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Diversity News & Notes

  |   February 19, 2013    8:52 AM ET

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Inside the Mind of Christopher Dorner

  |   February 15, 2013    8:00 AM ET

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Diversity News & Notes

  |   January 30, 2013   10:04 AM ET

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Reproductive Rights and Race; Immigration Reform Has Next; Low-Top Boxes and Abolitionists; Bad Investment Advice

  |   January 29, 2013    8:19 AM ET

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Tina Turner Moving On, Two Politicians in Complicated Trouble, Republican Dance With Latino Voters Hard to Follow

  |   January 25, 2013   12:02 PM ET

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Midday Diversity News And Notes

  |   January 17, 2013   11:40 AM ET

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Morning Diversity News And Notes Round Up

Janell Ross   |   January 16, 2013    9:54 AM ET

Maryland lawmakers are expected to consider a measure sometime in the next two to three weeks that could eliminate the death penalty and make the state the first south of the Mason Dixon line to ban capital punishment. Eighteen other states, including Connecticut in April, have taken similar steps. The Maryland vote comes after activists and organizations such as Color of Change and the NAACP worked to collect data on the disproporitionate share of blacks and Latinos facing the death penalty. During a Tuesday press conference NAACP CEO Benjamin Jealous said he hopes the a repeal in Maryland would lead other states to follow,, an area news site, reported. The death penalty has failed our state. It is broken beyond repair, but it was broken from birth," Jealous said. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a white Democrat, backs the effort to eliminate the state's death penalty. O'Malley told the Wall Street journal that capital punishment is both costly and ineffective in reducing violent crime. And in a speech about his stance, O'Malley referred repeatedly to a 2008 study that found that prosecuting capital murder cases in which the death penalty is a possible penalty costs the state three time as much as a murder case with a possible sentence of life without parole, The Wall Street Journal reported. O'Malley also attempted to overturn the state's death penalty in 2009.

In her continuing campaign to define and describe non-white America as the country's primary problem, Ann Coulter has declared the nation's unusually high rate of gun violence and gun deaths a "demographic problem." According to Coulter, the share of the county's white population murdered each year is comparable to that experienced in other developed countries such as Belgium. Coulter, who shared her views about the demographics of gun violence on Fox News Tuesday, insisted that it's the violence in communities of color that pushes the U.S. murder rate up above that in most of the world's wealthiest countries. "So perhaps it's not a gun problem, it's a demographic problem," Coulter said.

In Venezuela, the political uncertainty continues. Ailing presidnet Hugo Chavez's Vice President, Nicolas Maduro, stood in for Chavez Tuesday and delivered an short state of the nation speech and delivered a report on his legal elegibility to lead the country in Chavez's absence. Chavez, who is said to be recovering from Cancer surgery in Cuba, has not been heard from in nearly five weeks. But, ABC Univision has published a series of undated photos of Chavez with family and friends.

Both The New York Times and are wondering this morning just what will be in Obama's gun control package.htmlWill it attempt to do something about the more ordinary -- not a mass shooting -- gun violence that takes lives daily? seems to be very much on the side of a long-languishing bill called the Youth Promise Act to help fight gang activity and gun violence. The New York Times reports that Obama's slate of reforms will likely include a requirement that all gun sales be made after a background check, and other features.

President Barack Obama dropped the gauntlet on gun control this week when he made it clear that he is willing to use his executive powers to force certain changes if Congress will not act. And some Republicans are lmaking mention of something in their tool box: impeechment. "Edwin Meese, former U.S. attorney general under former president Ronald Reagan, has become the latest prominent Republican to raise the specter of President Barack Obama's impeachment over his anticipated executive orders on gun control," The Grio reports.

The Obama Second term cabinet is continuing to change shape and form. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who oversaw a moratorium on offshore drilling after the BP oil spill and is also Latino, will resign from his post with the Obama administration in March, The Associated Press reported.

Slate is working with an outside group, @ GunDeaths to keep tracking the number of people killed by gunfire since Newtown. It's a disturbing picture of America, but one worth noting.

The folks at The Grio offer up an interesting take on the nation's convoluted but true history of race and gun control today. Black gun ownership was restricted closely when the United States was a string of English colonies. And the NRA wasn't a proponent of universal gun ownership or the right to bear arms when the Black Panthers made weaponry stockpiles and defense part of their stated mission.

Two prominent Mexican human rights activists are demanding an explaination from Harvard University. The University recently hired former Mexican President Felipe Calderón, ABC Univision reports today. "Calderón is slated to begin a one-year fellowship at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government later this month," according to ABC Univision.

Obama is planning to join a long running D.C. protest. In the District of Columbia, license plates include the phrase, "Taxation without representation," a reference to the city's unique legal status. It is not a part of a state, but father a federal distict where residents pay federal taxes as well as local taxes but do not have a voting member of Congress to represent the city's interests. Obama's staff will place one of the protest plats on each of his offcial vehicles, reports.

So this should probably not come as a surprise to anyone, but disproportionate job losses and long term unemployment among black and Latino workers has another terrible consequece. A new study found that the share of blacks and Latinos living without health insurance followed a similiar pattern.

Also from the ABC Univision news collboration, "Evangelical leaders representing more than 100,000 churches across the U.S. are backing immigration reform, and they're asking their congregants to do the same.Calling reform a religious imperative, the Evangelical Immigration Table is asking Christians across the country to engage in 40 days of praying and reading scriptures related to immigrants and immigration..." This is an interesting development as these are the voters that Republicans will need in future elections.

Finally, I've never been a fan of the leggings as pants look, but this seems a bit extreme. A Los Angeles area middle school honor student was sent home from school Friday after school staff declared that her brown leggings -- a shade similar to the girl's brown skin -- made her appear to be nude. This is what you call a brown girl problem. The girl and her mother are planning to take legal action against the school, The Grio reports.

Morning Diversity News and Notes Round Up

Janell Ross   |   January 15, 2013    6:14 AM ET

Marco Rubio's efforts to lead the discussion on immigration reform are in full swing according to The New York Times today. Rubio spoke with the editorial boards at the Times and The Wall Street Journal last week and by Monday was busy trying to round up Republican support for an immigration reform proposal that would provide "some kind of legal status" for undocumented immigrants. Many Republicans, including Rubio, have objected to reforms that include a path to citizenship. Some of my sources inside the immigration reform movement say that after the November election results put on display the political power and influence of Latino voters, women and other minorities, they are prepared to push for immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship. Anything less, they say, will create a group of second class U.S. residents who are vulnerable to workplace and other abuses.

Clarence Thomas is known for many things. Among them: never saying a word during oral arguments in his seven years on the Supreme Court. Not a single question or comment folks. Yesterday, he appears to have found his voice just long enough to crack a joke. The only problem, no one seems to be sure what he said.

Well America, the country's biggest retailer is about to get a little bigger -- in terms of staff. Wal-Mart, already the largest employer in a number of states around the country, is set to announce plans to hire any honorably-discharged veteran who left the military in the last year and wants a job. The announcement represents one of the largest commitments to hire veterans in U.S. history and will no doubt be welcome news to the many veterans struggling to find work, according to The New York Times. But it also follows several months in which Wal-Mart has been in the news for very different reasons. Stories about the company's willingness to bribe Mexican officials in order to expand it's business operations in that country and troubling tales about what it really means to work at Wal-Mart have proliferated. However, given that unemployment remains elevated in communities of color and the rural sections of the country from which many veterans of recent conflicts hail (one of the many reasons that enlistments from these communities are disproportionately high to begin with) Wal-Mart is not likely to face a shortage of new applicants.

This is one of those studies that I am glad my parents didn't see before I graduated. This morning's New York Times includes the story of a new study that found that students whose parents saved or contributed more toward their college costs tended to earn lower grades. "Parents saving for college costs, take heed: A new national study has found that the more college money parents provide -- whether in absolute terms or as a share of total costs -- the lower their children's college grades." I suspect there may be some parents examining their savings plans and priorities this weekend. For black and Latino families, there is some difficult calculus here. First off, The Loop 21 reminds us today that not all students are spending their time partying like it's 1999 on campus. Some are so poor that they go hungry. One can imagine it's not easy to learn under those circumstances. Then, there's a bigger, broader set of questions. Black and Latino senior citizens often have far less, sometimes no personal savings, for their retirements and therefore rely on social security for a larger portion of their income than their white peers. But, students of color who do graduate from college often leave school with much larger debt burdens than white college graduates. This , in combination with the persistence of racial and gender wage disparities that I told you about this week, helps to contribute to lifetime differences in financial well being.

After a week of second term cabinet news that had a number of people raising questions about just how white and male the group guiding the nation's policies might be, news that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Nopolitano will stay in place bucked the trend. Immigration reform advocates are thrilled, according to ABC Univision. President Barack Obama insists that criticisms of his cabinet's composition are premature.

I am a person who appreciates honesty. So I was pleased to see someone who has benefited from affirmative action offering a direct, full throated testament to efforts to expand opportunity for people of color in the nation's schools and workplaces. Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor's new memoir, "My Beloved World," is said to do just that, according to ABC Univision. Sotomayor is also also set to become the first Latina in U.S. history to administer the oath of office to the President of the United States next week. Somebody is having a good month.

The folks at Colorlines bring us another important question today -- "Where Does Immigration Reform Begin for Same-Sex Couples?" It's worth reading.

Qentin Tarantino continues his campaign to offend as many people as possible/ represent reality as he promotes his new and highly fictional movie, "Django Unchained." The thing about Tarantino and his film is that it will force a lot of us to think carefully about what stories can't be told or truths get loss if certain language or images become truly verboten. Think about it.

If you haven't figured this out by now, you should know that I am really interested in biographies. I love anything that reveals the combination of greatness and weakness/ various and sundry flaws that reside within us all. That interest also extends to obituaries. That's right, I like to read them. This morning's Los Angeles Times brings us news that the youngest of the 1,000 people believed to have been rescued from almost certain death in a Nazi concentration camp by German businessman Oskar Schindler -- the inspiration behind the film "Schindler's List"--has died. Leon Leyson, 83, was in many ways an ordinary man who lived through extraordinary and awful things. Normalcy was a victory. Take a moment to read about him.

Finally if you are as fascinated by the late Mexican artist Frida Kahlo as I am, you may enjoy this video tour of her "closet." This was a woman who embraced a pretty distinctive, "ethnic" style.

Diversity News And Notes, Evening Update

Janell Ross   |   January 9, 2013    5:18 PM ET

Um, this is just embarrassing. "Younger Americans die earlier and live in poorer health than their counterparts in other developed countries, with far higher rates of death from guns, car accidents and drug addiction, according to a new analysis of health and longevity in the United States," The New York Times reported today. "....The rate of firearm homicides was 20 times higher in the United States than in the other countries, according to the report, which cited a 2011 study of 23 countries."

Jack Lew looks likely to be the next treasury secretary, replacing Tim Geithner in Obama's second term. Lew, who currently serves as Obama's chief of staff, adds to the list of key cabinet positions expected to be filled by white men. Having sat next to him on a plane from Charlotte, N.C. to New York following the Democratic National Convention, I can also say he has some very interesting ideas on management and the value of intellectual and cultural diversity in the workplace that came up during the trip. Wonder if he'll share with his boss?

Reality TV fans, fear not. Now that the Jersey Shore is gone, realty show producers have developed a new crop of programs that aim to shine, "a light on a genuine, region-specific American subculture," according to the New York Times. Is that what is happening on my screen? If you are interested in televised ethnography, or something like it, last week MTV debuted "Buckwild," a show about a group of you Americans living in rural West Virginia. On Wednesday "Washington Heights," a reality show that focuses on the lives of Dominican-Americans living in the upper Manhattan neighborhood for which the show is named. And on Monday VH1 will begin airing "Black Ink Crew," yet another reality show entry. This one is set in a Harlem tattoo parlor. Of course there's also "The Sisterhood", a reality show that follows five Atlanta pastor's wives, and "The Best Funeral Ever," about events in and around a Dallas funeral home. Both gems air on TLC.

A little more frightening health news. A new study found that most teens who attempt of contemplate suicide have had some mental health care. One wonders if that is also true for young Latinas. Latina suicide rates are climbing so quickly its become the subject of CDC alerts. A 2011 analysis found that as many as 14 percent of teenaged Latinas have attempted suicide. That's about two times the suicide attempt rate among white teenage girls and nearly three times the share of black teenaged girls who have done the same.

Tyler Perry may be the man with his own studio and distinctive brand of often-debated humor. But today, he also became a man with four Razzie nominations. Razzies recognize what award organizers describe as deplorable and simply terrible films and performances.

While I am not terribly interested in baseball, I took note today when the sport's Hall of Fame rejected Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Does this signal an official embrace of steriod-free competition or just an institution willing to pass on two men who are less than popular human beings due, at least in part, to their alleged steroid use. Sammy Sosa also did not get the nod. There's certainly real diversity in that rejected line up.

Black viewers may be driving MSNBC's recent ratings success, according to The Grio (an NBC-Universal-owned company).

Finally, Carl Berner -- a German immigrant, toy and toolmaker and former factory owner -- died this week in Queens. He was 110 years old and just 20 days short of his 111th birthday. Berner was believed to be the oldest living man in New York City. Before his death, Berner shared this helpful habit: "Even though life is disgusting sometimes," he said, "I'll get up again."

Midday Diversity News And Notes

Janell Ross   |   January 9, 2013   10:49 AM ET

A few deeply interesting stats brought to us by the Pew Research Center

  • The nation's birth rate dropped 8 percent in 2010, the most recent year for which data is available. That decrease is due largely to immigrant women opting to have fewer children.
  • That same year, the share of new marriages between couples with different racial or ethnic backgrounds climbed to 15.1 percent
  • Half of parents with teens who access the Internet say they have used some sort of monitoring or site-blocking software in an effort to try to stay on top of their kid's virtual lives.
  • Nearly one third -- 32 percent -- of ALL Americans have benefited from two or more entitlement programs in their lifetime.

Illinois joined a small gorup of sates yesterday that will issue driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants.

For African Americans genrational downward mobility remains a very distinct possibility. The issue gets little attention but shapes lives and families.

Another take on online dating: it deepens inequalities and exposes the kind of biases that make many of us squirm And, a deeper dive on just what happens when we try to meet online.

Gay, Cuban-American poet to deliver innagural poem. He joins the ranks of celebrated poets such as Robert Frost and Maya Angelou, who also delivered inauguration day poems.

Having a rough day at the office, or difficult time trying to make ends meet? Check out this as-told-to account of a Latina single mother and farm worker's life.

English may not be the mightiest or most expressive language after all.

In Brazil, where prostitution is legal, a sex worker's organization is helping prostitues get "business-ready" for the World Cup, offering English-language classes so that the workers might better communicate with their customers.

Ten things you won't learn about slavery in "Django Unchained," brought to us by Colorlines. This list is for the thinkers among us. Number 1 - Slavery laid the foundation for the modern international economic system. Certainly worth reading.

If you wonder why you need to know or even consider those 10 things, the economy can't really be repaired without addressing lingering institutionalized white supremacy, according to Colorlines.

While most mentions of the Latino population's surging size and influence focus on the group's relative youth -- median age 27 -- a new study found Latinos are also experiencing the fastest rate of growth in glaucoma diagnoses, an eye disease usually associated with old age that can cause blindness.

Finally, a (VIDEO) moment on the n-word, language and representing reality in art with Junot Diaz. If you don't know the words "phenotype" or "dogma" folks, break out your dictionary and watch.

Morning News And Notes From Diverse America

Janell Ross   |   January 9, 2013    9:08 AM ET

A federal judge dealt a blow to what officials insist is one of New York City's most effective but also widely criticized crime-fighting tools. Stop and Frisk can't continue as is in the Bronx.

As Barack Obama prepares for a second term the nation's first black President may be building a team of nearly all white and male cabinet officials and top-level staff leading some to make alarming comparisons between Obama and George W. Bush.

A South Carolina Mexican Restaurant forces it's employees to advertise it's troubling brand of immigration enforcement -- on their uniforms. Let's just say there's an image of a taco and an allusion to a rat trap involved.

The nation's fast-growing and largely affluent Asian population is exerting new levels of philanthropic and cultural influence, according to the New York Times. What does the pattern mean for larger population groups for whom economic struggles remain a common experience?

Since the November election a movement that started with a small group of bold and fully bi-cultural and bilingual undocumented immigrant students has caught fire and spread.

New York's Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat with rumored national political ambitions, plans to propose one of the nation's most restrictive assault weapons bans today.

Turns out Stand Your Ground Laws, policies that grant some legal protection to people who use deadly force to defend themselves or others, are as dangerous as they sound. States with stand your ground policies in place have seen homicides grow nearly 10 percent.

The ideological war between those who think that taxes and government should always be reduced and those who believe that public revenue needs to be marshaled for long term public needs has taken on new meaning in Texas. Lawmakers are debating what to do with the state's projected $8.8 billion surplus. Some object to calls to restore $5.4 in education funding cut during the economic downturn. What happens matters. Texas' population is not only large, but young and exceedingly diverse in ways that will soon characterize the rest of the American population. What happens with education funding matters.

As the nation moves slowly towards more "ordinary" levels of unemployment black joblessness remains at 14 percent. The Loop 21 took a look at what that means in Oakland. Remember unemployment is a measure of those looking for work but unable to find it. It doen't include the very-long term unemployed and those who have given up the hunt.

Latinos' limited buy in on Pan-Hispanic identity clashing with a U.S. Census proposal to reclassify Latino as a race rather than an ethnicity. Where will Afro-Latinos classify themselves? What about Latinos who self-identify as white?

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's illness has forced officials to push back his scheduled Jan. 10 inauguration and some are now contemplating just what a post-Chavez Venezuela will look like.

Finally, a hat tip to a city close to my heart where I lived for almost five years. Nashville is having a moment. How? The city has finally embraced it's own unique cultural stew. "On a Venn diagram, the place where conservative Christians and hipsters overlap would be today's Nashville." - The New York Times

America's Understanding of Emancipation Proclamation, Freedom Too Simple For Country's Own Good

Janell Ross   |   January 1, 2013    4:05 PM ET

Abraham Lincoln, the tall president with the stovepipe hat, the full beard and the grief-stricken eyes, slipped away from the White House’s annual New Year’s celebration with a few members of his administration. Lincoln steadied his nerves, then his hands.

After a few minutes, he took a pen, signed the Emancipation Proclamation and ushered in the beginning of the end of two and a half centuries of American chattel slavery, some of its attendant violence and human degradation. Exactly 150 years ago today, the Emancipation Proclamation -- a monumental document written on both sides of an ordinary sheet of White House paper -- declared slaves living in most of the South “forever free.”

For many American adults, it’s also the moment when universal, legal freedom became a reality for an estimated 4 million black slaves. But scholars who have studied the document, Lincoln and Civil War history say the limited understanding of how slaves became free citizens led to a national habit of thinking about complex issues like race and equality simply, like finite challenges already wrestled with and resolved.

“Of all the country’s foundational and key documents the Emancipation Proclamation may well be the most misunderstood,” said Eric Foner, a Columbia University historian and a leading Reconstruction, race and Lincoln scholars.

“On the one hand, there are a healthy share of Americans who believe that Lincoln freed all the slaves with a stroke of his pen,” said Foner, who this year published “The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery.”

“On the other, there is this cynical modern take that says Lincoln wasn’t interested in emancipation, that he took action for purely political reasons, for military reasons and this notion that not many slaves were actually freed. None of that is exactly true.”

Lincoln was not the lone force behind emancipation but rather an essential part of a coalition of outspoken abolitionists that included free blacks and whites, said Lonnie G. Bunch III, director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture and one of the curators of the Smithsonian’s 150th Emancipation Proclamation anniversary exhibit.

Lincoln also was responding to the unique pressure slaves brought to bear, said Bunch.

From the very start of the war in South Carolina, slaves began running away more frequently and willingly, living in a state of legal limbo. What started with four slaves in Virgina given refuge in a Union-controlled fort, became hundreds and later thousands of slaves in areas just north of the Mason-Dixon line. In order to evade slave catchers, bounty-hunter like figures paid to find and return fugitive slaves to their masters empowered by federal law, some set up so-called “contraband” camps near Union Army encampments or outposts, said Bunche. One such camp grew in what is now Arlington Cemetery, just outside Washington, D.C.

Some runaways also began to work for wages. They dug trenches and latrines, managed laundry and other tasks related to war. Later, when the Union Army began accepting black soldiers, some negotiated with commanding officers to bring their families along.

That drive towards self-liberation was first documented about 30 years ago, said Bunch, but most people have no knowledge of how slaves helped bring down the institution.

“I don’t say this to take anything away from Lincoln,” said Bunch, author of the 2010 book Call the Lost Dream Back: Essays on History, Race and Museums. “Ultimately, the Emancipation Proclamation, the 13th Amendment, none of it would have happened without Lincoln. But it’s also true neither would have happened without all these people and forces essentially saying something had to be done.”

Lincoln, a life-long opponent of slavery who viewed human ownership as immoral but blacks as inferior, first ran for public office in his early 20s, Foner said. He came to national prominence nearly two decades later with a series of heated debates and public speeches calling for the still-growing nation to ban slavery in new states. Later, Lincoln became a public proponent of a gradual slave emancipation that would offer government-funded compensation to slave owners and essentially deport former slaves to Africa.

By the time Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, he supported the idea of an uncompensated and broad emancipation. He publicly endorsed limited rights, including voting, for certain African Americans, Foner said.

The Emancipation Proclamation changed the purpose of the war from restoring and preserving the Union to setting slaves free and defending principles like freedom and unity.

“That evolution has somehow failed to permeate the nation’s thinking,” said Foner. “Instead, Lincoln has become iconic, the self-made man, the frontiersman, the moral politician guided by what is right or the Union’s military goals and this kind of uncommitted emancipator to others.”

The collective value of the nation’s 4 million slaves sat between $3 and $4 billion in 1860, more than all the nation’s factories and railroads combined, Foner said. Any step to set the slaves free, and wipe out slaveholders' “investments,” amounted to a radical act by a supremely savvy, morally driven president, he said.

The document itself, issued in September 1862 as a warning to Southern states that slaves would be freed the following January if the Confederacy did not end the rebellion, went into effect at midnight, Jan.1, 1863. But it applied only to slaves living in Confederate breakaway states back under Union Army control. It also included exemptions.

It freed between 50,000 and 70,000 slaves immediately, Foner said. About 750,000 African Americans living in slave-dense places like New Orleans were not subject to Lincoln’s executive order and remained chattel.

For just over 3 million others, slavery itself would not end until Union forces advanced across the Confederacy. As they did, Union Army soldiers read from pocket-sized copies of the Emancipation Proclamation, announcing the president’s order to slaves, Bunch said.

In states like Texas, that moment came in June 1865, two and half years after Lincoln slipped away from that White House party. Slavery itself became an unconstitutional and utterly illegal institution that same year, when Congress approved the 13th Amendment.

“What Americans have to understand is that there were 100 years between Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation and the 1963 March on Washington,” said Bunch, “and a few years more before that freedom was given any durable and consistent meaning with the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act."

"When you understand that freedom was a process, not a moment, then you can allow yourself to wonder what work is left for us in the next 100 years.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misidentified the location of the Virginia fort where four slaves took refuge after the start of the Civil War.