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.

Universal coverage, hidden exclusion

by Michelle Chen on July 1 2009, 9:10PM

In the increasingly ugly debate over “universal coverage,” various proposals are being bounced around among competing agendas. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a proposal recently floated in the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee—currently…

Topics: Health, Politics

Facing racial profiling

by Michelle Chen on June 30 2009, 9:28PM

Civil liberties advocates told the United Nations today that racial profiling continues to tear away at the social fabric of American communities. In a report to the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the ACLU and Rights…

Topics: Criminal Justice, National Security

Testing racial justice

by Michelle Chen on June 29 2009, 11:19PM

The Supreme Court’s decision in Ricci v. DeStefano has unsettled both sides of the affirmative action debate. The disgruntlement of a group of firefighters in New Haven, CT set off a national debate on how far governments can go…


Birthrights on the border

by Michelle Chen on June 26 2009, 9:38PM

Under the State Department’s new passport rules, even people born on the “right” side of the border have to worry about their papers. The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which went into effect June 1, requires Americans passing across the…

Topics: Immigration

Horne v. Flores: Lessons in equality

by Michelle Chen on June 25 2009, 9:05PM

After sidestepping the issue of equality in voting rights earlier this week, the Supreme Court today issued a ruling that could loosen the legal framework for ensuring equality in education. The case, Horne v. Flores, was brought by parents…

Topics: Schools & Youth

Stimulating equity

by Michelle Chen on June 25 2009, 4:22PM

As the recession rolls on, the federal stimulus package seems more and more like just a drop in the bucket, but even those limited resources are trickling down to an unlevel playing field. The National Black Chamber of Commerce…

Topics: Economy, Politics

Tricky Dick in his own words

by Michelle Chen on June 24 2009, 10:18PM

What would Richard Nixon say if he saw the state of American politics today? Newly released audio recordings from the Nixon Presidential Library give some interesting clues into the inner workings of the 37th President’s brain. Would Nixon have…


Warning: inequality may be hazardous to your health

by Michelle Chen on June 24 2009, 6:19PM

Is inequality killing us? Atul Gawande, the New Yorker’s resident physician-reporter, raised a vexing question about health disparities in an interview with Ezra Klein. Gawande noted that in McAllen, Texas—the community that he recently featured as an example of…

Topics: Health

Cap-and-trade hits Capitol Hill

by Michelle Chen on June 24 2009, 5:11AM

Congress is moving on major climate change legislation, but some environmental advocates worry that the government will pursue emissions reductions at the expense of marginalized communities. From a social equity standpoint, the market-based cap-and-trade framework presented in the Waxman-Markey…

Topics: Environment

Voting rights today: The more things change…

by Michelle Chen on June 23 2009, 7:42PM

In a much-anticipated decision this week, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that thanks to the passage of the Voting Rights Act more than 40 years ago, “we are now a very different Nation.” The politically fraught case, Northwest Austin…


Moving on down

by Michelle Chen on June 22 2009, 9:18PM

Are you better off than you were four years ago? How about thirty? For all the political wrangling around the 21st century economy, the promise of the digital age, a new era of global competitiveness… Americans are basically going…

Topics: Economy

ProLibertad and parole

by Michelle Chen on June 12 2009, 11:07PM

After about three decades behind bars, a Puerto Rican revolutionary might soon be free at last. A generation ago, Carlos Alberto Torres was part of a major movement for human rights and self-determination for Puerto Rico. Driven by the…

Topics: Global Affairs

A piece of the green pie

by Michelle Chen on June 12 2009, 8:41PM

Green jobs are seen as a vehicle for the climate justice agenda, bringing together economic and environmental advancement. But will the green industries deliver on the lofty promises activists have envisioned? According to a study by Pew Charitable Trusts,…

Topics: Economy, Environment

Apartheid and occupation

by Michelle Chen on June 11 2009, 10:03PM

Using the word “apartheid” to describe the Israel-Palestine issue is a sure way to ignite more acrimony over human rights under the occupation. But, with language being inseparable from the politics of the region, is it accurate? According to…

Topics: Global Affairs

Oil crisis: uprisings from Nigeria to Peru

by Michelle Chen on June 11 2009, 4:02PM

In the past few days, the wars over the world’s natural resources have been rekindled from the Amazon to the Niger Delta. This week, a landmark legal settlement brought a decisive, though partial, end to a bloody chapter in…

Topics: Global Affairs

Sick enough of the status quo?

by Michelle Chen on June 10 2009, 9:29PM

Conservatives woke up to a harrowing sound on Capitol Hill on Wednesday: a serious discussion about single payer health care. The House hearing won’t necessarily lead to a viable policy proposal—and there’s plenty to debate even within the progressive…

Topics: Health

Did they act alone? The media and the “extremists”

by Michelle Chen on June 10 2009, 3:59PM

Details are trickling in about the suspect behind the shooting at the Holocaust Memorial Museum today. James Von Brunn, an elder of the white supremacist movement, renowned for prolific spew about Jews, Barack Obama, America as a “third-world racial…

Topics: Media, National Security

San Quentin prison blues

by Michelle Chen on June 9 2009, 9:48PM

California’s most infamous prison may be shuttering its doors at last, and some may feel surprisingly troubled about its closure. The cash-strapped state is moving toward closing San Quentin—which houses more than 5,000 inmates, many of them on death…

Topics: Politics

The body burden

by Michelle Chen on June 9 2009, 2:53PM

Pollution is all around us, but the toll it takes on our bodies is often invisible. To understand the physical legacy of environmental toxins, dirty air and chemical products, environmental justice activists as well as federal agencies have begun…

Topics: Environment, Health

Local (in)hospitality

by Michelle Chen on June 8 2009, 9:00PM

Official attitudes toward immigrants across America are remarkably diverse, ranging from public embrace to stiff exclusion. If you happened to pass through Tennessee last week, you might have heard Republican lawmaker Joe Carr vigorously slamming the door on undocumented…

Topics: Immigration, Politics