Black Northerner Moves to Mississippi

cotton fields

A Black Northerner Moves to Mississippi and attempts to reconnect with his roots…
originally published as I’m a black man who moved to the Deep South. Here’s what it’s teaching me about race…by  Continue reading

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Subtle Racism

subtle racism

              subtle racism

What are the effects of Subtle Racism?

published as Unmasking ‘racial micro aggressions’

Subtle Racism

Some racism is so subtle that neither victim nor perpetrator may entirely understand what is going on—which may be especially toxic for people of color.

By Tori DeAngelis

Two colleagues—one Asian-American, the other African-American—board a small plane. A flight attendant tells them they can sit anywhere, so they choose seats near the front of the plane and across the aisle from each another so they can talk.

At the last minute, three white men enter the plane and take the seats in front of them. Just before takeoff, the flight attendant, who is white, asks the two colleagues if they would mind moving to the back of the plane to better balance the plane’s load. Both react with anger, sharing the same sense that they are being singled out to symbolically “sit at the back of the bus.” When they express these feelings to the attendant, she indignantly denies the charge, saying she was merely trying to ensure the flight’s safety and give the two some privacy.

Were the colleagues being overly sensitive, or was the flight attendant being racist?

For Teachers College, Columbia University psychologist Derald Wing Sue, PhD—the Asian-American colleague on the plane, incidentally—the onus falls on the flight attendant. In his view, she was guilty of a “racial microaggression”—one of the “everyday insults, indignities and demeaning messages sent to people of color by well-intentioned white people who are unaware of the hidden messages being sent to them,” in Sue’s definition.

In other words, she was acting with bias—she just didn’t know it, he says.

Sue and his team are developing a theory and classification system to describe and measure the phenomenon to help people of color understand what is going on and perhaps to educate white people as well, Sue says.

“It’s a monumental task to get white people to realize that they are delivering microaggressions, because it’s scary to them,” he contends. “It assails their self-image of being good, moral, decent human beings to realize that maybe at an unconscious level they have biased thoughts, attitudes and feelings that harm people of color.”

To better understand the type and range of these incidents, Sue and other researchers are also exploring the concept among specific groups and documenting how a regular dose of these psychological slings and arrows may erode people’s mental health, job performance and the quality of social experience.

Aversive racism

The term racial microaggressions was first proposed by psychiatrist Chester M. Pierce, MD, in the 1970s, but psychologists have significantly amplified the concept in recent years.

In his landmark work on stereotype threat, for instance, Stanford University psychology professor Claude Steele, PhD, has shown that African-Americans and women perform worse on academic tests when primed with stereotypes about race or gender. Women who were primed with stereotypes about women’s poor math performance do worse on math tests. Blacks’ intelligence test scores plunge when they’re primed with stereotypes about blacks’ inferior intelligence.

Meanwhile, social psychologists Jack Dovidio, PhD, of Yale University, and Samuel L. Gaertner, PhD, of the University of Delaware, have demonstrated across several studies that many well-intentioned whites who consciously believe in and profess equality unconsciously act in a racist manner, particularly in ambiguous circumstances. In experimental job interviews, for example, whites tend not to discriminate against black candidates when their qualifications are as strong or as weak as whites’. But when candidates’ qualifications are similarly ambiguous, whites tend to favor white over black candidates, the team has found. The team calls this pattern “aversive racism,” referring in part to whites’ aversion to being seen as prejudiced, given their conscious adherence to egalitarian principles.

Sue adds to these findings by naming, detailing and classifying the actual manifestations of aversive racism. His work illuminates the internal experiences of people affected by microaggressions—a new direction, since past research on prejudice and discrimination has focused on whites’ attitudes and behaviors, notes Dovidio.

“The study of microaggressions looks at the impact of these subtle racial expressions from the perspective of the people being victimized, so it adds to our psychological understanding of the whole process of stigmatization and bias,” Dovidio says.

Research shows that uncertainty is very distressing to people, Dovidio adds. “It’s the uncertainty of microaggressions that can have such a tremendous impact on people of color,” including on the job, in academic performance and even in therapy, he and others find.

Creating a vocabulary

Sue first proposed a classification of racial microaggressions in a 2007 article on how they manifest in clinical practice in the American Psychologist (Vol. 2, No. 4). There, he notes three types of current racial transgressions:


read the article in its entirety at:


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Race as Political Project

Race is a Political Project

Posted on August 20, 2015 by Tim Wise at

Race as Political Project

Sometimes the act of denial is the thing that condemns you. It simply gives away too much, suggesting that it was intended more to convince the one issuing it than the one to whom it was offered. And so, when addicts insist to their interventionists that they haven’t a drug or alcohol problem, we generally know where things are headed. So too, we can tell by the ferocity of the proclamation that the addict isn’t much concerned about whether others believe them. The thing is to reassure oneself. Perhaps it is demanded out of shame or guilt—a glimmer of recognition that indeed one has a problem and really should get help—or perhaps the speaker truly believes it. But whatever the case, it is nothing if not wholly unconvincing. Continue reading

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Was Moynihan Wrong about Black Families?

Black Families

Was Moynihan Wrong about Black Families? Declining US marriages, coupled with growing numbers of “nonmarital” births, are the subject of considerable anxiety in the social policy literature. Continue reading

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A Black Woman at Princeton








by Rana Campbellt

…originally published on as Women in the Ivy League: “Everything’s not always so pretty at the top.”

This month, countless high school students across the country will be answering college acceptance letters making the difficult decision of what college to attend in the Fall.

If you asked my 17-year-old self the impact choosing to attend Princeton University would have on me, I probably wouldn’t have known how to answer. When I first got accepted into Princeton in the spring of 2009, I was both wildly excited yet undoubtedly naive. I thought I had all the “prep” I would need, having attended a well-regarded college preparatory school in Englewood, NJ for six years. I’d already experienced the doubts from my fellow high school classmates as the news spread that me and my best friend Amina (also a woman of color) had been the only people to be accepted into Princeton from our school. Continue reading

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“A Negro Dreams of Rivers”

Langston Hughes

“A Negro Dreams of Rivers.”…a poem by Langston Hughes


I’ve known rivers:
I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
flow of human blood in human veins.My soul has grown deep like the rivers. Continue reading

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Thoughts on White Racism






Thoughts on White Racism

By John Metta
Originally published as “I, Racist” on

What follows is the text of a “sermon” that I gave as a “congregational reflection” to an all White audience at the Bethel Congregational United Church of Christ on Sunday, June 28th.

A couple weeks ago, I was debating what I was going to talk about in this sermon. I told Pastor Kelly Ryan I had great reservations talking about the one topic that I think about every single day.

Then, a terrorist massacred nine innocent people in a church that I went to, in a city that I still think of as home. At that point, I knew that despite any misgivings, I needed to talk about race.

You see, I don’t talk about race with White people. To illustrate why, I’ll tell a story:

It was probably about 15 years ago when a conversation took place between my aunt, who is White and lives in New York State, and my sister, who is Black and lives in North Carolina. This conversation can be distilled to a single sentence, said by my Black sister:

“The only difference between people in The North and people in The South is that down here, at least people are honest about being racist.”

There was a lot more to that conversation, obviously, but I suggest that it can be distilled into that one sentence because it has been, by my White aunt. Over a decade later, this sentence is still what she talks about. It has become the single most important aspect of my aunt’s relationship with my Black family. She is still hurt by the suggestion that people in New York, that she, a northerner, a liberal, a good person who has Black family members, is a racist.

This perfectly illustrates why I don’t talk about race with White people. Even- or rather, especially- my own family.

I love my aunt. She’s actually my favorite aunt, and believe me, I have a lot of awesome aunts to choose from. But the facts are actually quite in my sister’s favor on this one.…….I don’t talk about race with White people because I have so often seen it go nowhere. When I was younger, I thought it was because all white people are racist. Recently, I’ve begun to understand that it’s more nuanced than that.

To understand, you have to know that Black people think in terms of Black people. We don’t see a shooting of an innocent Black child in another state as something separate from us because we know viscerally that it could be our child, our parent, or us, that is shot.

The shooting of Walter Scott in North Charleston resonated with me because Walter Scott was portrayed in the media as a deadbeat and a criminal- but when you look at the facts about the actual man, he was nearly indistinguishable from my own father.

Racism affects us directly because the fact that it happened at a geographically remote location or to another Black person is only a coincidence, an accident. It could just as easily happen to us- right here, right now.

Black people think in terms of we because we live in a society where the social and political structures interact with us as Black people.

White people do not think in terms of we. White people have the privilege to interact with the social and political structures of our society as individuals. You are “you,” I am “one of them.” Whites are often not directly affected by racial oppression even in their own community, so what does not affect them locally has little chance of affecting them regionally or nationally. They have no need, nor often any real desire, to think in terms of a group. They are supported by the system, and so are mostly unaffected by it.

What they are affected by are attacks on their own character. To my aunt, the suggestion that “people in The North are racist” is an attack on her as a racist. She is unable to differentiate her participation within a racist system (upwardly mobile, not racially profiled, able to move to White suburbs, etc.) from an accusation that she, individually, is a racist. Without being able to make that differentiation, White people in general decide to vigorously defend their own personal non-racism, or point out that it doesn’t exist because they don’t see it.

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Subtle and Hidden Racism

Subtle and hidden racism: Confronting a covert enemy

by Elizabeth M Young
…this article originally appeared at

Created on: September 22, 2009   Last Updated: April 22, 2011

“I’m really surprised…you’re soooo articulate!”

“What she’s saying, Lucille is….”

“We require proof that you have a degree before you can work here.”

“I have Black friends, so I can use that expression.”

“Oh, come on, you’re too sensitive”.

These are the verbal expressions of covert racism. In the first example, expressing shock and surprise that a Black person speaks intelligently is an old racist code that allows the speaker to hide behind some form of twisted compliment. It is now treated as an overt form of racism and is often confronted accordingly.

 The second expression is for when a third party steps in and tries to use “translating for the Black person”, to cover up and defend a racist comment or behavior. When a foreigner with English as a second language does this, the act is even more disgusting. The implication is that the insult was “misheard by the inarticulate Black person.”


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Who was Franz Fanon?

Franz Fanon

            Franz Fanon

Thinker, revolutionary, psychiatrist, cultural analyst and philosopher of Western Colonialism and its attendant racism, Franz Fanon is without peer vis a vis his profundity and psychological acumen. His Black Skin White Masks (1952), about White racism and the oppression of Black people is a classic.

The following is taken from Zia Sardar’s article On Franz Fanon
and can be read in its entirety at Naked Punch

Frantz Omar Fanon, born on 20 July 1925 in Fort-de-France, in the French colony of Martinique, was a complex figure, with multiple selves. He was, as he tells us, from Antilles but he ended his life thinking of himself as an Algerian. His parents belonged to the middle class community of the island: father a descendant of slaves, mother of mixed French parenthood. In Fort-de-France, he studied at Lycée Schoelcher, where one of his teachers was poet and writer Aimé César. Cesar’s passionate denouncement of colonial racism had a major influence on the impressionable Fanon. As a young dissident, he agitated against the Vichy regime in the Antilles and travelled to Dominica to support the French resistance in the Caribbean. Soon afterwards, he found himself in France where he joined the resistance against the occupying forces of Nazi Germany. While serving in the military, Fanon experienced racism on a daily basis. In France, he noticed that French women avoided black soldiers who were sacrificing their lives to liberate them. He was wounded; and was awarded Croix de Guerre for bravery during his service in the Free French forces.

After the War, Fanon won a scholarship to study medicine and psychiatry in Lyon. While still a student he met José Dublé, a Frenchwoman who shared his convictions against racism and colonialism. The couple married in 1952, had one son, and stayed together for the rest of their lives. Fanon also began to use psychoanalysis to study the effects of racism on individuals, particularly its impact on the self-perception of blacks themselves. During the 1950’s metropolitan France was a centre of revolutionary philosophy and a magnet for writers, thinkers and activists from Africa. Fanon imbibed the ideas of philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre; and became friends with Octave Mannoni, French psychoanalyst and author of Psychology of Colonization. As a young man searching for his own identity in a racist society, Fanon identified with the African freedom fighters who came to France seeking allies against European colonialism. He began to define a new black identity; and became actively involved in the anti-colonialist struggle. So when, in 1953, he was offered a job as head of the psychiatric department of Bilda-Joinville Hospital in Algiers he jumped at the opportunity.

Fanon arrived in Algeria just as the colony was on the verge of a full blown, violent struggle against the French. He was appalled by the racist treatment of Algerians and the disparity he witnessed between the living standards of the European colonizers and the indigenous Arab population. He developed a close rapport with the Algerian poor and used group therapy to help, as well study, his patients. There was intellectual ferment too. A major event of 1954 was the publication of Vacation de l’Islam by the Algerian social philosopher Malek Bennabi. Published to synchronize with the outbreak of the Algerian revolution,Vacation de l’Islam presented the radical concept of ‘colonisibilite’: the historical process through which Algeria, and other Muslim countries, declined culturally and intellectual to a stage where colonialism becomes a ‘historical necessity’. Bennabi, who like Fanon spent most of his life struggling against French racism, distinguished between ‘a country simply conquered and occupied and a colonized country’ [1]. The later had lost its own cultural bearings and internalized the idea of the inherent superiority of the colonizing culture. Fanon and Bennabi never met; but it is difficult to imagine their work did not fertilize each other’s thought.

The French response to the 1954 Algerian revolt was brutal, involving torture, killing, physical abuse and barbaric repression. For two years Fanon secretly supported the revolutionaries. Then, in 1956, he resigned his post and openly joined the National Liberation Front (FLN). He moved to Tunis, where he worked for Manouba Clinic and Neuropsychiatric Center and founded the radical magazine Moudjahid(from Jihad, meaning freedom fighter). Soon he acquired a reputation as a leading ideologue of the Algerian revolution. He received many death threats from the French and their sympathizers – which only served to strengthen his resolve. By now, Fanon identified himself as an Algerian. He travelled throughout Africa speaking on behalf of the NLF; and even served as an ambassador to Ghana on behalf of the provisional government of Algeria.

Fanon did not live to see Algeria acquire full independence. While still in Ghana he was diagnosed with leukemia. He went first to the Soviet Union for treatment; and later to the United States. He died in Washington on 6th December 6, 1961.

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