Colorlines

NOW IN RACIAL JUSTICE

‘What Was America’s First Music?’

'What Was America's First Music?'

In his first feature-length documentary, Sterlin Harjo explores early American songs in what’s now the United States. The film, titled “This May be the Last Time,” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and will be available on VOD and DVD. November 11.

Harjo’s grandfather disappeared in Oklahoma in 1962, and Harjo set out to find out what happened to him. Seminoles supported him in his search along the way, singing songs that turned out to be from Scottish missionaries, enslaved black people and Natives. The resulting documentary casts new light on what we think about early American music. 

Indiewire posted a trailer:

(h/t Indiewire

Infographic Shows White Men’s Outsized Hold on U.S. Elected Offices

Infographic Shows White Men's Outsized Hold on U.S. Elected Offices

White men run the country. Little surprise there.

But what exactly is the demographic breakdowns of elected office holders? On Wednesday, Who Leads Us, a network of the Women* Donor Network, the New Organizing Institute, TargetSmart and Rutgers University’s Center for Women and Politics, shared the statistics. Who Leads Us analyzed data of 42,000 elected officials from the county level all the way on up to the president. 

Their findings may not surprise you, but they’re certainly sobering to see in infographic form.

wholeadsus_infographic_100914.jpg

wholeadsus_infographic2_100914.jpg

For more, including their methodology and raw data, visit wholeads.us.

*Post has been updated since publication to reflect that the proper name for one organization mentioned is “Women Donor Network,” not “Womens Donor Network.

Turmoil in St. Louis After Police Kill Vonderrit Meyers Jr. 18

Turmoil in St. Louis After Police Kill Vonderrit Meyers Jr. 18

Once again, people took to the streets of St. Louis to protest the killing of a black teenager by a white police officer. This time, the boy’s name was Vonderrit Meyers Jr.

From New York Magazine:

Angry and hurt protesters took to the streets in St. Louis on Wednesday night after a police officer shot and killed an 18-year-old in the Shaw neighborhood, near where 18-year-old Michael Brown was fatally shot in August. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, police and protesters have wildly different versions of how the shooting occurred. Police say four pedestrians fled after they were stopped by an off-duty officer on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. The officer chased one of the men, later identified as Vonderrick Myers Jr., and claims the teenager jumped out of some bushes, struggled with him, then pulled out a gun and shot at him. The officer says he returned fire, killing Myers.

NBC News is reporting that the officer fired his gun 17 times after at least three shots were fired at him, but eyewitnesses have a vastly different perspective and say the teen was holding a sandwhich, not a gun. The shooting came nearly two months to the day that Mike Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson. St. Louis Post-Dispatch staff photographer David Carson captured some of the scene on Twitter:

Ebola Updates, St. Louis Police Shoot and Kill Another Black Teen, Nobel in Literature

Ebola Updates, St. Louis Police Shoot and Kill Another Black Teen, Nobel in Literature

Here’s what I’m reading up on this morning:

  • Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S., dies in a Dallas hospital. A sheriff’s deputy named Michael Monnig, who entered the apartment Duncan was staying in without protective gear, is hospitalized with Ebola-like symptoms. Ashoka Mukpo continues treatment
  • According to a new CDC report, life expectancy in the U.S. reaches an all time high. 
TAGS: Morning Rush

Boston Has a Stop-And-Frisk Problem, New ACLU Report Says

Boston Has a Stop-And-Frisk Problem, New ACLU Report Says

Boston police disproportionately stop black residents as compared to whites—even after controlling for crime. In a report released today from the ACLU Massachusetts chapter, a preliminary analysis of four years of stop data finds that neither neighborhood crime rate, alleged gang affiliation, nor arrest records explain the racial disparities in BPD’s recorded stops. The report highlights the disproportionately high number of stops of black residents (63.3 percent) relative to their percentage of the population (24.4 percent). But more consequential findings in the ACLU’s report may be:

  • BPD’s 2.5 percent hit rate out of 204,000 recorded stops, i.e. the rate at which weapons, drugs or other contraband were seized during stops;
  • unlike in New York City, Boston officers do not file reports when stops lead to arrest;
  • the final report on which this preliminary analysis is based was supposed to have been completed in 2012, then June 2014;
  • as of today, the final report is still pending so more information may be forthcoming; and
  • unlike in New York City, whose city council in 2001 mandated that NYPD release quarterly stop-and-frisk reports, the BPD’s data-sharing is by agreement with the ACLU chapter.

Read the ACLU chapter’s full report, “Black, Brown and Targeted.” “Preliminary findings,” it says, “make clear that now is the time for a meaningful public conversation about reforming stop-and-frisk practices in Boston.”

(h/t The Washington Post)

Study: For Black Students, Skin Color and Suspensions Linked

Study: For Black Students, Skin Color and Suspensions Linked

Black students, as a group, are more than three times as likely as white students to get suspended (PDF). Racial disparities in school discipline are well-established. But what about differences in rates of discipline among black students? 

Sociologists at Villanova University and the University of Iowa have found a striking pattern: the darker a black student’s skin tone, the higher the likelihood they’ll be suspended, particularly for girls. More specifically, an African-American girl with “the darkest skin tone” had triple the odds of being suspended “compared to those with the lighest skin tone,” wrote Villanova University professors Robert DeFina, Lance Hannon and University of Iowa professor Sarah Bruch (PDF). The pattern was weaker, but still present for black males. Black boys with the darkest skin tone were 2.5 times more likely than their lightest black male counterparts of being suspended.

The findings, drawn from data in the National Longitudinal Study of Youth and the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent health, held even when controlling for a host of other factors, including the socioeconomic status of parents, the students’ own behavior, and their academic achievement. The National Longitudinal Study of Youth, conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, documents skin tone across a 10-point spectrum.

In other words, researchers say, this is evidence of colorism at work. “It is important to remember that colorism is not simply “black-on-black” discrimination,” researchers wrote. “Colorism is a broad phenomenon where, for example, continuous variation in skin tone affects the actions of privileged authorities, who tend to be white. Colorism is intrinsically tied to racism in that white privilege is central to both.”

(h/t Diverse Education)

New Video Captures NYPD Beating Unarmed 16-Year-Old

New Video Captures NYPD Beating Unarmed 16-Year-Old

Yet another example surfaced yesterday of police violence captured on video. Street-camera footage obtained by DNAinfo shows two New York City police officers alternately punching a young black man, Kahreem Tribble, with their fists and a gun on the night of August 29. The 16-year-old, who had been running, had already stopped and raised his hands in apparent surrender. He was arrested for marijuana possession. 

The two officers—Tyrane Isaac and David Afanador—have been disciplined, according to the New York Daily News, and a grand jury hearing into whether they should be criminally charged could begin as early as next week.

On October 2—and coming after Eric Garner’s death this July—police commissioner William Bratton vowed, according to The New York Times, to “aggressively seek to get those out of the department who should not be here.”

Read more about the Tribble incident on DNAinfo and at the NY Daily News.

Walmart Cutting Health Care For Part-Timers

Walmart Cutting Health Care For Part-Timers

Things are going to get a bit tougher at home for some of your local Walmart associates. Citing rising costs, the nation’s largest private employer recently announced plans to cut health insurance for 30,000 domestic part-time employees, or those working less than 30-hours-a week. Wal-Mart employs 1.4 million people in the U.S. Its decision to cut healthcare for part-timers puts it “among the last of its peers,” Business Insider reports, following in the footsteps of Target, Home Depot and others.

Read more at Business Insider, including plans to increase premiums for employees who will remain insured.

Kobane Protests, Ebola Updates, Nobel in Chemistry

Kobane Protests, Ebola Updates, Nobel in Chemistry

Here’s what I’m reading up on this morning: 

  • At least 14 people are dead following Kurdish protests in Turkey urging the nation to fight against Islamic State’s hold on the nearby city of Kobane, Syria.
  • The Supreme Court will hear a case today about whether Amazon’s warehouse workers should be paid for the approximately two-and-a-half weeks they spend waiting in a security line each week. 
  • Wal-Mart is ending healthcare coverage for the fraction of part-time employees that currently have it; it’s also raising its premiums in 2015 across the board. 
TAGS: Morning Rush

$75 Million Suit Being Filed by Eric Garner’s Family

$75 Million Suit Being Filed by Eric Garner's Family

The family of the Staten Island man who died this July shortly after viral video captured his being wrestled to the ground by police is seeking $75 million from the city of New York. Cell phone video showed several cops swarming Garner and him being placed in what appears to be a chokehold, a practice banned by the New York Police Department. In August, the medical examiner ruled 43-year-old Garner’s death a homicide, caused in part by “compression of the neck and chest.” On video Garner can be heard saying several times, “I can’t breathe.” 

Last week, police commissioner William Bratton delivered a blunt message to a conference of NYPD commanders. 

“We will aggressively seek to get those out of department who should not be here,” Mr. Bratton told a packed lecture hall [The New York Times reports]. “The brutal, the corrupt, the racist, the incompetent.”

The Times describes the speech as Bratton’s “most forceful public remarks on police misconduct since Eric Garner…died in police custody…after he was approached for selling loose cigarettes.”

Read more about the Garner family’s notice to file suit at Capital New York and the cost of police misconduct suits, nationally at The American Prospect.

Seattle City Council Passes Indigenous Peoples’ Day Resolution

Seattle City Council Passes Indigenous Peoples' Day Resolution

This coming Monday is a federal holiday recognized as Columbus Day, in honor of a colonizer who never even set foot in what is now the United States of America. But, starting this year, Seattle will celebrate it as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Local Natives, including Tulalip and Puyallup peoples, had pressed for the move, but not everyone’s pleased with the outcome. KIRO 7 Eyewitness News reports that some Italian-Americans feel like they’ve “been thrown under the bus” by the council’s resolution. A KIRO 7 Facebook post soliciting reactions to the decision garnered heated responses on all sides.

Berkeley, California, was the first city to institute Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 1992, marking 500 years after Columbus’s arrival to the hemisphere. Mildred “Millie” Ketcheschawno (Mvskoke), who worked diligently with a group known as Resistance 500, was crucial in getting the local city council to adopt the change. 

When It Comes to Race, Uber and Lyft Give Taxis a Ride for Their Money

 When It Comes to Race, Uber and Lyft Give Taxis a Ride for Their Money

There’s a lot to be unsure about when it comes to ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft. Uber’s been eyed for questionable labor practices and some shady schemes to steal riders from Lyft. This is not to menton the outcry from traditional taxi companies who fear losing customers to the companies. But as BuzzFeed’s Johana Bhuylan reports, Lyft and Uber are benefiting from the frustrated black customers who’ve been discriminated against by yellow cabs for years. Here’s more:

Though it’s hard for organizations to quantify this type of racial discrimination, historically, taxi drivers in many cities have refused to drive to certain destinations. In a 2011 undercover operation, the Taxi and Limousine Commission found that out of 1,330 cabs more than 336 refused to travel to places like the Bronx and northern Manhattan.

Many people of color like Lauren are turning to app-based car services like Uber, Lyft and Gett for relief from either discrimination or destination biases — a point that the companies have become quick to tout. For the ride sharing companies, what was initially an unintended byproduct of the app — or a happy accident of sorts — is quickly being marketed as a feature.

What’s more, according to BuzzFeed, is that companies are now marketing it as a feature:

Uber, for example, performed a neighborhood study in Chicago this year that determined “4 in 10 rides in Chicago start or end in underserved neighborhoods.” In New York, Uber has very publicly claimed that its drivers make more outer borough trips than taxis, though it did not provide any data to substantiate it and did not respond to BuzzFeed News’ request for data. And In Boston, Uber dug into its own data to address destination bias and found that neighborhoods where 35 percent of residents complained of a 20-minute wait for cabs were being served within 20 minutes — 30 days before the data was published the average wait time was 3.5 minutes, according to the blog post.

Read more at BuzzFeed. 

Los Angeles to Decide Fate of 287(g) Today

Los Angeles to Decide Fate of 287(g) Today

By Secure Communities standards, its precursor, the federal immigration-local police partnership program 287(g), seems anachronistic. Older, more expensive, less widely used, 287(g) authorized local police to act as if they were immigration agents. Today, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will decide the program’s fate in the county.

As the federal government has turned its attention to Secure Communities, Los Angeles has lost much of the financial incentive to track the immigration statuses of people cycling through the criminal justice system, KPCC reports. In recent years, immigrant rights activists have pushed back on both programs, winning the TRUST Act, a state law in California that limits the detention requests the federal government may make of local law enforcement agencies. 

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, for its part, has recommended that the county hold on to its 287(g) contract, KPCC reports. 

Columnist Asks, ‘Why Is White Poverty Invisible?’

Columnist Asks, 'Why Is White Poverty Invisible?'

Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr., who is African-American, wandered the hills of eastern Kentucky recently in order to talk about what he calls, “the great white whale of American social discourse,” white poverty. Not many people talked to him. As Pitts details in the essay, reporters, nor any other kind of media, really, have not been kind to the region. But he wanted to make a larger point, too, about the racialized way in which Americans discuss poverty. He writes:

Our deeply racialized view of poverty bears no resemblance to reality. Though it’s true that African Americans are disproportionately likely to live below the poverty line, it is also true that the vast majority of those in poverty are white: 29.8 million people. In fact, there are more white poor than all other poor combined.

So Pitts went to the epicenter of white poverty, Owsley County, Kentucky in order to make his point about changing the country’s narrative around our images of the poor.

Read Pitts’ essay at The Miami Herald, in particular, his assessment of the “nexus between white poverty and blackness.”

Watch St. Louis Cardinal Fans Chant ‘Let’s Go Darren!’

Watch St. Louis Cardinal Fans Chant 'Let's Go Darren!'

Major League Baseball’s playoffs are underway, and the St. Louis Cardinals are in a tough series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. St. Louis, of course, is close to the epicenter of civil disobedience that’s broken out after white officer Darren Wilson shot and killed 18-year-old unarmed black Ferguson resident Mike Brown. And last night, Cardinals fans began chanting in support of Officer Wilson in a confrontation with Ferguson protestors. Things pretty much devolved from there. Here’s video:

Deadspin’s Tom Ley points out some of the most upsetting moments:

  • We start off with a bang. At about the 22-second mark, an old white Cardinals fan begins telling the protesters—all of whom appear to be black—that they need to get jobs. He looks right in the camera, proudly, and says, “That’s right! If they’d be working, we wouldn’t have this problem!”
  • At about the 1:30 mark, the crowd of Cardinals fans begin drowning out the protesters’ chants with a “Let’s go Cardinals!” chant. Well, they could be saying worse things…
  • At the 2:40 mark, they start saying much worse things. The “Let’s go Cardinals!” chant has turned into a “Let’s go Darren!” chant. Cool.
  • At 8:10 one of the Cardinals fans calls one of the protesters a “crack head” and tells him he needs to go see a dentist.
  • At 8:50 the “Let’s go Cardinals” chant starts up again.
  • At 9:05 one of the Cardinals fans starts telling one of the protesters that if he ever “saw him in the street” he would “look at the ground.” They argue for a bit about who would and would not whip whose ass.
  • At about 10:25 a small blonde lady starts yelling at the protesters: “We’re the ones who gave all y’all the freedoms that you have!”

Yeah, it’s ugly. 

New Ebola Case in Spain, Morocco Mulls Legalizing Marijuana Cultivation, Nobel Prize in Physics

New Ebola Case in Spain, Morocco Mulls Legalizing Marijuana Cultivation, Nobel Prize in Physics

Here’s what I’m reading up on this morning: 

  • Facebook’s contract bus drivers seek to unionize for better pay and working conditions.  
TAGS: Morning Rush

Here’s More On That St. Louis Symphony Flash Mob

Here's More On That St. Louis Symphony Flash Mob

By now you’ve watched viral video of 23 protesters who delayed (or, disrupted, depending on your point of view) this weekend’s St. Louis Symphony program to dedicate a requiem to Michael Brown. Here’s a bit more of their backstory from the three organizers, Sarah Hermes Griesbach, Elizabeth Vega and Derek Laney. They’re middle-aged, parents (including one grandparent, Vega) and all have been involved daily in Ferguson—from street protests to doing healing art with children to planning actions—since the late hours of Saturday, August 9.

Of all places for an action, why the symphony?

Because Cardinals Stadium didn’t work out too well. A few weeks ago Griesbach and Vega, by all appearances two middle-aged white women in Cardinals jerseys, showed who they really were. “When we lowered our Michael Brown banner,” Griesbach says, “we went from people being smiled at to instantly being perceived as representing something that was hated.” A wall of sports fans started screaming, ‘Pants Up, Don’t Loot’ and ‘Lock Them Up!’ After being handcuffed and escorted out of the stadium—moreso “for our own safety,” both say—Vega recalls Griesbach looking at her and deadpanning, “I think we need a new venue.” Vega says she cracked up. “I really needed to laugh, then,” she says.

A couple of days later while reliving their game nightmare at a local Thai restaurant, Griesbach hit on the symphony crowd—mainly because they weren’t the typical Cardinals crowd. “I knew they would be more receptive. I knew this was a public that was interested in the world, that listened to NPR, read newspapers and [was therefore likely to hold] nuanced views.”

Oh my God, but that song?!

Vega got the idea for, “Which Side Are You On, Friend” from a 2013 Rebel Diaz remix featuring dead prez.

That was stuck in my head. I had been arrested a couple of days before and I was in jail singing this song,” Vega says. The hardest part of their planning meeting was figuring out the new lyrics.

Derek, that voice!

Laney fit right into the cultural milieu as he started off the round in a seemingly stage-quality baritone. “No, I’m not a professional singer,” says Laney who also started the hashtag, #ChalkedUnarmed. “We knew we wouldn’t be able to cherry-pick singers so I just stepped up to do it.” Unsurprisingly, he’s had several compliments on his voice since.

Most gratifying?

Vega points to this moving quote from conductor*, Kenneth Woods:

One friend of mine questioned whether staging a protest on private property was fair to the hall, the orchestra and the audience. I’m not sure I agree. If the concert hall can’t be the center of civic life, a hub for intellectual discussion, a place to share ideas, a place we can mourn, cry, scream, love and heal together, we may as well burn every concert hall to the ground. When we value genteel niceties and professional convenience over the existential questions of right and wrong, life and death, we, as artists, have probably made ourselves completely irrelevant.”

What’s next for the upcoming Weekend of Resistance?

This coming Friday night, Vega says there will be a día de los muertos (day of the dead) event for all people killed by police this year. The reading of the submitted names will be followed by a two-mile march to the Ferguson police station to challenge its 11 p.m. curfew. On Saturday, look for five “pop-up” potluck lunches to take place throughout St Louis County. Mike Brown, race, class and privilege will be the topics of conversation, all led by trained facilitators. 

Also, find an updated schedule of events here.

 

* Post has been updated since publication to accurately reflect that conductor Kenneth Woods is not affiliated with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.

Supreme Court’s Sour Record on Civil Rights, Racial Justice

Supreme Court's Sour Record on Civil Rights, Racial Justice

It’s back-to-court day for the Supreme Court, which began its new term today. Among the key race issues the Supreme Court will consider this year are gerrymandering of African-American-heavy districts, the Fair Housing Act, religious discrimination, and the extent to which rap lyrics comprise a threat. 

In other words, it’s time to brace yourself. University of California, Irvine School of Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky writes in the Los Angeles Times that for those concerned with civil rights, the High Court’s long past and recent history doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence:

[O]ver the course of American history, the court has repeatedly failed at its most important tasks and at the most important times. As much as we might like to think of the court as an evenhanded dispenser of justice, it often is not. For the first 78 years of American history, until the ratification of the 13th Amendment in 1865, for example, the court consistently sided with slave owners and aggressively enforced the institution of slavery. For 58 years, from 1896 until 1954, the court embraced the noxious doctrine of “separate but equal” and upheld Jim Crow laws that segregated the races in every aspect of Southern life.

Citizens think of the nation’s highest court as the last resort for the individual, but the Supreme Court has continually failed to stand up to majoritarian pressures in times of crisis. During World War I, individuals were imprisoned for speech that criticized the draft and the war without the slightest evidence that the expression had any adverse effect on military recruitment or the war effort. During World War II, 110,000 Japanese Americans were uprooted from their homes and placed in what President Franklin Roosevelt referred to as concentration camps. During the McCarthy era, people were imprisoned simply for teaching works by Marx. In all of these instances, the court ruled in favor of the government and erred by failing to enforce the basic constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and equal protection.

Read the rest at the Los Angeles Times, and a quick look at cases the Supreme Court will consider this term from SCOTUSblog.

Michel Martin on Who Americans Are, Really

Michel Martin on Who Americans Are, Really

When St. Louis Public Radio wanted to host the region’s first live town hall on August 28 to discuss Michael Brown’s murder and the explosive events after, it’s no surprise they asked Michel Martin to moderate. Part of the job that Thursday evening in Wellspring Church would mean mediating—and there’s no media personality better at hosting tough conversations and bridging chasm-like divides than Martin. The former host of “Tell Me More,” which ended this August after seven years on air, took the other seat in a recent and intimate hour-long interview with Krista Tippett. She hosts the excellent radio program, “On Being,” which very often touches on the role of faith in her subject’s lives. The talk is wide-ranging, from Martin’s growing up in Brooklyn, to dealing with her younger brother’s suicide and her role as a journalist in a society that struggles still with talking about race and difference.

Listen above. And if you don’t already regularly listen to “On Being,” get on that.

Raven-Symoné: ‘I’m an American, I’m not an African-American’

Raven-Symoné: 'I'm an American, I'm not an African-American'

In an interview with Oprah Winfrey on “Where Are They Now?” Raven-Symoné made clear that she doesn’t “want to be labeled as gay,” but rather as a “human who loves humans.” Raven-Symoné, the star perhaps best known for her role on “The Cosby Show,” who appeared to quietly come out last August, says she’s tired of labels, adding, “I’m an American, I’m not an African-American,” pointing out that an “American is a colorless person.” 

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150 151 152 153 154 155 156 157 158 159 160 161 162 163 164 165 166 167 168 169 170 171 172 173 174 175 176 177 178 179 180 181 182 183 184 185 186 187 188 189 190 191 192 193 194 195 196 197 198 199 200 201