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Opinion: What does the wealth gap say about us?
Job seekers waited in line at a job fair -- the unemployment situation is especially grim for African-Americans and Latinos.
January 6th, 2012
09:44 PM ET

Opinion: What does the wealth gap say about us?

Editor's note: Julianne Malveaux is president of Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina.

By Julianne Malveaux, Special to CNN

The unemployment rate is trending down, the Friday morning headline reads. In November the rate was 8.7%; by December it had dropped to 8.5%. Nonfarm payroll employment rose by about 200,000 jobs, and the number of unemployed people dropped to 13.1 million from 14 million a year ago. In a year, non-farm employment rose by 1.6 million. If people are looking for signs of economic progress, the most recent Employment Situation offers some optimism. But a careful review of the unemployment situation offers as much cause for concern as for optimism.

Too many indicators were described as “showing little change,” which often meant that the situation had worsened. For example, the African-American unemployment rate rose from 15.5% to 15.8%, the third increase in as many months. Earnings are up by just 2.1%, and gains in health care and manufacturing employment were eclipsed by an annual loss of 280,000 government jobs, excluding educational jobs, which have also been cut. The average unemployed person has been out of work for 40.8 weeks, up six weeks from a year ago. More than 5.5 million workers, 42% of the labor force, have not worked for half a year. Though the downward trend in the unemployment rate bodes well for many workers, it does not benefit millions of others.

For African-Americans and Latinos in particular, this latest report quantifies what many of them already know: Minorities remain the hardest hit in down economies, and even when the forecast brightens slightly, it may not mean an improvement for them. African-Americans and Latinos historically have the highest unemployment rates for a host of reasons, many of them structural. It’s partially because discrimination in hiring puts them at a disadvantage from the beginning, but it’s also because blacks and Latinos typically have a more shallow network of professional contacts to lean on and are often the “last hired, first fired.”

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Remembering Gordon Hirabayashi, Japanese-American civil rights hero
Gordon Hirabayashi fought for the rights of Japanese-Americans, like those in this WWII-era California internment camp.
January 6th, 2012
01:42 PM ET

Remembering Gordon Hirabayashi, Japanese-American civil rights hero

By Stephanie Siek, CNN

(CNN) -  Twelve years before the U.S. Supreme Court decided separate was inherently unequal, and five months after a Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Gordon Hirabayashi took a stand that he believed would validate his rights as a citizen of the United States.

The son of Japanese immigrants, Hirabayashi lent his name to a landmark court case that challenged the U.S. government’s policy of treating anyone of Japanese descent as a potential enemy during World War II. Hirabayashi, 93, died January 2 in Edmonton, Alberta, after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for several years, according to his son. Hirabayashi’s former wife, Esther, died hours later at a different medical facility in Edmonton. Hirabayashi was cremated, and a Quaker memorial meeting for worship is scheduled for Friday at the Edmonton Japanese Community Association.

"It’s a sad day, but I think all of us in the family are happy to see the recognition Gordon’s getting," said his nephew, Lane Hirabayashi, a UCLA anthropologist who is co-authoring a biography of Hirabayashi with his father, Hirabayashi's brother. "This can also be a time that people reflect on what happened. That’s really important."

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Filed under: Asian in America • Discrimination • Ethnicity • History • Race • Religion • Who we are
Engage: FBI's new rape definition to include men
The case against former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky raised questions about how the FBI defines rape.
January 6th, 2012
09:59 AM ET

Engage: FBI's new rape definition to include men

Engage with news and opinions from around the web about under-reported stories from undercovered communities.

FBI to adjust rape definition to include male victims - USA Today

Immigration law could reduce separation time for families that include both U.S. citizens and undocumented members– The Los Angeles Times

Family of hazed soldier who committed suicide learns more about mistreatment by fellow soldiers - The New York Times

Puerto Rican outcry at ABC sitcom "Work It" line: “I’m Puerto Rican. I would be great at selling drugs.” - Fox News Latino

CEO, veteran become unlikely business partners via newspaper article - National Public Radio

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Filed under: Engage
Opinion: Why is Arizona threatened by Mexican-American studies?
Supporters of Arizona's tough new immigration law rally in Phoenix when the law was proposed in 2010.
January 6th, 2012
05:00 AM ET

Opinion: Why is Arizona threatened by Mexican-American studies?

Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a CNN.com contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist.

By Ruben Navarrette Jr. , CNN Contributor

San Diego (CNN) - Who's afraid of a harmless course in Mexican-American studies?

Arizonans. That's who. It figures. In the immigration debate, the state that has demonstrated that it is terrified of changing demographics and determined to run off Latinos seems afraid of its own cultural footprint.

We're talking about courses in Mexican-American history being taught to high school students of all colors and backgrounds in the Tucson Unified School District.

Concerned that teachers are presenting material in a biased and inflammatory manner, a posse of elected officials, education bureaucrats and school board trustees - made up of Democrats and Republicans - are trying to shut down the district's Mexican-American studies program.

Read Navarette's full commentary