black
04
Jan

Political reporting erases Americans of color

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Raise your hand if you’ve heard some variation on the phrase, “if not for the (black vote/hispanic vote) X candidate would have lost.” This is usually used when a Democrat wins. It’s bad enough when you hear it from a Republican operative. But when you hear it from a supposedly neutral analyst on CNN or elsewhere, it makes you want to say, “well, should we then make Black people’s vote worth 2/3rds?”

Now comes the latest round of polling about the supremely unqualified Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanagh. (I’m using that descriptor based on what the ABA and 1,700 legal scholars are saying, just in case you think I’m being hyper partisan.)

In the past week since Kavanagh’s off the rails performance, we’ve been treated to several polls saying that Americans are divided on him. Well, sure, Americans are deeply divided about many things. That’s nothing new, although it appears that the chasm is getting deeper. CNN reports that 48 percent of voters say they tend to believe Ford, while 41 percent believe Kavanaugh. What they and other sources miss in covering that Quinnipiac polling was that there are deep racial divides in how people viewed Kavanaugh.

The Root noticed this omission:

Those results would reveal that 83 percent of black and 66 percent of Latinx voters believe Blasey Ford, compared to a mere 40 percent of white voters. And that 80 percent of black and 69 percent of Latinx voters considered her honest compared to just 54 percent of white voters.

This gap persists even when you isolate out white women, a demographic some pundits believed would be outraged at how Blasey Ford was treated by Senate Republicans (her testimony—deemed “credible” by Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee—was essentially thrown out once Kavanaugh began rage-crying).

According to the Quinnipiac poll, nearly half (47 percent) of white women considered Kavanaugh to be honest. The numbers for black and Latinx voters? Just 7 percent and 34 percent, respectively. A plurality of white women did believe Blasey Ford (46 percent)—but it was nowhere near the majority, as was the case with black and Latinx voters.

Parsing out this data matters, because if journalists don’t, they can misleadingly run with narratives like the one in a recent article from the AP, which boldly declared in the headline: “Many women line up in support for Kavanaugh.”

No. Many WHITE women line up in support for Kavanagh. Although, when you look at the actual polling, “many” white women seems to be a bit of a stretch for what is actually less than half.

Here’s another, more nuanced take on how race and gender may play out in the upcoming midterm elections, under the shadow of the Kavanagh confirmation. From the Atlantic:

For more than 40 years, college-educated white women have formed a substantive bloc for the GOP, the key constituency in establishing the party’s hold on suburbs and exurbs across the country. Indeed, the modern conservative movement was built, in part, by the very type of women who may now be fleeing the Republican Party. 

For decades, many women may have seen little difference between the two parties when it came to sexual misconduct, allowing them to prioritize other concerns. Now there’s a bright line.

On Thursday, during a break in Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony, a woman called out to Senator Lindsey Graham that she had been raped in the past. “I’m so sorry,” Graham responded as he ducked into an elevator. “You needed to tell the cops.”

Such casual indifference to women’s mistreatment is visible not only in the Republicans’ endorsement of Kavanaugh, but also in the party’s general dismissal of the #MeToo movement and the president’s obvious sympathy for accused men over accusing women.

The Atlantic article focuses on white women. Because they take for granted what has been shown in poll after poll: women of color, whether young or old, married or single, are solidly against the GOP.

(photo: Zach Gibson, Getty Images)

 

 

07
Jan

Fears of a Non-White Majority

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By now it’s clear that the current administration has whipped up fears – that were already there lurking under the surface – and, anger – about the decline of whites as a percentage of the U.S. population (and, by extension, the decline of white’s perceived cultural power). Witness that two weeks ago, just as Trump’s “fixer,” Michael Cohen, fingered his boss as an co-conspirator in a crime to get elected, the President’s fixation was about the Criminal Mexicans – his favorite refrain – coming across the border to kill white people. It just so happened that as Cohen was singing, it was learned that an undocumented worker had killed a woman in Iowa. Guess which was the top story on Fox news that week?

A New York Times opinion piece by the fantastic Thomas Edsall suggests that the rise of Trumpism came along at just the time when projections showed a declining white majority and a rising non-white population (the way these are phrased are important in how threatened people feel about these demographic changes, as it turns out).

Some of those I contacted suggested that only Trump and his fellow Republicans have the power to change the anti-immigrant, anti-minority tone of the political conversation. Nathan Kalmoe, a political scientist at Louisiana State University, argued, for example, that

“Politicians and other opinion leaders play an important role in helping citizens make sense of the threats and opportunities they face. I expect the views of many white Americans would shift if President Trump and other leaders who deploy ethnonationalist messages collectively changed their tune, at least in terms of attitude intensity and priority.”

In the highly unlikely event that that happened, “prejudices wouldn’t vanish, but they would be less politically potent for most people.” More realistically, Kalmoe wrote, “as long as prominent leaders continue to mobilize white fear and anger on the issue, citizens who trust them will follow.”

Having a leader with a more inclusive – and less incendiary – view of race and demographic changes in the U.S. would help to mitigate some of the anti-immigrant and anti-white animosity, but it wouldn’t completely erase it (Edsall doesn’t say that it would). It’s a problem we’ve been bumping up against for the entire history of what we call the U.S.

Edsall also surveys many other academics regarding demographic changes in the U.S., covering issues such as who identifies as white – a growing number of people with mixed heritage think of themselves as white – and whether the U.S. Census binary non-Hispanic white-minority division may be stoking the anxieties of whites fearful of a majority-minority America.

The bottom line is what I’ve been expressing for years: America has a race problem. What we’ve learned in the past three years is, a leader who tells white Americans “the other” coming to kill their daughters, take their jobs, take their prestige, only makes the problem worse.

Regarding the Iowa woman who was murdered, Mollie Tibbits, the family is fed up with anti-immigrant mouthpieces using her daughter’s murder to score political points, calling them “heartless and despicable” and racist. Where’s the reporting on that, Fox News?

26
Jan

Yes, we still have a big race problem

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180416-starbucks-philadelphia-protest-se-1110a_39b61f1386f6506972b4228c7b5df5ed.fit-1240w

A Philadelphia Starbucks protest (Mark Makela/Reuters)

Let’s review some recent racial bias incidents in the U.S., ranging from the outrageous to the ridiculous. There were incidents where cops were called on black men in Starbucks, on black people having a barbecue in Oakland and on a girl selling water in San Francisco. Earlier this month, three black Airbnb guests in Southern California were detained after a white neighbor called the police.

Moving on to the outrageous, there was the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man in a parking lot in Florida. Yes, there was a dispute over a parking space that turned aggressive. But guess what, the man who shot Markeis McGlockton Sr. won’t be facing charges. Due to Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law, cops can’t even arrest the shooter.

You may be familiar with Florida’s stand your ground law. It means anyone can shoot anyone else if they feel they’re physically threatened, without facing charges. But as we’ve seen with many officer involved shootings of unarmed black men, what constitutes feeling threatened too often stems from the race of the “perpetrator.”

Several psychological studies in the past decade have showed extreme racial bias toward, and abject fear of, black men. More than one study showed that participants were more likely to shoot targets depicting black people than those depicting white people. That’s a bigger problem in states like Florida and others with lax gun laws.

Now, it should be no surprise that new polling shows nearly two thirds of Americans say that racism exists and is a big problem. Interestingly, 30 percent said racism exists but isn’t a big problem (I wonder what race they are).

racepoll_graphic1_fabf68ad5500c47d3621471f3e303640.fit-560w

From NBC News:

Pluralities of Americans said race relations in the United States are getting worse (45 percent) and think that too little attention is paid to race and racial issues (41 percent).
Overall, a 30 percent plurality think race is the biggest source of division in America today, up from 26 percent in February. Racial tensions can be tied to large national events, but the poll also finds stark differences by race focused on everyday experiences.
Four in 10 African-Americans say they have been treated unfairly in a store or restaurant because of their race in the last month, compared to a quarter of Hispanics and only 7 percent of whites….
The poll also found that Americans are split on how often they personally engage in discussions about race with family and friends. A bare majority of Americans (51 percent) say they often or sometimes talk with their friends and family about race relations, while 47 percent say they rarely or never have these types of discussions with friends and family.

I think that last point is significant. If there is a way out of our seemingly intractable race problem, it’s more and better dialogue about race.

06
Jan

Racism’s New Normal

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RFK

Robert Kennedy, building a Rainbow Coalition

Tuesday was the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Robert Kennedy in Los Angeles, minutes after he was projected to win the California primary and was – maybe, we’ll never know – on a path to securing the Democratic nomination for President. It’s just anecdotal, but in my experience, people who were alive and aware at that time, and who were Kennedy supporters, still tear up when they speak of him. Even more so than the reaction of those who remember where they were when his brother, JFK, was killed. They believe that hope was killed on that June day in 1968.

There’s an excellent documentary on Netflix right now, “Bobby Kennedy for President,” which chronicles RFK’s awakening to racial issues of the 60s. The film makes note that he started off that decade as his brother’s Attorney General, wiretapping Martin Luther King and being highly resistant to making overtures to communities of color. Near the end of the decade, and his life, he strongly embraced Black and Latino communities. We can credit Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders for his change of heart. But whether it was political calculation or a sincere evolution – many historians come down on the latter – he was the first politician running for President to not ignore communities of color or at least pay them lip service. Historian Richard Kahlenberg superb has written an excellent paper, “The Inclusive Populism of Robert Kennedy,” making the case that RFK was building an alliance of working-class whites and minorities, a coalition that just might have won.

Fast forward to 2018. Where are working class whites now? Oh yes. They helped propel Donald “Mexicans are rapists” Trump to the White House.

Remember when Presidents of both parties, at least in words, tried to appeal to our better natures? What happened? Was a half-century of progress wiped out with one divisive campaign and one highly divisive and bigoted President. Yes, some of it, at least, we can hope, temporarily.

A recent Washington Post editorial stated that everything we’ve witnessed recently, from the ugly Roseanne tweet that ended her show, to the rise in open racists running for office, are predictable and predicted byproducts of the hate spewed from the resident of the Oval Office:

Can I prove that Trump’s hate-mongering is infecting the culture? No, I can’t, but it stands to reason — and there are signs that it is. This year, there are at least 10 white supremacists running for office — and that doesn’t count failed West Virginia Senate candidate Don Blankenship, who excoriated “China people,” and failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate Michael Williams, who campaigned in a “deportation bus.” Organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, and the Southern Poverty Law Center report that the number of hate crimes and hate groups has increased since Trump became president.

I can’t prove that the rise in overt racism is a direct result of Trump’s hate-mongering. But if not that, then what has precipitated it’s ugly rise?

I think reasonable people can agree on a few things. Racism never really left the U.S. It’s just that many racists and bigots were, for a while, afraid to say what they really thought. During that shining illusory interregnum in blatant racism –how quaint the term post-racial society sounds – people with racial animus – as opposed to racial bias, which, sadly affects a much wider swath of America – became resentful about feeling like they had to moderate their views. What was happening was, they were keeping the views out of sight, but within their bubbles, they were free to not only say what they wanted, their sense of white victimization grew. Hey, bubbles reinforce beliefs, don’t they?

Speaking of bubbles, we all live in our own. Here in southern California, a melting pot, salad, whatever metaphor you want to use, of every race, bigotry is generally not cool. Because I live in this region, which is relatively free of overt racism – oh it’s likely there, but tamped down by social norms – I’m left astounded and a little depressed every time I see support for Muslim travel bans, racist rallies, and polls where whites say they’re victims of discrimination.

And now, here we are, in a time where racism, for the time being in at least in a too-large part of the population, is normalized again. We’re a much more diverse nation than 50 years ago, and on the verge of, as you’re probably aware, of becoming a nation where whites are not the majority. And yet, we have an occupant in the White House who has, time and again, shown more racial animus than any major candidate for President since George Wallace, a man who doesn’t use coded dog-whistle terms to speak to racists, but rather, a bullhorn. It should be noted that George “Segregation Forever” Wallace didn’t come close to winning any of his Presidential races. Pendulums swing back and forth. We may be seeing a certain percentage of the white population unleashed and angry that they’ve had to keep their racism under wraps for so long. But it’s pretty clear that Trump gave them the freedom to unwrap it.

Still, America is changing, and it will not become whiter. I fear that America will always have a problem with race. But with more time, and with leaders who, at the very least, accept that this is a multicultural nation, we’ll keep making progress.

While I’m on the RFK-Trump comparison, one more thing. Charles Blow, opinion columnist in the New York Times, has an excellent piece today outlining what he sees as the darkness in Trump, and concludes:

He always disguises his hatred, often as a veneration and defense of his base, the flag, law enforcement or the military. He hijacks their valor to advance his personal hatred.

So I remember that. I center that. I hear “I want to hate” every time I hear him speak. And I draw strength from the fact that I’m not fighting for or against a political party; I’m fighting hatred itself, as personified by the man who occupies the presidency. That is my spine stiffener.

Surely RFK had his detractors. But I seriously doubt anyone made the case fifty years ago that he was a “hater.” Maybe that’s why he’s still beloved by so many who were adults at the time. And I’m trying not to be mean here, but I can’ help wondering how many people get weepy at the memory of Gov. George Wallace, who, to be fair, recanted on much of his racial animosity at the end of his life. And I can’t help wondering, after all the ways Trump has taken us backward into bigotry, after he’s gone, how many people will choke up at the memory of him?

 

 

 

 

17
Jan

The case for mocking bigotry

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Does it seem like every day this month you’ve heard about people, white people, calling the cops or security on people of color sitting in Starbucks (more than once), coming out of their Air BNBs, sleeping in the common area of their dormitories, trying to return a circuit cutter at Hobby Lobby? Well, that’s because there’s been a new incident almost every day. There may be a new one today.

This open bigotry and xenophobia has been going on for decades. And it happens because white people, generally, feel they have the police on their side.

But thanks to the ubiquity of cell phone cameras and social media, we’re getting an idea of just how widespread the fear of The Other is in the U.S. Mostly this fear and animosity is directed at Black Americans. Sometimes it’s at Latinos or other people of color, like the NYC lawyer who threatened to call ICE because people at a restaurant were… gasp, speaking Spanish. Can you imagine? In a video shared by Edward Suazo and first reported on by Latino Rebels, that fuming lawyer, Aaron Schlossberg, excoriated a Fresh Kitchen employee for not interfering in people’s conversations en Español.

“Your staff are speaking Spanish to customers when they should be speaking English,” he said. “Every person I listened to, he spoke it. He spoke it. She’s speaking it. It’s America… So I will be following up, and my guess is, they’re not documented. So my next call is to ICE to have each one of them kicked out of my country. If they have the balls to come here and live off of my money. I pay for their welfare. I pay for their ability to be here. The least they can do, the least they can do is speak English.”

For those who don’t see the U.S. as a white homeland, these incidents can provide anger and outrage. And that’s natural. These are outrageous instances. I’m not saying it’s wrong to be furious with these people. And, surely the killing and beating of People of Color for no reason is absolutely a reason to get mad.

But there is also something that the internet does well: ridicule and mock those that so deserve it.

Take the incident last weekend in Oakland, California, where a white woman called the police on a black family who had the temerity to barbeque in a public park.

Yes, she used the N word. Then she started crying when the police arrived, acting like she’s the victim of the encounter. Merry pranksters online are responding with humorous memes.

Like this one:

 

And this:

Also:

And a big party was planned in that park, supporting people who have the nerve to picnic while Black.

In light of rampant – but at least not violent, in these cases – injustice, sometimes you just have to laugh instead of crying. That is precisely what meme creators have done. As for that angry racist lawyer, Schlossberg, it looks like he will be enjoying the music of several Mariachis, right at his office, gratis. No, thank you, internet-based pranksters.

Schlossberg, by the way, appears to have a history of bizarre and offensive racial outbursts. This is beyond mere racism, in my opinion. I’m not a doctor, but this guy has some serious mental issues. He needs help. In the meantime, he deserves all the scorn and ridicule he’s getting (though I hope it doesn’t make him worse).

Outrage has its place. But there’s also something to be said for responding to racism and bigotry with style, art, humor and love. The best response to others inhumanity is to embrace your own humanity.

 

 

06
Jan

Racial Battle Fatigue

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Over ten years ago University of Utah researcher William A. Smith coined the term “racial battle fatigue” while studying how racial “microagressions” marginalized black students at predominately white colleges and universities. Racial Battle Fatigue, he wrote, meant African descent constantly worry, have trouble concentrating, become fatigued, and develop headaches when navigating personal and professional spaces that have historically favored white people.

More recently a series of studies have built on Smith’s findings, with researchers coming to similar conclusions about what has been described as the pitfalls of living while black. ThinkProgress details one of the latest academic works, featured in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders, focused on generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) — defined as more than six months of severe worrying and tension.

Researchers examined data from the National Survey of American Life, a study of more than 5,800 American adults -– 60 percent of whom were African American, nearly 25 percent were Afro-Caribbean, and 15 percent were non-Hispanic whites. More than 40 percent of the African Americans surveyed recounted receiving some form of racial discrimination, and nearly 5 percent suffered from GAD. Meanwhile, nearly 39 percent of Afro-Caribbean respondents said they received discrimination, and less than three percent developed GAD.
Whites who suffered from GAD in the study did so because of other forms of discrimination, head researcher Jose Soto, Ph.D. told PscyhCentral.com. For all races, non-racial discrimination counted as a source of GAD. Soto acknowledged that Afro-Caribbean respondents had less of a sensitivity to racial discrimination — perhaps a result of their different history. Even so, Soto said that people of the black diaspora entering unwelcoming environments endure stress that can become mental illness, similar to what soldiers face on the field.
“The results of our study suggest that the notion of racial battle fatigue could be a very real phenomenon that might explain how individuals can go from the experience of racism to the experience of a serious mental health disorder,” said Soto, head investigator at Pennsylvania State University. “While the term is certainly not trying to say that the conditions are exactly what soldiers face on a battlefield, it borrows from the idea that stress is created in chronically unsafe or hostile environments.”

Black people aren’t making it up. And given events like the most recent shooting of a black man, execution-style, by cops, it doesn’t look like this fatigue is likely to let up.

11
Jan

Minority voter suppression, 2016 edition

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We’ve just seen the first two contests of the 2016 elections, and just in time, there’s a new paper from the University of California, San Diego, that shows what we already suspected. That is, voter ID laws dampen turnout for minorities.

Voter ID laws adversely affected the turnout of minorities, and particularly that of Latinos, the paper found. The study also revealed that turnout among Democrats was disproportionately affected, backing up claims of a political motivation behind the laws, which have been overwhelmingly championed by GOP legislators.

It is the first comprehensive study that’s been done over many election cycles that very clearly shows how minority voters are affected, and how they’re adversely and disproportionately affected compared to their white counterparts, the authors say.

Lajevardi, a Ph.D. candidate in UC-San Diego’s department of political science, is joined on the study by lead author Zoltan L. Hajnal , a political science professor there and with Lindsay Nielson, a post-Doctoral fellow. They examined not just the turnout, but the gap among racial groups compared with white voters. Looking at states with strict photo ID laws in elections from 2006 through 2012, they found, where they are enacted, racial, and ethnic minorities are less apt to vote.

Not only have the numbers of states passing voter ID laws grown considerably since the Supreme Court approved of Indiana’s photo ID law in 2008, the requirements in the laws have also gotten stricter. The paper’s authors thus focused attention on “strict” photo ID laws, meaning those “that prevent the voter from casting a regular ballot if they cannot present appropriate identification.” Seven states have strict photo ID laws in place, by the study’s count.

In general elections, states with strict photo ID laws show a Latino turnout 10.3 points lower than in states without them, the study showed. The law also affected turnout in primary elections, where Latino turnout decreased by 6.3 points and Black turnout by 1.6 points.

22
Jan

Needed: more black teachers

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Nina Simone didn’t sing these lyrics, but today to be young, gifted and black means being cheated out of the “gifted” track, according to an essay at National Public Radio.

The essay, “To Be Young, Gifted And Black it helps to have a black teacher,” looks at a recent study on the low numbers of students of color in gifted programs. The study notes that the students are “high-achieving,” yet under-represented.

A new, national study finds that black students are about half as likely as white students to be put on a “gifted” track — even when they have comparable test scores. Previous surveys have found a similar gap, but the researchers here — Jason Grissom and Christopher Redding at Vanderbilt University — looked only at students attending schools with gifted programs. So the disparity can’t be accounted for by, say, the fact that black students are more likely to attend under-resourced schools.

Only one factor erased this disparity between students: the race of their teachers.

Some reactions in comments section of the NPR Ed article, ask if the writer is calling for a return to segregation. Nope. In case it wasn’t clear, it’s a call to usher more teachers into the education field who are able to relate to black students.

30
Jan

Why minority millennials can’t get ahead

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There’s a fascinating article in The Atlantic about the plight of minority millennials. Black and Latino millennials, specifically, are less likely to receive parental financial help, and more likely to give assistance to parents.

Recent polls indicate that a large portion of Millennials receive financial help from parents. At least 40 percent of the 1,000 Millennials (ages 18 to 34) polled in a March USA Today/Bank of America poll get help from parents on everyday expenses. A Clark University poll indicated an even higher number, with almost three-quarters of parents reporting that they provide their Millennial children with financial support. Another survey saw nearly a third of Baby Boomers paying for Millennials’ medical expenses. A quarter of Boomers subsidized “other expenses” so their Millennial offspring could save money. Black and Hispanic Americans are less likely to be the recipients of this type of support.

Ironically, even though black and Hispanic Millennials are less likely to receive financial support from parents, their parents are more likely than white parents to expect their kids to help financially support them later on.

We wonder if this survey will do anything to squash that meme that “if those lazy minorities would just work harder they’d succeed.” Safe money is on “no.”

20
Jan

Racial bias, auto insurance edition

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A new study released by the Consumer Federation of America shows drivers in predominantly black communities can face car insurance rates upwards of two times as much as drivers in white communities. According to the report:

Most states prohibit the consideration of a driver’s race or ethnicity when determining premiums. However, the findings of this report suggest that good drivers living in predominantly African American communities will pay, on average, 70 percent more for state-mandated minimum liability-only coverage than a similarly-situated driver in a predominantly white community. After controlling for both population density (as a proxy for traffic density) and income, we found that drivers living in predominantly African American communities continued to see higher average premiums than similarly situated drivers in predominantly white communities.

Even controlling for factors that might be expected to raise premiums, the Federation found disparities between those living in black communities and white communities. Even more stark differences remained between people living in upper middle-income areas, as there was a 170% difference between black communities and white communities there.