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Archive for the ‘Racism’ Category

By Nicole Catá, Policy Intern

On June 1st, 2010, the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project and Law Students for Reproductive Justice co-hosted a series of panels and discussions called the 2010 Summer Intern Training on Reproductive Rights Law & Justice.  Around 20 students attended the event, which explored current trends in the reproductive justice movement from a legal perspective.  The first, and perhaps the most controversial, activity was called “Next Wave of Abortion Restrictions:  Banning Abortions Based on the Sex or Race of the Fetus.”  Miriam Yeung, Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, and Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, Staff Attorney for the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, explained that conservative legislators such as Congressman Trent Franks, R-Ariz., are pushing sex and race selection abortion bans in federal and state legislatures.

Given the controversial nature of these proposals, the presenters decided to have each participant stand along a line representing a continuum based on how strongly he or she agreed or disagreed with a particular statement.  It seemed that none of us could come to a consensus about any of the questions:  Does sex-selection abortion rely on or enforce gender stereotypes?  Is it natural to want to balance sex representation in a family?  Is choosing the sex or physical characteristics of a fetus any different from stating one’s preferences on an adoption form?  Many of us stood somewhere in the middle of the continuum, floundering between a simple “yes” or “no.”

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Executive Director Silvia Henriquez published an op-ed yesterday in Roll Call, in response to the recent anti-immigrant Arizona legislation.

Immigrant women, at the heart of many American families, are now in peril because of the signing of the Arizona law by Gov. Jan Brewer (R) last month. The law goes beyond encouraging racial profiling; it demands local police seek out “foreign characteristics” in order to hunt down immigrants without documents and gives residents the right to sue the department if they feel police are not doing a good enough job.

This obtuse method of law enforcement can have only one logical conclusion: Anyone in Arizona with dark skin and an accent, who is working or living in targeted neighborhoods, will feel the full force of state-sanctioned bigotry.

Read the whole thing here.

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Throughout the healthcare debate on March 20th, Tea Party demonstrators targeted House Democrats with homophobic and racist slurs. Activists spit on Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, cast racist epithets at civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, and jeered at openly gay Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts.

In response, a Latino group called “Cuéntame,” whose members generate cultural media for progressive, U.S.-based Latinos, posted a video on Facebook last week logging the behavior of the Tea Party members. The group also solicited viewers’ signatures for an online petition to the heads of the Republican Party, requesting that they apologize for encouraging offensive demonstrators. The footage, produced by Brave New Foundation, portrays Republican legislators brandishing signs and cheering on the horde of Tea Party demonstrators.

Cuéntame has also posted three videos demonstrating how the Tea Baggers scapegoat and vilify Latinos and other minority groups.

By Nicole Catá, Policy Intern

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Bill O’Reilly and the infamous Lou Dobbs took yet another stab at immigrants on the March 9th episode of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor. The segment was in response to the bill Senators Lindsey Graham (R) and Charles Schumer (D) have been working on, which would require every working American to obtain a tamper-proof national ID card. In short, this ID card would contain a sample of each card holder’s DNA, an attempt to prevent undocumented immigrants from using others’ social security numbers to work. O’Reilly and Dobbs proceeded to state how these cards would benefit the American job market and overall economy. They then bashed the ACLU and “all those unconditional amnesty advocates” for falsely claiming that immigrants do in fact pay taxes.

The last time I checked they DO pay taxes!  Immigrants, documented or not, pay sales taxes. Everyone who buys anything pays sales taxes.  Many undocumented immigrants end up paying income and social security taxes as well, because they use social security cards from people they know; whether it be family members, friends, or strangers whom they pay a fee to borrow their number.

According to a paper released by the Congressional Budget Office in late 2007:

The IRS estimates that about 6 million unauthorized immigrants file individual income tax returns each year. Other researchers estimate that between 50 percent and 75 percent of unauthorized immigrants pay federal, state, and local taxes.

So Fox News, Bill O’Reilly, and Lou Dobbs, please check your information before you go around telling lies that continue to perpetuate hatred towards our communities. We are peaceful loving people who will continually refuse to be victims of intolerance and ignorance.

By Krystal Chan, Development and Communications Intern

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If you don’t have enough evidence to charge someone criminally but you think he’s illegal, we can make him disappear.

–James Pendergraph, then Executive Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Office of State and Local Coordination, at a conference of police and sheriffs in August 2008.

This quote is from The Nation article on the existence of 186 secret ICE detention centers. The lack of an accurate database of detainee information as well as governmental oversight allows for cover-ups, the continuation of detainee abuse and secret detention centers, is how ICE makes people “disappear.”

According to the article, the purpose of these secret jails is to hold detainees that are in transit between detention centers; these spaces are not meant to be used as living facilities and lack basic necessities such as beds, showers, adequate ventilation and heating, personal hygiene supplies and are often filled to capacity. It has been reported that up to 30% of all ICE detainees are held in these unofficial detention centers and that the private contractors who run them make a profit of $60-90 a day per detainee.

Since these private, make-shift prisons are completely unmarked and unlisted they are not only exempt from ICE standards but inaccessible to lawyers and family members searching for loved ones. Their locations, which ICE refuses to disclose, vary from suburban business complexes and storage warehouses to units in trendy Manhattan neighborhoods.

The use of secret prisons, withholding of due process and abuse of undocumented citizens is unconstitutional, yet has remained the core of the U.S. immigration system since the Bush administration and now under the Obama administration.

For more information about these detention centers and to take action, please visit the Detention Watch Network and Human Rights Watch.

By Marcela Villa, Former Policy Intern

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An anti-abortion group in Atlanta has produced several billboards that read, “Black children are an endangered species.” The anti-choice group, Georgia Right to Life, claims that too many African American women are having abortions and that this is reducing the population rate of African American children. They are also targeting Planned Parenthood for providing abortions services and claiming that Planned Parenthood is targeting African Americans specifically.

In addition, House Bill 1155 proposed to the Georgia General Assembly, states that anyone that persuades another person to have an abortion based on race, sex, or color is a criminal act and for that they must be punished. According to the recent New York Times article, Georgia Rights to Life states that they do not want any of these messages to objectify African American women, rather to shed light on a situation that is affecting the entire population.

The billboards — there are 65 now and will eventually be 80, Ms. Davis said — were created in conjunction with a new Web site, http://www.toomanyaborted.com, which says that all of Georgia’s abortion clinics are in “urban areas where blacks reside.” The Web site connects abortion to segregation, saying that after the civil rights era, racists went “underground,” and that today “abortion is the tool they use to stealthily target blacks for extermination.

Yet none of these assertions are supported by data, which according to the Center for Disease Control, shows that African American women remain amongst those with the highest rates of childbearing.

So why do Planned Parenthood’s exist in African American communities?  The purpose of Planned Parenthood is to provide women with information, offer reproductive health services, and to allow folks to make informed decisions about their health. The existence of clinics in these neighborhoods ensures better access to health care services, improving the overall health of a community.

We need to look at the bigger picture and realize the consequences that these billboards and messages will be creating. Our ally SisterSong: Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective suggests that if this bill passes, not only will we be taking away a woman’s right to abortion, but it will also put women’s health in jeopardy. This bill could possibly alter the relationship between a patient and a doctor, affecting the medical services that could be available to women.

These billboards are not solving a problem; they are trying to create a barrier between a woman and her right to choose. As reproductive justice advocates we work toward a world where every woman has the ability create the family she’d like to create–without fear of persecution or propaganda.

By Sheila Reynoso, Research Intern

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Most often when people think of environmental issues they are not thinking of the effects global warming will have on women specifically. In fact, women’s issues are usually viewed as a completely different entity. Fortunately there are organizations focusing on making these connections.  Women’s Environment & Development Organization or the U.N.’s Commission on the Status of Women have begun to look at climate change from a gender perspective.

Statistically, women are less likely to have access to healthcare, less likely to take part in political decision making about environmental issues and are more likely to be living in poverty. In areas with little or no access to health care maternal and infant mortality rates are much higher. When you begin to add environmental justice issues to the mix, healthy pregnancies become even more difficult and less likely. According to WEDO’s Gender and Climate Change 101,

Children and pregnant women are particularly susceptible to vector and waterborne diseases [their vulnerability often increasing in times of crisis, while] Anemia – resulting from malaria – is responsible for a quarter of maternal mortality.

Global warming is contributing to crisis such as drought, flooding and limited access to safe drinking water, all of these have a more severe affect on people of poor communities that may depend on natural resources. Communities of color also tend to be more negatively impacted by the issues caused by climate change. Organizations like the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative:

With rising temperatures, human lives—particularly in people of color, low-income, and Indigenous communities—are affected by compromised health, financial burdens, and social and cultural disruptions. These communities are the first to experience the negative impacts of climate change such as heat-related illness and death, respiratory illness, infectious diseases, unaffordable rises in energy costs, and extreme natural disasters. Not only do they bear disproportionate burdens from climate change itself, but also from ill-designed policies to prevent climate change and the side effects of the energy systems that cause it as well. Moreover, those who are most affected are least responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions that cause the problem—both globally and within the United States.

As a Latina reproductive justice organization, these connections are very important to NLIRH. Bringing a race and gender lens to the environmental justice work is critical and I am glad to see organizations making these connections.

By Jennifer Leigh Velez, Policy Intern

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Nationally, one-third of women self-identify as a member of a racial or ethnic minority group and it is estimated that this will grow to more than half by 2045. As the country becomes more racially and ethnically diverse, there is a growing recognition of the need to understand racial and ethnic disparities in health status and access to care.

A new report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, “Putting Women’s Health Care Disparities on the Map: Examining Racial and Ethnic Disparities at the State Level,” documents the persistence of disparities between white women and women of color across the country and on a broad range of indicators of health and well-being, including rates of diseases, such as diabetes, AIDS and cancer, as well as access to health insurance and preventive screenings.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, women of color consistently fared worse than white women across a broad range of measures in almost every state, and in some states, these disparities were quite stark.

For Hispanic women, access and utilization were consistent problems, even though they fared better on some health status indicators, such as smoking and cancer mortality. A greater share of Latinas than other groups lacked insurance coverage, did not have a personal doctor/health care provider, and delayed or went without care because of cost. Latinas were also disproportionately poor and had low educational status, factors that contribute to their overall health and access to care. The large population of Latina immigrants do not qualify for publicly funded insurance programs like Medicaid even if in the U.S. legally, and some have language barriers that make access and health literacy a greater challenge.

This report highlights the need for policy-makers to look beyond national statistics to the state level in order to gain a better understanding of where challenges are the greatest or different, and to determine how to shape policies that can ultimately eliminate racial and ethnic disparities.

For more information, the report can be found here.

by Ivette Sanchez, Policy and Advocacy Intern

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In Arizona, arguably the state with the toughest immigration policies, a legislative proposal threatened to allow and require officials and agencies of the state, counties, cities and towns to perform racial profiling. If the bill had been enacted, police officers in Arizona would have been required to subject immigrants, residents and even American citizens to racial profiling by trying to determine the immigration status of anyone that does not appear to be a  documented immigrant.

Furthermore, the proposal had the goal of transforming the civil infraction of trespassing a country’s borders into a criminal infraction by stating that those who are found to have entered the country illegally and are deemed “first-time offenders” will be charged with a misdemeanor and could serve up to six months in prison and that those deemed to be “returning offenders” will be charged with a felony and could serve up to 2.5 years. The Washington Post reported recently that this measure would have made Arizona “the only state to criminalize the presence of illegal immigrants through an expansion of its trespassing law”

The bill, which cleared the state Senate on June 15th with a 16-12 vote was rejected by the House by a five vote margin. The fact that this law got even this close to passing is frightening, and shows how deep seated the anti-immigrant sentiment is in this country.

Carolina Rizzo, DC Policy Intern

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immigrationvideogame2

You would think that in the 21st century racism would be a thing of the past—if only we lived in a perfect world.

In the picture to the left, you can see an excerpt from an online video game, Border Patrol, where the goal is to shoot as many Mexicans trying to cross over the border into the United States as you can.  As mentioned in a blog from Sociological Images, your main targets are drug dealers, Mexican nationals and pregnant women, referred to as “breeders.”  The game insinuates that pregnant Mexicans cross the border and run to the welfare office as depicted in the sign.  Every person that you miss gives you negative points, and at the end of the game, you are give tally of how many “wetbacks” you shot.

It is unbelievable that in the 21st century we are seeing video games portraying this type of violence and racism.  What type of message are we sending to the youth of America?

Even worse is that there are people who actually enjoy playing, including government officials like former Georgia Councilman John Dowdy.  According to Kotaku, after playing the game and passing a racist email around his office, Dowdy was forced to resign.

Looking at the racist comments that players have made and the fact that someone would even create a game like this indicates that we are a long way from equality in the United States.

By Angela Donadic, Policy and Advocacy Fellow

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