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Jan 21 2014

Airbrushing Race out of “Income Inequality”

wealth gap blacks whites wealth gap children

By Sikivu Hutchinson

“This is the worst I’ve seen it in a long time,” Cecil McLinn, the principal of Duke Ellington Continuation School in South Los Angeles, told me recently after one of our students missed a week of school because she didn’t have shoes.  A highly-regarded administrator and longtime advocate in South L.A., McGlinn has been on the frontlines of progressive education for several decades.  As the economic depression in our community deepens he’s had to fill out more housing relief forms and aid vouchers for students who struggle just to make it to school every day. Activist administrators like McGlinn know that their schools fill vital resource gaps in social welfare, health care and economic aid assistance for poor and working class families. Because of racial disparities in wealth, schools are especially important as social welfare centers and safe zones for black and Latino children.  In L.A. County, black children comprise fifty per cent of the homeless youth population and thirty per cent of foster care youth. Foster care youth are disproportionately more likely to be incarcerated, drop out of school and experience teen pregnancy.  According to the Economic Policy Institute, 45% of black youth in the U.S. and 35% of Latino youth, versus 12% of white youth, live in communities of “concentrated poverty”.

Duke Ellington is located at the edge of Westmont, a predominantly black and Latino high poverty community.  Westmont was recently the subject of an extensive L.A. Times report, cited as having one of the highest homicide rates in a city where violent crime is purportedly decreasing.  Latino and African American males between 17 and 25 are the main victims of murder-violence in the neighborhood. The majority of the businesses in the immediate community offer minimum to sub minimum wage non-unionized retail jobs with no benefits.  Nonetheless, a recent L.A. City Council proposal to boost the minimum wage to $15 (potentially the highest in the nation) would only target hotel workers.  Most of these workers commute long distances to wealthier neighborhoods on the Westside and downtown Los Angeles.

Some liberal and progressive pundits are fond of trotting out the term income inequality to support their thesis that class immobility represents the deepest divide in American society.  Echoing Barack Obama’s Middle America-appeasing claim that income inequality is just as much about class as it is about race, these pundits assiduously avoid the role institutional racism and white supremacy play in economic injustice.  In the shadow of the 2016 presidential election, the catch-all “income inequality” has become the national bromide du jour.  As his term aiding and abetting the Wall Street robber barons draws to a close, President Obama has belatedly homed in on income inequality in an effort to deflect from slumping poll numbers and mounting left/liberal disillusion. But lost in the political rhetoric from the White House and mainstream media is any true Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 08 2014

Stuff White People Like: Secular Tourists

By Sikivu Hutchinson 

A thriving brand of secular tourism can now be definitively filed under the category “stuff white people like”:  Friendly Atheist Hemant Mehta has sponsored a crowd-funding campaign for a white male former pastor named Ryan Bell who—in a bit of brilliant PR stagecraft—“decided to…give atheism a try” for a year.  As a result of his “experiment” Bell was fired from two Christian schools.  Currently the campaign has far exceeded its $5,000 goal, generating over $16,000 from 700 plus donors in one day.  Bell joins a jam-packed, largely white, mostly Christian cottage industry of religious leaders who are capitalizing off of untapped reserves of atheist dollars, adulation and publicity by jumping onto the “maverick ex-pastor” bandwagon. 

But the campaign for Bell is just one of the more egregious examples of the backward race/gender/ableist politics of organized atheism. The meteoric rise and fall of ex-pastor Teresa MacBain—who, touting false credentials, scored a high profile job with the Harvard Humanist Center—was another example of privileged white atheist overzealousness and affirmative action.  It is highly doubtful that MacBain would have been considered much less hired for this elite post without a thorough vetting of her credentials if she’d been a woman of color.  In addition to the automatic privilege and preferential treatment accorded white women (of all class and professional backgrounds), MacBain benefited from the kind of white atheist cronyism that keeps the leadership and management structures of the major non-believer organizations (i.e., American Atheists, American Humanist Association, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Richard Dawkins Foundation, etc.) predominantly white. Time and again, when it comes to hiring and promotion in the elite fields of academia and corporate America in particular, African American job-seekers typically must have more education and experience than white applicants. In studiesconducted by Princeton University researchers, white job seekers with criminal records were slightly more likely to be called back for and/or offered entry-level jobs than African American job seekers with no criminal record. According to lead researcher Devah Pager, “Even whites with criminal records received more favorable treatment (17%) than blacks without criminal records (14%). The rank ordering of (these) groups…is painfully revealing of employer preferences: race continues to play a dominant role in shaping employment opportunities, equal to or greater than the impact of a criminal record.” 

As people of color with the highest unemployment, foreclosure and criminalization rates in the nation, we should all be so “blessed” to have atheist fairy god-people swooping in to save us from insolvency, ostracism and career marginalization. Read the rest of this entry »

Dec 31 2013

Hollywood’s Tea Party

American hustle doll test updated

By Sikivu Hutchinson

Ah the splendor of black music.  What would white supremacist civilization do without it?  Homegrown, soulful, it is the forbidden spice in a thousand scenes of white folk romancing, cutting loose, getting it on and minding the empire’s business. Black dynamism has always been a wellspring for white theft.  For many people of color, going to 21st century movies is a soul-sucking exercise in being trained to see power through white eyes, often with the strategic pomp of a black soundtrack.  Death by trailer, it is the masochistic pleasure of being bludgeoned into mental submission by the narrative of white heroism (in the form of Mark Wahlberg, Matt Damon and George Clooney), white hetero-normative romance (in the form of faceless anorexic white girls and boys slobbering over and devouring each other) and white domesticity in white picket fence communities.

Generations after psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark’s 1947 doll test experiment on racial identification (which has been updated several times over the past decade), children’s images of whiteness remain rigidly framed through the lens of humanity, civilization, ingenuity, genius, beauty and morality. When children of color see themselves at all in American film it is as ethnic exotica, sidekicks for the enterprising white boy/girl protagonist or fly-in-the-buttermilk diversity mascots fleshing out a classroom scene. According to a 2012 study by the USC Annenberg School, 76.3% of all speaking characters in American film were white while whites comprise 56% of U.S. ticket buyers. By contrast, Latinos comprise 26% of ticket buyers and 17% of the U.S. population, yet account for only 4.3% of speaking roles in film.

In 2013, the American film industry raked in over 10 billion in profits, plowing over people of color who now comprise the majority of California’s population.  In the new film American Hustle blacks, Latinos and Arabs are the colorful backdrop to the ribald shenanigans of a cunning yet endearing white couple cruising toward redemption and nuclear family-hood in New Jersey. Read the rest of this entry »

Dec 17 2013

Secular Student Alliance Matching Fund Pledge

The Secular Student Alliance has generously pledged a $1500 matching grant toward the Women’s Leadership Project’s (WLP) 2014 fundraising goals.

The WLP is a feminist humanist mentoring, leadership and social justice advocacy program for young women of color in South Los Angeles high schools. For the past several years, the WLP has successfully “pipelined” first generation students into college and careers in communities with historically low college-going, retention and graduation rates. Due to the expiration of L.A. County funding the program is in jeopardy of being discontinued.

In my home and in my community I have always understood that a higher education is not as important as having kids and staying home to clean and cook like a “real woman/ wife” does. I think of WLP as the light in the darkness. As a senior at Gardena, I had no hope or desire to go to college before WLP. I used to think it would be impossible for me to attend college because I’m undocumented.Lizeth Soria, WLP alum 2012

If you’d like to support our work, please go to our campaign to donate and help us continue to make leadership development, college-pipelining and social justice training a reality for young women in South L.A.

“The Secular Student Alliance wants to support the Women’s Leadership Project with a $1,500 matching offer. This comes with no obligation on your part, other than to keep helping young women challenge the sexism, misogyny, and homophobia that can so powerfully shape their lives.”
–August Brunsman IV, SSA Executive Director

Dec 17 2013

Exposing Your Non-Belief & Why the Decision Can Be Paralyzing

POCBF
On Sunday, December 15th, The People of Color Beyond Faith network will host a Google Hangouts discussion on coming out as a non-believer of color with a diverse panel of African descent atheists. The discussion will be moderated by Donald Wright, founder of Houston Black Non-Believers:

Panelists:

Donald Barbera:
Don Barbera has been in the world of business for more than 25 years and is the author of several books including, “From Here to There: Improving Interpersonal Communications.” Don is a graduate of PittsburgStateUniversity and holds degrees in Journalism, English and Business Administration. With nearly 20 years in the print journalism industry, Don is also an experienced writer and instructor, holding adjunct faculty positions at LangstonUniversity, TulsaJunior College as well as the DeVry Institute of Technology. He has written hundreds of newspaper stories and articles, as well as a book of poetry, “Until It Ropes Like Okra. “Black and Not Baptist,” and “The 80% Solution: Christians Doing The Right Thing.”

Dadland Maye:
CUNY Ph.D. Student, novelist & radical activist who doesn’t hold back a word on subjects of Atheism v Religion, Gender & Sexuality Wars, Race Battlefield, Corporate Political Chicanery & Media Miseducation. Because we won’t agree on many things, that very space of disagreement provides opportunities for our sharing, learning, and growing. Check out DadlandShutUP.com.

Émelyne Museaux:
Co-host of The Em & Evil Show on the Black FreeThinkers Radio Network, Author of Children’s & Young Adult Novels, Goddess Beauty and Freelance writer, ghostwriter and copy editor.

Frank Anderson:
President of Black Skeptics Chicago, motivational speaker, civic and social justice activist.

Raina Rhoades:
Ph.D. Student, Neuroscientist, Host of The RSS Feed on the Black FreeThinkers Radio Network, social justice activist, and blogger.

Kimberly Veal:
Vice-President of Black Skeptics Group, President and Host of the Black FreeThinkers Radio Network, IT Trainer, civic & social justice activist.

Dec 09 2013

The Souls of Black Boys

Young male scholars

Brandon Bell, molecular biology

Brandon Bell, molecular biology


By Sikivu Hutchinson

“No one ever discussed Trayvon Martin with us in class,” said Sydney, an introspective 9th grader, wistfully. Sydney is a participant in my Young Male Scholars pilot at Gardena High School in South Los Angeles. He and a dozen other 9th and 10th graders are having a spirited discussion about the impact of Martin’s murder on the criminal justice system in Gardena’s college center. According to the school’s college counselor black boys are a “rarity” in the center and our small meeting is the largest number that he has ever seen here. On a campus where black students are the second largest ethnic group next to Latinos, black males are either pounced on by military recruiters or left to fend for themselves, implicitly branded as troublemakers and potential dropouts.

The college counselor’s observation was the impetus for my starting the pilot in collaboration with Brandon Bell, a young, South L.A. community activist alum of King Drew Medical Magnet and Princeton University. In an educational climate where there were only forty eight black male students in the freshman class of internationally prestigious UCLA, the pilot is specifically designed to pipeline black males into college through targeted intervention. But it is also geared toward politicizing young men of color by providing them with the historical consciousness and space to become an activist generation of organizers, scholars and intellectuals.

Our discussion about the political implications of Martin’s murder took place a day before the death of Nelson Mandela. As the world mourns Mandela and president Obama touts an eleventh hour focus on “income inequality” neo-apartheid conditions in American education continue to fester. Last week was bookended by two powerful education reports which indirectly indicted the myth of American exceptionalism. The 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) showed that American students remained static in reading and science and were well below average in math, falling from 29th to 31st in global rankings. The Campaign for College Opportunity’s “The State of Blacks in Higher Education: The Persistent Opportunity Gap” illustrates the devastating impact of California’s anti-affirmative action policy.

The Campaign for College Opportunity report concluded “that gaps between Blacks and other ethnic groups in college-going and attainment have remained virtually unchanged for more than a decade, and in some cases, have worsened.” Despite claims of increased college opportunities for millennials, “A smaller share of today’s California Black young adult population holds postsecondary degrees than that of Blacks between the ages of 35 and 64.” Put bluntly, in an era in which affirmative action has been viciously discredited and all but gutted by both the Right and neo-liberal “left”, young African Americans are less educated than older African Americans. African American students attend community and for-profit colleges in higher numbers than other groups and have the highest student loan debt and default rates. In addition, black youth still have the lowest graduation rates in California.

In the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the class of 2017 (this year’s 9th graders) will be required to have college prep classes in order to graduate. They must earn a C or better to do so. They will have to achieve this feat despite the Obama administration’s Race to the Top emphasis on high stakes tests that narrow the curriculum, undermine critical thinking and force teachers to be glorified proctors. Nationwide, black students are the least prepared for college, have the lowest enrollment in honors and college prep classes and the highest drop-out or push-out rates. The LAUSD requirement is set against the backdrop of deepening unemployment, prison pipelining and black male homicide rates. According to the Education Trust, “If current trends continue only one in twenty African American students will go on to a four year college or university.” The forty eight black males in UCLA’s freshman class are swimming in a sea of over 5000 new students. Enraged by these stats, black male UCLA students recently released an activist video critique which went viral. But despite renewed attention to racial disparities in college access there is no federal, state or local policy or call to action that specifically addresses the fact that young African American male high school students are routinely dismissed as not being college material.

As the Martin case demonstrated yet again, the dominant culture does not associate young black men and boys with tenderness, caring, sensitivity, and compassion, much less intellectualism. Since white supremacist culture can never see black youth as victims they can only be predators and aggressors. The visceral fear that adults have of so-called black male criminality is one of the primary reasons why black boys are suspended and expelled at higher rates for lesser offenses than are white students.

Like white kids, youth of color are trained to see explicit acts of individual prejudice as the only standard for racism rather than institutional racism and white supremacy. So when Brandon and I discussed how mass incarceration was devastating our school-communities some of the boys in the group said that “bad environments” and “bad choices” simply lead black youth to commit more crime. But after examining disproportionate crack cocaine use amongst white males and unpacking how legacy admissions policies allow mediocre white students like George W. Bush get into Ivy Leagues the students’ consciousness began to shift. Not seeing themselves in the curriculum, public education socializes them to believe that disproportionate numbers of their brothers and sisters are in prison due to bad choices while college is the reward for the elite few who make good ones. Teaching them to see the connection between the racial politics of college access and the invisibility of Martin’s murder in their high school curriculum is a step toward defying this criminal mis-education.

Dec 07 2013

Resisting the white washing of Mandela

young Mandelaby Frederick Sparks

As with Martin Luther King, Jr., we see in the remembrances and tributes to Nelson Mandela a certain oversimplification, appropriation, and white washing of not only the complexity of his political history but of his comprehensive social justice philosophy.

Former senator and failed Republican presidential candidate compared his party’s fight against Obamacare to the “great injustice” Mandela fought against, apparently unaware that South Africa has universal health care.  The infamous man-on-man candidate would also take issue with Mandela’s support of LGBTQ rights, as the post apartheid South Africa enshrined in its constitution discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender, something the U.S.A. has yet to accomplish.

We should also accurately recall the U.S.’s reluctance to fully support the struggle against apartheid.  Until 2008, our country labeled Mandela’s ANC a terrorist organization.

And just like King’s comments about economic inequality and in opposition to the Vietnam are glossed over for the safer parts of the I Have A Dream speech, largely ignored in the last few days have been Mandela’s critiques of American racism, warmongering and imperialism, and his unwavering support of the labor movement.

Moving beyond the superficial lip service tributes involves support of the comprehensive social justice philosophy Mandela embraced.

Nov 24 2013

People of Color Beyond Faith Roundtable: Debunking Postracialism

On Sunday, November 24th the People of Color Beyond Faith network will host a live roundtable discussion on the myth of postracialism, racism and “diversity” in the secular/atheist/freethought movement, social justice, and intersectional issues amongst non-believers of color. Where: Google Chat/Youtube Time: 11am PST (1pm CST/2pm EST) Moderator: Sikivu Hutchinson Panelists: Kimberly Veal, Black Freethinkers & Black Skeptics Chicago Donald Wright, Houston Black Non-Believers Raina Roades: Black Freethinkers – The RSS Feed & Rhoades to Reality

Nov 23 2013

Report Reveals LGBT People of Color Are Most Disadvantaged Workers

 

Word to straight white cis delusional postracialists:

From the Feminist News:

LGBT people of color are the most disadvantaged workers in the US, according to a new report released last week by the Movement Advancement Project, Center for American Progress, Freedom to Work, Human Rights Campaign, and the National Black Justice Coalition.

The report, entitled A Broken Bargain for LGBT Workers of Color, details how LGBT people of color, who live at the intersections of various marginalized identities in the US, face unique barriers to employment and education. Inequality, lack of workplace protections, and violence and discrimination in schools all contribute to high rates of poverty and unemployment for many LGBT workers of color.

“Contrary to popular stereotypes, LGBT workers are more racially diverse than the general population, making it critical to address the unique obstacles they face,” said Sharon Lettman-Hicks, executive director and CEO of the National Black Justice Coalition. “Bias and prejudice based on race, sexual orientation, and gender identity/expression intersect to the detriment of LGBT workers of color.”

According to the report, LGBT youth of color often face multiple forms of harassment at school, have fewer support systems, and are at greater risk of entering the school-to-prison pipeline [see PDF]. At work, LGBT people of color experience higher rates of discrimination and are less likely to have adequate mentors. Discriminatory immigration and tax laws as well as unequal job benefits, including lack of appropriate forms of family leave, also disadvantage LGBT workers of color… More @http://www.americanprogress.org/press/release/2013/11/14/79395/release-lgbt-workers-of-color-are-among-the-most-disadvantaged-in-the-american-workforce/

Nov 11 2013

In Cold Blood: The Murder of Renisha McBride

Renisha McBride

By Sikivu Hutchinson

A white family grieves in outrage after their teenage daughter has been gunned down by a black homeowner in an African American neighborhood. In this parallel universe the killer walks free, enjoying the benefit of being viewed as having defended his home from a violent intruder, while the big city D.A. decides whether or not to charge him.

It is no revelation to many black women in neo-apartheid Americana that being white and female pays deep dividends in everyday life.  Among these dividends is the ability to be seen as an innocent victim under dire circumstances and to have the weight of the American criminal justice system behind you upholding that perception.  Another is the advantage of secure access to elite suburban enclaves without fear of criminalization. Stranded in the early morning hours after a car crash in a predominantly white suburb outside of Detroit, nineteen year-old Renisha McBride had no such benefits.  A recent high school graduate, McBride had just gotten a job at the Ford Motor Company when she was brutally shot in the face by a white male resident after seeking help from the crash. Her family described her as warm and loving. As of this writing her killer has not been apprehended nor charged.

McBride’s killing is part of a long legacy of black female murder victims who have been devalued in a misogynist apartheid system of state-sanctioned violence that thrives on the urban/suburban racial divide. In 2010, seven year-old Aiyanna Jones was murdered by a Detroit police officer in her own home during a botched police raid. In 1999, a homeless fifty four year-old 5 feet tall black woman named Margaret Mitchell was killed by LAPD officers in an affluent Los Angeles retail district after a dispute over a shopping cart. The officers in the Mitchell case were not charged. The officer in the Jones case was recently granted a retrial after the jury in his initial involuntary manslaughter trial deadlocked.  Civil rights activists and community protestors have compared McBride’s killing to that of Trayvon Martin, Emmet Till, Oscar Grant and Amadou Diallo, globally known black male lynching victims whose white killers never saw jail time.  But the problem with these comparisons is that they unintentionally minimize lesser known black female victims of white supremacist violence such as Mitchell, Jones, Eulia Love, Eleanor Bumpurs, Alesia Thomas and Mitrice Richardson. Although the circumstances of these women’s deaths were quite different, the lack of sustained national and global attention (relative to black men who have been murdered under similar circumstances) unites them.   National civil rights activists and feminist organizations must ask themselves why these names have not become as prominent or high profile in national activism.  Mainstream civil rights organizations have long had a sexist, patriarchal blind spot when it comes to critical consciousness about the specific gendered and racialized ways in which black women are demonized, sexualized and criminalized in the U.S.  Historically, much of the language around black civil rights uplift has been oriented toward redeeming black men and pathologized black masculinity.  In K-12 education, students are typically taught about American history in general and the modern civil rights movement in particular as though they were merely a procession of events spearheaded by Great white men, a few exceptional men of color and Rosa Parks.  From MLK to the Black Panthers, black women’s self-determination was never part of the mainstream civil rights’ social justice calculus or platform.  Thus redressing the epidemic of intimate partner violence and sexual assault in African American communities has never been a major part of African American civil rights organizing.  Nor has the skyrocketing number of black women in prison and the ways in which this regime has led to the exponential increase of black children that are homeless or in foster care. Read the rest of this entry »

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