Court upholds race in university admissions

From the New York Times: “In a long-running affirmative-action case, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Tuesday upheld the University of Texas at Austin’s consideration of race as one of many factors in admissions.images

“We are persuaded that to deny U.T. Austin its limited use of race in its search for holistic diversity would hobble the richness of the educational experience in contradiction of the plain teachings of Bakke and Grutter,” Judge Patrick E. Higginbotham wrote, referring to two previous affirmative-action rulings by the Supreme Court.William C. Powers Jr., the president of the University of Texas at Austin, said he was pleased with the decision upholding the admissions policy.

“This ruling ensures that our campus, our state and the entire nation will benefit from the exchange of ideas and thoughts that happens when students who are diverse in all regards come together in the classroom, at campus events and in all aspects of campus life,” he said.Texas’ “Top Ten Percent Plan” guarantees the top graduates of every high school in the state a place at the flagship Austin campus or other universities in the state system, and because many Texas high schools are largely segregated, many black and Latino students are admitted to the university under the plan.

“While the Top Ten Percent Plan boosts minority enrollment by skimming from the tops of Texas high schools, it does so against this backdrop of increasing resegregation in Texas public schools, where over half of Hispanic students and 40 percent of black students attend a school with 90 percent-100 percent minority enrollment,” said the majority opinion, in which Judge Higginbotham was joined by Judge Carolyn Dineen King.While the University of Texas does get some diversity from the plan, the majority opinion said, it can constitutionally make further efforts to increase diversity.

“U.T. Austin has demonstrated a permissible goal of achieving the educational benefits of diversity within that university’s distinct mission, not seeking a percentage of minority students that reaches some arbitrary size,” the opinion said.Judge Emilio M. Garza wrote a lengthy dissent, arguing that while the university claims that its use of race was narrowly tailored to meet its diversity goal, it never defined that goal, making it impossible to say whether the use of race actually was tailored to meet it. Continue reading “Court upholds race in university admissions”

Separate and unequal

Saturday is the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark case where a unanimous Supreme Court held that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” The following year the justices ordered that states end school segregation with “all deliberate speed.”images-1

As reported in Slate magazine, “In the popular narrative, this is the beginning of American integration, a process that goes from Rosa Parks to Martin Luther King to the Civil Rights Act and eventually to President Obama.

“But for as much as we share an integrated culture, millions of Americans—and blacks in particular—live in segregated worlds, a fact illustrated by the persistence and retrenchment of school segregation, as detailed in a new report from the Civil Rights Project at the University of California–Los Angeles.

“Before considering the report, it’s worth taking a closer look at the process of school desegregation. Almost immediately after Brown, white Southerners met the decision with “massive resistance.” In Virginia, segregationist Democrats pushed sweeping educational changes to combat integration. In 1956, the Commission on Public Education—convened by Gov. Thomas Stanley—asked the General Assembly to repeal compulsory education, empower the governor to close public schools, and provide vouchers to parents to enroll their children in segregated private schools. In the next few years, whites would open “segregation academies” across the state, while closing public schools to block integration.

“Following Stanley’s lead, whites across the South worked to keep blacks out of their schools with rules, legislation, angry mobs, and outright violence. But it failed. Within the decade, new civil rights laws had enhanced federal power. By the end of the 1960s, the federal government was authorized to file suit against segregated school districts and work to dismantle them “root and branch.”

“As Nikole Hannah-Jones details for ProPublica, federal desegregation orders helped “break the back of Jim Crow education in the South, helping transform the region’s educational systems into the most integrated in the country.” She continues, “In 1963, about 1 percent of black children in the South attended school with white children. By the early 1970s, the South had been remade—fully 90 percent of black children attended desegregated schools.” Continue reading “Separate and unequal”


A tone-deaf inquiry into an Asian-American’s ethnic origin. Cringe-inducing praise for how articulate a black student is. An unwanted conversation about a Latino’s ability to speak English without an accent.

The New York times reports that “this is not exactly the language of traditional racism, but in an avalanche of blogs, student discourse, campus theater and academic papers, they all reflect the murky terrain of the social justice word du jour — microaggressions — used to describe the subtle ways that racial, ethnic, gender and other stereotypes can play out painfully in an increasingly diverse culture.

“On a Facebook page called “Brown University Micro/Aggressions” a “dark-skinned black person” describes feeling alienated from conversations about racism on campus. A digital photo project run by a Fordham University student about “racial microaggressions” features minority students holding up signs with comments like “You’re really pretty … for a dark-skin girl.” The “St. Olaf Microaggressions” blog includes a letter asking David R. Anderson, the college’s president, to address “all of the incidents and microaggressions that go unreported on a daily basis.”.

“What is less clear is how much is truly aggressive and how much is pretty micro — whether the issues raised are a useful way of bringing to light often elusive slights in a world where overt prejudice is seldom tolerated, or a new form of divisive hypersensitivity, in which casual remarks are blown out of proportion.

“The word itself is not new — it was first used by Dr. Chester M. Pierce, a professor of education and psychiatry at Harvard University, in the 1970s. Until recently it was considered academic talk for race theorists and sociologists. Continue reading “Microaggressions”

How one’s race can change over time

As a cultural construct, a person’s race is not fixed but can change over time, research shows.

Using the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, Aliya Saperstein, assistant professor of sociology at Stanford University, found that the race of about one in five of those surveyed had at least one change in their race, as the Christian Times reports

“Saperstein spoke with National Public Radio about her research for a segment that aired Tuesday morning.

“What our research challenges,” she said, “is this idea that the race of an individual is fixed. Twenty percent of the respondents in the NLSY survey experienced at least one change [in their race classification] over the course of different observations.”

“The NLSY tracks the same people over a long period of time. The race of those participating in the survey is recorded as it is perceived by the interviewer.

“Race is socially constructed. There is no such thing as a “race gene” that identifies people as being of different races. Rather, the human brain subconsciously perceives people to be of different races based upon certain physical characteristics, such as skin color, hair type and nose shape. These perceptions can change over time.

What is even more interesting about Saperstein’s findings, though, is that changes in race were correlated with changes in respondent’s life circumstances. Those who went from being employed to unemployed, were sent to prison or went on welfare, were more likely to be classified as black after their lives took a turn for the worse. Continue reading “How one’s race can change over time”

Gender, race, schools and technology

When people talk about how to diversify the tech field, a common solution is, “Start earlier.”images

As discussed in a recent essay in The Atlantic, “Rather than focus on getting women and minorities hired at tech startups or encouraging them to major in computer science in college, there should be a push to turn them on to the discipline when they’re still teenagers—or even younger.

“It’s already too late,” Paul Graham, founder of the tech entrepreneur boot camp Y Combinator, said last month in a controversial interview. “What we should be doing is somehow changing the middle school computer science curriculum or something like that.”

“Right now, the “start early” strategy doesn’t seem to be working: The students doing advanced computer science work in high school remain overwhelmingly white and male. According to data from the College Board compiled by Georgia Tech’s Barbara Ericson, only a small percentage of the high-schoolers taking the Advanced Placement Computer Science exam are women. Black and Latino students make up an even lower percentage of the test-takers.

“Ericson’s analysis of the data shows that in 2013, 18 percent of the students who took the exam were women. Eight percent were Hispanic, and four percent were African-American. In contrast, Latinos make up 22 percent of the school-age population in the U.S.; African-Americans make up 14 percent. (I don’t need to tell you that women make up about half.) Continue reading “Gender, race, schools and technology”

UCLA protest over racial hostility

The University of California at Los Angeles has come under fire multiple times this fall for the state of race relations there, reports InsideHigherEd.images “First, concern over the treatment of minority professors prompted a sobering report detailing instances of race-based discrimination against faculty members. Next, Sy Stokes and other black male undergrads made their now-viral video about their slim ranks on campus.

“Now some graduate students are weighing in on what they see as a climate of hostility toward minority students, both in the Graduate School of Education’s Information’s Social Science and Comparative Education division and at UCLA as a whole. But the grad students’ interruption of a class session with a sit-in has other graduate students questioning their tactics — and some say their accusations are unfair.

“What we’re speaking to is part of a larger, institutionalized culture on campus,” said Kenjus Waston, a black Ph.D. candidate in the division and an organizing member of UCLA Call 2 Action: Graduate Students of Color. The group staged a sit-in, or what it called a “teach-in,” during a second-level dissertation preparation course in the division this month. Watson said members hoped to address racially motivated “microagressions” – seemingly innocuous but ultimately hurtful comments or actions – that have marked their time at UCLA.

“About 25 students participated in the sit-in, in the classroom of Val Rust, professor emeritus of education. Watson – a student in that class – said Rust’s course was one of many in which students of “color and consciousness” have experienced discrimination. Of about 10 students in the class, 5 participated in the sit-in. Participants read a letter listing their complaints and a series of demands for reform. Regular coursework was suspended for about an hour because of the sit-in. Continue reading “UCLA protest over racial hostility”

Racial divide persists in U.S.

Once upon a time, millions of people seemed to believe that electing Barack Obama president would automatically improve race relations in America, reports today’s Daily Beast.images-1

“Jason Wilhite, an African-American from Charleston, S.C., was one of them. “I did a jig around the house I was so happy,” Wilhite says. “I thought Americans really had made progress in how they viewed black people as a whole.” His assessment now? “Man, did I read that wrong.”

“Wilhite isn’t alone. Nearly four years into the Age of Obama, many Americans are coming to the conclusion that choosing a black man as commander in chief has done little to speed up racial progress or soothe racial tensions. In fact, some even suspect that Obama’s presence in the Oval Office may be slowing us down—and pushing us farther apart.

A new Newsweek poll puts this remarkable shift in stark relief for the first time. Back in 2008, 52 percent of Americans told Pew Research Center that they expected race relations to get better as a result of Obama’s election; only 9 percent anticipated a decline. But today that 43-point gap has vanished. According to the Newsweek survey, only 32 percent of Americans now think that race relations have improved since the president’s inauguration; roughly the same number (30 percent) believe they have gotten worse. Factor in those who say nothing has changed and the result is staggering: nearly 60 percent of Americans are now convinced that race relations have either deteriorated or stagnated under Obama. Continue reading “Racial divide persists in U.S.”

Wayward white youth

A frightening and violent mob swept through the normally quiet seaside community of Huntington Beach last night following a surfing competition in the area. Businesses were vandalized and looted, portable toilets overturned, and brutal fistfights waged right out in the open. It was an ugly display and a sad day for California. But more than that, it was a reminder that we must begin to seriously consider the values of our thuggish white youth.

Many people don’t want to hear this kind of tough love, of course. They’d like to bury their heads in the sand and pretend that all white children are as sweet and harmless as Taylor Swift. But the reality is that the statistics tell a different story. For instance, according to research from the Department of Justice, 84 percent of white murder victims are killed by other white people. Similarly, white rape victims tend to be raped by other whites . White-on-white violence is a menace to white communities across the country, and yet you never hear white leaders like Pastor Joel Osteen, Bill O’Reilly, or Hillary Clinton take a firm stance against the scourge.

More important than white politicians are the white parents. I’d like to ask the caregivers of the children in these videos what they’ve been doing. When did so many white parents fall asleep at the wheel? You can complain about poor schools all you’d like, but the fact of the matter is that it’s the parents of these children who are letting them leave the house looking like slobs in their baggy board shorts and Hollister t-shirts. It’s the parents of these kids who are letting them listen to violent, self-destructive trash like “Anarchy in the UK” or “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue”—performed loudly by noted conservative rocker Johnny Ramone. Continue reading “Wayward white youth”

University racial inequality grows

imgresThe nation’s system of higher education is growing more racially polarized even as it attracts more minorities:
White students increasingly are clustering at selective institutions, while blacks and Hispanics mostly are attending open-access and community colleges, according to a new report discussed in the Washington Pos. “The paths offer widely disparate opportunities and are leading to widely disparate outcomes, said the report released Wednesday by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

 “Students at the nation’s top 468 colleges are the beneficiaries of much more spending — anywhere from two to five times as much as what is spent on instruction at community colleges or other schools without admissions requirements. And students at top schools are far more likely to graduate than students at other institutions, even when they are equally prepared, according to the report. In addition, graduates of top schools are far more likely than others to go on to graduate school.

“The financial implications of those differences are huge: A worker with an advanced degree is expected to earn as much as $2.1 million more in his or her lifetime than a college dropout, the report said. Also, the report said graduates of selective colleges earn an average of $67,000 a year 10 years after graduation, about $18,000 a year more than their counterparts who graduate from non-selective schools.“The American postsecondary system increasingly has become a dual system of racially separate pathways, even as overall minority access to the postsecondary system has grown dramatically,” said Jeff Strohl, the Georgetown center’s director of research, who co-authored the report. Continue reading “University racial inequality grows”

Mormons, race, and history

A newly released digital edition of the four books of LDS or Mormon scripture—the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the


Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price—includes editorial changes that reflect a shifting official view on issues like polygamy, the Church’s history of racism, and the historicity of LDS scripture, reports

“Perhaps the most significant is the inclusion of a new heading to precede the now-canonized 1978 announcement of the end of the LDS Church’s ban on black priesthood ordination:

“The Book of Mormon teaches that “all are alike unto God,” including “black and white, bond and free, male and female” (2 Nephi 26:33). Throughout the history of the Church, people of every race and ethnicity in many countries have been baptized and have lived as faithful members of the Church. During Joseph Smith’s lifetime, a few black male members of the Church were ordained to the priesthood. Early in its history, Church leaders stopped conferring the priesthood on black males of African descent. Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice. Church leaders believed that a revelation from God was needed to alter this practice and prayerfully sought guidance. The revelation came to Church President Spencer W. Kimball and was affirmed to other Church leaders in the Salt Lake Temple on June 1, 1978. The revelation removed all restrictions with regard to race that once applied to the priesthood.


“Church leaders have long maintained public ambiguity about the history of the ban and its end; they have rarely acknowledged the ordination of early African-American Mormons nor have they cited anti-racist teaching in the Book of Mormon in connection with the Church’s own troubled history on race. The new heading historicizes the ban (suggesting the influence of a robust Church History department) and depicts it as a contradiction to the original impulses of the faith, not corrected until 1978. The heading does, some commentators have noted, offer continuing cover to Brigham Young, whose on-the-record racist statements to the Utah legislature suggest his influence in the evolution of a non-ordination policy. Commentators also note the absence of reference to the fact that black women were not historically admitted to LDS temple worship until the 1978 announcement.”


Full story at:

The future of race in America

By the end of this decade no single racial or ethnic group will constitute a majority of children under 18–And in about three decades, no single group will constitute a majority of the country as a whole. Today’s New York Times says that:

“’The next half century marks key points in continuing trends — the U.S. will become a plurality nation, where the non-Hispanic white population remains the largest single group, but no group is in the majority,’ the bureau’s acting director, Thomas L. Mesenbourg, said in a statement.

“The new projections — the first set based on the 2010 Census — paint a Continue reading “The future of race in America”

Far from the tree

For anyone who hasn’t heard about Andrew Solomon’s Far from the Tree, this book is much more than a tome (900+ pages) about parents and special-needs kids. Solomon has written a tour-de-force discussion on difference and identity worthy of anyone’s attentions, especially those of us who do not conform to the tyranny of normativity. Julie Myerson wrote a wonderful piece on the book in a recent New York Times Book Review. While the later chapters in Far From the Tree each could be their own separate books about specific conditions of being, the first 200 pages are pure gold. As Myerson begins her review,

“How does it feel to be the mother of a teenage dwarf who’s desperate to start dating? What if you love the daughter you conceived when you were raped but can’t bear to be touched by her? And, as the father of a happy, yet profoundly deaf son who’s forgotten how it feels to hear, how do you deal with your memories of the times you played music together? Continue reading “Far from the tree”

A different kind of poll

Ok, so we are all fed up with polls about the election. Check this out from Slate: “Poll Finds Majority of Americans Are Racist.”  As Daniel Politi summarizes, “In the four years since the United States elected the country’s first black president, a majority of Americans express outright prejudice toward blacks. Perhaps even more surprising though is that the numbers have slightly increased since 2008. A full 51 percent of Americans explicitly express anti-black prejudice, up from 48 percent in 2008, according to the Associated Press. When an implicit racial attitudes test is used the number increases to 56 percent, compared to 49 percent four years ago. The AP surveys, which were carried out by university researchers, ultimately found that President Obama could lose a net 2 percentage points of the popular vote due to anti-black attitudes. Continue reading “A different kind of poll”