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.

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.”

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.

NY Times Magazine Outlines New Playing Field for Immigration Battle

The New York Times Magazine cover story this week outlines what's to come in the battle for immigrant's rights now that comprehensive reform has failed in Congress and Democratic leaders are predicting at least 6 years before the fight is taken up again at the national legislative level.

It’s in places like Carpentersville where we may be witnessing the
opening of a deep and profound fissure in the American landscape. Over
the past two years, more than 40 local and state governments have
passed ordinances and legislation aimed at making life miserable for
illegal immigrants in the hope that they’ll have no choice but to
return to their countries of origin. Deportation by attrition, some
call it. One of the first ordinances was passed in Hazleton, Pa., and
was meant to bar illegal immigrants from living and working there. It
served as a model for many local officials across the country,
including Sigwalt and Humpfer. On July 26, a federal judge struck down
Hazleton’s ordinance, but the town’s mayor, Lou Barletta, plans to
appeal the decision. “This battle is far from over,” he declared the
day of the ruling. States and towns have looked for other ways to crack
down on illegal immigrants. Last month, Prince William County in
northern Virginia passed a resolution trying to curb illegal
immigrants’ access to public services. Waukegan, another Illinois
town, has voted to apply for a federal program that would allow its
police to begin deportation charges against those who are here
illegally. A week after the Senate failed to pass comprehensive immigration
reform, Arizona’s governor, Janet Napolitano, signed into law an act
penalizing businesses that knowingly hire undocumented immigrants. “One
of the practical effects of this failure” to enact national immigration
reform, Napolitano wrote to the Congressional leadership, “is that
Arizona, and states across the nation, must now continue to address
this escalating problem on their own.” Admittedly, the
constitutionality of many of these new laws is still in question, and
some of the state bills and local ordinances simply duplicate what’s
already in force nationally. But with Congress’s inability to reach an
agreement on an immigration bill, the debate will continue among local
officials like those in Carpentersville, where the wrangling often
seems less about illegal immigration than it does about whether new
immigrants are assimilating quickly enough, if at all. In
Carpentersville, the rancor has turned neighbor against neighbor. Once
you scrape away the acid rhetoric, though, there’s much people actually
agree on — but given the ugliness of the taunts and assertions, it’s
unlikely that will ever emerge.

This is now a local fight - with battles being fought at the city and county level.  We've already won some battles on this front, but there will be more.  This is now a street fight. It's unfortunate because it means there is less of a possibility to actually solve the problems we face and safeguard the human rights of millions of Americans and undocumented workers.  But it's also an opportunity to build our grassroots network and get stronger for when the fight goes national once again.

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.

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