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President Obama Affirms His Support for Same Sex Marriage

President Obama Affirms His Support for Same Sex Marriage

President Barack Obama affirmed his support for gay marriage on Wednesday. The big news here is that he actually used the word marriage—not civil union.

“I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married,” President Obama told ABC News’ Robin Roberts in an interview scheduled to appear on “Good Morning America” Thursday.

Writer Who Was Fired for Bashing Black Studies Continues, Slams “Academic Mob”

On Tuesday, the Chronicle of Higher Education severed ties with a blogger that dismissed black studies as “left-wing victimization clap-trap” but that hasn’t stopped her from hating on black studies.

Naomi Schaefer Riley, posted her commentary, called “The Most Persuasive Case for Eliminating Black Studies? Just Read the Dissertations,” on The Chronicle’s Brainstorm blog on April 30.

She’s continued to take stabs at black studies and has an even bigger platform now. Most recently she said “black studies is a cause, not a course of study.”

A&E Orders Reality Series on Gentrification in South Boston

A&E has ordered a new reality series called “Southie Rules” that follows one “stubborn native South Boston family as they battle the relentless gentrification of their neighborhood.”

Apparently it’s news and reality-tv worthy when white folks get pushed out of the neighborhood but not when Latinos or black communities are pushed out of New York’s Williamsburg, LA’s Silverlake and all of San Francisco. NY’s Chinatown is also in the thick of it too.

It’s unclear what the racial makeup of the family at the center of “Southie Rules” is but 85% of South Boston is white, according to public data from the 2000 Census.

Variety also points out working-class Southie has been examined on the bigscreen in films like “Gone Baby Gone” and “Mystic River.”

Actress Puja Mohindra Uses Love to Slam Ashton Kutcher’s Popchips Ad

Actress Puja Mohindra Uses Love to Slam Ashton Kutcher's Popchips Ad

Actress Puja Mohindra wants Ashton Kutcher to know his Popchips ad that mocked Indians was a total fail… and she’s doing it with kindness.

“Ashton, I know a lot of people are mad at you right now—about a billion—but I believe in you Ashton so I just wanted to share a few tips on how to make fun of Indian people,” Mohindra says in the video titled “To Ashton Kutcher, Love Kimmy Patel.”

Her first tip for Kutcher? You have to be Indian to make fun of Indians.

“I made this video because I believe you can respond to ignorance with love and humor. It was made with the spirit that comedy can educate, create change, initiate a dialogue, and encourage understanding & empathy between people,” Mohindra told Colorlines.com

“The Popchips ad was a definite fail, but it’s less important to spend time hating on the company or Ashton Kutcher and more important to learn from the mistake. The whole incident has created a conversation about race, and that’s where the opportunity for change lives,” Mohindra went on to say.

Zimmerman Pleads Not Guilty, Waives Right to Speedy Trial

Zimmerman Pleads Not Guilty, Waives Right to Speedy Trial

George Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, has waived his right to a speedy trial on Tuesday, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Experts believe lawyers are prolonging court proceedings in hopes the controversy fades away from national headlines.

Zimmerman, 28, admits he shot Martin, but still claims he did so in self-defense. He pleaded not guilty in court documents, making his appearance unnecessary at Tuesday’s arraignment hearing.

In Florida, a defendant is entitled a trial within 175 days of being charged, but Zimmerman’s attorney Mark O’Mara told ABC News he would try to prolong the process to allow racial tensions and the emotion associated with the case to subside.

Latino Street Artist Sparks Conversation About Labor in Beverly Hills

The scenes are familiar to Angelenos driving through Beverly Hills. Latina domestic workers of every age group waiting at bus stops and men attending gardens. Artist Ramiro Gomez says he wants people to stop and think about the labor force that takes care of the things we value the most: our families and our homes.

A carboard cutout of a gardener sits on Sunset Blvd. in Beverly Hills. (Photo: Jorge Rivas)

The 25-year-old artist who makes a living as a male nanny* by day has been placing hand-painted cardboard cut outs of workers in and around Beverly Hills. He’s left cardboard figures of housekeepers waiting at bus stops, men watering gardens, trimming hedges and even cut outs of a man with a leaf blower.

“I like that when people see my cardboard cut outs of real humans they stop and say ‘what is that’ and realize that what their seeing is a cardboard version of a housekeeper or gardener that they’ve just been driving past,” Gomez told Colorlines.com.

Gomez paints on cardboard he sources from a Best Buy and Target store dumpster at the edge of West Hollywood. He grew up about 65-miles east in a county called San Bernardino. He attended community college before transferring to the art school CalArts but says he was dissatisfied with his program and left before graduating.

Senate Blocks Vote on Democrats’ Student Loan Bill

It was never going to be easy. But now the country will get another taste of just how hard it is to get anything done in Congress, this time with student loans. This afternoon Senate Republicans blocked Democrats’ attempts at stopping student loan interest rates from doubling come July 1.

It was a largely symbolic move; the Democrats’ proposal in its current form had little chance of passing in the House. And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid voted against advancing his bill, signaling that negotiations in the coming days could lead to another vote on the bill.

Democrats and Republicans have filed separate bills that would postpone a scheduled interest rate increase on subsidized Stafford student loans. On July 1 the interest rate is set to double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent, which would add an extra $1,000 to students’ debt over their lifetime. Yet Republicans have suggested that their proposal be financed by slashing a preventative health program from President Obama’s healthcare overhaul, while Democrats have proposed funding the rate increase deferral with a tax increase on high-earners who own privately held corporations.

Republicans are now demanding a vote on their proposal, the AP reported.

TAGS: student debt

Alabama’s Revised Anti-Immigrant Law May Come Up for Vote This Week

Alabama's Revised Anti-Immigrant Law May Come Up for Vote This Week

Alabama’s attempt to revise its breathtakingly harsh anti-immigrant law, HB 56, could come up for a vote this week in the Senate, Sen. Scott Beason’s office confirmed. The movement comes just weeks after the Supreme Court heard oral arguments over Arizona’s SB 1070, which HB 56 was largely based on. In the face of national outrage and the host of lawsuits HB 56 ignited, Alabama senators have been hammering out what the revisions would look like, but immigrant rights advocates say that the revisions do not address the basic civil rights concerns with the law, and instead worsen the anti-immigrant provisions of HB 56.

Sen. Beason and Rep. Micky Hammon have been working on a compromise that would merge the two lawmakers’ attempts at revising HB 56, which went several steps further than Arizona’s SB 1070 at criminalizing life for undocumented immigrants in the state. The issue now is how much the state should tinker with the key “reasonable suspicion” provisions which compel law enforcement officers to ask anyone about their immigration status if they believe a person may be undocumented.

TAGS: alabama hb 56

Oxford Handbook of Personality Disorders: Is Racism is an Illness?

Oxford Handbook of Personality Disorders: Is Racism is an Illness?

The new Oxford Handbook of Personality Disorders, due for publication in August 2012, will include a chapter on “racism and pathological bias as a co-occurring problem in diagnosis and assessment.” The Oxford Handbook of Personality Disorders is a leading handbook that provides information concerning the diagnosis, assessment, construct validity, etiology, pathology, and treatment of personality disorders.

Noliwe Rooks, associate director of the Center for African American Studies at Princeton University, wrote an op-ed for TIME and she says classifying racism as an illness is troubling:

Thinking of any form of racism as an illness is very troubling. Historically, psychiatrists, psychologists, the medical establishment and lay people have all agreed that the roots of racism are cultural or societal — a set of beliefs and behaviors that are learned and, as a result, can be unlearned. If it were to ever be declared an illness that can be treated, racists would no longer be legally or ethically responsible for their actions. Just imagine it: a medical justification for discriminating against, or even killing, those of another race.

Dr. Carl C. Bell, the coauthor of the Oxford University Press chapter and a member of the APA is, nonetheless, convinced that some forms of racism are a mental illness. He notes that many of his colleagues are “concerned about having the conversation about racism and mental illness because, for them, it is akin to medicalizing a social problem.” He thinks there is some validity to those concerns but believes that while “95-98% of racist behavior is socially, culturally or politically determined, there is still a sliver of racist behavior that may be based on psychopathology.”

Idaho Supreme Court Reunites Family Torn Apart By Deportation

The Idaho Supreme Court issued a forceful decision late last month, ordering that a father who lost his child to adoption after he was deported to Mexico should regain custody of his daughter. The ruling overturned the decisions of two lower courts to terminate his parental rights. As countless other courts around the country consider similar cases of families shattered by deportation and the child welfare system, the Idaho decision could serve as a model in a relatively uncharted legal field.

In the court’s decision, Justice Daniel Eismann, who authored the unanimous decision, wrote that a lower court’s finding that the father had willfully abandoned his daughter and failed to maintain contact with his child is “clearly erroneous. In fact, it is absurd.”

The court ordered that the daughter, who is now 3-years-old and who has never met her dad, be reunified with her father in Mexico. The girl’s mother gave birth to her in the United States after her father’s deportation and the child welfare department later removed the daughter from her mother’s custody after an allegation of neglect.

The case mirrors countless others that have emerged around the country following the deportation of tens of thousands of parents of United States citizen children last year. An investigation by Colorlines.com found that there are currently at least 5,100 children in foster care whose parents have been detained or deported.

The Idaho child welfare department asked the lower court to terminate the father’s parental rights, arguing that it was in the best interest of the girl to remain in the United States, even if in the custody of strangers. In court, a child welfare department employee stated: “I think it’s in the best interest of [Daughter] obviously to remain in the United States because there’s no comparison between being in Mexico and being in the United States, being a United States citizen. She has all the luxuries or all the things we can offer.”

In the ruling, Justice Eismann wrote that such an argument can not be used to justify the termination of a father’s rights. The lower court, Eismann wrote, “failed to recognize the significance of a parent’s rights regarding his or her child.”

The Idaho Supreme Court also questioned the child welfare department’s motives in terminating the father’s rights, noting that the girl was currently in the custody of a department employee who wished to adopt her.

“It makes one wonder whether the real reason for seeking termination of (the) father’s parental rights is the fact that a department employee wanted to adopt (the) daughter.”

The Idaho case bears similarities to an ongoing North Carolina case that Colorlines.com first reported on earlier this year. In that case, a father named Felipe Montes was deported to Mexico for driving without a license, leaving his wife and three young children behind. His wife, Marie Montes, who struggles with substance abuse and disability issues, fell on hard times and the child welfare department determined that she was not fit to care for the kids. But rather than placing the children with their father, the child welfare department argued that they should be adopted by foster families in North Carolina. The next hearing in that case is scheduled for late May.

In the Idaho case, the father’s rights were already terminated and the child put up for adoption after a lower court ruled that the mother was unfit to care for the girl. The Idaho Supreme Court has now ordered the child welfare department to quickly reunify the girl with her father.

Mom Has No Regrets About Giving Son a Stun Gun to Fend Off Bullies

Mom Has No Regrets About Giving Son a Stun Gun to Fend Off Bullies

An Indiana teen has been suspended and could face expulsion because he brought a stun gun to school to scare off bullies who taunted him with homophobic slurs.

“All day I’d be on my guard,” Darnell “Dynasty” Young, who came out in his freshman year told the Indy Star. “It never got better. It always got worse.”

The teen’s mother says she sent her son to school with the stun gun after school administrators took no action to stop the bullying.

“I do not promote violence — not at all — but what is a parent to do when she has done everything that she felt she was supposed to do … at the school?” the mother, Chelisa Grimes, told CNN’s Don Lemon on Sunday. “I did feel like there was nothing else left for me to do, but protect my child.”

“If you wear female apparel, then kids are kids and they’re going to say whatever it is that they want to say,” Larry Yarrell, the principal at Young’s high school told Indystar.com. “Because you want to be different and because you choose to wear female apparel, it may happen. In the idealistic society, it shouldn’t matter. People should be able to wear what they want to wear.”

The six students in question who approached Young have not been suspended, according to CNN.

Comedian Hasan Minhaj Schools Ashton Kutcher on Brownface

Comedian Hasan Minhaj Schools Ashton Kutcher on Brownface

The brilliant Hasan Minhaj just released a video that takes Ashton Kutcher and Pop Chips to school for a lesson on how not to be “extremely offensive.”

In the 2.5 minute video, the Indian-American comedian says Kutcher didn’t get anything right—not the accent, the references or the racism. “If you’re gonna be racist come correct with your racism,” Minhaj says in the video.

Minhaj goes on to suggest Pop Chips and Kutcher knew they could get away with “clowning” Indians and Asians:

Maybe Pop Chips consciously didn’t want to offend minorities, but subconsciously, they knew that they could get away with clowning Indians and Asians… That’s the way it is now. They wouldn’t do that with any other ethnicity. There’s a barbeque flavor of Pop Chips, why didn’t you make him blackfaced and Tyrone? Because you knew you’d get f*cking buried, Pop Chips. That’s why. And you know that Asians and Indians are the new ‘clownable minority.’

Popchips CEO Keith Belling has an issued an apology…sort of, only to those who were offended. “Our team worked hard to create a light-hearted parody featuring a variety of characters that was meant to provide a few laughs. we did not intend to offend anyone. I take full responsibility and apologize to anyone we offended,” wrote on the company’s website last Wednesday.

Oprah’s OWN Network Approaching More Than $300 Million in Losses

Oprah's OWN Network Approaching More Than $300 Million in Losses

“I didn’t think it was going to be easy. If I knew then what I know now, I might have made some different choices,” Oprah Winfrey told the anchors of “CBS Morning” last month. If the news that Bloomberg Businessweek is reporting is true Oprah has a really difficult time.

Bloomberg Businessweek is reporting Oprah’s OWN network has allegedly lost as much as $330 million dollars.

TAGS: Oprah OWN TV

On Cinco De Mayo a Mexican Jockey Won the Kentucky Derby

On Cinco De Mayo a Mexican Jockey Won the Kentucky Derby

On Saturday, a relatively unknown twenty-five-year-old jockey won the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby, the world’s most prestigious horse race. Jockey Mario Gutierrez who was born in Veracruz, Mexico took home the Derby prize on his first try.

“Top trainers, top owners, of course, they’re not going to know anything about me,” Gutierrez told the AP before the race.

Gutierrez was training in Vancouver at this time last year and says he didn’t think he’s make it to the Derby so quickly.

“Of course I had the dream, but I wasn’t thinking it was going to be the next year,” Gutierrez told the Kentucky Derby blog. “Like all jockeys, we all dream that one day (we’d be fortunate enough to) be in the Kentucky Derby,” he went on to say.

Last year Puerto Rican jockey John Velazquez took home the grand prize and in 2006 Edgar Prado from Peru won the race.

Gutierrez’s win was overshadowed Monday by news that a man who is believed to have worked in the Churchill Downs stables was found dead. ABC News reports Louisville homicide detectives identified the man whose injured body was found Sunday morning in one of the barns a day after the Kentucky Derby as Adan Fabian Perez.

Student Loan Interest Hike Heads to Senate

Spring recess is over for Congress this week, and the Senate’s first order of business is dealing with possible federal student loan interest hikes. The Senate is set to take up Democrats’ version of a bill that would stop federal loan interest rates from doubling come July 1. Republicans happen to agree with Democrats that stopping the interest rate hike, yet both parties have differing plans about who should pay for the costs.

Senate Democrats have proposed increasing taxes on high earners who own a private corportation. Republicans, who meanwhile, have suggested slashing a preventative health program in President Obama’s healthcare reform plan to finance their plan. The House approved a version of the Republicans’ plan on April 27.

Both plans would freeze interest rate hikes on Stafford student loans, which are meant for students from middle and low-income families, for just one more year. As Republicans and Democrats work to present themselves as the voice of that shrinking middle class in the race toward the November elections, student loan issue has become a galvanizing issue for both parties.

If a plan is not approved, students with subsidized Stafford student loans could see an extra $1,000 added to their debt loads. According to the Department of Education, 7.4 million students depend on Stafford loans to pay for school.

TAGS: student debt

Lena Dunham Responds to Why HBO’s ‘Girls’ Is So White

Lena Dunham Responds to Why HBO's 'Girls' Is So White

HBO’s new series “Girls” has received a lot of criticism for the show’s lack of diversity. Lena Dunham, the show’s creator has for the most part stayed away from the controversy until today when she addressed the issue head on with NPR’s Terry Gross.

Below is a snippet from NPR’s “Fresh Air” interview with Dunham: > “I take that criticism very seriously. … This show isn’t supposed to feel exclusionary. It’s supposed to feel honest, and it’s supposed to feel true to many aspects of my experience. But for me to ignore that criticism and not to take it in would really go against my beliefs and my education in so many things. And I think the liberal-arts student in me really wants to engage in a dialogue about it, but as I learn about engaging with the media, I realize it’s not the same as sitting in a seminar talking things through at Oberlin. Every quote is sort of used and misused and placed and misplaced, and I really wanted to make sure I spoke sensitively to this issue.

“I wrote the first season primarily by myself, and I co-wrote a few episodes. But I am a half-Jew, half-WASP, and I wrote two Jews and two WASPs. Something I wanted to avoid was tokenism in casting. If I had one of the four girls, if, for example, she was African-American, I feel like — not that the experience of an African-American girl and a white girl are drastically different, but there has to be specificity to that experience [that] I wasn’t able to speak to. I really wrote the show from a gut-level place, and each character was a piece of me or based on someone close to me. And only later did I realize that it was four white girls. As much as I can say it was an accident, it was only later as the criticism came out, I thought, ‘I hear this and I want to respond to it.’ And this is a hard issue to speak to because all I want to do is sound sensitive and not say anything that will horrify anyone or make them feel more isolated, but I did write something that was super-specific to my experience, and I always want to avoid rendering an experience I can’t speak to accurately.”

Dunham went on to say that she takes the criticism seriously and plans to make the second season of the show more diverse.

You can listen to the entire 37-minute interview on NPR.org.

TAGS: Girls HBO

Asian-American Population Grew Faster than any Other Race Group in Last Decade

Asian-American Population Grew Faster than any Other Race Group in Last Decade

The Asian population grew faster than any other race group in the United States between 2000 and 2010, according to new Census data released last week. This was observed for the population who reported Asian alone (increased 43 percent), as well as for the population who reported Asian alone or in combination with another race (increased 46 percent).

The top five states that experienced the fastest growth were Nevada with 116 percent, Arizona with 95 percent, North Carolina with 85 percent, North Dakota with 85 percent, and Georgia with 83 percent.

“The Asian American community is very, very heterogeneous,” said Census Bureau Director Robert Groves at a presentation last week. “Thinking of this as one group—you do at your own peril. Because you end up making mistakes of judgment and I think these data show that very, very, clearly. And, the more we tell that message of heterogeneity the better off we are and the better off the country will be,”

ABC and Univision Partner to Launch English News for U.S. Latinos

ABC and Univision Partner to Launch English News for U.S. Latinos

ABC News and Univision News on Monday announced they’re launching a joint news venture targeting Latinos in the U.S. with English-language news. A daily news site is expected to launch this summer with a 24-hour cable news channel coming in 2013.

ABC News president Ben Sherwood said: “Our mission is clear: To offer culturally relevant news, information and lifestyle programming to the large and thriving Latino audience in the United States. In these times of rapid change, we are very excited about this opportunity.”

“This is a historic development for the Latino community in the United States,” Fernando Vila, English News Editor at Univision News wrote in a statement Monday morning.

“Now, with an aggressive expansion into English language news, Univision will be able to expand its reach and solidify its appeal with English-dominant Latinos, which represent a rapidly growing market,” Villa went on to say.

The Associated Press’ David Bauder points out the ABC-Univision venture stakes new ground with programming in English. Univision and NBC Universal-owned Telemundo already provides news content in Spanish just like CNN in Español does on it’s 24-hour news network but no one else is reaching english-dominant Latinos in the U.S. with a 24-hour news and lifestyle channel.

Isaac Lee, president of Univision News, called the venture “groundbreaking.” “It will also provide all audiences with a multiplatform current events perspective on the issues that matter most to Latinos,” he said. “This is an important moment for journalism in the U.S. and for the U.S. Hispanic community.”

Big Freedia and Light Asylum’s Shannon Funchess on Importance of ‘Paris is Burning’

Big Freedia and Light Asylum's Shannon Funchess on Importance of 'Paris is Burning'

The 1990 documentary “Paris Is Burning” chronicles Harlem’s disenfranchised black, Latino, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities who come together to “battle” on runways. It also changed the lives of some of today’s most innovative musicians.

NPR’s Julianne Escobedo says the balls featured in “Paris is Burning” were a “safe space for disenfranchised, often poor, gay and transgendered Blacks and Latinos in a time when it could be deadly just to walk down the street as such, the vogue ball of the late ’80s and ’90s was a site of transformative glamour, beauty, and empowerment — a tradition that continues to this day.”

While the film didn’t quite hit mainstream success it did rack up film prizes everywhere it played including the Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize and Best Documentary awards from the Los Angeles, New York, and National Film Critics’ Circles. It also was named as one of the 1991’s best films by the LA Times, the Washington Post, National Public Radio, Time Magazine and the list goes on.

NY Food Book Fair Brings Activists, Academics and Chefs Together This Weekend

New Yorkers into food politics are in for a treat this weekend. Food lovers in other parts of the country can take a look at some of the participants that are doing progressive work in food systems until the Food Book Fair goes on tour.

The New York Food Book Fair is taking place Friday, May 4th - Sunday, May 6th with celebrated authors, activists, chefs and artists coming together for panel discussions and a few other events. (Full disclosure: Founder Elizabeth Thacker Jones is a big fan of Colorlines.com and a friend of mine.)

Included in panels is Colorlines,com favorite Bryant Terry who’s ‘Inspired Vegan’ cookbook shows healthy food isn’t just for white folks and food scholar Krishnendu Ray who focuses on questions of ethnicity and its relation to consumption, food culture and food politics.

Ray’s latest book “Curried Cultures” is a wide-ranging collection of essays that explores the relationship between globalization and South Asia through food, “covering the cuisine of the colonial period to the contemporary era, investigating its material and symbolic meanings.”

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