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Women make gains in the workplace
Katharine Hope examines a baby cheetah at the National Zoo. About 50% of veterinarians are women, according to census data.
December 12th, 2012
10:45 AM ET

Women make gains in the workplace

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) - Dorothy Segal went to veterinary medicine school at a time when she was very much a minority. She remembers being one of two women who graduated in her class in 1943.

Now 96, Segal recalled what the dean of the Michigan State University veterinary school said to her at the time: "Go back to the kitchen."

Segal went on to have a successful practice, treating everything from birds to big cats in the circus.

They used to say treating animals was no job for a lady. So Segal never wore pants.

"I made myself feminine," she said.

Segal was a trailblazer for women in her profession. When she began practicing in 1944, there were about 55 women vets in America. She was part of the first real growth spurt in female vets, who multiplied after the 1972 Equal Employment Opportunity Act. FULL POST

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Filed under: Economy • Gender • Who we are • Women
Black in America: It's not just about the color of your skin
December 9th, 2012
08:00 AM ET

Black in America: It's not just about the color of your skin

Editor's Note: In today’s United States, is being black determined by the color of your skin, by your family, by what society says or something else? Soledad O’Brien reports “Who Is Black in America?” on CNN at 8 p.m. ET/PT Sunday, December 15.

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) - What is black? Race. Culture. Consciousness. History. Heritage.

A shade darker than brown? The opposite of white?

Who is black? In America, being black has meant having African ancestry.

But not everyone fits neatly into a prototypical model of "blackness."

Scholar Yaba Blay explores the nuances of racial identity and the influences of skin color in a project called (1)ne Drop, named after a rule in the United States that once mandated that any person with "one drop of Negro blood" was black. Based on assumptions of white purity, it reflects a history of slavery and Jim Crow segregation.

In its colloquial definition, the rule meant that a person with a black relative from five generations ago was also considered black.

Your take on black in America

One drop was codified in the 1920 Census and became pervasive as courts ruled on it as a principle of law. It was not deemed unconstitutional until 1967.

Blay, a dark-skinned daughter of Ghanian immigrants, had always been able to clearly communicate her racial identity. But she was intrigued by those whose identity was not always apparent. Her project focuses on a diverse group of people - many of whom are mixed race - who claim blackness as their identity.

That identity is expanding in America every day. Blay's intent was to spark dialogue and see the idea of being black through a whole new lens. FULL POST

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Filed under: Black in America • Documentaries • History • How we look
Penn State sorority photo: Insensitive or just fun?
Chi Omega apologized for this photo after some found it offensive.
December 7th, 2012
06:17 PM ET

Penn State sorority photo: Insensitive or just fun?

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) - Officials at Penn State published an open letter this week about an incident that has brought the university under scrutiny once more.

Members of the university's Chi Omega sorority chapter celebrated Halloween at a Mexican-themed party. They wore sombreros and ponchos and pasted fake mustaches on their faces. They held signs that said: "Will mow lawn for weed + beer." Another sign said: "I don't cut grass. I smoke it."

Then they took a photo and posted it online. Outrage spread over the insensitive nature of the photo. Some said it perpetrated stereotypes and were culturally insensitive. Latino students on the Penn State campus demanded a direct apology from Chi Omega, which issued a statement of regret to the college newspaper.

The university president, the president of the board of trustees and other officials expressed their own feelings of deep disappointment.

"How any constituent groups or individuals in the university could behave with such insensitivity or unawareness is a question we must both ask and answer," they said in a letter Thursday.

"Our university is a place of learning and discovery, and there certainly are lessons to be relearned, or even discovered for the first time, from these incidents," the letter said. "The simplest of those lessons is that costumes that include blackface, or that parody or imitate a person or groups of people, are always offensive to someone. They convey either a lack of awareness about the human condition and human sensitivities or, worse yet, disdain for the thoughts, feelings, histories and experiences of others. They suggest a failure to empathize or even a failure to think. They make all of us small."

The incident comes in the wake of this year's conviction of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky for sexually abusing 10 boys over a period of 15 years. He was sentenced to a minimum of 30 years in prison. The scandal led to the dismissal of legendary head coach Joe Paterno, who died only weeks later, and severe NCAA penalties against the school's storied football program.

Reaction to the Chi Omega story, however, has not all been of dismay or outrage. FULL POST

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Filed under: Diversity • Ethnicity • Latino in America • What we think
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
Penn State sorority sisters denigrate Mexicans in party photo
Penn State's Chi Omega chapter apologized for this photo that was posted on Tumblr.
December 5th, 2012
12:37 PM ET

Penn State sorority sisters denigrate Mexicans in party photo

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) - Penn State has had its share of controversy for a while, but this week it is getting some more unwanted attention.

The university's Chi Omega sorority chapter is under investigation after a photo with Mexican stereotypes surfaced on a social media site.

It shows a group of sorority members dressed in ponchos and sombreros and wearing fake mustaches. One woman holds a sign that says: "Will mow lawn for weed + beer." Another sign says: "I don't cut grass. I smoke it."

The photograph was taken at a Mexican-themed party around Halloween, according to the independent college blog, Onward State. It was posted last week on Tumblr.

The university's Panhellenic Council said it had received concerns about the photo and that the council does not condone derogatory behavior from members.

"The Penn State Panhellenic Council recognizes the offensive nature of the photo and is therefore taking the matter very seriously," the executive board said in a statement.

"We are addressing the situation immediately with the members of the chapter in conjunction with their national headquarters," it said. "Our council and all its members strive to hold ourselves to a high standard and are disappointed by any failure to meet these expectations."

Jessica Riccardi, president of the Chi Omega chapter at Penn State, released an apology to The Daily Collegian newspaper. FULL POST

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Filed under: Ethnicity • Latino in America • Race • What we think
Immigrants lead plunge in U.S. birth rate
The recession has played a role in a drop in the U.S. birth rate, population experts say.
November 29th, 2012
02:24 PM ET

Immigrants lead plunge in U.S. birth rate

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) - It makes sense that since the start of the recession, the birth rate in America has been declining.

In 2011, it dipped to the lowest rate ever recorded: 63.2 per 1,000 women between 15 and 44, the prime childbearing ages, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That plunge was led by immigrant women, according to a Pew Research Center analysis released Thursday.

The birth rate for U.S.-born women declined 6% between 2007 (when the recession began) and 2010. However, the rate for foreign-born women plunged 14%, more than in the 17 years before the downturn.

Both foreign- and U.S.-born Hispanic women had larger drops in birth rate than any other group, Pew found. That correlates with larger percentage declines in household wealth for Hispanics than in white, black or Asian households. FULL POST

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Filed under: Family • Health • Immigration • Poverty • Who we are • Women
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
Blazing a trail for young black swimmers
Sabir Muhammad was the first black swimmer to set an American record.
November 15th, 2012
07:45 AM ET

Blazing a trail for young black swimmers

By Moni Basu, CNN

Atlanta (CNN) - On the cinder-block wall in the manager's office of the Adamsville Natatorium are photos of two heroes: Martin Luther King Jr. and Sabir Muhammad.

Here, at this pool in a predominantly black neighborhood of southwest Atlanta, it's easy to see why Muhammad, 36, looms large.

He was the first black swimmer to set an American record. He broke U.S. short-course records in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle and finished his swimming career with seven Pac-10 championships titles, 25 All-American honors and three NCAA, U.S. Open and American records.

But perhaps more importantly, Muhammad helped shatter a myth that black people couldn't swim. FULL POST

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Filed under: Black in America • CNN Heroes • Sports • Where we live
November 11th, 2012
12:00 PM ET

A father seeks peace in a place of war

By Moni Basu, CNN

Atlanta (CNN) - Robert Stokely fired up his computer and began a journey to a place an ocean and continent away, to a land of parched earth and dusty brush not far from the banks of the Euphrates.

Yusufiya.

It is the Iraqi town where Robert's son Mike was killed on a hot August night in 2005. A place that haunted him.

Robert showed me his Google Earth mapping ritual the first time I met him in his office in suburban Atlanta.

It was almost a year after Mike's death, and he was tortured by the thought that he might die without ever seeing where his son fell.

Now, when I meet him for lunch at a sports bar more than six years later, it is as though a great weight has been lifted.

The sorrow of losing a child, unimaginable to many of us, never withers.

Robert still wears Mike's dog tag around his neck and occasionally sleeps in his son's bedroom, frozen in time with Mike's Green Day CDs and military memorabilia.

On a shelf in the room sits a round clock that Robert bought for $4.98. He stopped it at 2:20 a.m., the time of Mike's death, and in black marker scribbled the date: August 16.

Robert still does the things that made his grief so visible to me in the aftermath of Mike's death. But Robert's voice is steadier now. He can finish most of his sentences without tears.

I know that it is because of that place - Yusufiya.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Family • Relationships • Veterans in Focus • Who we are
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