Monthly Archives: November 2011

Black public workers first laid off by job cuts

African Americans are experiencing the sharpest edge of layoffs of government and other public workers across the country. The worst of these job cuts were at first avoided by the Obama administration’s federal stimulus package that was designed to prevent state and local layoffs.

Black public workers are one-third more likely to be laid off than their white counterparts, according to a recent article in the New York Times.

The public sector is the largest employer of Black men and the 2nd largest employer of Black women, according to a recent study by the University of California Berkley Center for Labor Research and Education. It is “the single most important source of employment for African Americans,” according to Steven Pitts, author of the study. About one in five African Americans have government jobs. By comparison, 14.6 percent of whites and 11 percent of Hispanics work in the public sector. (People’s World)

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Being young, black and female closes some doors, opens others

“Black in America,” the long-running CNN exploration of the successes and struggles of African-Americans in this country, has given Americans a look into many aspects of the black experience, but it has yet to take an in-depth look at what it means to be a young black woman.

Since 2008 the successful documentary series and companion website have examined issues of marriage, family life, work, entrepreneurism and leadership among other topics. But the particular combinations of racism, sexism and other biases that influence what it means to be young, female and black remain unanalyzed. Here three young black women talk about these issues in the workplace. (Medill Reports)

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Smithsonian black history museum accepts KKK robes

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture has acquired two Ku Klux Klan robes that will be exhibited in its future home on the National Mall.

One of the robes donated Monday comes from the family of the late writer Stetson Kennedy, who died in August some six decades after he infiltrated the KKK and exposed its secrets.

The second robe belonged to Phineas Miller Nathaniel Wilds, a chaplain in the Klan. It was donated by his great-great-grandson Richard Rousseau.

The $500 million museum is scheduled to open in 2015. Curators are planning exhibits spanning the journey of slaves from Africa, the Civil War, the civil rights movement and accomplishments in music, sports and culture.

Congress has pledged to provide about half of the cost. (AP)

Black Catholics’ survey finds strong ties, strong engagement in church

African-American Catholics are much more engaged in their church on a variety of levels than are white Catholics, concludes the first National Black Catholic Survey.

Whether in a majority black church, a mixed or mostly white parish, the survey found African-American Catholics feel satisfied and fulfilled in their parishes, explained retired Bishop John H. Ricard of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Fla., who is president of the National Black Catholic Congress.

By “engaged,” Bishop Ricard explained, the authors of the report mean African-Americans are involved in their parishes well beyond simply attending Mass somewhat regularly. That includes having strong networks of friends and family in their churches, participating in multiple parish activities and saying their spiritual, emotional and social needs are met there. (National Catholic Reporter)

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Clinton: Aid for poor is security priority

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says programs to help the world’s poor should be seen as national security priorities as global economic turmoil leaves millions struggling to find work and food.

Her message Wednesday at the world’s premier development aid forum comes as leaders urge donors to boost aid despite tight budgets and the growing financial crisis.

Clinton said countries with expanding economies are less likely to send refugees across their borders or traffic in arms, drugs or people.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said aid is crucial for helping countries struggling with war, AIDS and poverty.

He warned that cutting aid won’t balance government budgets but will hurt the poor. (AP)

Attorney: there was ‘culture of hazing’ at FAMU

Two decades ago, the now-ousted director of the Florida A&M band warned in a letter about the dangers of hazing among the famed “Marching 100″ ensemble, saying “it would be very difficult for the university and the band should someone become killed or hurt.”

In the following years, however, hazing seemed to become a bigger — if not a more public — problem. Police investigated several serious cases and students were arrested. Anti-hazing workshops were held. Dozens of band members were suspended. University officials and the marching band community were keenly aware of the persistent hazing, yet it continued and is believed to have played a role in the death this month of a 26-year-old drum major, Robert Champion.

Champion’s death started a blame game of sorts, with the historically black college in Tallahassee firing its band director, Julian White, accusing him of “misconduct and/or incompetence.” In turn, White released more than 150 pages of documents showing that he warned the university for years about what was going on.

The chair of the Board of Governors, which oversees Florida’s public universities, wrote a letter to FAMU trustees Tuesday saying it would investigate whether the university administration took appropriate action to address White’s concerns.

A former band member told The Associated Press on Tuesday that White looked for ways to eradicate a culture of hazing that existed in many instrument sections of the band. White invited band members to anonymously report hazing and even had police come along on some away games, former drum major Timothy Barber told AP.

In 2001, trumpeter Marcus Parker was paddled so severely that he ended up hospitalized with kidney damage. White had police escort the trumpet section off the field to be interrogated to show he would not tolerate hazing, Barber said.

About a dozen people pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and received probation in that case, though it’s not clear what actions, if any, the university took to punish them.

After the arrests, White approached Barber for help in getting rid of hazing. One area he focused on: A white wall in the band’s practice field where nicknames for the instrument sections were prominently displayed. Becoming a member of these groups — the clarinets were known as “The Clones” and the tubas were the “White Whales” — meant becoming part of a tradition and a band that has played Super Bowls, the Grammys and presidential inaugurations.

But some sections had their own violent initiation rituals. White bought buckets of white paint and asked Barber to cover up the section nicknames on the wall.

“Tim, we have to find a way to eradicate these subsections of the band,” Barber said White told him. “Cover the names so they see this is not something supported by the band staff.”

While White documented his efforts to stop the hazing, it’s possible he could’ve done more on the front lines, according to Richard Sigal, a retired sociology professor at County College of Morris in Randolph, N.J., who has studied hazing.

“Maybe he just had a problem that was beyond his ability to control it,” Sigal said. But in general, “If the person at the top issued a zero tolerance policy for hazing and oversaw what the people under him were doing, then there was no hazing.”

The details of Champion’s death are unclear. Authorities, the school and an attorney for his family said hazing played a role, but no one has been willing to shed any more light on what actually happened Nov. 19 after the football team lost to its rival Bethune-Cookman. Police have said only that Champion started vomiting and complained he couldn’t breathe before he collapsed on a band bus outside their hotel in Orlando.

The university has announced an independent review and Gov. Rick Scott has asked state investigators to join the sheriff’s department in its investigation.

University officials declined interview requests for this story, but president James Ammons, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s from FAMU, issued a statement late Tuesday.

“The university has a zero tolerance policy toward hazing. Period. But it is becoming increasingly clear that hazing continues to exist — at FAMU and across the country at other universities, colleges and other elements — because hazing survives and thrives in a culture of secrecy and a conspiracy of silence. I am committed to illuminating this dark corner of Florida A&M University and the American culture … illuminating it and eradicating it.”

White is fighting his dismissal, which is why he submitted the documents to the school, including dozens of suspension letters for hazing over the last decade, and communications alerting university police.

“Our incidents are few, but nevertheless hazing and harassment continues to be a problem,” White wrote the then director of bands William P. Foster in 1989 after a hazing death involving a fraternity at Morehouse University. “It would be very difficult for the university and the band should someone become killed or hurt because of hazing.”

In the weeks before Champion’s death, White suspended 26 band members for hazing. On Nov. 17 — just two days before Champion died — he sent a letter to alumni, saying while most of them were positive and encouraging of former band members, some “return and perpetuate the myth of various sectional names.”

“You should not return and look down on people who follow university regulations by not participating in sub-organizations,” White wrote. “This is extremely important and I call on all alumni to assist the band and myself in eradicating all vestiges of hazing in the Marching ’100′ band.’”

Barber, who rose to head drum major and was in the band from 1996 to 2002, said he was never hazed, nor did he participate in it.

He said drum majors were like the generals of the band who tried to keep everyone in order, which makes Champion’s death puzzling. At 26, Champion was likely one of the older band members because he didn’t enter college until a year after high school and struggled at times to stay at the university because of his grades.

Barber in part blames alumni for not taking a stronger stand. Of about two dozen people contacted by The Associated Press, he was the first who agreed to openly speak about hazing within the band.

Barber went back to FAMU this year and practiced with Champion and the other drum majors. White told him Champion could become the head drum major. Barber also noticed the section nicknames on the white wall were still painted over.

“We need to do more,” Barber said. (AP)

Suit accuses Comcast of discriminating against African American workers, customers

A federal lawsuit filed Monday in Chicago accused Comcast Corp. of discriminating against the African-American employees of its South Side facility and its own customers by requiring workers to install defective or bug-infested equipment into residents’ homes.

Eleven current and former workers in Comcast Corp.’s South Side facility are seeking class action status claiming that since at least 2005, the media company “has engaged in an ongoing pattern of race discrimination against African American employees” at its South Side location, according to the complaint, filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

The group includes 10 current employees and one former worker who was fired in 2009. The plaintiffs on average, have worked for Comcast for 15 years, the lawsuit says. (Chicago Tribune)

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Cain tells aides he is reassessing his campaign

Herman Cain told aides Tuesday he is assessing whether the latest allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior against him “create too much of a cloud” for his Republican presidential candidacy to go forward.

Acknowledging the “firestorm” arising from an accusation of infidelity, Cain only committed to keeping his campaign schedule for the next several days, in a conference call with his senior staff.

“If a decision is made, different than to plow ahead, you all will be the first to know,” he said, according to a transcript of the call made by the National Review, which listened to the conversation.

It was the first time doubts about Cain’s continued candidacy had surfaced from the candidate himself. As recently as Tuesday morning, a campaign spokesman had stated unequivocally that Cain would not quit.

Cain denied anew that he had an extramarital affair with a Georgia woman who went public a day earlier with allegations they had been intimate for 13 years.

“It was just a friendship relationship,” he said on the call, according to the transcript. “That being said, obviously, this is a cause for reassessment.”

He went on: “With this latest one, we have to do an assessment as to whether or not this is going to create too much of a cloud, in some people’s minds, as to whether or not they would be able to support us going forth.”

Saying the episode had taken an emotional toll on him and his family, Cain told the aides that people will have to decide whether they believe him or the accuser. “That’s why we’re going to give it time, to see what type of response we get from our supporters.”

Ginger White’s accusation of an affair prompted New Hampshire state Rep. William Panek, who endorsed Cain at a news conference earlier this year, to pull his endorsement and instead support former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in the upcoming primary. Panek said he rethought his position when White showed evidence that she traded 61 text messages and cell phone calls with the candidate.

“I felt like we were being lied to,” Panek said. “I’m putting my name in New Hampshire as a state rep behind him and I just didn’t like the way it was being played out.”

In Iowa, Cain’s campaign has lost some precinct-level supporters in light of the new allegations, Steve Grubbs, Cain’s Iowa chairman, said during an interview with CNN.

Cain was in Iowa for a day last week to film a new ad, but spending to air it was on hold pending the fundraising in the days to come, Grubbs said.

“If people make contributions, then we’ll keep the campaign doors open and be able to keep paying people,” Grubbs said. “Otherwise, Herman Cain will have to make a decision whether he can afford to keep moving forward.”

Cain has denied the affair as well as several other accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior that have dogged his candidacy over the past month. He had been publicly resolute about pressing ahead even as his standing in public opinion polls and his fundraising started to slide.

But in the conference call, he pledged only to keep his imminent schedule, including a foreign policy speech at Hillsdale College in Michigan later Tuesday that he promised to deliver with “vim, vigor and enthusiasm.”

Speaking to nearly 1,000 people at Hillsdale, a conservative bastion, Cain didn’t address the affair allegation. He stuck to his plan to present his foreign policy vision, one in which the U.S. would stand by friendly nations such as Israel, quit giving money to countries he considered enemies, and spend more on defense.

“Rather than the current philosophy of cut, cut, cut, I believe our philosophy should be invest, invest, invest,” he said. “I happen to believe that we have allowed our military to get too weak.”

While Cain avoided reporters after the speech, he would hardly be able to escape them at an event from which he withdrew earlier in the day: a party in New York on Sunday to meet with some of the city’s top journalists including NBC’s Matt Lauer and ABC’s Barbara Walters. Cindy Adams, the New York Post columnist hosting the dinner, told the AP she had received a call Tuesday from Cain adviser John Coale saying Cain had decided not to attend. Coale declined to comment.

Still, Cain was what one participant described as calm and deliberate as he addressed his staff on the conference call.

The participant, Florida state Rep. Scott Plakon, one of four chairmen for Cain’s Florida campaign, said he wanted to see more evidence from the accuser.

“If it is true that he didn’t do this, I think he should fight and kick and scratch and win,” Plakon said.

But if Cain did have the affair, Plakon said, it would be unacceptable to Republican voters.

“That would be very problematic,” he said. “There’s the affair itself and then there’s the truthful factor. He’s been so outspoken in these denials.”

After the conference call, Cain attorney Lin Wood told the AP: “Any report that Mr. Cain has decided to withdraw his candidacy is inaccurate.”

“I think they are assessing the situation, just as I would expect the campaign to do or any prudent business person to do,” said Wood. He added that he would hate to see what he described as false accusations drive Cain out of the race for the presidency.

On Monday, Ginger White said in an interview with Fox 5 Atlanta that her affair with Cain ended not long before the former businessman from Georgia announced his candidacy for the White House.

“It was fun,” said White, 46, as she described Cain buying her plane tickets for a rendezvous in Palm Springs, Calif. “It was something that took me away from my sort of humdrum life at the time. And it was exciting.”

Cain went on television to flatly deny White’s claims even before the report aired.

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” he said then. On Tuesday, he told his staff “I deny those charges, unequivocally,” and went on to say he had only helped White financially “because she was out of work and destitute, desperate.”

Seemingly out of step with Cain’s denials, his lawyer issued a statement Monday that included no such denial of the affair and suggested that the media — and the public — had no business snooping into the details of consensual conduct between adults.

Cain’s response was faster and more deliberate than he had managed when it was reported that three women alleged he had sexually harassed or groped them when he was the president of the National Restaurant Association in the mid- to late 1990s. The trade group paid settlements to two women who had worked there.

As some conservative Republicans sought an alternative to Mitt Romney, Cain surged in the polls while pushing his 9-9-9 tax plan and providing tough criticism of President Barack Obama during televised debates.

But as the harassment allegations surfaced, Cain stumbled in explaining his views about U.S. policy toward Libya and other foreign policy issues, creating an opening for rival Newt Gingrich to assert himself as a more reliable, seasoned politician to challenge Romney and even Obama. Cain fell in the polls and Gingrich began to rise.

In an email sent Tuesday to his supporters, Cain called the allegations of the affair “a fabricated, unsubstantiated story.” He accused White of abusing their friendship.

“I am writing you today to assure you that this woman’s story is completely false,” Cain said in the email. “I do know Ms. White. I have helped her financially at times over the past few years, just as I have helped many friends and acquaintances throughout the years. I thought Ms. White was a friend in need of a supportive hand to better her life.”

In her TV interview, White said she decided to come forward after seeing Cain attack his other accusers in an appearance on television. (AP)

Condoleezza Rice Says America Will Never Be Race Blind

In 2004, then-U.S. Senate candidate Barack Obama made his national political debut by delivering an eloquent and moving keynote address at the Democratic National Convention about the role of race and a more perfect union in this nation that would aspire to provide educational and economic opportunities for all. Four years later, he became the first African-American to be elected president of the United States. But, according to former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, the second African-American to serve in that role, despite how far the nation has progressed, it still has a long way to go.

“We have a Black president. We’ve had two Black secretaries of state. We have Black CEOs. Obviously African-Americans are pushing way into territories that, probably, my grandparents would never have thought possible,” Rice said on CBS’s Face the Nation, but added that race will always be a factor in American life.

“It is a birth defect with which this country was born out of slavery; we’re never really going to be race blind,” she said. (BET)

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More Diverse Teachers for More Diverse Schools

Why We Need More People of Color in Education

Jennifer Rokosa, Center for American Progress

- The United States is undergoing a significant demographic transformation as communities of color continue to grow throughout the nation. Our public schools will be among the first institutions to change as a result of this increased diversity. In fact, schools are diversifying at such a rapid rate that within 10 to 12 years no clear racial or ethnic majority will exist in our public K-12 system.

A recent report from the Center for American Progress, “Teacher Diversity Matters,” highlights the wide gaps in diversity between students and teachers across the nation. Past research shows that students of color enjoy greater rates of academic success when they are taught by teachers of color, which makes it increasingly important for us to fix the teacher workforce’s low diversity as our demography evolves.

Here we outline the reasons why there is such low diversity in the teaching profession and what steps we can take to recruit and retain more teachers of color in the field.

The diversity gap
The report reveals that nearly every state experiences a significant disconnect between the diversity of the student body and the diversity of the teaching staff.

California reports the single largest discrepancy. An overwhelming 72 percent of students are of color compared with a mere 29 percent of teachers—a difference of 43 percentage points.

Unfortunately, this figure is not unusual. In fact, more that 20 states report a difference of 25 percentage points or more, with Nevada, Illinois, Arizona, and New York topping the list.

What causes the gap?
The reasons behind this inequality are complex.

Part of it can be attributed to communities of color’s generally lower rates of academic achievement. Only 58 percent of Latinos and 57 percent of African Americans earn a high school diploma within four years, compared with 78 percent of whites. This educational gap then extends to college, where communities of color experience lower graduation and certification rates. Naturally, it is impossible to become a teacher without a high school diploma and a college degree.

Other factors that contribute to the low rates of representation for teachers of color include the high cost of conventional teacher-certification programs and the expansion of career opportunities for minority college graduates. For most minority graduates, teaching simply does not offer the financial incentive necessary to offset the high costs of a college education, compelling them to seek more lucrative careers.

The paper also found that teachers of color are significantly less likely to report feeling satisfied with their rate of pay and being happy with the administration of their school.

One survey concluded that only 37 percent of African American and 46 percent of Hispanic teachers are happy with their salary, compared to 53 percent of white teachers. Similarly, African American and Hispanic teachers are less likely to feel satisfied with the way that their school is run.

To a certain extent this stems from the fact that teachers of color are statistically more likely to work in low-income and low-performing urban schools. Research also indicates that, on average, teachers of color are paid less than whites.

A two-pronged approach to bridging the gap

The teacher diversity gap is widespread and deeply rooted, and achieving an equitable representation for teachers of color will take hard work and dedication. But it is important to better serve our children so that they can be successful and our nation can thrive with an educated workforce. Based on the above findings, the report advises a two-pronged approach.

First, we must expand high-quality recruitment programs to better attract teachers of color. This includes supporting students of color in primary and secondary school so that they may attain the level of education they need to become teachers, as well as spearheading targeted recruitment efforts to attract high-performing students of color, offering federal financial-aid programs to low-income students interested in teaching, and pursuing policies on both the federal and state level that promote diversity.

This also involves giving special attention to alternative routes of teacher certification. Alternative certification programs, such as Teach for America and the New Teacher Project-Fellowship Program, help college graduates and established professionals to transition into teaching without conventional teaching training and preparation.

These types of programs have proven effective instruments for recruiting promising individuals of color to the teaching profession. In fact, 25 percent of Hispanic and 27 percent of African American teachers were certified through alternative-teacher programs, in contrast to only 11 percent of whites who followed similar paths.

Second, we must work to improve the professional experience of teachers of color. In order for teachers of color to stay in the classroom and be effective teachers, it is of vital importance that they feel satisfied with both their salary and the management of the school that they are working in.

As we move toward a more diverse future it is crucial that our nation’s teachers reflect these important demographic changes. Clear and decisive action is needed to ensure a diverse and proficient teacher workforce, as well as a strong and effective school system.

Jennifer Rokosa is an intern with Ethnic Media at American Progress. This article was published by the Center for American Progress.