Race & Ethnicity

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...

This Is No Time for Liberals to Give Up on Israel

Because of Netanyahu's bellicosity—and Republican support for it—it's now possible in Washington to argue about Israel. With so much at stake, liberals must.

(Photo: EdoM via Wikimedia Commons)
T onight most American Jews will sit down with family and friends for the Passover Seder. Whether they tell the story of redemption from slavery according to the Hebrew traditional text, a radical rewriting, or not at all, they'll eventually get to a sumptuous holiday meal and to conversation, often including politics. Judging from the reaction of some of my close friends and respected colleagues to the Israeli election, one subject that liberal Jews—that is, most American Jews—won't want on the menu is Israel. The re-election of Benjamin Netanyahu has spoiled the taste beyond redemption. The manner of his victory—a lurch rightward, an unholy alliance with the GOP, a last-minute scare video about "droves" of Arab voters "advancing" on the polling places—has made talk of Israel even more bitter to the tongue. The tension in American Jewry between being liberal and being Zionist has been growing for years. But the election on March 17, 2015, may have been a breaking point. Believe me, I...

The Crisis of Black Unemployment: Still Higher Than Pre-Recession Levels

Despite increasing hires of black workers, the employment gap between African Americans and whites remains high.

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
This report was produced by the Economic Policy Institute as part of the Full Employment Project of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. B y the end of 2014, the U.S. economy had experienced 58 consecutive months of job growth, and the unemployment rate had fallen to 5.6 percent from a high of 10 percent in October 2009. In fact, 2014 was by far the strongest year of the recovery, with job growth averaging over 246,000 per month, the highest monthly rate since before the recession. Economic growth also picked up, with gross domestic product rising at annual rates of 4.6 percent and 5 percent during the second and third quarters, respectively, following a first-quarter decline of 2.1 percent. Last year’s solid job growth proved to be especially beneficial to communities of color, whose unemployment rates rose well above 10 percent during the worst years of the recession. In particular, after reaching a high of 16.8 percent in March 2010, the African American unemployment rate...

Those Rootin' Tootin' Shootin' GOP Presidential Candidates

(AP Photo/LM Otero)
(AP Photo/LM Otero) Rick Perry, then governor of Texas, waits to be introduced at a gun shop in Dallas, Thursday, September 16, 2010. Perry, touting his pro-gun credentials in his re-election campaign, was on hand to pick up the endorsement of the National Rifle Association. T here was a time not too long ago when Republicans knew that when an election got tight, they could trot out "God, guns, and gays" to drive a cultural wedge between Democrats and the electorate, since the GOP was the party that, like most Americans, loved the first two and hated the third. It's more complicated now, both within the parties and between them, but there's no doubt that 2016 will feature plenty of culture-war sniping. For better or worse, Democrats and Republicans really do represent two different Americas. I thought of that this weekend reading this article in The Washington Post about the personal relationships the potential Republican candidates have with guns. That they are all opposed to any...

Legions of Women Workers in U.S. Still Lack Minimum Wage and Labor Protections

The legacy of slavery and prescribed gender roles continues to rob millions of their fair share.

(AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Billy Smith II In this Dec. 2014 photo, Eileen Merize, left, helps 93-year-old U.S. Air Force veteran Harold Utsler look through some of his paper work at her home in Katy, Texas near Houston. The Houston Chronicle reports Utsler is one of three veterans who live in Merize's home through the Medical Foster Program, which helps disabled elderly veterans live with "foster families" rather than in large nursing homes. I t’s Women’s History Month—what a nice idea to recognize that women actually make history and aren’t just along to make dinner for the history-makers! In 1980, President Jimmy Carter declared seven days in March to be National Women's History Week, and President Ronald Reagan followed suit. In 1987, Congress expanded the commemoration on the calendar, giving women a whole month. We have come so far. Putting sarcasm aside, it is true that the 20th century included concrete advances for women in America. Starting with the New Deal, women workers...

Students Declare Nationwide Boycott of Wendy's Over Farmworker Concerns

Taco Bell, Burger King, McDonalds, and Walmart are already party to the worker-protection contract the targeted fast-food chain refuses to sign.

© Coalition of Immokalee Workers
© Coalition of Immokalee Workers On March 22, students and activists from across the U.S. came together in St. Petersburg, Florida, for the Concert for Fair Food. There the group, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), announced a nationwide student boycott of the Wendy's fast-food chain for its refusal to join in an agreement designed to protect the farmworkers who harvest the produce used by the chain. This article originally appeared at Facing South , the website published by the Institute for Southern Studies. S tudents from colleges and high schools across the U.S. declared a nationwide boycott of the Wendy's fast-food chain over its refusal to join the Fair Food Program created to help eliminate farmworker poverty and abuse. The announcement came at the Parade and Concert for Fair Food held on Saturday, March 21, in St. Petersburg, Florida, by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a Florida-based group that promotes human rights for farmworkers. The boycott is part of a...

3 Trends Driving Liberal American Jews Away From Israel

(AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
(AP Photo/Cliff Owen) Stage hands prepare the stage for the 2015 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., Monday, March 2, 2015. I n the wake of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's election victory last week—and the sordid campaigning that made it possible—liberal American Jews may be feeling, more than they ever have before, pained by, conflicted about, and even estranged from Israel. There are certainly consequences for policy, as U.S. policy toward Israel could become a much more partisan issue than it is now. But more than that, there's a crisis of the spirit emerging. It's fed by three trends, all of which serve to alienate liberal American Jews from Israel, all of which were highlighted by this election, and all of which look inexorable. The first, of course, is the hopelessness of the Palestinian situation. When, just before the election, Netanyahu abandoned his stated support for an ultimate two-state solution, it didn't surprise...

America's Willful Ignorance of Our History of Lynching Feeds Racial Hatred

It's easy to focus on individual racist acts and condemn the actors. But that doesn't get us closer to solving the problem of racism.

iStock © ftwitty
iStockPhoto/© ftwitty N ational condemnation of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at the University of Oklahoma has a cruel irony that highlights a painful truth: By singly condemning individual racist acts and refusing to talk openly about our country’s complex relationship to anti-black violence, we allow racial hatred to fester under our noses. As a nation, we need to do two things in response to the SAE scandal: Take a long hard look at the history of state-sanctioned, anti-black violence, and recognize that this violence has been an integral part of our nation’s culture for quite some time. When the racist chant that fraternity members sang on their way to a party came to light, condemnation of SAE was understandably swift and sharp: Two fraternity members identified from the video have been expelled . The university has soundly denounced the fraternity’s actions and shut down its campus activities. In all likelihood, the O.U. SAE members knew their chant was racist. That’s why...

The Many Ways the University of Oklahoma Fraternity Scandal Reveals America's Racism Denial

Bill Kristol blames rap music. And the fraternity's lawyer says the racist chanters were "tarred and feathered." (Yes, he did.)

(Photo: MSNBC Morning Joe screenshot)
W hat does a white person have to say or do to be considered racist? If you think a little ditty about lynching makes the cut—you’re wrong. On March 8, video surfaced online of the Greek organization Sigma Alpha Epsilon at University of Oklahoma singing a rousing rendition of a song about lynching. Yes, in 2015—not 1815. “You can hang him from a tree, but he will never sign with me! There will never be a n****r in SAE,” sang the fraternity brothers while they rode a charter bus either to or from an event, wearing tuxedos. Captured on video, Parker Rice and Levi Pettit —the students leading the chant—sang as if they were at a pep rally and their school was headed to a big championship game. They were joined by an ad hoc group of background singers that formed among the party-goers. When news of the video broke, students protested and University of Oklahoma president David Boren responded swiftly and rapidly, as did the national president of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. The chapter was shut...

Why the Real Story of the Irish Exodus to America Isn't Taught in Schools

The famine that brought vast numbers of Irish to the U.S. wasn't caused by nature; it was caused by ruthless capitalists.

(Photo: Lawrence Collection, National Library of Ireland)
(Photo: Lawrence Collection, National Library of Ireland) During the potato blight of the 1840s, tenant farmers were not allowed to partake of the grain, poultry and other edibles they raised, and were often evicted, as shown above, by ruthless landlords when they could not meet the rent under the duress of starvation. This article was produced by the Zinn Education Project , and is part of the project's If We Knew Our History series. “ Wear green on St. Patrick’s Day or get pinched.” That pretty much sums up the Irish-American “curriculum” that I learned when I was in school. Yes, I recall a nod to the so-called Potato Famine, but it was mentioned only in passing. Sadly, today’s high school textbooks continue to largely ignore the famine, despite the fact that it was responsible for unimaginable suffering and the deaths of more than a million Irish peasants, and that it triggered the greatest wave of Irish immigration in U.S. history. Nor do textbooks make any attempt to help...

The Dance of Liberals and Radicals

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo) U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, right, talks with civil rights leaders in his White House office in Washington, D.C., January 18, 1964. The movement leaders, from left, are, Roy Wilkins, executive secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); James Farmer, national director of the Committee on Racial Equality; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; and Whitney Young, executive director of the Urban League. This essay originally appeared at The Huffington Post . M arch 15 was the 50th anniversary of Lyndon Johnson's best speech, his "We Shall Overcome" address applying the final round of pressure on Congress to enact the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Much of the speech invoked the bravery, dignity and historical rightness of Martin Luther King, Jr., and his fellow movement activists. All of which puts me in mind of the complex relationship between liberals and radicals. History shows that liberals...

Black Kids Accused of Causing Their Own Deaths, From Tamir Rice to Emmett Till

As in the infamous 1955 murder of a black teen, society sought to taint the character of a 12-year-old black boy recently killed by police with the sins of his father.

(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File) In a Monday, Dec. 1, 2014, file photo, Tomiko Shine holds up a picture of Tamir Rice, the 12 year old boy fatally shot on November 22 by a rookie police officer, in Cleveland, Ohio, during a protest in response to a grand jury's decision in Ferguson, Missourim to not indict police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, in Washington. I f we are to believe Cleveland police and city officials, 12-year-old Tamir Rice caused his own death. That is, his actions—holding a toy gun in a public park—led to his November 22 shooting death at the hands of a police officer. And Emmett Till wolf-whistled at a young white woman in a Mississippi country store. This is not a non sequitur, my friends. The similarities between the cases of Tamir Rice and Emmett Till shouldn’t escape anyone’s notice. The language of blame, the alacrity with which white men see black boys as threatening men, and the attempts to paint Rice’s family as criminals whose...

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