Tue 4 May, 2010
Tags: Civil War sesquicentennial, Education, Historical amnesia, Immigration, Poverty, Voting Rights Act
“Quick Takes” features brief summaries of recent news, opinion, and research related to race, privilege, and inequality, with a special focus on the history and legacy of slavery and race, which are at the heart of The Living Consequences.
Today’s “Quick Takes” includes items on remembering the Civil War, immigration laws in Arizona and New York, voting by felons, single black women, college debt and U.S. poverty.
Readers are encouraged to share these stories and to comment at the end of the post.
Virginia seeks balance in commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. It has been nearly 150 years since the outbreak of the War Between the States, and Virginia has become the first state to attract widespread attention for its struggle over how to properly commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. Last month, of course, Governor McDonnell was forced to apologize after proclaiming Confederate History Month without mentioning slavery. Yet Virginia has been working to expand its commemoration beyond battlefields and the Confederacy. This effort is symbolized by a scholarly conference on “Race, Slavery and the Civil War: The Tough Stuff of American History and Memory,” chaired by historian James O. Horton and featuring such luminaries as David Blight and Ira Berlin. Hopefully Virginia’s commemoration will subvert popular myths about the Civil War, including the role of slavery and the relationship of the North to slavery.
Public support for Arizona’s immigration law. According to a New York Times/CBS News poll released this morning, a majority of Americans—60 percent—favor Arizona’s controversial new immigration law. Fifty-one percent of respondents said the law was “about right” in its response to immigration concerns, while 36 percent thought it went too far and 9 percent wanted the law to go further. A majority believed the law will cause state authorities to engage in racial profiling, but also that it would reduce the number of illegal immigrants in Arizona. As with previous polls, large numbers of respondents affirmed myths about illegal immigrants and taxes, public services, and the economy.
A gentler approach to immigration in New York. In response to Arizona’s new immigration law, New York Governor David Paterson has announced that he has begun to pardon immigrants for crimes which would cause them to be deported under federal immigration laws. Declaring that federal immigration law is too harsh and rigid regarding criminal convictions, the governor will establish a panel to identify immigrants facing deportation whose crimes are not “egregious” and who can demonstrate that they have been rehabilitated and do not pose a danger to the public. H/t: Prometheus 6.
Should convicted felons be allowed to vote? The U.S. Supreme Court is proceeding with a challenge to a Massachusetts law prohibiting voting by citizens imprisoned for felonies. Simmons, et al. v. Galvin, raises the question of whether the loss of voting privileges violates Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, because racial bias in the criminal justice system results in the disproportionate imprisonment of racial minorities. The Court has asked the solicitor general to offer her opinion, after which the justices will decide whether to hear the case in the fall.
Why can’t we admire single black women? The plight of single black women in the U.S. has been a media obsession lately, most recently featured in a Nightline town hall discussion, “Why Can’t a Successful Black Woman Find a Man?” Here’s the response of Jeff Bolton, host of “The Jeff Bolton Show” on KLIF 570 in Dallas, to the tireless effort to report on unmarried black women, increasingly finding educational and career success, solely in terms of whether there are similar numbers of comparably accomplished black men:
Admire these women and leave them alone. There’s nothing wrong with them. They shouldn’t be forced into a box made by society’s expectations for them. Why is the sad, tired story of the failure of black men in society placed ahead of that of the success of black women in this pop culture reporting?
Black students face higher levels of debt. Black students accumulate significantly more student loan debt in college than those of other races, according to a report from the College Board Advocacy & Policy Center. Among those graduating in 2007-2008, 27% of black students had at least $30,500 in debt (the 75th percentile), compared with 16% of whites, 14% of Hispanics, and just 9% of Asians. These differences are only partly explained by the differences in average family income in each racial or ethnic group, suggesting that there are a variety of ways, some of them relatively subtle, in which our nation’s legacy of race impacts lives and opportunities today. H/t: BLACK SPiN.
Poverty in the U.S. is more common than reported. The definition of poverty in the U.S. is badly skewed and needs to be reworked, according to a report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research. The report notes that poverty continues to be defined in terms of very low income, adjusted periodically for inflation, while public attitudes about living standards, and what is necessary to “get by,” have changed considerably. The result is that official statistics report far less poverty in the U.S. than would be found using the standard for poverty as understood by the average American.