JUST OVER SIX MONTHS have passed since the disturbing execution of Kenneth Williams, but as far as the state of Arkansas is concerned, it might as well be ancient history. No sooner did media witnesses return to the press room on the night of April 27 to describe how Williams coughed and convulsed on the gurney than officials acted like nothing had happened. Never mind the veteran reporter who said it was unlike any execution he had ever seen. Gov. Asa Hutchinson dismissed calls for an investigation. “My goal was to make sure that we had justice in Arkansas in a way that reflected well on the state,” he said the next day, “and I think that was accomplished.”

In reality, the apparently botched execution was the culmination of an ugly ordeal that had put Arkansas at the center of international controversy for weeks. Hutchinson had originally scheduled execution dates for eight men to take place over 11 days last spring, in a rush to use drugs set to expire at the end of April. The plan sparked chaos, with defense attorneys scrambling to write clemency petitions, state lawyers beating back legal challenges, and prison staff preparing to try out a questionable sedative, midazolam, never previously used in Arkansas. The drug has been linked to several executions gone awry, and many observers warned something was bound to go wrong. Of the four executions that proceeded, Williams’s fulfilled the worst predictions. One attorney called it “horrifying.”

Article continues:

Federal Judge Finds Racism Behind Arizona Law Banning Ethnic Studies – Julie Depenbrock August 22, 201711:08 PM ET

student girl looking at book and seeing reflection of herself
LA Johnson/NPR

In Jr Arimboanga’s ninth-grade classroom, students learn about critical consciousness: how to read the word, but also the world. It’s a concept popularized by a Brazilian educational theorist named Paulo Freire in his book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

The class is ethnic studies. It’s part of an effort by San Francisco educators like Arimboanga to teach courses centered on the perspectives of historically marginalized groups. Just last year, California passed a law mandating a model ethnic studies curriculum.

Sometimes called multicultural education or culturally responsive teaching (though there are subtle differences among the three), ethnic studies has been expanding on the west coast and in pockets across the country. San Francisco’s curriculum is “designed to give high school students an introduction to the experiences of ethnic communities that are rarely represented in textbooks,” according to the school district’s website.

Teachers of ethnic studies argue that these courses give students a pathway to break the cycles of poverty, violence, and incarceration that so many communities of color face.

Article continues:

The Return of Racism? – By Fredrick C. Harris and Robert C. Lieberman August 21, 2017

TIM DODSON / THE CAVALIER DAILY / REUTERS A candlelight vigil for Heather Heyer, killed by a white supremacist, at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, August 2017.

It was always a myth that Barack Obama’s 2008 election ushered in a post-racial era in which one’s skin color no longer correlated with one’s prospects for success. Racist beliefs and overt discrimination might have declined among white Americans, we argued in Foreign Affairs in 2015, but racial inequality was still perpetuated by a host of hidden mechanisms that infected apparently race-neutral institutions. Last week’s spectacle of racist violence in Charlottesville and President Donald Trump’s jaw-dropping embrace of white supremacy in his subsequent remarks made us wonder whether even that assessment was too optimistic. Had the brutish racism of an earlier era merely gone underground only to resurface now in the guise of tiki torch-bearing neo-Nazis and the American president?

Trump himself has done a lot to foster this impression. His real estate and casino businesses have a long and sordid history of racial discrimination. It was Trump’s embrace of the “birther” mythology that fueled his political rise. He launched his 2016 campaign with a racist broadside against Mexican immigrants, and he went on to attack the loyalty of a Mexican-American federal judge and the Pakistani-American family of a soldier killed in the Iraq War. His campaign was built on nativist and xenophobic appeals on issues such as immigration and trade, and in his frequent invocation of the slogan “America first,” he echoed the xenophobic rhetoric of opponents of American entry into World War II. One of his first acts as president was to issue a ban on immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries that was widely understood, including by federal courts, to be improperly discriminatory toward Muslims. Trump’s political ascendancy has also coincided with a rise in overt racial antagonism and conflict, and he has clearly emboldened white supremacist hate groups, as the events in Charlottesville and elsewhere attest. But while overt racism has resurfaced in ugly ways, other structural factors are also at play.

Article continues:

Miriam Zoila Pérez: How racism harms pregnant women — and what can help – Filmed October 2016 at TEDWomen 2016

Racism is making people sick — especially black women and babies, says Miriam Zoila Pérez. The doula turned journalist explores the relationship between race, class and illness and tells us about a radically compassionate prenatal care program that can buffer pregnant women from the stress that people of color face every day.


Will Racism End When Old Bigots Die? – LEAH DONNELLA January 14, 2017 7:07 AM ET


Esther Lui for NPR

Shelly Fields is a 46-year-old white woman living in Richton Park, a racially diverse Chicago suburb. She says she’s raised her four daughters, who are biracial, to see people of all races as equal, just as her parents raised her. Fields doesn’t think that racism will ever disappear completely, but she’s hopeful that it lessens with each passing generation.

“The more biracial children there are, the more equality we see,” Fields said. “The more people of color we see in positions of power – it will help to change the way people see race.”

Her oldest daughter, Summer, is a 22-year-old graduate of the University of Chicago. When she was in high school, Summer probably would have agreed that race relations were looking up. The ’90s and early 2000s were “a post-racial fantasy time” in Richton Park, Summer said. “Being firmly in the middle of the Obama era – it [was] a moment of progress. It was validating.”

Now, as the Obama era ends, she is of the mind that racism isn’t going anywhere.

“Racism always evolves, and will find a way,” Summer said.

The question that Shelly and Summer are tackling has been posed in many forms for many generations. Will racism just die off with old bigots? Does the fate of race relations lie with the children?

That idea has been milling about the public psyche for generations. It lives in that famous (if oft-decontextualized) line: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. said it eloquently in his “I Have a Dream” speech, but we’ve heard that sentiment through the ages, from Thomas Jefferson to Oprah Winfrey. The belief that our children’s generation will be less racist gets repeated by teachers, parents, politicians and activists. And understandably so. Much of American culture is predicated on the idea that we can create a better future for our progeny, instilling in them values that we as a nation have often failed to uphold.

Shelly and Summer Fields.

Courtesy of Summer Fields


Who is Jeff Sessions, US attorney general nominee? BBC News 18 November 2016


President-elect Donald Trump has named longtime ally US Senator Jeff Sessions to become his attorney general.

But allegations of racism that have dogged Mr Sessions’ career could make for an uncomfortable Senate confirmation hearing.

The right-wing, anti-illegal immigration senator from Alabama was one of Mr Trump’s earliest supporters in his White House bid.

As a fervent supporter, he was a senior adviser to the New York tycoon on politics, national security and policy.

He is also one of the vice-chairmen on Mr Trump’s presidential transition team.

KKK joke

At his victory bash in New York, Mr Trump said of Mr Sessions, “he is highly respected in Washington because he is as smart as you get”.

Born Jefferson Beauregard “Jeff” Sessions III, the 69-year-old has served as a senator for nearly two decades.

He was Alabama’s attorney general before he joined the Senate in 1996.

He sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Judiciary Committee and the Budget Committee.

Senator Jeff Sessions speaks to members of the media in the lobby of Trump Tower in the Manhattan.Reuters
Senator Sessions was one of Mr Trump’s earliest supporters

The hardline lawmaker, who helped Mr Trump craft his foreign policy plan, was one of the few Republicans to come to Mr Trump’s defence after he proposed a temporary ban on Muslims entering the US.

Mr Sessions said Mr Trump was “treading on dangerous ground”, but that it was “appropriate to begin to discuss” the issue.

The senator’s past remarks about race have drawn scrutiny and proved a roadblock in his political career.

A Senate committee denied Mr Sessions a federal judgeship in 1989 after lawmakers heard testimony that he had used a racial slur.

He had also joked about the Ku Klux Klan, saying he thought they were “OK, until he learned that they smoked marijuana”.

Mr Sessions was also accused of calling a black assistant US attorney “boy” and telling him to be careful about how he spoke to “white folks”.

He denied to the committee ever having called the lawyer “boy” and insisted he had merely advised him to be cautious about what he said to “folks”.

Mr Sessions also did not deny claims that he had labelled the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People “un-American” and “communist-inspired”.

Article continues:

9 times Jesse Williams eviscerated # — from cultural appropriation to white fragility – Updated by Victoria M. Massie on June 27, 2016, 3:30 p.m. ET

Actor Jesse Williams.		Bryan Steffy via Getty Images

Actor Jesse Williams. Bryan Steffy via Getty Images

Jesse Williams broke out on television playing the beloved Dr. Jackson Avery on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, but in recent years he has also become one of the most visible and outspoken supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“The burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander,” Williams said Sunday during his impassioned acceptance speech for the Humanitarian Award at this year’s BET Awards ceremony. “If you have a critique for the resistance, for our resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression. If you have no interest in equal rights for black people, then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down.”

In 2014, following the murder of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Williams protested and worked with local organizers to help bring Brown’s story to light. He has been similarly outspoken on Twitter and Tumblr around the extrajudicial police killings of John Crawford, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, and Rekia Boyd. Last month on BET, he premiered his documentary Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement, chronicling the birth of the black millennial social justice movement.

While Williams adamantly credits on-the-ground organizers and activists, here are a few quotes that highlight times when the actor put his hat in the ring in the fight for racial justice.

Article continues:

Everyone laughed at Chris Rock’s biting Oscars monologue. But will Hollywood actually change? – Updated by Michelle Garcia on February 29, 2016, 11:40 a.m. ET `

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at Mar 1, 2016 1.24

Chris Rock’s biting monologue Sunday night at the Academy Awards pulled no punches on Hollywood’s longstanding lack of diversity.

“I’m here at the Academy Awards, otherwise known as the white people’s choice awards,” Rock said in his opening joke. “I realized if they nominated hosts, I wouldn’t even get this job. You’d be watching Neil Patrick Harris right now.”

Rock, however, also turned his fire on the Academy’s critics. Why was this the first year for protests over the lack of people of color included among nominees — where were the critics in the 1950s and ’60s, when black people were mostly shut out of Hollywood?

“[Back then] we had real things to protest at the time. We were too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won Best Cinematographer,” Rock said to uncomfortable laughter. “When your grandmother’s swinging from a tree, it’s really hard to care about who won Best Documentary Foreign Short.”

Rock played to his greatest strength: making everyone cringe while also making us laugh at just how messed up things really are. Two of Rock’s most searing monologues on race garnered applause and even cheers. The first was when he asked why this particular ceremony has caught so much heat. The other was one that directly addressed police brutality.

“This year the in memoriam package is just going to be black people shot by the cops on the way to the movies,” he said, to a room full of uneasy applause.

Throughout the show, Rock confronted the entertainment industry — mainly the producers, studio heads, and financiers who really run things, as well as the industry’s top actors. In a poignant anecdote, Rock recalled a Hollywood fundraiser for President Barack Obama. A handful of people there, he said, were people of color.

“At some point you get to take a picture with the president,” Rock said. “I said, ‘Mr. President, you see all these writers, and actors, and producers? They don’t hire black people. And they’re the nicest white people on Earth. They’re liberals. Cheese!’ Is Hollywood racist? You’re damn right Hollywood’s racist. But it’s not that racism you’ve grown accustomed to. Hollywood is sorority racist. It’s like, ‘We like you Rhonda, but you’re not a Kappa.'”

Later in the show, a sketch reimagined some of the year’s biggest films with black actors dropped in. Divisive actress Stacey Dash wished everyone a happy Black History Month, and Jack Black was honored for being a great black actor. For another segment, Rock went to a movie theater in Compton to ask black moviegoers what they thought about the whole controversy.

Everyone laughed at Chris Rock’s criticisms — but few are trying to change

Rock told Hollywood what it should already know but has nonetheless made few decisive steps to change.

Last week, the New York Times asked 27 Hollywood players what it was like to really work in Hollywood if you’re not straight, white, and male.

America Ferrera, who is Latina, recounted going into auditions and being met with resistance for her race. “What do you do when someone says, ‘Your color skin is not what we’re looking for?'”

Eva Longoria said: “Networks say, ‘We’re on board with diversity,’ and they’ll develop it, but they seldom program it. We don’t have enough people in the decision-making process.”

Producer Effie Brown recalled: “[Initially], I had a real issue with Teamsters, who [were] predominantly male, predominantly white, and having that moment of ‘Oh, you really aren’t listening.’ And that’s when I started spouting my résumé. It’s a little demoralizing that you have to explain yourself.”

These long-held prejudices aren’t just anecdotal. A new study says the industry’s “epidemic of invisibility runs throughout popular storytelling.” According to the University of Southern California, 33.5 percent of all speaking roles in films released between September 2014 and August 2015 were for women, and 28.3 percent of speaking roles were filled by nonwhite actors.

Perhaps that’s because among those making the ultimate decisions, 94 percent of film studio heads were white and 100 percent were male between 2012 and 2013, according to a University of California Los Angeles 2015 study on diversity.

The excuse among the powers that be has long been the idea that white people are the majority of the moviegoing public. From film schools to studios, decision-makers see movies with casts of color as too alienating. But half of frequent moviegoers are nonwhite, according to the UCLA study. What’s more, films with racially diverse casts had the highest median global box office receipt and the highest median return on investment.

Those old excuses? They ring pretty hollow these days.

Since the nominations were released and #OscarsSoWhite returned for a second year in a row, Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs put into motion a plan to widen the diversity among Oscar voters. But that doesn’t solve the deeper problems preventing films involving women and people of color from being made in the first place.

Maybe Kevin Hart’s moving speech was the call to action everyone needed to hear to make sure what happened in 2016 doesn’t happen again. Hart spoke directly to entertainers of color who were shut out of the big show this year.

“Tonight should not determine the hard work and effort you put into your craft,” he said. “These problems of today eventually become problems of the old. Let’s not let this negative issue of diversity beat us. Let’s continue to do what we do best and work hard.”

Chris Rock Just Gave a Brilliant and Brave Oscar Speech About Hollywood Racism — By Edwin Rios | Sun Feb. 28, 2016 8:56 PM EST

In his searing opening monologue for the 88th Academy Awards—what he dubbed the “White People’s Choice Awards”—comedian Chris Rock relentlessly roasted Hollywood’s racism, in a year criticized for only nominating white actors.

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at Feb 29, 2016 1.21

“We want opportunity,” he said. “We want black actors to get the same opportunities as white actors. That’s it.” Watch the full clip above.

It was, in fact, a year marked by stellar performances from actors of color, including Michael B. JordanAbraham Attah, Idris Elba, Teyonah ParrisO’Shea JacksonAva DuVernay, and David Oyelowo. And Chris Rock, without pulling any punches, called the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences out on it: “If they nominated a host, I wouldn’t even get this job.”

He went on: “Is Hollywood racist? You damn right Hollywood’s racist,” Rock said. “Hollywood is sorority racist: We like you Rhonda, but you’re not a Kappa.”

Since its list of nominees was unveiled in January, the Academy has been criticized for its failure to nominate a single minority actor for the second year in a row. The move fueled outrage from celebrities, with some like Spike LeeJada Pinkett Smith, and Will Smith refusing to attend this year’s ceremony. There was also an online campaign using the hashtag #OscarSoWhite. (One bright spot: Mexican filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu, who is vying to become the first director since Joseph Mankiewicz to win best director for the second year in a row for The Revenant.)

Article continues: