January 12th, 2012
04:40 PM ET

Opinion: For Michelle Obama, what's wrong with strong?

Editor's note:  Farai Chideya is a journalist and the author of four nonfiction and fiction books, and she blogs at Farai.com. She is a spring 2012 fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

By Farai Chideya, Special to CNN

(CNN) -
How would you feel living in a museum?

It’s a thought that popped into my head the night I dined with a civic group at the White House, after which, to our delight and surprise, the president took us on a tour of the family’s private quarters. The first lady wasn’t present. She was strong-willed; criticized by the press for inserting herself in policy decisions. After I’d walked up the stairs and had a few historical curios pointed out to me, I realized that the rooms were grand, but the space was far less private than the single family homes many parents and children live in. As I imagined what it must be like to live there, my reaction was less “how cool,” more “how weird.”

Those were the Clinton years, not the Obama years. But now, a new book called "The Obamas" is resurfacing the themes of a family’s private life squeezed into a public space - and a strong woman taken to task for stepping out of her perceived role. The White House has reacted to the book by New York Times’ correspondent Jodi Kantor in a way that’s somewhere between meticulous fact-checking and obsession. First, White House spokesman Eric Schultz said Kantor hadn’t spoken to the Obamas since 2009 and that the book wove the couple’s inner-life out of “the author’s own thoughts.” Then, the first lady herself gave a rare interview, speaking to her friend Gayle King at CBS.

The first lady acknowledged she hasn’t and won’t read the book, but said based on descriptions of the work it conveyed “....an image that people have tried to paint of me since Barack announced [his run for the presidency], that I’m some angry black woman.”





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Filed under: Black in America • Gender • Politics • Race • Women
Opinion: I will support as many 'Pariahs' as I can
In "Pariah," Alike is a teen-aged, black lesbian learning to love herself in a home where her sexuality is not accepted.
January 12th, 2012
03:57 PM ET

Opinion: I will support as many 'Pariahs' as I can

Editor's note: R. Ashley Jackson is an LGBT community advocate with the Southern Poverty Law Center.  She is the former coordinator of the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition, an organization that advocates on behalf of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender students in Mississippi.  "Pariah," a feature length film by director Dee Rees, opens in more cities January 13.

By R. Ashley Jackson, Special to CNN

For months I’ve been hearing the buzz surrounding "Pariah," the film directed by Spike Lee’s protégé Dee Rees, about a teen-aged, black lesbian learning to love and accept herself in a home where her sexuality makes her an outcast. I have been especially excited to see the movie because like Alike, played by Adepero Oduye, the 17-year-old protagonist in the story, I am a young, black woman who has struggled with acceptance and rejection in my life.

As I watched "Pariah," I laughed and cried right along with Alike.  I felt her pain and loneliness as her mother, played by Kim Wayans, ignored her feelings and her thoughts and tried to do things like choose the young woman’s friends and clothing.  They were desperate attempts to steer Alike from a "gay lifestyle."

In the film Alike’s rejecting experiences - from her family and from her community - help to make her stronger, and shape her vision for her future.  That is exactly what happened to me.

The night of December 24, 2005 changed my life forever. It was my 22nd birthday. The evening began with dinner and dancing with 15 close friends.  I was the life of the party, full of jokes and laughter.  You would think I was having the time of my life, but actually I was feeling quite alone, lost and sad.  It’s because I was living a lie.  I was secretly in a relationship with a woman for the first time in my life and I didn’t think I could tell anyone – not any of my 15 friends in attendance and especially not my mother, a non-denominational minister.  I knew she didn’t approve of homosexuality.

Before I’d entered that inaugural relationship I had started drinking, mostly entire bottles of cheap wine and more than a few shots of whatever was offered to wash it down. It was all about trying to suppress the feelings I had for women.  The alcohol  made it easier to date men and pretend to be happy.  But there weren't enough drinks to fill the emptiness I felt.


Opinion: Albert Cutié: It's time to talk about sex at church - and marriage for clergy
"Maybe having married clergy will help us all move on from a culture of sexual taboos," Albert Cutié writes
January 12th, 2012
02:13 PM ET

Opinion: Albert Cutié: It's time to talk about sex at church - and marriage for clergy

Editor's note: Albert Cutié is an Episcopal priest and former Roman Catholic priest known as Padre Alberto or "Father Oprah." He is the author of the memoir, "Dilemma: A Priest's Struggle with Faith and Love" and hosted the talk show "Father Albert." He's on Twitter @padrealberto.

By Fr. Albert Cutié, Special to CNN

(CNN) - I remember one of the stories shared about an old, revered Cuban pastor in the most popular Roman Catholic parish in Little Havana, near downtown Miami. He was often recognized as an outstanding local hero in the first stop for thousands of Cuban refugees, an area that is now home to thousands of Central American immigrants who also seek a better life in the United States.

One afternoon in the old dark church, 100 or so 7- to 12-year olds from the religious instruction classes known as “catecismo” were preparing to make their Lenten confession. The priest went through a list of the commandments and asked the children to think of any sins they may have committed so they could mention them once they sat face to face with a priest.

He spoke on each commandment for about 10 to 15 minutes. When he got to “You shall not commit adultery," he simply stated, “No hagan cositas feas” - don’t do ugly or dirty things. That was it. The explanation or reflection that had to do with sex lasted less than 15 seconds.

But let’s not blame the old monsignor for his curt approach. When it comes to sex, many Latinos still consider it a taboo subject, especially when there’s a religious component involved. We have the spiciest media, telenovelas, magazines and are perceived as less “prude” than our Anglo counterparts. But when it comes to religion and sexuality, we prefer not to connect the two - and never let them touch. We simply do not feel comfortable talking or dealing openly with sex and religion.

Recently, a prominent Latino auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, Gabino Zavala, was forced to resign as a result of the discovery that he had fathered two children, now teenagers, while he was a priest and bishop. Of course, this was the result of a romantic relationship, sexual and hidden, with the mother of his offspring. We are in the 21 st century and we still hear reactions like “scandal” and “betrayal,” and some talk of “breaking vows.”


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Filed under: How we live • Latino in America • Relationships • Religion • What we think
Opinion: Could Mitt Romney be America's first Hispanic president?
Mitt Romney speaks at Southern New Hampshire University after winning the New Hampshire GOP primary.
January 12th, 2012
10:54 AM ET

Opinion: Could Mitt Romney be America's first Hispanic president?

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) - Mitt, we hardly knew ye.

Or should I say, "primo!" As much as it embarrasses me to admit it, given some of his views and how he expresses them, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee and I could be distant cousins. Romney's father, George, was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, and so was my grandfather, Roman.

Que? You didn't know that Mitt Romney was half-Mexican? It's true. In fact, if he makes it to the White House, in addition to becoming the first Mormon in the Oval Office, he could also be the nation's first Hispanic president.

Don't laugh. Technically, Romney is just as "Mexican" as former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who was born of a Mexican mother and American father. When Richardson ran for the White House in 2008, he was often touted by the media as someone who would become the nation's first Hispanic president.

Read Ruben Navarrette Jr.'s full column



Engage: Survey says Americans feel 'strong conflict' between classes
A Pew Research Center report says conflicts between rich and poor eclipse racial strain.
January 12th, 2012
10:22 AM ET

Engage: Survey says Americans feel 'strong conflict' between classes

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

Pew Research Center survey finds higher class tensions -The New York Times

Students react to loss of Chicano studies in Tucson - The Los Angeles Times

Major poll of American Mormons offers detailed snapshot of religion - The Washington Post

Republican National Committee expands Hispanic Outreach Campaign - Fox News Latino

Report show growth in 'identity-based philanthropy' - The Grio

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January 12th, 2012
10:17 AM ET

Tucson school board suspends Mexican-American studies program

By Michael Martinez, CNN

(CNN) - Tucson, Arizona, public schools suspended their Mexican-American studies program after an administrative law judge ruled it violated a new state law and the state said the local district was going to lose $15 million in annual aid, officials said.

The Governing Board of the Tucson Unified School District voted late Tuesday to suspend immediately the Mexican-American studies department, marking a turning point in a yearlong controversy over a new state law banning certain ethnic studies.

"The district shall revise its social studies core curriculum to increase its coverage of Mexican-American history and culture, including a balanced presentation of diverse viewpoints on controversial issues. The end result shall be a single common social studies core sequence through which all high school students are exposed to diverse viewpoints," the governing board said in a statement.

"The district shall study and bring to the board new measures designed to narrow the achievement gaps for traditionally underserved and economically disadvantaged students," the board said.

Read the full story

Filed under: Education • How we live • Latino in America
Marine fights for gay brother's right to marry
Craig Stowell, pictured with his wife Berta, is fighting for his brother Calvin, a gay man, to be able to marry.
January 12th, 2012
12:36 AM ET

Marine fights for gay brother's right to marry

By Kiran Khalid, CNN

(CNN) - Craig Stowell fought with the U.S. Marines in Iraq in 2004 and now is fighting for the right of gays, like his brother, to marry in New Hampshire.

"My brother and best friend, Calvin, was tormented all the way through high school because people knew he was gay," Craig Stowell, 30, said in an online petition seeking to pressure New Hampshire legislators not to repeal the state's 2009 law that legalized gay marriage.

In a video posted on YouTube, Calvin Stowell described being bullied as a schoolboy because he was gay. "I was constantly asked by my peers: Are you gay? You sound so gay. You walk so gay," said the 23-year-old New Yorker, who works for a non-profit.

Craig Stowell, who is an information technology director for a cabinet maker in Claremont, New Hampshire, empathized.

"There were nights that I worried I may wake up and he wouldn't be there any longer; crushed by the misery he was forced to endure. When New Hampshire extended marriage to gay and lesbian couples, two years ago, he finally felt accepted. He finally felt like he belonged. Since that day 1,800 loving and committed gay and lesbian couples have married."