Archive for social justice
The Top Ten Percent policy is one of the key issues in the case filed by Abigail Fisher against the University of Texas now before the Supreme Court. Fisher alleges that her rejection from the University of Texas was based on discrimination due to her race (white). One of Fisher’s principal arguments is that the Top Ten Percent Rule has produced sufficient levels of diversity, i.e., that it already increases minority enrollment.
A number of states such as California, Texas, and Florida have created “Top Ten Percent” (TTP) rules that guarantee admission to public universities for students who graduate in the top ten percent of their classes. In Texas, House Bill 588 created this rule in 1997 as a way to avoid the stipulations of the Hopwood v. Texas case that barred the use of affirmative action in application decisions. Legislation in Texas passed in 2009 allowed the University of Texas to reduce the number of students admitted under the ten percent rule to 75 percent of the entering freshman class. This reduction was in response to concerns that the University had to turn down better-qualified applicants under the automatic admission policy. TTP policies still remain controversial since some believe that these laws give unfair advantage to individuals from less competitive high schools.
A recent working paper posted on the University of Michigan’s National Poverty website discusses the impact of the TTP plan on admissions at Texas public universities. The authors, Lindsay Daugherty, Francisco Martorell, and Isaac McFarlin, examine the effect of automatic college admissions for a potentially underserved population. These researchers found that effects on flagship university attendance of TTP policy are twice as large for white students than minority students, with no effects for low-income students. TTP students are more likely to be white and female, and less likely to be economically disadvantaged. Only 10 percent of TTP students enroll in a flagship, compared to 30 percent in higher-sending schools. As a result, the authors suggest that eligibility for automatic admissions “may not have much effect on the outcomes of students in the most disadvantaged schools”(p. 21).
Similar results are reported in studies by Princeton University sociology professors Angel Harris and Marta Tienda. For example, in a 2010 analysis of the “Minority Higher Education Pipeline” in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Harris and Tienda found that the shift from affirmative action to TTP policies in Texas resulted in lower admission rates for both Hispanics and blacks relative to whites and Asian Americans. They point out, however, that Asian Americans did not enjoy an admissions advantage under any of the policy regimes.
Harris and Tienda further explain that the admissions disadvantage of blacks and Hispanics to white applicants grew over time, with an annual loss in Hispanic applications that range from 240 at the University of Texas at Austin to nearly 700 at Texas A&M University and a loss of black applicants ranging from more than 60 to UT to more than 300 to TAMU. This loss reaches its lowest point under the Top Ten regime.
An insightful article by Nikole Hannah-Jones in the Atlantic Wire indicates that in 2008, the year Fisher applied, the Texas University system gave admission to 92 percent of its in-state spots through the Top Ten policy. Since Fisher was not in the top ten percent, she and other applicants were evaluated on grades, test scores, and a personal achievement index that included two required essays as well as consideration of socioeconomic status, race, and other factors. Fisher’s scores were 1180 out of 1600 on the SAT and her grade point average was 3.59, good, but not outstanding. The university indicates that even if Fisher had received points for her race and every other personal achievement factor, she would not have been accepted. The university did, however, offer provisional admission to some students who had lower test scores and grades than Fisher: five were black or Latino, and forty-two were white.
Given the substantial empirical findings on the impact of the Top Ten Percent policy on minority admissions as well as the University’s assessment that Ms. Fisher would not have been admitted even if she had received points for her race, it is difficult to ascertain the specific disadvantage that Ms. Fisher received as an applicant under Texas’ Top Ten Percent rule coupled with UT’s holistic review process.
Métis activist Chelsea Vowel brilliantly captures the essence of a grassroots indigenous movement currently unfolding in Canada:
Although thousands of indigenous people all over Canada rallied together under the banner of ‘Idle No More’ … there has been very little media coverage on the movement. Most of what is being said in the mainstream media is focused on Bill C-45. I’d like to make it clear…they’re getting it wrong … Canada, this is not just about Bill C-45 … In short, Idle No More’s Manifesto is what we have always been talking about, whether the particular focus has been on housing, or education or the environment, or whatever else. What lies at the heart of all these issues is our relationship with Canada. And Canada? This relationship is abusive … I can go find dismal statistics on pretty much any aspect of life for indigenous peoples in this country; trot them all out and say, ‘look it’s really bad’ and you will nod and say, ‘wow it sure is’, but that still won’t make it clear for you. I need you – WE need you, to see the forest and not just the trees.
The “forest” to which Vowel refers is the on-going colonial relationship Canada retains with its indigenous population, a relationship many Canadians believe no longer exists. Or, like Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a relationship they conveniently deny or ignore, precisely because it does not serve their economic interests.
The message of the Idle No More Movement is an inconvenient truth – a threat to the Canadian government’s neoliberal agenda.
It is time for Canada to end discriminatory approaches dating back to colonial times and honor the rights of indigenous peoples as secured in Canadian and international law.
April Blackbird is a sociology honours student and politics major at the University of Winnipeg in Manitoba, Canada and a First Nations activist. Kimberley A. Ducey is a faculty member in the Department of Sociology, University of Winnipeg.
Sundays are for relaxing and avoiding any real critical thinking beyond which outdated sweatpants to wear, right? I would normally agree, but a 60 Minutes episode airing on CBS on November 18, 2012, one of the last remaining venues of real journalism within the U.S. market broke the silence in my mind. A piece entitled, Born Good? Babies Help Unlock the Origins of Morality, evoked my lazy carb induced Sunday evening mind to contemplate. Leslie Stahl sought to answer the questions if we as humans are born to be good or bad? Do we start out in life with a sense of morality, selfish, and or oppressive? Or as many have over time believed, such as B.F. Skinner simply blank slates which are in need of guidance from society to fill the voids?
Scholars from Yale University’s Infant Cognition Lab (“the baby lab”) were interviewed to answer these questions. Researchers such as Karen Wynn, Director of the Infant Cognition Lab that is within the psychology department, used babies as young as three to five months old to prove babies have a predilection for persons who exhibit nice behaviors and a disdain for those who illustrate antisocial behaviors. Their findings were first published within nature (2007) within an article entitled, “Social Evaluation by Preverbal Infants.” In addition, they have also gone on within subsequent years to show babies have an elementary understanding of justice. Paul Bloom, also a professor of psychology at Yale, has noted babies are “creatures of sophistication and subtle knowledge.” Within the 60 Minute interviews he stated
there is a universal moral core that all humans share. The seeds of our understanding of right and wrong are part of our biological nature.
In terms of what some may call “evil,” the findings from the lab have pointed to evidence which proves that babies are born with a sense of bias and preference for individuals who have similar traits and characteristics that they as babies possess. Simply, babies are predisposed to divide and categorize the world up into groups. But the research that proved babies prefer individuals who harm others unlike them was the point within the televised show which pushed me to sit up and take real notice. If one believes in the findings, on one hand we are essentially we are genetically wired to know and value justice and equity, but on the other we have a calling to protect our own through the means of dividing and conquering.
Even though people such as Dr. James Anderson have argued that the term race and acts of racism did not emerge until the 18th century, Bloom noted that “evolution” dedicates at least the need for humans to categorize individuals and thus be weary of those unlike them was necessary in order to survive. This he feels is the key to understanding how to exterminate racism and bigotry that is acted upon throughout the world. Moreover, the call for society and positive nurture is needed to combat these biological callings. This was shown in the 60 Minutes piece to be true as researchers worked with older children (9 to 10 years of age) and proved categorized evil traits of humanity could be tempered due to education and positive inculcation. Even though the Wynn and Bloom’s research initially argues that babies and young children are genetically predisposed, on an elementary basis, to prefer others like them, while at the same time punishing others unlike them, the researchers also illustrated that the feelings that drive these actions can be corrected to a large degree with positive societal and family guidance.
What are the true sociological implications? I feel that attention and research is needed to the possible linkages of “evolution” and public policies. A better picture as to why historical and contemporary policies that oppressed and or harmed specific marginalized populations throughout the world can thusly be created. The implications of said research can also explain why racial persecution continues today within the 21st century. In addition, scholars within the field would be able to add another layer of explanation as to the motivation for the precursors to said policies.
Next, by investigating the nurturing aspect of specific people and or groups responsible for the oppression of others could lead to a better understanding into the actions of man. Moreover, by applying the findings of Yale’s baby lab, researchers are able to explain the differences in our social, economic, and educational realms. Most importantly, I feel it also sways a large degree of responsibility back, not only onto the self in regard of self-control and rectification, but also onto those within our individual environments.
I know history is full of examples of man’s innate sense, and consequential actions to protect and favor those like themselves while oppressing other. But this still gives me some sense of hope. Some…
For roughly the past two decades, the percentage of African American faculty holding full-time faculty positions has hovered persistently between 5 and 6 percent. Taking into account the number of these faculty that teach at historically black colleges and universities, this percentage falls to just four percent, according to a 2008-2009 report in the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education (JBHE). And a 2007 JBHE survey of 26 high-ranking institutions finds that the representation of black faculty at our most prestigious universities ranged from only 1.4 percent to 6.8 percent with Emory University, Columbia University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill leading the way.
What are the factors that have caused this flatline? We know with certainty that the most significant barriers are the hiring process, the tenure process, and attrition through the revolving door. None of these barriers are inconsequential. First, the hiring process. In the current polarized climate within the United States, we have seen considerable backlash against affirmative action and the rise of claims of reverse discrimination. In an allegedly post-racial society, recognition of the existence of discrimination has eroded. In fact, as Girardeau Spann points out, “the Obama presidency has served to embolden those who wish to deny claims of current racial injustice.” Hiring committees still ask about quotas, interpret affirmative action to mean hiring “less qualified” minorities, and refer to the lack of diversity in candidate pools as the reason for not selecting minority candidates. Minority candidates face additional hurdles in conforming to the dominant culture and norms of the hiring department and in overcoming the similarity-attraction paradigm that can persist in the hiring process.
Once hired, the perils of the tenure journey are comparable to the twists and turns of whitewater rafting, since structural, behavioral, and cultural factors that affect the decision-making process coalesce in a single administrative action that impacts a faculty member’s career trajectory. As Alvin Evans and I note in our book, Are the Walls Really Down? Behavioral and Organizational Barriers to Faculty and Staff Diversity (2007), the cultural environment of the academic department determines how underrepresented faculty are welcomed and supported, how power is shared, and how conflicts are resolved. Department chairs play a key role in influencing organizational outcomes and tenure committees may often be made up of predominantly male, majority group members. Lack of sponsorship, differential standards, and stereotypes can influence the faculty evaluation process.
And the third barrier–the revolving door– has been well documented, as in the landmark study of 28 colleges in California conducted by Moreno, Smith, Clayton-Pedersen, and Teraguchi (2004) which found that 58 percent of all new underrepresented minority hires were replacing similar faculty who had left the institution. Stereotyping, isolation, and marginalization still can pervade the day-to-day experiences of diverse faculty on our campuses. Pearl Stewart’s article in the July issue of Diverse Magazine highlights a number of incidents of blatant racial intolerance affecting minority faculty members that have poisoned the collegial atmosphere of higher education.
What then can institutions of higher education do to promote a more welcoming and inclusive climate for minority faculty and create a sustainable talent proposition for higher education? In our recent book, Diverse Administrators in Peril: The New Indentured Class in Higher Education (2012) Alvin Evans and I highlight key components of building an architecture of inclusion that apply to both faculty and staff. These components include the design of formal processes to ensure equity and fairness, the creation of integrated conflict management systems, the preservation of due process and procedural rights, opportunities for coaching and mentoring, creation of institutional safety nets, support for professional development, and organization of support and affinity groups. We also emphasize the need for broader minority representation in leadership positions, since, for example, over 93 percent of Provost positions are held by majority group members.
The Initiative for Faculty Race and Diversity undertaken at MIT in 2010 under the leadership of then-president Susan Hockfield represents one of the most definitive efforts to address and ameliorate the experiences of minority faculty. The Initiative provides structural, mentoring, and climate recommendations as well a concrete plan for institutional implementation and assessment. As Susan Hockfield explains:
Creating a culture of inclusion is not an optional exercise; it is the indispensable precondition that enables us to capitalize on our diverse skills, perspectives and experiences, so that we can better advance the fundamental research and education mission…. A productively diverse community…will make us better at what we do: broader and deeper as thinkers; more effective as collaborators; more creative as teachers; and more understanding as colleagues and friends.
The organization United for a Fair Economy has a good website with data-filled reports on issues like the racial wealth divide in the U.S. Here are a few excerpts from their most recent report on the “state of the dream”:
The official unemployment rate is 15.8 percent among Blacks and 13 percent among Latinos as of December 2010. The White unemployment rate is 8.5 percent. Including discouraged and under-employed workers would push these unemployment numbers up significantly.
They add this:
With fewer assets to fall back on in hard times, Black and Latino families rely more heavily on unemployment insurance, Social Security and public assistance in times of need. For example, a new analysis shows that well over half of older Blacks (59.1 percent) and Latinos (64.8 percent) depend on Social Security for more than 80 percent of their family income, as compared to only 46 percent of Whites.
They have some data too on the reality of African Americans and Latinos working disproportionately in the government sector (historically one impact of Jim Crow segregation), one reason that blacks are more likely than whites to be in today’s unions:
. . . Blacks are 30 percent more likely than the overall workforce to work in public sector jobs as teachers, social workers, bus drivers, public health inspectors and other valuable roles, and they are 70 percent as likely to work for the federal government. Public sector jobs have also provided Black and Latino workers better opportunities for professional advancement.
They provide data showing how the Bush era tax cuts regularly favor whites, especially those with higher incomes. Recent taxation law too is very racialized in the U.S.:
… income tax extension heavily favors Whites, who are three times as likely as Blacks and 4.6 times as likely as Latinos to have annual incomes in excess of $250,000, according to original analysis in this report.
They also take political aim at the white leadership of the Republican Party, essentially now, as I have shown in here, the “white party” of the United States:
The Republican tax cut agenda rewards wealth for those who already have it, and limits opportunity for those who do not. . . . preferential treatment of capital gains and dividend income further exacerbates the racial wealth divide. . . . Blacks earn only 13 cents and Latinos earn eight cents for every dollar that Whites receive in dividend income. Similarly, Blacks have 12 cents and Latinos have 10 cents of unrealized capital gains for each dollar that Whites have.
There is much additional information on income, employment, and wealth inequality in this useful report (available free in pdf at their website). The current trends in income and wealth inequalities for racial groups in the United States are very disturbing for the future of a supposed “democracy”–and its unrealized ideals of liberty and justice for all.
In 2008, Institute for Policy Studies researcher, Dedrick Muhammad, summarized glaring U.S. racial inequalities in a report similarly titled–“The Unrealized American Dream.” He showed then that the income gap between black and white Americans was closing extraordinarily slowly, for at the rate of change then black Americans would only gain income equality with white Americans in about 537 years. The wealth gap between black and white Americans would take 634 years to close. After his analysis, from 2009 to 2010, the income gap actually increased a little. In addition, the wealth gap has increased significantly over recent years. (See reference and my further discussion in Chapter 9 of this book.)
On this Independence day it is well to remember yet again a probing and candid speech, “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro,” given by the formerly enslaved and probably greatest 19th century American, Frederick Douglass, at Rochester, New York, on July 5, 1852, at the peak of North America slavery (indeed, about 230 years into that era).
In this era Black Americans were usually not allowed at 4th of July celebrations in the slaveholding South, apparently because many slaveholders feared that they might get an idea of freedom from such events (as if they did not already have such an idea!). Also, Black residents were often discouraged from attending such festivities in the North.
It is in this very dangerous and hostile national racial climate that the great Douglass–increasingly, a leading intellectual of his day and the first Black American to receive a roll-call vote for US President (later on, at the 1888 Republican national convention!)–was asked by leading citizens of Rochester to give an address at their Fourth of July celebrations. He gave them this stinging indictment of racial oppression:
Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men, too-great enough to give frame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory.
But later adds:
What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy-a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.
Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.
Take the American slave-trade, which we are told by the papers, is especially prosperous just now. Ex-Senator Benton tells us that the price of men was never higher than now. He mentions the fact to show that slavery is in no danger. This trade is one of the peculiarities of American institutions. It is carried on in all the large towns and cities in one-half of this confederacy; and millions are pocketed every year by dealers in this horrid traffic. In several states this trade is a chief source of wealth. It is called (in contradistinction to the foreign slave-trade) “the internal slave-trade.” It is, probably, called so, too, in order to divert from it the horror with which the foreign slave-trade is contemplated. That trade has long since been denounced by this government as piracy. It has been denounced with burning words from the high places of the nation as an execrable traffic. To arrest it, to put an end to it, this nation keeps a squadron, at immense cost, on the coast of Africa. Everywhere, in this country, it is safe to speak of this foreign slave-trade as a most inhuman traffic, opposed alike to the Jaws of God and of man. The duty to extirpate and destroy it, is admitted even by our doctors of divinity. In order to put an end to it, some of these last have consented that their colored brethren (nominally free) should leave this country, and establish them selves on the western coast of Africa! It is, however, a notable fact that, while so much execration is poured out by Americans upon all those engaged in the foreign slave-trade, the men engaged in the slave-trade between the states pass with out condemnation, and their business is deemed honorable.
Behold the practical operation of this internal slave-trade, the American slave-trade, sustained by American politics and American religion. Here you will see men and women reared like swine for the market. You know what is a swine-drover? I will show you a man-drover. They inhabit all our Southern States. They perambulate the country, and crowd the highways of the nation, with droves of human stock. You will see one of these human flesh jobbers, armed with pistol, whip, and bowie-knife, driving a company of a hundred men, women, and children, from the Potomac to the slave market at New Orleans. These wretched people are to be sold singly, or in lots, to suit purchasers. They are food for the cotton-field and the deadly sugar-mill. Mark the sad procession, as it moves wearily along, and the inhuman wretch who drives them. Hear his savage yells and his blood-curdling oaths, as he hurries on his affrighted captives! There, see the old man with locks thinned and gray. Cast one glance, if you please, upon that young mother, whose shoulders are bare to the scorching sun, her briny tears falling on the brow of the babe in her arms. See, too, that girl of thirteen, weeping, yes! weeping, as she thinks of the mother from whom she has been torn! The drove moves tardily. Heat and sorrow have nearly consumed their strength; suddenly you hear a quick snap, like the discharge of a rifle; the fetters clank, and the chain rattles simultaneously; your ears are saluted with a scream, that seems to have torn its way to the centre of your soul The crack you heard was the sound of the slave-whip; the scream you heard was from the woman you saw with the babe. Her speed had faltered under the weight of her child and her chains! that gash on her shoulder tells her to move on. Follow this drove to New Orleans. Attend the auction; see men examined like horses; see the forms of women rudely and brutally exposed to the shocking gaze of American slave-buyers. See this drove sold and separated forever; and never forget the deep, sad sobs that arose from that scattered multitude. Tell me, citizens, where, under the sun, you can witness a spectacle more fiendish and shocking. Yet this is but a glance at the American slave-trade, as it exists, at this moment, in the ruling part of the United States.
And then concludes with this:
Americans! your republican politics, not less than your republican religion, are flagrantly inconsistent. You boast of your love of liberty, your superior civilization, and your pure Christianity, while the whole political power of the nation (as embodied in the two great political parties) is solemnly pledged to support and perpetuate the enslavement of three millions of your countrymen. You hurl your anathemas at the crowned headed tyrants of Russia and Austria and pride yourselves on your Democratic institutions, while you yourselves consent to be the mere tools and body-guards of the tyrants of Virginia and Carolina. You invite to your shores fugitives of oppression from abroad, honor them with banquets, greet them with ovations, cheer them, toast them, salute them, protect them, and pour out your money to them like water; but the fugitives from oppression in your own land you advertise, hunt, arrest, shoot, and kill.
The far off and almost fabulous Pacific rolls in grandeur at our feet. The Celestial Empire, the mystery of ages, is being solved. The fiat of the Almighty, “Let there be Light,” has not yet spent its force. No abuse, no outrage whether in taste, sport or avarice, can now hide itself from the all-pervading light. The iron shoe, and crippled foot of China must be seen in contrast with nature. Africa must rise and put on her yet unwoven garment. “Ethiopia shall stretch out her hand unto God.” In the fervent aspirations of William Lloyd Garrison, I say, and let every heart join in saying it:
God speed the year of jubilee
The wide world o’er!
When from their galling chains set free,
Th’ oppress’d shall vilely bend the knee,
And wear the yoke of tyranny
Like brutes no more.
That year will come, and freedom’s reign.
To man his plundered rights again
Sadly, our system of racial oppression still persists, even as most white Americans are in denial about its deep and foundational reality. Yet, there remain many people like Frederick Douglass today who still fight to remove this “yoke of tyranny” from us all. May they flourish and prosper. We should remember those now and from the past who fought racism most on this day to celebrate freedom.
Some forty-two years later, in the last speech (“Lessons of the Hour”) he gave before his death—at an AME Church in DC, on January 9th, 1894—Douglass made these comments as he watched southern and border states hurtle toward bloody Jim Crow segregation, the new neo-slavery system:
We claim to be a Christian country and a highly civilized nation, yet, I fearlessly affirm that there is nothing in the history of savages to surpass the blood chilling horrors and fiendish excesses perpetrated against the colored people by the so-called enlightened and Christian people of the South. It is commonly thought that only the lowest and most disgusting birds and beasts, such as buzzards, vultures and hyenas, will gloat over and prey dead bodies, but the Southern mob in its rage feeds its vengeance by shooting, stabbing and burning when their victims are dead. I repeat, and my contention is, that this “Negro problem” formula lays the fault at the door of the Negro, and removes it from the door of the white man, shields the guilty, and blames the innocent. Makes the Negro responsible and not the nation….. Now the real problem is, and ought to be regarded by the American people, a great national problem. It involves the question, whether, after all, with our Declaration of Independence, with our glorious free constitution, whether with our sublime Christianity, there is enough of national virtue in this great nation to solve this problem, in accordance with wisdom and justice.
He concluded thus, his very last words ever spoken in public:
But could I be heard by this great nation, I would call to to mind the sublime and glorious truths with which, at its birth, it saluted a listening world. Its voice then, was as the tramp of an archangel, summoning hoary forms of oppression and time honored tyranny, to judgment. Crowned heads heard it and shrieked. Toiling millions heard it and clapped their hands for joy. It announced the advent of a nation, based upon human brotherhood and the self-evident truths of liberty and equality. Its mission was the redemption of the world from the bondage of ages. Apply these sublime and glorious truths to the situation now before you. Put away your race prejudice. Banish the idea that one class must rule over another. Recognize the fact that the rights of the humblest citizen are as worthy of protection as are those of the highest, and your problem will be solved; and, whatever may be in store for it in the future, whether prosperity, or adversity; whether it shall have foes without, or foes within, whether there shall be peace, or war; based upon the eternal principles of truth, justice and humanity, and with no class having any cause of compliant or grievance, your Republic will stand and flourish forever.
[Reposted from blog archive]
A Duke University press release recently described a major research study of racial disparity and likely racial bias/discrimination in jury decisions involving black and white defendants in two Florida counties:
Juries formed from all-white jury pools in Florida convicted black defendants 16 percent more often than white defendants, a gap that was nearly eliminated when at least one member of the jury pool was black, according to a Duke University-led study. The researchers examined more than 700 non-capital felony criminal cases in Sarasota and Lake counties from 2000-2010 and looked at the effects of the age, race and gender of jury pools on conviction rates.
There is a nice graphic of the Duke research results here.
The lead researcher, Patrick Bayer, the chair of Duke’s Economics Department (You can view a youtube interview with Bayer here.), has pointed out the U.S. Constitution’s 6th amendment officially imbeds the idea of a “right to a trial by a fair and impartial jury of our peers,” which is “a bedrock of the criminal justice system in the U.S.”
At least in constitutional words and theory that is. In fact, as this study suggests, the “justice” system’s practices periodically follow the path of individual and institutionalized racism rather than the path of a trial by a fair and impartial jury of one’s peers. In these Florida counties 40 percent of the jury pools had no black members, and most of the other pools had only one or two. And there is much other recent evidence of systemic racism in our criminal “justice” system as well, as we have previously discussed here.
For centuries, a great many African Americans have not gotten the benefit of this 6th amendment’s grand and egalitarian language. It is also interesting which amendments in the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution get the most praise, publicity and attention these days in the United States. This is not one of them.
April 4, 1968, about 6:01pm. We should always remember that time. It has now been 44 years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. He was moving conceptually and in his actions in a more radical direction combining antiracist, broader anticlass, and antiwar efforts—which efforts likely had much to do with his assassination. (Photo: Wiki-images)
I remember the day vividly, like it was yesterday, and can still remember the time of day when one of my students at the University of California called me to tell of the terrible event, and I can still remember well my and his distressed emotions as we talked about the shooting. (We did not know Dr. King had died at that time.) He was one of the few African American students then at that university and as one would expect was devastated by the event, as I was too
In some ways, King’s assassination marked the apparent end of much of the black civil rights movement in the 1960s, not necessarily a coincidence. One does not have to be a conspiracy theorist to wonder about this historical timing — or to wonder where this country would be if thinker/leaders like Dr. King and Malcolm X had lived to lead an ever renewed rights and racism-change movement.
The events leading up to Dr. King’s assassination need to be taught everywhere. In late March 1968 Dr. King and other civil rights leaders participated in and supported the local Memphis sanitary works employees, black and white, who were striking for better wages and working condition.
Conditions in Memphis, as elsewhere, were very oppressive for workers, in both racial and class terms, as this wikipedia summary makes clear:
In one incident, black street repairmen received pay for two hours when they were sent home because of bad weather, but white employees were paid for the full day.
King gave his last (“I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”) speech at a rally for the workers at the Mason Temple in Memphis.
This is the famous section near the end of his prophetic speech, where he reflects on death threats he had often received:
We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man.
Let us remember him well, and especially his prophetic antiracist, anti-capitalistic, and antiwar messages, on this day, April 4, 2012.
The recent slaying of 17 year-old Trayvon Martin is yet another reminder of the every day presence of racism in the United States. I find it necessary to remind everyone that this is not an isolated incident, but one that occurs daily across America for most black men. The difference here is that the normal threats and harassment that Trayvon would typically encounter on any given day as a black man, turned into his innocent death. As Malcolm Gladwell discussed in the death of Amadou Diallo, an innocent black man in New York City who was mistakenly shot 19 times by 4 police officers (who fired a total of 41 shots), the decisions that George Zimmerman made about Trayvon Martin were done in a “blink of an eye”. His actions, on the other hand, were done in justification of his already conceived (and likely subconscious) thoughts about this young man rather than in response to Trayvon’s clearly non-threatening behavior. Any one of Zimmerman’s compilation of actions that fateful evening, if terminated, would have likely resulted in a different outcome, one where Trayvon would still be alive today. But Zimmerman is operating on societal-based stereotypes and assumptions of anti-black racial frames about black men that has been around since the mid-1600’s and continues in today’s white-dominated society.
I find it hard to understand why anyone would be foolish enough to discount the continuing assault on the black male presence. Black men have always been public enemy number one in white America, and that has not changed much in 400 years. Since slavery times, African American men were seen as threats to white manhood. Unrelenting white racial stereotypes around black male bodies provided the perfect justification for the incredible violence directed at them, whether in the cotton fields or working for his master in the big house.
Black men were clearly not on equal footing with other men, especially white men for centuries. The conditions, stories, received wisdoms and other discourses created by whites about black folk constituted predictable cognitive road maps or frames that white folks enacted on black bodies. Frames are patterned ways of thinking about human differences such as race that apply generally to people at large and influence our legal system, schooling, healthcare, unemployment and housing to name a few. The white racial frames created around “Black” were and remains anathema, which is certainly the case with Trayvon’s senseless death. The shooter, George Zimmerman, a man of apparent Latino heritage and self-proclaimed neighborhood watch captain, mystifies many white observers. Given that both black and brown people in American are oppressed, how could this be? What’s happening here is that Zimmerman is acting on the existing white racial frames that operate as unconscious scripts on how to interact with racial “others” in our society.
White racial framing of black male bodies is a large-scale centuries-old undertaking that not only affects white behavior toward Blacks, but black and Latino behaviors toward each other and themselves. These racial understandings have existed ever since Europeans first stepped foot on the Western shores of Africa and began a long and tortuous relationship with Africans. And this continues today where the steady stream of media portrayals of young black men as “dangerous” predators is too prolific in our society to ignore. Anyone reading this blog can certainly think of one or more stereotypes about black men. When you think of the face of crime, it is easy to conjure the image of Trayvon or another young man of color as the scary and dangerous “other” or the boogey man. Minorities are not immune to this frame or thought process. Latinos, Blacks and other Americans of color receive and act on many of the same white racial stereotypes and impulses, and Mr. Zimmerman is no exception.
Now, take the context of white society from its historical vantage point and see how it continues the play out (albeit less overt at times). Floridians have instituted a law that has resurrected the Wild Wild West, which allows an individual to take the law into his/her own hands. A law seemingly provoked by the looting that occurred following several Florida hurricanes. After filtered media images following Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, the assumption is that the people looting are black. Thus, the law can be interpreted such that if a black man is stealing, a white man can shoot and kill him. And the onus is placed on the victim from prove he was innocent of a crime before being shot. We have now gone even beyond the egregious “eye for an eye” and moved to a place where a heart can be taken for the loss of a finger, but no one seemed to care that the law implied it was the heart of a black man until it was taken literally. What results is that someone like Trayvon Martin has become caught in the crosshairs of a nation that has yet to truly reconcile its profoundly racist past.
While the nation continues to mount an all out and justifiable assault on the circumstances surrounding Trayvon’s death, let’s not forgot the conditions that gave rise to this young man’s death in the first place: white supremacy, or to put it nicely, a white dominated society. Rest in peace Trayvon Martin; may your death not be in vain.
Please sign this petition and forward to all concerned stakeholders.
A recently resurfaced letter, dated 1865, from a former slave to his master is getting some well-deserved online news and social media attention.
According to Letters of Note, the letter comes from a formerly enslaved man by the name of Jourdan Anderson. In the missive, Jourdan appears to be responding to a petition made by his former master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, requesting that Jourdan and his family return to Tennessee to work as freed laborers on the same land on which Colonel Anderson had enslaved them for 30 years.
Trymaine Lee of the Huffington Post summarized the letter perfectly:
In a tone that could be described either as ‘impressively measured’ or ‘the deadest of deadpan comedy,’ the former slave, in the most genteel manner, basically tells the old slave master to kiss his rear end.
Jourdan’s letter brilliantly reveals the numerous injustices suffered by enslaved people at the hands of their white masters, as he compares the ways their lives had improved since their emancipation and migration to Ohio. In one exquisitely subtle example, Jourdan addresses the daily disrespect no doubt endured by his wife while enslaved by Anderson, writing “folks here call her Mrs. Anderson.” Similarly, he challenges the absurd promises made by Colonel Anderson to try to entice the family back with sarcastic genius, simultaneously revealing the tragic circumstances of their lives while living as the colonel’s “property.”
The horrors of the family’s enslavement notwithstanding, the letter is worth reading for its comedic richness alone.
(Indeed, how tragic there was no YouTube video in 1865, to capture the expression on Colonel Anderson’s face as he read the sharp-as-a-tack dismissal from his former slave – our full imaginations will have to suffice as we picture the colonel reading Jourdan’s calculations of past-due wages owed his family, along with directions as to how they should be sent!).
Beyond any amusement, however, Jourdan’s letter should put to rest narratives, old and new, of the so-called “happy slave,” showcasing the masterful insights that black Americans of the time had regarding the circumstances of their oppression by whites. Indeed, not only could black Americans like Mr. Anderson well-analyze such matters; as argued by Joe Feagin and others, these Americans of color also held a much more sincere and unsullied sense of justice than most white Americans have, in practice, ever embraced.