Code Switch

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.

Author Steven Barnes vividly remembers attending science fiction conventions when he first started in the field 30 years ago: "For almost 20 years, as far as I could tell, I was the only black male science fiction writer in the world," he says. The legendary Samuel R.

The first black American hockey player in NHL history is telling his story almost 30 years after he retired.

Val James was a revered and feared fighter — known in hockey as an enforcer — during short stints for the Buffalo Sabres and the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1980s. But he was defenseless to the racist taunts and slurs that showered down on him from opposing teams' fans.

This week, spouses of high-tech foreign workers got some good news: the federal government will begin offering some work permits. A lot of tech companies in the U.S. hire foreign workers who come here on H-1B visas, but their spouses — mostly wives — have long pointed to a major drawback. They haven't been allowed to work.

Now, things are changing. On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced it will start taking applications for work permits in May. It's expected that up to 180,000 spouses would initially qualify, then around 50,000 more each year after.

A closely watched case before the Supreme Court Wednesday could have big consequences for religious rights in the workplace. It involves Abercrombie & Fitch, the preppy, mall-based retailer, and a young Muslim woman who wore a headscarf to a job interview at the company seven years ago.

In a heartfelt tribute, Fusion Voice's deputy editor Latoya Peterson recalled her seven-year relationship with journalist Dori Maynard as one of "an advisor, a mentor, and a beloved friend." Maynard, president of the Robert C. Maynard institute for Journalism Education, died Tuesday night at her home in Oakland, Calif. She was 56.

Alpesh Patel, the CEO of African-based emoji company Oju Africa, thinks Apple missed the mark with its new set of iPhone emoji options, which offers more skin-tone options than before.

"Look at their new emoticons — it's all about skin colour," he told Vice's Motherboard. "Diversity is not about skin colour — it's about embracing the multiple cultures out there that have no digital representation."

Dori J. Maynard, a relentless champion of diversity in newsrooms, died on Tuesday at her Oakland, Calif., home. She was 56.

In emoji news (one of my favorite types of weird news, ever): Apple this week released a beta operating system to its testers that finally includes noticeably browner — and, um, yellower — choices.

American Samoans are in a very peculiar political limbo: Unlike on any other patch of U.S. soil in the world, children born on the small Pacific Islands are not automatically granted American citizenship. They are U.S. nationals, but not U.S. citizens.

Leneuoti Tuaua, one of the plaintiffs in a case for birthright citizenship in American Samoa that's currently before the Supreme Court, wrote an op-ed in Samoa News back in 2012 laying out what that means for everyday life:

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