Race & Ethnicity

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...

A New Approach to Policing Focuses on Strengthening Communities

Without progressive solutions to the tension between law enforcement and people of color, every city is one incident away from being the next Baltimore.

(AP Photo/Al Behrman)
A s police officers and members of the communities they’re charged with protecting continue to go head-to-head in the streets, one thing is clear: Policing needs to change. At the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s fifth annual America Healing conference, transforming American policing is exactly what attendees are trying to do. The conference in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, attracts hundreds of activists, lawyers, and, academics from across the country. In the nine months since the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, police departments nationwide are under intense scrutiny—in particular the departments within cities and communities of color. Thanks to social media and smartphones, we’ve been able to document the unjustified police killings of black people in New York, Baltimore, Ferguson, North Charleston, and more. At the America Healing event, civil rights and justice take center stage, as exemplified by the Tuesday morning panel titled “Healing Relationships...

The West's Regard for Charlie Hedbo Victims Not Extended to African Targets of Extremist Violence

Massacres in Nigeria and Garissa, Kenya, did not draw nearly as much worldwide attention or grief as Charlie Hebdo. What does that say about how we value African lives?

(AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)
(Photo: AP/Lionel Cironneau) People in Nice, France, hold "I am Charlie" signs while participating in a silent march on January 10, commemorating the victims of the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris. O n May 5, the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo will receive the PEN American Center’s annual Freedom of Expression Courage Award. As of May 1, 145 writers have signed a letter of protest, on the grounds that the award would endorse the Islamophobia many associate with the magazine. Yet beyond a criticism like this, the fact that the Charlie Hebdo attack still occupies so much worldwide attention speaks to a selective memory of human rights abuses. In the months since, atrocities elsewhere have not inspired the same humanitarian response. And this is cause for concern. As it should be, the savage attack on Charlie Hebdo ’s Paris headquarters in January in which 12 were killed threw many of us into a deep stupor. The world stopped. Then, the world moved immediately to demonstrate...

Dispatch From Baltimore: A Photo Essay

Images from the unrest in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray

Juliana Vigorito
F or more than two weeks, the City of Baltimore has been reeling over the tragic death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who suffered a fatal spinal injury while riding in the back of a police van. He was arrested on April 12 and died one week later. The details surrounding his death are still unclear, though Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts has admitted that his officers left Gray unbuckled in the van despite being handcuffed and shackled. Batts also acknowledged that Gray’s multiple requests for medical attention were ignored. Mobile video footage from a bystander shows Gray crying out in pain before he was taken away. Peaceful demonstrations to demand justice for Freddie Gray and other victims of police brutality have been organized throughout Baltimore since Gray’s initial arrests. The movement against police brutality in the city did not start with Freddie Gray—citizens have been protesting harsh treatment by Baltimore police for years. Yet Gray’s death has been...

How Government Policies Cemented the Racism that Reigns in Baltimore

A century of federal, state, and local policies have quarantined Charm City’s black population in isolated slums.

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) A boy runs from a public housing development toward the intersection where Freddie Gray was arrested, Friday, April 24, 2015, in Baltimore. Gray died from spinal injuries about a week after he was arrested and transported in a police van. But the unrest that followed is as much a comment on 100 years government housing policies that continue to the present day as it is about unjust policing. This article originally appeared on the website of the Economic Policy Institute , under the title, " From Ferguson to Baltimore: The Fruits of Government-Sponsored Segregation ". I n Baltimore in 1910, a black graduate of Yale Law School purchased a home in a previously all-white neighborhood. The Baltimore city government reacted by adopting a residential segregation ordinance , restricting African Americans to designated blocks. Explaining the policy, Baltimore’s mayor proclaimed: “Blacks should be quarantined in isolated slums in order to reduce the incidence of...

In Baltimore, Police Thuggery Is the Real Violence Problem

An unarmed black person is six times more likely to be killed by police than is a white person who carries a weapon.

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
(AP Photo/Matt Rourke) A s cities erupt after decades and centuries of oppression and violence at the hands of police, calls for nonviolence can be deafening. “Violence isn’t the answer,” the moralists scream. They are right. But they are telling the wrong people. On April 12, Baltimore resident Freddie Gray made eye contact with a police officer and ran. When he was detained, he was found in possession of a switchblade. Gray was taken into police custody where his spine was severed. One week later he was dead; by the time of his funeral on April 27, neither his family nor the community yet know what led to the fatal injury. After Gray’s family laid the 25-year-old to rest, and after days of peaceful protests, Baltimore erupted into what has become an all-too-familiar sight. Police donned riot gear as buildings and cars burned. Gray joins the infuriatingly long—and ever-growing—list of black people killed by police. Their names echo on the streets of American cities where the...

Pity the Purist in the GOP Primaries (A Tear for Bobby Jindal)

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
I t's the season for pandering to the base, which is as good a time as any to ask whether the glorious, fascinating mess that is today's Republican Party can ever unify enough to win back the White House—or whether unity is something they should even be after. Because it may well be that a fractured, contentious GOP is the only kind that can prevail next November. You probably missed it, but over the weekend nearly all the Republican presidential candidates (with the notable exception of Jeb Bush) hotfooted it back to Iowa to participate in the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition Forum, where they testified to the depths of their love for the Lord and their hatred for His enemies, particularly Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. The entreaties to this band of the base—important in primaries everywhere, but critically so in Iowa, where 57 percent of the attendees at the Republican caucuses in 2012 identified as born-again or evangelical Christian—are a good reminder of the internal and...

How the Decline of Southern White Evangelicals Fuels the Passage of 'Religious Freedom' Laws

They've been the driving force behind anti-LGBT legislation. But now their numbers are falling off.

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
(Map from Gallup) Southern states still rate among the highest in the country for church attendance, as the map shows. But recent surveys suggest that once-dominant white evangelicals are in decline in the South. This article originally appeared at Facing South , the website published by the Institute for Southern Studies . L ast month, Indiana sparked a national debate over so-called "religious freedom" bills, a controversy that soon flared up in other states across the South and country. A similar bill stalled in the Georgia House amidst the backlash. In Arkansas, Governor Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, signed that state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act only after substantial revisions, although civil rights advocates say it still doesn't go far enough . North Carolina's Governor Pat McCrory, who is also a Republican, said he won't support his state's proposed RFRA bill, which scholars and activists say would allow for a wider range of discriminatory practices based in religion...

Calls From Home

In a region dominated by coal companies and privatized prisons, activist Amelia Kirby charts a new path for her community. 

(AP Photo/David Goldman)
(AP Photo/David Goldman) In this Oct. 17, 2014 photo, an unreclaimed strip mine just across the state line from Kentucky's Harlan County stands in Virginia as seen from the Kentucky side of Black Mountain in Lynch, Ky. A melia Kirby was driving in a particularly beautiful part of her home county in the late 1990s when she noticed the construction. She thought it was yet another strip mine, taking off the tops of mountains to extract the coal beneath. But instead, it was the beginnings of a prison. Amelia’s double-take was indicative of a general shift in central Appalachia, an area roughly spanning eastern Kentucky, eastern Tennessee, western Virginia, and southern West Virginia. As the coal industry has declined in an area long synonymous with it, states have turned to prisons as an alternative form of economic development. Since 1992, central Appalachia has seen the construction of four federal, three state, and one private prison, with another federal prison potentially on the way...

Janet Mock's Brilliant Cultural Insurgency

As perhaps the most visible trans woman in the public eye, being herself—and having fun doing it—is the feminist TV journalist's wildly effective form of activism.

(Photo: janetmock.com)
MSNBC Janet Mock hosts So POPular! on MSNBC's Shift platform. “ We got new music, I like it,” Janet Mock says, in a break between segments of her video show on a Friday morning in March. “Well done, Nick!” she exclaims to her producer, who’s in another room, communicating with her through her earpiece. Mock sings the tune and snakes her neck, snapping her fingers and rolling her torso in the chair from which she commands her set, which looks like a fancy but somewhat sterile living room. The music is new, but not much newer than the show, So Popular! , which premiered on MSNBC’s digital platform, Shift, in December. Mock’s panel of guest commentators has just left the set, after a discussion that covered Madonna’s stance on women’s rights, Kelly Osborne’s and Kathy Griffin’s departures from E!’s Fashion Police , and President Barack Obama’s remarks at the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the 50th anniversary of the march from Selma to Montgomery. Today, the “feminist clique,” as Mock dubbed...

Today's GOP: The Party of Jefferson Davis -- Not Lincoln

(Photo: Mathew Brady [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
(Photo: Mathew Brady [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons) Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, as captured by photographer Mathew Brady in 1861. This essay originally appeared in The Washington Post . O ne hundred and fifty years ago Thursday, after Union infantry effectively encircled the Army of Northern Virginia, Robert E. Lee sent a note to Ulysses S. Grant proposing a meeting to discuss terms of surrender. With that, the Civil War began to end. And at some point in the future, it may yet. The emancipation of the slaves that accompanied the North’s victory ushered in, as Abraham Lincoln had hoped, a new birth of freedom, but the old order also managed to adapt itself to the new circumstances. The subjugation of and violence against African Americans continued apace, particularly after U.S. Army troops withdrew from the South at the end of Reconstruction. Black voting was suppressed. The Southern labor system retained, in altered form, its most distinctive...

Brewing Human Rights Crisis in Baltimore as City Threatens Mass Water Shutoffs

Residents warn move is part of global trend towards the 'commodification of our basic needs.'

Davide Restivo
Davide Restivo/Wikimedia Commons This article originally appeared at Common Dreams . I n what residents warn is a mounting human rights crisis, the city of Baltimore has commenced sending 25,000 notices, the vast majority to city and county residents, threatening to shut off water if delinquent bills are not paid within ten days. The organization Food & Water Watch estimates that 75,000 residents are under immediate threat of having their taps turned off, in a city beset with rising water rates and housing costs, where nearly one out of four people live below the federal poverty line. Jessica Lewis, co-founder of the Right to Housing Alliance, a human rights organization led by people most affected by the affordable housing crisis in Baltimore, told Common Dreams that local communities are in the process of assessing the impact and getting organized. "A lot of renters we work with are angry but also tired, because they see more and more of the costs of having a place to live...

Raising Wages From the Bottom Up

(Photo courtesy of USW Local 675)
(Screenshot of video from International Brotherhood of Teamsters) A picket line of truckers in Long Beach, California, in 2014. This article appears in the Spring 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . I n 1999, while he was working at a local immigrant service center in Los Angeles, Victor Narro began encountering a particularly aggrieved group of workers. They were the men who worked at carwashes, and their complaint was that they were paid solely in tips—the carwashes themselves paid them nothing at all. At first, the workers came by in a trickle, but soon enough, in a flood. Narro, whose soft voice and shy manner belie a keen strategic sensibility, consulted with legal services attorneys and discovered that while every now and then a carwash was penalized for cheating its workers, such instances were few and far between. “There were no regulations overseeing the industry,” Narro says. The state’s labor department conducted no sweeps of the carwashes to...

Miscarriage of Justice: Asian-American Women Targeted -- and All Women Threatened -- by Feticide Laws Like Indiana's

Purvi Patel's pregnancy ended with a medical emergency—and a 20-year prison sentence. 

(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. L ike many women, Purvi Patel, a 33-year-old woman living in South Bend, Indiana, had an unplanned pregnancy. But unlike most women’s experiences, her unplanned pregnancy and subsequent stillbirth led to a criminal conviction. Today, she was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Patel, an unmarried Indian-American woman living with her parents in South Bend Indiana, kept her pregnancy a secret for months, while working a low-wage job to support her parents and grandparents, who suffer from costly health conditions. Last summer, Patel believed she had suffered a miscarriage. She went to an emergency room seeking assistance for heavy vaginal bleeding. Just a few hours after she underwent medical...

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