Colorlines

NOW IN RACIAL JUSTICE

Appeals Court Rehears Key Affirmative Action Case Fisher v. Texas

Appeals Court Rehears Key Affirmative Action Case Fisher v. Texas

Affirmative action is back for yet another day of court today. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals hears arguments today in Fisher v. Texas, the major affirmative action case which was sent back down to appellate courts by the Supreme Court this summer.

While the Supreme Court affirmed in its June ruling on Fisher v. Texas that diversity on college campuses is a worthwhile goal and allowed colleges and universities to continue to take race into consideration in admissions, the High Court sent the case itself back to the Fifth Circuit to take a closer look at the University of Texas’ admissions policies. The question before the Fifth Circuit right now is whether race-neutral alternatives could still advance the school’s goal of fostering diversity as well as its current program, under which the majority of students are admitted via a race-blind policy and a small percentage are admitted through a separate process which considers race, among multiple other factors, to complete its admissions.

Proponents of affirmative action argue that race-neutral alternatives can’t and don’t produce the same kinds of diversity.

Catch up on Colorlines’ affirmative action coverage, including Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, the other major affirmative action case currently before the Supreme Court, here

Over 106,000 People Enrolled in Obamacare in First Month

Over 106,000 People Enrolled in Obamacare in First Month

In the first full month since the marketplace for new health insurance plans under the Affordable Healthcare Act opened on October 1, over 106,000 people across the nation have selected plans. Not exactly metrics to pop champagne over, but U.S. Health and Human Services Sec. Kathleen Sebelius said they expect those numbers to improve over the next few months when she announced the enrollment numbers this afternoon. Another 975,407 people at least made it through the application and eligibility process, but haven’t selected a plan yet, said Sebelius.  

Getting through that process has not been an easy ride for millions of Americans who’ve tried and failed to access the Obamacare plans through the online portal Healthcare.gov. The website probably won’t get fixed anytime soon. Meanwhile, the HHS administration has appointed “Navigators” — community-based Obamacare evangelists dispatched to help people sign up for health insurance through other options. The Tea Party has been publicly attacking the Navigators program as part of their larger agenda to derail Obamacare. 

Meanwhile, today’s enrollment numbers also include an additional 396,261 people who have been determined eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

“There is no doubt the level of interest is strong,” said Sec. Sebellius when announcing the figures. “We expect enrollment will grow substantially throughout the next five months … They’re also numbers that will grow as the website, HealthCare.gov, continues to make steady improvements.”  

TAGS: Obamacare

Artist Creates Book of Thirty-Nine Questions for White People

Artist Creates Book of Thirty-Nine Questions for White People

Naima Lowe is a queer black artist based in Washington state whose most recent project is causing quite a stir. She’s created a book called “39 Questions for White People,” a collection of simple questions that are meant to generate a discussion around white privilege. Here’s how Lowe describes it:

The deceptively simple text asks complex questions about race and accountability. Each page of this limited edition, forty-page, loose-leaf book, was hand inked and hand typed at a small collectively run print shop in Olympia, WA. This work started as an experiment based in my curiosity about how whiteness is framed and understood by white people. The work of creating the book became an exercise in turning the emotional labor of racism into tangible physical labor. I was able to turn all that pain into an object, which is incredibly strange, but also incredibly freeing.

Questions include: How do you know that you’re white? Do you notice when the last white person leaves the room?

Copies of the book just went on sale and it’s currently on display at The Wing Luke Museum in Seattle as part of their special exhibition “Under My Skin: Artists Explore Race in the 21st Century.”

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Dream Hampton on Renisha McBride and ‘Criminalizing Black Corpses’

Dream Hampton on Renisha McBride and 'Criminalizing Black Corpses'

Writer, filmmaker and activist dream hampton made an appearance on Democracy Now alongside Dawud Walid, the executive director for the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The two spoke to host Amy Goodman about the ongoing outcry in Detroit for accountability in the aftermath of the shooting of Renisha McBride, an unarmed 19-year-old black women who was killed by a white homeowner after she reportedly sought help following a car accident. In the interview, hampton articulated what’s at the core of anger surrounding the case:

AMY GOODMAN: So, there was a toxicology test given to the victim, to Renisha McBride’s body, but Ted Wafer was not tested? Is that the case?

DREAM HAMPTON: I mean, unless they—unless the Dearborn Heights Police Department produces a toxicology report from that night, which would, to me, seem standard procedure—if someone claims that there was an accidental shooting at their home, then it seems that—it would seem that they would be tested for alcohol or drugs. A toxicology report on Renisha McBride’s body is more criminalization of black corpses. I don’t make the analogy to Trayvon in this case. I think Jonathan Ferrell, killed in North Carolina by the police while he was seeking help after an accident, is a far—

AMY GOODMAN: Now, he was the Florida A&M football player who gets in a car accident, is running toward police, and they shoot him dead.

DREAM HAMPTON: Yes, he’s a better analogy, if we need make one; I don’t think that we need to. I think that we can deal with Renisha McBride and the life that was lost on its own merit. But this criminalization of black corpses is deeply troubling, as well. We saw this happen with Trayvon. We saw his public record, his school record, his attendance record, whether or not he had ever smoked pot—you know, this teenager, like, kind of criminalized even as he was a corpse. I’m not interested in seeing that happen again with Renisha McBride. Like the family, I’m hopeful that Prosecutor Kym Worthy, who, as you know, Amy, has a very serious reputation, will do the right thing and bring justice for the McBride family.

‘Women and the Word’ Celebrates Queer Poets of Color

'Women and the Word' Celebrates Queer Poets of Color

Films that celebrate queer women of color are rare, and the upcoming “Women and the Word: THE REVIVAL Documentary Film” promises to be a heartwarming  thought-provoking look at five poets on an international tour. After a 55-day campaign on Kickstarter the project has been successfully funded, with post-production led by Sekiya Dorsett and Andrea Boston. Artists featured include T’ai Freedom FordBe SteadwellJonquille “Solsis” Rice, and Elizah Turner who explore gender, sexuality, and the unique barriers faced by queer women of color using music, poetry, and performance. More on the film: 

Women and the Word chronicles the creation of an international salon-styled tour led and supported by women. It tells the story of how Jade Foster recruited a group of five dynamic poets and musicians to become stewards of a movement that builds community among queer women of color, upholds literary arts excellence, and occupies living rooms across the country.

Check out the trailer, and stay tuned for upcoming screenings.

Watch Black Students Call out UCLA for Lack of Diversity

Watch Black Students Call out UCLA for Lack of Diversity

Poet, activist, and current UCLA student Sy Stokes sends a powerful message with his poem “The Black Bruins,” which calls the school out for dismal black student enrollment. According to Stokes, only 35 black students in the incoming class are expected to graduate, and of the black males at the school—who make up a tiny 3.3 percent of the overall male population— 65 percent are athletes. Stokes says he was inspired to perform this piece because of his own experience of alienation as a multi-racial student, and the legacy of his cousin Arthur Ashe. 

“We are not asking for a handout. We are asking for a level playing field,” he says. 

NPR reports that black student enrollment at UCLA has plummeted since the state voted down affirmative action in 1996. Stokes’ video is a timely response to ongoing inequity at one of the most respected schools in the country, and challenges viewers to consider the systems that enable the school to continue to enroll only certain kinds of black students. 

Michelle Obama Takes First Steps Into the World of Education Policy

Michelle Obama Takes First Steps Into the World of Education Policy

First Lady Michelle Obama moved into new political territory today when she visited students at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington, D.C. to discuss the importance of higher education. It’s not the first time the First Lady has weighed in on the importance of education, but today marked her first official forway into the world of ed policy. And while she framed her remarks around President Obama’s goal to make the U.S. the world’s top producer of college graduates, she kept her speech policy-free, instead choosing to speak about her own childhood, and lace her story with the personal responsibility themes which show up so often in her husband’s remarks toward black audiences in particular. 

“At the end of the day, no matter what the president does, no matter what your teachers and principals do or whatever is going on in our home or neighborhood, the person with the biggest impact on your educaiton is you. It’s that simple,” Obama said today. “It’s you, the student. And more than anything else, meeting that 2020 goal is going to take young people like you steppig up and taking control of your education.”

“It’s not your circumstance that defines your future,” Obama later said. “It’s your attitude. It’s your commitment. You decide how high you set your goals. You decide how hard you’re going to work toward those goals,” she said.

Her words are important and inspiring; that Obama can call on her own path growing up the daughter of working-class parents and climbing to the heights of the country’s most elite educational institutions makes them even more powerful. But, much more than Obama acknowledged in her remarks, structural forces like poverty and racial inequity have a great deal of power over young people’s educational outcomes. In fact, recent studies have shown that the achievement gap today is not solely due to a bottoming out of the test scores of the poorest students. It’s actually that the test scores of the wealthiest students are rising higher and higher into the ether, dynamics exacerbated by growing class and enduring racial stratification in the country. There are always exceptions—take Obama herself—but for most and on a broad scale, structural forces beyond the control of any one student matter. 

The First Lady’s remarks today were innocuous enough on their face, stressing the importance of hard work and believing in oneself and never feeling shame for the struggles one has faced. But they should be noted with caution. Obama, with all her power and charm, may very well be carrying on the neoliberal education reform agenda her husband has championed, while wrapping it up in her deeply personal words which erase the larger political and social forces at play. 

Watch Obama’s remarks in full here.

Vietnamese LGBT Groups Again Blocked from Annual Cultural Celebration

Vietnamese LGBT Groups Again Blocked from Annual Cultural Celebration

For what will be the second year in a row Vietnamese LGBT groups will not be allowed to participate in the Westminster Tet Parade, an annual Chinese New Year Celebration in Orange County, Calif. Despite widespread public outcry, the Vietnamese American Federation of Southern California, which now organizes the once city-run parade, voted Monday to exclude LGBT groups from the 2014 event. 

LGBT groups have participated in the event for at least the past three years, but this year organizations such as Viet Rainbow of Orange County were banned from walking in the parade.  Some say the move reflects an ongoing “cultural divide” within Vietnamese communities, who often adhere to a strict moral code that looks down on homosexuality and gender difference.

A spokesperson for the group told the LA Times that they were prepared to respond.

“They had an opportunity to make right what was wrong, and they chose the same path. Last year we were caught off guard, but this time we’re prepared with options.”

Childish Gambino Guests on Singer Kenna’s Track ‘Relations’

Childish Gambino Guests on Singer Kenna's Track 'Relations'

Childish Gambino (aka Donald Glover) stays busy. He guested on singer Kenna’s new track “Relations” and also has a new album coming out next month. Enjoy.

(h/t AfroPunk)

Luis Gutierrez Shames Obama and Republicans on Immigration Reform Impass

Luis Gutierrez Shames Obama and Republicans on Immigration Reform Impass

In an impassioned interview yesterday on Fusion, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) criticized President Obama, the GOP, and even members of his own party for continued inaction on immigration reform.  Gutierrez told Jorge Ramos: 

There’s much more the President can do about deportations. We cannot have … the president of the United State say that the young DREAMers, that their values are ‘the same values I and my wife inculcate in our own daughters,’ and then deport their parents. 

Gutierrez has come under fire recently from immigration advocates who say he should be putting more pressure on Obama and Congress. And while some advocates, such as the DREAM 30 have turned their attention towards different tactics aiming to put an end to deportations and address immigrants’ rights issues, many others continue pushing for a vote on comprehensive immigration reform. 

Joined by Republican Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.), the two insisted that while immigration reform is still possible, they are “running out of time.” 

Angel Haze Talks Surviving Sexual Abuse, Coming Out and the Church

Angel Haze Talks Surviving Sexual Abuse, Coming Out and the Church

Angel Haze sat down for an interview with Meredith Bennett-Smith at the Huffington Post to talk about her wild summer of freestyling and what propelled her into the rap game in the first place. From HuffPo:

Until the age of 15, Haze (born Raykeea Wilson) and her mother were part of the Pentacostal Greater Apostolic Faith, a church Haze has repeatedly described as a “cult.” Although Haze never officially “came out,” her mother found out anyway, prompting the dramatic scene that opens the “Same Love” cover.

“When my mom found out she was so angry,” Haze told HuffPost. “She was going through my s—t, and she staged this whole ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ scene, where she opened the blinds and the curtains in the house so they were all flying around. It’s winter and she turns off all the lights. And she sits down and she tells me, ‘God told me, you’re going to die of AIDS.’”

Looking back on those wind-whipped curtains now, Haze lets out a long laugh.

“That s—t is hilarious, when you think about it in hindsight,” she said. Still, as a 13-year-old, the confrontation left her terrified and confused. “I knew that I didn’t believe in hell,” Haze explained. “But I was also f—king afraid of it.”

Read more at the Huffington Post. 

There’s an Adorable Tumblr Dedicated to Queer Men of Color in Love

There's an Adorable Tumblr Dedicated to Queer Men of Color in Love

This Queer Men of Color in Love Tumblr will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. We so rarely see positive representations of men of color generally, and queer people of color specifically, that this is all the more important to share.

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TAGS: LGBT Love Tumblr

Advocates Prepare for Next Round in New York Women’s Equality Act

Advocates Prepare for Next Round in New York Women's Equality Act

The New York Women’s Equality Act didn’t pass in the last legislative session largely because Senate Republicans opposed language that would strengthen abortion rights in the state. But in addition to abortion rights, the act is meant to ensure equal pay provisions, standards around sexual harassment, and protections for survivors of domestic violence. According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, black women in N.Y. earn 79 cents and Latina women in N.Y. earn 64 cents to every dollar earned by white men.

The New York Women’s Equality Coalition, an advocacy group focused on changing public policy related to women’s issues, recently launched a new campaign to start ramping up efforts, including a video depicting a mock game show to decide whether employers’ discriminatory acts are actually illegal or—as they put it—sleazy. Tracey Brooks, a coalition representative, recently spoke with WNYC about their new efforts. Listen to the interview, and watch their humorous, albeit frustrating, video.

These Five Oscar-Qualifying Films Were Directed by Black Women

These Five Oscar-Qualifying Films Were Directed by Black Women

Jai Tigget over at Shadow and Act rounded up five stellar documentaries that were all directed by black women and have qualified for Academy Award consideration. Watch the trailers below, and visit Shadow and Act for reviews of each film.

Free Angela And All Political Prisoners, Shola Lynch

Valentine Road, Marta Cunningham

Gideon’s Army, Dawn Porter

American Promise, Michele Stephenson and Joe Brewster

The New Black, Yoruba Richen

Watch Hilton Als Talk About Masculinity With Junot Díaz

Watch Hilton Als Talk About Masculinity With Junot Díaz

So this is a lengthy hour-long conversation, but a worthwhile one. Last Spring, New York City’s Strand Bookstore hosted Hilton Als and Junot Díaz to talk about writing, love and masculinity, among other things. Als is a theater critic for the New Yorker whose latest collection of essays called “White Girls” hits shelves today. Díaz’s praise for Als’ latest collection is featured prominently on the new book’s cover.

Als begins the conversation by asking Díaz about his use of the word “pato” in his work, a derogatory Spanish slang word for “gay.” Diaz responds by saying, in part: “When I think about the politicial unconsciousness of masculinity, it’s queerness.”

This Veteran’s Day, Deported Servicemembers Speak Out

This Veteran's Day, Deported Servicemembers Speak Out

They’re not citizens but they were willing to put their lives on the line for the U.S. And an estimated 3,000 U.S. veterans are either in deportation proceedings or being detained. 

Jorge Rivas at Fusion has the story:

Hector Barajas joined the 82nd Airborne in 1995, he served as a paratrooper, jumping out of planes dozens of times and taking on various missions on behalf of his country. But in 2004, after being honorably discharged, the United States put him on a flight that led to his biggest battle: being deported to Mexico, a country he left before his fourth birthday.

Barajas, who had a green card, returned to California after his discharge. A month later he began having trouble with the law. He pled guilty to firing a weapon at a car that his friend believed was following them. No one was wounded and Barajas maintains he didn’t pull the trigger.

Had Barajas been a U.S. citizen, he would have served three years in a state prison and that would have been the end of it. But because he wasn’t, he was deported to Mexico a year later. He was doubly punished[.]

And Barajas is not alone. Read about the issue at Fusion.

Drake’s Dad Stars in the Video for Rapper’s Hit Song ‘Worst Behavior’

Drake's Dad Stars in the Video for Rapper's Hit Song 'Worst Behavior'

It’s no secret that megastar rapper Drake has had a difficult relationship with his father, Dennis Graham. While Drake grew up with his white Jewish mother in Canada, he only made occassional visits to visit his Graham, who’s black, in Memphis and credits the city’s rich musical legacy with leaving a big imprint on his own work. In his recent interview with Jian Ghomeshi for Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Drake talked about what it was like being in the Memphis scene and how it shaped him as an artist.

It was pivotal in shaping the man I am today. Going to Memphis gave me a glimpse into what rap really felt like. I got to go and be around Yo Gotti in the very early stages and it was only because my cousin’s baby father used to manage him. He used to bring me around a crazy lifestyle that I knew nothing about being from here. It was just surreal. It seemed so big. The clubs seemed so glamorous. The cars just seemed so expensive. These guys were drinking Louis XIII. My mind was blown. I was so young and I got to see not only rap culture, but Southern rap culture which is very influential. It opened up not only my mind but my ears.

It’s safe to say that the rapper’s father is very much a part of his life these days after starring in the video for his son’s latest hit song “Worst Behavior.”

Drake ~ Worst Behavior from OctobersVeryOwn on Vimeo.

TAGS: drake Video

Lessons on the School-to-Prison Pipeline, From The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Lessons on the School-to-Prison Pipeline, From The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

What do “Saved by the Bell,” “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “The Cosby Show” have to teach us about models of school discipline in today’s schools? That so much of what passes for school discipline these days is actually an extremely harsh and unnecessarily punitive introduction to the criminal justice system. 

A new video from the Advancement Project highlights exactly the sorts of student infractions—talking out of turn or failing to keep to the dress code—which used to be dealt with with a stern talking-to or at worst, detention but which these days can mean suspension, expulsion or even arrest for far too many students. As the video points out, even one out-of-school suspension doubles a student’s chances of dropping out of school.

But a key point the video doesn’t mention is that harsh zero-tolerance policies disproportionately target black and Latino youth. Such harmful school discipline wouldn’t be excusable if it were evenly applied across all races, but it also happens to be deeply racially skewed.

Click here for more about the Advancement Project’s Ending the Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Track campaign.

Meet Tanya Fields, the Black Single Mom Whose Hug With Melissa Harris-Perry Made Everyone Cry

Meet Tanya Fields, the Black Single Mom Whose Hug With Melissa Harris-Perry Made Everyone Cry

Melissa Harry-Perry and bell hooks sat down for a mind-blowing conversation about black feminism at the New School last Friday. But while the two writers spent more than an hour talking about everything from “12 Years a Slave” to cable Renisha McBride, the most powerful moment came during the Q&A. Tanya Fields, a single black mother asked a question that read, in part, “How do you wake up every morning and… I consider myself a black feminist but some days, it’s just so hard to get out of the bed and face other black people.”

Harris-Perry then went over and hugged Fields in a strikingly intiminate moment that found both women in tears. It’s a moment that my colleague Stacia L. Brown dissected over at her blog Beyond Baby Mamas before digging up more of Tanya Fields’ work as a community organizer.  (The exchange occurs about an hour and six seconds into the recorded talk.)

In addition to being a single mother who’s raising four children, Fields is also a powerhouse community organizer in the Bronx who was the keynote speaker at CUNY’s School of Professional Studies’ 2012 commencement. Here she is talking about the specific challenges facing single moms who juggle school and parenting. 

NAACP Comes Out in Support of Bipartisan Marijuana Legislation

NAACP Comes Out in Support of Bipartisan Marijuana Legislation

The NAACP recently came out in support of  H.R. 1523 — the Respect States Marijuana Laws Act, an uncommonly bipartisan bill currently being considered by Congress that would further expand protections for states hoping to legalize the drug. This isn’t the first time the NAACP has spoken out in favor of decriminalizing marijuana, who frequently refers to it as a civil rights issue. There are wide disparities in the numbers of people of color arrested for marijuana related offenses with young black and Latino men make up the majority of arrests nationwide, although young white men and women consume marijuana at higher rates.

Tom Angell, Chairman of Marijuana Majority, told the Huffington Post the NAACP’s support is significant.

“Having the NAACP’s support for a states’ rights approach to marijuana reform is going to have a huge impact and will provide comfort and cover to politicians and prominent people who want to see prohibition end but who are a little skittish about states getting too far ahead of the feds on this issue.”

The announcement comes in the 43rd year of the War on Drugs, during which President Obama has continued to crack down on illegal drugs. Check out The Nation’s most recent feature on “Obama’s War on Drugs.” 

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