.
June 26th, 2013
10:03 AM ET

Justices rule for adoptive couple in Native-American custody dispute

By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer

Washington (CNN) – The Supreme Court sided on Tuesday with adoptive parents in a divisive custody fight over a Native American child after the biological father asserted his parental rights.

The justices, by a 5-4 margin, said the adoption by a white couple was proper and did not intrude on the federal rights of the father, a registered member of the Cherokee tribe, over where his daughter, Veronica, 3, would live.

The court said the father could not rely on the Indian Child Welfare Act for relief because he never had legal or physical custody at the time of adoption proceedings, which were initiated by the birth mother without his knowledge.

Justice Samuel Alito said when "the adoption of an Indian child is voluntarily and lawfully initiated by a non-Indian parent with sole custodial rights, the (law's) primary goal of preventing unwarranted removal of Indian children and the dissolution of Indian families is not implicated."

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Filed under: Ethnicity • Family • How we live • Native Americans
Opinion: The importance of ‘Loving’ in the face of racism
June 12 is the anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 Supreme Court decision that struck down all laws against interracial marriage
June 12th, 2013
01:29 PM ET

Opinion: The importance of ‘Loving’ in the face of racism

Editor's note: June 12 is the 46th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia,  which made interracial marriage legal in the United States.  Thousands of people nationwide celebrate that anniversary as “Loving Day'.  Ken Tanabe is the founder and president of Loving Day, an international, annual celebration that aims to build multicultural community and fight racial prejudice through education. He is a speaker on multiracial identity, community organizing and social change through design. 

By Ken Tanabe, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Racism is alive and well in 2013, and what’s striking is the recent notable examples aimed at interracial couples - or one of their children.

Even breakfast cereal commercials aren’t safe. A recent Cheerios ad depicting an interracial couple and their multiracial child got so many racist remarks on YouTube that the company had to disable the comments.

There is nothing out of the ordinary about the commercial, except that the parents happen to be an interracial couple.

But the truth is, racially blended families are becoming more ordinary every day, due to the 1967 Supreme Court decision that declared all laws against interracial marriage unconstitutional.

Opinion: Two different marriage bans, both wrong

Today is the 46th anniversary of that decision, and one in seven new marriages in the United States is interracial or interethnic.  Multiracial Americans are the fastest-growing youth demographic.

Number of interracial couples in U.S. reaches all-time high

While the negative comments about the Cheerios commercial made it newsworthy, there were also many others who showed their support for the Cheerios brand.

Multiracial Americans of Southern California, a multiethnic community group, started a Facebook album for people to post photos of themselves holding a box of Cheerios. And in articles and in social media, supporters expressed gratitude to General Mills for depicting a multiracial family.

The weddings of two multiracial couples from high-profile families also prompted racist comments online. Lindsay Marie Boehner, daughter of House Speaker John Boehner, married Dominic Lakhan, a black Jamaican man. And Jack McCain, son of Sen. John McCain, married Renee Swift, a woman of color.

The reaction to these marriages is reminiscent of the response to the marriage of Peggy Rusk – the daughter of then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk – and Guy Smith, a black man. In 1967, their interracial marriage was a cover story, several months after laws against interracial marriage were struck down.

Things have changed since then, but not enough.

In a 2011 Gallup poll, 86% of Americans approved of “marriage between blacks and whites.” In 1958, the approval rating was 4%. But it makes me wonder: What do the other 14% of Americans think? Apparently, many of them spend a lot of time leaving comments online.

The election of Barack Obama inspired many of us to hope that widespread racism was a relic of the past.

And while he was elected to a second term, we must not be complacent when it comes to racism in our daily lives. We must seek out opportunities to educate others about the history of our civil rights.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wished that his children would “one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” I wonder what he would think of our collective progress as the 50th anniversary of his "I Have a Dream" speech approaches.

On  June 15, the 10th annual Loving Day Flagship Celebration in New York City will draw an expected 1,500 guests. And while many participants are multiracial, anyone can host a Loving Day Celebration for friends and family, and make it a part of their annual traditions.

We need to work collectively to fight prejudice through education and build a strong sense of multiethnic community. If we do, one day we might live in a nation where the racial identities of politicians’ children's spouses are no longer national news, and cereal commercials are more about cereal than race.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ken Tanabe.

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Filed under: Ethnicity • Family • History • What we think
Celebrities who changed their names
June 6th, 2013
08:56 AM ET

Adios Charlie Sheen, hello Carlos Estevez

By Cindy Y. Rodriguez, CNN

(CNN) - Are the days of Latinos in entertainment changing their given names to appeal to a broader audience long gone?

That's what it looks like now that former "Two and a Half Men" star Charlie Sheen has dropped his stage name for birth name Carlos Estevez for Robert Rodriguez's Latino-centric new action film "Machete Kills."

The film is second in a series after the 2010 film "Machete" starring Danny Trejo, Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriguez. In "Machete Kills," Trejo returns as ex-Federal agent Machete, recruited by the president of the United States, played by Charlie Sheen, asked to go on a mission to take down a madman revolutionary and eccentric billionaire arms dealer, played by Mel Gibson, who has come up with a plan to spread war across the world.

This second installment will star Sofía Vergara, Demián Bichir, Antonio Banderas, Zoe Saldaña, Edward James Olmos, Vanessa Hudgens, Cuba Gooding Jr., Alexa Vega, and Lady Gaga.

According to Sheen's representative, it was his idea to use his birth name for the film. However, there's no confirmation on what spurred the decision or whether Sheen will stick to Estevez from now on.
Some call the change ironic in light of comments last year by Sheen about his heritage. "I don't wake up feeling Latino. I'm a white guy in America, I was born in New York and grew up in Malibu," he said in a 2012 interview with Univision.

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Filed under: Ethnicity • History • Latino in America • Pop culture • Who we are
June 4th, 2013
01:50 PM ET

Student denied diploma, fined $1000 for feather in her cap

ATMORE, Ala. (WPMI) - 17-year-old Chelsey Ramer was not granted her high school diploma, and was fined $1,000 for wearing a feather at graduation in honor of her Native American heritage.  CNN affiliate WPMI reports.

Read the full story at WPMI

Filed under: Education • Ethnicity • Native Americans
May 26th, 2013
06:00 PM ET

Federal judge says Arizona sheriff was racially profiling

By Ben Brumfield, CNN

(CNN) - Arizona lawman Joe Arpaio has required prison inmates to wear pink underwear and saved taxpayers money by removing salt and pepper from prisons. He has, at times, forbidden convicted murderer Jodi Arias from speaking to the press.

The stern Maricopa County Sheriff has said the federal government will not stop him from running his office as he sees fit. But on Friday it did.

A judge ruled Friday that Arpaio's routine handling of people of Latino descent is not tough enforcement of immigration laws but instead amounts to racial and ethnic profiling.

Some of those profiled sued Arpaio, and Judge Murray Snow found their complaints to be legitimate.

The federal court in Phoenix ordered "America's Toughest Sheriff" - a moniker Arpaio sports on his website - to stop it immediately and has banned some of his operating procedures.

The sheriff's office has a history of targeting vehicles with occupants with darker skin or Latin heritage, scrutinizing them more strictly and detaining them more often, Snow ruled.

The sheriff's lawyers dispute the judge's conclusion.

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Filed under: Discrimination • Ethnicity • How we look • Race • Where we live
'Star Trek's' Zoe Saldana on racism: 'I’m not going to talk about it'
May 17th, 2013
06:31 PM ET

'Star Trek's' Zoe Saldana on racism: 'I’m not going to talk about it'

(CNN) - Zoe Saldana is one of Hollywood's leading actresses, and she's making headlines as Uhura in "Star Trek Into Darkness." She crossed barriers as the lead in "Avatar," the highest grossing movie of all time. But how does being a woman of color impact her career choices and options? The actress, who is of Puerto Rican and Dominican descent,  spoke about it in an interview with Ebony magazine's Kelley L. Carter:

EBONY: Speaking of color, it doesn’t seem to limit you. And it almost appears seamless. Is that true? Or have there been bumps along the way because you’re a woman of color?

Zoe Saldana: Nothing in life is just one layer. It’s one-layered (but) it’s multifaceted, and there are various factors that take place into making a decision or something happening. So the one thing I will say is, what has not changed is what I feel and think of myself and how I interact with the world, how I handle myself. I feel like I’m very confident. I’m going to have my moments of weakness, but I like who I am and I don’t want to be anybody else. I don’t want anybody to tell me to change when I don’t want to change.

So that’s just who I am. And when I approach something—whether I’m fighting for a role or I’m being offered a role—I’m not thinking whether or not anybody is doing me a favor or if I’m doing somebody else a favor. I’m just thinking, as an artist and as a woman, “is this something that best represents the craft that I want to be known for?” Or is this an accurate representation of what a woman is supposed to be?

And do I like this story? Do I like this director? Do I think the studio is going to manage and sell it properly. That’s where my head is at. I’m not thinking, “Oh, I’m a woman of color, are they gonna want me?” I don’t give too much energy to that, because my time is very valuable, and something that exists to others is not going to exist in my world. That’s how I think I get by, by not giving it any validation by wasting more time investing into thinking about it. FULL POST

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Immigration may be America's primary population growth driver by 2027
America is on its way to becoming a minority-majority nation.
May 17th, 2013
04:42 PM ET

Immigration may be America's primary population growth driver by 2027

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) - Here's something to consider as Congress debates overhauling America's immigration system: For the first time since at least 1850, immigrants will be the primary driver of U.S. population.

Births have been the leading cause of population growth since the U.S. Census Bureau began collecting data in 1850. That may change within the next 14 years.

The population growth shifts could happen as early as 2027 or as late as 2038, depending, of course, on the numbers of international arrivals over the next few years.

Not that immigration levels are at their highest, cautioned Thomas Mesenbourg, the Census Bureau's senior adviser. The rates were much higher during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

But Americans are having fewer babies.

"This projected milestone reflects the mix of our nation's declining fertility rates, the aging of the baby boomer population and continued immigration," Mesenbourg said.

The Census Bureau issued three projections of population growth shifts based on different immigration levels. A high immigration projection showed that the nation's non-white population would jump from 37% in 2012 to 58.8% in 2060. Hispanics would make up 29.9% of the population, compared with 17% in 2012, and Asians would climb from 5.1% to 9%.

Non-Latino whites are projected to no longer be a majority by 2046, even if immigration levels stay the same.

Follow CNN's Moni Basu on Twitter

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Filed under: Diversity • Ethnicity • Immigration • Latino in America • Population • Who we are
May 16th, 2013
05:08 PM ET

Columbia University seeks to change whites-only fellowship

By Dominique Debucquoy-Dodley, CNN

New York (CNN) - Columbia University is seeking to alter the 1920 charter of one of its graduate school fellowships which is still limited "to persons of the Caucasian race," though the fellowship has not been granted in years.

The Lydia C. Roberts Graduate Fellowship is, at least on paper, available to white students "of either sex, born in the state of Iowa," according to a Columbia University charter from 1920.

The university filed an affidavit in Manhattan Supreme Court last week to support a petition from JPMorgan Chase, the fellowship's designated trustee, to change the whites-only provision, according to Robert Hornsby, assistant vice president for media relations at Columbia.

Other restrictions for the fellowship stipulate that a recipient may not concentrate their studies in "law, medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, or theology." Recipients must also agree to return to Iowa for two years after completing their studies at Columbia.

The fellowship was established in 1920 by Lydia C. Roberts, an Iowa native, with a $500,000 donation to the university upon her death. However, the school stopped awarding the fellowship in 1997 for several reasons

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Clarence Thomas: 'The elites' had to approve a black president
May 6th, 2013
12:00 PM ET

Clarence Thomas: 'The elites' had to approve a black president

(CNN) – Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, the high court's only African American jurist, opened up recently about his thoughts on race and the White House.

Asked if he ever expected to see an African American president in his lifetime, the conservative justice said he always knew "it would have to be a black president who was approved by the elites and the media, because anybody that they didn't agree with, they would take apart."

"And that will happen with virtually – you pick your person, any black person who says something that is not the prescribed things that they expect from a black person will be picked apart," he said in an April interview at Duquesne Law School in Pittsburgh, which aired on C-SPAN.

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Champions of change: White House recognizes 15 Asian, Pacific women
Aparna Bhattacharya is one of 15 Asian-American and Pacific Islander women being recognized by the White House.
May 6th, 2013
06:00 AM ET

Champions of change: White House recognizes 15 Asian, Pacific women

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) – Aparna Bhattacharyya opened her e-mail on April 16 and there it was: a note from the White House informing her she was a Champion of Change.

The 41-year-old Atlanta woman was surprised. But those who know her say she shouldn't have been.

She's been working for almost two decades with Raksha, an Atlanta-based organization that addresses a host of issues in the South Asian community. Over the years, Raksha has done the simplest of things, like helping someone set up online banking. But mainly, they've done a whole lot of heavy hitting by supporting victims of domestic and sexual abuse.

She is one of 15 Asian-American and Pacific Islander women who will be honored Monday at the White House for "doing extraordinary things to create a more equal, safe, and prosperous future for their communities and the country." The event is part of the White House's observance of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. FULL POST

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Filed under: Asian in America • Ethnicity • Immigration • Who we are • Women
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