Systems of Injustice Inside and Out

Doing the Work to Understand and Challenge These Systems

July 7 – August 6, 2020 | Tuesdays and Thursdays 1pm PT/4pm ET

Instructor: Shengxiao “Sole” Yu

Office Hours: Thursdays 2-3pm PT (15 min time slots)

Email: syu@paridad.us | Instagram @shengxiao_yu

Course Description:

This course is comprised of three units:

Unit 1: Understanding Systems of Injustice

We will first dive deep to understand a few pervasive systems of injustice, including racism, capitalism, colonialism, eurocentrism, and others.

Unit 2: How Systems of Injustice Intersect

In this unit, we will learn about intersectionality, that is, how these systems of injustice intersect and reinforce each other at both the systemic and individual levels.

Unit 3: How Systems of Injustice Dynamically Change Over Time

Finally, we will explore the dynamic changes and challenges to these systems of injustice, including how they are maintained over time, how they evolve over time, how social change movements have sought to dismantle them, and why many of these movements have failed.

This Moment: At the time of this writing, over 370,000 people have died from COVID-19 worldwide, and over 100,000 in the United States. Among them, Black and Brown communities are disproportionally affected, with Black people dying at six times the rate of white people in some areas. Inside jails, prisons, and ICE detention centers, inhumane conditions have created hot spots for viral transmission. Since February, over 2,000 incidents of hate crimes against Asian American have been reported. In 2020 alone, many Black lives have been claimed at the hands of state-sponsored violence, among them, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd.

Many people have protested, petitioned elected officials, donated money, and more. Many are seeking educational resources to challenge and change their own understanding of the world.

This is one such resource: a 5-week online course* about systems of injustice.

Context​: We live in social spaces governed by systems of shared ideas and organizational structures that shape our way of life. Among these systems are some that cause harm to many of us, such as racism, sexism, colonialism, homophobia, and more. These systems of injustice affect our quality of life, influence access to opportunities, and, most importantly, they actually govern our innermost thoughts. That is, they live within each of us such that we all, sometimes unwittingly, help sustain them. This means that in order to break down these systems of injustice and to bring about social change, we must each do the inner work necessary to understand and challenge the influence of these systems within ourselves. We must first educate ourselves in order to educate others.

Doing this inner work is difficult. Doing this work is not for the faint of heart. Doing this work requires you to hold yourself accountable, to dig deep, deeper than where you have been before. If you commit to doing this work, you will not only expand your knowledge and understanding of the world, you will also expand your self-knowledge and your capacity for empathy for others. Once you see and know how systems of injustice work, you cannot unsee or unknow them. You will forever be both gifted and burdened with the knowledge and understanding of how systems of injustice give power to some while oppressing others. You will bear ongoing responsibility to examine our society critically and to shift power actively in order to dismantle these systems.

If you are ready to do this work together, this 10-week course is for you. 

This course is designed with educators in mind, including our school teachers and administrators, but more broadly, all of us. Each one of us has an educator role to play, and when we challenge and change our own understanding of the world, we also change what happens around our dinner tables, at our social gatherings, in our workplaces, and in our communities.

*This course was developed independently of the particular current events, but is especially relevant in light of them.

Note: All the reading assignments are pre-readings, they should be completed before the session date they are under. I recommend you do the readings in the order they are listed for the session, as they match the order in which we will go over them in class.

Assignment: To prepare for each session, you are asked to complete the pre-readings and complete a written reflection based on the reading(s). You may choose one specific concept or example to discussion, you may make broader connections between concepts and examples discussed in the readings and in previous classes, or you may make connections between the readings and your own life experiences. I am looking for quality and depth of your thinking, not quantity. Please limit your written reflection to around 250-300 words. The written reflection should be posted to the #pre-readings-reflections channel on Slack by 9am PT | 12pm ET on the day of class. If you would prefer not to share your reflection with the class on Slack, feel free to email it to me syu@paridad.us

Recommendation: I highly recommend you to keep a journal for this class. Every time you feel uncomfortable, write down what happened and at your own pace, process it through writing. A lot of learning happens in discomfort, and I invite you to use discomfort as your teacher. This is just for you and I will not ask you to share it. It is your private space for processing in the way that best serves you.

Syllabus

Unit 1: Understanding systems of injustice

July 7, 2020, Session 1: Introduction to systems of injustice and understanding racism as a system of injustice

Required Reading:

“RACE – The Power of an Illusion. Background Readings: Race Timeline – Go Deeper.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, www.pbs.org/race/000_About/002_04-background-02-12.htm

“RACE – The Power of an Illusion. Background Readings: Human Diversity – Go Deeper.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, www.pbs.org/race/000_About/002_04-background-01-11.htm.

“Racial Equity Tools Glossary,” October 2019. https://www.racialequitytools.org/resourcefiles/RET_Glossary_Updated_October_2019_.pdf.

Choose. “A Brief History of Whiteness.” Medium, ZORA, 17 June 2019, zora.medium.com/a-brief-history-of-whiteness-547feda4c7c7.

Harriot, Michael. “A Timeline of Events That Led to the 2020 ‘Fed Up’-Rising.” The Root, 30 May 2020, www.theroot.com/a-timeline-of-events-that-led-to-the-2020-fed-up-rising-1843780800.

McIntosh, Peggy. “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” 1988. http://convention.myacpa.org/houston2018/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/UnpackingTheKnapsack.pdf.

Yu, Shengxiao. “For Asian Americans, Claiming American Identity Means Rejecting the Model Minority Myth,” May 23, 2020. https://medium.com/@shengxiao/for-asian-americans-claiming-american-identity-means-rejecting-the-model-minority-myth-967439fea1f1.

[TW: domestic violence, sexual violence] Poupart, Lisa. The Familiar Face of Genocide: Internalized Oppression among American Indians. 2003, www.webpages.uidaho.edu/engl484jj/18.2poupart.pdf.

Optional Readings:

“RACE – The Power of an Illusion. Background Readings.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, https://www.pbs.org/race/000_About/002_04-background.htm. [various reading selections]

“Unequal Impact: The Deep Links Between Racism and Climate Change.” Yale E360, e360.yale.edu/features/unequal-impact-the-deep-links-between-inequality-and-climate-change.

Key concepts you will learn by the end of this session include:

  • Social injustices and oppression must be analyzed at a systemic level
  • The difference between dominant and marginalized groups is rooted in power differential
  • Systems of injustice are both external and internal and everyone contributes to its perpetuation
  • Race is socially constructed
  • Racism in the United States is hierarchical
  • Racism is historical, institutional, and systemic
  • “Reverse racism” does not exist

July 9, 2020, Session 2: Understanding capitalism as a system of injustice

Required Readings:

Keyes, Allison. “The East St. Louis Race Riot Left Dozens Dead, Devastating a Community on the Rise.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 30 June 2017, www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/east-st-louis-race-riot-left-dozens-dead-devastating-community-on-the-rise-180963885/.

“35 Years After Vincent Chin’s Murder, How Has America Changed?” Asia Society, 16 June 2017, asiasociety.org/blog/asia/35-years-after-vincent-chins-murder-how-has-america-changed.

Klein, Naomi. “The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.” The Nation, 29 June 2015, www.thenation.com/article/archive/rise-disaster-capitalism/

Pirtle, Whitney N. Laster. “Racial Capitalism: A Fundamental Cause of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic Inequities in the United States.” Health Education & Behavior, 2020, p. 109019812092294., doi:10.1177/1090198120922942. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1090198120922942

Optional Readings:

“Naomi Klein: How Power Profits from Disaster.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 6 July 2017, www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/06/naomi-klein-how-power-profits-from-disaster.

Coates, Ta-Nehisi. “The Case for Reparations.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 16 June 2020, www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/06/the-case-for-reparations/361631/ [option to listen to audio recording]

Key concepts you will learn by the end of this session include:

  • The relationship between labor and capital
  • Labor theory of value
  • Labor unions
  • Racial capitalism
  • Disaster capitalism

July 14, 2020, Session 3: Understanding colonialism, imperialism, neocolonialism, and other systems of injustice

Required Readings:

Sium, Aman, et al. Towards the ‘Tangible Unknown’: Decolonization and the Indigenous Future, jps.library.utoronto.ca/index.php/des/article/view/18638/15564.

Cox, Kate, and Jessica Fu. “From Diabetes to Displacement: How NAFTA Disrupted Mexican Agriculture, Food, and Health.” The Counter, 14 Jan. 2020, thecounter.org/alyshia-galvez-eating-nafta-la-morada-mexico-displacement-diabetes-free-trade/.

Felton, Lena. “Alison Roman’s Comments about Chrissy Teigen and Marie Kondo Lit a Fire. Here’s Why It’s Still Burning.” The Lily, 12 May 2020, www.thelily.com/alison-romans-comments-about-chrissy-teigen-and-marie-kondo-lit-a-fire-heres-why-its-still-burning/.

Young, Kalaniopua. “From a Native Trans Daughter: Roots of an Indigenous Abolitionist Imaginary.” Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex, AK Press, 2016, pp. 83–93. (scanned version available: nycstandswithstandingrock.files.wordpress.com/2016/10/young-2015.pdf).

Mease, Lindley. “Access Is for Everyone: Interview with Patty Berne, Co-Founder and Director of Sins Invalid.” Medium, Blue Heart, 1 May 2018, medium.com/blue-heart/access-is-for-everyone-interview-with-patty-berne-co-founder-and-director-of-sins-invalid-a96bb7c5c192.

Mingus, Mia. “‘Disability Justice’ Is Simply Another Term for Love.” Leaving Evidence, 5 Nov. 2018, leavingevidence.wordpress.com/2018/11/03/disability-justice-is-simply-another-term-for-love/.

Key concepts you will learn by the end of this session include:

  • Colonialism, imperialism, and neo-colonialism
  • Decolonization
  • White centering
  • Spiritual bypassing
  • The white gaze, the male gaze
  • Trans and queer liberation
  • Disability justice

Unit 2: How systems of injustice intersect

July 16, 2020, Session 4: Intersecting systems of injustice and institutionalized oppression

In this session, we will use El Salvador as a case study to deepen our understanding of intersecting systems of oppression. Dive into each reading as its own piece, but don’t worry if you don’t see how they fit together yet. I will be providing necessary context in class. We will aim to spend more substantial time on discussion during this session, so I recommend highlighting quotes from the readings that really impacted you so you can refer to them in class.

Required Readings:

“Unfinished Sentences: Justice.” Unfinished Sentences, University of Washington Center for Human Rights, 14 Jan. 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpeGdYRvR1g(option to read more: https://unfinishedsentences.org)

United Nations. “Children on the Run – Full Report.” UNHCR, 2014, www.unhcr.org/56fc266f4.html(please read pages 31-34)

Lopez, German. “How the War on Drugs Drives the Child Migrant Crisis.” Vox, Vox, 23 July 2014, www.vox.com/2014/7/23/5925157/drug-war-child-refugee-immigration-crisis.

Renteria, Nelson. “Over 130 Migrants Killed after U.S. Deports Them to El Salvador, Rights Group Says.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 6 Feb. 2020, www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-elsalvador-idUSKBN1ZZ0G4.

Morales, Patty Gorena. “This Salvadoran Poet Writes to Humanize the Immigrant Story.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 15 Jan. 2018, www.pbs.org/newshour/arts/as-trump-ends-temporary-protections-for-salvadorans-this-poet-writes-to-humanize-the-immigrant-story.

“Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) 203: Eligibility to Apply with USCIS.” USCIS, 3 Sept. 2009, www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/refugees-asylum/asylum/nicaraguan-adjustment-and-central-american-relief-act-nacara-203-eligibility-apply-uscis(this is a way for some to apply for immigration status through a piece of immigration legislation, please scan through the requirements but no need to worry about understanding everything, the context will be explained in class)

Alvarenga, Jessica. “6 Creatives Carving Out a Space for the Salvadoran Diaspora.” Remezcla, 15 Oct. 2017, remezcla.com/lists/culture/salvadoran-creatives/.

Optional Readings:

Gzesh, Susan. “Central Americans and Asylum Policy in the Reagan Era.” Migrationpolicy.org, 2 Mar. 2017, www.migrationpolicy.org/article/central-americans-and-asylum-policy-reagan-era/.

Key concepts you will learn by the end of this session include:

  • Creation of refugee crises
  • Effects of the War on Drugs
  • Consequences of immigration and ICE policies

July 21, 2020, Session 5: Intersectional personal identities and community experiences

For this session, I am only assigning one video to watch as a new pre-reading assignment. In class, we will spend time diving into some of the previous readings we completed, but now with added depth through an intersectional lens. Please review the previous readings highlighted below and be prepared to discuss them in class. I recommend highlighting quotes in these readings that you may want to reference in class.

Required Readings:

Crenshaw, Kimberlé. “The Urgency of Intersectionality.” TED, Oct. 2016, www.ted.com/talks/kimberle_crenshaw_the_urgency_of_intersectionality#t-1117340.

Review Previous Readings:

[TW: domestic violence, sexual violence] Poupart, Lisa. The Familiar Face of Genocide: Internalized Oppression among American Indians. 2003, www.webpages.uidaho.edu/engl484jj/18.2poupart.pdf.

Pirtle, Whitney N. Laster. “Racial Capitalism: A Fundamental Cause of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic Inequities in the United States.” Health Education & Behavior, 2020, p. 109019812092294., doi:10.1177/1090198120922942. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1090198120922942

Young, Kalaniopua. “From a Native Trans Daughter: Roots of an Indigenous Abolitionist Imaginary.” Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex, AK Press, 2016, pp. 83–93. (scanned version available: nycstandswithstandingrock.files.wordpress.com/2016/10/young-2015.pdf).

Mingus, Mia. “‘Disability Justice’ Is Simply Another Term for Love.” Leaving Evidence, 5 Nov. 2018, leavingevidence.wordpress.com/2018/11/03/disability-justice-is-simply-another-term-for-love/.

Key concepts you will learn by the end of this session include:

  • Intersectionality

July 23, 2020, session 6: How systems of injustice are maintained over time

Required Readings:

Lorde, Audre. “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House.” Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, Ed. Berkeley, CA: Crossing Press, 2007, pp. 110–114. (electronic version available: https://collectiveliberation.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Lorde_The_Masters_Tools.pdf)

Afro-American Student Union. Berkeley, California. “Proposal for Establishing a Black Studies Program,” Spring 1968. (electronic version available: http://revolution.berkeley.edu/assets/black-studies-proposal.pdf)

Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. “The Danger of a Single Story.” TED, www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_ngozi_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story. (option to read the transcript instead or along with watching the video: https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_ngozi_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story/transcript)

Jackson, Bailey, et al. “Continuum on Becoming an Anti-Racist Multicultural Organization.” Philanos, philanos.org/resources/Documents/Conference 2020/Pre-Read PDFs/Continuum_AntiRacist.pdf.

Jones, Kenneth, and Tema Okun. “WHITE SUPREMACY CULTURE: Characteristics.” SHOWING UP FOR RACIAL JUSTICE, www.showingupforracialjustice.org/white-supremacy-culture-characteristics.html.

Key concepts you will learn by the end of this session include:

  • The master’s tools
  • Decolonization of education, knowledge, and the mind
  • Ethnic studies
  • White supremacy culture
  • Diversity and tokenism
  • Grassroots leadership

July 28, Session 7: How systems of injustice evolve over time

Required Readings:

Waxman, Olivia B. “The History of Police in America and the First Force.” Time, Time, 6 Mar. 2019, time.com/4779112/police-history-origins/.

Cab, Officer A. “Confessions of a Former Bastard Cop.” Medium, Medium, 11 June 2020,medium.com/@OfcrACab/confessions-of-a-former-bastard-cop-bb14d17bc759.

Kushner, Rachel. “Is Prison Necessary? Ruth Wilson Gilmore Might Change Your Mind.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 17 Apr. 2019, www.nytimes.com/2019/04/17/magazine/prison-abolition-ruth-wilson-gilmore.html.

Mariame Kaba & Andrea J. Ritchie. “We Want More Justice For Breonna Taylor Than The System That Killed Her Can Deliver.” Essence, Essence, 16 July 2020, www.essence.com/feature/breonna-taylor-justice-abolition/.

Building a Police-Free Future: Frequently Asked Questions. MPD150, www.mpd150.com/wp-content/themes/mpd150/assets/faq_zine.pdf.

“What Is Transformative Justice?” Youtube, Barnard Center for Research on Women, www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-_BOFz5TXo.

Optional Film:

DuVernay, Ava, director. 13th. 2016.

In consideration of time and access, this film “13th” about the 13th amendment to the US Constitution, is not required but highly recommended. It is available on Netflix. Its running time is 100 minutes and Netflix offers a 30-day free trial.

Optional Readings:

Bakare, Lanre. “Angela Davis: ‘We Knew the Role of the Police Was to Protect White Supremacy’.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 15 June 2020, www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/15/angela-davis-on-george-floyd-as-long-as-the-violence-of-racism-remains-no-one-is-safe.

Kaba, Mariame. “How the School to Prison Pipeline REALLY Works.” Teen Vogue, 10 Oct. 2017, www.teenvogue.com/story/how-the-school-to-prison-pipeline-works.

Key concepts you will learn by the end of this session include:

  • The effects of the 13th amendment to the US Constitution
  • Police and prison abolition
  • Transformative justice

July 30, 2020, Session 8: Efforts to make social change: how systems of injustice co-opt social movements

Required Readings:

“Funding America’s Nonprofits: The Nonprofit Industrial Complex’s Hold on Social Justice.” Racial Equity Tools, Columbia Social Work Review, www.racialequitytools.org/resourcefiles/2010NPIndudtrialComplex.pdf

“Arundhati Roy: Foundations & NGOs Pacify Grassroots Movements.” Democracy Now!, 9 Apr. 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46yVXoeEU_s.

Roy, Arundhati. “The NGO-Ization of Resistance.” Massalijn, 4 Sept. 2014, massalijn.nl/new/the-ngo-ization-of-resistance/

Ho, Helen Kim. “8 Ways People of Color Are Tokenized in Nonprofits.” Medium, The Nonprofit Revolution, 19 Sept. 2017, medium.com/the-nonprofit-revolution/8-ways-people-of-color-are-tokenized-in-nonprofits-32138d0860c1.

Cole, Teju. “The White-Savior Industrial Complex.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 11 Jan. 2013, www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/03/the-white-savior-industrial-complex/254843/.

Key concepts you will learn by the end of this session include:

  • Nonprofit industrial complex
  • NGO-ization
  • White saviorism

August 4, Session 9: Efforts to make social change: how non-intersectional social movements uphold systems of injustice

Required Readings:

Dionne, Evette. “Many Famous Suffragists Were Actually Working to Advance White Supremacy.” Teen Vogue, www.teenvogue.com/story/womens-suffrage-leaders-left-out-black-women.

Cargle, Rachel Elizabeth. “When Feminism Is White Supremacy in Heels,” June 2, 2020. https://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/politics/a22717725/what-is-toxic-white-feminism/.

Harrison, Da’Shaun. “OpEd: How Rainbow Capitalism Harms the Origins of What Pride Is About.” BET.com, 7 June 2019, www.bet.com/style/living/2019/06/07/rainbow-capitalism-is-harmful.html#!

Key concepts you will learn by the end of this session include:

  • White feminism
  • Rainbow capitalism or pink washing
  • Woke capitalism