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.


The New Anti-Immigration Talking Point?

Update: And on cue, Newt Gingrich is already deploying the talking point.

As I'm sure many readers are aware, there was a horrible tragedy in Newark New Jersey this week, where four college students were gunned down.  The perpetrator looks to be an individual who entered the country illegally.  Unfortunately, this tragedy may be the latest talking point in the anti-immigration movement's arsenal. 

Strangely, this reminds me of a fight between Bill O'Reilly and Geraldo Rivera, of all people:

I cringe to say it, but Geraldo is dead right.  There's no causal relationship between the perpetrator's immigration status and the crime committed.  Murder is murder, and immigration status has nothing to do with it. 

How can we counter what will surely be an attempt by anti-immigration advocates to exploit this for their political ends?


Republican YouTube Debate and Race

A number of media outlets are reporting that the Republican version of the YouTube debate is back on and will take place in November.  The Democratic Debate didn't do a good job in dealing with race, maybe this one will be better.  Pop + Politics has already pulled out a couple questions that might make for an interesting evening:


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.

America Needs Immigrants

Our friends at the New York Immigration Coalition have a video up on YouTube about why Immigrants are important to America:


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.

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.

Goodbye to Amanda

I want to give a shout-out to our spectacular summer intern, Amanda Ogus.  For the past two and a half months, Amanda has been reading the blogs and writing our daily news round-ups.  Amanda's internship ended last week, and she's headed back to school.  Thanks, Amanda, for all your hard work and your invaluable contributions to our blog and to the organization.


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.


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.


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