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'This Land Is Your Land,' Las Cafeteras' Independence Day Tribute

Fri, 07/04/2014 - 08:12

What is freedom in a country which denies healthcare to undocumented residents, separates families via deportation, and has the highest incarceration rate in the world? That's the question Los Angeles-based band Las Cafeteras is asking this Independence Day. 

With a new video produced in partnership with the California Endowment as part of a healthcare campaign, the band of artist-organizers filmed a new 21st-century, made-in-Los-Angeles spin on the American folk song classic "This Land Is Your Land." Las Cafeteras' version, points out band member Hector Flores, includes a new line inspired by the Zapatistas: "Todo para todos y nada para nosotros." Or, "Everything for everybody, and nothing for ourselves."

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Vietnamese-American Filmmaker Turns Lens on NYC's 'DIY Generation'

Thu, 07/03/2014 - 08:53

Sahra Vang Nguyen is the daughter of Vietnamese refugees. She used her parents' story to fuel a new look at entrepreneurs in New York City. Growing up, Nguyen's parents worked at a laundromat in Boston, a fact that she was embarrassed about until she recognized how hard it must have been for two immigrant to start their own business in a new country.

Nguyen, 27, is now using her parents' story as inspiration in for her own look at entrepreneurs of color in New York City. From NBC News:

While a 2009 UCLA study on the "State of Asian-American Businesses" found that many second-generation, Asian Americans were hesitant to pursue entrepreneurship because of their parents' hardships, Maker's Lane shows a contrasting narrative. Inspired by her ambitious, driven, and motivated peers, Nguyen captures the spirit of the "DIY Generation," whose innovative use of resources has allowed a new breed of entrepreneurs to succeed. The first five episodes feature Asian-American entrepreneurs in honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

Despite Nguyen's effort to raise the profile of these business pioneers, studies show they remain the exceptions to the rule. Minority entrepreneurs, according to recent reports, are not well represented in the business landscape. Only 8.5% of people pitching to investors in early 2013 were minorities, and they were also less likely to receive investment (only 15% were funded). On the other side of the table, minorities represent only 4.5% of angel investors.

"Because many investors are not from a minority background, they don't fund projects that they don't relate to," Nguyen told NBC News. "Investing in minorities is a social responsibility that not everyone prioritizes. But I see my work as a media producer as parallel to that of an investor."

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Arab-Americans Tell Census, 'We're Not White'

Thu, 07/03/2014 - 07:21

Comedian Amer Zahr's upcoming documentary challenges how the last Census classified Arab-Americans--as white--in the hopes that the next one will be different. But he's not the only one who believes the nation's decennial count misclassifies or just plain erases their identities. According to AJA, Hispanics comprise 90 percent of the 20 million individuals who, during the 2010 Census, checked "some other race." Capturing how Americans increasingly do (or don't) identify themselves matters as the Census determines everything from the apportionment of congressional districts to the distribution of $400 billion in federal aid programs and the enforcement of civil rights laws.

In order to decrease the millions of Americans now checking the "other" box then, according to a recent New York Times article, the Census is beginning to test new categories ahead of the 2020 count. It's considering adding a Middle East/North Africa category (although, some folks are fine with "white") and perhaps combining the separate Hispanic and race questions into one. (For early results on that combination experiment, check this March Pew article.) Proposed changes are due to Congress by 2017.

 

 

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Remembering Walter Dean Myers' Last Crusade

Thu, 07/03/2014 - 07:20
Remembering Walter Dean Myers' Last Crusade

Before he died on Wednesday at the age of 76, Walter Dean Myers built a lifetime and a career writing books about the hardships of black youth.

Before President Obama's controversial initiative targeting young black men there was Myers, with works like "Monster," "Fallen Angels" and "Hoops." "Monster," which was published in 1999, was a heartbreaking drama centered on a young black man standing trial for murder in New York City. Myers "often wrote books about the most difficult time in his own life -- his teenage years -- for the reader he once was; these were the books that he wished were available when he was that age," according to HarperCollins.

In describing his love of reading, Myers said, "Reading pushed me to discover worlds beyond my landscape, especially during dark times when my uncle was murdered and my family became dysfunctional with alcohol and grief."

But if Myers blazed a path in storytelling about black youth, it was was a lonely one. Last March, he wrote an op-ed in the New York Times' Sunday Review of Books lamenting the lack of people of color in children's books:

I've reached an age at which I find myself not only examining and weighing my life's work, but thinking about how I will pass the baton so that those things I find important will continue. In 1969, when I first entered the world of writing children's literature, the field was nearly empty. Children of color were not represented, nor were children from the lower economic classes. Today, when about 40 percent of public school students nationwide are black and Latino, the disparity of representation is even more egregious. In the middle of the night I ask myself if anyone really cares.

Myers' observation was backed up by statistics. According to researchers at the University of Wisconsin, of 3,200 children's books published last year, only 93 were about black people. Myers did pass the baton to his son Christopher, who illustrates children's books and wrote in a follow-up op-ed at the Times about the salient impact of so few books that reflect the realities facing black children, calling it "the apartheid of children's literature:"

One [effect] is a gap in the much-written-about sense of self-love that comes from recognizing oneself in a text, from the understanding that your life and lives of people like you are worthy of being told, thought about, discussed and even celebrated. Academics and educators talk about self-esteem and self-worth when they think of books in this way, as mirrors that affirm readers' own identities. I believe that this is important, but I wonder if this idea is too adult and self-concerned, imagining young readers as legions of wicked queens asking magic mirrors to affirm that they are indeed "the fairest of them all."

Today, there are artists whose work is undoubtedly influenced by Myers. "Myers inspired generations of readers, including a 12-year-old me when I read 'Fallen Angels,' and then a 22-year-old me when I read 'Monster,'" John Green, author of the bestselling "The Fault in Our Stars," wrote on Twitter. "It's hard to imagine YA literature without him."

As for what's ahead, Myers wrote in the Times: "There is work to be done."

(Los Angeles Times)

Categories: Diversity Headlines

New Jobs Report, Facebook's Sorry Not Sorry and Ebola Death Toll Rises to 476

Thu, 07/03/2014 - 07:09
New Jobs Report, Facebook's Sorry Not Sorry and Ebola Death Toll Rises to 476

Here's what I'm reading up on this morning: 

  • Mean In? Facebook's Sheryl Sanderg is sorry not sorry about her company's emotional manipulation. 
  • The Ebola virus combined death toll rises to 476 in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. 
Categories: Diversity Headlines

Income Inequity Is a Choice

Wed, 07/02/2014 - 15:34
Income Inequity Is a Choice

As the U.S. celebrates its 238th anniversary this week, during a year in which income inequality reached heights not seen in almost a century, now is as good a time as any to ask whether American democracy and its winner-take-all capitalistic system are compatible or need to part ways. It's particularly important given the fact that people of color disproportionately suffer the negative consequences of the nation's economic inequities even as they form an increasing demographic majority. How this question is answered is crucial to the immediate future of communities of color and by extension the country as a whole.

The facts of current income inequality are well known and are broadly not in dispute. The guru of income inequality, economist Emmanuel Saez, concludes that the top 1 percent of all income earners in the US have a greater share (PDF) of national wealth than at any point since 1928. For the uber-wealthy, the top .1 percent, the increased proportion of the economic pie is even more astounding. It's on par with that of more than a century ago in 1913 during the nation's so-called Gilded Age, when dramatic wealth was predicated on mass worker exploitation. Added to it all is the fact that inequality in the United States now exceeds that of every advanced economy on the planet except Chile's. 

Of course income inequality has dramatic economic consequences that are even more stark when viewed through the prism of race. According to the Federal Reserve more than nine out of 10 of the wealthiest American households are white. Since 2000, as Joseph Stiglitz has determined, nine out 10 dollars in economic gains in the U.S. have flowed to the richest. During this same time, black and Latino wealth has cratered to the lowest on record. Blacks and Latinos are more likely to have jobs where wages are at a 40-year low, be without work or live in poverty. Economic inequality in America has a black and brown face.

What's interesting is that the growth in inequality occurred just as the doors of political power and economic opportunity were flung open to people of color. A set of professors from Columbia, Princeton and the University of Houston lay out the case in their 2003 paper "Political Polarization and Income Inequality (PDF)." What they show is that beginning in the 1970s, the political views of the wealthy began to harden against the very economic policies which had previously given everyone an economic shot. The authors, Nolan McCarty, Howard Rosenthal and Keith Poole, note that this turn against equality was so jarring because it "began after a long period of increasing equality" back in the 1930s.

But as important as the wealthy's turn away from economic fairness and toward political movements created to prevent it is the way that this transformation was informed by race. "The bipartisan consensus among elites about economic issues that characterized the 1960s has given way to the ideological divisions" that are directly "linked to race," the paper says bluntly.

The key here is that there's nothing about the transformation of our of political and economic system in the 1970s  that was either inevitable or Act of God. Rather they are the result of specific choices, made at a specific time, with race at the heart of the change. As Stiglitz wrote recently, "widening and deepening inequality is not driven by immutable economic laws but by laws we have written themselves." 

In the 1980s Ronald Reagan picked up on the changed mindset of the wealthy towards economic fairness, captured the White House, and implemented policies based on the ideals of the rich. Since then, besides a brief detour in Bill Clinton's second term, inequality has been off to the races, erasing economics gains in one generation that took two generations to build. In fact the International Monetary Fund--the global organization focused on the health of the world's financial structures--concludes that rich-oriented political policies benefitted the wealthy but ended up causing the financial and economic crisis of 2008. 

Our experience with inequality over the past three decades brings us to the core of the precariousness of our current moment. Not only does inequity produce the type of recent inherent economic instability that we've already lived through but over time it's politically unstable as well. Researchers Alberto Alesina and Roberto Perotti looked at 70 countries over a 25-year period and asked, "Does income inequality increase political instability?" Their answer conclusively was, "Yes...more unequal societies are more politically unstable."

With each passing year the strength of the political and economic system we've chosen to build since the 1970s will continue to be tested. As people of color move toward becoming the majority in America--should current trends hold--economic opportunity and the political influence necessary to bring economic change about could be out of reach for the black and brown democratic majority. We're already seeing the beginnings for what what the future might have in store on this regard.

As the wealthy increasingly exercise their power to give unlimited contributions to campaigns and then use this power to fuel political efforts hostile to voting rights and economic justice, more and more Americans could find the instruments of democracy harder to exercise. What's currently happening in North Carolina due to the efforts of the Koch Brother-backed Americans for Prosperity to fund a political backlash against economic fairness is a shining example. 

The bottom line is that asking the question of whether a country in which economic gains are concentrated in fewer and fewer hands can also be a stable democracy is not an esoteric exercise. Actually, it goes to the core of who we are and what we stand for. And it has preoccupied America's heart and soul since formal establishment in 1776.

Who gets to have an economic shot and who gets to have a vote through the recognition of their humanity form the center of gravity of a 200-year national debate that has yet to be fully resolved. But with the volatile mix of demographic change, economic inequality, political stagnation and the disproportionate empowerment of the wealthy, we may be in uncharted territory.

Yet what's amazing about America is its capacity to change and renew itself, seemingly out of nowhere. The possibility for renaissance is perhaps more true now than in the beginning. More citizens have a say-so in what happens to a degree unimaginable nearly two and half centuries ago.

As Stiglitz put it, "It is only engaged citizens who can fight to restore a fairer America and they can only do so if they understand the depths and dimensions of the challenge."

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Raphael Saadiq Pays Tribute to Bobby Womack With New Song

Wed, 07/02/2014 - 14:58
Raphael Saadiq Pays Tribute to Bobby Womack With New Song

Singer and producer Raphael Saadiq joined a chorus of folks in the hip-hop community by paying tribute to Bobby Womack in song. The pioneering soul singer passed away last week at the age of 70.

From Okayplayer:

Raphael Saadiq puts his musical flame up for the incomparable pioneer of soul Bobby Womack with the heartfelt one-off "Gonna Miss U." The nostalgic soul-chop gets introduced by none other than Snoop Dogg and rocks like a classic ballad with twangy sitar-ish guitar licks -- in the same vein as Jackson 5's "All I Do Is Think Of You" -- paying a proper tribute to our fallen great.

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Anti-Immigrant Protestors in California Block Federal Buses

Wed, 07/02/2014 - 14:03

Protestors in Murrieta, Calif., blocked buses carrying migrants from entering into their city Tuesday. Federal agents were transporting 140 migrants to a processing center in three large buses when more than 100 demonstrators carrying U.S. flags and anti-immigrant signs stopped them. 

Counter protestors were also on the scene. Among them was banda singer Lupillo Rivera--brother of the late Jenni Rivera. During one of many tense moments, Rivera was spit on by a xenophobic protestor on camera.

Local police did nothing to disperse the crowd, and the buses eventually headed to San Diego, Calif. Agents are expected to attempt to transfer migrants to the Murrieta federal processing center once again on the Fourth of July. 

Check out Latino Rebels for a great (yet horrifying) social media round-up from Tuesday's protests

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Black Student Body President Stripped of Office After Mocking White Classmates

Wed, 07/02/2014 - 11:08
Black Student Body President Stripped of Office After Mocking White Classmates

Lawrenceville School Student Body President Maya Peterson has a sense of humor, so one day last March she donned a Yale sweater, L.L. Bean boots and a hockey stick and posted a picture on Instgram mocking her wealthy white male Republican classmates.

Peterson made the gesture after she and 10 black friends were ridiculed for posing for a senior picture with their fists raised in a Black Power salute. For her own mock photo she added the hashtags #Romney2016 and #peakedinhighschool.

But when the image went viral, the rest of Lawrenceville's student body wasn't laughing. "You're the student body president, and you're mocking and blatantly insulting a large group of the school's male population," one student commented on the photo.

"Yes, I am making a mockery of the right-wing, confederate-flag hanging, openly misogynistic Lawrentians," Peterson responded. "If that's a large portion of the school's male population, then I think the issue is not with my bringing attention to it in a lighthearted way, but rather why no one has brought attention to it before..."

Three weeks later, according to Buzzfeed, Lawrenceville's administration stepped in and demanded that Peterson resign from her post as student body president. It's worth noting that Lawrenceville is among the country's most expensive boarding schools and Peterson is an out lesbian who says she's faced discrimination at the school.

Overall, her experience speaks to the racial tensions that exist at some of the nation's elite prep schools. 

Buzzfeed's Kate J.M. Baker has more:

Students at prestigious boarding schools have long been more resistant to integration than their administrations. In an 1883 account called "Familiar Sketches of the Phillips Exeter Academy and Surroundings," Frank H. Cunningham wrote of four indignant white students who told the principal they would leave if he allowed a black student to enroll at the school. "'The colored student will stay, you can do as you please," the principal allegedly said.

"During the troubles of the rebellion, a worthy colored student was a member of the Academy," Cunningham wrote. "Exeter knew no color line."

In more modern times, the difficulties of being a minority student at a prestigious private school have been documented in films like The Prep School Negro, and novels like Black Boy White School and The Fall of Rome. "The majority tends to have one perspective, and you feel on the other side all the time," Prep School Negro director Andre Robert Lee toldThe Patriot-News.

 Read more

Peterson ultimately graduated, but news of the incident has sparked renewed conversation about how to create truly multiracial enviornments in the privileged spaces of mostly white elite prep schools. The saga reminds of my colleague Carla Murphy's essay on her experiences at New York City's Dalton School. "Why would a black parent expect care and love for their whole child from a historically white, elite institution? Why not?"

Categories: Diversity Headlines

The NBA Just Signed Its First Player of Indian Descent

Wed, 07/02/2014 - 11:07
The NBA Just Signed Its First Player of Indian Descent

Sim Bhullar is a big guy. A really big guy. He's listed at 7'5" and 360 pounds, and while he wasn't drafted out of New Mexico State University by any NBA team, he just signed a contract with the Sacramento Kings. 

The 21-year-old was born in Canada but moved to Pennsylvania for high school before heading to the Southwest to play college ball. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Bhullar told CBC News of the draft process. "Not everybody gets to do it... so it's an honor and a blessing and I just thank God every day for putting me in this situation."

There's no guarantee that Bhullar will suit up for the Kings this season, but his contract is still noteworthy. Also of note is the fact that his new NBA franchise is owned by the Indian-born Vivek Ranadive who's spoken openly about wanting to expand the league's reach in his native country. 

Here's a look at Bhullar during one of his NBA pre-draft workouts. You can tell from the footage that his skills are still pretty raw, but he's got lots of potential. 

(Angry Asian Man)

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Man Explains Why He Yelled at the Kara Walker Exhibit

Wed, 07/02/2014 - 09:29
Man Explains Why He Yelled at the Kara Walker Exhibit

Nicholas Powers, a professor of black literature at SUNY Westbury, explains why he yelled, "You are recreating the very racism this art is supposed to critique!" at the Kara Walker exhibit recently:

Anger shot up my body like a hot thermometer. Face flushed, I walked to the Mammy sphinx. Couples posed in front of it, smiling as others took their photos. So here it was, an artwork about how Black people's pain was transformed into money was a tourist attraction for them. A few weeks ago, I had gone to the 9/11 museum and no one, absolutely no one, posed for smiling pictures in front of the wreckage.

I caught the eye of the few people of color, we talked and shook our heads at the jokey antics of white visitors. We felt invisible, and our history was too. It stung us and we wanted to leave. I forced myself to go the backside of the statue and saw there what I expected to see, white visitors making obscene poses in front of the ass and vulva of the "Subtlety." A heavy sigh fell out me. "Don't they see that this is about rape?" I muttered as another visitor stuck out his tongue. 

What is the responsibility of the artist? Is it different for a Black artist who creates in the midst of political struggle? I first saw Walker's work more than a decade ago in Boston and remembered studying her panorama of black silhouettes. Violent sex, violent lashings, prancing slave owners and mutilated black bodies wrapped the room. The spark of her art came from taking the form of 19th century visual vocabulary, quaint history book illustration, and using it to represent the actual brutality occurring at the time. Standing there, I admired her technical ability and also, her vision, to force us to read the suppression of real violence under an epoch's ideology. And yet, I wondered even then, if exposing the details of Black victimization was truly freeing if it simply triggered the pain of people of color, and in the precarious atmosphere of the nearly all-white art world at that.

Read more at the Indypendent.

I was there at the exhibit when Powers made his declaration and talked to him afterward. "What a lot of people of color in this room are feeling but just haven't said out loud is that they don't like how folks pose in front of this statue dedicated to the violence of slavery," Powers said. "It's actually a collective feeling," he said at the time. 

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Jimmy Kimmel Proves Americans Don't Know Much About the World Cup

Wed, 07/02/2014 - 09:00

Jimmy Kimmel decided to hit the streets and ask American soccer fans how they thought Landon Donovan was doing so far at this year's World Cup. The joke, of course, is that Donovan wasn't selected for this year's team. What followed was a sad example of just how disconnected many Americans are from the world's favorite pastime. 

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Israeli 'Price-Tag' Attacks, Protestors Stop Refugee Children, and Disappearing Litter

Wed, 07/02/2014 - 07:05
Israeli 'Price-Tag' Attacks, Protestors Stop Refugee Children, and Disappearing Litter

Here's what I'm reading up on this morning: 

  • Protestors in California stop busloads of refugee children and other undocumented immigrants from entering their city. Authorities will apparently try again on the Fourth of July. 
Categories: Diversity Headlines

Rinku Sen: On the Civil Rights Act's 50th, Workplaces Remain Segregated

Tue, 07/01/2014 - 18:22
 On the Civil Rights Act's 50th, Workplaces Remain Segregated

Today is the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act, one of the most important markers of racial progress--and its lack--in the United States. President Lyndon Johnson signed it to end Jim Crow segregation. Even conservatives like William F. Buckley have agreed, in recent years, that it greatly improved the status and life chances of African-Americans in particular, and that federal intervention had been necessary to do so.

Yet, segregation continues in nearly every arena of life and becomes increasingly more difficult to address through the Civil Rights Act as it currently stands and is applied. Although the Act has evolved over time through case law and amendments to cover disparate impact as well as discriminatory intent, a plaintiff's ability to get a remedy under the impact clauses can easily be derailed. What better time than the half century mark to call for stronger remedies to modern-day discrimination, whose mechanisms are often hidden? 

We think of segregation most commonly with regard to housing and schools, and the country remains deeply segregated in those arenas. But we don't often talk about segregation in employment, what researchers call "occupational segregation," describing the phenomenon in which certain people are steered toward certain jobs, or toward deep long term unemployment. In last week's Colorlines installment of the Life Cycles of Inequity series on the experiences of black men, Kai Wright cites a study that reveals segregation in high-wage construction and other industrial jobs: 45 percent of white men, compared to 15 percent black men and very few women at all, and with white men earning approximately double what the black men do.

Women, and many men of color, are steered into lower paying occupations as a matter of course, with deep consequences to their lives and families. Workers organizations such as the Restaurant Opportunities Centers and the Retail Action Project have begun to document this kind of segregation. According to the Roosevelt Institute's research, for us to have desegregated workplaces fully as of 2005, nearly 70 percent of black women would have had to switch occupations with white men.

These are not the kind of phenomena that the Civil Rights Act addresses effectively. And where they might have done so, courts frequently find tangential elements of the cases that block accountability. In 2011, I wrote about the SCOTUS decision in Dukes v. Wal-Mart, in which the majority ruled that 1.5 million women employees could not file a class action suit over discrimination in promotions because male managers used too many different methods of discrimination for that to constitute a pattern. Without the ability to sue as a class, these 1.5 million women will all have to file smaller, or worse, individual lawsuits.

More recent cases further raised the bar for plaintiffs. Last year, SCOTUS ruled in University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar that retaliation for union organizing was only punishable if it was the decisive factor in a firing, not just a motivating factor. In Vance v. Ball State University, SCOTUS defined a supervisor differently from the way the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission does (companies are punished more if a supervisor creates a hostile work environment than if a co-worker does) by insisting that "supervisors" have the ability to hire, fire and promote, versus the power to assign and correct daily workloads.

What does this mean for those of concerned with the ongoing state of race, gender and economic opportunity? It doesn't mean that we dismiss the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as useless or outdated. It does mean that remembering that there was deep resistance to this law, and it didn't end in 1965. Conservatives have devoted a lot of energy in the past 50 years to limiting our understanding of what constitutes racial and gender discrimination, while employers have found multiple ways to segregate us with impunity. In the midst of all the important remembrances and celebrations that will take place this summer, and this year of our Civil Rights era accomplishments, we need to keep our eyes on a prize that hasn't yet been won.

Categories: Diversity Headlines

California's 'Ban the Box' Law Could Aid 7 Million Job Seekers

Tue, 07/01/2014 - 13:17
California's 'Ban the Box' Law Could Aid 7 Million Job Seekers

California's "ban the box" law goes into effect today, and could help some 7 million Californians--or one in four state residents--with criminal backgrounds. AB 218, signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown late last year, bars public sector employers from asking for information about a job applicant's criminal background until after applicants have cleared early stages of the hiring process.

Currently, 12 states and some 70 cities and counties have "ban the box" legislation on the books, according to the National Employment Law Project. The laws are meant to fight back against the widespread, automatic exclusion of job applicants with criminal backgrounds. As the criminal justice and mass incarceration systems sweep more and more people, a disproportionate number of whom are people of color, into its grasp, the post-release prospects of those who've been caught up in the system dim as well. 

All 10 of the state's largest counties are already in compliance with AB 218, and in San Francisco, the policies are even being extended into the private sector, according to the NELP.

Kai Wright took a deep dive look into the background check industry, laying out the history of what is and and isn't permissible:

Back in 1987, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission declared that blanket bans on hiring people with criminal records were a Civil Rights Act violation. The EEOC noted that the law bars not only overt bias based on protected categories like race, but also seemingly neutral policies that nonetheless have the effect of reinforcing racial disparities. So it told employers that they can consider criminal records only as one factor in hiring, and then only when the conviction is directly related to the work. But Congress is most responsible for undermining this guidance. Following 9/11, lawmakers issued blanket bans on former felons working in a broad range of transportation jobs. States followed suit, and the list of banned occupations grew exponentially: private security guards, nursing home aides, just about any job involving kids. Former felons are now categorically barred from working in more than 800 occupations because of laws and licensing rules, one study estimates.

Partly in reaction to this growing list, and partly in response to the simultaneous explosion of the background check industry, the EEOC issued an updated guidance in 2012. The new guidance didn't change the core idea--that blanket hiring bans based on criminal records have a disproportionate impact on black and Latino workers and thus violate the Civil Rights Act; instead, it offered employers updated details on how to stay on the right side of the law. In sum: if you conduct background checks, your hiring systems must include a granular method of confirming their accuracy and considering the specifics of a person's case.

Read the story in full. For more on the national landscape of ban the box legislation read NELP's report (PDF).

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Here's What Our Twitter Community Had to Say About Black Men and Unemployment

Tue, 07/01/2014 - 12:53
Here's What Our Twitter Community Had to Say About Black Men and Unemployment

Yesterday, Colorlines hosted a Twitter chat in conjunction with this month's installment of its Life Cycles of Inequity Series, "Why Young, Black Men Can't Work." We invited our online community to weigh in on the issues of long-term unemployment, racial inequity in hiring practices, and disparities in job opportunities between black and white high school graduates. Not only was the discussion lively and insightful, but our hashtag #livesofblackmen even trended nationwide in the states of California, Texas and Minnesota and in the cities of Chicago, DC, Philadelphia and Boston.

Here's the conversation-in-tweets, as compiled by Race Forward, which launches its brand new Storify page today. 

[<a href="//storify.com/raceforward/livesofblackmen-twitter-chat-confronts-black-male" target="_blank">View the story "#LivesofBlackMen and Unemployment" on Storify</a>]
Categories: Diversity Headlines

Three Myths of the Unaccompanied Minors Crisis, Debunked

Tue, 07/01/2014 - 12:03
Three Myths of the Unaccompanied Minors Crisis, Debunked

On Monday President Obama asked Congress for an emergency $2 billion to address the flows of tens of thousands of unaccompanied minor children arriving at the U.S-Mexico border. Arrivals of children, already estimated at 52,000 this year, are expected to reach a record 90,000. Obama asked for money to fund the addition of immigration judges, detention facilities and enforcement efforts to stem the tides of new arrivals. He also asked that Congress expand Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson's powers to allow him to expedite the deportations of youth, many of whom are being held in converted Army bases across the country, the New York Times reported. 

With the failed prospects of immigration reform, the flows of primarily Central American unaccompanied minors at the U.S.-Mexico border has become the immigration flashpoint of the moment. But Obama, as he does with most matters immigration-related, has responded with an enforcement-first approach. In so doing, the administration and Republican lawmakers both have perpetuated several key falsehoods about the crisis. Here now, some myth-busting on the top three myths both political parties are guilty of perpetuating:

Myth: The current refugee crisis is a creation of President Obama's making.

Republican lawmakers are having a field day casting Obama administration policy, namely DACA--a program initiated in 2012 which gave a narrow class of undocumented youth short-term work authorization and protection from deportation--as responsible for the sudden uptick of new migrants. In early June, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions even called Obama "personally responsible" for the influx, Think Progress reported. It's become popular political fodder for politicians with midterm elections on the mind. However, humanitarian groups like the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Women's Refugee Commission have noted the jump in unaccompanied minor border crossings since late 2011 (PDF), long before Obama announced DACA in June of 2012. 

What's more, in interviews with hundreds of detained youth, multiple agencies and researchers have found that the vast majority have no idea about the existence of DACA, let alone the notion that they might take advantage of it for themselves.

Some have also theorized that smugglers are advertising DACA or the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), a Bush-era law which allows unaccompanied minors to be released into the custody of family or a sponsor while they await a deportation hearing in front of a judge, as the U.S. laying out the welcome mat for migrant children. In a House Homeland Security Committee hearing last week, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson gave credence to the theory that the influx is due in part to migrants swayed by smugglers' false "promisos" of a free pass once they arrive in the U.S. Smugglers may be using the falsehood to drum up business for themselves, says Michelle Brané, the director of the Women's Refugee Commission's Migrant Rights and Justice program, but endemic gang violence and abject poverty are the decisive motivating factors creating the demand for their services. "People decide to leave first, and then they look for a way to leave," says Brané.

"Just because [migrants] think the U.S. is nicer than we actually are doesn't mean that they don't need protection and don't qualify for protection," says Brané.

Myth: Telling parents in Central America to stop sending their children, and quickly deporting the ones who are here, will fix the problem.

It's not just Republicans, though. The Obama administration, too, has fallen prey to a simplistic understanding of the situation.

On Thursday, President Obama used an ABC News interview to directly address parents in Central America. "Do not send your children to the borders," Obama said. "If they make it, they'll get sent back. More importantly, they may not make it." Media efforts to discourage families from sending their children on the treacherous, often deadly journey, have historically been ineffective, says Lauren Heidbrink, an anthropologist at National Louis University who has researched the issue from Guatemala. Most of the children fleeing Guatemala are rural, often extremely poor, and don't necessarily watch TV or have access to newspapers. Parent-shaming oversimplifies the crisis, says Heidbrink. "The decision-making process to send a child is far more complicated than just a bad, misinformed parent sending their child."

What's more, most families pay smugglers to get their children out of the country, with fees ranging from $7,500 to upwards of $10,000--with interest, says Heidbrink. The interest payments alone, often paid for by families taking out loans on their land, can threaten families' very livelihoods. "The concern about rapid deportations is the conditions that spurred migration have not changed in any way, shape or form and in fact the conditions they're returning to are complicated by all the debt they have," says Heidbrink. This forces them to remigrate funneling them into a cycle of migration and deportation.

Myth: This is an immigration problem.

The Obama administration called the bracing flows of tens of thousands of migrant children at the U.S. borders a "humanitarian crisis." But the administration is responding to it like it's an administrative one, say critics. The proposed efforts to expedite deportations and roll back Bush-era TVPRA humanitarian protocols for dealing with unaccompanied child migrants is a serious concern for child advocates. "What the administration is proposing is that the process for adjudicating those claims be shortened, without the benefit of an immigration judge or legal representation, Kevin Appleby of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops told CBS. "It is akin to sending a child back into a burning building and locking the door."

Conditions in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala are all unique, but families are sending their children out of the country by and large to flee rampant violence, corruption, political instability and entrenched poverty. Youth, who are primary targets for gang recruitment, are particularly vulnerable. To stay in their home countries is to die, said children interviewed for a 2012 Women's Refugee Commission report (PDF). Indeed, nearly 60 percent of children interviewed by the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights had viable claims meriting U.S. protection, CBS reported. "It's not an immigration issue," says the Women's Refugee Commission's Brané. "It's a refugee issue."

"For us to say that that they cannot stay, that we don't want them because there's so many is absurd," says Brané. "Protection standards aren't about how many people qualify, they're about whether people need protection or not."

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Three Reasons the Hobby Lobby Decision Is Worse for Women of Color

Tue, 07/01/2014 - 12:03
Three Reasons the Hobby Lobby Decision Is Worse for Women of Color

You've probably heard that the Supreme Court laid down a pretty bad decision on Monday in the Hobby Lobby case, essentially giving some corporations the right to deny coverage of certain types of contraception to their employees based on religious freedom.

We won't know the exact impact of this ruling until we see how many of the eligible corporations (closely-held private companies that most are interpreting based on the IRS definition that they be 50 percent owned by five or less people) actually choose to use this right given to them by the Supreme Court on Monday. Nine out of 10 businesses are estimated to be closely held, and an estimated 52 percent of private sector employees work for closely held companies. So we're talking about a potential impact on just a few thousand employees, or a few million, depending on how many businesses choose to exercise this right. We know that in addition to Hobby Lobby, there are at least 82 other companies who've already been challenging the Affordable Care Act's birth control mandate.

While much proverbial ink has been spilled speculating about the impact this will have, few have talked about how women of color might fare under this ruling. On its face there is nothing about this ruling that singles out women of color. But because of our political and economic realities, women of color often bare the brunt of the negative impacts of restrictions on women's health anyway. Here are three reasons why women of color may fare worse under this decision:

1. The Cost of Birth Control

Those who can't afford to pay for their birth control out of pocket if their employers deny coverage will face the biggest challenges. Women of color are more likely to be low-income, and also more likely to work a minimum wage job. And as Justice Ginsberg pointed out in her dissent, getting an IUD could cost as much as an entire month's rent working at the minimum wage. And let's not forget that contraceptives aren't only prescribed for preventing pregnancies--they're also used to manage severe menstrual symptoms and conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome and endometriosis. Women of color who are already struggling to make ends meet may face increased burdens. That could mean doing things like splitting one pack of pills between two women each month, as Kimberly Inez McGuire reports two Latina women living in South Texas have been doing.

Elizabeth Dawes Gay, writing at Ebony, elaborates on how this impacts black women specifically:

"In 2011, more than half of Black people were covered by private (usually employer-sponsored) health insurance, either through their own employer or that of a family member, and 57 million adult women of all races were covered through employer-sponsored insurance.  If the behavior of companies like Hobby Lobby becomes the norm rather than the exception, it could impact contraceptive access for millions of people in the U.S. and have a disproportionate impact on Black women who, with lower income and wealth on average, may not be able to afford to pay for their contraception out-of-pocket."

Renee Bracey Sherman also wrote about how this decision could affect Black women. For Asian-American and Pacific Islander women, already low rates of contraceptive use could be even lower if this decision places another economic barrier in their way.

2. The Risks of Unplanned Pregnancy

The risks of having to carry an unintended pregnancy to term are much higher for women of color, especially black women. Black women are four times more likely to die during childbirth than white women, which means potentially being unable to prevent a pregnancy due to the financial barriers put in place by their religious employers. And it's not just death that women of color are at higher risk for during childbirth--it's also infant mortality, low-infant birth weight and premature delivery--all things that pose significant long-term risks to the mother and child.

3. History

Women of color have already had to deal with a long history of reproductive control at the hands of employers and the government. From slave owners' manipulation of Black women's reproduction, to non-consensual sterilization of Latinas in public hospitals, to welfare reform and family caps limiting the number of children welfare recipients can have, women of color have long had to fight for the right to control their own reproduction. This case just adds another layer to controlling fertility, this time at the hands of employers.

At this point it's no longer news that those in our communities who are the most vulnerable suffer the most when increased restrictions and barriers are put into place--and pregnancy and reproduction has been a hotbed of these kinds of restrictions over the last few years. As the Obama administration figures out how they might fill the gap left by this ruling (even the majority opinion, written by Justice Alito, offers this as a solution), we have to keep in mind that women of color are once again going to be relying on a safety net to get basic needs met. And that's a safety net with more and more holes. 

Categories: Diversity Headlines

In South Carolina, an Effort to Encourage Black Men Into Teaching

Tue, 07/01/2014 - 11:05
In South Carolina, an Effort to Encourage Black Men Into Teaching

This fall, students of color will for the first time in U.S. history constitute a majority of the nation's public school students. But teachers of color are only 17 percent of the nation's teaching force. Black men make up just 2 percent of the nation's schoolteachers. Diversifying the nation's teaching force--namely by encouraging men of color to join it--is in the nation's educational interests, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has emphasized for years.

A new program out of South Carolina's Clemson University is aiming to do just that. NPR's Claudio Sanchez reports on Call Me Mister, a program that mentors young black men and trains them to become teachers. By the fall the program, which seeks to convert young black men one at a time into someday teachers, will have placed more than 150 teachers in classrooms in eight states:

SANCHEZ: These men are intent on changing the lives of black boys who are struggling with school and with life. Like Marshall Wingate once did.

MARSHALL WINGATE: I actually could relate to a lot of kids because my father has been locked up. I remember seeing him beat my mom, I seen a lot that I shouldn't have seen and I actually kind of grew up too fast as they say.

SANCHEZ: Wingate, now 21, has been student teaching for a year sharing his story with boys he says desperately want someone to care about their struggles.

WINGATE: That's just my main goal. I really love kids at the end of the day, I love kids, it just brings me joy.

Listen to the story in full at NPR.

 

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Twitter Asked Robin Thicke Why He's Such a Sketchy Misogynist

Tue, 07/01/2014 - 09:35
Twitter Asked Robin Thicke Why He's Such a Sketchy Misogynist

Someone in Robin Thicke's world thought it would be a good idea for him to do a Twitter Q&A with VH1 to help prompte his new album, "Paula," dedicated to his estranged ex-wife Paula Patton. VH1 tweeted, "Have a burning question for @robinthicke? Submit your ?s for tomorrow's Twitter Q+A using #AskThicke!" 

As Callie Beusman pointed out over at Jezebel, people had plenty of questions about all of the sexist and misogynist drama that's embroiled the singer's career over the past year. One hilarious example, "On a scale of R. Kelly to Phil Spector, how do you intend to 'Get Her Back?' #AskThicke"

Check out Jezbel and Buzzfeed for more.

Categories: Diversity Headlines