By allowing students to reach their full potential, the provision of high-quality education represents perhaps the single greatest possibility for the expansion of opportunity.  Despite our promise of universal educational opportunity, dramatic disparities exist in rates of high school graduation as well as the pursuit of higher education, and students with the greatest educational needs are learning in schools that are chronically ignored and underfunded.  By strengthening our schools and expanding access to higher education, we can grow our economy and fulfill our responsibility to educate every citizen.

Type Title Datesort icon
Blog Post A Congratulatory Note to Our New Grads (With a Caveat)
5702479192_5316b175df_b.jpg 
 Photo by Will Folsom

My niece—who is pursuing a degree in psychology—asked me last Sunday to review her essay on the American Dream for one of her English courses. Her essay began explaining what the “American Dream” ought to be: economic mobility, home ownership, and better education. But the remaining two pages offered a gloomy viewpoint: the American Dream has become more and more elusive for her.

May 20 2011
Blog Post Beware the Easy Answer

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day about the state of affairs in America. His assessment was as follows: America never goes too far one way or too far the other. It’s like a sine wave; sometimes one side is up for a little while and the other side is down, then they switch. Despite this yo-yo phenomenon, overall he felt like things were improving.

Jun 16 2010
Blog Post Immigration Roundup: Dream Act Demonstrations Across the Nation

Three years since the U.S. Senate voted on, and rejected, the DREAM Act in 2007, young activists across the nation are creatively rallying for the Act, with the hope that this year the immigration reform act will pass.

Jun 10 2010
Blog Post Rallies for the DREAM Act Continue Across the Nation

Activists for the immigration reform DREAM Act are preparing a rally tomorrow in Harrisonburg, Virginia that they hope will raise attention and support from Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. Virginia’s other Democratic senator, Jim Webb, is a known advocate of the Act, and voted in favor of it in 2007.

Jun 8 2010
Blog Post A Crisis for America

Across the country, our youth – the future of our country – took to the streets today. Protestors closed college campuses and secondary schools in a national day to defend the current state of public education. With rising tuition costs, budget cuts, increased layoffs and growing class sizes, parents, students and concerned citizens are trying to get their voices heard in the education crisis.

Mar 4 2010
Blog Post Big Banks Scam Students Out of Opportunity

The American Dream is perhaps our most powerful and enduring story. Through booms and busts, we insist (oftentimes in the face of overwhelmingly contrary evidence) that anyone who is willing to work hard can succeed. To the extent that the American Dream is a reality, it is due in large part to our secondary education system and the patchwork of loans, scholarships, and grants available for students. As sky-rocketing rates of student debt show us, though, these tools for expanding access to secondary education need retuning. There is talk of reform in Washington but, in a story that has become all too familiar, large financial institutions are standing in the way, protecting their profits at the expense of young people’s hopes and dreams.

Feb 15 2010
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 Pricing Students Out of School

The University of California's Regents recently announced plans to raise undergraduate fees, the functional equivalent of tuition, an eye-popping 32% for the upcoming school year.  While desperate times do call for desperate measures—and these are indeed desperate times for California’s budget—erecting economic obstacles to educational achievement will only hurt the state in the long-run.  California became a leader in high-tech industries like software and semi-conductors by fostering the type of innovation that only comes from providing economic opportunity for all, and it can doom itself to long-term economic obsolescence by making higher education a luxury good.

Nov 21 2009
Blog Post Investing in our Future

The U.S. economy is lurching towards recovery.  We continue to see nearly as many disheartening indicators as we do reasons to be optimistic, but it does appear that the worst is behind us. Even if the freefall is over, though, the question of whether or not we will return to pre-crisis levels of inequality, or emerge as a nation with a robust economy that is able to create economic security and mobility for all, has yet to be answered.

Oct 13 2009
Blog Post Educational Inequality: Failing Our Students, Failing Ourselves

The theory behind high-quality public education is that there’s real value—civic, economic, and cultural—in providing every member of our society with the tools to fully utilize his or her potential.   When we all understand our civic rights and obligations, our democracy is stronger.  When we’re all skilled, our economy is more robust.  When our imaginations flourish, our culture is richer.  Conversely, when we systematically fail to provide some members of our nation with a quality education, we preclude these individuals from making their full contributions to our nation, our economy, and our culture.  It is disturbing, then, that persistent educational inequalities exist.

Apr 28 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
Video Alan Jenkins on MSNBC Discussing the Economy

Alan Jenkins, executive director of The Opportunity Agenda, appears on MSNBC to discuss the economy and our new report, The State of Opportunity in America.

Apr 15 2009
Research Book: All Things Being Equal (2007)

1695.cover__1.jpgThe Opportunity Agenda's first book, All Things Being Equal, documents critical ideas about the state of opportunity. 

Apr 1 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.

SoO2009.png

Apr 1 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.

SoO%202007.png

Mar 15 2009
Blog Post Investing in Early Education Equality

Education is perhaps the closest thing we have to a social panacea.  When it works, it can fuel social mobility, economic productivity, crime prevention, and personal fulfillment.  And we know that the earlier a child enters school, the more likely he or she is to have a successful academic career.  So why is it so hard to make universal preschool a national priority?

Mar 3 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
Law and Policy Case Study: Supreme Court Cases on Diversity in the Schools (2007)

Anticipating the Supreme Court's decision on the cases Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 and Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education, The Opportunity Agenda began work in 2007 to develop a communications strategy that coordinated and unified the voices of the social justice community to achieve greater coherence, resonance and amplification leading up to and following the Supreme Court's decision.

Feb 15 2009
Blog Post The State of Opportunity in America (2009) Released

The Opportunity Agenda is pleased to announce the release of our 2009 State of Opportunity in America report. The report documents America’s progress in protecting opportunity for everyone who lives here, and finds that access to full and equal opportunity is still very much a mixed reality.

Feb 1 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
Research Public Opinion and Media Analysis: English Language Acquisition Programs and Children of Immigrants (2008)

publicDiscourseImmigration.pngThe report examines public opinion and media coverage of two issues deeply tied to the immigrant experience, English language acquisition and the children of immigrants. The willingness of immigrants to learn English is of great interest to the public, and we have identified some openings to promote pro

Jan 29 2009
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 Announcing "New Progressive Voices"

The Opportunity Agenda is pleased to help announce, on behalf of the Progressive Ideas Network, the release of a new collection of essays outlining a new long-term vision for America.

"New Progressive Voices: Values and Policy for the 21st Century" brings together leaders from a wide array of organizations, of different backgrounds, to present a bold, progressive agenda for America's future.  Integral to the project is a commitment, not to just presenting a new direction, but also realistic approaches to solving our collective problems.

From the collection's introduction:

In recent decades, progressivism has faltered. It was conservatives who developed and moved the big ideas, while progressives triangulated, tweaked, and tinkered. Since the 1960s, progressives have been running on the fumes of the New Deal and Great Society, confining themselves largely to narrow issue silos and poll-tested phrases and positions. Content to play defense in many of the major political battles of the day, they have all too often been cowed into submission by the vitality and confidence of the other side.

Now that is changing. Instead of obsessing about what we are against, progressives have begun to think about what we're for -- to prepare once again to play our role as agents of bold ideas and political and social transformation. Finding new confidence and imagination, we have begun to renew our intellectual capital. The essays in this volume draw on that new store of capital to sketch the outlines of a progressive agenda for 21st-century America.

Our own Executive Director, Alan Jenkins, contributed an essay to the collection.  You can read "The Promise of Opportunity" here.

Sep 18 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
Video Video: Lily Talks About Education

A Bronx elementary school teacher talks about her students and the importance of public education.

Jun 15 2008
Blog Post Baking More Pie

Our_prices_are_insane

With a tongue-in-cheek ad declaring “Our prices are insane!,” last week’s Education Week section of the New York Times ran a cover story entitled “The Low Cost of College.”  Inside, an article by David Leonhardt describes a surprising trend among elite American universities.  They are actually reducing tuition and increasing aid for low-income and middle classed students.

Beginning next fall, schools including Dartmouth, Haverford, and Rice will offer grants instead of loans to lower income students.  They are following the lead of schools like Harvard, which announced in 2006 that parents making less than $60,000 would not have to pay anything toward their kids’ education.  And many schools are reaching out to middle class families too—Harvard announced in December that it would also offer significant financial aid to families making less than $180,000.

Leonhardt’s article points out that these efforts are extremely modest compared to the substantial decrease in low-income students at elite schools over the last two decades.  As we reported in The State of Opportunity in America, “since 1983…the increase in tuition costs at both public and private four-year institutions has greatly outpaced the increase in median family income.”

As Leonhardt’s piece correctly notes, increases in the federal Pell grant—which typically goes to families making less than $40,000—would accomplish far greater positive change, as would reforms that transcend these elite schools, like “preparing more low- and middle-income children to attend college, lifting the graduation rates at community colleges and large four-year colleges, and simplifying and expanding federal financial aid.”

The article falls short, though, when it comes to discussing the reasons why any of these changes are worth making in the first place.  Explaining that “there are several arguments for increasing economic diversity at elite colleges,” the article says (1) “it makes the universities more consistent with their self-image as meritocracies;” (2) these colleges “have come to play arguably a larger role in American society;” and (3) “recent research also suggests that lower-income students benefit more from an elite education than other students do.”

Is that really it?  Those reasons, it seems to me, are both cynical and narrow.  They are out of touch with the promise of opportunity that a quality college education represents for successive generations of Americans.  What about these reasons:

➢    A fundamental value in our society is mobility—the notion that where you start out in life should not determine where you end up—with access to college serving as a primary rung on the upward ladder of opportunity.  If the country’s most prestigious schools are effectively open only to the rich, the mobility ideal is thwarted, and these institutions’ public mission must be called into question.

➢    Economic diversity is crucial within institutions like these that train so large a share of our nation’s leaders.  Not only should those leaders hail from the breadth of our population, but their education should include learning from and with people from different backgrounds.

➢    It’s in our national interest to ensure that opportunity is available to everyone in our society.  Taping the genius of kids and communities that have traditionally been shut out of the American Dream will generate untold societal benefits—cures to deadly diseases, new technologies, economic and social advances—that we can barely conceive of today.

➢    With manufacturing jobs disappearing, empowering working class families to make the leap to a globalized, information economy through a top-notch education is critical to our success as a nation.

Why do the reasons matter?  Because if opening elite schools to low-income families is just about making Ivy League bureaucrats proud of themselves, or because poor kids may get an incrementally greater value than rich kids, then it's about others, not about all of us. 

Just as important, connecting financial aid polices to our national values and interests leads to other, more profound questions.  Like so many articles about higher education, the piece fails to ask how we can go beyond ways of dividing up the existing educational pie, and actually bake more pie.   Clearly, the future of our nation depends not only on achieving a mix of students from different backgrounds, but also on expanding educational opportunities so that every kid who can do the work has access to a school that taps her or his full potential.  Expanding opportunity and, therefore, shared prosperity, is where we should set our sights as a nation.

Apr 29 2008
Blog Post Alan Jenkins on The Tavis Smiley Show

Listen to the Tavis Smiley Show as The Opportunity Agenda's
Executive Director, Alan Jenkins, joins Tavis to discuss issues as part of Smiley's series Below the Line: The Changing Face of American Poverty.


G_listen_smiley_sm


="webkit-block-placeholder">

The Tavis Smiley Show airs
nationally on Public Radio International (PRI) affiliates.

Mar 31 2008
Blog Post From Homeless to Harvard
  • The Angry Asian Man blog has posted a series of inspiring articles about
    a woman who is working towards a degree from Harvard University. Kimberly S.M. Woo is a single mother who was once a homeless drug addict. In the process of turning her life around she sought an education as a means of escaping poverty and creating a better life for her five-year-old daughter. Woo is a stellar example of the power of redemption as well as our potential for social mobility. Like thousands of Americans, Woo was given a second chance and has excelled; after a year working for Americorp she attended a community college in Boston for her Associate's Degree, where she earned a 4.0 GPA before transferring to Harvard.
  • This weekend saw a couple interesting articles about the politics behind skiing. Immigration News Daily has written about an Aspen Ski resort's efforts to find workers:

The Aspen Skiing Co.'s quest to find enough workers this winter led
recruiters to Puerto Rico, among other places. The company hired about
20 workers from the Caribbean island this fall to work in various
positions at its two lodging properties, The Little Nell hotel and
Snowmass Lodge and Club, according to Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle. The
Skico was forced to get creative this year when there was a snafu at
the national level with the H-2B visa program for temporary guest
workers. An exemption to the program expired Sept. 30, after Congress
failed to address comprehensive immigration reform.

And the Immigrants in USA blog did a feature called Niños on the slopes about a new Park City, Utah programs to provide local Latino children with access to the sport:

The Niños program, sponsored by St. Mary's Catholic Church, exists to
bridge the cultural divide between, generally speaking, the affluent
whites of Park City and the Latino immigrants who work in the posh
community's service industry.

"Here, in this town, skiing is
the great equalizer," explained the Rev. Bob Bussen, known as "Father
Bob," who tears down the mountain wearing his clerical collar. "If you
can ski, you're as good as anyone."

  • The All About Race blog has reported on an upsetting development in the Jena 6 case. It seems that the plea bargain the Mychal Bell accepted also included a promise to testify against the other five students facing charges:

With Bell being placed in the position of serving as the
star witness against the other teens, they are more likely to be
convicted if they refuse to follow Bell’s example and cop a plea. This
is the underbelly of an unfair judicial system. Upon entering his
guilty plea, Bell admitted that he hit the White student, knocking him
unconscious, and joining others in kicking him after he fell to the
floor. Therefore, the D.A. will be using the most culpable of the six
teens to obtain convictions against those who were less involved.
That’s the way the judicial system works – or doesn’t work.

  • The Happening Here blog has posted about a nurses' strike at St. Luke's Hospital in San Francisco's Mission District. We've previously mentioned
    the hospital's plans to close down in order to shift its services to a
    more affluent neighborhood.  The hospital has refused for months to
    negotiate a contract with the nurses union, who began striking last
    Thursday.
  • Lastly, the Inteligenta Indiĝena Indigenismo Novaĵoservo blog has advised us of a Washington Post article stating that the federal government has paid $1.3 billion in farm subsidies since 2000 to people who do not farm. While our government policies are never devoid of irony, these subsidies are a particularly painful instance of unequal treatment given the "go-it-alone" narrative of individualism that conservatives use to justify cutting back on social services. In reality, however, great societies are built by investing in the well-being of the community, which was understood well by the authors of the New Deal legislation, the GI bill and the HeadStart program.

 

Dec 17 2007
Blog Post New Jersey Set to Abolish the Death Penalty
  • The Sentencing Law and Policy blog has reported that the New Jersey legislature has voted to outlaw the death penalty in the
    state. The governor has already indicated his support for the measure, so it will likely be signed into law soon. New Jersey will be the first state in more than 40 years
    to abolish capital punishment. While human rights law has called for a ban on the death penalty under certain circumstances (concerning juvenile offenders, for example), the UN has yet to impose a blanket ban. However, the practice is frowned upon internationally -- it is mandated that all nations seeking to join the European Union or the Council of Europe either abolish capital punishment or institute an official moratorium on executions.
  • RaceWire has provided us with another update on the struggle to preserve affordable housing in New Orleans, quoting an AP article:

Protesters wielding bullhorns and shouting “housing is a human right”
stopped demolition at a massive public housing complex Wednesday in
this hurricane-ravaged city in dire need of homes for the poor.

More than 30 protesters blocked an excavator from entering the
fenced-off area of the B.W. Cooper complex. It was the first of what
likely will be many standoffs between protesters and demolition crews
that are tearing down hundreds of barracks-style buildings so they can
be replaced with mixed-income neighborhoods.

  • The ImmigrationProf Blog has posted about the recent case of a security officer at a New Mexico high school who has been dismissed for reporting a pregnant 18-year-old student to immigration authorities. The Roswell school district has a policy preventing school officials from concerning themselves with the immigration status of their students. However, officer Charlie Corn decided to take matters into his own hands when he realized that Karina Acosta was unable to produce a driver's license. Acosta has been deported to Mexico in her final year of school, denying her the opportunity to complete her education.
  • The Latina Lista blog has covered another story about New Mexico, a recent raid of the Proper Foods, Inc tamale plant.  This raid was exceptional in some ways:

What's pleasantly surprising is that for the first time that we've
heard, ICE made sure that all the 21 undocumented immigrants
apprehended, as they shuffled out of the kitchens from making the
tamales that will be sold by the dozens for Christmas dinners, received
their full paychecks before being bused off for deportation.

However, the piece goes on to request an end to work-site raids this year, in the spirit of compassion, good will, and community, a set of values that seem closer to our hearts and minds during the winter holidays:

Because it is the Holiday season, the last thing ICE wants to be
caricatured as is the "Grinch Who Stole Christmas." Maybe that explains
the sudden change of heart in advocating for these workers' wages.

Yet, with only 12 days left before Christmas, there is one thing
more that the Department of Homeland Security can do to exemplify that
it is in the "Spirit of the Season" — declare a moratorium on further
raids and deportations for the month of December.

For every adult taken into custody and deported, who knows how many children are left behind?

Critics yell that these parents should take their children with them
but if there is no home to go back to, no relatives who can take you
in, no money to rent someplace, no clothes other than what's on your
back, then what kind of parent would rip their children from the
comforts, no matter how meager, of their lives here to take them where
they literally will have nothing?

To separate parents from their children, especially at
Christmastime, is perhaps more cruel than any kind of trauma, aside
from sexual and physical abuse, afflicted on a child.

We hope Operation Tamale is the last work-site raid for 2007.

Dec 14 2007
Blog Post Undocumented Immigrant Honored in Arizona
  • Latina Lista wrote about yesterday's ceremony in Arizona to honor Manuel Jesus Cordova Soberanes, the man who saved the eight-year-old boy who spent a night in the desert after his mother died in a car accident. Given that Cordova gave up his opportunity to find work in order to ensure the boy's safety, "U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz. wants to reward Manuel for his
    selfless act of kindness with a special visa that would allow him to
    come to work in the US."  Grijalva's aide Ruben Reyes admitted the chances of having a such visa issued are slim, but spoke of the importance of recognizing Cordova's generosity:

"We think he actually brings another tone into the
discussion of immigration. Unfortunately the discussion of immigration
is (mostly) negative but with his acts of heroism it counters so many
of the other negative aspects," Reyes said. "It brings a face of
dignity, humanity and a bond that the two countries can share and he's
a shining example of that."

Author

There is no doubt Manuel is that and so much more when you compare
him to the critics of illegal immigrants in this country whose rhetoric
is violent and hate-filled.

Yet, if Rep. Grijalva really wanted to help Manuel, why not award
the man enough money to help him do something constructive in his
hometown so that he doesn't have to leave his own children again?

Grijalva already knows the chances for a special visa are next to
nil for passage. So, basically the Congressman is dangling another
false hope in front of Manuel to give the appearance of helping him
when in reality, he's not.

And in the end, Manuel will still have disappointment and poverty — along with, a certificate of heroism.

  • The Inteligenta Indiĝena Indigenismo Novaĵoservo blog reposted a New York Times article on 'Brazilians Giving Up Their American Dream.'  Hundreds of middle-class Brazilians who had immigrated to the US years ago in search of social and economic security are now choosing to return to Brazil.  For undocumented Brazilians, life has become too difficult to justify the risk of staying, when they are unable to obtain driver's licenses and there is no comprehensive immigration reform in sight.  As the American dollar loses value and Brazil's economy is booming, it seems only logical to follow the job opportunities back to the Southern hemisphere.
  • Too Sense has given us an update on the Jena Six case: While it looks like the six students will all be accepting plea bargain agreements, the victim of the beating has just brought suit against "the adults accused of beating him, the families of the juveniles
    allegedly involved and the board of the school where the attack
    occurred."
  • Prometheus 6 linked to a Birmingham News article about the local school district's decision to acquire and distribute 15,000 of the new $200 XO laptops which were created to increase computer access in the developing world. According to they city's mayor Larry Langford, "We live in a digital age, so it is important that all our children
    have equal access to technology and are able to integrate it into all
    aspects of their lives...we are proud that Birmingham
    is on its way to eliminating the so-called 'digital divide' and to
    ensuring that our children have state-of-the-art tools for education." While the laptops are available for purchase in the US (for every laptop bought, another goes to a child in a developing country), this is the first reported large-scale purchase for use within the country -- and one which highlights inequalities in access to technology within our nation.
  • The Huffington Post has reported on today's Supreme Court hearing on "whether the detainees at Guantánamo have habeas corpus rights - a
    cornerstone of civilization and a principle established 800 years ago
    in England, giving prisoners the right to challenge the basis of their
    detention in court."  The ACSBlog is also covering the case, which is a matter concerning basic human rights in America.
Dec 5 2007
Communications Media Coverage: Heartland Presidential Forum - Campaign for Community Values (2007)

Held December 2, 2007 in Des Moines, IA, the Heartland Presidential Forum kicked off the Campaign for Community Values.  The resulting press coverage included a values dimension otherwise missing in much of the caucus coverage.

IAmedia.png

Dec 1 2007
Blog Post A Real Values Debate
  • Alan Jenkins' newest piece is live on TomPaine.com. Entitled 'A Real Values Debate,' the opinion begins:

"Progressives have long been criticized for talking issues and
constituencies at the expense of vision and values. Linguist George
Lakoff has argued for years that progressives have ceded the moral high
ground to their detriment. And Thomas Frank has documented how
conservatives tell a larger story that connects with working people at
a values level, even while undermining their economic interests.

That critique has never been fully accurate. The continuing human
rights movements led by people of color, women, gay people, and
immigrants have always been rooted in the values of freedom, equality,
dignity and opportunity. As Van Jones of the Ella Baker Center for
Human Rights has said, "there's a reason why Martin Luther King Jr.'s
greatest speech was not called 'I have a complaint.'" The modern
environmental movement, too, speaks not only of our individual
interests but also of our moral responsibility as stewards of the earth
and its inhabitants.

But it is also true that progressive political discourse has
increasingly moved away from a discussion of shared national values and
toward a patchwork of issues and narrow policy fixes. That dynamic has
certainly played out this presidential election season, with last
month's "Values Voters Summit" priming candidates' commitment to
conservative values while progressives largely haggled over the details
of policy proposals.

But that's about to change. On December 1, a coalition of Iowa social justice groups will host the Heartland Presidential Forum: Community Values in Action,
in Des Moines, Iowa. Just four weeks before the Iowa caucuses, it will
be a presidential forum focused not on specific issues, but on
progressive vision and values."

  • The Inteligenta Indiĝena Indigenismo Novaĵoservo blog has reposted a Crooks and Liars piece about a Washington state assisted living facility that is evicting its residents that are on Medicaid.  Unlike other states, Washington does not have a law to protect its vulnerable senior citizens against such decisions by profit-minded nursing home corporations.
  • Prometheus 6 has posted about a New York Times article on the increasing presence of international medical crews providing health services in the US to the 47 million people without medical insurance, or 15 percent of the American population. One such service known as Remote Area Medical, or RAM, works most often in "Guyana,  India,  Tanzania  and Haiti," but has been noted for their expeditions in rural Virginia, where members of the community have begun lining up at 3am in order to be seen by medical workers.
  • In election news, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is proposing a plan to make community colleges free of cost for American high school graduates, a move that would greatly increase opportunities for many of our young people.  Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani has indicated his support for a 'virtual' border fence run by high tech surveillance, a policy which would not address the need for more comprehensive reform of our immigration and trade policies.

"Human rights are defined, most notably in the U.S. Bill of Rights. They

are defined because the Founding Fathers realized that if they were

not defined, they would be more likely to be abrogated or lost

entirely. The Founding Fathers understood the temptation on the part

of governments to give and remove human rights arbitrarily, because

they had experienced such things before the Revolutionary War -- in the

Stamp Act, in the quartering of British soldiers on American

households, and in illegal searches and seizures, in no taxation

without representation. They recognized that although British Law

customarily acknowledged various human rights, it was essential to

name, codify, and write them down to make it less likely that they

could be taken away."

Nov 20 2007
Blog Post WITNESS Launches 'The Hub' For Human Rights Media
  • In exciting new media news, human rights organization WITNESS has just launched The Hub, a global platform for human rights media and action or "a YouTube for human rights."  According to the website:

"The Hub is a grassroots-driven, participatory media website that
enables anyone anywhere in the world with access to the internet to
upload, share, discuss and take action around human rights-related
media and resources. Through the Hub, organizations, networks and
groups around the world are able to bring their human rights stories
and campaigns to global attention.

The Hub has three main areas: See It – where you can view and interact with human rights media uploaded by the Hub community; Share It – where you can create and join groups or discussions that coincide with your interests or expertise; and Take Action – where you can get involved to make a difference,  and activate other users around your campaigns and events.

The Hub is a project of WITNESS.
WITNESS uses video and online technologies to open the eyes of the
world to human rights violations. We empower people to transform
personal stories of abuse into powerful tools for justice, promoting
public engagement and policy change."

  • Another favorite bit of news this week is that the FBI has apparently been tracking sales of Middle Eastern food in San Francisco grocery stores in hopes that it will lead to terrorist communities. So far there have been no reports of falafel consumption leading to arrests.
  • Immigration News Daily has written about a study just released by the University of Florida which claims that news laws intended to crack down on undocumented immigrants are actually having the opposite effect.  Based on interviews with a community of Brazilian immigrants, the report has concluded that "restrictions to keep illegal immigrants from entering the United States
    are having the perverse effect of encouraging those who are already
    here to stay by any means necessary." It is time for the US to abandon these policies of isolation in order to engage in comprehensive immigration reform that will create a fair and just system to provide everyone in America the opportunities needed to achieve their full potential.
  • The 'Just News' and ImmigrationProf blogs both touched upon a case in Arizona in which an undocumented high school student was found in posession of marijuana, his school called the cops who then called the border patrol, and the student's entire family was deported.  After significant protest by fellow students, "the Tucson police has changed its policy: no longer will they call the
    Border Patrol to schools or churches, though they will share
    information." In addition, immigration law  professor Kevin Johnson discusses official agency policies surrounding arrests at school:

"The Border Patrol has a policy saying that Border Patrol agents, who
work for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, must have written approval
from a supervisor before conducting any enforcement-related activity at
schools or places of worship. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement—which falls under a different
branch of the U.S. Homeland Security Department than Border Patrol—has
a policy that 'arresting fugitives at schools, hospitals, or places of
worship is strongly discouraged, unless the alien poses an immediate
threat to national security or the community.'"

It's reassuring that the Tucson community has been able to bring about the procedural changes they felt were necessary to ensure that their schools will be a safe and secure learning environment.

  • Bloggernista posted about yesterday's vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which passed the House by a vote of 235-184.  While this vote is important and historic for its extension of fair workplace practices to lesbian, gay, and bisexual communities, Pam's House Blend guest author Autumn Sandeen has declared that she is "not celebrating" given the bill's failure to include 'real or perceived gender identity' in the list of protected identities.
Nov 8 2007
Blog Post Human Rights and New Media in America
  • The ImmigrationProf Blog has written a post featuring the new Guantánamo Testimonials Project,
    a project of
    the University of California, Davis Center for the Study of Human
    Rights in the Americas (CSHRA). The goal of the project is to collect and make available testimonies
    of detainees' experiences at Guantánamo and includes statements by "prisoners, FBI Agents, interrogators, prosecution
    and defense lawyers, military physicians, a chaplain, a marine, a CIA
    asset, and others. "
  • Yesterday saw an article in The Huffington Post entitled Dangerous Toys are a Human Rights Issue.  Author David Nassar discusses the connections between this controversial issue and a lack of protections for workers:

"These dangerous toys aren't putting just our children at risk:
they also endanger the lives of the factory workers who make them.

The
same forces that make manufacturers cut corners on paint and plastic
also make manufacturers cut corners on labor costs. Working long hours
in appalling conditions - often with toxic chemicals and no protection
- laborers in China bear the true cost of America's low price toys.
Stores like Wal-Mart demand bottom dollar costs, but the costs come
back not only to us and our children, but to entire communities
overseas. Today's news stories regarding children making clothing for
the Gap, Inc. in India's factories are another harsh reminder of that
truth.

Last week's Congressional hearing on toy safety and working
conditions in China's factories highlighted the fact that without
ensuring the safety of employees in supplier factories, it is
challenging at best to ensure the safety of the products that come out
of those factories and ultimately the safety of our children."

  • Regarding education policy, the last few days have seen discussion of high schools functioning as 'dropout factories' (with one in ten American high schools seeing less than 60% of their original class finishing school) and the importance of the federal Head Start preschool program in increasing graduation rates (while also cutting crime rates). Others have discussed new legislation to help control college costs for American youth, while high-achieving immigrants in favor of the DREAM Act have expressed worries such as "I always worried that immigration (officers) would come if I didn't excel." It is important to continue these dialogues concerning the human rights issues of where we as a nation can do better in ensuring that our young people have the opportunities they need to achieve their full potential.

Finally, the DMI Blog has posted on an innovative new media project of the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, their just-launched website TheMiddleClass.org. The website is meant to function as "a dynamic site that will update throughout the year as members of Congress vote on legislation of significance to the current and aspiring middle class." Speaking of its democratizing role of holding politicians accountable to the voice of their constituents by reporting on legislation in an interactive fashion, the site says:

"For each bill, we begin with a brief description of the legislation,
information about its status in the legislative process, and an
analysis of its impact on the middle class. But themiddleclass.org also
provides more extensive context: you’ll find informative online video
about each piece of legislation, quotations from experts speaking out
on the issue, and hard-hitting numbers from DMI’s Injustice Index. We
look beyond the bill to what more could be done to address the issues
as stake. And we provide links to further resources.

We also provide information on how each member of the U.S. Senate
and House of Representatives voted on the legislation. You can look at
how every member voted on a particular bill, or how your own
representative voted. You can search for legislation by issue area or
keyword and look for legislators by name, state, or entering your zip
code. And you can check out the grades we assign each member of
Congress based on their votes."

Oct 30 2007
Blog Post Spitzer Reaches Agreement with Federal Government on Licenses for Immigrants
  • After announcing his intention to provide driver's licenses without respect to immigration status, New York's Governor Spitzer reached an agreement with the Department of Homeland Security to offer a tiered licensing system that will exclude licenses for undocumented immigrants from operating within the confines of the Real ID Act intended to curb terrorism, essentially ensuring that the licenses can not be used for official purposes such as identification at the airport. Angry that Spitzer's reversed decision will "push immigrants further into the shadows," a coalition of immigrants rights advocates held a protest yesterday outside the governor's New York City office.
  • Consideration of the DREAM Act in Congress seems to have had some unintended consequences on an immigrant family: Angry Asian Man reports on the recent arrest of the family of Vietnamese college graduate Tam Tran.  Tran had testified before a House subcommittee in May, urging representatives to support a path to citizenship for immigrant students, and was quoted by USA Today earlier this month.  Three days later, her parents and brother were arrested and charged "with being fugitives from
    justice, even though the Trans have been reporting to immigration
    officials annually to obtain work permits." It's unfortunate that Tran's family is paying the price for her having spoken for what she believed in, that our nation can do a better job supporting the potential of all its young people.
  • Also related to legislation introduced by Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, Culture Kitchen notifies us of the pending Child Soldier Prevention Act, a measure to end military and other support to nations that employ children in their armed forces. According to Ishmael Beah who spoke at the University of Buffalo, "9 of the 20 countries with known child soldiers in combat have received military aid from the United States." Beah's newest work, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs Of A Boy Soldier explores the prevalent issue of child soldiers which runs contrary to basic human rights doctrines such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that decrees a secure and peaceful existence for all children.
  • The DMI Blog has written about a new program to increase graduation rates, in which high school students take college courses while finishing high school. A recent report by the  Community College Research Center (CCRC) concludes that "Students who participate in dual enrollment – or those who take
    college courses for credit while still in high school – are nearly 10
    percent more likely to pursue a bachelor’s degree." A New York Times article about the report notes that “the study…also found that low-income students benefited more from such programs than other students did” and that New York state is planning to implement the dual enrollment program. Author Maureen Lane is hopeful that implementation of the program will provide "an
    opportunity to break barriers to college for poor and low-income
    students."
  • Marian's Blog has highlighted an upcoming documentary by Martin Luther King III entitled "Poverty in America." Airing on American Life TV on November 14-15th, the documentary provides King a method of asserting his belief that "We can build a society where everyone gets a fair chance
    to succeed, despite the circumstances of their birth. That's what my
    father fought for, and that's what I'll fight for."
Oct 29 2007
Blog Post As Americans, We Value Supporting the Vulnerable in our Communities
  • Yesterday saw the Senate's failure to pass the DREAM Act, thus ending further attempts to pass the legislation this year.  In an era in which college costs are rising at twice the rate of inflation, undocumented students who have grown up in this country are left without the means to finance their educations or gain the legal work status that would enable them to achieve their potential or productivity. The bill was sponsored by Senator Durbin, who described the youth in question as
    "'without a country'...though the U.S. is the only home these children
    know, it is an uncertain future that the government has condemned these
    students to live." Suman Raghunathan at the DMI Blog has just written about Smart Public Policies on Immigration, concluding:

"It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that local communities are going
to have to develop their own practical approaches to immigration policy
and make sure they trickle up to the feds, who remain more obsessed
with border fencing than with figuring out how to see immigrants
(particularly undocumented ones) as important economic contributors and
vital parts of our community."

  • Congress also voted to confirm nominee Leslie Southwick as a federal judge in the fifth circuit.  A good number of bloggers have expressed disappointment over his confirmation, including Pam's House Blend and Firedoglake, and the ACSBlog linked to a New York Times article on the vote.  Many progressives had called upon Southwick's history of homophobic and even racist rulings to argue that he will be biased and unfair in a region of the United States that has a strong history of structural inequality.
  • President Bush stated yesterday that he has every intention of vetoing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), regardless of whether or not it includes the protections for transgender individuals that are under consideration in Congress.  The legislation is intended to ensure that no Americans are unfairly targeted or dismissed in the workplace on grounds of their sexual orientation and gender identity.  Such an act by Bush would further contribute to a lack of security among the LGBT community as it remains unable to access basic and equal workplace protections.
  • People are starting to organize in order to help those displaced by the Southern California wildfires. BlogHer, Ezra Klein, Firedoglake, and the Angry Asian Man have all posted information on how Americans can support the members of our community whose livelihood and homes are at risk.
Oct 25 2007
Blog Post DREAM Act Vote Today in Senate
  • The DREAM Act legislation which would provide undocumented students the means to stay in the country legally if they attend college or join the military is up for a vote today in the Senate. The Border Line reports that it remains unclear if enough Senators will come out in support of the bill, measure which would provide many students who arrived in the US legally as young children with access to federal funding for continue their education in hope of giving back to their communities.

As the wildfires continue to rage in Southern California, Immigration News Daily has posted that about fifty undocumented immigrants have turned themselves into border patrol agents out of fear for their safety. Various bloggers such as Prometheus 6 are starting to draw comparisons between the immense devastation of the wildfires and that of Hurricane Katrina, and how the socio-economic status of the displaced populations has affected the care and attention each received.

RaceWire has done a piece about Blackwater's new bid to get involved with security on the US-Mexico border.  Author Seth Wessler explains how problematic this situation would be, despite apparent bipartisan support in Congress:

"Given Blackwater’s 'shoot first' policy, enacted with bloody clarity in Iraq and on the streets of New Orleans after Katrina,
the plans to expand to the border region do not bode well. With
vigilante groups like the Minutemen already taking their racist,
nationalist stance to the front lines, guns in hand, the addition of
Blackwater to the scene would only mean more dead immigrants with less
accountability.

In a political climate where the rhetoric on immigration employs the
lexicon of war, the possibility of Blackwater’s entry into the border
security scene seems to fit the frame. As if it were not enough that
the United States is building a wall along
the border and the the total number of deportations has increased by
over 400% in the past ten years, the border itself may be handed over
to private firms whose interests could not be less in line with the
common good."

  • The Unapologetic Mexican has joined the ranks of those reporting on a coalition of major newspapers and television networks who are petitioning to gain access to Jena Six member Mychal Bell's sealed criminal trial.  Bell's lawyer seems to agree that the media presence may help temper further questionable rulings by District Attorney Reed Walters, and that the case has been publicized enough to date that Americans have a right to know what is going on.

The Republic of T is spreading the news about the just-announced date of next July's 'Blogging While Brown' conference.  In a blogosphere in which people of color remain the minority, it is tremendously important for bloggers of color to organize themselves in order to maximize potential to publicize issues of import such as the Jena Six case.

Feministing posts that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke this past weekend about the Roe v. Wade abortion ruling, about how she doesn't forsee the ruling being overturned in the next few years.  She added, however, that if it were overturned, abortion would always be available to 'women of means' who could afford to travel to other states, but "would have a devastating impact on poor women."
Oct 24 2007
Blog Post Race and Human Rights in Pop Culture

The Consumerist has advised us that popular grocery store chain Trader Joe's has decided to cave to consumer pressure and ban all single-ingredient products originating in China. The post states, "Though the announcement - the first of its kind among major retailers - will not make consumers any safer, it is the most pernicious indication yet of consumers skepticism towards foreign goods."

There are two movies coming out of note to the human rights community, both to do with the cultureand techniques of detention after 9/11.  There has been a lot of buzz about Rendition, a film concerning the American practice of extraordinary rendition, or removing terrorism suspects to foreign soil to allow for 'enhanced interrogation' practices or torture.  On the humorous end, spring 2008 will see the release of Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay.
  • Television network CW has just started a new series called Aliens in America, which tells the story of a Wisconsin family that decides to host an exchange student from Pakistan. The Louisville Courier-Journal says of the new series:

"Aliens in America" isn't preachy, and there are no overt references in
the opener to bigotry and discrimination, but the subtle undertows are
always present. The show is a fresh and new approach to
touchy topics, but it's done more for laughs than sermonizing....The comedy isn't really about Raja at all. It's about us. "Aliens in America" uses a funhouse mirror
to reflect the way too many of us see someone who doesn't look, dress
or pray like us, and it does it in an amusing and maybe even thoughtful
way.

  • Finally, Racialicious is helping to sponsor a cool new media initiative known as 10Questions, in which people are encouraged to create, submit and vote on video questions, ten of which will be presented to the presidential candidates for their responses.  Also in the veign of playing  out racial stereotypes, a recent video was posted with the question "Should we ban American Indian Mascots?" Feel free to go throw in your two cents with a comment!
Oct 23 2007
Blog Post Congress Fails to Override SCHIP Veto
  • A multitude of bloggers remarked on the SCHIP re-vote in which Congress was unable to override President Bush's veto on the expansion of children's health care.  In the wake of this struggle, framing expert George Lakoff has stepped with another piece on how progressives can frame the health care issue, called 'Don't Think of a Sick Child,' summarized by Open Left.
  • Also on the issue of health care, Bloggernista has alerted us to the notable absence of discussion among presidential candidates of their policies on HIV/AIDS. The post cites GMHC's Robert Bank as saying that, “It is unconscionable that the United States, which has all the
    necessary resources to end the AIDS epidemic, does not have a
    comprehensive plan to stop AIDS deaths, reduce infections, and get
    people the medical care that they need.”  Accordingly, there are two new campaigns to increase the visibility of this issue in presidential campaigns: AIDSVote and National AIDS Strategy.
  • With respect to the media, Alas!
    blog reports on a lawsuit filed in Portland, Oregon, by a man who was
    tasered by police for videotaping a raid of his neighbor's house.
    According to one of the cops, Waterhouse "refused to drop the camera
    which could be used as a weapon.”  While it is reassuring to know that
    law enforcement officials have tremendous respect for the power of the
    media, this sort of unjustified force will do nothing to promote
    cohesion and democracy in our communities.
  • News on immigration policy is a mix as usual.  On one end of the spectrum, North Carolina is assuming a new role as the leading state in a new program that will enable local corrections officers to search and verify the immigration status of everyone in jail. 
  • The Immigration Policy Center has just released a report entitled 'Wasted Talent and Broken Dreams: The Lost Potential of Undocumented Students,' demonstrating the need for a DREAM Act to allow all students in the US the opportunity to get a higher education. 
  • The ImmigrationProf Blog notes that US Appeals Court Judge Harry Pregerson is challenging sixty deportation orders on grounds that ordering a noncitizen parent out of the country also forces unlawful deportation of his or her US citizen child.  This is a tough issue, but such a move would unfairly curtail options for the children deported. 
  • In public opinion, Happening Here? published the results of a new CNN poll which states that only 30% of Americans think all undocumented immigrants should be deported.  This figure is promising and hopefully lawmakers will take it into account before enacting future 'crackdown' policies. If America is to fulfill its promise of opportunity, we must implement an integration strategy that welcomes immigrants and gives newcomers and their families an equal chance to fully contribute to and participate in society.
Oct 22 2007
Blog Post Life in a Diverse America

"National faith, civil rights and labor leaders today unveiled a
campaign to counter the growing anti-immigrant movement in the U.S. by
uplifting the voices of everyday Americans who have grown weary of the
division created by anti-immigrant politics. The campaign presents one
of the few organized alternatives for those Americans who may find
themselves conflicted on immigration and immigration reform, but are
thoroughly at odds with the tenor and ideological background of the
anti-immigrant movement.“

The campaign website states that:

"Campaign for a United America is made up of
Americans from all walks of life who are standing up to defend our
nation’s historic commitment to unity, equality and opportunity. We’re
working to promote a dialogue that respects the contributions of all
community members including our immigrant friends and neighbors and
explores a sensible, humane, and compassionate approach to life
together in a diverse America."

We look forward to watching this media work as it unfolds and tells stories of real people in two opposing camps, 'Voices for a United America' and 'Voices of Intolerance.'

  • Immigration Equality posted that the San Pedro immigration detention facility where Victoria Arrellano died has lost its government accreditation.  Whether or not this means the facility will be shut down is unclear.  The organization notes, "Our fear is that DHS is treating the symptom and not the problem" of an immigration system which is built to hold people in inhumane living conditions for indefinite periods of time.  The entire way we approach immigration needs to be restructured with respect for the human right of mobility, the idea that we should all have the capacity to cross borders or social class lines in our drive for great opportunities.

As the SCHIP legislation vetoed by President Bush goes back to Congress for another vote today, Firedoglake has written that three members of the House have already announced a change in opinion in favor of expanding funding for children's health care.  Two more votes are needed to pass the bill that will provide health insurance for ten million American children whose families live closest to the poverty line.

In affirmative action news, the Mirror on America blog has reported that, in November 2008, five more states will be considering measures to ban the use of racial, ethnic, or gender preferences by public colleges and other state and local agencies.  Well-known affirmative action critic Ward Connerly has pushed for referenda in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma, in which voters will voice their opinion on policies meant to level the playing field for minorities.  Given that all five states have populations that are more than three-quarters white and lack large-scale minority advocacy groups, the approval of such bans seems likely.
Oct 18 2007
Blog Post Protecting Children in Jena, Prison, School, and the Gulf Zone
  • As an update on the Jena Six case, the US Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana said at yesterday's House Judiciary Committee hearing that the hanging of a noose does indeed qualify as a hate crime, and that had the white boys responsible been of age, they would have been tried accordingly.  The Chicago Tribune noted the Congressional Black Caucus pushed the issue that "it is illegal under the guarantees of our Constitution and our laws to
    have one standard of justice for white citizens and another harsher one
    for African- American citizens." Officials from the Justice promised that a serious investigation is underway in Jena.
  • The Sentencing Law and Policy blog and the The New York Times reported yesterday on juveniles in prison serving life sentences, some of whom were thirteen or fourteen when their crime was committed.  America is the only country in the world that assigns life sentences for underage crimes (a policy prohibited by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child), and only in 2005 did we discontinue the use of the death penalty for juveniles.  We ought to examine these policies with reflection on the human right of redemption, that we all deserve a second chance to change our behavior.
  • Migra Matters published an entertaining piece yesterday discussing Republican presidential candidate Tom Tancredo's proposal that DNA testing be a routine part of the immigration process, in order to prove that people that claim to be related actually are blood kin.
  • The happening-here? blog wrote about a recent poll by San Jose State University that showed that the majority of Californians (59%) are in favor of a path to legal residency for undocumented immigrants.  Presented with this data, author janinsanfran asks progressives "How to do we make the majority audible and effectual?" 
  • Also in California, the Governor Schwarzenegger has just signed a bill that will increase access to information about colleges, and the ways students can prepare themselves for higher education.  According to RaceWire, "the law could be used by community based education groups as leverage
    to secure more resources for counseling and other support services."  More clarity on the college application process should help increase options for California's students.
  • With one day to go until the SCHIP re-vote, the Bush administration has also refused to renew funding
    for the mental health of children in the New Orleans area, despite data
    that indicates that they among the most traumatized in the country.  As
    a result of a screening by the Louisiana Rural Trauma Services Center, part of the state university of children displaced by Hurricane Katrina and returning to the area, "31 percent reported clinically significant symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder."  This comes in spite of a health department directive to give high priority to services for hurricane victims.  Such individualist policies can only be more devastating to the Gulf community.
Oct 17 2007
Blog Post Immigration Increases Opportunity For All
  • In the wake of the California DREAM Act veto, a couple interesting stories have come to light concerning higher education.  The first involves a scholarship fund set up by Catalino Tapia, a gardener who settled in Redwood City after immigrating from Mexico.  Tapia was so proud to see his son attend law school that he formed a non-profit organization with other gardeners that gave away nine $1500 scholarships last year.  Tapia proves he understands the importance of community values: “I believe the education of our young people isn't just the responsibility of their parents, especially in the Latino community where some parents work two or three jobs…It's our obligation as community leaders, because young people sometimes wander without guidance."
  • Second, a student at Texas A&M University who came to the US on a visa when he was five years old has been ordered to leave the country – but the immigration authorities are going to let him finish his engineering degree in December before deporting him to Guatemala. Having signed a form that made them ineligible for citizenship, the family is all facing deportation – although the mother has also been granted an extension so their one US citizen daughter can finish the school year.  While it is upsetting to see a family’s chance at citizenship get hung up on a technicality, it is reassuring to see that ICE is taking their educational status and options into account for the time being.
  • With respect to the impending construction of a fence along the US-Mexico border, the Pro Inmigrant blog has noted that Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff may decide to use his power to trump a recent federal court ruling halting the building process in Arizona. Latina Lista reports, however, that some communities in Texas may be able to call upon Spanish colonial law to avoid ceding the land demanded by the Homeland Security department. In the town of Granjeno alone, plans dictate that the fence would cut through properties owned by 34 families, demonstrating that the fence would have a negative impact on Americans as well, in addition to its environmental impact and general inability to fix an immigration system already broken and unfair.
  • In another milestone in the ongoing battle over immigration policy, Migra Matters has featured a recent report by the University or Arizona confirming the economic benefits of all kinds of immigration.  The author summarizes the study: “We can now add Arizona to the long list of states in which recent studies prove that the current influx of immigrants, both legal and undocumented, have contributed far more in taxes than they receive in government services.”  As a nation, we’ve found much strength not only in the vibrant workforce that immigration has enabled but also in the richness and diversity of our community. Future federal and state policies should reflect our support and gratitude for the benefits that immigration brings us all.
Oct 16 2007
Blog Post Equality in Immigration, Schools, and the Workplace
  • One piece of not-so-good news and then we're on to a happier day: The 'Just News' Blog and the LA Times report that a lawsuit has been filed by the ACLU to "stop immigration authorities from forcibly drugging deportees in
    order to send them back to their home countries on commercial airlines."  It seems this process may be quite widespread, as at least fifty-two people are known to have been drugged over a period of seven months, the majority of which had never shown any signs of psychiatric illness. ACLU attorney Ahilan T. Arulanantham aptly sums up the situation: "It's both medically
    inappropriate and shocking that the government believes it can treat
    immigrants like animals and shoot them up with powerful anti-psychotic
    drugs that can be fatal -- without a doctor's examination or court
    oversight." This type of practice does not support the equality and mobility that our country values; hopefully the lawsuit and media attention will bring an end to these stories of human rights denied.
  • Next, The Border Line and The New York Times have reported on a school district in Union City, New Jersey using iPods in class to help students with limited English proficiency learn to sing along to English-language music, working on their grammar and vocabulary in the process. This innovative style of teaching has been accelarating the students' move out of bilingual classes. NYU sociology professor Pedro Noguera agrees: “You
    know the No. 1 complaint about school is that it’s boring because the
    traditional way it’s taught relies on passive learning....It’s not interactive enough.”  It's great to see new media being used as an educational tool; while there is much value in cultural and linguistic diversity in our community, improved English skills will undeniably advance options for higher education and eventually work among our youth.
  • The ACSBlog reported on yesterday's Supreme Court decision that upheld the ability of parents of children with disabilities to be reimbursed for private school tuition even if their child never received public special education services.  When public schools do not offer appropriate programming for children with disabilities, children with special needs should have the opportunity to go elsewhere rather than first being forced to struggle in a public school setting.
  • Wrapping up, today is 'National Coming Out Day.'  The Human Rights Campaign has been promoting the event with a YouTube video contest, and Pam's House Blend has posted a video of her own along with notes on how to get involved in working for equal rights or even how to "come out" as a straight ally.  Bloggernista is doing a series of posts today on LGBT people of color and their coming out experiences. These discussions are particularly important this fall as Congress is considering the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill to extend fair workplace protections to LBGT Americans.  Government policies that safeguard employment are critical to upholding the shared value of security, that all people must have access to the means to provide for their own basic needs and those of their family.
Oct 11 2007
Blog Post A Human Right to Health
  • First up, Alan Jenkins' newest opinion piece is live on TomPaine.com. Talking about A Human Right to Health, Jenkins begins:

News coverage of President Bush's recent speech
to the United Nations General Assembly has focused on his announcement
of economic and political sanctions against Myanmar. But the real news
about the president's speech is that he chose as a central theme the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
which he described as "a landmark achievement in the history of human
liberty." In particular, the president focused on Article 25 of the
Declaration, which provides in part that "everyone has the right to a
standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself
and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care
and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event
of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack
of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control."

The president's focus on Article 25 was remarkable for at least two
reasons. First, although the United States played an important role in
crafting the Universal Declaration almost 60 years ago, our government
has, since the time of the Cold War, distanced itself from the economic
and social rights embodied in Article 25, at times denying that they
are rights at all. And second, less than two weeks after delivering the
speech, Bush vetoed legislation that would have expanded the popular
State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to cover more of
America's 9 million uninsured kids.

  • On the same topic, the vote to potentially override President Bush's veto of the SCHIP legislation has been scheduled for October 18th.  In the meantime, the biggest thing happening in SCHIP news is the right-wing smear campaign against 12-year-old Graeme Frost, who assisted Democrats in delivering a radio address about the president's opposition to the bill.  After the family spoke about the big difference SCHIP has made in their lives, when Graeme and his sister were involved in a terrible car accident, conservatives have not only attempted to invalidate them by depicting them as rich kids pampered by the government, but they have posted the address and contact information of the Frost family online.  It's too bad that this family is having their major life decisions deconstructed in order to illustrate that they are not deserving of public assistance.  We're all deserving of affordable health care, and our government should be enacting policies that benefit the community as a whole rather than just private insurers.

Matthew Schwieger has a piece in the Huffington Post about 'the new class-based affirmative action.'  The New York Times has published a series of articles about new inititatives in California which are geared to increasing diversity without taking race into consideration, though that has been prohibited by the state's Proposition 209.  Schools such as Harvard and UNC-Chapel Hill have similar programs in place, in an effort to rectify the "stunningly meager number of low-income students enrolled at selective colleges." Given that "nearly 85% of Americans favor preferences based on socioeconomic status," this model may be successful in increasing opportunity for underprivileged youth. In discussing the importance of a college education, Schwieger cites Columbia professor Andres Delbanco, who notes that higher education is a "primary engine of social mobility."

Columbia University Teacher's College unfortunately had a noose-hanging of its own yesterday, as rope was found in front of the office of professor Madonna Constantine, a black psychologist and educator known for her contributions on addressing racism.  Too Sense has written an insightful post discussing whether or not people were surprised by the incident, arguing that "the idea that somehow the graduate school would be exempt from issues of race when it lies on the fault line between gentrifying Harlem and the Upper West Side is really hopelessly naive."  Author dnA continues:

"Surprise is really a failure to accept our own role in allowing racism
to continue by ignoring it, or believing it can simply be erased by
time or proximity, rather than asking hard questions both about
ourselves and the world around us."

  • In a post on Racialicious last Friday, Latoya Peterson does actually take the time to unpack her thoughts on gentrification in Washington, DC.  Defining gentrification as the premeditated process of displacing poor women and people of color by the raising of rents, the piece quotes a USA Today article which claims that the city's residents will be primarily white by 2015. Peterson further acknowledges her own hesitance to settle in an area with less amenities and security, courageously admitting that "as much as I may disagree with gentrification on principle, I complicity agree with it by my neighborhood selection practices." She does, however, offer us the example of progressive housing policies in her native Montgomery County that "require developers to include
    affordable housing in any new residential developments that they
    construct" in order to create socioeconomically mixed
    neighborhoods and schools.  Such policies are commendable for their support of the value of community, the idea that the strength of our nation lies in our diversity.
Oct 10 2007
Blog Post Columbus Day Protests Highlight Human Rights in America
  • Yesterday's Columbus Day holiday did not go smoothly, as 80 Native American activists were arrested at a sit-in protest of Denver's holiday parade. While claiming "that honoring Columbus in essence celebrates the foundation of genocide, racism, and slavery in the Americas," non-violent protesters were rounded up quite violently by police.  The intense controversy over this federal holiday is another flag of just how important is it to frame American history and policy with respect to human rights, or to focus on Bringing Human Rights Home.

The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog highlighted a series of articles over the weekend about different aspects of our system of incarceration, from the staggering debt that many prisoners face upon their release to the fact that many prisoners are being denied training and rehab.  In a post entitled 'What if our prison system wasn't just a reflection of society - but a force that shaped it?', writer Christopher Shea begins,

"What if America launched a new New Deal and no one noticed? And what
if, instead of lifting the unemployed out of poverty, this
multibillion-dollar project steadily drove poor communities further and
further out of the American mainstream?

That's how America should think about its growing prison system,
some leading social scientists are saying, in research that suggests
prisons have a far deeper impact on the nation than simply punishing
criminals."

These posts are definitely worth a read with attention to the way that our prison system values retribution over redemption, the idea that those who falter in their efforts or break societal rules warrant the chance for reconciliation, rehabilitation, and a new start.

  • Tennessee Guerilla Women posted a story about 2600 members of the Minnesota National Guard who just returned from 22 months of duty in Iraq to find that they were deployed one day short of the 730 days required to receive the college education benefits outlined in the GI Bill.  To knowingly deny veterans the chance to go to college is a disrespectful statement that in spite of government promises and their personal sacrifices, the soldiers must 'go it alone' and support themselves through school.  This myth that we should all 'pull ourselves up by the bootstraps' is contrary to our nation's long-held belief that our success as a country depends on the success of all, that we should be striving for the common good.  The policies of our government should be based in community values rather than punitive individualism.

An interesting post on the Immigrants in USA Blog discusses the way lack of transportation negatively affects immigrant populations.  Based on an article published in Alabama's News Courier about a lecture by sociology professor Stephanie Bohon, the piece discusses how transportation barriers "prevent [immigrants] from learning the language, learning about job or housing opportunities and having access to services."  If undocumented individuals are unable to obtain drivers licenses and there is no public transport available in their area, they are left dependent on expensive taxi fares and may choose to forgo outings such as taking their child for necessary vaccinations.

After recent crackdowns on the mobility of immigrant workers, a shortage of farm workers has left farmers threatening to leave fruit and vegetable rotting in their fields.  As a result, the Bush administration is quietly working to rewrite federal regulations on foreign labor.  This is a perfect example of how reactionary, anti-immigrant policies have not only failed to fix the problem but are making things worse for the American economy.  Immigration replenishes our country's workers, communities, and traditions.  Immigrants are central to our productivity and success, and help ensure that the US continues to be a land of wealth and opportunity.

Finally, Future Majority alerts us to a new campaign to get young Latinos to vote called Vota Por Tu Futuro (Vote 4 UR Future). A media campaign based on PSAs and in-show ads, Vote 4 UR Future is a partnership between the youth-focused TV channel Telemundo, mun2 and a coalition of political organizations such as Rock the Vote, the US Hispanic Leadership Institute, and Democracia USA. Thie campaign is a great step towards ensuring that the growing Latino population has a voice in electing our public officials.
Oct 9 2007
Blog Post On Being a Kid: Health Care, Photo-Ops, and Video Games
  • Latina Lista just wrote a piece entitled "It's Been a Bad Week to Be an Immigrant Child in the U.S.A.," citing the recent upsets of the SCHIP veto plus the shelving of the DREAM Act and the Immigrant Children's Health Improvement Act (ICHIA).  Additionally, Irving, Texas has seen about 90 immigrant children pulled out of school in the past month, while the nearby city council of Farmers Branch has demanded that the school district provide it with the names and addresses of all enrolled students, a move of which many are suspicious.  The post then ties all these are happenings together with a great use of the opportunity frame: "As a country, we can't afford to abandon any child. Why? Because there's potential in their destiny, and that's worth caring about every time."  Every child deserves the chance to succeed, and this requires that the child have a basic level of good health, education, and security.
  • Unfortunately, the examples of the neglect of a child's potential don't stop there.  A recent study by the University of Maryland reveals that families caring for foster children receive "far less than what middle-income families spend to raise their children."  At its core, foster care is a progressive societal mechanism meant to provide greater opportunities for children that are at risk. With 500,000 children in foster care nationwide, a lack of financial resources for foster families will certainly curtail the options of many.
  • Back to the SCHIP debate, another video has been released, this one by the Campaign for America's Future. Posted on YouTube as "Kids Warn Conservatives: No More Photo Ops," the footage urges Congress to override Bush's veto by questioning the use of children as a media tactic without regard to their well-being.  Looking at the comments on the YouTube page, it seems like many are in favor of the attack ad format of the video, which is framed as a cute and cheeky threat to politicians. Others question the heavy-handed use of the actor in the video, wondering how this use of a child in public media is different from that of politicians.  What do we think about this?  Is the video effective way to frame the argument for increased health coverage?
  • Briefly, a middle school in South Carolina has been in the news for its
    assignment to students to re-imagine plantation life, to the point of
    rationalizing and romanticizing slavery.  Too Sense's post "They Were Just Trying To Show Both Sides Of The Debate" is entertaining and insightful, as author dnA expresses concern for the black kids attending the school.
  • Iced_4
    On the other side of the educational spectrum, we're eagerly awaiting next month's release of ICED! I Can End Deportation, a downloadable video game being developed by Breakthrough, an organization that works in the US and India to build human rights culture through new media.  After presenting the project at the Games for Change conference, Breakthrough has received a surprising amount of mainstream media attention. Executive Director Mallika Dutt was even interviewed on Fox News about the game, whose name is a play on the Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ICED! has been designed as a fun educational tool to illustrate the human rights violations inherent in immigration policies introduced in 1996.  Players get to role-play the experiences of five characters, each based on true case studies such as a student on a temporary visa or a permanent resident, and they make a series of moral choices which may bring them into contact with immigration agents seeking to arrest them.  There are also periodic myth/fact questions built into the game about immigration laws, which if answered correctly affect a player's score, level of risk, freedom, or health. If a player makes the wrong decisions they land in a detention center, where they endure inhumane living conditions and separation from their families as they await a random outcome.  Like the well-known Darfur is Dying, the detention process is anything but a game for thousands of people. But here's hoping that ICED! will be able to increase public awareness of deportation as a critical human rights issue, such that Americans begin to push harder for fair and equitable reform.
Oct 5 2007
Blog Post The Revolution Is Digitized
  • Big news today concerns an incident at a high school in California in which a young black woman had her wrist broken by a school security guard for failing to clean up a piece of her birthday cake that fell on the floor.  16-year-old Pleajhai Mervin was subsequently arrested, along with her mother who complained (and was fired from her school district job) and the fellow students who used their cellphones to videotape the struggle. There are many things wrong with this footage, from excessive violence in our schools to unjust racial profiling. With respect to the way in which this story has been disseminated in the media, the blogger Oh No a WoC PhD notes that "YouTube may be one way in which the revolution is in fact digitized."  With increased access to technology comes more power to force reporting and increase public awareness to fight social injustice.

Also related to new media, Racialicious alerts us to a lawsuit pending against Virgin Mobile over the unauthorized use of a photograph posted on Flickr.  A friend of Asian-American Alison Chang posted photos of his teenaged group of friends, one of which then appeared on billboards in Australia, taken out of context in a way that advertises a "perpetual foreigner" stereotype. A recent report by the Justice Policy Institute entitled "Employment, Wages and Public Safety" reveals that increased employment and wages are associated with positive public safety outcomes. In short, increasing security via economic well-being decreases the crime rate.  This report is one in a series that link public safety with various types of opportunities, from education to housing and drug treatment. Finally, the last few weeks have seen a number of racially-motivated incidents in New York, from a noose hung in a police station on Long Island to swastikas painted on synangogues during the Jewish holidays in Brookyln.  The continued use of these symbols to provoke fear and submission among specific ethnic or cultural groups is devastating.  At such times it's helpful to refer to the ethical framework of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) to illustrate where we have gone wrong. Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948, Article I proclaims:

"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."

Article II goes on:

"Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status."

At their core, hate crimes violate the equality we value, a concept that is held globally as one of our most basic human rights. Unfortunately, many Americans do not consider human rights to be relevant to their day-to-day reality.  We tend to think of human rights as an issue in Latin America or in Myanmar, not at home.  What the above incidents make clear, though, is that defending human rights is just as important and necessary a task within the US -- and not just in New Orleans or in Jena, Louisiana, but in everyone's backyard.

Oct 2 2007
Blog Post Webcasts of Clinton Global Initiative Talk of the Need to Increase Opportunity
  • This Friday saw the end of the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Conference in New York.  The CGI is "a non-partisan catalyst for action bringing together a community of global leaders to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges," from issues of education and health to global warming. Webcasts of the event have been have been posted on the site, and Blogher has published a number of posts about the meeting, the most recent of which discussed the importance of maternal health and education.  Here's a striking example of the discussion from the event:

"Gene Sperling talked about education being the silent crisis because there is no moment when the CNN camera captures a kid dying from lack of education. Every year of education for a mother increases the chance of her child living by 10%. When a woman has five years of education, her children are 50% more likely to see their fifth birthday."

Also debuted at the conference was YouTube's new video-sharing site for non-profit organizations.

  • Another exciting new media creation is the interactive web timeline on the America at a Crossroads site.  The timeline is related to the PBS series meant to explore "the challenges confronting the post-9/11 world — including the war on terrorism; the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan; the experience of American troops serving abroad; the struggle for balance within the Muslim world; and global perspectives on America’s role overseas." There are four separate timelines that correspond to a world map and offer pop-ups of information on key historical events.  A similar example of the capacity of an interactive timeline is found on the Reclaim Civil Rights website, which even has video embedded in the presentation.
  • The US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced last week the launch of a new photo-database meant to enhance the E-Verify system for matching names and social security numbers of foreign workers in the US. 
  • Various blogs have commented recently on the new citizenship exam going into effect a year from today. The New York Times published an article discussing changes in the test, which has been criticized as abstract, irrelevant, lacking in any information about Latin Americans, and demanding a level of knowledge of American history and politics well above that of the average citizen. The ImmigrationProf Blog questions how this test relates to the literacy tests for the native-born voting population that were outlawed in the 1960s.
  • Finally, in other current events, 17-year-old Jena Six member Mychal Bell was released from prison last week on $45,000 bail.  In an unexpected display of generosity from the community, bail was posted by Dr. Stephen Ayers of Lake Charles, Louisiana, who offered his support upon hearing about the case because he felt that the District Attorney's treatment of Bell was innapropriately harsh.
Oct 1 2007
Blog Post Tearing Immigrant Children Out of School, While Congress Returns to Immigration Issues
  • Just News and the El Paso Times have reported on a September 10 Border Patrol raid of a public school district in Otero County, New Mexico.  Eleven children were seized and subsequently deported to Mexico with their parents.  In response, many local families are choosing to keep their children from attending classes.  In Oklahoma, supporters of the tough new anti-immigrant legislation have said that reports of Latino/a children leaving school mean that the "law is working."  We started writing about the effects of immigration raids on schools last week, but just to recap: Schools should be safe places, and every child should have access to an education.  One can only imagine the terror that elementary school children face upon seeing their friends pulled out class by border agents - and preventing children from attending school is nothing but detrimental to their futures.
  • According to the Immigration Prof blog and the LA Times, Democratic Senators are gearing up to reintroduce the DREAM Act in Congress as well as new legislation to protect agricultural workers.  Although comprehensive immigration reform was not achieved over the past few months, these remain important issues that we would do well to define in a way that maximizes the potential of all, from seeking an education to one's capacity to labor.
  • It is also reported that Hispanic-owned businesses are feeling the squeeze of uncertainy produced by recent immigration raids.  The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has written about a noticeable slowdown in spending among the Latin American community in Georgia. Local shops, restaurants, and car dealerships that cater to immigrant populations are suffering significant losses as many residents are choosing to save money.  In 2006, Latino/as spent $12.4 billion in Georgia, but sales are down 30-40% after the enactment of tougher legislation against undocumented individuals.
  • A wealth of blogs also reported on Friday's 'Jena 6' development, the overturning of Mychal Bell's conviction.  Bell was only 16 at the time of the schoolyard beating, but was tried as an adult which, according to the Associated Press, could have brought a sentence of 15 years in prison. It is still unclear whether Bell will be released or brought up on different charges, but the remaining five students are still awaiting trials in a case that has inflamed public opinion for its illustration of the racial inequalities that still permeate our justice system.
  • Also, Prometheus 6 has posted about the controversial re-zoning of the school district in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. After the new zoning plan effectively sent black students to low-performing schools, parents are contesting the decision to 'resegregate,' calling upon the 'No Child Left Behind' legislation on education, which gives students the right to move out of schools that are failing.

“We’re talking about moving children from good schools into low-performing ones, and that’s illegal,” said Kendra Williams, a hospital receptionist, whose two children were rezoned. “And it’s all about race. It’s as clear as daylight.”

As with the school raids above, and the Jena 6, all children deserve equal access to a quality education, to a secure environment, and, when things go wrong, to fair courts that will remedy injustice.

Sep 17 2007
Blog Post Immigration Crackdown Affects School Children, DREAM Act Passes CA Assembly
  • Both the Immigration Prof Blog and Immigration Equality wrote about an article in yesterday's Cincinnati Enquirer that talked about how a local immigration raid caused somewhat of a crisis on the first day of school.  In a district that is 65% Latin American, teachers were worried that some of the elementary school students would not have parents waiting to pick them up at the of the day - and sure enough, a number of students were collected by parents in cars that were packed to go, and did not attend classes for the subsequent few days, at least.  Immigration News Daily also posted an entry on 'Hispanic students leaving Tulsa area schools' in a similar exodus before the enactment of new legislation meant to target undocument individuals.  The effects these raids and laws are having on immigrant children is truly regrettable - every child, regardless of citizenship, should have the opportunity to get a solid education. We should make it our task as a nation to ensure that all children have the security they need to attend school, rather than continue to legislate against their stability.
  • On the same theme, the California DREAM Act (SB 1) passed in the state assembly and is awaiting the governor's signature. If enacted, the bill will allow undocumented students to
    qualify for entitlement Cal Grants, institutional aid and various private
    scholarships in order to fund their college education. There is a petition you can sign to encourage Governor Schwarzenegger to sign the bill into law.
  • According to Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) head Julie Myers, it would require at least $94 billion to deport all of the 12 million undocumented immigrations estimated to be in the US at this time.  However, this "estimate does not include the cost of 'all the things that the Border Patrol has
    done,' other administrative security measures...the cost of
    finding illegal immigrants, nor court costs."  Seems a pretty astounding sum that could do a serious amount of good elsewhere, not to mention the constant raids and social insecurity the task would perpetuate.
  • The Huffington Post cited a USA Today article about the majority of the Republic presidential candidates having declined to appear at yet another debate, one which was to be hosted by PBS at a historically black university in Baltimore, Maryland.  After a similar Republic refusal of the Univision debate, moderator Travis Smiley has denounced the candidates, asserting that "No one should be elected president of this country in 2008 if they think that along the way they can ignore people of color."
  • The SuperSpade blog alerted readers to an article in the LA Times about a recent report by the Federal Reserve which noted that in 2006, minority borrowers received a greater percentage of higher interest rate mortgages than they had the previous year.  The gap in interest rates itself is sizeable, with 52.8% of African Americans receiving high-interest loans and 25.7% of whites receiving the same.  As SuperSpade says, "This is yet
    another piece

    of rebuttal material to the 'Race no longer matters' crowd."
  • Media Matters recently released a study called Black and White and Re(a)d
    All Over: The Conservative Advantage in Syndicated Op-ed Columns.
      However, the Latina Lista blog brought our attention to another facet of this research:

"What was disappointing to see was that from the long drop-down list of
syndicated columnists only 10 were Latino/a. Of those 10 only 2 — Ruben
Navarrette and Kathryn Jean Lopez appeared in over 100 newspapers
respectively.

The others ranged from being in as little as 4 newspapers to 28.

Why does this matter? Well, like the report says:

Syndicated newspaper columnists have a unique ability to influence
public opinion and the national debate. And whether examining only the top
columnists or the entire group, large papers or small, the data presented in
this report make clear that conservative syndicated columnists enjoy a clear
advantage over their progressive counterparts.

In fact among the most successful Latino columnists (in that they appear in
more newspapers than the rest), all 3 of them are conservative, and what's
interesting to note - the only conservatives of the bunch."

And publisher/author Marisa Treviño concludes with a great analysis of the role of the media in a multicultural, democratic society:

"What this study shows is that newspapers, even those that publish mainly
progressive columnists, aren't giving voice to the Latino perspective.

And if this is the case, it's no wonder that the anti-Hispanic, undocumented
immigrant rhetoric is as rampant as it is across this country.

Without showcasing a balance of opinion, how can newspapers claim to play a
role in keeping our democracy alive when they're practicing the most fundamental
breach of that trust?"

That's a very good question.  Thoughts?

Sep 14 2007
Blog Post Financial Aid for Undocumented Students in Arizona

Let's start the week off with a couple things done well.

  • The University of Arizona has created a scholarship fund for undocumented immigrant students who have graduated from Arizona high schools.  The $1.8 million fund has helped approximately 150-200 students manage the costs of the higher out-of-state tuition mandated by the state's new Proposition 300.  We commend the university for its commitment to increasing access to education for groups with limited options.
  • Racewire put up an excellent post last Friday headlining the story of a man being deported to Mexico after his son died fighting in Iraq. Given that 33,449 non-citizens have served in the American armed forces, this is not an uncommon occurrence, albeit a disrespectful one. Many immigrants join the military with hopes of increasing opportunity for themselves and their families. As such it is particularly upsetting to see that this family is being denied the ability to stay together after the trauma of losing their son to the war.
  • Also mentioned in the above post is a statement by the Social Security administration that they may not be able to distribute everyone's checks this month due to a backlog.  They have blamed this backup on a federal judge's temporary bar on the agency sending out the 141,000 "no match" letters they have prepared to advise employers of discrepancies in the social security records of their workers. It seems a dirty media scare tactic to imply that someone's grandma might not be able to eat this month because of a struggle over new measures to identify undocumented workers.
  • Immigration Equality has put up a couple blog posts about Victoria Arrelano,
    a 23-year-old transgender woman who recently died in an immigrant
    detention center because she was denied her HIV medications.  In a rare
    display of community support, 55 of her fellow detainees filed a
    petition to get her health care and even chanted 'hospital!' until she
    got some medical attention.
  • Also in the blogs was Sunday night's Spanish language debate for Democratic presidential candidates, a discussion heavily weighted towards candidates' views on immigration policies. Although Spanish-language TV network Univision has received a good deal of criticism over the way the debate was run, this particular debate drew 49% more 25-54 year-old viewers than the English-language debates have so far.  On the other end, all Republican candidates except for McCain have declined to participate in a Spanish-language debate.
  • In uglier news, there has been another noose-sighting at the University of Maryland campus at College Park, hung from a tree outside the black cultural studies center.  Investigations are underway but many are assuming there to be some linkage between this incident and the 'Jena 6' convictions pending in Louisiana.
  • RachelsTavern.com has posted about a newly-released article that found that the black/white racial gap in life expectancy has narrowed.  That the gap exists at all is a flag of social inequality, but the study would indicate that, on a national level, we're on the right path.
  • Finally, Ezra Klein has a recent piece about increasing health insurance premiums, which have gone up 87% since 2000.  In a discussion of implications of rising costs on employer-controlled and individual medical insurance (basically, less people are choosing to insure themselves), Klein notes that "between 8 and 18 percent of applicants are denied health coverage outright due to preexisting conditions," and entitles his post "I'll Take Medicare, Thanks."  Seems a rational choice, all things considered.
Sep 11 2007
Blog Post A Desegregation Hero

Our Executive Director, Alan Jenkins, has a new article up at Tom Paine in which he recounts a party honoring Judge Robert L. Carter and the implications of the recent Supreme Court cases in two voluntary school integration cases.

Last week I had the privilege of attending a tribute to a genuine American hero. The event honored Judge Robert L. Carter,
a prime architect of the Brown v. Board of Education desegregation
cases, a distinguished jurist, and a constitutional visionary. He
turned 90 this year and marked his 35th year as federal district court
judge sitting in New York City.

The evening's hosts were Theodore Shaw of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Professor Charles Ogletree of Harvard Law School's Charles Hamilton Houston Institute,
and renowned defense attorney Ted Wells. The crowd included a
remarkable assemblage of civil rights lawyers and luminaries, from
prominent figures like Lani Guinier and Derrick Bell to lesser-known
legal stars like Norman Chachkin and Judith Reed who, collectively,
have helped to transform American society through the lens of our
Constitution and laws.

The timing of the event was apt, as it came just weeks after the
Supreme Court's decision in voluntary school integration cases from
Louisville, Ky. and Seattle, Wash. The Court split 4-1-4, with Justice
Anthony M. Kennedy's controlling opinion endorsing affirmative efforts
to promote integration while narrowing the ways in which race may be
considered in doing so.

Aug 15 2007
Blog Post Turning our Language Against Us

Via Rick Perlstein (who I shared the stage with on the framing panel at this year's Yearly Kos Convention), check out this essay by author Nancy MacLean at the History News Network: The Scary Origins of Chief Justice John Roberts Decision Opposing the Use of Race to Promote Integration.  The essay outlines just how old segregationists began to adopt the language of the civil rights movement to oppose civil rights reform.  It's in this twisting of the language that we can find the seeds of Roberts' recent decision in the Seattle and Louisville school cases.

But their core commitments stayed the same.
To fight social justice, conservative spokesmen simply mastered the art
of rhetorical jujitsu. They seized the civil rights movement’s greatest
strength--its moral power–to defeat its goals. They complained less and
less that civil rights measures violated property rights, aided
communists or elevated racial inferiors. Instead, conservatives claimed
that civil rights measures themselves discriminated.

“I am getting to be like the Catholic convert who became more Catholic
than the Pope,” Kilpatrick marveled in 1978 about his own altered
phraseology. “If it is wrong to discriminate by reason of race or sex,”
intoned the outspoken enemy of civil rights, “well, then, it is wrong
to discriminate by reason of race or sex.”

The former segregationists now portrayed themselves as the true
advocates of fairness. They framed “the egalitarians,” in Kilpatrick’s
words, as “worse racists--much worse racists--than the old Southern
bigots.” Color blindness, conservatives had come to see, offered the
most promising strategy to defeat the push for equality.

Stealing civil rights language for rhetorical jujitsu attacks on the
civil rights movement was a calculated strategy. In its 1981 Mandate
for Leadership for the Reagan administration, the Heritage Foundation
explained: “For twenty years, the most important battle in the civil
rights field has been for control of language,” particularly words such
as “equality” and “opportunity.” “The secret to victory, whether in
court or in congress,” it advised, “has been to control the definition
of these terms.”

Aug 7 2007
Blog Post Race, Opportunity, and the YouTube/CNN Debate

Written and researched with (great) help from Amanda Ogus. Cross posted at Daily Kos.

Monday night’s YouTube debate gave the “average Joes” of America the chance to ask the Democratic presidential candidates their own personal questions.  Between the filter of CNN’s production team, who chose which videos would air, and the stump speeches that still weeded their way into many candidates’ discourse, the debate was not as natural as it could have been, but still offered a new way for Americans to have their voices heard. 

So, how did CNN do in picking questions that deal with the tricky topic of race, and how did the candidates do in answering them?  This is important.  As some have noted, the video submissions were dominated by white men – a demographic not representative of the diversity of America.  Whatever the reason – be it lack of broadband access or lack of savvy when it comes to New Media – CNN clearly made an effort to rectify that imbalance through their selection of questioners who were of color and questioners who  asked pertinent questions about race in America. 

Yet still, there were a lot of lost opportunities.  No one addressed the issue of racial disparities in health care, or recognized that equal access (through whatever insurance or universal health plan) does not necessarily guarantee equal treatment. Much more could have been said about equal access to and quality of education - especially in light of the recent school cases.  Next to nothing was said about comprehensive immigration reform.

Overall, we give CNN a "B."  They clearly tried to showcase diverse voices - especially tricky given the racial and gender imbalance in the questions submitted - yet they still failed to adequately address many topics.

 

In this post, we’ve compiled those questions, as well as evaluated the responses from the top tier candidates - Obama, Clinton, Edwards, and Richardson.  Check out the full transcript on CNN, and the video coverage on
YouTube.  For a comprehensive summary of media responses on the
debates, check out Jack Muse’s coverage on Huffington Post.

Question 6

Edwards: Immediately answering “no”, Edwards explained that he would pursue other goals to create more equality, citing a recent study that in Charleston, black people were paying more than white people for mortgages at a higher rate, even when taking income into account.  Edwards reiterated that to have true equality means fighting the big companies: “we can’t trade our insiders for their insiders…what we need is someone who will take these people on…That’s the only way we’re going to bring about change.” 

Obama: Responded to the question by choosing to focus on education, also focusing on South Carolina by profiling a low-income school in Florence, SC.  Focusing on education, Obama said, is “the kind of reparations that are really going to make a difference in America right now.”

Question 7

Richardson:  Richardson explained that in a future crisis, the government should work to “eliminate…any red tape” and “let those who live there come back first, instead of big moneyed interests.”  While he didn’t respond directly to the “race” aspect of the question posed, he did express his disagreement to the way the administration reacted.

It should be noted that during this question, Senator Dodd spoke eloquently about economic opportunity in the Gulf in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Question 8

Obama: Used this opportunity to explain how “race permeates our society.”  He details the failures of the government in denying programs to overcome the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow, and said that as president, “my commitment on issues like health care is to close the disparities and the gaps, because that’s what’s really going to solve the race problem in this country.”  Obama’s comments were the only mention of racial disparities in any candidates’ answer, and put a strong emphasis on the fact that racism still exists in many parts of society.  Trying to force “colorblind” legislation is ignoring these disparities, and only perpetuating further inequalities. 

Clinton: Maintained that the (presidential) race should not be about Obama’s race or her gender, but about “what is best for you and your family.”

Question 9

In a question from the Reverend Reggie Longcrier, the candidates - particularly John Edwards were asked about religion as a weapon for discrimination - particularly as a justification for slavery in the past and a tool to rob GLBT people of their civil liberties today. 

Edwards: spoke in favor of equal rights and civil rights and his determination not to let his own faith beliefs - which are not in favor of gay marriage - to dictate public policy and limit the rights of American citizens.

Obama: Spoke about equality before the state in terms of marriage and the civil rights it confers, but wants to leave actual determinations about marriage up to individual religious denominations.

Question 27

Richardson: Makes a brief mention of suppression of minority voters by the Republican Party.  No other candidate is allowed to respond.

Question 28

No one specifically mentions people of color, but this question on the minimum wage touches on themes of economic mobility and security, and is highly relevant to millions of low-income families and people of color.

Obama: He's really the only one who hits this out of the park, noting that it's almost the wrong question.  Presidential candidates tend to be rich.  They can afford to work for the minimum wage.  It's everyday people who need to be given a living wage.

Question 34

This question asks whether the candidate's health care plans would cover undocumented workers.  Only Dodd and Richardson are allowed to answer, and, while both answer yes, this was mostly a lost opportunity for a substantive discussion about two of the most important and hot issues facing our nation.

Jul 25 2007
Blog Post 1.6 million immigrants separated from families: Human Rights Watch new report
  • Human
    Rights Watch
    recently published a new report, “Forced Apart: Families Separated
    and Immigrants Harmed by United States Deportation Policy”
    (Thanks,
    ImmigrationProf Blog
    !). The report
    tracks immigrants’ deportation information between 1997 and 2005 (the most
    recent year for which data are publicly available). Based on the 2000 US Census, Human Rights Watch estimates that
    approximately 1.6 million spouses and children living in the US were separated
    from their families because of these deportations. The report calls on the government for
    comprehensive immigration reform as a solution to prevent these deportations and the negative impact they have on the families of immigrants. Everyone deserves basic
    human rights, and this report highlights many of the ways in which the rights of undocumented workers
    have been violated
  • Latina
    Lista
    reports on how Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s decision to pull the
    entire Defense Authorization Bill will have a negative impact on the children of immigrants.  As we reported earlier, elements of the DREAM Act had been added to the DoD Reauthorization as an amendment, and these provisions will no longer get an up or down vote in the Senate.  It is another defeat for even a small attempt at achieving humane immigration reforms.
  • AMERICABlog reports on Bush’s refusal to renew SCHIP (State
    Children’s Health Insurance Program), because “expanding the program would
    enlarge the role of the federal government at the expense of private
    insurance.”  This viewpoint reflects
    many flaws in the current administration's thinking about government: whatever the conservative base thinks, the role of government in health care
    access is not inherently negative. In
    fact, making the government more accountable for the problems in health care
    access and discrepancies in quality would improve the dismal state of health care in America.  More efficient and accountable government involvement can be represent a positive step forward for the millions of children who lack health care, particularly in a program as successful and beloved as SCHIP.

For your entertainment, two videos on immigration:

  • As posted by Immigration Equality,
    Bill O’Reilly mouths off to Immigration Equality Executive Director Rachel Tiven
    on the issues of immigration and opportunity. Tiven argues for the right for members of gay and lesbian couples to
    sponsor their partners who are citizens of foreign countries, just as straight couples do.
  • Struggle Within posts a music video as a response to the
    Supreme Court schools’ decision, explaining the inequalities people of color
    face when the government hinders their educational rights.
Jul 19 2007
Blog Post Without Prejudice: Entirely too much prejudice?
  • Racialicious reports on a new game, “Without Prejudice”, in which five
    judges must decide which contestant deserves a $25,000 prize. Hosted by psychotherapist Robi Ludwig and
    working with partners like GLAAD and National Council of La Raza, “Without
    Prejudice” asks the five contestants to be honest about their lives and the
    judges must narrow down these contestants based on any reason. The show hope to teach viewers about prejudice, and the affiliated website features a number of educational resources on the subject.  There are also discussion guides for starting
    conversations about prejudice. After the
    pilot episode premiered last night, The New York Times reports that the show is
    anything but “without prejudice": each participant seems to have his own biases
    that are hard to miss. Check it out for
    yourself on Tuesdays on the GSN.

  • The New York Times profiles younger members of the New York immigrant community, as well as its support of the DREAM Act. Many of these
    children of undocumented workers are legal citizens, born in the US.  Not all are registered to vote, but they could be a powerful voice on behalf of their parents in the U.S. and local politics. Some groups are trying to gather support there for
    the DREAM Act, a provision of which has been added as
    an amendment to the Department of Defense authorization bill (thanks,
    ImmigrationProf Blog!). In this
    amendment, undocumented residents of military age who arrived in the US before age 16 and could immediately enter a
    path to citizenship if they serve at least two years in the armed forces.  The Boston Globe has an update of the bill's progress.
  • In a review of over 100 studies, The Boston Globe reports that black women are less healthy because of the pressures of racial discrimination (thanks, RaceWire!).  In one study, black women who indicated that
    racism was a source of stress in their lives developed more plaque in their
    carotid arteries – an early sign of heart disease – than black women who
    didn’t. These studies could reshape
    racism as a public health problem. These
    findings come at a time of severe racial disparities in American health care. African Americans face a higher risk than any
    other racial group of dying from heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and
    hypertension. These health disparities
    are exacerbated by lack of access to quality health care and health
    insurance. Higher poverty rates and
    lower wages also hinder progress in equality. Check out our fact sheet about African Americans and Opportunity.
  • DMI Blog reports on Rinku Sen’s reflection on the possible
    unity between immigrants and US.-born Blacks, Latinos, Asians and American
    Indians. She looks at the origin of the
    term “people of color”, and how it has affected identity in political
    action. In her experiences
    as an advocate working in partnership with multiracial organizations, she felt it necessary to “expand [her] identity
    in a way that tied [her] to Black people as part of their rebellion.” Sen confronts the impact the term has on our immigration debate, and asks whether immigrants fall under the definition of
    “people of color.” At the end of the day,
    she acknowledges that she cannot decide this question, but expresses that a
    positive immigrant policy will include dialogue on race and color as well as
    nationality and class.

    Our view:

    The best way to achieve fair legislature and rights for
    immigrants is to understand the common struggles we all face in achieving
    equality. “People of color” everywhere
    want the same basic rights – better education, living conditions, wages, and
    health care – and the only way to achieve anything is to recognize this common
    struggle. We’re all in this together,
    and achieving opportunity for one group will be best fought with many partners.
Jul 18 2007
Blog Post Does socioeconomic balancing also integrate schools?
  • Prometheus 6 links to a New York Times article
    about the
    success (or lack thereof) in using socioeconomic status as an indirect
    method to integrate public schools. School officials in the San
    Francisco public schools have found that the district is actually
    resegregating by using the type of plan many districts may try in light
    of the
    recent Supreme Court ruling. As many as
    40 districts around the country are already trying these plans. The
    article compares successes in many of
    these districts across the country.  After realizing the failure of
    using income to integrate schools,
    David Campos, the general counsel to the school district, is looking
    for loopholes through Justice Kennedy's statement if methods not based
    on race fail. For
    more updates on the status of the country’s integration attempts, check out the
    NAACP Legal Defense Fund page, as well as The Opportunity Agenda’s talking points.
  • Immigrants in the USA Blog posts a column from The
    Bakersfield Californian
    with a different perspective on the DREAM Act, a
    legislative bill which would provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented
    immigrant students, thus making them eligible to receive in-state financial aid
    from colleges.  Author Leonel Martinez
    argues that children should not be punished for their parents’ decision to immigrate.
  • Many immigrants are from poor
    families, and, he believes, should have access to college, which could make
    them greater contributors to society. The
    controversy over this act mirrors the “hysteria” thirty years ago in the
    controversy surrounding the Plyler v. Doe Supreme Court decision. In this ruling, the Supreme
    Court declared unconstitutional a Texas statute which charged certain families $1000 per year for school tuition,
    effectively preventing undocumented children from attending school. This article offers
    background on the case, comparing that situation to the atmosphere around
    immigration decisions today.
  • Ezra Klein writes about the hypocrisy in our criminal “justice”
    system by pointing out that while incarceration does separate dangerous individuals
    from society, in separating the millions of non-violent offenders, the system
    only reinforces their identity as criminals, and renders them unfit for many
    jobs. Klein cites economic studies which
    show that prison makes many inmates more violent. As incarceration rates in America skyrocket, more attention needs to be focused on rehabilitation –
    preparing inmates for society.  For more
    information about criminal justice, check out our fact
    sheet
    .
  • Immigration Equality Blog reports on another downloadable
    video game
    attempting to teach players about a societal issue: “ICED! I Can End
    Deportation!” Recently featured in the
    LA Times This 3D game teaches players about the unjust nature of U.S. immigration policy by following the day-to-day life of an immigrant teen as
    he/she encounters obstacles like being chased by immigration officers and
    answering myth & fact quizzes about current immigration policies. The point of the game is to avoid detention,
    which separates one from his/her family and forces unjust conditions. Check out
    our previous coverage of Games for Change.
  • In the Huffington Post, David Sirota responds to New York
    Governor Eliot Spitzer’s plan
    to expand health coverage to nearly three million
    more residents in an attempt to ultimately provide universal health
    insurance. While expanding access to a
    greater population is a good first step, it fails to ensure that all insured people are getting the same quality of care.  Access is a problem, but so are racial disparities in quality of care, and
    comprehensive health care reform needs to address these equity issues to ensure that the vulnerable populations aren’t left
    behind.  Check out healthcarethatworks.org for an example of quality care and access.
Jul 16 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 Schools Decision Feedback

        In the aftermath of the Supreme
Court’s decision on school integration plans in Seattle and Louisville, it seems as though everyone has an opinion. After a slower 4th of July week, here are the articles you might have
missed:

  •  

    Arguing against the ruling, Irene
    Monroe of the Windy City Times reports on the devastating effects of this
    decision: limiting our rights. She warns
    that a decision that declares separate facilities constitutional – 53 years after Brown – limits the rights of not only
    students of color, but also female, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and
    queer students. She cites a high school in New York City designed to offer a supportive environment for LGBTQ students that might be
    considered discriminatory under the latest ruling.
  • Describing another deleterious effect, Eric
    Mayes of the Philadelphia Tribune investigates how this ruling may affect
    teacher placement, since the district’s procedures stipulate that the racial
    balance of the schools applies to teachers as well. Therefore, African American and white
    teachers can only work at certain schools.  Many officials, however, see for the ruling as opening the door to end integration policies in their own districts.
  • As the Boston Globe reports,
    a new case has been filed to stop the 20-year desegregation policy in the Lynn School district in Massachusetts.   The attorneys in Lynn are following the blueprint Parents Involved in
    Community Schools, the public policy group behind the Seattle case.  For more information on that group, check out this LA Times
    report.
  • In the Seattle PI, Sharon Browne, one of the
    lawyers for the Pacific Legal Foundation, explains the reasons why the Seattle decision is
    a net positive for the city.

In addition to the many opinions
against this ruling, another group of writers believe in the constitutionality
of the decision.

  • David Brooks argues in The New York Times that integration is counter to human nature. Brooks argues that racial disparities
    in poverty still exist, and that even when income is standardized,
    neighborhoods are still segregated. Brooks ends his analysis by stating that “maybe integration is not in
    the cards.” (Thanks, Prometheus 6, for
    the tip!)
  • In the Washington Post, George F. Will explains how the decision takes the country back to the Brown mentality, and how the decision is
    a positive step.

In light of Justice
Kennedy’s discussion of alternative ways to diversify schools, many writers
advocate balancing socioeconomic status rather than race.

  • This New York Times article discusses the achievement gap between income levels. Poor neighborhoods often lack the resources
    to provide their children with equal education to neighboring, more affluent
    communities. Ted Shaw, president of the
    NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc., acknowledges that using income
    levels won’t entirely substitute for achieving racial integration, but it’s a
    good start. (Thanks, Racialicious, for
    the tip!)
  • The Des Moines Register
    reiterates this idea in this article
    discussing the school districts which already utilize an integration plan that
    uses the socioeconomic status. Writer
    Matthew Schwieger argues that this constitutional way of allocating the
    students to different schools could be the solution to unfair disparities.

However, not all writers agree with this
assessment.

  • In the Milwaukee Journal
    Sentinel
    , School Board member Brian Dey explains that socioeconomic status in
    his district is identical to race, so using family incomes to place students
    still violates the Supreme Court decision.
  • Another solution to balancing
    schools comes from the Louisville Courier-Journal: charter schools. Writer Liam Julian
    argues that racial balance in the classroom is not as important as racial
    balance in achievement, and that charter schools give principals the freedom to
    make a truly effective school.

For more commentary on the ruling,
try Joel Achenbach’s
(of the Washington Post) anecdotal
memories
of his own district’s integration tactics, or Newsweek’s post-decision
interview

with Justice Kennedy. Also check out our
past coverage here.

Jul 10 2007
Blog Post Disproportionate access to people of color: Education, Trials, Immigration
  • Feminist blogs offers a great
    commentary on the Supreme Court ruling about desegregation in public
    schools. In using The New York Times
    editorial
    , the blog notes that while the nation is getting more diverse, schools
    are getting even more segregated. For
    example, in 2002 and 2003, 73% of African-American children were in schools
    that enrolled over 50% children of color, and nearly two of every five
    African-American students attended schools that were over 90% minority. Justice Breyer’s dissent points out the
    increase in segregation since the 1970s, and explains the importance in
    counter-acting this trend. In
    interpreting school districts’ decisions, it is important to realize that one
    cannot simply make the argument that laws should be colorblind.  Schools are still segregated largely because of neighborhood segregation that began when certain groups were legally excluded from certain neighborhoods, and contained to others.  When such segregation wasn't written into the law, it was often enforced by banks, real estate agents and landlords.  Further, people of color are disproportionately
    affected by poverty, job discrimination, and health care access
    .  Education is a critical component to improving everyone's access to opportunity.
  • DMI Blog emphasizes the sheer
    growth and volume of the prison population, citing last week’s prison and jail
    population statistics from the U.S. government.
      The increasing trends only
    highlight the racial disparities: almost 5% of all African American men are imprisoned,
    compared to 1% of white men, and 11% of all African American men between the ages of 24 and 35
    are behind bars. Describing this issue
    as a “human rights problem”, DMI Blog explains that prison reform needs to
    focus not only on prison upkeep but on unfair sentencing practices. Huffington Post reiterates this sentiment
    with a blog about the racial discrepancies between those who use drugs and those who are
    punished for it. Earl Ofari Hutchinson
    states that while many survey results find that whites are much more likely to
    use drugs than African Americans (or use them at least at equal rates), more than 70 % of those
    prosecuted in federal courts for drug possession and sale and given mandatory
    sentences are African American. Due to these
    unfair proceedings, the media’s representation of the drug
    problem is skewed and not realistic. Describing one solution, Jack
    and Jill Politics
    highlights an editorial in The New York Times about the
    Second Chance Act, which would provide for community and state-based
    rehabilitation programs to prevent first-time offenders from committing more
    crimes after released from prison. Jack
    and Jill Politics note the disparities in drug usage and punishment, citing
    that more than 60% of people in prison are racial and ethnic minorities.
  • Huffington Post argues that most economic problems that opponents of immigrants' rights blame on an influx of cheap labor would actually still exist with or without immigrants. The widening gap between the rich and the
    poor is a structural shift, and well documented in the last few decades. For example, income in the U.S. grew
    nearly twelve times more rapidly among the top 1% than the bottom 90% between
    2003 and 2004—consistent with trends since the early 1980s
    . These trends should motivate workers to come together to demand a fairer shake, not turn on each other. Continuing a
    unity approach in immigrants’ rights discussion, Intelligentaidigena
    Novajoservo
    explains the similarities between the struggles of the Native
    Americans and immigrants, especially their alienation and oppression,
    citing remarks from the ongoing U.S. Social Forum in Atlanta.  Along the same vein, the Leadership Conference on Civil Right, the
    Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform and The Opportunity Agenda
    worked to create an ad showcasing the common struggles
    between African Americans and immigrants. The piece recognizes the profound job and wage crisis in the
    African American community, but, similar to the Huffington Post’s argument,
    this struggle has less to do with immigrants and more to do with governments
    failing to ensure living wages, quality education, and adequate civil rights
    protection. By seeking shared solutions,
    African Americans, among all groups, have a lot to gain. Immigration reform seeks to improve working
    and living conditions for all people in the United States.
Jul 5 2007
Blog Post School Decisions' Online Responses

     In light of the recent Supreme Court rulings in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District and Meredith V. Jefferson County Board of Ed et
al
, there has been some excellent dialogue in the online community. The most important conclusion to understand
from this decision is that it holds not only negative but also positive
implications for the nation and Constitution. As NAACP Legal Defense Fund reports, the decision does not reject the
use of race-conscious measures, and actual details ways in which school districts can
take steps to create racially and ethnically diverse schools. While voting against the school districts’
policies, Justice Kennedy responded in no uncertain terms that the ruling
should not imply that school districts should merely accept racial
isolation. He even gave examples of
affirmative measures schools can use. His response demonstrates that a majority of the court recognizes
educational diversity and overcoming our history of segregation to be
compelling government issues.

        However, it is disappointing that the Supreme Court ruled
against the policies Seattle, Washington and Louisville, Kentucky.  The Applied Research Center responds by looking at the underlying causes of such segregation, pointing to the
institutional discrimination against people of color in housing and
employment. As the DMI Blog and Black
Prof
reiterate, if we attempt to make policy on the assumption that the
government is or should be colorblind, we ignore the existing health, wealth and
society disparities, thus invoking a whole new form of racism.  As a country, we haven't fully recovered from decades of legal discrimination and segregation.  So letting things "run their course" now, and declaring that colorblind policies are best is premature, short-sighted and unlikely to protect our country's core value of ensuring opportunity for everyone.

        For more blog coverage, try the ACS blog, SCOTUS blog, firedoglake, and these previous entries (here and here). In addition, consider The
Opportunity Agenda’s talking points in interpreting the decision.

Jun 29 2007
Blog Post From commercials to detention reform: Immigration from All Sides
  • DMI Blog reports on a new support
    campaign for immigration, Long Island WINS, seeking to elucidate the shared
    interests of immigrants and middle class Long Islanders. Last week, they launched a multitude of
    intriguing T.V. commercials explaining the economic and cultural contributions
    immigrants make to the island.  These ads
    highlight the important message that immigrants only want what everyone in the
    country wants: the opportunity to pursue the American Dream and participate
    fully in our society. Immigrants
    revitalize communities like these Long Island ones by reviving commerce and provided needed products, in addition to tax and
    net contributions. For example,
    immigrants in California gave an estimated $4.5 billion in state taxes and an additional $30 billion in federal taxes in 1999-2000.
  • Immigrants in the USA Blog
    emphasizes a main idea of the Long Island WINS campaign: everyone benefits from
    working together. This Democrat & Chronicle story highlights
    the triumphs of the Rochester City School District in graduating many seniors who struggled
    with language barriers and cultural disparities. The school helps the students in the
    63-language population by providing resources like teachers with specialized
    language skills and connecting parents with community agencies. These success stories demonstrate the
    importance of providing immigrants with an adequate integration strategy.  Funding for adult basic education and English
    classes has not kept pace with the growing demand
    , and such resources are vital
    to proper integration.
  • ‘Just News’
    reports on a New York Times article continuing this conversation about the high
    rate of immigrants dying in custody after being detained. Because no government body is charged with documenting deaths in immigrant detention, the details and extent of the
    sub par conditions are hard to find. Latina Lista references the same article in explaining how immigrant
    detention is the fastest growing form of incarceration in the United States.  For example, over 27,000 immigrants are
    detained on any given day in almost 200 prison-like facilities all over the
    country.
  • Happening-here blog explains some effective ways to counter anti-immigration ways to frame an argument. The blog proposed fighting for a human
    security state (where the government fights for our freedom rather than
    constricting our rights), working toward all forms of racial equity, and
    encouraging globalization in understanding the ways in which we can all provide
    important resources for each other. An
    important facet of the immigration struggle is highlighting the ways in which
    all groups can benefit from fair immigrant rights. For more information about this shared
    interest, check out this article.
Jun 27 2007
Blog Post Daily Blog Round-Up 6/20/07: Part 2
  • Firedoglake reports on Dreams Across America train which we've posted about before here and
    here
    . The Dreams Across America train
    represents the melting pot of cultures America holds. Over the next week or so, we're going to feature some of our favorite "Dreamers" and exhibit their videos here on our site.  Our first featured dreamer is Yun Sook Kim Navarre,
    born in South Korea but
    adopted by a Detroit family. Yun Sook recognizes the strength of America's diversity and discusses her desire for better rights and less discrimination for her young daughter.
  • Pro Inmigrant reports on the controversial usage of the word
    “amnesty” for the immigration legislation, claiming that opponents of the bill
    use the word like a weapon. Pro
    Inmigrant points out the fallacy of calling this program “amnesty,” and urges
    all politicians to focus on a better compromise – and better wording.  We suggest "Pathway to Citizenship".
  • Racialicious reports on the Center for Migrant Rights, a
    small non-profit based in Mexico, and its efforts to educate Mexican workers about US labor laws, government agencies and
    previous civil rights struggles. Providing free legal aid to guest workers seeking compensation for
    injuries or missed pay, the Center started these workshops as a preventive
    effort in Mexico, as many workers in America are hard to reach because of fear of authorities. Many guest workers do not know the extent of
    their rights in the workforce, and much legislation aims at taking away rights
    they deserve. Among others, the 1996
    Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act
    barred many
    documented and undocumented immigrants from basic federal programs that provide
    economic security.
  • The Connecticut newspaper,
    The Advocate, reports on the lack of progress in racially integrating Hartford and suburban
    schools. A review conducted by
    researchers at Trinity College shows that magnet schools have not attracted as
    many white suburban children into the city, resulting in only 9 percent of
    Hartford’s students (primarily black and Hispanic) attend schools that have
    enough white students to qualify as “racially integrated.” Following approval by the court and General
    Assembly, the state plans to spend millions of dollars over the next five years
    to subsidize programs that would foster immigration, like magnet and charter
    schools. This review is timely in light
    of the Supreme Court decision on school integration cases in Louisville and Seattle expected
    any day. Nationwide, the NAACP (pdf) found that nearly
    three-quarters of black and Latino students attend predominantly minority
    schools, and most white students attend schools where only one out of five
    students are from different racial groups. Without proper community programs, the already increasing levels of
    segregation will continue to rise, creating more barriers between us and failing to prepare our children to work in an increasingly diverse workforce and world.
Jun 20 2007
Blog Post Daily Blog Round-Up 6/18/07
  • Firedoglake blogs about the Employee
    Free Choice
    , a bill which aims to restore workers’ freedom in choosing a union,
    especially establishing stronger penalties for violation of employee rights
    when workers seek to form a union. FDL
    explains that while 60 million workers say they would join a union if they
    could, but many people are intimidated by corporate giants. By stating that this act is a “workplace
    rights issue,” a “human rights issue,” and a “civil rights issue,” FDL frames
    the issue in universal terms that appeals to the broad advantages for
    everyone. The benefits in unionizing
    workers appear in many forms. With union
    workers receiving an average wage 30% higher than the nonunion worker, creating
    greater access to membership will help lessen the growing wage
    inequalities.  Here's hoping this rights-based frame can help push the issue forward.
  • Feminist blogs comments on a piece on Salon.com which compares the rate of obesity in black women to that of white women
    (78% of black women are considered overweight), and essentially opts to blame
    black women for preferring to keep the extra pounds and purposely
    eschew advice to lose weight. Feminist blogs skewers the Salon piece, nothing the complex causes of obesity rates among black women. In 2000, low-income African-American families were 7.3 times
    more likely than poor white families to live in high poverty neighborhoods with
    limited resources
    . In addition, black
    women are more likely to lack adequate health care access. While 11.2% of white Americans were uninsured
    at any point in 2005, 19.5% of African Americans were uninsured and more likely
    to be dependent on public sources of health insurance.
    It's disappointing to see Salon reduce this alarming trend to individual behaviors.  This is not a question of individual responsibility.  It is one aspect of a larger social issue - which requires increased public awareness and collective action to reach a solution.
  • Racial_composition_2Prometheus 6 reports on the alarming disparities in the
    racial composition of the 30% of students who fail to graduate high school. In a recent Education Week report, only half of
    American Indians and black students graduated, compared with more than
    three-quarters of non-Hispanic whites and Asians. The reports uses information from the 2003-04
    school year to estimates the number of graduates in 2007.  Their analysis shows
    that while minority students make up less than half of the total public school
    population, they make up more than half of the nongraduates. In addition, Hispanic youth are four times
    more likely to drop out than are white youth
    (pdf), creating an education gap that limits opportunities for young people of color and widens other disparities - in income and health coverage, for example - later in life.
  • PrisonsSentencing Law and Policy reports on a new article from
    stateline.org about how increasing prices to maintain the overcrowded prisons
    are leading lawmakers to provide different alternatives to prisons. Some of these ideas include an expanded
    program to help prevent offenders from being incarcerated again (like diverting funds from prisons to rehabilitation centers), earlier release
    dates for low-risk inmates and sentencing revisions. State spending on prisons continues to
    increase at an alarming rate to account for the high number of incarcerated
    persons. Between 2004 and 2005, not only
    did the number of incarcerated persons increase, but so did the rate (491 per
    100,000 people in 2005 versus 486 per 100,000 in 2004
    ).
Jun 18 2007
Blog Post Daily Blog Round-Up 6/5/07
  • Ezra Klein reports on a few different immigration issues,
    including the results from the recent Washington Post poll indicating a clear
    majority in favor of a few aspects of the immigration bill debated in Congress
    right now on both sides of the aisle. Klein debates the point that guest workers would harm
    American workers, stating that there would only be small downward effects on
    native wages, if any. Klein has a point, but for those looking to build support for comprehensive reform, it is more important to think
    of native workers and immigrants as a united force, sharing many common
    aspirations for their families. By
    stratifying the types of jobs each group can and “should” do, the greater
    purpose of becoming a community is left behind in favor of pointing
    fingers. 
  • Migra Matters
    continues the discussion on immigration by explaining the current state of
    affairs in Congress, stating that it appears as though the bill will not be
    struck down. For those looking for a good breakdown, Miagra Matters
    highlights the 14 current amendments proposed and how they would affect the final legislation.
  • The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog cites a New York Times
    article
    about racial bias that occurs in jury selection. While it is illegal to turn away
    a possible juror based only on race, many lawyers use other excuses to reject
    black jurors. In a report of 390 felony
    jury trials from 1994 to 2002, the district attorney’s office turned away three
    times as many eligible black jurors as white ones. In these cases, while the racism is not
    explicit, the institutional racism still exists, but to a less obvious
    degree. This kind of racism results in a
    lack of public commitment to address social policies for equality, and
    obfuscates this important problem
  • Racialicious references an ABC News article arguing that
    children’s school settings impact their own racial exclusion. The report referenced a study of students of
    different ethnic and racial backgrounds and found that children with friends
    from different background were much more likely to say it is wrong to exclude
    someone because of their own race. In
    addition, in a follow-up analysis of white students, children in “mixed
    ethnicity” schools were much less likely to use racial stereotypes about
    children with different backgrounds. The
    study corroborated the explanations of the many Amicus briefs
    submitted in support of the school integration cases for the Supreme Court
    rulings in Seattle and Louisville, which can be found on the NAACP Legal Defense Fund website. These Amicus briefs consist of arguments from a plethora of
    organizations explaining why exclusion and school segregation is harmful for
    children, with arguments from such institutions such as the American
    Psychological Association, Anti-Defamation League, Historians, and the LA
    School District. The detrimental effects
    of segregation on school-aged children has been well-documented, and only with
    the Supreme Court’s decision to let the communities deal with integrating their
    districts themselves can we truly move toward equality.
Jun 6 2007
Blog Post Daily Blog Round-Up 6/4/07
  • Ezra Klein reports on new figures in a Brookings Report
    regarding the state of social mobility in this country, especially in
    comparison to other industrialized nations. Klein highlights the
    changes in income of men in their thirties, and shows that growth for
    the top 1% of income-earners has increased the
    most out of any group. His post corroborates data from The State of Opportunity in America (pdf), which found the least mobility in the bottom and top income quintile. People in the lowest income quintiles
    experience the least mobility, from 19-38 percent average annual mobility over
    10 years. Only 7 percent of those
    starting in the bottom quintile were in the top on follow up. These figures are particularly troubling when
    viewed in context with racial imbalances. In a 20-year study, African-American and Hispanic median household
    income was lower than that of whites at each point, and increased to a smaller
    degree. Only when greater opportunities
    are given to the lower income brackets can the “American Dream” of rising to
    the top based on one’s merits exist.
    International_mobilitytm_4
    Income_mobility_mentm Growth_in_income_since_79tm
  • Related to last week’s blog post, Facing South continues the
    discussion on the changing racial trends in school. Facing South points out that recent reports don't take into
    account private school students, who comprise a large percentage of Southern
    white families.  A Duke University study shows that private schools have contributed to the re-segregation of
    schools in the south, although they accounted for less than a fifth of all
    school segregation. Importantly,
    segregation tends to be the highest in the school districts that have non-white
    percentages between 50 and 70 percent. This comes as the public awaits two Supreme Court decisions on critical
    school segregation cases
    which will determine whether school districts may
    voluntarily continue to integrate the schools. The State of Opportunity in America (pdf) cites
    that since the mid-1980s, virtually all large school districts have had
    increasingly lower levels of integration. The 1954 Brown decision promise of acceptance and diversity cannot be
    fulfilled until school districts encourage integration in ways that work for
    community.
  • Feminist Blogs reports on new statistics from the National Center for Children in Poverty (pdf) about how
    state policies affect low income children. Most notable is the comparison between the level of poverty among
    children and the percentage of Non-Hispanic White members of the population. These figures parallel those in The State of Opportunity in America (pdf), which states that in
    2000, the poverty rate among African Americans and Hispanics was slightly over
    2.6 times greater than that for white Americans. In addition, from 2001 to 2003, poverty rates
    for all racial and ethnic increased more than for whites. Poverty is represented disproportionately
    based on race in this country, which threaten the well-being of a diverse
    country.
  • Feminist Blogs also reports on a Department of Public Health study which shows that minority women in Los Angeles country have disproportionately higher rates of chronic disease than others. The report found that black women have the
    highest mortality rate of any group, and many minority groups reported
    significant percentages of poverty and low access to health care. The large gaps in health status among
    racial/ethnic groups are obvious in The State of Opportunity in America (pdf),
    which explores figures that mortality rates among African American females’
    mortality rates have been consistently 25 percent higher than for women
    overall. Examples like the LA Country’s
    disproportionate health care coverage and poverty situations highlight a national
    problem requiring new social reforms.
Jun 5 2007
Blog Post Daily Blog Round-up: 6/1/07
  • Ally Work reports on an article from Lip Magazine which breaks down the ways in which white supremacists exploit tragedy to further their own causes.  Besides using any crime committed by a non-White as a race crime attempted to bring down the majority, many of these groups believe that the media purposely ignores black-on-white killings.  In reality, the media over-represents blacks as offenders, relative to their share of crimes committed. The State of Opportunity in America (pdf) cites findings from the General Social Survey that significant majorities of African Americans are more prone to violence than whites.  When Americans continue to endorse these racist attitudes, the goals of equal access through renewed social policy become compromised.
  • Prometheus 6 reports on a New York Times article exposing the rapid growths of minorities in school rolls, especially Hispanics.  This number has peaked at 42% of public school enrollment from 22% thirty years ago.  These figures reflect the changes in the greater composition of the country, where great ethnic shifts are taking place in all regions.  Despite rising enrollment, large test score gaps exist between whites and minority groups.  The State of Opportunity in America (pdf) cites that while 87% of U.S. adults have obtained a high school diploma or the equivalent, the high school degree attainment among Hispanic adults is only just above 60%.  Schools need to provide the proper resources to close this immense gap.  As a way to combat the prejudice that students from lower socioeconomic status may face, some higher education institutions are courting low-income students with offers of grants and tuition wavers, recognizing that their test scores and performance is only in reflection to their resources. This New York Times article highlights the ways in which Amherst seeks to make their class more diverse, not only racially, but also across class differences.
  • The Huffington Post reports on the disadvantages of living with such large discrepancies between the top of the wealth index and the bottom, even if you find yourself in the better half.  Citing his new book, The Trap: Selling Out to Stay Afloat in Winner-Take-All America, Daniel Brook explains how the more unbalanced a society is, the more the top will need to pay to keep it afloat.  The State of Opportunity in America (pdf) cites the increases in class divide in the past three decades, in which the wages for the top 5 percent of wage earners grew by 31%, but the wages for the bottom 10% of workers slightly declined.  With these severe trends, it becomes that much more challenging for social mobility and equal opportunity to all members of society.
  • The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog reports on the recent increases in California spending on prison budget, extrapolating that in five years, this budget will supersede spending on the state universities.  The author attributes the disorganization in California’s prison department and unprecedented numbers of incarcerations to unclear goals for the function of prisons, either a way to remove criminals from society or rehabilitate them.  These figures in California parallel those found on the national level.  The State of Opportunity in America (pdf) found that in mid-2004, more than 21.13 million people were incarcerated, a number higher than other nations and unprecedented in our history.  Without proper rehabilitation programs, these rates will continue to increase, forcing our law-makers to spend high percentages of budget money to sustain the populations when the money could be used better elsewhere.
Jun 4 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 State of Opportunity; State of the Union

Last night President Bush delivered his 6th State of the Union Address.  Thanks to a terrific interactive tool put out by the New York Times, we're able to determine that Bush mentioned opportunity 8 times in his speech - more than in any other State of the Union address he has delivered thus far.  In almost each instance, he referenced the need to spread hope and opportunity and build a brighter future for our country. 

It's wonderful to hear the President promote the value of opportunity
when addressing the nation, but unfortunately, opportunity has been on the decline since President Bush last ascended the podium to address the nation; and the President's proposed policies - centered less around expanding opportunity so much as promoting individual responsibility - will do little to increase opportunity for those most in need in our country.

Last year, just after the President's 2006 Address (in which one of the only references to opportunity came coupled with a broken promise to rebuild New Orleans - curiously absent from last night's speech), The Opportunity Agenda released a report - The State of Opportunity in America.  In this report, we measured America's progress in expanding opportunity along a variety of indicators and issues.  Our findings were not encouraging.

Next month, we'll release an update to the State of Opportunity Report.  For now, here's a sample of our findings:

  • A lower proportion of young adults earned high school degrees;
  • The number and rate of incarcerated people has increased, to 2.2 million today, consistent with a three-decade trend;
  • The wealth and income gap increased again, following a trend of growing economic inequality;
  • The gender poverty gap increased between 2004 and 2005, as a larger percentage of women fell into poverty in this period;
  • The number of Americans lacking health insurance increased from 45.3 million in 2004 to 46.6 million in 2005.

We'll have more in a few weeks.  Stay tuned.

In the meantime, you can fact-check the President's statements and policy proposals through this tool created by Think Progress.

We also recommend you check out the SOTU review offered by our friends at the Drum Major Institute.

What did you think of the President's address and his newfound commitment to spreading opportunity?

Jan 24 2007
Blog Post Affirming School Diversity

This is a guest post by Robert Anthony Watts.

The (Seattle) plan does not segregate the races; to the contrary, it seeks to promote integration ... There is no competition between the races, and no race is given a preference over another ... The program does use race as a criterion, but only to ensure that the population of each public school roughly reflects the city’s racial composition.

--Judge Alex Kozinski, Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
Appointed in 1985 by President Ronald Reagan


School officials and community leaders in Louisville, Kentucky (Jefferson County) have to be shaking their heads.

In 1975, Louisville was the scene of tumultuous, bitter civic strife as court-ordered busing was initiated to integrate the local schools. White parents rose up in furious opposition.  Buses carrying children were pelted by eggs and rocks. Police officers in helmets and riot gear worked overtime to protect buses and school children. The Ku Klux Klan held meetings and prominently took a role in opposing busing.

A funny thing happened in Louisville: the protests died down, tensions eased, and the idea of racially integrated schools gained wide support among blacks and among whites.  Over time Louisville school officials adjusted their plan to give parents much more choice and freedom in where their children attend schools.

In the history of school desegregation, the experience of the Jefferson County school district (the county and city merged its school districts in the early 1970’s) is one of the successes.  Indeed largely because of Jefferson County, Kentucky has the most integrated schools in the nation, according to the Harvard Civil Rights Project (pdf).

In 2000, the Jefferson County school district was released from federal court supervision after a judge concluded that it had removed “all vestiges” of segregation. Jefferson County could have returned to a “neighborhood” school plan. But given the prevailing pattern of housing segregation in Jefferson County (and in the nation), this option would have meant the end of integrated schools for 30,000 to 50,000 of the district’s 97,000 students.

What’s more, the community had come to desire integrated classes.  Parents wanted their children in classes with members of other groups.  Acting on its own, the Jefferson County school district decided to maintain its policy of creating integrated schools.

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a challenge to the Jefferson County diversity efforts and to similar efforts in Seattle, Washington.  Plaintiffs in each case have sued their school system alleging discrimination on the basis of race.

Fifty years ago in Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court concluded that the 14th Amendment was intended to reject segregation and to bring the country together.  In the years since Brown, although de jure segregation has been largely eliminated, de facto segregation remains a barrier to creating opportunity for all Americans. In the last two decades, African American and Latino students have become more segregated from white students, according to a recent study by the Harvard Civil Rights Project (pdf).

No one knows the exact number of school districts and programs that could be affected by the ruling.  But dozens of school systems have programs and policies—often “magnet” programs—to create diverse schools and diverse classes.

What’s important is that most of these recent efforts have been implemented by local officials responding to the desire of parents to send their children to integrated schools.  In Seattle and in Louisville parents, students and community leaders strongly endorse diversity.   Also important is that plans like those in Louisville and Seattle are highly flexible plans in which race is one factor among several for how students are assigned to school.

These cases also allow Americans a chance to reflect on the importance of diverse schools in breaking down barriers and creating a society that allows everyone an opportunity to fulfill his potential.  As the United States becomes more and more multiracial, and as school officials ponder new efforts to create integrated classes, they can draw upon a broad body of research that reveals the many benefits of an integrated classroom.

A key finding—cited by Louisville and Seattle in their court briefs—is that integration produces educational benefits as well as societal benefits of increased racial and ethnic understanding.  Research also shows that racially diverse classes improve critical thinking skills for all students, and that learning in a diverse setting improves problem solving and communication skills for all students.

Other research findings conclude that:

  • Increased interaction among different groups is associated with lower levels of prejudice
  • Students who have attended integrated schools (including Jefferson County and Seattle) say integrated classes better prepared them for work and for public life.
  • Experiences in diverse classrooms allow people to work more productively with members of other groups.
  • White students in integrated schools display greater tolerance and less fear than white students in segregated schools.
  • Minority students who graduate from integrated schools are more likely to have access to social and professional networks that have traditionally been available only to white students.Diverse schools can be structured to make positive outcomes more likely.
  • Diversity efforts have resulted in modest improvements in reading and English for minority students.

Now that the United States has moved beyond the rancor and turmoil associated with court-ordered school integration, it would be sadly ironic if the Supreme Court places the breaks on voluntary programs like those in Louisville and Seattle.

Americans have made major progress in race relations since Brown.  Diverse schools have been part of that effort.  Americans have come to embrace diversity in great numbers.

The Supreme Court needs to affirm the importance of integrated classes.

Dec 4 2006
Blog Post Images of Opportunity

The Doors of Opportunity IIHere are The Opportunity Agenda, we are fortunate to have a strong partnership with the New School University in New York, where we teach a class on media and social justice, and work with some great professors who use our organization as a case study in their classes.  Most recently,
Professor Kit Laybourne used our organization as the "client" in his media production class.

Students in the class were tasked with producing an image that was representative of:

  1. an issue area in which The Opportunity Agenda was active; and/or

Redemption is in our Nature

one of the 6 Core Opportunity Values that we use as the basis of our framing. 

Students tasked with producing two images.  One of which contained text and could function as an iconic image on our blog or website when we cover a particular issue or message around a particular core value.  The second image was designed specifically for use by others.  It was to contain no text, and was meant to be a "blank canvass" that other nonprofit organizations or social justice activists could use to remix and reuse the images for their own work.  To that end, all images were to be original photos taken by the students, original graphic illustrations, or images found under a suitable creative commons license

Community Graphic

The results are in, and we're really please with the results.  I've created a Flickr set of the images and tagged the photos with a number of common tags - non profit, creative commons, etc.

I'd invite you take a look at the work the students produced, pass the
photos around, and use them in your own work.  If anyone has questions
about our process, usage rights, or recommendations on how we might take this to the
next level, please let me know.

All the images can be viewed here, on our Flickr page.

Nov 30 2006
Blog Post No Child Left Behind Failing Students (and The Wire Blogging)

I am a huge fan of HBO's The Wire. I think it's quite possibly one of the best shows on television, and it is certainly the best show in recent memory to tackle  the interrelated problems that plague our major metropolitan areas. 

In the course of four seasons, it has painted a complex portrait of the city of Baltimore through its depictions of the rival (and strikingly similar) bureaucracies of the drug trade and the police department, the decline of the middle class dock workers and unions, and the municipal political system. 

In its current season (still airing), The Wire is tackling the failure of the school system, with a particular focus on the (negative) effects of the No Child Left Behind Act.  So it was no surprise to me when I came across this headline in The New York Times today:

Schools Slow at Closing Gaps Between Races:

When President Bush signed his sweeping education law a year into his
presidency, it set 2014 as the deadline by which schools were to close
the test-score gaps between minority and white students that have
persisted since standardized testing began.

Now, as Congress prepares to consider reauthorizing the law next year,
researchers and a half-dozen recent studies, including three issued
last week, are reporting little progress toward that goal.

...

Henry L. Johnson, an assistant secretary of education, said: “I don’t
dispute that looking at some comparisons we see that these gaps are not
closing — or not as fast as they ought to. But it’s also accurate to
say that when taken as a whole, student performance is improving. The
presumption that we won’t get to 100 percent proficiency from here
presumes that everything is static. To reach the 100 percent by 2014,
we’ll all have to work faster and smarter.”

The question is, what exactly does "faster and smarter" look like?  This season on The Wire, we've seen how the school system fails students by "teaching the test" and ignoring the specific needs of individual students.  The most telling line, perhaps, comes during an administrative meeting on how to "teach the test" when Prez - the retired cop turned teacher -  asks a veteran teacher "what is this supposed to measure?"  Her response - "Us.  This isn't about the students, it's about grading us."

Nytimes_nclb_1
If we dump more money and time into just teaching the test - juking the stats, as Prez calls it - to make the schools look better in an attempt to garner more resources, we're never going to make serious progress and close the achievement gaps (depicted right.  click to enlarge the image). 

The current administration, though, doesn't want to hear that:

“There are good results of No Child Left Behind across the nation,”
Mr. Bush said last month at a school in North Carolina. “We have an
achievement gap in America that is — that I don’t like and you
shouldn’t like.”

“The gap is closing,” he said.

The
researchers behind the reports issued last week in Washington, D.C.,
New York and California were far more pessimistic, though.

...

“The Bush administration wants to hang a ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner
over N.C.L.B., but a fair assessment is that progress thus far in
closing achievement gaps is disappointing,” Mr. Weiner said. He pointed
to financing and teacher assignment systems that lead to schools with
mostly poor and minority students getting less money, offering fewer
advanced courses and having weaker teachers.

We have an idea of what works - actual teaching instead of "teaching to the test" - but we're not putting the resources behind successful programs that are attentive to individual student needs:

Suggestions abound for ways to narrow the score gaps faster. Since
scholars have documented that minority children enter kindergarten with
weaker reading skills than white children, some experts advocate
increased public financing for early education programs.

No Child
Left Behind provides money for tutoring in schools where students are
not succeeding, but critics say it does not provide sufficient
financing to help states and districts turn the schools themselves
around.

Other types of programs have proven successful as well, but these successes are few and far between, and typically don't receive proper funding from cash-strapped schools, relying instead of volunteer work from teachers, faith organizations, and the community.

With a new congress coming in, and NCLB up for review, hopefully we'll get a real investigation into the efficacy of this program that will result in more funding to the programs that work and less emphasis on a test that's more about teacher performance than enhancing student's abilities.

This is an issue of vital importance to the future of our country and the future of the children we are failing - who are mostly children of color and those from low-income communities.  We're robbing them of their shot at the American Dream.  It's a shame that, on such a critical issue, the most intelligent debate is coming from a TV show rather than our elected officials.

Nov 20 2006
Blog Post All in the Framing

The New York Times is running an article today about violence in Louisiana schools: After the Storm, Students Left Alone, Angry.  The article reports on a surge of  violence in Louisiana high schools, and provides an instructive look at why proper framing of issues matters for those of us looking to achieve positive social change.

Focusing on the John McDonogh High School in New Orleans, the article paints a picture of students gone wild, many living without parental supervision and lashing out during school.  An ominous lead clearly sets the stage and cast of characters:  A school that sounds more like a prison, populated by students who are obviously criminals:

NEW ORLEANS, Oct. 31 — John McDonogh High School has at least 25
security guards, at the entrance, up the stairs and outside classes.
The school has a metal detector, four police officers and four police
cruisers on the sidewalk.

In the last six weeks,
students at McDonogh, the largest functioning high school here, have
assaulted guards, a teacher and a police officer. A guard and a teacher
were beaten so badly that they were hospitalized.

While this is clearly not an action to be condoned, by leading with the most inflammatory piece of the story, the writer sets up a dynamic whereby the individual students - rather than the devastation of the Hurricane and the failure of local, state, and national government to properly rebuild - bear the brunt of responsibility for the conditions in which they find themselves and which are the root cause of the school violence.   

This is a traditionally conservative framework - that of individual responsibility - and it permeates the rest of the piece. As we read further down, blame is laid on absentee parents, with little comment on the barriers that keep them away from their children:

Mr. Jackson said many parents whom he had spoken to were in Baton
Rouge, Houston or elsewhere. “That’s the question that’s buzzing in
everybody’s heads,” the McDonogh curriculum coordinator, Toyia
Washington Kendrick, said. “How could you leave your kids here, that
are school-age kids, unattended?”

The answer is as various as the
fragmented social structure, which the hurricane a year ago made even
more complicated. Some students describe families barely functional
even before the storm. Others say pressing economic necessity has kept
parents away.

Rachelle Harrell was living in Houston, working
as a medical assistant and trying to pay off a $1,300 electricity bill
in New Orleans. But she yielded to her son Justin and his cousin
Kiante, both 16, and sent them back to New Orleans on a Greyhound bus
while she stayed in Texas.

While individual responsibility is important, and students should be
punished for their actions, the real problems described by this article
are systemic in nature and do not lend themselves to easy solutions that address the actions of individual students.  While the story does make passing references to systemic
problems with the school system, for the most part it shirks all
responsibility to examine root causes, preferring instead to
focus on the more limited narrative of students run amok:

If the causes are complicated, the consequences seem evident to school
officials: a large cadre of belligerent students, hostile to authority
and with no worry about parental punishment at home. 

Punishing students and ratcheting up security in an ever expanding cycle will neither return missing parents, nor free those
parents from the obligations that keep them away.  It
will not bring new books to the classroom or new teachers into the
schools. In its framing, the article moves readers away from positive solutions to what are clearly systemic problems in Gulf Coast communities.  Worse, it lays blame for those problems solely on the survivors of the hurricane because it is easier to point fingers than to confront serious failures on the part of public institutions.

A well-framed story would have focused on the systemic, root causes of these problems and how public institutions could help Katrina survivors back in their feet.  It would have delved into those "complex causes," to create a greater understanding of the problem in the mind of the public.  With this piece, the Grey Lady had a chance to help the victims of Katrina and move the public forward in its understanding of the effects that the storm continues to have, and the role that public institutions can and must play if we are to truly help the Gulf Coast recover from the disaster.

Instead, they chose to highlight the negative actions of a few bad apples in a framework that completely isolated those actions from their causes.  As a result, the public will be less informed than it could be, and we're that much farther from making real progress in the Gulf.

Nov 1 2006
Blog Post Blacks, Hispanics Still Trail in College Enrollment

Ok, one more post than I really have to get to other work today.

On the heals of my post about Applebee's America and the Opportunity Gap, I just came across this article in USA Today noting that, despite overall rising enrollment:

White high school graduates are more likely than black or Hispanic
peers to enroll in college. The report says 47.3% of white high school
graduates ages 18 to 24 attend college, vs. 41.1% of black and 35.2% of
Hispanic high school graduates.

Causes and solutions, you ask?

"While we see forward movement, it is incremental and not transformational."

That, she says, would require better preparation
and encouragement in elementary and high schools. "Students of color
often have limited access to the courses they need ... (and) college
guidance," Tatum says. And a key reason some minority college students
don't persist is because "they're simply running out of money."

Oct 30 2006
Blog Post Applebee's America and The Opportunity Gap

Applebees
I just finished reading Applebee's America.  Written by conservative strategist Matthew Dowd, Democratic strategist Douglas Sosnik, and journalist Ron Fournier, the book examines how businesses and successful politicians (like Bush II and Clinton) connect with customers/constituents.

In brief, the book draws on anecdotes from Applebee's and Starbucks customers, as well as the authors' political expertise, to tell a tale about changing demographics and tastes in American culture and society. In the language of cutting-edge corporate-marketing, the book discusses framing techniques and community building strategies that can help businesses and political campaigns adjust to - and thrive in - that changing environment. 

Applebee's America can be boiled down into three core ideas:

  • "Gut Values" connections, not policy proposals, are
    what win voters;
  • People group by lifestyle affinities not ideology; and
  • Word of mouth from trusted, local sources trumps broadcast advertising.

In some ways, this is old-hat.  Progressive strategists and the netroots have been talking about framing and community building for years now.  So in that sense, the book offers not much new.  If you feel like you need a primer or want to brush up on those topics, Applebee's America offers some good case studies.  Including some great stories about Mega Churches.

What I found to be most interesting was a brief blurb - literally only 2 pages in a 200+ page book - about the Millenial generation (what the author's label Generation 9/11). 

The authors also discuss a growing "Opportunity Gap" among the
millenial generation. They note that while women and people of color
are closing achievement gaps, millions are being
priced out of college and other life opportunities. The authors predict that this will become a defining policy issue for our generation:

The Opportunities Gap will be one of the defining issues
off Generation 9/11. The socially conscious high-opportunity Generation
9/11 members will make closing that gap a major political issue.
Remember, it was the Greatest Generation that inspired the GI Bill and
the growth of organized labor in the 195s, two reasons for the rise of
the middle class.

...

Churches and other nonprofits will find a great cause in
helping those trying to bidge the Opportunities Gap.

I think the authors have hit on something here.  College tuition hikes outpaced inflation yet again in 2005, and as Anya Kamenetz and Tamara Drout have chronicled, young people are being saddled with unmanageable levels of debt as a price of entry into the middle class.  It's stifling the life opportunities of thousands and pricing millions out of college all together.   Their language
is also apt. Individual policy proposals aren't going to excite people - no
matter how much they care about the issue. Yet talking about an
Opportunity Gap, or the failure of government and society to protect
access to the American Dream can be the basis of a powerful message to
rally young people.  Doing so will be critical to the advancement of progressive ideas.

Oct 30 2006
Blog Post Schools of Many Colors

Our Executive Director, Alan Jenkins, just posted the first of what will be many columns on TomPaine.com   His first column addresses school desegregation cases currently pending before the Supreme Court. 


Go give it a read.

Oct 26 2006
Blog Post Debt Hits Hard

Campus Progress is running a new campaign - Debt Hits Hard -  to raise awareness about the unmanagable levels of debt that students now face, and the way that college loans can seriously hamper their opportunities for personal and professional success later in life.

This is a great, innovative campaign from the folks at campus progress.  The message is right-on, and the videos illustrate how  debt can be an opportunity-ending event for many young Americans in a way that no fact sheet ever could.  We've added the video to our favorites on YouTube.

Also interesting is their use of text messaging.  I haven't tried it yet, so its unclear to me whether the text message element is a viral awareness raising tool, a way to deliver information directly to the younger demographic they are targeting, or whether it functions as an action item that can connect students to their representatives.

It will be interesting to see how this develops.  We saw a lot of creative use of text messaging during the immigration demonstrations this past spring, and its been used to great effect overseas during elections.  All of these past examples, however, are of organic campaigns that arose from the ground up without guidance from professional advocates.  Can Campus Progress manufacture a successful TXT campaign?  I hope so.  It can be a potentially invaluable tool for all of us working to expand opportunity in America.

If you are unfamiliar with TXT messaging and the potential it holds for advocacy organizations, I suggest you read this white paper from the New Politics Institute.  Also check out the guide from Mobile Active.

Oct 20 2006
Blog Post School Colors

Gr2006101800124_1Falling into the category of really, really bad educational ideas, I encountered a bizarre article in the Washington Post about a new practice at a Montgomery County high school.

In an utterly misguided attempt to "create new communities" among a divided student population, the administration decided to classify students by "color." These colors are worn as a badge on student clothing and on an optional lanyard carried by students.

The color categories are ostensibly academic (and non-peformance related)
in nature, yet they single out groups such as Freshman and English as a
second langauage students - likely targets of abuse from other students:

At least three freshmen reported various forms of hazing: One was
jumped at a bus stop; another was encircled by a menacing mob of
upperclassmen; the third victim would not relate his sufferings in
detail, Gainous said.

We all remember high school.  Cliques and bullies and popularity contests run rampant.  It's the nature of teenagers to self-select and exclude others that are different.  Do we really need to exacerbate these tendencies in a student body that is already socially, economically, and academically divided?

Students say the system amplifies differences that already divide teenagers of different academic and socioeconomic stripes.

As
the staff of the Silver Chips student newspaper opined in an editorial,
"Self-segregation is already an issue in the student body, and the
formal distribution of color-coded IDs has essentially
institutionalized the phenomenon."

Obvious historical analogies aside, tactics that divide us and emphasize our differences instead of our commonalities take us further away from our values as a Americans.  Is this really the type of lesson we want to be teaching our children? The students seem to intuitively get this.  It's confounding that the administrators don't.

Oct 19 2006
Blog Post Schools and the Court: Creating Inclusive Communities

Yesterday the Supreme Court  announced that it will consider a number of cases this term questioning the efforts schools in Seattle and Louisville to promote diverse student populations. 

The cases will be heard in December, and are likely to garner quite a bit of attention, so it's important to take a minute to remember why the efforts of these communities are consistent with the Constitution and our values as Americans, and deserving of the public's support.

In Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court recognized that the purpose of the Equal Protection Clause is to bring us together as a nation of diverse peoples, and that promoting diverse education is a compelling government interest.  That is what these teachers, parents, and education leaders are doing - providing a vision of unity and cooperation for their children that we can all be proud of.

Opponents will argue for the narrow interests of a few students and parents over the common good.  They'll invoke inflammatory terms like quotas and racial preferences, and so many other straw men meant to distract attention and draw down support from the real issue: that we are all in this together, and these programs, which bring our children together, ultimatley make us stronger as a nation.

Years of experience show that many communities can't achieve inclusive, diverse schools without making that an explicit goal and working towards it intentionally.  And research shows that public schools in America are rapidly resegregating.  By choosing inclusion instead of separation, these schools are working to buck that trend and build the kind of community that we all want to live in: a community of cohesive, well-educated and prosperous young people prepared for the future.  That's a goal that every American should support.

Oct 4 2006
Syndicate content