February has begun, and in America, it’s not just the shortest month, it’s also Black History Month. There’s already been one particularly tone-deaf “honour”. Adidas cancelled their Black History Month UltraBoost Uncaged trainer. Apparently, they didn’t realise that an all-white trainer to celebrate a month dedicated to non-white history was inappropriate. I wonder if there were any black people with a seat at that table.
Still, there’s yet further proof that black history is needed as white people fail to understand that blacking up is not okay. A Christian school in California has had to apologise for allowing a teacher to black-up and wear an African hair wrap and clothing while teaching students about missionary David Livingstone. Elsewhere, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam is struggling to decide whether to take responsibility for a racist photo in his university yearbook that shows a man in blackface and another in KKK robes. Initially, he apologised, but since then has denied he is in the photo. Disappointingly, a large response online has been to forgive the governor for his foolish behaviour as a kid despite being a 25-year-old man with a degree at the time of the photo. Over in the UK, an investigation revealed that over half of young people held in young offender institutions are from black or minority ethnic backgrounds.
It might be an obvious point, but, this is why it’s vital to have a month devoted to highlighting the contributions and oppression of black people each year. It makes the current structural racial discrimination eye-wateringly clear.
Here’s what you might have missed in the past week.
Empire Actor Jussie Smollett says his account of the homophobic and racist attack was “100 per cent Factual”
Jussie Smollett has spoken out about the brutally homophobic and racist attack he endured in Chicago on Tuesday January 29.
The 36-year-old gay actor, who plays Jamal Lyon in Empire, was attacked by two men wearing MAGA hats who beat him, poured an “unknown chemical substance” on him, before tying a noose around his neck while shouting racist and homophobic slurs at him.
Speaking to Essence, Smollett said: “These types of cowardly attacks are happening to my sisters, brothers and non-gender conforming siblings daily. I am not and should not be looked upon as an isolated incident.”
The actor spoke at his sold-out concert in Hollywood saying “I had to be here tonight, y’all. I can’t let the motherfuckers win”, but his meet and greet after the show was cancelled due to security concerns.
There was an overwhelming response online accusing Smollett of not telling the truth or being consistent, causing him to defend himself saying “I am working with authorities and have been 100 per cent factual and consistent on every level.”
Portland Police Sergeant says: “Let’s just kill all the black people”
An Oregon police sergeant, Gregg Lewis, told a group of officers to “kill all the black people” when asked by his team how to approach suspects. He brazenly made these comments in the aftermath of a fellow officer shooting unarmed 17-year-old black Quanice Hayes who was holding a toy gun.
Three days after Hayes was killed in February 2017, Lewis was instructing the department on how to place civil holds on intoxicated suspects, explaining that they should determine their actions based on the kind of person they encountered. When asked if they should be extra careful referencing the extrajudicial killing of Hayes, Lewis allegedly responded: “If they are black, just shoot them.”
According to one account: “Officers began talking about this statement, and then I heard Sergeant Lewis state, ‘Well, let’s just go out and kill all the black people’. The officers appeared shocked and astonished. There was some uncomfortable laughter throughout the room, but most officers were quiet.”
For yet further proof that the police do not care about black lives, Lewis kept his job for another year after that and shrugged the comments off as a sarcastic joke. Finally a year after the “joke”, Lewis was fired. But that wasn’t the end. The racist officer hired a lawyer and the City of Portland decided to settle with him, agreeing to give him $100,020.53 in back pay, put him as “retired”, and allow him to draw his pension. So Gregg almost got signed off on January 30, this year to receive a nice pension packet.
If it wasn’t for Navy veteran Jo Ann Hardesty, the joke, comments, complaints, and six-figure settlement would have been continued to have been covered up by city officials. At the meeting, Hardesty, the only black woman on the council, read out every officer’s account of Lewis’s racist joke so it could no longer be ignored.
Now the vote on whether he should get funds has been delayed and will be reconsidered. So black women save the day, again.
- Universities could lose league table positions for diversity failures under a new government initiative to tackle ethnic disparities among students, in staff recruitment, and research.
- Four out of five University of Warwick students who were suspended for their part in a group chat that threatened rape and made racist remarks have been allowed to return to their studies on campus. The softening of discipline against such heinous actions has prompted the Twitter hashtag #ShameOnYouWarwick. Some of the women mocked in the chat have expressed feeling unsafe.
A group of Warwick uni lads make a chat about how they want to rape you and mutilate girls you know, admit that they’d do it again and still get invited back with open arms the following academic year. Nah I’m mad
— Megan Wain (@meg_wain) January 28, 2019
— Megan Wain (@meg_wain) January 29, 2019
- Priyanka Chopra will play Ma Anand Sheela in a film adaptation of Netflix’s Wild Wild Country
- Across many cities in Britain, BAME people are twice as likely to be unemployed as their white counterparts, according to a report by the Runnymede Trust. Runnymede Trust director Dr Omar Khan said part of the gap is down to hiring discrimination.
- 129 Indian students have been arrested in the US for enrolling in a fake university run by undercover agents from the Department of Homeland Security to expose “pay-to-stay” immigration fraud. India had made a diplomatic protest against the US, saying the students may have been tricked.
- Pioneering Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga (How I Felt When I Saw that Girl) – the first mainstream Bollywood blockbuster about a family coming to terms with their daughter loving another woman – has opened in India.
- Siempre Bruja, Netflix’s new show about an Afro-Colombian time-travelling witch, has caused controversy online for romanticising slavery after a scene where Angely Gaviria’s character, a slave, is in love with her white slave owner and wanted to return to him, prompting the hashtag #HowToTellNoBlackPeopleWroteThis.
Moment of the Week
21 Savage fans were shocked to find out the rapper is being detained by ICE, the organisation claims he is a UK national.
If ICE could do that to #21Savage so publicly – who thankfully has some financial and logistical resources to hopefully find a solution to this – then imagine what could happen to those whose voices are silenced and stories are invisible.
This ain’t no game.
Worry about THAT.
— Tenille Clarke (@tenilleclarke1) February 3, 2019
21 savage has been saying words like exquisite and talking about tea and crumpets, we really should have seen this coming pic.twitter.com/3jgCNDyX4n
— AA ron (@Bringer0fSand) February 3, 2019