Stop the bleeding: Prescriptions to heal racial economic inequality in America

—F. Michael Higginbotham

Recently, Americans elected Barack Obama as President for a second term. When Obama began his first term, economic disparities between blacks and whites were alarmingly wide. Black unemployment, poverty, and homelessness were twice that of whites. Wealth accumulation for blacks was one twentieth of what it was for whites. A similar disparity existed for Latinos/as. During the last four years, the gap widened.

It’s important to recognize that racial inequality today is a reality. There is no such place as a post racial America. While the causes of racism are more complex than they were under discriminatory laws of the Jim Crow Era, today this divide is primarily caused by choices that result in economic hardship, housing isolation, education inequity, and criminal justice stereotyping.

One choice is exemplified in the story of Tim Carter and Richard Thomas, arrested in 2004 in separate incidents three months apart in nearly the same location in St. Petersburg, Florida. Police found one rock of cocaine on Mr. Carter, who is white, and a crack pipe with cocaine residue, on Mr. Thomas, who is black.

Both men claimed drug addictions, neither had any prior felony arrests or convictions, and both men potentially faced five years in prison. Mr. Carter had his prosecution withheld, and the judge sent him to drug rehabilitation. Mr. Thomas was prosecuted, convicted and went to prison. Their only apparent difference was race.

Another choice is reflected in the pattern of property ownership and the fact that whites continue to embrace the “tipping point” notion in housing integration. “Tipping point” bigotry inspired Jeremy Parady, who pleaded guilty in 2005 to conspiracy to commit arson in a series of fires in a new housing development in Southern Maryland. Parady admitted that he set fire to this development because many of the buyers were blacks and the surrounding neighborhood was mostly white.

While these disparities have been persistent, they need not be permanent. As a long term strategy, let’s equalize funding for public schools, prohibit racial profiling, eliminate laws that have a severe racially disproportionate impact, redefine our notion of racism to include negligent acts, criminalize intentional acts of racism, and increase integration in neighborhoods and schools. Such changes would go a long way to reducing current racial inequities.

For now as a start, let’s pass the American Jobs Act which contains several components that would reduce racial inequality in employment. First, the act is aimed at revitalizing and rebuilding communities where unemployment has risen most sharply, especially urban areas. Many such areas have a high percentage of black unemployment. Second, the act is aimed at neighborhoods where the foreclosure rates are highest. This includes many areas with high concentrations of blacks. Third, the act is aimed at decreasing youth unemployment by creating summer and year-round jobs for impoverished teenagers and young adults. Many of these youths are black with little chance of finding employment under current economic circumstances.

Too many Americans are hurting under this extended economic slump. Blacks and Latinos/as have been particularly hit hard with unemployment near 15%. Healing the racial divide must begin soon. Stopping the bleeding in employment discrimination must begin now.

F. Michael Higginbotham is the Wilson H. Elkins Professor of Law at the University of Baltimore School of Law. He is the author of Race Law: Cases, Commentary, and Questions and Ghosts of Jim Crow: Ending Racism in Post-Racial America (forthcoming from NYU Press, March 2013).

Why “deferred action” isn’t enough

—Michael A. Olivas

Tens of thousands of undocumented students are making their way through college without federal financial support and with little state financial aid available—only to find that they cannot accept employment or enter the professions for which they have trained. Cases of undocumented law-school graduates who have passed the bar are surfacing in California, Florida, and New York, and more will soon surface in other fields, too, as unauthorized students graduate from college. Seeing this brick wall, a number of immigration law professors wrote a letter to the president, urging him to use the administrative discretion available to him, to help undocumented college students who find themselves in the worst of all possible worlds. It appears this call was heard when, in June 2012, President Obama announced an expansive Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, which is still in the implementation first phases.

Unfortunately, despite the excitement (and outrage from President Obama’s Republican opponents), this policy is not the stalled DREAM Act, which would have created a path to citizenship for some immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. The President’s courageous decision could not have accorded any more than he did, as any true reform will have to come from Congress, which has been reluctant to take up even the modest DREAM Act, much less the more comprehensive immigration reform so needed.

Gov. Mitt Romney has indicated his determination to veto any version of the DREAM Act, and the 2012 GOP platform urges deportation of these students. In reality, the President’s adoption of a “deferred action” policy is, to a great extent, old wine in a new wineskin. The policy does not grant legal-residency status, as the DREAM Act would, but only defers deportation for a renewable two-year period. Announcing the policy shows new political will, but it does not change existing law or create additional discretion.

Forms of prosecutorial discretion, including deferred action, have been available for many years (originating in the John Lennon deportation case, in the early 1970s). Nothing substantive has been added to existing authority. Indeed, in June 2011, the government announced that it would focus on deporting known criminals (the “gangbangers” as President Obama referred to them in a recent debate)—and urged prosecutors to use their discretion in considering the cases of students who would qualify for the DREAM Act. DACA has made regular provisions for these students to receive work authorization. Bear in mind, too, that this administration removed and deported nearly 400,000 unauthorized immigrants in the previous year. Even with those metrics, and the militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border, those who would further restrict immigration are not convinced that there has been enough enforcement—and see deferred action as a threat to the present situation. In August 2012, CIS employees filed suit to end DACA. There is a new application procedure, a good thing, and many details yet to be determined.

Deferred action is a vague and confusing process—and it will probably lead to unscrupulous notarios entering the picture. Under current regulations, individuals whose case has been deferred are eligible to receive employment authorization, provided he or she can demonstrate “an economic necessity for employment.” Deferred action can be terminated or renewed at any time at the discretion of the Department of Homeland Security. Many potential DREAMers will be hesitant to apply and “out” themselves to authorities, even in exchange for employment authorization, if the President is not re-elected. The delays occasioned by schools being overwhelmed with transcript requests make it clear that this has been a complicated and expensive process, one with uncertain contours. History may be on the side of the DREAMers, but they still find themselves in a cruel limbo not of their making, and with no clear way out of the thicket. This is a movement forward, and the program will transform many of the students’ lives for the better. But only the adults in Congress taking up immigration reform will truly serve their interests, and that of society.

Thirty years after the Supreme Court told us that undocumented immigrants deserve an education (Plyler v. Doe, 1982), we have yet to resolve this impasse. Deferred action is a step in the right direction, but until more cases are cleared and these students can take up work, it will be a program fraught with potential. While these students’ chances of being deported may be reduced, without employment authorization and a reasonable opportunity to regularize their status, they will still live in the shadows—with limited hope.

Michael A. Olivas is Professor of Law, University of Houston, and the author of No Undocumented Child Left Behind (NYU Press, 2102).

Reflections on NYU Press book banned in Arizona

—Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic

The rapid growth of populations of color, especially relatively young groups like Latinos, has created a number of conflicts over schools and schooling. In Arizona, a successful program of Mexican American Studies in the Tucson school system drew the ire of state authorities who deemed it un-American and biased. Its defenders countered that it greatly boosted attendance, engagement, and graduation rates for hundreds of Latino schoolchildren who made up over fifty percent of the student bodies in many schools in Arizona, and was not at all unpatriotic or divisive.

The Tucson program had increased graduation rates from below half to over ninety percent, with many of the students, most from poor families, going on to college.  Taught by charismatic young instructors, many with degrees in Ethnic Studies from the University of Arizona, the program featured Latino history and culture, including works by well known author such as Rodolfo Acuna, Sandra Cisneros, Paulo Freire, Howard Zinn, and William Shakespeare. Students studied the great empires of Mesoamerica, the War with Mexico, and the colonization of Puerto Rico. They studied the civil rights movement of the 1960’s and the role of leaders such as Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, and Denver-based Corky Gonzales. They learned to play mariachi music, dance Mexican dances, and create poetry.

When Arizona authorities banned the program under a new bill (H.B. 2281) forbidding the teaching of ethnically divisive material and removed the offending textbooks to a distant book depository in front of crying students, the local Latino community exploded in indignation. A Texas community college professor organized a caravan of “libro-traficantes” (book traffickers) to smuggle “wet books” into Tucson, where they gave them away to bystanders from a taco truck borrowed for the occasion. Librarians and publishing houses across the nation donated copies of the banned books. Sympathetic Anglos wrote columns or spoke at teach-ins supporting the program.

Teachers who were fired or transferred brought a number of legal actions challenging the bill or book ban, which included works by each of the authors mentioned above, as well as our book, Critical Race Theory: An Introduction (NYU Press). This straightforward exposition of critical race thought had been in use in a number of the Tucson classes to explain racial dynamics in the United States. NYU proudly issued a new edition of this best-selling book in 2012 and was happy to donate copies to the beleaguered children of Tucson.

Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic are Professors of Law at Seattle University and have collaborated on four previous books, including The Latino Condition, Second Edition (NYU Press, 2010), The Derrick Bell Reader (NYU Press, 2005), How Lawyers Lose Their Way: A Profession Fails Its Creative Minds, and Understanding Words That Wound.

☞ Also, a special congratulations to @writerswriting, winner of our book giveaway of Critical Race Theory during last week’s Banned Books Week!

Celebrate Banned Books Week!

Banned Books Week kicked off yesterday, marking 30 years of “celebrating the freedom to read.” The Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association (ALA) will be commemorating the 30th anniversary with their “50 State Salute to Banned Books Week” and a “Virtual Read-Out,” which encourages readers to share videos of themselves reading excerpts from their favorite banned book.

The cause is especially close to our hearts this year at NYU Press, as one of our books made the banned book list, just as it was being released in its second edition!

Following the Tucson Unified School District’s decision to entirely dissolve its Mexican-American Studies program, several books that had been part of its curriculum were banned. Books that made this list included Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire, Chicano!: The History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement by Arturo Rosales, and NYU Press’s own Critical Race Theory by scholars Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic.

We’d like to take part in the celebration this week and show our support in the fight against censorship! To start, we’re sharing this video reading below, uploaded by Colorado College Feminist and Gender Studies professor Heidi Lewis.

Do you have a favorite banned or challenged book? Let us know in the comments section!

Six NYU Press titles named AAUP Books for Public and Secondary School Libraries

We are thrilled to announce that six NYU Press books have been named 2012 AAUP  University Press Books for Public and Secondary School Libraries!

Reviewed and selected by members of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) and a committee of Public Library Reviewers (PLR), the books in this annual collection have been recommended for use in both school and public libraries. Browse the entire 2012 listing here.

  1. The Maid’s Daughter: Living Inside and Outside the American Dream
    Mary Romero
    “Sociologist Mary Romero documents the story of ‘Olivia,’ the daughter of a live-in maid who grew up in the wealthy Los Angeles home where her mother Carmen worked. Romero traces Olivia’s life from her childhood beginnings in Mexico, through her conflicted adolescence, and into adulthood where she forges her own identity. The challenges faced by Olivia and her mother as they negotiate dual cultures and economies make for compelling reading.”—Virginia L. Stone (AASL)
  2. Black in Latin America
    Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
    “Well-written and truly eye-opening account of the experience of African slaves and their descendants in the New World outside of the United States. Of about 11 million Africans brought as slaves to the Western Hemisphere, less than 500 thousand came to the U.S. The rest were taken to the Caribbean and Latin America. A companion volume to the PBS series.”—Steve Norman (PLR)
  3. Best of Times, Worst of Times: Contemporary American Short Stories from the New Gilded Age
    Wendy Martin and Cecelia Tichi (Editors)
  4. The Tender Cut: Inside the Hidden World of Self-Injury
    Patricia A. Adler and Peter Adler
  5. Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys
    Victor M. Rios
  6. Highway under the Hudson: A History of the Holland Tunnel
    Robert W. Jackson

Additionally, The Maid’s Daughter and Black in Latin America have also been selected as Outstanding titles. According to the AAUP, titles with this rating “are considered exceptional by the reviewer.” For more information, visit the University Press Books for Public and Secondary Schools Libraries online.

Beyond El Barrio: A student’s response

Alyshia Gálvez, Assistant Professor of Latin American and Puerto Rican Studies at Lehman College, wrote to us recently to share a fascinating essay written by one of her students during her summer course, “Latinos in the US.” After assigning the edited volume Beyond El Barrio: Everyday Life in Latina/o America, Professor Gálvez received an extraordinary response to the fourth chapter from student, Ivan Waldo, who agreed to let us share it on our blog…

“Becoming Suspect in Usual Places: Latinos, Baseball, 81 and Belonging in El Barrio del Bronx” by Adrian Burgos, Jr. and Frank A. Guridy asserts a position that racial perceptions of a little league baseball team comprised of Latino players ultimately fueled the backlash and investigation into their pasts, that surrounded the team. Burgos, Jr. and Guridy also assert that the racial historical context of the New York Yankees from the Bronx, where the little league team was also based from, are connected. Their work is littered with “examples” of supporting “evidence”. I disagree with certain assertions made by the two authors, and of the overall assertion of their paper.

I was raised in a family culture of Yankee fanatics, my paternal and maternal grandmothers, mother, various aunts and uncles all were lifelong die-hard Yankee fans, to the degree that my mother won a tri-state Daily News contest for the biggest die-hard Yankee fan, and was awarded tickets to the 2003 World Series between the Yankees and the Florida Marlins for her real life tale of how she was 9 months pregnant (with me), and going into labor, but refused to leave her seat at Yankee Stadium until the final out. I knew the Yankees’ roster like I knew my name. It was only natural that I pursue playing baseball, playing in little leagues until my parents couldn’t afford to keep up with equipment costs and registration fees. To satisfy my yearning for baseball, I became a little league coach, and taught youngsters everything I had learned, and learned the administrative, and political, aspects of little league baseball. Using my experiences and knowledge for a frame of reference, I can not conclude that racial perceptions of the little league team comprised of Latinos fueled the resentment directed at them.

“Such narratives gloss over the Yankees organization’s long history of racial exclusion, not just African American players but also Latinos… Latino and African American Yankees have either been completely excluded from histories of the Bronx Bombers or have been relegated to the background…(pg 87).” “It was not until… the 1990’s that the Bronx Bombers faithful fully embraced a Puerto Rican or Latino star.” This is untrue. There are several players of color that have long been celebrated by Yankee faithful and their on the field achievements acknowledged by the organization, such as Chris Chambliss in the 1976 ALCS, Reggie Jackson (too many achievements to recount here) had his own candy bar and a Reggie Bar day, Willie Randolph 6 time All Star and Yankee captain, Luis Tiant a Cuban born player and centerpiece of the film “The Lost Son of Havana”, Dave Winfield, Rickey Henderson, Ken Griffey… There were a number of notable players of color who were warmly embraced by the Yankee faithful. It is unfortunate that their embracement did not coincide with winning seasons, the Yankees languished at the bottom of their division for the 1980’s and half of the 1990’s. Their inability to win did not detract the fans from their support of their players, including those of color. The absence of recognition of their achievements coincides with their losing seasons, players on major sport teams are recognized for winning championships, something that escaped the Yankees during that period, and escaped Burgos and Guridy’s research.

“Investigative searches to establish Danny Almonte’s ‘official’ age retraced the transnational paths that tens of thousands of Dominicans and Puerto Ricans travel annually.” This is irresponsible journalism. There is a distinct difference between the governmental records and their recognition of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Puerto Rico’s administrative records comply with U.S. Congress’ bureaucratic oversight, which essentially is an extension of U.S. government. The Dominican Republic operates outside of U.S. governmental jurisdiction, therefore requiring confirmation from the Republic’s governmental administrators. By including Puerto Ricans in their statement, they are attempting to widen the scope of any launched investigations to verify information outside the availability of little league officials’ verification methods, and to blur the scope of the Latino image by making it inclusive of other Latinos. It is notable that that statement is the only mention of Puerto Ricans and investigations in their work, they are never mentioned again.

“Well-trained and well-equipped teams should not suffer defeat at the hands of inner city teams comprising Dominican and Puerto Rican boys from working-class and impoverished backgrounds. This is what was partly at stake in the matchups between the Paulino All Stars and suburban teams-the ability of social class privilege to translate into competitive advantage and success.” The authors are over extending their perceived racial perceptions with that statement. The competitive advantage being sought was by the Paulino All Stars and their usage of ineligible overage players. As a player and a coach, certain players exhibited attributes and mannerisms of a person above a certain age bracket. The Little League World Series is limited to the 11 – 12-year-old age bracket. Danny Almonte stood at 5’8” during the tournament, an extraordinary height for someone of that age. He also exhibited skills above that age bracket, an indicator he may be overage. There were his interactions with his teammates and fans that should a maturity level beyond that of a 12-year-old, flirting and taking pictures with female fans. As an opposing coach, I would have immediately called for Little League officials to verify his pedigree information, not once considering what his background may be. Many teams seek competitive advantages due to the economic benefits that come with the exposure and invitation to the Little League World Series, and using overage players is a common one. In my opinion, opposing teams’ scrutinizing of Danny Almonte, and subsequently possibly other teammates, wasn’t necessarily rooted in racism.

“The signing bonuses paid to players selected through the amateur draft and Latinos signed as undrafted amateur free agents are telling.” The authors proceed to recount 1975 draft averages of $60,000 for players selected in the amateur draft and $5,000 for Latinos signed as undrafted free agents. “The inequity created by the process of initial inclusion unveils an economic toll that foreign-born Latinos pay for their foreigness.” Here is another example of irresponsible journalism combined with an all inclusive statement regarding Latinos. In 1975, Major League Baseball teams had not yet expanded to other countries, and set up workshops and camps to train potential ball players. There was no way of accurately assessing a players talent level because there wasn’t a standard of competition established by which to judge them by. Conversely, collegiate athletes had, and have, an established competition level from which to gain a perspective on a prospects potential. This accounts for the larger investment in state bound collegiate athletes as opposed to foreign players who may not possess the skill level to compete in the Major Leagues and won’t be able to prove themselves until they actually compete at a higher established level. The authors also imply that Latinos were being persecuted by Major League Baseball’s policy when in fact the initial pay disparity was for all foreign born players, not just Latinos.

There are other instances where the evidence presented is spun to conveniently accommodate the authors conclusions, however the facts surrounding their presented “evidence” simply does not support their conclusions and perspectives regarding the racially motivated actions of opposing teams. One instance where they were correct was the chanting of “U.S.A., U.S.A.” to an American team to deliberately highlight their differences and allegiances to their countries of origin. Outside of that, I fail to see the racial implications implied by the authors. Are there underlying motivations for the opposing teams actions that I am unaware, or oblivious of?

Making the banned book list: Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic

With one of the harshest anti-immigrant laws on the books, Arizona recently targeted Latino schoolchildren and the books teachers use to inform them about Latino history and culture. Last month, the Tucson Unified School District, on a 4-1 vote, dissolved the Mexican American Studies program in local high schools. Subsequently, over 80 books were confiscated and/or banned, including works by Henry David Thoreau, Shakespeare, and famed Brazilian educator Paulo Freire. (The entire list of books removed is extensive and includes important Latino authors and activists’ books.)

Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, Professors of Law at Seattle University and the authors of Critical Race Theory: An Introduction (one of the most prominent books removed from the curriculum in Arizona) responded to The Progressive about their feelings surrounding the censorship of their book:

“How does it feel to have one of your books banned in Arizona? In part, it feels good. It proves that we have said something that the authorities found dangerous. And they could not have found it dangerous if they had thought that it was untrue–in that case they would merely have ignored or refuted it. Instead, they fabricated patently false reasons for boxing up our book, along with six others, and sending it to a distant book depository. To make sure the children got the point, they arranged to collect the books, which the students had devoured eagerly, during classtime so that they would see what happens to dangerous ideas and thought.

In part, though, it feels bad. Young minds will not learn about critical race theory or Latino history or the historic struggles of their predecessors for school desegregation, immigration reform, and equal rights. They may learn about them piecemeal, but without an overarching framework, it will be difficult for them to develop a comprehensive view of race in American society.

Initiated in response to a desegregation mandate and taught by charismatic young teachers, the popular Mexican American Studies program had, in just a few short years, managed to increase the graduation rate of Latino youth in the district from about fifty percent to over 93. Many had gone on to enroll in college. When an outside audit gave the program a favorable review, the district ended it anyway, insisting that it was divisive and un-American. Americans, of course, don’t ban books (at least not often). But we doubt that the Tucson educational authorities noticed the irony in their own actions.”

[Read the original piece as it appeared in The Progressive here.]

NYU Press Author Nancy Foner Named to American Academy of Arts & Sciences

Distinguished Professor Nancy Foner Named to American Academy of Arts & Sciences

Distinguished Professor Nancy Foner Named to American Academy of Arts & Sciences

Nancy Foner, Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Hunter and the CUNY Graduate Center, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a leading center for independent policy research and one of the nation’s most prestigious honorary societies. Members of the honorary society contribute to Academy studies of science and technology policy, global security, social policy and American institutions, the humanities, and education.

Dr. Foner’s main area of interest is immigration, and she has written widely on immigration to New York City. Particularly interested in the comparative study of immigration, she has studied current immigration to the U.S. as it compares with immigration during earlier periods; the immigrant experience in various American gateway cities; and immigrant minorities in the United States and Europe.

Foner is the author or editor of 14 books and the author of more than 85 articles and book chapters. Her latest book is Across Generations: Immigrant Families in America (New York University Press, 2009).

“It’s a great honor to be elected to the Academy and recognized for my work as an immigration scholar,” said Foner. “It’s especially important now, when immigration is such a crucial issue for this country. And it’s important for Hunter, which is not only a public institution in the quintessential immigrant city–but a college where the vast majority of students are either immigrants themselves or immigrants’ children.”

In 2010 Foner received the Distinguished Career Award from the International Migration Section of the American Sociological Association. She is on the editorial board of numerous journals, has testified on immigration issues before several Congressional committees, has been chair of the International Migration Section of the American Sociological Association, and is past president of the Society for the Anthropology of Work and of the Society for Urban, National, and Transnational/Global Anthropology.