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  • Originally published 08/07/2013

    LA Times interviews Brenda E. Stevenson

    Historian Brenda E. Stevenson (pictured in her UCLA office, with an African sculpture) mostly writes about the long-gone — 18th and 19th century African Americans, and the lives of enslaved women. Then came the case that made history while L.A. watched: Korean-born shopkeeper Soon Ja Du killed black teenager Latasha Harlins over a bottle of orange juice. A jury convicted Du of voluntary manslaughter, but she was sentenced only to probation and community service.Stevenson's new book, "The Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins," analyzes the other "no justice, no peace" case that echoes through the 1992 riots and into the present day.Thirteen days after the Rodney King beating, Harlins was shot and killed. Where were you when all of this happened?

  • Originally published 07/18/2013

    Professor Anthea Butler calls God a 'white racist' in blog about Zimmerman trial

    The not guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman case has me thinking a lot about a book I first encountered in seminary, Is God a White Racist?, by the Rev. Dr. Bill Jones. As a budding seminary student, it took me by surprise. Now, as a wiser, older professor looking at the needless death of Trayvon Martin, I have to say: I get it.God ain’t good all of the time. In fact, sometimes, God is not for us. As a black woman in a nation that has taken too many pains to remind me that I am not a white man, and am not capable of taking care of my reproductive rights, or my voting rights, I know that this American god ain’t my god. As a matter of fact, I think he’s a white racist god with a problem. More importantly, he is carrying a gun and stalking young black men.

  • Originally published 07/08/2013

    Shaila Dewan: Has ‘Caucasian’ Lost Its Meaning?

    Shaila Dewan is an economics reporter for The New York Times.AS a racial classification, the term Caucasian has many flaws, dating as it does from a time when the study of race was based on skull measurements and travel diaries. It has long been entirely unmoored from its geographical reference point, the Caucasus region. Its equivalents from that era are obsolete — nobody refers to Asians as “Mongolian” or blacks as “Negroid.”And yet, there it was in the recent Supreme Court decision on affirmative action. The plaintiff, noted Justice Anthony M. Kennedy in his majority opinion, was Caucasian.To me, having covered the South for many years, the term seems like one of those polite euphemisms that hides more than it reveals. There is no legal reason to use it. It rarely appears in federal statutes, and the Census Bureau has never put a checkbox by the word Caucasian. (White is an option.)

  • Originally published 06/24/2013

    SCOTUS Ruling on Affirmative Action Could Give Private Universities Advantage

    Credit: Wiki Commons.The Supreme Court, in a 7-1 decision with Justice Ginsburg dissenting, has issued a ruling in the Fisher v. University of Texascase that will likely require public universities to explore virtually all race-neutral alternatives in their attempts to achieve diversity before being able to use race as a factor in admissions.The ruling was probably the result of a compromise that, while not overturning previous decisions and not ruling that UT’s use of race is unconstitutional, will nevertheless lead to greater difficulty for colleges that want to use race as a factor in admissions.The decision vacates the ruling in favor of UT Austin by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and remands the case to the circuit court with instructions to apply "strict scrutiny" to the university’s rationale for using race as an admissions factor.

  • Originally published 05/05/2013

    The NYT Ignores USDA Discrimination

    Sharecroppers in Georgia, 1941. Credit: Library of Congress.The New York Times recently published a report that focused on fraud in disbursing settlements for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) discrimination among African American, Indian, Hispanic, and women farmers. Reporter Sharon LaFraniere wrote of “career lawyers and agency officials who had argued that there was no credible evidence of widespread discrimination.”

  • Originally published 04/01/2013

    A post-racial US? Supreme Court may nullify civil rights policies as outdated in era of Obama

    WASHINGTON — Has the nation lived down its history of racism and should the law become colorblind?Addressing two pivotal legal issues, one on affirmative action and a second on voting rights, a divided Supreme Court is poised to answer those questions.In one case, the issue is whether race preferences in university admissions undermine equal opportunity more than they promote the benefits of racial diversity. Just this past week, justices signaled their interest in scrutinizing affirmative action very intensely, expanding their review as well to a Michigan law passed by voters that bars “preferential treatment” to students based on race. Separately in a second case, the court must decide whether race relations — in the South, particularly — have improved to the point that federal laws protecting minority voting rights are no longer warranted....

  • Originally published 03/21/2013

    Chauncey DeVega: No, Jesus Wasn't White

    Chauncey DeVega is editor and founder of the blog We Are Respectable Negroes, which has been featured by the NY Times, the Utne Reader, and The Atlantic Monthly. Writing under a pseudonym, Chauncey DeVega's essays on race, popular culture, and politics have appeared in various books, as well as on such sites as the Washington Post's The Root and PopMatters. The History Channel miniseries “The Bible” is one of the most popular TV shows in recent memory. “The greatest story ever told” seems to have much life left in it....

  • Originally published 02/26/2013

    Census drops term "Negro"

    The Census Bureau is finally dropping its century-old reference to black Americans as “Negros,” and adopting more modern-day lingo — “black” or “African American.”The change goes into effect next year, The Associated Press reports. That’s when the next American Community Survey is due for distribution to an estimated 3.5 million homes, AP reported.The use of Negro stems from 1900, when it replaced the term “colored,” AP reports. In the 1960s, blacks then began identifying themselves as “blacks,” or “African Americans.” Few nowadays use the term Negro at all, and many find it offensive, said Nicholas Jones, chief of the racial statistics branch at the Census Bureau, according to AP....

  • Originally published 02/23/2013

    Emory president's essay draws criticisms

    In recent years, Emory University made a point to acknowledge how the school was once led by slave owners, but an essay by the school president has renewed debate about racial sensitivity on campus.Emory President James Wagner recently wrote about the three-fifths compromise on slavery in 1787 to talk about the value of finding common ground in politics. In the compromise, northern and southern states agreed that three-fifths of the slave population would count toward representation in Congress, giving southerners more power in the House of Representatives.A faculty group voted to censure Wagner and students planned a protest next week...