Race & Ethnicity

Removing the Confederate Flag is Easy. Fixing Racism is Hard.

Progressives risk being a bit too smug in the aftermath of the Charleston massacre.

AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt
AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt Protesters hold a sign during a rally to take down the Confederate flag at the South Carolina Statehouse, Tuesday, June 23, 2015, in Columbia, South Carolina. W hen the Republican National Committee chose Tampa as the site for the party’s 2012 national convention, it seemed quite fitting—Florida being a red state and all, and one in which evangelical fervor mixed freely with the brand of Tea Party vindictiveness epitomized by Governor Rick Scott. As I traveled to the city limits, destined for a motel reserved for any C-list, left-wing journalists covering the confab, the taxi I occupied exited the highway on a ramp dominated by perhaps the largest thing of its kind I had ever seen. Hoisted on a 139-foot pole, this Confederate battle flag measures 30 feet high and 60 feet long. That’s a lot of cloth, and the day I viewed it, it whipped violently against the winds stirred up by Hurricane Isaac, who mercifully defied predictions by remaining offshore. I nearly...

Even Republicans Are Coming Around on the Confederate Flag

Soon, conservative politicians won't even be able to dodge the question.

(Photo: AP/Rainier Ehrhardt)
(Photo: AP/Rainier Ehrhardt) Protesters gather on the steps of the South Carolina Statehouse on June 20. S ixty-three years after South Carolina raised the Confederate flag over its statehouse, a massacre in a black church may finally bring it down from the place it now occupies on the grounds of the state capitol (it was moved from atop the dome in 2000). Not that there won't be plenty of people still holding on to their stars 'n' bars — that flag will still fly in many official places throughout the South. And it isn't as though a new age of racial harmony is dawning. But as a political issue, the flag is on its way out. It's going to find fewer and fewer defenders, brought down by a surprising wave of empathy. Yes, empathy. For decades now, the debate about the flag has gone like this: One side says that the flag is a symbol of a treasonous movement that found its purpose in defending a system built on human slavery; it was later embraced by those who carried out a decades-long...

Real Diversity Is About Confronting Power

Names, barriers, and the politics of race in American education. 

AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File
AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File A tour group walks through the campus of Harvard University. I n 1973, my father emigrated from India to New York City with an engineering degree and a name that seemed complicated to the American ear. He was offered his first job on the condition that “Ratnaswamy” would become “Sam,” a name that followed him throughout his entire career. According to him, it was the 1970s, he didn’t have a choice, and he was grateful to get a job. Clearly much has changed since then, but perhaps not as much as we’d like to think. Not long after the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee crowned Indian American co-champions on May 28, a seemingly harmless joke began to circulate online. Unable to touch the spelling prowess of Vanya Shivashankar, Gokul Venkatachalam, and other talented finalists, observers like Todd Dewey of the Las Vegas Review-Journal remarked, “ Luckily, the kids didn’t have to spell each other’s last names .” That non-Anglo-Saxon names are still an...

Minorities in Minneapolis: Underprivileged and Over-Policed

Behind its progressive reputation, Minneapolis is a deeply divided city. 

Fibonacci Blue/Creative Commons
Fibonacci Blue/Creative Commons Around 1000 in downtown Minneapolis for Million March Minnesota, a rally and protest against deaths of people of color at the hands of police on December 13, 2014. Above, protesters shut down Hennepin Avenue downtown after a rally at Government Plaza. M inneapolis often shines brightly when in the national spotlight. It’s a “ miracle ” city that’s managed to weather the economic downturn better than any place in the country. Unemployment is low. Education levels are high. It’s the healthiest city in the country. It’s perceived as a bastion of progressivism; an active city with plenty of opportunity. However true this narrative is, it’s a white façade. “From the outside, the experience of communities of color in Minneapolis—across nearly every facet of life—is hidden behind the widespread prosperity of white residents,” a new report from the American Civil Liberties Union states. The ACLU report shows the unvarnished reality of institutionalized...

Needed: Prophetic Voices

Searching for leaders who, like King, can challenge people and nations to become their best selves. 

Public Domain
Public Domain Martin Luther King, Jr., giving his famous "I Have a Dream" speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in August 1963. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . L ast week, I went back to Oberlin for my 50th reunion (!) where much of the weekend was a celebration and retrospective of our graduation ceremony in 1965, whose commencement speaker was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It was one of his greatest speeches. Oberlin was not just the first college in the U.S. to accept African Americans but the first to welcome women. As luck would have it, the commencement speakers half a century later in 2015 were two strong black women, Marian Wright Edelman, founder and still president of the Children's Defense Fund, who had worked with Dr. King as a young civil rights lawyer, and first lady Michelle Obama. Ms. Edelman was the official speaker. The first lady was a late addition. She came to give Oberlin recognition for its work mentoring low income and...

White Privilege and the Limits of Public Forgiveness

Mike Huckabee's vocal support for Josh Duggar is in sharp contrast to his indifference to black victims of police violence.

(Photo: AP/Nati Harnik)
(Photo: AP/Nati Harnik) Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee speaks in Iowa in April. The GOP presidential candidate was quick to voice his support for Josh Duggar, who this past week admitted to having molested children while a teenager. I n America, public forgiveness is largely dependent on race. In the weeks after Darren Wilson shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, last August, pundits and media outlets were quick to jump on a robbery Brown allegedly committed minutes before being fatally shot. Among them was 2016 hopeful Mike Huckabee, who told NewsMax TV, “It's a horrible thing that he was killed, but he could have avoided that if he'd have behaved like something other than a thug.” For Huckabee, (alleged) theft was grounds for death. That is, if you look a certain way. Contrast these statements with Huckabee’s recent defense of reality TV regular Josh Duggar, who admitted last week to having molested young girls as a teenager in 2002 and...

The Radical Inclusiveness of Black Lives Matter

Activist Linda Sarsour on the Arab American struggle against police brutality. 

AP Photo/Henny Ray Abrams
AP Photo/Henny Ray Abrams Linda Sarsour, director of the Arab American Association of New York, poses for photos in front of a canvas painted by the association's youth group at its headquarters in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. F or the nationwide movement against police violence, the news of charges being brought against the six Baltimore officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray has been a welcome development. Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York and an organizer in the Black Lives Matter movement, is cautiously optimistic. “It’s a little bit of a morale booster,” she told me in an interview, “I think that this kind of gave activists in the streets that rejuvenation and that energy they need to continue doing what they’re doing.” Sarsour was in Asheville, North Carolina earlier this month for the America Healing Conference, a four-day dialogue on racial justice and community healing sponsored by the Kellogg Foundation. There...

We Can't Talk About Housing Policy Without Talking About Racism

What a serious desegregation policy might look like. 

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky In this May 9, 2015, picture, a man walks past a blighted building in the Penn-North neighborhood of Baltimore, with a residential tower in the Reservoir Hill neighborhood in the background at top right. O ver the past year, unrest in places like Baltimore and Ferguson has inspired a nationwide debate on how to best combat systemic inequality and injustice. In the wake of high-profile police violence cases in these cities and elsewhere, this conversation has contributed to a renewed understanding of how federal and local housing policies helped create the inequality and racial injustice urban America confronts today. Yet lost in this discussion has been the complicated record of more recent desegregation efforts and what they can teach us about undoing generations of systemic racism and persistent segregation. A case in point is HUD’s Clinton-era Moving to Opportunity (MTO) program, the subject of a new study by Harvard economists Raj Chetty, Nathan Hendren,...

Little Magazine, Big Ideas: The American Prospect at 25

Reflecting on a quarter century of politics and change.

T he American Prospect began 25 years ago with a small circulation, a limited budget, and great ambitions. Our aim was to rethink ideas about public policy and politics and thereby to restore plausibility and persuasiveness to American liberalism. The first issue appeared in spring 1990, a moment when Democrats had lost three successive presidential elections, conservatives were pushing schemes for privatization, and liberals were in disarray. But in 1990, Congress was still in Democratic hands, the Cold War was coming to an end with the Soviet collapse, and the focus of politics was turning from foreign to domestic policy. Rising economic anxieties, it seemed, might spur political change just as a “peace dividend” could finance new initiatives. By historic good fortune, the Prospect had arrived at a time not only of global change but also of “liberal opportunity,” as Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., called it in the first issue, which carried a cover image of an old world cracking open to...

Women as the Loyal Opposition

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Senator Elizabeth Warren, and then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Senator John Kerry's nomination to be secretary of state on January 24, 2014. A version of this article first appeared at The Huffington Post . L ong ago, when I began writing newspaper columns, a wise editor advised me that a column is about one thing. I am about to violate that rule. This piece is about three different things (which are connected if you look hard). One is a 25th anniversary; the second is some Mother's Day musings; the third is the latest in a string of losses for the left, namely the trouncing of the British Labour Party in Thursday's election. Let me explain. In 1990, Robert Reich, Paul Starr and I founded a new progressive magazine, The American Prospect , to try to breathe some intellectual spirit and political backbone into American liberalism. At the time, liberals were getting whacked both by...

Mother's Day, For Real

In the real America, the lives of women—especially black and brown women—are no bed of roses.

In partnership with The OpEd Project, The American Prospect presents this series, curated by Deborah Douglas, examining aspects of life unique to women, on one of greeting card industry's biggest days. (Photo © Christopher Futcher: iStock) Why There Are No Children Here: A Mother's Day Lament DEBORAH DOUGLAS “What have you ever done right?” That was the question that dominated my mind one night two years ago as I lay in my bed, surrounded by fluffy pillows and a sleepy Yorkie at the foot. This wasn’t one of those self-denigrating moments I engage in when I internally chastise myself for not writing enough that day or holding my temper tighter, or not giving one of my journalism students much-needed grace under the pressure they face to prepare for an industry that asks them to do everything at once masterfully. No, this was a true thought experiment to force myself to fully identify the things I’ve gotten right in my life as a way of charting a course to build on something righteous...

If America Really Cared About Mothers, Reproductive Health Care Would Be Available to All

Rates of maternal death are greater in the U.S. than in 40 other countries. Yet we pin the perceived moral failings of Asian nations on pregnant immigrant women from India and China.

(AP Photo/South Bend Tribune, Robert Franklin)
(AP Photo/South Bend Tribune, Robert Franklin) Purvi Patel is taken into custody after being sentenced to 20 years in prison for feticide and neglect of a dependent on Monday, March 30, 2015, at the St. Joseph County Courthouse in South Bend, Indiana. Yet she may simply have had a miscarriage. This essay is published by The American Prospect i n partnership with The OpEd Project's Public Voices Fellowship. It is part of a package of commentary pieces centered on Mother's Day 2015. O n March 30 Purvi Patel, a 33-year old Indian immigrant from South Bend, Indiana, was charged with feticide and child neglect. While many of us wonder how she can be charged with feticide, which requires a dead fetus and the simultaneous neglect of a dependent child, which requires a live birth, state prosecutor Ken Cotter said Patel deliberately attempted to terminate her second-trimester pregnancy with illegal pharmaceutical abortifacients procured online. Instead, she delivered a living fetus, which was...

Ever the Protectors, Moms Seeking Asylum Need Protection, Too

Obama failed to specify that his enthusiasm for mothers is strictly limited to American moms.

(AP Photo/Juan Carlos Llorca)
(AP Photo/Juan Carlos Llorca) In this September 10, 2014, file photo, an unidentified immigrant from Guatemala who declined to give her name, is interviewed, while her son paints on a whiteboard at the Artesia Family Residential Center, a federal detention facility for undocumented immigrant mothers and children in Artesia, New Mexico. This essay is published by The American Prospect in partnership with The OpEd Project's Public Voices Fellowship. It is part of a package of commentary pieces centered on Mother's Day 2015. I n last year’s Mother’s Day Proclamation, President Obama recommended we put our moms first “because they so often put everything above themselves.” He said we should “extend our gratitude for our mothers' unconditional love and support” because “when women succeed, America succeeds.” Obama should have specified that his enthusiasm for moms is strictly limited to American moms. Last summer, his administration systematically locked up over a thousand mothers and...

For Mothers Across America, a Somber Day of Remembrance

It seems wrong to celebrate when so many women are in pain over the loss of their children to oppression and violence.

(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana) Shelia Price, center, is comforted by a friend as group of mothers and others march against police brutality as mothers from across the country join the "Million Moms March" with the group Mothers For Justice United at the Department of Justice in Washington, on Saturday, May 9, 2015. This essay is published by The American Prospect in partnership with The OpEd Project's Public Voices Fellowship. It is part of a package of commentary pieces centered on Mother's Day 2015. W hen Mother’s Day became a national holiday in 1914 , it was designed to honor the sacrifices mothers made for their children. Though the commercialization of the holiday is undeniable decades later, it remains a day where many of us celebrate and thank the women that birthed and or nurtured and raised us. But this Mother’s Day feels different. Ominous. Heavy with sorrow. It seems wrong to celebrate when so many mothers are in pain. For example, though 300 women and girls were recently...

Why There Are No Children Here: A Mother's Day Lament

I let my well-founded fears of medical abandonment and loss of free agency keep me from being a mother. After all, I'm a black woman. That's too often how it goes for us.

(Photo © Christopher Futcher: iStock)
This essay is published by The American Prospect in partnership with The OpEd Project's Public Voices Fellowship. It is part of a package of commentary pieces centered on Mother's Day 2015. “ What have you ever done right?” That was the question that dominated my mind one night two years ago as I lay in my bed, surrounded by fluffy pillows and a sleepy Yorkie at the foot. This wasn’t one of those self-denigrating moments I engage in when I internally chastise myself for not writing enough that day or holding my temper tighter, or not giving one of my journalism students much-needed grace under the pressure they face to prepare for an industry that asks them to do everything at once masterfully. No, this was a true thought experiment to force myself to fully identify the things I’ve gotten right in my life as a way of charting a course to build on something righteous and real, instead of wallowing in the wreckage of failed relationships, bridges burnt, tasks incomplete, dreams left to...

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