Posted by David A. Lehrer
Last summer, Community Advocates published an op/ed in the Los Angeles Times singing the praises of UCLA and several other UC campuses for being in the vanguard of elite universities to admit socio-economically disadvantaged applicants.
Rather than rely on race and/or ethnicity as a proxy for disadvantage (as a result of Proposition 209, they can’t) University of California campuses consider the socio-economic status of their applicants believing that the extent to which an applicant has overcome hurdles of economic disadvantage (Pell Grant eligible students come from families earning $45,000 per year or less) will be a measure of their ability to achieve success as a college student. There is little to argue about the disadvantage that occurs when there are no funds to pay for SAT prep courses, after school enrichment programs, tutors and the like.
Today David Leonhardt, writer of The New York Times’ Economix Blog, joins the praise for UCLA. Leonhardt cites the most recent data for elite universities and their paltry Pell Grant student admit percentages—-Harvard 6.5%, Yale 8.9%, University of Pennsylvania 8.2%, Duke and Northwestern 8.3% and Stanford 12%.
These relatively small numbers persist despite a commitment in 2005 from many of these universities to improve the admission of economically disadvantaged students. At the time, Harvard’s then-president, Larry Summers, opined that the growing divide between the children of the rich and the children of the poor was “the most serious domestic problem in the United States today.”
Leonhardt then comes to the conclusion that will warm the hearts of Bruins, recognition of what UCLA (and many of the UC’s as we point out in our op/ed) has done:
To give credit where it’s due, the University of California, Los Angeles, leads all elite colleges with 30.7% of its students receiving Pell Grants.
It is no small matter that elite research universities have expended the extra effort to identify and admit students who have the potential to succeed but not the resources to have yet reached their potential. Once again, much deserved kudos goes to UCLA and its UC colleagues for setting the pace for the rest of America’s best colleges and universities.
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March 25, 2011 | 3:10 pm
Posted by Joe R. Hicks
Even as we face serious world issues competing for our attention, a recent article in the Los Angeles Times featured this headline … “Bachelor casting draws fire.”
I’m no fan of reality television, but it is ubiquitous among today’s offerings. I’ve seen snippets of ABC’s “The Bachelor,” and as best as I can tell, the show is about a harem of young women competing for the attention of one guy … the aforementioned “Bachelor.”
The focus of the article was a lack of diversity on the ABC show.
Apparently, there has never been a non-white contestant in the featured role in any of the twenty one seasons since “The Bachelor” has been on … something that’s angered some folks.
Shawn Ryan is the creator of two successful television shows, “The Shield” and “The Chicago Code.” He says the lack of a minority “Bachelor” is an example of “straight-up racism.” Further, he says “They just don’t think America will watch a black bachelor or root for mixed-race marriage.”
But before anybody recruits the NAACP to this cause, arguing for diversity in the context of a loosely-scripted reality show that, for my money, comes awfully close to pimping is stretching the boundaries of what constitutes “civil rights.”
I don’t know much about the executives who oversee production on “The Bachelor.” Ryan may be right. These executives may be wallowing in their own prejudices and timid views about America’s acceptance of interracial love, because one thing is clear –most Americans have gotten over their anxiety about this issue long ago
Other forms of popular culture have embraced these relationships.
The most recent example was the hugely popular sitcom “Two and a Half Men,” featuring Charlie Sheen, the bizarrely self-destructive actor, that featured a story-line revolving around Sheen’s next-door neighbor and his teen-age daughter. The very muscular and intimidating father was played by Michael Clark Duncan. You might remember him from the film “The Green Mile.”
Duncan’s daughter has begun to display an interest in Sheen’s nephew, something that was, apparently, mutual. The fact that Duncan and his daughter were black, and Sheen’s nephew was obviously not, was something left un-explored by the show’s writers. The race of these kids in the midst of puppy-love simply wasn’t an issue.
Okay, you may think, the show is set in the bucolic beach community of Malibu – a haven for wealthy, hedonistic types. Liberal attitudes about “race-mixing” may dominate in Malibu, California, but what about Hattiesburg, Mississippi? Yes, that Mississippi.
A recent front-page story in The New York Times featured married couples from different racial backgrounds who were living happily in a state where only forty five years ago their marriages would have been illegal. Forget legality, forty five years agotheir lives would have been in jeopardy
As it turns out, today’s Mississippi has one of the nation’s most rapidly-expanding multiracial populations – up 70 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to new data from the census Bureau.
And it’s not just Mississippi. North Carolina’s “mixed-race” population doubled. In Georgia, it expanded by more than 80 percent – and by nearly as much in Kentucky and Tennessee.
Meanwhile, in Indiana, Iowa and South Dakota the multiracial population has increased by about 70 percent.
What’s the take-away from all this? It’s about an increase in the numbers of Americans who routinely cross the imaginary color-line for love and marriage in places that aren’t the usual suspects.
One man in the Times’ story is Mississippi resident Marvin King. He’s married to a white woman and says simply “racial attitudes are changing.”
America is changing. Some – like me – argue that it has already changed, but the people most invested in racial identity politics have not, or more pointedly, cannot acknowledge the changes for fear of putting the final stake through their tattered relevancy.
There are obviously Americans of all skin colors who resent so-called “race-mixing.” But what is clear is that they are the diminishing minority – remnants of an older generation. Despite claims that some Americans aren’t prepared to accept steamy interracial activity on prime-time television, or anywhere else for that matter, in practice they’ve been proven wrong by the increasing numbers of multi-racial children in our society.
In fact, “interracial” couples barely merit a glance these days … to do otherwise is “so 1960s.” I should know. I was part of an “interracial” marriage for more than 20 years. Our skin colors were hardly the most interesting thing about our relationship.
Beyond discussions of “mixed-race” couples, there is a far more serious issue for us all to consider.
Nearly all social scientists reject the view that “racial differences” have any objective or scientific foundation. In other words, a “white” person is no different biologically from a “black” person. But if “race” is scientifically meaningless, why do we cling to this concept politically?
I think we understand the motives of strident race advocates and hustlers. For them “race” is something to exploit for political or personal advantage.
As for the rest of us who have no real vested interest in the concept, an explanation for our curiosity about race is that we humans are visual animals. So we notice each other’s skin color.
But, other than curiosity, this interest still doesn’t answer the basic question – do skin color and “race” matter in any fundamental way?
Here’s the thing … the genetic difference between so-called races is minute. On average there’s .2 percent difference in genetic material between any two randomly chosen people … on earth!
Think about that the next time you hear some race huckster claiming they represent the interests of their people.
March 21, 2011 | 3:39 pm
Posted by David A. Lehrer
Given the headlines of the past few weeks—-earthquakes, tsunamis and nuclear near-disaster in Japan, war in Libya, stalemate in Washington—- it was unexpected that yesterday’s New York Times front page would actually make readers feel good.
But there it was, front and center, an article entitled, “Black and White and Married in the Deep South: A Shifting Image” which matter-of-factly chronicled the transformation into tolerance of Mississippi, a state that was once the very symbol of bigotry, hostility to civil rights and of murderous resistance to change.
The article details the fact that Mississippi is home to one of the country’s fastest growing multiracial populations, up 70% since 2000. Parenthetically, Mississippi is not alone in the South. North Carolina’s mixed race population doubled over the past decade, Georgia’s increased by 80% and almost the same increase was registered in Tennessee and Kentucky.
But it is less the numbers than the tenor of the article and the couples interviewed that is so striking and positive.
The major focus of the article is the experience of two inter-racial couples and their affirmative view of how the society around them has changed. They aren’t Pollyannas blind to the slights that inevitably have come their way—-family members expressing doubts about their choice in spouse, waitresses who refuse to serve them, a hospital nurse who thought that the black mother was attempting to snatch a newborn (hers, who happened to look white).
Both couples acknowledge the problems, but as one observed, so much is generational, “I think many older people are set in their ways, but 40 years old or younger, you’ll never get the sense that something’s wrong.” The other family noted that, “between our church and our neighborhood, this is the most diverse place I’ve been. I’ve never experienced anything quite like this.”
Take a look at the article and remember that this is Hattiesburg, Mississippi that the writer is chronicling. The town where Vernon Dahmer was murdered for civil rights activism, where later to be lynched Medgar Evers headed the NAACP and not all that far from the town where fourteen year old Emmet Till was lynched for “flirting” with a young white woman in 1955.
As one of the inter-racial couples noted, “The times have certainly changed.”
March 18, 2011 | 2:47 pm
Posted by Joe R. Hicks
If you’re black, came from a financially-sound family, lived with two parents, took school and grades seriously but choose to play basketball for an elite, private college … dude, you must be an “Uncle Tom!”
Those ugly beliefs were expressed by some former members of the University of Michigan’s “Fab Five” basketball team in a documentary film that was aired recently on ESPN, the 24-hour all-sports cable channel.
First, some background. Any fan of the “Final Four” will remember that in 1992 the University of Michigan squared off against Duke, who won convincingly 71-51. One of the standout players for Duke was forward Grant Hill.
The Michigan team was tabbed “The Fabulous Five,” and they were indeed fabulously talented, bringing a swagger and inner-city hip-hop flavor to college basketball in a way that had not been previously seen.
This “Fab Five” were Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Chris Webber, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson. As athletically talented and “ghetto-fabulous” as they were – they lost to Duke, the more “disciplined” team.
Nonetheless, the Michigan team inspired a documentary film about the period from 1991 to 1993 when they played together. Since Sunday night’s broadcast on ESPN, what the players said in the film has stirred up considerable controversy.
In the film, the Michigan forward Jalen Rose said “For me, Duke was personal. I hated Duke. And I hated everything I felt Duke stood for. Schools like Duke didn’t recruit players like me. I felt like
they only recruited black players that were Uncle Toms
Another former Michigan player from that team, Jimmy King, went on ESPN’s First Take and when asked about Rose’s filmed comment that black players at Duke were “Uncle Toms,” King defended the statements.
Asked to define what an Uncle Tom is in his mind, King said his definition was “… someone who overlooks their being and who they are. It’s someone who overlooks their heritage and goes to a predominantly white school.”
Not that it actually matters, but when examining the student body populations of the two schools, Michigan’s black student population ranges between 4.8 to 5.2 percent, while Duke’s fluctuates between 9.7 and 10.0 percent. But why let facts get in the way of Rose’s or King’s contentions.
Some have excused the comments of these former Michigan players as things said out of youthful ignorance, but are beliefs they no longer hold.
But that doesn’t wash. Jalen Rose and Jimmy King have had ample opportunities to re-interpret the views they held nearly twenty years ago. However, in the interviews they’ve given in the days after the ESPN documentary aired, they have, in the main, stuck to the bigoted views they originally held in 1992.
Rose said he resented Duke and the black players on that team because he felt Duke would have never recruited someone like him. That’s no doubt correct. Rose’s grades in high school were less than impressive, and Duke was serious about their recruits living up the meaning of “student-athlete.”
But Rose also complained that he wouldn’t have been recruited because he came from a troubled, single-parent home. In his view, the Duke players always came from good families that included the presence of fathers in the player’s lives. He admitted that he was bitter because he had never known his father.
But exactly whose fault was it that he grew up in disadvantaged circumstances and what inspired him to believe that Duke should have lowered its recruitment standards to accommodate players like him?
The bizarre comments from the Michigan players, that blacks who played for “predominantly white schools” like Duke were “Uncle Toms” and “sell-outs,” reveals a larger rift in so-called black America.
That schism is over the strange, narrow concept of racial authenticity. Some blacks obsess over the odd question of who’s really black, and who’s a poseur.
So, who’s the sell-out? The “street brother” who’s on a first-name basis with the local cops, or a young black man who decides to attend and play sports for an elite, private university?
Exactly how does a real black person look, talk or dress? And why, according to these basketball jerks, should dysfunction and ignorance define “authentic” black behavior?
Grant Hill thinks otherwise.
Hill is currently a player with the Phoenix Suns, but was a starting player on the Duke Blue Devil team that defeated Michigan in 1992. He was specifically named by the Michigan players as an “Uncle Tom.”
A well-spoken and thoughtful man, Hill reflected on Jalen Rose’s slur against him and other black players for Duke and responded in an article printed in The New York Times.
In part, Hill said “It was a sad and somewhat pathetic turn of events … to see friends narrating this interesting documentary about their moment in time and calling me a bitch and worse, calling all black players at Duke “Uncle Toms” and, to some degree, disparaging my parents for their education, work ethic and commitment to each other and to me.”
Words well said from a classy guy.
If being authentically black means co-signing Jalen Rose’s warped and backwards racial views, then count me in the ranks of the “sell-outs.”
March 11, 2011 | 5:17 pm
Posted by David A. Lehrer
Frequent, and even occasional, readers of this blog know that Community Advocates avoids the “Chicken Little” theory of human relations, that is seeing any hint of criticism or negative comment about minority groups as indicative of deep seated bigotry. Our op/eds and blogs over the past decade are replete with analyses that tend to grant the benefit of the doubt to comments that could be interpreted either benignly or negatively.
That outlook makes this column especially difficult to write.
We firmly believe that tolerance and broad- based acceptance of differences have become ingrained in American life and that other than loonies on the fringes, appeals to bigotry generally fall flat. Yet the recent rantings of two likely candidates for the presidency suggest that there that must be some utility in skirting the edges of bigotry and stereotyping when it comes to our first African American president.
Governor Mike Huckabee’s recent “misstatement” about Obama having been raised in Kenya and imbibing Mau Mau ideology is transparently false and could be ascribed to sloppiness. But Huckabee has continued down the same path of denouncing Obama’s otherness with a manifest lack of concern about the media and how he is being perceived.
In an interview, after the Kenya flap broke, Huckabee commented in response to a questioner who expressed concern, “that there may be some fundamental anti-Americanism in this president.” The governor didn’t dismiss the insidious allegation of anti-Americanism (Robert Welch and the Birchers would have been proud) out of hand. Rather, he began his response with, “that’s exactly the point.” He proceeded to opine that Obama’s vision of history is “very different from that of most of the people who grew up in the United States, and I have said many times, that he has a different world view.” Huckabee then informed the listeners that Obama’s world of “madrasas” is a very different one from that of Boy Scouts and Rotary meetings. Obama is cast as the outsider, unlike “conventional” Americans.
Notwithstanding the pounding that Huckabee took in the press for his “Obama was raised in Kenya” remarks and their factual inaccuracy, Huckabee and his advisors think there’s an advantage to pursuing this line of attack—-Obama as a foreign, surreptitious, un-American “other”.
Newt Gingrich, another all-but-declared candidate, is following the same line of attack. He decries Obama’s “Kenyan, anti-colonial” mentality.
It’s fascinating. Maybe they are sharing the same pollster, one who suggests that the only viable attack on the popular Obama is to paint him as an outsider who pretends to be a “real” American. He may sound like us, he may look like us but he’s really not of us because of that Kenyan father and the few years he spent overseas. He can be thought of in the same synapse with black militants (Mau Mau) and Islamic radicals (madrasas); the subtext is all too clear.
I don’t recall Huckabee questioning Mitt Romney’s American bona fides because of his years living overseas—as a nineteen year old Mormon missionary in France (I suspect they were short on Boy Scouts there and Rotary meetings might not have been omnipresent either.)
Given all the polls that have shown tolerance and acceptance becoming the credo of Americans, it’s distressing to think that there must be polling metrics out there which suggest that this kind of politics pays off.
The good news is that pundits, both right and left, decry this nastiness for what it is. Joe Klein in Time, writes that “Huckabee’s crude use of these canards should disqualify him from the presidency; his statements can’t merely be dismissed as book tour Huckabucking.”
Yesterday, George Will joined the outraged. In concluding a piece on Huckabee’s and Gingrich’s comments, he writes,
So the Republican winnowing process is far advanced. But the nominee may emerge much diminished by involvement in a process cluttered with careless, delusional, egomaniacal, spotlight-chasing candidates to whom the sensible American majority would never entrust a lemonade stand, much less nuclear weapons.
I share Will’s belief that there is, indeed, a “sensible American majority” that will reject these not so subtle appeals to bigotry.
March 9, 2011 | 5:56 pm
Posted by David A. Lehrer
A couple of weeks ago the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, one of the most liberal, if not the most liberal, federal appellate court in the country, handed down an opinion that has slipped under the radar of the news media and the punditry who are normally attuned to events that mark major change.
The case, Darensburg v. Metropolitan Transit Commission, is an appeal from a federal district court decision involving allegations of discrimination in the decision of the Transit Commission to favor greater investment in future rail projects over bus expansion in the Bay area. The plaintiffs—a group of racial minorities who ride buses operated by the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District, a community-based organization, and a labor union—alleged that the MTC intentionally discriminated and made decisions, that, even if not intentionally discriminatory, had a disparate and unfair impact on minorities.
The trial court had found that there was absolutely no evidence of intentional discrimination by the MTC but allowed a trial as to whether there was a disparate impact on minorities by the decision to favor rail investment over buses. After hearing all the evidence, the trial court found no disparate impact. The appellate agreed with the trial court, but broke important ground in the reasoning it applied to its rejection of the plaintiffs’ assertions.
Judge Barry Silverman (a Clinton appointee) wrote:
The statistical measure upon which Plaintiffs relied to establish a prima facie case is unsound, and their claim rests upon a logical fallacy. Although Plaintiffs’ statistical evidence shows that minorities make up a greater percentage of the regional population of bus riders than rail riders, it does not necessarily follow that an expansion plan that emphasizes rail projects over bus projects will harm minorities…..Not only does plaintiffs’ statistical evidence fail to prove discrimination, but their circumstantial evidence does not support any inference that MTC’s adoption of the Regional Transit Expansion Plan was motivated by racial bias.
The unanimous three judge court rejected wholesale the kind of statistical data that is often accepted as dispositive. For example, the plaintiffs presented the fact that minority ridership on BART (the Bay area’s rapid transit rail system) is 53% while the minority ridership on Alameda County Transit (the bus system that plaintiffs favor) is 78%. The plaintiffs’ conclusion being that any action that benefited rail over bus was necessarily discriminatory in impact, if not intent. The court wisely looks beyond the superficially troubling data to conclude that the rapid transit expansion plan,
“Does not affect solely bus riders or solely AC Transit rider—it affects an entire integrated transit system’s users….Plaintiffs’ regional-level population statistics fail to explain with any precision the effect the Regional Transit Expansion Plan will have on minority transit users. Under Plaintiffs’ theory, so long as the population of bus riders contains a greater percentage of minorities than the population of rail riders, any RTEP that emphasizes rail expansion over bus expansion, even where such a plan may confer a far greater benefit upon minorities than whites, would be subject to legal challenge.”
The reasoning of the court has serious implications in countless other areas where a disparity in numbers between minorities and non-minorities is often taken as evidence of discrimination without a deeper examination of the issues at play and the dynamics of complex human interactions that aren’t revealed by simple statistical disparities.
The concurring opinion by Justice Noonan (Reagan appointee) succinctly explicates what is wrong with the case he had to decide and the process it reflects:
A federal court is asked to review the allocation of billions of dollars among a variety of state agencies, some of them not before the court. The court is asked to look into the future to gauge the fairness of the allocations. The court is asked to assume the identity and interests of various parts of the population characterized by the litigants in terms of categories created by racial origins of the persons living here today. Using these categories—hopelessly outdated in the Bay Area—-this litigation presents a controversy in which the court is asked to determine the fairness of future plans dependent on at least seven factors which the court would have to measure, combine, and evaluate as a balanced or unbalanced combination…..
The twentieth century racial categories so confidently deployed no longer correspond to American life among the young…..What is true of the young is already characteristic of the Bay Area where social change has been fostered by liberal political attitudes, and a culture of tolerance. An individual bigot may be found, perhaps even a pocket of racists. The notion of a Bay Area board bent on racist goals is a specter that only desperate litigation could entertain.
This is a refreshing breath of fresh air in the realm of civil rights litigation—-an acknowledgement of the changing attitudes of Americans and their implications for legal theories. Rather than easily rely on the invocation of stale and ossified theories based on the social dynamics of the 1950’s and 60’s this court has looked to see what is really going on and came to the right decision.
It has shed the notion, prevalent for decades that presumed that there was often a hidden agenda that laws affecting broad swaths of people failed to reveal. Minorities and poor folks were the targets and legislators and bureaucrats masked their real intentions. This opinion doesn’t assume an evil subtext. It grants that the decisions made are difficult ones and that multiple interest groups were at play. But it concluded that, barring dispositive evidence that poor folks and minorities were to be victims, the court’s role should be minimal. It gave the benefit of the doubt to a body politic that has matured and become far different from what it was just forty years ago.