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NEW FILM: The Call – A choice no woman should face

Sonia has worked so hard for this: a healthy family and a normal life in an average American town. But on a night that should have been like any other, she is forced to make an impossible choice that could shatter her family’s dreams forever.

 Keep your daughter safe — or keep your family together? 

What call would you make?

In our powerful new short film inspired by a true story, Sonia’s crisis shows why we must all support the human rights of immigrant women today. This video is the centerpiece of Breakthrough’s #ImHere campaign, an urgent and innovative call to action for the rights of immigrant women in the United States. More about #ImHere after the jump.

Produced in collaboration with over 30 partner organizations, the multi-award-winning People’s Television and starring distinguished actors from stage and screen, “The Call” is inspired by the real experiences of the brave women and families we’ve encountered in our work. “Sonia” is fictional, but her emotional story is not. No mother should have to face the choice she does. With your help, no mother will.

Please watch and share this film to say: #ImHere to put the rights of women like Sonia on the national agenda. Are you?

Tweet the filmKeep your daughter safe or your family together: what call would you make? Watch and share http://ow.ly/e4jGH #ImHereIVote @Breakthrough

Share on Facebook: Watch #ImHere: THE CALL, a short film about a choice no woman should have to face. http://ow.ly/e4jGH

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Norway killings reveal politics of hate

A 32 year old Norwegian man is behind the brutal killings of 76 people in twin attacks that have shocked the world. We mourn the loss of those that lost their lives in this senseless violence. And as the shock wears off, we are slowly beginning to learn the motives behind the attack, much of which has been linked to a hatred of immigration and multiculturalism.

The man, Anders Behring Breivik, left behind a 1,500 page manifesto where he talks about the need to start a revolution against multiculturalism, fueled by the failure of Norwegian politicians in protecting the country from the influence of outsiders, with a particular focus on Muslim immigrants. The main target of his attacks were government buildings and a youth camp run by the ruling Labour Party, symbols of the government he felt were the largest obstacles to his ideal society- one without any immigrants.

In many ways, the killings have focused attention on the anti-immigrant rhetoric voiced openly in Europe. As a BBC article ‘Norway and the politics of hate’ reports,

Some of Europe’s leaders, from Angela Merkel to David Cameron, have questioned multiculturalism. The danger, of course, is that such statements can encourage extremism. Others say that in Europe the debate needs to be had, openly and transparently about immigration and multiculturalism.

A Reuters article ‘Norway massacre exposes incendiary immigration issue’ explains an even more extreme version of this questioning.

Many far-right European groups have shifted away from overtly racist rhetoric and have instead focused their argument on stressing what they see as the incompatibility of Islam and European values….Anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic parties have gained traction in Nordic and Scandinavian countries in recent years, tapping public anxiety over the relatively recent phenomenon of mass migration, particularly of Muslims, to their region.

It goes on to explain the political scenario in Sweden where the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats, despite having roots in neo-Nazi movements of the last two decades, were elected to Parliament for the first time. And although “there may be no direct link between violence and comments by politicians, the rhetoric creates a fertile environment for ethnically motivated attacks.”

The attacks also spotlight anti-Muslim thought in the U.S. as Breivik’s manifesto credits many American bloggers and writers who talk about the dangers of Islam to the west, with angry posts creating fear and hatred.

His manifesto cited Western writers who shared his view that Muslim immigrants pose a grave danger to Western culture…Marc Sageman, a former C.I.A. officer and a consultant on terrorism, said it would be unfair to attribute Mr. Breivik’s violence to the writers who helped shape his world view. But at the same time, he said the counterjihad writers do argue that the fundamentalist Salafi branch of Islam “is the infrastructure from which Al Qaeda emerged. Well, they and their writings are the infrastructure from which Breivik emerged.”.

There is never an explanation for senseless acts of violence such as this that take the lives of innocent people. While Saturday’s shooting can be seen as an isolated action of an individual, it can also be seen as emblematic of an international landscape that is often angry, divisive and intolerant. As the world churns with change, globalization has led to the shrinking of the world, often placing different cultures together. And yet, while divisive rhetoric thrives, little attention seems to be paid to the importance of diverse societies, the richness offered by immigration, and the necessity of their contributions to growing economies.

As the world reels from this violent tragedy, we must remember that the responsibility for not allowing the politics of hate to spread lies with each and every one of us. If anything, this tragic moment should become a turning point for a more honest conversation that uplifts each other and upholds the rights for everyone to live fairly with dignity and equality and justice.

Photos courtesy of nytimes.com

How is 2011 faring so far? Ethnic studies and the 14th amendment

At this moment it is very hard to focus on anything but the tragic incident that marked the beginning of this year when a man in Tucson, Arizona opened fire on a public meeting killing 6 people and gravely injuring 14 others last Saturday. While this tragedy cannot be undone, there are a number of issues around which we can hope for some positive developments in 2011.

In Arizona, the first week of 2011 saw all classes in the Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican-American ethnic studies program being declared illegal by the State of Arizona, in accordance with a state law came into effect on January 1st. Tom Horne, Arizona’s newly elected Attorney General, declared the program illegal on account of it allegedly teaching Latino students that are being mistreated, and encouraging the students to become activists for their race. In the capacity of State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Horne had written the law challenging the ethnic studies program last year. The bill, HB 2291, was passed by the State Legislature in April and signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer in May of 2010. Defending his latest action deeming that the Tucson district’s Mexican-American program was not in compliance with state standards, (while allowing similar programs for black, Asian and Native America students to continue) Horne said that “They teach kids that they are oppressed, that the United States is dominated by a white, racist, imperialist power structure that wants to oppress them.” Under the law, Tucson would stand to lose 10 percent of its state education funds if the classes are not discontinued, amounts to nearly $15 million.

According to Augustine F. Romero, director of student equity in Tucson schools, the debate over the ethnic studies program demonstrates the strong anti-Latino sentiment in the state, and highlights the pressing need for such programs to continue to exist, giving the students a chance to be proud of their heritage. Mr. Romero posed the question in an interview with the New York Times-

Who are the true Americans here — those embracing our inalienable rights or those trying to diminish them?

In an even deeper affront to inalienable American values, on January 5th, a coalition of legislators from over 14 states announced a plan to join together in a state compact and deny citizenship rights to the children of undocumented immigrants. The compact, clearly motivated by anti-immigrant feeling, is designed to challenge the 14th amendment to the U.S. constitution which states that those born in the United States will be considered U.S. citizens, irrespective of race, class or creed. This was closely matched by Rep. Steve King’s introduction of legislation H.R. 140 before the new session of Congress, aimed to take away the citizenship of children born in the U.S. to parents who were undocumented.

The state compact is being led by Senator Russell Pearce of Arizona, the state Senator best known for introducing the controversial and harsh anti-immigrant law, SB1070 in 2010. The legislators that introduced the plan unveiled a plan that seeks to take birthright citizenship, which is a Federal issue, into state hands by establishing state citizenship laws that deny citizenship rights to those born to parents who are undocumented, and then developing a compact between the various states by which the laws are upheld in all those states. The group claims that their model state legislation aims to halt the “misapplication of the 14th amendment,” which they say is sapping taxpayers funds and attracting further immigration to the U.S. Ultimately, the goal of the coordinated state-level strategy is to force the Supreme Court to take up the issue.

The plan is a joint effort of anti-immigration legislators like Russell Pearce and Kansas Secretary of State-elect Kris Kobach, and State Legislators for Legal Immigration, an anti-immigration group of lawmakers which had representatives from Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Idaho, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and Utah. Senator Pearce told the Washington Times-

I’m not stopping until the problem is solved, and clearly the problem is not solved. The cost is destroying this country, and it can no longer be ignored…The 14th Amendment was never intended to be applied to illegal aliens. They [the sponsors] specifically said it didn’t apply to foreigners or aliens. That amendment belongs to the African-Americans of this country. It’s their amendment.

Critics are suggesting that in fact, the proposal is completely unconstitutional and deliberately misunderstands the 14th amendment. By suggesting a two-tiered system of citizenship by which those who are born to parents who are undocumented receive different birth certificates than those who are born in the U.S. to parents who are legal residents, the compact goes against the fundamental values of the constitution. Elizabeth Wydra, writing for Politico, sums it up clearly-

The 14th Amendment, which was drafted and ratified against a backdrop of prejudice against newly freed slaves and various immigrant communities, was added to the Constitution to place the question of who should be a citizen beyond the politics and prejudices of the day. The big idea behind the 14th Amendment is that all people are born equal, and, if born in the United States, are born equal citizens — regardless of color, creed or social status. It is no exaggeration to say that the 14th Amendment is the constitutional embodiment of the Declaration of Independence and lays the foundation for the American Dream. Because of the 14th Amendment, all American citizens are equal and equally American. Whether one’s parents were rich or poor, saint or sinner, an American child will be judged by his or her own deeds.

As long as the Federal government avoids enacting a comprehensive reform of the existing immigration system and dealing with an issue that is in their jurisdiction, restrictionists will continue to introduce laws that threaten the fabric of the United States. At the start of this year, as we hope that Rep. Giffords recovers her health, we must recall the values of equality, dignity and respect that are intrinsic to the strength of this country and remember that when we deny human rights to some, we jeopardize the rights of all.

Photo courtesy of colorlines.com

POLL: Does the SLLI challenge of birthright citizenship go against the fabric of the country?

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Federal Judge rules racism out of Arizona’s controversial immigration law

Yesterday, a federal judge issued a temporary injunction on some of the toughest portions of Arizona’s anti-immigration law SB1070 including the power for police to detain anyone “suspected” of being in the country illegally.

Federal Judge Susan Bolton’s ruling came hours before the law was to take effect in response to a lawsuit filed by the Obama administration and to nationwide protests.

Her amendments block the portion of the law that requires an officer to make an attempt to determine the immigration status of a person stopped, detained or arrested if there’s reasonable suspicion he is in the country illegally. They block the portion that creates a crime of failure to apply for or carry “alien-registration papers,” as well as the portion that makes it a crime for illegal immigrants to solicit, apply for or perform work. (This does not include the section on day laborers.) This ruling also obstructs the portion of the law that allows for a person’s arrest without warrant whenever there is a probable cause to believe he has committed a public offense that makes him removable from the U.S.

Bolton’s decision marks a victory for many in the movement who feel that the law would lead to racial profiling and fear mongering.

Many praise her amendments which significantly weaken “reasonable suspicion” as the basis for presuming someone is in the country unlawfully, and for stopping, detaining, or arresting him or her. Like Bolton, many opponents point to America’s fundamental principle that avers that everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and argue that the original SB 1070 had turned the presumption of innocence on its head.

Bolton’s decision to eradicate “reasonable suspicion” removes the original bill’s form of discrimination, which invited racial profiling from officers who are likely to rely on the way people look in forming any “suspicion” that they are not in this country legally. Many argue that such vague and undefined enforcement policies called for U.S. citizens and non-citizens alike to carry papers on them at all times. These tactics are the hallmarks of a “police state,” more often associated with totalitarian regimes. Opponents to SB1070 claim that the injustices of racial profiling were evident in the police departments’ massive sweeps of Latino neighborhoods and the targeting of Latinos for minor, misdemeanor offenses, often with no follow-up prosecution under those minor offenses. They expressed that the original bill did not present legitimate grounds for forming such suspicion, so they refused to refer to it as a workable standard in Arizona. Bolton has responded to these arguments with her amendments, leaving many satisfied.

She, a Clinton appointee, articulated in her decision:

Requiring Arizona law enforcement officials and agencies to determine the immigration status of every person who is arrested burdens lawfully-present aliens because their liberty will be restricted while their status is checked.

Many top law enforcement officials, including the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police, had also acknowledged that the original SB 1070 would significantly harm the public trust which law enforcement officials need in order to protect the people of Arizona and would alienate police officers from the communities they serve. Last week, we reported on Arizonan officer Paul Dobson’s recorded confession of his own similar concerns for the law. Officials argued that the original law would force police officers to devote scarce resources to investigating false threats rather than solving serious crimes. They further asserted that the original law had compromised the criminal justice system because crime victims were more vulnerable, and therefore, unwilling to report crimes, and because witnesses were afraid to cooperate out of fear that they would be targeted. Local cops said that the original bill had placed officers and victims alike in a difficult position.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Deputy Press Secretary Matt Chandler issued the following statement yesterday in response to Bolton’s decision. He said:

The court’s decision to enjoin most of SB1070 correctly affirms the federal government’s responsibilities in enforcing our nation’s immigration laws. Over the past eighteen months, this Administration has dedicated unprecedented resources to secure the border, and we will continue to work to take decisive action to disrupt criminal organizations and the networks they exploit. DHS will enforce federal immigration laws in Arizona and around the country in smart, effective ways that focus our resources on criminal aliens who pose a public safety threat and employers who knowingly hire illegal labor, as well as continue to secure our border.

ICE works every day with local law enforcement across the country to assist them in making their communities safer and we will continue do so in Arizona. At the same time, we will continue to increase resources in Arizona by complementing the National Guard deployment set to begin on Aug. 1 with the deployment of hundreds of additional Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, Border Patrol agents and other law enforcement personnel that will aid in our continuing efforts to conduct outbound inspections, patrol challenging terrain, and interdict illicit smugglers. We are focused on smart effective immigration and border enforcement while we work with Congress toward the type of bipartisan comprehensive reform that will provide true security and establish accountability and responsibility in our immigration system at the national level.

Even as debates about the law in Arizona continue, the death toll for those immigrants crossing the desert soars. According to an article in The New York Times, the bodies of 57 border crossers have been brought in during July so far, putting it on track to be the worst month for such deaths in the last five years. A record of 150 people suspected of being illegal immigrants have been found dead since the first of this year.

Human rights groups confirm that it is the government’s sustained crackdown on human smuggling that has led to more deaths. Tougher enforcement measures have pushed smugglers and illegal immigrants to take their chances on isolated trails through the deserts and mountains of southern Arizona, where they must sometimes walk for three or four days before reaching a road. Omar Candelaria, the special operations supervisor for the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector, said the surge in discoveries of bodies this year might also owe something to increased patrols.

The more that you militarize the border, the more you push the migrant flows into more isolated and desolate areas, and people hurt or injured are just left behind, said Kat Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the Coalición de Derechos Humanos in Tucson.

Breakthrough is encouraged by the temporary hold on Arizona’s law but believes much more needs to be done to restore fairness to the immigration system. The opposition is already planning efforts to overturn Bolton’s injunction.

The time is now. We DO NOT want Arizonas do not sprout all over the country.  Write to President Obama and your Members of Congress to take action on immigration now.

Photo courtesy of www.thehindu.com

End Racial Profiling Act is introduced as NAACP calls on the Tea Party to reject racism

When the NAACP called on the Tea Party to reject the racism that exists within its ranks, Tea Party activists were outraged and denied that racism is a part of their movement — despite a clear pattern of bigotry and hate. Instead, Mark Williams, the public face of the Tea Party Express, attacked the NAACP as being a “racist” organization, saying “they make more money off of race than any slave trader, ever.”

In Mark Williams’ blog post, written in the form of a “mock letter” to President Abraham Lincoln, he says:

We Colored People have taken a vote and decided that we don’t cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People and we demand that it stop!

Had enough? He goes on to say:

Perhaps the most racist point of all in the tea parties is their demand that government ‘stop raising our taxes.’ That is outrageous! How will we Colored People ever get a wide screen TV in every room if non-coloreds get to keep what they earn? Totally racist! The tea party expects coloreds to be productive members of society?

Color of Change is challenging Tea Party leaders to reject Williams’ statements and remove him from his position at the Tea Party Express. Because if Tea Party leaders want to have any credibility on race, they need to start by taking a stand against Mark Williams. Even though some perceive the Tea Party as a fringe movement, the reality is that they are attempting to build political power, and if that is the case, it’s important that they do not embrace the kind of racism that Mark Williams represents. If they choose to do so, then it’s important to make clear to all Americans that they are a home for racism and bigotry.

A few months ago, Tim Wise, a prominent anti-racist activist, wrote a widely circulated article called, “Imagine if the Tea Party Was Black “ which challenged America to take a close look at the hypocrisy of the Right Wing. Rapper Jasiri X molded the piece into a Hip Hop music video of the same name. Its opening lines:

The main principle political voice coming from the Right, right now, is the Tea Party. Even though you have a Tea Party that is very angry, racist-messaged, and armed, often times, they’re portrayed as just being patriotic and just wanting to do what’s best for their country.  And I ask myself the question: what if the Tea Party was black?

The good news is that legislation has been introduced in Congress to combat such forms of bigotry and hate. Yesterday, Congressman John Conyers and Jerrold Nadler introduced the End Racial Profiling Act of 2010 (ERPA) – a critical legislation that will eliminate law enforcement practices of singling out people for heightened scrutiny, based on their race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin. As a product of years of extensive consultation with both the law enforcement and civil rights communities, this legislation represents the most comprehensive federal commitment to healing the rift caused by racial profiling and restoring public confidence in the criminal justice system at-large. As Congressman Conyers said,

The recent passage of Arizona’s new immigration law has crystallized the terms of the profiling debate and demonstrates that the combination of racial discrimination and law enforcement represents a volatile mix across all strata of the minority community.

This was supported by Congressman Nadler.

Racial profiling…simply is not an effective way to identify and apprehend criminals. What’s more, focusing on people exhibiting these immutable characteristics easily distracts and diverts the attention of law enforcement in ways that can prove disastrous to public safety.

Sign a petition to stop racial profiling. In the era of Williams and his Tea Party movement, we must ensure that such racism does not affect the making of our nation’s laws and break down the trust between communities and law enforcement.

Photo courtesy of www.teapartypatriots.org.

POLL: Is the NAACP right in calling on the Tea Party to reject racism?

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Arizona’s harsh anti-immigrant bill gives racial profiling the green light

The passage of SB 1070 by the House of Representatives in Arizona will have chilling repercussions if signed into law by Governor Brewer. The bill dramatically expands police powers to stop, question and detain individuals for not having proper identification, a move that will instigate racial profiling and fear and driving a wedge between groups.

SB 1070 effectively makes it a crime to be undocumented in Arizona, and will be one of the harshest anti-immigrant legislations in the U.S. if it becomes law. The bill passed in Arizona’s House of Representatives and is to be combined with a similar bill that passed in the Senate, after which it is expected to be signed into law Governor Brewer. Senator Russell K. Pearce (R-AZ) who introduced the bill has publicly stated that if it passes, 10 other states will follow suit with similar legislation.

So what’s in it? The bill requires the police to investigate the immigration status of every person that they come across, whom they have “reasonable suspicion” to believe is in the country unlawfully. This implies that everyone has to carry their papers with them at all times in order to avoid being stopped, arrested, and detained, effectively fashioning Arizona into nothing short of a police state. Currently, police officers can only inquire about a person’s immigration status if the person is a suspect in a crime. In addition, the bill allows anyone to sue a local, country or state agency if they believe that the agency is not enforcing immigration law, expressly forbids cities from adopting “sanctuary” policies that prevent police from carrying out immigration enforcement, and makes it illegal to solicit work or hire day laborers.

While opponents of immigration have been rooting for this measure for a long time, immigrant rights advocates have unanimously condemned the bill as an affront on the civil liberties of the residents of Arizona. From business groups and faith leaders to municipal governments and police chiefs, the bill has seen increasing opposition. Even within the police, while police unions support the bill, the state police chief’s association has opposed the bill, saying that it will hamper the trust that immigrant communities place in the their services. Outraged by its potential passage, groups like the ACLU, NDLON, Bordern Action Network and national networks have gone into overdrive to protest the bill. According to Alessandra Meetze, President of the ACLU of Arizona,

Instead of working on real solutions to the immigration crisis, our legislators have devised a proposal that is full of shortcuts…Contrary to what proponents of SB1070 say, the bill does not prohibit officers from relying on race or ethnicity in deciding who to investigate…A lot of U.S. citizens are going to be swept up in the application of this law for something as simple as having an accent and leaving their wallet at home.

While Senator Pearce believes the bill simply “takes the handcuffs off of law enforcement and lets them do their job”, in reality, it promotes racial profiling and cements anti-immigrant sentiment already prevalent in Arizona. The grounds of “reasonable suspicion” on which police officers will  investigate people about their immigration status will in many cases be based on racial and ethnic grounds. One immigration group, Somos America, likens it to the system operating under apartheid or pre-civil rights America with Jim Crow laws, where people of color were disallowed from entering “white” land, yet were exploited for their labor by the white population. Given Arizona’s infamous Sheriff Arpaio whose dictatorial methods favor neighborhood sweeps, tent city detentions, and racial stops the fear of the misuse of the bill is not far fetched.

Sign a petition to tell Governor Brewer to stand up for Arizona and stop signing a bill into law that will terrorize communities and create painful divisions. Send a free fax to make your thoughts on SB 1070 heard. Tell Gov. Brewer to say no to racial profiling.

Photo courtesy of nydailynews.com.

POLL: Do you support the passage of SB1070 into law?

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Does your race and income matter if you face the death penalty?

It is no secret that our country’s criminal justice system has consistently proven to be biased against minority communities of color. Statistics published by the NAACP show that even amongst those found guilty of crimes, African-Americans continue to be disproportionately sentenced to life in prison, face higher drug sentences, and are executed at higher rates when compared to people of other races. Michelle Alexander speaks of a “color-coded caste system” in The New Jim Crow that marginalized communities who encounter the criminal justice system.

Seasoned Texas attorney David R. Dow’s new book The Autobiography of an Execution provides an exploration of the death penalty, written through the eyes of a man who has spent 20 years defending over a hundred death-row inmates, most of whom died, and most of whom were guilty. As the head litigator for the Texas Defender Service, a non profit legal aid organization in the state that boasts the highest number of executions since 1976, Dow presents a powerful argument against the death penalty system. Candidly exploring how he balances such a trying job with being a good father and husband, Dow’s extremely personal book only works to strengthen the argument that the broken criminal justice system operates on a vicious cycle based on racial and economic disparity.

In his book, Dow opposes the unequal basis on which some criminals are sentenced to be executed while others aren’t, and deems the criminal justice system “racist, classist (and) unprincipled.” He opposes the death penalty as a flawed and unjust facet of the criminal justice system. Based on his experience, he notes that while he believes that a majority of the clients he represented were, in fact, guilty, there was very little separating those criminals from others who were guilty of the same crime, other than “the operation of what I consider to be insidious types of prejudice.” Most unsettling is his severe mistrust of members of the justice system – police officers, prosecutors and judges – whom he believes would “violate their oaths of office” and put men and women on death row who they think “deserve to be there”.

In Dow’s exploration of the politics behind the death penalty, perhaps the most tenacious argument against it is the blatant way that the intersections of race and class influence the outcome of a criminal case. Dow says,

…if you’re going to commit murder, you want to be white, and you want to be wealthy — so that you can hire a first-class lawyer — and you want to kill a black person. And if [you are], the odds of your being sentenced to death are basically zero…It’s one thing to say that rich people should be able to drive Ferraris and poor people should have to take the bus. It’s very different to say that rich people should get treated one way by the state’s criminal-justice system and poor people should get treated another way. But that is the system that we have.

Photo courtesy of chicagotribune.com

POLL: Does race and income matter if you face the death penalty?

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Is the criminal justice system “The New Jim Crow”?

Jarvious Cotton’s great-great-grandfather could not vote as a slave. His great-grandfather was beaten to death by the Klu Klux Klan for attempting to vote. His grandfather was prevented from voting by Klan intimidation; his father was barred by poll taxes and literacy tests. Today, Cotton cannot vote because he, like many black men in the United States, has been labeled a felon and is currently on parole. – From ‘The New Jim Crow’.

Placed within the context of the euphoria around the election of President Obama as the nation’s first black President, Michelle Alexander‘s first book “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” argues that while on the surface it seems like racial subordination is no longer entrenched in the law books, the truth is Jim Crow laws have simply been redesigned and appropriated by the criminal justice system.

Some shocking stats. One in every eight black men in their twenties are in prison or jail on any given day. There are more African Americans who are in jail, prison, probation or parole today, than were enslaved in 1850. Alexander reacts against the dominant narrative of racial justice which says that while there is still a way to go, America has come a long way from it’s history of racial discrimination, and instead explains the way that the system works to exercise a contemporary form of racial control, a process that continues long after the individuals are officially released out of the system. From Chapter 5 of the book-

The first stage is the roundup [when] vast numbers of people are swept into the criminal justice system by the police, who conduct drug operations primarily in poor communities of color… Once arrested, defendants are generally denied meaningful legal representation and pressured to plead guilty, whether they are or not. Once convicted… virtually every aspect of one’s life is regulated and monitored by the system. The final stage… often [has] a greater impact on one’s life course than the months or years one actually spends behind bars. [Parolees] will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives-denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Unable to surmount these obstacles, most will eventually return to prison and then be released again, caught in a closed circuit of perpetual marginality.

In Alexander’s opinion, far from living in a post-racial utopia, the last few decades have seen the United States move towards a “color-coded caste system” where minority groups are targeted, maligned and marginalized by the criminal justice system. She attributes this increase in the mass incarceration of African Americans over the past thirty years to draconian laws that have been constructed to wage “The War on Drugs”, a battle waged against low-income communities of color, even though research consistently counters the claim that any one racial community uses and sells illegal drugs more than any other.

It’s a moment to contemplate race and class in today’s America. To go beyond the illusion that all is well to a striking reminder that racial injustice is still deeply entrenched in the country. According to Alexander, nothing short of an informed and agitated movement will put an end to this perpetuation of racial inequality in the guise of enforcing justice.

Photo courtesy of newjimcrow.com

POLL: Does the criminal justice system unfairly target communities of color?

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Lou Dobbs to resign from CNN after pressure by advocacy groups

After facing intense pressure for his anti-immigration rhetoric, Lou Dobbs announced his resignation last night to his viewers. He will be replaced by John King.

Wednesday’s program will be his last on CNN, even though his contract was not set to expire until the end of 2011.While his reasons were “some leaders in media, politics and business have been urging me to go beyond the role here at CNN and to engage in constructive problem solving as well as to contribute positively to the great understanding of the issues of our day”, the truth is that intense pressure from campaigns like Drop Dobbs and Basta Dobbs have had a tremendous impact, including the airing of a Drop the Hate ad on MSNBC.

The New York Times reports,

Mr. Dobbs has evolved over the years from a straight-laced business anchor to an outspoken commentator who rails against illegal immigration and taxpayer bailouts, among other subjects. Lately, though, he has saved most of his opinions for his afternoon radio show, which made its debut in March 2008. It is on the radio show that he talked repeatedly about the conspiracy-theory claims that President Obama is not a United States citizen. When he mentioned the citizenship issue on CNN over the summer, his bosses were forced to call it a “dead issue.”

Let’s celebrate the defeat of hate politics and the strength of action when we all rally together.

Are you an authentic American?

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“Police officers giving drivers $204 tickets for not speaking English? It sounds like a rejected Monty Python sketch. Except the grim reality is that it has happened at least 39 times in Dallas since January 2007….All but one of the drivers were Hispanic.”

Reporting on the issue, a New York Times editorial asks the question – is racism alive and kicking in America? If this were a one off incident, it could be an aberration. But 39 times makes it a growing pattern of injustice.

So how does one question who or who is not an American? Does it have to do with language, race, ethnicity, how long one has been in the United States – or is it about the more legal aspect of possessing citizenship.

Recently, an incredible achievement by Meb Keflezighi’s, winner of Men’s NYC Marathon, kicked off a number of doubts about whether this is truly an “American” achievement, or one imported in from outside.

“Meb Keflezighi, who won yesterday in New York, is technically American by virtue of him becoming a citizen in 1998, but the fact that he’s not American-born takes away from the magnitude of the achievement the headline implies.”

Comments from a CNBC Sports Business Reporter who half apologized in a post the next morning.

“Frankly I didn’t account for the fact that virtually all of Keflezighi’s running experience came as a U.S. citizen. I never said he didn’t deserve to be called American.”

Keflezighi came to the United States when he was 12 from war torn Eritrea. Is that enough time for him to be an American? Ironically the last American to win the marathon was also born in another country – Cuba. Alberto Salazar’s comments from a New York Times article are insightful.

What if Meb’s parents had moved to this country a year before he was born? At what point is someone truly American? Only if your family traces itself back to 1800, will it count?

The same article talks about the racial stereotypes that seem to be emerging to the surface.

“The debate reveals what some academics say are common assumptions and stereotypes about race and sports and athletic achievement in the United States. “Race is still extremely important when you think about athletics,” said David Wiggins, a professor at George Mason University who studies African-Americans and sports. “There is this notion about innate physiological gifts that certain races presumably possess. Quite frankly, I think it feeds into deep-seated stereotypes.

So are we heading for a “clash of cultures” figuring out where the identity of America lies. This Huffington Post article has a few answers.

What’s been missing from our national discourse on “is it race or isn’t it?” is the distinction psychologists and neuroscientists have made for over two decades between conscious and unconscious (often called “explicit vs. implicit”) prejudice

Asking what the difference may have been if over the last 25 years, a half million Englishmen a year had entered the U.S., it wonders if

“what turns up the volume on Americans’ feelings about immigration is that immigrants are not white, English-speakers from London but brown-skinned Mexicans who may not speak our language well and don’t share our Anglo-American culture.”

Demographers now place it around 2040 when whites may be in the minority in the U.S. And so it seems, the best way to deal with this reality may be -

“There’s nothing shameful about admitting that you’re among the majority of Americans – of every color – who has sometimes judged another person on the color his skin instead of the content of his character – and then realized it wasn’t fair. The best antidote to unconscious bias is self-reflection. And the best way to foster that self-reflection is through telling the truth in a way that doesn’t make people defensive or point fingers – except at those who wear their prejudice proudly and deserve our scorn.”

Photo courtesy of the New York Times.