By Sarah Springer, CNN
(CNN) - Olivia Pope is smart, runs a successful business and is the center of attention when she enters a room.
She’s the kind of woman who magazines say every woman can be, and the type that others love to hate.
There’s just one thing: She is also black.
After a successful first season, viewers know that Pope, the lead character on ABC’s “Scandal,” is African-American.
But they might not realize the significance of her race. FULL POST
Editor's note: Sherrilyn A. Ifill is a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law and the chairwoman of the U.S. Programs Board of the Open Society Foundations. She is the author of "On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the Twenty-first Century."
By Sherrilyn A. Ifill, Special to CNN
(CNN) - The United States has a dignity problem. The concept of dignity is recognized by law in countries all over the world. It is a cornerstone of both international humanitarian law, which governs the treatment of prisoners of war, and international human rights law.
But it has little power in American jurisprudence. A robust recognition and protection of dignity is precisely what we need, particularly if we are to understand how racism has broken its tether and become enshrined again in state laws and policies across the United States.
Take racial profiling - the single most explicit manifestation of racial prejudice in the United States today. Nearly 700,000 individuals a year are subject to the brutal indignity of the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk policy. The vast majority are young African-American and Latino men. In a New York Times op-ed in December, 23-year-old Nicholas Peart heart-rendingly described his initiation into the world of stop-and-frisk beginning at age 14. This rite of passage for innocent young black men requires submitting without complaint or question to being harassed and targeted by the police. Even showing an "attitude" can escalate encounters into an arrest or even death.
Stop-and-frisk policing is only one aspect of the national indignity of racial profiling. Police surveillance of law-abiding Muslims (here again the New York police play a central role) and the pulling over of motorists for "driving while black" are two others. Rather than recognize how these practices strike at our bedrock constitutional rights to due process, equal protection and freedom from unreasonable searches, the Supreme Court recently doubled down on racial profiling. It decided that the discretion of police may be complemented by the discretion of jail officials to strip-search the 14 million Americans who are arrested each year.
Read Sherrilyn A. Ifill's full commentary
Editor's note: In the Security Clearance "Case File" series, CNN national security producers profile key members of the intelligence community. As part of the series, Security Clearance is focusing on the roles women play in the U.S. intelligence community.
By Pam Benson, CNN
(CNN) - You don't really expect to simply fall into the spy business, but for Jeanne Tisinger, that's pretty much how it happened.
She was a business major at George Mason University, looking for some experience in her field while continuing her studies. She joined the college's work-study program and, much to her amazement, her first interview was with the Central Intelligence Agency.
"I was surprised they were even hiring co-op students," she says. "Why would they want a college kid to come into their version of campus? I wasn't sure what they were going to do with me. Then there was, of course, a part of me that was. wow, the mystique of the CIA – what better place to start. It was just kind of a bit of a wide-eyed wonder."
That was nearly three decades ago.
"I'm the classic story of sometimes it's better to be lucky than good," Tisinger says.
She's still with the agency, rising through the ranks to become the CIA's first female chief information officer nearly two years ago. Her job is to oversee the CIA's vital information technology systems and coordinate information-sharing.
Read the full story on CNN's Security Clearance blog
What defines you? Maybe it’s the shade of your skin, the place you grew up, the accent in your words, the make up of your family, the gender you were born with, the intimate relationships you chose to have or your generation? As the American identity changes we will be there to report it. In America is a venue for creative and timely sharing of news that explores who we are. Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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