February 3rd, 2012
08:48 PM ET

Iowa Muslim leader: Law enforcement betrayed us

By Kiran Khalid, CNN

The Muslim community in Des Moines, Iowa, is as small as it is diverse. The members of the four mosques here are from Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Bangladesh, among other nations. Although the roots of the Muslims here may be worlds apart, the community is a tight-knit group. That’s why what happened at their mosques here is alarming to so many of its members.

“That was really surprising, very sad that somebody would come or the FBI or Homeland Security would send somebody here to pretend to be Muslim and try to find out what goes on here. I feel there is no need for that,” said Dr. Hamed Baig, president of the Islamic Center of Des Moines.

Baig is talking about 42 year-old Arvinder Singh. Baid says he saw Singh a couple of times at his mosque, and that Singh would have been welcomed like all newcomers interested in learning about Islam. But it wasn’t until recently that members of the community discovered that Singh, who was raised a Sikh, was allegedly sent into their mosques to spy for the FBI.

Singh told CNN that the FBI told him, "'You look Middle Eastern, and we need your help for the war against terror.'"


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Filed under: Discrimination • How we look • Religion
February 3rd, 2012
06:18 PM ET

Opinion: Terrie M. Williams: Depression does not discriminate

Editor's Note: Terrie M. Williams is the author of "Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting" and the co-founder of The Stay Strong Foundation. You can follow her on Twitter @terriewilliams.

By Terrie M. Williams, Special to CNN

Trouble in mind, that's true.
I have almost lost my mind.
Life ain't worth livin.
Sometimes I feel like dyin'.

–"Trouble in Mind," a 1926 Blues standard by Richard M. Jones

We are all mourning the loss this week of "Soul Train" creator and cultural icon, Don Cornelius. An American success story, Don left us with a 35-year history lesson in business acumen, cultural exportation, and community uplift. We need only call the first names of the greats who performed on Soul Train’s multi-colored stage since it premiered in 1970 - Stevie, Gladys, Tina, Aretha, Michael - while we pop locked along in front of the TV screen in our polyester silk with a hair full of Afro Sheen. Thanks to traditional and social media, we’ve been able to share and celebrate these memories from friend to friend, generation to generation, and across the world. It was, indeed, the “hippest trip in America.”

That’s all good. We should take some time to measure and celebrate Don’s legacy. Don dreamed big. He changed our lives and, more importantly, changed overnight how the world saw us. We cannot say enough about this pioneer. The doors he opened. The life he lived. That’s easy. What’s not easy is to say, is how and why he died. Yes, he hid his demons well. But, clearly they were there because this 75-year-old icon with a body of work most of us will never achieve, chose to end his own life with a gunshot to the head.

“Private. Guarded. All business.” These are reoccurring words that people close to Don - his son, his long-term business partners, former dancers and employees - have used to describe him. I experienced that myself on those few occasions when I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with him in person. Though reports say he didn’t seem despondent or upset in the weeks before his suicide, this silent warrior was clearly suffering. We don’t know for sure if it was a long-standing disenchantment with the entertainment industry, residual pain from a brain surgery, a bitter divorce, or all of the above that led to his obviously depressed mental state. Said his son Tony yesterday on "CBS This Morning", “My father was extremely private. Unfortunately, when you’re a private person, you keep things inside.” And, that “people all over the world” is what this is all about. We did not have to lose Don this way. This silence – which kept us safe during slavery times – is now killing us. Depression is real. It is deadly. And, it does not discriminate.


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Filed under: Black in America • Health • How we live • Race
February 3rd, 2012
06:00 PM ET

Lesbian veteran sues government for benefits

By Eric Fiegel, CNN

Washington (CNN) - A U.S. Army veteran of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is suing the federal government, claiming she and her wife are being denied military benefits that are available to heterosexual married couples.

A complaint filed Wednesday in Los Angeles says that the government's definition of marriage is unconstitutional and violates equal protection.

"We're only asking for the same benefits as other married couples, we simply want the same peace of mind," Tracey Cooper-Harris, the plaintiff, said at a press conference in Washington announcing the lawsuit.

Read the full story

February 3rd, 2012
02:52 PM ET

Lessons from 'Mockingbird' film 50 years later

By Katie McLaughlin, CNN

(CNN) - "Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father's passin'."

One of the greatest lines in Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, "To Kill a Mockingbird," as well as the film adaptation of the same name, was spoken by the Rev. Sykes as attorney Atticus Finch exited the fictional Maycomb, Alabama, courtroom.

Black spectators, relegated to the courthouse balcony, stood in solidarity with the courageous white lawyer who had defended Tom Robinson, an African-American man wrongly accused of rape in the 1930s Deep South. Jean Louise "Scout" Finch, Atticus' young daughter, watching from the so-called colored balcony, was prodded by the reverend to do the same.

"To Kill a Mockingbird" is the story of single dad Atticus Finch and his family, as told from the standpoint of Scout. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the film phenomenon.

Read the full story

Filed under: Black in America • History • Pop culture • Race • Who we are
Opinion: Mitt Romney is vulnerable with Hispanics
Will Mitt Romney talk about Hispanic issues differently now that he's in the Southwest and not Florida?
February 3rd, 2012
11:47 AM ET

Opinion: Mitt Romney is vulnerable with Hispanics

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) - On the eve of the Nevada caucus, here's some advice to Newt Gingrich: If you still want to draw contrasts with Mitt Romney over immigration, don't toss in your cards. Double down.

Why? Because you're not in Florida anymore.

In the Sunshine State, Gingrich used a controversial and hard-hitting ad to try to paint Mitt Romney as "anti-immigrant." The goal was to weaken the frontrunner's support with Hispanic voters. Despite the fact it made some party loyalists nervous, the label fit. Romney got carried away in the GOP primary, railing against anything resembling "amnesty" in an attempt to offer himself as the preferred candidate for the hostile, intolerant, and frightened. There's a reason that Romney was endorsed by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, an opportunistic, anti-illegal immigration zealot who helped write many of the constitutionally challenged pieces of legislation clogging up the federal courts in a half dozen states.

Thus, Gingrich had the right strategy. And yet it backfired. Members of the Hispanic establishment in Florida criticized him and demanded he pull the ad. So what went wrong? Ethnicity and geography played a key role in the Florida result.

Read Ruben Navarette Jr.'s full commentary

February 3rd, 2012
11:14 AM ET

Opinion: How Don Cornelius, 'Soul Train' shaped who I am

Editor's note:  Martin Kember is a singer, songwriter, and producer who began his career as a disc jockey and "Soul Train" dancer. He was a part of the vocal group AZ-1 that performed on Soul Train in 1993.

By Martin Kember, Special to CNN

The first time I danced in front of Don Cornelius for "Soul Train," I stood out.

I wore a ruffled shirt, purple lace headband slung over one eye, and tight button down pants. It was 1985, and I was the white kid with the nerve to dress like Prince as I stepped on the dance floor of the “hippest trip in America.”

Being a dancer did not pay much: just two pieces of chicken and a biscuit at break time. Though my friends and I joked about it, the truth was that being and feeling like I was a part of the show and watching Don work was the real pay off.

My career in music was fueled by those days.


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Filed under: Pop culture • Race • Who we are
Engage: Investigation into Harvard, Princeton undergraduate admissions
The U.S. Department of Education will probe whether some universities discriminate against Asian-Americans.
February 3rd, 2012
09:36 AM ET

Engage: Investigation into Harvard, Princeton undergraduate admissions

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

U.S. Department of Education investigates Harvard, Princeton for discrimination against Asian-Americans in undergraduate admissions - Bloomberg

       Also see: Opinion: Elite universities, be open with applicants - Bloomberg

Government officials offer proposal to pay Native Americans after settled lawsuit - KXLH.com

1865 letter from freed slave to former master goes viral; here is what came of former slave's family - Lettersofnote.com

Almost 1 in 3  say 'I won't' : 'A new generation has grown up in a world where marriage is not a certainty.' - USA Today

Where should black churches focus activism today? - The New York Times

Opinion: Hating 'The Help,' but loving the idea of an Oscar-winning Viola Davis - Time

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Filed under: Engage
The school desegregation case you don't know
Sylvia Méndez was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom last year.
February 3rd, 2012
06:00 AM ET

The school desegregation case you don't know

Editors Note: Ed Morales is a professor at Columbia University's Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race. He is also a journalist and author of "Living in Spanglish: The Search for Latino Identity in America."  

 By Ed Morales, Special to CNN

“When I was 8 years old, my aunt tried to register us in school,” Sylvia Méndez said, “and because she had light skin and her Mexican family had a French [-sounding] surname, they took her kids, but they said me and my brother would have to go to the Mexican school.”

At barely 5 feet tall, with deep brown skin, dark eyes, a broad, inviting smile, and thick black hair, the 76-year-old Méndez looks like she could be Mexican.   

But that is only half of her story.