Diversity in the Blogosphere and Digital Divides

There are some fascinating discussions about diversity in the blogosphere happening on MyDD, one of the top ten "progressive blogs," and a site that usually focuses on polling and strategy to the exclusion of all else.

It started with a post by the site's managing editor, Chris Bowers: A Quick Note on Diversity in the Blogosphere, wherein he suggested that the blogosphere was a niche, and that while diversity in the progressive movement was important, diversity in the blogosphere was not an inherent good or even necessary.

Needless to say, that caused a ruckus.  Through two other posts - More on Diversity: Blogging is a Niche and  Diversity in the Blogosphere: Practical Difficulties, Bowers clarified his point and the conversation become much more specific - focusing on barriers to entry, particular blog hiring/recruiting practices and the value of certain types of activism within the movement.

It culminated with this post by Jenifer Fernandez Ancona on Building Multiracial Coalitions, which Bowers promoted from the Diaries to the front page of the site (and where The Opportunity Agenda gets some love in the comments - thanks Jenifer!). 

The whole discussion is fascinating and well worth a read, especially as the "blackosphere" grows and learns how to work with the already established progressive blogs (aka the "whitosphere").

It also offers an opportunity for us to point out the wiki we set up to help groups find and catalogue blogs that focus on racial justice issues, immigration issues and human rights issues - all frequently ignored by the "mainstream" blogs.  You can find the wiki here.  The password is "justice."

On a related note, the Pew Internet and American Life Project  has a new survey out (pdf), and Andre Golis at TPM Cafe has a good read on the results and what they mean for the Digital Divide in America:

the usage gap is growing because while the speed of adoption at the
top is quick and interest is broad, many have either no access or no
interest.

It would be a tragic irony if the technology that offered the
greatest possibilities for destroying inequality actually expanded it,
or was simply prevented from realizing its potential by preexisting
economic, educational and social inequalities.

Destroying the digital divides that exist is a prerequisite for
realizing the most radically democratic and egalitarian dreams for the
possibilities of networking technology. The first step--empowering an
educated and socially engaged class of people to have new forms of
discussion and collaboration-- was easy. The second, third and fourth
steps will be much harder, and will require people putting their elbow
grease where their rhetoric is.

Another must read on the digitial divide today is this must-read interview with Arnold Chandler of Policy Link, who talks about the divide not only in terms of access, but of usage patterns and skill level.


Diversity in Cable News

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In the wake of the Imus media flap, cable news was awash in commentators of color.  As soon as the the news cycle shifted, however, all those commentators seemed to disappear, replaced by the usual (white male) suspects. 

The folks at Media Matters for America turned their keen analytical skills to this phenomenon and here's what they found:

  • Between 4pm and midnight, there are 35 hosts and cohosts on CNN, MSNBC and Fox.  29 are Male and 35 are white.
  • There is an almost complete lack of women of color and latino commentators in cable news (maybe this is CNN's solution . . . ?).
  • Inclusion of people of color jumped dramatically during the Imus affair.  That jump dropped off just as abruptly a week later:

race-divide-chart02  race-divide-chart03   race-divide-chart04

Media Matters hits the nail on the head in their conclusion: Cable news networks have no problem booking commentators of color when race is in the news.  Why do they have such difficulty on a day to day basis?


Human Rights in State Courts

Human rights are a crucial part of the United States’ legal and cultural foundation. The founders of our country declared that we are all created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights.

And the United States helped to craft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the international human rights system after World War II and the horrors of the Holocaust.

Over the last decade, more and more legal advocates have begun to incorporate human rights arguments into their work, and the U.S. Supreme Court, in particular, has increasingly cited human rights law as persuasive authority for important constitutional decisions.

Our new report (pdf) details the ways in which state courts have considered and interpreted international human rights law. It is intended for public interest lawyers and state court litigators, and also for state and municipal policy makers interested in integrating compliance with international human rights law into their domestic policies.


Opportunity Agenda in the News

Two op-eds by the Opportunity Agenda are making their way around the net.

Over at Tom Paine, Opportunity Agenda co-founders Alan Jenkins and Brian Smedley have an article assessing the state of health care equity five years after the release of the ground breaking study, Unequal Treatment:

Five years ago last month, the Institute of Medicine released a congressionally-mandated report, Unequal Treatment,
concluding that minority patients receive a lower quality of health
care than whites—even after taking into account differences in health
insurance and other economic and health factors. Authored by a
blue-ribbon panel assembled by the nation’s foremost health and science
advisory body, the report went on to say that such inequalities in
health care carry a significant human and economic toll and therefore
are “unacceptable.” Yet despite these urgent appeals, little has been
done to address disparities—leaving too many Americans vulnerable to
inequitable and inadequate health care.

In the current issue of The American Prospect, Alan Jenkins contributes to a special report on poverty in America with an article on the role that race plays in poverty in America.

Many Americans of goodwill
who want to reduce poverty believe that race is no longer relevant to
understanding the problem, or to fashioning solutions for it. This view
often reflects compassion as well as pragmatism. But we cannot solve
the problem of poverty -- or, indeed, be the country that we aspire to
be -- unless we honestly unravel the complex and continuing connection
between poverty and race.

Both pieces offer solutions as well as critiques of the problem.  Go give them a read.


Get the kids talking about diversity!

Back in December when the Supreme Court was hearing arguments in the school integration cases, diversity in our public schools was a hot topic. Guess what, it still matters. The level of diversity in our schools is helping to guide the futures of so many children. Let's be honest: children learn so much in their schools besides what's in the textbook. Let's allow children to learn from one another the richness of our many cultures and backgrounds.

The National Campaign to Restore Civil Rights has a writing contest for kids going on right now. I just found out about it, but there's still time to join. They're calling for essays from kids ages 12 to 17. Children under the age of 12 can participate by submitting a quote. The contest simply asks America's children: "Why is diversity important in our public schools?"

For more information on the contest follow this link! http://www.rollbackcampaign.org/library.cfm?fa=detail&id=127631&appView=folder


Many Voices, One Community

I was very happy to see this article in the New York Times on Tuesday. I'm so proud that we're seeing gains in representation of the Asian and Pacific Islander American (APIA) community among elected officials. It is especially crucial that APIA voices be heard in California, where APIA residents constitute the second-largest minority group. These gains are impressive steps toward building a truly representative government, but minorities remain vastly underrepresented in government and other sectors. What stood out most to me was the following:

Should the number of Asian-American elected officials continue to grow, the issues many of them have pursued — bilingual language assistance, equitable admissions standards at state universities and affordable health care — will become increasingly visible.

It stood out because these issues are issues that so many Californians (and people in every other state) care about. People all over care about equal access for limited-English speakers, to a high-quality education, and to affordable health care. Communities far and wide share many of the same concerns. More importantly, we all share the same drive for improvement and solutions. More diverse voices highlight the fact that we have more in common than we think. I believe that the best and more comprehensive solutions to these common concerns will also come from incorporating everyone's voices in the process.

Also this week, Congressman Mike Honda issued a statement titled the "State of APIA Community" that has some really interesting information. I first found the statement through New America Media. This brief overview of the APIA community is a great tool, especially since it can be hard to find detailed statistics about this community. For example:

In education, APIA students are still underserved, and 24.7% of the APIA population is linguistically isolated. When disaggregated, the percentages are even greater in the Southeast Asian community: 45% of Vietnamese Americans, 31.8% of Cambodian and Laotian Americans, and 35.1% of Hmong Americans are linguistically isolated.

It's important that we pay attention to disparities within the larger numbers. Disaggregating data the way it is done here will ensure that all people are being considered. Looking at averages across communities can be dangerous because it becomes easy to neglect the most vulnerable.


Revisiting The President’s Budget

Early last week, Mike blogged about the President’s budget. In particular, we saw that the budget endangered the sustainability and success of public health care programs like SCHIP and Medicaid. Families USA has created some more specific analyses of the proposed budget’s impact on these programs. They offer very straightforward notes on the proposed expenditures and expected savings. Check them out if you have trouble speaking “budgetese” like I do.

A story in today’s Washington Post shows just how crucial an adequate budget is. Not only is it imperative that SCHIP receives enough money to continue covering kids, but the program also needs the funds now. In just a few weeks, families across the country could lose the resources to keep their kids healthy due to budget shortfalls.

“The situation is most severe in Georgia, where officials plan to stop enrolling kids in the state's PeachCare program starting March 11 because of a $131 million shortage.”

Georgia isn’t alone:

“An Associated Press survey found that at least 14 states could face a shortfall of children's health insurance funds before the next federal fiscal year begins in October.


Besides Georgia, the other states are Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Iowa, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Rhode Island and Alaska.”

If we’re honestly aiming for shared responsibility, particularly when it comes to health care, then the government and our elected leaders need to hold up their share. Parents are upholding their share by enrolling and seeking care for their children. State governments are upholding their share by being flexible and expanding the program as they see fit. I think SCHIP is a success in part because it allows state governments to adjust the program to respond to their constituents. A budget that limits the states’ authority to do so (as the President’s budget proposes) will only hurt more families. A congress that doesn’t act quickly on the budget will do the same. Who isn’t taking responsibility for their share now?


Building Bridges Between Immigrants and African Americans

Our Executive Director, Alan Jenkins, has another post up on Tom Paine:

When immigrants took to the streets last year to
protest a punitive anti-immigrant bill in the House of Representatives
and to seek a pathway to citizenship, the public conversation focused
in part on the relationship between African Americans and immigrants.
And much of that conversation was framed in terms of competition and
conflict.

That framing was no accident. The mainstream media have fixated on potential points of black/immigrant tension, looking for a conflict storyline.
And that storyline has been amply fed by conservative anti-immigrant
groups intent on driving a wedge between the two communities. The website for Team America, founded by Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., and chaired by Bay Buchanan declares.

You can read Alan's call for a new vocabulary that builds bridges between these two communities here.


Second Chances for A Better Life

Today's New York Times features an article highlighting the importance of mobility and redemption in attaining opportunity:

Job Corps Plans Makeover for a Changed Economy

LAUREL, Md. — Over the last four decades, even as failed experiments
and partisan disputes took the luster off the war on poverty, the Job
Corps, the government’s main effort to give poorly educated youths a
second chance at a diploma and a trade, was widely seen as one of the
few success stories.

But now, as the economy has
turned against those with low skills and researchers have questioned
the long-term impact of the Job Corps on the lives of its graduates,
this remnant of the Great Society is facing an urgent need to reinvent
itself.

“Once you could go into the Job Corps and get a G.E.D.
and go out and make a living,” said Esther R. Johnson, a career
executive in the Labor Department with a doctorate in education who
took over the corps last March. “You can’t do that anymore.”

Dr. Johnson wants the Job Corps to aim higher, helping graduates into careers with a bigger paycheck.

Job Corps is a perfect illustration of the positive role government can play in safeguarding and providing opportunity for citizens.  Many of the participants have dropped out of high school in an age where a college degree is the minimum barrier to entry into a shrinking middle class, and many more require a second chance to restart their lives after going astray in their  youth.  Job Corps - and other similar programs mentioned in the piece - provide for that, to the benefit of the participants, their communities, and the nation:

With better training, high school diplomas or, better, degrees from
community colleges, many graduates of such programs, it is hoped, will
become chefs instead of hamburger flippers; plumbers, electricians or
carpenters instead of pickup laborers; nurses instead of health aides.
A newer course at the Laurel center trains students to install cable
and other electronic systems.

A study published in
2001 that surveyed Job Corps graduates and a control group, conducted
by Mathematica Policy Research for the Labor Department, found that the
program led to significant increases in self-reported earnings over
four years and to lower arrest rates.

Michael Whitfield, a subject of the Times' article, says it best:

Now 19, he has been accepted by a two-year college where he will study
criminal justice to become a police or parole officer. He credited the
Job Corps with helping him straighten up and discover his goals. “I
really can’t see people making it these days without a diploma,” he
said. “I was lucky; I had a second chance.”

   


Remembering Japanese Internment

Sixty-five years ago today, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the wartime removal and incarceration of over 110,000 Japanese Americans.  This single act has had endless ramifications on the lives of Japanese-Americans and is undeniably one of the worst chapters in American history.

In the decades leading up to World War II, there was a good deal of institutionalized discrimination against Japanese people in the United States. Japanese immigrants could not legally naturalize.  Children born in the US were granted citizenship, but immigrants themselves were unable to become citizens. Further, the ability of Japanese immigrants (non-citizens) to own property in the US was revoked entirely.  It had been legal, previously.

When the Japanese military forces attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7, 1941, pandemonium and fear broke loose.  American media coverage painted the Japanese to be a threat of unprecedented scale, quoting blatantly racist remarks by military leaders such as the assertion that the Japanese were going to 'overtake' the West Coast with help from the local Japanese population. The US was also at war with Germany and Italy, but somehow only the Japanese were thought to be a danger to national security.

On February 19, 1942, FDR ordered that everyone of Japanese descent living on the West Coast be 'evacuated.' These 110,000 people were given a certain number of days to liquidate their possessions, which essentially meant selling everything they owned, land included, to their non-Japanese neighbors for dirt-cheap prices.  Once transferred to the camps, many families occupied what were formerly horse stables, a frightening gauge of the dehumanization to which they were subjected.

When the camps were finally closed in 1944, evacuees were sent home with three items: train fare, $25 each, and a pamphlet advising them on how to readjust to society. Many families have never recovered the economic gains they had made before the war. Much of what they had put into storage before heading to the camps was long gone. There were a good number of college-educated Japanese professionals in the camps, who had an extraordinarily difficult time finding employment after their stays in the camps. Similarly, Japanese students struggled to be admitted to universities.  Many went eastward for greater opportunities

While the US government made an official apology for its actions in the 1980s, its attempts at reparations have been insufficient compared to the damage done to so many of its own citizens and their families.

While it is true that no one was tortured or killed in the 'internment camps' (not to be confused with 'concentration camps'), it’s worth a look at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with this situation in mind. While the UDHR was adopted in 1948, after the camps opened and closed, it has become a standard reference point for assessing human rights violations – and it provides a clear illustration of how many basic human rights were violated by the incarceration order.

For further resources, see NAATA’s educational website.


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