Race & Racism (News)
The Myth of Black Progress - New Book Shows How Mass Incarceration Masks Persistent Racial Inequality
New York, NY – The Russell Sage Foundation published a ground-breaking book today by sociologist Becky Pettit that calls into question the prevailing assumptions about black progress in the United States. Invisible Men: Mass Incarceration and the Myth of Black Progress examines the hidden ways incarceration impacts our perception of African American advancement in mainstream measures of voter turnout, educational attainment, and employment.
Trayvon Martin had it coming, or so we will soon be led to believe. The surely unattractive details of his short life as a black man in America will tumble forward—his troubles in school, the weed baggie that got him suspended, the altercation in which police and George Zimmerman claim he was the aggressor. He was a maladjusted, Negro man-child, so ferocious he could kill an armed man with his bare hands. He had to die.
Yesterday, local law enforcement offered a preview of this old, familiar narrative when someone leaked Zimmerman’s account of the night to the Orlando Sentinel. According to the Sentinel, Zimmerman had given up his hunt of Martin and was returning to his SUV when the 17-year-old caught him by surprise. Do you have a problem, Martin is said to have asked, before answering for himself, “Well, you do now.” He reportedly began pummelling Zimmerman, leading the armed man to shoot and kill.
Sadly, it’s necessary to point out that there isn’t an imaginable scenario in which an armed man can shoot an unarmed child to death and it be okay. But set that obvious fact to the side. Trayvon Martin did in fact have it coming. He was born black and male in the United States and was thus marked for death. The cruelness of our economy and of our criminal justice system isn’t reserved for men or for black people. But there is a particularly gendered and particularly racist way in which black men are set upon in this country, most acutely those who don’t have the resources to push back. And it has a very long, still relevant history.
A version of this article originally appeared on the Al Jazeera website
At a recent panel discussion on the Occupy movement, a left-leaning professor from New York University speculated that identity politics - the prioritizing of issues of race and gender in movements for justice - could be a plot funded by the CIA to undermine activism. While most commentators do not go this far, the idea that activists who focus on these issues are "undermining the struggle" has a long history within progressive organizing. And in Occupy Wall Street encampments around the country these debates have often exploded into public view.
If you're among those who are still scratching their heads over the new federal and state legislative districts in California, help is on the way.
A number of groups are offering seminars, webinars and even luncheon presentations in the coming days to help people make sense out of what the 14-member multipartisan Citizens Redistricting Commission accomplished.
Voters went to the polls to make sure elected officials couldn't have another crack at redistricting, which is required every 10 years based on the new national census. But even before the commission released its new maps of the 177 newly created legislative, congressional and Board of Equalization district, complaints started coming from Latino, African-American and politically focused organizations as well as sitting politicians who suddenly found the district they were elected to serve was no longer where they live.
In Deborah Brown’s family lore, the American South was a place of whites-only water fountains and lynchings under cover of darkness. It was a place black people like her mother had fled.
But for Ms. Brown, 59, a retired civil servant from Queens, the South now promises salvation.
Three generations of her family — 10 people in all — are moving to Atlanta from New York, seeking to start fresh economically and, in some sense, to reconnect with a bittersweet past. They include Ms. Brown, her 82-year-old mother and her 26-year-old son, who has already landed a job and settled there.
As part of Forum's "Our Changing Communities" series on the results of the 2010 census, we take a close look at Oakland.
A few years ago, Laurie Jones Neighbors wanted to know whether the Bay Area's rich cultural diversity was reflected on local boards and commissions, the sort that deal with apartment rents, public buses, air pollution and other realities of everyday urban life.
"There was very little representation of people of color and low-income people," she said after canvassing dozens of agencies. "We're not going to arrive at a just society that way."
On November 11, at the Pro Arts Gallery in Oakland, Youth Speaks in partnership with Urban Peace Movement, AYPAL, Ella Baker Center and Raw Talent presented the Youth Town Hall on Police Brutality. This was done in memory of Oscar Grant and one week after Johannes Mesherle’s sentencing. These youth rolled deep. With standing room only, at least a hundred youth from all around the San Francisco Bay Area rose up to speak on police accountability and civil rights–pissed off at the injustice of our criminal justice system and frustrated at the misuse of the badge supposedly meant to protect us. I hope you are all moved by the spoken words of these amazing youth as they bust a verse. Their time to remain silent is over. They chant, “Ain’t no power like the power of the youth cuz the power of the youth don’t stop.”
San Francisco. One dot represents 25 people. Red dots represent Whites, Blue is Black, Green is Asian and Orange is Latino. Images: Eric Fischer
When is a map worth a thousand words? Bill Rankin, who maintains a website called Radical Cartography, has generated buzz with his racial and income maps of Chicago, which can test stereotypes Chicagoans have about the boundaries of their neighborhoods.
Rankin notes, for instance, that the boundaries of neighborhoods are always drawn as stark lines on informational maps, yet people in cities traversing their communities don’t always delineate the end of their neighborhood by the same streets (some streets, like Houston Street in New York City or Cesar Chavez Street in San Francisco, however, tend to mark a consensus change in neighborhood for those living near them).
Rankin found when he used dot mapping (one dot represents 25 people, for instance), the demographics can both reinforce those boundaries and blur them.
“There are indeed areas where changes take place at very precise boundaries… and Chicago has more of these stark borders than most cities in the world,” writes Rankin on his website. “But transitions also take place through gradients and gaps as well, especially in the northwest and southeast. Using graphic conventions which allow these other possibilities to appear takes much more data, and requires more nuance in the way we talk about urban geography, but a cartography without boundaries can also make simplistic policy or urban design more difficult — in a good way.”
Environmental justice, a movement to focus attention on pollution in low-income communities, is a burning cause for Lisa Jackson, the first African American to head the U.S. Environmental Protection agency. Over the last several months, Jackson has toured poor white, black and Latino communities with a message: Eco-issues aren't just for rich folks.
On Saturday, the EPA chief took a bus tour of low-income neighborhoods in the San Francisco Bay area, stopping at a Superfund site where the federal government is coordinating toxic chemical cleanup, and an urban food cooperative.