Book Review: The New Jim Crow

 

Photo courtesy of newjimcrow.com.

Photo courtesy of newjimcrow.com.

 

It is not surprising that The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander was featured on the New York Time’s bestseller list for more than a year.   Alexander’s book addresses the ugly truth about ‘mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness; a truth that our nation is reluctant to face.   However, Alexander leaves everything on the table in her book with the most important take away being that many gains of the civil right movement have been undermined by mass incarceration of black Americans in the ‘War on Drugs’.   In fact, Alexander uses historical evidence, statistics, and real life cases to prove that incarcerating young African American males through the ‘War on Drugs’ was done intentionally as a method of control after the Civil Rights movement. Continue reading

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Blog Assignment #3

Identify, describe, and evaluate one example of a government organization (domestic or international) that has utilized a racial equity assessment tool (to measure the equity of policy implementation). You should not select an organizational initiative presented in the course literature.

Minneapolis_Skyline_by_SREphoto

The city of Minneapolis leaped into action after a reported issued by the Economic Policy Institute in 2010 showed unsettling facts on racial disparity in the city.   The report showed Minneapolis leading in the nation for having the worst employment disparity between whites and blacks.   As a result, the city created the Employment Equity Division (formally known as One Minneapolis) and with the help of The Advocates for Human Rights and the University of Minnesota Human Rights Center, held a conference in 2011 called One Minneapolis: A Call to Action! to discuss racial disparities in employment, housing, education, crime and justice, and small business entrepreneurship.

During the conference experts from government, business, and non-profit went over the startling racial statics Minneapolis must address.  In Minneapolis, you are three times more likely to be unemployed, or in poverty if you are Black ( Phifer, 2011).    White students are twice as likely to graduate on time compared to students of color—67% of Black students do no graduate on time (Phifer, 2011).   Blacks with a Bachelor’s degree were still twice as likely to be unemployed than whites (Phifer, 2011). Racial disparities in the Minneapolis justice system are more than twice the national average—Minneapolis has the 12th highest Black to white prison rate in the nation (Phifer, 2011).  Low level offences by minority juveniles are report to the County attorney’s office at alarming rates (Phifer, 2011)..   Minneapolis has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world (Phifer, 2011).

The conference ended with a call to action.  Over 200 civil and human rights professionals, advocacy organizations, community leaders, elected officials, law firms, corporations, educators, students, non-profits, and local organizations have committed to assisting in the closing of the gap (Phifer, 2011).

In 2012, the Department of Civil Rights appointed Karen Francois to the Director of Employment Equity.  In the same year the city approved a resolution called 2012R-456:  Supporting Equity in Employment in Minneapolis and the Region.  According to the City of Minneapolis’s website, the resolution directed the City to:

  • Develop and implement an Equity Assessment Toolkit to inform City budget, policy and program decisions, including the annual City budget, hiring retention, employee training, promotion, contracting and purchasing.
  • Assess  and implement, where appropriate, the recommendations of the Equity in Employment task force.
  • Recommend fair hiring provisions to be added to the Minneapolis Code of Ordinances.
  • Provide a report on the development of the Equity Assessment Toolkit and implementation of task force recommendations to the Public Safety, Civil Rights and Health committee on or before October 24, 2012.

Since 2012, several studies and analyzes have been done to better understand the different disparities, and the severity of the disparities,  in Minneapolis.  The City itself has focused a great deal of effort on leading by example by incorporating racial equity into all City policies and practices and demonstrating how institutions can openly, responsibility, and effectively address the issue with commitment and concrete action.  Part of the resolution directs staff to “develop and implement an Equity Assessment Toolkit to inform City budget, policy, and program decisions, including the annual City budget, hiring, retention, employee training, promotion, contraction and purchasing and: recommended fair hiring provisions to be added to the Minneapolis Code of Ordinances” (Results Minneapolis, 2013).

Below are  just a FEW of the results found in the City in 2012:

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I commend  Minneapolis for springing into action when faced with ugly racial disparity statics.  I am impressed with their willingness to collaborate with several different organizations, experts, and individual from the community in order to meet  a common goal.   The cynic in me wonders how these issues could have gotten so bad and not been addressed sooner, but I am happy they are choosing to deal with the problem rather than sweep it under the rug.  However,  I cannot find much on the City’s “toolkit”  or specific actions taken to eliminate racial disparities anywhere other than employment within the City.    Their approach to that specific  issue (employment disparities within the City) seems to be strong and their committee to it seems to be sincere, but still a little vague.  Below is all I could really find on the Racial Equity Toolkit.  I could not find anything literature actually explaining the illustration below.

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Perhaps the City is still in the”researching phase”  of this enormous task.  Minneapolis is a large city metropolitan city with many moving parts. Furthermore, when so many different organizations and individuals are involved the process tends to move slower and more deliberately.  Just ask City Council President Barb Johnson.   In May, Johnson expressed her frustrations and anger at the time employees at Minneapolish City Hall are spending on the complex plan to close racial disparities while rampant gunshots and other problems afflict her North Side ward.

Barb Johnson of Minneapolis.  Courtesy of Google Images.

Barb Johnson of Minneapolis. Courtesy of Google Images.

“What’s our priority in this city?”  she demanded at a Committee of the Whole meeting.  ”  I am frustrated about this.  I see it as another task forced, another report, another reporting mechanism.  I’ve got all the reporting mechanisms I need…I’m really angry.  I want an estimate of staff time, I want to know from each of these people how much time are you spending on these multiple, multiple initiatives that we’re using to produce more reports.  That’s what I want, accountability.”

 

So, now what Minneapolis?

 

 

 

References

Phifer, I. (2011, December 20). One Minneapolis: A call to action
. . Retrieved July 17, 2014, from http://www.tcdailyplanet.net/news/2011/12/20/one-minneapolis-call-action

Results Minneapolis: Eliminating Racial Employment Disparities ( 2013, March 19).  Retrieved July 17, 2014, from http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/www/groups/public/@civilrights/documents/webcontent/wcms1p-109922.pdf

StarTribune.  Mpls counsil president frustrated, angry at focus on racial equity plan. (2014, May 7) Retrieved July 17, 2014, from http://www.startribune.com/local/minneapolis/258396781.html.

Blog Assignment #2

Present a vignette that describes your observation of a public administrator’s inclusion of race talk in their communication regarding the delivery of public services. In your vignette you must address impact and outcome.

 

When I think of public administrators talking about race, once speech stands out in my mind.

The speech was given by Ray Nagin who was the mayor of New Orleans in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast.   In 2006, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Nagin gave a speech in New Orleans concerning race.   This speech is infamously known as the “Chocolate City” speech is shown in the video clip below.

http://www.wwl.com/Video-Ray-Nagin-s-chocolate-city-speech/15312155″>http://www.wwl.com/Video-Ray-Nagin-s-chocolate-city-speech/15312155

Nagin said that his speech was an effort to get African American residents to come back to New Orleans.  Needless to say his efforts failed.  According to the Census Bureau in 2011, the city of New Orleans is 29 percent smaller than the decade before (Robertson, 2011).  Census finds also revealed that the city had 118,000 fewer black residents (Robertson, 2011).    New Orleans was once a city made up of more than two-thirds black, is now less than 60 percent black (Robertson, 2011).

Aftermath of a small storm in NOLA. Mario Tama/Getty Images

Aftermath of a small storm in NOLA.
Mario Tama/Getty Images

It’s unfair and unrealistic to blame these numbers on Nagin or his speech.  The backlash from the infamous and controversial speech prompted Nagin to apologize.  Despite the speech and the backlash, Nagin voted mayor of New Orleans for a second term.  However, his sluggish recovery effort to rebuild the city only built frustration.  He began to attract the attention of federal investigators.

In 2013, Nagin was charges with wire fraud, conspiracy, bribery, money laundering, and filing false tax returns.  The 21-count federal corruptions charges were issued by a grand jury making Nagin the first mayor on New Orleans to be criminally charges for corruption in office.  His trail began earlier this year.

His earlier “efforts” to help the city are now ironic at best.  It is hard to believe that Nagin was ever really serious about helping the city of New Orleans or the residents.  His corruption and frivilous speeches only hurt New Orleans.  As if Hurricane Katrina was not enough…

 

References

Robertson, C. (2011, February 3). Smaller New Orleans After Katrina, Census Shows. . Retrieved June 1, 2014, from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/04/us/04census.html?pagewanted=all

Blog Assignment #1

Why is it imperative to begin dissection of the blanket ethnic categories of Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, and African Americans? Are these differentiations an important consideration in issues of employment and governance?

Race and ethnicity in the United States Census was defined by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).  According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Asian, Hispanic, and African American are defined as follows:

Asian:   A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian Subcontinent, including for examples, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Hispanic: A person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.

Black or African American:  A person having origins in any of the black racial groups in Africa.

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