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Diversity News & Notes

Janell Ross   |   February 19, 2013    8:52 AM ET

Well folks, the fact that names tend to be passed down or reused inside families and certain names appear to be preferred by black and white parents, should come as a surprise to precisely no one. But a new paper released by the National Bureau of Economic Research indicates that these distinctive racial naming practices predate the 1960s. The other big finding: according to census data the most common given name for black men is Booker. Not so surprisingly, the study also confirms that names that are considered "distinctively black" have been linked to a range of not so great outcomes including higher/ longer-running periods of unemployment.


In Mexico City, officials are ramping up a gun and other weapon buy back program that since December has induced residents to turn in, "more than 2,500 guns, 225 grenades, 16,000 cartridges and a bomb, government officials said. Residents have received cash totaling $344,716, in addition to gifts and vouchers," Fox News Latino reported.

Over the weekend, Obama's big speech in Chicago about violence and guns got a lot of push back from people who think he came, played a little politics, blamed absent black fathers and isn't showing the same sort of sympathy or concern about the violence that kills too many Black Americans that he did in Newtown, Conn. or Aurora, Colo. Now, there's absolute truth in the idea that any gun control efforts need to be tailored to address the kind of "routine" handgun violence that effects so many cities and communities of color, not just assault weapons used in tragic but rare mass killings. And, there's certainly truth in the idea that efforts to reduce black unemployment and other root causes of the disproportionate rates of poverty in black America are important matters on which many people want and feel that they need to hear from Obama. But the backlash, and nearly outright rejection of the idea that families and family structures have anything to do with the violence that plagues Chicago and many other cities is pretty surprising. Publications ranging form Time magazine to Clutch (an online publication), Ebony and Poltics365.com, all expressed real frustration with Obama's mention of absent black dads. But, what if we worried less about the image of black men/black fathers and more about the actual conditions under which many black children are being raised? Is there anything that Obama can say on this topic that seems important or legitimate? What should he have said in Chicago? I'd like to hear your thoughts. Email me at Janell.ross@huffingtonpost.com


In case you missed it, Politics365 had an interesting take Friday on the purchases - fedoras, Rolexes and memorabilia - that appear to be at the root of Jesse Jackson, Jr.'s legal problems. Politics365 has the list of questionable campaign spending.


Despite the Obama Administration's public commitment to focus deportation efforts on high priority targets - those convicted of or wanted for serious crimes - USA Today reported this weekend that people caught driving without a license and other minor infractions remain targets for immigration officials. In fact, these people are being rounded up and deported to bolster the administration's annual deportation figures.

After a trip to Atlantic City earlier this year to report on just how integral immigrants are to the city's economy (they work in the area's casinos and hotels), I wasn't surprised to read that the Trump Plaza, one of the strip's biggest casinos, sold last week. The casino industry in Atlantic City is shrinking and its population is changing dramatically even if its Republican-dominated politics have not. Now, a Latino-owned California company plans to take over and rename the Trump Plaza, Fox News Latino reports.

Inside the Mind of Christopher Dorner

Janell Ross   |   February 15, 2013    8:00 AM ET

This week, I worked on a story about the emotional toll of workplace discrimination - real or perceived - and just why so many people of color seem to identify with some, but certainly not all, of former Los Angles cop Christopher Dorner's experiences.

The story should go up today and when it does, I'll drop a link in here. Please take a look. But, honestly, there was so much that I couldn't jam into the story, that I decided to share a few outtakes from the notebook here.

I had a fascinating conversation with Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, a Duke University sociologist who studies race and stratification in the United States and Latin America.

Bonilla-Silva is a self-described black Puerto Rican living in the Durham, N.C.-area who because of his dark skin and Spanish-inflected accent has experienced both the kind of discrimination usually reserved for black men and people assumed to be illegal immigrants. Imagine that!

In 1994, Ellis Cose wrote a controversial but in some circles well-received book called, "The Rage of a Privileged Class: Why Are Middle-Class Blacks Angry? Why Should America Care?," Bonilla-Silva said.

The year before, Colin Ferguson, a Jamacian-born New York man from a once wealthy family who blamed American racism for his inability to find anything more than menial work, shot and killed six people aboard the Long Island Railroad.

Strangely, Ferguson was declared sane enough to stand trial. Once it began, he defended himself by making references to his actions in the third person and questioning his own victims on the stand, University of Connecticut historian and writer chronicling the modern meaning of race, William Jelani Cobb, told me during a casual conversation. The goal: put a disturbed man in prison rather than a mental health care facility. Ferguson is still on te front end of serving a sentence of 315 years and 8 months to life at the Upstate Correctional Facility in Franklin County, New York.

In 2011, Cose published a new book, "The End of Anger: A New Genration's Take on Race and Rage." The black-white household wealth gap is also the largest that it has been in 30 years, he said. A similar, only slightly smaller wealth gap exists between Latino and white Americans.

But, Many African Americans and Latinos have been socialized to believe that if they simply manage the pain of discrimination tor ignore it the next generation will have better lives, Bonilla-Silva said. Now, there is Dorner.

"For folks of color it sometimes feels like we are living in an Alice and Wonderland, through the looking glass kind of world," said Bonilla-Silva. "You may not work in a space where people will call you names. There is often a softer version of racism but killing me softly, still kills."

This week, while hunting for Dorner, the Los Angeles Police Department announced that it would reinvestigate Dorner's complaints.

For black Americans and many Latinos, police brutality and racial profiling, shoddy or suspect criminal investigations, wrongful convictions and other miscarriages of justice are not just concepts the documentary film maker and investigator Keith Beauchamp said.

For most white Americans, just the opposite is true.

"That has produced some very different takes on Dorner in black and white America," he told me. "In black America I don't think we condone his behavior. But I think we, I know I can understand the emotions behind it."

You may know Beauchamp's name from his Investigation Discovery Channel specials, "The Injustice Files." Beauchamp travels the country investigating stories of police misconduct including alleged racial profiling, or cases in which the murders, beatings, disappearances or arrests of mostly young black men have gone unsolved. The latest episode of "The Injustice Files aired this week. And, since Investigation Discovery is a cable network, I suspect that it will be repeated.

If you can't find "The Injustice Files" on TV, Beauchamp's short on the emotional impact of being presumed dangerous, guilty and suspicious is worth checking out here. Dr. Alvin Poussaint, a Harvard University psychiatrist and the man behind a number of books on emotional health and race makes it really plain in less than 3min.

But perhaps most meaningful were the comments of another mental health professional I talked with this week. Earl Bracy is a clinical psychologist in Milwaukee. Bracy treats many young black men struggling with the emotional fall out from injustice and just released his own memoirs about his expriences with discrimination in his personal and professional lives

Police officers of all races face particularly challenging work environments that require them to operate in a state of hyper alert arousal - stress - at almost all times. That makes it difficult for them to socialize with others who work in different industries, Bracy said. The work of a black police officer inside an institution with a racial reputation as notorious as the NYPD will face additional stress.

On top of that, there is ample proof that black officers may turning the black people that they do arrest into unwitting and excessively punished victims of the criminal justice system, Bracy said.

Other African American coping with similar things on their own jobs may be better equipped to handle life's difficulties because they experience lower levels of sustained stress, are more comfortable with themselves or have a social network onto which they an unload and in which they feel understood, Bracy said.

Another group express their pain in dangerous and damaging ways on family and friends.

"Neither [Dorner's method or that of the latter group] is good," said Bracy. "Neither is healthy at all. It's just one goes on at home instead of in the street and on the front pages of newspapers."

Again, please check out the full story on race, mental health and discrimination here.

Diversity News & Notes

Janell Ross   |   January 30, 2013   10:04 AM ET

The New York Times has an amazing story about the experiences of Newtown, Conn. police officers who responded to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary that is worth reading. But, Slate also managed to wrestle something really important out of it's write up on the story . The officers - trained to deal with emergency situations- are experiencing symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder, better known as PTSD. ""One look, and your life was absolutely changed," Michael McGowan, one of the first officers to arrive at the school," told the New York Times. The truth is there is a lot of data out there that says this officer is quite right. Are we thinking enough about this and the many black and Latino children who witness gun violence and even death frequently in some of the country's low-income neighborhoods as we consider gun control and related reforms? Are we thinking about the kids in Chicago, their mental and physical health? The New York Times has another gripping story this morning that indicates we should.


Heading to Atlantic City today to write about that city's changing demographics and the politics of immigration reform. Check out the city's demographic profile here. Do you know Atlantic City, it's immigration, labor and political situations? If so and you want to chat, please shoot me an email at Janell.ross@huffingtonpost.com .


Slate also has this interesting look at the politics and economics of immigration reform. It is true that unemployment among foreign-born workers is a bit lower than it is among those born in the United States. But, the often-repeated idea that an increase in immigrant labor depresses other workers' wages is just plain false. Economists of all stripes seem to agree on this.


The folks over at Politics365 have declared the "Tea Party Officially Dead," upon reports that Sarah Palin has parted ways with Fox News and her reportedly $1 million annual salary.

The Philadelphia Tribune brings us news of questions about Newark Mayor and Senate hopeful Cory Booker's political future.

Finally, the Pew Research Center's daily number brings us sobering news about a period of life I hope to experience and enjoy. The share of Americans who worry or doubt that they will have enough money to retire climbed 13 percent since 2009. That may have something to do with the stock market losses many people sustained, stagnant wages and our national problem of falling median income and rising poverty. And, there's news this morning that in the fourth quarter of 2012 our economy not only failed to grow, but contracted, The New York Times reports. Retirement savings among blacks and Latinos are particularly low due in large part to a lifetime of lower wages, limited saving and higher-cost borrowing (and let us take note that not all of these issues are simply a matter of choice/ smart decision making). Did you know that about 26 percent of black retirees and 25 percent of Latinos depended on Social Security for 100 percent of their income in 2011? That compares to just about 10 percent of Asian retirees and 14 percent of their white peers. One of my best and smartest sources, Algernon Austin at the Economic Policy Institute, (EPI) has done the research. Something serious to think about this morning. http://www.pewresearch.org/daily-number/more-americans-worried-about-having-enough-for-retirement/


Well, that's all for now.

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

Janell Ross   |   January 29, 2013    8:19 AM ET

The news of the day certainly rotates somewhere around immigration reform. The President is expected to deliver a speech in Las Vegas this afternoon outlining his goals for immigration reform legislation and calling for action. A bi-partisan group of senators announced the bare bones of a plan yesterday. Should Congress manage to pass immigration legislation this year, it would mark the first significant overhaul of the nation's migration policy since the 1980s. The president is expected to echo much of what the group of Senators laid out yesterday with a few differences. And NBC Latino points out that labor and civil rights groups and other "unusual suspects" are backing the proposed reforms already made public.


If you are a person who has any doubts about the continued role that discrimination plays in the labor market, or want to get a sense of how large it looms, take a look at this break down of Equal Opportunity Commission hiring data from private employers and what the New York Times describes as increases in equality in fits and starts. Turns out education doesn't make as big of a difference as we've been told. Then check out this story on just how heavily employers are relying on employees to refer friends and fill jobs. Maybe some of these people also have binders full of women or black and Latino potential employees.

I've long questioned the veracity of a lot of publically and readily available investment advice. An awful lot of it just happens to advise people to keep investing in the market, buy and hold and opt for investments that pay advisors and brokers larger fees. But, I also am a believer that advice needs to be available and tailored. For instance is maxing out that 401K, paying down credit card debt or building an emergency savings fund more important? It all depends on who you are, where you are in life and what family and friends may be able to do to help you. But even so-called specific advice can be problematic. Slate had a great take on this issue yesterday, pointing out the disturbing ways that investment advice often patronizes and misdirects women. Check it out. Then take a look at this study too. The women of America are not happy with their investment advice.


Fox News Latino reports this morning that a federal judge has decided that Immigration and Custom's Enforcement agents can sue President Obama over his attempts to get the agency to focus it's attention on serious criminal offenders rather than easy to find and spot undocumented immigrants who abide by most laws. "A federal judge ruled that nearly a dozen federal immigration agents can move forward with their lawsuit against their own bosses and even President Obama over change in enforcement policy that the agents argue prevent them from doing their jobs," Fox News Latino reported.

Ok folks, this is bad, bad news in black and Latino America, where obesity is common. "If you've been relying on your BMI to determine if you're overweight, it may be time to get a second opinion.
Professors at Oxford University have found the mathematical equation used to calculate body mass index (BMI ) is inaccurate, Fox News Latino reported.

Just in case you aren't' a regular PBS viewer, I wanted to draw a moment of attention to an interesting interview on Bill Moyer's new show where the pro-choice movement's decision to move away from that term gets a good airing along with the ways that race, ethnicity, class and public policy often shape women's reproductive options. Check out the VIDEO here.

Also in case you missed it, PBS's American Experience just aired something intriguing about abolitionists. Look for the repeat folks. It is worth your time, especially if you are a fan of Richard Brook, the black guy who appeared on the earliest episodes of Law and Order rocking a low-top box. His hair is different but the intensity with which he argues remains the same.


That's all for now.

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

Janell Ross   |   January 25, 2013   12:02 PM ET

It seems that women's full integration into the military is following a well worn path. First women have proven their utility, despite obstacles. Then, they convince a few proximate naysayers. That circle grows and finally, a policy change. "Since 1994, women have technically been barred from serving in those front-line units. But throughout the post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, women -- working as medics, intelligence officers, photographers, military police officers and in a host of other jobs -- have been routinely "attached" to all-male ground combat units, where they have come under fire, returned fire, been wounded and been killed. To supporters of Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta's decision to rescind the prohibition on women in combat, the experiences of those women proved that the distinction between being "attached" to a combat unit and actually serving in one was outdated, and pointless," The New York Times reports. Wonder what it's like to walk in a room or a battle and have no one assume you can't handle the business at hand?


New York's legislature has been through it's share of scandals, arrests and ethical investigations. But this week, "Assemblyman Vito J. Lopez has declined to testify in an investigation being conducted by the state ethics commission into claims that he sexually harassed four former aides and the Legislature's response to those allegations," The New York Times reports. In this case Lopez, the legislature's leadership and the investigators are under scrutiny.


Continuing with the troubled politician theme, Kwame Kilpatrick is headed to jail -- for the weekend. "Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick will spend the weekend in prison as a penalty for 14 parole violations, a state corrections spokesman said Friday.When given the opportunity to waive the formal parole violation process and instead serve three days at a Detroit lockup as punishment, Kilpatrick agreed, said Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Russ Marlan.Kilpatrick is to report to the Detroit Reentry Center Friday afternoon and will be released from custody early Monday," The Associated Press reports.


Central Falls, Rhode Island has a new, 27-year-old Latino mayor. He can remember getting his high school diploma on the same stage where he was sworn into office this week, Univision ABC reports. "On the first day of 2013, James Diossa was sworn is as mayor of Central Falls, Rhode Island on the same podium where 10 years earlier, he stood in his cap and gown to receive his high school diploma. Now, he was delivering his inaugural address in both English and Spanish.
The 27-year-old Diossa reflects the shifting demographic of this old textile-mill city of 19,000, where currently 60% of its residents are Latino, mostly Colombian."

From Charlotte, there's news that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) delivered a rousing speech yesterday explaining that Republicans don't have to change a thing, except, well, everything, The Associated Press reports. Jindal, who is Indian-American, is sometimes talked about as a 2016 Republican presidential candidate. But while Jindal was talking, one of the party's other diversity all starts, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R), was busy renewing her push to repeal the driver's liscenses of undocumented immigrants. Maybe the Party's strategic planners should look into what the polling firm, Latino Decisions calls, "the calculus of immigration reform."


Politics 365 brings us news of yet another challenge that's been thrown down in front of our new second term President. "Minister Louis Farrakhan, who resides on the south side of Chicago in the same neighborhood where President Obama's home is, appealed to the President to visit people in inner city Chicago the same way he did the families in Newtown, Connecticut after the Sandy Hook School massacre. Twenty six people lost their lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School after a mass shooting.

What resulted from that tragedy was a comprehensive plan on gun control that included a ban on assault weapons. Murder has become routine in the city of Chicago. Over 500 people were murdered in 2012,." Politis365 reports. I have begun to wonder if the White House/ Senate Democrat's focus on high-capacity magazines specific weapons will ultimately leave people living in gun-violence riddled neighborhoods -- most of whom are black or Latino -- any better off.


Proud Mary truly kept on rolling. Tina Turner is on the verge of becoming a Swiss citizen, The Associated Press reports. The U.S.-born Turner (given name Anna Mae Bullock) hails from Tennessee but has lived abroad for several years. No word on whether she will renounce her U.S. citizenship. http://thegrio.com/2013/01/25/tina-turner-on-her-way-to-swiss-citizenship/


Finally, in my continued obsession with meaningful lives and interesting biographies, I came across this story about Larry Selman, a 70-yer-old intellectually-disabled New York man who died Sunday after connecting his neighbors and raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for various causes. His story is worth a read. It will make you smile, maybe shed a few of those feel-good tears. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/25/nyregion/larry-selman-a-shepherd-of-greenwich-village-dies-at-70.html?

Midday Diversity News And Notes

Janell Ross   |   January 17, 2013   11:40 AM ET

In November, the power of the fast-growing Latino electorate seemed to be conversation topic one for those interested in politics. This week, Latino Decisions, a polling firm that specializes in tracking and gauging the opinions of Hispanics, brings us an interesting reminder that the real power of the Latino vote has not yet been tapped. "The National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) estimates that 12.2 million Latinos voted this past election, representing approximately 10% of the national electorate. That number is much too low when we consider that an estimated 2.5 million Latinos who were registered to vote did not cast a ballot in the presidential election. And, an additional 8.6 million Latinos are eligible to register to vote (18 years old or older, and American citizens) but are not registered. There are almost as many potential Latino voters (registered and not voting, or eligible but not registered to vote) 11.1 million, as there are actual Latino voters (12.2 million)," according to the polling firm's blog. This brings to mind something I heard the actress America Ferrera say at the Democratic National Convention. "People should not assume that demographics are destiny. If population growth is not married with increased political participation, then nothing changes."


Given the myriad ways in which President Barack Obama's critics have described him as somehow illegitimate or inappropriate for office, I suppose that we should not be surprised that the NRA launched an "ad" (it's not clear that the NRA has paid for actual air time) attacking Obama, his parenting and his daughters. The ad implies that since Obama's daughters have armed Secret Service protection, Obama's opposition to placing armed guards and other armed adults in schools represents a sort of elitist hypocrisy. "Are the president's kids more important than yours?" the ad asks. The White House has called the ad cowardly and described the mention of the president's daughters as out of bounds, Slate reports.

If you have any doubts about the power and influence of the National Riffle Association (NRA), please note that it's not clear that even a Presidential executive order will override a bit of the group's lobbying handiwork. For the last 17 years, the CDC (and other state-level health and welfare agencies) has been barred from conducting certain types of gun-violence related research. The last time the CDC examined whether gun owners are safer or avoid injury more often than households that are unarmed in the mid 1990s, the data produced and answer the NRA did not like: no. Yesterday, one of the many executive orders issued by Obama called on the CDC to take up a variety of gun-related research. But, the funding for said research would likely need to come from Congress. It will be interesting to see if funding is at least approved to examine gun violence in communities -- many of them home to mostly black and Latino residents -- where the deaths of young people remain tragically frequent.

Erika Andiola, an Arizona-based DREAM Activist and undocumented immigrant, has had quite the month. First, ICE agents detained her family in a surprise visit. Now, a recently elected member of Congress, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, has decided to put Andiola on staff as a regional office outreach staffer, ABC Univision reports. Sinema said she hired Andiola because as an experienced activist she has a set of useful skills.

For those who have doubts about the continued significance of race in the United States, please note that a new study found that residential segregation not only continues but can prove hazardous to one's health. "African-Americans who live in highly segregated counties are considerably more likely to die from lung cancer than those in counties that are less segregated, a new study has found. Its authors said they could not fully explain why it worsens the odds of survival for African-Americans, but hypothesized that blacks in more segregated areas may be less likely to have health insurance or access to health care and specialty doctors. It is also possible that lower levels of education mean they are less likely to seek care early, when medical treatment could make a big difference. Racial bias in the health care system might also be a factor," The New York Times reported. Need I say it? Disturbing. The picture gets really dark when you think about how many smokers are black or Latino. Click here to see data for your state.

After surviving allegations that she used her post to secure funding to shore up a black-owned Internet-based bank with which her husband was connected, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Ca.) has just been appointed the ranking member o the U.S. House Financial Services Committee. Waters is the most senior black woman in Congress and is serving her 12th term, according to Politics 365. Waters was accused of using her position to help OneUnited Bank secure $12 million in Troubled Asset Relief Funds (TARP). Waters husband had been on of the bank's directors and was a stock holder at the time that Water's efforts began. In 2010 she was investigated by the House Ethics Committee for potential violations and cleared in September.

On the good news front, the Pew Research Center's daily number reveals that there has been an 11 percent drop in the number of adults who say they overhear loud and annoying cell phone conversations since 2006. Wonder if they measure how many times people have missed a train, been bumped into or just plain knocked down by someone who is too busy texting to talk loudly into their phone or be aware of the world around them?

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, Delmarvanow.com, 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 Politics365.com 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? Politics365.com 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. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/crime/2012/12/gun_death_tally_every_american_gun_death_since_newtown_sandy_hook_shooting.html

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. http://thegrio.com/2013/01/11/nra-was-pro-gun-control-when-it-came-to-black-panthers/

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, Politics365.com reports. http://politic365.com/2013/01/16/presidential-vehicles-to-display-taxation-without-representation-plates/

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. http://www.census.gov/prod/2012pubs/p60-243.pdf

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 http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/01/one-possible-troubling-outcome-of-online-dating-more-social-inequality/266798/. 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.