race

Paul Engstrom/Skillman Foundation

About 50 civic leaders met today in Detroit to develop a plan to improve life outcomes for young men of color.

The group is taking up the challenge of President Barack Obama's "My Brother's Keeper Initiative," launched early this year to address the growing disparities faced by African American and Latino boys and young men. The group is working to come up with a report and a set of recommendations in 120 days.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said his priority for 2015 is to create opportunities for Detroit youth.

I flew to Florida early last month, and while in the air re-read from cover to cover the one indispensable book that explains as nothing else what really happened to Detroit.

Eighteen years ago, University of Pennsylvania historian Thomas Sugrue published a volume mind-blowing in its brilliance of analysis and depth of research.

The title, “The Origins of the Urban Crisis,” is somewhat misleading.

This really is the book on how Detroit was destroyed - and destroyed itself - over the last 70 years.

Ann Arbor Public Schools / http://www.aaps.k12.mi.us/academics/files/pre3.jpg

A newly released report is breaking new ground in the study of inequality among our children.

The report is from the Annie E. Casey Foundation for Kids Count. It's titled "Race for Results: building a path to opportunity for all children."

For the first time, it creates an index that looks at conditions for children by race.

Our next guest believes it contains troubling findings for Michigan children and the need for a major call to action.

Jane Zehnder-Merrell is project director of Kids Count in Michigan with the Michigan League for Public Policy, and she joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

The University of Michigan has a race problem.

“Open it up! Or we’ll shut it down!” chanted half a dozen black students at the Board of Regents meeting yesterday.

Their frustrations are getting national attention. 

The Black Student union has led protests on campus and online.

Their #BBUM Twitter campaign (Being Black at U of M) has gone viral. 

They’re fed up, they say, by a school that boasts about a diverse community, yet where just roughly 5% of some 28,000 undergraduate students are black.

MESA/Trotter / University of Michigan

Administrators at the University of Michigan are “doubling down” on efforts to improve race relations at the university’s Ann Arbor campus.

Minority enrollment is down at the university: In 2008, black students made up about 6.8% of the university’s freshman class. In 2012, that number dropped to 4.6%.

A recent Twitter campaign caught the attention of administrators, as students took to the Web to express their frustrations with race relations on campus. The #BBUM campaign – Being Black at Michigan – went viral, with more than 10,000 tweets using the hashtag in November.

As MLive’s Kellie Woodhouse reported, the university is now launching a campus-wide effort to increase enrollment of underrepresented students and improve the campus climate.

One plan in the works is to renovate the Trotter Multicultural Center, a hub dedicated to providing a safe working environment for students on campus.

clipping courtesy of Ray Litt / via Detroit Free Press

In short, the answer is 'we don't really know.'

Stanford University's Sean Reardon studies achievement gaps - the difference between how one group of students performs compared to another group.

When comparing black, white, and Latino students, Reardon says you see the importance not so much of race, but of class.

"Over the last 40 or so years, the black-white achievement gap and the Hispanic-white achievement gap have narrowed a lot," Reardon said. "On the other hand, the gap between high and low income students has increased quite dramatically."

Reardon said that particular gap has grown about 40% since the 1980s. 

But while economic diversity might matter more in ensuring a quality education, that doesn't mean people want to give up on racial and ethnic diversity.

Ray Litt, a community activist involved in Detroit's Milliken v. Bradley case, reflected, "The desegregation action was to provide a quality integrated venue in which students and staff are exposed to and can interact with kids of different races religions and economic status," he said. "We all need to be able to be comfortable, not tolerating, a society that is the melting pot."

Racial diversity is not something you are likely to find in a majority of Detroit's schools, even after a hard fought desegregation plan.

Read more and listen to the whole story at State of Opportunity.

It's been a weary, awful November in metro Detroit so far. 

A week ago Saturday, 19-year-old Renisha McBride was shot dead by a 54-year-old white homeowner in Dearborn Heights.

She was killed on his porch. Her family says she was looking for help after her car crashed, more than 2 hours earlier and about six blocks away in Detroit.

Police haven't released the homeowner's name yet. But his attorney says he thought McBride was an intruder, and that the gun went off accidentally. An autopsy confirms she was shot in the face.

So far, he hasn't been arrested. The Wayne County Prosecutor's office announced Monday that it had "begun the warrant review process," but was awaiting more evidence from Dearborn Heights police before deciding on charges.

screenshot of BBC Magazine page

Update 2:47 p.m.

Many people asked where Keshia Thomas is today after this post.

The BBC reported that Keshia lives in Houston now. Ryan Stanton over at the Ann Arbor News caught up with her. He reports that Thomas moved out of the area in 2002 and is working in a restaurant in Houston:

She said she still has family in the Ann Arbor area and plans to move back to Michigan before long so she can be part of the revitalization of Detroit [Thomas was born in Detroit].

Thomas said she's still trying to make a difference in the world and still trying to break down racial stereotypes through small acts of kindness.

She said disaster relief work has been a passion of hers over the years, whether that's meant going to Ground Zero after the twin towers fell or helping those in need following Hurricane Katrina and wildfires in California.

"This has just always been a passion of mine — even before the incident happened — to want to help people," she said. "And to help people see that there is hope."

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013 3:39 p.m.

A BBC article that’s making the rounds today tells the story of one Ann Arbor protest that took an unexpected turn.

Back in 1996, the Ku Klux Klan planned a rally in Ann Arbor. Hundreds showed up to the group’s rally, attempting to show the group that they had no place in the Michigan city.

Police had kept the two groups under control — that is, until an anti-KKK protester pointed to a man in a Confederate flag T-shirt, claiming he was a Klansman.

Suddenly, the atmosphere in the crowd turned, as protesters chased the man down the streets of Ann Arbor, amidst shouts of “Kill the Nazi.”

Dustin Cable / Cooper Center

Dustin Cable is a demographer who mapped race in the U.S.

Every dot on the map is smaller than one pixel and represents one person. 

Yes, there are 308, 745,538 dots on this map. 

Cable used population data from the 2010 Census to create this comprehensive image. Here's the key to different colors he used to represent different races:

  • Blue: White
  • Green: Black
  • Orange: Hispanic
  • Red: Asian
  • Brown: Other/Native American/multi-racial

If you take a look at the whole country, you can see a lot of segregation. But there are also colors that blend together, like the purple area that covers Chicago.

Eighteen years ago, I was teaching a large “survey of the media” class at Wayne State University when word came that there was a verdict in the O.J. Simpson case. I put television on.

This was a Wayne State University class with almost equal numbers of black and white students. When it was announced that OJ had been acquitted of the murders of his wife and her friend, the reaction seemed almost Pavlovian.

The white students were openly disgusted. The black ones, pleased. Times have changed. Today, we have a black President. 

But my guess is that if I had been teaching a similar class when the Trayvon Martin verdict was announced, I would have seen something like a mirror image. Certainly the African-Americans would have been outraged; though I am not sure the white students would have been all that pleased with George Zimmerman’s acquittal.

Peter Martorano / Flickr

When it comes to measuring economies, gross domestic product has been the big player for the last century.

But a growing number of economists and political scientists argue that GDP is an incomplete assessment of development. The central complaint: GDP misses the human side of things.

So researchers at the Social Science Research Council in Brooklyn looked at the Human Development Index, a metric developed in the 1990s, and applied it to the U.S. Looking at the health, education, and earnings of people across the country, the researchers were able to get a better understanding of how Americans are doing.

 

The result? The country is making progress in some areas and falling behind in others. No surprise.

 

But across the board, Michigan’s not doing well.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

School is almost out for summer! For some students, that means camp. For others, it means time to get a job. For the three high school sophomores you’re about to meet, it means a break - not just from school, but from riding the bus.

Unemployment line in California
Michael Raphael / Flickr

It’s no secret that Michigan’s been in a bit of an economic rough patch. For black Michiganders, the downturn has hit even harder.

According to recent research by the Economic Policy Institute, nearly one in five African-Americans in Michigan are unemployed.

That’s almost 2.5 times higher than the unemployment rate for white workers in the state.

The discrepancy between white and black unemployment earned Michigan a new title: highest African-American unemployment nationwide.

Jennifer Guerra

Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA says, "Michigan is an absolute national leader in segregated schools." Orfield means in reality and not by law, but how is this possible in 21st century America?

State of Opportunity reporter Jennifer Guerra goes into Michigan high schools and neighborhoods---from Grand Haven to Detroit's west side---to see how race and racism are playing out today in an era some are calling "post-racial." 

Mercedes Mejia/Michigan Radio

The University of Michigan's "Understanding Race Project" will examine race through storytelling tomorrow evening at the Michigan Theater.

La'Ron Williams  is a member of the National Storytelling Network, the Detroit Association of Black Storytellers, and the National Association of Black Storytellers.

He is set to perform his work Elm Park, 1955, in which he shares his interaction with race as a kid growing up in Flint, Michigan.

Michigan Radio's Lester Graham spoke with Williams about the power of storytelling, race, and the University's project.

Listen to the full interview above.

On Election Night, I heard a commentator say that the voters settled one thing: There are no longer any racial barriers to success in America-- that a majority of the voters have now voted for a black president not once, but twice, seemed to settle that.

Well, that theory is certainly a comforting one.

But last night I spent some time with a brilliant law professor who argues compellingly that the truth is anything but. Michelle Alexander is the author of the national best-seller, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.”

It’s difficult for many people to talk about race.  But, studies show, it’s important to talk with kids about race in order to instill unbiased attitudes.  Racial bias can show up as early as 3 years of age.  As part of Michigan Radio's Seeking Change series, I spoke with Sarah Salguera, program director for Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance in Holland. She’s trying to get more parents and caregivers to openly discuss race with kids by heading up the program, "Talking to Kids About Race."

More information on the program and studies about how early on racial bias sets in can be found at Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance's website

Detroit Skyline
Shawn Wilson / Wikimedia Commons

A new report says African American unemployment fell last year in metro Detroit, even as it remains well above the unemployment rate for white workers in the same region.

The Economic Policy Institute says African Americans in the Detroit area had an 18.1 percent jobless rate in 2011, down from 25.4 percent the year before.

This 7.3 percent decline in Detroit, Warren and Livonia's  collective unemployment rates was by far the largest decrease in African American unemployment by percentage in any of the 19 metropolitan areas the report studied. 

However, the report found last year's lowered African American unemployment rate in metro Detroit still sat 2.2 percent above the respective national rate of 15.9 percent.

In fact, the region has the fourth highest African American unemployment rate nationally, trailing metropolitan Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Chicago.

The report also says the gap between white and black unemployment was smaller in Detroit than the nation as a whole. It says African Americans were 1.8 times more likely than whites to be unemployed in the Detroit area, while they were 2.2 times more likely nationwide.

-Elaine Ezekiel, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Throughout Detroit’s financial crisis, the governor has had a consistent message: This is about money and financial mismanagement, not about race. This didn‘t have anything to do with  the bitter racial issues that have plagued Detroit and complicated the city’s relationship with the suburbs, and the state, and itself.

Yesterday, I was driving across Michigan and listening to the coverage of Detroit’s financial crisis, when I realized something.

Detroit must seem like an alien world to many who don‘t live in the city. And the reactions of many Detroiters, including some members of city council, must seem both baffling and irrational.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

A crowd wearing hooded sweaters of all colors gathered in downtown Ypsilanti Monday afternoon, one month after the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin of Florida.

The unarmed black teenager was wearing a hoodie when he was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer in a gated community in Sanford, Florida. The man who shot Martin has not been arrested.

 Jeff Clark lives in Ypsilanti, and helped organize the event.

(NPR.org)

Organizers of a rally to protest the shooting death of a Florida teenager hope to attract a few thousand people to the steps of Michigan’s state capitol Tuesday afternoon.

Trayvon Martin was shot and killed a month ago, in an incident which has raised questions about race and self-defense.

O.D. Harris is organizing the rally at the state capitol. He hopes the rally will help end tragedies rooted in ‘stereotyping’.

“We stereotype people based on what their attire is," says Harris, "I don’t want to make it a race thing…we stereotype people based on their names… we stereotype people based on all types of reasons… and we have to stop that.”

Similar protests took place in Kalamazoo, Flint and a handful of other Michigan cities on Monday.

screen grab from YouTube video

Last year at this time, I was sifting through YouTube videos of Martin Luther King, Jr. and was amazed at the treasure trove out there.

For some, the man whose words are immortalized, who we celebrate with a holiday, seems untouchable - buried in the pages of history books.

But when you watch these videos, Martin Luther King, Jr. comes to life. As I mentioned last year:

We can watch video of his interviews on Meet the Press. We can see King tell a joke on a talk show. We can see what he said in a speech the night before he was killed, and we can watch Walter Cronkite tell the nation that the man who helped change our society was dead.

Here's another video I came across today. It includes excerpts of an interview King did with NBC correspondent Tom Petit. The interview aired on NBC on May 7, 1967 as part of its program "The Frank McGee Sunday Report: Martin Luther King Profile."

During the interview King explains his reasons for opposing the Vietnam War.

He says he decided to publicly oppose the war after several months of reflection - part of that reflection, he says, took place in Jamaica as he was writing a book.

"I came to the conclusion then, that I had no alternative but to take a vigorous stand against the war."

King said the Vietnam war "is doing a great deal to destroy the lives of thousands and thousands of my brothers and sisters. We are dying physically in disproportionate numbers in Vietnam, some 22 and four tenths percent, even though we are only 11 percent of the population."

The video ends with a excerpt from a speech King gave in Cleveland on April 28,1967 about his decision to oppose the "evil war" in Vietnam.

He says, "And no matter where it leads, no matter what abuses it may bring, I'm gonna tell the truth."

Flickr/theqspeaks

The Reverend Al Sharpton and others say they plan a demonstration Monday outside the home of Governor Rick
Snyder to protest a law that makes it easier for Michigan to take over financially struggling communities and school districts.

Organizers say the protest will happen on Martin Luther King Day at Snyder's home in Washtenaw County's Superior Township, near Ann Arbor.

Sharpton and other ministers and civil rights activists will participate. Organizers say the law seems to target black communities. Snyder has said the law isn't racially motivated.

Emergency managers are in place in Benton Harbor, Pontiac, Flint and Detroit schools. Detroit's finances are under a review that could bring the city under state financial control as well.

Andrew Malone / Flickr

It's never easy to get citizens to show up at a planning commission meeting, but in Port Sheldon Township they had a bigger turnout than normal because of concerns over migrant worker housing on a nearby blueberry farm.

DJ Urbn

On the dance floor at Stiletto’s nightclub in Inkster you will find nurses, hair stylists, factory workers, fast food employees, students, professors, and business people. They come from tight-knit neighborhoods in Detroit, ritzy enclaves in Royal Oak, and from university campuses.

People in their twenties dance next to senior citizens, and there is every shade of skin tone in this place.

The club’s personnel manager Carolyn Sopko calls the crowd diverse and inclusive.

U.S. Census Bureau

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released its report "The Black Population: 2010."

The 2010 Census found that 14 percent of the U.S. population identified themselves as black, "either alone or in combination with one or more other races."

From a U.S. Census Bureau press release:

Of the total U.S. population of 308.7 million on April 1, 2010, 38.9 million people, or 13 percent, identified as black alone. In addition, 3.1 million people, or 1 percent, reported as black in combination with one or more other races. Together, these two groups comprise the black alone-or-in-combination population and totaled 42.0 million.

Detroit has highest concentration of blacks living in an urban area

Census officials report that of the major cities in the U.S. (cities with 100,000 people in them or more), Detroit had the highest percentage of people identifying as black, or black in combination with other races, at 84 percent.

Here are the top ten:

  1. Detroit, Michigan (84.3 percent)
  2. Jackson, Mississippi (80.1 percent)
  3. Miami Gardens, Florida (77.9 percent)
  4. Birmingham, Alabama (74.0 percent)
  5. Baltimore, Maryland (65.1 percent)
  6. Memphis, Tennessee (64.1 percent)
  7. New Orleans, Louisiana (61.2 percent)
  8. Flint, Michigan (59.5 percent)
  9. Montgomery, Alabama (57.4 percent)
  10. Savannah, Georgia (56.7 percent)
BAMN

Update 3:00 p.m.

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights released a statement supporting the opinion of the US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. The court struck down the Michigan constitutional ban using race or gender in university admissions decisions.

From their statement:

We believe the question of who comprises a student body is best made at the academic rather than the political level. A university’s primary responsibility is the academic interests of those students who are admitted and preparing those students for the future. This decision removes the handcuffs that prevented Michigan’s public universities from making decisions based upon those factors they believed to be in the best interests of the entire student body and the institutions as a whole.

The Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, an advocacy group that worked to preserve affirmative action in Michigan, also praised today's court ruling.

From their statement:

The Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion today applauded the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decision striking down Michigan's anti-affirmative action constitutional amendment, with CEO and President Thomas Costello calling the decision "a clear win for access, opportunity and equity for all."

The court noted that the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, known as the "equal protection" clause, is more than just words. "It is also an assurance that the majority may not manipulate the channels of change in a manner that places unique burdens on issues of importance to racial minorities."

2:30 p.m.

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody interviewed Jennifer Gratz, the director of state initiatives for the American Civil Rights Coalition.

In 2006, Gratz was the executive director of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative which became known as "Proposal 2" once it was put on the ballot. Proposal 2 passed and it amended the Michigan Constitution by banning the practice of using race or gender in college admissions.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the ban unconstitutional today.

Gratz was also a lead plaintiff in a case against the University of Michigan's affirmative action policy in admissions - a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court in 2003 (Gratz v. Bollinger).

Here's the interview:

Pete Souza / White House

The election of President Obama in 2008 made some believe racism in the United States had declined. That's according to a study from the University of Michigan. It measured perceptions of racism amongst Americans before the 2008 election and again in 2010.

Nicholas Valentino is a professor with U of M. He says it’s difficult to know how perceptions about racism are formed. But he thinks it might have to do with obstacles different racial groups face:

Race & Happiness

Mar 7, 2011
(flickr kk+)

A new Michigan State University study finds Black Americans who identify strongly with their racial identity tend to be happier. MSU researchers talked with African-Americans living in Michigan.  

Researcher Stevie Yap says they found people who said that ‘being black’ was an important part of their life and gave them a sense of ‘belongingness” to a wider community.  

"We did also find the sense of belongingness…the degree to which that is a mechanism…in racial identity to happiness…that is especially the case for women.”

The MSU study appears in the current issue of Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology.

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