Race & Ethnicity

Obama's Mixed Record on School Integration

While a handful of small programs have taken steps toward promoting diversity, desegregation has remained absent from Obama's signature education initiatives. 

AP Photo/Evan Vucci
AP Photo/Evan Vucci President Barack Obama, accompanied by Education Arne Duncan, speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, April 29, 2015, during an event to honor the teachers of the year. A s Congress debates competing revisions of the No Child Left Behind Act over the next several weeks, lawmakers are unlikely to spend much time looking at the growing problem of segregated schools. Despite strong academic and civic benefits associated with integrated schooling , and a unanimous Supreme Court decision which ruled that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal,” American public schools have resegregated quickly by race and class over the past two and a half decades. Many advocates had hoped to see the Obama administration take steps to address rising school segregation, but so far its record has not been great. While the Department of Education has paid lip service to the need to promote integrated schools, and has included modest diversity...

Do Black Lives Matter to the Federal Reserve?

With black communities nationwide far from recovered, a grassroots coalition wants the Fed to know that an interest rate hike could be disastrous. 

Center for Popular Democracy
Center for Popular Democracy A Fed Up rally in San Francisco on March 5, 2015. T his week, Dawn O’Neal has traveled from her home in south DeKalb County, Georgia, to the Federal Reserve’s annual symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, with a simple message for Fed leaders: Don’t raise interest rates. The 48-year-old teacher’s assistant and mother of four wants Fed governors to know that her community is far from recovered and that raising interest rates too soon could be disastrous. O’Neal is one of dozens of activists and policy experts traveling to Jackson Hole this week to urge the Fed against raising rates. The campaign, called Fed Up, includes some two-dozen unions, community groups, and think tanks, from the AFL-CIO to the Working Families Party. In Jackson Hole, organizers will deliver a petition demanding that the Fed rethink its plan to raise interest rates until the recovery can reach more Americans. Fed Up also plans to hold a series of teach-ins exploring questions like “How...

Still Missing New Orleans

(Photo: AP/Gerald Herbert)
(Photo: AP/Gerald Herbert) A decade ago, Hurricane Katrina flooded this now-abandoned strip mall in New Orleans. T he first time I saw New Orleans, I entered an empty city. The streets were marked with chalky streaks of salt and toxins left behind by the waters that had filled them; the stench of rotten things filled the air. It was September 19, 2005, three weeks after Hurricane Katrina laid waste to New Orleans when the levees were breached by the sea and the canals, whose contents rushed into the roads and the yards and the living rooms of the city’s poorest residents. By the time I arrived, the only vehicles on the streets were the camouflage-painted Jeeps of the National Guard . After abetting mayhem with shoot-to-kill orders against the city’s most desperate citizens, many on the New Orleans police force simply fled the city. With colleagues from the labor union I worked for at the time, I visited the Greyhound bus depot, which was housing the inmates of the infamous Angola...

Donald Trump, Black Lives Matter, and the Power of Disruption

Trump, like BLM, is upsetting business as usual for party leaders. BLM's intervention just happens to be much more constructive. 

AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson Marissa Johnson, left, speaks as Mara Jacqueline Willaford stands with her and Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders stands nearby as the two women take over the microphone at a rally Saturday, August 8, 2015, in downtown Seattle. An earlier version of this article appeared at The Huffington Post . I t was a good week for disruptive innovation. Three protestors very loosely affiliated with Black Lives Matter shut down Bernie Sanders yet again , this time at a Seattle rally Saturday afternoon. Meanwhile, Donald Trump escalated his disruptive impact on the Republican presidential field, with a post-debate remark implying that Fox reporter Megyn Kelly was menstruating when she asked him provocative questions, fittingly, about his coarse put-downs of women. The two forms of disruption invite comparison. Protestors invoking BLM are disrupting the most progressive candidate in the Democratic field. Why? Because in the year since the murder of...

The Growing Movement to Restore Voting Rights to Former Felons

On the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, ex-felons in Baltimore demand the right to vote. 

Rachel M. Cohen
Rachel M. Cohen O n August 6, the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, dozens of Baltimore ex-felons rallied and marched alongside community members to protest their disenfranchisement. In May, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan vetoed a bill which would have granted ex-felons the right to vote when they return home from prison, rather than making them wait until after their probation and parole sentences have been completed (some sentences can last for decades). Holding up signs that read, “We Want Taxation with Representation!” and “End the New Jim Crow!” protesters made clear that they understand the racial implications of the status quo. Had Hogan signed the bill into law, 40,000 more Maryland residents —a majority of them black Baltimoreans—would have been able to cast a ballot in the next election. “Override! Override! The veto! The veto!” protestors shouted together as they marched down the street. The crowd, well over 100 people, eventually gathered around a statue of...

The Voting Rights Act at 50: Why We Still Need It -- All of It

Two years after a Supreme Court decision struck down a key part of the law, challenges to state-based voter suppression are finally winning in court. But litigation can't be the solution.

AP/Chuck Burton
(Photo: AP/Chuck Burton) Demonstrators march in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on July 13 after the start of the trial that challenged the state's restrictive 2013 voting law. The trial ended last Friday, but a decision has yet to be announced. Y esterday was the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, which has been both sword and shield for racial equity and inclusive democracy. And yet today, the right to vote for millions of Americans is in more danger than at any time since the passage of the law, thanks to the Supreme Court decision two years ago that struck down the most important part of the law and cleared the way for states to enact targeted voting restrictions. Just six months after Bloody Sunday on March 7, 1965, when nonviolent civil rights marchers were attacked in Selma, Alabama, on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Congress passed and President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The fight to realize political rights for people of color has been a story of...

The Fair Housing Failure—Where Even the Liberal North Whistles Dixie

The Obama administration's new fair housing rules are the strongest in decades, but may not mean much without meaningful enforcement. 

AP Photo/Jim Fitzgerald
AP Photo/Jim Fitzgerald In this June 29, 2012 photo, the Cottage Landings affordable housing project is shown while under construction in Rye, New York. The development is part of a 750-unit requirement in the settlement of a 2009 lawsuit against Westchester County. The county is being criticized by the federal government over its implementation of the settlement. I n 2006, a civil-rights lawyer named Craig Gurian filed suit against Westchester County, New York, charging that the affluent county just north of the Bronx had been engaging in exclusionary housing practices that prevented people of color from moving into the county’s upscale suburban communities. Facing up to $150 million in fines for having, according to a federal judge, “utterly failed” to fulfill its obligations under the 1968 Fair Housing Act, Westchester entered into a landmark anti-discrimination settlement. The agreement committed the county to build 750 affordable housing units by 2016 in the whitest locales and...

The Inclusive Strength of #BlackLivesMatter

Why the fast-growing movement has been intertwined with labor, economic justice, immigration, and LGBT rights from the beginning.

(Photo: AP/Seth Wenig)
(Photo: Amanda Teuscher) Attendees to the Movement for Black Lives Convening that took place in Cleveland July 24-26 gather for a group photo on the final day of the conference. An estimated 1,200 organizers and activists participated in the meeting. I t would be tempting to say the timing was surreal, if it didn’t happen so often. Less than an hour after the close of last weekend’s conference of Black Lives Matter activists, attendees were pepper-sprayed by a Cleveland transit police officer while they were protesting the arrest of a 14-year-old boy. The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) Convening at Cleveland State University brought together more than 1,000 activists and organizers from across the U.S., and even from other countries. Nearly one year after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, the goal of the convening was to provide a space for the activists to mourn the loss of those killed by police, to show support for one another, to demonstrate pride in their community , and...

Racism on Camera

The recent wave of police violence isn't anything new. It's just been caught on video. 

Texas Department of Public Safety via AP
AP Photo/Matt Rourke Philadelphia Police officers demonstrate a body-worn cameras being used as part of a pilot project, Thursday, December 11, 2014. I f you’ve regularly watched the nightly news over the past few years, you might think that the recent arrest and jail-cell death of Sandra Bland in Texas is part of a growing wave of police abuse of black citizens. Some news reports have even called it an epidemic of police violence against African Americans. But the harsh reality is that there has been no sudden upsurge of racial profiling, arrests, beating, and killing of African Americans at the hands of law enforcement officers. Rather than an abrupt recent rise in police mistreatment of black Americans, we’ve become more aware of the problem, in part because more incidents of police abuse are being captured on camera. The series of deaths of black Americans has made more white Americans aware of how different their lives can be. A turning point occurred in 1991, when the brutal...

Bernie Learns His Lesson -- But Have the Rest of Us?

(Photo: Al Drago/CQ Roll Call via AP)
(Photo: Al Drago/CQ Roll Call via AP) Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders waits to speak to federal contract workers during a rally on Capitol Hill on Wedneday, July 22. “ We want a nation where a young black man or woman can walk down the street without worrying about being falsely arrested, beaten, or killed,” Bernie Sanders told some 8,000 supporters in Dallas on July 19, the day after his contentious encounter with protesters from the Black Lives Matter movement at Netroots Nation. While Sanders, the socialist U.S. senator from Vermont who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, appeared to have learned his lesson quickly, the same cannot necessarily be said for some of his most ardent followers, or for the progressive movement more broadly, where power rests primarily in the hands of white men. When Sanders announced his candidacy, I welcomed it—and I still do. Standing far to the left of likely nominee Hillary Clinton, Sanders’s presence in the race, coupled with...

Why Netroots Nation Was Exactly the Right Place for a #BlackLivesMatter Protest

(Photo: AP/Ross D. Franklin)
(Photo: AP/Ross D. Franklin) Black Lives Matter and Black Immigration Network activists shout down Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders during the presidential candidates' forum at Netroots Nation on Saturday, July 18. W hen protesters from the Black Lives Matter movement disrupted the presidential candidates’ forum at an annual gathering of progressives from both grassroots movements and the professional left, a predictable response was heard from many white liberals and progressives: Why are you picking on us? We’re your allies! If movement needed any more fuel, it was granted as much by the mysterious death, just days before, of Sandra Bland, which occurred while she was in custody of the sheriff of Waller County, Texas. Her arrest seems to have been prompted by her defiance of a state trooper’s order to put out her cigarette after he pulled her car over for Bland’s alleged failure to use her directional signal while changing lanes. The trooper’s dash-cam video shows the officer...

Why Don't Settlements Over Brutality Come Out of Police Budgets?

New York City's recent $5.9 million settlement with the family of Eric Garner leaves the NYPD's budget unscathed. 

(Photo: AP/Craig Ruttle)
(Photo: AP/Craig Ruttle) NYPD Staten Island Borough Commander Edward Delatorre stands with Gwen Carr and Esaw Snipes, the mother and wife of Eric Garner, during a memorial service for Eric Garner on July 14. A $5.9 million settlement was reached with the city this week. O n July 17, 2014, New York City police officers choked Eric Garner, a black man in Staten Island, to death. This week, nearly one year later, the city announced that it would pay the Garner family $5.9 million to settle their wrongful-death claim . “Financial compensation is certainly not everything, and it can’t bring Mr. Garner back. But it is our way of creating balance and giving a family a certain closure,” said the comptroller, Scott M. Stringer to The New York Times. Families of police brutality victims deserve to be compensated, no doubt. A different question, however, is should police departments be required to pay for their misconduct too? As I’ve written previously , these steep police brutality payments...

The Progressive Victory You Haven't Heard Of: NYC's Ban on Employment Credit Checks

The new law prohibits the discriminatory screening process, which disproportionately affects the poor and communities of color.

(Photo: AP/Mike Groll)
(Photo: AP/Mike Groll) I n New York, your personal credit history is no longer any of your employer’s business. From universal pre-kindergarten to paid sick days, New York City’s fight against inequality has grabbed national headlines. But recently, the nation’s largest city has quietly taken the lead in dismantling a far less obvious barrier to opportunity: the employment credit check. Thanks to a new law , businesses can no longer discriminate against employees and job seekers simply because they’re late paying bills. The credit check ban is an important salvo against inequality. More often than not, poor credit is the result of bad luck and societal disadvantages, and is associated with unemployment, lack of health care, and medical debt . As a result of credit checks, someone who is out of work will find it more difficult to get another job, falling further behind on their bills in a vicious catch-22. The problem is exacerbated in communities of color , which continue to endure...

The Supreme Court's Challenge to Housing Segregation

For decades, the Fair Housing Act's potential was squandered. A recent Court decision may finally change that. 

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) In this April 8, 2013 picture, a boy shoots a basketball into a makeshift basket made from a milk crate and attached to a vacant row house in Baltimore. I n June, the Supreme Court issued several decisions with big policy implications. Its rejection of a challenge to Obamacare and its endorsement of the right to same-sex marriage have received the attention they were due. A third decision, confirming that the Fair Housing Act prohibits not only policies that intend to perpetuate racial discrimination and segregation, but those that have the effect of doing so, was equally momentous. Yet because the ruling concerned an obscure (to the public) and technical phrase (“disparate impact”), it has been more difficult to understand. To comprehend its significance, a review of its background is in order. Roots of the Fair Housing Act In over 100 cities during the summer of 1967 African Americans rioted, in rebellion against segregated and inadequate ghetto conditions...

A Good Week for America

On a number of fronts, real progressive change is on the horizon. 

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin From left, Annie Katz of the University of Michigan, Zaria Cummings of Michigan State University, Spencer Perry of Berkeley, California, and Justin Maffett of Dartmouth University, celebrate outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday June 26, 2015, after the court declared that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the US. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . W hat an extraordinary week in the political and spiritual life of this nation. It was a week in which President Obama found the voice that so many of us hoped we discerned in 2008; a week in which two Justices of the Supreme Court resolved that the legitimacy of the institution and their own legacy as jurists was more important than the narrow partisan agenda that Justices Roberts and Kennedy have so often carried out; a week in which liberals could feel good about ourselves and the haters of the right were thrown seriously off balance. Yet this is one of those...

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