Thursday, July 26, 2007


I am taking a break from blogging for a whole host of reasons, but I plan to be back. Thanks for checking in.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

young woman displays courage at the White House

This high school senior wins my nomination for most courageous woman of the month. Mari Oye, a recent Wellesley High graduate (pictured last year with her spelling bee colleagues on the right), won this year's federal government’s highest honor, the Presidential Scholars medal. Instead of just visiting the White House and getting her picture taken for posterity with the president - the usual routine for Presidential Scholars, Mari persuaded 49 of her 140 fellow scholars to sign a letter she and a dozen others had drafted and she had just written longhand on notebook paper, calling on President Bush to reject torture and treat terrorism suspects humanely.

Mari says her activist spirit was influenced by her Quaker background and by grandparents on her father's side, who were in internment camps for Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Here is the text of the letter:

Mr. President.

As members of the presidential scholars class of 2007, we have been told that we represent the best and brightest of our nation. Therefore, we believe we have a responsibility to voice our convictions. We do not want America to represent torture. We urge you to do all in your power to stop violations of the human rights of detainees, to cease illegal renditions and to apply the Geneva Convention to all detainees, including those designated enemy combatants.


Read the full story here.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

just don't take away my TV!

Hey, that's not me talking. My TV is packed up in the basement and hasn't been used in more than a year. That's the white American participants in a 2006 Ohio State University study entitled "The Cost of Being Black: White Americans' Perceptions and the Question of Reparations" speaking.

As Margaret Kamara reports:

Whites of different ages and geographic regions were asked how much they deserved to be paid for living the rest of their lives as an African American.

Respondents generally requested less than $10,000 to become black. However, they said they'd have to be paid $1 million to give up television for the rest of their lives.

The article continues:

In another scenario, the references "white" and "America" were omitted, and participants were asked to select between being born a minority or majority in a fictional country called, "Atria." They were warned of the disadvantages that the minority group faced -- the same disparities faced by black Americans -- and they said they should be paid an average of $1 million to be born a minority.

"When you take it out of the black-white context, white Americans seem to fully appreciate the costs associated with the kinds of disparities that African Americans actually face in the United States," (study co-author Philip) Mazzocco says. [. . .]"White Americans suffer from a glaring ignorance about what it means to live as a black American."

And here is more. This time, the article discusses the attitude of whites about reparations for slavery:

The study also found that nearly all whites opposed reparations for slavery, saying it was "too long ago" and that the descendants of slavery don't need to be compensated.

However, when researchers ask participants to imagine a situation in which they could be part of a reparation lawsuit that would compensate them $5,000 for an event that occurred 150 years ago to a wealthy ancestor of theirs, 61 percent agreed to be part of the lawsuit.

This is the same percentage of blacks today that support reparations for slave descendants.

Wow! These are my fellow white people in America talking. Surprising? I guess not, but still deeply saddening that so many white people just don't get racism.

And, by the way, most the reader comments under the quoted article are pretty depressing. Denial, whining and just plain racism on the part of many of the white readers. A dialog on race issues is much needed across color lines, but I am of the opinion that sometimes it's a good idea for white people to just to shut up and listen. Why the need to defend white privilege? I wish white people would just read, think, and take the results of the study as an opportunity to examine their own beliefs.

say bye bye to school diversity

We are now seeing one Supreme Court ruling after another that flies in the face of civil rights, social justice, and democracy. Today, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court imposed new limits on public school desegregation plans, thus making it more difficult for school districts to ensure racially integrated schools.

As Hispanic Business News reported:

A closely divided Supreme Court on Thursday narrowed the ability of public school districts to use race in assigning students to schools.

Affirmative action in education survives but with tighter restrictions following the decisions in two related cases from Kentucky and Washington. Districts in Louisville and Seattle, hoping to maintain diversity, considered race when deciding what schools students can attend.

"The school districts have not carried their heavy burden of showing that the interest they seek to achieve justifies the extreme means they have chosen," Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. wrote for a 5-4 majority.

Roberts failed, however, to persuade five justices to go further and dismiss completely the merits of what he termed "racial balancing."

[. . . ] Washington's Seattle School District No. 1 allowed entering ninth-graders to choose the high school they wanted. Some schools proved more popular than others.

About 60 percent of the school district's 46,000 students were Asian, African-American, Latino or Native American. District officials said they considered race as a "tie-breaker" when assigning students, so that neighborhood schools wouldn't be segregated.

The policy meant some white students couldn't get into the very popular Ballard and Hale high schools in north Seattle.

Kentucky's Jefferson County Public Schools cover a broader area, educating some 97,000 students in the Louisville area. About one-third of the students are African-American.

Unlike Seattle schools, the Jefferson County schools had also formerly been segregated. The district tried to maintain a minimum African-American enrollment of 15 percent at each of its schools, and in doing so officials refused a white student's request to be assigned to a particular school.

[. . . ] "Together, these decisions will put an end to public schools using race as a factor to decide where children can attend public school, something that many thought was put to rest (previously)," said Sharon L. Browne, an attorney with the conservative Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation.

From the other side, 19 former chancellors of the University of California argued in an amicus brief that "racially integrated public schools strengthen the fabric of our diverse democracy."

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Free E-Book: How to Be an Anti-Racist Parent

This book is edited by by Carmen Van Kerckhove and available on Anti-Racist The free, downloadable book features contributions from many members of the Anti-Racist Parent community. For more information go here. I highly recommend it!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The 14th Erase Racism Carnival is here!

Welcome to the June 2007 edition of the Erase Racism Carnival. Thank you to all who submitted!

I've grouped the featured work by the following themes:

- Race in the Media & Pop Culture
- Defining the Self, Discussing Whiteness & Privilege
- Teaching, Learning & Parenting
- Race & Immigration
- The Justice System

I am thrilled about all the writing below, and am especially honored to host such great pieces on the topic of Race & Immigration. This is partly because I am an immigrant, and thus very close to the issue, and partly because I feel there is an enormous sense of urgency in the need to counter the rising xenophobia and racism surrounding the immigration debate in this country. Since the Erase Racism Carnival hasn't placed much emphasis on immigrant rights in the past, I thought this would be a good opportunity to highlight the issue. As XicanoPowr writes on his blog Para Justicia y Libertad:

I call on every refugees, migrant and anti-racist progressive-minded people to come together in order to demonstrate that another world is possible and that solidarity, justice, brother- sisterhood and liberty are more than empty words. Now is the time not to back down. We are fighting for our lives!

The Erase Racism Carnival is a collection of blog posts dedicated to creating a world free of racism. The Carnival is published around the 20th of every month. The idea is to get more people blogging and/or reading about creating a world free of racism. It’s also a great way to get new readers for your blog. If you would like to host a future edition, check for availability here and email vegankid or Rachel with your interest. The next Carnival will be hosted by RaceWire, the blog of Colorlines, "the national newsmagazine on race and politics." If you'd like to submit, please do so here.

Now, without further ado, here are this month's features:

Race in the Media & Pop Culture

Too Sense Sunday: On Hip-hop And Acting White by dnA writing on the blog Too Sense: Daily Musings on Race, Politics and Hip Hop from the nation's capitol. Here is an excerpt:

The tragedy of mainstream Hip-hop is not that it questions these assumptions but that it tries, unsuccessfully, to create a mirror image of traditional white American values about hard work, gender, money, power and violence, that can be called uniquely black. The most self-destructive traits in Hip-hop are those that most closely mimic larger American culture. [. . .] Suffice it to say that the problem with mainstream Hip-hop is that it tries to be as "white" as possible while staying "black". It embraces the wider concepts of American culture but it cannot, as a consequence of African American history, accept its moral imperative. [. . .] My problem with current discussions about whiteness, and the idea of "acting white" is that few, if any, question the premise that whiteness and intelligence come together. Instead, they accept, almost universally, that whiteness, and the imitation of it, is a kind of salvation, and blackness, or the performance of it, is a kind of death.

Don Imus in 2047: Precedents & Presidents by Charles M on the Clean Our House! - Killing Bigotry in All of US blog:

Is it (the Don Imus incident) one of those watershed moments where media and race intersect that will be difficult and embarrassing to explain to our grandchildren? What will I say to my grandchild in 2047 when he/she is working on a high school term paper and stumbles upon a poll from 2007 that shows that half of all Americans thought that Imus should have kept his job?

Black Camelot? by Josh, writing for The North Star blog.

Michelle Obama does not “emasculate” Barack as she jokingly reveals his flaws, she liberates him from an imposed hypermasculine and distant identity forced upon other men, especially men of color. While I do not think this a necessary duty of a significant other, I do see it as teamwork on the part of the Obamas. [. . .] As for Ms. Dowd, I don't think she knows what to do with a strong black female who will not simply sit and smile but instead will be her own person.

A Concise History of Black-White Relations in the U.S.A., cartoon by Barry Deutsch, aka Ampersand.

Defining the Self, Discussing Whiteness & Privilege

Defining Identity by Zahava Sherez, who is not a blogger, per say, but an artist who posts essays on her website. She submitted this essay. Here is an excerpt:

Labels, identities and criteria used to define us are helpful for administrative and social purposes, yet I believe they also feed division, tension and oppressions. When I’m asked to check a square in a multiple-choice official form I scroll down to “Other” adding the word “Human” next to it. See, I have a problem: I am Latina, Israeli/Middle Eastern, American, Jewish, white but not really; I speak with an accent that people can’t identify – I am an enigma, an odd bird.

On White Privilege by Cara whose blog is The Curvature.

So many people do not understand the concept of "white privilege." This is still something that I, myself, am struggling to learn about and recognize in myself and come to terms with. But so many white people cannot even recognize its existence that by being white, you innately have privilege and advantage over people of color.

Q: Since When Is Being Criticized Like Having Your Limbs Blown Off by a Landmine? A: Since That Criticism Came from Someone with Less Privilege Than You written by Mandolin on Alas! a blog.

Criticism is not fists, but people really seem to perceive it that way. And the less privilege the person who’s making the criticism has, the more it feels like an attack.

[X]Press Newspaper: An Example of White Privilege and Ignorance: An Analysis by Jack Stephens on the blog Double Consciousness. This is a piece which deconstructs an article pulished in the college newspaper in which Jack works. Here he exposes the writer's argument as rooted in white hetero-sexual male privilege. Jack also posted a piece on the reactions to his challenge of the author's argument here.

Discussions and talks on diversity are there to challenge our assumptions based on people's race. In a society that is saturated in white privilege and heterosexual privilege we never encounter real genuine discussions on issues such as race and diversity in the newsroom because we are blind to it. It is ingrained in us to see white as the norm, heterosexuality as the norm, etc. So when there are a bunch of white people in the newsroom and in the paper we don't question it or see anything wrong with it because that is what we've been taught to see as normal growing up (subconsciously and consciously). This is why we need to bring up questions of diversity in the workplace, newsroom, etc. because no one is there to bring them up.

Teaching, Learning & Parenting

Diversity Training Doesn't Work. Here Is Why by Carmen Van Kerckhove, posted on her Race in the Workplace blog.

The truth is, I believe that most diversity training doesn’t work. Why not? Because so many diversity trainers focus on all the wrong thing.

Africa Is Not a Country by Natasha Sky of the Multiracial Family Life blog:

In the brief meet-and-greet with the kindergarten teachers following the presentation, I asked my questions. What exactly were the kindergarteners studying during the “Africa” unit? (Mostly animals.) Were they studying a particular area of the continent of Africa, or a specific country? (No.)

Pass With Care: Modern Day Racial “Passing” by Lyonside posted on Rachel's Tavern.

Recently I guest-blogged about some initial reactions to my infant daughter’s appearance, and I had to face facts: my baby girl at some point in her life, knowingly or not, will likely pass for non-Latino white. In her first three months, I’ve dealt with two overtly racial instances on her behalf – one was an honest mistake, the other was racist, and the two incidents were dealt with accordingly. I’m catching myself second-guessing every compliment about her appearance – what are they seeing? What are they really commenting on?

Race & Immigration

Immigrant Dreams and Nightmares in the White Supremacist Cauldron written by Kai Chang on his blog Zuky: Open mind and open hand strike.

Chinese Americans never forget the fact that the Statue of Liberty faces out across the Atlantic Ocean, towards Europe. The tired, the poor, the huddled masses of dream-hungry immigrants coming across the Pacific — like those coming across the deserts and rivers along the Southern US border — have never been greeted by a Mother of Exiles. More often than not, they have been greeted by racist policies and laws, xenophobic hatred, and white supremacist violence.

Public Terror: Escalating the War on Migrants by Juan Santos and Leslie Radford, posted on Juan's blog The Fourth World.

Last year, in 2006, millions of migrant and their allies – their familia – took the streets, giving birth to the most powerful mass movement in the U.S. since the Civil Rights and Black Power movements of the 1960s and 70s.

The new movement stunned the US ruling class, drove the deepest of wedges straight into the heart of a seemingly unstoppable neo–con drive toward fascism, exposed the essential brutality and racism at the core of the Republican, neo–con agenda, began the public unraveling of the Bush regime, and opened the door to the stunning exposure, repudiation and defeat of the neo-cons in the House and Senate, who had led the racist charge to make felons of all undocumented migrants – and of anyone who so much as gave a ride to someone undocumented.

And like their counterparts in the 60s era, the reactionaries of today saw the unmistakable outlines of the threat presented by brown resistance to their power and their drive toward a fascistic state. Like the reactionaries of that era, they moved to kill the movement with mass arrests and state intimidation. Only this time, it wasn’t the FBI, COINTELPRO, the murders or imprisonment of Black leaders, or the mass incarceration of Black and other peoples of color that the State relied on. This time, it was the department of Homeland Security, ICE, and a strategy of direct vengeance – the deliberate terrorization of the millions who had taken the streets and who had precipitated the collapse of the neo-fascist juggernaut.

The Immigration Human Zoo written by XicanoPwr on his blog Para Justicia y Libertad!

Since 9/11, protecting the American imperial “homeland” has become an essential priority for the Bush administration. The creation and cultivation of fear is one of the pillars of empire within the “homeland.” Threats of terrorism and twelve million “illegal” immigrants are being used to maintain the government’s threat of discipline, punishment, and violence here in the US. [. . .] Today’s menacing symbol that is dominating our newspapers, flood broadcast channels, and fuel political campaigns - the barbarian Brown hordes threatening to crash the gates and destroy the foundations of civilization - are the undocumented immigrants.

Immigrants aren't so taxing by Richard Grabman posted on his blog The Mex Files.

Undocumented immigrants aren’t taxing the health care system as much as people think, according to a report released Thursday from the liberal Center for American Progress.

The Justice System

Billy Ray Johnson Finally "Won" by Changeseeker on her blog Why Am I Not Surprised?

The fact is that none of these good ol' boys went to prison, where they would have been doled out a regular dose of retribution in the general population, assuming they lived through the orientation process. They got off, just like Emmett Till's murderers got off in 1955. And Billy Ray Johnson and his family are the ones who will continue to suffer, not to mention other people of color who know better than to think this means they're protected by the laws in the U.S. of A.

The Racist Heiress America Loves and Hates and Our Criminal Justice System by XicanoPwr

Why does America continue to consider Pair Hilton’s escapades newsworthy? How is it possible that a socialite’s fate is considered more important over issues like immigration, the G8 summit, global warming, or other world affecting news??? [. . .] The intersection of racial dynamics within the criminal justice system has long been a concern. The problem of whether those in prison tend to be drawn from the ranks of the poor, unemployed, and low social status is indicative of willful discrimination against the underprivileged.

Thanks for stopping by and reading all these great features. Don't forget to submit for the next issue here!

Monday, June 18, 2007

"Searching the minds of American Muslims"

About a month ago, on May 22, the Pew Research Center released a report on Muslim Americans entitled Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream. Headlines announcing the results and commentary on the study continue to appear in the press.

They include major news outlet headlines such as these:

Troubling signs in poll on Muslims in America (LA Daily News)
Pew Poll finds some US Muslims support suicide bombing (Reuters)
Poll: 1 in 4 U.S. Young Muslims OK With Homicide Bombings Against Civilians (FOX)
Some U.S. Muslims Approve Suicide Strikes (MSNBC)
Poll: 26% Of Young US Muslims OK Bombs (CBS News)

and columns in smaller papers (in order from the "oh-good, we-in-White-Christian-America-can-breathe-easier" to the "beware-of-Satan-lurking-in our-midst" type headlines):

Good News: American Muslims are mainstream (Southern California InFocus)
Searching the minds of American Muslims (Star Tribune)
Muslim first, Arab second, American third (Baltimore Sun)
America must not ignore a dangerous percentage (Laurel Leader Call)
Recognize the Islamic threat (Ranaoke Times)

You can see for yourself. Just do a Google news search. Yikes! Just what American Muslims need - more sensationalism and more media-ignited bigotry.

I wasn't satisfied with the headlines that popped up and searched for alternative information on this study.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali, Executive Editor of the online magazine American Muslim Perspective, made some interesting points about the Pew study. In his article, "Hidden agenda of PEW Center’s million dollar survey of American Muslims", for The American Muslim, argues that the report grossly undercounts the Muslim population in this country by as much as sixty percent, putting the total of U.S. Muslims at 2.4 million instead of the 6 or 7 estimated by many researchers and Muslim organizations.

This undercount, maintains Mr. Ghazali, constitutes "the latest attempt to undercut the influence of American Muslims." This undercount has a strong political basis, Ghazali argues. He writes:

Religious denominations, like all interest groups, can gain or lose political clout based on perceptions of their size, according to J. Gordon Melton, director of the Institute for the Study of American Religion in Santa Barbara, Calif. In the case of the U.S. Muslim community, Melton says, its efforts to influence policy in the Middle East would get a boost if it were viewed as being larger than the country’s Jewish population, which is estimated at 6 million. “It’s a political question: How does it sway votes?” he argued.

Ghazali further cites David Harris, The American Jewish Committee’s executive director, who has "warned that the increasingly visible American Muslim lobby posed a challenge to U.S.-Israel relations."

It's always interesting to read a variety of analyses.

Again, Ghazali's article reminds me of my earlier piece on the census. Undercounting generally hurts the undercounted groups, but often benefits those asking the survey questions - those in power.

And the role of the media? If the mainstream media can maintain the general populace's paranoia regarding the Muslims, then maybe the Bush administration can continue to rage its War on Terror largely unquestioned?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

shameless plug

I just participated in the 50 Voices of Equality campaign, "a public education campaign by the Basic Rights Education Fund (BREF). BREF's mission is to build community through education and advocacy and to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Oregon."

As a volunteer I interviewed prominent Oregonians dedicated to working against discrimination. After the interviews, I wrote copy for the campaign's website.

I interviewed Oregon Senator Frank Morse and activist Lew Frederick. I will be interviewing State Representative Judy Uherbelau later this month. So, go to, click on meet the 50 voices, and you will see the pieces I did.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Mohammed is the new Jack in Britain

I was tickled by this news item, as some older folks might say.

Mohammed will likely become the most popular name for baby boys in Britain by the end of the year, local media reported on Wednesday, citing government data.

Though official records from the Office for National Statistics list the spelling Mohammed 23rd in its yearly analysis of the top 3,000 names given to children, when all the different spellings of the name are taken into account, it ranks second, only behind Jack, according to The Times.

For all those deniers of diversity, this is yet more proof that Europe is not the monolithic white Christian continent many seem to believe it to be. And trust me, I hear Europe alluded to in this way quite a bit. Wake up! This is the Europe of the 21st century!

voter registration blues

Today I came across an article exposing the fact that hundreds of public-assistance agencies had illegally failed to offer voter registration to their mostly poor and minority clients.

In 1993, Congress passed the National Voter Registration Act, which imposed the requirement that public-assistance agencies provide voter registration services for their clients. However, there is strong evidence that "after these agencies registered 2.6 million people to vote in 1995-1996, the total registered plunged to about 1 million in 2003-2004." This according to Greg Gordon reporting for McClatchy Newspapers.

"Tennessee, Colorado and Maryland," writes Gordon, "are the only states whose registration numbers didn't decline from figures eight years earlier."

Michael Slater, the Oregon-based deputy director of the national registration group Project Vote, maintains that the Justice Department's civil rights division failed to enforce that part of the law.

Officials for three voter and civil rights groups, as well as former lawyers in the division, all of whom challenged the Justice Department in 2004, armed with evidence that this infringement was indeed the case, said that the Justice Department "has largely ignored the voter registration sections of the law while aggressively using a narrower provision to sue or threaten to sue states that have failed to purge the names of allegedly ineligible people from voter rolls." The groups coming forth were Project Vote; Demos, a New York-based think tank; and People for the American Way, a civil rights group.

The Department, of course, insists that the civil rights division "vigorously defends all the voting laws it is charged with enforcing."

A report on the failure of nearly every state to comply with the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) came out in July 2005, and is available here. As the introduction states, "the report offers both a review of the as yet unfulfilled promise of the NVRA in public assistance agencies in the statute's first decade and a plan of action for recomitting ourselves to fulfilling the promise in the months and years ahead."

There is so much orchestrated manipulation done to ensure liberal-leaning voters don't vote, it's disgusting. From voter roll purges, computer "glitches" to voter intimidation. Not just that, numerous new restrictive voter registration laws have been passed in many states. In addition to all those barriers to voting, now we have "non-compliance" with federal law from social service agencies.

Let's look at some of these strategies in a little more detail.

According to Jordan Green's report DOJ ACTIONS ON ELECTION LAW BENEFIT REPUBLICANS, "the Center for Voting Rights and Protection describes Republican vote suppression as combining several tactics: making loud and unsubstantiated claims about vote fraud in predominantly minority precincts; running campaigns of misinformation or fear that target vulnerable minority constituencies; posting armed and uniformed off-duty police officers outside of polling places; photographing, tape-recording or videotaping voters; and using aggressive, face-to-face challenging techniques at polls."

Here is an example from Green's report of a strategy designed to disenfranchise largely Democrat-voting minority voters:

The DOJ has focused significant resources on protecting language minority rights at the polls, but in its handling of provisional ballot issues – which affect the voting rights of students and immigrants who are expected to largely vote Democratic – the department has pursued a strategy of partisan disenfranchisement by narrowing access to the polls.

. . . Making sure every eligible voter is able to cast a ballot in free and fair elections is the job of the Voting Section of the Department of Justice. Included in the Voting Section’s mandate is enforcement of “statutory provisions designed to safeguard the right to vote of racial and language minorities, disabled and illiterate persons, overseas citizens, persons who change their residence shortly before a Presidential election, and persons 18 to 20 years of age.” These are some of the voters expected to rely on provisional ballots the most.

The Voting Section, under the umbrella of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, has taken what could be considered a “states’ rights” position on provisional balloting. The department sided in late October (2004) with three Republican state election officials in the courts in defense of the most restrictive interpretation of who gets to vote by provisional ballot.

In a 2004 report assessing President Bush’s civil rights record, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights stated: “History offers myriad examples of using equipment, people and processes to manipulate elections and disenfranchise voters. If measured by the pace at which it enacted and funded HAVA, or is promoting implementation, the administration appears unmotivated by political pressure, sense of duty, morality, law, or personal agenda to ensure that America has robust, well-designed election systems to preserve the vote, the bedrock of the nation’s democracy.”

HAVA is the Help America Vote Act, a law passed by Congress in 2002. Under HAVA, voters who believe they are registered, but whose names are not on the rolls are entitled to cast “provisional ballots,” which will be counted (or not) later, once their eligibility is confirmed. This again according to Green.

Voting issues are also at the forefront of the ongoing U.S. attorneys scandal. As Bernard Weiner of Dissident Voice writes, "The DOJ, it turns out, is basically run as an arm of the White House’s political operation: inquiring about ideology and party affiliation (which is illegal) before appointing applicants to judicial jobs, staffing the Civil Rights Division with those antagonistic to civil rights and thus not following the law, etc. And other government agencies are similarly infected as well, holding workplace seminars on ways to aid 'our candidates,' which is also illegal."

As Barry Grey reports in his article entitled Testimony by Justice Department official sheds light on White House conspiracy to manipulate elections, published today on the World Socialist Website:

The testimony of a senior Justice Department official before the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday provided new insight into the anti-democratic political conspiracy, orchestrated from the White House, that lies at the heart of last year’s purge of nine US attorneys.

The main witness at the hearing, Bradley J. Schlozman, has played a significant role in implementing the Bush administration’s strategy of packing the Justice Department’s legal staff, including the country’s top federal prosecutors, with right-wing Republicans for the purpose of disenfranchising Democratic voters, intimidating Democratic-leaning interest groups, and manipulating elections.

The purge of US attorneys was carried out to pursue a policy of bringing trumped-up voting fraud charges to cripple voter registration drives in poor and minority communities and throw likely Democratic voters off of registration rolls in key “battleground” states.

It is an effort to expand on a national scale the methods that were used to disenfranchise working class voters in the disputed Florida election of 2000, which resulted in the theft of the presidential election and the installation of Bush in the White House.

Schlozman, 36, is one of a group of right-wing lawyers who were recruited into the Justice Department after Bush took office and rapidly elevated to high positions. As a top official in the Justice Department’s civil rights division—for five months in 2005 he was acting head of the division—Schlozman purged long-time career lawyers and replaced them with lawyers recruited from Republican organizations such as the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation.

There you have it. Plus, there was the not-to-be-missed witness testimony by DOJ's Monica Gooding two weeks ago, in which she referred to "vote caging" possibly done by the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Tim Griffin. Griffin, during the 2000 Bush-Cheney campaign, incidently worked as deputy research director for the Republican National Committee (RNC) conducting “oppo” (opposition) research.

"Vote caging," writes Dahlia Lithwick of Slate Magazine, "is an illegal trick to suppress minority voters (who tend to vote Democrat) by getting them knocked off the voter rolls if they fail to answer registered mail sent to homes they aren't living at (because they are, say, at college or at war)."

Journalist Greg Palast, who has written about the Republican practice of caging during the 2004 Presidential elections extensively, "supplies evidence linking Tim Griffin . . . to this caging plot," writes Lithwick. "Specifically, a series of confidential e-mails to Republican Party muckety-mucks with the suggestive heading 'RE: caging.' The e-mails were accidentally sent to a George Bush parody site. They also contained suggestively named spreadsheets, headed 'caging' as well. The names on the lists are what Palast's researchers deemed to be homeless men and soldiers deployed in Iraq. Here are the e-mails.

So, the saga of systemic disenfranchisement of predominantly Democrat-voting minority and poor voters continues to unfold.

I predict the next presidential election will be a mess.

the importance of challenging systemic racism

I am reading Uprooting Racism: How white people can work towards racial justice. It's an excellent book that is a must read for all white people wanting to commit to challenging racism.

Here is a quote I want to share:

"Issues of social justice are not fundamentally about individual actions and beliefs. . . White racism . . . is a social system. Although my personal attitudes and actions can either support or confront racism, racism is completely independent of me. In fact, even if most of us were completely non-racist in our attitudes, there are many ways that unequal wages, unequal treatment in the legal system and segregation in jobs, housing and education would continue.

Our beliefs and actions are important. We are responsible for how we treat the people around us and whether or not we are fighting against injustice or contributing to it. But as long as we focus only on individual actions and ignore community and organizational responses, we will leave a system of racism intact."

The more I learn about how racism works, the more I am challenged to see the larger picture and to envision myself involved in uprooting institutional racism. It is an overwhelming thought, indeed, but the only way to really right the wrongs of racism. I am not sure specifically how I will eventually be involved in the work on dismantling systemic racism, but for now, I am beginning with educating myself and simultaneously those in my circles as well as those who read this blog. Occasionally, I also write a letter to the editor. I have a few on the back burner. I know when the time is right, that the right path will manifest itself and lead me towards work on a larger scale.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

you incense us, cenus

The chairman of the African-American Advisory Committee to the U.S. Census said today that more than 700,000 blacks were not counted nationwide in the 2000 Census.

Whoa! A teeny blurb I happened to come across in my daily Google news search, but what a huge number of people! Upon doing a little research on this, I realized this was old news, but back in 2002 when the numbers were released, I was not paying attention.

The 2000 census reported the number of African-Americans living in the U.S. to be 36.6 million, or 12.3% of the total population. So 700,000 or 750,000 people, as other sources claim, means nearly 2% of the black population went uncounted.

It is typical of a census to undercount the poor and minorities. However, in the 2000 census, Blacks were undercounted at a rate almost twice the national average. While about six million Americans, most of them poor or of color, went uncounted in the last census, three million Americans were counted twice. The latter population, predictably, tended to be affluent and live in suburban areas. Still, the 2000 census was more accurate than the previous.

This undercounting is significant in so many ways. Census results are used to allocate Congressional seats ("congressional apportionment"), electoral votes, and government program funding for schools, crime prevention, health care, and transportation.

As PBS's NewsHour Extra webiste geared towards kids puts it: "Census numbers determine 80 percent of federal grants and the number of states' congressional representatives. Whoever has the people gets the money and the representatives, so poorer urban areas, and extremely rural areas, which tend to be undercounted, are likely to be denied millions and underrepresented."

Why are people of color disproportionately undercounted? provides this answer:

There are several reasons why people of color and the poor are consistently and disproportionately undercounted by the census including: 1) mail and door-to-door collection methods have lower response rates in lower income areas; 2) lower education levels , illiteracy, or difficulty with the English language affect the ability of many individuals to understand the census; 3) a general misunderstanding of the importance of census participation; and, 4) distrust or suspicion of government leading to the fear that the census may be used by immigration and/or law enforcement officials to deport or incarcerate or may disqualify one for social welfare programs.

There is, of course, plenty of reason to be suspiciuos of the government and of the way that census data may be used to oppress or disenfranchise people. Census data has been used for all kinds of dirty purposes.

For example, the 1990 US census data, along with the records of 439,381 Northwest passengers were used by Northwest Airlines to find "'outliers', people that do not conform to predetermined norms and therefore could be a 'threat'," as reported on Don'

Apparently, "the Northwest Airlines passenger data was turned over by the airline, without the knowledge or permission of the passengers concerned, and given to NASA's Ames Research Center." In other words, the government used census data to single-out and profile Americans.

So, how did the 2000 undercount, specifially, affect policy?

In January 1999, the Supreme Court ruled out the use of statistical sampling to adjust the 2000 census to make up for an expected undercount. As CNN reported, "the 5-4 ruling was a defeat for the Clinton administration, which had hoped statistical sampling would add population -- and subsequently House members -- to areas that traditionally vote Democratic."

The CNN article continutes: "The ruling specifically barred the use of statistical sampling for apportionment."

Numerous interest groups worked to challenge the 2000 census. These groups were less concerned with apportionment and more with the "distribution of federal and state aid; particularly federal block grants," write professor Swanson and Walashek in their paper entitled, The Historical Roots of Contentious Litigation Over Census Counts in the Late 20th Century.

They continue:

The appropriated federal block grants for Native American housing in 2003 totaled $649 million with an additional $4,937 million for community development. It is easy to see why more than 100 Indian tribes, complaining of undercount, challenged the 2000 census results and conducted their own head counts. The tribes pointed out that the 2000 census counted 3,334 people at Warm Springs, Oregon, of which 3,018 were Indians. According to tribal registries however, 3,220 tribal members live on the reservation, suggesting that the 2000 census missed 504 Warm Springs tribal members, for an error undercount rate of 14 percent. “We’re being shorted on funding,” they said. “The numbers [the Census Bureau] have are totally inaccurate. We’re doing our census to get the money we’re owed.” This sentiment is not confined to residents of the Warm Springs Reservation.

Is there hope for improvement in the responsiveness during the next census? With the anti-immigrant sentiment growing, the tragedy of Katrina, and the echos of Black voter disenfranchisement in the last major elections still reverbarating; with the increasing erosions by this administration of Americans' civil rights and its incessant appetite for spying on its own citizens, I don't see how trust between the government and the undercounted groups could possibly be increasing.

Is there a chance that accuracy of the count in the 2010 census could improve? According to the New York Times, the Census Bureau requested $18 million for the 2008 budget, so "it can begin its partnership program, part of strategy to improve undercounts for minorities," but the Bush administration allocated nothing to the Bureau for those purposes.

As blogger bobster writes on the statesman blog, "the 140,000 partnerships the Bureau established before the 2000 census resulted in better minority counts, reducing African-American undercounts from 4.57% to 1.84%. Undercounts for Asians, Hispanics, and Native Americans (also diminished - my editorial change). The partnerships were with state, local, and tribal govenments, churches, schools, corporations, and community service groups. To refuse to fund these partnerships in the coming census means the Bush/Cheney/Rove government prefers that only white people get counted and that the count leans heavily toward Republicans."

I couldn't have said it better.

The census is such a double-edged sword. Communities need to be accurately counted in order to be allocated the funds to which they are entitled, but who's supposed to trust Big Brother when he acts like The Great Dictator?

Do "white schools" make white kids racist?

Last month, ABC News reported on a study of elementary and high school students, aimed at finding out whether children use race to socially exclude other children from their groups.

The study of nearly 700 fourth, seventh, and 10th graders of different ethnic and racial backgrounds living in the mid-Atlantic region found that "children and adolescents who had friends from different ethnic backgrounds were significantly more likely to say it is wrong to exclude someone because of their race, citing unfairness or hurting the feelings of the excluded child as reasons."

"In contrast," the article continues, "students who reported few or no cross-race friendships were significantly less likely to view excluding someone on the basis of race as wrong. Their reasons were often based on a lack of familiarity, such as, 'They won't have much in common.'"

Specifically, "European-American children attending 'all-white' schools were more likely than European-American children attending 'mixed ethnicity' schools to use stereotypes when explaining why someone might not be friends with someone, or invite them home to their house, solely because of their race."

This is interesting. At first glance, it makes sense. However, I wonder about the conclusions that can be drawn from this study. Some of the most enlightened white anti-racist activists whose work I read, respect, and learn from, grew up in very homogenous surroundings, comprising of almost only white people. Vegankid, for example, who is part of the Ally Work collective, grew up in a small town with only two families of color. It was Vegankid's sexual identity and his experience as a Queer person that acted as a brigde for his developing of empathy for those affected by racism. You can read Vegankid's Learning Empathy story here.

Like Vegankid, Rachel of Rachel's Tavern, another brilliant anti-racist activist and blogger, grew up around all whites, and her parents, like Vegankid's taught her to treat everyone with respect and dignity. In her piece, Racism and Empathy: Some of My Approximating Experiences, she remembers challenging her white classmates on their racism. For that, she was called a “nigger lover” and threatened. As a result of these experiences, she began to develop a sense of empathy towards people of color. She writes: "I am by no means saying I get everything. I just know what I felt like when these things were directed at me. I knew the fear, the powerlessness, the exasperation, and the anger that racism was creating in me. Because of these experiences (and others), I dedicated myself to fighting racism."

I guess my thoughts on whether integration is really key to lessening racial prejudice in children are mixed. Of course, having friends of color inevitably leads to empathy for those affected by racism, however, maybe the logic in this study is faulty.

I think the failure is in the fact that racism among whites is rarely discussed. White children, in general, receive virtually no anti-racist education. White privilege allows whites to not have to think about race and racism unless directly confronted with it. White children who have friends of color are probably more likely to learn about racism and discuss it in their circles. But this doesn't have to be the case.

As seen in the two stories above, it is completely possible to develop an anti-racist consciousness in a predominantly white environment.

I am by no means advocating segragation. What I am saying is that many people do not have a choice. They live where they live, they go to school where they go to school. Still, lack of a racially diverse environment doesn't and shouldn't have to be an indicator of the degree of race awareness and empathy.

Though I live in the whitest major city in the U.S., though I grew up in a predominantly white society, and though I am married to a white man with whom I have a white child, I feel a moral responsibility to work on helping to eliminate racism. Why couldn't most white children develop the same kind of desire and turn a future study like this on its head? What's stopping them? I am apt to think it's the white adults in their lives who benefit from White Supremacy and white privilege too much to rock the boat. I don't want to be one of those people and I am working very hard to counter, on the one hand, the reality reflected in this study and, on the other, the very stereotype of the bigoted, racist, and ignorant white person from Whiteville that this study perpetuates.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Erase Racism Carnival - send me your submissions!

I am happy to announce that White Anti-Racist Parent is hosting the June issue of Erase Racism Carnival.

The Erase Racism Carnival is a collection of blog posts dedicated to creating a world free of racism. The Carnival is published around the 20th of every month.

You can check out the current issue, hosted by Angry Black Woman, here.

It is now time to send in your submissions! All, not just white anti-racist parents, are welcome to submit work. To submit a post written by you or someone else, go here and click on “submit your blog article to this carnival”. Along with the URL of the article, be sure to include your name and email. You can also send me your submition at warpblog at gmail dot com.

This is a traveling carnival. The idea is to get more people blogging and/or reading about creating a world free of racism. More info about the carnival and how you can become a host can be found here.

Can't wait to read your work!

Supreme Court ruling severly limits recourse against workplace discrimination

Last Tuesday, May 29, the Supreme Court ruled to restrict time limits on workers filing discrimination complaints. Employees who decide to sue their employer on the basis of workplace discrimination, now have six months to file their case. In other words, according to the News Sentinel, "employees can't reach more than six months back in time to complain about discriminatory practices."

"The ruling essentially says tough luck to employees who don't immediately challenge their employer's discriminatory acts, even if the discrimination continues to the present time," said Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women's Law Center quoted in the News Sentinel article.

This is a huge set back particularly for women and people of color. Here is yet another example of the current administration's attack on our civil rights.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The global nature of racism - Part II: Global Warming

Let me preface this post with a pet pieve of mine: why is it that once the Republican spinsters - you know the wordsmiths like Frank Luntz whom the party employs to coin their euphemisms in order to deflect heat from key issues - why is it that once terms get purposefuly and strategically changed by conservatives, many liberals adopt them instantly without a second thought, thus lubricating the conservative machine? I hear this on NPR and Air America all the time.

One example is abortion rights. Abortion rights used to be called "reproductive rights" or "reproductive justice," and "pro-abortion" used to be "pro-choice." The terms "abortion rights" or "pro-abortion "just don't sound right. They make it seem like all that pro-choice people want is abortions. Not so. These new terms antagonize opposing sides even more and narrow the debate. They are meant to repulse. Not helpful. So, if you are pro-reproductive rights and pro-choice, I suggest you refuse to reduce your stand to "pro-abortion."

My last "global nature of racism" post mentioned reproductive rights as key to some of the women affected by racism around the world. For many of them, being "allowed" to HAVE children is as important as the right to choose not to have children. Racially motivated coerced sterilization is very much a problem for many women of color still today - at home and abroad (More here and reader comment from Jennifer James here.) Thus, we would do right by all of us who believe in choice, to use a more inclusive term.

The other example, related to the main idea of this post, is "climate change." The Bushites wanted to turn down the heat of global warming so they could, unfettered, continue reaping their oil, nuclear energy and military complex profits and had their darling consultant Luntz coin the term "climate change" to be used in all talking points and in mainstream media. Much more innocuous, don't you think? So, let's call global warming what it is and not euphemize the phrase.

My point is, and politicians know this so well, that wording does shape the content and tone of both debate and legislation, and in turn affecs all of us. So, I think we should be more critical of the wording we use to discuss key issues.

The issue I want to discuss today is global warming. Namely, my point is that the global warming crisis disproportionately impacts groups of color, indigenous communities, and low-income people.

Today's New York times and Boston Globe feature an article about a group that is now among the first climate refugees in the United States. The people comprising this group, like the vast majority of Katrina refugees, are people of color. More specifically, this time the community in focus are the Newtok, Native people of Alaska.

The article reads:

The earth beneath much of Alaska is not what it used to be. The permanently frozen subsoil, known as permafrost, upon which Newtok and so many other Native Alaskan villages rest, is melting, yielding to warming air temperatures and a warming ocean. Sea ice that would normally protect coastal villages is forming later in the year, allowing fall storms to pound away at the shoreline.

Erosion has made Newtok an island, caught between the ever widening Ninglick River and a slough to the north. The village is below sea level, and sinking.

. . . Studies say Newtok could be washed away within a decade.

And continues with the residents discussing the racist treatment of the tribe by the federal government:

Residents here emphasize that they are a federally recognized American Indian tribe, and they shudder when asked why they cannot just move to an existing village or a city like Fairbanks.

They say their identity is rooted in their isolation, however qualified it has become over the last century by outside influences. It was the government, they say, that insisted decades ago that they abandon their nomadic ways and pick a place to call home.

The current village site was once only a winter camp, and the people of Newtok say they are not to blame just because they are now among the first climate refugees in the United States.

"The federal government, they're the ones who came into our lives and took away some of our values," said Nick Tom Jr., 49, the former Newtok tribal administrator. "They came in and said, 'You aren't civilized. We're going to educate you.' That was hard for our grandparents."

Meanwhile, the Bush administration is fighting tooth and nail any kind of pressure on them to curb carbon emissions. Just yesterday, according to Common Dreams, Greenpeace published "a leaked document showing the United States has raised serious new objections to a proposed global warming declaration for next month’s Group of Eight summit." In the document, "US officials representing the administration of President George W. Bush reject . . . the idea of setting mandatory emissions targets, as well as language calling for G8 nations to raise overall energy efficiencies by 20 percent by 2020."

This from the government of a country which constitutes just 4 percent of the world's population, but that is responsible for about 25 percent of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, the main cause of global warming. (Souce: Ms. Laura Orlando: The Melting Point published in the spring 2007 issue of Ms.).

Does the U.S. government care about the Newtok tribe? And on a larger scale, is the government taking steps to prepare for the climate refugees, from within this country and without, that will inevitably begin seeking relocation in just a few short years? No, too busy instituting anti-immigration policies, halting anti-global warming action and destoying the Alaskan wilderness with oil drilling. The Bushites can't even repair the damage once it's been done. Take the New Orleans levees, for example, which about the year ago the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers declared restored to "pre-Hurricane Katrina strength." Recently, however, the New Orleans levees and flood walls were inspected by engineering professor Bob Bea of the University of California, Berkeley along with National Geographic magazine, who found the "riddled with flaws." The walls are so full of weak spots, in fact, that a storm even weaker than Katrina could breach the levees if it hit this year, say leading experts in the field.

Meanwhile the Newtok, thinking ahead, according to the New York Times plan to "move piecemeal rather than in one collective migration, which they say will save money. . . They say he government should pay, no matter the cost -- if only there were a government agency charged with doing so. There is not a formal process by which a village can apply to the government to relocate."

While Native Alaskan tribes try to protect their homes from shifting and sliding on mud while watching the water around them encroach on the land and the animals around them drown in the warming waters, governmental policies on every level continue to ignore the looming crisis, encouraging destructive policies and failing to take a stand against global warming. As Mary Christina Wood, professor of law at University of Oregon said: "County commissioners are approving trophy home subdivisions and destination resorts as if global warming didn't exist. State environmental agencies are approving air permits as if global warming didn't exist. The Forest Service is approving timber sales as if global warming didn't exist. And the electric power industry is racing to build more than 150 new coal-fired power plants across the U.S., banking on federal approval as if global warming didn't exist."

On a global scale, the emissions coming from the U.S., the pollution U.S. companies export elsewhere, and the wars U.S. is waging in the Middle East and elsewhere, are directly responsible for much of the global warming, causing suffering and displacement of largely poor people and people of color around the world. But this is just the beginning. Everyone will feel the heat eventually.

Wood summarizes the already visible and possible future effects of global warming:

"United Nations reports show rapid melting of the polar ice sheets, Antarctica, Greenland and glaciers throughout the world. The oceans are heating and rising. Coral reefs are bleaching and dying. Species are on exodus from their habitats towards the poles. As a result of global warming the world now faces crop losses, food shortages, flooding, coastal loss, wildfire, drought, pests, hurricanes, heat waves, disease and extinctions. An international climate team has warned countries to prepare for as many as 50 million human environmental refugees by 2010. Scientists explain that, due to the carbon already in the atmosphere, we are locked into a temperature rise of at least 2 degrees F. This alone will have impacts for generations to come, but if we continue business as usual, they predict Earth will warm as much as 10.4 degrees F, which will leave as many as 600 million people in the world facing starvation and 3.2 billion people suffering water shortages; it will convert the Amazon rainforest into savannah, and trigger the kind of mass extinction that hasn't occurred on Earth for 55 million years."

And this quote really brings it home:

"Global warming threatens all of our basic survival mechanisms -- food, water, shelter, and health. British commentator Mark Lynas, author of High Tide, summarizes it this way: If we go on emitting greenhouse gases at anything like the current rate, most of the surface of the globe will be rendered uninhabitable within the lifetimes of most readers of this article."

Native tribes in Alaska and Hurricane Katrina and Rita refugees, among whom the African American individuals were hit harder than whites, acorrding to a recent study are the first groups among our midst to feel the might of our man-made climate mess. By the way, about 86,000 families are still homeless as a result of the hurricanes. Globally, the communities most affected as of now are the South Pacific due to the recurring hurricanes and cyclones; South Asia with its deluges, droughts, mudslides, annual flooding and even droughts; and Africa with its perennial and long-drawn African droughts. But other regions are registering dramatic changes as well. The Himalayan glaciers are melting as are the polar caps.

I agree with Wood when she describes the attitude of most Americans as blase towards global warming. We may be reading about it, thinking about it, talking about it, and dreaming about it at night (At a party I went to recently, the vast majority of the guests came to realize they were having recurring global warming nightmares almost nightly). But despite all this, very little is being done by the masses and the government in this country

As Wood says:

The reality today is that most Americans are too absorbed in their own routines to make time for global warming. We parents tend to be an especially busy group. We are so consumed with taking our children to soccer games and piano lessons that we don't think ahead to how our children will get food and water, and be safe from storms, disease, and all of the other life-threatening circumstances that planet's heating will bring them. By living out the American dream, we are essentially signing our own children up for a draft for their lifetimes. But this war will be the most frightening because it has no end in sight for even their descendants, and all of Nature's survival resources will be scarce. Unfortunately, it's no consolation that we are good, devoted parents who just aren't that interested in global warming. Nature won't recognize our children as conscientious objectors to climate crisis.

To be sure, there are some Americans who are engaged and responding with small changes in their lives. They ride the bus more often, they refuse to buy bottled water, they turn off lights. This brings them comfort, thinking the problem is on its way to being solved. These people are important models, but national defense cannot be put on the backs of a few good soldiers. Most concerned citizens are doing nothing to enlist the rest of society in climate defense.

. . . Overall, our society is nowhere near decarbonizing. Climate defense entails carbon math. We lose this war for countless generations to come if we can't get our total planetary carbon levels down before the tipping point. Each day that passes, the window of opportunity to avert global catastrophe closes a little more.

Action must be taken at the highest legislative level.

Josh Lynch has a nice comprehensive piece on the It's Getting Hot in Here blog, which "features student and youth leaders from the movement to stop global warming and to build a more just and sustainable future." Josh's piece outlines some actions that can be taken domestically to curb global warming and prioritize green energy.

We must take individual actions, but more importantly press the government to make action to slow global warming and to aid affected groups a priority - for our children and for those worldwide in harms way because of the greed and racism inherent in the American Dream.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

graffiti from the pit of hell

First, look at this beautiful scenery. This river valley is truly one of the most gorgeous places in my area. My husband, son, and I went on a hike there today.

When we sat down at a picnic table to eat our lunch, low and behold, I noticed the graffiti on the picnic table - in German. Scribbled on the table in thick black marker were the words which the Nazis placed over concentration camp gates: "Work brings freedom." But the author also added the word Jews in German.

This hit me right in the pit of my stomach. My grandparents and many other relatives were imprisoned in concentration camps, many died there. How could anyone propagate this kind of thought and hate today? And in one of the most beautiful places in our region. Truly despicable. I took a picture of the sign, then tried my best to scratch it off the table with a sharp rock.

Friday, May 25, 2007

book update

My son loves This Jazz Man! The cover says the book is appropriate for three- to seven-year-olds, but my son, who is barely two, loves it. I already had to read/sing it to him about ten times today and he cried when I refused to read it again. He has already learned a few words from the book: bass, encore, jazz man.... He loves the playfulness of the language (scat and bee bop sounds) and the instruments in the book. His uncle, who unfortunately lives 3,000 miles away, is a jazz drummer. My son got to play his uncle's drum set and piano when we last visited and still remembers the thrill. The book gives us a chance to review his drum knowledge too (drum sticks, bass drum, high hat, etc.)! So, this book was a great buy. And, as I mentioned before, the illustrations are wonderful. I highly recommend This Jazz Man!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

bookstore adventure

Today I snuck out of work early and stole away to a bookstore to take a look at the multicultural books recommended to me by the readers and contributors to in response to my column on the lack of diversity in toddler literature.

I spent an (uninterrupted!) hour and a half at the store, which happens to be the largest new and used bookstore in the world. Yes, you guessed it - Powell's Books. I was able to locate only a handful of the recommended titles, and of those only about four actually featured characters of color. Unfortunately, I found some of the illustrations to be of poor esthetic quality. A matter of personal taste and bias, I know.

For example, Spike Lee's Please Baby Please is an excellent concept. I loved the language and the playfulness of the ideas, but the illustrations, I thought, were terrible. The babies on some of the pages seemed misshapen and malformed with stubby arms and strangely twisted bodies and facial expressions that were supposed to be happy, but seemed full of agony. That was too bad, because I loved the text of the book. I know my son would have loved it too.

I was impressed with the Snowy Day Book by Ezra Jack Keats, but summer is about to hit and snow is quite a ways away. Maybe a good Christmas gift?

What disappointed me the most, though, was how few children's books with central, even secondary characters of color were displayed and stocked by the bookstore. By the end of my bookstore experience I was so sick of looking at silly pink and purple animal characters and white people on nearly every page that I felt discouraged. Just like that time I went to the same store looking for birthday cards for two friends of color. All I found were white faces or kitchy and borderline racist Asian-style cards. Man oh man. And I never said anything to the store. I suppose there is still time.

During today's excursion I did decide to browse the international folktale picture book section too though my 21-months-old son is too young for folk tales. But those books were pretty much a horror story as well. Most of the folk tales were Asian, retold by Anglos (because they tell it best - know what I mean?) with illustrations so racist (like this one) that I was shocked. Scary! And why does one have to go to the international section to find books focusing on people of color anyway?

I did buy one picture book that was recommended to me on Anti-Racist Parent. It's called This Jazz Man and is written by Karen Ehrhardt, an African-American author Karen Ehrhardt. The book introduces famous African-American jazz musicians as it counts to nine. It's beautifully illustrated with collages by R.G. Roth. We'll see what my son thinks. It's definitely not a book about construction equipment, which is his latest obsession.

Well, I won't let myself get discouraged so easily by this bookstore experience. I will keep searching. If you have any recommendations on toddler books featuring characters of color, please let me know.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

food for thought

I have been so busy lately that I haven't had much time to write, but I did want to post some food for thought. The questions below are actually transcribed from a voice recording by Liam McGrath, who posed these questions on Addicted to Race, a podcast about America's obsession with race, to which I listen regularly.

Liam's mission was to encourage those of us thinking, writing, and doing anti-racist activism to define for ourselves and the sake of the movement why we are doing this work. One of the points he made was that it is important to be clear about our intentions in order to be able to "arrive at common ground in pursuit of common goals" with the overarching goal being working together to affect change on a large scale. I asked Liam for permission to post the questions he posed because I think they are really excellent and needed.

Liam asks:

Why are we interested in race in America?

Is it to:
- dismantle white supremacy?
- fight for economic justice?
- fight for social justice?
- change laws?
- change minds?
- teach?
- protect our kids?
- protect ourselves?
- make friends?
- get ahead at work?
- learn about people & cultures?
- lambast other people?
- assuage our guilt?
- unleash our anger?
- because we made a choice to be involved?
- because we have no choice but to be involved?
- make self a better person?
- justify self?
- so other people will treat other people better?
- so people around us will treat others better?
- so people around us will treat us better?
- to be entertained?
- to be prepared for talk around the water cooler?
- be better understood and not judged by the body we're wrapped in?
- better understand the people we judge by the body they're wrapped in?
- because we don't want to offend?
- because we've been offended?
- because we should all just get along?
- because we will never get along?
- because we're insecure?
- because we're curious?

Liam says: "Why are we part of this multitude of discussions?" and "Now that we are here? Where are we trying to go?"

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

the global nature of racism - Part I: Healthcare

As I do my daily dose of self-education about racism, I find so many similarities between institutional racism across the world. For example, just in the last two weeks, a number of news stories have come out about reports on inequities in health care for various groups of color in several countries.

For example, the Colorlines Magazine article I mentioned in an earlier post, discusses racial disparities in healthcare and the conscequences of "colorblind" policies on the health of people of color. The article includes such alarming statistics as:

- Blacks are dying at a 40 percent higher rate than whites &

- The infant mortality gap between Blacks and whites doubled between 1950 and 2002.

Though heavily edited by the Bush administration, the National Healthcare Disparities Report, cited in the Colorlines article, and released in 2002, reveals that "racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities are national problems that affect health care at all points in the process, at all sites of care, and for all medical conditions—in fact, disparities are pervasive in our health care system."

This according to Kai Wright, writing for Colorlines:

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) report "rocked the healthcare world. Conventional wisdom had thus far been that racial health disparities were primarily due to access to care, that people of color got sick and died more often because they were more likely to be uninsured or underinsured.

But the IOM study asserted that much more was at play. It declared that even given the same insurance, the same income and the same type of treatment facility, people of color were less likely to receive quality care. The disturbing gap existed across a wide range of treatments-breast cancer screenings, angioplasties, hip fracture repairs, and on and on. Whites were even more likely to get an eye exam than nonwhites.

The IOM cited a host of complex and dynamic causes for this inequality. There were structural factors, such as financial incentives to limit services given to poor patients; communication factors like missing translators or English-only signage and literature; even factors driven by the patients themselves, whose own beliefs and preferences led them to refuse certain types of care or fail to follow doctors' instructions. But what grabbed everyone's attention was the IOM's charge that at least part of the disparity results from care providers making racist and stereotyped decisions about when and what treatment to offer." (emphasis mine)

Now compare this to a study that was just released last week, on May 8th in Australia, which found that "Aboriginal health in Australia was 100 years behind the rest of the population in quality."

"Leprosy, rheumatic heart disease and tuberculosis haven't been experienced in white populations for decades, but they are still problems for some indigenous communities," WHO researcher Lisa Jackson Pulver, quoted in a Reuters article, said.

(If you read the article, notice the unethical insertion of the journalist's/editor's bigoted opinion in the sentence describing the issue of governmental budget allocations needed to: "drag Aborigines off welfare.")

The Australian study found that "Australia's Aborigines live 17 years less on average than other Australians."

The article continutes:

"Australia's 460,000 Aborigines make up two percent of the 20 million population. They have consistently been the nation's most disadvantaged group, with far higher rates of unemployment, alcohol and drug abuse, and domestic violence.

The report said Australia ranked last among first world countries New Zealand, Canada and the United States for life expectancy among indigenous people.

While Australia's Aborigines died nearly 20 years younger than other citizens, in other countries the figure was seven years. For infants, the mortality figure was three times the rate of non-indigenous Australians."

And, finally, compare this to yet another study, released last month regarding the access to health care for the Eastern and Southern European Roma ("Gypsy") population. The study states:

"For the millions of Roma living in Central and Eastern Europe and South Eastern Europe, persistent discrimination and marginalization are a daily reality that results in poorer health for individuals and communities. Roma make up the largest ethnic minority in these countries with an overall population estimated at 5 to 6 million people. Available data consistently shows higher rates of illness and mortality among Roma than in majority populations."

These are some of the findings:

- Life expectancy for Roma populations in Eastern Europe is about 10 years less than the overall population.

- Infant mortality rates are twice as high among the Roma than the non-Roma in the Czech Republic (my country of birth!!!), Slovakia, and Hungary.

- It is widely agreed that TB, HIV/AIDS, and viral hepatitis disproportionately affect minority populations in Eastern and Central Europe. In a Serbian Roma community, the TB prevalence rate was found to be more than 2.5 times the national average.

And here is the pinnacle, for me, of the last study:

The disparities in healthcare are due to "direct discrimination by government policies" and health care providers. Sound familiar? The study states that "an overwhelming majority (95 percent) of the Roma women who had experienced gender discrimination also believed that health care professionals discriminate against Roma."

I have shared here the results of three different studies from three different continents. The U.S. study incorporated the health care disparities for a number of minority groups, though my quotes illustrated the impact of the disparities on African Americans. The other studies each focused on a single group - the Aborigines, or Native people of Australia, and the Roma, the largest ethnic minority in Europe, perceived as a "race" and racially discriminated against by many white Europeans.

What all these studies bring home is that institutional racism is real worldwide and that what ties these discriminatory practices together is institutionalized White Supremacy. That so much suffering happens worldwide at the hand of White Supremacy, is all ll the more reason to work on dismantling it.

Monday, May 14, 2007

my piece is up on

I forgot to mention that my column went up last Friday on Check it out.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

candidate talk

Last night I went to a gathering of friends, all of them white, in their thirties, and ranging in political persuasion from mainstream liberal to more progressive. We discussed politics and the upcoming presidential elections. What I found unsettling when the conversation centered on who my friends will most likely vote for in the fall, was the following statement one of my friends made: "Unfortunately, America is not ready for a black or a woman president." And then he went on to justify why his white male Democratic candidate seemed to him like the best choice.

I grew quiet, thinking about his words. I have a hard time believing that sentiment. Of course, I am not blind to the fact that, as recently reported by a variety of press outlets, including the Guardian, Barrack Obama requested secret service protection "far earlier in the campaign than any previous candidate following worries about racist threats." I am not blind to the racism expressed all around the internet and on shows like Rush Limbaugh, or to the masogynistic bashing of Hillary on personality traits and looks, but I stil don't buy the idea that a candidate couldn't win just because of his or her race or gender. It's not the public that's not ready, I think; it's the establishment - the powerful white males in control of most institutions and others who benefit from and are unwilling to challenge white supremacy that feel threatened by someone "outside the status quo."

Imgagine if Oprah ran, for example. Don't you think she would get the vote? I am convinced of it. Just this week, Oprah endorsed Obama. With an estimated audience of 14 million a day, this might have impact beyond what we can imagine. I know I'm just using Oprah as not a very representative example of the personalities out there who could very well defy my friend's theory, but a part of what disturbs me about his statement is that he seemed to be using this unsupported theory to justify his own choice for not voting for a woman or a black candidate. He would have probably said to that that he is only being realistic. I heard that argument many times during the last two elections for why people voted for Kerry as opposed to one of the other more progressive candidates. But maybe behind that "I'm just being realistic" mask hides the fact that my friend is himself not ready for a black or female president. But saying that straight out would, of course, have made him sound like a sexist and racist...

All I said at the gathering was that I don't believe America isn't ready, but it took me some time after the party to sort out why I felt strange about the statement and the context in which it was said. What do you think?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

why do this work? - Part I

From the day I made a commitment to leading an anti-racist life, I knew I would have to continually evaluate my thinking, motivations, and actions. I also knew that by writing about my journey on a blog and talking about it in my circles, I would be opening myself up to public scrutiny. And that’s fine. That comes with the territory. In fact, I long for and need feedback to keep myself on track. I am a person that learns from interactions more than from other sources. Criticism and support are both helpful if honest and coming from the heart. I have gotten both so far. But there are other types of feedback I’ve gotten. At this point, I don’t know what scares me more – being met with hostility or with silence.

I guess both responses scare me in different ways. Silence, unfortunately, has been more common than I had expected. And believe me; I have been far from confrontational. It’s enough to just mention anything related to racism out of the blue or in response to “What have you been up to?” and the reaction I’ve seen more often than I would’ve imagined is white people getting paler and more uncomfortable, turning away or changing the subject.

Silence from white people I talk to scares me because it feels like a door shut. When silence is the reply I get from my white friends and acquaintances when I broach the subject of racism or anti-racist parenting, despair sets in rather quickly. What is a good strategy for pulling fellow white people into the dialog? Isn’t there a deep longing in most people to heal from racism? If so, and I hope there is, how do we tap into that with people who haven’t yet begun the journey?

Hostile comments – well, those have begun too. But I have vowed to keep doing the work and keep finding better and more effective ways to move forward towards affecting change.

Why do I, as a white person who does not experience racism directly, do the work? I’ve already been accused of writing about racism just to pat myself on the back. What to say to that? I am a person who secondguesses every decision I make and every action I take. With anti-racist work, I quintupleguess all I do, to say the least. I think about race, racism, the discussions I have around those and my relationship to all of this so much that I often can't sleep at night. I am well aware of the trap that exists for people with privilege, in this case white privilege, in doing any kind of social justice work. Our privilege allows us to disassociate ourselves from the "ism" we're fighting. We can easily think we are doing something positive but actually get in the way instead. I try to be alert to my ego getting in the way.

Right now I'm in the self-awareness phase - learning about racism and simultaneously unlearning oppressive things I've learned. Occasionally I have branched out to talk to others and to take anti-racist action out in the world. But in the largely self-awareness stage, it's easy to get caught up in thinking about me: "This is scary. I could get hurt." or the woe-is-me "I feel so alone. Where are all the other anti-racist white people?" or the condescending "I'm so much more aware than some other people." I catch myself sometimes and have to redirect my thinking after beating myself up some, of course. The work, ultimately, obviously isn't about me at all. It's about working with other allies on eliminating racism in people's heads (my own too!), actions, and institutions.

I was just reading the Report from the Third White Antiracist Summit put on by the White Anti-racist Community Action Network (WACAN). The summit, which I was unfortunately unable to attend, took place last month in Colorado. Some of the concerns raised in the discussions at the summit around building a white anti-racist movement echoed my concerns. Others I found enlightening (like the last one).

For example, some of the workshop attendees worried about the following obstacles to anti-racist action - these are just a few selections: (Note that I look at these as either external or internal behavior that could sabotage individual actions or the whole movement)

- White folks beating up on and being righteous with one another
- Whites considering selves "experts"
- Internalized racial superiority
- Unresolved pain and anger being acted out and being divisive
- Taking an individualistic and competitive approach, which many whites are taught, rather than a collective one

Anyways, I am being open with my process here. Ultimately, it's not my intentions or internal dialog, but my actions that matter.


Saturday, April 28, 2007

colorblindness, the "new" justification for institutional racism

Just for my own education and as resources for talking to other white people about racism, I have started collecting articles and studies pointing out institutional racism in this country. It is amazing how much evidence of institutional racism exists in just about every area - environment, housing, health care, education, and more. But, so many white people refuse to see it and even argue against it.

Yesterday I picked up a copy of Colorlines, a magazine whose tagline reads "The national newsmagazine on race and politics." It's really an excellent publication. Its March/April 2007 feature is on racial disparities in healthcare and the conscequences of 'colorblind' policies on the health of people of color. Important information!

The article, What Your Doctor Won't See... If conservatives make helthcare "colorblind", incorporates a wide scope, discussing trends in the perception of inequalities:

For three decades, conservative thinkers have worked mightily to discredit race-based considerations in public policy and cement the belief that America today is, as it sould be, a colorblind society. "It really begins in the early '70s," says Bard College sociologist Amy Ansell, author of New Right, New Racism. "Conservatives believe that with the civil rights movement the barriers were brought down, and that's when racism ends. At that point, government and society have nothing more to do."

Instead, (City University of New York (CUNY) researcher Jack) Geiger suggests, the answers are said to lie in changing the behaviors of people of color. Notably, . . . conservative activists do not deny the existence of inequality. To the contrary, says Tarso Luis Ramos, research director of Political Research Associates, a progressive think tank, they nominally share anti-racists' outrage over the gaps. "The rhetoric acknowldges disparities and even decries them on one hand, and on the other hand rejects proposals to reduce these disparities," Ramon says.

A circuitous intellectual route squares this circle of thought. Colorblind ideology rests on two premises: reducing racism to "individual acts of meanness," as Ramos puts it, and blaming uneuqal outcomes in any given area on the cultural norms of individuals affected. Like Ansell, Ramos traces the "new racism" to the years following the civil rights movement, and in particular the infamous Moynihan Report, which he argues established the idea the Blacks' troubles stem from destructive devolution of their culture.

In the ensuing years, Ramos says, rightwing thinkers and advocates built on this premise. They stroked America's individualist ethos as they steadily narrowed racism's definition to exclude broad, structural factors. And they drove home the idea that both oppression and liberation lie in individual rather than societal acts - that, where racism is concerned, I rather than we shall overcome. As a result, efforts like affirmative action are dismissed because they misdirect the burden of fighting racism on individuals. . .

I have noticed this trend myself. It is exhausting to fight against, but imperative.

While politicos argue about things like whether to use the word disparities or differences in reports, the problems, many of which are literally life-and-death issues, go unaddressed. Blacks, for instance, are dying at rates alarmingly higher - a full 40 percent!!!- than whites, according to a 2005 article in the journal Health Affairs, cited by Colorlines. The infant mortality gap between Blacks and whites doubled between 1950 and 2002.

I have just added my collection of studies and articles addressing institutional racism available in the side bar of this blog in the Recommended Online Reading section.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Environmental Racism is Real - check your facts

A reader commented on my Story beneath the Story post, claiming that the term "Environmental racism" is misleading. He wrote: "A more accurate term might be 'environmental classism.'" In sum, "If you are a minority you are also more likely to be poor, so the net result may be the same, but the motivations are economic, not racist."

What comes to mind is what Carmen at Addicted to Race calls "oppression olympics," a pattern of "competing" and arguing about which oppressed group has it worse, and in the process deminishing or denying valid experiences. What happens as a result is that groups pit themselves against each other instead of uniting for a common cause.

Well, in this case, the reader had it wrong. Though the socioeconomic factor is significant, numerous studies have shown that race and ethnicity are the single most determining factors in predicting toxic exposure from proximity to hazardous-waste sites in this country. For example:

"In the United States the single most important factor in predicting the location of hazardous-waste sites is the ethnic composition of a neighborhood. Three of the five largest commercial hazardous-waste landfills in America are a predominantly black or Hispanic neighborhoods, and three out of every five black or Hispanic Americans live in the vicinity of an uncontrolled toxic-waste site. The wealth of a community is not nearly as good a predictor of hazardous-waste locations as the ethnic background of the residents, suggesting that the selection of sites for hazardous-waste disposal involves racism. James T. Hamilton studied the zip codes in the US targeted for capacity expansion in plans by commercial hazardous waste facilities from 1987 to 1992. Locations for hazardous waste facilities had an average nonwhite population of 25 percent, versus 18 percent for those areas without net expansion. Hamilton suggests that differences in the probability that residents will raise a firm's expected location costs by engaging in successful collective action to oppose expansion offer the best explanation for which neighborhoods are targeted by polluting industries.[1] Another study in 1997 found that the communities most affected by hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facilities in the Los Angeles area are working-class communities of color."

Source: wikipedia

And more: Race, Waste, and Class: New Perspectives on Environmental Justice. The thesis: "Race is the central determining factor with toxic exposure."

And for a more current look, read this study, Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty: 1987-2007, which states:

"More than nine million people (9,222,000) are estimated to live within 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) of the nation’s 413 commercial hazardous waste f acilities. This represents 3.3% of the U.S. population (281,422,000). More than 5.1 million people of color, including 2.5 million Hispanics or Latinos, 1.8 million African Americans, 616,000 Asians/Pacific Islanders and 62,000 Native Americans, live in neighborhoods with one or more commercial hazardous waste facility. . .

". . . Racial disparities in the location of the nation’s commercial hazardous waste f acilities exist in all EPA regions. For Hispanics, African Americans and Asians/Pacific Islanders, statistically significant disparities exist in the majority or vast majority of EPA regions. Moreover, the pattern of people of color being especially concentrated in areas where facilities are clustered is also geographically widespread throughout the country. . .

". . . Racial disparities are more prevalent and extensive than socioeconomic disparities, suggesting that race has more to do with the current distribution of the nation’s hazardous waste facilities than poverty. "

So my response to those who want to deny racism and override it with classism arguments is this:

I hope that after reading this you won't turn a blind eye to the race factor. It's crucial to recognize racism as a huge factor in the denial of people's right to a clean and healthy environment. Denying racism in the arena of environmental justice is, in fact, racism.