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."
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
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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."
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).
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:
Washtenaw County's data shows African-American babies are at least three times more likely to die before their first birthday than white babies. That's according to data from the Michigan Department of Community Health.
Washtenaw County’s rate for African-American infant deaths is among the highest in the state, and it also has one of the widest statewide gaps between white and black infant mortality rates.
The rate for white infant deaths is among the lowest in the state and going down.