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Blog Post FEMA's tactics in the post-Katrina climate
  • We continue to learn many lessons from Hurricane Katrina, nearly two years after the storm struck the Gulf Coast, chief among them the consequences of misplaced governmental priorities.  In a case where we most needed a strong and positive governmental role, instead we witnessed a monumental failure of will and dodging responsibility.  For example, Facing
    South
    reports that federal agencies responding to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita
    gave the startling amount of $2.4 billion in contracts guaranteeing profits for
    big companies, according to a Center for Public Integrity investigation. FEMA, which has seen its support consistently cut and its core mission altered over the past seven years, was responsible for nearly 94% of these
    contracts. The tragedies in Hurricane Katrina should have provided an opportunity
    for the government to act as a positive resource, but many reports show many
    poor decisions, increasing suffering for the victims. Check out the Center for Social Inclusion’s
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.

Blog Post Remaining prejudice affects medical care
  • Blackprof.com cites a new study of trainee doctors in Boston which shows how one’s overt and implicit prejudice can affect treatment in ER patients.  The study combined a 20-minute computer survey designed to detect prejudice with a hypothetical question of treatment for a 50-year-old man with heart pain, either black or white. The Boston Globe reports that as doctors’ unconscious biases against blacks increased, they were less likely to give the black patient a life-saving clot-busting treatment.  This study provides yet another example showing that equal access to health care does not necessarily mean equal treatment.  Not only are African Americans disproportionately unlikely to have health insurance, the care they are given is often of a lesser standard. 
  • Continuing the trend of educational games about immigration, the Hashmi Law Firm (located in Des Moines, Iowa) created a game intended to depict the daily life struggles of immigrants living in a broken immigration system (Thanks, ImmigrationProf Blog!).  Played last Saturday, July 21, 2007, “Find a Legal Way to Immigrate” allowed players to draw cards of actual scenarios based on current laws and the resulting challenges.  The general public was invited, and The Des Moines Register reports that about 40 people watched or participated.  As an immigrants’ rights attorney, Hashmi maintains that her objective in creating this game was purely education: “to show how difficult the process is.”
  • Think Progress reports on the new smear campaign against Michael Moore’s movie, Sicko.  Financed by pharmaceutical and hospital companies, “Health Care America” staged a conference call, distributed a “fake news video” about Sicko and making ads that say “In America you wait in line to see a movie. In government-run healthcare systems, you wait to see a doctor.”  These projects attempt to show “what Michael Moore left out of his movie."
Blog Post Oliver White Hill: 1907 - 2007

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

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

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

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

                   
                   
                   

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

Blog Post Diversity at Yearly Kos

I'm just back from the Yearly Kos Convention where I spoke on the Framing from the Top Panel, the Technology and Politics panel, and moderated the Youth Movement panel (which will eventually be aired on C-Span).

If you've read anything about the Kos Convention this week, you've probably heard one of two things. 

  1. The Democratic establishment is showing up to pay its respects to all of us "rag tag" bloggers.
  2. The Yearly Kos Convention is 95% white male

I exaggerate (a little), but the lack of diversity was stark - both in the panels, the content of the panels, and the crowd.  As we're seeing more black bloggers come together in the Afro-sphere, and a number of immigration bloggers operating in loose association, we should think about next year's convention and how we can increase the influence of women and people of color in the blogosphere. Next year's convention, which is sure to be as large a step forward from this year, as this weekends conference was from the innaugural event in 2006.  Let's make sure that next year, the Netroots Nation actually reflects the diversity of the progressive movement.

The folks at Yearly Kos are extremely friendly and open to increasing the diversity of the conference, however they are also even more stretched thin - in man power and funding and time.  If more bloggers of color reach out to them - propose panels, or work to fund travel and lodging - the folks at Yearly Kos will be more than happy to assist in any way possible.  But this is a shoestring operation and we need to make the first move.

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.”

Blog Post Huge Discussion on Diversity in the Blogosphere

I noted yesterday that there was a stark lack of diversity at this past weekend's Yearly Kos convention.  Others noticed as well - the mainstream media, and the bloggers who conceived and attended the convention.  For the past day or two, that lack of diversity has been a driving topic on some of the more influential blogs - mostly at the relatively new site Open Left.  Here's a rundown on who's talking about what.

If you are a progressive advocate, blogger, or other whose work might fall under that nebulous label of "diversity," these are conversations you should be following and inserting yourself into.

First read Jennifer Ancona's post about one of the panels at Yearly Kos: The Changing Dynamic of Diversity in Progressive Politics.  The panel featured Adam Luna of the Center for Community Change, Cheryl Contee, Tanya Tarr, and Eric Baylor.  The post summed up the need for a more diverse progressive movement and a Democratic Party willing to "address issues of race head-on," yet only the usual suspects showed up in the comments to Jennifer's post.

Second, check out a series by Chris Bowers, one of the founders of Open Left in which the diversity of the movement (or lack thereof) plays a crucial part. 

Bowers argues that the progressive movement has stalled in the last two years (compared to the three prior years).  Sure, he's talking about the online progressive movement and the change within the Democratic Party - not what many social justice folks might label the progressive movement - but that gets exactly to Chris's point.  Without the diversity of that broader movement, this one (online and electoral) piece has stalled out after three years of rapid growth.

Bower's co-blogger Matt Stoller then jumped into the debate with a demand that conversations about blogospheric diversity contain actual facts about the internal politics of various racial and ethnic coalitions.

Bowers again responded, with one of the demographic analyses for which he's known.  His conclusion - yeah, things could be more diverse, but let's not get into a fight about not-diverse-enough vs. things are fine.  Let's work to have a productive conversation and bring more voices into the discussion.

I couldn't agree more, and if you aren't already in these discussions, go throw in your two cents.

Blog Post Forming Diverse Coalitions: Interview with James Rucker of Color of Change

Speaking of diversity in the blogosphere, Baratunde Thurston of Jack and Jill Politics sat down with James Rucker, the executive director of Color of Change, at the Yearly Kos Convention.  The two talked about the growing black blogosphere, and the diverse coalition that formed to oppose the Congressional Black Caucus/Fox News debates.  Also discussed is the possibility of forming a similar coalition around the Jena 6 in Louisiana. Here's a video of their conversation.

Blog Post I'm Not Racist, But You Probably Are

A few quick hits from around the blogosphere today:

  • Race and Media reports on some new Zogby polling data about American's racial prejudices.  Apparently we tend to think that we're not racist, but those other folks over there probably are:

The “Report Card on American Prejudice” is described as part of a
wide-ranging effort by the Game Show Network, sponsors of the poll and
of a new television show, “Without Prejudice,” to spur a national dialogue on intolerance and bigotry.

The poll showed: While 67 percent of respondents claimed to have no
preference themselves between a white, black or Arab clerk in a
convenience store, 71 percent said, “most Americans” would seek out the
white clerk. Just 1 percent said Americans’ first choice would be to
approach a black clerk, while less than 0.5 percent said the same for
an Arab clerk.

And yet, 55 percent of respondents said race relations have improved over the past 10 years.

  • Looks like health insurers are getting ready to exploit undocumented immigrants under the guise of providing health services (aka tapping an underutilized market).  In some respects this could be a good thing, but the potential for exploitation is really high - particularly when you factor in language difficulties and a general unfamiliarity with the American health care system.  On the other hand, could this also be a potential ally in future immigration battles?  If SEIU can team up with WalMart, anything is possible.  Or am I being naive?
  • The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act passed in the House of Representatives.  The bill will "return the industry to the longstanding “paycheck accrual” rule, and
    allow a pay discrimination action to accrue every time the employee
    receives a paycheck that is affected by a discriminatory action."  A similar bill is now in the Senate.
Blog Post Online organizing against new BET show
  • Mirror on America reports on the controversial show set to premiere on BET next week, "Hot Ghetto
    Mess." Using viewer-submitted home videos and
    BET-produced man-on-the-street interviews, this reality show attempts to
    broadcast a side of the black community and hear people’s opinions on
    issues. “Hot Ghetto Mess” is based on a
    website with a purpose to showcase all parts of the black community, negative
    or not, in order to promote reflection on how this community is perceived. The online editor explains: “I want each and
    every person that reads these words to look at your life and ask how you can
    make yourself better, your community better or your kids better.” However, after many people expressed their
    offense to such a show, Gina McCauley, creator of the blog What About Our
    Daughters?
    (discussing how the black female community is represented in the
    media) turned to a coalition of religious and women’s groups to protest the
    show. The coalition targets advertisers
    for the show, and two companies (State Farm Insurance and Home Depot) have
    already asked BET to pull their ad time. At the premiere, this coalition has organized “watch parties” in many
    cities across the country to record which companies purchased advertisements,
    then plans to boycott these businesses or organize demonstrations. We’ll wait and see how effective their
    strategy is, but the approach - mixing blog outreach, new media, and good old fashioned boycotts - demonstrates a creative mix of action that could make a good model for future online/offline organizing. Racial justice activists could take a page out of McCauley’s book in their
    own campaigns
  • The Washington Post reports on the resolution passed
    yesterday in Loudoun Country, VA that limits undocumented workers access to
    county services and penalizes employers who hire them (Thanks, ‘Just News’
    blog
    !). This legislation is one of many strong statewide and countywide that have passed since the Senate’s
    failure to organize a comprehensive nationwide immigration policy. Without the national government setting the
    limits, we will be faced with different localized laws that will lead to an even more chaotic system. In addition,
    laws like these which focus on employer sanctions rather than face the problem, avoid the main issue - that of the rights of workers.
  • DMI Blog reports on Massachusetts' decision to implement a new social welfare program called
    Choices.  The program allows people receiving welfare the option of receiving counseling about viable options for education and occupational advances. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research
    explains that for low-income students, higher education is the best way to
    acquire good jobs, and this positive step has a ripple affect in the students’
    families and communities.
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.
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.

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.

Blog Post Keep Central Brooklyn Health Clinics Open

Readers will remember that The Opportunity Agenda did a lot of work around hospital closures in New York City this past winter.  It's important to remember, though, that it's not only hospitals that are closing; it's also community clinics that many low income communities and communities of color rely on for medical care.  Recently, the Charles Drew Family Clinic in central Brooklyn closed down.  In this video, local residents explain how this closure will affect the community in their own words:

And remember to check out our Google Map Mashup showing how hospital closures in NYC over the last 30 years have disproportionately affected low income communities and communities of color:

359627369_67ae07afff_o

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

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  • 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.
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.
Blog Post Lost Opportunity

Over at TomPaine.com, Alan Jenkins has a new opinion piece discussing the OECD report on Mobility in America (which we previously covered here).

both equality and mobility are at risk in our country, along with
other core elements of opportunity. And that's bad for all of us. In
discussing the OECD report, a recent New York Times editorial quotes Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's argument
that while economic outcomes need not be equal, "economic opportunity
should be as widely distributed and as equal as possible." That
economic truth echoes our country's moral belief that where you start
out in life should not preordain where you end up, and that what you
look like or where you come from should not determine the benefits,
burdens or responsibilities that you bear in American society.

When those values are threatened, as they are today, it's time to
take bold steps. In a presidential election cycle, it's incumbent upon
all of us to ask what the men and woman seeking the presidency would do
to reignite opportunity for everyone.

Read the rest here.

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.
Blog Post More problems in structuring immigration reform
  • DMI Blog reports on the problems with the new face of immigration
    reform: employer sanctions for hiring undocumented workers. Author Suman Raghunathan explains that these sanctions are an underhanded approach to sidestep the main issue, which is not that employers hire undocumented workers, but rather that they exploit those workers with poor labor conditions and low pay.  Raghunathan cites numerous examples of employers that
    force undocumented immigrant workers into low wages, employer harassment, and
    no labor protection, a situation that is equally bad for undocumented workers and native born workers alike.
    • Our view: Holding employers accountable is important, but let's be
      clear about the real issues and make sure the frame of this debate doesn't
      shift away from what is important – that we're all in this together: African Americans,
      immigrants, native born workers and undocumented workers. If we improve working conditions for one
      group, they will be improved for all groups. Focusing on the worker sanctions Raghunathan highlights can only divide
      us and pit one group against the other. If we want to see real change, we need to work together. For more information about immigrants and
      their contributions to the workforce, check out our immigration reform fact
      sheet
      .
  • Our friends at the Sentencing Project have released a new report: Uneven Justice: State Rates of Incarceration by
    Race and Ethnicity
    (pdf).  This report compares the
    racial and ethnic disparities in incarceration in all 50 states, including
    prison and jail populations. Highlights
    include
    • African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six (5.6) times the rate of
      whites and Latinos at nearly double (1.8) the rate of whites.
    • There is broad variation among the states
      in the ratio of black-to-white incarceration, ranging from a high of 13.6-to-1 in Iowa to a low of 1.9-to-1 in Hawaii.
    • States with the highest black-to-white
      ratio are disproportionately located in the Northeast and Midwest, including
      the leading states of Iowa, Vermont, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Wisconsin.

For more information about racial disparities in
incarceration populations, check out our Criminal Justice fact sheet or visit The Sentencing Project.

  • Facing
    South
    reports that John Edwards' Poverty Tour stopped
    in New Orleans,
    where the Senator spoke about his plan to create "50,000 stepping stone jobs"
    in places like schools, libraries and community to help revitalize the community
    and build a "work ethic."
Blog Post Alien Absconders and the Downside of Diversity

Two thoroughly ridiculous, yet important, pieces to check out today:

  • The New York Times reports on plans by President Bush to crack-down on undocumented workers.  It's yet another consequence of the failure to pass comprehensive reform - we're now stuck with piecemeal "solutions" that often reflect the desire to punish immigrants without offering any real, workable solutions to our broken immigration system.  On the language tip, I hope that the Right makes a habit of switching from their typical "illegal alien" to John Cornyn's neologism: "alien absconder," which sound both non threatening and highly ridiculous.  I'd laugh if the consequences weren't so high for so many.
  • In another story thoroughly deserving of some serious pushback from progressives, Robert Putnam, famous for his description of "the decline of social capital" in his book Bowling Alone, has released the results of a new study, and the findings are likely to result in an unfortunate PR boon to conservatives. In the study, Putnam describes what he calls "the downside of diversity."  Shorter version: mixed race communities have lower social capital.  People vote less, trust their neighbors less, etc.  The conservative response will be simple: "We told you so." (Putnam is already getting accolades from the likes of David Duke).

    Here's the thing - the findings aren't quite so easily interpreted.  Here's why:

    • Even if true, diversity is still offers it's own positive values (which Putnam does mention).  The findings only underscore the need for us to work harder to overcome our prejudices and erase the negative aspects that are in fact to be expected in a country still struggling with race.
    • The findings  essentially boil down to this - stable neigborhoods (dominated by one race/ethnic group) have tighter social bonds while neighborhoods in transition don't.  That's not surprising, and when the neighborhoods stabilize again (one hopes in a diverse mix), social capital will again rise.
    • Putnam is only sampling Americans, who have a long history of racial tension.  These findings may not hold in other places with less divisive racial history.
Blog Post Blogosphere Diversity and the Effectiveness of Internet Action

Blogosphere Diversity remains the topic du jour this Monday (unless you want to talk about the upcoming Rove resignation), though there are a number of other important posts to read as well:

  • Angry Black Woman ponders the effectiveness of blogging as a way to help eliminate racism.  Is blogging so much talk, or is it another form of doing
  • At ColorLines, Daisy Hernandez asks if you can iChat your way to Social Change, in an excellent piece about media consumption habits and activism among people of color.
  • The Field Negro weighs in on this issue as well, with a lot of more about diversity in the blogosphere and the larger conversation that is (at times very indelicately) taking place.
  • Linda Seger at Huffington Post adds gender discrimination into the mix.
  • JaninSanFran wrrites about the danger of anecdotes in media reporting - an interesting piece on how personal stories can frame or misframe an issue.
  • Jack and Jill Politics has an excellent post about health care equity and access vs. quality of care.
  • Finally, Facing South continues its coverage of the Jena 6.
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.

Blog Post Progress in Jena, Thanks to the Black Blogosphere

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

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

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

Blog Post More Violence, Post-Jena March
  • Despite repeated claims among residents of Jena, Louisiana that the unjust prosecution of the six boys is "not about racism," there have been various ugly repurcussions of the well-publicized rally.  More nooses have been found hanging in Alexandria, Louisiana and in North Carolina, and a Neo-Nazi group has published the addresses and telephone numbers of the Jena Six families on its website in case anyone wishes to "deliver justice."  Among progressive bloggers, reactions seem to be a mix of speechlessness and cynicism.
  • Along the veign of thought that anti-immigrant sentiment is also very much linked to racism, a lawsuit was filed last week alledging that the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement raids in the New York area have unfairly singled out Hispanics, violating the Fourth Amendment protections against unwarranted searches. A number of US citizens of Latin American descent have had their homes raided in the middle of the night by agents hunting for undocumented individuals.
  • In the realm of policy changes, New York State has been informed by the federal government that chemotherapy will no longer be defined as 'emergency medical care,' thus preventing immigrants without documentation from receiving cancer treatment previously funded by the government.  On the other hand, however, New York's Governor Spitzer has announced that the state DMV will begin issuing driver's licenses without regard to immigration status.
  • Finally, the Center for American Progress has recently featured a report entitled Know Your Sources: The Mainstream Press Keeps Finding Wacky Immigration “Experts.” Author Henry Fernandez offers an illustration of the mainstream media's regular failure to investigate the background of the 'immigration experts' they cite, finding that many have strong ties to well-funded white supremacist groups. Similar to the theme of preserving justice in the Louisiana court system, it is so important to understand that the issue of immigration is not one that can be fixed in a stand-alone manner. Rather, it is only one piece of a larger picture of established racial, economic, and political inequalities which deny many people the opportunities they need to be prosperous.
Blog Post The Battle Over SCHIP Continues
  • There has been a lot of heated discussion in blogs such as Ezra Klein and the HealthLawProf about the State Children's Health Insurance Plan, or SCHIP.  Congress is working to reauthorize the program before it expires on September 30, and after much deliberation the Senate and House have finally agreed upon a bill.  President Bush has been threatening to veto the program, however, on grounds that he thinks people will choose to be dependent on government assistance rather than obtain private insurance.  Bush's self-sufficiency frame provides us with the opposite of the progressive "it takes a village" mentality, wherein it is our task as a nation to care for the weaker members of our community. Many progressives are also questioning an imbalance of priorities which leads us to invest much more in weaponry than in the health of America's children.
  • In an astounding case of irrational and excessive force by Customs and Border agents, preeminent musicologist Nalini Ghuman was denied entry to the US last year on her way back to California, where she is a university professor at Mills College in Oakland.  A British citizen of Welsh and Indian parents with a PhD from the University of California at Berkeley, Ghuman had her passport and valid visa torn up and has not been allowed to return since.  According to Ivan Katz:

Matters are made even worse -- if possible -- by the inadequate response of the United States government to the appalling treatment of Professor Ghuman. University professors and presidents can get no answer. Senators can get no answer. Our own embassy in London cannot get answers. National security, don't you know. The embassy in London seems to have concluded that this mess was the result of "mistaken identity" but no one in Washington will 'fess up to the error', and until that happens "nothing can be done."

The appalling treatment of Professor Ghuman takes the immigration debate well above questions of legality.  The border agents should be investigated thoroughly for denying Ghuman the opportunity to return to her job based solely upon their xenophobic impression of a person of color. And we should all examine the ways in which our society continues to discriminate against groups of people based on false prejudice. 

  • As two further examples of racial discrimination, the DMI Blog wrote about a study just released that indicates that white convicts are just as likely to be hired as blacks without criminal records.  That's a pretty alarming summary. Second, the Huffington Post cites a study which shows that black students in New Jersey are 60 times more likely to be expelled for behavioral issues than white students, while in Minnesota, black students are six times more likely than white students to be suspended for the same.  While it may seem that isolated episodes of unfair hiring or punishment (or any scuffle at the border) may not be so tied in with the big picture of racial (in)equality, that is just not the case.  In human rights discourse, however, we all deserve health care, we all deserve gainful employment, and we all deserve schooling and justice. Any barriers to the success of all should be broken down.
Blog Post Preventing Another Jena 6

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

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

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

Blog Post Happenings in Media
  • The Health Care Blog has run a series of posts about the Health 2.0 conference on September 20 in San Francisco.  Meant to empower consumers to take charge of their health decisions through new technology, the convention focused on the capacity of tools such as social networking sites, blogs, specialized medical search engines and video sharing sites to transform access to health care.
  • Racialicious and New Demographic have released the newest podcast in their 'Addicted to Race' series, themed on the 'New Yellow Peril.' The podcast discusses the recent increase in anti-Chinese narratives in the news.  Comments on the podcast are welcome.

"Between the lead paint toy scare, the tainted pet food scare, and the general rise of China’s economic and military might, all the anti-Chinese sentiments we’ve been hearing lately sound awfully similar to the anti-Chinese sentiments at the turn of the century."

  • Another great usage of Web 2.0 is the ImmigrationProf Blog's 'Immigrant of the Day' series.  In a corner of blogosphere focused largely on individual episodes of violence and legislative battles, it is refreshing to get a regular dosage of success stories which help remind us that people immigrate to the US in search of increased opportunity.  Recent features include Madeleine May Kunin, the Swiss-born ambassador and former governor of Vermont, and comedic musician William Hung from Hong Kong.
  • The Huffington Post highlights a MediaWeek article which reports that most political candidates are slow to adopt paid advertising on the internet, choosing instead to stick to traditional media such as television.  Despite a willingness to engage in social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace and a well-defined focus on online fundraising, "most candidates were planning to spend roughly one percent of their total media budgets online, versus the seven percent that most mainstream brands typically spend on the medium."
  • Finally, our video 'What Do Human Rights Mean to You?' has been posted on the From Poverty of Opportunity Campaign blog presented by the Heartland Alliance for Human Rights and Human Needs.  The Campaign works to reduce poverty in the state of Illinois by using the framework of human rights to organize communities, advocates and policy leaders into creating social change.
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.
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.

Blog Post Bush Vetoes, Spitzer Sues over Children's Health
  • This just in: President Bush has indeed vetoed the SCHIP legislation that recently passed through Congress seeking to expand funding for children's health care.  While the Senate had passed the bill with enough of a margin to override a veto, the House fell short. Representatives will be reconsidering their votes as our nation continutes to reflect on the values of individualism or community support. These values have tangible effects on the health of millions of children.
  • Yesterday, New York's Governor Eliot Sptizer announced that he is filing suit against the Bush administration over its new eligibility rules for children insured through the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).  The new guidelines refuse federal funding for states to insure children whose parents earn more than 250% of the povery line, which will force some states to cancel the enrollment of children already in the program. A number of states are on board with Spitzer, including New Hampshire, and New Jersey has filed a similar suit. Spitzer has posted his argument on the Huffington Post, saying of Bush's casual commentary that everyone has access to health care in the emergency room that "this politics of 'not my problem'...has led to the health crisis we have today."
  • Also on the SCHIP debate, Families USA has just released a new ad campaign entitled "Bush vs. Kids," showing a series of children talking about how nice and sweet they think the president is, overlayed with text about how Bush is doing his best to cut health care for 10 million children.

  • Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas has gotten a lot of media attention lately, between the launch of his new memoir and an interview on CBS '60 Minutes.'  The only African American member of the Supreme Court, Thomas has been controversial for his opposition to affirmative action policies and other progressive social reforms as well as his alleged sexual harassment of former employee Anita Hill.  Blogger Keith Boykin refers to Thomas as the "most dangerous black man in America," not dangerous to white America but to African Americans for his "record of disregard for the poor and minorities."
  • A federal judge in San Francisco again extended the ban against the mailing of the "no-match" letters by the Social Security administration.  President Bush and the Department of Homeland Security have mandated that employers receiving the 141,000 letters about discrencies in 8.7 million worker records sort out the mismatches within 90 days, fire their employees, or risk prosecution for knowingly hiring undocumented workers. The judge has indicated that he is disinclined to allow the letters to be sent, arguing that known inaccuracies in the federal database would cause irreparable harm to American businesses and to workers.
  • As the 2010 census approaches, people are beginning to discuss its effects on and the effects of undocumented immigrants.  On one hand, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has stated that it has no intention of discontinuing raids during the census in the interest of obtaining more accurate records.  More recently, the there has been talk on the issue of whether or not to include undocumented workers in the count as it affects the reallotment of representation in the US House of Representatives.  Different states would gain or lose a voice in each case, although the means of defining how many are undocumented will likely be challenging given immigrants' general fear and distrust of government officials.
  • Lastly, Culture Kitchen has published a thought-provoking piece entitled Why I Hate Hispanic Heritage Month, which is celebrated from September 15th through October 15th. Latina blogger Liza outlines her dislike of the word 'hispanic' and the way it leads people to make unfounded assumptions about the history, culture and linguistic background of Latin Americans.
Blog Post Thousands Rally for Jena Six Day of Action

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

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

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

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

  • U.S. Courts are continuing to strike down local ordinances aimed at persecuting undocumented immigrants, providing a formidable obstacle to crackdowns nationwide.
  • The city of San Francisco is considering issuing its own identification cards for all adults.  These cards would enable immigrants to gain access to public services such as health care and libraries.  San Francisco law forbids the use of city funds to report undocumented individuals to Customs Enforcement.
  • The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is proposing that greencards should no longer be issued without expiration dates, but should be renewed periodically. This not a popular position among some Democrats in Congress.
  • After recent raids in schools, various school districts with high populations of immigrants are brainstorming new ways to protect the privacy of their students.  In New Mexico, some school personnel have been told to deny entry to immigration officials seeking to seize students.
  • The Human Rights Weblog has just done a feature article on Ray Ibarra, an activist who is pushing the frame of the human right to stay alive, or more specifically that no one should be dying on the U.S.-Mexico border.  Hundreds have died to this point while trying to cross, and aiding those who are most vulnerable is illegal.
Blog Post Jena Six Update and Other Ruminations on Justice
  • As an update on the Jena Six, Vox ex Machina reports that Mychal Bell remains in a Louisiana jail after having his conviction overturned because the judge and prosecutor did not show for his bail hearing yesterday.  Given that the black blogosphere has driven the case to be high-profile enough that the New York Times has finally reported on it, it's suprising that the legal officials in question would risk demonstrating their public disregard for Bell's fate.  Also noteworthy are various protests happening tomorrow around the country in support of the six students.
  • Curiously, Sentencing Law and Policy wrote today on an article in Mississippi's Clarion-Ledger about the need for prison reform in the state, as prisons are both more crowded and more costly than ever.  What's interesting is that the people currently pushing for reform are not prisoners' rights advocates but those working to keep prisons cost-effective and efficient.
  • Statesmen.com notes that legislation has just been introduced in Congress that would not only punish 'sanctuary cities' by denying Homeland Security funding but would make being in the country without proper documentation a felony.  'Cause we could really use 12 million more prisoners.  Really makes one wonder what the prison corporation lobby looks like. Imprisonment of immigrants is a violation of the human right of mobility. To attempt to do this on such a grand scale would be unthinkable.
  • Another piece of legislation that just failed to make its way through Congress involved voting representation for the District of Columbia. I'm always a bit shocked to see the 'Taxation Without Representation' DC license plates; shouldn't we have figured this out by now, given the revolutionary zeal to rectify this back in 1776? Chris Bowers elaborates on the racial injustice implicit in the decision:

"If Republicans are ever mesmerized as to why they do so poorly with the African-American vote, here is a prime example. An all-Republican minority of 42 just filibustered to prevent a overwhelmingly poor, African-American city from having representation in the United States Congress. Apart from FEMA's response to Katrina, could they make it any clearer that they do not stand up for African-Americans? Denying D.C. voting rights is a blatant, racist, right-wing attempt to cling to power. It is undemocratic and un-American for Republicans to block this bill."

Continuing to deny Washington's political voice based on discrimination or self-interest can only prove devastating to the capitol city and to our nation as a whole. It will not help instill confidence in our leadership.

  • Let's wrap things up with some better news, however, in the health realm: Walmart has been listening to criticism of its health insurance plan, and is making some changes.  The Huffington Post highlighted a New York Times article which says that America's largest employer is lowering premiums and prescription drug copays to make its health insurance more accessible to workers. Improved health coverage for millions of Americans is undeniably a step in the right direction.
Blog Post "Sanctuary Cities"
  • Over at the LA Times, Ron Brownstein is talking about "Sanctuary Cities" and our immigration policy.  It's only in the last two weeks that I've begun to notice the term "Sanctuary Cities" creaping into the public discourse.  The term seems to be the anti-immigrant movements' frame of choice, designed to not only focus on actual immigration laws, but to act as a club for Republican Presidential candidates to beat up Democrats.  The way it is being deployed by folks like Romney and Tancredo, Sanctuary Cities = Progressive Urban Centers = Democrats.  Am I reading too much into that?
  • Progressive Blogger Digby is moonlighting over at The Big Con and opens her new gig with a must read piece about Race and the response to Katrina 2 years ago.
  • If you haven't read it yet, Time Magazine recently profiled some high school students who used FaceBook and MySpace to organize on behalf of their friends, whose parents are undocumented workers facing deportation.
  • The American Immigration Law Foundation has an interesting piece about local ordinances seeking to curb immigration in the face of the Federal Government's failure to pass a comprehensive reform bill:

    Regardless of why anti-immigrant ordinances are metastasizing across
    the country, the ordinances themselves, and the arguments of their
    supporters, are based on false assumptions. Take Culpeper County, where
    champions of the resolution complain that new immigrants aren't
    "assimilating." Missing from this complaint is an understanding of the
    fact that "assimilation" (or integration) occurs over the course of
    generations, not within a few years of a person's life. While most of
    our immigrant forefathers probably achieved at least a basic mastery of
    English after several years in the United States, like Latino
    immigrants now, they certainly did not become linguistically or
    culturally "American" in any meaningful sense within their lifetimes.
    And neither will today's immigrants. But their children and
    grandchildren will, just as we did.

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.
Blog Post Fear of a Black Princess

Alan Jenkin's new piece at Tom Paine is now live.  In this latest essay, Alan expresses hope and dread over Disney's decision to finally feature an African American princess in one of their films.

There’s an old joke, retold by Woody Allen in the film "Annie Hall,"
in which two elderly women are having dinner at a Catskill mountain
resort. One of the women says, "Boy, the food at this place is really
terrible." The other one says, "Yeah, I know; and such small portions."
I had a similar reaction when I heard last week that Disney would soon
be releasing its first film to feature an African-American “princess”:
It’s about time; and I kind of wish they wouldn’t.

As the father of two young girls, I’m immersed in princess-land and,
for that matter, everything Disney—from the excruciating "High School
Musical" I and II to the mildly redeeming Cheetah Girls franchise. And
as the father of two young African-American girls, the effort to find
positive role models in whom they can see themselves and who have
resonance in their world is both exhausting and frustrating.

Blog Post Immigrants dying of terror on September 11
  • Our friends at Immigration Orange have written a very powerful post featuring the stories of two undocumented Brazilian men who have recently died while in detention.  25-year-old Maxsuel Medeiros died of a heart attack yesterday after being held by Massachusetts Police for a traffic incident.  And last month, the following occurred, also in Boston:

"Edmar Araujo, who is epileptic, died from a seizure after he was pulled over for a routine traffic stop.  Needless to say, psychological or physical stress is what causes a seizure.
Worst of all, his sister claims to have tried to bring his epilepsy
medicine to the local police that picked him up, but that information
was not used to save his life.  It's been over a month and we still
don't have answers as to whether or not Araujo's death could have been
prevented, and who is to blame."

That anyone should be living in this kind of extreme fear within the US is just devastating.  But to deny medical care to those being held is a tremendous violation of human rights and one which should weigh heavily on our national conscience.

  • Just News
    included a piece about a lawsuit just filed by the United Food and
    Commercial Workers International Union that seeks to collect damages as well as to put an end to a series of six
    raids of Swift & Co. meatpacking plants by Immigration and Customs
    Enforcement (ICE).  The union claims that "agents unlawfully detained
    workers and violated their constitutional rights," threatening even US
    citizens.  This sort of blanket crackdown on American workers can only lead to more violations of our rights.
  • Firedoglake
    has covered the "Hands Across El Rio" protest which lasted for sixteen
    days across the Texas border.  The protest was organized to show community
    opposition to the construction of a wall along the Mexican border, and included
    the display of a human chain which stretched the length of the river.

Both Racialicious and Resist Racism have noted the resurgence of noose imagery in the media and in public happenings.  Even a recent MSNBC Sports headline implies a lynching.  That's not just a bit distasteful, especially given current events.

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  • Just News also mentions a study released in the LA Times which reveals that blacks have "borne the brunt" of Hurricane Katrina, as New Orleans' black population fell 57 percent a year after Hurricane Katrina while the white population only declined 36 percent. There is also a noticeable pattern in where blacks and whites have tended to resettle, with the former choosing to locate themselves in poorer, urban areas.

Finally, Afro-Netizen has posted about new data on racial segregation in nursing homes in the US.  Interestingly, facilities in the South have been found to be more integrated than those in the Midwest, but where segregation exists, differences in the quality of care are also evident.
Blog Post Immigrants Boycott Western Union
  • First off, a coalition of more than 150 immigrants rights groups are advocating a boycott of Western Union for charging exorbitant fees and using innapropriate exchange rates for its wire transfers abroad.  Organizers also assert that the company reinvests very little in the immigrant communities it serves despite profits of over $1 billion per year.
  • As in the Colbert video below, the Immigrants and Politics Blog has recapped a September 5 New York Times article about farmers relocating their business to Mexico given the difficulties of finding labor within the US. Given recent crackdowns on the mobility and capacity of the migrant workforce, many US companies are struggling to find workers, and farmers often experience labor shortages during harvest time.  In response, the profiled farmer has chosen to "southsource" to Mexico.  This type of action could very well have long-term negative effects on the American economy.
  • Another story that was all over the blogosphere yesterday was that of the 20-year-old black woman in West Virginia who was abducted and held hostage while forced to suffer intense physical and sexual abuse.  Although her six white captors have been arrested and charged with a total of 108 counts of criminal conduct, federal prosecutors have decided not to consider this a hate crime despite the fact that the six alledgedly referred to the woman as a "nigger."  This decision has been quite controversial given the brutality of the incident and the fact that hate crimes laws are in effect to mandate a heavier sentence for acts motivated by exactly this sort of unthinkable discrimination.
  • Additionally, a study has been released by the Medicare Rights Center which demonstrates that "low-income people enrolled in Medicare private fee-for-service plans pay more for their health care in some counties than people enrolled in the same plans in neighboring, more affluent counties." It hardly seems fair to inflate costs for those who can barely afford to pay for medical services, or smart to force the government to subsidize medical bills at a higher rate.  Perhaps the report will force us to rethink that one.
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?

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.

Blog Post Ninth Circuit Judge Bea Tells His Immigration Story
  • While he was in college, Appeals Court judge Carlos T. Bea was nearly deported over a technical violation of US immigration law. He was, however, given the opportunity to stay in the US, and is now a member of the federal circuit that handles half of today's appeals in immigration cases. The ImmigrationProf Blog highlights his inspiring story and proposal  to reform the immigration appeals process.
  • Another great example of the pro-migrant blogosphere having an impact in the new media realm can be seen in this video produced by The Unapologetic Mexican. Entitled 'Ben Harper's Oppression; A Xicano Interpretation' the video has gotten a significant amount of views in a social networking/media community largely dominated by anti-immigrant sentiment.

 

  • In Riverside, New Jersey, the town council voted last night to repeal an ordinance intended to punish landlords and employers renting to or hiring individuals without documentation.  The ACLU commended the town board for dismissing legislation that would have "fueled xenophobia and discrimination."
  • Prometheus 6 has pointed us at an article in Medical News Today about waiting times for health care in the US. People seeking medical attention are waiting an average of 70 days for appointments, while some who have diagnosed with cancer are waiting "more than a month" to be seen by providers.  These statistics fail to account for the longer waiting times of the uninsured, roughly 44 million Americans, or those who delay care because of expenses.  The article continues by comparing our health care system with that of Canada, where there is no wait for emergency surgeries and no one is denied care based on finances.
  • Finally, Jack and Jill Politics wrote a a blog entry today entitled The Media Loves Stories About Race, As Long As They Fit A Certain Narrative. In other words, the 'Jena Six' get little attention, police brutality gets little attention, but OJ Simpson's newest arrest gets lots of media time.  The author says:

"The real appeal of the O.J. story is that it restores a comfortable narrative for America, where the bad guys and the good guys are marked by the color of their skin. As the media is inundated with stories about our dysfunctional and racist criminal justice system like those of The Jena Six, Kenneth Foster, Troy Davis and Genarlow Wilson, the O.J. story offers an opportunity to return to a more simplistic understanding of race and criminality."

That's a sad but insightful analysis, and one which definitely deserves more consideration on our part.

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.
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.
Blog Post Will Wearing 'Suits and Ties' Make African-American Boys Safe?


Image from the video "Suit and Tie in the 217" (Tiffany Gholson/YouTube)

Inspired by Justin Timberlake’s song “Suit and Tie,” the African-American boys of Illinois Central High School created their own video for the song in an effort to debunk racial stereotypes around young black males. This reinforces the idea that they must embrace traditional Western business attire. The video begins with a group of African-American boys walking through the entryway of their high school garbed in suits, ties, pressed dress pants and cardigan sweaters. Their body language as they stroll through the school halls shows confidence, assertiveness and, most importantly, self-control. Subtitles throughout the video offer positive self-reflection statements like, “we are scholars, and we are athletes.” However, does the video model what we would ideally like our young black men to demonstrate and norms they should adhere to?

Blog Post Connections Between Media Depictions of Black Men and Boys and Lower Life Chances

While there has been significant improvement in racial attitudes in the past half-century, the tragic death of Trayvon Martin suggests that stereotypes and bias against African Americans, especially males, still persist. The Opportunity Agenda’s new report, "Opportunity for Black Men and Boys: Public Opinion, Media Depictions, and Media Consumption," lays out evidence that African-American men and boys are grossly overrepresented in depictions of criminality and violence in the media, as compared to documented reality. These false portrayals, reasearch proves, can lead to distorted and negative perceptions as well as discriminatory treatment against African Americans.

Blog Post Poverty, Opportunity, and the 2012 Presidential Election

 A recent forum in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, provided an in-depth discussion into the level of concern in the United States about poverty and opportunity, particularly concerning children. Spotlight on Poverty also looked at whether or not these issues will be factors in the upcoming presidential election. Overall, people believe strongly that equal opportunity for children of all races is very important; that not all children currently have full access to opportunity; and that presidential candidates’ views on poverty are very important. But, many think that neither the candidates nor the media are discussing poverty enough.

Blog Post Public Opinion Roundup: Equal Opportunity and Fairness

 Year after year, equal opportunity and fairness are critically important values on the minds of Americans. Surveys find a collective desire for greater economic equality, greater government involvement in employment and opportunity, and a more widespread distribution of wealth, but people don’t think that these values are reflected in the current economy.  For example, a November 2011 poll found that just over half of Americans said that a major problem in the U.S. is that “everyone does not have an equal chance in life.” The same number agreed with this statement in September 2010. More than two of three Democrats and one in two Independents agreed, but more than half of Republicans disagreed. 

 

Blog Post Why the Sterlings Matter

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling doubled down on bigotry this week, disparaging NBA icon Magic Johnson for his HIV positive status, and saying that Johnson and other African-American entrepreneurs have done little to assist the black community. Sterling’s latest rantings made clear the depth of his personal prejudices, and that his racist remarks on a surreptitiously recorded telephone call were no anomaly.

Blog Post Percentage thinking the US has fulfilled MLK Jr.’s vision drops to pre-Obama election levels; what happened?

When Barack Obama was running for President in April of 2008, slightly more than a third of the adults in the US thought that the vision of Martin Luther King Jr. as outlined in his “I Have a Dream” speech, had been fulfilled.  Just before Obama was sworn in as President in January of 2009, the perception that the King vision had already been fulfilled had swelled to nearly half of all adults in the US.  Perceptions of African Americans improved dramatically during this period increasing 30 points to 65% between April 2008 and January 2009.

Blog Post Shirley Sherrod: An American Tale of Redemption and Courage

Shirley Sherrod, as most of us know by now, is the Agriculture Department official vilified this week after a distorted video posted by right-wing blogger Andrew Breitbart went viral. When the facts were in, it was clear that Breitbart had engaged in an intentional and callous attempt to smear Ms. Sherrod, an African American, and the NAACP with a false charge of racism.

Blog Post Kicking Up a Storm on Immigration

Farewell World Cup.

You will be sorely missed, although as as European I only have to wait two years instead of four to see my national team, Engalnd, once again spectacularly fail to deliver. Congratulations Spain, and moreover, congratulations to the many immigrants who put in jaw-dropping performances for their adopted countries, despite - in many instances - anti-immigrant rhetoric stirring political waters back home.

Blog Post What is a Recovery Without Widespread Job Growth?

At a time like this, even modest, and potentially temporary, declines in the unemployment rate deserve a round of applause.  Well, unless the decline in the unemployment rate only brings it back to where it was for the first three months of the year.  And unless the rate remains significantly higher for people who had been stranded furthest from opportunity even before the recession.  So, maybe a golf clap?

Blog Post Trayvon Martin's Tragic Killing, through the Media Looking Glass

 6997626167_cd97ae8988.jpg
This op-ed was originally published by McClatchy  

The mainstream media have played a mostly positive role in covering the tragic and senseless killing of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed, 17-year-old African-American boy shot to death by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Fla. After a slow start, reporters have uncovered new facts and asked tough questions, including about Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee's refusal to arrest Trayvon's killer.

Blog Post Racial Discrimination by Banks Is Worsening the Foreclosure Crisis

4393414152_7cf3eb4672.jpg

Is there a house in your neighborhood that everybody hates to walk past? You know, the one with broken and boarded up windows, trash left to gather on the lawn, and grass so overgrown it’s becoming a habitat for rodents?

If you have a house like that in your community, you know it’s more than just an eyesore. Neglected, vacant houses depress property values throughout the community, and can threaten health and safety. They erode the sense of community and stability that creates vibrant localities, and they hamper economic resiliency. With a national foreclosure crisis still in full swing, such houses are all too common.

Blog Post Measuring What Matters

We measure a lot of stuff in our society—stuff like gasoline prices, Hollywood box office numbers and, Heaven help us, Kim Kardashian’s Twitter followers (there are 20.7 million, in case you’re wondering). But it’s rare that we try to measure our progress in achieving the American ideal of opportunity, especially when it comes to our nation’s young people.

Blog Post Beyond Colorism: Beauty and the Many Shades of Brown


Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o discusses colorism at the Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon

In the era of Michelle Obama, first lady of the United States, some black women see themselves as beautiful, strong, and intelligent. They are also combating racial stereotypes that are perpetuated within their communities and are now coming into their own. They are now seen as industry leaders within science, business, education, social justice, entertainment, and more. However, many of them have not been able to see their own beauty past the color of their skin. What does beauty mean in the black community and how does colorism affect our livelihood?

Blog Post A Tale of Two Covers


So these two magazines arrived at my house over the weekend. The juxtaposition is amazing. The new issue of The Atlantic touts a cover story on "The Future of Work," which it illustrates with a photo of three white guys in business suits standing over a woman who's dutifully typing at a laptop. In other words, the "future" of work, as this cover imagines it, looks a lot like the 1950s--laptop notwithstanding.

Contrast that with the December 2013 cover of Fast Company, which features "Secrets of the Most Productive People" and depicts musician, producer and burgeoning business mogul Pharrell Williams.

Blog Post Is There A Problem? Racial Profile Cases Take Center Stage in the City of New York

Barneys New York was accused of racial profiling 19-year-old Trayon Christian, an engineering student of Queens, NY, and 21 year old nursing student and Brooklyn native Kayla Phillps who alleged that they were harassed by undercover cops after purchasing merchandise. Christian, said that he knew exactly what he wanted before stepping foot into the upscale retailer on April 29. He coveted for a Ferragamo belt with a silver buckle and reversible black and white strap, which was seen being worn by popular hip hop rapper “Juelz Santana. Two months prior, Phillips was approached by undercover officers after purchasing at $2500.00 orange suede Céline handbag.

Blog Post Public Skeptical About Incarceration Policies

By Jhanidya Bermeo

With more than 1.5 million people currently in prison, the United States maintains the highest prison population of any country in the world by far. The International Centre for Prison Studies calculates that for every 100,000 individuals in the United States, 716 will be in prison. These numbers amount to a prison occupancy capacity level of 99%, with budgetary costs close to 7 billion dollars. According the Bureau of Justice Statistics, incarceration rates have been decreasing by 1% - 2% for three consecutive years since 2012. This slight decrease has been attributed to a changing legislative and public mindset in recent years, a mindset which has emphasized curbing the excessive growth of the prison system. This emphasis is thought to be due in part by state and federal level budgetary restrictions, decreasing crime rates, and a more lenient attitude towards low-level non-violent drug offenses. Though recent public opinion polls about the criminal justice system are lacking, we can draw insights from several studies conducted in the last decade, particularly on attitudes towards incarceration and non-violent drug offenses. 

To read more, visit Public Opinion Monthly page.

Blog Post In Trayvon’s Name: Tools for Turning Outrage to Action


Photo courtesy of Flickr/David Shankbone (CC-BY-2.0) 

A Florida jury’s acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin has sparked protests around the nation and a highly personal statement from President Obama. One of the protesters’ demands is for an investigation of whether Trayvon Martin’s killing violated federal civil rights laws, and the U.S. Justice Department is reportedly investigating that possibility.

Blog Post SCOTUS Decision on DNA Collection from Arrested Individuals and the Impact on Black Men and Boys


A DNA collection kit

Amid many recent challenges to Fourth Amendment protections against warrantless or unreasonable search and seizure, including revelations of widespread National Security Agency internet and telephone surveillance and the Department of Justice subpoena of phone records from Associated Press journalists, earlier this month the Supreme Court ruled on a case that tests the limits of personal privacy from the state.

Blog Post Public Opinion on Social Issues and Public Policy: 20 Charts you should see (Part 1)

From immigration reform to God and the Superbowl, public opinion matters and these charts give you the headlines you should know if you care about or work on social issues. 

By Eleni Delimpaltadaki Janis 

Significant Gains in Support for Citizenship for Undocumented Immigrants 

 

Blog Post Women Hold Up Half the Sky

In light of International Women’s Day and the 54th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, on Tuesday, March 9th, the Urban Agenda’s Human Rights Project, The National Council on Research for Women and the Center for Women’s Global Leadership joined together with The Opportunity Agenda to hold a side event at the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

Blog Post New statistical profiles of Immigrants and Hispanics in the U.S. just released

The Pew Hispanic Center just released updated statistical profiles of immigrants (38 million foreign-born residents) and Hispanics (47 million) in the U.S. The profiles include a large spectrum of information such as occupation, industry,  income, poverty, or educational attainment by race and ethnicity in 2008, and how that compares to 2000.

The data is available at http://pewhispanic.org/factsheets/factsheet.php?FactsheetID=58

Blog Post Thursday Immigration Blog Roundup

This week's immigration blog roundup will cover immigrant detention, immigration judges, and more.

Blog Post Lindsay Lohan and the Rest of Us

Over at Tom Paine, Alan Jenkins and Kirsten Levingston (of the Brennan Center) use the recent escapades of Lindsay Lohan as a teachable moment about the inequities in our criminal justice system and the importance of redemption.

At the same time, the system is unequal in its administration. Although
African Americans and whites use illegal substances at about the same
rates, African Americans are far more likely to be incarcerated for
drug offences. Between 1990 and 2000 the number of African Americans
incarcerated in state prisons for drug offenses increased by over 80
percent to 145,000, a number that is 2.5 times higher than that for
whites. Affluent whites like Ms. Lohan are far more likely to be let go
with a warning, to avoid prison time, or to avoid criminal scrutiny at
all. Their substance abuse problems lead them to places like Promises,
not the penitentiary. Race and class, then, play a powerful role in
determining the consequences of unlawful behavior.

Read the rest here.

Blog Post Daily Blog Round-Up 6/6/07
  • Racialicious reports on a New York Times article explaining
    the ways in which New York City's composition of “mom and pop” stores would change drastically under the proposed
    immigration bill. Contrary to previous
    systems of sponsorship for extended family members, this new bill places a higher value on education and skilled labor via a points system. Many of these small businesses continue to thrive today as a
    result of these families ability to bring in new workers. As the study notes, much of the reconstruction of New York City after the bankruptcy and
    property losses of the 1970s can be traced to the influx of new immigrants. These immigrants, many who would have been turned away by the provision of the current bill, play a key role in revitalizing American cities like New York.
  • ChartradioA recent Free Press study
    (pdf) reports on the lack of diversity in radio ownership, attributing the dismal
    figures partly to FCC policy and media consolidation. This study is the first
    complete assessment and analysis of female and minority ownership of full-power
    commercial broadcast stations in the U.S since a ruling from the Third U.S. Circuit Court
    of Appeals in 2004 criticized the lack of diversity on radio, television and
    newspapers.  Since that ruling, the FCC has done next to nothing to improve minority ownership. Currently, women own just 6 percent of commercial broadcast radio stations, and
    racial or ethnic minorities own just 7.7% of them. As a media outlet, dependent on the public airwaves, radio should accurately
    represent the composition of the country, and provide all groups an equal voice in our democracy
  • Feminist blogs reports on an American Journal for Public
    Health study
    which found a correlation between routine, subtle racial
    discrimination and development of chronic illness. The study interviewed Asian-Americans across the U. S. about their personal experience with discrimination and their medical histories,
    concluding that stress from the former may cause problems ranging from
    mental health issues to chronic cardiovascular, respiratory and pain-related health
    trouble. Overlooking the negative
    effects of subtle institutional racism causes great harm for the groups in
    question, and prevents positive solutions through social programs. For example, the recent attempts to allow communities to integrate schools in segregated neighborhoods have not garnered as much support as they should because of people's perceptions about the existence of racism.  Without a true understanding of the problems our society still faces, minorities will continue to be disadvantaged.
  • Bloomberg.com reports on the impact of presidential
    candidates’ attitudes on immigration in the upcoming election. With varied reactions from all walks of life,
    this bill faces several amendment suggestions to soothe responses. Particularly of concern to immigrant advocacy
    groups is the lack of emphasis on family over a point system highlighting education and professional. Deepak Bhargava,
    executive director of Center for Community Change, responded that “the
    emotional resonance of the family issue is profound. This point system is not just wrong-headed
    policy, it is deeply offensive to many people who came to this country as
    immigrants.”
  • In a similar piece, the Gotham Gazette reports on the new
    immigration bills and advocacy groups’ reactions. Many groups in New York expressed dismay over the point
    system, unhappy about a bill that does not stress family reunification. In response, Chung-Wha Hong, executive
    director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said that “the proposed
    bargain…undermines our family-based immigration system.”
Blog Post Daily Blog Round-Up 6/7/07
  • Miagra Matters makes an important point, noting the core
    values central to the immigration debate, and how historical precedent of
    Reagan’s Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 could help shape new
    laws. Miagra underscores the values that
    current legislation should be building on, including the fairness inherent in strengthening
    workers’ rights and workplace enforcement of labor laws, ending the temporary
    guest worker program, and finding a quota that accurately reflects the
    country’s true labor needs. In political
    discussion, our values are often overlooked and confused in the process of
    getting a bill passed. Immigration
    legislation will affect many people who greatly contribute to this country’s
    initiatives, and we have to continue to respect and uphold the fairness and
    opportunity this country stands for – not divide and exploit people just
    because it’s economically convenient. By
    continuing to support programs in education and child care, this country can
    truly benefit from the diversity and commitment of many different groups of
    people.
  • The Pew Research Center reports on their recent public opinion poll on current immigration legislation
    debated in the Senate. Overwhelming,
    across party lines, a majority of the respondents want a path to citizenship
    for currently undocumented workers if they meet certain conditions. However, respondents were somewhat ambivalent
    about the current bill, with a large minority without an opinion. Therefore, to reflect public opinion accurately, our lawmakers need to recognize that most Americans support sensible reform
    with a path to citizenship – and that basic premise shouldn’t be lost in the
    ongoing debate.
  • Rachel’s Tavern reports on the findings of a recent study
    that showed that of men being treated for breast cancer, African American men
    are more likely to die from the disease than white men. The five-year survival rate was approximately
    90% among white men and 66% among African American men. This finding was attributed to lower access
    to standard treatment, which broadcasts a larger problem: the disparities in
    access to health insurance and health services.  The State of Opportunity in America   (pdf)
    found that African Americans, Hispanics and the poor are more likely than white
    non-poor groups to face barriers to having a regular source of health care, and
    the gaps have increased since 2000. Without adequately addressing such issues, these gaps will continue to
    widen and disproportionately hurt certain populations.
Blog Post Fox News - All Black Congressman Look Alike

Just caught this from TPM TV on YouTube.  Fox News continues to take shoddy journalism to a new level:

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

We wanted to first give a shoutout to Racialicious, which is fast becoming one of our favorite blogs for their great reporting and abundance of good links to reporting on issues of racial justice.

  • Immigrants in the USA Blog reports on the Board of
    Alderman’s Connecticut decision
    to administer identification cards for undocumented
    workers in New Haven. The cards were issued primarily to allow undocumented workers to open bank accounts, as current habits of carrying
    large sums of money on their person make undocumented workers targets for crime.  The decision to help protect undocumented workers is a positive step taken that underlines the empathy needed by government officials to help
    undocumented workers succeed in society. Too often, their plight is overlooked, but with creative solutions such
    as this one, all people will be given the opportunity to prosper.
  • Racialicious reports on a recent George Washington
    University School of Medicine study
    showing that white children were more likely than children of color to be admitted to a hospital for medical conditions that could be
    treated at home, highlighting yet again that disparities exist not only in access to care, but in the quality of care that one receives based on one's race.
  • NytimesincomeThe New York Times featured an interesting reflection on the
    wealth inequalities and increasing gap between the rich and poor. Counter to many economists’ predictions, the amount of wealth going to the rich and super rich is increasing at an unprecedented rate. According to the Congressional Budget
    Office’s dat
    a, in 2004, while households in the lowest quintile of the country
    were making 2 percent more than they were in 1979, the top quartile had increased their income by
    63%. These figures parallel the State of Opportunity in America study (pdf), which also adds that much of the discrepancies can be explained by race.  White households gained more in real income
    than African-American and Hispanic households between 1974 to 2004.
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
    ).
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.
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.
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.
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.

Blog Post Opportunity in Images: Take Two

Earlier this year, we teamed up with students in the Masters in Media Studies program at the New School University here in New York.  As part of a media production class, we became the "client" and the students became graphic designers, tasked with creating images representing the core values of community, equality, and human rights apply to one of three initiatives: Immigration reform, health care equity, and the 2008 election.

Here's a sample of some of the great work they produced.  These images are creative commons licensed (Attribution), and the name of the designer can be found in the description.  We encourage everyone to Remix and Reuse them in your own work.  You can find the full set of images here.

Fernanda-OAGraphic-Larger OA_Buttons_2008Elections_ OA1 OA_Healthcare_1_notext_Braudaway

This is the second time we've worked with students at the New School on creating images illustrative of our Opportunity FrameYou can find past work here.

Blog Post Diversity on Sunday Shows

Following up on our previous post about the lack of diversity on cable news programs, Media Matters has conducted another study, this time analyzing the guests on the four major Sunday news programs: Meet the Press, This Week, Face the Nation and Fox News Sunday.  The results revealed an alarming lack of gender and ethnic diversity among the guests:

sundiv-20070511-gender  sundiv-20070511-eth

Media Matters has more.

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.

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.

Blog Post Daily Blog Round-up
  • ACS blog reports on the 5-4 majority decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber, a case involving sex discrimination in the workplace.  While the gender wage gap has narrowed in the last 30 years, this decision only makes further advances more difficult.  The State of Opportunity in America (pdf) cites that in 2003, a women’s average wage was still only 81% of a man’s average wage.  By continuing to put such roadblocks in the path of possible equal opportunity employers, women and minority groups will have a much harder time fighting for equality in the workforce.
  • Prometheus 6 reports on Color of Change’s continuous efforts to unite the rising black blogosphere and the progressive netroots to combat the Congressional Black Caucus’s democratic debates on Fox News.  Color of Change is pioneering new forms of online activism for racial justice advocates.  Show your support by checking out their site.
  • DMI reports on senators' reactions to the recent immigration proposal (The Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Reform Act (pdf)) and to the NY Times/CBS poll showing a strong majority of American support for providing a path to citizenship for undocumented workers.  DMI discusses the senators' apparent disconnect with this majority, detailing two different amendments to the bill (introduced by Senators Vitter and Coleman), which would have created roadblocks to a compassionate pathway to citizenship that recognizes the contributions immigrants make to our country. 
Blog Post Daily Blog Round-up: 5/31/07
  • Racialicious
    reports on the current lack of minority representation on TV shows,
    especially in light of the recent Emmy nominations.  The achievements of people of color on TV have rarely been recognized by the Emmys (seven winners since 1986), and there continues to be only a
    marginal percentage of actors, writers, and senior-level producers in
    the TV industry.    TV coverage may not seem like
    the most important racial injustice to fight, yet
    seeing one’s own group represented in mainstream America (or not) can have a profound impact on how we view race in America.  When certain groups are rarely depicted in
    prominent TV shows and popular culture, the producers are sending a
    message of how America should look, ignoring the diversity that
    strengthens this country.  This imbalance in media  is even more apparent on major cable and network news.  Media Matters
    conducted a study calculating the ethnicities of the guests on four
    prominent Sunday talk shows.  Not surprisingly, they found a major bias in favor of white guests
    versus any other minority constituency analyzed.  What does that say about whose opinion counts as an authority in our society?
  • Racialicious
    also reports on the wave in lawsuits filed around the country by
    low-paid workers, especially immigrants in large cosmopolitan cities
    like New York City.  These successes exemplify the potential gains of
    immigrants and other low-wage workers when united.  While some may try to pit immigrants against African Americans and low wage workers, by joining forces to tackle our common problems, we can make greater headway and all rise together.
  • The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog
    reports on the problems of the criminal justice system, using the
    situation in Massachusetts where having a Criminal Offender Record
    Information file can limit one’s occupational opportunities, housing
    offers and loan grants, even if the charges were later dropped or the
    person was found not guilty.  Even when modernizing the criminal
    justice system, governments need to consider the implications of a
    criminal record and provide educational and vocational resources to
    give the person the opportunity to change.
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.
Blog Post How do video games perpetuate racial stereotypes?
  • Racialicious questions the effects racial stereotypes have
    when perpetuated in pop culture, like popular video games like Grand Theft Auto. Responding to Deadline Games CEO Chris
    Motte’s post on GameDaily Biz, a site and blog dedicated to the video game
    industry, Racialicious discusses the flood of games that use both sexist and
    racist messages as part of the plot. Few
    video games include African American, Asian American, or Latino main characters
    without employing numerous stereotypes as part of their image. Not just demeaning, but such portrayals
    reinforce the idea that stereotypes are valid and appropriate. When popular culture reflects an inaccurate
    lens, advocates for social change will have to cross that many more obstacles
    for equality. If people start believing
    stereotypes about certain race or gender groups, there will be fewer public
    movements to help truly disadvantaged parties.
  • Ezra Klein points to an interactive game by The New York Times called Points of Entry, in which players learn
    about the proposed point system in the Immigration Bill firsthand.  The game allows players to change key education and employment history
    details in an effort to boost one immigrant’s point total higher than another. The game is one of many in a growing trend
    to use interactive online games to educate audiences and motivate them to advance social change. In Darfur is Dying, players choose a
    Darfurian to try to either forage for water, trying to avoid getting captured,
    or support a camp for seven days with the imminent threat of an attack. Games for Change is an organization which
    provides “support, visibility and shared resources to organizations and
    individuals using digital games for social change.
  • As a social worker coordinating anti-hate crime programs,
    Marshall Wong uses his family’s immigration struggles to drive his work. In this Dreams Across America video, Marshall explains the
    xenophobia his parents and grandparents received, and the ways in which they
    fought back.
Blog Post Van Jones as Green Jobs Czar

Brentin Mock at The American Prospect reports on the nomination of West Coast green jobs and urban revitalization advocate Van Jones to the White House position of Green Jobs Czar. Van Jones is the founder of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and Green For All.  He is author of the New York Times Bestseller The Green Collar Economy.

Blog Post Podcast: Participate in a Conversation About Health Equity

On Thursday, The Opportunity Agenda will record the 7th edition of Opportunity Radio - our monthly podcast.  In this edition, Brian Smedley, Research Director and co-founder of The Opportunity Agenda, and director of the Institute of Medicine study "Unequal Treatment," will talk with Rinku Sen, executive director of the Applied Research Center and publisher of Color Lines magazine, about the issue of health care disparities.

Brian and Rinku will define health disparities, discuss the scope of the problem, and explore what Rinku and ARC are doing to combat disparities and help all Americans achieve health equity - or equality in access to, and quality of, care.  During this conversation, we would  like Brian and Rinku to answer questions posed by you, our readers. 

If you have a question about equity, access, and the role that race, ethnicity, and gender play in American health care, please post your question in the comments.  Brian and Rinku will do their best to provide answers to your questions during their conversation.  If any questions are not addressed during out podcast, we'll do out best to answer those questions in the comments or through an additional blog post.

This is a topic not often addressed in health care debates or in the blogosphere.  Even health policy blogs frequently gloss over the topic or avoid it alltogether.  Never the less, it is an important issue affecting millions of Americans every day and in many places across the country it is an issue that is getting worse.

No question is too big or small, and we genuinely want to hear from you on this issue.  If you'd like to become more informed before diving into the conversation, here are some facts and resources to get you started:

Read our complete fact sheet.

  • While about 21% of white Americans were uninsured at any point in 2002, communities of color were more likely to be uninsured at any point (including 28% of African Americans, 44% of Hispanic Americans, 24% of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and 33% of American Indians and Alaska Natives), and are more likely to be dependant upon public sources of health insurance.
  • While Hispanic children constitute less than one-fifth of children in the United States, they represent over one-third of uninsured children.  Among children in fair or poor health who lack insurance (nearly 570,000 children in 2002), over two-thirds are Hispanic.
  • More than 11 million immigrants were uninsured in 2003, contributing to one-quarter of the U.S. uninsured. The uninsurance rate among immigrants increased dramatically in the late 1990s, following the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, which imposed a five-year limit on most new immigrants’ ability to participate in public health insurance programs. Prior to and shortly following passage of the Act (between 1994 and 1998), immigrants accounted for about one-third of the increase in the number of uninsured individuals. Between 1998 and 2003 they accounted for 86% of that growth.
  • Foreign-born people are 2.5 times more likely than the native-born to lack health insurance, a gap that remains unchanged since 1993.
  • African Americans, Hispanics, and the poor and near poor (of all racial and ethnic groups) are more likely than white non-poor groups to face barriers to having a regular source of health care. These gaps have increased since 2000. Over 42% of Hispanic poor and 37% of Hispanic non-poor people lacked a regular source of health care in 2001 and 2002, an increase of more than 30% and 18%, respectively, since 1995 and 1996.
  • During this same period, the percentage of poor and near-poor African Americans and whites without a regular source of health care went largely unchanged. But these groups were up to 75% more likely than non-poor African Americans and whites to lack a regular source of health care in 2001 and 2002.
  • Minorities are less likely to receive necessary procedures than whites but more likely to receive undesirable treatment than whites, such as limb amputation for diabetes.
  • African-American heart patients are less likely than white patients to receive certain kinds of care, such as diagnostic procedures, revascularization procedures, and thrombolytic therapy, even if they have similar patient characteristics.
  • Minorities are less likely to be put on waiting lists for kidney transplants or to receive dialysis.

Read our complete fact sheet.

Blog Post Two Videos

   

Two videos for you today.  The first is a travelogue of the "Hear Me Now Gulf Coast Listening Tour" by Diana Nikkah.  We sent Diana on tour to record the experiences of those affected by Hurricane Katrina and their struggle to rebuild their lives.  The short film was recently screened at the Impact Festival in New York City. 

This video - and more - is also available on our YouTube Channel - Opportunity TV.  Give it a visit, and let us know about any opportunity-related or socially conscious videos you're watching.

The second video is a trailer for the documentary American Blackout, which chronicles the tactics of voter disenfranchisement employed during the 2000 presidential election.  If the trailer piques your interest, Color of Change has lots of action links around the movie.  You can host a house party to screen the movie, sign-up as a video "poll-watcher" for the upcoming election, and more.

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.

Blog Post Daily Blog Roundup

Spencer Overton at the BlackProf blog  has an update on the Georgia voter ID law. Professor Overton links to an NPR interview he did on the subject yesterday, as well as a forthcoming article on voter identification.

Sara Solon at DMI Blog also tackles the supposed menace of "voter fraud," writing about how such ID laws are disenfrachising all sorts of folks - and not just poor, rural voters or people of color.  As a bonus, she also links to Bronx Defender (And DMI fellow) Ezekial Edwards' interiew on WBAI about how the the census count of prisoners is distorting our democracy in other ways.  Longtime Opportunity Agenda readers will remember that we covered this issue in the spring with an article by Kirsten Levingston of the Brennan Center.

Ezra Klein has a must-read about changes in Wal-Mart's employee health coverage, and what it means generally for the health security of working Americans.  You should read the whole piece, but here's a quote:

Among the most striking findings outlined in Wal-Mart’s 2007 benefits booklet is the substantial health care cost a low-paid Wal-Mart worker would be forced to pay under the so-called ‘Value’ plan. A typical individual Wal-Mart worker who enrolls in the Value Plan will face high upfront costs because of a series of high deductibles, including a minimum $1,000 deductible for individual coverage, a $1,000 in-patient deductible per visit, a $500 out-patient surgical deductible per visit, a $300 pharmacy deductible, and a maximum out of pocket expense of $5,000 for an individual per year.

In total, when factoring the maximum out-of-pocket expense and the cost of the yearly premium ($598 a year for an individual under the Value Plan), a typical full-time worker (defined by Wal-Mart as 34 hours) who earns 10.11 an hour or $17,874 a year, would have pay nearly 30 percent of their total income for health care costs alone.

Incredibly, the health care cost burden actually worsens should an uninsured Wal-Mart worker enroll their family under the Value Plan. Again, because of multiple deductibles for each family member, and when factoring in the cost of the medical premium ($780) and maximum out-of-pocket expense ($10,000), a Wal-Mart worker whose family is insured under the “Value Plan” could pay as much as 60 percent of their total income towards health care costs under Wal-Mart’s most “affordable “health care” plan.

The Insure Blog has some information about the "doughnut hole" - the gap in medicare coverage that many seniors now face. The blog notes that a study by Wolters Klewar Health estimates that 16% of seniors who fall into the hole will discontinue therapy due to the costs.  And for some treatements, that figure may climb as high as 33%.

For more on healthcare, The Century Foundation is hosting this week's edition of The Health Wonk Review, a summary of the best of the health blogosphere.

On a cultural note, Jack Turner of Jack and Jill Politics alerts us to the unfortunate news that Aaron Mcgruder's Boondocks comic strip may have come to an end.  Fortunately the reason is that Boondocks was renewed for a second season on the Cartoon Network and a Boondocks movie might be in the works.  The first blog I ever wrote was about the Washington Post's boneheaded suspension of  Boondocks.  It's unfortunate that the second time I blog about Boondocks may be to chronicle its permanent end.  At least this time McGruder is going out on his own terms and taking his brilliant cartoon to the next level.

Also take a look at Black Prof Spencer Overton's analysis of racial diversity in Grey's Anatomy.

Finally, economist Jared Bernstein of the Economic Policy Institute proposes a $3000 solution to Treasury Secretary Paulson's $64,000 question: why are Americans unhappy with the current state of the economy?

Blog Post For Better or Worse

If you are in DC and have some free time on September 28th, we recommend you check out this (free) forum at the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.  It should be an engaging and informative discussion about the impact of race, poverty, and gender on African American women and their families.  Details below.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

For Better or For Worse: The Implications of Poverty, Gender and Race on African American Women and Their Families

When: Thursday, September 28, 2006, 4 PM – 6 PM

Where: Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
            1629 K Street, NW
            10th Floor – conference room
            Washington, DC 20006

RSVP: RSpraggins@deltafoundation.net or call (202) 347-1337.

The Forum Discussion brings thought-provoking speakers, scholars, activists and community leaders to discuss poverty, race and gender and their impact on African American women and their families. These discussions promise to generate personal reflection and social action within our communities.

This event will show the depths and varieties of women’s poverty.   A distinguished panel will discuss and examine the connection between the social, economic, cultural and political impact of poverty on African American women and their families

Moderated by:  Dr. Chester Hartman, Director of Research, Poverty & Race Research Action Council, and co-editor of There is No Such Thing as a Natural Disaster: Race, Class, and Hurricane Katrina just published by Routledge.

Confirmed panelists include:

Dr. Roderick Harrison, Director of Databank at The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington, DC.

Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever, Director of the Poverty, Education and Social Justice Programs at The Institute for Women Policy Research in Washington, DC.

Dr. William Spriggs, Chair of the Economics Department at Howard University in Washington, DC.

Dr. Susan Popkin, Senior Research Associate, Metropolitan Housing and Communities Planning center at the Urban Institute in Washington, DC.

A Q&A session will follow.

Sponsored by: Delta Research and Educational Foundation, The Center for Research on African American Women, and The Poverty & Race Research Action Council

Blog Post Opportunity Radio: After the Storm

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Episode 6 of our podcast, Opportunity Radio, is now available.

After the Storm: A Conversation with Author David Dante Troutt

In this edition of Opportunity Radio, Creative Director Phoebe Eng talks with Rutgers law professor David Dante Troutt about his new anthology, After the Storm: Black Intellectuals Explore the Meaning of Hurricane Katrina  (The New Press).  The author discusses forced migration, geographic disparities, his views on Spike Lee's HBO documentary, and what will be required to rebuild New Orleans as a city of true opportunity.  Also featured: music by singer/songwriter Jonah Smith (30 min).

Subscribe: iTunes | Feedburner

If you have trouble with our subscription links, you can open your iTunes Music Store and search for Opportunity Radio.

Blog Post Pre-Inventing History

You’ve got to admire the conservative echo chamber. In the shadow of a
financial meltdown that McCain and Obama both (correctly) agree stemmed
largely from a lack of governmental oversight of irresponsible
corporate behavior, conservative spinmeisters are blaming the meltdown
on too many loans to minorities, the Community Reinvestment Act, and
the heavy hand of…wait for it…community organizers.

Read the entire post on BlogForOurFuture.

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.

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.

Blog Post Refusal To Participate in Maternal Deaths Review Shows City Has Not Learned from Brooklyn Death

The public recently witnessed the lack of basic care that people are subjected to at Kings County Hospital Center in Brooklyn, New York.  A woman was left for dead in the middle of the hospital’s psychiatric ward waiting room as staff did nothing but walk away.  The evidence in the New York Civil Liberties Union's lawsuit against the city proved that this was not an isolated incident (it just happened to be one of the only ones caught on tape).  Unfortunately, New York City's government is not learning from this catastrophe and taking sufficient steps forward to examine their hospitals - Women's eNews is reporting that the city is refusing to participate in a state review of maternal deaths and racial disparities, despite the fact that New York City has the highest number of maternal deaths and one of the largest populations of African-American patients in the country.

The New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (the same agency that is named in the NYCLU lawsuit as the agency that is responsible for the negligence at Kings County Hospital Center), has refused to participate in the review the Safe Motherhood Initiative is conducting.  Pamela McDonnell, a spokesperson for Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) said:

We chose not to participate in the Safe Motherhood Initiative simply because we already participate in a number of established monitoring and review processes, measures and collaboratives.

However, one of the main points in the NYCLU's complaint was that the city had insufficient monitoring and oversight measures at its hospitals - it was this lack of oversight that led to last month's death at Kings County, and it could be part of the cause of numerous maternal deaths at city hospitals.

Blog Post Monday Health Blog Roundup

•   This past week there have been a number of news articles about the Black AIDS Institute study on the racial disparities among those living with HIV/AIDS in the United States.  The New York Times pointed to the part of the study that said that if one only counted the African American population in the U.S., the country would have the 16th highest rate of people with AIDS:

Nearly 600,000 African-Americans are living with H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, and up to 30,000 are becoming infected each year. When adjusted for age, their death rate is two and a half times that of infected whites, the report said. Partly as a result, the hypothetical nation of black America would rank below 104 other countries in life expectancy.

The Washington Post's coverage of the study focused on the Institute’s criticism of the federal government’s approach to addressing the AIDS crisis in black communities:

African Americans with HIV -- at least 500,000 -- are more numerous than in seven of the 15 "target countries" in the Bush administration's global AIDS initiative, which has spent about $19 billion overseas in the past five years.

A DMI Blog posting last Thursday also discussed the study and questioned whether the next President would choose to focus on tackling racial disparities in the American HIV/AIDS population, or would continue to ignore the issue:

The bottom line is that the HIV epidemic in the US continues to spread, and at a rate greater than was previously thought. The real measure of political leaders and the American people is if this bad news spurs good action – the establishment of a comprehensive and accountable national AIDS strategy that will eliminate barriers to effective prevention, generate adequate resources, and hold the government accountable for ending this epidemic.

The Black AIDS Institute study can be accessed here.  To learn more about the general prevalence of health disparities in the U.S., read The Opportunity Agenda fact sheet Healthcare and Opportunity.

•    The Kaiser Health Disparities Report has pointed out that new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the presence of racial disparities in the current U.S. infant mortality rates.  According to the new data, black infants are 2.4 times more likely to die before they turn one year old than white infants are:

CDC officials say the higher rates in large part can be attributed to low birthweights, shorter gestation periods and premature births. Experts say that it is difficult to identify a link between race and higher infant mortality but noted that higher rates of poverty, limited access to health care and dietary differences are possible contributors.

•    An editorial in last week’s Los Angeles Times discusses how rising food prices are actually likely to increase obesity rates in the U.S., not decrease them.  In many other parts of the world, an increase in food prices leads to an increase in rates of hunger (not obesity).  However, the article points out that obesity has a lot to do with the type of food people consume, not just the amount:

Obesity isn't simply about too much food. It's about the type of food, how it's prepared and the balance of calorie intake with physical activity. Stress and social conditions can also play a role.

Obesity rates have long been more prevalent in poor communities in the U.S. - the article also points out that the states that have the highest rates of obesity also have the highest proportion of families living in poverty.  People living in poor communities, particularly poor communities of color, must have access to healthy food in order to prevent these health disparities from becoming more extreme.  To learn more about inadequate health care access in communities of color, read the CERD report to the UN, Unequal Health Outcomes in the United States.

•    An essay in The New York Times discusses how the American Medical Association’s apology for its past racism towards black physicians and patients brought to light the historical split between the AMA and the National Medical Association, a group that represents black physicians.  The essay pointed out that while last month’s apology was an important step in bridging the gap between the two organizations, more needs to be done to overcome the inadequate representation of black physicians in the medical profession:

Yet reminders of this rancorous history persist, and the A.M.A.’s apology remains pertinent, if long overdue. Consider this statistic: In 1910, when Abraham Flexner published his report on medical education, African-Americans made up 2.5 percent of the number of physicians in the United States. Today, they make up 2.2 percent. 

Blog Post Monday Health Blog Roundup

•    In the past week, there have been numerous reports that call attention to the disparities among those living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S.  The Kaiser Health Disparities Report has linked to a CBS Evening News story on the disproportionate number of African Americans that have HIV or AIDS.  According to the story, blacks account for 49% of new HIV diagnoses, 69% of AIDS cases among ages 13 to 19 and 56% of AIDS cases among ages 20-24.  Despite these high percentages, blacks only make up 13% of the population:

"No matter how you look at it through the lens of gender or sexual orientation or age or socioeconomic class or level of education or region of the country where you live, black folks bear the brunt of the AIDS epidemic in this country," Phill Wilson, founder of the Black AIDS Institute, said. Wilson added that early HIV/AIDS advocates did not send the right HIV prevention and education messages to the black community. "The mischaracterization of the epidemic in the early days ... made black folks think we didn't have to pay attention to the disease," Wilson said.

•    Rates of HIV/AIDS are not only disproportionate in African American communities – The Washington Post is reporting that Hispanics represent 22% of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses, despite only making up 14% of the population.  While the Post notes that HIV rates are highest among blacks, it also claims it is harder to target enough resources towards Latinos, particularly those who are immigrants, who have been diagnosed with HIV:

Blacks still have the highest HIV rates in the country, but language difficulties, cultural barriers and, in many cases, issues of legal status make the threat in the Hispanic community unique. For those who arrived illegally, in particular, fear of arrest and deportation presents a daunting obstacle to seeking diagnosis and treatment.

•    On a more positive note, the Senate passed a bill that calls for a reauthorization of federal funding for a program that supports community health centers, the Deseret News reported last Tuesday.  The bill, sponsored by Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), allows for continued support for health centers that provide affordable and quality care for many Americans, particularly  those with low income:

Hatch said that since 2001, increased funding has enabled community health centers to treat 4 million new patients in more than 750 communities across the nation. His bill reauthorizes funding for the program for five more years.

•    State governments were also discussing implementing health care measures this past week – in Massachusetts, the Council on Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, chaired by State Senator Dianne Wilkerson and State Representative Byron Rushing, met on July 21 to discuss the recommendations of the Special Legislative Commission on Health Disparities.  According to A Healthy Blog, the Council discussed various successes and failures in the state's health care reform:

The presenters all pointed to the success of health care access
expansion in Massachusetts as an important step in disparities
elimination efforts, but also noted the need to continue working to
address quality, cultural competence, and social context problems.

•    According to The Health Care Blog, The Century Foundation has announced that it is creating a working group to establish a blueprint for Medicare reform.  Maggie Mehar, author of HealthBeat Blog, will direct the group and plans to review issues such as:

Revising Medicare’s physician fee schedule to pay more for primary care, palliative care, and co-ordination and management of chronic diseases.

Rethinking Medicare’s fee-for-service system to reward doctors for quality, not volume.

Creating an independent Comparative Effectiveness Institute that reviews head-to-head testing of drugs, devices, and procedures to ensure that they are effective.

Identifying and rewarding hospitals that provide better outcomes and higher patient satisfaction at a lower cost while helping other hospitals meet benchmarks.

Blog Post Monday Health Blog Roundup

•    The New York Times is reporting that a recent study of the American health care system, conducted by the Commonwealth Fund, has found that while the U.S. has the most expensive health system in the world, the quality it delivers is grossly inferior to other industrialized nations’ health care.  The report highlighted the fact that many of the improvements made in the U.S. health care system over the years, such as decreasing the number of preventable deaths, dwarfed in comparison to the greater achievements other countries made:

Other countries worked hard to improve, according to the Commonwealth Fund researchers. Britain, for example, focused on steps like improving the performance of individual hospitals that had been the least successful in treating heart disease. The success is related to “really making a government priority to get top-quality care,” [Karen] Davis, [president of the Commonwealth Fund] said.

The report also emphasized the inefficiencies in the U.S. health care system and the role they play in diminishing quality:

The administrative costs of the medical insurance system consume much more of the current health care dollar, about 7.5 percent, than in other countries…

Bringing those administrative costs down to the level of 5 percent or so as in Germany and Switzerland, where private insurers play a significant role, would save an estimated $50 billion a year in the United States, Ms. Davis said.

•    An article in Friday’s Washington Post discusses the potential that community health providers have to save states millions of dollars in health care costs by shifting some of their health programs’ emphasis to preventing illness.  A recent Trust for America’s Health report found that nonprofit community programs could have an enormous role in developing health initiatives such as anti-smoking laws, healthy eating and physical activity programs.  However, despite the fact that many of these programs target at risk groups in impoverished areas, they face a serious lack of funding:

The researchers found that many such programs lack funding, a chronic problem for many preventive health initiatives.

"People think preventive health care pays off 20 or 30 years from now, but this shows you get the money back almost immediately, and then the savings grow bigger and bigger," [Senator Tom] Harkin [D-Iowa] said.

To learn more about the importance of community health programs, please see the previous posting on The State of Opportunity titled Local Progress in Tackling Health Disparities.

•    An opinion piece in yesterday’s Chicago Tribune calls attention to the health disparities among women with HIV.  Black women have higher rates of HIV, despite the fact that studies have shown that they do not engage in “risky sex” any more than white women do:

A black woman in a poor neighborhood, for example, who engages in the lowest levels of risky behavior is dramatically more likely to acquire a sexually transmitted disease than higher-risk women in communities with low rates of infection, according to public health experts…

In short, who you are, and where you live and, consequently, the sexual partners you choose, matters when it comes to HIV prevention.

Blog Post Lack of Basic Care Leads to Death at Brooklyn Hospital

On June 18, 49-year-old Esmin Green was admitted to the Kings County Hospital Center psychiatric ward.  After waiting to be seen for 24 hours, she fell to the floor, began to convulse and then passed out.  Two security guards and one doctor walked into the waiting room, looked at her and then walked away.  After one hour, a nurse finally came over, kicked Ms. Green, and then proceeded to get a stretcher.  Shortly afterwards, Ms. Green was pronounced dead.  The entire incident was documented on a security camera, and is now on YouTube, thanks to the Associated Press.

Hospital officials said they fired three of the workers and suspended another three, the New York Times reported on July 7.  However, it is clear that Ms. Greene’s death is far from an isolated incident at Kings County Hospital.  The New York Civil Liberties Union, in conjunction with Mental Hygiene Legal Service and the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis LLP, filed suit against the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (the agency that runs Kings County Hospital) in May 2007.  The plaintiffs claimed that patients at the hospital’s psychiatric facilities were subject to conditions of squalor and filth, as well as abuse by hospital employees.  A summary of the case can be found on the NYCLU website

Blog Post Health Blog Roundup

Last Thursday, the American Medical Association issued an official apology for its past racism toward African American patients and physicians.  Along with the apology were the findings of a study conducted by the Commission to End Health Care Disparities, a group that the AMA and the National Medical Association (an organization representing black physicians) co-chair.  The study has found that between 1846 and the 1960s, the AMA's past transgressions included

substandard care for black patients or segregated them to black hospitals; a lack of support for black physicians and for the Civil Rights Act; and exclusion of blacks from medical schools, hospital staffs and residency programs.

The apology can be found here, and the study is available in the online version of the Journal of the American Medical Association. To learn more about the work of the Commission to End Health Care Disparities, go to the AMA website.

It is also worth noting that a number of doctors were opposed to the AMA's discriminatory policies in the 1960s.  A group of physicians picketed the AMA convention in Atlantic City in 1963 in order to call attention to the AMA's racist acts.  Among these physicians was Dr. Robert Smith, a leader of the Medical Committee for Human Rights in Mississippi (MCHR).  The MCHR grew out of the Medical Committee for Civil Rights, and organized a number of volunteers to come down to Mississippi to provide care to black patients who were not being treated in their communities:

Though MCHR volunteers were not licensed to practice professionally in Mississippi, they could offer emergency first-aid anywhere and anytime to civil rights workers, community activists, and summer volunteers. Working without pay, they cared for wounded protesters and victims of police and Klan violence, assisted the ill, visited jailed demonstrators, and provided a medical presence in Black communities, some of which had never seen a doctor. They established and staffed health information and pre-natal programs in many Black communities. Appalled at the separate and unequal care provided to Blacks by Mississippi's segregated system, they soon involved themselves in political struggles to open up and improve Mississippi's health care system for all.

The Health Care Blog has a posting that discusses My Health Direct, the web-based solution to overcrowding in emergency departments.  The idea of My Health Direct is for hospitals to use an online appointment system to re-route their Medicaid and uninsured patients to community and safety-net clinics.  According to the blog posting, the program has been successful in increasing patients' access to primary care and improving the quality of care and treatment outcomes for those patients:

More than 12,000 health appointments have been made with the vast majority of these appointments for patients who are uninsured or enrolled in a Medicaid managed care plan. These appointments were made for patients who either presented for care with a non-emergent condition, or needed follow-up care in a primary care setting.

A utilization review of My Health Directs impact demonstrated that more than 92% of patients who received an appointment did not present to the ED again. Patients who obtained appointments were more than 4 times more likely to actually attend their appointment compared to previous referral efforts from the ED. Lastly, there was a 25% reduction in repeat non-emergent visits of those patients assisted by My Health Direct.

A recent Health Beat blog posting titled "The Realities of Rural Medicine" discusses the unequal access to health care for people who live in rural areas.  The study on rural health care, conducted by the Center for Studying Health System Change, found that both patients and doctors feel significant strain in living in communities that do not have enough primary care options.

The Washington Post is reporting that Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry is trying to limit the prevalence of fast food restaurants in South Central Los Angeles by placing a moratorium on new fast food locations in the area.  Perry is a representative for District 9, an overwhelmingly African American and Latino constituency that has significant health disparities in comparison to the wealthier West L.A. area:

Perry quoted research showing that although 16 percent of restaurants in prosperous West L.A. serve fast food, they account for 45 percent in South L.A. Experts see an obvious link to a health department study that found that 29 percent of South-Central children are obese, compared with 23 percent county-wide.

Blog Post Monday Health Blog Roundup

• A recent study has found that black men are more likely than white men and women to be unaware that they are suffering from high blood pressure, according to an article in Wednesday’s Reuters Health.  The researchers claim that this disparity stems from the fact that men are less likely than women to believe that they need to see a doctor.   Moreover, men, particularly African American men, are less likely to have access to a primary care physician:

What is not good, the researchers say, is that men were less likely than women to have a regular doctor, and they were four to five times more likely to say they had no doctor because they did not need one.

Study participants who did have a regular doctor were nearly four times more likely to know they had high blood pressure, and more than eight times more likely to be taking medication for it.

• The Kaiser Health Disparities Report has linked to a study on the prevalence of asthma that appeared in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.  By looking at 10 different racial and ethnic groups in New York City, researchers examined how housing and neighborhood conditions might contribute to disparities among asthma patients:

Researchers found that Puerto Rican-Americans, other Hispanics and blacks had the highest levels of asthma, while Mexican-Americans, Chinese-Americans and Asian/Indians had the lowest levels. They also found that reducing minorities' exposure to deteriorated housing conditions and increasing levels of community unity, as well making improvements in other household factors, reduce asthma rates among blacks and Puerto Rican-Americans.

• An article in Saturday's New York Times discusses how rising gas prices have led to cuts in various services for the elderly.   Agencies have been forced to cut back on many programs, such as Meals on Wheels, because of the rising costs of transportation.  Elderly people, particularly those who are homebound, are among those most affected by these cuts, since they rely not only on the programs but on at-home volunteers as well:

Val J. Halamandaris, president of the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, said that rising fuel prices had become a significant burden for the 7,000 agencies represented by his group, with some forced to close and others compelled to shrink their service areas or reduce face-to-face visits with patients. A recent survey by the group concluded that home health and hospice workers drove 4.8 billion miles in 2006 to serve 12 million clients. “If we lose these agencies in rural areas, we’ll never get them back,” Mr. Halamandaris said.

The Washington Post is reporting that New Jersey is one of the states facing the harshest effects of the health care crisis - hospital closures.   New Jersey's state hospitals are required to treat any person that walks through their doors, and in turn the state is supposed to reimburse the hospitals.   However, the state’s budget crisis has led to cuts in reimbursements, and ultimately to hospital closures:

Six [hospitals] have closed in the past 18 months, and half of those remaining are operating in the red…

The situation has come to a head in this city [Plainfield, NJ] of 48,000 people -- majority black, largely poor and with many new immigrants moving in. The city's hospital of 130 years, Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center, is slated to become the latest casualty of this faltering system, closing its acute-care facility later this year. The obstetrics and pediatrics wards have already shut, and equipment is being packed up and wheeled out.

New Jersey is not the only state that has a problem of hospital closures.  To learn about the extent of the problem of hospital closures in New York, visit The Opportunity Agenda's GoogleMaps mashup site, Health Care That Works.

Blog Post Local Progress in Tackling Health Disparities

Earlier this month the Atlas Project at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice released a report documenting the state of health inequalities in the United States.  The report (which was previously mentioned in a post on The State of Opportunity blog) titled “Disparities in Health and Health Care among Medicare Beneficiaries” can be accessed here

The report calls attention to the fact that health care reform is not only about expanding insurance coverage and improving efficiency standards for health spending – it is also about addressing the unequal access to and the quality of health care in the U.S.  As the Dartmouth report articulates, health disparities are widespread and extensive.  There are higher rates of obesity and smoking among African Americans than there are among whites; this leads to blacks experiencing higher rates of diabetes and cardiovascular disease than whites do.  Blacks have poorer access to primary and specialty care, and this limits their ability to manage any chronic illnesses they might have.  Blacks also have poorer access to advanced surgical solutions, and are more likely to face unfavorable, last resort treatments like leg amputation for diabetes.

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.

Blog Post In Case You Missed It . . .

In an article with stunningly bad framing, the AP manages to blame poor african americans for getting ripped off by the insurance companies.  While the overall framing leaves much to be desired, the article does convey some important information, and a quote by our own Alan Jenkins, buried near the bottom, clearly states what should have been the story's principle message:

Alan Jenkins, a former Justice Department official in the Clinton
administration who lobbies for minority opportunities, said AP's
analysis reinforces a little-discussed reality exposed by Katrina.

"The
promise of opportunity isn't equally available," he said. "Race and
income has made a big difference in people's ability to start over."

Jenkins said state and federal agencies need to adopt different techniques to reach historically disadvantaged neighborhoods.

The Republic of T has about 5 great posts up analyzing the New Jersey decision on civil unions/gay marriage.  BlackProf has some good stuff on this issue as well.

Radio Open Source ran a fantastic show this week about identity politics in the '06 elections.  Listen to the podcast (mp3).

Finally, the Economic Policy Institute released a paper analyzing minimum wage research and trends.  The findings include:

There is a growing view among economists that the
minimum wage offers substantial benefits to low-wage workers without
negative effect. Although there are still dissenters, the best recent
research has shown that the job loss reported in earlier analyses does
not, in fact, occur when the minimum wage is increased. There is little
question that the overall impact of a minimum wage is positive, as the
following facts make clear:

If the minimum wage were increased nationally to $7.25:

  • 14.9 million workers would receive a raise,
  • 80% of those affected are adults age 20 or over, and
  • 7.3 million children would see their parents income rise.
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."

Blog Post Dr. King's Modern Legacy

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

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

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

Blog Post Diversity in Cable News

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

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

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

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

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

Blog Post Opportunity Agenda in the News

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blog Post Building Bridges Between Immigrants and African Americans

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

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

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

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

Blog Post Remembering Japanese Internment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For further resources, see NAATA’s educational website.

Blog Post Blackosphere vs. the Whitosphere

There is a fascinating discussion going on over at MyDD about race in the blogosphere.  Why is it that the two most influential "progressive" blogs are 97% white.  Why does a vibrant, primarily "black" blogosphere exist in parallel to the "whitosphere?"  What does it say about the progressive movement that there is little connection between those two blogospheres?

The conversation veers into presidential politics, but this is a fascinating self-examination of how race is playing out in the new tools of a supposedly more participatory democracy.

Blog Post Separate and Unequal Transport

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

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

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

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

Blog Post Update: (Google) Mapping Health Care Disparities

We've only been live for a few days, but Health Care That Works, our Google Maps Mashup of health care disparities and hospital closings in NYC, is already getting a lot of attention.  So far we've been featured on the following blogs:

If you haven't yet, please check out the site, email your friends about it, and take the time to send an email to your state representatives.

Blog Post Mapping Disparity - Healthcarethatworks.org

HealthCareThatWorksToday we're happy to announce the launch of a new project that we've had in the works for  a  few months now - www.healthcarethatworks.org.

Health Care That Works is a  new website designed to visually illustrate the economic and racial disparities that exist in New York City's health care system, and drive all New Yorker's of conscience to take action by emailing their elected officials.

The site is a Google Map mash-up
that takes data on NYC hospital closures between 1985 and 2005, and
overlays it on an interactive city-wide map that can display either the racial or economic demographics of the Five Boroughs.  Using this tool, visitors can visually see how hospital closures disproportionately impact poor neighborhoods and communities of color.  Text on the sidebar guides the user through each decade and demographic overlay, explaining the changing conditions of the city and the impact that closures have on underserved communities.

But the site is more than just a visual resource, it is also  a data-rich resource for researchers that contains a variety of reports and fact sheets (as well as data on the patient demographics, payer source, and quality scores for each hospital), a community forum for health care advocates and New Yorkers, and an activism tool that encourages New Yorkers to write to their elected officials in support of creating a health care system that works equally for all.

We think that Health Care That Works can be a valuable resource that sheds light on the underreported issues of racial and economic disparities in health care.  Let us know what you think here in the comments, or over in the Health Care That Works forums.

If you have accounts, recommend us on Daily Kos, or give us a Digg.

Blog Post Remembering Dr. King

The blogosphere is abuzz with posts commemorating Dr. King, and applying his work to current problems.  Here are some of our favorites.

At DMI Blog, Ezekial Edwards uses Dr. King's words as a touchstone to talk about the death penalty in New Jersey, and James Carmichael analyzes Democratic Presidential candidate John Edward's speech at the MLK commemoration held at Riverside Church in Harlem.  You can watch a video of Senator Edwards' speech here or download an MP3.

Christopher Bracey at BlackProf uses the King holiday and his experience listening to Dr. King's speeches laid over beats as an opportunity to talk about race and culture.  I'm not sure that I agree with his conclusions. I think he puts too much weight on one medium to convey everything he thinks needs conveying, rather than recognizing a Dr. King "mashup" for what it is - a great tool to bump up awareness and interest in Dr. King's work.  Attitudes about race among the younger generation - which is the most diverse and most tolerant generation in the history of our country - also belie some of his conclusions about the effects of reality TV.  Never the less, it is a thought provoking blog post that we highly recommend reading.

ACS Blog quotes Dr. King to make a valuable point about the relationship between our values as a nation, the opportunities of our citizens, and the public policy we pursue.

Facing South has 6 "surprising facts" about the King Holiday.  I had a vague awareness of numbers 1 and 2.  The rest are quite surprising.

What are you reading about Dr. King today?

Blog Post New Voices Fellowship

Since I know that many of the people reading this site work in the nonprofit sector, I thought I'd pass on this fellowship opportunity.  If you are working in the Gulf Coast, it's a great opportunity to increase your organization's operating capacity and find funding for your work around Hurricane Katrina:

 

NEW VOICES
GULF COAST TRANSFORMATION
FELLOWSHIP PROGRAM

The New Voices
Gulf Coast Transformation Fellowship is a response to the harm and displacement
caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  Eligible nonprofit organizations
will be those located in Alabama, Louisiana, or Mississippi; in three
cities with large numbers of displaced residents (Atlanta, Dallas, or
Houston); or in the Gulf Coast regions of Florida or Texas.  The
New Voices funding will address needs, solve problems, and defend human
rights in six sponsored program areas:  Human Rights, HIV/AIDS,
Immigrant Rights, Racial Justice, Reproductive Rights, and Women’s
Rights.

This grant
opportunity is an initiative of the New Voices National Fellowship,
a program administered by the Academy for Educational Development and
made possible with support from the Ford Foundation.  New Voices
is a national grantmaking initiative focused on leadership development,
nonprofit strengthening, and empowering talented individuals from diverse
backgrounds.  The fellowship enables diverse candidates with compelling
backgrounds or interests to launch a career in social justice, even
as it supports small nonprofits in staffing up for innovative, impactful
human rights work.  A unique aspect of the program is that the
host nonprofit and its proposed Fellow apply jointly for the grant.

Organizations
that conduct policy research and analysis, policy advocacy, litigation,
community organizing, popular education, leadership development, and
demonstration projects with a systems change approach and an evaluation
component are eligible. Organizations that propose to provide only direct
services to individuals are not eligible.

For a complete
overview, please visit the New Voices web site,
http://newvoices.aed.org.

For additional
information or feedback, please contact New Voices staff by phone at
202-884-8051, email us at
newvoices@aed.org. Complete grant applications are due
on Monday, February 5, 2007. 

Blog Post Opportunity Radio Episode 7: Health Equity (Part II)

Part II of our podcast with Rinku Sen of Color Lines Magazine and the Applied Research Center.  You can subscribe to Opportunity Radio on iTunes or Feedburner

If you have suggestions for future podcast topics and guests, leave a comment below.

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Blog Post Opportunity Radio Episode 7: Health Equity

Our latest podcast is up.  You can subscribe to it via iTunes or Feedburner, or listen to it via the embedded player below.  You can find it here on our website.

In this episode, our Research Director and Co-Founder Dr. Brian Smedley talks to Rinku Sen, Executive Director of the Applied Research Center, about race and health care.

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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.

Blog Post Schizophrenia at The Times; Unequal Treatment for the Patients

Over at the New York Times, it looks like the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing.  Readers today may have noticed a distinct schizophrenia between the Times coverage of New York State Hospital closures on the front page and on its editorial pages.  Unfortunately, despite two tries, the Times still fails to get the story right.

The front page notes that while the Berger Commission proposed closing 9 hospitals, other recommendations on "right sizing" 48 other institutions constituted sweeping change that could have profound effects on NY State health care:

The nine hospital closings, with five of them in New York City, have received the most attention, but other elements in the plan could have
greater effects. Stephen Berger, the commission chairman, said at a news conference that far more significant were the commission’s proposals to reshape dozens of other hospitals through mergers, downsizing, the elimination of some services and the addition of others.

“The reason this is a big deal is the 48 reconfigurations,” he said.

Industry
officials agreed with that assessment, and said they were taken aback by the number and detail of changes that some described as micromanaging.

Over on the Op-Ed page, however, the Gray Lady's editorial board praised the Commission for its "modest" and "courageous" actions in reigning in New York's wayward hospital system.  For the editors, the only real problem lies with the legislature - "cowards" who might choose to reject the courageous commission's recommendations. 

Both articles fail to note that the closings and restructuring will likely exacerbate existing health disparities - particularly in major metropolitan areas - and take jobs away from many health care workers.  Both articles also fail to note that the chance of the legislature rejecting the Commision's recommendations are next to zero due to a promised federal bail-out of the system (to the tune of $1.5 Billion) contingent upon the state's acceptance (pdf) and implementation of the commission's recommendations.

Our partners at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest covered this much more thoroughly and eloquently than I could.  Here is a letter they sent to Governor Pataki and Governor Elect Spitzer about yesterday's announcement:

Governor Elect Eliot Spitzer

Governor George Pataki

State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224

Re: The Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century’s Failure to Address Racial Disparities in Access to Health Care

Governor Pataki and Governor Elect Spitzer:

We write today because we are deeply concerned that the recommendations of the New York State Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century (the Berger Commission) did not fully address the disparate impact down-sizing of health care will have on already medically underserved communities
of color and poverty in New York City. Scant resources stand to be further depleted for communities that simply cannot withstand, and should not be required to withstand, any further reduction – particularly without any plan for building health care infrastructure to address the critical health needs in these neighborhoods. 

We appreciate the hard work that the Berger Commission has undertaken to tackle serious financial strains in our health care system. However, priority should have been given to addressing racial disparities in access to health care, disparities which have been known for decades, and which are intolerable in a modern society with resources such as ours.

The tragic disparities in incidence of disease, morbidity, and mortality have been known for many decades. During a period of economic trouble in the late 1970s, experts such as Alan Sager testified before Congress about the dangers of closing urban hospitals that were needed in medically underserved communities. In the early 1980s, communities fought the threatened closure of Sydenham and Metropolitan Hospitals serving Harlem.

In 1993, the now defunct Health Systems Agency (HSA) of New York City issued a final report, “A Framework for Primary Care Needs Analysis in New York City,” which documented gross disparities in access to care and severe health care shortages in communities of color.  On a national level, in 2003, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences issued a report, “Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care,” which crystallized the need to address and remedy disparities in access to care. And, in 2005, Bronx Health Reach published a report, “Separate and Unequal: Medical Apartheid in New York City,” documenting extreme disparities in access to health care institutions in New York City. 

Why,after so many decades of awareness of the terrible problems with racial disparities in health status and access to care, does the state of New York propose a plan that fails to challenge, much less begin to fix, the dire state of our status quo when it comes to racial disparities in health status and access to health care?

Communities such as Central Brooklyn are medically underserved areas by any definition of the term, including the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ definition. Nonetheless, Central Brooklynhas recently suffered losses of critical hospital services. Why, after years of hospital losses and down-sizing in areas like Central Brooklyn, did the state of New York create a Commission that sets in motion further down-sizing without a concomitant mandate to tackle the problem of the underserved?

The debate to ensue around the Commission’s recommendations and the transition in leadership in 2007 presents us with a critical opportunity to focus, and to redirect resources to address critical health care needs in underserved communities in New York City and across the state. We ask that you work together during this period of transition to ensure that the Berger Commission’s down-sizing is not the legacy of this moment. We ask for a moratorium on closures and down-sizing in medically underserved areas until real plans are made for new institutions to fill in the gaps; until plans are created for conducting needs assessments; until plans for primary, ambulatory, and specialized care for underserved populations are developed. We ask that you follow the principle first do no harm.

The Crisis in Central Brooklyn

A number of communities of color in New York City do not have sufficient access to health care facilities or health professionals, resulting in well documented and extreme health disparities. Despite these shortages, the State has made the untenable decision to close financially struggling hospitals, but yet has
made no express commitment to preserve—let alone improve—health services in medically underserved areas, and the health of the poorest New Yorkers will only deteriorate and become a further burden on the safety-net hospitals that escape closure.

Without comprehensive community and health planning, closing hospitals is a short-sighted attempt at saving dollars, as it will immediately overburden nearby hospitals, and over time allow some of the sickest and the poorest to become much sicker.  Building access to primary, ambulatory and specialty care to treat and control chronic illnesses would have long term financial benefits for the state, but thus far the state has unfortunately not chosen to cast its sights in that direction.  Any workable solution to New York’s health care crisis, including the State’s Medicaid budget, must include community health planning and a needs assessment to ensure sufficient access to health care. Yet, the Berger Commission has taken none of these necessary steps before making recommendations that will irreparably change the State’s health care system. 

A prime example of the inequities in New York’s health care system can be found in Central Brooklyn, a medically underserved community that is approximately 90% African-American and Latino, and in some areas suffers an infant mortality rate approximately three times the rate in wealthier parts of Manhattan. The health risks to infants born in Central Brooklyn should come as no surprise given the shortage of hospitals and other providers in that area. Despite a surge in population over the last forty years, Central Brooklyn has experienced a 40% reduction in hospital beds during that time period, and recently lost desperately needed maternity beds at St. Mary’s Hospital (now closed) and Interfaith Medical Center Central Brooklyn, with a population of more than 350,000 women, now has only 104 certified obstetric beds. By comparison, the Upper East Side, with an 82% white population, and a population of only approximately 111,060 women, has at least 234 certified obstetric beds. The inequitable distribution of hospital resources has dire consequences: the Brownsville section of Central Brooklyn has an infant mortality rate of 12.2 infant deaths per thousand, while across the river in the Upper East Side, the infant mortality rate is a mere 3.7. These disparities should not be tolerated.

By approving the hospital closures and down-sizing in recent years in Central Brooklyn, which is already medically underserved, the State not only deprived African-American and Latino mothers of critical health care, but also treaded on federal regulations promulgated under Title VI, which prohibits actions with racially disparate impacts.  Given this landscape, the Berger Commission’s failure to propose community planning to redirect resources toward addressing critical health care needs in underserved communities is a missed opportunity.

The Berger Commission

Had the Berger Commission examined racial disparities and more fully taken community needs into account, the resulting recommendations could have included recommendations for the development of infrastructure in medically underserved communities. But instead, the Commission’s process lacked
transparency, public participation, and consideration of the most pressing problems in medically underserved communities – lack of access to care. 

It is unconscionable to change the State’s health care system fundamentally without a transparent process, public participation, and political accountability. Yet, the Berger Commission’s structure has resulted in a patently undemocratic process that disadvantages the residents of New York City. For example, despite having 42% of the State’s population, New York City was considered only one of six statewide health care regions.  New York City is underrepresented in the Commission’s body, which is equally represented by six regions, which may account for why five of the nine hospitals slated for closure are in  New York City.

An unelected body is effectively rewriting established public health law. Even the limited oversight that the Senate and Assembly retains over the Commission is illusory, as the legislature will not convene in regular session during the 26 days they have to debate and pass a resolution rejecting the recommendations.  It is telling that the state has devised a relatively quiet and unaccountable method for making these politically difficult choices about hospitals. Would that such imagination was applied to solving the problems of racial disparities in access to health care in this city and state.

A Call to Action

In reaction to the Berger Commission, the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation has found that, “hospital closures could eliminate a major source of primary care and exacerbate existing shortages, particularly those experienced by low-income New Yorkers. This would worsen community health status, heighten disparities, and increase costly but avoidable emergency room and inpatient
utilization.”  The Boston School of Public Health has issued a report, “Closing Hospitals Won’t Save Money But Will Harm Access to Health Care,” warning of the short-sightedness of the Berger Commission.
The Save Our Safety Net Coalition, a group of community advocates and labor has advocated for repeal and re-tooling of the Berger Commission’s enabling legislation. The Primary Care Development
Corporation has issued a report calling for much needed investment in primary care for underserved areas. The message is clear: first do no harm. 

The Department of Health and the office of the Governor have the ability to envision creative solutions, and the power to execute them. We ask that you take this critical opportunity to focus, and to redirect resources toward addressing critical health care needs in underserved communities in New York  and across the state. We ask for a moratorium on closures and down-sizing of hospitals in medically underserved
areas until plans are made for new institutions to fill in the gaps, for conducting needs assessments, and plans for the development of primary, ambulatory, and specialized care for underserved populations. We ask that you do no more harm. After 40 years of neglect, medically underserved communities deserve your leadership now.

We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss plans for building health care infrastructure in medically underserved areas, and addressing the racial and ethnic disparities in health care in New York in the coming days.

For more information - including fact sheets, maps (of New York City), and reports, visit The Opportunity Agenda

If you would like to take action, you can send you comments to the state assembly here:

HealthHearing@assembly.state.ny.us

Or write to the New York Times about its coverage.

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.

Blog Post Eyes on the Prize Re-release

As many of you probably know, PBS recently  re-released Eyes on the Prize - probably the most important documentary about the civil rights movement.  Eyes on the Prize had been unavailable for almost two decades due to copyright issues with some of the music and footage contained in the film (which is why I don't have a lot of great YouTube footage to show you).  You can find out more about that here, or by watching the video on the left.

As part of the re-release, PBS invited a number of civil rights activist to reflect on the film and the progress that we've made in America - and just as often failed to make - since the events depicted in the film.

One interviewee was our own Alan Jenkins, who weighed in on the inspirational power that the movement has and its continuing relevance at home and abroad:

The African American civil rights movement has inspired a lot of
other groups that have suffered injustices. One example that we saw
recently was the immigrant rights demonstrations around the country.
Immigrants' assertion that "we too are America" was inspiring, and very
much in the spirit of the civil rights movement. In addition, there's
been, since the late Sixties, a powerful Latino civil rights movement,
that included the farm workers' movement, and includes organizations
like the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, patterned on the NAACP's
Legal Defense Fund. The women's rights movement was inspired in part by
the African American civil rights movement. Certainly the immigrant
rights movement, and the gay rights movement as well. Those are just a
few examples. Dynamic people in those communities have led the
movements, but the African American civil rights movement provides a
powerful template for activism.

The impact of the civil rights movement has spread throughout the world. I've met with people in India -- Dalits, who are the former "untouchable" caste. What's exciting is that Martin Luther King learned nonviolent strategies from Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi, so it's kind of a full circle. When I traveled to India I met activists who were singing "We Shall Overcome"
-- the touchstone song of the American civil rights movement -- in
Hindi, and talked about how they had gotten inspiration from the
American civil rights movement for their own struggle to achieve rights
in Indian society. And there are many more examples worldwide.

You can read the rest of his thoughts, as well as those of 11 other activists, here.

Blog Post Monday Health Blog Roundup

•    This past week there have been a number of news articles on HIV and the racial disparities among those who are infected.  The Washington Post reported that the number of young homosexual men diagnosed with HIV has risen 12%.  The largest increase of 15% was among young African American men (compared to a 9% increase among young white men):

Previous studies have found that gay black men on average have fewer sex partners, are less likely to use drugs and are no more likely to have unprotected intercourse than gay white men. Consequently, their higher rate of infection does not appear to arise from riskier behavior.

Instead, it reflects the higher prevalence of HIV -- as well as syphilis and gonorrhea, which increase a person's susceptibility to HIV -- in the black population.

Despite this negative news of increasing health disparities between whites and African Americans, there was also a positive step in the battle against HIV.  According to the New York Times, the New York City Health Department has announced a three year plan to give an HIV test to everyone living in the Bronx:

While Manhattan has long been the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic in New York, with the highest incidence of both AIDS and H.I.V., the virus that causes it, the Bronx, with its poorer population, has far more deaths from the disease. Public health officials attribute this to people not getting tested until it is too late to treat the virus effectively, thus turning a disease that can now be managed with medication into a death sentence.

Though the story does not mention the demographic population of the Bronx, 35.6% of Bronx residents are African American, a much larger percentage than the percentage of African American Manhattanites (who make up only 17.4% of the borough’s population).  Expanding HIV testing in the Bronx is an important part of combating the racial disparities among those with HIV and helping end the upward trend of HIV rates among young African Americans. 

•    The Kaiser Health Disparities Report has a story on a House bill to reduce allowable lead levels in paint.  The bill, which just unanimously passed the House Financial Services Committee, aims to lower the number of children exposed to lead-based paint (many of whom are poor, minority children who live in older homes):

According to bill sponsor Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and other lawmakers, despite a 1992 law that restricted the use of lead-based paint in houses, hundreds of thousands of children are exposed to excessive levels of lead, which can cause brain damage and other serious health problems.

•    The HealthBeat blog has a posting
on how progressives should incorporate cost control into their
discussion of health care reform.  Without cost control on the agenda
of health care reform, it will be difficult to bring Americans who are
most concerned with rising costs of health care on board:

That is why I believe that progressives must begin talking
about the high cost of care, and how we need to wring the waste out of
the system to make truly effective, high quality care affordable for
everyone. Don’t let the conservatives dominate the debate about
spending. If they do, they’ll take the conversation in the wrong
direction.

The Opportunity Agenda believes that addressing the issue of cost is
crucial to a fruitful, productive discussion on health care reform.
For example, 52% of American workers do not enroll in employer
insurance plans because they are too costly.  Premiums for family
coverage have increased by 59% since 2000.  Decreasing these costs, in
addition to addressing the problems of unequal access and unequal
quality, is absolutely necessary in order to reform the health care
system in the U.S.  To learn more, take a look at The Opportunity
Agenda fact sheet, Health Care and Opportunity.

•    For a touch of humor, check out a recent posting
on Disease Management Care Blog.  Along with a YouTube video of Canned
Heat’s “Let’s Work Together” there are new lyrics encouraging all to
work together to reform health care in the U.S.:

Together we'll stand
Divided we'll fall
we need more data
the… cash flows will stall
let’s work together
Come on, come on
let’s work together
Now now people….
Because together we will stand
Every doc, all the vendors and Plans!...

Blog Post Thursday Immigration Blog Roundup

•    Last week, The Opportunity Agenda's Immigration Blog Roundup linked to an Of América posting about the Guantanamo-like treatment of individuals held at ICE detention facilities.  The latest Breakthrough video titled “Death by Detention” documents individuals’ stories of their horrific experiences at these facilities.  The video has been posted on numerous pro-migrant blogs, including Standing FIRM.

•    Immigration News Daily has posted an editorial titled “No Getting Around the Wall.”  The editorial, which originally appeared in La Opinión, condemns the Supreme Court for refusing to hear a challenge to the Department of Homeland Security decision to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.  Numerous Arizona environmental organizations have claimed that the DHS ignored 36 environmental protection laws in deciding to construct the wall:

Once again, as in the case of the "mismatch letters" and other similar actions, the Bush Administration is trying to improvise an immigration policy without taking into account the consequences triggered, the rights violated, or the injustices committed.

Building a wall along the border is bad policy. As long as it continues, the courts have the responsibility to stop the abuse of authority that stems from its implementation.

•    Wednesday’s Immigration Equality Blog posting calls attention to a USA Today story describing how U.S. citizens are suing the DHS after they were detained and interrogated by ICE workers.  The plaintiffs in the suit claim that they were subject to racial profiling and that ICE officials violated workers rights in the process of detaining people.  One immigrant worker, Jesus Garcia, was thrown in jail because of the ICE agents’ “mistake”:

ICE agents went to Jesus Garcia's home on April 16 in conjunction with a raid on a nearby Pilgrim's Pride poultry processing plant, where he worked marinating chicken meat. Garcia, from Mexico, has been a legal permanent resident for a year and a half. When about 10 ICE agents and local sheriff's deputies knocked on his door, they told him he was using the wrong Social Security number, says his wife, Olivia Garcia, a U.S. citizen.

Though Garcia showed the agents his green card, they handcuffed him and jailed him. He was released a day and a half later after agents told him he wasn't the person they wanted, he says. He had spent the night in jail. "He said it was pretty bad," Olivia says. "People were crying and screaming."

•    A story that appeared in Medical News Today and was initially reported by the Ventura County Star examines California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s decision to save $87 million in the state’s Medicaid program (“Medi-Cal”) by cutting funding for health care services to approximately 91,000 immigrants each month:

Immigration advocates say the cuts would prevent patients from obtaining preventive care, thus increasing emergency department visits and costs. State Assembly and Senate budget committees have voted against the proposals and other Medi-Cal changes, but state officials say they will continue to push for the cuts.

Blog Post Mychal Bell Back in Jail
  • In recent news, Mychal Bell of the Jena Six is back in jail, as a Louisiana judge has decided that he violated his probation from an earlier drug offense that was not tried.  Prometheus 6 and Too Sense have both weighed in on this seemingly continual obstruction of justice.  While Bell is now in juvenile prison, as opposed to a penitentiary for adults, the punishment he's been forced to endure remains out of sync with the crimes committed, highlighting the racism that still pervades our justice system.  We hope as his case goes forward that future decisions about his fate are grounded in the American ideals of equality and redemption, that we all deserve a second chance.
  • Big news today is that the Nobel peace prize has been awarded to former Vice President Al Gore along with the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  Pam's House Blend has a post up which discusses the fact that global warming is "more than an environmental issue - it is a question of war and peace." From Africa to Alaska, communities that have based their security upon access to dwindling natural resources are at risk of political and economic instability.
  • The mailing of the Bush administration's 141,000 "no-match" letters
    aimed at targeting workers with proper documentation was stalled yet
    again by a preliminary injunction by a federal judge in San Francisco.
    Migra Matters reports that judge Breyer
    expressed "'serious concerns' over the legality of the Bush
    proposal that would force employers to fire an estimated 1.5 million
    employees whose Social Security records contain discrepancies." The
    letters will be held until the hearing of a lawsuit brought against the
    new requirements.
  • According to the Pro Inmigrant Blog, California has just enacted a law barring landlords from inquiring about tenants' immigration status. Nancy Ahlswede, executive director of the Apartment Association, California Southern Cities, praised the legislation for its attention to "huge anti-discrimination obligations" placed upon landlords by federal housing laws.  Similar to the pending "no match" lawsuit on employment, this law is a great example of a community coming together to voice their support for fair treatment in housing practices along with a progressive approach to the integration of immigrants into our society.
Blog Post US Military Asking Wounded Soldiers to Return Signing Bonuses
  • Mirror on America reports that the US military has been asking soldiers wounded in combat to return the signing bonuses they received upon joining the armed forces. As the military is exhausting those Americans who are willing to sign up for duty, it has begun offering up to $30,000 in signing bonuses which it has then asked to be refunded when soldiers who have lost limbs, hearing or eyesight are no longer able to serve out their commitments.  In the case where America's foreign policies are proving responsible for the destruction of its own citizens, our country should honor and respect these sacrifices with additional support from the community, not less.
  • Ezekiel Edwards at the DMI Blog has written about a client and personal friend who was able to triumph over a drug and alcohol addiction that had brought her into contact with the criminal justice system.  Edwards uses her example to illustrate the difficulties people face when they are trying to make a new start:

It took her a number of months to find any sort of work. The road to
employment is difficult enough as a poor African-American woman with
little formal education, currently taking GED classes, but with a
criminal record, it becomes outright impassable. She finally found a
part-time job working four hours a day, five days a week, at $9 an
hour. She arrived 20 minutes early every day. After six weeks, she was
fired without explanation. Now she is looking for work again.

She cannot afford her rent, and is looking for public housing, but,
again, her criminal record (all for nonviolent offenses) limits her
options. She is trying to do the right thing, trying to become
gainfully employed, trying to further her education, trying to find
affordable housing, trying to spend time with her daughter, and, most
of all, trying not to drown herself in the bottle by remaining in her
program, but society is not making it easy, or even somewhere in
between easy and frighteningly difficult, to move forward. Even after
all she has gone through, there is no relief in sight.

  • The Pro Inmigrant blog has posted about a new coalition between the American Jewish Committee and a group of Mexican-American advocates to fight discrimination and demand comprehensive immigration reform in the US. Working with the idea that Jewish Americans who have successfully assimilated can and should help today's immigrant populations, the AJC just co-sponsored a three-day workshop with Mexico's Institute for Mexicans Abroad. According to Mexican Ambassador Arturo Sarukhán, whose grandfather came to Mexico from Armenia,

"Now, more than ever, we must underscore a self-evident truth:
Migrants are not a threat to the security of the US...They are important actors in
the fabric of what makes America great."

  • Along this same theme, the ImmigrationProf Blog has linked to a new report by UC Davis economist Giovanni Peri which found that "high immigration
    cities experienced higher wage and housing price growth. Immigration
    had a positive productivity effect on natives overall, but important
    distributional effects. Highly educated natives enjoyed the largest benefits while the less educated did not gain (but did not lose much either)."
  • The 'Just News' blog quotes an AP article discussing the fact that a serious backlog in the processing of citizenship applications may prevent thousands of residents from voting in the 2008 presidential elections. Hopefully this media attention will encourage immigration authorities to expedite the process so that all Americans will have a voice in electing our national leaders.
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."

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.
Blog Post Congress Approves of Giving a Second Chance, While New York Reviews Disenfranchisement Policies
  • The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog has posted about last week's House vote on the Second Chance Act, legislation that aims to address the needs of individuals reintegrating into the community after time spent in prison. The bill passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support in a vote of 347-62, and it is expected that the Senate will consider the same legislation before the end of the year.  Based in the spirit of redemption, the idea that we all deserve the support we need to make a new start,

"H.R. 1593 would provide grants to States and local areas to create or
strengthen the systems that help adults and youth transition into the
community when they are released from incarceration by providing drug
addiction and mental health treatment services, job training and
education opportunities, housing and other necessary services."

  • The same blog also covered a recent report by the Brennan Center on felony disenfranchisment in New York state which found that "87% of those currently disenfranchised in New York are Latino and African American."  The state's sentencing structure is currently under review for its early Nineteenth Century laws that still effectively deny the right to vote to people of color.
  • Also, a successful doctor and his entrepreneur wife are facing sudden deportation proceedings in Pennsylvania after a small error was found in the documents they used to apply for American citizenship. Although Pedro and Salvacion Servano have been in the US legally for twenty-five years, and have come to embody the American Dream in their family life and contributions to their community, they are currently fighting to appeal the mandate that they report to ICE the day after Thanksgiving in order to initiate deportation proceedings to the Philippines.
  • Finally, the Immigrants in USA Blog featured two articles on the value of a multilingual society. Statesman.com wrote about the tensions involved when a California school district announced its intentions to provide bilingual education to all students, and mercurynews.com published an opinion piece on the value of learning English but not losing the language of one's cultural heritage. Given that "many folks pay thousands of dollars to acquire a second language," linguistic diversity is an undeniable advantage to our community and our economy in an increasingly interconnected world.
Blog Post Media Allowed in on Mychal Bell's Trial
  • Too Sense has given us a heads-up on the fact that although juvenile trials are generally closed to the media, the judge in Jena Six member Mychal Bell's case has agreed to grant courtroom access to a number of newspapers and television stations.  Many people are hopeful that the media presence in Louisiana will help ensure a fair and just trial, as the justice system will be accountable to millions of viewers across the country.
  • Earlier this week, the Los Angeles Police Department announced a plan to 'map' Muslim communities around the city with the objective of identifying terrorists. After strong critism from Muslim groups and civil rights activists, the LAPD has gone back on its decision in favor of more 'community outreach.' The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog has copied an LA Times article on the most recent decision.

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

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

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

  • The Unapologetic Mexican reported on the 'No Borders Camp' that had recently been set up on Mexicali/Calexico border crossing.  While the protesters were attacked by the border patrol, blogger Nezua says of the 'Cross-Border Kissing Booth' that "meeting antagonism and violence and hostility with a sense of humor and
    love is probably the most satisfying way to engage negativity and
    destructive energy." The IndyBay article he quotes also goes into a discussion of border enforcement, arguing that the border patrol created a "sustained level of violence which tears apart communities, families, neighborhoods, and peoples lives."
  • Finally, the ProInmigrant blog has done a post on the delay in processing the acceptance of Iraqi refuguees currently living in Syria.  While the US has pledged to accept 12,000 Iraqi refugees within the year, only 450 were let in last month, due to slowdowns in the requisite security clearances.  In total there are 140,000 Iraqi refugees in Syria awaiting resettlement. The blog notes, "The Bush administration has conceded a moral obligation to assist Iraqi refugees, but the slow pace of admissions has sparked criticism from refugee advocates and lawmakers."
Blog Post Spitzer Drops Plan to Provide Drivers Licenses to Undocumented Immigrants
Blog Post 'Reckless Optimism': People Really Are Able to Turn Their Lives Around
  • The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog has reposted an interesting New York Times article
    on an innovative program providing prenatal care for homeless women in
    San Francisco. With nineteen years as a non-profit agency, and a staff
    of fifty-three people, half of whom have been homeless in the past, the
    program is a model of the core value of redemption, or the idea that we all deserve the support needed for a new start:

"The Homeless Prenatal Program has evolved from its original mission
of helping destitute women give birth to and then keep healthy babies
to become a resource dedicated to stabilizing entire families. It
offers what this particular woman excitedly described here as 'a
plethora of services' for mental health, housing and substance abuse
problems. It combines those with an array of alternative health
approaches not usually available to the poor, like yoga, massage and
chiropractic treatments.

'People call me a reckless optimist, and you have to be to do this
kind of work,' said Martha Ryan, founder and executive director of the
Homeless Prenatal Program. 'But I see enough success. I see people
really able to turn their lives around, and I see their children be
able to move forward and have a different life.'”
 

  • The Huffington Post has a great piece up by Sally Kohn of the Movement Vision Lab on the writers' strike. Speaking of the absence of the community frame in television or film media, Kohn praises the writers for joining together but contributes a larger cultural analysis of what has shaped our values of individualism:

"If you turn on your TV today or sit for a matinee at your local
cineplex, you'd wonder whether it's an entirely different crop of folks
holding the pens behind the scenes. After all, much of the shows and
movies they write promote extreme greed, competition and the notion
that we have to pull ourselves up from our individual bootstraps ---
NOT that we're all in it together, in solidarity. While most of us in
real life, like the striking writers, have learned that we can't
succeed without the help of others around us, most reality TV shows from American Idol to Survivor tell us that the only way to the top is fierce competition against one another.  Meanwhile shows like Desperate Housewives
tell us that selfishness is good and there's no such thing as too much
greed and status --- mind you, the same greed that is keeping the
Hollywood execs from sharing the wealth with writers. And in countless
movies, writers resort to racist and homophobic 'humor' that helps
further divide our country rather than unite us together."

  • The DMI Blog has written about the Coalition to Raise the Minimum Standards at New York City Jails, a multi-organizational campaign that achieved a number of victories this year as "the Board of Corrections (BOC) proposed a number of changes to the
    Minimum Standards for New York City Correctional Facilities" which cover rules and regulations for city jails. Author Ezekiel Edwards reports that while the BOC was not swayed on every issue of importance to prisoners and their families, significant progress was made in preserving and improving conditions of incarceration: "As a result of the Coalition's relentless efforts, the BOC voted
    against the 'overcrowding' policy, against putting those in need of
    protection in 23-hour solitary confinement, and against reducing
    Spanish translation services." 
  • Feministe has a new post entitled 'Housing is a Human Right' which provides information on upcoming protests against the fact that all public housing units in New Orleans are slated for demolition after a recent federal court ruling. The Facing South blog has also posted about the controvery over the formaldehyde-laced trailers provided as temporary housing -- while Gulf Area families have been living in the trailers, FEMA has cautioned its own employees against entering them.
  • Finally, Latina Lista has reported on a DailyKos post by the author of the Migra Matters blog called 'A progressive plan for immigration reform,' referring to the resource as "the most insightful, certainly most thorough and step-by-step approach into fully understanding the immigration issue." Given his opinion that immigration is the new topic du jour, author Duke1676 prefaces his summary with "I figured it might be a good time post up a diary that sums up
    everything I've learned in my past three years here posting on
    immigration issues." With some 454 comments by readers, it's worth a read.
Blog Post All Things Being Equal: Instigating Opportunity in an Inequitable Time

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

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

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

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

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

Racial_diversity_in_staffs_2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blog Post ICE Detention Center Employed Undocumented Immigrants
Blog Post Crime is Not an Isolated Action, in New Orleans and Beyond
  • Bill Quigley at the Black Agenda Report has written a piece on the apparent meltdown of the criminal justice system in New Orleans, where violent crime rates are hovering at seven times the national average. Quigley speaks of the integral relationship between socioeconomic security and crime rates:

"Crime is not an isolated action. It is impossible to fix the crime problem if
the rest of the institutions that people rely on remain deeply broken....Only when the criminal justice system is supported by a
good public education available to all children, sufficient affordable housing
for families, accessible healthcare (especially mental healthcare), and jobs
that pay living wages, can the community expect the crime rate to go down."

  • The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog has highlighted a community in Western Massachusetts in which those without the financial means to post a few hundred dollars in bail are held for months before their trials. While eighty-five percent of women being held have substance abuse problems, and many have families to care for, the county has opted to spend thousands of dollars each month to keep women in newly-constructed jails rather than offer treatment programs that would offer inmates a chance at rehabilitation and redemption. Author Lois Ahrens notes that "holding women and men who are too poor to make bail results in
    devastating consequences: more jail building, greater impoverishment of
    the poor, and continued criminalization of addiction and mental illness."

Jack and Jill Politics has alerted us to the fact that the Bush administration is working with the Senate to discontinue federal downpayment assistance for first-time homebuyers. Some striking statistics from the post: "From 2000 through 2006, more than 650,000 buyers got their down payments through nonprofits" working with this program, and "the move to get rid of downpayment assistance programs will bar approximately 40% of African-American homebuyers from utilizing Federal Housing Administration insured loans. Also affected are potentially 30% of Latinos."
  • We'd previously noted that the California wildfires had resulted in undocumented immigrants turning themselves in to the border patrol because they feared for their safety. A number of blogs, however, have exposed other effects of the fires on immigrant communities. The Black Agenda Report has discussed raids of the displaced people at Qualcomm stadium as well as farmers not permitting their workers to evacuate. IntraPolitics talks about how the San Diego Sheriff's department is checking for ID among people returning to their homes, and continues to the draw further comparisons between the wildfires and New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina:

"The policies undertaken by law enforcement and developers in these
regions of natural disasters, in my opinion, is part of a general
scheme to displace the poor and minority property owners and renters.
The backlash against social programs designed to help people obtain
affordable housing, combined with the expected pitfalls of subprime
mortgage lending, have placed us in a crisis of vulnerable populations
losing the small allowances of economic power and self-determination
they've had."

  • 'Just News Blog' and the ImmigrationProf Blog have covered the story of 'a new low' in immigration raids: harassing a Latino community on their way to and from church services. Local law enforcement officials have been setting up roadblocks along two streets in Mount Olive, North Carolina in order to request documentation of churchgoers, many of whom are employed at the Butterball slaughterhouse two miles away.
  • Finally, in honor of the holiday, Racialicious has a very interesting post up entitled 'Reasons I Hate Halloween,' which discusses the prevalence of costumes that "reinforce the eroticized and/or dangerous stereotypes associated with Muslim and Middle Eastern men and women." Author Fatemeh Fakhraie provides a variety of examples to support her discomfort with the use of these stereotypes as 'dress-up' options.
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."
Blog Post The Whole Story on Race

Opportunity in America is a two-way street. Each of us has a
responsibility to do our best, pursuing whatever pathways to success
are available to us. And our society has a responsibility to keep those
pathways open and accessible to everyone, irrespective of race, gender,
or other aspects of what we look like or where we come from.

That balance of personal responsibility and self-help on one hand,
while demanding fairness and equity on the other, has always been
crucial to the African-American quest for opportunity. That's why
Malcolm X and the Million Man March continue to occupy such important
places in the black consciousness, and why civil rights organizations
like the NAACP and the National Urban League continue to promote educational and self-help programs along with advocacy and anti-discrimination efforts.

Given that reality, it's disappointing that the media coverage of Bill Cosby and Alvin Poussaint's new book, Come on, People: On the Path from Victims to Victors, seems to be telling only half the story when it comes to the state of black America.

  • There has been a good amount of discussion in the past couple weeks about the election of Piyush "Bobby" Jindal as the next governor of Louisiana, as Jindal is not only the first governor of color since Reconstruction but is the child of Indian Immigrants.  While blogs such as RaceWire have asked valid questions about Jindal's politics, arguing that his policies are culturally self-effacing and will prove damaging to people of color, other immigration blogs such as the Immigrants in USA Blog have praised Jindal's election as a sign of progress in the process of accepting and integrating immigrants into our communities, as well as demonstrating the opportunities for success in our country. Jindal is quoted by ABC News as saying: "My mom and dad came to this country in pursuit of the American dream.
    And guess what happened. They found the American dream to be alive and
    well right here in Louisiana."
  • The Border Line and LA Times report that presidential candidate Bill Richardson recently spoke on the need to change our policies towards Latin America. As a Latino and former ambassador the the UN, Richardson advocated for both improved diplomatic relations and comprehensive immigration reform that will allow for a pathway to citizenship in order to enable the same sort of mobility that provided Bobby Jindal to opportunity to assume the Louisiana governorship.  Along the same topic, Migra Matters has just published a piece on the need to examine how our trade policies such as NAFTA are driving the very migration into the United States that many Americans are fighting.
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.
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."
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!
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.
Blog Post San Francisco Hospital Closure Will Deny Health Care Access to Underserved Communities
  • The Happening Here blog has a new post up on a newly-announced hospital closure in San Francisco's Mission District.  While a hearing will be held next week on the plan to shut down St. Luke's Hospital, author Janinsanfran notes:

"Opponents of the closure quickly discovered unearthed evidence that the impact
of CPMC's plan would be to dump most of their Black, Brown and charity
care patients. CPMC wants to build yet another North of Market Street
hospital on Cathedral Hill, while leaving the South of Market area
entirely to the care of the over-crowded, under-funded county hospital."

Decreasing access to medical care for communities of color and low-income communities is a reality in New York City as well, as illustrated by our google map mash up Health Care That Works. This process continues despite the fact that the majority of New Yorkers agree that health care is a human right.

  • Feministing has blogged about a recent Kansas City ruling on women's access to contraception, in a lawsuit in which women had alleged discrimination because AT&T refused to provide health insurance coverage for birth control for female employees. The appellate court ruled that "contraception was not 'related to' pregnancy for purposes of the law" and therefore AT&T's actions did not comprise discrimination.
  • The Facing South blog has posted about the recent introduction of the Gulf Civil Works bill in Congress, legislation aimed at addressing the problem that "there are still about 100,000 fewer jobs in the Gulf than there was pre-Katrina." In the spirit of the New Deal construction works, the program would create these jobs working on much-needed public infrastructure projects. According to Stephen Bradberry,
    head state organizer of ACORN Louisiana, the region’s largest
    association of low and middle income families,

“Communities across the Gulf Coast suffer from crumbling roads and
water systems, ill constructed flood protection, and closed police
stations, fire house, schools and hospitals...We have an opportunity
to jumpstart the recovery by empowering communities with the resources
they need to lead.”

  • Finally, Ezra Klein has written an insightful piece on Affluence vs. Security.  Discussing whether or not American living standards are getting better or worse, Klein says:

"I haven't quite worked this theory out yet, but my sense is that economic status has been cleaved free of economic security.
So the sort of goods that signal affluence -- iPods and iPhones and
laptop computers and plasma televisions -- are becoming much cheaper,
more broadly accessible, and thus more widely owned. Lots of people,
particularly young people, can thus claim economic status. The
trappings of our wealth are all around us.

Yet economic security is quite a bit further from reach. It's
impossible for me to imagine how I'll ever buy a home. Further
education for me and eventual education for my kids are far beyond what
my salary seems able to bear. And let's not get into health care. Point
being: The affluence I can easily purchase into my 20s seems liable to
crash right into the security I discover is out of reach in my 30s.

Meanwhile, from where I sit, the American Dream is a pretty weak force.
White picket fences aren't the culturally transmitted vision of
prosperity. Electronics are. Awesome stuff
is. We're seeking goods, not security. And we can buy goods. Which
makes us feel prosperous. And if you feel prosperous, if you consider
yourself affluent, you can't merge that self-conception with economic
insecurity, and thus it's hard to consider yourself part of a coalition
in need of economic reform, or more advantageous public policy. By
offering status without security, folks lose the class discontent that
would turn them into a constituency for the security. And so they don't
get it."

Do we agree that true economic security remains elusive for our younger generations? What can we do to bolster the American Dream, to promote policies that will create opportunities and stability for everyone in America?

Blog Post UN Declares Tasering a Form of Torture
  • Following a series of related deaths in North America, Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake has advised us that the United Nations has declared tasering to be a form of torture.  Portugal has been urged to forgo use of its newly purchased tasers as the intense pain they inflict is in violation of the UN Convention Against Torture. We hope that this statement will encourage universal reconsideration of taser usage.
  • The 'Just News' blog has cited a New York Times article reporting that the Bush administration has elected to revise its controversial 'no-match' policy on verifying the identities of American workers.  Given that the new rules were suspended indefinitely by a federal judge in San Francisco, for their potential undue harm to citizens whose records are incorrect in the social security database, Bush and Homeland Security are working to issue new standards that will not provoke legal challenges.  In the meantime, Homeland Security has begun training firemen to search for 'hostility to Americans' while fighting housefires.
  • With respect to last week's celebration of Thanksgiving, a number of
    blogs questioned the historical construction of the holiday. Latina Lista
    notes that the Spanish had a feast with the Timucua Indians in Florida
    fifty-six years before the arrival of the Pilgrims.  The Native American Netroots blog argues that the holiday has more to do with violence than cooperation.  And Rachel's Tavern posted a piece on alternative ways of teaching children about the Thanksgiving story.
  • Finally, the ImmigrationProf blog tells the story of an undocumented man who came to the aid of a 9-year-old boy who was the lone survivor of a car accident in the Arizona desert on Thanksgiving day.  According to a local sheriff:

"He stayed with [the boy], told him that everything was going
to be all right." As temperatures dropped, he gave him a
jacket, built a bonfire and stayed with him until about 8 a.m. Friday,
when a group of hunters passed by and called authorities.

After the boy was rescued by local authorities, 26-year-old Jesus Manuel Cordova was taken into custody by the border patrol.  In a related article, the same blog notes that Hispanic journalists are urging the media to stop talking about immigration in a way that dehumanizes undocumented immigrants.  As Cordova's story shows, undocumented immigrants cannot simply be written off as criminals. Rather, they are also compassionate, generous and helpful people who are willing to make sacrifices in order to protect those in need.

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.
Blog Post Housing is a Human Right
  • The Facing South blog has provided us with an update on the impending demolition of public housing developments in New Orleans. According to Monday's Times-Picayune, a city committee has refused to approve the demolition of
    one of the four public housing complexes slated for destruction by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The matter will now go before the city council. At Monday's meeting, protesters were seen holding banners that said "Housing is a human
    right
    ."
  • Prometheus 6 has also posted a wealth of information on the housing crisis in New Orleans. As the public housing battle rages on, bloggers are referring to a 2005 Washington Post article which reported that Representative Baker of Baton Rouge was overhead saying "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did." Additionally, there's a new video out on YouTube which does a great job of illustrating the housing conflict:

  • Jack and Jill Politics also mentions that the organization Color of Change (known for their work with the Jena 6) has posted an online petition to support a Senate bill that would reopen housing in New Orleans, guarantee a right to return for public housing residents, and provide housing assistance to renters. Curiously, Louisiana Senator Vitter is responsible for blocking this bill.
  • The ImmigrationProf Blog posted a great article on the work that the University of Texas Immigration Law Clinic is doing to improve conditions for children living in the Hutto immigrant detention center.  Other than last week's holiday toy drive, the clinic has filed a series of lawsuits to ensure that children are housed in "the least restrictive conditions possible" and that the facilities meet certain basic standards in their care and treatment.
  • And in today's pop culture news, from the LA Times blogs, a popular character in children's books will be featured in a new television series that will also educate kids about immigration issues:

After a three-decade-long hiatus, Paddington Bear
will return to children's lit only to find he's not as welcome as he
was in 1958. In a new set of stories by 81-year-old Paddington creator
Michael Bond, the refugee bear will face questioning by British
immigration authorities. But Bond promises that all will turn out well
in the end for Paddington who is, of course, a model immigrant,
regardless of his legal status.

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.

 

Blog Post The Return of Redemption
  • Alan Jenkins' newest opinion piece is live on TomPaine.com. Entitled 'The Return of Redemption,' the piece contextualizes the recent crack sentencing ruling as well as the end of the death penalty in New Jersey as part of a larger shift in American values:

Together, these decisions reflect decades of difficult lessons:
about the folly of locking away people convicted of low-level,
non-violent offenses for decades; about how seemingly neutral policies
can have gravely discriminatory effects; and about the ineffectual,
discriminatory and dangerously inaccurate nature of the death penalty.

But information alone rarely leads to policy change, especially when
it comes to criminal justice policy. That political leaders could even
consider these changes in an election year speaks to a shift in public
values as well as public understanding. Each reform reflects a return
to the values of redemption and equality that are essential to a fair
and effective criminal justice system, and that polls and politics show are on the rise in our country.

  • RaceWire has shared a LA Times article on California's new plan for universal health care, a measure negotiated by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Assembly Speaker Fabian
    Nuñez (D-Los Angeles). On Monday the state Assembly approved the first phase of a
    $14.4-billion plan to extend medical insurance to nearly all residents by 2010. The legislation will provide subsidies and tax
    credits for people who have trouble paying their health insurance
    premiums.
  • Pam's House Blend has posted about a student at Southern Utah University who was denied housing because he is transgender. The university, which offers separate housing for men and women, demanded that Kourt Osborn provide the following in order to live in male housing:
  • a letter from the doctor that monitors his hormone treatment;
  • a letter from his therapist saying that he has gender identity disorder, or gender dysphoria; and
  • official documentation that he has had sexual reassignment surgery.

Like many transgender people, Osborn isn't interested in surgery or a clinical diagnosis of his 'disorder.' The post compares Osborn's situation with that of people of mixed racial backgrounds in decades past:

"When people do not fit into a structured, discriminatory and
binary system, the chances of discrimination against that person goes up."

Such is the case with Kourt. He is a person who does not fit into
society’s tidy binary system on gender. Because he has transgressed
society’s gender rules, the discrimination he faces on a daily basis —
including the denial of housing at a public university — is very real
and hardly ever subtle.

  • Finally, Firedoglake published a piece on media reporting (or lack thereof) on torture  in the United States. Blogger PhoenixWoman received a story in her email entitled CIA photos 'show UK Guantanamo detainee was tortured' from Britain's The Independent, which details the existence of photographic evidence proving that British citizen Binyam Mohammed has been abused while in American custody.  Mohammed's lawyers in the UK have expressed their worry that the photos will be destroyed, given the CIA's recent destruction of "hundreds of hours of videotapes showing the torture of detainees held by the US." Interestingly, while US-based CommonDreams.org has also picked up this story, Google News did not provide any matches for the article.
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:

Blog Post Six Years Later, Health Disparities by Race and Ethnicity Persist

Amidst the energy and momentum for health care reform in the United States, it is important to remember that getting an insurance card into everyone's wallet is not the same as guaranteeing equal access to quality health care.  Recent studies have shown that, in America, health is not just about having insurance or paying bills: it's also, unfortunately, about the color of your skin.

The Lancet, a journal of global medicine, published an article this last Saturday (free registration required) on persisting racial and ethnic disparities in health, six years following the groundbreaking Institute of Medicine study, Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care.  The Opportunity Agenda Research Director and primary editor of the 2002 IOM study, Brian Smedley, is quoted in the Lancet article:

“As the report's study director, I was pleased to see that Unequal Treatment
prompted a sober discussion in health policy, academic, and political
circles”, Brian Smedley, former senior programme officer at the US
Institute of Medicine, wrote in a blog to mark the latest issue of the
journal Health Affairs, which includes research on health
disparities. “But ultimately the report failed to prompt passage of
significant new federal legislation or spur the Department of Health
and Human Services to adopt its core recommendations. As a result,
little has been done, in my view, to systematically address the
problem.”

Citing some of the papers in the latest issue of Health Affairs, called Disparities: Expanding the Focus [paid subscription required], he said that some of the most shocking health care gaps that were not documented when Unequal Treatment
was published, were found in mental and oral health care. Meanwhile,
the biggest gains in life expectancy occurred among the best-educated
Americans.

Because of the failure of HHS to adopt recommendations to reduce disparities, and the stalling of major legislation in Congress to address disparities, many of the inequities identified half a dozen years ago are still prevalent.  In very real terms, this means that communities that often have the most need for quality health care are the ones that receive the least of such care. 

Blog Post Lifting the Curtain

Last week I got on the B train from Brooklyn to Manhattan at 5:30 am.  It was early for me, but the train was packed with regulars.  They were not Wall Street titans or corporate moguls.  Not lawyers or accountants.  The train was filled with low-income folks, overwhelmingly people of color, on their way to work.  Many were going to, or even returning from, the first of several jobs that they do every day to make ends meet and support their families.

And so, it was especially jarring to open the paper and read Hillary Clinton’s words in an interview with USA Today:

"There was just an AP article posted,” Clinton said, “that found how Senator Obama's support among working, hardworking Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how the, you know, whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me."

Upon reflection, I realized that what was remarkable about Clinton’s comments was that she had explicitly made the connection between white Americans and “hard working Americans.”  Politicians from both parties have been making the connection implicitly in voters’ minds for decades, but rarely has a major politician lifted the curtain on that troubling narrative.

Throughout the 1980s, Ronald Reagan told the story of the "Chicago welfare queen" who had 80 names, 30 addresses, 12 Social Security cards, and collected benefits for "four nonexisting deceased husbands," fleecing taxpayers out of "over $150,000."  The story turned out to be untrue, but Reagan kept telling it.  Just as important, Reagan’s audience understood the mythical Welfare Queen to be an African-American single mother, even though most women on welfare in the 1980s where white, and even though this particular woman did not actually exist.  Reagan was tapping a longstanding stereotype and understood that he did not have to—and shouldn’t—make the racial connection explicitly.

A decade later, when Bill Clinton touted rewarding Americans who “work hard and play by the rules,” and “ending welfare as we know it,” the subtext of poor people of color was also in the background.  Who, exactly, were the people who were not working hard and breaking the rules?  The phrase tapped the sub-conscious—and inaccurate—script that millions of Americans carried in their heads.

What’s remarkable about Hillary Clinton’s comment is that she actually made explicit what Reagan and Bill Clinton had kept below the surface: the stereotype that people of color are lazy and dependent on “big government.”

Unfortunately, many progressive organizations and leaders continue to use the “hardworking Americans” and “playing by the rules” narratives, perhaps unaware of what that triggers in their audiences, or how it is experienced by many people of color. 

It’s time to move to a narrative that honors hard work, perseverance, and honesty without playing on racial stereotypes and division.  We can start by breaking the predominant frame and showing, as well as telling, the real story of America’s working poor, including the low-income people of color who work hard every day.

Blog Post A Debate on Housing, Live from the New Orleans City Council
  • Louisiana news station WDSU is offering a live video feed from the New Orleans City Council meeting on the impending demolition of public housing.  In addition to those speaking at the meeting, hundreds of people are standing outside City Hall in protest of the lack of affordable housing in the region since the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina two years ago. Present-day inequities in New Orleans are often framed with respect to human rights; the demand for affordable housing is just one aspect of ensuring that residents have the social and economic security needed to provide for their families with dignity.
  • Bloggernista has reported that Congress has lifted a nine-year ban on using public funding to support needle exchange programs in Washington, DC.  Despite the fact that syringe exchange programs have proven effective in reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS, this ban had held firm while the capital city has the developed the highest rate of HIV infection in the nation, a true modern epidemic noted for its immense racial disparities.
  • The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog reposted an Associated Press article entitled 'State supreme court rules counties are liable for inmates' care,' including conditions that existed prior to imprisonment. It's great to see a court ruling in favor of the responsibility of the community to provide a basis level of health care for those in custody without other options -- this is a good step towards the recognition that all Americans deserve access to health care.

Justices voted 8-0 on Tuesday in favor of HCA Health Services of
Oklahoma, the parent company of OU Medical Center. The hospital sued
Oklahoma County commissioners and Sheriff John Whetsel over $2.2
million in medical payments for treating prisoners in the jail from
February 2003 through September 2006.

The county's argument was that much of the expense was to treat
conditions that predated the prisoners' arrests, Justice Marian Opala
wrote in the court opinion.

  • The DMI Blog analyzed a recent New York Times editorial on Arizona's new law intended to crack down on undocumented immigrants, offering praise for what it refers to as an 'example of smart immigration policy.' Author Suman Raghunathan expounds:

I am, in fact, waxing poetic on a stellar editorial in yesterday’s  Times.  This gem of a piece outlines in plain, centrist-liberal-speak why
going after employers who employ undocumented immigrants instead of
enforcing existing labor law makes for poor immigration policy.

What’s more, Arizona’s law (and believe me, there are many more in
the works across the country) will do nothing to address our nation’s
desperate need for smart and fair policies that welcome immigrant
contributions into our economy. Worse yet, it does nothing to bring
undocumented workers out of the shadows with a legalization program to
level the playing field on wages and labor conditions for all workers –
documented and undocumented, green card holders and US citizens.

Meanwhile, the Presidential election campaigns continue to work themselves into a fevered state, trying to say as little as possible on immigration policy (pick a party, any party) while sounding tough on undocumented immigrants (again, pick a punching bag, any punching bag). 

Here’s to hoping those high-falutin’ political operatives take a page from the Times’ editorial board’s playbook when they think about immigration. 

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.


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

Blog Post Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick?

The United States is a vastly unequal country, not just in terms of income and wealth, but also in terms of access to opportunity - some communities have it, some don't.  And it turns out this inequality of opportunity hurts not just the poor or people of color who face a legacy of discrimination, but everyone in our society. That’s because inequality literally harms our health – people at every descending step of the socioeconomic ladder have worse health than those just one rung above, and societies characterized by high levels of inequality have poorer health than those that are more equal. 

Public health scholars have known this for quite some time. But now a new, powerful documentary series by California Newsreel promises to inform a far broader audience of the pernicious effects of inequality on health. This series, “Unnatural Causes,” is airing on PBS stations around the country, and tells the stories of real people – some poor, some middle class, some well-off – and how their access to opportunity affects not only their health, but the health of others in their communities. It shows how, for example, the health of nearly every resident of a small town in Western Michigan declined when a major factory closed, relocating the plant to Mexico where the company could pay workers wages one-tenth of those earned by the Michigan workers. It shows how subtle, persistent racism and social deprivation can lead to a higher incidence of low birth weight babies among black women. And it shows how a Pacific Island community’s health was compromised when the U.S. government uprooted it, disrupting traditional health and nutritional practices.

Cynics might suggest that inequality is a natural phenomena – some people are “winners,” others “losers” in a competition for resources. Or that attempts to solve – or even raise awareness of – these problems are un-American, and can lead only to radical strategies such as the redistribution of resources.

But addressing inequality doesn’t take a revolution. We can begin by asking ourselves what kind of country we want to be. If we believe – as most Americans do – that the United States should be a place where everyone has a fair chance to achieve their full potential, then we can focus on achievable policy solutions. These include things like providing access to high-quality early child education programs for all children, reforming school financing to equalize the quality of education in K through 12th grade, and reducing financial barriers to college. We should also support living wage policies, so that no one who works full-time is forced to live in poverty, and expand the Earned Income Tax Credit program. We should provide job training so that more people can participate in high-growth jobs, such as in the technology industry. We should invest in affordable housing and fix the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. We should support housing mobility programs, so that people in low-opportunity communities can move to better neighborhoods, and invest in jobs and schools in low-opportunity communities so that they become attractive places to live and work.

These are but some of the ways to restore opportunity and improve our health. It doesn’t take a revolution – just a reconciling of our beliefs with our actions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blog Post Americans Care Deeply About Human Rights

Today is International Human Rights Day, celebrated across the
world to mark the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
by the United Nations in 1948. While the topic of human rights is
frequently in the news, mainstream media coverage of human rights
invariably describes violations in faraway lands: censorship in China,
repression in Myanmar. Social injustice in our country, when it enters
the public discourse, is almost never discussed in terms of fundamental
human rights.

But a new national poll conducted by The Opportunity Agenda and
sponsored by The Nation reveals that Americans care deeply about human
rights here at home. They see human rights as crucial to who we are as
a country, and they worry that we are not living up to those principles
in our national policies and practices.

  • The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog wrote about yesterday's Supreme Court decision on crack sentencing. The ruling, which is a victory for criminal and racial justice, allows for judges to use their discretion in imposing shorter prison sentences than the previously mandatory five-year minimum. The Our Rights, Our Future blog explains how the sentencing guidelines on crack have targeted black communities:

"The crack cocaine and powdered cocaine disparity is outrageous: the law
sets a mandatory minimum five-year prison sentence for trafficking in 5
grams of crack cocaine or 100 times as much cocaine powder.  The effect
on communities of color is disastrous because 85 percent of those
punished for crack crimes in federal court are African American."

  • Finally, in immigration news, the Texas border town of Laredo will be setting up its annual rest stop for migrants going to Mexico for the holidays.  According to a Star-Telegram article, this year's assistance is especially important given changes in federal regulations on January 31st which will require all Americans re-entering the country to carry proof of citizenship.

"Every year, roughly 90,000 immigrants pass through Laredo on their way
home for the holidays, some coming from as far as the Midwest or
California. For the last 10 years, the city convention and visitor's
bureau has opened a rest stop with the Mexican General Consulate to
help travelers ensure they have the right documents and to help check
goods headed to Mexico to quicken entry at the border port."

Blog Post The US Promises to Rehabilitate Prisoners, but Continues to Confine Them at Higher Rates
  • The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog has posted a New York Times article stating that nearly "one in every 31 adults in the United States was in prison, in jail or
    on supervised release at the end of last year."  The article continues with the findings of a new Department of Justice report:

An estimated 2.38 million people were incarcerated in state and federal
facilities, an increase of 2.8 percent over 2005, while a record 5
million people were on parole or probation, an increase of 1.8 percent.
Immigration detention facilities had the greatest growth rate last
year. The number of people held in Immigration and Customs Enforcement
detention facilities grew 43 percent, to 14,482 from 10,104.

The data reflect deep racial disparities in the nation’s correctional
institutions, with a record 905,600 African-American inmates in prisons
and state and local jails. In several states, incarceration rates for
blacks were more than 10 times the rate of whites. In Iowa, for
example, blacks were imprisoned at 13.6 times the rate of whites,
according to an analysis of the data by the Sentencing Project, a
research and advocacy group.

These statistics of mass incarceration and racial disparities highlight the fact that our government policies are failing to offer a second chance to citizens and immigrants alike.  Instead of spending millions of dollars to confine millions of people, we should invest in their personal development. In human
rights law, the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights
provides that “the penitentiary system shall comprise
treatment of prisoners the essential aim of which shall be their
reformation and social rehabilitation” -- and the United States has pledged to uphold the values in this United Nations treaty.

  • Over at The Huffington Post, Mike Garibaldi Frick has posted an interview with street artist and free speech activist Robert Lederman.  Lederman "was arrested over 40 times by the Rudy Giuliani administration for
    exercising his free speech and sued the city of New York to strike down
    permit requirements for artists in public spaces." The post discusses the way government restrictions on public spaces interfere with our constitutional rights -- and human rights -- to self-expression, a cornerstone of our democracy.

Though American democracy promotes "freedom of expression," regular
citizens are effectively blocked from creative and free speech public
space uses unless they have considerable financial or political
influence.

Opposition groups, nascent movements, students, artists and all
citizens need safe, free public space in which to communicate and
develop. Planned events, spontaneous gatherings and ongoing meeting
places that are autonomous from entrenched government and corporate
interests are vital to a free public speech. The health and well-being
of a true democracy requires free access to open public forums.

The post also includes a YouTube video of the interview with Lederman:

The Democratic Party finally released what appears to be their official strategy/talking points intended to counter the Republican immigration wedge.

The strategy in essence revolves around a few key concepts:

  • The Republicans are using the immigration issue for political gain

The Republicans had plenty of time to fix immigration and didn't

The Republicans have been unable to secure the border

The Republicans are using fear and bigotry to scapegoat immigrants

The scapegoating isn't working

Of course there's one glaring omission in this strategy …. there isn't any sort of a alternative plan proposed.

Nowhere
is there a word about what in fact the Democrats are going to do about
immigration. Not even the usual vague call for "comprehensive reform
that secures our border while providing a path to citizenship to
undocumented immigrants." And you can just forget about specifics.

In the absence of this vision, Migra Matters proposes its own strategies:

There have to be other, more complex, and comprehensive ways of controlling immigration:

  • Things like adjusting free trade agreements so they don't foster poverty in sender nations.

  • Things
    like working with foreign governments in sender nations to ensure that
    they not only respect human rights, but worker rights and economic
    justice.

  • Things like examining and reforming our
    immigration codes to make them more practical, fair, and reflective of
    economic realities.

  • Things like fixing our immigration
    bureaucracy so it can efficiently and humanely process the flow of
    immigrants in a timely and effective manner.

And these are but just a few of the things that should be talked about. There are many, many more.

 

Blog Post Defending the Human Rights of Immigrants
  • The ImmigrationProf Blog has written about a new coalition of lawyers from big firms who will work to defend the constitutional rights -- or human rights -- of all people:

According to NBC11.com,
dozens of attorneys from powerful law firms have united to create a
task force that will come to the aid of undocumented immigrants. 60
attorneys from 14 law firms have said they will face the government
head-on -- challenging the legality of Immigration and Customs
Enforcement (ICE) raids. The list of law firms includes Dechert LLP, Wilson Sonsini, Skadden-Arps and Orrick, Herrington & Suttcliffe.
The legal plan called for the lawyers to vigorously defend the
constitutional rights of all people, including undocumented immigrants.
Andrew Thomases said Dechert LLP, which represents Yahoo, and the other
law firms would represent undocumented immigrants for free.

Mark Silverman is with the Immigrant Legal
Resource Center in San Francisco, which is working with the attorneys
involved in the task force. "We are not trying to make ICE's job
difficult," Silverman said. "We just want ICE to do their job by
conforming to the U.S. Constitution."

  • Similarly, the 'Just News' blog has shared a New York Times article about a new plan by the Manhattan District Attorney's office to create an 'Immigrant Affairs' program to "encourage immigrants who are crime victims or are aware of illegal
    activity to come forward without fear of arrest and deportation."
  • Latina Lista has blogged about a toy drive underway to provide some holiday cheer for the children living in the ICE detention center in Hutto, Texas. Students from the University of Texas Immigration Law clinic have organized the drive and will be delivering the toys this coming Saturday.

"We are hearing from three people affected by the ban:

  • Augustin Dussault, a Canadian barred from entering the country even to visit his husband in the hospital;
  • Lillian Mworeko, a Ugandan AIDS professional who cannot visit the US for training or conferences; and
  • Bernard Cazaban, a Frenchman who was kicked out of the US 15 years ago on the eve of getting his green card.

We will also be joined by Susannah Sirkin from Physicians for Human Rights, as well as our own Victoria Neilson.

  • The first thing that strikes you about the
    press conference is that we had to hold it by telephone, since the
    people most affected by the ban can’t be here, by definition.
    Susannah points out what a waste it is for the US to lead in global
    AIDS funding while continuing to perpetuate AIDS stigma. 'There is
    absolutely no public health interest served by imposing travel
    restrictions on people with HIV/AIDS . . . It cannot be transmitted by
    casual contact.' What year is it that we have to continue to point that
    out? These policies fuel the stigma that discourages people from
    seeking treatment . . .'
  • David and Augustin, the American/Canadian couple who now live in
    Canada because they cannot live together in the U.S., make the point
    that people from countries with national health insurance cannot by
    definition prove they have 'private health insurance,' which the new
    regs require."
Blog Post Owning Up To Racial Bias

A Washington Post/ABC News poll released this week includes some interesting findings, as Americans contemplate the possibility of the nation's first African-American president.  The survey finds, for example, that 3 in 10 Americans admit to having at least some feelings of racial prejudice.  There was little difference between whites, blacks, and "others," in their response to the question.  While social science research shows that virtually all of us carry around subconscious or implicit biases, it is surprising to see so many Americans consciously owning up to their prejudices and confessing them in a telephone survey.

As in other surveys, African Americans were more likely than whites to believe that discrimination persists as a problem, but the numbers were closer than in other recent polls.  When asked "Do you think blacks who live in your community experience racial discrimination, or not?" 54% of blacks said "yes," while 46% of whites agreed.  African-American perceptions of discrimination were lower here than in similar recent polls, but may reflect the fact that people of all races typically perceive greater mistreatment in the larger society than they do in their own community.  Interestingly, people from racial groups other than Caucasian and African American--lumped together as "others" in the survey analysis--were most likely to answer yes to this question, at 59%.

These poll results, along with other research and events on the ground, suggest that Americans may be ready for a conversation about race that goes beyond the traditional model of discrimination as violent bigotry and recognizes bias as something we must identify and overcome as a nation--through policy as well as personal behavior.  And unlike the Washington Post/ABC poll, that conversation will expand from the familiar black/white paradigm to acknowledge the full diversity of our communities. 

In the weeks to come, The Opportunity Agenda will be sharing new research, as well as new tools, that can help to move that conversation forward through Election Day and beyond.

Stay tuned.

Blog Post The Katrina of Public Health
  • The Huffington Post published an opinion piece yesterday on health equity entitled The Katrina of Public Health. Author Jayne Lyn Stahl begins:

Some alarming, awe-inspiring, news today out of Washington, D.C., and
no, it's not Trent Lott's resignation. The results of a study, the
first of its kind, of HIV cases in the nation's capital are out, and
they show that AIDS has reached "epidemic" proportions in D.C. (WaPo)

In the five-year test period in question, ending in 2006, while
African-Americans comprise roughly 60 percent of the city's population,
they account for more than 80 percent of the more than 3,000 HIV cases
that have been identified. Ninety percent of women residents who tested
positive for the disease are African-American. And, nearly 40 percent
of reported cases were among heterosexuals showing, in the words of a
District administrator, that "HIV is everybody's disease" in D.C.

The presence of an epidemic of this magnitude so close to 1600
Pennsylvania Avenue can't help but make one wonder if federal policy,
or non-policy is at the nucleus of this health catastrophe. Yet, where
is the public outrage that a campaign of misinformation,
disinformation, or information/education blockade should claim the same
demographic casualties as that of Hurricane Katrina.

Stahl continues to cite the government policies that have contributed to DC's epidemic, public health negligence compounded by the absence of needle exchange programs in the area:

On this administration's watch, more than $100 million in grants have
been allocated for abstinence-only education programs. The president
pressured the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to eliminate,
from its Web site, anything that might promote the efficacy of using
condoms to prevent STDs, and AIDS. Roughly 90 percent of the $15
billion set aside for fighting HIV globally has been made available to
domestic groups for use in their ongoing worldwide campaign to promote
abstinence, and to discourage the use of condoms in the fight against
HIV/AIDS.

  • The Republic of T has highlighted a recent decision by Florida's Palm Beach Community College to provide health insurance coverage for employees' pets but not their domestic partners.  With the rationale that “Your pet is a member of your family — his quality of life is important to you,” the college trustees have provided employees with a 5 percent discount and
    group rates on a range of health insurance plans for their pets, covering "wellness care, vaccinations, X-rays,
    surgery and hospitalization (although pre-existing conditions may not
    be covered)." Yet in August the college opted not to extend the same affordable benefits to same-sex partners of their employees, despite the fact that it would not have cost them anything to do so.
  • Immigration News Daily discussed a new trend in which foreign consulates have begun providing health care services for immigrants in the US without medical insurance. Both the Salvador and Mexican consulates in Washington, DC are offering medical services, and are expanding the health programming around the country in collaboration with the Hispanic Institute for Blindness Prevention.
  • Immigration News Daily has also reported on a new initiative by Latino organizations in the US to register one million new Latino voters before the 2008 elections.  The coalition is hoping that current affairs such as the health care, education, the Iraq war and immigration will drive many voters to the polls for the first time.
  • Latina Lista has posted about Mexican TV network Azteca America's decision to produce and include English classes in its US programming.  The Spanish-language network does not intend to imply support for an English-only America but to recognize the benefits of a multilingual society. According to Luis J. Echarte, chairman of Fundación Azteca America and the Azteca America network:

Spanish-language television is often a first-stop and
point-of-reference for information for recently arrived immigrants. Our
community looks to us for guidance on immigration, legal changes, and
natural disasters, to name a few examples.

There’s no doubt that our community can better assimilate
themselves and increase their economic and political power with
increased linguistic skills.

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

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

Blog Post Framing the Immigration Debate
  • The ImmigrationProf Blog has revisited a 2006 essay by George Lakoff and Sam Ferguson about the language we use when discussing immigration.  Here's the abstract on the Rockridge Institute's website:

"Framing is at the center of the recent immigration debate. Simply
framing it as about “immigration” has shaped its politics, defining
what count as “problems” and constraining the debate to a narrow set of
issues. The language is telling. The linguistic framing is remarkable:
frames for illegal immigrant, illegal alien, illegals, undocumented
workers, undocumented immigrants, guest workers, temporary workers,
amnesty, and border security. These linguistic expressions are anything
but neutral. Each framing defines the problem in its own way, and hence
constrains the solutions needed to address that problem. The purpose of
this paper is twofold. First, we will analyze the framing used in the
public debate. Second, we suggest some alternative framing to highlight
important concerns left out of the current debate. Our point is to show
that the relevant issues go far beyond what is being discussed, and
that acceptance of the current framing impoverishes the discussion."

  • In other immigration news, Burger King is under fire for its refusal to join McDonald's and Taco Bell in an agreement to pay historically-underpaid migrant workers in Florida an extra penny per pound of tomatoes picked. Also, a federal court in Canada ruled in favor of a lawsuit challenging the Safe Third Country Agreement, which had designated the US as a
    "safe third country" for asylum-seekers, meaning "if they make it to the
    U.S. before entering Canada can be returned there."  The court found that "the United States fails to comply with Convention on Torture or Article 33
    of the Refugee Convention and [therefore] the U.S./Canada safe third country
    agreement was flawed as there was no ongoing meaningful review mechanism."
  • The DMI Blog points to this week's New York Times coverage of the successes of a re-entry program in Brooklyn which offers counseling, drug testing, and work and training programs to former inmates.  Re-entry programs not only support the value of redemption, or the right to a second chance, but they are also effective in helping people reintegrate into the community and remain there.  According to a recent study of the comAlert program,

"ComAlert graduates are less likely be
re-arrested after leaving prison and much more likely to be employed
than either program dropouts or members of the control group.
Participants who complete the Doe Fund work-training component do even
better. They have an employment rate of about 90 percent, somewhat
higher than the ComAlert graduates generally and several times higher
than the control group."

  • Finally, Jack and Jill Politics offers further analysis of inequities in Wednesday's CNN/YouTube Republican debate, as compared with its Democratic counterpart:

Of 34 total questions aired, 24 were from white men (including 2 cartoon versions) in the GOP debate.
That's 71%. For the Dem debate, counting was a little more challenging
since one video aired combined video submissions from several people.
Still I'd estimate 22 of 38 questions aired were from white men (I did
not count the snowman as white because snow does not have an ethnicity)
or 58%.

Further, there were 8 questions shown that featured African-Americans during the Democratic debate and a measly 2 in the GOP debate. Hmm.

Also, strikingly -- astonishingly, no questions whatsoever during the GOP debate on:

Healthcare in America
Katrina
Climate Change or Environment
Darfur
Iraq Troop Withdrawal
Afghanistan and Pakistan -- Resurgence of the Taliban
Racial Profiling
Voting Machines and Voting Rights
The Failure to Capture Osama bin Laden

Blog Post Birth of a Movement

"The forum was revolutionary in at least two ways. First, it was
organized not isolated issues, but around shared values and a
progressive vision. And second, it featured real people—grassroots
leaders from around the country—sharing their stories and asking the
candidates pointed questions.

The grassroots leaders who took the stage voiced again and again the
ideas that embody Community Values—that "we are all in this together,"
that "we are all connected" and "share responsibility for each other,"
that we "love our neighbors as we love ourselves," and that it's time
to reject the "politics of isolation" and embrace the "politics of
connection."

But it was their diverse and compelling personal stories that brought that message home in vivid color."

"Poor and working people in New Orleans and across the globe are living
on property that has become valuable for corporations. Accommodating
governments are pushing the poor away and turning public property to
private. HUD is giving private developers hundreds of millions of
public dollars, scores of acres of valuable land, and thousands of
public apartments. Happy holidays for them for sure.

For the
poor, the holidays are scheduled to bring bulldozers. The demolition is
poised to start in New Orleans any day now. Attempts at demolition will
be met with just resistance. Whether that resistance is successful or
not will determine not only the future of the working poor in New
Orleans, but of working poor communities nationally and globally. If
the US government is allowed to demolish thousands of much-needed
affordable apartments of Katrina victims, what chance do others have?"

  • Rather than stand trial, Mychal Bell of the Jena Six has elected plead guilty to a juvenile charge of second-degree battery.  Skeptical Brotha
    has explained that Bell will serve eight more months in prison, as the
    eighteen month sentence will honor the ten months he has already spent
    in jail.
  • The last couple days have seen a few stories on human trafficking in the US.  Angry Asian Man has reported on a trafficking ring just busted in Vermont, and the New York Times has written about a newly-surfaced case of modern-day slavery on Long Island.
  • Finally, a number of immigration blogs have commented on the upcoming reality TV-show called "Who Wants to Marry a US Citizen."  With a new take on reality television, programming which blends contemporary political issues with the classic dating series, the show "aims to show love knows no borders. Besides, that is what America is about: a multi-cultural nation."  The Unapologetic Mexican has cited our 'national obsession with immigration' as pointing to the need for comprehensive reform of immigration policies.
Communications Toolkit: Talking About American Opportunity (2006)

TOOLKITTOUTHOME_0.JPGThis toolkit represents the best thinking about how to use the Opportunity Frame from the communications professionals at the SPIN Project, the leaders of The Opportunity Agenda, other communications professionals engaged in defining the Opportunity Frame, and grassroots leaders from across the country working on critically important issues. 

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.

Communications Mapping: Health Care that Works One Pager (2006)

Read about our first online mapping project, Healthcarethatworks.org.  This tool tracks the closure of hospitals across the city of New York and shows the racial and economic makeup of the affected neighborhoods.

HCTW_1.png

Law and Policy Brief of The Opportunity Agenda as Amicus Curiae in Ricci v. DeStefano (2009)

The Opportunity Agenda filed an amicus brief  with the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Ricci v. DeStefano.  In this case, the City of New Haven, CT, declined to certify the results of a firefighter promotion test based on evidence that the test was discriminatory in its operation, and fairer and more effective tests were available.  Firefighters who scored highly on the flawed test sued the city, claiming that throwing out the test discriminated against them based on their race.

Page Restoring Media Images and Public Opinion about Black Men and Boys
 
In the news: President Barack Obama Launches My Brother's Keeper's Initiative to Expand Opportunity for Young Men and Boys of Color

Images of black men and boys in the media overall are a distortion of reality in a variety of ways, as extensive audits conducted by scholars and researchers over the years show.

Page Public Opinion and Media Research Briefing

Download: Public Opinion and Media Research Briefing - PowerPoint Presentation 

Page Top Public Opinion Insights To Begin The New Year


Photo courtesy of Flickr/kelly88ros

By Jhanidya Bermeo 

Page Public Opinion Monthly (November 2012)

Redrawing the image of the LGBT community in the American mind.

By Eleni Delimpaltadaki Janis

Page Public Opinion Monthly (November 2009)

November Roundup:

Suspects of Terrorism and Due Process
Race in the Age of Obama

This month’s insight into the public mind is on rights for suspects of terrorism and due process, and racial attitudes in the age of Obama, a topic which we will continue to track and analyze here over time.

Page Public Opinion Monthly (March 2012)

Public Opinion Monthly: Equal Opportunity and the Role of Government

By: Jill Mizell

Page LGBT Report

Public Opinion and Discourse on the Intersection of LGBT Issues and Race

Download full report (PDF)
Read full report on Scribd.

Page Literature Review: Media Representations and Impact on the Lives of Black Men and Boys

This social science literature review focuses on the question of how media, and communications more broadly, affect outcomes for black men and boys in American society. The summary is intended to offer communicators — who come to the review with a wide range of backgrounds and depth of knowledge on the topic — a digestible overview of an extremely rich and varied body of research. It reviews a significant set of materials, representing many of the key approaches and themes that characterize the scholarship as a whole.

Page Media Market Research: Media Consumption Trends Among Black Men

This study analyzed African-American men’s media consumption habits. It investigates a wide range of national and regional media platforms to provide insights into how African-American men consume media. It identified which media sources are likely to have the greatest impact on the thinking and attitudes of this segment of the American population and offers a series of recommendations about where interventions may be most fruitful.

Page Public Opinion Research Related to Black Male Achievement

This analysis provides an overview of some central themes emerging from public opinion research regarding understandings of black male achievement, awareness of racial disparities, and the causes of and responsibility for addressing them. It is intended to offer communicators a synthesis of key ideas that exist in public understanding that can either derail the conversation or move it forward.

Page Promoting Health Opportunity in New York

In New York, we worked to show how health care resource decisions were impacting low-income and communities of color.  A central tool was the healthcarethatworks.org website, which shows where hospitals have closed over time in New York City.

Research Media Analysis: Immigration Coverage in Chinese-Language Newspapers (2008)

chineseLanguageNewspapers.pngThis report focuses on Chinese print media in the United States.

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

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

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

Research Brochure: About The Opportunity Agenda (2008)

Read about The Opportunity Agenda in our new brochure.

brochure.png

Research Media and Public Opinion Analysis: African Americans on Immigration (2007)

This report examines African American public opinion about immigration, and immigration coverage in African American media.

Research Media Analysis: Immigration in African American, Latino and Online Media (2007)

This report builds on a 2006 scan of public opinion and media coverage of immigration.  Also contained in this report are three additional analyses of immigration in the public discourse. 

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