Opinion: Beer drinking slouches and latte sipping elites
Susan Bodnar says Charles Murray’s analysis of the Unites States may be missing something.
March 17th, 2012
07:00 AM ET

Opinion: Beer drinking slouches and latte sipping elites

Editor’s note: Susan Bodnar is a clinical psychologist who works with people from diverse backgrounds and teaches at Columbia University’s Teachers College and at The Stephen Mitchell Center for Relational Studies. She lives in Manhattan with her husband, two children and all of their pets.

By Susan Bodnar, Special to CNN

(CNN) - “He’s back,” said Cornelius Fudge upon Voldemort’s return. So too is Charles Murray, a political scientist at the conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute, who turns intelligent perceptions into scary proof that everything he believes is true.

Known to interpret statistical research through a conservative lens tinged with racial bias, Murray has taken on the educational system, the welfare system, as well as intelligence, class, race and genetics in his controversial and contested 1994 work, "The Bell Curve" (written with the late Richard J. Herrnstein). In his recent book "Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960 – 2010," Murray sees the major differences between the classes as a dark sign that America “is coming apart”.

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Filed under: History • How we live • Race • What we think
Opinion: It’s time for ‘equal’ to mean equal
Jennifer Gratz challenged affirmative action policies at the University of Michigan’s undergraduate school in 2003.
March 10th, 2012
09:54 AM ET

Opinion: It’s time for ‘equal’ to mean equal

Editor’s note: Jennifer Gratz was the plaintiff in the Supreme Court case Gratz v. Bollinger which challenged affirmative action policies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She has since led efforts against racial preferences. Gratz graduated from the University of Michigan, Dearborn, with a degree in mathematics in 1999.

By Jennifer Gratz, Special to CNN

(CNN) - There is a short phrase, just four words, inscribed up above the main entryway into United States Supreme Court, “Equal Justice Under Law.”

I took note of this inscription on April 1, 2003, when my case, Gratz v. Bollinger, and a companion case, Grutter v. Bollinger, were heard by the high court. My case challenged affirmative action policies in admissions at the University of Michigan’s undergraduate school; Barb Grutter’s challenged affirmative action policies at the law school. By the time my case was heard by the Supreme Court the University of Michigan admitted that their affirmative action policy gave a 20 point boost to blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans on an admissions rating scale.

When I applied to University of Michigan in Ann Arbor for admission in 1995, I thought it was my path to medical school. When I received a rejection letter, I ultimately reconsidered my career choice, and pursued a degree in math at another University of Michigan campus. My confidence was shaken.

The court’s inscription brought confidence as I sat listening to oral arguments on that cold spring day. After all, how could anyone – especially legal scholars – conclude that “equal” meant unequal?


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Filed under: Discrimination • Education • What we think • Women
Opinion: The maid and the mammy: Why I’ll grin and bear it
Hattie McDaniel was the first black actress to win an Academy Award for her role as "Mammy" in Gone With the Wind. Seven decades later Octavia Spencer is nominated for her role as a maid.
February 25th, 2012
11:37 AM ET

Opinion: The maid and the mammy: Why I’ll grin and bear it

Editor’s Note: Sheryl Lee Ralph is a Tony nominated actress and Independent Spirit Award winner for best supporting actress. Her new book "Redefining DIVA" is published by Simon & Schuster will be available March 13.

By Sheryl Lee Ralph, Special to CNN

(CNN) – This year, the Academy Awards had my attention because of the 1960s coming of age film "The Help."

As thrilled as I am about Octavia Spencer winning an Oscar, and Viola Davis being nominated for best actress, I am not thrilled about the roles they played.

That’s right:  I am sick and tired of the maid, mammy, and big mama on the couch.

The movie upset me. It wasn’t about 'the help", it was a young white woman’s coming of age story and “the help” helped her get out of the south leaving the women who risked everything for her “freedom,” in the bondage of racism, sexism and exploitation.

My nerves were worked! I’d seen this story before. White girl makes good and leaves her mammy behind.

Seventy-two years ago, Miss Hattie McDaniel graced the Oscar stage and became the first Negro, as we were called back then, to win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress with her portrayal of Mammy, Scarlett O' Hara's house slave and second mother in “Gone with the Wind.” Mammy was another wonderful character; a woman who knew what was right and refused to let her white charge do wrong.

Hollywood loves a good black maid.

See Octavia Spencer's acceptance speech

I cannot tell you how happy I am to see the talent of Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer celebrated.

I remember when Octavia did one of her first TV performances with us on the set of "Moesha." She was wonderful then with that trademark sassy, and just watching Viola come into her own fashion self has been delightful.

Viola Davis: I've really stepped into who I am

Sunday night, Oscar night, the maid once again went home with the gold.

I will float on the cloud of her win knowing that I am more than a maid, and with this victory, maybe I am  closer to showing all the different sides of me as a black woman and actress.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Sheryl Lee Ralph.

Editor's Note: This piece has been updated to reflect Oscar news.

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Filed under: Black in America • Discrimination • History • Pop culture • Race • What we think • Women
Exploring who we are, who we're becoming
November 7th, 2011
01:15 PM ET

Exploring who we are, who we're becoming

In America is about the America you may or may not see – a cultural crossroad that exists in every town, city and state. We examine the nuances of what people believe, even when those beliefs are based on perceptions and not necessarily on facts.

Sometimes, the candid answers we uncover result in celebrations of lives defined by success, triumph and progress. Sometimes, we explore pain and hurt so deep they should not be forgotten or repeated.  And sometimes, we step back and laugh about those oh-so-serious conversations.

This began in 2008, when CNN produced a documentary called “Black in America.” The response was overwhelming and that single project eventually led to another, “Latino in America.” Then that documentary led to another, then another. Four years later, we’ve produced 18 In America documentaries including “Unwelcome, The Muslims Next Door”, “Education in America: Don’t Fail Me” and “Gary and Tony Have a Baby.”

Now, In America is expanding further with the launch of this blog.


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Filed under: Who we are