Race & Ethnicity

A Book for the People of Ferguson -- And Oppressed People Everywhere

Fred Ross's change-making Axioms for Organizers is updated for the Internet age, and for a new generation battling discrimination and police brutality.

fredrosssr.com
M ost residents of Ferguson, Missouri, have probably never heard of Fred Ross, Sr., but they could use his help now. Ferguson's population is two-thirds African American, but the mayor, almost all members of the city council and school board, and 95 percent of the police department is white, and in last year's municipal election only 7 percent of blacks came to the polls. Ross—perhaps the most influential (but little-known) community organizer in American history—had a successful career mobilizing people to challenge police brutality, fight segregation, and organize voter registration and voter turnout campaigns. Ross taught people how to channel their anger and frustrations into building powerful grassroots organizations that can win concrete victories that change institutions and improve people's lives. He understood that while sporadic protests can draw attentions to long-neglected problems, it requires the hard day-to-day intentional work of organizing to build power and give...

Could Scottish Independence Set Off a Cascade of Secession?

(Danny Lawson/PA Wire - Press Association via AP Images)
(Danny Lawson/PA Wire - Press Association via AP Images) Scottish independence referendum. Deputy First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon and actor Alan Cumming on September 8, 2014, outside the Yes Kelvin campaign hub in Glasgow ahead of the Scottish independence referendum vote on September 18. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . U ntil recently, few people took seriously the possibility that Scotland might actually secede from the United Kingdom. However, with a referendum scheduled for September 18, the latest polls show secession in the lead for the first time, and gaining dramatic momentum . The British government is frantically scrambling to offer the Scots a much more autonomous form of federalism, to head off the drive for full independence. Meanwhile, the specter of a diminished Britain has led to speculative attack against the British pound. What's going on here? For one thing, with the European Union allowing membership for lots of micro-states,...

The Top 10 Percent of White Families Own Almost Everything

Chart: Demos - Photo: Rui Vieira/PA Wire (Press Association via AP Images)
This article was originally published by Demos. T he Federal Reserve released the 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances on Thursday. The overall wealth distribution picture is grim and getting worse: The top 10 percent of families own 75.3 percent of the nation's wealth. The bottom half of families own 1.1 percent of it. The families squished in between those two groups own 24.6 percent of the national wealth. The present wealth distribution is more unequal than it was in 2010, the last year this survey was conducted. Specifically, the top 10 percent increased their share of the national wealth by 0.8 percentage points between 2010 and 2013. The bottom half and middle 40 percent saw their share of the national wealth fall by 0.1 and 0.7 percentage points respectively. These wealth figures bring to mind a 1955 Red Scare era educational film , which presses at one point: In order to have a proper appreciation of the American economic system, we must know how the national income is divided in...

What Happens When the Person Taking Care of Your Mom Can’t Earn a Living Wage?

When the Supreme Court ruled that unions could not collect dues from the home-care workers they represent, the justices set workers and their clients on a course that could harm them both.

(AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
(AP Photo/Seth Perlman) Tanya Melin of Chicago, right, Service Employees International Union members, home care consumers, workers, and allies rally in support of home care funding at the Illinois State Capitol Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012 in Springfield, Illinois. O n June 30, the Supreme Court ruled that a key strategy used by unions to raise the earnings and professionalism of home-care workers was illegal. Since the 1990s, the labor movement has worked with states and countries to get laws or executive orders to allow home-care workers to be treated as employees of public authorities rather than as individual contractors. The result has been to allow these workers to form unions and to bargain collectively with government for better wages and working standards. In the Harris v. Quinn case, however, the Court held that workers could still unionize, but that they were not true public employees. Unions thus could not collect dues from workers who choose to remain outside the bargaining...

Why the Legacy of Katrina on New Orleans Is Different From Disasters That Befell Other Cities

Nine years after the storm, why is it that divine retribution remains in the discussion when considering Katrina?

(AP Photo/Dave Martin)
Rescue personnel search from victims as they traverse the New Orleans 8th Ward in the flooded city of New Orleans on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005. Water continued to rise after the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina, which pounded the coast on August 29. H ow to remember Hurricane Katrina? I consider this each year as the anniversary approaches. I assume it’s something that most people do when the anniversary of a traumatic event draws near. New Orleans is not my hometown; I grew up two hours northwest from it in Louisiana’s fourth largest city, Lafayette . The day before Katrina reached land, my sister, who was in law school at Loyola University, called me (I was living in New York at the time) and said she was driving home. Everything from news to gossip portended the same: that Katrina was a beast and everyone should get out, or, at the very least, find adequate shelter. She fit as much from her apartment into her car as was humanly possible, boarded up her windows as best she could and...

Expert: U.S. Police Training in Use of Deadly Force Woefully Inadequate

Connecticut state police recruits practice with their new .45-caliber Sig Sauer pistols during a "dry fire" exercise on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, at the state police firing range in Simsbury, Conn. (AP Photo/Dave Collins)
(AP Photo/Dave Collins) M aria Haberfeld is a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. A veteran of the Israel Defense Forces who also served in the Israel National Police, she has conducted research on police forces in multiple countries, and has also written many books on terrorism and policing, including Critical Issues in Police Training . We spoke on Friday about the events in Ferguson, Missouri, and the shooting of Kajieme Powell by St. Louis police, which was caught on video . Powell, brandishing a steak knife, approached officers, saying “Shoot me!.” As reported by the Post-Dispatch , St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said lethal force was permitted under department rules if a knife-wielding attacker is within 21 feet of police. Paul Waldman: Did you think what the officers did [in Powell's shooting] was appropriate? It seems pretty clear that that's standard operating procedure. Maria Haberfeld: Yes it is, absolutely. PW: Are those procedures...

The Fire This Time: America's Withdrawal From the Fight Against Racism Guarantees More Fergusons

(AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, J.B. Forbes)
(AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, J.B. Forbes) A protester shouts as she moves away from a line of riot police in Ferguson, Missouri, on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, J.B. Forbes) This article originally appeared on the Policy Shop website of Demos . I remember the stunned reaction of so many Americans back in the summer of 2005 when legions of poor black people in desperate circumstances seemed to have suddenly and inexplicably materialized in New Orleans during the flooding that followed Hurricane Katrina. Expressions of disbelief poured in from around the nation: “How can this be happening?” “I had no idea conditions were that bad.” “My God, is this America?” People found themselves staring at the kind of poverty they thought had been largely wiped out decades earlier. President George W. Bush seemed as astonished as anyone. He made an eerie, oddly-lit, outdoor appearance in the city’s French Quarter on the evening of September 15 to announce that...

I'm Polite, Middle-Class and Harassed By Police. Here's Why.

The targeting of citizens by authorities based on racial stereotypes is a serious issue that needs refocusing—an issue that needs to be looked at starting from the root and not the leaf.

(AP Photo/The Progress-Index, Patrick Kane)
(AP Photo/The Progress-Index, Patrick Kane) I was eighteen, but I remember it like it was yesterday. It was dark, and I was driving with my sister when I got pulled over by the police. We were visiting relatives in Mississippi and had just left our cousins’ house, heading back to an aunt’s house to meet up with our parents. My mother had let us go out for a drive in her car, a red Eddie Bauer Edition Ford Explorer. Driving in that car, I felt a certain level of freedom and prestige. So, being the teenagers that we were, music blasting, rehashing the night’s events with each other, my sister and I made our way back, feeling carefree. We stopped at a stop sign, then proceeded to go forward when a police siren from across the street grew louder, as a squad car sped toward us. Not thinking that it was me they were after, I slowed down to let the cop car pass me. When the policeman turned on his horn and shot his light toward our car, I immediately froze. We were in the Deep South, two...

The Ferguson Police Department's Top 10 Tips For Protester Relations

Police officer in gas mask during a standoff between protesters and police Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) 1. If there's any chance that there might be violence, it's best to have your officers put on all the military gear they've got, including their body armor and camouflage outfits , because that's totally badass. Being decked out like that won't at all affect the way they think about their primary mission (to protect and serve the people of the community), and when protesters see it, they'll know that the officers are trained professionals who take their jobs seriously. 2. Park your armored personnel carriers in the middle of the street . That sight will let everyone know that you mean business, and won't in any way contribute to an atmosphere of tension. 3. When a protester approaches you with his hands up, it's best to point your rifle in his face . Round here, we call it the "Ferguson howdyado." It's a friendly way of saying, "I respect your First Amendment rights, but I'm also thinking about killing you." 4. Don't forget to position snipers with their guns...

The Government Program That's Equipping Police Like an Occupying Military Force

A chilling index from the Institute for Southern Studies.

(AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, J.B. Forbes)
(AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, J.B. Forbes) Protesters raise their hands in front of police atop an armored vehicle in Ferguson, Missouri, on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014. This index was originally published by Facing South , a website of the Institute for Southern Studies. ( Click here to subscribe to their newsletter.) Year in which Congress initially authorized the Defense Department to give excess arms and ammunition to law enforcement agencies for counter-drug activities, leading to the creation of what's come to be known as the 1033 program: 1990 Number of law enforcement agencies the program has given equipment to: more than 17,000 Percent of U.S. states with agencies participating in the program: 100 (Photo from the Richland County Sheriff's Department website.) Sheriff Leon Lott of Richland County, South Carolina and members of his department's Special Response Team with the military vehicle they call "The Peacemaker." Value of military equipment the program has transferred...

Court Rules NC Voting Rights Rollback to Stay In Place Until After Midterm Elections

Since taking control of state government in 2011, Republicans rolled back North Carolina's progressive voting laws. A new regime of fewer voting days and voter ID requirements will be in place for November's legislative and congressional elections.

©Jenny Warburg
©JennyWarburg While a federal judge in Winston-Salem heard testimony about North Carolina’s new voting restrictions last month, activists gathered at a nearby plaza to protest the law. A federal judge has temporarily authorized North Carolina to implement a sweeping new law that threatens to reduce access to the polls, particularly for African-American, Latino, and young voters. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder, a George W. Bush appointee, is an early test of the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision, which overturned key parts of the Voting Rights Act. In 2000, North Carolina started rolling out efforts to make it easier to register and vote, only to yank those efforts back thirteen years later. When the state legislature was controlled by Democrats, it authorized counties to conduct up to seventeen days of early voting, including Sunday voting, which enabled black churches to transport parishioners to the polls. It also allowed citizens to register and...

Could the Ferguson Conflict Produce Actual Reform on The Limits of Policing?

Flickr/Elvert Barnes
Every once in a while, a dramatic news story can actually produce real reform. More often the momentum peters out once the story disappears from the news (remember how Sandy Hook meant we were going to get real gun control?), but it can happen. And now, after the aftermath of the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missiouri, turned to a chaotic nightmare of police oppression, we may have an opportunity to examine, and hopefully reverse, a troubling policy trend of recent years. The focus has now largely turned from an old familiar story (cops kill unarmed black kid) to a relatively unfamiliar one, about the militarization of the police. The images of officers dressed up like RoboCop, driving around in armored assault vehicles, positioning snipers to aim rifles at protesters, and firing tear gas and rubber bullets at Americans standing with their hands up saying "Don't shoot!" has lots of Americans asking how things got this way. This issue offers the rarest of all things, an...

If You Are Black or Brown in America, Your Parents' Warnings Can't Keep You Safe

Our mothers and fathers tell us how to behave when—not if—we are stopped by police. But sometimes it's no use.

(AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, David Carson)
(AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, David Carson) Terrell Williams El embraces his daughter Sharell, 9, next to his wife, Shamika Williams, and daughters Tamika, 6, and Shanell, 2, in Ferguson, Mo. on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014 after Terrell Williams El confronted police during a protest. This article was originally published by the Crunk Feminist Collective . W hen we are young, often too young to fully understand the anxiety in their voices and the fear in their eyes, many of us listen to our parents tell us how to behave when, not if , we are stopped by the police. Usually these cautions beseech us to be aware of our surroundings, comply and assert our compliance out loud, to be polite and cooperative, not combative or defiant. They tell us the things they think will protect us. They tell us not to be alone. They tell us to be vigilant. They know what we will face. They are black, brown, immigrant, documented and undocumented. They have survived wars. They are our mothers and fathers...

Listen: Affirmative Action 'Race or Place' Debate on SiriusXM's 'Make It Plain'

The Prospect's ongoing discussion on how to save affirmative action takes to the airwaves with a spirited discussion between Sheryll Cashin and Richard Rothstein.

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Scroll down for audio. When Prospect contributing writer Richard Rothstein penned a critical review of Sheryll Cashin's book, Place Not Race: A New Vision of Opportunity in America (Beacon) , it touched off a debate between the principals in an exchange of letters on The American Prospect website. Mark Thompson, host of the SiriusXM Progress show, Make It Plain , invited the rivals to take their debate live on the August 5 edition of the program. In her book, Cashin argues for a new approach to affirmative action in college admissions, one that gives primacy to circumstances other than race, including family wealth, proximity of the family home to high-poverty areas, and other measures of need. Thompson was joined in moderating the debate by Prospect Senior Editor Adele Stan, who appears on the program on Tuesday nights. Richard Rothstein Richard Rothstein is a Prospect contributing editor, a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute, and senior fellow at the Chief Justice...

Thirsty Detroiters Demand End to Water Shut-Offs

Surrounded by the Great Lakes, home to 20 percent of the world’s fresh water, Detroit faces a crisis that is not only paradoxical; it’s complicated.

AP Photo/Detroit News, David Coates
(AP Photo/Detroit News, David Coates) Protesters march over the controversial water shut-offs Friday, July 18, 2014, in Detroit, Michigan. UPDATE: On Thursday, August 7, Mayor Mike Duggan announced a ten-point plan to address the water department's much despised shut-off policy. I n Michigan’s largest city, a water crisis has been raging for months. Since spring, 17,000 city residents have had their water shut off by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) for unpaid water bills. Now living in unsanitary conditions, citizens in homes without running water can’t even flush a toilet. Deemed by public health officials to be living in inadequate conditions, many parents in homes without water are sending their children to live with family or friends for fear of losing their sons and daughters to Child Protection Services . For the elderly and the ill, lack of home access to water can be fatal. Last week, after weeks of negative news coverage, Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr...

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