By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) – Suzan Shown Harjo remembers when she walked into a store with her grandfather in El Reno, Oklahoma. She wanted to get something cool to drink on a summer day. It was the early 1950s and the storekeepers told the 6-year-old she had to leave.
“No black redskins in here,” they said.
At that moment, Harjo felt small, unsafe, afraid. Because she was a dark-skinned Native American – Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee – she was being identified by just her coloring. She wasn’t even a whole human being. Not even her grandpa, whom she saw as all-powerful, could do anything to protect her.
Later in her life, that incident made her angry. Angry enough for Harjo to launch a lifelong mission to protect her people.
Suzan Shown Harjo has been fighting for decades to remove Native American mascots from sports teams.
Part of her work took aim at sporting teams that use Native Americans as mascots. With the start of the baseball season this week, some of those teams have been front and center. The Cleveland Indians, for instance, feature a smiling Indian dubbed Chief Wahoo, criticized by Native Americans as a racist caricature.
The most offensive example of a mascot, says Harjo, is the one used by Washington’s football team. She has been fighting for years to get the Redskins to change their name.
The R-word – she can’t even bring herself to say it – is the same as the N-word, says Harjo, president of Morning Star Institute, a national Native American rights organization.
She finds it unbelievable that more than half a century after she was told to get out of that El Reno store, after decades of civil rights struggles and progress on race relations, Americans have no problem with rooting for a team called the Redskins.
Fans say the name is an honorific. But the Merriam-Webster dictionary says this: “The word redskin is very offensive and should be avoided.” And to many Native Americans, nothing could be more derogatory than the use of that word.
“The Washington team – it’s the king of the mountain,” Harjo says. “When this one goes, others will.” FULL POST
(CNN) – Two days of arguments on gay marriage at the Supreme Court ended Wednesday. The justices heard both sides in two separate cases: California's voter-approved Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage, and the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage on a federal level as being only between a man and a woman.
It could be months before the court makes a ruling. CNN spoke with a few people who were inside the nation's highest court Wednesday or were monitoring the hearings closely from the outside. Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Jeffrey Toobin, CNN legal analyst: "I think DOMA is in trouble, and I think it's in trouble because Anthony Kennedy was repeatedly concerned that the Defense of Marriage Act violates states rights. Anthony Kennedy, who as we all know is the swing vote on this court, is someone who is concerned about gay rights, although he said very little, I think nothing, about the issue of whether the Defense of Marriage Act violated gay people's constitutional rights. He was clearly very concerned that the Defense of Marriage Act was invading the province of the states to define marriage. That's a state function, usually. And that would certainly be suggesting that he was going to strike down the law. Certainly the other liberals, the four Democratic appointees, looked like they were going to vote it down."
Edith "Edie" Windsor, plaintiff who challenged DOMA: "I am today an out lesbian, OK, who just sued the United States of America, which is kind of overwhelming for me. I think it's gonna be good."
Jonathan Turley, law professor, George Washington University: "You're seeing sort of a sticker shock with the justices, that they were worried about handing down a major ruling either recognizing same-sex marriage or the right of equality, or rejecting it."
Chad Hollowe, supporter of same-sex marriage: "It's pretty clear that some justices like (Antonin) Scalia are going to vote against it no matter what. Scalia was engaged in a long back and forth about how exactly did this become unconstitutional all of a sudden. Was this unconstitutional when the constitution was created - when the 14th amendment was passed? Was it unconstitutional 10 days ago - when did this happen? His line of questioning made it pretty clear he was dead set against it, which shouldn't be surprising, given Scalia's history."
Eric Delk, who attended court arguments Wednesday: "Well, I think that the conservative justices feel that Prop 8 is valid, but I think some of the more liberal justices know it needs to be altered. Because the people decided something different from what the courts decided and opinions have changed since the Prop 8 vote. And I think in California, if they had a vote now, they would probably allow same-sex marriage."
Mary Ann Piet, social worker: "I'm here today because I'm a social worker, and I've seen a lot of people suffer over the years. And I'm concerned about not getting people their human rights, their dignity as people. And this will give dignity and human rights to people. I have members of my family that are gay, and I see them suffer internally."
Also on this blog: A time line of gay rights in America
(CNN) –Today marks the anniversary of the third and decisive civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.
Singer, actor and activist Harry Belafonte recruited fellow singer Tony Bennett to march with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1965. They shared their moments with CNN's Chris Cuomo on "Starting Point".
By Ed Payne and Ashley Fantz, CNN
(CNN) - A transgender rights group announced Wednesday that it has filed a discrimination complaint in Colorado on behalf of a first-grader who was born a boy but identifies as a girl.
The filing stems from a decision announced last December by officials at Fountain-Fort Carson School District that Coy Mathis could no longer use the girls' bathroom at Eagleside Elementary.
Mother Kathryn Mathis said she and her husband were shocked.
"We were very confused because everything was going so well, and they had been so accepting, and all of a sudden it changed and it was very confusing and very upsetting because we knew that, by doing that, she was going to go back to being unhappy," she told CNN. "It was going to set her up for a lot of bad things."
Coy was born with male sex organs but has identified as female since she could express herself, her mother said. The child had attended classes during her kindergarten year with no problems and no complaints from anyone at the school, Mathis told reporters at the Colorado Capitol in Denver, where she was flanked by her husband, Jeremy, and four other children.
By Ben Brumfield, CNN
(CNN) - A nurse is suing a hospital, claiming it agreed to a man's request that no African-Americans care for his baby.
The lawsuit accuses managers at Hurley Medical Center in Flint of reassigning Tonya Battle, who has worked at the facility for 25 years, based on the color of her skin.
The man approached Battle, while she was caring for his child in the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit, asking to speak to her supervisor, according to the complaint filed in January by Battle's attorney.
She pointed the charge nurse in his direction.
The man, who is not named in the filing, allegedly showed her a tattoo that may have been "a swastika of some kind" and told her that he didn't want African-Americans involved in his baby's care.
By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) – Mark Krolikowski has shoulder-length brown hair. He likes to wear multiple earrings and French manicure his nails. Students call him Mr. K.
Krolikowski, 59, taught for 32 years at St. Francis Preparatory School, a 150-year-old Catholic institution in Queens, New York.
Until August. That's when the school laid him off.
He alleges that he was discriminated against because he is transgender and that the school's attitude toward him changed in the eight months after he came out.
He recently filed a lawsuit saying the school and its principal, Leonard Conway, broke the law with his termination and that as a result, Krolikowski has been distressed.
"Teaching - it's my life," Krolikowski said Friday. "I feel that has been taken away from me."
His lawyer Andrew Kimler said Krolikowski's case has "significant ramifications for the LGBT community and is a wakeup call to employers in terms of employment practices."
Conway would not comment but referred questions to his lawyer, Philip C. Semprevivo Jr.
Semprevivo said he could not discuss details of the case since it was in litigation but said Krolikowski was terminated legally.
"We deny all the allegations," he said. FULL POST
By Doug Gross, CNN
(CNN) - Melissa Earll owns stacks of classic comic books, baseball cards that include a young Hank Aaron and Whitey Ford and other collectibles she wants to sell.
But she can't do so on eBay, she says. According to Earll, the popular auction site can't confirm her as a seller because she's deaf.
"eBay keeps me from taking advantage of opportunities that other people have and it's because I couldn't hear," Earll, of Nevada, Missouri, told CNN affiliate WDAF-TV. "Somebody has to have the courage to stand up and say 'this is not right.'"
At issue, according to Earll, is the way the auction site verifies sellers. eBay says it offered Earll alternative ways of verifying her identity. But the dispute casts a light on a bigger question that some experts say may need to go all the way to the Supreme Court: Just how responsive must the Internet be to the Americans With Disabilities Act?
By Sarah Edwards, CNN
(CNN) – The maker of a Google app thinks it's fun to make yourself look Asian by changing the shape of your eyes and wearing a Fu Manchu mustache and rice paddy hat.
Another app - "Make Me Indian" - makes you a Native American with brown skin, war paint and a feather headband.
“This is just a fun app (that) lets you indulge you and your friends," says the description of the "Make Me Asian" app created by user KimberyDeiss and available on Google Play.
"You can for a few seconds to make (yourself) a Chinese, Japanese, Korean or any other Asians," the description says.
Not amusing or cute, say Asian-American organizations that launched a petition to get Google to remove both apps. FULL POST
Editor's note: Historian and author Tiya Miles is a professor at the University of Michigan's Afroamerican and African Studies department and a 2011 MacArthur genius award recipient.
By Tiya Miles, Special to CNN
(CNN) – In the documentary film "Black Indians," a man who appears to be African-American recounts his delight at eliciting shocked looks from strangers when he launches into a conversation with his wife in the Cherokee language.
The man who tells this story is Cherokee as well as black and a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. His is just one among thousands of examples that show diversity has always been a core aspect of African-American identity.
That diversity has been rich - from the moment when Africans from different tribes, cultures and language groups were captured as slaves and transported to North America to the present day, when African-Americans live in various regions and intermarry with members of other ethnic groups.
The evidence of this diversity is so obvious that it may seem at times invisible.
It exists not only in linguistic diversity - in African-American fluency in English, Spanish, French, Japanese, Cantonese, American indigenous languages and so on - but also in the regionalisms of African-American cuisine from coastal rice and seafood dishes to Southern barbecue sauces.
The salad bowl analogy that is often used to describe multifaceted American society applies just as well within African-American life. There is no such thing as a singular black culture or coherent African-American community. Instead there are many black cultures, many black communities. FULL POST
Editor’s Note: Ronald E. Hall, Ph.D. is a professor at Michigan State University and the author of "The Melanin Millennium." He has lectured on skin color both domestically and internationally, and testified as an expert witness in skin color discrimination cases. His forthcoming book is a revised edition of "The Color Complex."
By Ronald E. Hall, Special to CNN
(CNN) - In the early part of this century, there were separate facilities for blacks and whites, the Ku Klux Klan was a popular white supremacist organization and racism was easy to see.
In 1964, civil rights legislation outlawed racial discrimination, and there has been an advance of racial equality, including the election, and re-election of the first black president.
But while overt acts of racism have declined, discrimination continues in another form: colorism.
Colorism is a manifestation of how Western imperialism has exported European ideals, most notably the universal idealization of light skin, to American shores.
Not only have whites discriminated against blacks because of skin color, but people of color have also discriminated against one another. While colorism has existed for some time, it has only been recently acknowledged, as seen in the increase of legal cases and studies examining this “ism.” FULL POST
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 email@example.com.
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