5/30/2008 4:34:15 PM
Community organizing requires people believing they belong to a cohesive community. It seems obvious, but consider the particular challenges facing African Americans and Latino immigrants, who struggle with ingrained antagonisms, reports the Kirwan Institute Update (pdf), a publication of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University. They compete “for the same low-paying jobs in many areas, especially in the South,” according to the report, and employers economically exploiting undocumented immigrant workers corrode the unionizing attempts of African Americans. Yet uniting African Americans and Latino immigrants “might be the key to counteract the rising nativistic ideologies and to fight against the pervasive structural racism both communities face.”
To ease the tension between African Americans and Latinos, the Kirwan Institute has several suggestions. Besides the obvious tactics of emphasizing common concerns and working in common spaces like schools and multiracial churches, it suggests involving community “bridge-builders.” These individuals might be African immigrants, Black Latinos, or immigrant children—people who can remind the community of the blurry boundaries between the two groups.
Image by Claudia A. De La Garza, licensed under Creative Commons.
5/28/2008 10:43:13 AM
Over at Politico, Daniel Libit has assembled a guide to “undisciplined messaging,” the new buzzword for verbal gaffes by the three main presidential contenders. Throughout this year’s seemingly interminable race to the White House, every aside and impromptu remark by the candidates has been pounced upon, dissected by the media with unprecedented scrutiny, and exploded into non-issues that dominate the news cycle, often to the exclusion of any substantive discussion about more important issues like, say, the war in Iraq or the ailing economy. Libit takes us on a tour of this election cycle’s undisciplined messages, from Hillary Clinton’s strange assassination remark to Barack Obama’s offhand “sweetie” to various comments by staffers and surrogates, considering whether each example betrays a more sinister undercurrent of racism or sexism, or is simply a bizarre off-message excursion.
Image by aussiegall, licensed under Creative Commons.
5/21/2008 5:12:40 PM
The Millennial generation—people born between 1982 and 2002—are a bunch of spoiled, materialistic whiners, if you listen to Robert Lanham writing for Radar. They’ve been coddled their entire lives by their baby boomer parents, and now contribute little more to society than Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter accounts (all being updated as we speak). Lanham’s generation, Generation X, is a more cynical, culturally rich group who is seeing its rightful place in the workforce stripped from them by a conspiracy of the boomers and their over-privileged, self-important kids.
For more on Millennials in the workplace, read Kid in the Corner Office from the November/December issue of Utne Reader.
And for a takedown of the boomers, read Joe Hart’s Tangled Up in ME from the September/October issue.
5/21/2008 10:11:36 AM
You can always count on Wonkette, the political arm of the Gawker Media Empire, to handle even the weightiest of topics with an irreverence that dances perilously close the line separating good taste from bad, daring readers to take umbrage. In the wake of the announcement that Senator Ted Kennedy has a malignant and inoperable brain tumor, Wonkette presents a relatively restrained post titled “Ted Kennedy Has Lived for Hundreds of Years.” It features a surprisingly classy YouTube photo-retrospective of his life and career, points out that “Even old racist Robert Byrd cried on the Senate floor” in response to the diagnosis, and concludes that “we can say this because it's unrelated to his cancer: Ted Kennedy looked like such a preppy douchebag for most of his life. But he did shit for poor people so it all balances out.”
Enjoy Wonkette’s tribute to the ailing senator.
5/15/2008 10:57:09 AM
Earlier this week, the Mall of America played host to a Republican National Convention fashion show. If you think that sounds like an oxymoron—Republican National Convention? Fashion?—you’re right, and you haven’t even heard the best part.
As part of the RNC’s stubborn dedication to playing up its Minnesota-ness (the convention will be held in St. Paul September 1-4), it’s including Zubaz, a treasured Minnesota pajama-esque invention, in its collection of convention merchandise ($30, available in red, royal, and navy).
Slumber party at the RNC, anyone?
(Thanks, Media Matters / Altercation.)
5/14/2008 1:48:41 PM
What do Kodachrome, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Bugs Bunny have in common?
Each is younger than presumptive GOP presidential nominee John McCain.
5/13/2008 3:36:32 PM
If globalization is catalogued in your brain as an impenetrable, abstract idea, filed away somewhere between Existentialism and The Official Rules of Cricket, it will quickly become concrete upon reading Clive Doucet’s clear vision of the future of international commerce in Maisonneuve. The article offers a primer on free-market economics, handily explaining the effects of the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba and how this relationship, camouflaged as the complete absence of a relationship, plays into the greater global marketplace. Along the way, Doucet discusses the environmental impact of the global provisioning system, and how Havana is—oh, the irony—a template for the localized-by-necessity cities of the future.
5/12/2008 12:40:03 PM
Expectations about nuptial readiness differ around the world. In the United States, it might seem hurried to marry before college graduation, but “early marriage” elsewhere can mean pushing pre-teen or teen girls toward matrimony, even when it’s illegal. Girls can avoid early marriage, reports humanitarian organization CARE International in the spring 2008 issue of its magazine I Am Powerful (article not available online), with the proper help.
A recent case in point comes from India, where a grandfather demanded his 15-year-old granddaughter marry, despite Indian law setting the age of consent at 18. A CARE-trained volunteer health worker helped the girl take her case to the village council. Not only did the council decide in the girl’s favor, it formed a committee on early marriage to dissuade families from arranging early marriages for their adolescent daughters.
In Yemen, an 8-year-old girl forced to marry a 30-year-old man sought help from the courts, the Yemen Times reported in April. While Yemeni law dictates that girls and boys must be 15 before they can marry, parents are allowed to make a contract on behalf of younger children. “But the husband cannot be intimate with her until she is ready or mature,” says a Yemen Supreme Court lawyer. After the girl complained of her husband’s physical and sexual abuse, her father told her she would have to get a divorce herself if she wanted one. She petitioned for divorce, and the judge ordered the arrest of her husband and father.
The BBC reports that a judge annulled the girl's marriage. "Nojoud is living happily with me and my eight other children," her uncle told the British broadcaster. "She is looking forward to going back to primary school as soon as possible."
(Thanks, Minnesota Women’s Press.)
Image by Steve Weaver, licensed under Creative Commons.
5/12/2008 10:47:06 AM
Quakerism, which entails sitting silently as its standard form of worship, may seem like a passive denomination. But the religion's activist streak is far from docile, as shown in a Friends Journal piece about how to provide pacifist alternatives to military recruiters in high schools. The authors—Nancy Howell, a retired sociology professor, and Judy Alves, a retired lawyer—detail their counter-recruitment efforts in Lee County, Florida, from deciding which materials to give students, to regularly attending school board meetings, to defending their right to counter-recruit to the school district attorney.
The volunteers didn’t want to harass enlisting students or military recruiters; they wanted students to know what they were agreeing to. The Friends say that simply examining the enlistment document with students can be persuasive, showing students that they are committing to eight years with the military and “the government is entitled to change all the conditions of the contract at any time, while the recruit is committed to every aspect of the contract, under penalty of law and prison.”
Howell and Alves' counter-recruitment efforts led to changes at the institutional level: standardization of recruitment policies at all the county's high schools, and restrictions on military recruiters, who can now meet with students only in guidance or career counseling offices and only when the students request interviews.
5/7/2008 5:00:22 PM
The buzzer hit 7:30, the networks called North Carolina for Barack Obama, and the racial rhapsodizing began.
FOX predictably buzzed about Obama’s weaker showing among whites, compared to Hillary Clinton’s, and his windfall backing from blacks. Not-so-subliminal message on repeat: Can this guy really win whites?
Over at CNN, demographic hashing similarly swirled. Thanks, then, to Jeffrey Toobin for pointing out the obvious: Obama couldn’t have won North Carolina without white support (some 36 percent, according to exit polls). Then he offered a crucial reminder that seems to have vanished amidst the Wright wrangling: That’s how Democrats win in the South, with a slice of white voters and the bulk of black ones.
Forget the hand-wringing over whether half of Hillary voters will abandon the Democrats if their gal isn’t topping the ticket. (Those sentiments, gauged as they are in the heat of primary battles, are next to meaningless.) After eight years of Bush, that many of those Democrats aren’t going to vote for a Republican out of spite, let alone one who wants to perpetuate war in Iraq, roll back abortion rights, and take the court farther to the edge of right than it already is. The question is: Will those issues be pressing enough to convince black voters to go to the polls after watching the party they’ve been unceasingly loyal to snatch away the opportunity for the first African American to become president.
Here’s Michael C. Dawson, political science professor at the University of Chicago, over at the Root:
Should that happen, the Democratic Party will face the Herculean task of trying to mobilize its most loyal constituency—black voters—in the face of deep and widespread black bitterness and active campaigns in the black community encouraging black voters to defect or abstain. You can already hear the angry comparisons. Just like in 2000, the protests will go, an election will have been "stolen." But this time from within the party! Malcolm X's quote about how the rules are changed when blacks start to succeed will also, I bet, be prominently displayed.
And here’s a piece from McClatchy last week:
African-Americans have been the Democratic Party's most reliable bloc, giving about 90 percent of their votes to former Vice President Al Gore and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., in the last two presidential elections.
In a close election this year, an African-American exodus from the voting booth could be costly to Democrats, particularly in the South, where blacks are a large proportion of the electorate.
If Obama isn't the nominee, "there would be a significant number of African-Americans who would stay home. They're not voting for (presumptive Republican nominee) John McCain," predicted David Bositis, a senior analyst at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, which researches black voting trends.
Now that North Carolina and Indiana are over, we’ll move quickly to West Virginia and Kentucky, where Clinton promises to soldier on and rack up white-bolstered, lopsided victories. It’s likely that, despite the predominating wisdom that the nomination race is nigh over, we’ll be subjected to more demographic splicing. It’s time to simply acknowledge that both candidates have their demographic battles and bulwarks, and to move onto wrapping things up by nominating the person who’d be the better president.
5/7/2008 10:33:04 AM
Anyone familiar with the labyrinthine U.S. immigration system would agree that children shouldn’t be expected to navigate it alone. Yet 8,000 children “without parents or papers” are apprehended by U.S. immigration officials each year, reports the University of Chicago Magazine, and they often must figure out forms that confound adults and attend hearings without their parents or sometimes even a lawyer.
To help these children, University of Chicago Law School lecturer Maria Woltjen started the Immigrant Child Advocacy Project (ICAP) in 2003. Advocates are usually attorneys or law students, and in addition to comforting children, they receive training from experts in immigration law, human trafficking, adolescent trauma, and childhood development.
Unfortunately, ICAP remains the only organization of its kind in the country. A similar organization is badly needed in the Southwest, Woltjen suggests, because of the influx of children from Central America. (Thanks to cheap airfare in the last few decades, children also arrive from as far away as Eastern Europe, South Asia, Africa, and the Far East.) A bill sponsored by Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Unaccompanied Alien Child Protection Act, would guarantee every child an advocate, who could also accompany the child to immigration hearings. Whether fleeing from abusive families or war-torn countries, or brought by smugglers who profit from their labor, children who arrive alone and undocumented would doubtless benefit from advocates’ help, both emotional and legal.
Image by Ian Boggs, licensed under Creative Commons.
5/6/2008 11:33:58 AM
Over the last 30 years, U.S. cities and states have taken up various smoking bans
. No smoking in bars, for example, has become commonplace. But what about other countries? According to a list over at Foreign Policy
,plenty of foreign governments
are aggressively campaigning against smoking, and controversial legislation is on the way. Fact of note: The smoking rate among Chinese men is 61 percent.
5/6/2008 9:53:23 AM
Progressives love the word “universal.” It conjures up images of more perfect unions between all people. Universal health care is now a mainstay of democratic presidential platforms, although opinions differ on what “universal” means in that context. Universal pre-k is also gaining steam as the go-to issue on the progressive education agenda. Ezra Klein, blogging at the American Prospect, called it “one of the great disappointments of contemporary liberal politics” that liberals aren’t uniting behind universal pre-k.
The problem with universal pre-k is that it will reinforce existing inequalities in the education system. The reason why programs like Head Start are necessary is because underprivileged children need more help than others when starting school. One of the big benefits to Head Start is that underprivileged children get to start coming to school earlier than other children.
Focusing on universal pre-k causes that playing field to level again, perpetuating overall inequities in the system. Klein and I would agree that more funding for education is a good thing, but that funding should be directed in a way that tries to address inequalities, rather than ignoring them.
, licensed under
5/2/2008 2:38:02 PM
Subsidize high school dropouts, advises Designer/builder in its March/April issue (article not available online). Our education system is hopelessly defunct, so we might as well reward those who realize it and strike out to learn on their own. A provocative argument, though I’m not convinced that every dropout with the Internet might be a George Washington or John D. Rockefeller, as Designer/builder suggests. Yet it is urgently necessary that we transform the American approach to education from a system in which “schools teach as if what is now thought true will always be true” into something that inspires “comprehensive self-initiation, management, and judgment of learning.”
5/1/2008 1:48:13 PM
Sam Slovick of Good has created a powerful video series covering life on Los Angeles' Skid Row, a 50-block area of downtown that L.A.'s police chief has called "the worst social disaster in America." Check it out here.
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