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Should You Celebrate or Be Wary of National School Choice Week?

Should You Celebrate or Be Wary of National School Choice Week?

This week is National School Choice Week. But is it occasion to celebrate or cause for caution?

As with anything in the realm of education politics, this conversation is rife with coded terminology and heavy doses of politicized rhetoric. Let’s unpack some of it right now. “School choice,” in the eyes of supporters, refers to the idea that students and their parents should be able to choose where they go to school. Their neighborhood public school happens to be unsafe, or poorly resourced? A family ought to be able to move schools to, say, a private Catholic school or a charter school or a wealthier school across town, even. School choice is the idea underlying movements toward deregulation, and the privatization, of the public education. School vouchers and the movement to replace public schools with charter schools are the outgrowth of this idea, which is typically espoused by conservative lawmakers and education advocates. The market, the thinking goes, can solve problems that government and public institutions have thus far failed to address.

It’s also helpful to know who supports the deregulation of public education. This week, conservative education groups like the Heritage Foundation, Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education and the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice are celebrating National School Choice Week with what the website touts as more than 5,000 events whose aim is to amplify the need for more school choice. The Friedman Foundation released their annual ABCs of School Choice report (PDF), and this year matched every state’s population of students who are eligible for school choice programs with their “purchasing power,” that is, the public money that’s being set aside for school vouchers and tax credits toward school choice. Much of the conversation is happening on Twitter, via the hashtags #amplifychoice and #schoolchoiceweek

But it’s not just conservative groups behind this. More politically ambiguous groups like Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst, have gotten in on National School Choice Week. Democrats and liberals are fond of turning to market principles as a way to save public education, too. Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee joined Sen. Ted Cruz in Houston on Saturday for a school choice rally. Thousands turned up, the Houston Chronicle reported. 

Turning to private entities to save public education is alluring precisely because public institutions truly are struggling to address equity in education. Declining public investment in education has only made this task harder by starving public schools and teachers of the resources they need to do their jobs. As it is, the prevailing education reform effort in the country pits public schools against charter schools and each other for their survival. But advocates can’t always deliver on the promises with choice. As progressive education advocates have long pointed out, at the heart of school choice is the mandate for competition. Charter schools tout their long waiting lists for entry and hold dramatic, heartbreaking admission lotteries, but students shouldn’t need to compete for a coveted seat at a better school. 

Progressive education advocates argue that people who really care about addressing the deep inequities in public education ought to invest in, not abandon, public institutions. Public school districts are the only institutions with the federal mandate, the capacity and very often the commitment to serve every single student—not just those whose parents have the social and economic capital to pull their kids out of the hardest-hit public schools. 

But against this political backdrop and the day-to-day reality of public school life, which is increasingly defined by upheaval in the form of mass school closures, budget crises and school safety issues, the promise of something, anything, different than public school life is often irresistible. According to the conservative Cato Institute, the number of students taking part in school choice programs is at record highs: over 300,000, compared to 260,000 in the 2012-2013 year.

So maybe the question isn’t are you or are you not celebrating this week. Maybe it’s better to ask: is this the party you want to be at?

Meet Chloe Kim, an Incredible 13-Year-Old Snowboarder

Meet Chloe Kim, an Incredible 13-Year-Old Snowboarder

Chloe Kim is only 13 years old, so she’s too young to qualify for this year’s Winter Olympic games in Sochi. But she did wow the crowd at the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo., last weekend with this silver medal-winning performance, and the above video shows why.

Here’s more on Kim’s background:

(Via Angry Asian Man)

TAGS: Olympics Sochi

Why I’d Rather Hear Eric Holder Deliver the State of the Union Tonight

Why I'd Rather Hear Eric Holder Deliver the State of the Union Tonight

While I’m delighted that President Obama is suddenly going hard in the paint for economic inequality, and will continue to do so tonight, that issue far from entails all of what’s wrong with the state of our union. The wealth gap is just one part of America’s problem. It’s not helpful when Obama attempts to explain away issues like drug sentencing disparities as a class problem when we know, as Jamelle Bouie points out over at The Daily Beast, that it’s really a matter of race. 

But issues like voting rights are insidiously carving up America into colored sections of inequality in ways that can’t be analyzed simply in economic terms. Which is why I would rather hear from Attorney General Eric Holder tonight than Obama, because he seems to be one of the few members of the Obama administration who’s paying attention to race.

We see Holder’s Justice Department going after problems like the school-to-prison pipeline, where there are clear racial disparities in how discipline has been administered. But there are few other arenas where Obama’s Cabinet is looking at how racial inequality defers and dissolves American dreams than in voting, the cornerstone of democracy. 

When the U.S. Supreme Court disabled a key provision of the Voting Rights Act last summer, Holder didn’t back down. He committed to using the Voting Rights Act’s remaining vital organs to prosecute laws in North Carolina and Texas, where Holder says he has evidence that lawmakers conspired to intentionally rob people of color of their civil rights.

Those lawsuits are fights over strict photo voter ID laws, which our Voting Rights Watch team did a ton of reporting on throughout 2012 to show how such laws could, and have, overburdened and intimidated millions of voters of color across the nation. Earlier this month, a judge in Pennsylvania permanently blocked a voter ID law from going into affect because it imposed unnecessary obstacles on voters.

That judge failed to find racial discrimination in the law, despite data presented that upwards of 750,000 voters—most of them African Americans, Latino Americans, and Puerto Ricans in particular—would have been affected had the measure been enforced. Last week, Obama’s Commission on Election Administration released a report on how to improve the voting process that failed to mention race once, despite data that black and Latino voters in Florida had to wait longer in line to vote than any other race in any other place in the country. And Florida wasn’t the only problem case—counties in Arizona, North Carolina, Colorado and Virginia also did their black and brown voters wrong in 2012.

Obama has been oddly silent on racial discrimination at the polls. In some instances, he may have even weaponized proponents of racially discriminatory voter ID laws, either through his silence, or through episodes like when he was asked for ID to vote and made light of the situation instead of speaking out on its harmful effects.

A federal judge that previously upheld voter ID laws has since recanted that decision as a mistake, as has former president Jimmy Carter, who once endorsed those laws. Both have come to the current view that these laws can be hazardous for voters of color. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell (a Republican), and Hillary Clinton have both denounced voter ID laws wholesale for their racial impacts. A recent study from University of Massachusetts sociologists Erin O’Brien and Keith Gunnar Bentele shows that voter ID laws have proliferated specifically in states with large black and brown populations, and where voters of color turned out in large numbers for Obama the past few elections.

But Obama has yet to stand up for those same voters on this issue. A new amendment has been announced in Congress, to plug in the Voting Rights Act void left by the Supreme Court’s decision last summer, to help restore legal civil rights protections for people of color. While it’s inadequate for replacing what Chief Justice John Roberts took out, Obama has yet to say anything about it.

Perhaps he will tonight. And the fact that DREAMer Cristian Avila, voter engagement coordinator for Mi Familia Vota, will be sitting with First Lady Michelle Obama tonight gives me hope. But the person who has courageously been fighting these racial issues out in the open is Holder, which is why I would prefer that Obama hand the podium over to his Attorney General tonight. 

Pres. Obama to Raise Minimum Wage for Low-Wage Federal Workers

Pres. Obama to Raise Minimum Wage for Low-Wage Federal Workers

After a year of strikes and protests there’s a victory for many federal workers demanding that their government pay them a living wage. President Obama in tonight’s State of the Union address will announce plans to sign an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay workers at least $10.10 an hour. The action affects workers currently earning less and will apply to new federal contracts. The federal government, according to a 2013 Demos report, employs more than 2 million workers earning less than $12 an hour, making it the nation’s largest low-wage labor employer.

The executive order is a limited enactment of a bill, which Obama hopes to get through Congress. The Harkin-Miller bill calls for an across the board minimum wage increase to $10.10.

(h/t Politico)

Mexican Alpine Skier to Sport Mariachi Look at Sochi Olympics

Mexican Alpine Skier to Sport Mariachi Look at Sochi Olympics

Hubertus von Hohenlohe wants to make an impact on the slopes at the upcoming Sochi Olympics, even if he doesn’t win a medal. So the Mexican Alpine skier, already known for his distinctive style, revealed his Mariachi-themed race suit to NBC Olympics this week:

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Hohenlohe, who is Mexican of German descent, told NBC,“Until I went to Mexico recently to make a documentary, I never realized what a beautiful, amazing, rich past and culture they have and what a proud people they are. The power to have your own identity is so strong and something I believe in, so I want to give it a go in a very cool, elegant way. I want to celebrate who they are, but of course in my own style.”

Joy Reid Gets Her Own Show on MSNBC

Joy Reid Gets Her Own Show on MSNBC

MSNBC today announced that Joy Reid will join their line-up as host of a new as-yet-unnamed show. Calls for Reid, managing editor of theGrio.com and a veteran political analyst, to get her own show have been percolating for a while. 

Reid will be MSNBC’s fourth African-American host, according to Journal-isms. Her new show premieres at 2p.m. on February 24.

(h/t Journal-isms)

Queen Latifah Officiated Dozens of Gay Weddings at the Grammys

Queen Latifah Officiated Dozens of Gay Weddings at the Grammys

Queen Latifah joined Macklemore, Ryan Lewis, Madonna and singer Mary Lambert onstage at last night’s Grammy Awards to officiate 34 weddings that included 33 gay couples. The ceremonies took place during a performance of Macklemore’s song “Same Love” and it was the night’s most moving moment:

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Macklemore to Kendrick Lamar: ‘You Got Robbed’

Macklemore to Kendrick Lamar: 'You Got Robbed'

Macklemore may have been a big winner at last night’s Grammy Awards, but Kendrick Lamar walked away empty handed. The Compton-based rapper was nominated for seven awards but didn’t win anything, and even Macklemore thought that was foul. According to his Instagram account, Macklemore sent K. Dot a message after the awards ceremony:

“You got robbed. I wanted you to win. You should have. It’s weird and sucks that I robbed you,” wrote the Seattle rapper. “I was gonna say that during the speech. Then the music started playing during my speech and I froze. Anyway, you know what it is. Congrats on this year and your music. Appreciate you as an artist and as a friend. Much love.”

Alongside the text, Macklemore wrote a note to his Instagram followers:

My text to Kendrick after the show. He deserved best rap album… I’m honored and completely blown away to win anything much less 4 Grammys. But in that category, he should have won IMO. And that’s taking nothing away from The Heist. Just giving GKMC it’s proper respect.. With that being said, thank you to the fans. You’re the reason we were on that stage tonight. And to play Same Love on that platform was a career highlight. The greatest honor of all. That’s what this is about. Progress and art. Thank you. #grammys.

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Via Hypetrack.

Macklemore’s Grammy-Winning 16 Bars and the Search for Our 40 Acres

Macklemore's Grammy-Winning 16 Bars and the Search for Our 40 Acres

Nine years ago, now-Grammy Award winning rapper Macklemore wondered about his place in hip-hop. He’d probably done that for years, but this time he put it in a song called “White Privilege.” Its hook included the line: “I said I’m gonna be me, so please be who you are / but we still owe ‘em 40 acres now we’ve stolen their 16 bars.”

Those bars have since made the Seattle-based MC the most popular mainstream rap act in recent years, a fact that was underscored last night when he and producer Ryan Lewis walked away with the Grammy awards for best song, best new album and best new artist. And after last night’s big wins, the rapper’s tune changed. “I understand how certain people have said, ‘Oh, it’s the white, gay-promoting rapper from Seattle. That’s weird, he doesn’t belong here.’ It is what it is, it’s always going to be that. But it is hip-hop music. I’m just trying to push the art, push the genre.”

The success that Macklemore’s had with pushing the genre, paired with his vocal awareness that his being white played a huge role in his success, brings up a question that my colleague Aura Bogado succinctly brought up on Facebook: Does he represent an indictment of white supremacy — or a celebration of it?

It’s what many black hip-hop fans find irksome about him, the fact that this 30-year-old white guy has gained so much notoriety for making a black art form palatable for white listeners. He raps of thrift stores and marriage equality and, don’t get me wrong, it’s good music, catchy; dude is undeniably good at his craft. But he wears his white privilege like one of his ironic fur coats, a gaudy reminder to show how the music industry’s racial inequities are still stubbornly in place. 

He made headlines even before the show began when it was announced that Queen Latifah would marry dozens of gay couple’s during Macklemore’s performance of “Same Love,” his celebration of marriage equality. It was a move so calculated that you couldn’t help but roll your eyes, even if the intention was to put gay couples at the center of music’s biggest moment. It was, in many ways, too calculated, too obvious, a move that did little to shift attention to the plight of the black artists who are regularly screwed over by the industry that has so openly embraced Macklemore’s music. Perhaps a more meaningful act would have been to share the stage with a black queer artist, anyone from Angel Haze and New York-based rapper Le1f, who’s openly criticized him for profiting off of the plight of the LGBT community. 

But I digress.

Macklemore’s whiteness has been a topic of conversation at least since he burst onto the national stage with his hit 2012 record “The Heist.” He’s addressed it directly in interviews with refreshing honesty. “We made a great album,” he said to Rolling Stone last year of the hit album he made with white producer Ryan Lewis, “but I do think we have benefited from being white and the media grabbing on to something. A song like ‘Thrift Shop’ was safe enough for the kids.”

And that’s what makes his success so hard to stomach for some black listeners who want to see their realities reflected and celebrated at music’s highest levels with a big win at this year’s Grammy awards. He’s calling out the systemic inequity in the music industry and is aware of how he’s benefiting from it. 

It’s not just black fans that are conflicted. Days before the Grammy Awards, Vulture quoted a source close to the star-studded affair who described how many of the rap committee’s members didn’t want Macklemore included in the categories for best rap song and album because his music’s more pop than hip-hop. “It’s not that they don’t think he’s a rapper,” said the source. “It’s just that when you’re trying to protect categories and someone has become popular, it should be judged as much. … Where does their music exist? Who are their fans?”

Those fans, according to the New York Times’s Jon Caramanica, are “hip-hop aware” but not “hip-hop exclusive.” In other words, they’re white. 

Caramanica wondered aloud about the authenticity of a hip-hop moment that featured predominately white artists like Macklemore and Baauer (whose song “Harlem Shake” soundtracked much of 2012). He notes that where Macklemore differs from other white rappers like Eminem, Yelawolf and Machine Gun Kelly is that his “rapping is merely a tool to advance ideas that are not connected to hip-hop to an audience that doesn’t mind receiving them under a veneer of hip-hop cool.”

To be fair, it’s a well-known fact that white kids love hip-hop. But what sets Macklemore apart is how willing he is to actually talk about how his privilege informs his popularity. A well-intentioned white artist can still, half a century after Elvis, suddenly become the face of a historically black art form. His intention may not have been to do that, but the impact stays the same. In the end, it’s important to keep in mind that it takes more than awareness to create real change. And, frustratingly, Macklemore knows, too. Again, here’s “White Privilege”: “Hip-hop started off on a block that I’ve never been to / To counteract a struggle I’ve never even been through / If I think I understand just because I flow, too? / That means that I’m not keeping it true.”

San Francisco Will End Mandatory Shackling of Immigration Detainees for Court

San Francisco Will End Mandatory Shackling of Immigration Detainees for Court

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has agreed to a settlement with San Francisco to end the practice of forcing immigrant detainees to show up to and stay in shackles during court hearings, the Los Angeles Times reported. The settlement came out of a lawsuit filed on behalf of immigrant detainees which argued that the shackles were not only unnecessary, they’re also humiliating and influence judges’ perceptions of them. The shackles are not merely handcuffs—they’re metal restraints of the wrists, waist and ankles. The policy will only pertain to San Francisco, but advocates hope that it could influence other jurisidictions as well.

From the Los Angeles Times:

“Often, the difference between showing up to a hearing in a suit like I’m wearing vs. a jumpsuit is the ability to pay $5,000 bond,” said Paul Chavez, senior attorney at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, which litigated the class-action case along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and attorneys from Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.

In Southern California, immigrants from Orange County detention facilities are usually shackled during hearings in downtown Los Angeles, said Michael Kaufman, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Southern California.

“It’s not only inhumane and uncomfortable, but it gives off the wrong image,” Kaufman said. “The judge is looking at somebody in a jumpsuit and handcuffs, as if they present some kind of risk and safety threat, which is not the case.”

 

Grammy Preview: Who Should Win the Award for Best Rap Album?

Grammy Preview: Who Should Win the Award for Best Rap Album?

The Grammy awards kick off this Sunday and this year features a showdown in rap supremacy between Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore. Both rappers are tied with seven nominations in many of the same categories, including Best New Artist, Best Rap Song and Best Rap Album. But they’re certainly not alone, as projects from bigger names like Jay Z, Kanye West and Drake are also up for awards this year.

Take a look at the nominees for this year’s award and let us know who you think should win.

Macklemore, “The Heist”

Kendrick Lamar, “Good Kid, m.A.A.d city”

Kanye West, “Yeezus”

Jay Z, “Magna Carta…Holy Grail”

Drake, “Nothing Was the Same”

Drake ~ Worst Behavior from OctobersVeryOwn on Vimeo.

 

Who Should Win This Year’s Grammy for Best Rap Album?

  
 

   

 

Court Date Set for Phila. Teen Alleging Sexual Assault By Police

Court Date Set for Phila. Teen Alleging Sexual Assault By Police

Darrin Manning, the Philadelphia teen who alleges that a female police officer injured his testicle during a stop-and-frisk, will be prosecuted on misdemeanor charges stemming from the incident. Manning’s attorney, Lewis Small, tells Colorlines that until criminal charges are dropped, the family will not cooperate with Philadelphia police’s internal investigation of the sexual assault allegation. He is also calling for a federal investigation.

The early January arrest, some of which has been captured by street cameras, is raising fresh questions about the federally-mandated reform of Philadelphia’s stop-and-frisk practices. Since 2011, the police department has been under a consent decree, part of a settlement agreement arising from a 2010 class action lawsuit. It accused Philadelphia police of targeting black and Latino men for unconstitutional stops and searches. The results of reform so far: “We don’t think the city has improved its stop-and-frisk practices…” senior attorney Mary Catherine Roper of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, this January, told Philly Mag.

Philadelphia police say they stopped Manning for reasonable suspicion but Small, the Manning family’s attorney, maintains there was no reason to initiate a stop, much less, a frisk.

“The best they have is that some of the boys ran on a very cold day,” Small says. “There were no calls of vandalism or robberies in the neighborhood. It was just a visual observance of a group of young black men.”

Small also says there is no other way Manning’s testicle could have been injured that day. On the night following his arrest and eight-hour detention, Manning received emergency surgery at Children’s Hospital. His mother, Ikea Coney says doctors told her that the injury could potentially leave her son infertile.

The arresting officer, Thomas Purcell, according to Philadelphia Daily News, has had two citizen complaints filed against him, one in 2008 and the other in 2009. He was cleared in both cases. The identity of the female police officer Manning accuses of pulling his testicle during the frisk is unclear.

Police commissioner Charles Ramsey today told CBS Philly that he welcomes a federal investigation.

“I’m happy,” Small says, in reply. “I think he’s doing the appropriate thing. I don’t believe the police officers who were there would lie to the feds. To Internal Affairs—yes. But not the feds.”

A juvenile judge yesterday set Manning’s trial date for March 7. He faces charges of reckless endangerment of another person, simple assault and resisting arrest.



 

Jenny Yang Teaches You How to Freak Out Like a Toddler

Jenny Yang Teaches You How to Freak Out Like a Toddler

Allow us a late pass on this one, but Angry Asian Man put us on the Jenny Yang bandwagon and we’re loving it. Imagine if you got to act like a toddler when confronted with all of adult life’s injustices, like getting stuck in traffic and losing your WiFi connection? Life is always better when you get to scream a little bit. 

Airbnb Challenges Harvard Racial Discrimination Study

Airbnb Challenges Harvard Racial Discrimination Study

The hot ticket rental lodging website Airbnb is challenging a Harvard study’s findings that black users who rent their homes through the online service make less money in the endeavor than their white counterparts. And it’s shedding new light on how implicit bias functions in even seemingly innocuous institutions. 

Implicit bias is the unconcious, automatic assumption that people make about others based on their percieved racial identity. (Think you’re immune? Take this test.) While housing discrimination in general is a widespread phenomenon, in the case of Airbnb, it undercuts the website’s perception of itself as a so-called “community marketplace.”

To that end, the website disputes the Harvard study’s findings by saying that it relies on outdated information. “We are committed to making Airbnb the most open, trusted, diverse, transparent community in the world and our Terms of Service prohibit content that discriminates,” Airbnb said in a statement. “The authors made a number of subjective or inaccurate determinations when compiling their findings.”

Nonetheless, black Airbnb users have first-hand experience to rely on.

From Jorge Rivas at Fusion:

But black users on Airbnb didn’t need Harvard to tell them discrimination exists on the site that facilitated more than 6 million guest stays in 2013. Last year Los Angeles resident and YouTube personality Tommy Sotomayor took to YouTube claiming he was rejected from a rental unit because of the color of his skin.

“I got declined twice by the same persons and if you look at their history they only rent to white people,” explained Sotomayor in a video uploaded to YouTube in October 2013. Sotomayor claims he paid for his rental and was rejected by the host after they found out he’s black.

“All they knew is I was black,” Sotomayor went on to say, noting that the host advertising the apartment was still listing the space as vacant on the dates he requested.

Read more at Fusion

The Grammys Rap Committee Doesn’t Like Macklemore’s ‘Pop’ Music

The Grammys Rap Committee Doesn't Like Macklemore's 'Pop' Music

Turns out Macklemore nearly didn’t make Grammy rap committee’s cut because, frankly, some of the institution’s hip-hop heads don’t think he makes music for people who actually like the music (read: white folks).

From Vulture:

Most” members of the rap committee felt that the “Thrift Shop” and “Same Love” duo shouldn’t qualify for rap nominations “because of their success on mainstream radio and their appeal in the pop world.” This is not a new idea, in the sense that Macklemore is often described as a rapper for people who don’t usually listen to rap music. But he does, in fact, rap, which is why the motion was vetoed by the general Grammys committee in a “landslide.”

The source continued by posing the questions that longtime hip-hop fans have been grappling with ever since the Seattle-based rapper gained mainstream success last year with his album “The Heist.”

“It’s not that they don’t think he’s a rapper,” said the source. “It’s just that when you’re trying to protect categories and someone has become popular, it should be judged as much. … Where does their music exist? Who are their fans?”

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are nominated for seven awards, including Best Album and Best New Artist. 

Richard Sherman: ‘Thug’ Is the Accepted Way of Saying the N-Word

Richard Sherman: 'Thug' Is the Accepted Way of Saying the N-Word

If you’re not already rooting for Seattle Seawhawks cornerback Richard Sherman, this might do the trick.

Sherman isn’t going to let a little bit of adversity get in his way now that’s heading to the Super Bowl. “I come from a place of adversity,” the Compton native told reporters on Wednesday. In the video that’s above, he also astutely pointed out the racial coding in a lot of the commentary surrounding his post-game interview after last weekend’s NFC Championship game by saying that lots of white folks are using the word “thug” as a substitute for the n-word these days. Here’s more of what Sherman had to say:

(h/t CBS Sports)

Iranian-American Actress Gets Fed Up With Hollywood’s Racism

Iranian-American Actress Gets Fed Up With Hollywood's Racism

Ever get tired of seeing your favorite Middle Eastern actors relegated to roles that only deal with the War on Terror? Because they surely are.

Kathreen Khavari is a public-health-professional-turned actress who was fed up with Hollywood’s racism, so she decided to do something about it. In this six-minute short — in which Khavari plays 11 different characters — a woman goes through a serious identity crisis wondering if she’s a terrorist after watching an episode of “Homeland.”

This film came to fruition because I was sick of getting sent out for mostly terrorist roles, which my agent at the time believed was all I could play,” Khavari told Colorlines in an e-mail. 

Wash. Study Finds White Women No Longer Face Discrimination

Wash. Study Finds White Women No Longer Face Discrimination

In today’s federal contracting news, white female business owners in Washington are reportedly threatening legal action after an April 2013 study found they do not qualify as disadvantaged. Millions of dollars in highway contract set-asides through the U.S. Department of Transportation are at stake as Washington’s department of transportation is seeking a waiver to exclude white women from the federal disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE) program.

The independently commissioned disparity study found that:

…Caucasian women-owned firms actually received more contract dollars than expected, given their availability for work. Lacking evidence of discrimination against Caucasian women-owned businesses in the local marketplace, WSDOT cannot include them in contract-specific DBE goals.

Public comments on the state agency’s decision are being accepted through February 3. After that, the waiver will be submitted to U.S. DOT for a final decision.

(h/t DiversityInc)

Oprah to Produce Ava DuVernay’s Voting Rights Film ‘Selma’

Oprah to Produce Ava DuVernay's Voting Rights Film 'Selma'

The race to finish a Martin Luther King Jr. film project is on. This week Jamie Foxx announced that he was teaming up with Oliver Stone to work on a film based on the slain Civil Rights leader’s life, and now Oprah has announced that she’s signed on to produce Ava DuVernay’s upcoming feature film, “Selma,” which is based on the 1965 Voting Rights campaign.

DuVernay took over directing duties from Lee Daniels, who faced numerous challenges in financing the project. 

Oprah joins a number of big-name producers for the project, including Brad Pitt’s Plan B and Christian Colson, who won an Oscar for producing “Slumdog Millionaire.”

(h/t Shadow and Act)

Uh Oh: Bill Cosby to Star in Another NBC Family Comedy

Uh Oh: Bill Cosby to Star in Another NBC Family Comedy

Thirty years after his the debut of his groundbreaking sitcom “The Cosby Show,” Bill Cosby is reportedly heading back to NBC to star in another family comedy. The new show will feature Cosby as the patriarch of a multigenerational family and feature his take on marriage and child-rearing — two topics that have put the comedian in the hot seat in recent years, according to Deadline.

While “The Cosby Show” is remembered fondly by most audiences, Cosby himself has stirred up controversey by repeatedly chiding black parents and their children. Back in 2008, Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote at The Atlantic about the audacity of Cosby’s black conservatisim:

As Cosby sees it, the antidote to racism is not rallies, protests, or pleas, but strong families and communities. Instead of focusing on some abstract notion of equality, he argues, blacks need to cleanse their culture, embrace personal responsibility, and reclaim the traditions that fortified them in the past. Driving Cosby’s tough talk about values and responsibility is a vision starkly different from Martin Luther King’s gauzy, all-inclusive dream: it’s an America of competing powers, and a black America that is no longer content to be the weakest of the lot.

Alyssa Rosenberg argues over at Think Progress that casting Cosby, at 76, shows just how few opportunities there are for younger black actors in Hollywood:

…the idea that there’s no one new left to be discovered and made successful has a particular sting to it when it comes to Cosby. Because the number of black male characters on television are so limited, and even more so black men who have families, bringing Cosby underscores a depressing self-fulfilling assumption in Hollywood: that there are only a very small number of black actors that audiences will resonate to.

No word yet on when the series will air on NBC.

TAGS: Bill Cosby NBC
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