Things That Matter

A White Woman Is Going Viral For Saying That Broadway’s ‘Slave Play’ Is Racist Against White People

Black playwright Jeremy O. Harris’ buzzworthy Slave Play, has been both revered and abhorred by audience members. The show has received much critical acclaim after opening a month ago but a recent tirade, caught on camera, of an audience member alleging the play was racist against white people shows just how uncomfortable stories about anti-blackness and white supremacy make viewers. The broadway comedy tells the story of three interracial couples during the Antebellum-era who use slave role-playing as sexual therapy. 

Harris believes the white woman’s rant, which lasted several minutes, was merely life imitating art. The video of the woman’s confrontation went viral. Many people dismissed her expletive-filled rant as “white fragility,” according to the Washington Post. 

Harris shared the video on his own Twitter account.

Harris and an actor sat down for a Q&A after a show. That’s when the white woman got up from her seat and began shouting. She asked how the play wasn’t “racist against white people?” She claimed that there was “a whole bunch of stuff about how white people don’t get how racist they are,” in the video. 

The audience begins to murmur but Harris explains that the play is about eight people and can’t reflect every single person. He told her it was all a metaphor, and if she isn’t like the white characters in his play then good. 

“I never once said that you as a white woman were not a marginalized person,” Harris responds. “But if you heard that in my play, I don’t know what to tell you. Perhaps read it or see it again.”

Harris joked that she gave the audience an amazing second play. Despite grumbles, the woman persistently tried to yell her point until finally storming out of the theater. The audience applauded her departure. 

“The plays shows the unconscious ways that white people take up space, that they don’t leave open for black people,” Harris told The Washington Post. “This play doesn’t necessarily have to be about her … but she did just create her own character.”

Twitter users continued to point out the irony in the woman’s behavior. 

“My fave part of this is that she’s standing up to yell in a theatre about her white oppression. It’s my favorite because 1: oppressed people don’t get to do that. A black man would’ve been arrested for this behavior or worse,” one user wrote on Twitter. “2: she’s sitting in a seat a black person wouldn’t have been able to sit in half a century ago.”

Harris told the Washington Post he didn’t want to be dismissive of the woman, instead, he’d rather engage in a conversation with her. 

“It would have been hypocritical of me as someone who said from the beginning, I wanted this to be a play that sparked conversations,” he told The Washington Post.

Many people thought it was outrageous that the woman’s complaint was that white people were portrayed sympathetically in a play about slavery in the Antebellum era. 

“A play about slavery, and her complaint is that HER experience wasn’t represented? Makes me ashamed to be a white woman,” another user tweeted. 

Slave Play has received criticism from white and black audience members alike. 

There is currently a Change.org petition with over 6,000 signatures to shut down the broadway show. The creator of the petition claims it is anti-black. However, by her own admission the sentiment comes from the predominantly white audience’s reactions to what was in it.

“This past Saturday I attended Slave Play for the 8 pm showing. I wanted to verbalize that this was one of the most disrespectful displays of anti-Black sentiment disguised as art that I have ever seen,” the petition reads. “As a Black woman, I was terribly offended and traumatized by the graphic imagery mixed with laughter from a predominantly white audience.”

Broadway audiences tend to be largely white due to the high cost of tickets. Slave Play hosted a “Black Out” night where discounted tickets were provided to a black audience of 800 — a rarity in broadway. 

“We can succumb to a fear-based culture really easily, especially when bad people are in charge. That’s when we should be the loudest and the most individualistic because that’s the only way to actually combat fascism,” Harris told The Guardian of some of his black critics. “When I speak to artists – especially artists from oppressed groups – I see them necessitating this self-censorship. And I’m like: “No, be free! The only time you can be free in this world is when you’re writing.”

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The Little-Known Underground Railroad That Ran South to Mexico

Culture

The Little-Known Underground Railroad That Ran South to Mexico

Tyrone Turner / Getty Images

Latinos make up the largest minority group in the country, yet our history is so frequently left out of classrooms. From Chicano communities in Texas and California to Latinos in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and the Underground Railroad – which also had a route into Mexico – Latinos have helped shape and advance this country.

And as the U.S. is undergoing a racial reckoning around policing and systemic racism, Mexico’s route of the Underground Railroad is getting renewed attention – particularly because Mexico (for the very first time in history) has counted its Afro-Mexican population as its own category in this year’s census.

The Underground Railroad also ran south into Mexico and it’s getting renewed attention.

Most of us are familiar with stories of the Underground Railroad. It was a network of clandestine routes and safe houses established in the U.S. during the early to mid-19th century. It was used by enslaved African Americans to escape into free states and Canada. It grew steadily until the Civil War began, and by one estimate it was used by more than 100,000 enslaved people to escape bondage.

In a story reported on by the Associated Press, there is renewed interest in another route on the Underground Railroad, one that went south into Mexico. Bacha-Garza, a historian, dug into oral family histories and heard an unexpected story: ranches served as a stop on the Underground Railroad to Mexico. Across Texas and parts of Louisiana, Alabama, and Arkansas, scholars and preservation advocates are working to piece together the story of a largely forgotten part of American history: a network that helped thousands of Black slaves escape to Mexico.

According to Maria Hammack, a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas at Austin studying the passage of escapees who crossed the borderlands for sanctuary in Mexico, about 5,000 to 10,000 people broke free from bondage into the southern country. Currently, no reliable figures currently exist detailing how many left to Mexico, unlike the more prominent transit into Canada’s safe haven.

Mexico abolished slavery a generation before Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

Thirty-four years before Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, in 1829, Mexican President Vicente Guerrero, who was of mixed background, including African heritage, abolished slavery in the country. The measure freed an estimated 200,000 enslaved Africans Spain forcefully brought over into what was then called New Spain and would later open a pathway for Blacks seeking freedom in the Southern U.S.

And he did so while Texas was still part of the country, in part prompting white, slave-holding immigrants to fight for independence in the Texas Revolution. Once they formed the Republic of Texas in 1836, they made slavery legal again, and it continued to be legal when Texas joined the U.S. as a state in 1845.

With the north’s popular underground railroad out of reach for many on the southern margins, Mexico was a more plausible route to freedom for these men and women.

Just like with the northern route, helping people along the route was dangerous and could land you in serious trouble.

Credit: Library of Congress / Public Domain

Much like on the railway’s northern route into Canada, anyone caught helping African-Americans fleeing slavery faced serious and severe consequences.

Slaveholders were aware that people were escaping south, and attempted to get Mexico to sign a fugitive slave treaty that would, like the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 that demanded free states to return escapees, require Mexico to deliver those who had left. Mexico, however, refused to sign, contending that all enslaved people were free once they reached Mexican soil. Despite this, Hammock said that some Texans hired what was called “slave catchers” or “slave hunters” to illegally cross into the country, where they had no jurisdiction, to kidnap escapees.

“The organization that we know today as the Texas Rangers was born out of an organization of men that were slave hunters,” Hammack, who is currently researching how often these actions took place, told the AP. “They were bounty hunters trying to retrieve enslaved property that crossed the Rio Grande for slave owners and would get paid according to how far into Mexico the slaves were found.”

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The 15-Year-Old Girl Jailed In Michigan For Not Doing Her Homework Is Set To Be Released

Things That Matter

The 15-Year-Old Girl Jailed In Michigan For Not Doing Her Homework Is Set To Be Released

Terrence Tlabb Jr / Getty Images

Update July 31, 2020: Grace, the teenager jailed in Michigan for not doing her online homework is being released. The arrest of the 15-year-old stunned the nation after she was sent to jail during a pandemic, risking her life and health.

News broke on Twitter that Grace, the Michigan teenager who was jailed for not doing her homework, has been released.

According to a tweet bu journalist Jodi Cohen, who broke the story when Grace went to jail, a judge ordered the immediate release of the girl. The order came from the Michigan Court of Appeals after Judge Mary Ellen Brennan and Prosecutor Jessica Cooper refused to release the girl. It is an election year and activists are calling on voters to remember their actions and vote accordingly.

In Michigan, judges were told to limit the number of people in prisons in jails to prevent Covid-19 infections from exploding in prison settings. This is what angered classmates and community members when the teenager was arrested and refused release under the protocols.

Original: As the Coronavirus pandemic set in across the country, schools from Maine to Hawaii began cancelling in-person classes. Although this was seen as a critical step in combatting the spread of the virus, it also caused student participation to plummet.

Some students — in particular, those from low-income families — lacked adequate access to computers and Wi-Fi to complete their online coursework. Children with disabilities, who often require more in-person support, also struggled to adjust to the abrupt transition to remote learning. But participation issues were widespread: In early April, according to the New York Times, teachers in districts across the country were reporting that fewer than half of their students were routinely participating in virtual learning.

Yet despite how common school-participation issues have been amid the pandemic, not all cases have been treated equally.

The Michigan student was incarcerated for not completing her online coursework when her school switched to remote learning.

According to a report from ProPublica, Grace, who is 15 and has ADHD, said she felt unmotivated and overwhelmed when online learning began after schools closed due to coronavirus. Without much live instruction or structure, she was easily distracted and had difficulty keeping herself on track, something that many students can relate to these days.

Since May, the teen has been held in custody at the Children’s Village juvenile detention center outside Detroit, after a Michigan judge said she violated her probation order by not doing her schoolwork.

In a court hearing in May, a judge ruled that she found Grace “guilty on failure to submit to any schoolwork and getting up for school” and called Grace a “threat to (the) community,” citing previous charges the teen incurred. “She hasn’t fulfilled the expectation with regard to school performance,” Brennan said as she sentenced Grace. “I told her she was on thin ice and I told her that I was going to hold her to the letter, to the order, of the probation.”

Grace’s mother, identified only as Carissa, later said she told the case worker about Grace’s issues with virtual learning but that Grace had been working hard to stay on top of her work under less than ideal circumstances. When remote learning began, she no longer had the support system, her mother said.

Grace had been on probation for a theft and assault but hadn’t violated any terms of her probation.

Credit: juanonimo/ Getty Images

Grace was previously placed on probation following a fight with her mother and petty theft on school property. However, the judge later decided to incarcerate the teen, not for any additional behavioral issues, but because of an alleged failure to do her school work.

Grace’s case worker, Rachel Giroux, filed a violation of probation against her for not doing her schoolwork. Giroux told the prosecutor she planned to ask the judge to detain Grace because she “clearly doesn’t want to abide by the rules in the community,” according to the case notes.

Giroux filed the violation of probation before confirming with Grace’s teacher whether or not she was meeting her academic requirements. Grace’s teacher, Katherine Tarpeh, responded in an email to Giroux that the teenager was “not out of alignment with most of my other students.”

At a recent court hearing, the judge failed to let Grace out of detention despite having made immense progress.

This week at an additional hearing, the Judge overseeing Grace’s case denied her emergency request for early release.

“She is a threat of harm under our current circumstances without the mental health treatment she needs, and interventions so she can get a handle on herself,” said Judge Mary Ellen Brennan. According to Michigan Radio, she told Grace, “There is not a question in my mind, if I were to grant the request to release you home today, I would be making a mistake, and I would be doing you a disservice.”

Since Grace’s story made national headlines, nearly 93,000 have signed a Change.org petition “Stop the School to Prison Pipeline – Free Grace from Incarceration.” Unfortunately Brennan explicitly stated in court on Monday, “I will not be swayed by partisan interests, public clamor, or fear of public criticism. And I am going to uphold my oath.”

It’s now been over a month since Grace’s mother has been able to see her. The 15-year-old is not scheduled to be released any time soon, despite Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s call for juvenile detention to be suspended in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Grace’s next court date isn’t until September, meaning she’ll likely spend another two months away from her family.

“It just doesn’t make any sense,” Grace’s mother tells ProPublica. “Every day I go to bed thinking, and wake up thinking, ‘How is this a better situation for her?’”

Reactions across the Internet have been quick to condemn the failures once again of a justice system that treats Black Americans differently.

As ProPublica points out, Grace’s case is just one example of the many ways Black students are disproportionately targeted and incarcerated by the juvenile “justice” system.

“It is clear that kids of color are disproportionately involved and impacted by the system across the board,” Jason Smith, who works for the nonprofit Michigan Center for Youth Justice, told the outlet. “They are more likely to be arrested, less likely to be offered any kind of diversion, more likely to be removed out of the home and placed in some sort of confinement situation.”

People like Kim Kardashian are now calling attention to Grace’s incarceration and calling for reform. 

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