50+ Essay Topics on Racism for students
Why choose racism essay topics for writing purposes .
There are many reasons why someone might choose to write an essay on racism. For some, it may be a way to explore their own personal experiences with racism. Others may want to raise awareness about the issue, or explore the history of racism in America. Whatever the reason, there are a number of potential essay topics to choose from. One potential topic is to explore the origins of racism in America. This could include a discussion of the slave trade, and how racism has been perpetuated throughout history. Another possibility is to discuss the current state of racism in America. This could include a discussion of the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, and how racism is still a very real problem in our country. No matter what topic you choose, it is important to remember that your essay should be well-researched and well-written. Be sure to support your claims with evidence, and be sure to cite your sources. With a little effort, you can write a compelling and thought-provoking essay on racism.
How To Choose Racism Essay Topics?
There are a lot of racism essay topics to choose from. However, it can be difficult to decide which one to write about. Here are some tips to help you choose the right topic for your essay:
- Pick a topic that you are passionate about.
- Choose a topic that you know something about.
- Make sure the topic is something that you can research.
- Be sure to choose a topic that is controversial.
- Be sure to choose a topic that is interesting to you.
Best Essay Topics on Racism
- Racism is a social construct that has been used to justify discrimination and violence against certain groups of people
- Racism is a form of discrimination that is based on the belief that one race is superior to another.
- Racism can be manifested in the form of individual prejudice, institutional discrimination, or hate crimes.
- Racism is often used as a justification for xenophobic and anti-immigrant sentiment.
- Racism has a long history in the United States, dating back to the colonial era.
- Racism is a global problem that affects people of all races and ethnicities.
- The rise of Donald Trump and the alt-right has emboldened racists and white supremacists in the United States.
- The Black Lives Matter movement has brought renewed attention to the problem of racism in America.
- Racism is a complex issue that cannot be solved overnight.
- Education is key to combating racism and promoting social justice.
Good Racism Research Topics
- Racism in America: A History from Slavery to Today
- The Impact of Racism on African Americans
- Racism and Discrimination in the Workplace
- The School-to-Prison Pipeline: How Racism Contributes to the Mass Incarceration of African Americans
- The Role of Media in Promoting Racism
- The Impact of Racism on Mental Health
- Racism and the Criminal Justice System
- How has racism changed over time?
- What are the different forms of racism?
- How does racism affect people?
- What are the causes of racism?
- How can racism be prevented?
- What are the consequences of racism?
- What are the solutions to racism?
- Is racism a global problem?
- How does racism affect society?
- What is the history of racism?
Easy Racism Essay Topics
- The history of racism and its impact on society.
- The different forms of racism and their effects on individuals and society.
- The role of race in shaping individual and group identity.
- The ways in which racism is perpetuated through institutional policies and practices.
- The impact of racism on economic, social, and political life.
- The challenges of living in a racially diverse society.
- The role of the media in perpetuating or challenging racism.
- The impact of racism on personal relationships.
- The role of education in combating racism.
- The challenges of addressing racism in the workplace.
Research Questions About Racism
- How has racism impacted the lives of people of color in the United States?
- What are the origins of racism in the United States?
- How has racism changed over time in the United States?
- What are the current manifestations of racism in the United States?
- How do people of color experience racism in the United States?
- What are the psychological effects of racism on people of color in the United States?
- What are the economic effects of racism on people of color in the United States?
- What are the educational effects of racism on people of color in the United States?
- What are the health effects of racism on people of color in the United States?
- What are the social effects of racism on people of color in the United States?
Argumentative essay topics about racism
- Racism is a major problem in our society today and it needs to be addressed.
- Racism is a major barrier to social cohesion and harmony.
- Racism is a major cause of discrimination and prejudice.
- Racism is a major source of tension and conflict in our society.
Topics about racism for essay
- Racism as a social problem.
- The history of racism and its impact on society..
- Racism in the criminal justice system.
- The different forms of racism.
- Racism in the media.
- The causes of racism.
- Racism in the workplace.
- The effects of racism on individuals and society.
- Racism in education.
- Racism and its impact on mental health.
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The Heart of the Uprising in Minneapolis , by Luke Mogelson. New Yorker , June 15, 2020.
A look at how the response to the murder of George Floyd is connected to the history and future of the black community in Minneapolis.
1619 Project , New York Times 2019.
A series of essays that examine the ongoing legacy of slavery from economics to health care to politics.
Making Black Lives Matter in the Mall of America , by Erik Forman. New Inquiry , June 3, 2016.
A look at how race and labor intersect with modern commerce.
The Case for Reparations , by Ta-Nehesi Coates. The Atlantic , June 2014.
How the historic debts from slavery, Jim Crow laws, housing discrimination and unequal pay must be redressed.
How to Cool It , by James Baldwin. Esquire , July 1968.
A classic essay that, sadly, could have been written about current circumstances – racism, police brutality, and unequal opportunities for Black America.
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Hear Something, Say Something: Navigating The World Of Racial Awkwardness
Listen to this week's episode.
We've all been there — having fun relaxing with friends and family, when someone says something a little racially off. Sometimes it's subtle, like the friend who calls Thai food "exotic." Other times it's more overt, like that in-law who's always going on about "the illegals."
In any case, it can be hard to know how to respond. Even the most level-headed among us have faltered trying to navigate the fraught world of racial awkwardness.
So what exactly do you do? We delve into the issue on this week's episode of the Code Switch podcast, featuring writer Nicole Chung and Code Switch's Shereen Marisol Meraji, Gene Demby and Karen Grigsby Bates.
We also asked some folks to write about what runs through their minds during these tense moments, and how they've responded (or not). Their reactions ran the gamut from righteous indignation to total passivity, but in the wake of these uncomfortable comments, everyone seemed to walk away wishing they'd done something else.
Aaron E. Sanchez
It was the first time my dad visited me at college, and he had just dropped me off at my dorm. My suitemate walked in and sneered.
"Was that your dad?" he asked. "He looks sooo Mexican."
Aaron E. Sanchez is a Texas-based writer who focuses on issues of race, politics and popular culture from a Latino perspective. Courtesy of Aaron Sanchez hide caption
He kept laughing about it as he left my room.
I was caught off-guard. Instantly, I grew self-conscious, not because I was ashamed of my father, but because my respectability politics ran deep. My appearance was supposed to be impeccable and my manners unimpeachable to protect against stereotypes and slights. I felt exposed.
To be sure, when my dad walked into restaurants and stores, people almost always spoke to him in Spanish. He didn't mind. The fluidity of his bilingualism rarely failed him. He was unassuming. He wore his working-class past on his frame and in his actions. He enjoyed hard work and appreciated it in others. Yet others mistook him for something altogether different.
People regularly confused his humility for servility. He was mistaken for a landscape worker, a janitor, and once he sat next to a gentleman on a plane who kept referring to him as a "wetback." He was a poor Mexican-American kid who grew up in the Segundo Barrio of El Paso, Texas, for certain. But he was also an Air Force veteran who had served for 20 years. He was an electrical engineer, a proud father, an admirable storyteller, and a pretty decent fisherman.
I didn't respond to my suitemate. To him, my father was a funny caricature, a curio he could pick up, purchase and discard. And as much as it was hidden beneath my elite, liberal arts education, I was a novelty to him too, an even rarer one at that. Instead of a serape, I came wrapped in the trappings of middle-classness, a costume I was trying desperately to wear convincingly.
That night, I realized that no clothing or ill-fitting costume could cover us. Our bodies were incongruous to our surroundings. No matter how comfortable we were in our skins, our presence would make others uncomfortable.
Karen Good Marable
When the Q train pulled into the Cortelyou Road station, it was dark and I was tired. Another nine hours in New York City, working in the madness that is Midtown as a fact-checker at a fashion magazine. All day long, I researched and confirmed information relating to beauty, fashion and celebrity, and, at least once a day, suffered an editor who was openly annoyed that I'd discovered an error. Then, the crush of the rush-hour subway, and a dinner obligation I had to fulfill before heading home to my cat.
Karen Good Marable is a writer living in New York City. Her work has been featured in publications like The Undefeated and The New Yorker. Courtesy of Karen Good Marable hide caption
The train doors opened and I turned the corner to walk up the stairs. Coming down were two girls — free, white and in their 20s . They were dancing as they descended, complete with necks rolling, mouths pursed — a poor affectation of black girls — and rapping as they passed me:
Now I ain't sayin she a golddigger/But she ain't messin' with no broke niggas!
That last part — broke niggas — was actually less rap, more squeals that dissolved into giggles. These white girls were thrilled to say the word publicly — joyously, even — with the permission of Kanye West.
I stopped, turned around and stared at them. I envisioned kicking them both squarely in their backs. God didn't give me telekinetic powers for just this reason. I willed them to turn around and face me, but they did not dare. They bopped on down the stairs and onto the platform, not evening knowing the rest of the rhyme.
Listen: I'm a black woman from the South. I was born in the '70s and raised by parents — both educators — who marched for their civil rights. I never could get used to nigga being bandied about — not by the black kids and certainly not by white folks. I blamed the girls' parents for not taking over where common sense had clearly failed. Hell, even radio didn't play the nigga part.
I especially blamed Kanye West for not only making the damn song, but for having the nerve to make nigga a part of the damn hook.
Life in NYC is full of moments like this, where something happens and you wonder if you should speak up or stay silent (which can also feel like complicity). I am the type who will speak up . Boys (or men) cussing incessantly in my presence? Girls on the train cussing around my 70-year-old mama? C'mon, y'all. Do you see me? Do you hear yourselves? Please. Stop.
But on this day, I just didn't feel like running down the stairs to tap those girls on the shoulder and school them on what they damn well already knew. On this day, I just sighed a great sigh, walked up the stairs, past the turnstiles and into the night.
When I was 5 or 6, my mother asked me a question: "Does anyone ever make fun of you for the color of your skin?"
This surprised me. I was born to a Mexican woman who had married an Anglo man, and I was fairly light-skinned compared to the earth-brown hue of my mother. When she asked me that question, I began to understand that I was different.
Robyn Henderson-Espinoza is a visiting assistant professor of ethics at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif. Courtesy of Robyn Henderson-Espinoza hide caption
Following my parents' divorce in the early 1980s, I spent a considerable amount of time with my father and my paternal grandparents. One day in May of 1989, I was sitting at my grandparents' dinner table in West Texas. I was 12. The adults were talking about the need for more laborers on my grandfather's farm, and my dad said this:
"Mexicans are lazy."
He called the undocumented workers he employed on his 40 acres "wetbacks." Again and again, I heard from him that Mexicans always had to be told what to do. He and friends would say this when I was within earshot. I felt uncomfortable. Why would my father say these things about people like me?
But I remained silent.
It haunts me that I didn't speak up. Not then. Not ever. I still hear his words, 10 years since he passed away, and wonder whether he thought I was a lazy Mexican, too. I wish I could have found the courage to tell him that Mexicans are some of the hardest-working people I know; that those brown bodies who worked on his property made his lifestyle possible.
As I grew in experience and understanding, I was able to find language that described what he was doing: stereotyping, undermining, demonizing. I found my voice in the academy and in the movement for black and brown lives.
Still, the silence haunts me.
My 20s were defined in no small part by a friendship with a guy I never met. For years, over email and chat, we shared everything with each other, and we made great jokes. Those jokes — made for each other only — were a foundational part of our relationship and our identities. No matter what happened, we could make each other laugh.
Channing Kennedy is an Oakland-based writer, performer, media producer and racial equity trainer. Courtesy of Channing Kennedy hide caption
It helped, also, that we were slackers with spare time, but eventually we both found callings. I started working in the social justice sector, and he gained recognition in the field of indie comics. I was proud of my new job and approached it seriously, if not gracefully. Before I took the job, I was the type of white dude who'd make casually racist comments in front of people I considered friends. Now, I had laid a new foundation for myself and was ready to undo the harm I'd done pre-wokeness.
And I was proud of him, too, if cautious. The indie comics scene is full of bravely offensive work: the power fantasies of straight white men with grievances against their nonexistent censors, put on defiant display. But he was my friend, and he wouldn't fall for that.
One day he emailed me a rough script to get my feedback. At my desk, on a break from deleting racist, threatening Facebook comments directed at my co-workers, I opened it up for a change of pace.
I got none. His script was a top-tier, irredeemable power fantasy — sex trafficking, disability jokes, gendered violence, every scene's background packed with commentary-devoid, racist caricatures. It also had a pop culture gag on top, to guarantee clicks.
I asked him why he'd written it. He said it felt "important." I suggested he shelve it. He suggested that that would be a form of censorship. And I realized this: My dear friend had created a racist power fantasy about dismembering women, and he considered it bravely offensive.
I could have said that there was nothing brave about catering to the established tastes of other straight white comics dudes. I could have dropped any number of half-understood factoids about structural racism, the finishing move of the recently woke. I could have just said the jokes were weak.
Instead, I became cruel to him, with a dedication I'd previously reserved for myself.
Over months, I redirected every bit of our old creativity. I goaded him into arguments I knew would leave him shaken and unable to work. I positioned myself as a surrogate parent (so I could tell myself I was still a concerned ally) then laughed at him. I got him to escalate. And, privately, I told myself it was me who was under attack, the one with the grievance, and I cried about how my friend was betraying me.
I wanted to erase him (I realized years later) not because his script offended me, but because it made me laugh. It was full of the sense of humor we'd spent years on — not the jokes verbatim, but the pacing, structure, reveals, go-to gags. It had my DNA and it was funny. I thought I had become a monster-slayer, but this comic was a monster with my hands and mouth.
After years as the best of friends and as the bitterest of exes, we finally had a chance to meet in person. We were little more than acquaintances with sunk costs at that point, but we met anyway. Maybe we both wanted forgiveness, or an apology, or to see if we still had some jokes. Instead, I lectured him about electoral politics and race in a bar and never smiled.
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110 Racism Essay Topics
Racism is an emotionally charged subject for many people, yet its historical and cultural impact cannot be understated. This makes racism topics one of the more challenging essays to compose. As the author, you run the risk of inflaming the reader when the goal is to connect with them in a way that generates awareness or potentially invites them to reexamine their opinion.
One of the best ways to compose an essay about a racist topic is to look for an idea that you can defend with valid arguments, research, and sound justifications. This is especially important if you are trying to persuade the reader to adopt your point of view.
Tips For Writing a Racism Topic Essay
The following tips and structural recommendations can help guide you through the process of writing a successful essay about racism. The process starts with thoroughly researching the topic at hand, which can be challenging if you already have a strong opinion about the topic. Though thoroughly research will better arm you to make a strong and well-supported argument.
When writing an essay about a racist topic it is often best to use a third-person point of view. This makes it easier for you to present the argument objectively, while also reducing the risk of the reader becoming emotionally charged about the topic. If you need to offer up supporting facts in your argument, make sure to quote them directly. Be sure to include all key information including the name of the person or institution that provided the information. This makes it clear that you are not stating your own personal opinion or influence.
The structure of an essay on racism should follow the typical five-paragraph structure used by many successful essays. This includes an introduction with a strong thesis statement, as well as three supporting paragraphs in the body of the essay, and a strong conclusion. It’s important that each of the body paragraphs, each one should have its own distinct point and they should flow in a way that offers up evidence to support your opinion.
The introduction of your essay on racism should directly state the topic while also offering up a potential answer. Ideally, you want to address the reader directly to engage them in expanding their awareness of the topic or potentially reexamining their own point of view. It helps to use authoritative language without sounding inflammatory or derogatory. You want the reader to feel that you are talking to them not down at them.
The last sentence of two of your introduction needs to include a strong “Thesis Statement.” This should be a sentence or two that support the topic. It should also flow into the first point you will cover in the first body paragraph.
The first paragraph of your racism essay needs to connect to the thesis statement while also offering supporting evidence. Ideally, you want to use a connecting phrase such as “One of the root causes of this,” or “New research indicates.” You then need to follow up this statement with an outside quote or a relevant, credible source. The end of your first body paragraph should also have a statement that leads to the second paragraph.
The second paragraph of your essay on racism should offer up a second supporting piece of evidence to clearly identify it as a separate entity. It’s best to use transition words at the start of the second paragraph such as “Next” “In addition,” or “Another cause is.” Then finish the second paragraph with a statement that helps it transition to your third point.
Your third body paragraph should also start with a transition phrase. This paragraph should also note the consequences that could arise if the racism topic is not addressed conscientiously. This paragraph should also end with a sentence or two that links to the conclusion.
The conclusion of your essay on racism needs to have an assertive tone without being aggressive. The goal is to win the reader over to your original thesis and include a “Call to action” or a “Call to Reexamine.” You want to invite the reader to consider the topic in an objective way that wins them over to your original point of view.
Choosing the right topic for your racism essay can be challenging. Such an emotionally charged genre can stir up feelings of controversy that have the potential to overwhelm the sound reasons behind it. If you are struggling to choose an essay topic, you might want to peruse the following list to see if there are one or two that you can connect with.
- Did President Obama’s legacy open the door for more African American Presidents in the future?
- Is Michelle Obama one of the most beloved first ladies of all time?
- The legacy of George Washington Carver.
- Why do so many African American’s still bear their slave-owners’ last names?
- The legacy of Malcolm X.
- The legacy of Muhamad Ali.
- Why is it easier for Bruce Jenner to change his name, but so hard for Cassius Clay?
- The legacy of Native American boarding schools
- General Custer’s folly.
- The legacy left behind by Japanese internment camps.
- Are white males being discriminated against due to the sins of their ancestors?
- The legacy left by the murder of Emmitt Till?
- Should Mamie Till be honored more during Black History Month?
- Should the living descendants of freed slaves be paid reparations today?
- Did unfettered alcoholism in the Mid-Atlantic South play a role in the brutality of slavery?
- Should Sally Hemmings have been named a part of Thomas Jefferson’s estate?
- Should the German people of today pay reparation to Israel for the Holocaust?
- The lasting legacy of Harriet Tubman.
- Does the infidelity of Martin Luther King Jr. diminish his historical legacy on the fight for racial justice?
- Has the Diaspora strengthened or weakened the Armenia heritage & culture?
- Did the sexual revolution of the 1960s help to bridge the gap between Caucasian and African American women?
- Have the Tuskegee Airmen and other African American units in World War Two received the recognition they deserve?
- Who were the most influential leaders of the Black Power movement?
- Was European Colonialism and the Triangle Trade the driving force of racism in the New World?
- Should Memorials & Statues of Confederate Leaders be torn down or preserved to immortalize the follies of the past?
- How did Apartheid influence the economy of South Africa?
- Do the works of Charles Darwin promote racism or dispel it?
- If they had been alive during that time, do you think Southern Presidents of the United States like Thomas Jefferson would have supported the Confederacy during the Civil War?
- Was Andrew Johnson’s failure to rebuild the South after the Civil War a root cause that kept racism alive.
- Why was there such a delay in making Juneteenth a Federally recognized holiday?
Current Cultural Racism Topics
- Does change the names of sports franchises like Washington DC’s football team, and Cleveland baseball team dimmish the historical legacy of their franchises?
- Does African American’s using the “N-Word” keep the slur alive in our modern vernacular.
- Is Dave Chapelle a racist, activist, or just an entertainer?
- Should Richard Pryor be remembered during black history month?
- Should violence against Jewish people be considered a hate crime?
- Is the Confederate Flag a symbol of racism or a historical relic?
- Was the Dukes of Hazard a racist TV series?
- Has the legacy of George Floyd helped reduce incidents of police brutality?
- Do protests on racial injustice go too far when community looting and arson occur?
- Should the descendants of Native Hawaiians be given the same rights & land as Native Americans on the Mainland?
- Was OJ Simpson’s acquittal in the murder of Nicole Brown influenced by his race?
- Did the murder of George Floyd replace the legacy of the Rodney King riots of 1992?
- Should slander remarks made about Jewish people be classified as “Hate Speech.”
- Is toxic black masculinity real?
- Are ethnic foodways discriminated against to the same degree as differences in ethnicity?
Sports & Athletics
- The impact of Jackie Robinson’s legacy on professional sports.
- Should college coaches who have a history of mistreating players based on their race be banned from employment in professional sports?
- The majority of football, baseball, and basketball players are of African American descent, yet there is only a small percentage of minority coaches in the major sports, why?
- Is enough being done to create pipelines for people of color to hold executive positions in professional sports?
- Should the song Lift Every Voice & Sing be sung at all major sporting events along with the US National anthem?
- Is enough being done to create a pipeline for Asian athletes to play on sports teams that are predominantly white or African American?
- Should more Caucasian professional athletes use their platform to fight racism?
- Is there wage discrimination based on race in professional sports?
- Does racism exist in European sports the way it is in American Sports?
- Is Joe Louis as recognized for breaking boxing’s color barrier as Jackie Robinson is for breaking baseball’s color barrier?
- Should Critical Race Theory be taught in schools?
- Does the current education system contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline?
- Is enough being done to prohibit hate speech in public schools?
- Should private schools be allowed to set their own rules regarding discrimination, hate speech, and racism within their walls?
- Did the Supreme Court rule correctly in Brown vs the Board of Education?
- Do schools in predominantly white communities have better access to technology and education resources compared to schools in communities that are predominantly populated by people of color?
- Should school plays that portray Civil War Confederate Heroes like Robert E. Lee be banned?
- Does decreased access to technology affect the academic performance of children of color?
- What is the “Banality of Racism” in education?
- Was segregating the schools by race a good idea with the bad implementation or a bad idea on the whole?
- Is the movie White Men Can’t Jump racist?
- What is the underlying message of American History X?
- Will the TV series Roots have the same cultural impact on the next generation as it has on the current generation?
- What was the cultural influence of William Shatner kissing Nichelle Nichols?
- Does the use of the “N-Word” in movies promote its use in real-life?
- Are there racial barriers in Hollywood, Oscars & Academy Awards?
- Do Caucasian actors need to demonstrate more allyship in the entertainment industry?
- Should actors with antisemitic behavior, like Mel Gibson, be banned by the screen actors guild?
- Do actors and celebrities have a duty to allyship against racism as part of their platform?
- Is there an active bias against casting minorities in movies and TV shows?
Ethical Topics on Racism
- Why is racism considered immoral today, but wasn’t before the mid-1800s?
- Are the protests of Black Lives Matter helping to end racism or entrenching racists from seeing the error of their ways?
- Should racism be considered a form of mental illness?
- Is Islamophobia a form of racism or a legitimate phobia?
- Is the term “Third World” a racist term, or simply outdated jargon?
- Is Allyship a critical component for ending racism in the long term?
- If you see a hate crime being committed are you morally obligated to try to stop it?
- Is the term “Irishness” another form of racism?
- Is the differentiation of cultural differences and folkways a form of racism?
- How has aboriginal racism affected the history of Australia?
- Is social kin bias the underlying cause of racism?
- Is the Ancient Greek philosophy of barbarism an influential force on racism today?
- Do Christians have an ethical duty to speak out against antisemitism?
- In a community where lynching has occurred, are the people who fail to act to prevent it morally culpable as accessories to the crime?
- Is it the responsibility of the community to oust hate groups like the Klu Klux Klan?
Racism in the Legal System
- African American males are 10 times more likely to resist arrest than Caucasian males, is this due to them essentially resisting police brutality, or are other factors at play?
- What is the driving force of racial police brutality?
- Is defunding the police an effective way to end racial police brutality?
- Does police brutality exist for other ethnicities other than African Americans?
- Do prisons treat Caucasians differently than other ethnic groups?
- Should prisons be segregated by race?
- What can be done to create pathways for more minority judges to take the bench?
- Does Islamophobia separate minority populations in prison?
- Is enough being done in the legal system to deter and punish hate crimes?
- Should there be a zero-tolerance policy for racially biased police brutality?
Social Media Topics
- Does social media have a positive or negative effect on racism?
- Does TikTok allow racist behavior on their platform challenges?
- Does social kin bias affect racist behavior on social media
- Should social media ban using their platforms to organize racist gatherings
- Twitter has become a platform for racist messaging without consequences to the user or Twitter as a company.
- Should there be a filter for memes that contain racist messaging?
- Would banning racist messaging on social media be a violation of the right to free speech?
- Has the rise of social media allowed racism to spread beyond traditional regional borders?
- Should there be stronger laws against hate speech geared to limit the influence of social media?
- Would the murder of George Floyd have gained national and even international attention without the influence of social media?
These are 110 rasism essay topic ideas that we have prepared for you. We hope that you find our list useful for your work.
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Lead Essay—Institutional Racism, Whiteness, and the Role of Critical Bioethics
Alfred Deakin Institute, Faculty of Arts and Education, Deakin University, Geelong, VIC Australia
Institutional racism can be defined as differential access to power, resources, and opportunities by race that further entrenches privilege and oppression (Paradies 2016 ). Along with similar concepts such as systemic, structural, cultural, and societal racism, this form of racism profoundly shapes almost all aspects of our lives, including health and healthcare (Williams, Lawrence, and Davis 2019 ). Yet, racism more broadly and institutional racism in particular has been a neglected subject in bioethical discourse and scholarship (Danis, Wilson, and White 2016 ).
Bioethics has the potential to make important contributions to anti-racist programmes and strategies addressing institutional racism, yet as scholars have argued, the “whiteness” of bioethics undermines its capacity to attend to institutionalized forms of racism (Mayes 2020 ; Russell 2016 ; Danis, Wilson, and White 2016 ). Catherine Myser argues that bioethics depends on social and ethical theories that normalize whiteness and that “we risk repeatedly re-inscribing white privilege—white supremacy even—into the very theoretical structures and methods we create as tools to identify and manage ethical issues in biomedicine” (Myser 2003 , 2). As such, whiteness not only contributes to bioethical problems such as discriminatory patient care, but it shapes the reality of what is considered an ethical problem and the way bioethicists think ethically about such problems.
To address institutional racism, and the compounding problem of whiteness, we need a bioethics that is reflexive and critical of whiteness and its relationship with institutional racism. This symposium brings together scholars and researchers from a variety of disciplines to examine how racism has been institutionalized in healthcare, how whiteness manifests in healthcare, and what bioethics can contribute towards anti-racism.
In October 2019, we invited researchers to consider the following questions:
- What are the historical and material processes that contributed to the institutionalization of racism in medicine and healthcare settings?
- What role can Indigenous knowledges play in de-centering whiteness and addressing racism?
- Does bioethics have a role in addressing racism or is it too entangled with histories of racism and whiteness?
The articles in this issue respond to these questions and articulate the affective dimension of race in clinical spaces, the economic and social costs of racialized health inequalities, the continuing effects of colonialism and complicity of bioethics in institutional racism.
The context in which this issue came together should also be noted. By early 2020, COVID-19 was quickly emerging as a global pandemic. In May 2020, the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers re-ignited Black Lives Matter protests globally. Racism associated with the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted minority groups worldwide, exacerbating pre-existing social, economic, and health vulnerabilities within an environment of populism, rampant neo-liberal capitalism, resurgent exclusionary ethno-nationalism, and retreating internationalism (Elias et al. 2020 ). These events prompted medical journals to publish editorials addressing the medical consequences of racism and highlighted the entanglement of medical institutions with racism (Hardeman, Medina, and Boyd 2020 ; Bond et al. 2020 ). Bioethicists also began to reflect on whether bioethics was complicit with institutional racism and racialized health disparities, in addition to questioning the silence of bioethics on issues of racial justice and re-thinking the role of bioethics in society (Mithani, Cooper, and Boyd 2020 ).
Many of the authors in this symposium were actively involved in organizing and responding to the racialized impacts of COVID-19. Some were also actively engaged in Black Lives Matter protests and events. We commend the authors for researching and writing under these conditions and extend our gratitude to the anonymous peer reviewers and editorial team at the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry who worked under these conditions.
Overview of the Issue
This symposium opens with an article from Yolonda Wilson arguing for the need to broaden the role and scope of bioethics to address contemptuous racism, which she defines as “disdain for the contemned patient that cannot be overcome” (Wilson 2021 , ¶6). Part of this broadening involves taking the social determinants of health seriously and recognizing the role racism plays in determining health outcomes. Wilson also argues that bioethics needs to be based on a commitment to justice that centres anti-racism.
Like Wilson’s attention to contempt, Belinda Borell critically examines the role of emotion in hospital spaces and the value placed on stoic ideals of individualism and controlled emotion. Borell argues the stoic ideal can make “hospitals emotionally unsafe spaces for Māori and other groups who place high importance in the collective sharing of emotion” (Borell 2021 , “Abstract”). Borell contends that bioethicists need to contribute to anti-racist interventions that “reclaim emotion as a measure of health” (Borell 2021 , “Conclusion”).
Bryan Mukandi’s paper draws on literature, art, and philosophy to reveal the function and effects of the racialized gaze in the clinical context. Mukandi outlines “a Canaanite reading” “to draw some of the lines that mark the Black person’s experience of the medical system” (Mukandi 2021 , ¶5). The lines that Mukandi tangles and disentangles serve to challenge bioethical thinking and writing, as well as critically analyses medical power and the way it denotes who is seen and who can speak in clinical spaces.
A series of articles expand the focus from the clinical to the institutional, constitutional, and legislative contexts. Amanuel Elias and Yin Paradies ( 2021 ) use a multidisciplinary approach to highlight the variety of costs associated with racism at the institutional level. They demonstrate that institutional racism imposes both social and economic costs that have significant ethical implications, such as avoidable disparities in healthcare, which to-date have beeng neglected by bioethicists.
Heather Came, Maria Baker, and Tim McCreanor ( 2021 ) provide a conceptual article that explores the Matike Mai Aotearoa report on constitutional transformation in New Zealand as a novel means to address structural racism within the health system. They argue that “constitutional transformation and decolonization are potentially powerful ethical sources of disruption to whiteness and structural racism,” which can help “to eliminate entrenched health disparities” (Came, Baker, and McCreanor 2021 , “Abstract”).
Thailia Anthony and Harry Blagg draw on Giorgio Agamben’s biopolitical theory to argue that settler-colonial legal and medical institutions rendered First Nations peoples as “bare life”; that is, lives “unworthy of the standard of care we owe to human beings” (Anthony and Blagg 2021 , “Aboriginal Deaths in Custody: Settler Colonial Thanatopower”). These institutions operate with and produce a “regime of truth” that denigrate Indigenous peoples, knowledges, and their bodies. Anthony and Blagg argue for a decolonizing bioethics that rethinks the colonial truths about Indigenous people, which results in the health system’s discriminatory disregard for their lives.
Chelsea Bond, David Singh, and Claudette Tyson offer a powerful article that centre stories as told by Black people that “bring Black bodies into full focus and serve as testaments to the racial violence that is meted out in the absence of care” (Bond, Singh, and Tyson 2021 , “Introduction” ¶5). They highlight the failure of bioethics and the assumed beneficence of Indigenous health research agendas to take Indigenous sovereignty and the experiences of black bodies more seriously. They argue that “the extent to which a radical bioethics can be put to service in the name of more just outcomes is dependent upon bringing Black bodies and lives into full view” (Bond, Singh, and Tyson 2021 , “Background” ¶5).
Warwick Anderson offers an insightful set of reflections on his career as a medical anthropologist and historian. Anderson notes the way ethical regimes that govern research have shifted over time and have been shaped by a (white) bioethical judgement that has an imperative for “white universal” or global application of ethical protocols. Anderson contends that we need a more flexible understanding of ethics and argues “we should recognize others as ethical agents and authorities, not just as moral subjects. We need wide-ranging bioethical reasoning, but must it be a white mythology?” (Anderson 2021 , ¶10).
In his review essay of Catherine Mills’s Biopolitics ( 2016 ) and Camisha Russell’s Assisted Reproduction of Race ( 2016 ) Christopher Mayes shows how biopolitical theory and critical philosophy of race can be useful in looking at bioethical problems from a new perspective that opens up different kinds of analyses, particularly around historically embedded problems like institutional racism and the legacies of colonialism in healthcare (Mayes 2021 ).
The symposium concludes with a provocation by Camisha Russell ( 2021 ) that bioethicists need to help scientists think about race. We sought responses from Mandy Truong and Mienah Sharif ( 2021 ) who argued that bioethics and public health can collectively advance scientific efforts towards addressing racism; and from Tessa Moll ( 2021 ) who recounted issues of medical mistrust and enduring racism in South Africa.
In 2016, John Hoberman argued that “[b]ioethicists have not embraced the opportunity to create a sociologically and historically informed bioethics that might be applied to the lives of [racial minorities] and their unending health crisis” (Hoberman 2016 , 13). Indeed, the issue of institutional racism represents a long overdue topic of interest that requires attention within the discipline. We hope that this symposium may provide some impetus to explore the possibilities for bioethics to address institutional racism more broadly and to be more aware of, and attenuate, its influence within bioethical thinking and research. More profoundly, there is a need to engage with decolonial ways of thinking, doing, and being that de-centre and rupture the largely unexamined foundations of whiteness within bioethics.
Chris Mayes receives funding from the Australian Research Council (DE170100550).
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Christopher Mayes, Email: [email protected] .
Yin Paradies, Email: [email protected] .
Amanuel Elias, Email: [email protected] .
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A social essay on special issues facing poor women of color
- 1 Gordshaw Professional Health and Development Services, Inc., Montgomery, AL 36116.
- PMID: 3448823
- DOI: 10.1300/j013v12n03_13
Race, gender, and socioeconomic status place poor women of color in triple jeopardy for subservience. Racism, sexism, impoverishment, and discrimination in a variety of services serve to deny poor women of color the opportunities in education, occupations, income, and health services that are afforded other groups in this country. This paper shows that the fight for civil rights is also one for preventive and quality, accessible and comprehensive care for those who suffer most: poor women of color, and that until this nation is purged of these egregious and reprehensible forces, the goal of a true democracy will continue to elude us.
- Educational Status
- Ethnicity* / psychology
- Health Planning
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- Minority Groups* / psychology
- Public Policy
- Social Conditions
- Student Dropouts
- United States
- Women* / psychology
Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project
- Segregated Seattle
- Seattle's Ethnic Press
- Civil Rights Groups
- Photo Collections
- Films and Slide Shows
- For Teachers
- Video Oral Histories
- Black Panther Party History and Memory Project
- Filipino Cannery Unionism
- LGBTQ Activism in Seattle History Project
- United Construction Workers Project
- Chicano Movement in Washington State Project
- Asian American Movement
- KKK in Washington State
- CORE Campaigns 1960s
- Black Student Union at UW
- 1907 Bellingham Riots
- Farm Workers in Washington State Project
- 1919 General Strike Project
- By Date and Subject
- African American issues
- Asian American issues
- Latino issues
- LGBTQ issues
- Urban Indian issues
- Women’s issues
These in-depth essays explore fascinating issues and incidents. Each is fully illustrated with photos and newspaper articles. Graduate and undergraduate students in History and Labor Studies at the University of Washington produced many of these articles.
From Women’s Rights to Women’s Liberation: The Second-Wave Feminist Movement in Washington State by Hope Morris
- Prior to 1969, very few women were represented in significant positions of influence in Washington State, and yet by 1977 the state had legalized abortion, ratified the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), and eliminated numerous laws discriminating on the basis of sex, making it one of the most progressive states on women’s issues in the nation. This remarkable achievement was enabled by the two distinct wings of the feminist movement who took advantage of the social and political opportunities available to them.
Ernesto Mangaoang and the Right to Be: The Fight for Filipino-American Belonging in the United States by Noelle Morrison
- Arrested in 1949 and facing deportation, Ernesto Mangaoang’s four-year fight to remain in the country he had entered legally twenty-seven years earlier resulted in a landmark court decision that clarified the status of 70,000 Filipino Americans who had immigrated during the era of US colonial occupation of the Philippines.
Employing Racism: Black Miners, the Knights of Labor, and Company Tactics in the Coal Towns of Washington by Jourdan Marshall
- The armed clash between White and Black miners in the coal towns of Washington State in 1891, revealed a side of the Knights of Labor and a history of corporate manipulation of racism that is not well known. The Knights welcomed Black workers in most states, but not in Washington. After first targeting Chinese workers in the 1880s, the KOL turned against Black miners.
Immigrant Rights Protests in Washington State, Spring 2006 by Katherine Cavanaugh
- In hundreds of cities and towns, immigrant workers, Latinx students and other Americans took to the streets in the Spring of 2006 to protest a draconian immigration restriction bill that had passed the House of Representatives. This essay analyzes why this massive protest movement arose by taking a closer look at the movement in Washington State, detailing the role of grassroots organizing both in Seattle and in rural areas of the state where high school students sometimes took the lead, staging school walkouts and marches in communities that had never before seen similar mobilizations.
Bernie Whitebear and the Urban Indian Fight for Land and Justice by Joseph Madsen
- The inspirational leader of the 1970 Fort Lawton takeover and the campaign to build Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center, Bernie Whitebear dedicated his life to urban indian activism. Born on the Colville Reservation, he joined fish-in protests in the 1950s, worked to develop Indian social services in the 1960s, then led the United Indians of All Tribes in their historic fight to reclaim Native land in Seattle.
Unionism for Journalists: the 1936 Seattle Post-Intelligencer Strike by Ryan Sebion
- Seattle had known many strikes, but the one that started on August 13, 1936 was different. Striking for the first time were white-collar professional employees - journalists - whose recently founded union, the American Newspaper Guild, had taken the bold step of declaring the walkout. The fifteen week strike would make history, ending in a victory that helped secure the future for the Newspaper Guild while proving that William Randolph Hearst, the ruthless and reactionary boss of the nation's largest media chain, could be defeated if not tamed.
Bridging Mexico and Seattle: A History of the Seattle Ship Scalers Mural “The Struggle Against Racial Discrimination” by Pablo O’Higgins (1904-1983) by Gigi A. Peterson
- One of only two murals painted in the United States by American-Mexican artist Pablo O’Higgins, “The Struggle Against Racial Discrimination” hangs today on the University of Washington campus. This article tracks its fascinating history, a story that links Mexico and Seattle and involves two generations of activists in the struggle for racial justice.
Equal Rights on the Ballot: The 1972-73 Campaign for Washington State's ERA by Hope Morris
- The ERA was passed by Congress in 1972 but failed to win ratification by 38 states. Washington state ratified the federal ERA and also became the first state to pass a state-level version, adding equal protection to the state constitution in 1973. Read about the clever campaign that made this possible.
Filipino Americans and the Making of Dr. Jose P. Rizal Bridge and Park by Andrew Hedden
- In 1974, Seattle’s 12th Avenue South Bridge was renamed and rededicated in the name of Dr. Jose P. Rizal, the martyred Filipino patriot and novelist. This report tells the story of how the bridge and nearby park came to be named for Rizal, and explores their meaning to several generations of Seattle’s Filipino American community. The report includes images and documents, including a full reproduction of the book Rizal Park: Symbol of Filipino Identity.
When Abortion was Illegal (and Deadly): Seattle’s Maternal Death Toll by James Gregory
- Abortion was illegal in Washington until 1970, permitted only when the life of the mother was endangered. But countless women found ways to terminate pregnancies and some died doing so. We have found thirteen reported fatalities between 1945 and 1969, by no means a complete count. Here are details on each tragedy including the criminal prosecutions that followed.
Washington’s 1970 Abortion Reform Victory: The Referendum 20 Campaign by Angie Weiss
- One of the first states to liberalize abortion law, Washington was the only one to do so by means of a ballot measure. In 1970, Washington voters approved Referendum 20, three years before the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. This report analyzes the unique campaign that brought the ballot measure to voters and the bi-partisan pattern of support that secured victory at the polls.
James Sakamoto and the Fight for Japanese American Citizenship by Andy Marzano
- Editor of the Japanese American Courier and founder of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), Jimmie Sakamoto began making an impact when he testified before a Congressional committee at age 17. This report details his life and assesses his role in the fight to achieve full citizenship.
A History of Farm Labor Organizing 1890-2009 by Oscar Rosales Castañeda, Maria Quintana, James Gregory
- Long before the United Farm Workers Union (UFW) began organizing in the 1960s, farm workers had been contesting the unique challenges of working in the fields. This report–in ten brief chapters–examines the long history of farm workers in Washington State, focusing on their labor and political activism.
Communist Civil Rights: The Seattle Civil Rights Congress, 1948-1955 by Lucy Burnett
- From 1948 to 1955, the Seattle Civil Rights Congress (CRC) provide legal defense and civil rights counsel to numerous Communist Party members and people of color while informing the public about civil rights. During its seven years of activity, the Seattle CRC maintained an active voice of dissent in an era of Red Scare tactics and silence on the subject of civil rights. Their efforts laid the groundwork for future civil rights activism in Seattle.
Racial Restrictive Covenants: Enforcing Neighborhood Segregation in Seattle by Catherine Silva
- Until 1968, racial restrictive covenants prevented certain racial minorities from purchasing homes in specific King County neighborhoods, segregating Seattle and shaping its racial demography. This essay details the history of racial restrictive covenants in different King County neighborhoods, charting both the legal and social enforcement of racial covenants and the struggles to prohibit them.
Coon Chicken Inn: North Seattle’s Beacon of Bigotry by Catherine Roth
- The Coon Chicken Inn was a popular roadside restaurant in Seattle from 1930-1949. The restaurant’s name and logo, which derived from racist caricatures of African Americans, was a galling reminder of segregation and discrimination for black Seattleites. This essay recounts the Coon Chicken Inn’s history and documents little-known examples of African Americans organizing against the restaurant.
White Supremacy and the Alien Land Laws of Washington State by Nicole Grant
- In 1966, voters repealed the several Alien Land Laws that had made it illegal for Chinese, Japanese, and for a time Filipino immigrants to own land in Washington State. This essay examines first the campaigns to restrict land rights and then efforts to repeal Alien Land Laws in the 1950s ad 1960s.
The Fish-in Protests at Frank’s Landing by Gabriel Chrisman
- The fish-ins of the 1960s were to Native Americans what sit-ins were to the Black civil rights movement. Native activists defied state authorities, suffering arrest and jail time in order to reclaim fishing rights guaranteed in the treaties of the 1850s. In 1974, the federal courts finally recognized their rights. This prize-winning essay examines the historic campaign.
The Ku Klux Klan in Washington in the 1920s by Trevor Griffey
- The KKK arrived in Washington State in 1922 and quickly became a powerful mass movement with tens of thousands of members and dangerous ambitions. This nine-part essay examines the meteoric history of the KKK in the 1920s, detailing the ideology, tactics, leadership, and social rituals of the organization.
The Ku Klux Klan and the Anti-Catholic School Bills of Washington and Oregon by Kristin Dimick
- In 1922, the KKK elected the governor of Oregon and passed a vicious law banning Catholic schools. Two years later, the Klan put a similar measure on the Washington State ballot. Voters rejected the xenophobic measure by a large margin. This essay examines the 1924 campaign.
Harold Pritchett: Communism and the International Woodworkers of America by Timothy Kilgren
- Canadian-born Harold Pritchett helped organize the International Woodworkers of America in the mid 1930s and became the first president of the huge timberworkers union. But his Communist Party affiliation made him a target and in 1940, US immigration authorities banned him and he was forced to resign the Presidency. This paper explores the life of a Communist union leader.
DeFunis v. Odegaard : Another Kind of “Jewish Problem” by Sharae Wheeler
- In 1971, Marco Defunis, a Sephardic Jew and native of Seattle, Washington, brought suit against the UW Law School, claiming reverse discrimination. The case reached the Supreme Court which used it to set limits on affirmative action. The DeFunis case was very complicated for the Jewish community, as this award-winning essay explains.
Seattle’s Labor History Highlights by James Gregory
- Few cities make use of labor history the way Seattle does. The city proudly recognizes struggles like the Seattle General Strike of 1919 and the WTO “Battle of Seattle” as part of what makes the region famous and important. News media, city officials, and educators join in commemorating key anniversaries. This is no accident. It reflects the continued political importance of unions and the ongoing cultural work of labor activists and labor educators.
Combating Anti-Semitism at the Laurelhurst Beach Club by Anne Levine
- The Seattle chapter of Anti-Defamation League of the B’nai B’rith was founded in 1913. In the 1950s it won a signal victory against the Laurelhurst Beach Club that systematically denied membership to Jewish residents of the Laurelhurst neighborhood. This essay tells the story of the twenty-year-long campaign…
CORE and the Fight Against Employer Discrimination in 1960s Seattle by Jamie Brown
- The Congress of Racial Equality mounted a concerted campaign to end employment discrimination in Seattle. This essay examines the tactics of the campaign and evaluates methods of the small but very active CORE chapter.
CORE’s Drive for Equal Employment in Downtown Seattle, 1964 by Rachel Smith
- Culminating two years of campaigns to end discrimination in employment, CORE launched a drive to win jobs for African Americans in Seattle’s downtown retail district. This essay details the campaign and its impacts.
The 1964 Open Housing Election: How the Press Influenced the Campaign by Trevor Goodloe
- In a crushing defeat for civil rights, Seattle voters overwhelming rejected a 1964 ballot measure that would have made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race in the sale or rental of housing. This essay examines the surprising role of the city’s newspapers in the open housing election.
The Early History of the UW Black Student Union by Marc Robinson
- When members of the BSU took over the administration building on May 20, 1968, they began a sequence of activism that transformed the University of Washington and helped rearrange the priorities of higher education in Washington State.
The BSU Takes on BYU and the UW Athletics Program, 1970 by Craig Collisson
- Denouncing the racist practices of Brigham Young University and the Mormon Church, the BSU demanded that UW sever its athletic contracts with BYU. When the administration refused, the BSU launched some of the most militant demonstrations of the era.
The Franklin High School Sit-in, March 29, 1968 by Tikia Gilbert
- The March 1968 BSU confrontation at Franklin High was a pivotal moment for Seattle Civil Rights movements. It helped solidify the reputation of the BSU and launch the Black Panther Party.
The Chicano Movement in Washington State 1967-2006 by Oscar Rosales Castaneda
- This two-part essay traces the history of Chicano political and cultural activism in Washington State. The movement emerged in two locales: in the Yakima Valley and Seattle. Reflecting the split geography, the movement linked together campaigns to organize and support farmworkers with projects that served urban communities and educational agendas.
The Christian Friends for Racial Equality, 1942-70 by Johanna Phillips
- Started in 1942 by Seattle women of different faiths and races, Christian Friends for Racial Equality (CFRE) pioneered interracial and interreligious cooperation that laid the groundwork for Seattle’s more activist movement in the 1960s to break down social and cultural barriers to interracial cooperation.
By Right of Discovery: United Indians of All Tribes Retakes Fort Lawton, 1970 by Lossom Allen
- In the early morning hours of March 8, 1970, members of the United Indians of All Tribes jumped the barbed wire fences of Fort Lawton and reclaimed the soon-to-be-decommissioned military base as land that belonged to Native peoples. Thus began an 18 month long struggle that resulted in the establishment of Daybreak Star Cultural Center, one of the first urban Indian cultural centers in the United States.
United Indians of All Tribes Meets the Press: News Coverage of the 1970 Occupation of Fort Lawton by Karen Smith
- The invasion of Fort Lawton set off a frenzy of media coverage.The major newspapers expressed mild sympathy while reinscribing old stereotypes. Smaller newspapers took stronger positions. American Indian publications were also divided. This essay analyzes the press coverage, finding differences of perspective while arguing that the volume of press coverage was an important breakthrough for Native politics.
American Indian Women’s Service League: Raising the Cause of Urban Indians, 1958-71 by Karen Smith
- Founded in 1958 by Pearl Warren and seven other Native women, The American Indian Women’s Service League proved a pivotal institution for Seattle’s growing urban Indian population. In 1960, the group opened the Indian Cultural Center which provided social and health services, taught Native cultural awareness, and laid the foundation for the political activism of young urban Indians in the late 1960s and 1970s.
Indian Civil Rights Hearings: U.S. Civil Rights Commission Comes to Seattle, 1977 by Laurie Johnstonbaugh
- In October 1977, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission began two days of hearings in Seattle in response to mounting tension between local government and business interests and Native American communities over the issue of tribal sovereignty. This article explores the backlash campaign that followed the 1974 Boldt fishing rights decision and the Civil Rights Commission’s effort to sort out the controversy.
Challenging Sexism at City Light: The Electrical Trades Trainee Program by Nicole Grant
- On June 24, 1974 ten women began their first day of work at Seattle City Light, the city’s public utility. Tthe women represented the first stab at gender integration of the all-male, unionized, Seattle City Light electricians. They would become the first female linemen, sub-station constructors, cable splicers, the first unionized female utility electricians in Seattle and the first in the nation.
The 1920 Anti-Japanese Crusade and Congressional Hearings by Doug Blair
- Congressman Albert Johnson co-authored the 1924 Immigration Act that effectively closed America’s borders to non-white immigrants for the next forty years. In 1920 he brought his Congressional committee to Seattle to investigate the “threat” posed by Japanese immigrants. This paper examines the hearings and Washington’s anti-Japanese crisis of 1920.
“Pride and Shame” The Museum Exhibit that Helped Launch the Japanese American Redress Movement by Allison Shephard
- In 1970, the Seattle Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League changed course on a museum exhibit that was supposed to merely celebrate their community, and instead decided to also revisit the painful history of internment. The exhibit, “Pride and Shame”, ended up traveling around the country, and has been credited with helping launch the internment redress movement.
Battle at Boeing: African Americans and the Campaign for Jobs, 1939-1942 by Sarah Davenport
- In 1942, Florise Spearman and Dorothy Williams became the first African Americans ever hired atBoeing. This capped a two-year campaign led by the Northwest Enterprise_, Seattle’s black-owned newspaper, and a coalition of black activists. The Aeronautical Workers union fought the demand for open hiring, It took federal intervention to force the company and the union to end the white-only employment policy.
1965 Freedom Patrols and the Origins of Seattle’s Police Accountability Movement by Jennifer Taylor
- What began as a fight between two white police officers and two unarmed black men in Seattle’s predominantly non-white Central District became political when an officer shot and killed one of the African Americans. African American community leaders demanded justice and set up “freedom patrols” to monitor the police.
After Internment: Seattle’s Debate Over Japanese Americans’ Right to Return Home by Jennifer Speidel
- On December 17th, 1944 U.S. Major General Henry C. Pratt announced that the federal government would officially end the exclusion order that prevented Japanese and Japanese-Americans from returning to the West Coast. The announcement set off a fiery debate over “resettlement,” with some Seattle residents supporting the right of return, while others, including many public officials, tried to stop it.
Electrical Workers Minority Caucus: A History by Nicole Grant
- Historically the construction trades have been a bastion of white, male unionism. Since 1986 the Electrical Workers Minority Caucus has carved out a space for workers of color and female workers in IBEW Local 46, the union representing electrical workers in the Pacific Northwest. This essay explores the history of race, gender, and struggle before EWMC and examines the organization’s role in Local 46 today.
Blocking Racial Intermarriage Laws in 1935 and 1937: Seattle’s First Civil Rights Coalition by Stefanie Johnson
- In an era marked by racial segregation, Washington was an anomaly: one of only eight states without laws banning racial intermarriage. When anti-miscegenation bills were introduced in both the 1935 and 1937 sessions of the Washington State Legislature, an effective and well-organized coalition led by the African American, Filipino, and Labor communities mobilized against the measure.
Susie Revels Cayton: “The Part She Played” by Michelle L. Goshorn
- Wife of publisher Horace Cayton Sr., mother of the famous sociologist Horace Cayton Jr. and labor leader Revels Cayton, Susie Revels Cayton was also Associate Editor or the Seattle Republican and an activist in Seattle’s African American community. This biographical essay uses her writings to provide a window into her personal life and to help clarify her dual commitments to her family and her community.
Black Longshoreman: The Frank Jenkins Story by Megan Elston
- Frank Jenkins (1902-1973) was a Seattle longshoreman and one of the first African Americans to hold leadership positions in the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. A participant in the 1934 strike that created the ILWU, for the next thirty-three years he served Seattle’s Local 19 in various leadership capacities and was regularly elected to the Coast Labor Relations committee of the International union.
La Raza Comes to Campus: The new Chicano contingent and the grape boycott at the University of Washington, 1968-69 by Jeremy Simer
- Chicano students at the UW mobilized for the first time in the fall of 1968. They formed the United Mexican American Students (UMAS), which soon led a campaign to boycott of California table grapes in support of the United Farm Workers which had been on strike since 1965. The successful boycott made turned a small group of Chicano students into a force to be reckoned with.
Revels Cayton: African American Communist and Labor Activist by Sarah Falconer
- On February 19, 1934, a group of Communists decided that discrimination toward African Americans and Filipinos in Seattle must come to an end. Led by a young, African American, Revels Cayton, the group entered a Seattle City Council meeting demanding laws that would make discrimination based on race illegal. This essay examines the activism of Revels Cayton, son of the prominent middle class black leaders Horace and Susie Cayton, brother of the influential sociologist Horace Cayton, Jr.
Victorio Velasco, Pioneer Filipino American Journalist by Erik Luthy
- Journalism became very important to Filipino American community development and politics and no one did more to establish the journalistic enterprise than Victorio Velasco, who is best known as the editor of the Seattle-based Filipino Forum (1928-1968). This paper looks at his early career as a student and journalist after coming to the US from the Phillipines in 1924.
Cannery Worker’s and Farm Laborer’s Union 1933-1939: Their Strength in Unity by Crystal Fresco
- Seattle was home to the most important Filipino-American-led labor union, the Cannery Worker’s and Farm Laborer’s Union. Organized in 1933, the union represented “Alaskeros,” the men who shipped out each spring to work in the Salmon canneries of Alaska. This essay narrates the dramatic early years of CWFLU. The union was still in its infancy when two of the founders, President Virgil Duyungan and secretary Aurelio Simon, were murdered.
The Local 7/Local 37 Story: Filipino American Cannery Unionism in Seattle 1940-1959 by Micah Ellison
- Historians have concentrated on the early years of the Cannery Workers Union and on the two sets of assassinations that plagued the Filipino-American-led union, the murder of Duyungan and Simon in 1936 and the second dual assassination of union leaders Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes in 1981. This essay explores the critical middle period as the union negotiated the 1940s and 1950s, dealing with deportation threats, internal turmoil, but also consolidating and becoming a critical resource for Filipino-American communities on the West Coast.
The Seattle School Boycott of 1966 by Brooke Clark
- “What do we want? Integration. When do we want it? Now!” This familiar chant from the civil rights movement reflected the desires of Seattle parents of school age children in 1966. That year, for two days, K-12 students poured out of Seattle ’s public schools and attended “freedom schools” to protest racial segregation in the Seattle school system. This essay tells the story of that boycott—from its origins to its effect on Seattle’s students and politicians.
Tyree Scott and the United Construction Workers Association by Trevor Griffey
- Seattle’s politics of fair employment entered a new phase when African American construction workers and activists began to protest racially exclusionary hiring practices in Seattle’s construction unions in the fall of 1969. Led by electrician Tyree Scott, workers used direct action to challenge institutional barriers to African American employment in Seattle. In the process, they became pioneers in shaping the early national politics of affirmative action. This unit includes interviews, documents, a short history of the UCWA, and full reproductions of the UCWA newspaper No Separate Peace.
The Black Panther Party in Seattle 1968-1970 by Kurt Schaefer
- This essay explores the first three years of the Seattle chapter of the Black Panther Party from its founding by Black Student Union members in 1968 through the 1970 crisis negotiated by Mayor Wes Uhlman. The essay is presented in three parts.
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