When talking about race and racism gets hard
Commentary by dopper0189, Black Kos Managing Editor

Over the last two weeks there has been a lot of admirable attempts to discuss race and racism on Daily Kos. Many of the most touching include heart felt stories from people's life experiences. But it's been my opinion that many aren't dealing with some of the "root causes" for the break down of communication over race. The vast majority of break downs over race don't happen because of arguments over racial slurs or obvious racial incidents. The most heated arguments happen over how deeply or tangentially people feel an issue is affected by racism. I would like to deal with one of these root causes. When does an issue have a legitimate racial component, and how large should that racial component be before it becomes relevant.

In order to start with a "clean slate" I decided to pick an issue that the vast majority of progressives on this site feel is unjust (based on comments and diaries), and one that hasn't been frequently examined along racial lines. When companies refuse to hire the unemployed, does this harm people of color more? Is this discrimination against the unemployed also a form of racial discrimination.  

First for those who aren't familiar with this phenomena companies have recently started to refuse to hire the unemployed.

Time Magazine: Jobless Discrimination? When Firms Won't Even Consider Hiring Anyone Unemployed

When Sony Ericsson needed new workers after it relocated its U.S. headquarters to Atlanta last year, its recruiters told one particular group of applicants not to bother. "No unemployed candidates will be considered at all," one online job listing said.
The cell-phone giant later said the listing, which produced a media uproar, had been a mistake. But other companies continue to refuse to even consider the unemployed for jobs — a harsh catch-22 at a time when long-term joblessness is at its highest level in decades.

Refusing to hire people on the basis of race, religion, age or disability — among other categories — is illegal. But companies that turn away jobless people as a group are generally not breaking the law — at least for now.

Job seekers have long known, of course, that it's easier to land a job when you are still working. There are no hard data on discrimination against the unemployed. But there have been reports from across the country of companies' making clear in job listings that they are not interested in people who are out of work. Employment experts say other companies have policies of hiring only people with jobs — but do not publicly acknowledge their bias.

Second point of data, people of color are much more likely to be unemployed.

Colorlines: A Picture of the Jobs Crisis—in Black, White and Brown

Now comes the point where discussion of race will often break down.

One large group of progressive will look at the data above. They will see a policy that is not only unjust but one that disproportionately discriminates against people of color. Because more people of color are unemployed; any company whose policy is to refuse to hire unemployed people will by default refuse to hire more people of color. They will see this as a form of institutional racism and form their opposition to this policy on that ground.

Another large group of progressives will look at the data above and also come to the conclusion that this policy is unjust. They will most decide that since the policy wasn't (most likely) designed or intended to target people of color why inject race into the argument? Making this an issue centered around racial discrimination will turn off a number of folks that would normally be allies in this cause; so why make it a racial matter they reason?

From here the arguments will break out. I can surmise a number of them. The arguments will break down on whose right on tactics, while making it an issue of racial discrimination may make it easier to bring court challenges, an issue of plain unfairness may make it easier to mobilize a broader political coalition. The issue will break down on whose right on facts, if people of color are more likely to be hurt by this policy is it because the policy is racist, or is it because of (past/present) racism in society. There will also be in a way a breakdown on what progressives should stand for, one that acknowledges/recognizes or down plays/de-emphasizes racial differences.

Who is right? Both sides, neither, or somewhere in between? Queue the side.

OK of course I'm only speculating on what these arguments may be. But based on past experiences on and off line, this is the typical route discussion of race devolve into when the issue isn't clear cut. So what do we do about this? I have two trains of thought on it.

Can we learn to build a worker winning coalition even if we disagree on the facts and causes, but agree on the goals? If you look at conservatives they have learned to do this. CEO's may not care about abortion (they may in fact be mostly pro-choice) but if it means that de-funding Planned Parenthood will lower their tax burden for the next two quarters (who cares if it cost society more in 10 years) and they can hit their bonus numbers so be it. Working class social conservatives may not like outsourcing or lower wages, but if it means ending abortion they're willing to support lower capital gains.

Can progressives do this. Can both those who think discrimination against the unemployed is wrong because it's racist, and those who think it's wrong because it violates other liberal values, focus on ending the policy, not on each other.

Can we focus on the fact that we both want the same goal, and not on how we reached our conclusions?

Welcome to the porch! Remember that we really aim for civil discourse on the porch, or like my mama used to say "if you can't behave on the porch you'll be asked to take it outside."


Commentary: African American Scientists and Inventors
by Black Kos Editor, Sephius1

Saint Elmo Brady (1884-1966) wasBorn in Louisville, Kentucky in 1884, Saint Elmo Brady became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in the field of chemistry when he completed his graduate studies at the University of Illinois in 1916. The eldest child of Thomas and Celesta Brady, Saint Elmo had two younger sisters, Fedora and Buszeder.

Brady studied chemistry at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee and earned his B.S. degree in 1908. After graduation he accepted a faculty position at Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (now known as Tuskegee University) and was mentored by George Washington Carver and Booker T. Washington, President of Tuskegee.

He began graduate studies in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Illinois in 1912, earning his M.S. degree in 1914 and completing his doctorate in 1916. As a graduate student at Illinois, Brady’s research focused on the characterization of organic acids.  Brady eventually published three abstracts focused on his graduate work in Science, a prestigious peer-reviewed journal.

After completing his doctorate, Brady returned to Tuskegee and continued teaching until 1920. He also served as chair and faculty of the Department of Chemistry at Howard University and Fisk University. Regarding his scholarly achievements, Brady continued collaborative work with the University of Illinois and established a faculty training program focusing on a technique known as infrared spectroscopy, which is used to identify various components in compounds. Moreover, he later published an article focused on the synthesis of a halogen compound with Dr. Samuel Massie, the first African American to join the faculty at the U.S. Naval Academy.  Brady's work was important because there was significant interest in halogen compounds being used as insecticides at that time.......Read More

                                  News by dopper0189, Black Kos Managing Editor
A wrong has been righted. Kansas City Star: Black Cherokees regain tribal citizenship

Black Cherokees in Kansas City were ecstatic Tuesday after learning that the tribal citizenship they’d been fighting years for has been restored.

Their citizenship is regained through an agreement made in federal court between the Cherokee Nation and black Cherokees known as freedmen, an attorney said Tuesday.

“This is not temporary, where the Cherokee Nation gives freedmen citizenship until after the election and then tries to change it,” said Jon Velie, who was in court Tuesday on behalf of the freedmen.

The agreement came during a hearing in federal court in Washington. The parties have until this morning to submit a written agreement to the judge.

The agreement gives 2,800 freedmen all the benefits available to the Cherokee tribe, including tribal voting rights. And it extends the voting period for the upcoming election for principal chief to Oct. 8. Before Tuesday, that election was to take place this week.

“We have been vindicated,” said Willadine Johnson, whose ancestors, like other freedmen, were held as slaves by Cherokees. After the Civil War, Cherokees signed a treaty freeing its slaves and granting them full Cherokee citizenship.

“This is the way it always should have been,” Johnson said. “You can’t take my citizenship from me.”

In 2007 the nation stripped freedmen of their citizenship and suffrage rights, saying bloodline determined citizenship.

After years of rehab work, African Meeting House is set to inspire once more. Boston Globe: Restoring cornerstone of Hub’s black history

The African Meeting House embodied the spirit of the black community. Concerts, sermons, education, and political organizing occurred within its walls. It was the place where educators first fought against segregated schools, abolitionists planned assaults on slavery, and protests were held in the wake of the Fugitive Slave Act - all before the start of the Civil War.

But after two centuries of use, the Meeting House, the country’s oldest standing black church, fell into a state of disrepair.

“Remember, governor, the last time you were here there were red vinyl chairs, and the pulpit was not here,’’ Beverly A. Morgan-Welch, executive director of the Museum of African American History, said yesterday while giving Governor Deval Patrick a tour of the Meeting House, fully restored to its 19th century stature.

                                                                                     DINA RUDICK/GLOBE STAFF

California farming group helps African Americans enter agriculture and teaches healthy living. Washingtonpost: California farming group helps African Americans enter agriculture

As the sun rises on tilled soil on the outskirts of Fresno, Calif., Mori Vance bends to pick black eyed peas, then disappears among towering okra bushes. Vance, who is African-American, is harvesting her first crop with several other novice black farmers, all hoping to make it their life’s work.

The African American Farmers of California started the 15-acre demonstration farm to teach about growing and eating healthy food and to get African-American kids interested in agriculture.

The project is part of a nationwide effort to revive the pride of black farmers and reverse the decline of black-owned farms. In Milwaukee, Atlanta and Chicago, black-run nonprofit organizations are providing African-Americans with land to farm, conducting workshops in agriculture and training youth in gardening.

“A lot of black people, their grandparents were farmers, but they were forced out of agriculture. We’re trying to help them easily re-enter into it,” said Will Scott, president of the California farmers group. “The goal is that they eventually become self-sufficient.”

The challenge is great because farming carries negative connotations for many African-Americans due to the legacies of slavery, sharecropping and recent discriminatory government policies.

“Black farmers were the backbone of American agriculture,” said John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association. “We went from being slaves to sharecroppers. Black farmers left farming because they didn’t see the financial rewards. Instead, they saw pictures of the old South where there were racial tensions and they didn’t want that for their families.”

Just so people are aware Daily Kos isn't the only place in the liberal/progressive sphere that arguments over race inside liberalism have erupted. The Nation: Black President, Double Standard: Why White Liberals Are Abandoning Obama

Electoral racism in its most naked, egregious and aggressive form is the unwillingness of white Americans to vote for a black candidate regardless of the candidate’s qualifications, ideology or party. This form of racism was a standard feature of American politics for much of the twentieth century. So far, Barack Obama has been involved in two elections that suggest that such racism is no longer operative. His re-election bid, however, may indicate that a more insidious form of racism has come to replace it.

The 2004 Illinois Senate race between Obama and Alan Keyes, two African-Americans, was a unique test of the persistence of old-fashioned electoral racism. For a truly committed electoral racist, neither Obama nor Keyes would have been acceptable—regardless of policy positions, biography or qualification—because both were black.

One way to determine how many people felt this way is to measure the “roll-off.” In presidential election years, a small percentage vote for the president, but then “roll off” by not casting ballots for state and local offices. A substantial increase in roll-off—larger than usual numbers of voters who picked John Kerry or George Bush but declined to choose between Obama and Keyes—would have been a measure of the unwillingness of some to vote for any black candidate. I tested this in 2004 and found no increase, statistical or substantive, in roll-off in Illinois. Faced with two black candidates, white voters were willing to choose one of them.

The 2008 general election was another referendum on old-fashioned electoral racism—this time among Democratic voters. The long primary battle between Hillary Clinton and Obama had the important effect of registering hundreds of thousands of Democrats. By October 2008, it was clear that Obama could lose the general election only if a substantial portion of registered Democrats in key states failed to turn out or chose to cross party lines. For Democrats to abandon their nominee after eight years of Bush could be interpreted only as an act of electoral racism.

Not only did white Democratic voters prove willing to support a black candidate; they overperformed in their repudiation of naked electoral racism, electing Obama with a higher percentage of white votes than either Kerry or Gore earned. No amount of birther backlash can diminish the importance of these two election results. We have not landed on the shores of postracial utopia, but we have solid empirical evidence of a profound and important shift in America’s electoral politics.

Still, electoral racism cannot be reduced solely to its most egregious, explicit form. It has proved more enduring and baffling than these results can capture. The 2012 election may be a test of another form of electoral racism: the tendency of white liberals to hold African-American leaders to a higher standard than their white counterparts. If old-fashioned electoral racism is the absolute unwillingness to vote for a black candidate, then liberal electoral racism is the willingness to abandon a black candidate when he is just as competent as his white predecessors.

The relevant comparison here is with the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton. Today many progressives complain that Obama’s healthcare reform was inadequate because it did not include a public option; but Clinton failed to pass any kind of meaningful healthcare reform whatsoever. Others argue that Obama has been slow to push for equal rights for gay Americans; but it was Clinton who established the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy Obama helped repeal. Still others are angry about appalling unemployment rates for black Americans; but while overall unemployment was lower under Clinton, black unemployment was double that of whites during his term, as it is now. And, of course, Clinton supported and signed welfare “reform,” cutting off America’s neediest despite the nation’s economic growth.

It wasn't racial solidarity but racial vulnerability that made him so important to African Americans. The Root: Why We Care So Much About Troy Davis

The state of Georgia killed Troy Davis last night. Usually such acts are routine in America. Last year 45 Americans were legally executed, about one a week, with time out for vacations and holidays. But a confluence of circumstances and organizations turned Davis' cause into a global phenomenon, with pleas for mercy from such disparate voices as the pope, Bishop Desmond Tutu and Amnesty International.

It's not surprising that the outpouring of concern for Troy Davis, who was believed by many to be innocent of the murder of police officer Mark MacPhail 22 years ago, annoyed people like conservative columnist Ann Coulter. "He is as innocent as every other executed man since at least 1950, which is to say, guilty as hell," she wrote Wednesday.

You have to admire her certainty. People like Coulter have convinced themselves that we live in a flawless society, where bias, vanity, arrogance and incompetence don't exist, and prosecutors don't lie, cheat or make mistakes. It's the kind of blind faith in America that few African Americans can afford.

Our uneasiness about fairness in America helps explain why Troy Davis became such an obsession in the African-American community, to the bewilderment, if not outright annoyance, of some of our nonblack neighbors. As the hours ticked down, it seemed that all of black America was glued to their televisions, computers, mobile phones and iPads, as if watching a perverse 2011 version of a Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling bout.

But in this case we were not waiting for our black champion to knock out the German and prove our worth to America. We wanted reassurance that the fundamental precept of reasonable doubt would apply to Troy Davis, a black man, and, by extension, to the rest of us.

Yes, black America still lives on the brink of fear. For all the progress we have made, dues we have paid, degrees we have acquired and presidencies we have won, we can all recite the story of the father, son, daughter or niece who has gone from citizen to suspect in an instant -- the son frisked, the cousin shoved against the car, the uncle badly beaten -- and, more often than should be, the nephew convicted of a crime he didn't commit or, worse, shot dead by the police.

Most Americans long ago grew bored with the statistics verifying that African Americans are more likely than whites to encounter the power of the state and to be more severely treated -- in arrests, in charges, in sentencing or, yes, the death penalty. As Sherrilyn Ifill points out in her column for The Root, the racial disparities in imposing the death penalty were proved long ago, but the U.S. Supreme Court decided in 1986 that the race gap was not unconstitutional. If you are far more likely to be condemned to death for killing a white man, how can there not be a constitutional issue?



                   Tina Turner - Simply The Best(Divas Live)

Welcome to the porch! Remember that we really aim for civil discourse on the porch, or like my mama used to say "if you can't behave on the porch you'll be asked to take it outside."

Originally posted to Black Kos on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 01:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Black Kos community and Barriers and Bridges.

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