Here We Go Again


Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) announced her run for president today. Major news outlets such as The New York Times, AP and CNN all referred to her immediately as the first African American woman to run. She is the daughter of a Jamaican father and an Indian mother. Harris is biracial. That she announced her intent on MLK Day is significant and shows that she has fought for human rights and equality. It does not indicate that she is black.

I don’t know how Kamala Harris self-identifies racially and she may well define herself as black, as did Barack Obama when he was president. She absolutely has that right, but it would mean a lot to the multiracial community if she acknowledged her biracial heritage and identity, however it’s not likely. Here we go again.

by Susan Graham for Project RACE


Photo Credit: AP


Blacks and Cardiac Death


A very interesting article appeared recently in The New York Times called “Blacks are Twice as Likely as Whites to Experience Sudden Cardiac Death.” The study is seen as extremely well-researched and appeared in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. The researchers controlled for a wide-variety of factors, including education, physical activity, diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, income, and more. But even after accounting for the differences, they found that the risk for sudden cardiac death was still 97 percent higher in blacks than in whites.

Although the multiracial population was not specifically studied, we at Project RACE completely agree that more medical research needs to be done. This subject has been in disagreement in the community with some people’s knee-jerk, head-in-the-sand reaction that medicine should not look at racial differences. The fact is that there are differences that show up in bone marrow, Tay-Sachs disease, sickle cell anemia, etc. However, those facts are of no concern to them. We are not saying, and it should not be misinterpreted as our saying, that there are physical variations that cause medical problems. We are saying that it needs to be studied further, which is what the study leaders are pointing out. –Susan Graham for Project RACE



Travel Warning

NAACP warns black passengers about traveling with American Airlines

The NAACP is warning African-American travelers to be careful when they fly with American Airlines.

In an advisory late Tuesday, the organization said it has noticed “a pattern of disturbing incidents reported by African-American passengers, specific to American Airlines.”

The NAACP cited four examples of black passengers who it said were forced to give up their seats or were removed from flights.

It said the incidents “suggest a corporate culture of racial insensitivity and possible racial bias” and advised travelers to exercise caution.

“Booking and boarding flights on American Airlines could subject them [to] disrespectful, discriminatory or unsafe conditions,” the advisory said.

American Airlines (AAL) CEO Doug Parker said in a memo to staff that the company was “disappointed” to hear about the NAACP warning.

“We fly over borders, walls and stereotypes to connect people from different races, religions, nationalities, economic backgrounds and sexual orientations,” Parker wrote in the memo, which the company released to reporters. “We do not and will not tolerate discrimination of any kind.”

He said the airline has reached out to the NAACP to meet with them. NAACP President Derrick Johnson had called for a meeting with the airline’s leadership.

The NAACP warning referenced four examples, including one involving a black woman who was removed from a New York-bound flight after she complained that her seat was changed without her consent.

Though the woman was not identified by the NAACP, she spoke to CNNMoney about the incident.

That woman, Tamika Mallory, said she had gotten into a heated exchange earlier this month with a gate attendant at the Miami airport who she described as “very disrespectful” and “very dismissive.” Mallory said she told the attendant that she would file a report about the incident.

Mallory, a civil rights activist and the co-chair of the Women’s March on Washington, said the pilot of the aircraft, a white man, witnessed the end of the encounter and pulled her aside.

“The first words to come out the pilot’s mouth to me are, ‘Respect is a two-way street,'” she said, adding that he asked her whether she could behave herself on the flight.

Mallory said she told him there would be no issue and boarded the plane. She said she sat quietly for 10 minutes before being asked to get up and leave.

As she left, Mallory said, she saw the pilot again.

“He looks at me and points and says, ‘Yeah, her. Off.'”

Mallory said she told an NAACP board member about the incident and tweeted details from her encounter with the pilot.

Since then, she said many people have told her their own stories about similar incidents.

“Some of them are actually friends of mine,” Mallory said. She added they “have felt that there is a level of aggression in terms of how people, particularly black women, are being handled on these flights.”

The NAACP listed the four examples but it did not provide the names of the passengers or say when the events are alleged to have taken place.

In one other case, the NAACP said a black woman and her baby were removed from a flight from Atlanta to New York after she asked for their stroller to be retrieved from checked baggage before she left the plane.

Another allegation described an incident involving a black woman who had booked first-class tickets for herself and a white companion. At the ticket counter, the black woman was moved to coach, while her traveling partner was allowed to stay in first class, the NAACP said.

And on a different occasion, on a flight from Washington, D.C., to Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, a black man was forced to give up his seat after he “responded to disrespectful and discriminatory comments directed toward him by two unruly white passengers,” according to the NAACP.

American Airlines did not comment on the specific allegations.

Mallory said a meeting with American “is being worked on.” She added that she hopes the company can be a potential leader in addressing these issues.

“I think that the company has continuously put out statements about their commitment to diversity, and their commitment to treating all of their passengers the same,” she said.

“And I think that a statement is good. But if your personnel is not carrying out that vision, then there’s a problem. And there has to be accountability mechanisms in place to ensure that if we see a pattern, that we’ve got to address it.”

The NAACP is asking people who have concerns about their travel with American or other airlines to report their experiences to the organization.

Johnson said the NAACP’s “growing list of incidents … involves behavior that cannot be dismissed as normal or random.”

In August, the organization issued a travel advisory for Missouri, citing several discriminatory incidents in the state as reasons for individual visitors to travel with “extreme caution.”

It said at the time that the Missouri advisory was the first ever issued by the organization, at the state or national level.

Medical Matters

2:1 Rate at which African-Americans suffer sudden cardiac arrest compared with Caucasians.

Medical Matters

Blacks More Likely to Die Suddenly From Cardiac Arrest, Study Finds

African-Americans are twice as likely as whites to die from sudden cardiac arrest, and they are younger on average when it happens, too, researchers reported Monday.

It’s more troubling evidence that blacks have more severe heart disease than whites, but it’s still not clear why.

Sudden cardiac arrest can be caused by heart attacks but it’s also caused by irregular heart beat and electrical disturbances. The study of more than 100 blacks and 1,200 whites who suffered cardiac arrest in the Portland area showed that blacks were, on average, six years younger than whites when it happened.

Blacks were also more likely to have other diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease, than whites.

“We do not know why African-Americans are more likely to have sudden cardiac arrest,” said Kyndaron Reinier of the the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, who led the study.

“It could be due to the higher burden of illnesses that increase risk of heart disease, like hypertension and diabetes. Or it could be genetic because we know that certain health conditions are more prevalent in particular groups of people. Or, the reason could be environmental, such as access to good healthcare. But there is no doubt that there are differences between the races when it comes to clinical outcomes.”

The study, published in the journal Circulation, adds to a growing number of studies showing that U.S. blacks are far more likely than whites to suffer from many chronic diseases, from heart disease to some types of cancer. Heart attack rates are higher among African-Americans, for instance.

And there’s some evidence that it’s not all due to different diets, different lifestyles or even different access to health care. There’s evidence of biological differences, such as the discovery that one test of heart disease risk is more accurate in black women.

“Because sudden cardiac arrest is usually fatal, we have to prevent it before it strikes,” said Dr. Sumeet Chugh of Cedars-Sinai, senior author on the study. “These findings suggest the possibility that when it comes to prevention of sudden cardiac death, different races and ethnicities may not necessarily be painted with one broad brush.”

A Little Bit Black

A lot of Southern whites are a little bit black

Six million Americans who describe themselves as white have some African ancestry, according to a new study. In percentage terms, that means that roughly 3.5 percent of self-described white Americans have 1 percent or more African ancestry.

To arrive at these numbers, researchers pored over the genetic records of 145,000 people who submitted a cheek swab for testing to 23andme, a private company that provides ancestry-related genetic reports. The researchers examined the genetic records of people of self-described European, African and Latino descent to find the genetic traces left by relatives long-since deceased.

In order to hit that one percent threshold above, for instance, you’d have to have an African relative no further back than seven generations — in other words, a great-great-great-great-great grandparent. And as you might expect, there are some fascinating differences in our genetic admixture at the state level. Southern whites are considerably more likely to have African ancestry than whites from other regions: “European Americans with African ancestry comprise as much as 12% of European Americans from Louisiana and South Carolina and about 1 in 10 individuals in other parts of the South,” the authors found.

That variation makes up part of the genetic inheritance of slavery. As Jenée Desmond-Harris notes over at Vox, the study finds that present-day African-Americans are far more likely to have a European male ancestor (19 percent) than a European female one (5 percent). “That, of course, reflects what historians know about white slave owners raping enslaved women who descended from Africa,” she writes.

Indeed, the average self-described African-American has about 24 percent European ancestry, according to the study, indicating that descriptors like “black” and “white” mean a lot less from a biological standpoint than they do from a cultural one. To dig deeper into this, the authors plotted respondents’ proportion of African ancestry against their likelihood of calling themselves African American.

What they found was that people who were 15 percent African or less generally didn’t describe themselves as African-American, while those who were 50 percent African or greater almost universally did. But in between there was a considerable amount of variation. Those who were about one quarter African were just as likely as not to call themselves African-American.

It’ll be interesting to see how these proportions shift in the coming decades. In 1980, for instance, 6.7 percent of new marriages were between different-race spouses. By 2010, that share had risen to 15.1 percent. And as demographer William Frey notes, “nearly three in 10 new black marriages are multiracial, with most of them to white spouses.” This is especially significant given that as recently as 1967 — within living memory for many Americans — interracial marriages were outlawed in 16 states.

Source: Washington Post

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“Black” vs. “African American”

The Financial Consequences of Saying ‘Black,’ vs. ‘African American’

People make vastly different assumptions about salary, education, and social status depending on which phrase is used.

Lucas Jackson/Reuters

One hundred years ago, “Colored” was the typical way of referring to Americans of African descent. Twenty years later, in the time of W.E.B. Du Bois, it was purposefully dropped to make way for “Negro.” By the late 1960s, that term was overtaken by “Black.” And then, at a press conference in a Hyatt hotel in Chicago in 1988, Jesse Jackson declared that “African American” was the term to embrace; that one was chosen because it echoed the labels of groups, such as “Italian Americans” and “Irish Americans,” that had already been freed of widespread discrimination.

A century’s worth of calculated name changes are a testament to the fact that naming any group is a politically freighted exercise. A 2001 study catalogued all the ways in which the term “Black” carried connotations that were more negative than those of “African American.” This is troubling on the level of an individual’s decision making, and these labels are also institutionalized: Only last month, the U.S. Army finally stopped permitting use of the term “Negro” in its official documents, and the American Psychological Association currently says “African American” and “Black” can be used interchangeably in academic writing.

But if it was known that “Black” people were viewed differently from “African Americans,” researchers, until now, hadn’t identified what that gap in perception was derived from. A study, to be published next month in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, found that “Black” people are viewed more negatively than “African Americans” because of a perceived difference in socioeconomic status. As a result, “Black” people are thought of as less competent and as having colder personalities.

The study’s most striking findings shed light on the racial biases undergirding the professional world. Even seemingly innocuous details on a resume, it appears, can tap into recruiters’ biases. A job application might mention affiliations with groups such as the “Wisconsin Association of African-American Lawyers” or the “National Black Employees Association,” the names of which apparently have consequences—and are also beyond their members’ control.

In one of the study’s experiments, subjects were given a brief description of a man from Chicago with the last name Williams. To one group, he was identified as “African-American,” and another was told he was “Black.” With little else to go on, they were asked to estimate Mr. Williams’s salary, professional standing, and educational background.

The “African-American” group estimated that he earned about $37,000 a year and had a two-year college degree. The “Black” group, on the other hand, put his salary at about $29,000, and guessed that he had only “some” college experience. Nearly three-quarters of the first group guessed that Mr. Williams worked at a managerial level, while 38.5 percent of the second group thought so.

Curiously, the authors of the study itself avoid taking a side in the question of whether to use the term “Black” or “African American,” instead using “Americans of African descent.” The lead author, Emory University’s Erika Hall, told the podcast On the Media that this was done primarily out of a desire not to confuse the reader. She has doubts about the practicality of the term “Americans of African descent”—it’s kind of a mouthful—but is hopeful that a new phrase, purged of the old weight, will arrive someday. “I think a lot of the stigma is embodied in the time in which the term was created,” Hall told On the Media. “Eventually, there shouldn’t be a stigma attached with the word that’s created out of a more positive time.”

Hall’s findings suggest there’s an argument to be made for electing to use “African American,” though one can’t help but get the sense that it’s a decision that papers over the urgency of continued progress. Perhaps a new phrase is needed, one that can bring everyone one asymptotic step closer to realizing Du Bois’s original, idealistic hope: “It’s not the name—it’s the Thing that counts.”

Source: The Atlantic

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Academic Success?

It would be good to have this kind of data for multiracial students.-Susan

Latino and African-American Academic Success Improves, But Gaps Remain

The number of Latinos who leave high school having taken the ACT has nearly doubled in the past five years. Still, fewer than half of Latino graduates who took the ACT met any of its college-readiness benchmarks.

The volume of Latino high school students sitting for at least one Advanced Placement exam has tripled between 2002 and 2012. Yet, among Latino students with high potential for success in AP math, just three out of 10 took any such course.

Despite gains in access, when they finish high school, Latinos are more likely than their white peers to attend for-profit colleges or community colleges, as opposed to four-year univerities where graduation rates are typically higher.

These are some of the statistics included in a new brief, “The State of Education for Latino Students,” released by The Education Trust June 30. It paints of picture of both progress and challenges ahead, as does the companion publication that came out June 23 on education for African-American students. Last fall, the Washington-based education advocacy group released a similar document on the status of native students.

Together, Ed Trust officials hope these documents will be useful tools for policymakers working to close the ongoing achievement and opportunity gaps between these minority groups and their white counterparts.

Latino students are seeing more gains than African-American students, said Daria Hall, director of K-12 policy development for Ed Trust in a phone interview. “The data are clear about gaps in opportunity. Across the board, we are providing African-American students less of everything we know contributes to achievement in schools,” she said. “Those gaps in opportunity cause gaps in achievement.”

The Ed Trust report notes that while 15 percent of graduates in the class of 2013 were African American, they make up only 9 percent of those who took AP tests. Looking at all students who passed an AP exam, just 5 percent were African-American.

Hall said schools need to be more intentional in identifying students who could be successful in rigorous courses and providing support to help them succeed. Also, creating more fair and consistent disciplinary policies would keep students in school for more days and could help solve the problem.

For Latino students, in particular, Hall said schools that have been successful tended to focus on vocabulary and background knowledge for students who are English-language learners.  Also, schools should be creative about use of time. This might mean expanding instruction before and after school, using time differently within the day, and grouping students for needed intervention and support, she said.

Ed Trust is also working to provide students with equitable access to strong teachers who have content knowledge and effective classroom strategies to help close these gaps, added Hall.

Source: Education Week


Amid Budget Problems, NAACP Makes Cuts in National Staff

The NAACP will lay off 7 percent of its national staff as it continues its search for a new president, writes The Baltimore Sun.

The civil rights organization says the cuts are necessary because of financial concerns. A spokesperson did not answer questions regarding how many people would lose their jobs, what types of positions would be cut, and how many layoffs would be at the organization’s Baltimore headquarters.

The announcement indicates renewed financial issues for the NAACP after strides made by its most recent president, Benjamin Jealous, to combat financial stagnation. During his five-year tenure, the organization expanded its donor base from 16,477 to more than 132,000 and nearly doubled its revenues, which reached $46-million in 2012.

Source: The Chronicle of Philanthropy


African-Americans and College

African-American Students Inadequately Prepared for College, Says Study

Most African-American students aren’t receiving the education they need to succeed in college, according to a new report.Only 10 percent of African-Americans who graduated high school in 2013 met at least three of the ACT’s four College Readiness Benchmarks, compared to 39 percent of all graduates who took the test. According to the study, released by ACT, the Iowa City, Iowa-based test-maker, students who meet these benchmarks are more likely to persist in college.

The research is reflected in the outcomes. After high school, 63 percent of African-American students who graduated in 2011 enrolled in postsecondary education immediately after high school. However, only 62 percent of those students who enrolled continued for a second year. Of all ACT-tested 2011 graduates, 73 percent persisted.

The classes a student takes in high school are also an indicator of their success in higher learning. The ACT’s recommended core curriculum includes four years of English and three years each of mathematics, social studies, and science. Only 69 percent of ACT-tested African-American students took a core curriculum, compared to 74 percent of all students.

This core curriculum deficit for African-American students is not entirely attributable to individuals’ choice of  classes. Recently released federal data revealed disparities in access to core classes. While 81 percent of Asian-American students and 71 percent of white students had access to a full range of math and sciences courses, only 57 percent of African American students had full access.

The rate of continuation to a second year in obtaining a postsecondary degree was found to be  71 percent, however, for  those African-American students who met at least two of the test’s benchmarks. This is the same rate achieved by all ACT-tested graduates who met at least two benchmarks, suggesting that adequately preparing students for college can help reduce gaps in college-persistence rates.

Source: Education Week/By guest blogger Alyssa Morones