SPACExRACE

An exploration of the physical frontiers that define race in America


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Examining notions of race in our own backyards

Forest Whitaker

Forest Whitaker at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival (Photo Credit: David Shankbone via Creative Commons License)

Back in February, Academy-Award winning actor Forest Whitaker was publicly frisked at an upscale New York City deli after being falsely accused of shoplifting. The event became national news in light of commentary that Whitaker’s race played a role in the employee’s decision to frisk him.

This past week, Ta-Nehisi Coates, a senior editor at The Atlantic, wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times on the topic. In the article, Coates notes: “In modern America we believe racism to be the property of the uniquely villainous and morally deformed, the ideology of trolls, gorgons and orcs.” Coates points to the Whitaker story, however, as an example of the type of systematic racism that is propagated by even the most sincere, ostensible ‘nice’ people. His take on the matter is colored by his extensive experience with the deli, which is in his neighborhood and is one of his favorites. Continue reading