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Blog Post The Voice & Vision of Maya Angelou

Musings from members of our community about the impact of Dr. Maya Angelou on their lives, dreams, and creativity.

A Young Girl, Grabbing Life by the Lapels, by Eva-Marie Malone

It feels like a contradiction to mourn the passing of Dr. Angelou, because unlike many other well-known people who are gone, her life doesn’t seem incomplete. Often, the first response to the loss of someone famous is to imagine “what might have been” or what else they might have accomplished. Everything about Dr. Angelou’s life and writing felt complete.  Although this transition feels like a personal loss to many of us, her impact continues to resonate and breathe for all of us. 

Jun 2 2014
Blog Post From Angie Zapata to Laverne Cox

Sitting in a cab on my way to the airport, after facilitating a full-day communications workshop in Mississippi, I flipped through a magazine mindlessly. Suddenly an advertising insert from a department store caught my eye. It was Barneys' campaign featuring exclusively transgender models, Brothers, Sisters, Sons & Daughters. My thoughts immediately flashed back to 2009 when I was working at GLAAD and was focused on increasing Spanish language media coverage on Angie Zapata’s story. Angie was an 18-year-old from Colorado who was beaten to death with a fire extinguisher after her date found out she had been assigned a male identity at birth. The case drew national attention as one of the first in which a hate crime law was applied in a murder trial where the victim was transgender.

May 20 2014
Blog Post An Opportunity Century? Election 2012, Social Justice, and America

As the election results sink in, partisans are busy debating what 2012 voting patterns mean for Republican and Democratic prospects in the next election cycle. But what lessons do this year’s results hold for those of us who are committed to expanding opportunity and protecting human rights in ways that transcend party and outlast individual elections or candidates? The lessons are plenty, including some that defy the conventional wisdom.

Nov 6 2012
Blog Post ProPublica Series: Living Apart: How the Government Betrayed a Landmark Civil Rights Law

Image by <a target="_blank" href="http://www.propublica.org/article/living-apart-how-the-government-betrayed-a-landmark-civil-rights-law">Propublica.org</a>

 

By Nikole Hannah-Jones

The original article can be found here.

A few months after Congress passed a landmark law directing the federal government to dismantle segregation in the nation's housing, President Nixon's housing chief began plotting a stealth campaign.

The plan, George Romney wrote in a confidential memo to aides, was to use his power as secretary of Housing and Urban Development to remake America's housing patterns, which he described as a "high-income white noose" around the black inner city.

Oct 29 2012
Page Public Opinion and Media Research Briefing

Download: Public Opinion and Media Research Briefing - PowerPoint Presentation 

Apr 23 2012
Page Public Opinion Monthly (March 2012)

Public Opinion Monthly: Equal Opportunity and the Role of Government

By: Jill Mizell

Mar 27 2012
Blog Post Honoring Justice

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On March 1st, I had the honor of speaking at the memorial service for civil rights hero and respected jurist Judge Robert L. Carter. These were my reflections:

I had the privilege of serving as Judge Carter’s Law Clerk in 1989. But years before that, I was sure that I wanted to know this man, and to be known by him.

Mar 7 2012
Blog Post Honoring Judge Robert L. Carter

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On January 3rd, America lost one of the greatest champions of equal opportunity and human rights that our nation has ever known. Judge Robert L. Carter, civil rights lawyer, jurist, and fierce defender of justice, passed away at age 94 after suffering a stroke.

Jan 12 2012
Blog Post Immigration Blog Round Up, November 7

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Photo by ElvertBarnes

Following in the steps of Arizona, Georgia, Utah and Indiana, Alabama has joined the campaign of attrition against undocumented immigrants by implementing a new anti-immigrant law, HB 56.  While the law is similar to its counterparts – Arizona SB 1070 and Georgia HB 87, to name a few- it’s more restrictive. For example, it requires schools to check the immigration status of children and their parents. Since its enactment, the law has ignited fear, panic, and disruptions in the everyday lives of Latino communities, including U.S. citizens.  A significant number of Latino students have not been showing up to school, employees are not reporting to work, and homes have suddenly become uninhabited.

Nov 7 2011
Blog Post Our Modern Family

On Sunday, the sit-com Modern Family won a well-deserved five Emmy awards, including one for best comedy series.  I’m a fan of the show, but can’t help thinking that it is a double-edged sword. 

The show depicts three inter-connected families who reflect a rich, 21st century American reality: a gay couple with an adopted Asian-American daughter, a spring/autumn marriage between a Colombian immigrant with a son and her much older Anglo husband, and a white heterosexual couple with three very different kids.  Part of the brilliance of the situation, of course, is that they are really just one family; the older husband is the grandfather of the Asian-American daughter, the step-father of the Latino son, and so on. 

Sep 20 2011
Blog Post September 11, 2011

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Photo by dennoit

On the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the time is right to consider how we have changed as a country and how we remain the same.  It is a widely-accepted truism that we were all changed after the terrorist attacks in Washington, DC, New York, and Pennsylvania. However, even though some made use of the fear and heated emotions following the attacks to suppress human and civil rights, our bedrock principles endure, and in fact, flourish.

Sep 9 2011
Blog Post When Social Media and Cause Engagement for Minorities Come Together

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Photo by john_a_ward

The use of communications during the struggle for social justice in the United States is far from being a novelty. News spread quickly by word of mouth when black college students started a host of nonviolent sit-ins in several states almost 50 years ago, as The Washington Post’s Krissah Thompson noted. Today, civil rights activists, particularly African Americans and Hispanics, have found in social media a powerful channel to voice their support for a cause and generate cause engagement, according to a latest study by Georgetown University and Ogilvy PR Worldwide.

Sep 7 2011
Blog Post Social Media, Opportunity, and Time 100

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Photo by Philippe Martin

Most recently, Time magazine revealed yet another list of the world’s most influential people in the world, and this time Wael Ghonim, a Google executive from Egypt, is at the helm of this selected group thanks to his active participation during the revolts against the Hosni Mubarak regime by way of social media tools—primarily Facebook. What’s more, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg made the cut for this list (his second mention in a row on this publication after being selected “Person of the Year” in 2010). Finally, Google’s CEO Larry Page was also included.

Apr 28 2011
Blog Post Bi-Weekly Public Opinion Round Up - Reproductive Rights

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Woman and daughter at Planned Parenthood Rally - photo by Warm Sleepy

Women’s Reproductive Rights Under Attack Yet Again

“History shows that when women and girls have access to opportunity, societies are more just, economies are more likely to prosper, and governments are more likely to serve the needs of all their people.” - President Barack Obama
 

Apr 21 2011
Blog Post Bi-Weekly Public Opinion Round Up - Marriage Equality

 

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 Photo by Fritz Liess

GROWING SUPPORT FOR MARRIAGE EQUALITY


 Obama Administration Announces It Will No Longer Defend the Defense of Marriage Act

Mar 1 2011
Blog Post Reforming U.S. Housing Finance Policy to Work for People of Color

On February 16, 2011, a group of economists, housing advocates, and civil-rights organizations met in Washington, D.C. to discuss the future and reform of government-sponsored enterprises, or GSEs.  The forum was hosted by the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and partners; the National Fair Housing Alliance, The Opportunity Agenda, and the Center for Responsible Lending.

Feb 25 2011
Blog Post Americans for Constitutional Citizenship

Congratulations!  You’re expecting a baby.  There are a million things to do, from getting the nursery in order to buying a car seat and finding a pediatrician.  Also, start documenting your family tree.  Dig up your passport, and your parents’ passports, and maybe their parents’ too.  Otherwise, your baby might not be a full American with full rights and responsibilities.  Seriously, if a group of politicians and political operatives have their way.

Jan 10 2011
Blog Post Defending our Constitution

This morning, The Opportunity Agenda joined with a coalition of civil and human rights organizations to announce the formation of Americans for Constitutional Citizenship, a diverse alliance dedicated to preserving the constitutional guarantee of American citizenship to every person born in the United States.

Jan 5 2011
Blog Post Those Other Pat-Downs

A “choice” between an ultra-revealing body scan, a scandalously intrusive pat-down, or not traveling by air, ever, is no choice at all. And for those of us who travel internationally, the frustration is compounded by the knowledge that other countries use less invasive and, often, smarter approaches. 

Nov 29 2010
Blog Post Holding Arpaio Accountable

Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio is known for housing inmates in tent cities in the desert and making them wear pink clothes as humiliation, but also for allegations of racial profiling and abusive treatment of Latinos, inside and outside of his jailhouse.

Sep 7 2010
Blog Post Repealing the 14th Amendment is Wrong for America

For well over a century, children born on American soil have been American citizens.  Changing that guarantee is not a new idea, but Arizona Senator Jon Kyl’s proposed hearings on the subject have given it new life.  A close look at the history and purpose of the citizenship provision makes clear why changing it would harm us all.

Read more...

Aug 10 2010
Blog Post Spotlight on the U.S.-Mexico Border

While we’re spending our federal funds on policies that threaten both human rights at the border and judicial and prosecutorial safeguards, is there room for us to reaffirm our commitment to human dignity and due process? 

May 26 2010
Blog Post Dr. Rand Paul or: How I Learned To Fear the Tea Party

When Rand Paul won a primary last Tuesday, becoming Kentucky’s Republican nominee for the Senate, he declared himself a national leader of the Tea Party movement.  It was an important moment for the movement as it, coming on the heels of the election of Scott Brown to the Senate, served as another step in its potential transformation from a loosely confederated group of grassroots groups into national level political force.  But, as Dr. Paul’s attacks on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 just two days later highlighted, the true implications of the movement’s ideology are chilling to say the least.  

May 25 2010
Blog Post A Government that Reflects America's Values

According to a 2007 poll, Americans define human rights as the rights to equal opportunity, freedom from discrimination, a fair criminal justice system, and freedom from torture or abuse by law enforcement. Despite the current political wrangling over how to reform it, a majority of Americans even believe that access to health care is a human right.

Mar 5 2010
Blog Post Power of the Pen

On February 18, President Obama issued an executive order creating a bipartisan commission on addressing the budget deficit. Whatever one thinks of the commission’s mission or likely recommendations, the order should represent a rediscovery of the power of the presidency.

Feb 22 2010
Blog Post Long Overdue

In last week’s State of the Union Address, President Obama took a pivotal step towards repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Approximately 16 years later, this repeal is far overdue.

Feb 4 2010
Blog Post High-Stakes of Stupak-Pitts Amendment for Women of Color

A few Saturdays ago, on November 7th, I was at the annual SisterSong meeting, a gathering of about 300 reproductive justice advocates. What was exhilarating and unusual about this meeting was that the vast majority of people attending were women of color who are focused on gender and sexuality issues. This was a fantastic event that showcased and harnessed the power of women of color, a group often portrayed as politically and socially marginalized.

Nov 24 2009
Blog Post Racial Segregation in U.S. Schools: Illinois Terminates Chicago’s Desegregation Decree

All people should have the opportunity to succeed in life, regardless of their race. But a recent Illinois district court decision jeopardizes that possibility.

Nov 23 2009
Blog Post A Voice in Society

A truly functional democracy depends on the ability of everyone to have a voice—a chance to contribute their views and perspectives, and to have them heard and respected.

That everyone be able to participate in public debate, in decisions that affect us, and to be part of the social and cultural life of that nation is essential to our ability to achieve our full potential, as individuals and together.

Jun 26 2009
Blog Post Real Choices for Reproductive Justice

It is certainly an important time for America's discussions of health, but also an important time to talk about equality in America as it relates to access to reproductive health care.

Jun 15 2009
Blog Post One Wrong Note

During the presidential campaign, candidate Barack Obama spoke eloquently about race in America and its continuing relevance to our national progress. But at the press conference marking his first 100 days, President Obama got it wrong.

Black Entertainment Television reporter Andre Showell asked the President:

May 5 2009
Communications Talking Points: The State of Opportunity Report (2009)

This memo offers guidance for using the 2009 State of Opportunity in America report, which examines various dimensions of opportunity, including health care, wealth and income, education, and incarceration. While expanding opportunity in America remains a goal of policymakers and advocates alike, this report finds that access to full and equal opportunity is still very much a mixed reality. Our recommendations to address this reality offer concrete ideas for moving us forward together.

Apr 15 2009
Research Report: The State of Opportunity Report (2009)

This is the 2009 State of Opportunity report.  Here you may download the final report, the final report with accompanying charts, a synopsis, and each of the indicators individually.

Read more about the report here.

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Apr 1 2009
Blog Post An Uneven Journey

Earlier this year, I visited my father, who lives in the Bay Area. As we drove from the Oakland airport, the conversation quickly turned to the Obama presidency. Born in 1923, my dad survived the Great Depression, fought in World War II, endured vicious Jim Crow segregation and violence, participated in the Civil Rights Movement, and, this year, witnessed the inauguration of an African-American president of the United States.

Mar 24 2009
Research Report: The State of Opportunity Update (2007)

This is the 2007 update to the State of Opportunity report.  There are two files, the full chart of indicators and a summary.

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Mar 15 2009
Blog Post Thursday Immigration Blog Roundup

Business Week Online and the New York Times report on the Kauffman Foundation's study on the "flood" of young and highly-educated Indian and Chinese immigrants returning to their countries of origin in light of decreasing job opportunities and increasing immigration backlog in the United States. 

Mar 5 2009
Blog Post Thursday Immigration Blog Roundup

This week's post will round up currently available immigration-related resources:

Demographics

Data collected by the Census Bureau in 2007, summarized by the New York Times and the Center for Immigration Studies

The Department of Homeland Security's new reports on:

Feb 25 2009
Research Report: State of Opportunity (2006)

SoO2006_0.pngIf the promise of opportunity is a core national commitment, it is essential to measure our success in fulfilling that commitment.  This report assesses the nation’s progress toward protecting and expanding opportunity for all Americans and encourages our policymakers, through bold leadership and innovative policies, to ensure the promise of o

Feb 15 2009
Communications Talking Points: The Supreme Court's School Diversity Cases (2007)

We recommend using the following messages to communicate the importance of pursuing inclusion in our schools, and outline the valid options for doing so.

Jan 29 2009
Blog Post Dr. King's Modern Legacy

In the days just before and after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 80th birthday, I had the opportunity to visit two places that are integral to his modern day legacy: Washington, DC and the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. As I witnessed the inauguration of Barack Obama as the nation’s 44th president, I thought of Dr. King’s admonition, in his 1963 I Have a Dream Speech, that “we cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote.” Despite some continuing problems at the ballot box, this was an election about which Dr. King could be truly satisfied; African Americans turned out in record numbers to elect the nation’s first African-American president.

In the same speech, Dr. King reminded the nation that “when the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the ‘unalienable Rights’ of ‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’”

For anyone who’s visited the Gulf Coast recently, it is obvious that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as the people of the Lower Ninth Ward—overwhelmingly poor and African-American—are concerned. The world witnessed in 2005 how our government left the region’s people to drown in their homes and suffer unspeakable conditions in the New Orleans Convention Center and Superdome. More than three years later, that abandonment continues.

Jan 23 2009
Blog Post Human Rights: More American Than Apple Pie

"Human rights is not marginal to who we are; human rights defines who we are.  The United States is a country defined by human rights.  ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all persons are created equal’….

Dec 10 2008
Blog Post How Not to Blow It

It's hard to overstate the transformative moment that we're in as a nation and, particularly, as progressives. In just a few years, we've gone from the high point of conservative power to a stunning rejection of conservative federal leadership and the historic election of a progressive African-American president.

But the electoral sea change is just part of the extraordinary national moment. The financial meltdown and slide toward deep recession have crystallized Americans' anger over deteriorating economic security, stagnant mobility, growing inequality, and policies of isolation instead of connection. Americans are ready for a new social compact and a transformed relationship between the people and our government. They are calling for a new era of big ideas and different values than we've seen over most of the past three decades.

The electorate has shown an unprecedented willingness to overcome racial and ethnic barriers to take on daunting shared challenges. Young people, people of color, and low-income people turned out to register and vote in unprecedented numbers that bode well for a far more participatory and egalitarian democracy going forward.

Even before this year's remarkable events, opinion research showed a historic, progressive shift in Americans' views on issues that (not coincidentally) were barely mentioned in the election. Perhaps most striking is the shift on criminal justice and problems of addiction, where the U.S. public has moved broadly to support rehabilitation and treatment over incarceration and retribution, as well as assistance and integration for people emerging from prison.

But an unprecedented opportunity for progressive values and ideas is not the same as victory for a progressive social and policy vision. The stark challenges of rising inequality, faltering security, and broken systems of health care, immigration, and criminal justice are the same on November 5 as they were on November 4. What's changed is only the chance for transformative change.

History shows that progressives could easily blow this opportunity, just as conservatives blew their transformative moments after the 1994 elections and the attacks of September 11, 2001. A few principles can help progressives move from opportunity to realization in ways that profoundly benefit our country.

Nov 5 2008
Blog Post The Promise of Opportunity

Taking another look at "New Progressive Voices," a collection of essays outlining a new long-term, progressive vision for America, today we turn to our Executive Director, Alan Jenkins', contribution.

The piece paints a bleak picture.  Alan outlines many of the problems facing regular Americans today.  Many people are having trouble getting a job that pays a living wage, paying for health care, and getting their children into quality schools.  Tying this together with the present high rates of incarceration, all signs point to a general lack of opportunity in America.

In keeping with goals of this essay collection Alan's essay, "The Promise of Opportunity," strives to give concrete solutions to these communal ills.  Alan's essay suggests making "opportunity" a metric by which to consider the viability of federal programs.

As with the environmental impact statements currently required under the National Environmental Policy Act, the relevant agency would require the submission of information and collect and analyze relevant data to determine the positive and negative impacts of the proposed federally funded project. Here, however, the inquiry would focus on the ways in which the project would expand or constrict opportunity in affected geographic areas and whether the project would promote equal opportunity or deepen patterns of inequality.

While the measures of opportunity would differ in different circumstances, the inquiry would typically include whether the project would create or eliminate jobs, expand or constrict access to health care services, schools, and nutritious food stores, foster or extinguish affordable housing and small business development. At the same time, [these Opportunity Impact Statements (OIS)] would assess the equity of the project's burdens and benefits, such as whether it would serve a diversity of underserved populations, create jobs accessible to the affected regions, serve diverse linguistic and cultural communities, balance necessary health and safety burdens fairly across neighborhoods, and foster integration over segregation.

To read the full article, click here.

Sep 23 2008
Blog Post 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Yesterday was the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a ground-breaking document initiated and championed by the United States and Eleanor Roosevelt.  Frank Knaack of the ACLU Human Rights Program writes about the significance of the Universal Declaration in the United States and where we are today in fulfilling the promise of "the foundation of the modern human rights system":

The UDHR laid the foundation for a system of rights which are
universal, indivisible, and interdependent. The UDHR does not
differentiate between civil and political rights on one side and
economic, social, and cultural rights on the other. It realizes that in
order to properly enjoy one set of rights, you must also be able to
enjoy the other. As is often noted, one cannot properly exercise their
right to vote, think, or live if they have no food, housing, or basic
health services. It is from these principles that the modern human
rights treaty system (international human rights law) was born.

[...]

While much of the focus on the human rights record of the U.S.
government is in the context of foreign policy and the so called “war
on terror,” including the rendition, torture, and indefinite detention
of foreign nationals, and vis-à-vis its high rhetoric on spreading
freedom and democracy throughout the globe, it is of equal importance
to look at the state of human rights at home. From the government’s
inadequate response in the wake of hurricanes  Katrina and Rita;
to pervasive discrimination against racial minorities in the areas of
education, housing, and criminal justice, including death penalty; to
imposing life sentences without the possibility of parole on juveniles;
to abhorrent conditions in immigration detention facilities, it is
clear that the U.S. government has failed to abide by its international
obligations.

While the struggle for universal human rights is far from over,
there has been great improvement in the fight to bring human rights
home. More and more non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and
individual activists in the U.S. are utilizing the human rights
framework in the domestic advocacy and litigation. At the latest
session of the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial  Discrimination
(the treaty body that monitors state compliance with the Convention on
the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination), there were more
than 120 representatives from U.S.-based nongovernmental organizations
(NGOs) in Geneva, Switzerland, who briefed the Committee members and
provided additional information to counter the misrepresentations and
omissions of the official U.S. government report on the state of racial
discrimination in the U.S. This information, in turn, led the Committee
to conclude that the U.S. should make sweeping reforms to policies
affecting racial and ethnic minorities, women, indigenous people, and
immigrants. The Committee’s recommendations garnered domestic and
international media attention, and were followed by a three week
official visit to the U.S. by the U.N.  Special Rapporteur on Racism.
This visit by the Special Rapporteur further opened up opportunities
for domestic NGOs to utilize the international human rights framework,
as was evidenced by the successful public education and media outreach
campaigns conducted by local NGOs throughout the US during this visit.
As this shows, human rights advocacy has become an effective tool for
social justice advocates in the U.S. to use to press for change and
enhance the protection of basic human rights.

The Opportunity Agenda is dedicated to bringing human rights home.  We are proud to work with coalitions such as the U.S. Human Rights Network and the Human Right to Health Capacity Building Collaborative to build the national, state, and local will to make human rights a real and effective tool for realizing American opportunity.

U.S. Human Rights Reports and Tools from The Opportunity Agenda:

Jun 19 2008
Blog Post "Brave New Laws" by Alan Jenkins at OurFuture.org

Check out The Opportunity Agenda Executive Director Alan Jenkins' new column, "Brave New Laws," at the Campaign for America's Future blog, Blog for Our Future.  Jenkins discusses the need for new, proactive laws that recognize what technological advances and scientific research have clearly demonstrated--that many Americans are still at risk of discrimination:

May 7 2008
Blog Post You're Invited to a Hill Briefing on CERD and Health Inequality

Here's an event that folks interested in health equity and human rights might want to attend ...

Congressional Briefing on Health Inequality and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)

The U.S. government recently filed a required periodic report to the United Nations on the nation's progress toward the elimination of racial discrimination. The report cited progress in many areas, including health and health care. The U.N. CERD Committee agreed with some aspects of the report but noted that the United States has failed to recognize and remedy instances where facially-neutral policies contribute to inequality in health and health care.

To address these issues, several dozen non-governmental organizations and individual scholars, under the leadership of the Poverty and Race Research Action Council, prepared a "shadow" report, Unequal Health Outcomes in the United States (available at http://www.prrac.org/pdf/CERDhealthEnvironmentReport.pdf), that illustrates instances of non-compliance with CERD in the right to health, health care access, and treatment, and outlines steps to correct them.

You are invited to a special briefing with some of the collaborators on this report to learn of the extent of racial inequality in health and environmental health, their causes, and actions that government can take to address them. This panel discussion, moderated by Brian Smedley of The Opportunity Agenda, will feature presentations from Katrina Anderson of the Center for Reproductive Rights, Steve Hitov of the National Health Law Program, Rea Pañares of Families USA, and Philip Tegeler of the Poverty and Race Research Action Council, and will take place on April 24 from 1:30pm - 3:00pm in room HC-8 of the Capitol. To RSVP for the briefing, please call or email Kara Forsyth of the Raben Group at (202) 223-2848 or KForsyth@rabengroup.com. All are invited, but seating is limited and priority will be giving to Congressional staff and members.

Apr 16 2008
Blog Post Forty Years Later...

One of the greatest values in a great leader is her or his dedication to serve others.  Forty years following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., our country is obsessed with the race for our next executive leader who will serve as President. 

Dr. King preached once that the greatest leader was the one who was a servant.  But what is truly great was that each and every one of us can be a servant, bringing about greatness in our own way.

Building a community that fosters opportunity for all can come when we all realize our potential to become a great leader.  We might not have the strobed flashes of a photographers camera bearing down on us; nor might we have the motorcades and state dinners.  But we do have each other. And when we serve one another, we see first-hand how a community that focuses on others, rather than the individual, can make the dreams that King dreamed come true.

Recently, The Tavis Smiley Show on PRI focused on the current state of poverty in the United States, part of which included Alan Jenkins, Executive Director for The Opportunity Agenda.  The program, "Below the Line," comes forty years after Dr. King's Poor Peoples Campaign, one of his greatest dreams of civil disobedience that was not realized until shortly after his death.  Smiley's series offers a in-depth look into the issues faced by poor Americans, particularly people of color.

Listening to Smiley's series, in conjunction with the many King speeches that are available for free online, is a good source for motivation on how we can all better serve our community.  It's going to take more than an executive decision from the White House to end poverty in this country.  So, in addition to asking our next President how we can solve these problems, we should also ask ourselves how "we" can solve these problems.  Thus, on this forty-year anniversary of Dr. King's death, what can you do--even on the smallest level--to bring about opportunity for all? 

Apr 4 2008
Blog Post Most Connecticut Residents Agree That Undocumented Immigrants Should Have a Path to Citizenship

A Quinnipiac Poll released today shows that a plurality, and almost majority, of Connecticut residents believe that undocumented immigrants should be offered a chance to apply for citizenship, preferring this policy option over either deportation or offering temporary worker status by a rate of 2-to-1.

The poll asked, among many other questions ranging from opinions on the current presidential candidates to the state of the economy:

38. What do you think should happen to most illegal immigrants working in the United States - Should they be offered a chance to apply for citizenship, OR Should they be allowed to stay as temporary workers, OR Should they be deported to the country they came from?

47% of all respondents selected "citizenship," while only 27% and 22% selected "temporary workers" and "deported," respectively.  51% of all women and 59% of all African American residents agreed that a path to citizenship was the sound solution to addressing the status issue of undocumented immigrants.

These Connecticut residents are recognizing the importance of community, the American value of expanding opportunity for all members of our society and extending to newcomers both the rights and responsibilities that tie us together, as embodied in our national motto, E Pluribus Unum, "from many, one."  Connecticuters (yes, that's what someone from Connecticut is called; either that, or "Yankee," as of King Arthur's Court) also hold strong the fundamental American value of mobility, the central concept of the American Dream which states that the economic, educational, and personal achievement should not be limited or determined by the circumstances of a person's birth.

Mar 27 2008
Blog Post Media Allowed in on Mychal Bell's Trial
  • Too Sense has given us a heads-up on the fact that although juvenile trials are generally closed to the media, the judge in Jena Six member Mychal Bell's case has agreed to grant courtroom access to a number of newspapers and television stations.  Many people are hopeful that the media presence in Louisiana will help ensure a fair and just trial, as the justice system will be accountable to millions of viewers across the country.
  • Earlier this week, the Los Angeles Police Department announced a plan to 'map' Muslim communities around the city with the objective of identifying terrorists. After strong critism from Muslim groups and civil rights activists, the LAPD has gone back on its decision in favor of more 'community outreach.' The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog has copied an LA Times article on the most recent decision.

"Has the debate over race become a melodrama? A bad television soap
opera? A theatrical stage play with complex issues boiled down to a
script? Entertaining words thrown around simply to satisfy the 24-hour
news cycle, the blogosphere?

Are we doomed to debate racism over and over — stuck in purgatory, a
cycle of skirmishes, of shock and awe, with nothing gained, nothing
learned?

Or is there a way to change the ritual, to go deeper into our national consciousness and get off this merry-go-round?"

  • The Unapologetic Mexican reported on the 'No Borders Camp' that had recently been set up on Mexicali/Calexico border crossing.  While the protesters were attacked by the border patrol, blogger Nezua says of the 'Cross-Border Kissing Booth' that "meeting antagonism and violence and hostility with a sense of humor and
    love is probably the most satisfying way to engage negativity and
    destructive energy." The IndyBay article he quotes also goes into a discussion of border enforcement, arguing that the border patrol created a "sustained level of violence which tears apart communities, families, neighborhoods, and peoples lives."
  • Finally, the ProInmigrant blog has done a post on the delay in processing the acceptance of Iraqi refuguees currently living in Syria.  While the US has pledged to accept 12,000 Iraqi refugees within the year, only 450 were let in last month, due to slowdowns in the requisite security clearances.  In total there are 140,000 Iraqi refugees in Syria awaiting resettlement. The blog notes, "The Bush administration has conceded a moral obligation to assist Iraqi refugees, but the slow pace of admissions has sparked criticism from refugee advocates and lawmakers."
Nov 16 2007
Blog Post All Things Being Equal: Instigating Opportunity in an Inequitable Time

"One year from now, our country will choose a new president. And
while the candidates have debated extensively on individual issues like
health care, the war, the economy, and the environment, they have
offered far less in terms of a positive, overarching vision for our
country that both addresses and transcends individual issues.

While candidates' positions on the issues of the day are crucially
important, it's equally important to take their measure on what George
H. W. Bush called "the vision thing":
the clarity of ideals, values, and principles that inspire and shape a
president's approach to a broad range of issues, including ones that no
one could have anticipated on the day he or she was elected.

A new book by The Opportunity Agenda
offers such a vision on the domestic front; one to which we hope the
presidential contenders of both parties will respond. Not surprisingly,
that vision centers on opportunity, the idea that everyone deserves a
fair chance to achieve his or her full potential. In the book "All Things Being Equal: Instigating Opportunity in an Inequitable Time,"
a dozen leading thinkers paint a picture of what opportunity means in
our society, where we are falling short, and what must be done to
instigate opportunity for all. Their vision bridges myriad
issues—education, employment, housing, criminal justice, immigration,
health care, human rights—and disciplines—public health, economics,
criminology, law, sociology, psychology, education, social work. The
authors provide a clear and hopeful path to the future, a wake-up call
to our nation's current and future leaders, and concrete solutions that
promise to carry us forward.

As I've written before in this column, opportunity is not just a set of national conditions, but a body of national values:
economic security, mobility, a voice in decisions that affect us, a
chance to start over after missteps or misfortune, and a shared sense
of responsibility for each other-as members of a common society.
Analyzing their own and others' research through the lens of those
values, the authors of All Things Being Equal warn that opportunity is
increasingly at risk for all Americans and, therefore, for our country
as a whole. They find that many communities are facing multiple
barriers to opportunity that cannot be overcome through personal effort
alone. But, most importantly, they find that we have it in our power as
a country to turn those trends around."

  • The Immigration Equality blog has posted about yesterday's confirmation of Michael Mukasey as US Attorney General, after a long struggle in the Senate Judiciary Committee over his unwillingness to label waterboarding as illegal and torturous. The blog also notes that his position on the matter is being interpreted by some as a way of insulating the Department of Justice from future lawsuits or charges against government officials for human rights violations.

Racial_diversity_in_staffs_2

The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog reposted a recent New York Times article on the Surge Seen in Number of Homeless Veterans.  While many veterans have ended up the sort of post-traumatic stress disorder which often correlates with homelessness, it's unusual that veterans would show up in shelters as soon after deployment as have the most recent batch after duty in Iraq or Afghanistan.  Sexual abuse is another factor which correlates with homelessness -- the article states that "roughly 40 percent of the hundreds of homeless female veterans of recent wars have said they were sexually assaulted by American soldiers while in the military."

Finally, the Too Sense blog posted a graph of the racial diversity in campaign staff among the top 2008 presidential candidates.  While Clinton's staff is the most diverse, Giuliani's staff is 100% white.
Nov 9 2007
Blog Post Writers Guild Fighting for Fair Pay While TV Networks Threaten To Cut Jobs
  • There has been a lot of discussion on The Huffington Post about the Writers Guild of America strike that started on Monday, as TV networks and screenwriters failed to reach an agreement before the end of their previous contract. Union members are essentially demanding that networks begin to distribute profits from new media airings of their work, but have made little headway in negotiations on the issue. In a move that will endanger the financial security of many Americans, some networks are now threatening large-scale firings of their employees. According to an opinion in the LA Times:

"A day after Hollywood's writers went out on strike, the major studios
are hitting back with plans to suspend scores of long-term deals with
television production companies, jeopardizing the jobs of hundreds of
rank-and-file employees whose names never appear in the credits.

Assistants, development executives and production managers will soon be
out of work, joining their better-paid bosses who opted to sacrifice
paychecks as members of the Writers Guild of America. At some studios,
the first wave of letters are going out today, hitting writer-producers
whose companies don't currently have shows in production."

  • Migra Matters has done an interesting post on the results of yesterday's election in Virginia, where the Republican party had chosen to make an immigration crackdown its biggest campaign selling point.  Curiously, the Democrats appear to have gained control of the state Senate, leading the author to advise us with respect to upcoming national elections: "If the Republicans were looking at immigrant-bashing as a silver bullet
    to stem the national tide against them, surely tonight's results in
    Virginia will should give them second thoughts."
  • The House of Representatives has begun debate on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a measure to extend federal workplace protections to those targeted for their sexual orientation.  Pam's House Blend discusses the fact that a coalition of civil and gay rights organizations announced their support yesterday for the current version of the bill which does not include the same protections for transgender individuals, thus leaving the LGBT community divided.
  • The Sentencing Law and Policy blog featured an editorial in today's New York Times about the Second Chance Act, a bill which has had bipartisan support in Congress since 2004 but has yet to move through the legislature. The Times describes the need for the government policies to support redemption, or the idea that we all deserve a second chance:

"If past patterns hold true, more than half of
the 650,000 prisoners released this year will be back behind bars by
2010. With the prison population exploding and the price of
incarceration now topping $60 billion a year, states are rightly
focusing on ways to reduce recidivism. Congress can give these efforts
a boost by passing the Second Chance Act, which would provide crucial
help to people who have paid their debts to society....

The Second Chance Act would add to what the country knows about the
re-entry process by establishing a federal re-entry task force, along
with a national resource center to collect and disseminate information
about proven programs....  The programs necessary to help former
prisoners find a place in society do not exist in most communities.
The Second Chance Act would help to create those programs by providing
money, training, technical assistance — and a Congressional stamp of
approval."

  • Last up, blogger Sudy is working on a video project to "feature, support, and highlight the work done by feminists of color."  She's included a preview of the video on her site which has been cross-posted by Vox et Machina.

Nov 7 2007
Blog Post Crackdown Policies Are Destroying Immigrant Families and Solidarity in Our Communities
  • We've previously mentioned Oklahoma's new law which targets American citizens for 'transporting' undocumented immigrants. BlogHer reported Saturday on further implications of the law, arguing that assisting a woman in labor or the victims of a car accident in getting to the emergency room could be grounds for a felony charge. While it is highly likely that the constitutionality of this legislation will be challenged, it definitely lies contrary to the core value of community, that we are all responsible for each other's well-being and that our successes and fates are linked.
  • The 'Just News' blog posted about an LA Times article stating the US has reached an all-time high in the number of immigration detainees it is holding in prison: more than 30,000 people, over 4,000 in the state of California alone.  A similar statistic reveals that "the immigration agency's budget for bed space skyrocketed to $945 million last year, up from $641 million in fiscal year 2005." Although the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) denies that overcrowding is a problem, immigrants and advocates argue that facilities and short-staffed and detainees are not given proper medical care.
  • Both Citizen Orange and Latina Lista have told the story of a man who spent five months in a detention facility only to see his health deteriorate to a critical point.  Ricardo Gomez Garcia and his wife Juana left their four children in Guatemala years ago in order to come to the US in search of work to support their family.  While here Juana gave birth to their youngest child, who at the age of four has been diagnosed with autism and requires specialized care. Earlier this year, Gomez was arrested in the New Bedford immigration raid and held in an immigration prison before being deported.  Sick but desperate with worry over his wife and young son, Gomez managed to return to New Bedford, only to die later that night.  Juana, his wife of twenty years, is now seeking community support in order send Gomez's body back to Guatemala.
  • Finally, the Alas! and reappropriate blogs have written about US Border Patrol Agent Ephraim Cruz, who is being fired from his post for talking and complaining openly about inhumane conditions in the immigrant detention center where he worked.  Cruz has said that he observed countless "…violations of policies, training, state laws, fire and health codes,
    and illegal aliens’ civil and human rights within [the Douglas,
    Arizona] 'processing facility'." The blogs are also offering readers the chance to contribute to Cruz's search for affordable legal representation so he can defend himself against unfair termination of employment.
Nov 6 2007
Blog Post 'Sanctuary' Challenged in Illinois, While Senate Considers FEC Nominee
  • In the ongoing dilemma surrounding 'sanctuary cities', the Department of Homeland Security is now suing the state of Illinois over a new state law that bans employers from using the Social Security administration's no-match database until the agency can certify that it is 99% accurate.  The Bush administration contends that the state law preempts the new federal law meant to increase pressure on undocumented workers.
  • Regarding the progress of SCHIP reauthorization, the bill has passed in the House, but without the margin necessary to override a veto by President Bush.  It will next move on to the Senate for consideration.  Blogger Lane Hudson on the Huffington Post has referred to SCHIP legislation as a "defining issue that neither side can afford to lose." If the program is not reauthorized, 6 million children already enrolled will lose health insurance coverage.
  • Facing South reports that the Supreme Court has announced that they will consider a case on the constitutionality of lethal injection in Tennessee.  The ruling could problematize the 'three-drug cocktail' that thirty-seven US states use to administer the death penalty, on grounds that improper administration of anaesthesia could result in an excruciatingly painful death. We hope that the Supreme Court considers the American value of redemption in their analysis of the process of lethal injection. If nothing else, it is helpful to reiterate judicial support for the constitutional ban against 'cruel and unusual punishment.'
  • An appeals court also ruled yesterday to overturn a lower ruling which prevented holding military trials for detainees held at Guantanamo Bay.  According to the New York Times, "the ruling allows military prosecutors to address a legal flaw that had ground the prosecutions to a halt."  There are some 340 detainees waiting an indefinite period to exercise their right to a fair trial.
  • Finally, big news today is the Senate committee hearing on the confirmation of Hans Von Spakovsky, who has been nominated as chair of the Federal Election Commission (FEC).  A coalition of civil rights groups such as Think Progress are vehemently opposed to the nominee, is said to have “used every opportunity he had over four years in the Justice Department to make it difficult for voters — poor, minority and Democratic — to go to the polls.” We trust that the committee will remember how important it is that all American voters have a voice in electing our governing officials.
Sep 26 2007
Blog Post Preventing Another Jena 6

Alan Jenkins' new piece at TomPaine is now live.  In this latest essay, Alan offers examples of what can be done to reduce detention and incarceration of young people while creating a more fair and effective judicial system.

Last week, thousands of marchers walked the streets of Jena,
Louisiana, protesting biased treatment of six African-American
teenagers who've come to be known as the Jena 6.
By now, their story is well known to most Americans: the nooses hung
from a "white" tree after black teens dared sit beneath it, with the
white perpetrators receiving just three days' suspension; the threats
and intimidation of black students, including by law enforcement; the
school fight in which six black teens beat a white classmate; and the
district attorney's remarkable decision to charge the black teens with
attempted murder—charges that have since been reduced, but continue to
hang over the young men's heads.

The circumstances are dramatic and, of course, recall the worst of
the Deep South's Jim Crow legacy, when the noose and lynchings went
hand in hand with abusive law enforcement. But the students' case taps
into the deep frustration that so many black people feel about a larger
criminal justice system that singles them out for harsher punishment
and incarceration.

Sep 25 2007
Blog Post Progress in Jena, Thanks to the Black Blogosphere

CNN estimates that between 15,000 and 20,000 people attended yesterday's rally in Jena, Louisiana in support of six African-American students who were prosecuted unfairly for beating a white student after being threatened in a series of racially-motivated incidents.  It's wonderful to see that so many people went out of their way (as much as 20 hours on a bus from Los Angeles, with children in tow) to stand up for fairness and equality in our judicial system, and there was not a single arrest in the process.  In the photos of the event on Huffington Post, someone is carrying a banner that says "An Injustice ANYWHERE is an Injustice EVERYWHERE."  That's a great illustration of the value of community, the sense that our lives and well-being are interconnected.

Two big developments have come out of the march. First, the Third District court ordered District Attorney Reed Walters to hold a hearing within 72 hours to discuss Mychal Bell's release from prison.  Second, Congress announced that the House Judiciary Committee will be reviewing events in Jena, which is promising.

There has correspondingly been a good deal of discussion about the role the blogosphere and new media have played in what is now being referred to as the "21st Century Civil Rights movement," a new online movement with the ability to mobilize thousands of supporters in rapid time.  Yet at a time in which Republicans and mainstream media are taking heat for ignoring people of color, the bigger, white progressive bloggers are also getting knocked for failing to report on happenings in Jena.

Sep 21 2007
Blog Post Thousands Rally for Jena Six Day of Action

The biggest news of the day is that thousands of people have descended upon small-town Jena, Louisiana, to show their support for the group of six black high school students who have been victimized by racial injustice after beating up a white boy that taunted them with nooses.  Today's rally has caught a good deal of mainstream media attention, with a Canadian paper even referring to the event as "one of the biggest protests since the 60s."  For some video footage of the event, see CNN or the NAACP webcast at 4pm Central Time.

17-year-old Mychal Bell is unfortunately still in prison, this time because the prosecutors decided it was 'premature' to let him out after the charges against him were vacated. The judge then refused to set a date to hear the motion to release him, at very least to a juvenile facility.  The rest of the students are awaiting trial.

We sincerely hope that today's march and the corresponding events around the country will help establish that equality involves much more than suspending white students from school while sending black students to prison.

And now, a quick run-down of some immigration happenings.  It's been a high-energy couple days in this arena, too.

  • U.S. Courts are continuing to strike down local ordinances aimed at persecuting undocumented immigrants, providing a formidable obstacle to crackdowns nationwide.
  • The city of San Francisco is considering issuing its own identification cards for all adults.  These cards would enable immigrants to gain access to public services such as health care and libraries.  San Francisco law forbids the use of city funds to report undocumented individuals to Customs Enforcement.
  • The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is proposing that greencards should no longer be issued without expiration dates, but should be renewed periodically. This not a popular position among some Democrats in Congress.
  • After recent raids in schools, various school districts with high populations of immigrants are brainstorming new ways to protect the privacy of their students.  In New Mexico, some school personnel have been told to deny entry to immigration officials seeking to seize students.
  • The Human Rights Weblog has just done a feature article on Ray Ibarra, an activist who is pushing the frame of the human right to stay alive, or more specifically that no one should be dying on the U.S.-Mexico border.  Hundreds have died to this point while trying to cross, and aiding those who are most vulnerable is illegal.
Sep 20 2007
Blog Post Possible class-action lawsuit over May 1 LA police violence
  • Yesterday, 164 more claims were filed against the City of Los Angeles to do with injuries or emotional damage caused by the violent police breakup of the May 1 immigration rally in MacArthur Park. In total, 10 lawsuits have been filed over the incident and 258 legal claims have been submitted; civil rights attorneys have begun expressing interest in pursuing a class-action lawsuit against the city.

The term 'sanctuary cities' has also been thrown around blogs and the news this week, largely connected with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff's threat to withhold government funding from cities that refuse to comply with its Basic Pilot program to require employers to verify the work authorization of their employees.  As is happening in Arizona, this program is being contested on a national level by a coalition of civil rights organizations such as the ACLU on grounds that it "will threaten jobs of U.S. citizens and other legally authorized workers simply because of errors in the government's inaccurate social security earnings databases." There was a very informative piece posted yesterday about conditions in the prisons and detention centers of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.  Apparently three people have died in detention in the last six weeks, including one pregnant woman, as detainees are regularly denied medical care.  Hundreds have also suffered from food poisoning, at two different sites.  Despite regular violations of their human rights, immigrants and asylees held there have little recourse.  And even though the ICE system is the second largest jailer in the world, there are few regulations and little accountability placed upon them.  This is the sort of situation where a little legislation could go a long way in protecting the members of our community that have been silenced. Prometheus6 and rikyrah both cited a NY Times article yesterday to do with a mentally-retarded black man in Mississippi who is actually being retried for rape after DNA evidence indicated that he is not guilty.  Given that he's already spent 15 years in prison, this overt racial discrimination and obstruction of justice is pretty hard to swallow. Finally, there is a good deal of discussion in Congress at the moment about the reauthorization of SCHIP, the State Children's Health Insurance program, which was designed in 1997 to provide health care for children whose families weren't eligible for Medicare but who are still unable to afford private insurance.  The legislation must be reauthorized by September 30 if the program is to continue, but there is tremendous contention regarding how and how much to fund the program.  President Bush is even promising to veto legislation on grounds that increased access to SCHIP will encourage people to enroll rather than work to insure themselves privately - again, here is another example of the "go-it-alone" narrative that has been so useful in eroding our sense of responsibility to the greater community.
Sep 7 2007
Blog Post Oliver White Hill: 1907 - 2007

If you haven't already heard, civil rights lawyer Oliver White Hill, famous for his involvement in Brown v. Board of Education, died yesterday.

Oliver Hill, a civil rights lawyer who was at the
front of the legal effort that desegregated public schools, has died at
age 100, a family friend said.

           Mr. Hill died peacefully Sunday at his home during breakfast, said Joseph  Morrissey, a friend of the Hill family.

In 1954, he was part of a series of lawsuits against racially
segregated public schools that became the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark
Brown vs. Board of Education decision, which changed America's society
by setting the foundation for integrated education.

                   
                   
                   

"He was among the vanguard in seeking equal opportunity for all
individuals, and he was steadfast in his commitment to effect change,"
said L. Douglas Wilder, who in 1989 became the nation's first elected
black governor.

Aug 6 2007
Blog Post How will a new progressive blog fare in the big issues?

Timecover_2

  • Huffington Post offers side-by-side assessments of the U.S.
    Presidential Candidates’ health plans in easy-to-read charts.
  • As a new progressive blog opens its doors, Jack and Jill
    Politics
    ask some pertinent questions about race and religion in the
    blogosphere, and how blogggers who cover these topics can become more
    influential online and even make up for the shortcomings of "the Old
    Left.” Quoting eteraz’s Open Left Diary,
    Jack and Jill posts “The ultimate question is: race-conscious or race-blind;
    religion-conscious or religion-blind (referring only to those communities whose
    religion is already politicized); focus on under-represented people via
    minority-rights or economic-rights.”
  • To add to our previous posting on opinions following the Supreme Court schools decision, here are two more op-eds. NNPA Columnist George Curry reflects on the gains (or lack thereof) this country has made in desegregation since the 1954 Brown decision. Curry explains that this Supreme Court decision is just the latest in reversals of desegregation efforts.
  • Ron Walters takes Curry’s points one step farther in this Louisiana Weekly column, stating that the country has now returned to the
    “Separate but equal” doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896.
Jul 12 2007
Blog Post Moving Forward from the Supreme Court’s School Cases

Yesterday the Supreme Court issued decisions in two cases regarding whether communities can voluntarily use measures that consider race to avoid segregation and promote diversity in their public schools.  (Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District, 05-908 and Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education, 05-915).

Much of the news reporting on the cases has gotten it wrong, describing the outcome as a 5-to-4 opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts against voluntary school integration.  In fact, the outcome of these cases was a 4-to-1-to-4 decision in which Justice Anthony Kennedy (the “1”) controlled the outcome and wrote a mixed opinion with both positive and negative implications for the future of diversity and our Constitution.

Justice Kennedy voted with Roberts, Alito, Scalia, and Thomas to strike down the specific policies used by the Louisville and Seattle school districts, but also agreed with Justices Souter, Stevens, Ginsburg, and Breyer that educational diversity and combating segregation are compelling governmental interests that governments may pursue through careful efforts that consider race.
Justice Kennedy ruled, for example:
•    “If school authorities are concerned that the student-body compositions of certain schools interfere with the objective of offering an equal educational opportunity to all of their students, they are free to devise race-conscious measures to address the problem in a general way and without treating each student in different fashion solely on the basis of a systematic, individual typing by race.” (p.8).
•    “In the administration of public schools by the state and local authorities it is permissible to consider the racial makeup of schools and to adopt general policies to encourage a diverse student body, one aspect of which is its racial composition.” (p.8)

Justice Kennedy (and therefore a majority of the Court) firmly rejected Chief Justice Roberts’ position that considering race in a careful way to promote inclusion inflicts the same constitutional harm as the hateful segregation laws that Brown v. Board of Education began to overturn.  Kennedy’s opinion says, “[t]he enduring hope is that race should not matter; the reality is that it too often does,” and notes that “as an aspiration, Justice Harlan’s axiom [that our Constitution is “colorblind”] must command our assent.  In the real world, it is regrettable to say, it cannot be a universal constitutional principle.”

What Justice Kennedy (and, therefore, the Court) says is unconstitutional is considering the race of individual students in determining their school assignment.  That element, and the inexact details of the particular Seattle and Louisville plans, Kennedy said, made those programs insufficiently narrow in their tailoring to meet constitutional muster.

According to most educators and advocates concerned about promoting diversity and inclusion, Justice Kennedy “gets it”; he just doesn’t get how hard it is.  In other words, he understands and articulates well why integration is so important to equal educational opportunity, and to the future of our nation.  But he fails to see why achieving it sometimes requires attention to the details of student assignment.  Research and practical experience show that considering broad demographic trends in school attendance policy is necessary, but not always sufficient, to fostering diverse and inclusive schools.

So the Court’s ruling will no doubt make it harder to bring our kids together across lines of difference.  Yet it’s very important to acknowledge the remarkable victory for the principles of integration, inclusion and diversity, which a majority of the Court strongly embraced yesterday.

So now that consideration of individual student characteristics in school assignment is off the table in the K-12 voluntary integration context, what can schools, policymakers, parents and their children do to promote the vision of inclusion that a majority of the Court endorsed?

Justice Kennedy’s opinion makes clear that numerous options do remain, many of which include explicit consideration of race.  His opinion says: “School boards may pursue the goal of bringing together students of diverse backgrounds and races through other means, including strategic site selection of new schools; drawing attendance zones with general recognition of the demographics of neighborhoods; allocating resources for special programs; recruiting students and faculty in a targeted fashion; and tracking enrollments, performance, and other statistics by race.”

Educators and civil advocates are already hard at work to craft innovative approaches within the Court’s parameters that work on the ground.

In addition, a number of civil rights laws, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, still require schools to avoid segregation or exclusion of students by race.   The Bush Administration has an atrocious record of enforcing those laws, and yesterday’s decision should be an impetus to push for change.   Certainly the next president should make it a priority.

Congress, too, has an important role to play in promoting inclusion and combating segregation in the wake of yesterday’s decision.  For example, Congress should allocate significant resources for communities that want to pursue diversity efforts in line with the Court’s ruling.  Federal support for school construction and expansion should depend, in part, on whether school locations and attendance zones will foster or stymie integration.

And, of course, the U.S. Senate must give far greater scrutiny of judicial nominees than it has done to date.  It’s deeply disturbing that four members of the Court—including the two newest members (Roberts and Alito) nominated by President Bush—would have outlawed almost all effective efforts to promote inclusion in our nation's schools.  And their view that the modest voluntary integration efforts at issue in these cases are constitutionally tantamount to Jim Crow-era segregation is nothing short of outrageous.

While a majority of the Court correctly rejected that extreme position, the Chief Justice's opinion—joined by Justices Alito, Scalia, and Thomas—fundamentally misunderstands the purpose of our Constitution and highlights the importance of exacting questioning of the President's judicial nominations by the U.S. Senate.  Flawed as Justice Kennedy’s opinion is on this subject, it’s worth noting that, if not for the rigorous questioning and consideration of President Reagan’s Supreme Court nominee 20 years ago, Robert Bork would have been the fifth conservative vote in this and many other decisions, instead of Justice Kennedy.

Additional details regarding the decisions may be found at www.naacpldf.org and www.civilrights.org.

Jun 29 2007
Blog Post Daily Blog Round-Up 6/8/07
  • Racialicious reports on the discrepancies in the 2000 U.S.
    Census
    , stating that over 700,000 blacks were not counted nationwide. Committees are looking for ways to clear up
    such problems in future census counts, as mistakes skew the representative character of our government. The census has presented a number of problems for communities of color, who are frequently miscounted in a number of ways. As featured on the State of Opportunity website, the 2000 Census counts prison inmates as inhabitants of their prison
    towns, not their home towns. This miscount of the populations of those areas, results in a loss of both resources and equal representation for those communities.  An accurate census is important to
    maintaining a true democracy that suits the people’s needs.
  • Racialicious continues its coverage on the lack of the
    diversity on TV networks
    , especially in television writers. While certain prime-time shows do feature
    minority actors, on the whole, many of these characters are merely supporting
    predominantly white casts. In response
    to the new line-up of shows for the fall, Janet Murguia, president of the
    National Council of La Raza, voiced her dismay: “It seems to me that we're
    losing ground. I'm puzzled. Where there
    has been diversity, there's been success…But with a few exceptions, this is the
    least diverse lineup we've seen in recent years.”  In a study of the Writers Guild of America,
    West showed that white males disproportionately dominate film and TV jobs in Hollywood, and that
    minority writers accounted for fewer than 10% of employed television writers
    between 1999 and 2005. Without proper
    representation of the true diversity in this country, TV networks are
    showcasing a false view of the country, thus contributing to more hostilities
    and stereotypes in race relations.
  • BlogHer reports on the importance of comprehensive sex
    education and access to birth control within the frame of a “basic human right
    and a normal value.” In addition to
    explaining how much support throughout the country exists across gender and
    party lines, BlogHer’s use of language truly exemplifies the type of communication
    strategies advocates need to unite the country. By framing access to birth control as a basic human right, BlogHer
    elevates the reproductive rights struggle to a more universal issue, one to
    which many people can relate. This
    framing is a positive step for advocacy everywhere!
  • Sakaduski Marketing Blog reports on a recent study from the
    Harvard School of Public Health, which grouped people based on race, country of
    residence and a few other community characteristics and compared life expectancy
    rates in each “race country.” These
    researchers found that life expectancy rates differed dramatically between
    these eight “race countries”: Asians, northland low-income rural whites, Middle
    America, low-income whites in Appalachia and the Mississippi valley, Western Native Americans, black Middle America, southern low-income
    rural blacks, and high-risk urban blacks. For example, the gap between the high-risk urban black males and the
    Asian females was nearly 21 years. Differences
    in access to health care and health insurance, as well as the quality of care one receives, are a primary cause such disparities, severely hurting many minority groups. Without equality to health care, these eight Americas will continue to show such huge unfair discrepancies.
Jun 11 2007
Blog Post NAACP Legal Defense Fund Starts to Blog

NAACPLDF has started to blog.  Check out one of their first posts, covering the school integration cases now before the Supreme Court:

If successful, the suits filed in Meredith v. Jefferson City Board of Education and Parents Involved in Community Schools v. the Seattle School District
will severely hamper the ability of schools to diversify their student
body. The result will be a world that looks disturbingly similar to the
one that the Brown legal team was born into, one where democracy stops
at the threshold of the classroom and the Constitution is a set of
neglected principles.

May 22 2007
Blog Post Struggling to Get From Many to One

Alan's Jenkin's latest piece at Tom Paine is live:

Over 100 million people of color now live in the United States, the U.S. Census Bureau reported
last week, one-third of our population and a new milestone in our
nation’s diversity. Two important decisions currently facing our
federal government will help determine whether that diversity continues
to be one of America’s great strengths or is met with division and
denial.

Any day now, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide whether
voluntary school integration efforts by the communities of Louisville,
Kentucky and Seattle, Washington violate the Constitution. At the same
time, Congress is debating immigration reform legislation that will
determine how we treat the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants
in America, as well as future generations of legal immigrants. In each
case, government leaders should choose a future in which we move
forward together toward community and shared prosperity.

Read More.

May 22 2007
Blog Post 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

Mar 16 2007
Blog Post Separate and Unequal Transport

Doors of Opportunity (no text)At the end of December, three advocacy groups in San Francisco released MTC, Where Are Our Buses?, a report about disparities in transportation funding which adversely affect people of color and low-income populations.  Public Advocates, Urban Habitat, and Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) have labeled the Bay Area's transit system "Separate and Unequal," and provide compelling evidence to support their claim.

Released on the 50-year anniversary of the civil rights campaign to integrate bus service in Montgomery, Alabama, the report details recent funding and route decisions made by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), and how they have impacted the local population.  At issue are the differences in subsidies provided to Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), Caltrain (both of which service primarily white suburbs), and AC Transit buses to the East Bay area (a region in which 80% of the residents are people of color).  According to a press release by Urban Habitat, the report "details both the sizeable funding disparities per passenger, and the resulting disparities in transit service as BART and Caltrain services have more than doubled, while AC Transit service has contracted by 30%."  Further, the report provides data that "public dollars subsidize the trips of BART and Caltrain commuters, who are disproportionately white, at three to five times higher levels than the trips of AC Transit’s mostly minority ridership."

The report also discusses local efforts to hold the MTC accountable, from a class-action law suit filed in federal court, alleging racial discrimination, to the MTC Minority Citizens’ Advisory Committee’s (MCAC) which has issued a series of recommendations on improving environmental justice.  So far, the MTC has yet to institute any changes in its policy.

According to AJ Napolis of Urban Habitat, "At stake is not only the access of low-income bus riders and their families to economic and educational opportunities, but the vitality of our communities," citing a study that a cut in transport funding can cost a community ten times more in travel costs and lost income.

Feb 8 2007
Blog Post God Grew Tired of Us

Next time you head to the movies you must check the powerful and inspiring film, God Grew Tired Of Us.   It will be released in NYC and around the country this week.  It explores American opportunity through a unique lens, following the lives of Sudanese refugees from the war in Southern Sudan to resettlement in the United States.  It highlights how these men try to retain their culture while seizing opportunity in America -- earning a living, going to school, and providing for families back home.  It investigates American culture and the American dream, and explores the pros and cons of life in the Unites States.   

Here’s a trailer for the movie:  and a summary from the website:  “Winner of both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, GOD GREW TIRED OF US explores the indomitable spirit of three “Lost Boys” from the Sudan who leave their homeland, triumph over seemingly insurmountable adversities and move to America, where they build active and fulfilling new lives but remain deeply committed to helping the friends and family they have left behind.  Orphaned by a tumultuous civil war and traveling barefoot across the sub-Saharan desert, John Bul Dau, Daniel Abol Pach and Panther Blor were among the 25,000 “Lost Boys” (ages 3 to 13) who fled villages, formed surrogate families and sought refuge from famine, disease, wild animals and attacks from rebel soldiers. Named by a journalist after Peter Pan’s posse of orphans who protected and provided for each other, the “Lost Boys” traveled together for five years and against all odds crossed into the UN’s refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya. A journey’s end for some, it was only the beginning for John, Daniel and Panther, who along with 3800 other young survivors, were selected to re-settle in the United States.”

For another interesting take on opportunity (and the barriers to it) in America and the Lost Boys, the book What is the What by David Eggers is a must read.  It is based on the life of Valentino Achak Deng, and at 400+ pages, the book provides a nuanced account of the history of the Lost Boys and life after resettlement in America.

Finally, if you’d like to learn more about the conflict in Sudan and join efforts to help out, The International Crisis Group website has a short list of recommendations, including writing to your elected representatives and writing to media urging more coverage of the situation.

Jan 8 2007
Blog Post A Bipartisan Civil Rights Legacy

Our executive director has a new op-ed posted at TomPaine.com.  Here's a snippet:

Forward-looking Republicans, Democrats and their constituents can
take a number of important steps in the spirit of Gerald Ford’s legacy
that will expand opportunity for all and lay a foundation for the next
president, whatever her or his party.

President Bush has nominated a series of anti-civil rights federal
judges who could dominate the judiciary for a generation. It’s time to
shut off that pipeline, and for the Senate to use its "advise and
consent" role to approve only candidates with a commitment to
protecting Americans’ constitutional rights, including the right to
equal protection under the law. Key to this change will be persuading
Arlen Specter, who serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, to vote
his conscience, as he did when he voted against Robert Bork’s
nomination to the Supreme Court 20 years ago. Constituents of Senator
Specter and other moderate Republican senators should voice their
support for rigorous confirmation hearings and a message to the
President that only candidates who take our civil rights laws seriously
should receive a nomination, much less confirmation.

Jan 5 2007
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