Colorlines

NOW IN RACIAL JUSTICE

Senators Add Protection for Detainees to Immigration Bill

Senators Add Protection for Detainees to Immigration Bill

The Senate Judiciary Committee went into immigration high gear yesterday, working later into the evening on 50 amendments to the immigration reform bill. At the end of the day of markup, the bill was amended in a number of ways to protect the human rights and civil liberties of detainees. Rights groups claimed the votes as small victories in their long effect to chip away at the abuses of immigration detention and deportation.

Among the biggest victories for the rights of detainees was the passage yesterday of an amendment.pdf) from Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., to limit the use of solitary confinement for detainees. A recent investigation by the NY Times found that at least 300 Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees are held in solitary confinement each day. This means they’re kept in a cell for at least 22 hour a day. Half are held in these conditions for more than two weeks at a time, sometimes in tiny windowless cells.

The Times investigation found that ICE lacks guidelines and rules for the use of solitary confinement. The Blumenthal amendment would send the agency clear limits on the practice, especially for young and mentally ill detainees, and require ICE to develop oversight mechanism for it’s hundreds of facilities, including the private and county jails with ICE contacts.

The senators also agreed on another Blumenthal amendment.pdf) that limits ICE’s authority to conduct raids near schools, hospitals, and religious institutions.

A major amendment sponsored by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, would protect children of detained and deported parents from entering foster care or becoming stranded if their mother of father is taken by immigration agents. The amendment is the only one of the over 100 considered so far by the committee to have passed with full bi-partisan support with votes of approval from all 18 members of the committee.

The Humane Enforcement and Legal Protections for Separated Children Act.pdf), as the amendment is called, was introduced as a stand-alone bill by members of Congress in recent years but never became law. It allows parents to make addition phone calls to arrange for their kids’ care and makes it easier parents to take part in county child welfare and family court proceedings that affect parental rights and children’s custody. The amendment would also require that ICE consider the best interest of kids when making decisions about the detention of their mother or father.

A 2011 Colorlines.com investigation estimated that there were at least 5000 children of detained and deported parents in foster care around the country. Detained parents have often been excluded from the juvenile court proceedings where decisions are made about their parental rights and the future of their children.

The Senators narrowly fended off an amendment.pdf) from Sen. Grassley that would have barred from the path to citizenship any undocumented immigrant suspected of gang activity, even if they have not been convicted of any crime. As I’ve written before, provisions that bar immigrants on the basis of suspected gang attachments often rely on overly broad local standards for identifying gang membership and would have overwhelmingly impacted young immigrants of color. The immigration reform bill already includes a provision to exclude immigrants from the provisional path to citizenship if they are deemed to have participated in a gang and knew that their activity was criminal. The Grassley amendment would have vastly expanded this exclusion by forcing immigrants to prove that they didn’t know they were part of a gang.

The committee will continue markup today in hopes of making it through all amendments and sending the bill to the Senate floor soon after the Memorial Day weekend. Though yesterday’s votes suggest the path forward in committee could be a reasonably smooth one, a number of controversial amendments may create additional turbulence. Ultimately, the bill is expected to leave the committee and head to the Senate floor where the bill’s supporters hope it will garner broad support. The fate of immigration reform in the House remains far less certain.

Brittney Griner Says College Coach Told Her To Hide Sexuality

Brittney Griner Says College Coach Told Her To Hide Sexuality

Brittney Griner, the former college basketball star who now plays for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, revealed in a new interview with ESPN that her head coach asked her not to come out publicly during her college playing career. Griner played for Baylor University, a private Baptist university in Waco, Texas.

“It was a recruiting thing,” Griner said during the interview with ESPN The Magazine and espnW. “The coaches thought that if it seemed like they condoned it, people wouldn’t let their kids come play for Baylor.”

ESPN The Magazine and espnW reports:

In a series of interviews — including one on camera Friday — for an ESPN The Magazine and espnW.com story set to hit newsstands later this month, Griner said her silence during college was because Mulkey and her staff were concerned about the program’s image.

“It was more of a unwritten law [to not discuss your sexuality] … it was just kind of, like, one of those things, you know, just don’t do it,” Griner said Friday. “They kind of tried to make it, like, ‘Why put your business out on the street like that?’”

But Griner reiterated on Friday that her sexuality was an open secret at Baylor.

“I told Coach [Mulkey] when she was recruiting me. I was like, ‘I’m gay. I hope that’s not a problem,’ and she told me that it wasn’t,” Griner said. “I mean, my teammates knew, obviously they all knew. Everybody knew about it.”

The ‘Motor Voter Act’ Turns 20 Today. Is It Aging Well?

The 'Motor Voter Act' Turns 20 Today. Is It Aging Well?

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), aka the “Motor Voter Act,” which allowed Americans to register to vote at federal government offices with which they regularly interface. Before NVRA passed in 1993, Americans could only register to vote at their local registrar’s office, which could be inconvenient because those offices were often open for limited days and hours, and usually understaffed. If you couldn’t get off work to access the registrar’s office when it was open, then there were tremendous burdens around getting registered.

Since NVRA was passed, citizens can now register to vote when they go to public assistance offices to apply for welfare or disability benefits, or at their local DMV when they apply for a drivers license — hence the nickname “Motor Voter Act” — and also allowed for mailed-in registration forms. The result was that over 30 million people registered via the new paths opened by NVRA in its first year.

The public policy think tank Demos is today asking for the federal government to further expand access to voter registration by creating more paths. One way they suggest, in their report “Registering Millions,” is by offering voter registration through U.S. Citizenship and Immigrant Services so that immigrants can immediately register upon their naturalization.

According to the report, naturalized Americans who are already registered to vote turn out on Election Day at rates similar to native-born, and in some instances even higher. Their are huge gaps though in the registration and general voter participation rates between naturalized and native citizens. Setting up registration at naturalization ceremonies could help close that gap Demos suggests.

They also recommend opening voter registration at Indian Health Services offices, noting that two out of five American Indians and Alaska Natives are not registered to vote though eligible. The report also calls for modernizing the antiquated voter registration systems and implementing same-day registration, so that voters aren’t purged due to errors, restrictive laws or because of pressure applied from anti-voting rights groups.

Voter registration has a long ugly history in America, particularly for African Americans and people of color. These recommendations seek to correct that.

Homeowners to Eric Holder: Hold Banks Accountable

Homeowners to Eric Holder: Hold Banks Accountable

Homeowners and former homeowners rallied in front of the Department of Justice Monday to demand the Attorney General Eric Holder hold banks accountable for foreclosures. The groups are asking the Department of Justice to prosecute banks and to protect the 13 million homeowners who struggle today with underwater mortgages.

The groups organizing the protest, the Home Defenders League and Occupy Homes, are pushing for aggressive prosecutions of banks responsible for the foreclosures. They’re also demanding the government act to reset underwater mortgages that now threaten millions more families with foreclosure.

But these demands appear to be a long shot. The protest comes several months after Attorney General Eric Holder said that some banks may too big to prosecute.

“I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them,” Holder said in March.

He recently clarified his comments during a congressional hearing. “Let me be very, very, very clear: banks are not too big to jail.”

But actions may speak louder than these most recent words.

Prosecutions for financial fraud hit 20-year low after the financial collapse. Instead, state and federal regulators have punished banks responsible for the foreclosure crisis with several dozen settlements, but as we’ve learned in recent months, these agreements often left those who lost homes with nearly nothing. Three million of the four million foreclosure victims who got payments though the largest of these efforts received checks of less than $500, ProPublica reports. And the Washington Post reports that banks have paid out less than half of the $5.7 billion the institutions agreed to pay in over 30 settlements.

Black and Latino families have been hit the hardest by the foreclosure losses. As Colorlines.com’s Imara Jones wrote last week about a new report released by The Alliance for a Just Society:

Despite recent headlines trumpeting a return of America’s real estate market to its boom-time highs, a report released today by the Alliance for a Just Society shows how little of that has trickled into communities of color. The document, entitled “Wasted Wealth,” is a sobering reminder of the gap between top-line economic cheerleading and the reality of what’s happening on the ground.

As “Wasted Wealth” lays out, close to 2.5 million families lost homes in just three years. Communities that were majority people of color saw foreclosures take place at almost twice the rate as white communities, with an average loss of wealth 30 percent higher per household.

This foreclosure tidal wave is why wealth for blacks and Latinos is at the lowest level ever recorded. Housing is the leading wealth asset for these two communities.

Although the real estate market overall has regained $16 trillion in wealth lost during the recession, these gains are largely driven by a frenzy for high-end properties at the very top of the market. “Wasted Wealth” contrasts these highs with the fact that more than 13 million homes continue to remain at risk for foreclosure.

For more on the protesters demands, check out their May 13 letter to Eric Holder.

Number of Black Best Actor Oscars Nominees Could Be Unprecedented in 2014

Number of Black Best Actor Oscars Nominees Could Be Unprecedented in 2014

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will host its 86th Oscars Academy Awards ceremony next year. If entertainment industry insiders’ predictions turn out to be true they’ll also be host to an unprecedented number of black nominees in the best actor in a leading role category.

We haven’t had more than one black nominee for Best Actor since 2006, when Forest Whitaker took the Oscar home for his role in “The Last King of Scotland” and Will Smith was nominated for his role in “The Pursuit of Happyness.” It also happened once before when Denzel Washington (“Training Day”) and Smith (Ali) were nominated in 2001.

But the 2014 Oscars may mark the first time in history when more than two black actors are nominated in top acting category for males.

Kyle Buchanan at Vulture points out Harvey Weinstein’s Weinstein Co. will be releasing three films with Oscar potential that will feature black leads. Vulture has more details:

[Whitaker is] back in the mix this year for the Weinstein-produced The Butler, an era-spanning drama from director Lee Daniels (Precious) that casts Whitaker as a butler who served several presidents while butting heads with his fiery activist son (David Oyelowo). And then there’s Fruitvale Station, a Sundance hit that also bowed this week at Cannes. Based on a true story, the film stars Michael B. Jordan as Oscar Grant, a young man killed in a controversial, racially tinged 2009 shooting.

Unprecedented Number of HIV Cases in Navajo Reservation

Unprecedented Number of HIV Cases in Navajo Reservation

The Indian Health Service released a new report recently showing that HIV infections are on the rise in  the Navajo nation. The tally of new cases from last year represents the highest annual number ever recorded among the tribe by the health agency.

The federal report released last month found that there were 47 new diagnoses of human immunodeficiency virus on the reservation in 2012, up 20 percent from 2011. Since 1999, new H.I.V. cases among Navajo are up nearly fivefold, the report found.

According to the report, men who have sex with men accounted for nearly half of the new cases.

Harvard Students Demand Investigation Into Heritage Researcher’s Immigrant IQ Dissertation

Harvard Students Demand Investigation Into Heritage Researcher's Immigrant IQ Dissertation

Two weeks ago we learned that the author of a recent Heritage Foundation report against immigration reform wrote a 2009 Harvard dissertation claiming immigrants of color have low IQ. (Its abstract reads: “The average IQ of immigrants in the United States is substantially lower than that of the white native population.”) Now, students at the University are asking questions about why the racist paper got approved in the first place.

Think Progress reports:

Over 1,000 Harvard students want to know how and why Harvard University’s JFK School approved a 2009 doctoral thesis arguing that Hispanics have lower IQs. The thesis was written by Jason Richwine, a co-author of a paper by the conservative Heritage Foundation that argued immigration reform would cost taxpayers $6.3 trillion. The discovery of Richwine’s paper by the Washington Post )sparked a firestorm around the Heritage study, and several days later Richwine resigned from the think tank.

Harvard students delivered a petition last week demanding an investigation into how a thesis built on those views and assumptions was able to make it through the approval process in the first place. “Academic freedom and a reasoned debate are essential to our academic community,” the petition read. “However, the Harvard Kennedy School cannot ethically stand behind academic work advocating a national policy of exclusion and advancing an agenda of discrimination.” As of last Wednesday, May 15 the students had collected 1,200 signatures.

Richwine’s recent Heritage report claimed that immigration reform legislation would cost taxpayers $6.3 billion in safety net spending over the next fifty years. The finding was expected to provide a key piece of ammunition for anti-immigration conservatives in Congress. But the report’s credibly took a blow when Washington Post reported that Richwine’s dissertation from just a few years earlier argued for an IQ-based immigration policy. His abstract reads:

The statistical construct known as IQ can reliably estimate general mental ability, or intelligence. The average IQ of immigrants in the United States is substantially lower than that of the white native population, and the difference is likely to persist over several generations. The consequences are a lack of socioeconomic assimilation among low-IQ immigrant groups, more underclass behavior, less social trust, and an increase in the proportion of unskilled workers in the American labor market. Selecting high-IQ immigrants would ameliorate these problems in the U.S., while at the same time benefiting smart potential immigrants who lack educational access in their home countries.

The revelation of Richwine’s earlier work provide evidence for what we already know about what often drives Heritage Foundation claims: they are motivated primarily by cultural arguments about immigrants and people of color, not sound economics. Now, over 1000 Harvard students are calling on their university to take a hard look at how that argument was ever approved as academically sound.

Friends Remember Mark Carson as a ‘Beautiful, Fabulous Gay Man’

Carson_052013.jpg

More than 100 people attended a candlelight vigil for Mark Carson, a 32-year-old gay black man who was shot and killed in Greenwich Village over the weekend. Carson’s death is being investigated by police as a hate crime after he was allegedly chased out of a restaurant by a man brandishing a gun and yelling homophobic slurs.

Carson’s friends and family shared their grief with the local press.

“I thought that kind of hate stuff was gone, but I see that it’s not,” the victim’s father, Mark Carson Sr., told the New York Post. “It’s simply ridiculous. People are what people are. They do what they do. You can’t knock down who people are.”

Carson’s brother, Michael Bumpars, told the New York Daily News described him as “a beautiful person…he was our foundation.”

Kay Allen, a friend of Carson’s for more than a decade, told the New York Times: “He was a proud gay man. A fabulous gay man.” She added that he loved going to the Village: “His spirit was too big for this city. He didn’t have a negative bone in his body.”

Carson’s violent death has come as a shock for many in New York City’s iconic West Village. The area was home to the infamous Stonewall riots, the event largely credited with sparking the Gay Liberation Movement of the 1970’s. Blogger Joe.My.God. reported from last weekend’s rally and has photos from the event.

Thirty-three year old Elliot Morales has been arrested as a suspect in the crime. Gothamist reports that Carson’s death was the fourth hate crime targeting a gay man in the last two weeks in Manhattan, and the 22nd anti-gay attack so far in New York City this year.



May 17, 1954: Supreme Court Rules Racial Segregation in Schools Unconstitutional

On this day in 1954, in the case of Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation of schools was unconstitutional. In Brown v. Board of Education, which was litigated by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, a unanimous Court declared segregated education systems unconstitutional.

“Although the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown was ultimately unanimous, it occurred only after a hard-fought, multi-year campaign to persuade all nine justices to overturn the “separate but equal” doctrine that their predecessors had endorsed in the Court’s infamous 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision,” explains the NAACP’s Legal Defense profile of the historic ruling that redefined the history of the United States. “This campaign was conceived in the 1930s by Charles Hamilton Houston, then Dean of Howard Law School, and brilliantly executed in a series of cases over the next two decades by his star pupil, Thurgood Marshall, who became LDF’s first Director-Counsel.”

 

bernard-school.jpg

(One of the first schools to implement desegregation is Barnard Elementary in Washington, DC. This photo shows black and white children in the same classroom. [Source: Library of Congress])


On the Street: UndocuAsians Come Out [Photos]

On the Street: UndocuAsians Come Out [Photos]

Asians are a driving force behind migration to the U.S. and the demographic shifts; 40 percent of all migrants to the U.S. hail from Asia, and 40 percent of Asian Americans were not born in the U.S. What’s more, 1.2 million of the country’s 18 million Asian Americans are undocumented, according to the Asian American Justice Center.

So who are the country’s undocumented Asian American youth? They’re students and granddaughters and big brothers. They’re all over the country. Sitting next to you in class. Riding the bus alongside you. Probably dating your cousins. And if the latest social media campaign from the undocumented youth contingent of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund is any indication, they’re a seriously hip crowd committed to social justice.

Raise Our Story, organized by the Asian-American undocumented youth group RAISE and launched this week, will collect and highlight stories of undocumented Asian-American youth to highlight the many faces of immigration. As the immigration reform bill heats up, RAISE youth organized the initiative to make sure that the immigration reform debate includes the stories and voices of Asian immigrants, “who are often overlooked in the narrative surrounding immigration reform,” they said in a statement. But organizers also hope the project empowers the Asian American immigrant community to speak their stories aloud.

Your 6-Second Friday Break: A Black Man Dares to Run Through A White Neighborhood

Your 6-Second Friday Break: A Black Man Dares to Run Through A White Neighborhood

Eric V. Dunn is a business major at Florida Atlantic University, according to his Twitter profile.

Dunn has a simple introduction for his Vine video: “I like running through white people neighborhoods with my shirt off.”

The rest you’ll have to watch for yourself.

The video above was made from video originally posted to Vine, which you can watch in a loop below.

5 Facts You Should Know About Bay Area Muslims

5 Facts You Should Know About Bay Area Muslims

Muslims in the U.S. are a sorely misunderstood group—diverse in myriad ways and yet quickly stereotyped, especially since Sept. 11. But a brand new study of Muslims in California’s Bay Area sheds light on one pocket of American Muslims, and shows that the community is extremely diverse and defies easy generalizations.

So what do you need to know? According to The Bay Area Muslim Study: Establishing Community and Identity, the first-ever benchmark study of the community:

Muslims in the Bay Area have diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds. The Bay Area Muslim community is large, with nearly 250,000 members. More than a third of Muslims in the Bay Area—which includes San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, San Mateo and Marin Counties—are of South Asian descent, 23 percent are Arab, 17 percent are Afghani, 9 percent are African-American, 7 percent are Asian-American, six percent are white, and 2 percent are Iranian. (But, it’s important to note that ethnicity is not automatically synonymous with religious affiliation; not all South Asians, Arabs and Middle Easterners are Muslim.) And 34 percent of Muslims were born in the U.S.

Bay Area Muslims occupy both very high and very low economic tiers. While some Muslims in the Bay Area do very well economically—nearly half of all South Asian Muslims make more than $100,000 annually—in the aggregate, Bay Area Muslims’ median household income is 11 percent lower than the average Bay Area household income. And more than a third of Muslims in the Bay Area have a combined household income of less than $40,000 a year.

Ambassador Susan E. Rice’s Message on International Day Against Homophobia

Ambassador Susan E. Rice's Message on International Day Against Homophobia

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice released a video message today in honor of International Day Against Homophobia.

“At the United Nations, the United States is standing up for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and fighting to ensure that their voices are heard and protected,” Rice says in the video. “The United States was proud to co-sponsor and adopt an historic resolution at the UN Human Rights Council condemning human rights abuses and violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

“We will continue to work in every possible arena to protect communities and promote societies in which everyone - especially LGBT youth - can live safely and without fear regardless of who they are or whom they love. We call on all nations and all peoples to join us in ensuring that human rights are universally protected everywhere every day,” Rice went on to say.

Ambassador Rice is the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations and a member of President Obama’s Cabinet. She is likely to be tapped as the next National Security Advisor, according to a report in Foreign Policy.

Ryan Coogler’s ‘Fruitvale Station’ Gets Standing Ovation at Cannes

Ryan Coogler's 'Fruitvale Station' Gets Standing Ovation at Cannes

From Fruitvale to France, Ryan Coogler’s new film about the murder of Oscar Grant continues to impress audiences around the world. The film, “Fruitvale Station”, got a rousing two minute standing ovation after its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. The film is set for release in the United States this summer. (Watch the film’s trailer here.)

“This is a little movie with a big, big heart,” Octavia Spencer, one of the film’s stars told USA Today. “This is our debut to the whole world.”

The film captured the hearts of viewers earlier this year at Sundance, where it won the coveted Grand Jury Prize. For Coogler, who’s an Oakland native, that was an incredible turning point. “To speak on the national stage, which is Sundance, was really something,” he told USA Today. “And to (now) be on the international stage, that means everything to me.”

Coogler has taken time off of his job as a counselor at a San Francisco juvenile justice center to help promote the film. He told reporters what it was like to work with Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer. “”I felt that Octavia was out of reach, she had just won an Oscar. But she agreed,” says Coogler. “The question was, could she take direction from a first-time director? She did. She’s a dream, a shining light as a human being. She lifted everyone’s game.”

Mourners Gather for Final Farewell to Malcolm Shabazz

Mourners Gather for Final Farewell to Malcolm Shabazz

A traditional Islamic funeral service will be held for Malcolm Shabazz today in Oakland, Calif. The service is scheduled to begin 10am PST at the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California and will be followed on Tuesday by a private burial in Hartsdale, New York, where Shabazz’s grandparents are buried. Another memorial service is currently being planned to take place in New York City.

Shabazz, the 28-year-old grandson of Malcolm X, was beaten to death in Mexico City eight days ago. After a widely publicized troubled youth, Shabazz had recently gained prominence as an outspoken activist.

Two suspects have been arrested in his slaying.

How Foreclosure Undermined Black and Brown Wealth

How Foreclosure Undermined Black and Brown Wealth

Despite recent headlines trumpeting a return of America’s real estate market to its boom-time highs, a report released today by the Alliance for a Just Society shows how little of that has trickled into communities of color. The document, entitled “Wasted Wealth,” is a sobering reminder of the gap between top-line economic cheerleading and the reality of what’s happening on the ground.

As “Wasted Wealth” lays out, close to 2.5 million families lost homes in just three years. Communities that were majority people of color saw foreclosures take place at almost twice the rate as white communities, with an average loss of wealth 30 percent higher per household.

This foreclosure tidal wave is why wealth for blacks and Latinos is at the lowest level ever recorded. Housing is the leading wealth asset for these two communities.

Although the real estate market overall has regained $16 trillion in wealth lost during the recession, these gains are largely driven by a frenzy for high-end properties at the very top of the market. “Wasted Wealth” contrasts these highs with the fact that more than 13 million homes continue to remain at risk for foreclosure.

The good news contained in the report is that there is an actual way out of the mess. That’s because the crisis resulted from acts of policy in Washington and not acts of nature. Regulators allowed dodgy loans to be marketed disproportionately to communities of color, which is why these communities continue to suffer disproportionately. Consequently these same regulators can help turn things around. “Wasted Wealth” proposes a way to do just that.

By allowing at-risk homeowners to write down their over-priced mortgages to present-day market values, families could lower their monthly payments and be able to stay in their homes. The report believes that this can save an additional quarter trillion dollars in potential lost wealth and create 1.5 million new jobs.

Let’s hope that someone is listening.

New York Attorney General Investigates Fast Food Wage Theft

The New York State attorney general is investigating widespread practices of wage theft and other pay violations by fast food companies in the New York City. The investigation was announced as a new report released today reveals that the vast majority of New York City fast food workers say they work for below the minimum wage, don’t get paid for overtime hours or go unreimbursed for work expenses like gas for deliveries.

The investigation comes amid a wave of fast food strikes in five cities around the country. Workers in these cities are demanding raises to $15 an hour and the right to unionize.

According to the report commissioned by the group Fast Food Forward, which organized two strikes in New York since November, 84 percent of the 500 McDonald’s, Burger King, Domino’s and other fast food restaurant workers in the poll report wage theft of some kind. Nearly half of workers interviewed in the poll said they experienced at least three instances of wage theft. The report, which was conducted by the polling firm Anzalone Liszt Grove Research, found that 100 percent of fast food bike and car delivery workers were subjected to wage violations, including not being reimbursed for delivery costs.

Eric Schneiderman, New York Attorney General, issued subpoenas to several fast food franchises in New York and at least one parent company, for precisely these violations. A spokesperson for the attorney general, Damien LaVera, would not say which companies were under investigation.

In a statement LaVera said, “The findings in this report are deeply troubling and shed light on potentially broad labor violations by the fast food industry which employs thousands of New Yorkers.”

“We take the allegations seriously, which is why our office is investigating fast food franchisees,” LaVera added. “New Yorkers expect companies doing business in our state to follow laws set up to protect working families.”

The fast food workforce in New York is overwhelmingly people of color. Organizers with the group say nearly every worker who went on strike was black or Latino. Last month, three of these workers from a Brooklyn Wendy’s told me their checks regularly bounced. Shalema Simpson, a 24-year-old mother of a three-year-old girl, said, “I’ve worked at McDonalds, Hale and Hearty, Shake Shack and they are all bad but right now this is the worst establishment. Sometimes our checks bounce.”

Two other workers from the same restaurant said their checks also bounced.

A Wendy’s spokesperson told CNN that the company was unaware of bounced checks at its franchises.

Fast Food Forward has organized two worker strikes to call attention to abuses by the fast food industry and demand higher wages and union rights. Similar strikes emerged in four other cities since the initial New York walk-out late last year. Earlier this week, fast food and retail workers went on strike in Milwaukee.

‘Geography of Hate’ Maps out Racism on Twitter

'Geography of Hate' Maps out Racism on Twitter

A group of researchers from the Floating Sheep project - who also mapped racist tweets surrounding President Barack Obama’s re-election - have geotagged racist and homophobic tweets in the United States and plotted them on an interactive map.

Students at Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif., looked at 150,000 geotagged tweets that contained slurs and were in North America between June 2012 and April 2013. The students read each individual tweet and manually coded the sentiment of each tweet to determine if the given word was used in a positive, negative or neutral way in a project called the “Geography of Hate.”

“The prominence of debates around online bullying and the censorship of hate speech prompted us to examine how social media has become an important conduit for hate speech, and how particular terminology used to degrade a given minority group is expressed geographically,” wrote Monica Stephens, a geographer at Humboldt State, wrote in an introduction to the map on the blog Floating Sheep. “As we’ve documented in a variety of cases, the virtual spaces of social media are intensely tied to particular socio-spatial contexts in the offline world, and as this work shows, the geography of online hate speech is no different.”

“Ultimately, some of the slurs included in our analysis might not have particularly revealing spatial distributions. But, unfortunately, they show the significant persistence of hatred in the United States and the ways that the open platforms of social media have been adopted and appropriated to allow for these ideas to be propagated,” Stephens went on to say. 

Why Are Non-Profits Banned From Politicking to Begin With?

Why Are Non-Profits Banned From Politicking to Begin With?

Yesterday, IRS acting director Steven T. Miller resigned at President Obama’s request after the agency admitted to targeting the applications of tea party groups applying for tax-exempt status for extra scrutiny. Major investigations in Congress and the Department of Justice are underway as to why this targeting happened. As we pointed out yesterday, such scrutiny may have been deserved for some tea party groups — especially by some of the loudest complainers.

Peter S. Goodman, executive business editor for The Huffington Post, wrote yesterday that the “IRS was dead right to scrutinize” tea party groups, because of the express political campaign work many of them have engaged in, which is a violation of IRS regulations for some tax-exempt (“non-profit”) classifications.

IRS officials were making sure that groups applying for these statuses weren’t campaigning and electioneering on the low. So they applied extra review on applications from organizations that had the keywords “tea party” and “patriot” in their names — both keywords associated with conservative groups, many of which fight against legislation that increases taxes and also sometimes run candidates for public office.

But it’s interesting to note how non-profits became forbidden from political campaign activity to begin with. For that, look back to Lyndon B. Johnson, the U.S. President who helped usher in the Voting Rights Act and stronger civil rights legislation. As a congressional Senator representing Texas, he helped change the IRS code so that it prohibited 501c(3) groups from intervening in elections.

A 2001 Boston College Law Review article from Patrick L. O’Daniel, currently a law professor at University of Texas at Austin, tells why LBJ made this change. At the time, 1954, Johnson was up for re-election for U.S. Senate, and wealthy, ultra-conservative forces were tooling up for his defeat. Johnson believed that two non-profit organizations backed by rich conservatives were working to undermine his re-election campaign.

One of those, the Facts Forum, was a “Red Scare” group that thought America was about to become communist. The other, the Committee for Constitutional Government, was regarded then as “the wealthiest and most powerful of the extreme rightwing groups in the United States.” It was founded by Frank Gannett, who ran one of the largest newspaper chains in the nation at the time (His Gannett Company Inc. still owns USA Today and dozens of other newspapers and news websites). These organizations had not only McCarthy-ites, but also anti-Semites and strict racial segregationists among their ranks.

Both non-profits claimed to be non-partisan and non-political, but raised millions of dollars and disseminated massive information in support of candidates challenging Johnson in the Senate race.

The CCG brazenly collected huge sums of money from corporations for political campaign work during a pre-Citizens United era when non-profits steered clear of that, mainly because it violated the Corrupt Practices Act. Donating to a non-profit gave contributors the liberty of anonymity while seeking to influence elections. In 1954, CCG was raising millions to support Johnson’s opponent Dudley Dougherty in the Senate primary.

Seeing the disadvantage posed by these campaign finance networks disguised as non-profits, Johnson’s allies complained to the IRS Commissioner, who did find CCG’s finance work sketchy. That summer of 1954 the House had set up a “special committee to investigate tax exempt foundations,” which was concerned about corporations using non-profits to finance and steer elections. But they also found that the IRS was poorly equipped to do anything about it.

Johnson fixed that by proposing the legislative amendment that officially shut down campaign activity by non-profits. As O’Daniel wrote in his article, “Johnson saw a cabal of national conservative forces, led by tax-exempt educational entities fueled by corporate donations, arrayed against him and wanted to put a stop to the meddling of these foreign interlopers.”

Non-profits have been barred from express politickin’ ever since. Except, many of them, 501(c)4s in particular, have flouted these tax-exemption laws in recent years — Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS stands out as one clear example. But the IRS still seems helpless. Ari Berman over at The Nation says the IRS has done “virtually nothing” to close the political loopholes exploited by wealthy conservatives.

Looking at LBJ’s maneuvers, one could argue that the installment of political prohibitions on non-profits was itself a political move, since Johnson used it to quell a rising tide of wealthy conservatives looking to take him out of office. Without that political maneuver, though, Johnson perhaps doesn’t get re-elected to the Senate, and then maybe doesn’t later get elected President of the U.S. In that case, he never pushes for and signs into law the Voting Rights Act and a stronger Civil Rights Act.

Tea party groups today claim non-partisanship, despite clear evidence otherwise, but it looks like the history of tax exempt status for non-profits wasn’t politically neutral to begin with.

Columbia Doesn’t Feel So Great About Its Whites-Only Fellowship

Columbia Doesn't Feel So Great About Its Whites-Only Fellowship

It only took them close to a century, but let’s give credit where credit is due: Columbia University doesn’t want to have a whites-only fellowship anymore. Last week the Ivy League school filed an affidavit in Manhattan Supreme Court, the New York Daily News reported, to support a change of terms in an extremely specific endowment left by a Lydia C. Chamberlain of Des Moines, Iowa. The affidavit was filed in support of a similar move made by JP Morgan Chase, which is the designated fund administrator now.

Chamberlain, who left her $500,000 estate to the university in 1920, required that the trust only be used to benefit white students who hailed from Iowa. In order to qualify for the graduate and traveling support, students had to also commit to moving back to their home state for at least two years, and were barred from studying law, medicine, dentistry, veterinary surgery or theology, the NYDN reported.

“Circumstances have so changed from the time when the Trust was established” that it’s “impossible” for Columbia to comply with the terms of the trust, the university’s filing says, according to the NYDN. “Columbia University is now prohibited by law and University policy from discriminating on the basis of race.”

Columbia once defended the program, though. In 1949 the NAACP called on Columbia to give up the discriminatory scholarship. The college declined to do anything then. The fund is worth $800,000 now but has not been awarded since 1997.

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