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Racial Segregation: Righting the Wrong and Making Restitution

At a time in history when crime continues to decline, same-sex marriage is legal, and innovation is powering advances in technology and bioengineering – one issue fails to progress: racial justice.

The unemployment rate for African-Americans continues to be more than twice that of whites. Public schools are more segregated now than they were in the 1950s and young black males are 21 times more likely to be shot and killed by the police than their white equivalents.

Widespread media coverage and outcry at the murders inside the African-American church in Charleston, and protests sparked by the killings of Freddie Gray and Michael Brown, transform the statistics into real faces.

Yet outside the political sphere, there is a continued lack of recognition and acknowledgement in the U.S. that institutionalized racism and white privilege are pervasive.

Derald Wing Sue – professor of psychology and education at Columbia University, internationally acknowledged expert on multiculturalism and diversity, and author of Race Talk and the Conspiracy of Silence – said he asks his students:

“How many of you socialize with people who are racially, culturally different than yourself? How many of you go into communities of color to celebrate the community events, to attend Asian Baptist churches, the black churches, how many of you do that? How many of you live in an integrated neighborhood?”

The reality here is that residential racial segregation is condoning a system of institutionalized racism where specific demographics are bearing the inevitable, negative consequences of policies set by those in power. Ultimately, race – a social construct – becomes a crucial factor in the outcome of violence whether that violence be physical, economic, political, or legal.

In the Architecture of Segregation Paul Jargowsky describes the rapid re-concentration of poverty since 2000. The concentrated poverty is racial in nature and the result of measured policy choice. Exclusionary zoning has developed with the movement and investment toward suburban neighborhoods. The wealthier suburbs reject affordable housing, keeping poor and low-income individuals in the city or fading suburbs.

Ruth Peterson, retired professor of Sociology at Ohio State University and former director of the Criminal Justice Research Center, and Lauren Krivo, professor of Sociology and affiliated professor in Criminal Justice at Rutgers University, introduce the concept of racial-spatial divide in their work Divergent Social Worlds: Neighborhood Crime and the Racial-Spatial Divide. In an extensive study accumulating crime and related data for 9,593 neighborhoods in 91 cities in the year 2000, the authors verify a connection between race, place, and crime, and prove that residential segregation is the principle reason why social worlds of people are so opposing. In short, the disadvantaged are isolated from the advantaged, and it runs across racial lines.

What the Architecture of Segregation Report and racial-spatial divide illustrate are two neighborhood studies showcasing structural housing policies – which stem from racial segregation – making particular groups more susceptible to cases of violence. Exclusionary zoning and private discrimination create the concentration of urban poverty, which inevitably means education disadvantages, labor disadvantages, increased welfare dependency, social disorder, and a loss of commercial business.

And it is an argument made again and again as young men like Michael Brown are killed on the streets, igniting a demand for change, but progress is still invisible and emotions raw a year later.

In a powerful reflection on race, John Metta, an African American who spoke to an all white audience at the Bethel Congregational United Church of Christ in White Salmon, Wash. said: “… People are dying not because individuals are racist, but because individuals are helping support a racist system by wanting to protect their own non-racist self beliefs.”

In the realm of racial justice, personal choice significantly reflects public policy and vice versa. Evident, are not only structural housing policies gone wrong, but also an inability to call them out.

If we commit an active effort in putting ourselves in unfamiliar situations, events, and discussions where authentic relationships and conversations can be cultivated, we can convert an increased understanding of institutionalized racism into righting the wrong and making restitution. We like to consider ourselves nondiscriminatory, multicultural, bias-free, and nonracist – yet this has yet to be transcended to a point where we are open to living side by side with each other.

It is time to demand that our political dogmas reflect the inclusive, nondiscriminatory attributes we claim to have. But first, we must represent those qualities outright.

Andrea Rocha is senior at the University of Washington and an intern at the Alliance for a Just Society. 

Online Community College for Organizations Helps Connect Leaders

“Education (should be) the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.” – Paulo Freire

“Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.” ― Malcolm X

The Alliance for a Just Society kicked off our new political education program – the Online Community College for Community Organizations – with a training course for the facilitators who will be central to the successful implementation of the program.

Ten staff and leaders from five states (Maine, Montana, Oregon, Virginia and Washington) participated in the two-day session. They were introduced to, and then helped shape, the political education curricula. They became familiar with the technology the program will be run through, and discussed the specifics of how the program will be implemented in their states. It was a busy two days!

Trainers at tableThe addition of an online component to the Alliance’s existing training program is exciting. The Online Community College for Community Organization will give us the ability to connect leaders across the country. We will be able to engage them in critical thinking and dialogue in order to develop their analytical skills and illuminate our values and worldview. Our curricula were developed to provoke discussion by showing videos, suggesting readings, and referencing pop culture such as art and music.

Community colleges were developed to make continuing education accessible, affordable and flexible for people in local communities. They have given ‘non-traditional’ students access to higher education, breaking down elite barriers to lifelong learning. That’s the idea behind our Online Community College, to provide a space for engagement with political ideas, especially when that engagement is tied to action. Our audience will include leaders at all levels of experience, online activists and other members drawn to the course content.

The program will go live with grassroots leaders on May 29. Some 75 leaders are expected to experiment in the first round of the pilot. The first session is devoted to economic inequality. Later trainings will focus on citizenship and another on the role of government.

All of the curricula are designed to give participants a framework for analyzing multiple issues, to understand the forces and systems that drive the problems we seek to address, to grapple with the contradictions we face in organizing, and to practice developing political vision and creativity around solutions.

We are thrilled to get this program rolling and to have a strong team of organizers and leaders across the country dedicated to making it a success!

 

 

MARCHING ONWARD!

Sing a song, full of the faith that the dark past has taught us
Sing a song, full of the hope that the present has brought us
Facing the rising sum of our new day begun
Let us march on till victory is won

Excerpts of The Negro National Anthem

—by James Weldon Johnson

“Lift every voice and sing till Earth and heaven ring, ring with the harmony of liberty…”

 

Whites and Blacks, young and old, rich and poor took to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial roaring demands to address the devastating plight of African Americans facing discrimination and income inequality.  The marchers understood that the crisis faced by black men, women, and children were actually an American crisis wedded together and born out of the twin evils of racism and economic deprivation.  Such evils robbed all people, both Blacks and Whites, of dignity, self-respect, and freedom.  Together, they sang in harmony to redress old grievances affecting Black life.

Their marching orders were clear: they demanded an end to discrimination.  Read more

“No One Should Live in Fear…” Courts Rule on NYPD “Stop and Frisk”

A simple premise behind every law that gets created: No one should live in fear. The laws we create should support that basic assumption by reducing crime. But when laws have no bearing on crime rates, yet become the very source of fear that people live with, we have crossed the Constitutional boundary, and law enforcement itself becomes the source of fear.Stop Frisk BT

New York City’s Stop and Frisk law is one of the in-depth discussions the Alliance will lead this October at our 5th Institute for Pragmatic Practice symposium. Students, activists, organizers, policymakers and scholars will address the increase in racially charged, discriminatory and dehumanizing practices by law enforcement; actions reinforced by new ever-more draconian laws; and the increased boot print of prisons and detention centers on the everyday lives of Americans. Read more

The Immigrant & Latino Vote Matters in Idaho

Latinos are growing fast in both numbers and voting strength in Idaho. With over 11 % of the state’s population concentrated in specific counties, Latinos are the swing voters for some state races and the 1st congressional district.

This power will only grow with time as age eligibility and naturalization rates increase for Latinos in Idaho. Read more

Alliance Hosts Institute for Pragmatic Practice Symposium

Rural Organizing Project Cara Shufelt (2nd right) joined AJS Executive Director LeeAnn Hall (3rd right) and Gary Delgado (right) in honoring  Marcy Westerling (left)  founding Director of the Rural Organizing Project.

The Alliance for a Just Society hosted our third Institute for Pragmatic Practice symposium on March 28-30. The Institute for Pragmatic Practice (IPP) is a project of theAlliancethat brings together organizers, academics, leaders and visionaries to explore theories and innovative strategies to address public policy.

Read more

Thousands of New Yorkers Take Over Wall Street

On Thursday, May 12, 20,000 community members from New York City and beyond descended on Wall Street. Mayor Michael Bloomberg had just released his budget which cuts 6,000 teaching jobs and slashes vital social services the city relies on while keeping in tact tax breaks for his billionaire friends and the corporations that house them. This scenario is becoming all too familiar on the local, state and national level—and working people have had enough. That day on Wall Street, an unprecedented number of organizations (including Alliance members who traveled from Washington and Idaho) came together  in belly of the beast to send a message to corporate America.

Read more

Project Vote Smart

Role in the Landscape

This is part twelve in a series of posts that will explore some of the leading organizations from around the country that are engaged in unearthing and combating the influence of money in the political process.

Project Vote Smart (PVS) is a transparency/data organization with a vast collection of data on candidates and incumbents. Their website, http://votesmart.org/, allows users to search at the presidential, congressional, gubernatorial and state legislative levels. Read more

Montanans Stop Drastic State Budget Cuts

Last week, on April 28, the 62nd Montana Legislative Session came to a close. The session was a contentious one, featuring some of the worst budget cut proposals in state history. Faced with devastating cuts to health and human services, education, and public employee jobs and salaries, members of the Montana Organizing Project responded by rallying, telling their stories, making phone calls and writing letters to their legislators throughout the session. MOP and its partners tirelessly made the case that Montanans deserve better. And, when the session was over, $150 million in crucial funding — three-quarters of the budgets cuts — was restored. Read more