Archive for January, 2009

What Kind of Card is Race? by Time Wise, Original Source: www.lipmagazine.org/~timwise/whatcard.html


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The fight for civil rights in America began when the first African, bound by the shackles of slavery, stepped onto American soil. The wicked mixture of ignorance and hatred gave birth to discrimination, strengthened throughout the 246 years of slavery, and continued to fester further even after the signing of The Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th and 14th amendments to the Constitution.untitled-picture

In the 1950s and 60s, The American Civil Rights Movement fought segregation, racial violence, and voter suppression, known as “Jim Crow Law”, through civil disobedience: direct action with nonviolent resistance. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a turning point in American history; it outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It prohibited discrimination in public facilities, in government, and in employment.

However, after all the victories The Civil Rights Movement has won for all Americans, racial discrimination is still prevalent in American society today. In this essay I will discuss discrimination in our justice system and provide facts to prove the disparity between white and black justice in America.

In Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” King exposes the reader to the injustices and discrimination that black Americans suffered as a result of racism and segregation. King wrote this letter in response to eight Alabama clergymen who jointly issued a public statement asking civil rights activists to stop demonstrating and wait for the courts to decide the issue. King responded is his letter,

I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging dart of segregation to say wait. But when you have vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policeman curse, kick, brutalize, and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity;…then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. (101)

King conveys to the reader with strong emotion the importance and the reasons why civil rights could no longer wait. However, after all the adversity that Black Americans have endured in the fight for civil rights, they are still waiting for equality in the American justice system.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program releases a report annually called Crime in the United States. This report provides a statistical compilation of offense and arrest data provided by law enforcement agencies nationwide. The UCR Program collects information on violent crimes and property crimes, and gathers arrest data for twenty-nine offenses-charges. The 2005 edition of Uniform Crime Reports: Crime in the United States revealed that out of the 10.2 million arrests made, 69.8 percent of the arrestees were white and 27.8 percent were black (“Table 43: Arrest by race, 2005”).  Out of the twenty-nine “offense-charged” categories compiled in this report, Twenty-seven categories were notably dominated by white arrestees. Sixty-one percent of all adults arrested for violent crimes in 2005 were white, and 69.4 percent of adults arrested for property crimes in 2005 were white (“Table 43: Arrest by race, 2005”). After examination of the facts represented, one might conclude that there would be more whites in prison than any other race. However, one would be wrong.

The U.S .Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics website indicates that blacks are almost three times more likely than Hispanics and five times more likely than whites to be in jail (“Bureau of Justice Statistics Jail Statistics”). In a report compiled by Paige Harrison and Dr. Allen Beck, entitled Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2005 reveals that “the largest differences in incarceration rates between whites and blacks were in Iowa (14 times higher for blacks) and Connecticut, New Jersey, and Vermont (more than 12 times higher for blacks)” (10). Is this because of racial discrimination or economic inequalities?

The information compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and presented in “Table 43a”, of the Uniform Crime Report: Crime in the United States revealed that over a ten year period, from 1995 to 2005, whites made up 68.9 percent of the total arrest (see Chart 1, Table 1) and blacks made up 27.8 percent of the total arrest. As of June 30, 2004 there were 2,131,200 prisoners held in Federal or State prisons or in local jails from midyear 2003 (Paige. Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2004. “Table 13.” 11). Out of this total number of prisoners, 42.7 percent are black, 18.5 percent are Hispanic, and 36.5 percent are white (Paige. Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2004. “Table 13.” 11). Why are there less whites incarcerated than blacks? The numbers just do not add up. Let us review, 68.9 percent whites arrested over a ten year period, equals more blacks in prison! Something stinks here.

At the end of  2004, “there were 3,218 black male sentenced prison inmates per 100,000 black males in the United States, compared to 1,220 Hispanic male inmates per 100,000 Hispanic males and 463 white male inmates per 100,000 white males” (U.S. Dept. of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. “Prison Statistics”).  An estimated 12% of black males, 3.7% of Hispanic males, and 1.7% of white males in their late twenties were in prison or jail sometime in their lives (Harrison, “Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2005” 1). Is this evidence of racial bias in the American justice system or a sign that Justice has a price tag?

After all the hardships that Black Americans have experienced fighting for their civil liberties; they are still waiting for equality in the justice system. If we took economic inequalities out of the equation, would the ratio of blacks to whites in prison be different? In my opinion it would not be. Whites will still represent the majority of arrestees and blacks would still represent the majority of those incarcerated. Black Americans will continue to wait for justice they rightly deserve and are constitutionally promised.

Works Cited

Harrison, Paige M. and Allen J. Beck, Ph.D. Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2005. Washington, D.C.: GPO, May 2006. 12 November 2006 <http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/pjim05.pdf >

—. Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2004. Washington, D.C.: GPO, April 2006. 12 November 2006 <http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/pjim05.pdf >

King, Martin Luther. “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” The Mercury Reader. Ed. Janice Neulieb, et al. Boston, MA: Pearson, 2005. 95-114

United States. Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. Bureau of Justice Statistics.  “Jail Statistics.” 6 September 2006. 12 November 2006 <http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/jails.htm&gt;

—. “Prison Statistics.” 11 October 2006. 12 November 2006 <http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/prisons.htm >

United States. Department of Justice. Federal Bureau of Investigation. “Table 43: Arrest by race, 2005.” Crime in the United States 2005: Uniform Crime Reports. Washington, D.C.: GPO. 2006. 12 November 2006. <http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/05cius/data/table_43.html&gt;

—. “Table 43: Arrest by race, 2004.” Crime in the United States 2004: Uniform Crime Reports. Washington, D.C.: GPO. 2005. 12 November 2006. <http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius_04/documents/CIUS_2004_Section4adj.pdf >

—. “Table 43: Arrest by race, 2003.” Crime in the United States 2003: Uniform Crime Reports. Washington, D.C.: GPO. 2004. 12 November 2006. <http://www.fbi.gov/filelink.html?file=/ucr/cius_03/pdf/toc03.pdf >

—. “Table 43: Arrest by race, 2002.” Crime in the United States 2002: Uniform Crime Reports. Washington, D.C.: GPO. 2003. 12 November 2006. <http://www.fbi.gov/filelink.html?file=/ucr/cius_02/pdf/02crime.pdf >

—. “Table 43: Arrest by race, 2001.” Crime in the United States 2001: Uniform Crime Reports. Washington, D.C.: GPO. 2002. 12 November 2006. <http://www.fbi.gov/filelink.html?file=/ucr/cius_01/01crime.pdf >

—. “Table 43: Arrest by race, 2000.” Crime in the United States 2000: Uniform Crime Reports. Washington, D.C.: GPO. 2001. 12 November 2006. <http://www.fbi.gov/filelink.html?file=/ucr/cius_00/contents.pdf >

—. “Table 43: Arrest by race, 1999.” Crime in the United States 1999: Uniform Crime Reports. Washington, D.C.: GPO. 2000. 12 November 2006. <http://www.fbi.gov/filelink.html?file=/ucr/Cius_99/99crime/99cius.pdf >

—. “Table 43: Arrest by race, 1998.” Crime in the United States 1998: Uniform Crime Reports. Washington, D.C.: GPO. 1999. 12 November 2006. <http://www.fbi.gov/filelink.html?file=/ucr/Cius_98/98crime/98cius01.pdf >

—. “Table 43: Arrest by race, 1997.” Crime in the United States 1997: Uniform Crime Reports. Washington, D.C.: GPO. 1998. 12 November 2006. <http://www.fbi.gov/filelink.html?file=/ucr/Cius_97/97crime/97crime.pdf >

—. “Table 43: Arrest by race, 1996.” Crime in the United States 1996: Uniform Crime Reports. Washington, D.C.: GPO. 1997. 12 November 2006. < http://www.fbi.gov/filelink.html?file=/ucr/Cius_97/96CRIME/96crime.pdf >

—. “Table 43: Arrest by race, 1995.” Crime in the United States 1996: Uniform Crime Reports. Washington, D.C.: GPO. 1996. 12 November 2006. <http://www.fbi.gov/filelink.html?file=/ucr/Cius_97/95CRIME/95crime.pdf >

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“Why has Obama been able to “unify” America in way that no other “leader” managed to do, based on racial unity?”

JOE:  I can relate to Obama.  He’s a great orator.  I can’t relate to Clinton.  She acted like she owned the campaign.

SUSAN: Obama is able to reach a vast majority of the public because as he calls himself, he is a mutt.  He can see both perspectives.  He has a way of getting across to people that is sincere and honest.

CHRIS: Obama has charisma and personality.  King was a great national leader and there are a lot of controversial issues had he not been assassinated.  But Obama is a world leader.  The traditional values that they both preached, Obama was able to bring forth “better”.  Race is used specifically in America to divide the majority and minority.  To me a minority and majority is a class issue – the minority is in control.  Race is used specifically to divide people of socio-economic statuses.  African American is a term that should never have been raised as an issue.  Obama has given an idealistic view of what he sees – when King was here people did not want to hear the ideal.

BRITTANY:  Based on the time period – King was trying to get AA rights, but Obama represents everyone.  He sees both sides. I never doubted that he would not win.  Something about the way he speaks and carries himself inspires people.

THERESA:  A lot to do with timing.  King was working on basic issues – segregation laws.  With Obama, those basic needs have been met.  Bridges the gap for people of different ethnicities and cultures.  He is also family oriented and you can relate to him as a father.

SHERI: King was focusing on getting rights while Obama’s goal is to get America back on track, such as education, economy.  King was a political activist and Obama is a politician.

STEPH: it’s a completely different time period.  Without King there could be no Obama. It’s because of those people in the past that we are where we are today.

CHRIS:  A black man/black woman voting is ridiculous.  Blood In My Eye – George Jackson:  for a black person to vote is stating that you accept the past.  What significance does voting have for any black person in America when America has enslaved people?

SHERI: If black people vote and get into office, they can make the changes.

CHRIS: If race is used to divide people, I see it as a socio-economic status.  I see it as ridiculous for someone who is poor to vote for someone who has millions and millions of dollars.  It’s not always black and white but also green

ALECIA:  MLK’s speeches were geared towards race.  Obama is not making it a race issue but what is best for this county, not just his race.

STEPH: Those who have millions of dollars were not born rich.  So you are voting for someone who has struggled to get to where he/she is today.


SUSAN:  Things have changed since MLK’s civil rights campaign.  During that change people have been voting to further those changes.  It had to become legislation.  If it wasn’t for people voting, nothing would change.  Obama did so well across gender, ages etc. is that he did not scare them.  That may sound politically incorrect but others that ran in the past scared them.

SHERI: He doesn’t mention his race.  He completely downplays it.  Obama does not play the race card while MLK was specifically focused on rights for his race.  No action is an action.

BETSY:  I disagree with Sheri’s comment that Obama downplays his race.  I think he looks at himself as a regular American that hopes to help America.  I don’t think the past will ever be “ok”.  I believe Obama has the platform to make change in America.  I see how the system segregates and I see the disparities that exist…. Obama reached also reached across religion.

MYRNA:  I don’t like politics.  I went with Clinton because she was a woman.  Not since Kennedy has such as issue been made about the president.  I think Michelle helped get him into the presidency.

SUSAN: We’ve always had invisible walls.  We had walls with the influx of Europeans in the 1800s, after WWII with the Jews.  This is not new – the status quo never wants change.

THERESA:  The article is based on “births” – Black/Latino girls vs. Caucasian girls.

Does affluence affect birthrate – what about culture/ethnicity/race?

ODESSA: America is racist – there are stereotypes based on race.  Obama is very important because of his race and he inspired people to achieve.  Everyone will slowly but surely see the country as One.  MLK laid the foundation by attempting to end segregation.  Mark Twain is a product of his time (Susan) – WHY SHOULDN’T YOU VOTE?  If you can vote why can’t I? I am tired of the “first African American” – he’s a person.  But because of the past – Obama’s role inspires many.  It’s not race but ethnicity which separates people.  You need race to describe someone; ethnicity totally separates people.

SANDRA: If he was Hispanic or Indian I don’t he would have won if he was any other race.  I think that people have suppressed feelings from the past and because of that people felt this was a chance for change.  Why?  Because he is African American?  Why do you need an African American president to change?

MYRNA:  The “first” African American anything is “blown up”.

ODESSA: From nothing to something…

STEPH: What about the Holocaust – you don’t see them promoting the “first” ones to do anything.

It’s about black and white, not religion…

SUSAN:  I don’t think he needed to be a Black man to inspire hope. He just needed to be him.

SANDRA: I don’t think that things are going to change tomorrow.  Racism is still going to exist.  I don’t think that it will ever go away.  You see separations here at school.

ODESSA:  There is separation at school’s because of the stereotypes.  It’s all about changing the way you think.

CHRIS:  RACE is taught as a socially constructed reality.  It is society that defines race. We are mostly are raised with the same ideals and goals.  Race is fake.  Race is a moot point.  There is no physiological difference except melanin.

BETSY:  I don’t think we need an AA president to change, but it is significant. It is significant to me because there is no one that looks like me.  I am conditioned to believe that all presidents should be white.  But since Obama looks like me, I believe that I can do anything.  I always knew that I could do anything but now I know that it is truly possible.

JOE:  Did he instill hope in you? – he confirmed hope

SANDRA:  As a Hispanic I can’t say that he is confirming my hope or giving me the strength to go out and do something.  I don’t think your race matters.  It bothers me that there is an issue of race.  People don’t see it as he will affect change, we see it as “race will now change”.   It’s sad to see that people are biased and there is still discrimination.  I don’t understand it.

THERESA:  I don’t think it’s just people in this country that feel that way.  Other countries feel the same way.  We broke the mold of what a president should be.  Maybe they are looking with the same kind of hope that he will unite other countries as well.

BRIT:  Obama doesn’t pose a threat.  Like Betsy, “wow that’s me”.  He really means what he says-it’s sincere.  I feel like he has our best interest at heart. I have no excuse but to do our best.

SUSAN: We can’t complain about “the man” anymore because he is the man.

MARIANA:  I’m sure Obama will do it, but it doesn’t depend only on him.  There is also Congress.  They have to come together in agreement – so it’s not that easy for him to make sudden changes.

CHRIS:  Poverty & kids -Bank decided to lend money to poor children if you can prove your poverty status.  Rate of childbirth decreases once your class changes because the concern is taking care of the children vs. having more children. Obama is truly African American – his father is from Africa and his mother is from America.

Race is totally different in other countries – example Brazil, race is not seen.  It is a moot issue.  It’s not about race but ethnicity, it’s the roots.

ODESSA:  All other races are below whites – when you hear “the white man” you think of power.  Obama is such a big deal because of this issue.  I feel as though he healed a lot of wounds.

STEPH:  What defines your race – geography, birthplace?

SUSAN:  In this country, you’re hyphenated.  But we’re all American.  A person of color can’t be hidden.  It’s an obvious trait.


CHRIS:  Color of one’s skin has been instilled in America.

BETSY:  I don’t think that separation is problematic.  I think people migrate towards people that they can relate to.

Why do people segregate?  Comfort level – the majority is often judging the minority.

SUSAN:  The statement “the majority is often judging the minority”  but it works both ways.

Is it possible that in the educational system there is “segregation”. Does the educational system continue to segregate even after desegregating schools?

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Welcome to the HRS103 Blog

Welcome, to the HRS103 “Race and Ethnicity in American Culture” class blog. You may be wondering what a “blog” is….

“Blog” is an abbreviated version of “weblog,” which is a term used to describe web sites that maintain an ongoing chronicle of information. A blog is a frequently updated, personal website featuring diary-type commentary and links to articles on other Web sites. Blogs range from the personal to the political, and can focus on one narrow subject or a whole range of subjects.

Many blogs focus on a particular topic, such as web design, home staging, sports, or mobile technology. Some are more eclectic, presenting links to all types of other sites. And others are more like personal journals, presenting the author’s daily life and thoughts.

Generally speaking (although there are exceptions), blogs tend to have a few things in common:

  • A main content area with articles listed chronologically, newest on top. Often, the articles are organized into categories.
  • An archive of older articles.
  • A way for people to leave comments about the articles.
  • A list of links to other related sites, sometimes called a “blogroll”.
  • One or more “feeds” like RSS, Atom or RDF files.

The Blog Content

Content is the raison d’être for any web site. Retail sites feature a catalog of products. University sites contain information about their campuses, curriculum, and faculty. News sites show the latest news stories. For a personal blog, you might have a bunch of observations, or reviews. Without some sort of updated content, there is little reason to visit a web site more than once.

On a blog, the content consists of articles (also sometimes called “posts” or “entries”) that the author(s) writes. Yes, some blogs have multiple authors, each writing his/her own articles. Typically, blog authors compose their articles in a web-based interface, built into the blogging system itself.


Want an interactive website? Wouldn’t it be nice if the readers of a website could leave comments, tips or impressions about the site or a specific article? With blogs, they can! Posting comments is one of the most exciting features of blogs.

Most blogs have a method to allow visitors to leave comments. There are also nifty ways for authors of other blogs to leave comments without even visiting the blog! Called “pingbacks” or “trackbacks“, they can inform other bloggers whenever they cite an article from another site in their own articles. All this ensures that online conversations can be maintained painlessly among various site users and websites.

If you should have any questions or need help with posting to the blog, you can see me in class, or email me at Joe@geeksoncampus.us, thanks.

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Definitions of Race: A word Americans use to distinguish people in this country; group of people who share the same background; Caucasian, African,

Social construct based on physical features, encompasses a lot of people; specific characteristics of group; biological/physical factor; color of one’s skin; geography; nationality; cultural background; physical appearance; common physical traits; genetic makeup




Stephanie: It has to be broad to classify race because otherwise there would be too many specifics

How can race be “classified” in society?  Is it possible?  How could people be categorized other than by race in society?  If it is almost impossible to classify people according to racial categories, why is it necessary?

Definitions of ethnicity:  Heritage, geography and culture; features of a certain kind of genetic and cultural makeup; food, traditions; backgrounds, beliefs, customs; separation based on ethnicity; established to group people; what you consider yourself to be; traditions and practices; values; shared cultural characteristics or traits; shared values; country of origin; similar definition to race

Race is broad but ethnicity gives a specific identity: Betsey

Race is based on physical appearance but ethnicity focuses on culture: Odessa

Ethnicities are shared: Theresa

Ethnicity is inherited vs. environmental

Is ethnicity misused in society?

Ethnicity is self defined.  You can choose to reject values and traditions from a particular culture: Rachel

Social hierarchy is a classification system.  When you classify you lose information.   It’s a way for people to distance themselves from others.  Classification builds a hierarchy – a level of social status. – Joe

It gives us a sense of belonging – knowing who we are. It’s human nature to categorize: Sheri

We want to be unique; not a part of a bigger whole: Joe

If I say that I am just American I lose part of my identity: Myrna

We can’t say that only America is different.  Other countries have groups that are different.  I don’t think we can talk about being unique because everyone is part of group

Is America a fragmented society which is represented in the ways that we represent (fragment) our identities?  Why do we “hyphenate” ourselves?


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