“Quick Takes” offers a mix of news, opinion, and research related to race, privilege, and inequality.

Today’s “Quick Takes” includes the costs of immigration measures, the evolving nature of marriage, black farmers poised to receive long-overdue justice, and Sarah Palin on racism and racial justice.

Readers are encouraged to share these stories and to offer their thoughts at the end of the post.

Sarah Palin on racism and President Obama. In her new book, America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin comes out strongly against charges that the Tea Party movement and other conservative groups are racist. She argues that the Tea Party only appears racist to those who mistakenly believe that the United States is still “a fundamentally unjust and unequal country.” As holders of this view, she singles out President Obama, Michelle Obama, and Attorney General Eric Holder (because he called us “a nation of cowards” for failing to discuss race honestly). Palin does not acknowledge the fact that the U.S. does remain in some ways “unjust and unequal” in terms of race, if arguably not “fundamentally” so, or explain what that fact says about how to evaluate the attitudes of the Tea Party and the First Family.

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U.N. World Conference Against RacismIn an important development in the controversy over next month’s U.N. conference on racism, negotiators have removed several controversial passages, including references to Israel, religious defamation, and reparations for slavery, from the draft conference text.

This change follows a threat by the European Union to boycott the Durban Review Conference (also known as Durban II), and it may permit the United States to participate in the conference in Geneva in April. The U.S. and other nations had earlier threatened to boycott the conference if there were not changes to these passages in the document, while Canada and Israel had already announced that they were not attending because of the specific references to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The draft text, which still must be reviewed by regional groups, is not yet public. So it is not clear, for instance, whether the shortened text drops all references to reparations for slavery, or whether it merely reverts to the milder language adopted at Durban in 2001. That language, which the U.S. said weeks ago that it was willing to accept, acknowledged the history of slavery, particularly the transatlantic slave trade, and suggested that reparations for slavery are appropriate, while stopping short of actually calling on nations to offer reparations.

U.N. World Conference Against Racism

On Friday, the State Department announced that the U.S. does not intend to participate in the U.N. conference on racism in April unless there are significant changes to the working draft of the conference document, including toning down references to reparations for slavery.

This development appears to be the inevitable result of the Obama administration’s original position on the conference, coupled with the inability of the U.S. delegation to secure changes to the draft last week in Geneva.

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U.N. World Conference Against RacismPresident Barack Obama has taken a key step to reverse the Bush administration’s long-standing boycott of the United Nations Conference Against Racism.

This move is an early result of the Obama administration’s determination to engage more fully with the U.N. and other multilateral organizations. It is also a sign that the new U.S. administration has changed, but not entirely different, attitudes on such issues as human rights, Israel, and the Muslim world.

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PETA members as the KKKThe latest animal-rights campaign by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) involves PETA members dressed as the Ku Klux Klan to dramatize the abuse of animals through breeding for profit.

PETA was demonstrating outside the Westminster Kennel Club’s dog show in Madison Square Garden, in a protest against the American Kennel Club (AKC), which PETA accuses of promoting the pure-breeding of dogs to the detriment of their health.

PETA has a long history of sensational and controversial publicity campaigns to draw attention to the plight of animals, which frequently bring charges of sexism, racism, or poor taste. In a 2005 campaign, for instance, PETA contrasted images of lynched black men with pictures of dead cows and asked, “Are Animals the New Slaves?”

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John Lewis and Elwin WilsonWhen I speak with audiences about the legacy of slavery in the U.S., one question that often comes up is how states can justify issuing apologies for slavery and racial discrimination when no one involved in those historic events is alive today.

I often answer that an apology may make sense if an institution, such as a state or its legislature, wants to apologize in its own name, rather than that of the people, for its complicity in slavery or in the century of brutal and legal discrimination which followed.

Another response, however, is that many people involved in those horrific times are still alive today, and are capable of apologizing (and seeking forgiveness) in their own right.

On Tuesday, Elwin Wilson apologized on national television to congressman and civil rights legend John Lewis (D-Ga.) for attacking Lewis, then a freedom rider for Martin Luther King, in the whites-only waiting room of a South Carolina bus station during the civil rights movement.

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Conservative commentator Armstrong Williams has a perplexing column in tomorrow’s Washington Times in which he claims that with the election of Barack Obama, “all the ‘-isms’ that were born from racism, reparations, and white guilt are now dead and buried.”

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As we continue to screen Traces of the Trade in more venues, and prepare to take the film nationwide in the coming year, we’re going to be holding a weekend retreat in December with staff from Crossroads.

Crossroads conducts training sessions to assist institutions in analyzing and addressing systemic racism in institutional contexts. They are going to be conducting a version of their 2-1/2 day training workshop for Traces participants and staff. The particular goal of the training, in our case, is to aid our ability to have conversations about race with those who may have different perspectives, including each other and those who view the film.

I’m particularly interested in Crossroad’s focus on historical racism and on institutional analysis and change.