Colorlines

NOW IN RACIAL JUSTICE

Nazis Collect Social Security, U.S. Weapons to Kurdish Fighters, Ferguson Arrests Continue

Nazis Collect Social Security, U.S. Weapons to Kurdish Fighters, Ferguson Arrests Continue

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

  • Have you seen the puppy-sized spider observed in Guyana yet? It’s so big that the etymologist that stumbled upon it first thought it was a possum. 
TAGS: Morning Rush

Kris Kobach, in for Political Comeuppance?

Kris Kobach, in for Political Comeuppance?

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, with his penchant for hardline anti-immigration policy and reputation for picking, and winning, fights against the invented bogeyman of voter fraud, is in an unexpectedly heated race for re-election against Democratic challenger and former state Sen. Jean Schodorf. 

In a solidly Republican state, Kobach may still be in for electoral rebuke as voters tire of his political shenanigans, and sidelined moderate Republicans seek to regain control of their state, Politico reports. But it’s a political antic and not Kobach’s anti-immigration work or voter ID law crusade which really tested voters’ patience, the Kansas City Star reported earlier this month. Kobach sought to keep a Democratic candidate for Senate on the ballot even after he’d withdrawn from the race, in a move which would have helped a fellow Republican contender.

That’s not to say that Kobach’s policies haven’t had a lasting impact on the national policy landscape. Kobach, an architect of Arizona’s SB 1070, also has served as counsel for the anti-immigration group Federation for American Immigration Reform. Kobach also successfully pushed for a Kansas voter ID bill which requres not just proof of identification but also of citizenship. The move kicked some 22,000 people off the voter rolls, critics have argued. Trip Gabriel reports for the New York Times:

“They moved too far to the right,” said Marc White, a lawyer who came to a candidates’ forum last week in Topeka, the state capital, where Mr. Kobach spoke. “We’re a Republican state, don’t get me wrong. But you’re going to have a backlash to the more extreme policies.”

Mr. White described trying to help a man in his 40s caught in limbo by Kansas’ tough new voting law written by Mr. Kobach, which requires voters registering for the first time to document they are citizens. “This individual was born at home in Mississippi and is having a very difficult time obtaining records that would allow him to register,” Mr. White said.

After polling neck and neck with his Democratic challenger earlier this fall, he latest poll out this week by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling give Kobach a six-point lead over Schodorf, Politico reports.

Rikers Island Jail Spends About $100K Per Inmate Annually

Rikers Island Jail Spends About $100K Per Inmate Annually

A new report out today reveals that Rikers Island, the nation’s second largest jail and subject of a damning federal investigation, spends $96,000 per inmate each year. That’s more than a 40 percent increase since 2006 and, The New York Times reports, twice the amount spent per inmate by other big cities like Los Angeles, which houses a larger inmate population. Over the same period that costs have risen, the city comptroller’s office found that the inmate population declined 18 percent at Rikers and violence increased to extraordinary levels.

Roughly 85 percent of Rikers’ annual-per-inmate costs goes to pay personnel.

2013 Was the Deadliest Year of LGBT Intimate Partner Violence On Record

2013 Was the Deadliest Year of LGBT Intimate Partner Violence On Record

For 17 years, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) has been collecting data on domestic violence in LGBT communities. They started in 1997 with a report that was the first-ever look at intimate partner violence among LGBT couples. It was an important intervention in the domestic violence movement largely defined by the ways that cisgender men physically or emotionally abused their wives. 

When NCAVP released what ultimately became its annual report, it helped expand the movement within the federal government and departments of public health. Like most statistics on domestic violence, the reported cases were generally thought to be an underestimate because many victims don’t actually report their assaults. But the problem was especially hard for LGBT folks because, in 1997, 21 states had enforceable sodomy laws on the books that could put a queer person behind bars.
 
Since then, the language has changed, but the problem has not. Domestic violence, which in this report is also called intimate partner violence, is a catchall phrase that refers to “a pattern of behavior where one partner coerces, dominates, or isolates another intimate partner to maintain power and control over the partner and the relationship,” according to researchers.
 
In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data on intimate partner violence that included sexual orientation, but left out gender identity. Still, the results showed that LGBT partnerships were not immune to violence: 44 percent of lesbian women and 61 percent of bisexual women have experienced physical violence, stalking or rape in their intimate partnerships.
 
In this year’s report on intimate partner violence, NCAVP reports that 2013 was an especially deadly year for LGBT victims of domestic violence. By their researchers’ estimates, there were 21 homicides due to intimate partner violence, the highest number ever recorded. More than 28 percent of those victims were people of color. Of the 21 victims in 2012, 10 were identified as cisgender men, eight as cisgender women and three as transgender women.
What’s more:
  • LGBTQ people of color were more likely to report experiencing physical violence, discrimination, threats or intimidation, and harassment as a result of intimate partner violence. 

  • LGBTQ and HIV-affected people of color were more likely to experience incidents of intimate partner violence in streets or public spaces. 
  • Bisexual survivors were 1.6 times more likely to experience sexual violence and 2.2 times more likely to experience physical violence as a result of intimate partner violence.
  • Transgender people of color were 2.6 times more likely to experience discrimination within intimate partner violence. 
  • Transgender survivors were 2.5 times more likely to experience incidents of intimate partner violence in public spaces.

  • More than eight percent of reported victims were undocumented (of the more than 83 percent who disclosed their immigration status).

Osman Ahmed, one of the report’s authors, told me by phone that “how you identify is an important factor in terms of how abuse can happen [because] your identity can be used against you within intimate partner violence.”

Read the full report here.

The Underlying Racism of Ebola Coverage

The Underlying Racism of Ebola Coverage

It’s impossible to ignore the racist undertones in much of the world’s Ebola coverage. Just yesterday, the United Nations huaman rights chief warned against anti-African discrimination over the disease. But it’s already happening. Stassa Edwards over at Jezebel offers this:

African illness is represented as a suffering child, debased in its own disease-ridden waste; like the continent, it is infantile, dirty and primitive. Yet when the same disease is graphed onto the bodies of Americans and Europeans, it morphs into a heroic narrative: one of bold doctors and priests struck down, of experimental serums, of hazmat suits and the mastery of modern technology over contaminating, foreign disease. These parallel representations work on a series of simple, historic dualisms: black and white, good and evil, clean and unclean.

The Western medical discourse on Africa has never been particularly subtle: the continent is often depicted as an undivided repository of degeneration. Comparing the representations of disease in Africa and in the West, you can hear the whispers of an underlying moral panic: a sense that Africa, and its bodies, are uncontainable. The discussion around Ebola has already evoked—almost entirely from Tea Party Republicans—the explicit idea that American borders are too porous and that all manners of perceived primitiveness might infect the West.

Edwards goes on to give a brief history of racist moral panics around disease.

In the United States, where the first Ebola-infected patient, Liberian-born Thomas Eric Duncan, died, the disease is increasingly becoming a stand-in for blackness. As Hannah Giorgis writes at the Guardian:

[Duncan] - and the West Africans to whom he is tied by both birth and cause of death - have become nothing more than disease vectors responsible for infecting innocent western health workers, tarnishing pristine nations by importing the blemish of an African scourge. And yet, American citizenship alone does not sanitize the blight of blackness; Amber Joy Vinson, the second healthcare worker diagnosed with the virus, is already being met with scrutiny as Nina Pham’s quarantined dog receives anoutpouring of support.

Read more.

Ebola and Race, 40K Missing Voter Registrations, a Guide to Better Sleep

Ebola and Race, 40K Missing Voter Registrations, a Guide to Better Sleep

Here’s what I’m reading up on today:

TAGS: Morning Rush

Despite Obamacare Advances, Racial Health Disparities for Women of Color Abound

Despite Obamacare Advances, Racial Health Disparities for Women of Color Abound

From access to health care to health-care coverage and health outcomes, women of color in the U.S. have distinctly different experiences than their white female counterparts, according to a new 50-state report card released Tuesday by the Alliance for a Just Society. 

Black women have worse health outcomes than women overall in unique areas, like hypertension and infant mortality. For all 38 states that self-reported data on the topic, black women have an infant morality rate that’s at least 20 percent higher than it is for women overall, according to the report. In seven states, black women post an infant mortality rate double what women overall experience. Diabetes in particular is a problem that has a disproportionate impact on Latinas and Asian women, and Native American women experience higher rates of asthma than women overall do.

Inequities extend to access to care and healthcare coverage. In more than half of U.S. states, black women are uninsured at rates that are at least 10 percent higher than the uninsured rate for women overall, according to the report. In one-third of U.S. states black women are uninsured at rates 20 percent higher than women overall. In 17 states, Latinas are uninsured at rates double the rate uninsured rate of women overall. 

These problems stem from 21 states’ refusal to accept federal funding to expand Medicaid coverage for low-income residents, concludes the Alliance for Justice Society, whose executive director LeeAnn Hall serves on the board of Colorlines’ publisher Race Forward. Those states that refused Medicaid expansion performed especially poorly in AJS’ report card. Boosting Medicaid expansion tops the organization’s policy recommendations. 

“While many states are making critical progress on women’s health thanks to the Affordable Care Act, this report card underscores that we must do more, starting with getting every state to cover low-income women through Medicaid,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) said in a statement, echoing the report card’s findings.

For more, read the Alliance for a Just Society report card here.

How Residential Segregation Still Divides St. Louis

How Residential Segregation Still Divides St. Louis

Why do whites live where they live? Why do blacks live where they live? “In 1968, Larman Williams was one of the first African Americans to buy a home in the white suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. It wasn’t easy.” That’s the beginning of Richard Rothstein’s “The Making of Ferguson” in the fall issue of The American Prospect. As any St. Louisan will tell you, you can’t talk about what’s wrong with Ferguson without first understanding the region’s patchwork of municipal boundaries—holdovers from the Jim Crow era, Rothstein says. He emphasizes that current residential segregation is not just a result of choice or the private prejudices of white homeowners. It’s also, “the explicit intents of federal, state, and local governments to create racially segregated metropolises”—not only in St. Louis but throughout the country.

That government, not private prejudice, was responsible for segregating greater St. Louis was once widely recognized. In 1974, a federal appeals court concluded, “Segregated housing in the St. Louis metropolitan area was … in large measure the result of deliberate racial discrimination in the housing market by the real estate industry and by agencies of the federal, state, and local governments.” The Department of Justice stipulated to this truth but took no action in response. In 1980, a federal court ordered the state, county, and city governments to devise plans to integrate schools by integrating housing. Public officials ignored the order, devising only a voluntary busing plan to integrate schools, but not housing.

Read the rest, including the Jim Crow-era experiences of pioneering black homeowners, now at The American Prospect. Looking for even deeper analysis? Check out Rothstein’s paper at The Economic Policy Institute.

 

Crisis Mode at Texas Hospital, Elizabeth Peña Dies

Crisis Mode at Texas Hospital, Elizabeth Peña Dies

This is what I’m reading up on today:

  • Dallas’ Texas Presbyterian is in damage-control mode, but lax U.S. guidelines may be to blame for the hospital’s failure to stop the spread of Ebola.
  • RIP Elizabeth Peña, 1959-2014.
  • Remember that awful video of tech bros kicking brown kids off of a San Francisco soccer field? Longtime residents of the city’s Mission District rallied on Wednesday to change the city’s Park and Recreation reservation policies.
  • Lucas may be able to use Venmo to send cash to friends, but Ahmed apparently can’t.
TAGS: Morning Rush

For One Black Muslim, a Prison Sentence for Refusing FBI Informant Recruitment

For One Black Muslim, a Prison Sentence for Refusing FBI Informant Recruitment

The FBI effort to quash black nationalist “subversion” in the 1950s and ’60s set the agency up well to continue infiltrating and destabilizng black Muslim communities when Sept. 11 provided a 21st century mandate to fight the threat of Muslim “radicalization,” The Nation argues this week in its report about Ayyub Abdul-Alim.

Abdul-Alim, who’s Puerto Rican and black, grew up in New York City and was living in Springfield, Massachusetts, when he was first approached by an FBI agent in 2010. The agent’s invitation to become an informant grew into harassment and hounding. Then police, Abdul-Alim says, planted a gun on him and arrested him in 2011. In custody, a police officer, also working with the FBI, offered Abdul-Alim a trade—his freedom for a lucrative contract as an FBI informant. He refused, and ended up paying dearly.

Arun Kundnani, Emily Keppler, and Muki Najaer, reporting for The Nation, put Abdul-Alim’s case in historical perspective:

Since 9/11, a key element in the FBI’s counter-terrorism tactics has been the aggressive recruitment and deployment of large numbers of informants among Muslim communities in the United States. Part of the purpose is to gather information on political or community activism, which the FBI frames as a precursor to extremist violence. But the tactics also fit a familiar pattern—one that harkens back to the FBI’s history of targeting the civil rights and Black Power movements of the 1960s, when it was likewise asserted that extremist ideologues were fueling violence.

Today, black Muslims stand at the intersection of the War on Drugs’ institutional racism and the War on Terror’s institutional Islamophobia: their race frames them as prone to gang violence, their religion as a terrorist threat. Abdul-Alim’s case shows the extreme measures the FBI is willing to use to pressure Muslims to work as informants on the terror war’s domestic front.

Read the story in its riveting entirety at The Nation.

Undocumented Harvard Student Allowed to Return to the U.S.

Undocumented Harvard Student Allowed to Return to the U.S.

According to the Associated Press (AP), an undocumented student who left to Mexico in hopes of helping his mother battle cancer will be allowed to return to the United States on temporary humanitarian parole. 

Dario Guerrero Meneses, 21, is a student at Harvard. After his mother, 41-year-old Rocio Meneses Díaz, was unsuccessfully treated for cancer in the U.S., Guerrero accompanied her to Mexico for alternative care this past summer. Nevertheless, she passed away a week later, on August 14.

Guerrero’s lived almost his entire life in the U.S., first arriving at the age of 2. And although he obtained Deferred Status for Undocumented Immigrants, which largely protects him from deportation, Guerrero was ineligible to return immediately.

Guerrero, who will soon be a father himself, petitioned for the ability to return on humanitarian grounds through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration services; he was approved Tuesday. AP posted his reaction and specified that the move doesn’t carve out a permanent solution:

“Oh my God. I don’t know. I feel good!” Guerrero said as the news brought tears of joy to his aunts and cousins. Guerrero said he was excited to resume his education and take up new family responsibilities.

This parole is temporary. It lasts for two years and does not give him legal residency, let alone a clear path to U.S. citizenship.

You can read the full story over at AP

Gunshot Residue Found on Vonderrit Myers, Police Say

Gunshot Residue Found on Vonderrit Myers, Police Say

Vonderrit Myers Jr., the 18-year-old black man who was shot and killed by St. Louis police last week, had gunshot residue on his hands and clothing, according to crime lab results. The findings, reported by St. Louis’ KSDK, are an added piece of evidence as investigators and the public work to build a coherent timeline of events before a uniformed off-duty St. Louis police officer shot and killed Myers last Wednesday. The findings don’t, however, reconcile the divergent accounts of what happened before Myers was killed.

KSDK’s Kevin Held reports:

The tests confirm gunshot residue on Myers’ hand, the inner waistband of his jeans, and on his T-shirt. Investigators say the presence of gunshot residue on a person’s hands could mean that individual fired a gun, was near a gun when it was fired, or touched an object with gunshot residue on it. Also, people who are shot at close range can have gunshot residue on their person.

In the wake of the shooting, Myers’ family insisted that he was unarmed and holding a sandwich. According to police, the uniformed off-duty officer approached Myers and two others last Wednesday before they scattered. When the cop confronted Myers, police say, Myers discharged a gun three times before the cop responded with gunshots of his own, killing the teen.

Myers’ prior interactions with the criminal justice system show that he was “no angel,” the St. Louis Police Association said according to the St. Louis American. It’s a loaded descriptor though. The New York Times, in its much-criticized profile of slain teen Michael Brown, also described Brown as “no angel,” a phrase the paper reserved for convicted white rapists and murderers, a Nazi field marshal and Magic Johnson. Brown and Myers, both black and 18 years old, were shot and killed by police officers exactly two months apart.

Watch: Stop-and-Frisk and Police-Community Relations in the U.S.

Watch: Stop-and-Frisk and Police-Community Relations in the U.S.

Addressing an audience of prosecutors and policymakers gathered in New York City late last month, U.S. attorney general Eric Holder said, “As you’ve noted, what gets measured is what gets funded and what gets funded is what gets done.” In 2013, the federal government sent nearly $4 billion in criminal justice grants across the country to places including St. Louis. States and cities depend heavily on federal funding to augment slashed police and prosecutorial budgets. Resistant-to-change institutions also use federal funds to test new policies. “Federal grants,” according to a new Brennan Center report, “have an outsize impact on state and local criminal justice practices.” And grant money typically flows to agencies and organizations that quantify impact, damage, harm or success. Dollars flow, as Holder says, to what gets measured—and today’s panel being livestreamed out of Washington, D.C. is an insider’s look at what’s getting measured.

Can “evidence-based criminal justice research” improve policing in high crime or urban communities of color? To find out, watch “Stop and Frisk: The Role of Police Strategies and Tactics in Police-Community Relations,” livestreamed today from noon to 1:30 p.m. EST at The Urban Institute in Washington, D.C. Panelists include: Cathy Lanier, chief of police, D.C.; Ronald L. Davis, community oriented policing services, U.S. Department of Justice; Tracie L. Keesee, Center for Policing Equity, UCLA (which had been evaluating the St. Louis County PD’s traffic stops in the months before Michael Brown’s murder).

Watch above.

And ICYMI, check out video from last night’s Town Hall on Race, Policing and Civil Rights, for activist and community leaders’ perspectives on the pace and possibility of stop-and-frisk and police accountability reform.

Second Hospital Worker Infected with Ebola, Hong Kong Police Attack Protestors, BET Hip Hop Awards

Second Hospital Worker Infected with Ebola, Hong Kong Police Attack Protestors, BET Hip Hop Awards

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

  • Anita Sarkeesian cancels a talk after security measures aren’t taken to address the threat of a mass shooting. 
  • More than 100 black candidates fill November’s ballots—a record high
TAGS: Morning Rush

Watch: Town Hall on Race, Policing and Civil Rights in the U.S.

Watch: Town Hall on Race, Policing and Civil Rights in the U.S.

Keep the national policing conversation sparked by the deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, John Crawford and more going. They’re the subject of a town hall panel in Brooklyn tonight that will livestream for two hours, beginning at 7 p.m. E.S.T. Panelists include: Esmeralda Simmons, Center for Law & Social Justice, Medgar Evers College; Lumumba Bandele, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement; Jumaane Williams, City Council Member; Rinku Sen, Race Forward (publisher of Colorlines); Linda Sarsour, Arab American Association; and Anthony Miranda, Latino Officers Association.

Watch livestreamed video above. Join the online conversation and Tweet questions to panelists: #BHeard.

And read ProPublica’s latest on police killings and black men: in recent years, young black men were 21 times more likely than young white men to be killed by police.

LAUSD Asks Judge to Reveal Child Sex Abuse Victims’ Immigration Status

LAUSD Asks Judge to Reveal Child Sex Abuse Victims' Immigration Status

The Los Angeles Unified School District is asking a judge to reveal the immigration status of children who were sexually abused by their Miramonte Elementary schoolteacher, Mark Berndt. The request claims that if children seek monetary damages for future earnings losses, their status should be weighed.

In a motion first reported by NBC 4 News Los Angeles and obtained by Colorlines today, LAUSD attorneys outline the argument:

Thus, to the extent the plaintiffs in this lawsuit seek loss of earnings or lost wages, their immigration status is directly relevant to the determination of their potential for future earning capacity and, thus, is relevant to the determination of damages. 

As Colorlines has reported, immigration status has been a central theme in this case—with parents expressing deportation concerns. Then-Sheriff Lee Baca issued a letter to parents in 2012 assuring them that there wouldn’t be questions about status.

Berndt was originally investigated by the district in December 2010—but it didn’t suspend the teacher until the following February. He wasn’t arrested until January 2012. Parents and guardians weren’t told about the initial investigation and didn’t hear about it until about a year later. Berndt pleaded no contest in 2013 to molesting 23 children and is serving 25 years. 

Black and Latino Engineering Graduation Rates Don’t Match up With Tech Industry Hiring

Black and Latino Engineering Graduation Rates Don't Match up With Tech Industry Hiring

Blacks and Latinos graduate with degrees in computer science and engineering from top universities at rates that aren’t reflected in the tech industry’s hiring practices, a USA Today investigation found.

Elizabeth Weise and Jessica Guynn report for USA Today:

On average, just 2% of technology workers at seven Silicon Valley companies that have released staffing numbers are black; 3% are Hispanic.

But last year, 4.5% of all new recipients of bachelor’s degrees in computer science or computer engineering from prestigious research universities were African American, and 6.5% were Hispanic, according to data from the Computing Research Association.

The USA TODAY analysis was based on the association’s annual Taulbee Survey, which includes 179 U.S. and Canadian universities that offer doctorates in computer science and computer engineering.

Diversity, and the lack thereof, has been the talk of the tech industry this summer as top companies including Twitter, Google, Pinterest, eBay, Facebook, and Microsoft slowly succumbed to public pressure and shared the racial and gender breakdowns of their staff. Unsurprisingly, the tech world is a white- and Asian-male dominated industry.

Amidst the hand-wringing, the USA Today investigation findings should quell one common rejoinder, which is that there just aren’t enough talented black and Latino applicants, The New School professor Darrick Hamilton tells USA Today

Getting more women and people of color into technical positions isn’t important merely to fill out a company’s diversity profile. Some science and technology educational programs argue that getting girls of color into the tech pipeline is a matter of equity and economic sustainability. 

In Ferguson, a Secretive, Federal Team of Racial Conflict Mediators

In Ferguson, a Secretive, Federal Team of Racial Conflict Mediators

They were dispatched to Seattle in 2010 after police shot and killed a Native American woodcarver. They were sent to the 2009 Oakland protests sparked by Oscar Grant’s shooting death. And then to Sanford, Florida, in 2012 after protests erupted in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s killing. They’ve been in the St. Louis area since even before Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown. And they’re in Ferguson now, a team of under-the-radar federal mediators known as the Community Relations Service, overseen by the Department of Justice, who are sent to the scene of bubbling racial conflicts.

This weekend the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explored the limits and powers of the agency, which operates under a cloak of privacy and secrecy. As in: minimal contact with press, closed door community meetings, and peacekeeping but no investigative authority. 

The Post-Dispatch’s David Hunn reports:

[I]ts goal, said Director Grande H. Lum in an interview last week with the Post-Dispatch, isn’t to make arrests or file lawsuits, but to give all sides a private place to talk, and, hopefully, solve their own problems.

“Those are the longest-lasting solutions — when the people themselves resolve their own disputes,” Lum said. His unit, he said, allows “people to speak.”

Lum wouldn’t discuss the details of his agency’s work in Ferguson. He said mediators are trained to identify underlying causes, parties involved, and those who need to be included.

“We are going to be there,” Lum said, “as long as it is needed.”

That could be a very long time. Read the rest of the Post-Dispatch story.

Actress Khandi Alexander Discovers Racial Violence Victim in Her Family Tree

Actress Khandi Alexander Discovers Racial Violence Victim in Her Family Tree

Tonight on PBS’ “Finding your Roots with Henry Louis Gates Jr.,” actress Khandi Alexander learns that her grandfather may’ve been killed by white coworkers in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1935. Neither her mother nor grandmother ever talked about her grandfather’s, Joshua Masters,’ death at age 25 while working at a rosin factory. “Maybe it was too painful,” Alexander says, at first in a questioning voice. Then she’s sure: “Maybe it was too painful.”

Masters had worked as a factory distiller. It was a job normally reserved for white men whom Gates, after some investigation says, may have resented having a black boss.

Watch Alexander’s reaction in the clip above and her full story during tonight’s episode of “Finding your Roots with Henry Louis Gates Jr.” 

Karen Lewis Pulls Out of Chicago Mayoral Race

Karen Lewis Pulls Out of Chicago Mayoral Race

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis is putting aside her mayoral ambitions while she battles a brain tumor, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Monday. The charismatic firebrand was set for a hotly anticipated standoff with Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel in his bid for re-election. 

Her mayoral bid was an outgrowth of the political momentum Lewis, a former chemistry teacher, gained when she and the Chicago Teachers Union took on Emanuel in an historic 2012 citywide teachers strike. In that fight, Lewis and the union refocused a mainstream education reform conversation typically depicted as one between self-interested teachers unions and everyone else into a conversation about equity and children’s educational rights in a constrained, anti-labor climate. 

It’s little coincidence that their showdown happened in Chicago, President Obama’s hometown and a testing ground for the school-reform policies championed by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and now executed by Rahm Emanuel. Among the most controversial of those policies has been school closures, which advocates argue disproportionately impact black and Latino students. Last year Emanuel shuttered 49 schools. Polls conducted by the Chicago Tribune in August show that voters have been siding with unions instead of Emanuel when it comes to handling schools.

Without Lewis in the race, Emanuel’s lost his most formidable opponent, the Chicago Tribune reported this morning.

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