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Catholic Notre Dame announces services for gay students
Mia Lillis says Notre Dame failed to provide a welcoming environment for gay students.
December 7th, 2012
10:37 AM ET

Catholic Notre Dame announces services for gay students

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) - Mia Lillis knew that she was gay when she was 12. She felt lucky to attend a public high school in Austin, Texas, that was highly supportive and had a gay student alliance. Then she arrived at the University of Notre Dame.

She enrolled there because Notre Dame's reputation as a premier Catholic school appealed to her family. But from the very first day, Lillis was scared.

She searched for a gay and lesbian student organization. There was none. She sought out literature for gay students. Again, nothing.

"It gave me the impression that Notre Dame didn't care about queer students," said Lillis, 20. "It was pretty intimidating."

She went back in the closet. She even considered transferring. "I would say a lot of gay students think that way," she said.

But this week, Lillis celebrated after Notre Dame announced that it will create services for students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning, as in those who are still figuring out their sexual identity.

After a five-month review process, Notre Dame made the recommendations in a comprehensive pastoral plan that the university said is grounded in its Catholic mission.

“As articulated in the university’s ‘Spirit of Inclusion’ statement, Notre Dame’s goal remains to create and sustain a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students, and I am confident that this multi-faceted, pastoral approach represents the next step in advancing our efforts toward this aspiration for our GLBTQ students," said the Rev. John Jenkins, president of the university. FULL POST

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Filed under: Discrimination • Gender • Sexual orientation • Who we are
West Point cadet quits over religion
Blake Page says West Point discriminates against nonreligious cadets.
December 6th, 2012
01:25 PM ET

West Point cadet quits over religion

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) - Military development. Academics. Athletics. Three pillars of Army values that cadets at America's most prestigious military academy live by.

But West Point cadet Blake Page says there is one other unspoken pillar at the United States Military Academy: religion.

That's why, with just five months left before graduation, Page quit.

And he did it in a most public fashion - in a fiery blog post.

"The tipping point of my decision to resign was the realization that countless officers here and throughout the military are guilty of blatantly violating the oaths they swore to defend the Constitution,"  wrote Page, 24, in The Huffington Post. FULL POST

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Filed under: Discrimination • Military • Religion
Opinion: It’s time to free Rosa Parks from the bus
December 1st, 2012
05:00 AM ET

Opinion: It’s time to free Rosa Parks from the bus

Editor's note: Danielle McGuire is the author of "At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape and Resistance-a New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power." She is an Assistant Professor in the History Department at Wayne State University, and a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians. She lives with her husband and two children in metro Detroit.

By Danielle McGuire, Special to CNN

(CNN) - In 2011, Rosa Parks was in the news, six years after her death. An excerpt from a breathtaking essay she wrote in the 1950s about a “near rape” by a white man in Alabama was released to the public.  The handwritten narrative detailed Parks' steely resistance to a white man, “Mr. Charlie," who attempted to assault her in 1931 while she was working as a domestic for a white family.

It was late evening when “Mr. Charlie” pushed his way into the house and tried to have sex with her.  Having grown up in the segregated South, she knew all too well the special vulnerabilities black women faced. She recalled, for example, how her great-grandmother, a slave, had been “mistreated and abused” by her white master.

Despite her fear, she refused to let the same thing happen to her. “I knew that no matter what happened,” she wrote, “I would never yield to this white man’s bestiality.” "I was ready to die,” she said, “but give my consent, never.  Never, never." Parks was absolutely defiant: “If he wanted to kill me and rape a dead body,” she said, “he was welcome, but he would have to kill me first.”

Civil Rights icon dies at 92

Does that sound like the Rosa Parks we know?

Some of the guardians of Parks’ legacy have said it is not, and insist the essay was fiction. But by dismissing the writings as fiction, it retains the popular image of Rosa Parks as a simple seamstress whose singular and spontaneous act launched the civil rights movement that brought down the walls of segregation.

This popular presentation of Parks as a quiet but courageous woman, whose humble righteousness shamed America into doing what was right has become a mythic fable present in nearly every high school history textbook, museum exhibit, and memorial.

December 1, 1955: Rosa Parks arrested

She has been imprisoned by this tale, frozen in time as a silent and saintly icon whose only real action was to stay seated so that, in the words of her many eulogists, “we could all stand up.”

This overly simplistic story makes it impossible to imagine her essay about Mr. Charlie as anything but fiction.

But what if we knew more about the real Rosa Parks—a militant race woman and sharp detective whose career as a human rights activist spanned seven decades?

It’s time to free Rosa Parks from the bus.

FULL POST

The invisible world of domestic work: Report documents abuses
Domestic workers in the United States often work in tough conditions and for little pay, according to a new report.
November 27th, 2012
07:07 PM ET

The invisible world of domestic work: Report documents abuses

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) - Anna worked seven days a week as a nanny for the family of a Fortune 500 company executive. She lived with them in their 5th Avenue apartment in Midtown Manhattan. Her day began at 6 when the children woke up and didn't end until 10 at night when she put them to bed and cleaned the kitchen.

She cooked meals, did laundry and tended to the children's needs. She slept on the floor in between their beds. She did not have a single day off in 15 months.

She was hired because of the child development skills she learned as a teacher in her native Philippines. Yet she earned just $1.27 an hour.

Anna's story, documented in a groundbreaking statistical report on U.S. domestic workers released Tuesday, is not uncommon. It said Anna was part of a system of invisible workers - mostly women, mostly minorities and increasingly immigrant - who enable many Americans to function in their own lives.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Discrimination • Economy • How we live • Immigration • Poverty • Women
November 3rd, 2012
06:40 AM ET

Civil rights icon fighting for change one registered voter at a time

This is the last in an occasional series on issues of race, identity and politics ahead of Election Day, including a look at the optics of politics, a white Southern Democrat fighting for survival and how parallels to the past haunt the age of Obama.

By Jen Christensen, CNN

San Francisco (CNN) - To call the Rev. Amos C. Brown a veteran of the civil rights movement is an understatement.

He was just 15 when he met the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in San Francisco after being driven cross-country by Mississippi activist Medgar Evers.

He was one of eight students handpicked to take the only college class King ever taught. He and King were arrested during a lunch-counter sit-in at a nearby downtown Atlanta department store. He also was one of the famed Freedom Riders who blazed a trail through the Deep South.

At 71 and slowed by a stroke, Brown could be satisfied as senior pastor to his 3,000-strong flock at Third Baptist Church of San Francisco, the Bay Area's version of King's Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.

Instead, he has been working behind the scenes - praying with President Barack Obama before his second debate - as well as working on the front lines, trying to register as many African-Americans as possible ahead of Tuesday's election.

His goal: to strengthen his community's political voice, fight against what he perceives as efforts to diminish that voice and keep the country's first black president in office. FULL POST

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Black in America • Discrimination • History • Politics • Race • Social justice • Where we live
Parallels to country's racist past haunt age of Obama
Some historians say Barack Obama's presidency has sparked a return of racism with echoes of post-Civil War Reconstruction.
November 1st, 2012
09:19 AM ET

Parallels to country's racist past haunt age of Obama

This is the second in an occasional series on issues of race, identity and politics ahead of Election Day, including a look at the optics of politics, a white Southern Democrat fighting for survival and a civil rights icon registering voters.

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) - A tall, caramel-complexioned man marched across the steps of the U.S. Capitol to be sworn into office as a jubilant crowd watched history being made.

The man was an African-American of mixed-race heritage, an eloquent speaker whose election was hailed as a reminder of how far America had come.

But the man who placed his hand on the Bible that winter day in Washington wasn't Barack Obama. He was Hiram Rhodes Revels, the first African-American elected to the U.S. Senate.

His election and that of many other African-Americans to public office triggered a white backlash that helped destroy Reconstruction, America’s first attempt to build an interracial democracy in the wake of the Civil War. FULL POST


Filed under: 2012 Election • Black in America • Discrimination • Economy • Ethnicity • Health • History • Language • Politics • Poverty • Race
October 29th, 2012
09:31 AM ET

In debate over offensive Halloween costumes, where's the line?

By Emanuella Grinberg, CNN

(CNN) - They're familiar characters in the debate over controversial Halloween costumes: suicide bombers, geishas, gangsta rappers, rednecks and sexy nurses.

Such costumes regularly draw allegations of racism, sexism or insensitivity. But where do fully-clothed folk legends fit in?

American Apparel featured characters on both ends of the spectrum this month in its annual do-it-yourself Halloween costume guide. Below a collection of pin-up girl costumes - including a model donning a breast-baring serape - was "La Llorona," the ghostly weeping woman who kidnaps wandering children, according to folklore in parts of Latin America.

True, she was wearing a lace bustier under a shawl, but the layers upon layers make her appear more like the haunted bag lady than a sexy spirit.

Read: Sexy Little Geisha?' Not so much, say many Asian-Americans

It's the folk legend's cultural significance - and the lack of skin, save an inch of midriff - that, for some, make this costume more acceptable than sexy señoritas or Mexican tequila guy.

"One is mythology, and the other is a stereotype that comes with a lot of baggage," said feminist blogger Veronica Arreola, assistant director of the Center for Research on Women and Gender at University of Illinois at Chicago.

Read the full story

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Filed under: Discrimination • Ethnicity • How we live • Pop culture • Race • Social justice
Ann Coulter's backward use of the 'r-word'
Last month Ann Coulter said in a tweet last month that she didn't realize "how crucial the retarded vote is in this election."
October 23rd, 2012
05:07 PM ET

Ann Coulter's backward use of the 'r-word'

By Emanuella Grinberg, CNN

(CNN) - Parents of children with special needs are demanding an apology from conservative political pundit Ann Coulter for tweeting after Tuesday's foreign policy debate that she approved of "Romney's decision to be kind and gentle to the retard," in an apparent response to critiques of Mitt Romney's performance.

It wasn't the first time Coulter used the "the r-word" during this election season, and it's not the first time blogger Ellen Seidman has called her out on it.

"At this point, I'm thinking the woman must surely be aware that the word is offensive, and she chooses not to care. That's pretty vile and heartless," said Seidman, the mother of a special needs child who shares her world on the blog "Love that Max."

"You want to slam the president, go ahead. But you can't think of any other word to use? Come on."

Ending the r-word: Ban it or understand it?

The word "retard" demeans Max and millions more with intellectual disabilities, Seidman tweeted at Coulter. Still, the comment was favorited 1,215 times and earned 2,993 retweets as of this writing, presumably by a number of people who didn't find it offensive.

Read the full story

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Filed under: Disabilities • Discrimination • How we live • Politics
New York appeals court strikes down Defense of Marriage Act
A federal appeals court in New York on Thursday was the nation's second to deem the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.
October 18th, 2012
03:33 PM ET

New York appeals court strikes down Defense of Marriage Act

By David Ariosto, CNN

New York (CNN) - A federal appeals court in New York became the nation's second to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, finding that the Clinton-era law's denial of federal benefits to married same-sex couples is unconstitutional.

The divisive act, which was passed in 1996, bars federal recognition of such marriages and says other states cannot be forced to recognize them.

Read the ruling (PDF)

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined Thursday that the federal law violates the Constitution's equal protection clause, ruling in favor of a widow named Edith Windsor, an 83-year-old lesbian who sued the federal government for charging her more than $363,000

The case centered on the money Windsor wanted back, but raised the more looming question of whether the federal government can continue to ignore a state's recognition of her marriage and financially penalize her as a result.

"Homosexuals are not in a position to adequately protect themselves from the discriminatory wishes of the majoritarian public," wrote Dennis Jacobs, a conservative judge in New York.

A federal appeals court in Boston made a similar ruling in May, but the moves are considered largely symbolic as the issue is expected to eventually be taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Read the full story

Diversity chief: my reputation is tarnished
Angela McCaskill was suspended after it was revealed she signed a petition for a referendum on same-sex marriage.
October 17th, 2012
04:28 PM ET

Diversity chief: my reputation is tarnished

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) - She was the first deaf, African-American woman to earn a doctorate from Gallaudet University. It seemed Angela McCaskill was the perfect choice to serve as that university's chief diversity officer.

And she was, until last week when the president of Gallaudet, the nation's leading higher education institution for the deaf, placed McCaskill on paid administrative leave.

Why?

Because a faculty member had informed the school that McCaskill admitted to signing a petition that put Maryland's same-sex marriage law to a statewide vote.

McCaskill kept her silence for many days but Tuesday, she came out swinging, demanding compensation from Gallaudet for the stress and harm done to her reputation. She insists she is not anti-gay; she simply wanted to exercise her political rights. FULL POST

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