Month: June 2020

An Oxford and Harvard Education Doesn’t Stop Racism

Education and good economic standing are not enough to overcome deep, ingrained, systemic racism, as Dr. Tafadzwa Muguwe found out.

As an intern, I received a page from nursing about a belligerent elderly white patient who refused to take evening medications until he spoke to “the doctor.” I walked into the room as staff wrestled him, and the nurse identified me as the doctor who would address his concerns. The patient yelled that he did not want to be seen by a Black person and demanded I leave. I left, humiliated. Despite obvious dementia, the patient — whom I had never met — betrayed a strong visceral reaction towards me.

A patient’s prejudice can ruin my day but does not override my sense of duty towards him or her. The prejudice of a peer or authority figure, on the other hand, is more difficult to navigate.

While applying to residency, I remember huddling with classmates who were applying to the same programs. A classmate remarked that one of us would be a strong applicant because of their Ph.D., then turned in my direction and said I didn’t need to worry because I was Black. Was it incomprehensible to my peers that I could perform just as well or better than them, irrespective of my race? What do my friends think?

Muguwe, Tafadzwa. (2020, June 18). A Dual Degree From Oxford. A Medical Degree From Harvard. Neither Protected Me From Racism. WBUR.

Defund the Terminator Program

This is so perfect.

Don’t get me wrong, we all remember Judgement Day, when the Skynet gained self-awareness and initiated a nuclear holocaust, killing millions. That was a terrible moment in our nation’s history. And the human uprising led by John Connor was definitely justified even though we felt like some of the violence and destruction of Skynet property was a bit unnecessary. But it’s important to remember that Judgement Day was initiated by a few rogue Terminators, and isn’t indicative of a widespread problem with Skynet.

Greaves, Carlos. (2020, June 17). Just Because They’ve Turned Against Humanity Doesn’t Mean We Should Defund the Terminator Program. McSweeny’s.

Tulsa’s Racial History

Particularly relevant given President Trump’s rally in TOklahoma today.

The city where President Trump will hold his first political rally in months sits on the banks of the muddy Arkansas River on land where the Cherokee, Creek and Osage nations once reigned. Tulsa has a fraught racial history that begins with the Trail of Tears in the 19th century and ends with the city’s plan to dig for possible mass graves from a 1921 race massacre. Trump’s appearance on the day after Juneteenth — when black America celebrates the end of slavery — is a reminder of that pain.

Brown, DeNeen L. (2020, June 20). Tulsa’s ugly racial history: From Trail of Tears to deadly 1921 race massacre. The Washington Post.

Foreign Policy and Racism

If the United States is going to heal its society and remain a source of inspiration abroad, it has to publicly and openly embrace self-criticism. Foreign-policy practitioners have to do what was once rare: use their platforms to speak to the American people and audiences abroad about racism and change the way the foreign-policy community operates.

Domestic racism has long undermined U.S. foreign policy. With the civil rights movement coinciding with the dawn of independence in sub-Saharan Africa, national security officials swiftly labeled segregation and racism as threats to U.S. foreign policy toward the region. As the public was to learn years later, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, noted that the situation in Little Rock, Arkansas, was “ruining our foreign policy. The effect of this in Asia and Africa will be worse for us than Hungary was for the Russians.” Officials in John F. Kennedy’s administration were even more forthright: Kennedy adviser (and, later, a senator from Pennsylvania) Harris Wofford advised that racial justice at home would “do more good in promoting good relations with Africa than anything else we can do.” It was infrequent when these sentiments were shared publicly, though Kennedy’s assistant secretary of state for African affairs (and former governor of Michigan), G. Mennen “Soapy” Williams, denounced racism as a “blight on America” in a speech at the University of Oklahoma.

Adkins, Travis L. & Devermont, Judd. (2020, June 19). The Legacy of American Racism at Home and Abroad. Foreign Policy.

This isn’t the first time we’ve linked to an article about how racism impacts foreign policy. Here’s Senator Chris Murphy opining on the same thing.

When Conscience Overcomes Loyalty

“Moments of upheaval can change you, shift the trajectory of your life, and mold your character. The President’s comments and actions surrounding racial injustice and Black Americans cut sharply against my core values and convictions,” Taylor wrote in her resignation letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “I must follow the dictates of my conscience and resign as Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs.”

Min Kim, Seung. (2020, June 18). Top State Department official resigns in protest of Trump’s response to racial tensions in the country. The Washington Post.

The brain drain in the Department of State continues.

In Honor of Juneteenth

Note: This article will be updated through Friday, June 19, 2020.

Final update, 11:55pm, June 19, 2020.

That’s it for our Juneteenth updates. We’ll resume our regular posts on Monday.

(Or we might post on the weekend. Our list of reading material just seems to keep growing.)

Updated 9:46 am, June 19, 2020.

Updated 7:20pm, June 18, 2020.

On June 19, 1865, Union Army General Gordon Granger stood on the balcony of Ashton Villa in Galveston, Texas, and read out the contents of General Order No. 3.

The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.

June 19 – Juneteenth is a portmanteau of June and Nineteenth – is now recognized as a state holiday or ceremonial holida in 49 out of 50 states and Washington, D.C.

In the current climate, observing Juneteenth is even more important and momentous than it has been in the recent past. With that in mind, here is a list of resources to help you commemorate the day

History of Juneteenth

Celebration and Observance

Other Reading/Watching Material

What Anti-Racist Teachers Do Differently

Anti-racist teachers take black students seriously. They create a curriculum with black students in mind, and they carefully read students’ work to understand what they are expressing. This might sound fairly standard, but making black students feel valued goes beyond general “good teaching.” It requires educators to view the success of black students as central to the success of their own teaching. This is a paradigm shift: Instead of only asking black students who are not doing well in class to start identifying with school, we also ask teachers whose black students are not doing well in their classes to start identifying with those students.

McKamey, Pirette. (2020, June 17). What Anti-racist Teachers Do Differently. The Atlantic.

How the Gi Bill Failed Black Veterans of WW II

Though the GI Bill guaranteed low-interest mortgages and other loans, they were not administered by the VA itself. Thus, the VA could cosign, but not actually guarantee the loans. This gave white-run financial institutions free reign to refuse mortgages and loans to black people.

Redlining—a decades-old practice of marking maps by race to characterize the risks of lending money and providing insurance—made purchasing a home even more difficult for black veterans. Lenders froze out poorer neighborhoods, ensuring that loan assistance and insurance would be denied. And new white suburbs often came with overtly racist covenants that denied entry to black people. 

In 1947, only 2 of the more than 3,200 VA-guaranteed home loans in 13 Mississippi cities went to black borrowers. “These impediments were not confined to the South,” notes historian Ira Katznelson. “In New York and the northern New Jersey suburbs, fewer than 100 of the 67,000 mortgages insured by the GI bill supported home purchases by non-whites.”

Blakemore, Erin. (2019, June 21). How the GI Bill’s Promise Was Denied to a Million Black WWII Veterans.

Bias in Traffic Stops and Searches

Going back as far as 1999 when the data was available and as recently as 2018, Stanford’s Open Policing Project quantified what most people of color already knew. An excerpt from one of the publications coming out of that study:

We assessed racial disparities in policing in the United States by compiling and analysing a dataset detailing nearly 100 million traffic stops conducted across the country. We found that black drivers were less likely to be stopped after sunset, when a ‘veil of darkness’ masks one’s race, suggesting bias in stop decisions. Furthermore, by examining the rate at which stopped drivers were searched and the likelihood that searches turned up contraband, we found evidence that the bar for searching black and Hispanic drivers was lower than that for searching white drivers. Finally, we found that legalization of recreational marijuana reduced the number of searches of white, black and Hispanic drivers—but the bar for searching black and Hispanic drivers was still lower than that for white drivers post-legalization. Our results indicate that police stops and search decisions suffer from persistent racial bias and point to the value of policy interventions to mitigate these disparities.

Pierson,Emma, Simoiu,Camelia, Overgoor,Jan, Corbett-Davies,Sam, Jenson,Daniel,
Shoemaker,Amy, Ramachandran,Vignesh, Barghouty,Phoebe, Phillips,Cheryl, Shroff,Ravi and Goel,Sharad. (2020) A large-scale analysis of racial disparities in police stops across the United State. Nature Human Behavior. *

The study itself has some awesome data sets you can manipulate online or download.

It’s also telling that the legalization of marijuana has an impact on the data. Below is the graph showing the disparity of searches and stop before and after legalization.

In Washington and Colorado, far fewer people — both white and minority drivers — are searched overall. However, the racial disparities in searches remain and there is a persistent gap in the threshold for searching white and minority drivers. Source:

* Although I normally try to add these references in as close to APA format as I can, if all the authors of a paper are available, I’m going to post them and not stop at the first 6, as APA dictates. Also, I post the full names of the authors because, well, I think they deserve it.

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