Tuesday, December 22, 2009

México, D.F: First in Latin America to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

Mexico City lawmakers on Monday made the city the first in Latin America to legalize same-sex marriage, a change that will give homosexual couples more rights, including allowing them to adopt children.

The bill passed the capital's local assembly 39-20 to the cheers of supporters who yelled: "Yes, we could! Yes, we could!"

Leftist Mayor Marcelo Ebrard of the Democratic Revolution Party was widely expected to sign the measure into law.

Mexico City's left-led assembly has made several decisions unpopular elsewhere in this deeply Roman Catholic country, including legalizing abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. That decision sparked a backlash, with the majority of Mexico's other 32 states enacting legislation declaring life begins at conception.

The conservative Nation Action Party of President Felipe Calderon has vowed to challenge the gay marriage law in the courts. However, homosexuality is increasingly accepted in Mexico, with gay couples openly holding hands in parts of the capital and the annual gay pride parade drawing tens of thousands.

The bill calls for changing the definition of marriage in the city's civil code. Marriage is currently defined as the union of a man and a woman. The new definition will be "the free uniting of two people."

The change would allow same-sex couples to adopt children, apply for bank loans together, inherit wealth and be included in the insurance policies of their spouse, rights they were denied under civil unions allowed in the city.

"We are so happy," said Temistocles Villanueva, a 23-year-old film student who celebrated by passionately kissing his boyfriend outside the city's assembly.

Only seven countries allow gay marriages: Canada, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands and Belgium. U.S. states that permit same-sex marriage are Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut and New Hampshire.

Argentina's capital became the first Latin American city to legalize same-sex civil unions in 2002 for gay and lesbian couples. Four other Argentine cities later did the same, and as did Mexico City in 2007 and some Mexican and Brazilian states. Uruguay alone has legalized civil unions nationwide.

Buenos Aires lawmakers introduced a bill for legalizing gay marriage in the national Congress in October but it has stalled without a vote, and officials in the South American city have blocked same-sex wedding because of conflicting judicial rulings.

Many people in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America remain opposed to gay marriage, and the dominant Roman Catholic Church has announced its opposition.

"They have given Mexicans the most bitter Christmas," said Armando Martinez, the president of the College of Catholic Attorneys. "They are permitting adoption (by gay couples) and in one stroke of the pen have erased the term 'mother' and 'father.'"

City lawmaker Victor Romo, a member of the mayor's leftist party, called it a historic day.

"For centuries unjust laws banned marriage between blacks and whites or Indians and Europeans," he said. "Today all barriers have disappeared."

Monday, December 21, 2009

Latino School Dropout Intervention Program

Latino School Dropout Intervention Program

Latino School Dropout Intervention Program

from NCSET

Background: Achievement for Latinos through Academic Success (ALAS) was one of three projects that received funding in 1990 from the Office of Special Education Programs to address the problem of dropout for students with disabilities. The project focused on preventing dropout in high-risk middle school and junior high Latino students through involvement with students and their families, the school, and the community.

Intervention Description: ALAS was developed to prevent high-risk Latino students with and without disabilities from dropping out of school. The model uses a collaborative approach involving the student, family, school, and community. Fundamental aspects of the program in each of four areas are listed below.

* Students receive social problem-solving training, counseling, increased and specific recognition of academic excellence, and enhancement of school affiliation.
* Schools are responsible for providing frequent teacher feedback to students and parents and attendance monitoring. In addition, schools are expected to provide training for students in problem-solving and social skills.
* Parents of program participants receive training in school participation, accessing and using community resources, and how to guide and monitor adolescents.
* Collaboration with the community is encouraged through increased interaction between community agencies and families. Efforts to enhance skills and methods for serving the youth and family are also implemented.

Participants & Setting: This program targeted Latino middle or junior high students who were considered to be at high risk of school failure. The program particularly focused on Mexican-American students from high-poverty neighborhoods who had learning and emotional/behavioral disabilities. Students selected for participation were either (a) students with active Individual Education Programs (IEPs) and an identified learning disability or severe emotional/behavioral disability, or (b) students who did not have IEPs, but who exhibited characteristics placing them at-risk for dropping out of school. Students were required to be able to speak English to participate in the program. ALAS has been used in urban and suburban settings.

Implementation Considerations: Leaders of training sessions for parents and students are required, as are teachers willing to provide extensive and frequent feedback to families. Community liaisons are also necessary to facilitate communication between school, families, and community resources. A program coordinator is used to oversee all aspects of the program and ensure that everything is running smoothly.

Cost: No information was identified in the available material.

Evidence of Effectiveness: Three cohorts of students began receiving the ALAS intervention in seventh grade. The first cohort of students received the intervention for three years. Treatment outcomes for students in ninth grade indicated program participants who had IEPs had significantly lower dropout rates compared to the IEP control group. In addition, students who received the intervention and who were in the program longer had lower dropout rates than IEP participants who began in the second year of implementation. When comparing the high-risk, non-IEP program participants to high-risk, non-IEP nonparticipants, the ALAS students had much lower dropout rates (2.2% compared to 16.7%). In general, this study also found that program participants had lower rates of absenteeism, lower percentages of failed classes, and a higher proportion of credits (on track to graduate) when compared to nonparticipants.

Follow-up data were also collected for a cohort of students in eleventh grade. Results showed a higher proportion of students were enrolled in school as compared to students who were not in ALAS. In order for optimal results, the authors of the study advocate for sustained intervention over time (perhaps until graduation), especially given the risk characteristics of this population targeted for intervention.

Manual or Training Available: A bi-lingual trainer is available who can provide on-site training to school and community personnel. Please contact Magda Neil at (818) 957-2742.


Fashola, O. S., & Slavin, R. E. (1998). Effective dropout prevention and college attendance programs for students placed at risk. Journal of Education for Students Placed At Risk, 3(2), 159-183.

Thornton, H. (Ed.) (1995). Staying in school: A technical report of three dropout prevention projects for middle school students with learning and emotional disabilities. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration.

Thurlow, M. L., Christenson, S. L., Sinclair, M. F., Evelo, D. L., & Thornton, H. (1995). Staying in school: Strategies for middle school students with learning and emotional disabilities. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration.

Contact Information:

Katherine Larson
E-mail: larson@education.ucsb.edu

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Between Two Worlds: How Young Latinos Come of Age in America

from Pew Research

December 11, 2009

This is part of a Pew Research Center series of reports exploring the behaviors, values and opinions of the teens and twenty-somethings that make up the Millennial Generation


Hispanics are the largest and youngest minority group in the United States. One- in-five schoolchildren is Hispanic. One-in-four newborns is Hispanic. Never before in this country's history has a minority ethnic group made up so large a share of the youngest Americans. By force of numbers alone, the kinds of adults these young Latinos become will help shape the kind of society America becomes in the 21st century.

This report takes an in-depth look at Hispanics who are ages 16 to 25, a phase of life when young people make choices that -- for better and worse -- set their path to adulthood. For this particular ethnic group, it is also a time when they navigate the intricate, often porous borders between the two cultures they inhabit -- American and Latin American.

The report explores the attitudes, values, social behaviors, family characteristics, economic well-being, educational attainment and labor force outcomes of these young Latinos. It is based on a new Pew Hispanic Center telephone survey of a nationally representative sample of 2,012 Latinos, supplemented by the Pew Hispanic Center's analysis of government demographic, economic, education and health data sets.

The data paint a mixed picture. Young Latinos are satisfied with their lives, optimistic about their futures and place a high value on education, hard work and career success. Yet they are much more likely than other American youths to drop out of school and to become teenage parents. They are more likely than white and Asian youths to live in poverty. And they have high levels of exposure to gangs.

These are attitudes and behaviors that, through history, have often been associated with the immigrant experience. But most Latino youths are not immigrants. Two-thirds were born in the United States, many of them descendants of the big, ongoing wave of Latin American immigrants who began coming to this country around 1965.

As might be expected, they do better than their foreign-born counterparts on many key economic, social and acculturation indicators analyzed in this report. They are much more proficient in English and are less likely to drop out of high school, live in poverty or become a teen parent.

But on a number of other measures, U.S.-born Latino youths do no better than the foreign born. And on some fronts, they do worse.

For example, native-born Latino youths are about twice as likely as the foreign born to have ties to a gang or to have gotten into a fight or carried a weapon in the past year. They are also more likely to be in prison.

The picture becomes even more murky when comparisons are made among youths who are first generation (immigrants themselves), second generation (U.S.-born children of immigrants) and third and higher generation (U.S.-born grandchildren or more far-removed descendants of immigrants).1

For example, teen parenthood rates and high school drop-out rates are much lower among the second generation than the first, but they appear higher among the third generation than the second. The same is true for poverty rates.

Identity and Assimilation

Throughout this nation's history, immigrant assimilation has always meant something more than the sum of the sorts of economic and social measures outlined above. It also has a psychological dimension. Over the course of several generations, the immigrant family typically loosens its sense of identity from the old country and binds it to the new.

It is too soon to tell if this process will play out for today's Hispanic immigrants and their offspring in the same way it did for the European immigrants of the 19th and early 20th centuries. But whatever the ultimate trajectory, it is clear that many of today's Latino youths, be they first or second generation, are straddling two worlds as they adapt to the new homeland.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center's National Survey of Latinos, more than half (52%) of Latinos ages 16 to 25 identify themselves first by their family's country of origin, be it Mexico, Cuba, the Dominican Republican, El Salvador or any of more than a dozen other Spanish-speaking countries. An additional 20% generally use the terms "Hispanic" or "Latino" first when describing themselves. Only about one-in-four (24%) generally use the term "American" first.

Among the U.S.-born children of immigrants, "American" is somewhat more commonly used as a primary term of self-identification. Even so, just 33% of these young second generation Latinos use American first, while 21% refer to themselves first by the terms Hispanic or Latino, and the plurality -- 41% -- refer to themselves first by the country their parents left in order to settle and raise their children in this country.

Only in the third and higher generations do a majority of Hispanic youths (50%) use "American" as their first term of self-description.

Immigration in Historical Perspective

Measured in raw numbers, the modern Latin American-dominated immigration wave is by far the largest in U.S. history. Nearly 40 million immigrants have come to the United States since 1965. About half are from Latin America, a quarter from Asia and the remainder from Europe, Canada, the Middle East and Africa. By contrast, about 14 million immigrants came during the big Northern and Western European immigration wave of the 19th century and about 18 million came during the big Southern and Eastern European-dominated immigration wave of the early 20th century.2

However, the population of the United States was much smaller during those earlier waves. When measured against the size of the U.S. population during the period when the immigration occurred, the modern wave's average annual rate of 4.6 new immigrants per 1,000 population falls well below the 7.7 annual rate that prevailed in the mid- to late 19th century and the 8.8 rate at the beginning of the 20th century.

All immigration waves produce backlashes of one kind or another, and the latest one is no exception. Illegal immigration, in particular, has become a highly-charged political issue in recent times. It is also a relatively new phenomenon; past immigration waves did not generate large numbers of illegal immigrants because the U.S. imposed fewer restrictions on immigration flow in the past than it does now.

The current wave may differ from earlier waves in other ways as well. More than a few immigration scholars have voiced skepticism that the children and grandchildren of today's Hispanic immigrants will enjoy the same upward mobility experienced by the offspring of European immigrants in previous centuries.3

Their reasons vary, and not all are consistent with one another. Some scholars point to structural changes in modern economies that make it more difficult for unskilled laborers to climb into the middle class. Some say the illegal status of so many of today's immigrants is a major obstacle to their upward mobility. Some say the close proximity of today's sending countries and the relative ease of modern global communication reduce the felt need of immigrants and their families to acculturate to their new country. Some say the fatalism of Latin American cultures is a poor fit in a society built on Anglo-Saxon values. Some say that America's growing tolerance for cultural diversity may encourage modern immigrants and their offspring to retain ethnic identities that were seen by yesterday's immigrants as a handicap. (The melting pot is dead. Long live the salad bowl.) Alternatively, some say that Latinos' brown skin makes assimilation difficult in a country where white remains the racial norm.

It will probably take at least another generation's worth of new facts on the ground to know whether these theories have merit. But it is not too soon to take some snapshots and lay down some markers. This report does so by assembling a wide range of empirical evidence (some generated by our own new survey; some by our analysis of government data) and subjecting it to a series of comparisons: between Latinos and non-Latinos; between young Latinos and older Latinos; between foreign-born Latinos and native-born Latinos; and between first, second, and third and higher generations of Latinos.

The generational analyses presented here do not compare the outcomes of individual Latino immigrants with those of their own children or grandchildren. Instead, our generational analysis compares today's young Latino immigrants with today's children and grandchildren of yesterday's immigrants. As such, the report can provide some insights into the intergenerational mobility of an immigrant group over time. But it cannot fully disentangle the many factors that may help explain the observed patterns-be they compositional effects (the different skills, education levels and other forms of human capital that different cohorts of immigrants bring) or period effects (the different economic conditions that confront immigrants in different time periods).

Readers should be especially careful when interpreting findings about the third and higher generation, for this is a very diverse group. We estimate that about 40% are the grandchildren of Latin American immigrants, while the remainder can trace their roots in this country much farther back in time.

For some in this mixed group, endemic poverty and its attendant social ills have been a part of their families, barrios and colonias for generations, even centuries. Meantime, others in the third and higher generation have been upwardly mobile in ways consistent with the generational trajectories of European immigrant groups. Because the data we use in this report do not allow us to separate out the different demographic sub-groups within the third and higher generation, the overall numbers we present are averages that often mask large variances within this generation.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Studies Show Latinos Climb Socio-Economic Ladder of Success

As a front-page story in today’s Washington Post reminds us: “Not since the last great wave of immigration to the United States around 1900 has the country’s economic future been so closely entwined with the generational progress of an immigrant group.” The story highlights the degree to which the children of immigrants from Latin America have become crucial to sustaining the working-age population and tax base of the nation—particularly as more and more of the 75 million Baby Boomers retire. Moreover, the parents of these children most likely would not have even come to this country if not for the U.S. economy’s past demand for workers to fill less-skilled jobs—demand which was not being adequately met by the rapidly aging and better-educated native-born labor force. The Post story also casts a spotlight on the insecurities and anxieties of commentators who feel that Latino immigrants and their descendants aren’t integrating into U.S. society and moving up the socio-economic ladder “fast enough.” Although these concerns are certainly understandable, they are as unjustified now as they were a century ago when they were directed at immigrants from southern and eastern Europe.

By any objective measure, the children of immigrants from Latin America are making significant progress compared with their parents. As demographer Dowell Myers points out in a 2008 report, the experience of Latino immigrants in California reveals not only the vast strides that immigrants themselves make within their lifetimes in terms of English proficiency, homeownership, and declining poverty rates, but also the degree to which the children and grandchildren of immigrants do better than “newcomers.” Similarly, the National Research Council’s Panel on Hispanics in the United States concluded in 2006 that “trends in wages, household income, wealth, and home ownership across time and generations point to the gradual ascension of many U.S.-born Hispanics to the middle class.” And a 2003 study by economist James P. Smith of the RAND Corporation found that successive generations of Latino men experience significant improvements in wages and education relative to native-born non-Latinos. Smith concludes from his analysis that “fears are unwarranted” that Latinos are “not sharing in the successful European experience, perhaps due to a reluctance to assimilate into American culture.”

Of course, the socio-economic progress of Latinos over the course of generations is sometimes difficult to see since two-out-of-five Latinos in the United States are foreign-born. But this is a matter of historical perspective, not substance. For instance, in 1891, then-Representative Henry Cabot Lodge (R-MA) warned that “immigration to this country is increasing and…is making its greatest relative increase from races most alien to the body of the American people and from the lowest and most illiterate classes among those races.” He was speaking principally of the Italians, but also the Russians, Poles, and Hungarians. He observed that these immigrants, “half of whom have no occupation and most of whom represent the rudest form of labor,” are “people whom it is very difficult to assimilate and do not promise well for the standard of civilization in the United States.”

Lodge also complained that immigrants such as the Italians:

…come to the United States, reduce the rate of wages by ruinous competition, and then take their savings out of the country, are not desirable. They are mere birds of passage. They form an element in the population which regards home as a foreign country, instead of that in which they live and earn money. They have no interest or stake in the country, and they never become American citizens.

The passage of time has since proven Lodge wrong concerning the upward mobility of Italian Americans, just as it will in the case of today’s immigrants from Latin America. This isn’t to say that the undeniable disparities in educational attainment and income between native-born Latinos and native-born non-Latinos in the United States aren’t pressing social concerns. However, to effectively address these problems, they must first be accurately identified. The challenges confronting—and posed by—a poor immigrant from Mexico differ from those of a poor second-generation Latino whose parents are immigrants, which in turn differ from those of a poor third-generation Latino whose parents are native born. Some of these challenges are unique to the immigrant experience, others derive from being part of a “minority” group in U.S. society, and others stem from dynamics of poverty that are not limited to any ethnic group, immigrant or otherwise.

For instance, if some third-generation Mexican Americans—like other minority groups in the United States—have encountered a “glass ceiling” in wage growth, this says more about the need for educational investment in poor communities than it does about a culturally specific lack of ambition. To treat Latinos as inherently incapable of upward mobility and as a homogeneous group guided by some innate resistance to “assimilation,” as some immigration restrictionists do, serves only to simplistically misidentify what are in fact a diverse range of issues.

Walter Ewing

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Three years later, the battle continues over affirmative action

Three years later, the battle continues over affirmative action in Detroit:

Arielle Bullard had every belief she could get into the University of Michigan. The senior at Cass Technical High School in Detroit mailed in her application during the 2006-2007 winter semester.

The 2.98 GPA student was told in the University of Michigan´s response letter that if she could get a 4.0, her application would be given "serious consideration."

Bullard, an African-American student, did just that and then scored a 26 on her ACT.

But that semester, Bullard´s school was forced to discontinue its program that gave additional admission points to black and Latino students. Her school ended the program because of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, a ballot proposal voters adopted in November 2006. Proposal 2, as it was known, added to the state Constitution an end to all "racial preference" and affirmative action-type programs in taxpayerfunded institutions.

Bullard´s application was ultimately rejected. Was it because of Proposal 2? There´s no smoking gun, but the implication is certainly there.

"I feel that Proposal 2 will intensify segregation and close doors that have barely been opened to me and other black and Latino students," Bullard said.

Bullard and several other black students took action by signing onto a lawsuit against the University of Michigan to get MCRI removed from the state Constitution. It wasn´t the first suit against MCRI.

In fact, the long legal road MCRI has traveled began on March 25, 2004.

On that date, Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Paula Manderfield ruled that putting the affirmative action-killing initiative on the ballot "flies in the face" of the state Constitution. Michigan´s governing document guarantees "equal protection under the law." It ensures that no person can be "discriminated against" because of race or color. MCRI was a proposal to ban any racial preference program in any state-taxpayer entity — be it a city government´s female recruitment program or the University of Michigan giving extra admission points to an African-American applicant.

Manderfield questioned: How can the state ban "preferential treatment" programs and guarantee equality when society´s treatment of minority populations is not equal? Therefore, she concluded, MCRI and the state Constitution are in conflict.

The initiative — bankrolled by Ward Connerly, who successfully baked similar language into California law — should not be put before Michigan´s voters, she said.

Civil rights groups across the state cheered. MCRI was dead … for a few months any way. Long enough to push MCRI off the 2004 ballot and onto the 2006 ballot. Since then, it´s been very much alive in Michigan.

Today, MCRI has been a part of our state´s Constitution for three years. Opponents are still trying to kill it in court, but their options are running out and so are their arguments. It´s been five and a half years since Manderfield´s 19-page decision.

Affirmative action defenders in Michigan are still looking for their second judicial victory.

Latest stop: U.S. Court of Appeals

Civil rights attorney George Washington spent Nov. 17 in Cincinnati in front of a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Joined by his legal partner, Shanta Driver, Washington laid out the argument that MCRI violates the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Washington argues Proposal 2 has made "second-class citizens" of blacks and Latinos. Michigan State University or Central Michigan University or any other state school of higher education can give special considerations to potential students based on their economic status, their military status or the names of their parents.

But not their race. That´s not right, Washington says.

"There are large numbers of Latinos and blacks scattered in school districts across this state and they are discriminated against just like the kids from Detroit," Washington said. "We should be honest about this. We have social problems. Our society has inequalities and we´ve had them for years. We need to deal with it."

Many legal observers believe Washington is tilting at windmills in Cincinnati. This "political process" argument didn´t work for affirmative action defenders attempting to repeal California´s Prop. 209, an initiative functionally identical to MCRI, or for anyone else.

Washington is keeping his head up. He said he believes at least two of the three judges were at least sympathetic to his arguments. It´s possible they agree that a majority of voters cannot take away rights of a minority in the United States, regardless of whether it was 58 percent of the voting population (like it was in Michigan) or not.

Look at the facts. Since this "legalized discrimination" was enacted, the University of Michigan has seen a 27 percent drop in undergraduate admissions of blacks and Latinos and nearly a 33 percent drop in law school admissions. Wayne State University has 64 percent fewer blacks and Latinos in its medical school, according to Washington.

"It´s like many years ago when James Meredith couldn´t get into the University of Mississippi because of open desegregation," Washington said. "Now it´s a more subtle version. Now, it´s accomplished through test scores, where you went to school, who your parents are. The results are the same. We just need a court order to let these programs resume."

But Washington´s legal team has bounced this type of argument off the federal courts before in separate motions and hasn´t been able to get any traction. The courts at all levels have ultimately said (in the simplest form) that MCRI guarantees legal equality regardless of gender and race. So do the state and U.S. Constitution.

If there´s a chance for the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, which includes By Any Means Necessary, the ACLU and the NAACP, it´s this three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Two of the three judges — Martha Craig Daughtrey and Guy Cole — are two Bill Clinton appointees. The third, Julie Smith Gibbons, was appointed by George W. Bush.

Clinton, however, also appointed the federal judge, David Lawson, who sided in favor of MCRI on March 18, 2008. And even if affirmative action supporters are successful, the decision can be reviewed by the full 14-member Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The panel has an 8-6 Republicanappointed majority.

Michael Rosman, the lead attorney for the Center for Individual Rights, a conservative public interest law firm in D.C., thinks its chances are "pretty slim."

The appellate court will have to rule that the Michigan Constitution and the U.S. Constitution are in conflict, and toss MCRI into the trash. If it were to do that, the court would be taking the opposite road of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld California´s Prop 209.

In that scenario, Rosman said it´s highly likely the U.S Supreme Court will want to take a look at this MCRI case, titled Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action v. The University of Michigan.

Washington likes the case´s chances at the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Anthony Kennedy, universally considered to be the court´s swing vote, does not agree that the U.S. Constitution is color blind.

"He recognizes that there are racial disparities in education and that government has a right to take that into account," Washington said.

Rosman is not of the same mind. Does he think affirmative action defenders are bringing forth a flimsy case?

"Flimsy is a strong word. I just don´t think it´s going to Rosman win," he said.

Killing MCRI an ´uphill climb´

In a brief filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals, Rosman pointed out that in denying an earlier motion in the case, this same court said affirma- Cox tive action supporters "face an uphill climb" in "contending that the Equal Protection Clause compels what it presumptively prohibits."

In other words, the 14th Amendment bans discrimination based on race and gender. MCRI reads that everybody Manderfield regardless of race, sex and ethnicity should be treated the same. Arguing that the two goals are different is difficult.

If it can be done, the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action would need to argue that MCRI is hurting, not helping, establish equal protections, Washington said Wayne State University Professor Robert Sedler.

In the last 40 years, the U.S. Supreme Court decisions has twice thrown out state laws singling out minorities as a demographic group under the cover of creating equal situations. This happened, Sedler said, in a 1969 fair housing case in Akron, Ohio, (Hunter v. Erickson) and a 1982 busing case from the state of Washington (Crawford v. Board of Education).

Sedler declined to make a prediction on what the Sixth Circuit would do, but said he could see a scenario where MCRI could fall.

Rosman disagrees. He said both cases Sedler quotes made it more difficult for minorities to obtain protection from discrimination through a political process of law making. In this case, Proposal 2 of 2006 makes it more difficult for minorities to obtain racial preferences through a political process of law making.

To prove his point, Rosman quoted Lawson´s ruling.

"Admission at elite universities is a zero-sum enterprise, and programs that prefer some students on the basis of race must do so necessarily at the expense of other applicants not of the preferred race.

"The guarantee of equal protection cannot mean one thing when applied to one individual and something when applied to a person of another color," Lawson wrote.

Cox leading the charge

Technically, the University of Michigan is the defendant in the case, but Attorney General Mike Cox is riding herd for the defense in court. As it turns out, Cox is the only one of the five Republican gubernatorial candidates to have openly supported MCRI when it was put before the voters in 2006.

Cox spokesman Nick DeLeeuw said that regardless of where the attorney general came down on Proposal 2 in 2006, there´s no political motivation here.

More than 2.1 million Michigan voters legally voted to make MCRI a piece of the state´s Constitution. Cox views it as his role to protect the Constitution.

DeLeeuw batted away any insinuation that Cox was riding herd on MCRI to bolster his conservative credentials with the conservative base in the months leading up the Republican gubernatorial primary next August.

"It´s his job as the state´s top law enforcement officer," DeLeeuw said. "The people wanted Proposal 2, and when it´s challenged, the attorney general needs to step in and defend it."

That may be true, but that doesn´t mean the rest of state government needs to follow. The Department of Civil Rights and the Governor´s Office are two that are not.

Much of the court´s focus on MCRI has been over the black or Latino student whose admission into the University of Michigan hinges on whether extra admission points are given based on race, said Dan Levy, law and policy director of the state Civil Rights Department. The focus, he said, needs to shift to making sure entire university classes are adequately represented.

Major corporations are hiring from diverse university campuses because they see a benefit from it. Likewise, if a university see a benefit in attracting more minorities into its student body, it shouldn´t be deterred from making its own decision, Levy said.

"We believe that when you´re talking about those few students on the cusp, you´re ignoring the students who are choosing a university," he said. "The majority should not be the ones telling the minorities which rights they should have, and we don´t believe ´the majority´ should be making universities´ decisions. The universities should make the determination on its own."

The Department of Civil Rights and its governing body, the state Civil Rights Commission, has been involved since California’s Connerly, former state Rep. Leon Drolet and Jennifer Gratz first started talking about bringing MCRI to Michigan in 2004. Gratz, who had been denied admission to the law school at the University of Michigan, was one of the two plaintiffs in Gratz v. Bollinger, the 2003 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court found that the school’s point system aiding minorities was unconstitutional. The body took a more active approach in late 2005 when Civil Rights commissioners began receiving complaints about how MCRI petition circulators were allegedly misleading folks in Detroit and elsewhere into signing the petition.

The commission held several public hearings on the issue in 2006. They concluded Proposal 2 supporters had fraudulently collected signatures by telling registered voters the initiative permitted affirmative action when the opposite was true.

As a result, The state Board of Canvassers tried to keep MCRI off the ballot, despite an order from the Michigan Court of Appeals, which then bypassed the board and ordered the secretary of state to put it on the ballot anyway.

Likewise, when MCRI succeeded at the ballot box, affirmative action defenders asked the courts to keep the initiative from going into effect until they had exhausted all of their legal remedies. The courts, again, shot them down.

But supporters are hoping this time will be different. They feel like this time it has to be different.

The courts, once again, will need to come to the aid of the minority populations after being dealt a tough break by the majority. At this point, they have no other choice but to hope they hit a bull´s eye with their last arrow.

"I think we´re going to win," Washington said. "I don´t have a crystal ball, but I believe we will prevail. … We can´t have universities that are a majority white. It makes no sense. It´s not fair. It´s not equality."

by Kyle Melinn
from CityPulse

Monday, November 30, 2009

Octavio Solis, "Lydia"

Fantastic play!

"In reality, Octavio Solis mines a new vein"

The family drama 'Lydia' is 'the kind of play that I said I would never write.'
Octavio Solis

Playwright Octavio Solis has become an overnight sensation, and it took only 25 years. Long respected in theater and Latino arts circles, the writer is having breakthrough success with his play "Lydia."

Set in El Paso in the 1970s, "Lydia" portrays the saga of the Flores family, whose teenage daughter, Ceci, has been disabled in a horrific accident. Into this household of troubled souls and buried secrets enters an undocumented caretaker who shares a mysterious connection with Ceci.

With recent productions at Denver Center Theatre Company, Yale Repertory Theatre and Marin Theatre Company, the drama opens Wednesday at the Mark Taper Forum, directed by Juliette Carrillo. "Lydia" has also been submitted for consideration for the Pulitzer Prize and is a finalist for the 2009 Harold and Mimi Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award.

"Lydia" is a breakthrough and a departure for Solis, known for poetic, lyrical language in plays typically not tied to any one setting. The heightened language is still present in "Lydia" but so too is realism.

"It's my first real true family play inside a house," the writer says during a recent visit from his Bay Area home. "This is one where everything is happening inside four walls and within a compressed period of time, often real time. I've written the kind of play that I said I would never write.

"This is probably my most personal work," adds the soft-spoken playwright. "I felt compelled to write about a family in the realistic language that I grew up with."

"Octavio Solis strikes a beautiful balance in writing from his head and his heart," says Bill Rauch, Oregon Shakespeare Festival artistic director, who has commissioned Solis to write an adaptation of Cervantes' "Don Quixote." "His work is smart and passionate."

That combination of the emotional and the intellectual, the intimate and the dramatic, is what some feel gives "Lydia" its power. "It's a domestic drama, but the language and the theatrical idiom are anything but domestic -- the way the combination of Spanish and English in the play is both comforting and jarring; the shifts in tone and mode are exhilarating, and the mysteries of the story stay with you long after you've read or seen it," says James Bundy, dean of the Yale School of Drama and artistic director of Yale Repertory Theatre. "It's one of the most important plays of this decade."

The writing bug

Considering the stylistic divide between Solis' earlier works and the giants of American realism, it's easy to understand why the playwright might be puzzled by some of the response to "Lydia." And yet, writing intimately about a family's domestic life as well as the darker side of the American dream, Solis does share a thematic kinship with great U.S. dramatists of generations past.

Opining about the play's Colorado premiere, Denver Post theater critic John Moore described "Lydia" as "very much the Latino cousin of 'Death of a Salesman.' " And actor David DeSantos, who has performed in Solis' "La Posada Mágica" at South Coast Repertory, seconds the analogy.

"I can only compare Octavio Solis to a modern-day Arthur Miller," says DeSantos, currently acting at OSF. "His unflinching take on the human condition, as Miller embraced, is one of Octavio's strongest assets." In "Lydia," says DeSantos, Solis "found a story so dark and tragic. It is desperate and painful but layered with so much love."

From an actor's point of view, another similarity is the psychological richness. "Octavio gives actors a road map to a truth that is terrifying and exhilarating in the same breath," DeSantos says. "In the same way that you open up Odets, Miller or Williams and find a treasure chest of layered honesty, when you open an Octavio Solis play, we actors have a raw, visceral experience."

Yet even among those who have worked with Solis for years, there is disagreement over whether "Lydia" is a new type of play for the writer. To Carrillo, who also directed the Denver and Yale outings of the play, "Lydia" is less of a departure than a continuation.

"It certainly brings in many of the themes he's been working with -- broken relationships, violence, secrets, passionate love, death," says Carrillo, who first worked with Solis in the late '90s, when she was running SCR's Hispanic Playwrights Project. "But what is profoundly special about this play is how close to the bone he is cutting. It comes from a very deep, personal well."

That personal well is, in many respects, where "Lydia" is set; Solis grew up less than a mile from the Rio Grande, near El Paso. "So the border has always been a presence in my life and my psyche," he explains. "It looms large in most of my works that I set in Texas.

"There will always be that dichotomy between the first world and the Third World, right there in our backyard. For it to be poignantly expressed as a body of water, a river, where I lived, just makes it more mysterious to me."

Solis, 50, was born in El Paso to Mexican-born parents. He attended college in San Antonio and received an MFA in acting at the Dallas Theatre Centre, when Trinity University had its graduate program off site there. Fresh out of school, he was cast in a production of Eric Overmyer's "Native Speech" in Dallas. It proved a turning point. "Instead of thinking I wanted to act in plays like this," Solis says, "I started to think I wanted to write plays like this."

Solis produced some experimental writing at a bar where he was then bartending -- when he wasn't teaching high school. That situation lasted until the late 1980s: "My wife made me quit those jobs and said, 'Look, we'll live on my income.' She's an attorney."

In 1988-89, Solis was accepted into a workshop with playwright Maria Irene Fornes as well as South Coast Repertory's Hispanic Playwrights Project, then run by playwright Jose Cruz Gonzalez.

Solis thus became part of a budding movement that would change American regional theater. The late 1980s saw the blossoming of multiculturalism: a proliferation of culturally and ethnically specific workshops, playwriting labs and other development initiatives, supported by government and private sources.

"I'm lucky in the sense that I was a product of that," Solis says. "I think the artistic directors who embraced it all believed in it, and they had tremendous funding for it. But when the money dried up, it became very hard for the theaters to continue."

A planned trilogy

Sustained by personal and institutional sources, Solis has finally made it to the A-list of regional theater. His current commissions include Denver Center Theatre, SCR, Yale Rep, OSF and California Shakespeare Festival.

"Don Quixote" will mark Solis' third play at OSF and the first since Rauch was appointed artistic director in 2006. "As a language-based theater, we embrace writers who use language in extraordinary, fresh and beautiful ways," says Rauch, formerly of L.A.'s Cornerstone Theater.

Yale Rep will get the sequel to "Lydia," Part 2 of a projected trilogy, currently titled "Yolanda." The play takes up the story of Alvaro, one of the minor characters in "Lydia," 30 years later. Says Dean Bundy: "He's a good writer for the Rep because he has a distinctive voice and an adventurous aesthetic." And the third play of the trilogy might go to Denver.

Yet Solis is not immune to the recession. His "La Posada Mágica," which has been staged as a holiday season event at SCR for the past 15 years, has been canceled for the first time.

Still, Solis' star is rising fast. "In these hard times, I have to admit I'm doing well," he says. "I've always had a backup of five commissions. And most theaters have said, 'Write what you want to write,' which gives me the artistic freedom to explore. I have to count my blessings."

By Jan Breslauer

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Suspect charged with murder in slaying of gay teen in Puerto Rico

San Juan, Puerto Rico (CNN) -- The suspect in the brutal slaying of a gay teenager in Puerto Rico was charged Wednesday with first-degree murder and four other counts, the prosecutor in the case told CNN.

Juan A. Martínez Matos was arrested late Monday in connection with the slaying of Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado, whose decapitated, dismembered and partially burned body was found Friday afternoon on a road in central Puerto Rico.

In addition to murder, Martínez Matos was charged with three weapons violations and one count of hiding evidence, prosecutor Yaritza Carrasquillo said.

Prosecutors are weighing whether to recommend that Martinez Matos be charged under federal hate crimes law, Carrasquillo said. That decision was not expected to come Wednesday.

The U.S. gay community is asking authorities to investigate whether the slaying was a hate crime, said Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

"The brutality of the slaying and the fact that he was openly gay leads us to believe it was very possibly a hate crime," Serrano said Tuesday.

Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, which means federal agencies have jurisdiction.

The U.S. Attorney's Office, in consultation with local officials and other agencies, would determine whether the slaying will be prosecuted as a hate crime.

"It's at a very preliminary stage," Lymarie Llovet, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in San Juan, Puerto Rico's capital, said Tuesday. "There's the potential for a federal investigation."

Martinez Matos, 26, was arrested late Monday at his home in the Mogote de Cayey neighborhood, said Wilson Porrata Mariani, another spokesman for the Guayama police district.

Police impounded two cars and also are investigating a home in another neighborhood, Huertas del Barrio Beatriz de Cidra.

Lopez Mercado's body was found on Puerto Rico Road 184 in another part of town, Barrio Guavate de Cayey, police said.

Authorities are investigating whether the killing involved sex, Hector Agosto Rodriguez, police commander in the town of Guayama, told CNN affiliate WLII TV.

In footage aired on Telemundo-Puerto Rico, Martinez Matos was asked by a reporter if he was gay, to which he replied no, and added, "(Lopez Mercado) tried to kill me."

According to Telemundo and other local reports, Martinez Matos confessed to authorities that he picked Lopez Mercado up from the street, thinking that he was a woman.

When he realized that Lopez Mercado was a man, Martinez Matos said he regressed to an incident when he was sexually assaulted during a prison term, Telemundo and local reports said.

That's when a conflict started between the two, authorities said, leading to the teen's death.

The slaying has reverberated through the gay and lesbian community in the United States, where supporters started a Facebook page called "Justice for Jorge Steven Lopez -- End Hate Crimes." The group demands an investigation by Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno and prosecution of the case under the federal hate crime law.

The Federal Hate Crimes Law was enacted in 1969 to guard the rights of any U.S. citizen who is targeted because of race, color, religion or national origin, or because of an attempt to engage in one of six protected activities, such as voting, going to school or attending a public venue.

President Obama signed into law last month the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which extends federal protection to illegal acts motivated by a person's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

If Martinez Matos is charged under the hate crimes provision, it is believed it would be the first such case under the latest addition to the law.

Journalist Nuria Sebazco contributed to this report.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Gay Puerto Rican Teen Decapitated, Dismembered, and Burned

From Towerload

Over the weekend the brutalized body of gay teen Jorge Steven López Mercado was found by the side of a road in Puerto Rico. The police investigator suggested that he deserved what he got because of the "type of lifestyle" he was leading.

Mercado According to an iReport by Chrisopher Pagan: "On November 14 the body of a gay 19 year old was found a few miles away from the town in which he was residing in called Caguas. He was a very well known person in the gay community of Puerto Rico, and very loved. He was found on the site of an isolated road in the city of Cayey, he was partially burned, decapitated, and dismembered, both arms, both legs, and the torso. This has caused a huge reaction from the gay community here, but its a difficult situation. Never in the history of Puerto Rico has a murder been classified as a hate crime. Even though we have to follow federal mandates and laws, many of the laws in which are passed in the USA such as Obama’s new bill, do not always directly get practiced in Puerto Rico. The police agent that is handling this case said on a public televised statement that 'people who lead this type of lifestyle need to be aware that this will happen'. As If the boy murdered Jorge Steven López was asking to get killed..."

Jorge Here's a report on the murder (in Spanish) from PrimeraHora.com. Said activist Pedro Julio Serrano: "It is inconceivable that the investigating officer suggests that the victim deserved his fate, like a woman deserves rape for wearing a short skirt. We demand condemnation of this investigator and demand that Superintendente Figueroa Sancha replace him with someone capable of investigating this case without prejudice." (my translation, please suggest a better one if you can).

Monday, November 2, 2009

Latinos and Education: Explaining the Attainment Gap

Latinos and Education: Explaining the Attainment Gap

by Mark Hugo Lopez, Associate Director, Pew Hispanic Center
Report Materials

Nearly nine-in-ten (89%) Latino young adults ages 16 to 25 say that a college education is important for success in life, yet only about half that number-48%-say that they themselves plan to get a college degree, according to a new national survey of 2,012 Latinos ages 16 and older by the Pew Hispanic Center conducted from Aug. 5 to Sept. 16, 2009.

The biggest reason for the gap between the high value Latinos place on education and their more modest aspirations to finish college appears to come from financial pressure to support a family, the survey finds.

Nearly three-quarters (74%) of all 16- to 25-year-old survey respondents who cut their education short during or right after high school say they did so because they had to support their family. Other reasons include poor English skills (cited by about half of respondents who cut short their education), a dislike of school and a feeling that they don't need more education for the careers they want (each cited by about four-in-ten respondents who cut their education short).

Latino schooling in the U.S. has long been characterized by high dropout rates and low college completion rates. Both problems have moderated over time, but a persistent educational attainment gap remains between Hispanics and whites.

When asked why Latinos on average do not do as well as other students in school, more respondents in the Pew Hispanic Center survey blame poor parenting and poor English skills than blame poor teachers. The explanation that Latino students don't work as hard as other students is cited by the fewest survey respondents; fewer than four-in-ten (38%) see that as a major reason for the achievement gap.

This report was prepared for the Latino Children, Families, and Schooling National Conference sponsored jointly by the Education Writers Association, the Pew Hispanic Center and the National Panel on Latino Children and Schooling. The conference was held on Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2009 at the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington, D.C.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

New Jersey State Police Seem to be Contradicting CNN Host Lou Dobbs' Account of a Gunfire Incident, ¡Qué lástima!

New Jersey state police seem to be contradicting CNN Host Lou Dobbs' account of a gunfire incident near his Sussex County, New Jersey, house.

On Monday on his radio show, Dobbs stated that "my wife has now been and I have been shot at." The alleged incident, which Dobbs had reported to the New Jersey State Police, took place three weeks prior to the October 26 broadcast of the Lou Dobbs Show, and Dobbs told his listeners that it had "followed weeks and weeks of threatening phone calls." Dobbs' discussion of the incident during his radio show also included mention of both longtime critic and FOX host Geraldo Rivera and the immigrant advocacy organizations calling for his removal from CNN including the National Council of La Raza, America's Voice and other "ethnocentric interest groups."

Without specifying who he suspects of making the alleged threats, he also said on his radio show that "They've threatened my wife, they've now fired a shot at my house while my wife was standing next to the car." Concluding with a call for "truth, justice and the American way," Dobbs cautioned "if anybody thinks that we're not engaged in the battle for the soul of this country right now, you're sorely mistaken." And during an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Thursday, Dobbs spoke again about the gunfire incident, linking it to "threatening phone calls tied to the positions I've taken on illegal immigration."

Interviews with the New Jersey State Police yielded a rather different assessment of the events described by Dobbs. In a phone interview conducted yesterday, Sgt. Stephen Jones, a NJ State Police spokesperson, chuckled out loud after he heard about Dobbs' account of the gunfire incident. Jones commented that he "wouldn't classify it [the gunfire incident] as very unusual." He also confirmed that there are hunters in the area, and stated that, "at this time of year hunter [shooting] complaints go up."

He observed that in the ongoing police investigation sparked by Dobbs' complaint, "nothing has been determined [regarding] what the intended target for this bullet was." Nor did Jones confirm whether the shots near Dobbs' house appeared to be an accident or intentional.

Another New Jersey State Police spokesperson, Sgt. Julian Castellanos, noted that "it's a wide open area and there are hunters in the area." Castellanos explained that the bullet had hit the house in vicinity of the attic; it "hit the vinyl siding and fell to the ground" without penetrating the vinyl, he said.

While Lou Dobbs' wife, Debi Lee Segura, was standing outside the house at the time of the gunfire, the bullet did not come close to her; it "struck at the apex of the house, near the roof," and thus considerably higher than a standing person, Jones observed.

Jones says he had not seen any mention of death threats in the reports about this incident. As Dobbs stated on his October 26 radio show, the CNN host had "decided not to report" "threatening phone calls" he says he has received.

The New Jersey police made no mention of the immigration reform groups Dobbs discussed in connection with the incident.

When asked to comment for this story, Dobbs disputed the New Jersey State Police's account, saying in an email that "there was no hunting season underway three weeks ago." However, an official at the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife Bureau of Law Enforcement confirmed in a phone interview that state hunting seasons were underway at the time of the gunfire incident three weeks ago.

Asked what he thought of Dobbs' version of the gunfire incident, Sgt. Jones stated, "I'm really going to leave Lou Dobbs' assessment to himself."

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bullet hits Lou Dobbs' NJ Home with Wife Nearby

Police in New Jersey are trying to determine who fired a bullet that struck CNN commentator Lou Dobbs' home as his wife stood nearby. State police Sgt. Stephen Jones says Dobbs' wife and driver were outside the home Oct. 5 when they heard the gunshot. Jones says the bullet didn't penetrate the siding and fell to the ground outside.

Dobbs mentioned the bullet earlier this week on CNN and his radio show.

Dobbs says he had been receiving threatening phone calls for weeks. On his radio show, he connected the gunshot to his advocacy for a crackdown on illegal immigration and to his opponents' rhetoric.

The home is on a farm in Wantage, about 50 miles northwest of New York City.

It is small-game hunting season, but no hunters were seen in the area.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Judging Judge Keith Bardwell

The face of Justice?

“I’m not a racist….They come to my house….they use my bathroom…”

By AFRO Staff

(October 18, 2009) - A Louisiana couple is outraged at a local official’s decision to deny them a marriage license because their relationship is interracial.

Hammond, La. residents Beth Humphrey, a White woman, and her fiancé Terence McKay, a Black man, were denied a marriage license by local justice of the peace Keith Bardwell in early October. Bardwell said his decision was based on concern for the welfare of children the couple may have.

After learning of Bardwell’s decision, Humphrey contacted local and national media.

“We are used to the closet racism, but we're not going to tolerate that overt racism from an elected official,” she told CNN.

Bardwell is a justice of peace for Tangipahoa Parish’s 8th Ward and has served in the position for 34 years. His is scheduled to hold the office until 2014.

“There is a problem with both groups accepting a child from such a marriage,” Bardwell said. “I think those children suffer, and I won’t help put them through it.”

“I’m not a racist. I just don’t believe in mixing the races that way,” Bardwell told AP. “I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else.”

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said Bardwell’s practices and comments were deeply disturbing.

“Not only does his decision directly contradict Supreme Court rulings, it is an example of the ugly bigotry that divided our country for too long,” Landrieu said.

According to The New York Times, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has joined civil rights groups and others in calling for Bardwell’s resignation.

Tangipahoa Parish President Gordon Burgess said in a statement that Bardwell’s views were not consistent with his or those of the local government. But as an elected official, Bardwell was not under the supervision of the parish government, The Associated Press reported.

“However, I am certainly very disappointed that anyone representing the people of Tangipahoa Parish, particularly an elected official, would take such a divisive stand,” Burgess said in an e-mail. “I would hope that Mr. Bardwell would consider offering his resignation if he is unable to serve all of the people of his district and our parish.”

Although the couple is distraught by Bardwell’s decision, they said they realize that his views are not shared by most of the community.

“He’s not representing all the people that he is supposed to be representing,” Humphrey told CNN. “He’s only representing the people with his same opinions.”

Humphrey and McKay were later married by another justice of the peace in the same parish. Humphrey said she believes the incident occurred for a reason.

“I just think that God puts you in the right positions at the right time in order to stand up to people who choose to live their lives with hate,” she said.

According to CNN, Bardwell told a local Louisiana newspaper that in his experience, most interracial marriages don’t last. He said he always asks if a couple is interracial and, if they are, refers them to another justice of the peace. Bardwell said no one had complained in the past.

The number of interracial marriages has skyrocketed nationwide, nearly quadrupling between 1970 and 2005, the most recent year for which there is U.S. Census data. As of 2005, nearly 8.5 million Americans are living in “mixed marriages,” according to CNN.

According to the AP, a spokeswoman for the Louisiana Judiciary Commission said investigations of the incident are confidential for now. However, if the commission recommends action to the Louisiana Supreme Court, that information would become public.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Friday, October 9, 2009

Latino Demographics

Pew Reports
Latinos Account for Half of U.S. Population Growth Since 2000

Since 2000 Hispanics have accounted for more than half (50.5%) of the overall population growth in the United States -- a significant new demographic milestone for the nation's largest minority group. During the 1990s, the Hispanic population also expanded rapidly, but in that decade its growth accounted for less than 40% of the nation's total population increase. In a reversal of past trends, Latino population growth in the new century has been more a product of the natural increase (births minus deaths) of the existing population than it has been of new international migration. As of mid-2007, Hispanics accounted for 15.1% of the total U.S. population.

Since 2000 many Latinos have settled in counties that once had few Latinos, continuing a pattern that began in the previous decade. But there are subtle differences in Hispanic settlement patterns in the current decade compared with those of the 1990s. The dispersion of Latinos in the new century has tilted more to counties in the West and the Northeast. Despite the new tilt, however, the South accounted for a greater share of overall Latino population growth than any other region in the new century. There is also an ever-growing concentration of Hispanic population growth in metropolitan areas. These findings emerge from the Pew Hispanic Center's analysis of the Census Bureau's 2007 county population estimates, supplemented by 1990 and 2000 county population counts from the Decennial Censuses.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Jeff Sessions Attacks Sonia Sotomayor

Lázaro Lima

Alabama senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) has a long history of racist rants, and "hate speech." So much so that his nomination to the federal bench was rejected by the Senate in 1986 because of his record of outright bigotry that included: bringing racially-motivated prosecutions, belittling African-American attorneys, and describing the NAACP as an “un-American” and “Communist-inspired” organization that “forced civil rights down the throats of people.” Sessions hasn’t changed one bit. More recently, he has begun attacking Sonia Sotomayor by discrediting her work with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (now, Latino Justice PRLDEF) and referring to the organization in terms previously reserved for the NAACP. So much for the GOP's scramble to win thew Latino vote in 2010 and 2012.

The Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA) responded to Session's attack this week with an attack of their own. HNBA wrote, "Attacks on Latino advocacy and civil rights organizations are not new – we have seen figures in the media mischaracterize and slander our good works, using provocative terms that fan the flames of ethnic animosity. We expect and are entitled to better from a sitting member of the United States Senate."

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Latina Body, or Losing Sonia Sotomayor

Lázaro Lima

Writing in the New York Times Frank Rich observed not too long that “Gay people… aren't the surefire scapegoats they once were. Hence the rise of a jucier target: Hispanics. They are the new gays, the foremost political piñata.” Rich’s observation took on literalist meaning this week when Creators Syndicate's Chip Bok depicted Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor hanging from a rope and strung up like a piñata along with a Mariachi sombrero-wearing President Obama handing out bats to Republican Congressmen.

Recall, for example, how the “lynching” that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said he indignantly “suffered” when Anita Hill accused him of sexual harassment during his confirmation hearings years ago drew ire for obvious though ironic reasons. After all, the conservative Thomas, who wouldn’t have been able to marry his Anglo American wife in the state of Virginia, where he lived, until Loving vs. Virginia (1968) made it legal for Blacks to marry whites, used the proverbial race card when all through his career he had eschewed the “racisim” inherent to affirmative action policies that, for him, discriminated against whites. So suddenly, from his race-free worldview, he was being lynched by, not inconsequentially, a black woman.

Fast-forward to our present and now Sotomayor, of Puerto Rican descent, and hanging, ahem, presumably from a tree, is a stand-in for all Latinos in the U.S. as the upcoming cover of Time Magazine suggests. Puerto Ricans, who are U.S. citizens by birth, are somehow like Mariachi sombrero-wearing and presumably piñata loving Mexicans in the public imagination though the they are routinely discriminated against with a fervor and hate that makes politicians spend billions on paper-walls to keep “them” out though they’ve been “in” the U.S. for longer than current political and historical memory can account for. Political piñatas indeed. And thus the problem with representative personhood for "Latinos" as it is understood in the public imagination.

Political enfranchisement through appeals to pan-Latinidad leaves an empty space where our old political selves use to be. And, what’s more, it leaves too many Latino stripes missing in action. Central Americans, Brazilians, all sorts of homies form the Global South in the U.S. run the risk of being read the same way in the public sphere; not to mention the history that is evacuated every time "Latinos" are seen merely as a recent intrusion onto the national fold, or presumed to have the same educational opportunities the nominee herself had. “See,” the media implores, "if she can do it, so can you.” A reverse salvo of the “¡Sí se puede!” that so many of us have been fighting for so long runs the risk of leaving us unable to make clear why an appeal for political enfranchisement under the rubric of a collective identity (“Latinos” writ large) binds us to a history of representative personhood incapable of addressing how our differences, and contributions, need to be made intelligible in the public sphere. The prospect of having to do so on the horizon might require our losing Sonia Sotomayor. Not the person, of course, or the judiciary record she brings that must be as scrutinized as that of any other nominee (especially as it relates to abortion freedoms for all women), but the belief in the benevolence of the state to embrace us as the "Latinos" the state thinks we are.

Refusing such a gesture, the belief that we’re in an inclusive U.S., on a level playing field and alike in some fundamental way—like the belief in benevolence of the state—allows us to awaken from the elusive embrace of a national fantasy incapable of reciprocating our possibilities for self-making and the deep historical accounting required in order to make it so. Such are the limits and responsibilities of becoming political subjects, forsaking representative personhood, in order to awaken from the elusive, albeit seductive, dream of inclusion.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Sleep Dealer and the Promise of Latino Futurity

Lázaro Lima

Sleep Dealer is set on the U.S.-Mexico border where high-tech factories allow the protagonist, Memo, and other migrant workers, to plug their bodies into a network to provide virtual labor for the North. Sleep Dealer constitutes one of the first instances of “Latino Sci-Fi” film and genre making and this is significant. Why? Because there is no tradition of science fiction writing to speak of in Latino literary and cultural studies. There are no Octavia Butlers or Samuel Delanys, as in the African American tradition, no Laurence Yeps or S. P. Somtows, as in the Asian American tradition, to engage in a sustained critique of the ideology of genre as it pertains to a future subject position yet to be imagined; an ideation of Latino futurity that has not yet achieved an ideology of form in the present. What are we to discern from the absence of science fiction writing in Latino literary and cultural studies? What are we to make of this and how should we read this absence?

As I’ve noted in The Latino Body and elsewhere, from “the American 1848” to the present, Latino literary and cultural interventions have been surprisingly consistent in making their relationship to the state historical. From one the earliest “Mexican American” novelist like Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton writing in the XIX century to the extreme contemporary of Latino memoir, literary production has sought to create a logic of presence in the past, anticipating one of the fundamental conundrums raised by Fred Jameson’s recent work; namely, how to own the "inevitable failures" of the past without making defeatism the foregone conclusion of their inheritance. Understood from the confines of a "Latinocentric" perspective, Jameson’s observation might be rendered in the form of a question: By haunting the cultural sphere of the past, do we depoliticize the possibility for a viable Latino future? Or, even better, Why have we allowed the very futures of Latinidad to be colonized through an insistence on the narrative renderings of our stories, our lives, our Latinidades, in the preterite and imperfect tense of the historical imagination? Exile, diaspora, loss, memory, trauma, history, U.S. military campaigns in our countries, language barriers and borders, all emblematic of the Latino experience in the U.S. and carved into niche marketing strategies for publishers, only tell, retell, and package part of historical desire. What those stories can’t imagine is the possibility of making our relationship to the state anything other than historical. In the process, I believe we run the risk as cultural agents in the academy of allowing majortitarian political actors to colonize the very futures of Latinidad.

One of the fundamental questions of Latino studies, then, should be: How do we decolonize the future? If following Jameson, “History is what hurts,” then how might, say, Latinos in space redress that hurt by imbricating our “ethno-racial” particularisms in a future imagined from our present as owners of that future before it is wrested from us like our seemingly unwritten past? I believe that such a decolonizing move, both in the theoretical gesture of investigating why this is so as well as the creation of futurity projects, might have us instantiate the emancipatory potential of a Latino studies project for our moment. A paradigm shift within our inherited race and ethnic studies models would require a recognition that what is at stake is not the location of the known but, rather, how the location of the knower dictates what counts as a legitimate object of study. Ethnic studies, after all, exists because other disciplinary formations aren’t doing their job. Yet the move requires that our students learn to ask more than how they can identify as social and political beings in a racist culture, but how the unequal distribution of social and material resources is in part managed through understanding the ethnic subject as a fractured subject who must answer the inevitable “Who am I?” before being allowed — if at all — to state the declarative “I will be.” And we, all of us in the academy, are imbricated in this impasse. Being able to move away from just such navel gazing makes it more difficult to substitute culture for the state, thereby preventing us from confusing culture with the politics of the state. As when Memo's father in the movie asks, "Is our future a thing of the past?," Sleep Dealer, along with the histories it haunts, admonishes us not to sleepwalk through history lest we be tempted to dream somebody else's dream.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Latino Body Politic: Latinos Account for Half of U.S. Population Growth Since 2000

Pew Reports
Latinos Account for Half of U.S. Population Growth Since 2000

Since 2000 Hispanics have accounted for more than half (50.5%) of the overall population growth in the United States -- a significant new demographic milestone for the nation's largest minority group. During the 1990s, the Hispanic population also expanded rapidly, but in that decade its growth accounted for less than 40% of the nation's total population increase. In a reversal of past trends, Latino population growth in the new century has been more a product of the natural increase (births minus deaths) of the existing population than it has been of new international migration. As of mid-2007, Hispanics accounted for 15.1% of the total U.S. population.

Since 2000 many Latinos have settled in counties that once had few Latinos, continuing a pattern that began in the previous decade. But there are subtle differences in Hispanic settlement patterns in the current decade compared with those of the 1990s. The dispersion of Latinos in the new century has tilted more to counties in the West and the Northeast. Despite the new tilt, however, the South accounted for a greater share of overall Latino population growth than any other region in the new century. There is also an ever-growing concentration of Hispanic population growth in metropolitan areas. These findings emerge from the Pew Hispanic Center's analysis of the Census Bureau's 2007 county population estimates, supplemented by 1990 and 2000 county population counts from the Decennial Censuses.