Reclaiming Our Way promoting the well-being of African American children & families


Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans? Then You Know How Wendell Pierce Feels. A Case of Structural Racism.

Structural racism and exploitation.

An important 3-minute listen or read about New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, as shared by Wendell Pierce...

As with nearly all New Orleans natives, Wendell Pierce and his family were devastated by the damage and aftermath of 2005's Hurricane Katrina. In this video, Pierce explains how it wasn't long after the water had receded that the proverbial leeches emerged for the feast.

Insurance companies refused to honor insurance policies. Reconstruction of public housing was delayed in order to force the people who depended on it to find some other city to live in. Myriad institutional procedures and machinations were organized so that local, predominantly African-American residents were excluded from the recovery. There are some who argue that Hurricane Katrina was the best thing to ever happen to the New Orleans because it allowed for rebirth. But which New Orleans are those people talking about?

And through all this ugliness and exclusionary tactics, the national media stayed silent and continues to stay silent.


Ferguson and the DOJ Report: Racism, Denial and the Triumph of Non-Reason

The recent report of the Department of Justice documenting the racially targeted policies and practices of the Ferguson (Missouri) government operation is one of few opportunities this country gets to look at the inner workings of individual, institutional and structural racism. It's not new information by far, as many of us live with some version of this reality on a daily basis, albeit not all of us with this level of overt intensity. Nonetheless, the unique thing here is that it rarely gets documented with this level of detail.

Unfortunately, if the thinking being expressed by some of the white city residents in this Huffington Post article - and at least one running for elected office no less - is par for the course in terms of the general thought pattern of other whites in Ferguson, then it would seem there's a long road to travel if one hopes to reason with them.

One of the sentiments expressed about the recent DOJ report:

"They tried to go after Officer Wilson,” McGrath said in an interview after the debate on Monday, referring to Darren Wilson, the officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9, 2014. “When they couldn’t do that, they went after the city."

It gets better:

"I may be a silly old man in all of this, but I don’t think we have a big race issue here,” he said in an interview after the meeting, which was interrupted several times by other white residents who wanted to thank him and offer their support. “We have an issue with that part of town and they’ve been a bad part of town for a long time, sadly."

And better still:

"A lot of the problems with that report is it’s just statistics,” said McGrath. “If you’re the guy pushing the guy to the hall of fame, you’re going to use the statistics that’s going to make him look like the best basketball player ever, and that’s what the report did."

As a trained researcher, I admit that I have a greater appreciation for data and statistics than most. But whether I like them or not is irrelevant. Statistics are numbers that shed light on a particular phenomenon. Whether you like them or not is of no relevance. They are what they are. They can be used for all kinds of purposes, but if they are accurate, then they are accurate. The numbers don't have feelings.  They just exist. And while they don't tell an entire story, they do tell at least a part of the story.

This resident talks about the data, and more specifically the implications of the data, as if this is about a public opinion contest. The data describing the unconstitutional government operation in Ferguson, Missouri show racial discrimination. Not only a racial disparity in outcome, but the combined statistics and other information collected and reported by the DOJ reveal a deliberate targeting and exploitation of African Americans.

The fact that some people don't recognize this is not a matter of differences in opinion. It's a simple refusal - or perhaps an inability, which has different implications altogether - to understand the use of facts in revealing an aspect of reality one doesn't want to agree with.

This thought process, which isn't unusual (think the racialized debates about President Obama by members of Congress), is the real danger of living in a society where elected officials are elected and public policy is shaped based on ideas about the world people want to believe are true, despite evidence to the contrary.

While the DOJ report is helpful in pushing for institutional policy and practice reforms, the work of undoing this deeper kind of ignorance and racist thinking is far harder, but will continue to be necessary, to ensure some level of justice for our people in this country.

Elected officials shape laws, and neither logic nor morality are a given in the process. Every aspect of our work to undo racism and its deep impact on this society must continue.


How St. Louis County’s Screwed-Up Court System Breeds Resentment


African Americans in the Criminal Justice System – An Infographic

The infographic below appeared on arrestrecords on March 6, 2014, and was generously shared by Ashleigh Bell.  The infographic highlights not only the disproportionate rates of involvement of African Americans with the U.S. criminal justice system, but also the disparate treatment of African Americans by this system.

Also note the set of facts near the very bottom, acknowledging the decline in incarceration rates for African American men and women since 2000.  While we absolutely must continue to reform this nation's sentencing laws and incarceration policies, we also have to be clear about the trends and the progress we're making.

Every day matters.  Every life matters.  We need all of our men and women making a difference and rebuilding our communities on the outside.

This is our work to do!

racism and criminal justice system


Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, The Invisible Weight of Whiteness

Perceptions about race shape everyday experiences, public policies, opportunities for individual achievement, and relations across racial and ethnic lines. URI's Fall Honors Colloquium will explore key issues of race, showing how race still matters.

Speaker Eduardo Bonilla-Silva is a Professor of Sociology at Duke University.

From the University of Rhode Island.  Fall 2010.


Ten Lessons for Taking Leadership on Racial Equity: Aspen Institute

Aspen - Ten lessons for Taking Leadership on Racial Equity_Page_1

This resource might be useful for some of you involved in racial equity work.  It's a March 2013 publication of the Aspen Institute's Roundtable on Community Change.

The Roundtable’s most recent publication distills ten lessons for how to take leadership on the difficult topic of race in America. Based on our ten years of work in this arena, the document is intended to encourage and suggest strategies to people willing to take up the challenge of promoting racial equity and inclusion. It is also meant to counter the fears, reticence and pessimism of those who believe that race is just too hard of a topic to address. Indeed, our experience shows that, when equipped with the right training and tools, there are many people of all races who become inspirational and effective racial equity leaders.

The following are the ten lessons, described in fuller detail in the publication...

  1. Start with Facts and Put Them in Context
  2. Create Safe Spaces for People to Talk about Race and Develop Strategies for Achieving Equity
  3. Emphasize That Today’s Racial Inequities Don’t Depend on Intentional Racism
  4. Counter Stereotypes and Bias
  5. Start by Preaching to the Choir
  6. Explore Contradictions
  7. Engage Leaders with the Greatest Level of Influence
  8. Help People Find Their Roles as Agents of Change
  9. Make Sure It’s Someone’s Job to Focus on the Work of Building Racial Equity
  10. Support One Another and Continuously Cultivate New Leadership

Why Does Racism Still Exist, and Why is it so Persistent?

Racism persists because those who benefit are willing to do anything possible to maintain the current arrangement. At the same time, unfortunately, those who know better don't have that same level of determination, and are thus not equally as organized and active in destroying the current arrangement, not to mention advancing a different arrangement... one that is just and humane.

We should neither over-think nor underestimate the "dilemma" of racism. We must study its origins, its ability to evolve and adapt over time (through people, institutions, and public perceptions), and the real consequences racism continues to produce.

Our will and determination to create a just society cannot be any less than those who are working to maintain the status quo.


Structural Racism Lens - Aspen Institute