Rants and Raves

Reading between the headlines of your daily news.

By Anmol Chaddha Sep 15, 2006


WHITE VOTERS CROSS THE AISLE TO ELECT WHITE CANDIDATES. Maybe Chris Rock was right when he said that white Americans love saying they’d vote for a Black candidate, but wouldn’t really do it. Yale University economist Ebonya Washington analyzed voting data from congressional and gubernatorial races between 1982 and 2000 to show that white Republicans and Democrats are more likely to vote for the opposing party when their own party’s candidate is Black.

NONE OF THE ABOVE? On a standardized test for New York City high schools, students were asked to “state two ways British imperialism would benefit Africans” and “two ways the British improved the lives of Africans.” The questions were supposed to test how well students understood a passage written by a colonial official of the Imperial British East Africa Co. that explained, “We are endeavoring…to teach the native races to conduct their own affairs with justice and humanity, and to educate them alike in letters and in industry.”

SOMEONE PLEASE STOP NICHOLAS KRISTOF. The self-promoting New York Times columnist can’t stop writing offensive columns about his grand ideas for saving the desperate black and brown people who are suffering around the world. Kristof’s white-man complex hit a low point when he decided to buy two Cambodian prostitutes their freedom (and flaunted his paternalistic compassion to Times readers over five consecutive columns) and returned a year later only to find that purchasing girls is not an effective method of combating sexual slavery. In May, he used geography to explain why Asian Americans really are a model minority—something to do with immigrants from countries in the “Confucian belt” (“Japan through Korea and China to Vietnam”). In early June, he was trying convince us that few things would help African development more than low-wage sweatshops.

MISAPPROPRIATED LEGACY. For nearly five years, immigrant rights activists in Detroit have been protesting the unjust detention and deportation of immigrants at the Office of Homeland Security there—in a building that was recently renamed in honor of civil rights heroine Rosa Parks. It is a bitter irony that egregious civil rights violations would now take place in a building that bears her name.

BORED WEB SURFERS CAN PATROL THE BORDER.  Texas Governor Rick Perry plans to mount live webcams on the border, so anyone online can watch for suspicious activity and report it directly to law enforcement agents. The governor is spending $5 million on his plan to turn any web surfer into a cyber vigilante. Jim Harrington, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, told the Associated Press, “We would be far better off to invest that money in Mexican small towns along the border so people wouldn’t have to emigrate.”


IT’S NOT ILLEGAL TO LOOK FOR WORK. While immigration policy is being debated at the national level, immigrant rights advocates are fighting local battles across the country. A federal judge forced the California city of Redondo Beach to stop arresting day laborers who the city said were violating an ordinance against soliciting work in public. The judge explained that the First Amendment protects the day laborers, who felt they were targets of unfair police harassment.

NOT ANOTHER DISASTER HERE. Largely invisible in the coverage of Hurricane Katrina, the Vietnamese community in New Orleans is stepping up to make sure its voice is heard in the city’s redevelopment process. The city announced plans to build a landfill for debris from the Katrina cleanup in New Orleans East, home to the city’s Vietnamese community. Residents are organizing to make sure they are not exposed to toxic construction materials and other hazardous waste that would create public health risks.

SOMETIMES THEY DELIVER. In separate cases, employees of Alamo Car Rental and Federal Express won cases against their employers, who subjected them to racial and religious discrimination. Alamo fired a Somali employee a few months after 9/11 when she refused to remove her head scarf during Ramadan. Two Lebanese FedEx drivers won $61 million in a discrimination lawsuit they filed after a manager harassed them over two years by calling them “terrorists,” “camel jockeys” and other racial slurs.

SHARPTON SPEAKS TO BLACK-BROWN UNITY. Although many Black leaders and progressive Black activists uncomfortably kept their distance from the immigrant marches this year, the Rev. Al Sharpton issued an unambiguous call for African Americans to stand united with undocumented immigrants. Sharpton argued that the concerns that undocumented immigrants present a threat to African Americans are “dead wrong, and worse, they give credence to a dangerous right-wing attempt to divide two communities in equal need of passionate and effective representation.”

CHINATOWN FIGHTS GENTRIFICATION. With sky-high rents in San Francisco, low-income communities and communities of color have been pushed out of the city over the past decade. When the City College of San Francisco sought to buy property and displace residents of Chinatown, tenants organized and fought back. After an eight-year struggle, tenants declared victory this year and partnered with a local nonprofit organization to buy the building and turn it into a tenant-owned co-op.