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Black pastor arrested while watering flowers. Racialization Illustrated.

Good morning critical thinkers, seekers of justice, and yearners for liberation from oppressive habits of mind and behavior that lead to, well, oppression. Instructions for today's lesson follow. As always please open your mind, do your best to think logically, note your questions and thoughts for discussion, and yes, of course, there'll be a test. I don't know about you but I'm tested by this nonsense every day.


  1. Please read the following explanation of racialization, the process by which race and racism are produced.

  2. After reading the racialization explanation, please watch this real-life illustration of the racialization process. Advisory: it’s painful to watch. No one gets shot. No one gets thrown to the ground or beaten. No one dies. But someone’s humanity and dignity get severely desecrated.

  3. Cry and rage. It's OK to cry and rage. This atrocity is horrific and infuriating.

  4. Praxis! Praxis! Praxis! What are you going to DO about this?

a. What are you going to say to the person who says, "Well, why didn't he just show

them his license?" especially if that person is you?

b. What are you going to do to break your own racialization habit?

c. What are you going to do to advocate for emancipation from racialization at the

societal level?

5. See me after class if you’re struggling in any way. You deserve support. This is a

hard lesson but you need to learn it.

Racialization explained:

Step 1 - Select a characteristic or characteristics that make it possible to put human beings

in subcategories - typically (but not necessarily) visible characteristics that make

categorization easy. For example, skin color, facial features, or hair texture.

Please take a moment to think about the endless ways we could (and do) subdivide human beings. Skin color, facial features, hair texture, hair color, handedness, where we're from, age, ability, "beauty," gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, worldview…. Please notice how Step 1 is on full display in this video.

Please take a moment to think about why we do that.

Step 2 - Sort humans into subcategories based on the characteristics that serve as

markers of different categories.

This video features people who are divided into human subgroups based on the physical markers of skin color, facial features, and hair texture.

Step 3 - Attribute all sorts of virtues and vices to all people in the subcategories based on

myth, media, what your mom or dad taught you, and maybe even a bad experience

you had with one of them one time a long time ago. For example: “Well, I was

taught that those people are prone to alcoholism; that’s why they drink so much.

Something in their genes just makes them inferior in that way.” “One thing you

can count on from fill-in-the-blank folks is their superior work ethic/stamina/intellect…. Makes ‘em great employees/athletes/leaders….” “I drove

through a fill-in-the-blank neighborhood once by mistake. There’s nothing in me

that would make me want to live like that.” "Those parents never show up for

parent-teacher meeting night. If they show up at all, it's always during the day

when I have other things to do than deal with their anger."

The video demonstrates how prior beliefs (attributions, prejudices) about people sorted into certain subcategories drive behavior.

How do we know that bias-driven behavior is what’s happening? After you’ve watched the video, watch it again and again, and each time you watch it, use your imagination to swap the subcategory of the person who gets abused for one that is not seen as inferior, dangerous, or otherwise worthy of mistreatment. Maybe start with a white-racialized grandmother-looking person (based on prevailing norms for looking like a grandmother). Then try a white-racialized adult male-looking person. Then maybe a 10yo male-looking white-racialized person. Then make that person female-looking. Each time you make a swap, just try to play out in your mind how the police officers might have interacted with each type of person - how the attributes they might hold for each type of person might drive their behavior in different directions.

Step 4 - Essentialize the differences. Believe that what makes the human subgroups

different is fixed, natural, in their bone marrow and DNA, and unchangeable.

When you watch the video, I wonder if you’ll wonder if the police officers, despite any prejudices they might carry about the category they assign to their “suspect,” will override their prejudices based on what they learn about them as an individual human being with their unique characteristics. Spoiler alert: not going to happen. The subcategory differences the officers perceive are not open for alteration, no matter how much corrective evidence is presented. That holds true for you too. This is not exclusive to police officers. No exceptions to the essentialization rule. THEY are not like US and THEY cannot become like US.

Step 5 - Act on the corrupt logic of racialization: THEY have the superficial characteristics WE selected as the criteria for sorting them into different human subgroups with attributes that make them inferior (or superior), and those attributes are essential to who they are. They ain’t never gonna change, so of course, we should act accordingly.

That’s today’s lesson.

It’s tomorrow’s lesson too. Keep at it until you’ve “mastered” it. You’ll have no trouble finding new illustrations.



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