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.

Big Data and Racial Discrimination

White House says big data could be used to discriminate against Americans


Photo by Peter Dazeley/Getty Images.


WASHINGTON — A White House review of how the government and private sector use large sets of data has found that such information could be used to discriminate against Americans on issues such as housing and employment even as it makes their lives easier in many ways.

“Big data” is everywhere.

It allows mapping apps to ping cellphones anonymously and determine, in real time, what roads are the most congested. But it also can be used to target economically vulnerable people.

Federal laws have not kept up with the rapid development of technology in a way that would shield people from discrimination.

The review, expected to be released within the next week, is the Obama administration’s first attempt at addressing the vast landscape of challenges, beyond national security and consumer privacy, posed by technological advancements.

President Barack Obama requested the review in January, when he called for changes to some of the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs that amass large amounts of data belonging to Americans and foreigners.

The technology that enabled those programs also enables others used in the government and the private sector. The White House separately has reviewed the NSA programs and proposed changes to rein in the massive collection of Americans’ phone records and emails.

“It was a moment to step back and say, `Does this change our basic framework or our look at the way we’re dealing with records and privacy,’” Obama’s counselor, John Podesta, said in an interview with The Associated Press.

“With the rapidity of the way technology changes, it’s going to be hard to imagine what it’s going to look like a generation from now. But at least we can look out over the horizon and say, `Here are the trends. What do we anticipate the likely policy issues that it raises?’”

Podesta led the 90-day review, along with some of Obama’s economic and science advisers. The goal, Podesta said, was to assess whether current laws and policies about privacy are sufficient.

But an unexpected concern emerged during White House officials’ meetings with business leaders and privacy advocates: how big data could be used to target consumers and lead to discriminatory practices.

Civil rights leaders, for example, raised in discussions with the White House the issue of employers who use data to map where job applicants live and then rate them based on that, particularly in low-paying service jobs.

“While big data is revolutionizing commerce and government for the better, it is also supercharging the potential for discrimination,” said Wade Henderson, president and chief executive officer of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

Some employers might worry that if an applicant lives far enough away from a job, he or she may not stay in the position for long. As more jobs move out of the city and into the suburbs, this could create a hiring system based on class.

“You’re essentially being dinged for a job for really arbitrary characteristics,” said Chris Calabrese, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union. “Use of this data has a real impact on peoples’ lives.”

The civil rights advocates could not offer specific examples of such injustices, but instead talked about how the data could be used in a discriminatory way.

Federal employment laws don’t address this nuanced tactic, Calabrese said. Similarly, anti-discrimination laws for housing make it illegal to target customers based on credit reports. But the laws don’t address the use of other data points that could group people into clusters based on information gleaned from social media.

For instance, companies sell data amassed from social media sites that clumps people into clusters, such as the “Ethnic Second-City Struggler” category. A bank could target people who posted something on social media about losing a job as a likely candidate for a high-interest loan. The idea is that a person who lost a job may be behind on mortgage payments and might be open to a high-interest loan to help get out of a bind, Calabrese said.

“You are individually targeted for a loan based on inclusion on one of these lists and get a high interest rate. That is in spite of the fact that if you walked in off the street you might qualify for a lower rate. You never know that you are being targeted individually since you just click on an ad on the side of a website,” Calabrese explained. “That is the discrimination.”

Jennifer Barrett Glasglow, chief privacy officer for data broker Acxiom, said her company in Little Rock, Ark., screens clients before selling them data to help ensure that the data will be used appropriately and not for discriminatory reasons.

She also said a discriminatory offer can be made without Acxiom data.

“We’ve got to be careful that we don’t go after the data itself,” she said.

Glasglow said the “Ethnic Second-City Struggler” category can be very effective for reaching communities in need, such as for advertising a sale or an offer that provides more affordable services. Glasglow said consumers can report what they believe to be unfair practices to the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

“Let’s go after the people engaged in bad practices,” she said.

The concept of putting people into categories, or “segmenting,” for marketing purposes is not new, said Eric Siegel, an expert in predictive analytics, which is the art of determining what to do with data on behaviors ranging from shopping habits to criminal activity.

Few dispute that there are lots of good reasons to use big data.

“There’s been a push by the administration to say that these are important tools, and the ability to apply analytics to that data is important for a whole range of issues from health care to education to public safety,” Podesta said.

It can help communities be more efficient.

A New York data-analysis operation under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg allowed the city to pinpoint properties with a higher risk of deadly fires by analyzing fire department data in conjunction with data on illegal housing complaints and foreclosures.

The federal government recently announced an initiative to provide private companies and local governments with better access to climate data. This data could help communities and developers decide where not to build based on predictions about sea levels.

Political campaigns, particularly the 2012 presidential campaign, rely on large data sets to target specific donors who might be able to deliver the most cash. Those kinds of analyses led to a multibillion-dollar haul in contributions, the most expensive White House run in history.

Nuala O’Connor, president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, said there needs to be more transparency in how companies are using this data, and that means updating some laws.

One is the Electronic Communications and Privacy Act of 1986. Podesta said he will recommend an update to that law, which governs how the government can access private communications for law enforcement purposes. This is something privacy advocates and some members of Congress have long sought.

“There are certainly gaps in the law,” O’Connor said, speaking broadly. “The technology is outpacing regulatory and legislative change.”

Source: PBS Newshour

British Race Discrimination

Race discrimination in universities still a problem, reports survey

Nearly 60 per cent of black and minority ethnic higher education staff and students questioned for a survey feel they have been discriminated against

Students studying in library

According to the Race Equality Survey, undertaken by the group Black British Academics, 56 per cent reported discrimination, while almost three quarters (73 per cent) said they would rate their institutions’ performance on race equality as “poor” or “very poor”.

Many of the 100 respondents criticised institutions’ recruitment and promotion practices, with comments complaining of “closed doors”, “differential treatment” and being “cold shouldered”.

“You are not taken as seriously and it is as if you have to do more/owe more in order to receive the same as a white British individual,” says one respondent.

“In an employment capacity, I and other members of staff of colour are often the last to hear about departmental developments,” another claims. “Information is passed along informally to others beforehand.”

The report states that although positive action on recruitment is an option under equalities legislation, there is little evidence of its use across the higher education sector. A 2013 poll by the same organisation found that 77 per cent of respondents favoured positive action targeted at the most under-represented ethnic groups.

Other respondents complained of overtly racist behaviour by their colleagues.

“Black staff are treated with contempt and disgust and career progression is almost non-existent among our demographic,” reads one comment, while another lists some of the “numerous situations” in which they have encountered racism in academia.

They include “negative stereotypes of what to expect of black people (jokes about mugging, rioting, capacity to understand complex ideas, ability to develop creative ideas)” and “constantly being challenged by students and staff who have low expectations with regards to receiving a high level of education from a black female”.

At a recent public talk at University College London, titled “Why Isn’t My Professor Black?”, black scholars claimed that insidious forms of racism may explain why just 85 of the UK’s 18,500 professors are black, and only 17 are black women.

“Our survey shows that black and minority ethnic staff are frustrated by racial inequalities that block their path to senior positions and feel positive action is the most effective strategy to address their under-representation and low progression to senior levels,” said author of the report, Deborah Gabriel, who is also the founder and chief executive of Black British Academics.

Of the 100 respondents to the survey, 91 worked or studied at UK higher education institutions, with the remaining 9 working in related areas including schools and the early learning sector.


Obama and the Redskins

This comes from the President who calls multiracial people “Mutts.” –Susan


Obama and The Washington Redskins


The president has weighed in on the long simmering controversy over the “Redskins” name.  Should they use it, should they not?  He has suggested that if the public finds your name offensive, you should consider changing it.  There’s almost nothing the public, or some segment, will not find offensive.  If we did not have offensive things in public, much of Reality TV would be off the air, and who knows how much other entertainment.  Hopefully the White House will offer guidance on this matter shortly.


Source: Forbes

Racial Bias and Merrill Lynch

Merrill Lynch agrees to settle racial bias suit for $160 million

Merrill Lynch, a unit of Bank of America, has settled a long-running racial bias suit for a princely sum that may be the largest even distributed to p...

Merrill Lynch, a unit of Bank of America, has settled a long-running racial bias suit for a princely sum that may be the largest even distributed to plaintiffs in a bias suit against an American employer.

Bank of America Corp’s Merrill Lynch unit agreed to pay $160 million to settle a racial bias lawsuit that went through two appeals at the United States Supreme Court, the New York Times reported, citing the plaintiff’s lawyer.

Longtime Merrill broker George McReynolds filed the lawsuit in 2005 accusing the brokerage of steering blacks into clerical positions and diverting lucrative accounts to white brokers, resulting in lower pay and fewer career growth opportunities.

The payout in the suit, which was filed on behalf of 700 black brokers who worked for Merrill, would be the largest sum ever distributed to plaintiffs in a racial discrimination suit against an American employer, according to the New York Times.

The preliminary settlement was confirmed to the newspaper by a spokesman for Merrill Lynch and Linda Friedman, a Chicago lawyer who represents the brokers. (

“We are working toward a very positive resolution of a lawsuit filed in 2005 and enhancing opportunities for African-American financial advisers,” Bill Halldin, a spokesman for Merrill Lynch, told the paper.

Merrill Lynch and Stowell & Friedman, the law firm representing McReynolds, could not immediately be reached for comment by Reuters outside of regular U.S. business hours.

Source: Reuters/NBC News-Business

Racial Disparities in School

Florida District Investigated Over Disparities in Student 

Yet another school district is being investigated over disparities in the discipline rates of students of different races.

News reports Wednesday said that the U.S. Department of Education’s office for civil rights is investigating the 71,000-student Brevard County school district on Florida’s east coast after four complaints were filed with the agency.

Florida Today reported that black students make up 15 percent of the student population in the district, but they accounted for 30 percent of suspensions. White students account for 66 percent of the population, but 52 percent of suspensions, the newspaper said.
Last month, the North Brevard chapter of the NAACP filed several complaints with the office for civil rights, and told the newspaper those were the prompts for the investigation.

“The data suggests there are some inequities,” said North Brevard NAACP President Bill Gary, who filed the complaint, to Florida Today. “One infraction usually leads to another and another. … There’s a disturbing trend.”

Brevard Superintendent Brian Binggeli told the newspaper that the district has been working to reduce suspension rates for all students, although a nearly 20-year-old report by the news outlet said 32 percent of suspensions districtwide were of black students in secondary schools, although they composed 14 percent of the student population.

Research across states and districts has shown that disparities in discipline rates are common—but not universal. But the problem is pervasive enough that schools should work on finding alternative ways of addressing student behavior problems.

In Brevard, the federal investigation will also look at the hiring and promotion of black teachers, and the closing of three schools with a high percentage of black students at the same time the district kept a predominantly white school open. All of these were part of the NAACP complaints.

Earlier this year, the civil rights office confirmed it is investigating the Seattle school district over discipline practices.

In 2010, the Obama administration pledged to address the “disparate impact” of school discipline policies. Last year, the first of those inquiries was resolved when the office for civil rights required a number of changes in the Oakland, Calif., school district because of inequities in how black and white students in the district have been punished,
Source: Education Week 

Did you know THIS about your civil rights?

The Office of Civil Rights in the US Department of Education has expanded its reach into schools. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan pledged in 2010 that he would aggressively combat discrimination in public schools. This is the same US Department of Education that refuses to put the term multiracial on school forms. Sounds like discrimination to us.