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.

Silence = death (reprise)

by Michelle Chen on April 14 2009, 3:52PM

Some serious dissonance is permeating the public dialogue on HIV/AIDS: while the problem continues to roil in communities around the country, acutely impacting Blacks and Latinos, public consciousness of the problem has faded. According to survey research by the…

Topics: Health

Seeing through “broken windows”

by Michelle Chen on April 14 2009, 4:50AM

The “broken windows” theory has loomed large in urban law enforcement policies for years. Officials have framed public safety in urban neighborhoods as a matter of stamping out “disorder,” contending that the decline of a community starts with small…

Topics: Criminal Justice

Fashion police

by Michelle Chen on April 13 2009, 1:58PM

Grown-ups have been fretting about what kids are wearing for generations. In the 1960s, black armbands worn in protest of the Vietnam War were banned, ultimately leading to a landmark Supreme Court ruling. During the 1990s, courts ruled that…


Border insecurity

by Michelle Chen on April 10 2009, 6:27PM

For all the talk of protecting the border, the news that more corpses are being found along US-Mexico divide is a tragic sign of how narrowly the government defines the cost of “border security.” The Border Patrol’s latest progress…

Topics: Immigration

Changing the climate of social policy

by Michelle Chen on April 10 2009, 4:34PM

The Obama administration has reportedly been wavering its plan to combat climate change. According to the Washington Post, the other steaming national priorities heaped onto Obama’s plate could set back his more ambitious environmental goals. That could mean deciding…

Topics: Economy, Environment

Standing before history

by Michelle Chen on April 9 2009, 4:26PM

A multinational oil giant may be headed for its day of reckoning in a New York City courtroom next month. The lawsuit, Wiwa v. Shell, centers on charges of rampant human rights abuses by Royal Dutch Shell against the…

Topics: Global Affairs

What’s in a Name?

by Michelle Chen on April 9 2009, 2:38PM

Maybe Asian people would have an easier time participating in democracy if their names weren’t so darn tricky. That was the suggestion of one Texas legislator at a hearing on a proposed voter identification law. Though supporters argue that…

Topics: Immigration

The Usual Suspects

by Michelle Chen on April 9 2009, 5:00AM

From the department of easy scapegoats: Media Matters has released a round-up of the mainstream media’s various potshots against immigrants, ACORN, and generally, people often demonized by the political establishment when they’re not neglected by it. Not a real…

Topics: Media, News Items

The digital divide and the color line

by Michelle Chen on April 8 2009, 2:57PM

If you’re reading this right now, you may have no idea how lucky you are. Across the country, many urban families are struggling to explore job opportunities, communicate with loved ones, and attain an education—because they lack access to…


A wider shield against hate crime

by Michelle Chen on April 8 2009, 2:00PM

The civil rights struggle for the LGBT community has revolved in large part around marriage equality in recent months. While the recent victories in Iowa and Vermont could signal a shifting of political tides toward acceptance of same-sex marriage,…


Developing a new workforce

by Michelle Chen on April 7 2009, 5:36PM

The latest jobs report contains few surprises: economic contraction and swelling joblessness are expanding economic inequality. Jobs have been slashed across the board, but Blacks and Latinos are experiencing an especially large increase in their already-high unemployment rates. And…

Topics: Economy

Dissent in the ivory tower

by Michelle Chen on April 7 2009, 2:08PM

The college campus is supposed to provide a nesting ground for lively debate. But some recent controversies hint that political polarization is making the ivory tower unsafe for dissent. The case of University of Colorado ethnic studies professor Ward…

Topics: Schools & Youth

The impoverished mind

by Michelle Chen on April 6 2009, 1:29PM

The so-called academic achievement gap is a stark measure of the country’s deep racial and class divisions. Various theories have emerged—about institutionalized racism, educational inequality, family “culture,” and psychological stressors—to explain why some children thrive and others seem to…

Topics: Schools & Youth

Numbers game

by Michelle Chen on April 3 2009, 6:01PM

Counting people is harder than it looks. The 2010 census is morphing from a sociological project into a political one: conservatives are crowing about the dangers of tallying “illegals,” and activists are seeking policy changes to guard against undercounting….

Topics: Politics

Auntie Zeituni’s troubles

by Michelle Chen on April 3 2009, 3:39PM

As anti-immigrant groups flail around in search of new targets, they’ve stumbled upon a two-fer with Barack Obama’s aunt, now painted as a symbol of asylum “fraud” in the President’s family: The details of the backstory are vague, but…

Topics: Immigration

Getting to the bottom of prison reform

by Michelle Chen on April 2 2009, 9:40PM

Senator Jim Webb (D-Virginia) has a crazy idea: reform the system that has locked up more than two million people, devastated communities, and undermined public safety. His bill, the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009, is far from…

Topics: Criminal Justice

For immigrant women, vaccination vs. self-determination

by Michelle Chen on April 2 2009, 6:54AM

Immigrants arrive prepared to make sacrifices in order to settle in this country. But amid the many economic, cultural and bureaucratic hurdles they must negotiate, they probably didn’t anticipate women’s reproductive health rights were part of the bargain. But…

Topics: Health, Immigration

A more powerful union

by Michelle Chen on April 1 2009, 5:49PM

On Tuesday, actors from the West Wing appeared on Capitol Hill to rally for the Employee Free Choice Act. While the celebrity endorsement was no doubt a boost, the bill, which would facilitate union organizing in workplaces nationwide, may…


Sticky fusion

by Michelle Chen on April 1 2009, 2:39PM

In a House Subcommittee hearing today, civil liberties advocates tried to shed some public light on one of the darkest corners of law enforcement. The hearing focused on so-called “fusion centers” funded by Homeland Security and scattered across the…

Topics: Politics

Time to play fair

by Michelle Chen on March 31 2009, 9:13PM

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke uttered some bold words when he announced that the Obama administration would be focusing on promoting “fair trade.” In a Wall Street Journal interview, he argued for “minimum standards that other countries should abide by…

Topics: Economy, Global Affairs