Michelle Chen

Michelle Chen
Columnist, Global Justice
New York, NY

Michelle Chen is Colorlines' Global Justice columnist. She is a regular contributor on labor issues at In These Times, as well as a member of the magazine's Board of Editors. Michelle's reporting has appeared in Ms. Magazine, AirAmerica, Alternet, Newsday, the Progressive Media Project, and her old zine, cain. Prior to joining Colorlines, she wrote for the independent news collective The NewStandard. A native New Yorker, she has also conducted ethnographic research as a Fulbright fellow in Shanghai and checked coats at a West Village jazz club. She is currently pursuing doctoral studies at the City University of New York and co-producing the community radio program Asia Pacific Forum on Pacifica's WBAI.

Follow Michelle at @meeshellchen.

When Numbers Lie: Prisoners of the Census in New York

by Michelle Chen on February 1 2010, 6:25PM

Across New York City, tens of thousands of Black and Latino residents have gone missing. You’ll find them languishing behind bars in upstate towns, where they’re punished by being robbed of their potential as income-earners, parents and community members….

Topics: Criminal Justice

Veiled Discrimination: France Moves to Ban the Burqa

by Michelle Chen on January 30 2010, 6:07AM

To some Americans unfamiliar with Muslim cultures, the sight of a woman walking down the street wearing a full-length veil may come across as strange, perhaps offensive, or as an image of oppression. In France, the veil may soon be…

Topics: Global Affairs

Rebuilding Haiti Without Borders: Remittances and Migration

by Michelle Chen on January 29 2010, 8:03PM

Activists have tried to keep the immigration issue on the national agenda by highlighting the potential economic benefits of immigration reform. The massive humanitarian crisis right next door may present an opportunity to recast immigration in the context of addressing…

Topics: Global Affairs

Hard Knocks: NYC Shuts School Doors on Struggling Students

by Michelle Chen on January 28 2010, 6:57PM

Across New York City, schools are flunking out, and the Mayor’s office is happy to see them go. In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, a contentious all-night meeting ended with the result everyone expected: the city’s Panel for Educational…

Topics: Schools & Youth

State of the Union Places Entitlement Above Equity

by Michelle Chen on January 27 2010, 7:59PM

Wrapped up in tonight’s stream of glossy oratory was a familiar sense of entitlement. The State of the Union address emphasized rebuilding the middle class, supporting small businesses, boosting financial markets—in other words, soothing the anxieties of people who…

Topics: Economy, News Items, Politics

The State of Immigration Reform: Going Rogue and the Cost of Doing Nothing

by Michelle Chen on January 27 2010, 4:48PM

On the eve of the State of the Union Address, protesters rallied in the nation’s capital to pressure the federal government to act on immigration reform. It was clear that immigrant advocacy groups fall into a long queue of communities…

Topics: Immigration, Politics

Children of the Earthquake: Rescuing Haiti’s Orphans?

by Michelle Chen on January 26 2010, 8:15PM

The Haitian diaspora has always been fractured by definition, with tough kinship ties stretched across oceans in a network of interwoven communities. Now that the earthquake has shaken up borders and geopolitical barriers, no one is quite sure how…

Topics: Global Affairs

ACORN Saga Continues in “Louisiana Watergate”

by Michelle Chen on January 26 2010, 5:23PM

How you like me now? You knew it wouldn’t be long before we heard again from the ACORN scandal-mongers. This time, rather than demonizing an activist group, the goons are reportedly going straight for the jugular by invading a…

Topics: Politics

Perversion of Justice: Citizens United, Corporate Power and Black Disenfranchisement

by Michelle Chen on January 25 2010, 5:56AM

Corporations are people, too. That was the logic behind the Supreme Court’s latest assault on the electoral process. Divined from a wildly creative reading of the law, the concept has been manipulated over the years to grant extraordinary powers…

Topics: Politics

Democracy Begins at Home: Public Housing Tenants Without a Voice

by Michelle Chen on January 23 2010, 9:03AM

Walk through a typical New York City public housing complex, and you’re not likely to see many signs of civic life among drab high-rises and asphalt lots. But once upon a time, public housing was seen as a foundation…

Topics: Politics

More Tent Cities: Haiti Refugee Crisis on the Horizon

by Michelle Chen on January 23 2010, 5:28AM

The Haitian government’s new plan to deal with earthquake refugees seems to follow an old trajectory. Survivors will be pushed into emergency shelter sites scattered outside Port-au-Prince, which will offer a supposedly cleaner, more orderly alternative to the hundreds…

Topics: Global Affairs

Lawsuit Charges NYC Police With Criminalizing Kids

by Michelle Chen on January 21 2010, 9:42AM

After years of complaints and mounting tensions in New York City public schools, civil liberties activists have filed landmark lawsuit against the city government and police force. The NYCLU accuses the NYPD’s School Safety Division of systematically violating children’s…

Topics: Criminal Justice

Legal Barrier Eased for Temporary Protected Status

by Michelle Chen on January 21 2010, 6:10AM

It took a massive earthquake in Haiti to finally push the government to reopen Temporary Protected Status for the tens of thousands of Haitian immigrants who would otherwise be slated for deportation. Just in time, the TPS designation, which…

Topics: Global Affairs

Dying in Haiti: Humanitarian Crisis Enters Second Week

by Michelle Chen on January 19 2010, 11:18PM

As the unprecedented humanitarian relief effort in Haiti struggles through logistical chaos, triaging shipments of food, medicine, and personnel, making sure help is distributed efficiently, one entity seems to consistently dominate the hierarchy of needs: the military. And so…

Topics: Global Affairs

‘There’s No War Here’: Haiti’s Crisis, From Disaster Site To Military Zone?

by Michelle Chen on January 18 2010, 8:17AM

As humanitarian relief trickles into Haiti in fits and starts, reports of despair and frustration are trickling out. The situation grows increasingly desperate as hundreds of thousands of disaster-stricken people await emergency help, nearly a week after the emergency…

Topics: Global Affairs, News Items

Please Don’t Superdome Haiti (update)

by Michelle Chen on January 16 2010, 8:58AM

For those who know how race and media intersect in times of crisis, the earthquake in Haiti has probably sent a bump through your pop-cultural seismograph. Now it’s becoming a flashpoint. Following an initial wave of sympathy, the corporate…

Topics: Global Affairs, Katrina, Media

Fire Department Ruling Seeks to Extinguish Racism

by Michelle Chen on January 14 2010, 7:54AM

New York City firefighters stoked the national debate on affirmative action this week with a landmark court ruling. Last year, a federal court ruled in favor of the Vulcan Society, an association of Black firefighters, determining that the city’s…


Haiti Smashed, Diaspora Shaken, Deportations Frozen

by Michelle Chen on January 13 2010, 11:39PM

The devastation in Haiti is unrelenting, an avalanche of natural catastrophe exacerbated by man-made injustice. Perhaps 100,000 feared dead, homes shattered, people digging neighbors out of rubble without safe food, water or electricity. It’s hard to fathom just how…

Topics: Global Affairs, Immigration, News Items

Haiti Shaken By Quake: What the U.S. Can Do

by Michelle Chen on January 13 2010, 12:48AM

Yet another calamity has besieged Haiti. The poorest country in the Western hemisphere has been pummeled by a massive earthquake. The initial quake had a magnitude of 7.0, but New York Times reports that the disaster continues to reverberate:…

Topics: Global Affairs, Immigration, News Items

Loss for Words: Reid, Obama and Semantic Silliness on Race

by Michelle Chen on January 11 2010, 10:08PM

The 24-hour news cycle is still ravishing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s fumbling words on Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, skin tone, and lack of “Negro dialect.” And as usual, all this analysis just leaves us more confused about what…

Topics: Politics