The unbearable slightness of healing.

Photo by Denerio Watkins on Unsplash

A couple of months ago, a friend of mine was nearly blinded by a sequence of minor coincidences:

  1. She woke up a little later than usual, so instead of putting in her contact lenses, she grabbed an old pair of glasses.
  2. The lenses kept fogging up because she wasn’t used to wearing them with a face mask.
  3. Struggling to see where she was going, she tripped and fell, landing face-first on the aforementioned glasses.

The frames snapped in half, and one of the pieces pierced the skin just below her eyebrow, carving upwards from there.

If the frames had sliced…


The subtle art of missing the point.

Photo by Santi Vedrí on Unsplash

Let’s be honest; you’re not quite sure what critical race theory (CRT) is.

Don’t get me wrong, you probably know it began as a tool for examining how legal systems produce racial inequality. You’ve almost certainly heard of some of its offshoots, like intersectionality and “whiteness” studies. You might even have read the foundational work of people like Derrick Bell or Kimberlé Crenshaw. But whether you’re a critic or a supporter, CRT has pretty much become shorthand for, “that thing that proves the ‘other side’ is racist.”

This isn’t an accident.

Back in March, Christopher Rufo, one of CRT’s leading…


The age of mutually assured racism.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Of all the stories of courage that define the civil rights movement, one of the bravest can be told in a single sentence:

Mamie Till looked down at the mutilated body of her only son and decided the rest of the world should see it too.

Mamie’s son was fourteen-year-old Emmett Till, who made the fatal mistake of flirting with a white woman in 1950s Mississippi. In response, three armed men dragged him from his uncle’s house, drove him to a nearby barn, and beat him so severely that he lost an eye. …


Is there a better way to think about our differences?

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A group of schoolchildren line up on a playing field for a race. There’s some good-natured trash talk and varying levels of steely-eyed determination. A few toes stray over the start line in search of an advantage.

But there’s a twist. A teacher explains that their starting point will be determined by their privilege.

If English is your parents’ first language, take a step forwards.

“If you have ever been the only person in the room of your race, take a step backwards.”

There are some groans of protest but nobody seems too worried. The kids who get to advance…


What happens when you weaponise white guilt?

Photo credit — Flickr

The week of June 21st 2020, a month after George Floyd was killed, an unprecedented eight of the top ten New York Times bestsellers were about race.

The “racial reckoning” prompted by Floyd’s death was the first time many white people had thought about racism. It was the first time they’d questioned their attitudes and behaviour. It was certainly the first time they’d thought to read a book on the subject.

And so, as those newly race-conscious readers set out to learn about the black experience, they looked at those eight books…and chose the only one written by a white…


Some questions are more valuable than others

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It used to be easy to define racism. It was the notion that one race was superior to another. It was hatred and fear and bigotry. It was the belief that the colour of a person’s skin was more important than the content of their character.

Times have changed.

In part, this is because change was necessary. Thinking of racism only as individual prejudice made it harder to address gaps in education outcomes and employment rates for example. It obscured the impact of wealth inequality and a lack of social mobility. …


The struggle to be one of the “good ones”.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

From time to time, Robert P George, a professor at Princeton University, runs an experiment on his students. He asks them to imagine what they would have done if they were white and living in the American South during slavery.

You guessed it; they’d all have been abolitionists!

Even though slavery was worth more to the US economy than the railroads and manufacturing combined. Even though anyone caught providing food, shelter or aid to escaped slaves risked crippling fines, jail, and even death. …


Why is it so difficult to talk about trans issues?

Photo by Waldir Évora from Pexels

In 1959, police raided a screening of the newly-released French drama Les Amants” because it featured a two-second shot of a woman’s nipple (I watched the movie for research purposes). The scene was considered so scandalous that the cinema manager, Nico Jacobellis, was fined the equivalent of $22,000 for “possessing and exhibiting an obscene film”.

After five years of legal battles and appeals, the case made its way to the Supreme Court of the United States, where Justice Potter Stewart overturned Jacobellis’ conviction, offering his famously subjective definition of pornography as he did so:

I know it when I see…


Black people’s value goes beyond our suffering.

Photo by Jeffery Erhunse on Unsplash

Every black person has a story about racism. It might be about a chance encounter on holiday or being denied entry to our own home. It might be about the statistically improbable rate at which we’re “randomly selected” for additional screening or those awkward moments when a poorly thought out comment backfires.

If there’s such a thing as “the black experience”, these stories are a part of its oral tradition. A collection of life lessons, clapbacks, and cautionary tales through which we celebrate our victories and vent our frustrations. They’re in-jokes that provide a sense of community and solidarity. …


Don’t abolish the police, hold them accountable.

Photo by Lauro Rocha from Pexels

On April 8th, officials in Windsor, Virginia released footage of a traffic stop tailor-made for the “abolish the police” era.

A brand-new SUV with tinted windows, just the type of vehicle that black people are disproportionately stopped for driving. A black man, or better yet, a black lieutenant, sat behind the wheel, the Stars and Stripes proudly displayed on the shoulder of his uniform. Two white police officers attended the scene, barking threats that were lifted verbatim from of a movie that was set in 1930s Louisiana.

Even though the driver, Lt. Caron Nazario, hadn’t committed any crime, the officers…

Steve QJ

Race. Politics. Culture. Sometimes other things. Almost always polite. Find more at https://steveqj.substack.com

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