Colorlines

NOW IN RACIAL JUSTICE

García Márquez Hospitalized, Obama Selfie and Hummingbirds

García Márquez Hospitalized, Obama Selfie and Hummingbirds

After a three-day retreat, here’s some of what I’m reading about this morning: 

  • Mozilla’s anti-gay brand new CEO steps down
TAGS: Morning Rush

Ariz. Mom’s Arrest Triggers Outpouring of Support

Ariz. Mom's Arrest Triggers Outpouring of Support

Over the weekend, strangers mobilized to help an Ariz. mom facing child abuse charges after leaving her 2-year-old and 6-month-old sons in a parked car while she went for a job interview. An online fundraiser begun for Shanesha Taylor’s $9,000 bail blew through that goal. More than $60,000 has been donated so far. And the #ISupportShanesha hashtag on Twitter is on fire. It’s a running commentary that Taylor is not alone and that indeed, her impossible choice between work and childcare is not unique. Millions of women and their children (and dads and grandmothers, too) can relate. So what about them?

The danger of charity is the same thing that provokes it: an individual story so affecting that it moves people to act. It’s easy to relate and react to a single human being. It’s difficult to nurture a sustained response to the millions of Shanesha Taylors living both below and scraping by above the federal poverty line (currently, $20,000-a-year for a family of three). But if social justice is the goal, then attention must be paid to everyone else and the social safety net, too.

Over at ThinkProgress Annie-Rose Strasser looks at state cuts to subsidized childcare—about 40 percent—over the past four years in Ariz. And Taylor came to mind in a brief post last Friday about a little known but apparently successful federal housing program that, while available nationwide, is poorly funded. In Houston for example, federal funds allow 540 of 18,000 eligible households ( or .03 percent) to participate in its Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program, which helps to transition families off welfare. 

Issues like housing and childcare aren’t as media friendly as abortion or images of a woman “leaning in” in a power suit. But they are critical this election year for most of America’s working moms and their families. 

Expect more of Shanesha Taylor’s personal story to unfold as the week gets underway. 

The Known Unknowns of Obamacare’s Racial Justice Impact

The Known Unknowns of Obamacare's Racial Justice Impact

Today’s the day. As of midnight, if you’ve not enrolled in a health insurance plan under the Affordable Care Act (or asked for a special extension), you’ll have to wait until 2015 to buy coverage on the law’s exchanges. Medicaid enrollment continues all year.

The Obama administration has already declared the tumultous enrollment process of the past six months a success. After the rocky start of healthcare.gov, the Congressional Budget Office estimated 6 million people would enroll in private plans this year. Last week, the White House announced it had hit that number. That’s an important political victory for the administration, to be sure. But health policy wonks across the ideological spectrum agree the number doesn’t say much useful about the overall effort to fix our health care system. It doesn’t answer any of at least three crucial questions.

Climate Change, Obamacare Deadline and Final Four

Climate Change, Obamacare Deadline and Final Four

Here’s what I’ve been reading this morning:

  • Those aren’t missing flight MH370 plane parts in the Indian Ocean; they’re junk
  • It’s back up now, but the Obamacare site was down earlier today, which is the last day for open enrollment for 2014. 
  • Must-read on Suey Park and #CancelColbert. 
  • Apple wants to make walking while texting safer by making your phone’s text background a live feed of whatever’s in front of you. 
  • It was snowing here in New York when I woke up this morning, but spring is supposedly coming soon—along with allergies
TAGS: Morning Rush

NYPD (Finally) Gets Independent Oversight

NYPD (Finally) Gets Independent Oversight

An inspector general with subpoena power over the NYPD was named today. After much opposition during the Bloomberg years, the City Council created the post in response to surveillance of Muslim communities and stop-and-frisk tactics towards black and Latino young men. Philip K. Eure (pronounced yore), a Boston native, is tasked with investigating police practices on the street as well as department policies. 

Eure officially takes office this May. In addition to impacting how stop-and-frisk is conducted on city streets, it remains to be seen how this appointment will affect the efforts of Muslims in New Jersey to stop NYPD surveillance of their communities. A judge last month dismissed their claim that NYPD spying was unconstitutional because it focused on religion. There are plans to appeal.

“It’s now time for the mayor to turn his attention to the NYPD’s mistreatment of another minority community: Muslims who have borne the brunt of the post-9/11 police surveillance,” the Brennan Center’s Faiza Patel wrote this week. Since taking office Mayor de Blasio has abandoned the city’s appeal of a landmark stop-and-frisk ruling and he has dropped the city’s challenge of a law making it easier to sue police for racial and religious profiling.

(h/t New York Times)

More Trouble for Dan Snyder’s Foundation

More Trouble for Dan Snyder's Foundation

When Dan Snyder, who owns the Washington, D.C. NFL team, announced his “Original Americans Foundation” this week, some Natives weren’t too happy. Now, there’s more information that throws Synder’s effort into more suspicion.

Synder’s been working with Gary Edwards (Cherokee), who heads the foundation. Edwards also runs an organization called the National Native American Law Enforcement Association (NNALEA). Sounds legit, right? It turns out it probably isn’t.

According to a 2012 federal investigation by the Office of the Inspector General, Edwards received nearly $1 million in federal funds for his Native cops association. In return, Edwards supposedly recruited 748 people to apply for law enforcement position in Indian Country. More than 100 of those applicants didn’t even meet standard age requirements. 492 of them aren’t even Native. And not one was even qualified for a hire:

Upon delivery, [Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Office of Justice] officials reviewed the first batch of applications, finding them to be generally unacceptable because they were incomplete and/or applicants exceeded age requirements, did not have Indian preference, and/or had criminal records. Specifically, we reviewed 514 applications for age, felony records, citizenship, driver’s license, educational requirements, required documentation, and position applied. We found 244 applications (47 percent) to be unacceptable because applicants were not qualified for the position applied for or applications were incomplete. For example, one applicant was born in 1929, which is clearly too old at 80 years of age. Other examples include the following:

•          3 applicants were not U.S. citizens;

•          104 applicants were either too old or too young;

•          3 applicants did not have a driver’s license;

•          26 applications were missing critical documents required by the contract;

•          47 applicants lacked a 4-year degree for the criminal investigator position;

and

•          119 applicants did not specify the position they were applying for, which is an Office of Personnel Management requirement (see appendix 4 for additional details).

According to BIA’s Human Resources deputy director, NNALEA’s CEO stated that he would focus his recruitment efforts in Indian Country. We found that recruitment in Indian Country was ineffective, with only 22 of 514 applicants (or about 4 percent) having Indian preference.

The Oneida Nation, which leads Change the Mascot, thinks the revelations illustrate Snyder’s flawed approach. Ray Halbritter, Oneida Nation representative, says that while the information is disturbing, he’s not surprised. “[Synder] then hired a former associate of notorious lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who helped bilk Native Americans, and selected a person who financially harmed Native Americans to run a foundation to defend his team’s name,” says Halbritter. “These aren’t accidents, but part of a systematic campaign to denigrate Native Americans by a team owner who will stop at nothing to keep the team’s offensive name.”

You can read the damning federal investigation in full

A Brief Tale of Two Working Moms of Color and the Social Safety Net

A Brief Tale of Two Working Moms of Color and the Social Safety Net

In Houston, a 43-year-old mother of six used a little known federal program to obtain a nursing degree, move her family above the federal poverty line and save to buy a home—all while living in public housing. This is unusual. Most welfare recipients lose benefits, including housing assistance, as they earn more income. But the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program, according to the Houston Chronicle, maintains stable rental assistance for a five-year-period. It thereby allowed Monica Johnson, starting over after leaving a drug-addicted husband, to save and improve her family’s livelihood.

Problem is, the FSS program is poorly funded. In Houston, federal funds only allow 540 (.03%) of 18,000 eligible households to enroll in the program. The average family doubles their income from $14,000 to $28,000. And while not every family completes the program, it’s difficult not to wonder what a similarly meaningful social safety net, one that accounted for transition periods,* might mean for a family like Shanesha Taylor’s.

The 35-year-old Scottsdale, Ariz. mother faces child abuse charges after leaving her 2-year-old and 6-month-old sons in a parked car while she went for a job interview. Taylor, gone for 45 minutes, told officers she did not have anyone to take care of her children, according to the police report. The FSS makes a difference in that it accounts for how vulnerable housing is, when transitioning from living below to above the poverty line. Could a similar “transition-aware” safety net program, which accounts for childcare when job-seeking*, have made a difference for Taylor?

Those interested in the FSS program should check availability through local public housing authorities. A list of past funding recipients, current through 2012, is available on the HUD site.

(h/t Asset Building Program)

*Post has been updated.

Texas Abortion Law, #CancelColbert and Combat Dolphins

Texas Abortion Law, #CancelColbert and Combat Dolphins

Here’s some of what I’m reading this morning: 

  • Serena Williams beats Maria Sharapova. Again
TAGS: Morning Rush

South Dakota Uses Asian Stereotypes to Pass Anti-Abortion Law

South Dakota Uses Asian Stereotypes to Pass Anti-Abortion Law

What do you get when you combine anti-choice attacks on women’s reproductive rights with a healthy dose of racial stereotypes about Asian families? South Dakota’s new anti-abortion law SB 1162, signed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard on Wednesday. 

SB 1162 makes abortions based on a fetus’s sex illegal, and physicians who perform such abortions could be charged with a felony. To make their case for the bill, South Dakota lawmakers had to rely on Asian stereotypes and a healthy dose of xenophobia. 

The AP reported earlier this month:

Rep. Don Haggar, R-Sioux Falls, suggested during a House debate that the bill was necessary because of an influx of immigrants to the state. And Rep. Stace Nelson, R-Fulton, said that he spent 18 years in Asia in the military and believes parts of the world don’t value women as much as he values his daughters.

South Dakota’s Asian population increased 70 percent (PDF) between 2000 and 2010, notes the National Asian Pacfic American Women’s Forum. (Though, to put things in perspective, at roughly 10,000 people, Asian Americans are still just 1.3 percent of South Dakota’s population.) All that was enough to convince South Dakota lawmakers to advance its anti-choice agenda. NAPAWF and groups like the ACLU are currently challenging a similar law passed in Arizona which explicilty targeted women of color in order to limit women’s reproductive rights. And at least a half dozen other states have laws on their books with sex-selective abortion bans. 

To be clear: female infanticide and feticide is a serious global problem among South Asian and Chinese parents who are desperate for male babies. But conservatives have seized upon the issue to limit abortion access, instead of actually fighting for gender equity. What’s more, underlying the attacks on women’s reproductive rights is an anti-immigrant xenophobia that paints Asian women as being unable to make their own reproductive choices. “Our community has made it clear we don’t support these misleading, stigmatizing bans that hurt us and only serve to exacerbate the health disparities we already face,” NAPAWF executive director Miriam Yeung said in a statement. “If these legislators truly cared about AAPI women, they would support policies that help our community, like culturally competent sex education and laws to prevent sexual and domestic violence. These hypocritical bills are designed to ban abortion, plain and simple.”

Middle Eastern Man Killed Outside Home Depot

Middle Eastern Man Killed Outside Home Depot

A little over a week ago Hassan Alawsi, 46, was loading items into the trunk of his car at a Home Depot parking lot in Sacramento when a white man shot him. One account said it appeared to be a random act of violence. Now, reports The Sacramento Bee, police have determined that the murder was racially motivated.

According to The Bee, detectives believe that Jeffrey Caylor, “had a ‘severe hatred’ of people of Middle Eastern descent,” and “began following [Alawsi] after seeing him with his sister, who was dressed in an ‘Arabic-style dress’ and headscarf. A relative of Caylor later told detectives that hatred stemmed from an ongoing dispute with a former landlord.”

Alawsi, described as a refugee from Jordan with a fine arts degree from the University of Baghdad, died at the scene. He and his sister had gone to Home Depot to buy gardening supplies. Caylor’s girlfriend and 12-year-old son were in his car at the time of the incident.

New York Schools Are the Nation’s Most Racially Segregated

New York Schools Are the Nation's Most Racially Segregated

According to a new report released Wednesday by the UCLA Civil Rights Project, in 2009 black and Latino students in New York state went to the most racially segregated public schools in the country. The numbers are heavily influenced by the racial segregation in New York City Public Schools, the nation’s largest public school district, where nearly all black and Latino students attend schools that are majority-students of color, but where typical white students attend schools where fewer than 10 percent of the students are black, even though across the district black students are 30 percent of the district. 

In New York City the numbers are more stark when broken down by type of school. In New York City, 73 percent of charter schools were classified by researchers as “apartheid schools,” meaning that they had under 1 percent white enrollment, and 90 percent were classified as “intensely segregated,” with under 10 percent enrollment. New York City has one of the nation’s most highly racially segregated school districts, due largely to the high degree of residential segregation for blacks, Latinos and whites. UCLA researchers said that the high degree of school segregation in New York City was also due to the fragmentation of the school system in New York, where even in New York City the district is split up into 32 Community School District. Nineteen of those CSD’s have a white enrollment under 10 percent—including every district in the Bronx, two-thirds of Brooklyn’s CSD’s, half of Manhattan’s CSD’s and fourty percent of the districts in Queens.

What’s more, the steady dismantling or near absence of federal desegregation plans in New York and the proliferation of school choice plans have exacerbated racial segregation in New York schools. 

The numbers are so serious that “the apartheid conditions are similar to those that existed in the South before Brown v. Board of Education,” the report’s authors write. 

Read the report in full: “New York State’s Extreme School Segregation” (PDF)

Where to Live (And, Not) on the Minimum Wage

Where to Live (And, Not) on the Minimum Wage

In Manhattan, after factoring in cost of living, the city’s mandated $8-an-hour minimum wage is actually more like $3.63 an hour. A similar struggle befalls low wage workers in other high cost urban centers such as Honolulu. Instead, head to the Midwest or Pacific Northwest cities like Spokane for more buying power from the low wage dollar. With more states taking on the minimum wage fight (at the federal level, the minimum wage remains a non-starter), it’s worth paying attention to how proposed small increases translate into actual buying power for men and women and their families. 

Connecticut as of yesterday will offer the highest minimum wage in the country at $10.10 an hour up from $8.70. More money is always good. But then comes the question, is it still enough to both buy milk and pay rent in New Haven or Stamford? — Maybe it’s time to talk more about a living wage instead of a minimum one.

Find out the real stretch of your state’s minimum wage dollar, here.

(h/t Governing)

Obama at the Vatican, Wu Tang’s Art and a Dwarf Planet

Obama at the Vatican, Wu Tang's Art and a Dwarf Planet

Here’s what I’ve been reading up on this morning: 

  • Amnesty’s annual death penalty report is out; the US remains the only country in the Americas that executes people, and is fourth on the worldwide executors list. 
  • Not sure I can take Nate Silver seriously anymore after reading this
  • Thanks to federal public funding, Chad Trujillo observes a planet on the edges of our solar system—80 AU away in the Oort cloud. 
TAGS: Morning Rush

Black Woman, 74, Freed After 32 Years In Prison

Black Woman, 74, Freed After 32 Years In Prison

Mary Virginia Jones, 74, walked out of a Calif. prison late Monday evening after serving 32 years for a murder she did not commit. Her son Robert who has a felony was not allowed to visit her prison. As a result, according to the LA Times, Monday is the first day he’d seen his mother in 30 years. Jones’ story reads like those of so many incarcerated women. It includes a lifetime of physical and emotional abuse from parents and boyfriends, rape, and grief from the loss of a 4-year-old daughter.

Jones, who used a magnifying glass in court to help her see, was convicted in 1982 of first-degree murder, kidnapping to commit robbery and robbery. She always maintained that she did not willingly participate in the crime that led to a man’s murder. Jones’ boyfriend, the shooter, died in 1988 while on death row.

None of Jones’ initial and subsequent trials had taken into account her history as a battered victim, said attorney Heidi Rummel of USC Law School’s Post-Conviction Justice Project.

United Students Against Sweatshops Want Teach for America Off College Campuses

United Students Against Sweatshops Want Teach for America Off College Campuses

United Students Against Sweatshops, a national college student organizing group, wants Teach for America off college campuses. In a “TFA Truth Tour” launched this week, student activists, Teach For America alumni and local teachers are visiting college campuses and speaking up about the politics of Teach for America, and education reform. The tour is slated to hit over a dozen college campuses over the next two weeks to target the undergrads who are the backbone of the Teach for America teaching corps. TFA focuses its recruitment operations on college campuses and often partners with local universities to offer provisional teaching licenses to fresh college graduates who are brought in for two-year teaching stints in poor communities, says Jan Van Tol, a national organizer with USAS.

“TFA recruits based on a social justice and community service message,” says Van Tol. “We think that’s deceptive and doesn’t get at what TFA is really about,” which is about dismantling democratic institutions of public education with market-driven education reform.

At a TFA Truth Tour event at the University of Pennsylvania on Tuesday night, half the room was filled with UPenn undergrads who had already applied or were considering applying for TFA, says Van Tol. “I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard of students at schools being told, ‘If you get a job offer from Goldman Sachs you can defer that offer and still do Teach for America and then carry on with your real career,’” says Van Tol. “That runs counter to what we believe, which is that teachers should be well-trained, well-educated professionals. Teaching is not a hobby you just do for two years.”

TFA is indeed a lightning rod in the education reform debate. Long supported by corporate-reform-minded foundations and school superintendents like the Broad Foundation and TFA alumni Michelle Rhee, TFA is often blamed for being part of the larger political effort to hollow out public education, villify school teachers and their unions, and ultimately destabilize poor comunities and communities of color.

USAS’s goal is to use the tour as a launching pad for a longterm campaign to kick TFA recruiters off college campuses and question universities’ current role in sustaining TFA. 

Black College Student Files $5 Million Discrimination Suit

Black College Student Files $5 Million Discrimination Suit

Donald Williams, an 18-year-old black freshman, has filed a $5 million lawsuit against San Jose State University in California. The claim alleges that the university failed to protect Williams from racial bullying and investigate last fall’s incidents sooner. 

Between last September and October 2013, according to police reports, e-mails and court documents, four white suitemates racially harassed Williams, then 17. The incidents include: flying the Confederate flag and displaying Nazi imagery in the dorm; calling Williams “three-fifths” and “fraction;” and wrestling Williams to the ground and fastening a bicycle lock around his neck among others.

“Three-fifths” refers to the pre-Civil War constitutional compromise, in which the U.S. counted enslaved persons as three-fifths of a human being. SJSU is the alma mater of track athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos who famously struck the Black Power salute at the ‘68 Olympics. SJSU honors their protest with a statue on campus. 

(h/t University Herald)

Undocumented Activists Seek Meeting with Obama

Undocumented Activists Seek Meeting with Obama

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson met with several immigrant rights group’s representatives Tuesday, following President Obama’s call for a review to conduct enforcement “more humanely.” While some groups remain hopeful that the Obama administration’s detention and deportation record may change under Secretary Johnson, others are skeptical. 

Among those that attended was Tania Unzueta, who works with the National Day Labor Organizing Network. Unzueta, who was the only undocumented person present at the meeting, says she’s unsure whether the meeting was called to truly change immigration enforcement practices, or to prevent changes from happening.

Unzueta has temporary relief from deportation through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and would like to see that policy extended to more undocumented immigrants (DACA is now limited according to age and other restrictions). She’s also part of a group of 25 undocumented people who have formed a commission and is now demanding a meeting with Obama. “Instead of participating in the pageantry of the meeting, I asked for a conversation with the President on behalf of the Blue Ribbon Commission of undocumented leaders that formed in response to his review,” says Unzueta. 

Flight MH 370, Lollapalooza and Hep C Pills

Flight MH 370, Lollapalooza and Hep C Pills

Here’s what I’m reading about this morning: 

TAGS: Morning Rush

NSA Overhaul, Madoff Five and Spacesuits

NSA Overhaul, Madoff Five and Spacesuits
Here’s some of what I’m reading about this morning:
 
  • An Obama-backed NSA overhaul bill will likely mean that the transparent-sounding Surveillance Court will have to subpoena your phone records. 
  • More than two weeks after the Malaysian Airlines flight disappeared, there is still no hard evidence of what really happened. 
  • At least 14 people are dead, and up 176 are missing following a massive mudslide in Washington state. 
  • Walgreen’s second quarter profits fall by less than one percent, largely due to a mild flu season; the corporation will close 76 stores
  • When taken by pill or oral spray, marijuana reduces symptoms related to multiple sclerosis. 
TAGS: Morning Rush

Undocumented Immigrants Block Alabama Detention Center

Undocumented Immigrants Block Alabama Detention Center

Seven undocumented immigrants working with the #Not1More campaign, chained themselves and blocked the entrance to the Etowah County Detention Center in Gadsden, Alabama for several hours today.

Etowah has long been considered one of the worst immigrant detention centers in the country. In a phone call recorded by Detention Watch Network, one detainee named Oscar Quintero describes the facility as “a concentration camp for immigrants:”

The seven activists, Teresa Flores, Carlos Ramos, David Comparan, Evelyn Servin, Gabriel Machabanski, Monica Hernandez and Gwendolyn Ferreti Manjarresz, were all arrested; the group Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice is raising money for their release on bond. 

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