Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Cesar Chavez , a tribute

César Chávez: "Presente"
By Duane E. Campbell

The spirit of Cesar Chavez lives on in the struggle for union rights and justice in the fields of California. Along with Dolores Huerta, Philip Vera Cruz, and others, César created the United Farm Workers (UFW) the first successful union of farm workers in U.S. history. There had been more than ten prior attempts to build a farm workers union.
The United Cannery and Packinghouse Workers (UCAPAWA) organized in the 1930's, the National Farm Workers Union (NFW) led by Ernesto Galarza tried to organize Farm workers in the 40's and 50's. In 1959, the AFL-CIO tried to organize again with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC). AWOC had several weaknesses, including a top down leadership selected by AFL-CIO leaders, not by farm workers, and a strategy of working cooperatively with labor contractors. AWOC continued the prior efforts of Ernesto Galarza and the NFW in struggling against "braceros" or guest workers, contract workers imported from Mexico, from breaking strikes. A renewed "guest worker" bill is presently before Congress.
Each of the prior attempts to organize farm worker unions were destroyed by racism and corporate power. Chávez chose to build a union that incorporated the strategies of social movements and allied itself with the churches, students, and organized labor. The successful creation of the UFW changed the nature of labor organizing in the Southwest and contributed significantly to the birth of Latino politics in the U.S.
Today, under the leadership of UFW president Arturo Rodriguez, over 28,000 farm workers enjoy benefits on the job. They are incorporated into California's educational, health and civic communities. The UFW has shown the AFL-CIO that immigrants can and must be organized. In 2002 we won significant victories in the legislature and numerous elections.
César Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Philip Vera Cruz, and others deliberately created a multiracial organization, Mexican, Mexican American, Filipino, African-American, Dominican, Puerto Rican and Arab workers, among others, have been part of the UFW. This cross racial organizing was necessary in order to combat the prior divisions and exploitations of workers based upon race and language. Dividing the workers on racial and language lines always left the corporations the winners.
In the 60's Chávez became the pre-eminent civil rights leader for the Mexican and Chicano workers, helping with local union struggles throughout the nation. He worked tirelessly to make people aware of the struggles of farm workers for better pay and safer working conditions. It is a testament to Cesar Chavez's skills and courage that the UFW even survived. They were opposed by major interests in corporate agriculture including the Bruce Church and Gallo Corporations as well as the leadership of the Republican Party then led by Ronald Reagan. Workers were fired, beaten, threatened and even killed in pursuit of union benefits . Non union farm workers today continue to live on sub-poverty wages while producing the abundant crops in the richest valley, in the richest state in the richest nation in the world.
In response to corporate power, Cesar developed new strategies, such as the boycott, based upon his personal commitment to non-violence in the tradition of Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. César Chavez died in his sleep on April 23, 1993 near Yuma, Arizona.
Today Mexican, Mexican American and Puerto Rican union leadership is common in our major cities and in several industries. For myself and others, the UFW was a school for organizing. Hundreds of activists in labor and community organizations owe their skills to UFW training and experience. Along with improved working conditions, salaries, and benefits, training this cadre of organizers remains a major legacy of the UFW.
César taught us that all organizations have problems, that all organizations are imperfect. But, if you wait for the perfect organization, nothing gets done. Building popular organizations builds people's power, and democracy.
In creating the UFW Chavez organized thousands into a union and inspired millions. Children in school study his life. Many curriculum packages stress his emphasis on service to others. The service side of Cesar’s work was certainly inspiring.
The organizing side changed the Southwest and organized labor. In a 1988 campaign and fast Cesar focused attention on the many dangerous problems of pesticides used in the fields. Artists have captured his image in hundreds of ways. Schools, parks, and highways have been named for him. Establishing Cesar Chavez holiday in California and other states has increased knowledge of his contributions.
The movement led by Cesar created a union and reduced the oppression of farm workers. Many people, descendents of earlier generations of farm workers, learned to take a stand for justice. We learned to not accept poor jobs, poor pay, unsafe working conditions as natural or inevitable. Rather, these are social creations which can be changed through organizing for economic and political power. Dolores Huerta continues her important education and organizing work throughout the nation.
Now, thousands of new immigrants harvest the crops and only a small percent are in unions. The new generations of immigrants and migrant labor hardly know Chavez’ name nor his contributions. Yet, in other regions immigrants are being organized into unions such as Justice for Janitors, by activists who learned their organizing skills working with the UFW. And, Latino political leaders often made their first commitments on a UFW picket line.
Again, that generation is passing. A new generation of political activists, mostly within the Democratic Party, have emerged since the Chavez generations. (Hispanic Republicans seldom see Chavez as a hero figure). In the 2006 massive immigrant rights movements, several new organizing practices emerged. A new, significant Latino union and political base has been created.
Chavez' legacy to popular struggles, to Chicano/Mexicano self determination and to unions for the immigrant workers is beyond measure. He is present in all of our work. I plan to march on March March 29,2008 in memory of Cesar Chavez' contributions building a more democratic society for working people. You can find our more about this remarkable leader at
Duane Campbell is a Professor of Bilingual/Multicultural Education at Calif. State University-Sacramento and the author of Choosing Democracy; a practical guide to multicultural education. (Merrill/Pren Hall.2004)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Progressives for Obama

Progressives For Obama
Barack Is Our

Best Option

–And You’re

Needed Now!

March 24, 2008

by Tom Hayden, Bill Fletcher, Jr.,
Barbara Ehrenreich, and Danny Glover

All American progressives should unite for Barack Obama. We descend from the proud tradition of independent social movements that have made America a more just and democratic country. We believe that the movement today supporting Barack Obama continues this great tradition of grass-roots participation drawing millions of people out of apathy and into participation in the decisions that affect all our lives. We believe that Barack Obama’s very biography reflects the positive potential of the globalization process that also contains such grave threats to our democracy when shaped only by the narrow interests of private corporations in an unregulated global marketplace. We should instead be globalizing the values of equality, a living wage and environmental sustainability in the new world order, not hoping our deepest concerns will be protected by trickle down economics or charitable billionaires. By its very existence, the Obama campaign will stimulate a vision of globalization from below.

As progressives we believe this sudden and unexpected new movement is just what America needs. The future has arrived. The alternative would mean a return to the dismal status quo party politics that have failed so far to deliver peace, health care, full employment and effective answers to crises like global warming.

During past progressive peaks in our political history—the late Thirties, the early Sixties—social movements have provided the relentless pressure and innovative ideas that allowed centrist leaders to embrace visionary solutions. We find ourselves in just such a situation today.

We intend to join and engage with our brothers and sisters in the vast rainbow of social movements to come together in support of Obama’s unprecedented campaign and candidacy. Even though it is candidate-centered, there is no doubt that the campaign is a social movement, one greater than the candidate himself ever imagined.

Progressives can make a difference in close primary races like Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Oregon, Puerto Rico, and in the November general election. We can contribute our dollars. We have the proven online capacity to reach millions of swing voters in the primary and general election. We can and will defend Obama against negative attacks from any quarter. We will seek Green support against the claim of some that there are no real differences between Obama and McCain. We will criticize any efforts by Democratic super-delegates to suppress the winner of the popular and delegate votes, or to legitimize the flawed elections in Michigan and Florida. We will make our agenda known at the Democratic national convention and fight for a platform emphasizing progressive priorities as the path to victory.

Obama’s March 17 speech on racism was as great a speech as ever given by a presidential candidate, revealing a philosophical depth, personal authenticity, and political intelligence that should convince any but the hardest of ideologues that he carries unmatched leadership potentials for overcoming the divide-and-conquer tactics which have sundered Americans since the first slaves arrived here in chains.

Only words? What words they were.

However, the fact that Barack Obama openly defines himself as a centrist invites the formation of this progressive force within his coalition. Anything less could allow his eventual drift towards the right as the general election approaches. It was the industrial strikes and radical organizers in the 1930s who pushed Roosevelt to support the New Deal. It was the civil rights and student movements that brought about voting rights legislation under Lyndon Johnson and propelled Eugene McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy’s anti-war campaigns. It was the original Earth Day that led Richard Nixon to sign environmental laws. And it will be the Obama movement that makes it necessary and possible to end the war in Iraq, renew our economy with a populist emphasis, and confront the challenge of global warming.

We should not only keep the pressure on, but we also should connect the issues that Barack Obama has made central to his campaign into an overarching progressive vision.

- The Iraq War must end as rapidly as possible, not in five years. All our troops must be withdrawn. Diplomacy and trade must replace further military occupation or military escalation into Iran and Pakistan. We should not stop urging Barack Obama to avoid leaving American advisers behind in Iraq in a counterinsurgency quagmire like Afghanistan today or Central America in the 1970s and 1980s. Nor should he simply transfer American combat troops from the quagmire in Iraq to the quagmire in Afghanistan.

- Iraq cannot be separated from our economic crisis. Iraq is costing trillions of dollars that should be invested in jobs, universal health care, education, housing and public works here at home. Our own Gulf Coast requires the attention and funds now spent on Gulf oil.

- Iraq cannot be separated from our energy crisis. We are spending an unheard-of $100/barrel for oil. We are officially committed to wars over oil supplies far into the future. We instead need a war against global warming and for energy independence from Middle Eastern police states and multinational corporations.

Progressives should support Obama’s 16-month combat troop withdrawal plan in comparison to Clinton’s open-ended one, and demand that both candidates avoid a slide into four more years of low-visibility counterinsurgency.

The Democratic candidates should listen more to the blunt advice of the voters instead of the timid talk of their national security advisers. Two-thirds of American voters, and a much higher percentage of Democrats, oppose this war and favor withdrawal in less than two years, nearly half of them in less than one year. The same percentage believe the war has had a negative effect on life in the United States, while only 15 percent believe the war has been positive. Without this solid peace sentiment, neither Obama nor Clinton would be taking the stands they do today.

Further, the battered and abused people of Iraq favor an American withdrawal by a 70 percent margin.

The American government’s arrogant defiance of these strong popular majorities in both America and Iraq should be ended this November by a powerful peace mandate.

The profound transition from the policies of the past will not be easy, and fortunately the Obama campaign is lifted by the fresh wind of change. We seek not only to change the faces in high places, however, but to save our country from slow death by greed, status quo politics, and loss of vision. The status quo cannot stand much longer, neither that of politics-as-usual nor that of our security, energy and economic policies. We are stealing from the next generation’s future, and living on borrowed time.

The Bush Administration has replaced the Cold War with the War on Terrorism led by the same military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned against. The reality and public fear of terrorism today is no less real than fear of communism and nuclear annihilation a generation ago. But we simply cannot continue multiple military interventions in many Muslim countries without increasing the vast number of violent jihadists against us, bleeding our military and our economy, becoming more dependent on Middle East oil, creating unsavory alliances with police states, shrinking our own civil liberties and putting ourselves at permanent risk of another 9/11 attack.

We need a brave turn towards peace and conflict resolution in the Middle East and the Muslim world. Getting out of Iraq, sponsoring a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, ending alliances with police states in the Arab world, unilaterally initiating real energy independence and moving the world away from the global warming crises are the steps that must be taken.

Nor can we impose NAFTA-style trade agreements on so many nations that seek only to control their own national resources and economic destinies. We cannot globalize corporate and financial power over democratic values and institutions. Since the Clinton Administration pushed through NAFTA against the Democratic majority in Congress, one Latin American nation after another has elected progressive governments that reject US trade deals and hegemony. We are isolated in Latin America by our Cold War and drug war crusades, by the $500 million counter-insurgency in Columbia, support for the 2002 coup attempt in Venezuela, and the ineffectual blockade of Cuba. We need to return to the Good Neighbor policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s, which rejected Yankee military intervention and accepted Mexico’s right to nationalize its oil in the face of industry opposition. The pursuit of NAFTA-style trade policies inflames our immigration crisis as well, by uprooting countless campesinos who inevitably seek low-wage jobs north of the border in order to survive. We need balanced and democratically-approved trade agreements that focus on the needs of workers, consumers and the environment. The Banana Republic is a retail chain, not an American colony protected by the Monroe Doctrine.

We are pleased that Hillary Clinton has been responsive to the tide of voter opinion this year, and we applaud the possibility of at last electing an American woman president. But progressives should be disturbed at her duplicitous positions on Iraq and NAFTA. She still denies that her 2002 vote for legislation which was called the war authorization bill was a vote for war authorization. She now promises to “end the war” but will not set a timeline for combat troop withdrawal, and remains committed to leaving tens of thousands of counter-terrorism troops and trainers in Iraq amidst a sectarian conflict. While Obama needs to clarify his own position on counterinsurgency, Clinton’s “end the war” rhetoric conceals an open commitment to keep American troops in Iraq until all our ill-defined enemies are defeated—a treadmill which guarantees only the spawning of more enemies. On NAFTA, she claims to have opposed the trade deal behind closed doors when she was First Lady. But the public record, and documents recently disclosed in response to litigation, proves that she was a cheerleader for NAFTA against the strong opposition of rank-and-file Democrats. The Clintons ushered in the Wall Street Democrats whose deregulation ethos has widened inequality while leaving millions of Americans without their rightful protections against market shocks.

Clinton’s most bizarre claim is that Obama is unqualified to be commander-in-chief. Clinton herself never served in the military, and has no experience in the armed services apart from the Senate armed services committee. Her husband had no military experience before becoming president. In fact he was a draft opponent during Vietnam, a stance we respected. She was the first lady, and he the governor, of one of our smallest states. They brought no more experience, and arguably less, to the White House than Obama would in 2009.

We take very seriously the argument that Americans should elect a first woman president, and we abhor the surfacing of sexism in this supposedly post-feminist era. But none of us would vote for Condoleeza Rice as either the first woman or first African-American president. We regret that the choice divides so many progressive friends and allies, but believe that a Clinton presidency would be a Clinton presidency all over again, not a triumph of feminism but a restoration of the aging, power-driven Wall Street Democratic Hawks at a moment when so much more fresh imagination is possible and needed. A Clinton victory could only be achieved by the dashing of hope among millions of young people on whom a better future depends. The style of the Clintons’ attacks on Obama, which are likely to escalate as her chances of winning decline, already risks losing too many Democratic and independent voters in November. We believe that the Hillary Clinton of 1968 would be an Obama volunteer today, just as she once marched in the snows of New Hampshire for Eugene McCarthy against the Democratic establishment.

We did not foresee the exciting social movement that is the Obama campaign. Many of us supported other candidates, or waited skeptically as weeks and months passed. But the closeness of the race makes it imperative that everyone on the sidelines, everyone in doubt, everyone vacillating, everyone fearing betrayals and the blasting of hope, everyone quarreling over political correctness, must join this fight to the finish. Not since Robert Kennedy’s 1968 campaign has there been a passion to imagine the world anew like the passion and unprecedented numbers of people mobilized in this campaign.

[TOM HAYDEN is author of Ending the War in Iraq, a five-time Democratic convention delegate, former state senator, and board member of the Progressive Democrats of America. BILL FLETCHER, JR., who originated the call for founding “Progressives for Obama,” is the executive editor of Black Commentator, and founder of the Center for Labor Renewal; BARBARA EHRENREICH is the author of Dancing in the Streets[2007] and other popular works and, with Hayden, a member of The Nation’s editorial board. DANNY GLOVER is the respected actor, activist, and chairman of the board of TransAfrica Forum. ]

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Real Rev. Wright: The Footage Fox and the Other Networks Won't Show [VIDEO]

The Real Rev. Wright: The Footage Fox and the Other Networks Won't Show [VIDEO]

Martin Luther King

Listen to what King said about the Vietnam War at his own Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on Feb. 4, 1968: "God didn't call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war. . . . And we are criminals in that war. We've committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world, and I'm going to continue to say it. And we won't stop it because of our pride and our arrogance as a nation. But God has a way of even putting nations in their place." King then predicted this response from the Almighty: "And if you don't stop your reckless course, I'll rise up and break the backbone of your power."

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Does Obama have a race problem

Does Obama Really Have a Race Problem?

There is no doubt that working-class whites harbor resentments against blacks. But wealthy whites are more likely than working-class whites to use the race card in the voting booth.

PETER DREIER | March 20, 2008 | web only
The American Prospect

One of the persistent mantras of this election season is that Barack Obama's skin color may cost him the Democratic nomination (or the White House), because of racism among working-class white voters. According to conventional wisdom, white workers faced with growing economic insecurity -- blue-collar employees in manufacturing and construction, pink-collar employees in office and retail sectors -- vent their frustrations on blacks, whom they view as competing for their jobs or living off of government social programs funded by whites' hard-earned tax dollars. When those white workers get to the voting booth, their anger translates into an unwillingness to vote for black candidates.
Obama confronted this paradox in his speech in Philadelphia on Tuesday. "Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze -- a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many," Obama observed. "And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns - this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding."
There is no doubt that some working-class whites harbor such resentments against blacks, just as it true that whites and blacks hold similar sentiments about Latino immigrants, and that many Hispanics have negative stereotypes about blacks. Among low-income and working-class Americans of all colors, such cross-cutting prejudices are well documented. It isn't surprising that these attitudes are reflected in voting behavior.
But let's be clear about the class nature of racial prejudice, stereotypes, discrimination, and disparities. Wealthy whites are more likely than working-class whites to use the race card in the voting booth. Voting statistics reveal that most upper-income whites consistently vote in Republican, not Democratic, primaries, which means they don't have to vote for black or Latino candidates. And in partisan run-off elections, wealthy whites overwhelmingly vote for Republican over Democratic contenders. In the 2004 presidential contest, eight of the 10 wealthiest congressional districts voted for Bush. The two districts that went to Kerry were both in California's high-tech-oriented Silicon Valley. White voters earning incomes of more than $200,000 a year cast 66 percent of their ballots for Bush. (The Kerry voters among them tended to be professionals in human services, government, teaching, and creative sectors, not those in business and management.)
In contrast, among white voters with family incomes between $15,000 and$30,000, 51 percent voted for Bush, and among white voters in the $30,000 to $50,000 range, 58 percent went with Bush.
If Barack Obama winds up facing John McCain in November, Obama will certainly attract some upper-class white voters -- including some among the 1 percent of Americans with incomes over $364,657, who have 22 percent of all income and own 37 percent of all corporate stock. Because their numbers are so small, they won't make a big difference in the outcome of the election, except in terms of where they send their campaign contributions.
It is all but certain, though, that in an Obama-McCain face-off fewer wealthy whites will vote for Obama than working-class whites whom affluent pundits are so quick to label as racist. Indeed, we've already seen a significant number of blue-collar white voters show their support for Obama in Iowa, South Carolina, Wisconsin, and other states. Yes, white working-class Democrats in economically troubled Ohio favored Clinton over Obama. But in November, most of the blue-collar Democrats, working-class independents, and union members who voted for Clinton -- in Ohio and elsewhere -- are likely to switch to Obama, not McCain.
It is understandable that most wealthy whites would consistently vote for Republicans, who like low taxes and hate strong unions. But in recent decades, a significant number of working-class whites -- the so-called "Reagan Democrats" -- have voted for GOP candidates who have done so little to address their bread-and-butter concerns. As Thomas Frank argued in his book, What’s the Matter with Kansas?, the Republicans have successfully used "wedge" issues -- abortion, religion, gun control, gay rights, affirmative action, and, of course, the war on terrorism -- to persuade some working-class whites to vote against their economic interests.
But the tide seems to be changing. Certainly exasperation with the war in Iraq has played a role in bringing many working-class white voters back into the Democratic fold. But the major issues in this election -- stagnant wages, job insecurity, rising health-care and college costs, home foreclosures -- favor the Democrats. Some voters may be blinded by racial prejudice, but in November, pink slips and green dollars are likely to play a more important role than black or white skin.
Of course, class and income aren't the only factors that determine white voting behavior. Age plays a role, too. So far, Obama has inspired a significant increase in turnout among young white voters, but he hasn't fared as well among middle-aged and elderly whites. Unfortunately for the Democrats, young voters are fleeing the older Rust Belt areas like Ohio and Pennsylvania, both key battleground states.
In the Democratic primaries, white Catholics have favored Clinton, while white Protestants preferred Obama. Neither Democrat is likely to win over many white evangelicals, but a significant number might stay home in November if McCain can't convince them that he's sufficiently conservative. National Rifle Association members aren't likely to give Obama or Clinton many of their votes. either.
Unions play a critical role in shaping white workers’ views and mobilizing them in elections. When voters' loyalties are divided between their economic interests and other concerns, union membership can be a crucial determinant. In 2004, for example, George Bush won by a 62 percent to 37 percent margin among white males. But John Kerry carried white males who were union members by a 59 percent to 38 percent difference. Bush won among white women by 55 percent to 44 percent, but Kerry won white women union members by 67 percent to 32 percent.
Similarly, gun owners favored Bush by a 63 percent to 36 percent margin, but union members who own guns supported Kerry 55 percent to 43 percent, according to an AFL-CIO survey. Bush carried all weekly church-goers by a 61 percent to 39 percent margin, but Kerry won among union members who attend church weekly by a 55 percent to 43 percent split.
Despite Kerry’s tepid campaign and upper-crust demeanor, union members gave him 61 percent of their votes over Bush. In the battleground states, where unions focused their turnout efforts, they did even better. In Ohio, for example, union members favored Kerry by a 67 percent to 31 percent margin.
So, even if McCain captures the same proportion of white middle-aged and elderly votes as Bush did in 2004, Obama can still win if he can garner reasonable support among Hispanic voters and increase turn-out among African Americans and young white voters, which he has already shown he can do, while capturing a significant portion of union voters.
By focusing on voting behavior and attitudes, however, political pundits deflect focus away from other fundamental concerns. America’s corporate and political rulers have long used racism, ethnic stereotypes, and immigrant bashing to divide working people and weaken their collective power. Manufacturers recruited Southern blacks to act as strikebreakers in Northern cities, and employers warned "No Irish need apply" and resorted to anti-Semitism to pit workers against each other. In hard economic times, scapegoating against blacks and Hispanic immigrants diverts white workers’ attention away from the failure of business and political elites to create enough decent jobs.
Although working-class white Americans may harbor racist sentiments, they do not control the major institutions that are responsible for America's racial divide, including the economic forces that sometimes pit white, black, and Hispanic working families against each other for jobs, housing, and decent schools.
For example, it is upper-class whites who own and control the banks that persistently engage in abusive and predatory practices against black and Latino borrowers. Since the federal government began collecting data on mortgage loans in the 1970s, the practice of mortgage discrimination -- called "redlining" -- has been well documented. Even affluent blacks are denied loans at a higher rate than working-class whites. Similarly, real estate brokers are more likely to show white home-seekers more homes, in more locations, and in white neighborhoods than they are black homebuyers with similar incomes and educational backgrounds. These practices contribute to racial segregation in housing (which is still pervasive in every part of the country) and the lower rate of homeownership among African Americans, even among those with similar incomes to whites. That such practices are illegal hasn't stopped the nation's banking and real estate industry from engaging in them -- an industry owned and managed by wealthy white businesspersons, mostly men.
It is wealthy whites who also own and control the nation's largest corporations, few of whom have any African Americans or Latinos on their boards of directors (certainly not in numbers reflective of the larger population). It is these major white-controlled corporations that continue to discriminate against blacks, Latinos, and, yes, women, in hiring and promotion. A few years ago, for example, a federal court found that black employees at Coca-Cola made an average of $26,000 a year less than white employees, were routinely passed over for promotions, and frequently earned less than the white subordinates whom they trained or supervised. Three years ago, Sodexho, the giant food-services company, agreed to pay $80 million to settle a lawsuit after documents revealed that it had systematically denied promotions to 3,400 black midlevel managers; although blacks comprised 12 percent of the company's managers, they accounted for only 2 percent of its upper-management positions.
Such practices are hardly confined to a handful of corporations. Sociologists have documented, for example, that employers are more likely to grant white applicants job interviews and make them offers than they are black applicants with the same skills and level of experience. White workers are more likely to be promoted than black employees with comparable experience. Even when in management positions, blacks are often ghettoized in certain niches, such as "community relations" or in divisions that focus on black customers.
It is the major media, owned and controlled by wealthy whites and managed primarily by upper-middle class white publishers and editors, who perpetuate racial stereotypes in their news reporting. As political scientist Martin Gilens documented in his book, Why Americans Hate Welfare, the media systematically portray blacks in stereotypical ways.
In photos and prose, the media over-represent blacks in stories about the poor and welfare. Gilens found, for example, that more than 60 percent of poor people portrayed in the media were black, when in reality blacks comprise only 27 percent of all poor people. Similar slanted images portray blacks as more likely to be on welfare and be jobless than they are in reality, reinforcing negative stereotypes.
It is upper-class and upper-middle-class whites who live in and control the wealthy suburbs that keep blacks out of their communities and their local schools. For example, they utilize exclusionary zoning, which limits the construction of apartment buildings and favors large homes on huge lots. Some might argue that this is really class, not racial, prejudice, that wealthy white suburbanites fear that allowing poor people to live nearby might lower property values. In fact, studies document that, with some exceptions, middle-class African Americans -- even those who can afford to buy expensive homes – are systematically excluded from wealthy suburbs. Banks and real estate agents contribute to this exclusion by "steering" affluent black buyers away from such areas. But the behavior of upper-class whites who sit on local zoning boards and who move to exclusive suburbs to avoid living near blacks also plays an important role.
It is also wealthy whites who long resisted allowing blacks, even affluent blacks, to join their exclusive private country clubs, so that they could keep their distance while playing tennis and golf. Last year, for example, two candidates running for mayor of Dallas, Darrell Jordan and Tom Leppert, were criticized for being members of the Dallas Country Club, which had no black members. Although such barriers have started to fall, especially in recent years after bad publicity focusing on country clubs on the Professional Golf Association tour that practice discrimination, many private clubs still cater to corporate executives and exclude or limit black and female members.
It is possible, even likely, that many upper-class whites are not personally prejudiced in the vulgar way that we associate with hard-core racism. They would never join a white supremacist group, never tell an overtly racist joke in public, and might even like watching Oprah on TV. A handful of them might even donate money to causes that help African Americans like the NAACP or the United Negro College Fund. But in their decision-making roles within the most powerful institutions in society, they -- more than blue-collar whites -- support practices that contribute to the nation's racial divide.
For sure, America has made significant progress in addressing both racial prejudice and racial discrimination. Thanks to the civil-rights revolution, we've witnessed the significant growth of the African American middle class and the dramatic decline of the overt daily terror imposed on black Americans, especially in the South. The number of black elected officials at all levels of government has seen a significant increase, and many of those officials have garnered cross-racial support.
There is, of course, still a white-enforced "glass ceiling" that keeps many qualified African Americans from reaching the top echelons of society. But unlike 30 years ago, blacks are now found on corporate boards and in top management, as TV newscasters and daily newspaper editors, and as presidents and administrators of major colleges, foundations, and hospitals.
Despite this progress, in every sphere of American life -- income, hiring, promotion, housing, the quality of public schools, college attendance, treatment by the criminal justice system, media portrayals, and others -- race remains a divisive issue. While upper-middle class pundits may get some smug pleasure out of pointing to racial prejudice among America's white working-class voters, they would be more accurate if they looked up, rather than down, the economic ladder to identify who really has the power to prop up, or fix, the institutions that turn bigotry into discrimination.

Peter Dreier is professor of politics and director of the Urban & Environmental Policy program at Occidental College in Los Angeles, and coauthor of The Next Los Angeles: The Struggle for a Livable City.

Friday, March 21, 2008

San Francisco School Supt. threatens to sue the state

Superintendent threatens to sue state for school cuts
Beth Winegarner, The Examiner
2008-03-21 11:00:00.0

The superintendent of San Francisco’s public schools is threatening to sue the state in order to force long-term funding improvements.

At $7,000 per student, California ranks 46th in per pupil spending, and would slip to 50th if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s budget proposed in January is adopted by the Legislature, according to officials with the California Department of Education.

San Francisco public schools could have $40 million less to spend in the 2008-09 school year, and the district has already told 395 teachers and 140 administrators they could lose their jobs next year.

“If California schools keep being pushed, we will be forced to file a funding-inadequacy lawsuit against California,” San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Carlos Garcia said at a news conference Thursday.

San Francisco, like many California public school districts, is currently juggling a number of unknowns. Schwarzenegger is scheduled to update his budget proposal in May, and the California Legislature would adopt a state budget in June at the earliest — but could take until August or September if negotiations are contentious.

Meanwhile, state law requires schools to issue final layoff notices in May and adopt balanced budgets in June, Garcia said.

Additionally, while the school district qualifies for city rainy-day funds approved by San Francisco voters in 2003, the Board of Supervisors won’t approve the release of those funds until state cuts are finalized, according to Zach Tuller, aide to Supervisor Tom Ammiano, who authored the rainy-day reserve legislation.

Mayor Gavin Newsom has promised the district will receive up to $31 million from rainy-day funds.

Garcia, who already has begun conversations with education officials about the possibility of legal action against the state, said he would still consider approaching the school board about a lawsuit — even if the district receives rainy-day funds and if the state education cuts are not as severe as expected.

If he sues, it would be on the grounds that California is providing inadequate funds to for schools to meet their mandate to educate children, according to district spokeswoman Gentle Blythe.

“This [lawsuit] is an attempt to fix this problem long-range,” Garcia said, referring to the governmental issues that have contributed to the state’s current per pupil spending levels. “We are the eighth-wealthiest economy in the world. I don’t expect an overnight fix, but let’s have a long-range plan.”

Response to Obama speech

Response to Obama speech on race.

A teachers view of testing:

Friday, March 14, 2008

Fox "News" attacks Obama

No surprise that FOX has been at it again: smearing, distorting, attacking Obama. What is infuriating and requires IMMEDIATE ACTION is that so many in the media have been catching the FOX virus and spreading it. By way of a cure, we bring you the next installment in our highly successful FOX Attacks series. Together, we have battled them effectively, halted their fake debates, and put pressure on Bill O'Reilly for his attacks on homeless vets. And so far, over 6 million people have seen FOX Attacks.
Watch the video, send it to your friends, and then demand the media stop spreading the FOX virus. Let them know they can't keep parroting FOX's smears against Barack Obama without hearing from us. Sign the petition, and we'll make sure the heads of all the mainstream media's news divisions see it. You can even express your outrage visually by including your picture.

Sign the petition:

A special thanks to all of you who contributed to the tickers for this film. Your contributions made this video possible. You turned this into a collaborative filmmaking process, declaring our collective outrage over FOX's propaganda. If you didn't get the chance to contribute this time around, you can put your message to Murdoch in the next FOX Attacks film for a contribution of $199. Space is very limited though, we can only include 25 messages.


Of course, Obama isn't the only Democratic nominee that FOX and their ilk have gone after in this Presidential race. Chris Matthews, once a Roger Ailes hire, has been demonizing Hillary Clinton every chance he gets. Our friends at Media Matters have more on how Matthews is modeling himself after Bill O'Reilly.

Robert Greenwald
and the Brave New Team

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sacramento: Don't cut school budgets

By Frank D. Russo

The steps on all four sides of the State Capitol in Sacramento got a lot of attention yesterday. Citizens from across the state held back to back rallies on matters pertaining to the California budget, education, social services, juvenile incarceration, and pesticide spraying for moths.

But the biggest of the day was a bit unusual—over 40 Superintendents of Public Instruction from Los Angeles County and 100 statewide joined parents, teachers, and school kids to deliver a message to the legislature and the Governor to not balance the California state budget by cutting education. Think the state budget is a boring topic—or that it’s all about numbers? You should have heard these education experts, charged with the responsibility to make it all work, talk passionately about their mission. More than one of these leaders from Los Angeles County told the crowd about how they had struggled and improved schools that had failing our kids—some to the point that they now receive statewide recognition—and how they will not allow this to go down the drain with what one called “sine wave budgeting.”

Darlene Robles, Superintendent of the Los Angeles County Office of Education started her remarks noting that “It’s not often that we see Superintendents coming forward.” She then gave some startling figures about California in comparison with other states:

“When we compare out school system to those across the country, we have 30% fewer teachers in our classrooms…. We have 50% less school administrators than school districts across the country and 80% less counselors.”

She continued, “That’s shameful, when were the 8th largest economy in the world.” Referring to California’s level of funding based on the cost of living, she said, “To be 46th is just not acceptable.”

Robles concluded: “all of us know that there isn’t a legislator across this state that did not run on the platform that they would support public education. And it’s not only supporting public education during the good times—it’s supporting public education during the tough times. That’s when character counts.”

By the time Jack O’Connell, California’s state Superintendent of Public Instruction, made his way through the crowd to speak, he was greeted with thunderous applause and a warm hug. He fired up the crowd, telling them what they already knew—but his words were clearly destined for those in legislative session inside the building and to Governor Schwarzenegger, who was in Fairfield, delivering a speech on carpenter apprenticeship programs. He charged the Governor with an “abdication of one’s responsibility to set values and priorities” in proposing a 10% across the board set of budget cuts and characterized the $4.8 billion of cuts to education as a “hostile suspension of Prop 98,” noting that the voters in passing that measure had supported educational funding and had confirmed that priority 3 years ago—a reference to their rejection of a ballot measure in Schwarzenegger’s special election of 2005 that would have weakened it.

O’Connell was just one of the speakers who tied education to our future, our economy as a state, to reductions in imprisonment and crime, and to moral values. He said: “If you want to invest in the future, you invest in public education. If you want to shortchange the future, then you shortchange education. The cuts being proposed would be devastating to education. It would be a great step backwards.”

He directly challenged the Governor and Republicans on the framing of this issue: “We don’t have a spending problem. Our problem is with our priorities. When you hear people say we have a spending problem, you tell them we have a values problem. We have a problem with or priorities. That is why we need to make sure that the public policy document for the state of California is one that invests in the future.”

O’Connell then explained the numbers in another way: “The governor’s budget proposes $800 less per student. Look at that in terms of a classroom. You’re looking at about $25,000 taken out of every single classroom in the state of California. Your average elementary school—take away $400,000. Your average middle school, its about $1 million, and your typical high sized high school its about $2 million less in terms of services they can really provide. I can guarantee you our class sizes will be dramatically increased. We’ll have fewer classes available. Fewer career technical education classes. Fewer counselors.”
He also skewered Schwarzenegger and others for lofty rhetoric that did not match their actions, in closing with these lines” “You’ve heard of No Child Left Behind? This budget leaves all of our children behind. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this was supposed to be the ‘Year of Education.’”

Folks are starting to show up on the steps to the Capitol. And they are going inside to demand action, in this case armed with petitions they asked legislators to sign, promising not to balance the budget on the backs of our kids in school.

Before the budget is passed, my bet is that there will be a lot of other folks making the trip to Sacramento. Some of these legislators will not be as far from those who elected them in their districts as they usually are beyond these steps where the budget is voted on.

Posted on March 11, 2008
California Progress Report

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Schwarzenegger and Budget cuts

Speaking Out Against Schwarzenegger's Budget Cuts to Education

By Stephen Cassidy

"The Governor can’t manufacture money" is what one person said after I described how his cutbacks will harm our schools. I replied, "Yes, but he can manufacture leadership."

I serve on a school board in San Leandro, California. All Californians need to speak out against Governor Schwarzenegger's proposed budget cuts and pressure him and the Legislature to develop solutions to the revenue shortfall that do not harm our children.

My oldest daughter will start Kindergarten in public school in San Leandro next August. I know she will receive excellent instruction from dedicated and caring teachers. Her education, however, will not be shaped solely by my wife and me, her teachers, principal, other involved parents and school board.

The federal government has intruded in education through the No Child Left Behind Act. NCLB establishes wholly unrealistic standards of performance for our public schools. When schools do not meet these standards, they are labeled failures, triggering a set of escalating sanctions ending in the conversion of our public schools into charter schools.

Congress is debating whether to reauthorize NCLB. If Congress applied the same performance measurements to itself, Congress would receive an "F." The federal government should offer a helping hand to schools in need, not punitive sanctions.

Decisions made in Sacramento in the coming months will also greatly impact our schools. California has a centralized system for funding public education. The Governor and Legislature, not local school boards, determine the amount of property taxes and state aid each school district receives. This is why even when property tax receipts increase, our schools do not necessarily benefit.

Sacramento deserves an "F" in the category of school finance. According to Education Week, California ranks 47th in the nation in spending per student when accounting for regional cost differences, spending $1,900 less per student than the national average. West Virginia, Louisiana and Mississippi all outrank California.

What do these statistics mean? The 6.3 million children in California public schools attend some of the most crowded classrooms and have the fewest counselors and librarians in the nation.

Last August, Governor Schwarzenegger signed a budget that he called responsible, noting it limited "spending growth to less than 1 percent." Since then there has been a meltdown in the housing market. State revenues have dropped precipitously. Nevertheless, Governor Schwarzenegger claims state expenditures are excessive. He proposes cutting billions from K-12 education to balance the budget.

"The Governor can’t manufacture money" is what one person said after I described how his cutbacks will harm our schools. I replied, "Yes, but he can manufacture leadership." Upon taking office, Governor Schwarzenegger reduced the vehicle license fee. That created an annual $4 billion hole in the budget, about the same amount he now seeks to slash from education.

Governor Schwarzenegger once promised voters he would "protect California’s commitment to education funding." Our public schools are the only state-funded agency that depends upon car washes, bake sales and magazine subscription drives to function. Yet, the Governor rules out any tax increases to address the revenue shortfall. His call for 2008 to be the Year of Education has become a cruel joke.

Leadership is ultimately by example. The Schwarzenegger household will be unaffected by the budget cuts. His children attend a private school that charges over $25,000 a year in tuition. In San Leandro, spending per student in 2006 was $6,916.

Our society will not flourish if only the children of the rich attend schools that offer quality teaching in small classrooms, music and arts education, foreign languages, sports, access to technology and well-stocked libraries. California’s future depends on our public schools receiving the resources necessary to succeed.

Please note, I am speaking for myself, not the San Leandro School Board

Stephen Cassidy is Vice-President of the San Leandro Unified School District Board. He is a 1986 graduate of the School of Foreign Service of Georgetown University and received his law degree in 1989 from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. He practices law in San Francisco. His wife Amy (Kehret) Cassidy is a former teacher in the San Leandro Unified School District and attended San Leandro’s public schools.

Posted on March 06, 2008
Posted on the California Progress Report.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Lessons from Finland: The way to education Excellence

Published on Wednesday, February 27, 2008 by The Providence Journal (Rhode Island)

Lessons From Finland: The Way to Education Excellence

by Walt Gardner

When Finland’s 15-year-olds recently placed No.1 in math and science on the recent Program for International Student Assessment, the news of the coup was received in Helsinki with characteristic reserve. For the Finns, whose schools are considered the best in the world, the scores stood as a redundant confirmation of the success of their policies.

But in the U.S., the frustration was palpable. Despite persistent attempts to bring equity to the wildly uneven quality of our schools, reformers have not been able to produce the intended results. That’s why they’ve begun to look even more closely in this presidential election year at Finland for lessons that can be applied here. What they will find in the end serves as a cautionary tale for strategies that we proudly consider cutting edge.

At the heart of Finland’s stellar reputation is a philosophy completely alien to America. The country of 5.3 million in an area twice the size of Missouri considers education an end in itself - not a means to an end. It’s a deeply rooted value that is reflected in the Ministry of Education and in all 432 municipalities. In sharp contrast, Americans view education as a stepping stone to better-paying jobs or to impress others. The distinction explains why we are obsessed with marquee names, and how we structure, operate and fund schools.

The headlines notwithstanding, misconceptions about Finland’s renown as an educational icon abound. The Finns spend a meager (compared to the U.S.) $5,000 a year per student, operate no gifted programs, have average class sizes close to 30, and don’t begin schooling children until they are 7. Moreover, Finland is not the homogeneous nation of lore. While still not as diverse as the U.S., the number of immigrant students in Helsinki’s comprehensive schools is exploding, with their numbers expected to constitute 23.3 percent of the city’s schools by 2025. At present, about 11 percent are immigrants, compared with just 6 percent in 2002. According to the City of Helsinki Urban Facts, by 2015 there will be schools with more than half of the student body from abroad.

Not surprisingly, in a land where literacy and numeracy are considered virtues, teachers are revered. Teenagers ranked teaching at the top of their list of favorite professions in a recent survey. Far more graduates of upper schools in Finland apply for admission to teacher-training institutes than are accepted. The overwhelming majority of those who eventually enter the classroom as a teacher make it a lifelong career, even though they are paid no more than their counterparts in other European countries.

One of the major reasons for the job satisfaction that Finnish teachers report is the great freedom they enjoy in their instructional practices. As long as they adhere to the core national curriculum, teachers are granted latitude unheard of in the U.S. The scripted lesson plans that teachers here are increasingly being expected to follow would be rejected out of hand as an insult by teachers in Finland and by their powerful union, which has a growing membership of some 117,500 members.

If none of these facts are enough to raise doubts about the policies the U.S. has in place or on the drawing board, Finland’s testing practices should raise a final red flag. The Finns do not administer national standardized tests during the nine years of basic education. Instead, the National Board of Education assesses learning on the basis of a sample representing about 10 percent of a stipulated age group. Individual school results are strictly confidential, and schools are neither ranked nor compared. The data collected are available only to the schools in question and to the National Board of Education, which use them to help improve instruction. The naming and shaming that No Child Left Behind relies on in its obsession with quantification would be unthinkable.

What ultimately emerges from studying Finland is the realization that the reform movement in America is based on a business model fundamentally at odds with the education model used by a country with the world’s finest schools. While it’s always risky to attempt to apply findings from one country to another, particularly when the two are so different, it’s a mistake to turn our backs on Finland’s approach.

Walter Gardner taught English for 28 years in the Los Angeles Unified School District and was a lecturer in the University of California at Los Angeles Graduate School of Education.

© 2008 The Providence Journal Co.
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