Code Switch

Over at Guernica magazine, writer Nishta Mehra, whose parents were born in India, shares the story of adopting her son Shiv, who is black, with her partner, Jill, who is white. Adoption can be a challenge for any family. But when you're an interracial family with two moms living in Texas, things get even more interesting.

Guernica has shared this excerpt of Mehra's story with Code Switch readers:

New Orleans is known for its enormous Vietnamese population, one of the largest in the country. But we recently came across a story about a now-lost Chinatown in New Orleans — two of them, in fact — and how they came to be. To understand how these hubs came about, and why they disappeared, we have to rewind the clock 150 years, to the end of the Civil War.

Since 1979, tens of thousands of Iranians have lived in exile in the United States. The Iranian Revolution forced large numbers of the population out of the country, and many have never returned. As Persian New Year, referred to by Iranians as Nowruz, approaches, many look back on old photos and remember an Iran they used to know. The holiday happens annually on the spring equinox and symbolizes a rebirth in Persian culture. Iranians in the U.S. now experience new lifestyles and culture that make Nowruz's themes of rebirth more real than they had imagined.

Note to our readers: This report contains some strong racial language.

This month Selma, Ala., will mark the 50th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday." That's the day police beat demonstrators attempting to march to Montgomery in support of voting rights. Some of the most iconic images of that day were captured by a white photographer — the late Spider Martin.

The first time I learned that gender could be fluid was in sex ed in the ninth grade. I remember the teacher mumbling under her breath that some people don't identify their gender with the biological sex they were born with.

At the time it didn't faze me because I'd never known anyone who'd talked about it or felt that way. But now, three years later, I have a 16-year-old classmate who's transgender. His name is Jace McDonald.

"That is the name I have chosen," Jace says. "It's what my parents would have named me if I was born biologically male."

The Racist History Behind The Iconic Selma Bridge

Mar 5, 2015

The 1965 voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., became known as Bloody Sunday because it ended in state troopers beating nonviolent protesters as they tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

In photos from that day you see the marchers being struck and trampled, and just above them are the bridge's big arches, with the name Edmund Pettus emblazoned across the steel beam.

The bridge has become one of the most hallowed places in America's civil rights history, but who was Edmund Pettus?

A Charlotte news station reported on Monday that the Ritz-Carlton, one of prosperous uptown Charlotte's swankiest hotels, added what looks suspiciously like a black tax to the lobby bar tabs of patrons in town last week for the CIAA, the popular mega-tournament for basketball teams at historically black colleges and universities from Pennsylvania to North Carolina.

"So-and-so is really, really hard to understand." Or: "His accent is so distracting." I remember hearing off-the-cuff remarks like this a few times in college, complaints by classmates about teaching assistants and instructors, almost all of them of Asian descent and non-native English speakers.

You're on the Internet, which means you're never more five seconds away from someone claiming you squashed their First Amendment rights by, say, blocking them on Twitter.

Repeat after me: the First Amendment prohibits citizens' speech from being infringed upon by the government.* But because the universe delights in dark humor, it turns out that one recent, obnoxious claim about free speech violations might have some real legs.

Why Is Milwaukee So Bad For Black People?

Mar 5, 2015

A new report from UCLA finds that K-12 schools in Wisconsin suspend black high school students at a higher rate than anywhere else in the country and has the second-highest disparity in suspension rates between white and black students.

Here Are The Racist Emails Ferguson Officials Passed Around

Mar 4, 2015

The Justice Department's investigation into the Ferguson, Mo., police department reveals a series of racist emails passed around between Ferguson police officers and court officials.

The senders aren't identified by name, but the DOJ says commanders, police officers, and court officials were all involved.

Below are seven emails that the Department of Justice uncovered — it found more, but only published the ones below.

There is a cartoon circulating right now of two people holding protest signs — one is black, the other white. The black figure holds a sign that reads "I Can't Breathe;" the white figure holds a sign that reads "I Can't See." Recently, I have encountered many discussions reflecting the subtle wisdom of that cartoon: It's often white citizens who demand that citizens of color provide evidence that injustices exist — and sometimes, I'm the teacher in these moments.

The Justice Department reportedly did not find enough evidence to charge white former officer Darren Wilson with any civil rights violations for shooting Michael Brown last August in Ferguson, Mo. But it did find plenty of evidence of routine discrimination by Ferguson police against black residents.

Editor's note: This post is about the evolution of a word that is highly offensive to some and includes other offensive language.

If, unlike me, you've never had cause to become familiar with the term "spic," you can see it in action in the story of a veteran Boston police officer who allegedly called his Uber driver a "fucking spic" and beat him up for going to the wrong address.

Rosa Parks is well-known for her refusal to give up her seat to a white passenger on a public bus in Montgomery, Ala., in December 1955. But Parks' civil rights protest did have a precedent: Fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin, a student from a black high school in Montgomery, had refused to move from her bus seat nine months earlier. However, Colvin is not nearly as well-known, and certainly not as celebrated, as Parks.

Thousands of people crammed into a haphazard housing project, surrounded by a massive river, and secured only by a system of dikes. It was a recipe for disaster, one that saw a growing city reduced to flooded marshlands in less than a day.

In the 1940s, Vanport, Ore. was the center of a booming World War II-era shipyard industry, quickly becoming the second largest city in the state. But both its origin, and its destruction, came about thanks to the racially discriminatory housing practices of neighboring Portland across the river.

In a Mississippi courtroom in February, three young white men were sentenced for a hate crime: beating up a black man in a parking lot one June night in 2011, running over his body with a truck and leaving him to die. U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves, who heard the case, asked the young men to settle into their chairs before he delivered their sentence. He had something to tell them.

In the 1960s, Pittsburgh, like most cities, was segregated by race. But people of all colors suffered from lack of ambulance care. Police were the ones who responded to medical emergency calls.

"Back in those days, you had to hope and pray you had nothing serious," recalls filmmaker and Hollywood paramedic Gene Starzenski, who grew up in Pittsburgh. "Because basically, the only thing they did was pick you up and threw you in the back like a sack of potatoes, and they took off for the hospital. They didn't even sit in the back with you."

Mr. Spock, Mixed-Race Pioneer

Mar 1, 2015

At a time when the mere sight of Petula Clark touching Harry Belafonte's arm held the potential to upset delicate sensibilities, the half-human, half-Vulcan character Mr. Spock embodied an identity rarely acknowledged, much less seen, on television: a mixed-race person.

Sure, the mixing of races was allegorical in Spock's case, as was the brilliantly subversive mode for social commentary on Star Trek. But that doesn't mean it didn't resonate.

Isaiah Milton
Alex Wroblewski

When young black males in poor inner-city areas are murdered, their cases are less likely to be resolved, particularly if a gun is involved.

That’s the finding of Alonzo DeCarlo, division chair of social and behavioral sciences at the Springfield campus of Benedictine University. His findings, after a look into 10 years of Uniform Crime Reporting data kept by the FBI, were published in January by the journal Contemporary Social Science.

Poverty graphs
Social IMPACT Research Center / Heartland Alliance

The poverty rate in Illinois has held steady in recent years despite the fact that the nation has emerged from the Great Recession.

That’s according to a report issued recently by the Chicago-based Heartland Alliance’s Social IMPACT Research Center. The group reported that the 14.7 percent poverty rate in Illinois for 2013, which is the most recent data available for the analysis, has been unchanged since 2012. The 2011 poverty rate was slightly higher at 15 percent.

If you want an accurate picture of ethnic and gender diversity in the United States, don't look to Hollywood.

That's the conclusion of the "2015 Hollywood Diversity Report" conducted by the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA.

A heads-up to our readers: This post quotes a racial slur.

When actress Erin Quill saw a casting notice earlier this month for a Show Boat musical revival with a completely Asian-American cast, she raised an eyebrow.

We've all heard the old adage that every snowflake is different, but they do have one thing in common: They're all white. That's also the image that many have of the people taking part in winter sports, including skiing and snowboarding, here in the U.S.

One of the major criticisms leveled against the popular but problematic Marvel's Agent Carter (which just finished up its first season on ABC) is that it lacks black characters. The show takes place in New York City in 1946, and to some people that means the lack of diversity makes sense — and it's only the most recent example in an ongoing conversation/argument about books and other media set in the past — whether it's the real past or an alternate history — that are missing people of color.

It wasn't supposed to be "Leonard Nimoy + Biracial Kids Day" here at Code Switch, but the news takes you where it takes you.

The number of people who identify as belonging to two or more races keeps climbing with each Census. The number of people identified as both black and white, for example, more than doubled between 2000 and 2010, from about 780,000 to 1.8 million.

There are plenty of possible explanations behind Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's failure to get enough votes in Tuesday's election to avoid a runoff. His tenure has been plagued by gang violence. Many African-American voters are disenchanted with Emmanuel's decision to close some 50 public schools.

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