When the past is present…
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When the past is present…
This comes in the wake of actor Clint Eastwood’s empty chair speech at the Republican National Convention. Never mind agreeing or disagreeing with the presidential candidates. Eastwood clearly intended the viewer to imagine President Barack Obama in that empty chair. And those who displayed chairs in their yards, beginning less than three weeks later, clearly intended them to represent hanging Obama.
Some claimed they tied chairs in trees to prevent theft. That doesn’t pass the laugh test when other chairs remain on the homeowners’ porches. Neither do claims that the displays aren’t references to lynching. The implied hanging-in-effigy of our first African American president is about more than politics. If the chair hangers didn’t understand the shameful history they were invoking, they should have. Lynching is not a joke….
Most commonly committed by rope, though in myriad other ways as well, a lynching was designed to scare African Americans into submission. Lynchers often left their victims hanging on the edges of black neighborhoods, so every resident would understand the unmistakable message of white supremacy. Like the burning crosses of the Ku Klux Klan, lynchings were warnings to African Americans who, in local white opinion, didn’t know or keep “their place.”
Disagreements about policy and politics is one thing. Threats of racially motivated, violent hate crimes are quite another and have no place in a democracy that claims to celebrate diversity and equal rights.
Read more here.
Maybe I have no sense of humor, but when Gov. Mitt Romney said the words “binders full of women” during this week’s debate, it didn’t occur to me to make an Internet joke, complete with visuals of feminine legs sticking out of binders. He seemed to have left out a word—maybe resumés?—but I sure didn’t predict multiple Tumblrs being built around it.
I was more struck by the fact that he answered a question about pay equity with a story about diversity hiring. If we had the language as a society to describe this difference, the jokes might have been more pointed. Diversity is about variety, getting bodies with different genders and colors into the room. Equity is about how those bodies get in the door and what they are able to do in their posts. A diversity approach has gotten us to the point where Romney could get a binder full of women’s resumés. (Though, notably, the real credit goes to the group MassGAP, which pushed the governor’s office to hire more women in high-level posts.) An equity approach is what would have forced him to address the pay gap, which I bet all the women in those binders have experienced.
Why does this distinction matter? After nearly 50 years of applying anti-discrimination laws, American workplaces are still dominated by white men. Men of color and all women have more access to some jobs than they used to, but the ranks of decisionmakers come nowhere close to reflecting our numbers in the nation as a whole. This is the root of the “tokenism” complaint that I hear constantly as I travel the country. Tokenism means that you can come to the meeting, but no one will pay any attention to what you say. It means that the workplace will open the door to you, as long as you look (to the extent possible) and act just like the white men who are already there. It means that you’ll get invited to the party, but you won’t be allowed to make any requests of the DJ or help set the playlist.
Read more here.
Dr. Vincent Harding, an acclaimed historian, religious scholar and activist known for his work with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., believes America is a wounded nation.
Even after so many years of struggle, he is convinced that America can and must get better.
Today Dr. Harding is the Chair of the Veterans of Hope Project at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado, whose mission is to encourage a healing, intergenerational approach to social justice activism that recognizes the interconnectedness of spirit, creativity and citizenship. On his 81st birthday, he spoke at the National and Racial Healing Town Hall at the Children’s Defense Fund’s recent conference urging all of his listeners to commit themselves to heal America and make our country what it should be.
He shared a line he heard a West African poet recite: “He made this fantastic statement that I want to pass on to you as a birthday gift. He said, ‘I am a citizen of a country that does not yet exist.'”
The poet was speaking about his homeland, which was going through political turmoil on the road to independence. But Dr. Harding said it applies to our current national spiritual and moral crisis: “We are citizens of a country that we still have to create — a just country, a compassionate country, a forgiving country, a multiracial, multi-religious country, a joyful country that cares about its children and about its elders, that cares about itself and about the world, that cares about what the earth needs as well as what individual people need.
Read the full article here.
It’s 2012. Why are we still talking about blackface?
It’s true there has never been an official ban on blackface put forth by our national government, but as Americans we’ve pretty much agreed that when white people smear their face with black make-up and paint their lips a cherry red in imitation of black people, it’s offensive.
In fact, since the 1960s, blackface has officially been placed on the list of taboo topics most people know to avoid like the plague. Of course, not everyone read the memo. Like Ted Danson in that infamous Friars Club fiasco back in 1993 or the boys in upstate New York last week — yes last week — who thought donning blackface would make for a funny skit at their high school while a re-enacting the Chris Brown-Rihanna domestic violence incident.
And then of course, there’s the rest of the world. Outside of the United States, blackface and sambo imagery is still all the rage.
From Mexico to South Africa, in Sweden and in Germany, it is not uncommon to find what we in the United States would consider racist images of black people being used on product labels and in advertising for everything from popsicles to chocolate candies. And then there are the countries where donning blackface is actually a regular part of the cultural experience.
Read more here.
It was a homecoming rally to cheer on the Waverly Wolverines football team. They were undefeated this year. Everyone was proud.
Then, in the midst of the cheers and a sea of red and white pom poms came a 30-second skit that, for some, turned an afternoon of school pride into one of shame.
Three white male students involved in the skit made light of domestic violence, and they did it in racist manner, say some.
Two were in blackface as they re-enacted a 2009 domestic abuse incident in which singer Chris Brown assaulted then-girlfriend Rihanna. The student who played Brown was vying for the school’s “Mr. Waverly” title — a school tradition in which skits are performed and the one that garners the most applause wins the title.
On Monday, Waverly alum Matthew Dishler posted a photograph of the skit on CNN’s iReport. He says someone shared the image on Facebook.
The photo went viral.
By Tuesday afternoon, the CNN iReport had more than 46,000 views and showed up on Huffington Post, Buzzfeed and Gawker and in local newspapers.
Suddenly, Waverly High School became synonymous with racism and sexism.
Read the full article here and find out if the initiator of the skit won the coveted “Mr. Waverly” title.
If I had a nickel each time a white guy e-mails or tweets that I have my job because I’m black, I wouldn’t need the job, because I’d be rich.
This is at the heart of a little talked about secret regarding affirmative action: A lot of black professionals don’t like it either. Not because they think the playing field is necessarily leveled, but rather their skills and talents are constantly being slighted by whites who think their jobs were given to them solely because of their race. It’s insulting, it’s demeaning and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it, because as long as race is part of the qualification metric, the perception that the bar was lowered so that we could jump over it will persist.
There are voters who think President Obama’s success came easy because of affirmative action, overlooking the fact he’s brilliant and oh, by the way, he and the first lady were still paying off their student loans 10 years ago. I can tell you from experience, there is nothing “easy” about paying back student loans.
Yes, there is an inherent hypocrisy of having such a policy in a post civil-rights world. But it is cynical to think we’re a post-racial society just because we have a black president….
One of the elements of the infamous “47%” video that didn’t get talked about a lot was Mitt Romney’s joke that if he had Mexican heritage, he’d have “a better shot” at winning the election. That joke was followed by a comment from someone in the crowd who suggested Romney could claim to have some Native American heritage like Elizabeth Warren, to get a leg up. In what socioeconomic metric is there a quantifiable advantage to being Mexican or Native American in this country? The outcry about the push for diversity in the workplace and in college admissions would lead you to believe we’re overcompensating for the sins of the past.
But look around: Does it really look as if the populations with the highest poverty rate — blacks, Latinos and Native Americans — are just cleaning up in the game of life? True, there are certainly examples of unqualified or incompetent employees being placed in positions they shouldn’t be because of flawed decision making from white superiors trying to be compliant with their HR department. However, that’s not what affirmative action was designed to do.
Read more of Granderson’s article here.
Learn more about Affirmative Action here.
Perhaps you, like me, were raised essentially to think of the slave experience primarily in terms of our black ancestors here in the United States.
In other words, slavery was primarily about us, right, from Crispus Attucks and Phillis Wheatley, Benjamin Banneker and Richard Allen, all the way to Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass. Think of this as an instance of what we might think of as African-American exceptionalism. (In other words, if it’s in “the black Experience,” it’s got to be about black Americans.)
Well, think again. The most comprehensive analysis of shipping records over the course of the slave trade is the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, edited by professors David Eltis and David Richardson. (While the editors are careful to say that all of their figures are estimates, I believe that they are the best estimates that we have, the proverbial “gold standard” in the field of the study of the slave trade.)
Between 1525 and 1866, in the entire history of the slave trade to the New World, according to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, 12.5million Africans were shipped to the New World. 10.7 million survived the dreaded Middle Passage, disembarking in North America, the Caribbean and South America. And how many of these 10.7 million Africans were shipped directly to North America? Only about 388,000.That’s right: a tiny percentage.
Read more here.
Forty-eight years ago, as a New York City teenager, George Whitmore was initiated into an ordeal at the hands of a racist criminal justice system.
For a time, his story rattled the news cycle. He was chewed up and spit out: an ill-prepared kid vilified as a murderer, then championed as an emblem of injustice and, finally, cast aside. That he survived his tribulations and lived to the age of 68 was a miracle.
That Whitmore could die [today] without a single mention in the media is a commentary on a city and nation that would rather bury and forget the difficult aspects of our shared history.
Read more about Whitmore and the wide-ranging impact of his case here.
Learn about T.J. English’s book about the case, The Savage City: Race, Murder, and a Generation on the Edge, here.
Within five weeks of the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education outlawing segregation, the University of Texas named its newest dormitory in honor of Col. William Simkins, a law-school professor from 1899 to 1929. Prior to joining UT’s faculty, Simkins organized a Ku Klux Klan chapter in Florida that murdered 25 former slaves in the years following emancipation. While at UT, Simkins delivered well-received annual lectures in which he bragged about exploits as “a criminal and a terrorist, a gun-toting, mask-wearing, night-riding Klansman.”
This week the Supreme Court will hear Fisher v. University of Texas, a case challenging UT’s affirmative action program. The Supreme Court has said: “Context matters when reviewing race-based governmental action under the Equal Protection Clause.”…
On UT’s campus, Simkins is not ancient history.
UT reluctantly renamed Simkins Hall in 2010 only after protests by students and faculty. …Even today, all UT students walk a campus dotted with monuments honoring segregationists and Confederate leaders, including Robert E. Lee Statue, Painter Hall (named after a UT president who defended segregation), Robert Lee Moore Hall (Moore was a math professor who refused to teach black students) and Texas Cowboys’ Pavilion (where racially derogatory minstrel shows were held).
African-American and Latino students describe a campus where the ghosts of Simkins and his ilk lurk, maintaining an atmosphere of racial isolation and hostility….
To help overcome the ongoing impact of its racist history, UT adopted a very modest form of holistic review designed to admit a student body that better serves Texas in the 21st century. Three-quarters of the students who benefit from holistic review are neither black nor Latino.
Read more here.
Abigail Fisher is a slight young woman with strawberry blond hair, a smile that needs little prompting, a determined manner and a good academic record.
She played soccer in high school, and she is an accomplished cellist. But the university she had her heart set on, the one her father and sister had attended, rejected her. “I was devastated,” she said.
Ms. Fisher, 22, who is white and recently graduated from Louisiana State University, says that her race was held against her, and the Supreme Court is to hear her case on Wednesday, bringing new attention to the combustible issue of the constitutionality of racial preferences in admissions decisions by public universities….
The university said Ms. Fisher would not have been admitted even if race had played no role in the process, and it questioned whether she has suffered the sort of injury that gives her standing to sue. But the university’s larger defense is that it must be free to assemble a varied student body as part of its academic and societal mission. The Supreme Court endorsed that view by a 5-to-4 vote in 2003 in Grutter v. Bollinger….
The majority opinion in the Grutter case, written by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, rejected the use of racial quotas in admissions decisions but said that race could be used as one factor among many, as part of a “holistic review.” Justice O’Connor retired in 2006, and her replacement by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. may open the way for a ruling cutting back on such race-conscious admissions policies, or eliminating them….
The majority opinion in the Grutter case, written by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, rejected the use of racial quotas in admissions decisions but said that race could be used as one factor among many, as part of a “holistic review.” Justice O’Connor retired in 2006, and her replacement by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. may open the way for a ruling cutting back on such race-conscious admissions policies, or eliminating them.
Read more here.