - share when you are ready. 

 

Homework: practical things to do right now

  • As we have discussed today, COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting people who are incarcerated, in addition to the violence already enacted in prisons under normal circumstances. For homework, we’re asking you to take some practical steps to put pressure on elected officials to release those in ICE custody. 

  • Detention Watch Network reminds us that “This moment highlights why cages are a public health nuisance, people can’t heal, recuperate, or avoid infection in jails and prisons. No one will get released unless we demand everyone be released. This is not a time to make exceptions, it’s a matter of life and death. Contrary to how the government has treated this crisis, we cannot treat anyone as expendable. Our demands will in large part determine what we are able to achieve, the least we can do is push for everyone to be released.”

  • For homework, you will look at Freedom for Immigrants’ map of facilities where immigrants are detained, then contact your governor, senators, and representatives with the request to free everyone in ICE detention in response to COVID-19. We will send out more detailed information, including why we are reaching out to those officials, how to find your officials, and templates for contacting them. 

  • Before we close, I invite you to take a deep breath, in and out.

  • Things are difficult right now. There is a lot of uncertainty, a lot of information, a lot of change. We will all do what we can, and remember that we are all connected to one another. Be well, and take care. We’ll see you next session.

 

Close with a reflection, a moment of worship, or a one word check in.

 

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