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June 6th, 2013
02:13 PM ET

Judge in hot water: Allegedly said minorities are prone to violence

By Ben Brumfield and Marlei Martinez, CNN

(CNN) - Civil rights groups filed a complaint this week against a federal judge in Houston after she allegedly said during a lecture that some minorities are prone to violence.

Judge Edith Jones, who serves on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and was a Bush-era Supreme Court frontrunner, allegedly made the comment while speaking on the death penalty to The Federalist Society at the University of Pennsylvania in February.

The Federalist Society describes itself on its website as "a group of conservatives and libertarians interested in the current state of legal order."

In her remarks, Jones also is alleged to have said race plays no role in the administration of the death penalty, but certain ethnic groups commit certain types of crimes more often than others.

Civil rights groups, including the J.L. Turner Legal Association, say Jones' comments reveal a strong ethnic bias. They are pushing for an investigation that could lead to her removal from the bench.

The J.L. Turner Legal Association is an African-American bar association in Dallas. Its president, Mandy Price, told CNN that some attendees were shocked at what they heard and later complained.

"The reaction in the room when she made these remarks was one of shock, surprise, and offense," according to one account that the legal association collected from some of the attendees.

The Federalist Society itself, however, called the allegations "frivolous accusations."

FULL STORY
May 31st, 2013
01:53 PM ET

Why is ad featuring multiracial family causing stir?

(CNN) - The leader of the free world is the child of one black parent and one white parent. The number of Americans who identify as "mixed race" is on the rise. And this year marks the 46th anniversary of the Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court decision, which made interracial marriage legal in the United States.

So why is a Cheerios ad featuring a multiracial family causing a stir?

The commercial features a curly-haired brown girl inquiring of her Caucasian mother and African-American father about Cheerios' healthy attributes.

"Mom, Dad told me that Cheerios was good for your heart. Is that true?" she asks in the commercial, titled "Just Checking."

Adweek reports that YouTube comments made "references to Nazis, 'troglodytes' and 'racial genocide' " before they were disabled.

As of Friday, most of the comments were supportive on the Cheerios Facebook page, like this one:

Cheerios,

I just saw your commercial representing a beautiful mixed family, and I am appalled that hateful people are in such a frenzy over what is a modern family structure. I applaud you and your efforts to acknowledge families with an untraditional structure, and there needs to be more mixed race, minority, adoptive & non-heteronormative families represented in media. Thank you again, and even though I do not eat cereal (my brother loves Cheerios BTW) you can be sure that whatever future child I am blessed with, may probably be mixed heritage, and will be enjoying your product.

But earlier in the week, comments were not as thoughtful. The Huffington Post reported on the vile nature of some responses, like this one:

More like single parent in the making. Black dad will dip out soon.

Reddit featured a link to the commercial on its homepage Thursday, also drawing a range of responses.

Granted, the comments section of the Internet is rarely a reliable space for reflective or thoughtful discourse on race in America.

But the range of reactions to an ad that incidentally highlights a multiracial family might be the start of a discussion on how the American family is seen and portrayed.

What do you think: Is the commercial long overdue or much ado about nothing?


Filed under: How we look • Race • Where we live
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.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Discrimination • Ethnicity • How we look • Race • Where we live
Making moves toward unity
May 24th, 2013
02:45 PM ET

Grads leave lasting legacy: Integrated prom

By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN

(CNN) - On Saturday, 68 seniors will graduate from Wilcox County High School in South Georgia, leaving behind a legacy that could last long after they’ve said their goodbyes: Next year, for the first time, their high school will host a prom.

It’s a new tradition in their small rural community, one they hope will eliminate their county’s custom of private, racially segregated proms.

A small group from 2013’s senior class sparked the idea of an integrated prom this year, bucking 40 years of high school tradition.

When their county’s racially segregated schools combined in the early 1970s, the school called off its homecoming dance and prom; it was a volatile time at the newly integrated school, alumni said, and parents and school leaders were wary of black and white students attending the same dance. Like in many other Southern communities, Wilcox County students and parents stepped in to plan private, off-site parties, complete with formal gowns, tuxedos, DJs and décor.

But long after outward racial tension died down, the private, segregated parties in Wilcox County remained – a quiet reminder of racism, students said.

This year, a few white and black seniors organized a prom open to all Wilcox County High School students, whether white, black, Latino or Asian.

Read the full post on CNN's Schools of Thought blog
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Filed under: Education • How we live • Race
In America wins award for race, identity and politics series
May 24th, 2013
10:15 AM ET

In America wins award for race, identity and politics series

by Alicia W. Stewart, CNN In America Editor

(CNN) - It's not often that we toot our own horn, so please allow us a moment.

In America's race, identity and politics series won second place in the Series/Project category from the Society for Features Journalism 25th annual Excellence in Feature Writing Contest.

Moni Basu, John Blake, Jen Christensen and Todd Leopold wrote stories that explored race, identity and politics ahead of the 2012 presidential election.

Read their award-winning pieces:

The optics of politics: Seeing campaigns through a multicultural kaleidoscope
Last white House Democratic congressman in the Deep South fights for political survival
Civil rights icon fighting for change one registered voter at a time
Parallels to country's racist past haunt age of Obama

We are honored for the recognition and so grateful to our readers: Thank you.

See the full list of winners here.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Award • Politics • Race
A prom delayed
May 20th, 2013
08:34 AM ET

High school prom, 50 years later

By Mariano Castillo, CNN

Birmingham, Alabama (CNN) - The class of 1963 crowded in a rectangle on the dance floor, the memories of high school fresh on their minds as the band played in a sea of pink and blue hues.

Aretha Franklin. Etta James. The Temptations. Just what you would expect to be playing at a 1960s prom. Yet the song that drew the most bodies to the dance floor was "The Wobble."

Until this hip-hop song emptied the chairs, it felt as if the auditorium had been transported back 50 years.

But it's 2013, and despite the full-court nostalgia for the 1960s, that decade was one of the most difficult times in Birmingham's history.

Societal tensions over race were so high in 1963 that the city canceled senior prom for five of the city's segregated high schools for blacks.

Today, a half century has passed since the seminal civil rights protests that changed Birmingham and plotted a path for the nation away from segregation and toward equal rights.

Just like that path, the healing process has been a long one.

The Historic 1963 Prom, held Friday and hosted by the city of Birmingham, closed one chapter for these Alabamans.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: History • How we live • Race
'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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Filed under: Ethnicity • Pop culture • Race • Who we are
Opinion: Obama's troubles not related to race
May 17th, 2013
08:43 AM ET

Opinion: Obama's troubles not related to race

Editor's note: Alex Castellanos, a Republican strategist, is the founder of NewRepublican.org. Follow him on Twitter: @alexcast.

By Alex Castellanos, CNN Contributor

(CNN) - The images still inspire. Children sitting on their parents' shoulders amid a sea of American flags, fluttering on a cool Chicago night. A young black woman running to get as close as possible to the stage.

On November 4, 2008, Grant Park absorbed the world's focus: Barack Obama was elected president of the United States.

His victory speech stopped the Earth from spinning, if only for an evening, and drew the world's attention to an America where anything was again possible. Obama's victory energized a pulsing crowd of a hundred-thousand, their dream deferred no longer. Journalist Lois Wille called it "a great big huge happy evening" that would perhaps "wipe the memory" of a more divided America away.

Still, the podium was wrapped in bulletproof glass. Chicago charged all its 13,500 police officers with protecting America's great hope. It sent firefighters home wearing their uniforms so they would be ready to respond. We were not sure the promise and possibility of that moment was shared by every American. Yet that clear night, we celebrated the peaceful transition of power and the dawn of a different day.

This is a good country, full of good and great people, dedicated to an extraordinary American promise, our commitment to equal opportunity for everyone. That evening, even the most hardened partisan hearts could feel it. Our country had taken a step forward in racial relations, a big step, something that spoke of what our nation might yet become. A good nation had become an even better one, where the scars of some old wounds had healed and the pain of intense divisions, though not forgotten, had receded farther into memory.

Now the world is stopped no longer. How did we get from that America to this?

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Politics • Race • What we think
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

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Education • Ethnicity • Race
May 16th, 2013
02:47 PM ET

Opinion: New Italians in Italy reveal new racism

Editor’s Note: Occasionally, In America looks at global incidents to examine how other countries are grappling with identity and what America can learn. With taunts of the first black Cabinet member in Italy, followed by the disruption of a soccer game after another racist incident, Italy is in the news lately. James Walston is chair of Department of International Relations at the American University of Rome. He founded AUR’s Center for the Study of Migration and Racism in Italy in 2008 and blogs at Italian Politics with Walston.

by James Walston, special to CNN

(CNN) - Recently, Cécile Kyenge, Italy’s first black cabinet minister, was insulted by the xenophobic Northern League within hours of her appointment.

On Sunday, Roma soccer fans shouted racist insults at Milan’s Mario Balotelli, who is black, and also one of Italy's  national squad’s top strikers.

One of Italy’s old self-images was italiani brava gente – Italians are decent folk. But that ingrained idea is being challenged by recent events and history. FULL POST

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Filed under: Discrimination • History • Race • Where we live
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