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April 12th, 2013
09:00 AM ET

Is Mexico Barbie stylish or stereotypical?

(CNN) - CNN Contributor Reihan Salam, radio show host Stephanie Miller and political comedian Dean Obeidellah discuss if Barbie Dolls of the World promote stereotypes on Erin Burnett Out Front.

April 9th, 2013
02:18 PM ET

Opinion: Brad Paisley's risky song on race

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs.

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor

(CNN) - In 2009, Brad Paisley released the song "Welcome to the Future" from his album "American Saturday Night."

In it, he sings about all the cultural changes he's witnessed in his life, including the evolving demographics of the country. He includes glowing references to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. The election of Barack Obama inspired him to write it.

It's important to keep all of that in mind because for some, Paisley's latest song, "Accidental Racist," is making him look like an intentional one. I am reminded of an adage (but with a twist): No good ditty goes unpunished.

"Accidental" attempts to address a subject matter so few artists in country music are willing to do, which makes Paisley a brave man in so many ways.

Country music fans are notorious for excommunicating those whom they perceive as undesirable (see Wright, Chely). Despite Paisley's immense popularity, if he makes one misstep, everything could be snatched away. And attempting to bring a blue state conversation to red state radio could be one of those missteps.

"I'm not proud that people's ancestors were beaten and held in bondage," Paisley told USA Today. "But I am sure as heck proud of the farm I live on and the Confederate soldier buried there."

Infusing such a dichotomy into a song can be powerful. Unfortunately, "Accidental" sucks as a song. The chorus reeks like a '90s boy band ballad.

But its greatest sin is that in Paisley's effort to push for racial harmony, it miscasts the country's racial tension - with emphasis on the Confederate flag and Abraham Lincoln - as a distant thing of the past. A relic.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Race • What we think
March 25th, 2013
09:00 AM ET

The county where no one's gay

By John D. Sutter, CNN

Editor's note: John D. Sutter is a human rights and social change columnist for CNN Opinion. E-mail him at CTL@CNN.com or follow him on Twitter (@jdsutter), Facebook or Google+. This column contains language that may offend some readers.

Franklin County, Mississippi (CNN) - Statistically speaking, Franklin County should be straighter than John Wayne eating Chick-fil-A. The middle-of-nowhere rectangle in southwest Mississippi - known for its pine forests, hog hunting and an infamous hate crime - is home to exactly zero same-sex couples, according to an analysis of census data.

In other words: It's a place where gays don't exist.

At least not on paper.

Before I visited Franklin County, I figured there must be gay people living in Straight County USA. But I didn't expect anyone to be open about it - and with good reason. As part of this op-ed project, I recently ranked the Hospitality State as one of the least hospitable for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, based on its lack of legal protections. In addition to allowing gays and lesbians to be fired because of who they are, Mississippi is also gracious enough to let landlords evict gay residents.

Those are great incentives for a gay person to become invisible. And being invisible, of course, could mean avoiding census workers.

I drove to this place of rolling hills and misty valleys with a few questions on my mind: Can there really be such a thing as an all-straight county? If so, what is it like to be someone who never has met a gay person? Do you just watch "Glee" and figure it out?

If there are gay people in Franklin County, what keeps them hidden?

I spent a few days searching for answers before I realized I was making the wrong assumptions: It's not that gay people here (or anywhere really) want to be in the closet, necessarily. It's the rest of the world that pushes them in and shuts the door.

FULL STORY
March 18th, 2013
11:38 AM ET

Sandberg: Speak up, believe in yourself, take risks

Editor's note: Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, is the author of "Lean In." Watch the first part of Soledad O'Brien's interview with Sheryl Sandberg at 8 a.m. ET Monday on CNN.

By Sheryl Sandberg, Special to CNN

(CNN) - My hope in writing "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead" was to change the conversation from what women can't do to what we can.

We need a national conversation that examines the barriers that hold women back and prevent us from achieving true equality. Additionally and just as importantly, we need personal conversations among us all - managers and employees, friends, colleagues, partners, parents and children - where issues about gender are discussed openly.

The blunt truth is that men still run the world. Of today's 195 independent countries, only 17 are led by women. In the United States, where our founding creed promises liberty and justice for all, women constitute just 18% of our elected congressional officials.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Gender • History • What we think • Women
March 14th, 2013
04:21 PM ET

Opinion: Pope pick a signal to Latino Catholics

Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a CNN contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. Follow him on Twitter: @rubennavarrette.

By Ruben Navarrette Jr., CNN Contributor
(CNN) - "It's about time!"

That was how a friend and fellow Mexican-American Catholic responded to the news that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina had been elected the first Latino pope in the nearly 2,000-year history of the Catholic Church. It was one of those spontaneous utterances that, while not politically correct, was at least honest and heartfelt.

It's about time.

FULL STORY
March 8th, 2013
07:10 PM ET

Opinion: Lean in to learn from global examples of women

Editor’s Note: Michele Wucker is publisher of World Policy Journal and president of the World Policy Institute (www.worldpolicy.org), a global ideas incubator focused on emerging challenges, thinkers and solutions. She also is a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum and author, most recently, of "LOCKOUT: Why America Keeps Getting Immigration Wrong When Our Prosperity Depends on Getting It Right."

By Michele Wucker, Special to CNN

(CNN) - The courage of women like Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year-old student leader in Pakistan who was shot and nearly died for fighting for girls’ right to education; Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who endured nearly 15 years of house arrest because of her stand for democracy in Myanmar; and of precedent-setting presidents like Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Dilma Rousseff of Brazil is inspirational.

America’s women and work discussion could take a lesson from other countries.

Americans make plenty of pronouncements about why countries like Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia should let women go to school, drive cars and have many of the rights American women take for granted.

But focusing exclusively on the extreme examples of restrictions on women’s rights elsewhere provides a convenient way to overlook the ways we could do better here at home.

We have an opportunity to learn from countries that are far ahead of the United States in closing the gender gap in leadership positions in politics and business, if we are open to it. FULL POST

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Filed under: Girls • What we think • Where we live • Women
March 7th, 2013
04:16 PM ET

Opinion: Oberlin wrong to cancel classes after hate incidents

Editor's note: John S. Wilson is a contributing writer for Forbes, Huffington Post and Black Enterprise. He frequently writes about health and education policies and politics. He's on Twitter at @johnwilson.

By John S. Wilson, Special to CNN

(CNN) – When I was around 12 or 13, one of just a few black students in my entire grade, a substitute teacher made inappropriate remarks about slavery. When I got home, I just knew my mother would do something about it; this was a woman who visited my school as though she had to punch a clock.

She listened, said the teacher was wrong, and that was it. No angry phone calls, no marching to the school, no request for anyone to be reprimanded or fired. I was shocked. But she told me that my school didn’t share the same values as that teacher, and she was confident the unfortunate incident was temporary but the values the school instilled were permanent.

That’s what a school’s mission is all about: permanency. Instilling character that cannot be tarnished by temporary incidents – even when very offensive – over which it has little control.

But Oberlin College in Ohio made a very poor decision this week. Classes were canceled in response to a rash of racist and anti-gay incidents aimed at students and a student’s report she had seen someone on campus dressed in a white hooded robe. (Police said they received a report of a student wearing a blanket, but couldn’t say whether the incidents were related.)

On Monday, the campus held a “Day of Solidarity,” which consisted of diversity programming, an Africana teach-in, and what Meredith Gadsby, chairwoman of the Africana Studies Department, called “positive propaganda.” If you're at a loss for exactly what that is, think a collegiate version of a “Sesame Street” marathon, minus Oscar the Grouch.

Oberlin passed up an opportunity. Instead of canceling classes, they should have continued normal business while finding ways to draw upon their incredibly strong history of diversity and inclusion.

By canceling classes and generally overreacting – let's face it, racism and baseless discriminatory scrawls on posters and walls will never go away – Oberlin is only sheltering students, instead of assisting them to overcome adversity, an action that would truly fortify their character. What example does this set for students, many of whom will soon be in the workforce? If a supervisor or co-worker offends them, who will be there then to host their day of solidarity?

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Education • Race • What we think
March 7th, 2013
12:45 PM ET

Sheryl Sandberg:"Don't hate her because she's successful"

(CNN) - CNN Anchor Soledad O' Brien speaks to TIME's Executive Editor Radhika Jones about the magazine's cover story on Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.

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Filed under: How we live • What we think • Who we are • Women
March 7th, 2013
08:44 AM ET

Opinion: Shame on Democrats for race-baiting

Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a CNN contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. Follow him on Twitter: @rubennavarrette.

By Ruben Navarrette Jr., CNN Contributor

San Diego (CNN) - Did you think the Republican Party had cornered the market on racism, nativism and ethnic demagoguery? If so, think again.

That is the GOP's modus operandi when it comes to the immigration issue. In an ugly trend that started in the Southwest in the 1990s but has now moved on to the South and Midwest, Republicans have learned to scare up votes by exploiting fear of changing demographics and the anxiety that many Americans have about an "invasion" of illegal immigrants across the U.S.-Mexico border.

But this fear of foreigners has proven just effective enough that Democrats are now borrowing the GOP's playbook to advance their own causes.

Ruben Navarrette Jr.

Here's the difference: The voters who fear-mongering Democrats want to manipulate aren't so much afraid of what worries many conservatives - that immigrants are supposedly lowering our standard of living, changing the country's complexion and weakening our sense of national identity. They're more afraid that foreign workers - either here in the United States or even in their home countries - are going to take their jobs, lower wages, or prove so attractive to companies and factories that jobs go overseas.

In other words, the fears aren't cultural; they're economic. But the way that Democrats exploit those fears is still the same: racism, nativism and ethnic demagoguery.

FULL STORY
March 6th, 2013
08:00 AM ET

Opinion: Chavez empowered the poor, divided a nation

Editor's note: Frida Ghitis is a world affairs columnist for The Miami Herald and World Politics Review. A former CNN producer and correspondent, she is the author of "The End of Revolution: A Changing World in the Age of Live Television." Follow her on Twitter: @FridaGColumns

By Frida Ghitis, Special to CNN

(CNN) - A few hours before he announced the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Vice President Nicolas Maduro repeated the claim that Chavez's fatal illness was caused by outsiders, and he labeled the opposition the "enemy of the nation." With that, he gave voice to one of the principal legacies of the Chavez era, one of divisiveness and scapegoating.

The Chavez legacy, however, includes much more than animosity between rich and poor, between left and right.

Chavez played a pivotal role in bringing the plight of Latin America's impoverished people to the top of the political agenda.

It was as if the former paratrooper grabbed a continent by the lapels and shouted "You must fight against poverty!" And the continent listened.

Even the people who vehemently disagreed with Chavez's neosocialist, populist ideology realized that economic inequality required urgent attention.

In the years after he came to power, aggressive anti-poverty programs have been launched in a number of Latin American countries, with impressive success.

Chavez improved the lot of the poor in Venezuela, and he had an impact on the reduction of inequality elsewhere in the region. But in the process, he deeply undermined Venezuelan democracy, and he created a model of authoritarianism that other autocrats copied, harming democracy in many countries.

FULL STORY
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