Is Beyonce a Good Role Model?

In an interview with People magazine to promote her new gardening book, when asked if she could be anyone in the world, the first lady replied "Beyonce."

While I thought it was a slightly odd response, (after all, I couldn't picture Hillary Clinton saying, "Lady Gaga" or "Madonna") I assumed that maybe I was simply being too square. I then shared the article featuring her response with a family member and African-American friend, both of whom are fans of the first lady, and another friend who is not African-American but is a die-hard Beyonce fan. Without sharing my own thoughts first, I asked for theirs. They all reacted with varying degrees of horror.

They were not alone. A quick look at the comments on predominantly African-American news sites, where commenters tend to be fans of the first lady, Beyonce, or both, made it clear that many found the first lady's response troubling, and some found it downright embarrassing. [Read more]


The New Jim Crow in Louisiana

“Louisiana is the world’s prison capital. The state imprisons more of its people, per head, than any of its U.S. counterparts. First among Americans means first in the world. Louisiana’s incarceration rate is nearly triple Iran’s, seven times China’s and 10 times Germany’s.”

That paragraph opens a devastating eight-part series published this month by The Times-Picayune of New Orleans about how the state’s largely private prison system profits from high incarceration rates and tough sentencing, and how many with the power to curtail the system actually have a financial incentive to perpetuate it. [Read more]


An Argument for Integrated Schools

"These economists’ studies consistently conclude that African-American students who attended integrated schools fared better academically than those left behind in segregated schools. They were more likely to graduate from high school and attend and graduate from college; and, the longer they spent attending integrated schools, the better they did. What’s more, the fear that white children would suffer, voiced by opponents of integration, proved groundless. Between 1970 and 1990, the black-white gap in educational attainment shrank — not because white youngsters did worse but because black youngsters did better.

"Not only were they more successful in school, they were more successful in life as well. A 2011 study by the Berkeley public policy professor Rucker C. Johnson concludes that black youths who spent five years in desegregated schools have earned 25 percent more than those who never had that opportunity. Now in their 30s and 40s, they’re also healthier — the equivalent of being seven years younger." [Read more]


Save the Post Office from Congress

"On the other hand, its pension is overfunded to the tune of around $11 billion. It is also required by law to make an annual payment of nearly $5.5 billion to prepay for health benefits for future retirees, a mandate imposed on no other company — or government agency — in America. Simply ending that onerous prefunding requirement and reclaiming the excess pension money would go a long way toward shrinking the losses."

. . .

"Rather, the problem is that neither the management nor the workers really control the Postal Service. Even though the post office has been self-financed since the 1980s, it remains shackled by Congress, which simply can’t bring itself to allow the service to make its own decisions. It was Congress that insanely imposed the prefunding requirement in 2006. Laws restrict the post office’s ability to raise prices and cut costs. Over the years, when the post office wanted to get into new businesses, it was often prevented from doing so by Congress." [Read more]


Fleecing the Poor

"Employers, for example, can simply program their computers to shave a few dollars off each paycheck, or they can require workers to show up 30 minutes or more before the time clock starts ticking."

"Many courts impose fees without any determination of whether the offender is able to pay, and the privilege of having a payment plan will itself cost money." [Read more]

"Trends in U.S. Corrections" Fact Sheet

The Land of the Free is still number one in putting people in prison. Nearly 7 times the rate of Canada, and 10 times the rate of Denmark.

View the Sentencing Project fact sheet.

Pardons Aren't Colorblind Either

"The work of the pardon office has come under heightened scrutiny since December, when ProPublica and The Washington Post published stories showing that, from 2001 to 2008, white applicants were nearly four times as likely to receive presidential pardons as minorities." [Read more]


America's Schools--Still Segregated

"In the broad resegregation of the nation’s schools that has transpired over recent decades, New York’s public-school system looms as one of the most segregated. While the city’s public-school population looks diverse — 40.3 percent Hispanic, 32 percent black, 14.9 percent white and 13.7 percent Asian — many of its schools are nothing of the sort.

"About 650 of the nearly 1,700 schools in the system have populations that are 70 percent a single race, a New York Times analysis of schools data for the 2009-10 school year found; more than half the city’s schools are at least 90 percent black and Hispanic." [Read more]


Racial inequality and the black homicide rate

"At the conference, the honorable Mitchell J. Landrieu, the mayor of New Orleans, gave a moving, passionate, and brave speech about homicide in black communities. He challenged us to consider whether we devalued black lives by not paying sufficient attention to the more common forms of homicide in black communities, and instead reserved our activism for homicides that could be conceived of as involving racism.

Landrieu made an important point, but I think he also missed a number of other significant points." [Read more]


The Other "New Jim Crow"

"Republicans are waging the most concerted campaign to prevent or discourage citizens from exercising their legitimate voting rights since the Jim Crow days of poll taxes and literacy tests." [Read more]