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Happy 71st Birthday to Womanist Warrior, Alice Walker!

Mon, 02/09/2015 - 13:09
Happy 71st Birthday to Womanist Warrior, Alice Walker!

Alice Walker has spent the better part of the past 50 years bringing a radical black woman's consciousness into mainstream America. Born to sharecroppers in rural Georgia, Walker gained acclaim with her Pullitzer Prize-winning 1983 novel "The Color Purple." But her life's work has spanned more than three dozen novels, short stories, poetry and essay collections. Here are some words to remember her by on her 71st birthday:

02-09-15-walker-1.jpg02-09-15-walker-2.jpg02-09-15-walker-3.jpg02-09-15-walker-4.jpg02-09-15-walker-5.jpg

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Black Lives Matter at the Grammys, But What About Black Talent?

Mon, 02/09/2015 - 11:33
Black Lives Matter at the Grammys, But What About Black Talent?

If you're looking for one picture to sum up last night's Grammy Awards, take a look at Prince's, "bitch, please" face:

I feel like this Prince image will get a lot of use in life. pic.twitter.com/rQ9Rp4qVxW

-- Chuck Wendig (@ChuckWendig) February 9, 2015

Prince made the look when he took the stage to present Beck -- Beck! -- with the award for best album of the year. Never one to be passive, the iconic singer took the opportunity to hammer home to importance of full-length musical projects over one-off songs that currently flood the industry. "Albums -- you remember those? They still matter. Like books and black lives, they still matter," Prince stated.

Kanye started to rush the stage, but then thought better of it. Still, he told reporters after the show, "[Beck] should've given his award to Beyonce."

Pharrell added some drama to his exuberant hit "Happy." During his performance, his dancers wore hoodies and raised their hands in a "don't shoot" gesture as a nod to protesters in Ferguson, Missouri.

Blue-eyed soul singer Sam Smith was the star of the night, taking home four awards for best new artist, song of the year and record of the year for his tantalizing hit "Stay With Me" off his debut album, "In the Lonely Hour." He also took the stage with Mary J. Blige to perform the track, and later gave a shoutout to the heartbreaker who inspired the album.

Beyoncé -- not Ledisi -- helped close out the night with a moving rendition of the gospel standard, "Take My Hand, Precious Lord." Flanked by black male singers dressed in white and standing in a "hands up, don't shoot" pose, the singer's words and gestures easily made for the night's most powerful moment. The singer also took home three awards for her self-titled album.

Kendrick Lamar's single "i" won awards for best rap performance and best rap song, which made Taylor Swift very, very happy. Interestingly, the rapper wasn't in attendance

But while black artists proved the point that black lives matter at last night's awards, what about black talent? That was a question that seemed especially resonant in this year's hip-hop category (which wasn't televised), as Eminem beat out Iggy Azalea for best rap album for "The Marshall Mathers LP 2." It was a moment that showed how white artists rob black artists of hip-hop culture, according to Renee Graham at the Boston Globe

Cultural appropriation is a scurrilous label older than Elvis, and as revolting as Pat Boone's literally and figuratively pale versions of early rock n' roll classics by Little Richard and Fats Domino. Such concerns center not only on who makes the music, but who claims its legacy and shapes its future. Nowhere is this discussion more fractious than in hip-hop where the music is culture and the culture, for many, is life. In a genre where its most devoted acolytes still believe authenticity is everything, newcomers are expected to earn the right to stand alongside legends.

Luckily for Iggy, she didn't walk away completely empty-handed. Her braid damn near broke the internet. 

Iggy Azalea's Braid Is the Left Shark of the Grammys http://t.co/88BzI31G9P pic.twitter.com/DPFH3tp8DJ

-- Cosmopolitan (@Cosmopolitan) February 9, 2015
Categories: Diversity Headlines

Beyoncé: 'I Sing For Families That Have Lost Their Sons'

Mon, 02/09/2015 - 11:32
 'I Sing For Families That Have Lost Their Sons'

Beyoncé just shared a behind-the-scenes video of a rehearsal for last night's Grammy performance. In it, the star talks about why she chose a chorus of all black men. 

"I wanted to find real men that have lived, have struggled, cried and have a light and a spirit about them," said Beyoncé"I felt like this is be an opportunity to show the strength and vulnerability in black men."

"My grandparents marched with Dr. King, and my father was part of the first generation of black men that attended an all-white school," Beyoncé adds. "My father has grown up with a lot of trauma from those experiences. I feel like now I can sing for his pain, I can sing for my grandparents' pain. I can sing for some of the families that have lost their sons." 

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Al Sharpton Doesn't Think Younger Activists Have a Movement

Mon, 02/09/2015 - 10:51
Al Sharpton Doesn't Think Younger Activists Have a Movement

Al Sharpton had some terribly patronizing and unfortunate things to say about young activists recently in a Washington Post profile. Like this comment in response to his national youth director, Mary-Pat Hector, 17:

"The issue with my generation is we're more about the Occupy organizing model," she told Sharpton now. "You know, everyone can be a leader, that kind of thing."

"I hear them saying that," Sharpton said. " 'We don't want Al Sharpton taking over our movement.' But my question is: What movement? Y'all ain't got nothing to take over."

"They want everything to rise from the ground up," Hector said.

"Fine, okay, but then tell me your strategy," Sharpton said. "You burned the building down. Great. Now what?"

And this:

Is there anyone else who can do all of this? Anyone other than me? Seriously, I'm talking about anyone else?"

This is what Sharpton was asking the next day, back in the hotel conference room, meeting again with the 25 community leaders from his National Action Network. The issue at hand was one Sharpton thought about often: Who, if anyone, was in place to become the next Al Sharpton? He wanted to invite some younger national leaders to join his vigil with the Garners on King Day, but he didn't know whom to invite. "What ever happened to Ben Jealous?" Sharpton asked, referencing the former leader of the NAACP. "How about talented leadership in Chicago? Anyone good coming up behind Jesse in Chicago?"

Naturally, Sharpton's comments have sparked outrage among younger generations of activists. 

I. Don't. Hate. Al. Sharpton. The way he performs justice work, however, is dangerous.

-- deray mckesson (@deray) February 8, 2015

Read more.

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Iggy's Hair, Rihanna's Quinceanera: Best Memes of 2015 Grammys

Mon, 02/09/2015 - 09:47
 Best Memes of 2015 Grammys

Last night's Grammys were filled with brilliant performances and hilarious surprises, all of which got the proper meme treatment on Twitter. Here's a look at some of the night's best:

"Album of the year goes to Beck" pic.twitter.com/XQI91pV49A

-- Common White Girl (@CommonWhiteGrls) February 9, 2015

Officially done with you ALL. pic.twitter.com/rbFnlnCq0z

-- Krissy Brierre (@krissybri) February 9, 2015

Chris Brown out here stealing Joker's steez though. #GRAMMYs pic.twitter.com/NpmV8d5XnP

-- Complex Music (@ComplexMusic) February 9, 2015

LMAOOO YALL TOO QUICK pic.twitter.com/YqEv640O86

-- Adolf Twitler?? (@YesItsCurtCurt) February 9, 2015

I KNEW I recognized Kim Kardashian's #GrammysRedCarpet outfit! @RicFlairNatrBoy #Grammy2015 pic.twitter.com/f0iHwMAIGI

-- Robert Flores (@RoFloESPN) February 9, 2015

PRINCE pic.twitter.com/SJ6ediOpTe

-- BuzzFeed (@BuzzFeed) February 9, 2015

so I guess: Iggy's hair is our first meme of the night or what tho #GRAMMYs pic.twitter.com/DjV9eyp4Jh

-- Valerie De La Rosa (@vdlr) February 9, 2015

This was too funny to pass up. Beyonce didn't need to sing the song from #Selma that #Ledisi sang. Smh pic.twitter.com/zuf7tlFKRv

-- Tanisha Lockett (@tanishalockett) February 9, 2015 Post has been updated. Content added since publication.
Categories: Diversity Headlines

'Stop Telling Women to Smile' Art Goes to Mexico City

Mon, 02/09/2015 - 09:34
'Stop Telling Women to Smile' Art Goes to Mexico City

Brooklyn-based artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh touched a nerve when she debuted her "Stop Telling Women to Smile" project in Bed-Stuy a few years back. She touched on the pervasiveness of street harassment that millions of women face everyday by glueing stenciled posters to neighborhood walls with defiant-looking women saying things like, "My Name is Not Baby," "I Am Not Here For You," and, of course, "Stop Telling Women to Smile."

Now, as Anna Holmes documents at Fusion, Fazlalizadeh to Mexico City:

Street harassment, also known as "acoso en las calles," is an enormous problem in Mexico City and the country as a whole, where rates of sexual violence against women are some of the highest in the world. In Mexico, as elsewhere, says Laura Martinez, director of the Association for the Integral Development of Raped Persons, female bodies are seen as objects, as "something a man can have access to, even if the woman doesn't want"; a United Nations report in 2010 ranked Mexico number one globally in sexual violence against women, estimating that 44% of females have suffered some sort of sexual violence, from groping to rape. The situation is so bad that Mexico City offers female-only cars on the city's subways and, in 2008, introduced female-only buses, painted the color pink.

Read more and watch video of the project over at Fusion.  

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Watch: Family, Friends Say Goodbye to Jessie Hernandez

Mon, 02/09/2015 - 08:59
 Family, Friends Say Goodbye to Jessie Hernandez

It's been three weeks since 17-year-old Jessica "Jessie" Hernandez was killed by Denver police officers, and over the weekend her family and friends finally got the chance to say goodbye. Hernandez was laid to rest as questions continue to swirl around her death, which was the latest in a long and deadly list of fatal encounters between Denver's residents and its police force.

"I've been crying the whole ride over here -- I just don't think I'm quite ready to look at her," Quarron Floyd said outside the chapel where Hernandez's body laid on Saturday morning. The Denver Postreported that a "massive crowd" gathered to pay their respects to the teen.

(h/t Denver Post)

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Vox Interviews Obama, Samsung SmartTV Spies on You, Grammys Wrap

Mon, 02/09/2015 - 07:05
Vox Interviews Obama, Samsung SmartTV Spies on You, Grammys Wrap

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

  • A stampede in a clash between sports fans and police in Cairo leads to at least 19 deaths
  • Your Samsung SmartTV is listening to your personal conversations and the company warns people that: "be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition."
Categories: Diversity Headlines

Cops Expose Their Racism on Facebook [VIDEO]

Fri, 02/06/2015 - 13:50

The Marshall Project has a round-up this week of choice Facebook comments from police officers on the people they police. From Texas to New York City to Florida, some officers are airing their prejudices on Facebook--(perhaps, not fully understanding that not all FB friends are actually your friends?)--and confirming longstanding concerns around their hiring, vetting and accountability. And one Seattle case in particular is forcing a stronger association to be made between what officers say online and abuses they perpetrate or tolerate on the street.

TMP's roundup was inspired by Facebook comments reportedly made by white female Seattle police officer Cynthia Whitlatch who in the must-watch 20-minute dashcam footage above, arrests William Wingate, 69, without apparent cause (begin at 1:40). The July 2014 video, obtained via public records request and released last week by The Stranger led to the officer being placed on desk duty. Next came the public release of her Facebook comments--

"If you believe that blacks are NOT accusing white America for their problems then you are missing the point of the riots in Ferguson and the chronic black racism that far exceeds any white racism in this country. I am tired of black peoples paranoia that white people are out to get them. I am tired of hearing a black racist tell me the only reason they are being contacted is because they are black solely because I am NOT black."

--and e-mails subsequently obtained by The Seattle Times this week. Whitlatch is now on home leave with pay and an internal investigation is underway. After being arrested, placed in a paddy wagon and spending a night in jail, Wingate had been prosecuted. He now intends to sue.

According to The Stranger, "Officer Whitlatch is one of 123 police officers who sued the government last year...to block the Department of Justice-ordered use of force policies." Seattle's police department has been under a consent decree since 2012 for having engaged in "a pattern or practice of excessive force."

Read more about this developing story on The Stranger

h/t TMP

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Census Infographic: How 'Slaves' Became 'African-Americans'

Fri, 02/06/2015 - 10:06
 How 'Slaves' Became 'African-Americans'

The United States has been tracking demographic data since 1790. Needless to say, a lot has changed in the country in the past two centuries. A new infographic produced by the Center for American Progress tracks the U.S. Census' shifting racial categories and offers a compelling bird's eye view of race in the U.S. After all, so much of our race conversation is embedded in the labels we use for ourselves and others.

The U.S. didn't bother setting aside a category to count American Indians until 1860, nearly a century after the Declaration of Independence. Blacks in the U.S. have perhaps undergone the most change. First designated only as "slaves" in 1790, the Census eventually added in new categories for "quadroon" and "octoroon" blacks in 1890. In the 20th century alone, black people in the U.S. have been officially labeled "Black," "Mullato," "Negro," and eventually also "African American." The label "white" is the only category that has persisted, unchanged, since 1790.

If nothing else, the infographic underlines the fascinating, complex mutability of race. 

MeaningOfRace-infographic-final (1).png

Click for a full-sized version.

Categories: Diversity Headlines

'Fresh Off the Boat' Won't Make You Cringe!

Fri, 02/06/2015 - 09:47
'Fresh Off the Boat' Won't Make You Cringe!

It's hard to talk about "Fresh Off the Boat" without talking about how historic its arrival is. If you've followed the chatter, or even just the doings of Eddie Huang, the irrepressible restauranteur whose memoir inspired the show, then you know. It's been 20 years since Margaret Cho's "All-American Girl" aired. It was the first and last sitcom to feature an Asian-American family. On Wednesday night, "Fresh Off the Boat" ended that two-decade long silence when ABC aired its first two episodes.

At a Los Angeles screening hosted by comedian Jenny Yang and Angry Asian Man's Phil Yu at the Japanese American National Museum, that history was in the air. Nearly 500 people RSVPed to attend the screening in a theater which hosts warned had a capacity for 190 people. More than an hour before Wednesday night's first episode even aired, the line started growing down the block.

And the thing was, it wasn't a pay-per-view boxing match, or even premium cable. Hundreds of people waited in line--and a hundred more were turned away, hosts said--to watch plain old network television together.

The crowd laughed, cheered, aww-ed in unison and even shushed each other when commercial breaks ended. After each episode, a panel of Asian-American smarty-pants media folks--Yang, Yu, Cal State Long Beach professor Oliver Wang, Visual Communications' Milton Liu, and Disgrasian blogger Jen Wang--chatted about what had just aired. Mics were passed through the crowd for discussion. The audience clapped for each other after people commented. There was a palpable sense of excitement--and relief--in the crowd.

"This is f-cking huge," a man in the audience said after the first episode aired. "We're watching a sitcom not making fun of Asian culture. And it makes fun of white culture and our relationship to it? That's f-cking huge."

Jenny Yang narrated an experience familiar to many Asian-Americans: the anticipatory bracing that Asians have learned to do before seeing themselves in any form of mass media. So often depictions of Asians and Asian Americans onscreen are reductive and heavy-handed, if not downright offensive, that folks are accustomed to cringing beforehand. "Representational anxiety," she called it, offering a hashtag: #repsweats.

Now, about the two episodes that aired: 

Eddie Huang is the chubby, hip-hop-loving, D.C.-born son of Taiwanese immigrant parents Louis and Jessica who've decided to move their family to Orlando, Florida. One gets the sense that Huang would have had a hard time fitting in in any controlled environment, but the suburban South ends up being particularly stifling for young Eddie.

Eddie, played by Hudson Yang, is the lone Chinese kid in his class. His younger brothers Evan and Emery, played by Ian Chen and Forrest Wheeler, respectively, are as sweet as Eddie is unruly. Eddie brings pungent Chinese noodles when every other kid gets sent to school with scentless sandwiches and Lunchables. And in the school cafeteria, that difference alone is all his classmates need to make him a pariah. Seeing this, the only other kid of color, a black boy, seizes on the opportunity to get out from under the bottom of the school's social (read: racial) hierarchy, and bullies Eddie, calling him a chink. The ensuing fight lands Eddie in the principal's office.

His parents, meanwhile, are having their own troubles finding their footing in their new city. Huang's dad Louis, played by Randall Park, opens a struggling ripoff Western-themed steakhouse, and grasps at ideas to bring his family out of the red. Under pressure from his wife, Jessica, to stem the flow of their family's cash out the door Louis' first business idea is to hire more white waitstaff. Perhaps their whiteness will help his white customer base feel more comfortable eating at his restaurant, he hopes.

In the second episode Jessica, played by Constance Wu, tightens up the operation, plugging up the holes in the restaurant's pepper shakers, keeping count of every crouton in the salad bar and scolding a waitress who dares give patrons extra napkins. When Eddie comes home with straight A's, raising Jessica's suspicions about the rigor of Eddie's school, Louis senses an opportunity to get Jessica out of the restaurant by suggesting she tutor Eddie and the boys. Orlando doesn't have the Chinese afterschool tutoring centers D.C. had, so when Jessica decides she'll run her own out of their home, it's a win for Louis, but not Eddie. By the end of the episode, we get a glimpse of Jessica's classic hard-ass Asian parenting, and her private, softer heart she'd prefer people not know about.

So much is happening in these scenes that I'd wager has never aired on network television before. There are so many Asian-Americans (six of them, total) in so many successive scenes, for starters, that their presence alone is barrier-shattering. And the jokes land. They're funny. This family's Asian-ness is central to their identity, but the writers don't ask the audience to laugh at that. And race isn't just the wink-wink subtext--it's interwoven throughout the Huangs' experience in a surprisingly frank and realistic way.

That's not to say people haven't had reason to be anxious. Last month, the real Eddie Huang lambasted the producers of "Fresh Off the Boat" for neutering the political reality of his childhood in order to make television that was more palatable for a mass U.S. audience. In the days leading up to the premiere, the official Twitter account for "Fresh Off the Boat" tweeted an offensive illustration to promote the show. But on Wednesday night, those anxieties seemed to melt away with every passing segment. "I don't think people should watch this just because there's Asian people on screen," Yu said in between episodes. "But I think this is something we can actually get behind."

I know it's too much to ask of any one sitcom to expect to see my own childhood reflected back at me. The Asian-American experience is way too diverse. But, there were moments of "Fresh Off the Boat" that brought me back to my own childhood. My mom, too, forced math workbooks on my siblings and me. She'd pass them to us during morning drives to school--why let a perfectly good car ride go to waste?--and on vacations. She'd also pack an electric keyboard in the trunk of the family van before road trips so we'd never have an excuse to skip out on piano practice. It was a memory I'd completely buried until last night.

I also don't think I've ever seen a Chinese mom on television sit at her kitchen table, take a knife and freehand peel an apple, and then eat the slices straight off the blade, as Eddie's mom did in Episode 2. It reminded me of so many Chinese moms and dads I've known, for whom peeling and slicing fruit to serve as a snack is a deeply ingrained social ritual. Only someone who knows, would know. I am so used to ignorant television shows whose target audience seems to be white beefcake numbskulls. I was almost stunned to see even a throwaway moment that felt like a nod to me, an Asian-American woman. I'll definitely be watching next week.

"Fresh Off the Boat" airs on ABC on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET. Read Colorlines' interview with Randall Park here.

Categories: Diversity Headlines

2Pac Had Plans to Collaborate With Outkast, E-40 Before His Death

Fri, 02/06/2015 - 09:40
2Pac Had Plans to Collaborate With Outkast, E-40 Before His Death

2Pac is still regarded as one of the most prolific rappers of his time. He recorded hundreds of songs before his untimely death in 1996 at the young age of 25, many of which have been released posthumously. But he still had plenty of left to do.

Okayplayer published a handwritten letter in which Pac explains his desire to collaborate with some of the industry's biggest names at the time, including Outkast, E-40, Scarface and Smif-N-Wesson, and The Roots on an album called "One Nation."

tupac_020615.jpgRead more

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Your Cheeky Muslim Valentine's Day Cards Are Here

Fri, 02/06/2015 - 09:40
Your Cheeky Muslim Valentine's Day Cards Are Here

It's that time of year again. And if cheeky cards that are both a pointed sendup of Islamophobia and a tribute to the cheesiest greeting card holiday of the year are your thing, Taz Ahmed's got you covered

What started in 2012 as a casual art project has become an annual tradition for the Los Angeles-based artist and writer. Four years in, her series has also turned into an inadvertent chronicle of the past year in anti-Muslim hysteria. From TSA scanning to NSA wiretapping, drones to entrapment, Ahmed's touched on them all with punny one-liners and sharp political perspective.

 MuslimVDay1_010615.jpg

That doesn't mean everyone's a fan. "I think there are Muslims that find these cards distasteful," Ahmed tells Colorlines. She urges folks to, "take a step back and look at these cards as satirical political statements." 

"The sad thing is, in the four years of making the cards, Muslims are no less in the news than they were in the post 9/11 era," Ahmed says.

As for whether her Valentine's Day cards have helped lovers come together, Ahmed hasn't heard about any success stories yet, but she does send her own cards to loved ones and friends. "I do think one of the cards I sent to someone may have been the catalyst to their breakup with their girlfriend," Ahmed said. "Sorry about that."

Check out this year's Muslim V-Day Cards here, and her past editions here.

Categories: Diversity Headlines

John Legend Backs Out of Performance Over Venue's Anti-LGBT Stance

Fri, 02/06/2015 - 08:05
John Legend Backs Out of Performance Over Venue's Anti-LGBT Stance

Here's John Legend doing some good in the world:

The magazine LA Confidential had planned to honour R&B musician John Legend at a pre-Grammys party at the Beverly Hills Hotel on Thursday night, but it will have to do so without him present. The Oscar- and Grammy-nominated singer and pianist has cancelled his appearance at the annual awards-season party in protest at the misogyny and homophobia of the venue's owner

Read more at the Guardian

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Employment Spike, Gap Booted Off Tinder, Promising Ebola Drug

Fri, 02/06/2015 - 06:56
Employment Spike, Gap Booted Off Tinder, Promising Ebola Drug

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

  • A secret UK tribunal rules that the UK-US practice of sharing NSA data was unlawful
Categories: Diversity Headlines

The Latest Attack on Immigration Reform

Thu, 02/05/2015 - 15:14
The Latest Attack on Immigration Reform

Republican congresspeople and attorneys general across the country have ramped up their multi-pronged attack on the deportation deferral programs President Obama expanded with his historic executive action this past November. The question: Is it working?

Senate Republicans on Tuesday failed to garner enough votes to pass a House-approved bill that attached a rollback of Obama's executive action to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding. Without a funding bill, DHS will run out of money on February 27. Both parties are using this date as a deadline for their machinations. But the president has vowed to veto any bill that would undo his programs, which will grant millions of undocumented immigrants temporary work permits and protection from deportation.

Despite the political uncertainty, federal immigration authorities are moving straight ahead and readying themselves to roll out Obama's program. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services announced last week that it will begin accepting applications for expanded DACA on February 18. The expanded program will extend people's work authorizations from two to three years. It will also remove the age cap on applications. (The old DACA program allowed only immigrants under 31 who had arrived in the U.S. before age 16 and lived here for five years or longer to apply. Now they can be over 31.)

On the state level, a district judge in Brownsville, Tex., is expected to rule any day now on a lawsuit Texas and 25 other states filed challenging Obama's executive action. The suit (PDF) is hardly the first to challenge how the president is using his executive authority, but it's certainly backed by the most robust party of plaintiffs. Filed by Texas' then-attorney general and now governor Greg Abbott in December, the lawsuit started with 17 states and ballooned to more than two dozen. One attorney general, Nevada Republican Adam Laxalt, joined the lawsuit in opposition to the state's Republican governor, Brian Sandoval.

At the heart of the lawsuit is the claim that President Obama overstepped his authority when he offered deportation protection to undocumented youth in 2012 and extended it to others including undocumented parents in 2014.

Texas argues that Obama unilaterally moved to "change the law," and flout Congress' wishes and that the federal government "promotes human trafficking," and "cause[d] a humanitarian crisis" in the form of the child migrant crisis this past summer. 

These are serious charges, but immigrant rights advocates say the case is open-and-shut. "We remain extremely confident that at the end of this legal process [the president's executive action] will be held constitutional and will go into full effect as planned," Marshall Fitz, vice president of immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, told reporters last week.

Mayors of the country's largest cities, including Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, New York City's Bill de Blasio, Washington, D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser, Chicago's Rahm Emanuel and 23 more, have filed an amicus brief in support of Obama's executive action. In November, some 135 immigration law professors signed a letter (PDF) laying out exactly how and why the president had the legal authority to act as he did. Congress has explicitly given the executive branch broad authority to set enforcement priorities, and to name those the country ought and ought not to deport, professors explained.

"The overwhelming consensus among legal scholars is that President Obama was well within his executive sphere in acting as he did," says Lynne Rambo, a professor of law at Texas A&M University.

But even before addressing Obama's legal authority, Rambo says, she's not convinced that Texas and the 25 other states can even clear a legal hurdle that shows they have "standing," that is, the ability to show that the federal government has harmed them and that the suit's contents would remedy it.

To establish harm, Texas wrote in its complaint that Obama's executive action "will expose Texas to the cost of processing and issuing licenses and benefits." In addition to that, "the states are claiming that by issuing this directive, President Obama has caused the influx of immigrants into their jurisdictions," Rambo says. In order to have standing, Texas needs to show a direct link between Obama's executive order and its perceived injuries, explains Drexel University immigration law professor Anil Kalhan. 

Two other lawsuits challenging the president's executive actions-- one filed by the union that represents Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers and another filed by Arizona's notorious Sheriff Joe Arpaio--have already been thrown out of court for lack of standing, says Kalhan. The U.S. government has claimed that the suit Texas is spearheading has no standing. 

Peter Margulies, a professor at Roger Williams University School of Law who co-wrote an amicus brief the Cato Institute filed in support of Texas, insists that the state does indeed have legal standing in this case. "It doesn't require more prediction to say that if [DACA and DAPA] work as intended, Texas will have to spend more money to have its officials do more work in licensing," Margulies says. With an undocumented population estimated at 1 million, the costs of processing DACA and DAPA recipients should help make Texas' case for standing, Margulies says.

Margulies also calls Obama's executive action a "license for lawbreaking." He argues that by offering work permits to people who would otherwise lack a pathway to legal status, the president is doing more than just setting enforcement priorities. Congress, he says, has offered the president "very generic authority" to set the nation's deportation priorities but that doesn't include work permits. "There's nothing wrong with people wanting to work," says Margulies. "It just so happens to violate the law."

Immigration advocates, despite their confidence, are bracing for a hostile ruling. A ruling for the plaintiffs would kick off a long road of litigation, "which would definitely gum up the works," says Drexel's Kalhan. And despite quick dismissals of other lawsuits, "this is [about] a high-profile and highly politicized set of issues," says Kalhan. "If we were talking about the lawsuits against Obamacare at this stage I wouldn't have guessed that they'd go to the Supreme Court."

If the Texas case ends in the High Court, Kalhan warns, "all bets are off."

Categories: Diversity Headlines

FCC Commissioner Says No to Pay-For-Play Internet

Thu, 02/05/2015 - 10:19
FCC Commissioner Says No to Pay-For-Play Internet

In the latest round in the decade-long Battle Over Your Internet, Tom Wheeler, chair of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced this week that he'll stand for keeping the Internet as is: open.

I'll admit surprise. To understand why see herehere, here, here and, well, you get the point. Then again, perhaps it is difficult for a Beltway denizen to completely ignore nearly 4 million comments from ordinary Americans basically saying, "Hands off my Internet." Or maybe it's just difficult for Wheeler to ignore his boss.

Whatever the cause, between last April and December, according to Politico, Wheeler changed his mind about an earlier proposal that consumer advocates and tech companies say would've created a two-tier Internet. Its impact on low-income communities of color (and nonprofit media like Colorlines) would be devastating. For example, largely working-class and poor St. Louis residents used real-time tweets and streaming video to draw mainstream media's attention to Mike Brown's body lying on their street for four and a half hours. Suppose they first had to pay-to-play?

Wheeler's turnaround isn't the end of it. On February 26th his new and stronger "open Internet" rules go before the full commission for a vote. A win isn't a slam dunk, however. Advocates are expecting pressure from a new Republican Congress and members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Categories: Diversity Headlines

This People of Color and Mental Illness Project Will Move You

Thu, 02/05/2015 - 07:21
This People of Color and Mental Illness Project Will Move You

Nearly half of all Americans will develop some form of mental illness during their lifetime, according to a study by the National Institutes of Health. But people of color often face additional barriers to treatment, including the stigmas associated with mental illness in their communities and discrimination in predominately white clinical settings, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness

Dior Vargas, a Latina feminist mental health activist, is out to change that. Vargas launched a new photo series aimed at breaking the stigmas associated with mental illness among people of color. The project, hosted on Vargas's website, is still accepting submissions. 

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Categories: Diversity Headlines

Jordan Vows Revenge, Anthem Insurance Hack, Serena's Return to Indian Wells

Thu, 02/05/2015 - 07:09
Jordan Vows Revenge, Anthem Insurance Hack, Serena's Return to Indian Wells

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

  • Jordan vows revenge for the brutal killing of an IS captive. 
  • Is your name, birthday and address a casualty of the big hack on Anthem health insurance? 
  • Serena Williams will return to Indian Wells more than a decade after being called the n-word and reminded that she could be skinned alive by tennis fans:
Categories: Diversity Headlines