Nigeria-Gouvernment: President to Appoint 13 Female Ministers

Below is an article from our Affirmative Action Media Monitoring Project. These articles represent a wide variety of views. These views do not necessarily represent the views of AAPF but instead are intended to provide you with an overview of the current affirmative action debate. May 5, 2011

President to Appoint 13 Female Ministers - In a bid to fulfil his campaign promise of having 35 per cent representation of women in his administration, President Goodluck Jonathan may appoint 13 female ministers in his post-May 29 cabinet, even as women politicians battle professionals over slots."Research has shown that countries with greater gender equality have higher standards of living and significantly more achievements in all facets of the society.

"Reports have also shown that where women leaders are present in critical numbers and are able to participate effectively, economically, politically, and socially, the result is more socially responsive governance," the president had observed recently at the Mentorship Summit for African Women, organised by the Centre for African Women Leaders Think-Tank in Abuja.

While the president and First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan were in Obudu, Cross River State, for a week-long retreat, ministerial lobbyists stormed the tourism centre seeking enlistment in the next cabinet.

LEADERSHIP can now authoritatively report that the next Jonathan-Sambo administration would have no fewer than 13 female ministers as a fulfilment of the affirmative action promised the women while they were being wooed ahead of the just concluded polls.

Speaking with our correspondent at the weekend, a presidency source disclosed that, following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Jonathan would constitute a 43-man Federal Executive Council (FEC) that would help him implement his developmental blueprint for the nation.

Out of the 43 ministerial positions, LEADERSHIP gleaned that 13 slots would go to the women while men would take the rest.

The presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo and his successor, Umaru Musa Yar' Adua, each had 43 ministers with one representing each of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory and each of the six geopolitical zones.

Should this be the case, the president would have ignored the advice asking him to trim his cabinet in a bid to reduce the cost of governance and free more money for investment in decaying infrasturcture.

"President Goodluck Jonathan would fulfil his 35 per cent political appointments including the ministerial slots to the women and this means there are going to be 13 ministers since he would forward 43 names to the Senate as ministers representing each of the 36 states including Abuja while the remaining six would represent the geo-political zones. And every other appointments to be made would follow suit," said a top government source.

Speaking further, the source who does not want his name in print said: "The only problem is, if the governors or party leadership failed to send women's names to the president as ministerial nominees. But this would not stop him from fulfilling his promise to the women who constituted the largest voting bloc in the country. Don't forget he has power to name whoever he wants as his ministers."

When asked to disclose the intrigues going on and whether the First Lady would be involved, our source, who has been playing a sensitive role since the Obasanjo administration in the State House, disclosed that Patience had been receiving ministerial lobbyists since she returned from the Obudu retreat because she has promised those who campaigned for her husband that their labour would not be in vain.

His words: "The First Lady would play a prominent role in the composition of the female ministerial nominees because of her personal involvement in the campaign that ushered in President Goodluck Jonathan. So many women or groups of women have been coming to meet with the First Lady. So don't be surprised to see names like Senator Florence Ita-Giwa, Senator Grace Bent, Kema Chikwe, Hajiya Ciroma, Dame Anenih, Iyabo Obasanjo and a few others on the ministerial list."

He said: "Women are divided over how to go about it; while those who are thoroughbred politicians are going through Her Excellency, the First Lady, some who are professionals are doing their lobbying through other contacts. To the professionals, the slots to be given to the womenfolk should be given to them and not to politicians who would not justify such a confidence imposed in them.

"This group is being led by a woman who is currently occupying a sensitive position where she generates revenue to the federal government (name withheld) but the other group is claiming that they were the ones who worked for the victory of the president."

According to the president, "If South Africa could give 40 per cent of political appointments to women; I don't see why giving our women 35 per cent is impossible." It would be recalled that Jonathan is the first Nigerian leader to appoint a woman as Minister of Petroleum even as he also gave directive to the military to begin recruiting women as combatant soldiers.

Just last week, the president, who was represented by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Hajiya Salamatu Husseini Suleiman, at the Mentorship Summit for African Women, organised by the Centre for African Women Leaders Think-Thank in Abuja, commended Nigerian women for their massive support towards his success in the presidential polls.

"I am assuring you that all the promises made in my manifesto on 35 per cent representation of women in governance will be fulfilled," he said, adding that women have occupied various leadership positions in the country and performed excellently."

Posted on www.afriquejet.com

Ruling reserved over affirmative action

Below is an article from our Affirmative Action Media Monitoring Project. These articles represent a wide variety of views. These views do not necessarily represent the views of AAPF but instead are intended to provide you with an overview of the current affirmative action debate. May 4, 2011

Johannesburg - The Johannesburg Labour Appeal Court on Wednesday reserved judgement on an attempt by the SAPS to contest an earlier ruling promoting a white woman police officer to superintendent.

Trade union Solidarity, which is representing Captain Renate Barnard, said it was expected to take between three months and a year for a ruling to be made.

The union's Dirk Hermann said arguments in court on Wednesday centred on how to apply affirmative action in line with the Constitution. He said the matter might end up in the Constitutional Court.

On February 26 last year the Labour Court ordered the police to promote Barnard to superintendent after she was denied the move because of her skin colour.

"She applied for a promotion as superintendent of the complaints investigation unit for the first time in 2005. She has been working as a captain in the same unit since 2004," Hermann said.

A selection panel twice identified Barnard as the best candidate for the post in the inspectorate, created to improve service delivery to the public. The job was advertised in September 2005. Barnard and other candidates applied for it.

Service delivery jeopardised

After interviews were held, the panel allocated a mark of 86.67% to her, which was 17.5% higher than the next-highest score allocated to a Captain Shibambu.

The panel found the difference in Barnard and Shibambu's scores so great that service delivery would be jeopardised if Shibambu was appointed in the post.

Although the panel recommended Barnard for appointment, Assistant Commissioner Rasegatla resolved not to appoint her because doing so would not be in line with affirmative action policies. The position was not filled.

When the position was again advertised in 2006, Barnard reapplied and was once again the most suitable candidate. This time Rasegatla decided she should be appointed. In his recommendation to former police commissioner Jackie Selebi, he pointed out that other candidates had had a year to improve to compete with her, but had not done so. Selebi turned down her appointment on the grounds that it would not promote affirmative action.

He subsequently withdrew the post

One more party for Dalits in Uttar Pradesh

Below is an article from our Affirmative Action Media Monitoring Project. These articles represent a wide variety of views. These views do not necessarily represent the views of AAPF but instead are intended to provide you with an overview of the current affirmative action debate. May 4, 2011

By Arpit Parashar

The political development of the last week have thrown a new, surprise candidate in the power equation of caste politics. Former bureaucrat Udit Raj, the man at the forefront of the campaign to push for OBC and SC/ST reservations in the private sector, has formed a new socio-political front called the Upekshit Dalit Mahapanchayat in Uttar Pradesh.

Though politicians have heard of Raj's efforts, most of them have not taken notice of the development. A senior BJP politician, speaking to the media “off the record” after a press conference, laughingly dismissed the “concept” of upekshit (marginalised) Dalits as imaginary.

However, one must not forget that the initial reaction of the mainstream parties to the formation of now-successful Dalit parties, like the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), was one of dismissal. The Congress often ridiculed the rise of Mayawati’s BSP two decades back. It seemed to tell the BSP, “Align with a mainstream party, or you will lose relevance.”

Ironically, in the case of Uttar Pradesh, the BSP has become the mainstream party and the Congress a marginal player.

The Mayawati brand of politics and the successful assertion movement led by the Kanshi Ram’s Backward and Minority Communities Employees’ Federation (BAMCEF) has translated into successful electoral campaigns and subsequent victories for the BSP over the years. She is presently serving her fourth term as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, after having served three short terms between 1995 and 2003.

And, she won in Uttar Pradesh on her own by engineering a major social change last time around. She came to power without any support from the Congress, the BJP, or the Samajwadi Party in 2007.

Why then has Raj formed a front that will only weaken a successful movement of the country’s most underprivileged and oppressed castes? Observers believe that Raj’s movement is an attempt at addressing the problems that the Dalits face under Mayawati. They point out that power, as is always the case in Uttar Pradesh, benefitted a particular caste group.

“The question is not what Mayawati can do to [Dalits], but what we can do to us,” writer and journalist Chittibabu Padavala wrote about the meaning of Mayawati’s victory in 2007 in The Economic and Political Weekly.

The Dalits have definitely benefited, not just by their own assertion but with consistent efforts of the state government too. Caste atrocities have reduced, affirmative action has been taken and they are much better represented in the administrative and political structures now. But, looking deeper, one finds it is only the Jatavs, who are reaping benefits this time.

Raj says, “Only Jatavs!” And, why is it so? “Because Mayawati is a Jatav too,” says Raj.

Politicians and observers say that while power has changed hands and the traditional ruling castes are no longer the ones in power, the state has seen the emergence of a new feudal system with Jatavs as the dominant caste.

Jatavs make up nearly 57 percent of the Dalits in Uttar Pradesh, and eight to nine per cent of its total population, almost same as that of the Yadavs. The BSP broke the backbone of Samajwadi Party’s successful Yadav-Thakur voter base, using its stronghold among the Jatavs in 2007.

Jatavs are now emerging as an assertive caste in the state, especially with their numbers in the administration growing rapidly in the past decade. “A simple analysis of the data on recent appointments in the police and the administration shows a 30 to 35 per cent increase in the number of appointments of Jatavs,” a senior BSP minister told Tehelka on the condition of anonymity.

Many top postings are recommended from Lucknow. Many other happen almost by default when the candidate is Jatav. It is considered a safe bet to have a senior Jatav officer in any district administration.

The Jatavs have been politically conscious and involved since the time of Babu Jagjivan Ram of the Congress in the 1960s. Then when Kanshi Ram and Mayawati came together, Jatavs took the BAMCEF’s assertion movement forward. And they still do: they form a large chunk of the BSP cadre.

“This constant hammering of her caste’s identity has made them politically forward looking,” Raj says.

The other castes among the Dalits, on the other hand, are still underrepresented in the state government jobs, making up barely five to eight per cent of the force in the administration and the police in the state, that too only on lower posts. Off the record, senior officials in Uttar Pradesh say that most of the housing schemes for Dalits in the state have benefited Jatavs more than any other caste.

“Fruits of governance have gone to just one caste. There is no difference between this regime and the other regimes in the past. Rather, the discrimination is much more open under Mayawati’s rule,” Raj alleges.

The socioeconomic rise of the Jatavs has on the one hand made them confident, and they have stood up to the higher castes in the state, while on the other hand they have also fallen prey to the feudal practices alien to the Jatav society.

They are traditionally a more equal caste and not patriarchal. But, that has changed over the past decade and has often resulted in crimes against lower Dalit castes.

The number of rape cases involving Jatav men has seen a constant rise in western Uttar Pradesh, a phenomenon, senior police officials say, has not been noticed before. Jatavs are often caught in cases of atrocities against other lower Dalit castes as well as the higher castes.

In the Jewar village in Greater Noida near Delhi, where an international airport and India’s first F1 racing track will come up soon, a minor girl from the Valmiki community was raped by a Jatav man in 2008.

Her ordeal did not end there. She was married off to the man who raped her within a few days. The villagepanchayat consulted both the families in the presence of the police and elders made the decisions. The girl now has two children and is not allowed to even step outside the house.

This is not the only such case. There have been many similar cases across western Uttar Pradesh involving Jatavs, information on which is regularly fudged to keep the official counts down.

While Mayawati represents the political force that has consolidated the Dalit vote, Raj partly represents the Dalit movement outside of electoral political framework working towards a caste-less society. He has led campaigns across the country as head of various Dalit unity groups to open up the communities to conversion to other religions. Thousands of Dalits have embraced Buddhism, Islam and Christianity and snubbed the Hindutva forces, irking the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and similar groups repeatedly.

Raj has also challenged Mayawati many a time over the past decade to embrace Buddhism and put an end to the casteist politics altogether. “The objective is the revival of Buddhism to create a caste-less society, so that the decadent social structure can be changed,” he says.

But, Mayawati has consistently attacked him and leaders from all other lower Dalit castes in a derogatory way, he alleges. “Mayawati has been repeatedly pointing out who belongs to which caste. She called Ram Vilas Paswan a Dusadh, pointed out that Bangaru Laxman is a Valmiki, and called me a Khatik,” he said.

“And then in 2008 she announced that her successor will only be a chamar. She has discriminated within the party and openly too. But, you cannot, in India, in a democracy, say who will be your successor and treat the voter base like it is your kingdom. Why preach about the Bahujan samaj when you openly discriminate and say only a chamar will be the successor? Why not any Ambedkarite, irrespective of the caste?” he questions.

Raj formed the Indian Justice Party in 2003, after quitting a government job in 2001. He had ideas very different from that of the BSP. He wanted to push for an equal education system, job reservations for Dalits in the private sector and unite the voters on those lines.

But, now he says it is not the way to go forward. A sense of disillusionment over the four years of Mayawati’s present rule has changed his approach. “I have realised that ideology, development and even honesty do not play a very important role in Uttar Pradesh. Caste configurations and equations do,” he says.

The main agendas of his party have not attracted the communities or the voters. Hence, the new front with a different approach, he says.

Dalit leaders from other parties have joined him too. Ram Nihore Rakesh from the Congress convinced him to form the Upeskshit Dalit Mahapanchayat to fight the rights of castes lower in hierarchy, like Pasi, Dhobi, Kori and Khatik.

“These castes are not aware, educated and conscious of participation in the government and about their rights in governance,” Raj says.

He realises that the caste system cannot be rooted out so easily; it will exist; people in Uttar Pradesh will vote along caste lines.

He now plans to unite leaders representing the marginalised sections from all parties and bring them together. He also wants to collaborate with other parties representing marginalised groups, like the Peace Party, which represents the Muslims in the state.

Jats found the Rashtriya Lok Dal, Yadavs and Gurjjars found Mulayam Singh Yadav, Thakurs found Amar Singh and Jatavs found Mayawati. Maybe it is time for another ignored section of Uttar Pradesh to find representation in the state, where caste loyalties run deep.

Whether Udit Raj succeeds and his ideas translate into votes and electoral success in the 2012 assembly elections or not, he can still play a very important role in bringing debate to the Dalit discourse and push the political system a step closer towards the marginalised within the Dalits.

Posted on www.

Oklahoma House reprimands Rep. Sally Kern

Below is an article from our Affirmative Action Media Monitoring Project. These articles represent a wide variety of views. These views do not necessarily represent the views of AAPF but instead are intended to provide you with an overview of the current affirmative action debate. May 4, 2011

By Michael McNutt

The House of Representatives on Monday publicly reprimanded Rep. Sally Kern for disparaging comments she made against blacks and women during a debate last week on affirmative action.

The House took the action about an hour after Kern, R-Oklahoma City, made a tearful apology on the House floor.

Rep. Mike Shelton, one of four blacks in the 101-member House, made the motion to reprimand her. Kern made the motion to unanimously accept it.

“I made my apology, and I do understand that just saying you’re sorry does not make everything right,” Kern said.

A member objected, and a roll-call vote was taken. The House voted 76-16 to reprimand Kern. It’s the third public reprimand the GOP-controlled House has issued against members — all Republicans — this session. Rep. Mike Reynolds, of Oklahoma City, was scolded for interrupting the pastor of the day, and Rep Randy Terrill, of Moore, was reprimanded for making comments considered threatening to the House speaker.

Shelton said the reprimand was necessary because Oklahoma is working hard to improve its image.

“We are trying to be a player within the United States as well as the world,” he said. “The comments by Sally Kern make us step back and it makes people look at the state of Oklahoma as a different place.

“We must recognize Oklahoma is changing and it’s changing fast,” Shelton said. “Our population is becoming more diverse and that we need to learn to be more accepting of others.”

MAKING AN APOLOGY

During her apology on the House floor, Kern, who three years ago did not apologize for telling an Oklahoma City Republican group that the homosexual agenda is a bigger threat than terrorism or Islam to America, said she was sorry for her comments during last week’s debate.

“I certainly stumbled in my words the other night,” said Kern, who spoke from the lectern and addressed the full House.

She said several people had read her latest comments, including House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee. She quoted Scripture a couple times.

“I said some words that were not real thought out and that offended many African-Americans and many women,” Kern said. “That was not my intent. ... I take full responsibility for it and I am truly sorry.”

Kern said Monday she didn’t speak with contempt or malice during her eight-minute speech last week. She submitted a written apology Thursday, which was accepted by Steele.

Monday was the first time the House met since Wednesday night’s debate.

Kern cried toward the end of her apology, which lasted several minutes.

“My poor choice of words were hurtful and offensive to many,” Kern said. “I am offering my apology and asking for your forgiveness.

“I hope that you will find it in your heart to accept it,” she said.

MOTION TO REPRIMAND

Shelton made a motion to publicly reprimand Kern after her speech. He was told he would have to get it scheduled with Floor Leader Dan Sullivan, R-Tulsa. An hour after Kern’s speech, Shelton was recognized to make his motion requesting the reprimand.

Rep. Randy Grau, R-Edmond, voted against the reprimand. He said Kern said some stupid things during the late-night debate but that she did the right thing by apologizing.

“If we reprimand for what somebody says in debate we could have a very detrimental, chilling effect on free speech,” he said.

Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, R-Moore, said the reprimand “flies in the face of every Sunday school lesson I’ve ever had.”

“Kern issued a sincere apology,” he said. “My faith teaches me that I’m to forgive.”

Rep. Paul Roan, D-Tishomingo, said he took constitutional privilege, which allowed him to abstain from the vote, because he wasn’t on the House floor when Kern made her comments.

Three Democrats voted against the reprimand, drawing criticism from Sen. Judy Eason McIntire, D-Tulsa.

Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican, told The Oklahoman it was up to the Republican-controlled House to determine if any action should be taken against Kern. Fallin said it’s appropriate that Kern apologized; she doesn’t think Kern should resign.

“It was very unfortunate that Representative Kern misspoke and made the comments that she made,” Fallin said. “I certainly do not support the comments that she made on the House floor. All Oklahomans work very hard no matter what your race, color or creed is, men or women. It’s just an unfortunate comment. She has apologized; I accept her apology.”

WHAT WAS SAID

During a debate Wednesday night, Kern said minorities and women earn less than men because they don’t work as hard and have less initiative. She made the comments while debating for Senate Joint Resolution 15, a measure that would allow the state to not abide by affirmative action guidelines.

Kern said equal opportunity should be based on ability regardless of color and gender.

Kern questioned whether blacks were in prison “just because they’re black ... or could it be because they didn’t want to work hard in school?

“I taught school for 20 years, and I saw a lot of people of color who didn’t want to work as hard,” she said.

Talking about her own sex, Kern said, “Women usually don’t want to work as hard as a man. Women tend to think a little bit more about their family, wanting to be at home more time, wanting to have a little more leisure time.

“I’m not saying women don’t work hard,” she said. “Women like ... to have a moderate work life with plenty of time for spouse and children and other things like that. They work very hard, but sometimes they aren’t willing to commit their whole life to their job like a lot of men do.”

Posted on www.newsok.com

Renate Barnard case in Labour Appeal Court - Solidarity

Below is an article from our Affirmative Action Media Monitoring Project. These articles represent a wide variety of views. These views do not necessarily represent the views of AAPF but instead are intended to provide you with an overview of the current affirmative action debate. May 2, 2011

By Dirk Hermann

One of SA's biggest affirmative action cases comes before Labour Appeal Court on Wednesday

Solidarity, on behalf of Captain Renate Barnard, and SAPS to face off in court

The South African Police Service (SAPS) and Solidarity will face off in the Labour Appeal Court in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, this coming Wednesday (4 May) at 10:00. The case in which Solidarity is representing Captain Renate Barnard has been carrying on for more than five years. This landmark affirmative action case may change the way affirmative action is applied in South Africa. The Labour Court has already ruled in favour of Barnard, but the SAPS appealed the ruling.

"The big test in the case is whether absolute representivity can be enforced through affirmative action at all costs. The case will show if affirmative action outweighs service delivery," Dirk Hermann, Deputy General Secretary of Solidarity, said.

In Barnard's case, Commissioner Jackie Selebi, former police chief, intervened and prohibited her appointment in a new key position at the police's national inspectorate, the complaints investigation division, in Pretoria.

A selection panel identified Barnard as the best candidate for the post of superintendent in the inspectorate - created to improve service delivery to the public - on two occasions. The inspectorate investigates complaints on service delivery received from the public.

The post was advertised in September 2005. Barnard and several other candidates applied for it. After interviews had been held, the selection panel allocated a mark of 86,67% to her, which was 17,5% higher than the mark allocated to a Captain Shibambu, the only other serious candidate.

The panel found that the difference in Barnard and Shibambu's scores was so great that service delivery would be jeopardised if Shibambu was appointed in the post. They recommended Barnard for the position, but Assistant Commissioner Rasegatla, the divisional commissioner, decided it should be left vacant due to considerations relating to affirmative action.

The post was, however, advertised again a year later and Barnard reapplied for it. A selection panel once again identified her as the only realistic candidate. This time Rasegatla decided that she should be appointed in the post. In his recommendation to Selebi, he pointed out that other candidates who could have promoted representivity had had a year to improve in order to compete with her, but had not improved sufficiently.

According to court documents, Rasegatla wrote to Selebi that failure to give her recognition and to appoint her in the post was likely to send her the wrong message.

Selebi nevertheless turned down her appointment on the grounds that it would not promote affirmative action. He subsuequently withdrew the post.

Posted on www.politicsweb.co.za

Trump or Obama: Who do you think was the better student

Below is an article from our Affirmative Action Media Monitoring Project. These articles represent a wide variety of views. These views do not necessarily represent the views of AAPF but instead are intended to provide you with an overview of the current affirmative action debate. May 2, 2011

By RosaMaria Pegueros

“Trump Pivots From Obama’s Birth Certificate to College Grades: Says the President needs to explain how he got into Harvard” --so reads the headline immediately after President Barack Obama’s release of his long-form birth certificate.

Reality show star and financier Donald Trump can play stupid games that feed the appetites of the slow-witted and small-minded Fox Network viewers, calling into question the president’s place of birth and even his practice of Christianity. But there is one thing, aside from his color, that one cannot question about Obama: his intellectual brilliance. That the buffoonish Trump, a child of privilege and showman à la Barnum and Bailey, now attacks the basis of Obama’s authority, is simply ludicrous. It can, however, be read in a more sinister light: here comes the attack on affirmative action.

Former President George W. Bush was a graduate of Yale and Harvard; I never heard Donald Trump question W's college standings even though it was news to no one that W was an indifferent student. At Yale, he was a "legacy” admission, that is, the child of an alumnus who is given special consideration because of his status. By the time W applied to the graduate school in business at Harvard, his father was president of the United States. As the late governor of Texas, Ann Richards, once said about the elder Bush, “Poor George. He can't help it - he was born with a silver foot in his mouth.”

One of the ways that racists and conservatives have attempted to discredit the achievements of people of color has been to attack affirmative action and those who have benefited from it, attempting to embarrass those who are seen as its beneficiaries. Originally, the mandate for affirmative action grew out of executive orders by Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson as well as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Affirmative action can be seen as a distillation of the intent of these major pieces of legislation. Finally, students of color would not be barred by their skin color or ethnic backgrounds from attending any college or university in the country, nor would they be relegated to sitting on a chair in the hallway instead of in the classroom with the white students.  But with these attempts to remedy discrimination against nonwhites came the backlash that has continued to bedevil the application of affirmative action standards.

Affirmative action is perhaps the third most controversial issue faced by the Supreme Court, after abortion and gay rights, and considered a “must change” by conservatives.  When I started college in 1968, affirmative action was brand new. It didn’t take long before I got that message that we students of color were occupying seats that should have rightfully gone to white students.  It made no difference how well I did in school; I was taking somebody else's “rightful” place. I grew a thick skin, but some notable figures did not.

The most famous of these is Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. A native of Pin Point, Georgia, he grew up in hardscrabble circumstances. Instead of being proud of his achievements, Justice Thomas is shamed by having been helped by affirmative action. He has chosen to identify as a conservative.  The distinguished African American jurist A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., took Justice Thomas to task for that choice, asking “just whose values are you seeking to conserve?” The elevation of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, filling the seat of Justice Thurgood Marshall, a great hero of the civil rights movement, has been a source of sorrow and consternation to the African American community and all those who fought for civil rights.

At the very least, conservatives would like educated African Americans, Latino-Americans and other nonwhite groups to feel apologetic for the hand-up offered by affirmative action. What they really want is for us to cede the advances we have made in educating and raising the standard of living for our peoples. They would want us to return to the way things used to be, when the sons of the wealthy attended the best universities to be given their “gentlemen’s C’s.”

This is President Barack Obama’s sin: he not only attended, he excelled. His father was not a white alumnus of an Ivy League college who sent the school a nice contribution so his dimwitted son could get some fancy letters after his name. Oh no. Obama was left to be raised by his mother, a white woman, who, when things got tough, accepted food stamps so she could keep her mixed-race boy fed. Ultimately he was, as many poor children are, raised by his grandparents: his white grandparents who loved their grandson even though he was half black; the smart little boy who grew up to go to the best schools in the country, to graduate with the highest honors, and eventually, to become the most powerful man in the world.

Ooooo, those anti-miscegenation, white hoodwearing, good ol’ boys are steaming mad about having a smart black man in the White House; THEIR white house.

Tough. And if Donald Trump wants to see his grades, President Obama should say, “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”  Who do you think was the better student?

Posted on www.mylatinovoice.com

Shedding the stain of joblessness

Below is an article from our Affirmative Action Media Monitoring Project. These articles represent a wide variety of views. These views do not necessarily represent the views of AAPF but instead are intended to provide you with an overview of the current affirmative action debate. April 29, 2011

By Maura Kelly

Recently, one of my closest friends – let's call him Franz – left a frustrating job. After five months with the company, his nerves were shot. His boss – the kind of monomaniacal entrepreneur who favours frenetic midnight phone calls to discuss matters of minor importance – had hired him for a management job, but Franz was consistently undercut by the head honcho's dictatorial machinations. He was having trouble keeping his cool but I repeated advice a friend had given to me once, long ago: finding a job is always easier when you have a job. Franz griped that he was working such long hours he wouldn't have the time or energy to look for a new position until he quit – and eventually, fed up beyond the point of patience, he gave a month's notice.

A new study out of UCLA has found that, unfortunately, sticking it out would have been wise: When making hiring decisions, prospective employers discriminate against the unemployed, even when they are essentially identical to employed applicants – and even when they've been out of work for only a few days. The UCLA researchers analysed three different studies in which participants were asked to rate jobseekers according to their resumes: half the participants were told an applicant was still employed, while the other half was told he or she had been unemployed for a few days. George Ho, lead researcher, told ABCNews.com:

"We were surprised to find that, all things being equal, unemployed applicants were viewed as less competent, warm and hirable than employed individuals. We were also surprised to see how little the terms of departure mattered. Job candidates who said they voluntarily left a position faced the same stigma as job candidates who said they had been laid off or terminated."

Does this mean we should start talking about affirmative action programmes for the unemployed? Not necessarily, but it does mean that employers should be aware of their propensity to make biased judgments – which could have serious consequences for the people they so easily dismiss. Prolonged joblessness is a vicious cycle, leading to increased melancholy and loss of confidence, which make it tougher to find work; and, of course, the longer one is unemployed, the less appealing one looks to people making hiring decisions. There are also real physical repercussions to unemployment: a wide-ranging McGill University study, for example, found that unemployment increased the risk of premature death by 63%. (It had nothing to do with no longer being able to afford adequate healthcare.)

You could argue – and I'm sure many employers do – that someone who's been unemployed for a long time has lost job skills that might be necessary, or hasn't, say, become proficient using newly-developed computer programs that are popular in the industry. But why assume the worst? Someone who's been unemployed for a while is likely to be very grateful for his or her new gig; to work harder than a peer who might be coming straight from another job; and even to accept a lower starting salary. It's also possible he or she has used the unpaid time to acquire new skills. In other words, there are plenty of reasons that an unemployed job applicant might actually be a better hire than an employed equivalent.

There are also things that the unemployed can do to make themselves more appealing: namely, get involved in a meaningful activity that willteach you new things, and feature it prominently on your cv. When I asked Ho, via email, if he thought that was good advice, he agreed with me.

"I would recommend that the unemployed fill the gaps on their resumes with activities such as volunteering, part-time or contract work, school, entrepreneurship, and so on because our research shows that even the most minimal gap (one month or less) can lead to devaluation. If a gap exists, and there is no activity to fill in the gap, our research findings suggest that providing a reason indicating the cause of unemployment was in no way attributable to them (eg, employer went out of business) would alleviate unemployment stigma."

Or, I suppose, you could do what Franz did.

Before he quit, he'd been steadily employed since graduating from college – and except for the most recent case, he'd always found a subsequent job before leaving the previous one. During the first few days of unemployment, he applied for three gigs. An outfit he was very interested in working for put him through a series of tests and interviews over the course of five weeks, including a day-long meeting with some of his potential co-workers. When the desirable company said, "No thanks", he was crushed; he'd put all of his eggs in that basket. Then leads that had seemed plentiful during his first few days of unemployment dried up.

So, he teamed up with a few friends, and went into business for himself.

Posted on www.guardian.co.uk

Hindu group alleges bias in listing India on 'Watch List'

Below is an article from our Affirmative Action Media Monitoring Project. These articles represent a wide variety of views. These views do not necessarily represent the views of AAPF but instead are intended to provide you with an overview of the current affirmative action debate. April 29, 2011

The decision of the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to place India in the 'Watch List' of countries along with Russia,Afghanistan and Cuba raises questions of bias and flawed methodology, a Washington-based eminent Hindu group said here.

"USCIRF's decision to club India in with a dozen or so of the worst violators of religious freedom in the world, while overlooking others, again raises questions of bias and flawed methodology," Prof Ramesh Rao of the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) alleged.

"The Commission's censure of India in 2011, despite that country's celebrated pluralism and absence of any significant recent religious discord -- despite provocative terror attacks -- seems based more on a disagreement over some states' effort to monitor coercive and forced conversions," Rao said.

The USCIRF decision, however, was not unanimous.

Commissioners Felice Gaer and William Shaw dissented, describing the listing of India on the watch list as "ill-advised and inappropriate".

HAF was the only organization invited to testify by USCIRF that demanded India's removal from the watch list, and its arguments were echoed by the two commissioners in their public dissent.

Besides Rao, the author of HAF's annual Hindu human rights report, Suhag Shukla, HAF's Managing Director and Legal Counsel testified before the USCIRF Commissioners in Washington last month arguing that India did not belong on the watch list due to its robust human rights mechanisms and independent judiciary that comprehensively probed incidents of inter-religious violence.

They insisted that the "predatory proselytizing" supported by many US churches vitiates inter-religious harmony in India as well as other countries and must be considered in any comprehensive analysis of international religious freedom, a media release said.

"We are disappointed that the compelling evidence we presented did not move the majority of commissioners away from their deeply flawed assumptions about India," Shukla said.

"But continuing to call out bias within quasi- government bodies, such as USCIRF, that lack Hindu, Buddhist, or Sikh representation and bringing to light the damaging role that predatory proselytization plays in inter-religious relations around the globe are guiding principles and imperative for HAF," Shukla said.

Shukla and Rao offered evidence of the Constitutional and legal accommodations provided to India's minorities, including the existence of separate personal and family laws for Muslims and Christians, governmental subsidies for the annual Haj pilgrimage for Muslims and the right of all religious communities, except Hindu, to independently control their respective places of worship free from government interference.

They also highlighted India's affirmative action policies and reservations in government and educational institutions, intended to afford economic and social advantages to religious minorities.

Posted on www.expressindia.com

ZANU PF sends support to Malema in South Africa

Below is an article from our Affirmative Action Media Monitoring Project. These articles represent a wide variety of views. These views do not necessarily represent the views of AAPF but instead are intended to provide you with an overview of the current affirmative action debate. April 28, 2011

By Tererai Karimakwenda

Zimbabwe’s Affirmative Action Group (AAG) announced this week that they were sending a delegation to South Africa to support Julius Malema, the highly controversial Youth League leader of the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa. Malema is facing hate language charges due to his insistence on singing a racially charged ANC song from the liberation struggle.

The AAG said the trip was in solidarity with Malema as “an honorary member” who supports empowerment issues. But some observers have said it appears to be a ZANU PF strategy to appease the ANC, after a recent row with President Jacob Zuma over the recent SADC troika summit in Lusaka.

The AAG delegation is due to leave on Friday, represented by the group’s President Supa Mandiwanzira and Secretary General Tafadzwa Musarara. Mandiwanzira is a devout ZANU PF supporter who is also heading up a new weekly newspaper called The Patriot.

“We know who Supa is and who he represents,” said former student leader and activist Mfundo Mlilo, adding that the gesture appears to be a ZANU PF attempt to reach out to the ANC.

Mlilo explained that the position of South Africa on Zimbabwe is changing because the country has a huge economy and therefore a “big brother” responsibility in the region.

The activist believes the AAG trip is also a sign that ZANU PF does respond to pressure, despite the non-caring image they like to portray. “And this pressure needs to continue,” he added.

Reports said the AAG will also be taking a written letter of support to Malema. The letter reads in part; “On behalf of the Affirmative Action Group, the vanguard of broad-based black economic empowerment in Zimbabwe, I would like to categorically state that, as our honorary member, the group is fully behind you during and after your court trial proceedings. Our entire membership is disturbed and extremely infuriated by the goings- on at the Equality Court.”

Malema was taken to the Equality Court by the human rights group Afriforum, who want him to stop singing the lyrics “Dubuli’bhunu”, which mean “Kill the Boer”. The group says these are hate lyrics that are partly responsible for the ongoing murders of white farmers in the country.

Posted on www.swradioafrica.com

Concept of 'diversity' breeds Donald Trump thinkin

Below is an article from our Affirmative Action Media Monitoring Project. These articles represent a wide variety of views. These views do not necessarily represent the views of AAPF but instead are intended to provide you with an overview of the current affirmative action debate. April 28, 2011

By Jeneba Ghatt

I have a problem with the concept of “diversity” just for its sake alone.

If it is known that a selective school or a job has diversity goals or hires, many times students and workers of color are thought of, among their peers, managers and superiors, to be beneficiaries of special admission programs, not necessarily qualified or thought to have earned their spots in the class.

The concept of diversity admission and hires can also create the scenario where the competence of people of color gets challenged.  We are perceived to have been pushed along all of our lives, and are thought to be incompetent until proven otherwise.

This is the type of thinking has created an atmosphere where mainstream media ignores all challenging issues the country is going through with its budget crisis, joblessness and wars, and instead, focuses on the unreasonable demands of a loud-mouth business mogul and reality TV star.

Yesterday, the President released his long form birth certificate to appease the requests of so-called “Birthers.”  For two and a half years, these individuals refused to believe Obama was born in the United States, despite evidence proving he was.  Lawsuits were filed, and the news media, recently led by Donald Trump, focused on this issue.

In a statement to the press yesterday, the president acknowledged, “I know that there’s going to be a segment of people for which, no matter what we put out, this issue will not be put to rest. “

He was certainly right about that. This morning, news stories indicated that members of the Tea Party movement, some conservatives, and others, are still not satisfied, and demanded that President Obama release his undergraduate and law school records.

The reason? They question Obama’s qualifications to have been admitted to Harvard Law, despite the fact that while there, he excelled, earning the distinction of being the first Black Editor-In-Chief of the very select Harvard Law Review.

To be fair, this is not the first time that opponents of a president or a presidential candidate demanded to see the academic credentials of the candidate or president at the time.  Interesting enough though, in recent history, never were the records readily released by the candidate, without first being leaked or revealed by a news organization.  And each time, the leak revealed mediocre grades:

  • George Bush never released his grades but leaked transcripts that showed he was a solid C student at Yale college (where his father attended) yet managed to get admitted to Harvard Business School.
  • Sarah Palin, former Republican Vice Presidential nominee (and possible 2012 presidential candidate), according to an Associated Press report, switched colleges six times in six years, including two stints at the University of Idaho, before graduating there in 1987.
  • John Kerry’s leaked records obtained by The Boston Globe, showed he was a C student at Yale.
  • Al Gore was also a C student at Harvard, according to a Politics Insider report
  • Ronald Reagan’s academic transcripts have never been released, though we know he was a student actor, cheerleader and graduated from the non-Ivy League Eureka College
  • John McCain finished 894 out of 899 at the naval academy, according to the Daily Paul.

That George Bush got into the very competitive Harvard business program with a C-average perhaps shows that his pedigree and family connections got him admitted, notwithstanding his grades.  Arguably, this type of legacy admission could be considered a form of Affirmative Action, and one which many children from affluent families annually benefit.

That form of preferential admission is tolerable and rarely questioned.  There is a double standard, however, for Affirmative Action programs that benefit students of color.

Thus, the biggest problem with quotas, which are based on a simple numerical admission of certain students, employees or contractors, based on color alone and not merit, is that they are wrongly confused with Affirmative Action.

The latter is comprised of programs created based on an acknowledgment that historical and institutional racism, inferior schools in certain urban communities, absence of word-of-mouth or legacy access that, say a George W. Bush may have, do and have limited many minorities’ admission into competitive programs.

Affirmative Action has been challenged in the federal contracting scenario at the United States Supreme Court in Adarand Constructions v. Pena, and in the academic setting in Hopwood v. Texas, and in a way, that limits how they can be instituted.

In spite of these cases, schools, governments and employers still take affirmative steps to diversify their ranks, acknowledging the value of doing so, and understanding that the student body and workforce can be enriched by people from varying backgrounds and experiences.

When White students, employees, or contractors get locked out of an opportunity, some automatically assume it is because a less qualified minority took a position reserved for that “diversity” slot. That assumption is unfair, and many times inaccurate.

Nonetheless, beyond college and later in life, the perception of being unqualified until proven otherwise persists.  I can relate.  For example, while on a firm-wide retreat, I got upset when I noticed that a very competitive law firm partner purposefully attempted to skip my turn in the game, and for no other reason, I assume, than he didn’t think I would get the answer right, although he had yet to work with me before, and had no basis for that assumption.

Later, during that same game, when I got an answer right no one else could figure out, I got irritated to see how amazed and shocked everyone was, including lawyers Junior to me, over the fact I stumped them all. It had me thinking that, despite doing well enough to go to a good law school and get into a top ranked law firm, the expectations of me, being the only black lawyer in an office of 60, and my intelligence, are still low, notwithstanding.

And, perhaps because of still-existing sensitivities about my own past in corporate America and of having to defend my credibility and qualifications, I find myself having the President’s back a lot recently. Perhaps, I've developed a send of solidarity or have empathy. and also  I am concerned for my own children.

I have big plans for them, and at their young ages, I am already actively involved in their education. I guide them  and want them to earn high marks in all levels of their schooling, and want them eventually excel in their college entrance exams and get into top colleges, universities and post-graduate schools based on merit.

It is a dream that many parents have for their children.  Alas, you cannot control what others think about you, and I will have to remember to teach them that. Notwithstanding, it can be a nuisance to have to need to prove you belong all the time,  to get skipped over, to not be asked to join study groups, or to be presumed to be a quota baby, especially when others do not have to go through the same type of second-guessing, and get the benefit of the doubt automatically.

Posted on www.communities.washingtontimes.com

Barack Obama: Affirmative Action's Best Poster Child?

Below is an article from our Affirmative Action Media Monitoring Project. These articles represent a wide variety of views. These views do not necessarily represent the views of AAPF but instead are intended to provide you with an overview of the current affirmative action debate. April 28, 2011

In his new digs at The Daily Caller, Mickey Kaus notes the latest talking-point attacks regarding whether President Obama deserved admission to elite universities, and posits that it's as good a time as any to debate affirmative action:

The biggest problem with race preferences is that they taint the achievements, not just of those who benefit from them, but of everyone in the beneficiary group-even those who would have gotten into the college or gotten the job, etc., without the preference. That is an unfairness Obama may acutely feel. Race preferences are a big reason blacks feel they have to be twice as good as everyone else to measure up in society's eyes-which is a powerful argument for ending the preferences.The amazing thing isn't that we would have a debate on this divisive issue now but that Obama's been able to duck it for so long-in part by preemptively hinting that he'd replace race-based preferences with class-based preferences.

All of that seems wrong to me.

The reason that President Obama has been able "to duck this" is that opponents of affirmative action realize that if he was in fact a beneficiary, he is perhaps the ideal example of the policy gone right. His admission to Harvard Law School demonstrably wasn't tainted by the notion that he didn't belong there: He made sure of that by graduating magna cum laude, his peers selected him editor of the Harvard Law Review, and classmates and professors gush on and on about how impressed they were by the guy. Then there's the institution's perspective. Harvard University is obsessed with training future leaders. In Barack Obama, they got a United States Senator ... and we haven't even gotten to the obvious argument, as offered by Matt Yglesias:

If it's true that Barack Obama couldn't get into college without a boost from affirmative action, then the fact that he later went on to become President of the United States of America would surely go to show that affirmative action is a good idea! The concern that super-talented people were getting locked out of opportunities is exactly the sort of thing affirmative action is supposed to resolve.

As it happens, I oppose race-based affirmative action, despite the fact that it may have worked out quite well in the case of Barack Obama. The country where he grew up wouldn't have elected him president. Times change. The notion of advantaged people like Sasha and Malia Obama benefiting from racial preferences is a much better argument against the policy than the experience of their father.

But there are better arguments still.

Contra Kaus, "the biggest problem with race preferences" is that ours is an increasingly multi-racial, multi-ethnic country, and it is going to get increasingly unhealthy for institutions to define their own preferred racial mix. Among other things, doing so inevitably pits various out-groups against one another -- that's what happens in zero sum games, and it isn't as though the U.S. is immune to suspicions and resentments developing among minority groups in economic competition.

Class-based affirmative action would still disproportionately benefit historically disadvantaged racial minorities, and it would do so without the need to rethink and re-debate the appropriate racial diversity mix every few years. In fact, there would be a built-in fairness corrective: The more a racial group emerged from the American underclass, the less its members would receive special benefits.

It is perfectly rational that principled opponents of affirmative action do not desire to frame the issue around the experience of Barack Obama. He is a terrible poster child for almost every coherent argument they typically make. That's why we'll know, if Obama and affirmative action emerge as a big issue, that his ideological opponents are cynically stoking the racial anxieties of Americans, whether to win votes from folks antagonistic to our first black president, or merely because media attention is guaranteed to any candidate inclined to raise racially fraught subjects in a presidential campaign.

Kaus concludes by suggesting that no one would doubt Obama's bona fides if he were performing better in the White House. Does that make sense? Voters strongly opposed to affirmative action tend to also be deeply skeptical that "deserved" Ivy League educations lead to excelling in office. And GOP partisans can hardly conclude 8 years of George W. Bush by lamenting that the other team's president is suspect because he benefited from help getting into a good school!

It's that kind of double standard that fuels the dismay some black liberals are feeling right now. "In professional life," Adam Serwer wrote yesterday, "black people are often subject to random, arbitrary standards on the basis of race, and it's profoundly disheartening to watch this happen to the first black person to become president of the United States, because it implies that there's really no end to it, regardless of one's personal talent or the heights one manages to achieve."

Posted on www.theatlantic.com

B Muthuraman - We want the industry to adopt a code of governance

Below is an article from our Affirmative Action Media Monitoring Project. These articles represent a wide variety of views. These views do not necessarily represent the views of AAPF but instead are intended to provide you with an overview of the current affirmative action debate. April 27, 2011

By Ruchira Singh & Tarun Shukla

New Delhi: Indian industry faces a potential slowing in terms of investment, both domestic and foreign, and rising raw material prices, but these are not as serious as the growing perception among most people that “big business” is corrupt. India’s most powerful business lobby, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), must fight this perception, and leading the charge is new president B. Muthuraman, a former managing director at Tata Steel Ltd (he is now the non-executive vice-chairman of the company. Muthuraman, who joined Tata Steel in 1966 as a graduate trainee, has already come up with a plan—a code of ethics for industry. In an interview, he spoke about this code, and how he thinks India can continue to grow rapidly.

What is this new code of conduct of ethics for the industry you plan to come up with?

I talked about two codes. One is the code of conduct for all companies in terms of governance. The other one is (a) code of affirmative action in terms of supporting the schedule castes, scheduled tribes...

What was the trigger for these?

Affirmative action is necessary... The trigger is (that, in) India if you want have to growth, it has to be inclusive growth, with all sections of society (included). We see a lot of social unrest, and the basic cause of all...that social unrest is the inequality of opportunities present, and we need to rectify this, a mistake of several thousand of years.

What’s your view on reservation of jobs for people from the scheduled castes and tribes in the private sector?

Things done voluntarily are a better way of achieving the result. Reservation is something which I don’t want anyone to get forced into. I want a situation where companies proactively engage themselves in doing things that make reservation unnecessary.

You have spoken of an amnesty scheme to cure tax evasion. This was implemented some years back, and there was a lot of political opposition to that. Do you think that if your idea is implemented by the government, it could bring back those feelings in people?

If you have an amnesty scheme, it must be the last one. People who don’t declare (income) and get found out must be punished. Only if there is a fear of punishment will it (an amnesty scheme) work well.

Corruption seems to have become a mass movement, with the common people coming out and voicing their disgust towards it. What does CII plan to do to tackle this problem?

CII has instituted a council —what is called the council for governance and transparent practices. And what we want to do is for industry to adopt a code of governance and practice this code.

What would this entail?

For example, many companies in India have an ethics counsellor. The chief ethics counsellor’s job is that he or she talks to the employees and there is a whistle-blowing policy which is encouraged in those companies. Some of these things are good practices. I would like see (all) companies...adopt these practices.

You have said that 8-8.5% economic growth is almost a given this fiscal, and if some 100 mega projects come up this could touch 10%?

Yes.

Which sectors would these projects be in?

They have to be largely in infrastructure, which will, in turn, aid other things to come.

Realistically speaking, how many of these do you expect to go through?

We have to select the projects alongside sitting with the government. Once this is agreed upon, we have to set up a control room to make sure that every quarter someone reviews (the projects) and problems are solved. We are in the process of discussing this with the government—(for forming) an industry-government body.

Posted on www.livemint.com

Arizona Uprising: Chained Ethnic Studies Students Take Over School Board in Tucson

The below intern blog is a commentary on an Arizona policy based on the article that can be found below the commentary. Arizona has been a germinating petri dish of “ethnic” issues when it comes to policy. At the African American Policy Forum we work exclusively with the repercussions and consequences of historical policy on African Americans. Arizona is singling out a group of people and rerouting their place in history as invalid by omitting it in their educational processes. The protests being held by students are one day going to make the books of history. But why are they not front page? Why isn’t the entire country in up roar when something so blatantly unjust is affecting our youth in catastrophic ways? I think it may have to do with the idea of policy and law being a harder lens through which to pinpoint racism. It is easier to view racism as a moment of name-calling or discrimination. That moment of fear, anger and disappointment may not transcend generations, but structural racism does. The affects of structural racism are irreparable if a new policy does not amend the injustices.

Arizona Uprising: Chained Ethnic Studies Students Take Over School Board in Tucson

Has Wisconsin finally come to Arizona? In an extraordinary uprising at the Tucson Unified School District board meeting last night, Ethnic Studies/Mexican American Studies (MAS) students chained themselves to the board members chairs and derailed the introduction of a controversial resolution that would have terminated their acclaimed program's core curriculum accreditation. "Just like the people of Wisconsin took a stand and said 'enough is enough', the youth of Tucson are standing up and letting it be known that they are fed up with these attacks on their education and on their future," said Sal Baldenegro, Jr., a TUSD Ethnic Studies alum and member of the Southern Arizona Unity Coalition. "They have been under relentless assault by Tom Horne, John Huppenthal, and by the Arizona State Legislature, and they have had enough." Popular Tucson blogger and activist David Abie Morales called it a "field trip for civics and democracy in action." "Nobody was listening to us, especially the board," said MAS high school student and UNIDOS activist Lisette Cota. "We were fed up. It may have been drastic but the only way was to chain ourselves to the boards' chairs." While hundreds of supporters packed the district meeting room in a celebratory fashion, nine MAS students and UNIDOS activists defied security officers and literally took over the board members' places minutes before the meeting was scheduled to begin. "I'm very moved by their passion and commitment to maintain these courses and curriculum," said MAS teacher Sally Rusk. "They're brilliant. This is not a one-time event. It looks like they're not going to stop until they have an impact on this decision." TUSD Superintendent John Pedicone canceled the board meeting, but students have vowed to return to the district office until TUSD board president Mark Stegemen withdraws his proposed resolution, which has brought stark divisions in the community. Over the past two years, the Ethnic Studies Program in Tucson has been subjected to a controversial and costly witch hunt by Attorney General Tom Horne. "We'll keep coming back, with twice as many people next time, each time," added Cota. "We're not going to let this happen. We're going to make it impossible for them to vote." Through the evening, the students and their community supporters chanted: "Our education is under attack, what do we do? Fight back!"

Children on the Outside: Voicing the Pain and Human Costs of Parental Incarceration

The below intern blog is a commentary on reproductive rights of incarcerated women based on the article that can be found below the commentary.

Often times the consequences of incarceration and the barriers faced in successful reentry are usually limited to the ex-offender perspective. In the process of studying these issues, far too often we forget to consider the most vulnerable and innocent victims: the children of offenders. Through no fault of their own, they are thrown into circumstances that they have no control over and have a tremendous impact on their lives. According to recent research the loss of a parent to incarceration often results in trauma very similar experienced in the death or divorce of a parent. Children of these offenders often face the unique stigma of lowered expectations. They face the assumption that, just like their parents, failure and possibly prison is their destiny. Coupled with research demonstrating increased behavioral and health problems, it seems that children of incarcerated individuals face a perilous path to reach adulthood successfully. If you then stop to consider that African American and Latino children are respectively 7 and 2.5 times more likely to have a parent in prison than white children, the societal implications become even clearer. The policies of mass incarceration are imposing costs that disproportionately affect minority communities and will soon bankrupt the remaining social foundation. The children are our future, let us give them the best chance to succeed.

Children on the Outside: Voicing the Pain and Human Costs of Parental Incarceration

By Judith Greene and Patricia Allard



The pain of losing a parent to a prison sentence matches, in many respects, the trauma of losing a parent to death or divorce. Children “on the outside” with a parent in prison suffer a special stigma. Too often they grow up and grieve under a cloud of low expectations and amidst a swirling set of assumptions that they will fail.

Fifty-three percent of the 1.5 million people held in U.S. prisons by 2007 were the parents of one or more minor children. This percentage translates into more than 1.7 million minor children with an incarcerated parent.

African American children are seven and Latino children two and half times more likely to have a parent in prison than white children. The estimated risk of parental imprisonment for white children by the age of 14 is one in 25, while for black children it is one in four by the same age.

Previous research has shown a close yet complex connection between parental incarceration and adverse outcomes for children, including:

• an increased likelihood of engaging in antisocial or delinquent behavior, including drug use;

• an increased likelihood of school failure;

• an increased likelihood of unemployment, and;

• an increased likelihood of developing mental health problems.

Policymakers and the public must take such findings seriously. They also need to understand the real costs of mass incarceration on children and the communities in which they grow up. Too often, society dismisses the children of incarcerated parents as future liabilities to public safety while overlooking opportunities to address the pain and trauma with which these children struggle. It is by tackling the psychological and emotional trauma head-on that we not only aid these children to grow into our future mothers, fathers, taxpayers and workers, but also ensure more stable and thriving communities.

A Prison Life Gets a Second Act

The below intern blog is a commentary on a job opportunity that a formerly incarcerated man was fortunate to find, which is based on the video that can be found below the commentary. It is a known fact that several formerly incarcerated men and women are faced with numerous obstacles in obtaining employment upon their release from correctional facilities. Accustomed to his usual workout while incarcerated, a formerly incarcerated man by the name of Robert Salzman continued his workout regimen on a street corner in the South Bronx. It was on public transportation that Mr. Salzman was approached by a film director about participating in a film entitled “Gun Hill Road” by Motion Film Group. After being incarcerated for most of his life and experiencing his post-release living conditions in homeless shelters, Mr. Salzman was fortunate enough to come across such a great opportunity after his release. Although it does not appear that Mr. Salzman has fully recuperated from his years of incarceration, he has been given an opportunity that several other formerly incarcerated individuals long for – work.

A Prison Life Gets a Second Act

NY Times Video

In Public School Efforts, a Common Background: Private Education

The below intern blog is a commentary on education based on the article that can be found below the commentary.

Why is good education a commodity? The power of good education, we know, is monumental in developing functional citizens in society. Those in the top tiers such as presidents, lawyers and government officials are cultivated to take on those roles. It is a life long process that begins at birth. In the year 2011, it is disheartening to observe and experience the privileges that arise from attending a private school in comparison to the lack of resources, funding and time commitment in public schools.  So what needs to change? If we know the answer to that question then why are we still combating the same issues?  If it is expected that our presidents will be amongst the best educated then why are public schools not breeding presidents?

In Public School Efforts, a Common Background: Private Education

by Michael Winerip

Ten years ago, the No Child Left Behind bill was passed by the House of Representatives, 384 to 45, marking the first step toward a major transformation of public education in America. The law has ushered in what its supporters like to call the “reform movement.”

For the first time, human bias was removed from student assessment and replaced with scientific accountability systems.

No longer did teachers’ subjective opinions of children distort things. Scores on standardized tests became the gold standard.

No longer did a person with a clipboard have to spend days observing a school to determine whether it was any good. Because of the law, it is now possible for an assistant secretary of education to be sitting in his Washington office and, by simply studying a spreadsheet for a few minutes, know exactly how a school in Juneau is performing.

Each year since then, researchers have found new things to assess. The New York City Department of Education, a pioneer in the science of value-added assessment, can now calculate a teacher’s worth to the third decimal point by using a few very long formulas. (No word yet on whether department researchers have developed a very long formula to assess chancellors and mayors.)

For a while it appeared that the Republicans were way ahead on the reform front, but in 2007, Whitney Tilson, a hedge fund manager and Democratic fund-raiser, founded Democrats for Education Reform to help his party catch up. By all accounts, it has worked. Today, the consensus is that there is little difference between President Obama and former President George W. Bush when it comes to education policy. Nor is it easy to distinguish differences between the secretary of education under Mr. Bush, Margaret Spellings, and the current secretary, Arne Duncan.

Those who call themselves reformers are a diverse group, men and women of every political stripe and of every race and ethnicity.

But there is one thing that characterizes a surprisingly large number of the people who are transforming public schools: they attended private schools.

Which raises the question: Does a private school background give them a much-needed distance and fresh perspective to better critique and remake traditional public schools? Does it make them distrust public schools — or even worse — poison their perception of them? Or does it make any difference?

Your call.

Following is a list of some of these national leaders and the private schools they attended:

Senators Judd Gregg (Phillips Exeter, Exeter, N.H.) and Edward M. Kennedy (Milton Academy, Milton, Mass.) and Representative John A. Boehner (Archbishop Moeller High School, Cincinnati) were three of the four Congressional sponsors of the education legislation, which was signed into law by Mr. Bush (Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass.) on Jan. 8, 2002. (Representative George Miller was the fourth sponsor.)

Mr. Obama (Punahou School, Honolulu) will be remembered for his signature education program, Race to the Top. This program rewards states with hundreds of millions of dollars in grants if they develop systems to rate teachers based on their students’ test scores and if they agree to fire teachers and principals based on those scores. In contrast, Michelle Obama, who attended public schools (Whitney Young High, Chicago), has frequently spoken out against the education law’s reliance on testing. “If my future were determined by my performance on a standardized test,” Mrs. Obama has repeatedly said, “I wouldn’t be here, I guarantee that.”

Michelle A. Rhee (Maumee Valley Country Day School, Toledo, Ohio), the former Washington schools chancellor and a founder of StudentsFirst, an advocacy group, is probably the No. 1 celebrity of the reform movement. She is education’s Sarah Palin.

As governor, Mitt Romney (Cranbrook School, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.) brought accountability to Massachusetts.

Bill Gates (Lakeside School, Seattle) has donated billions of dollars to public schools with the proviso that they carry out his vision of reform, including tying teacher tenure decisions to students’ test scores. In November, Mr. Gates and Mr. Duncan (University of Chicago Laboratory School) called on public school leaders to increase class size as a way of cutting costs in these hard times. The two men suggested that schools could compensate by striving to have an excellent teacher in every classroom. The private school Mr. Gates attended has an average class size of 16, according to its Web site. The home page says the best thing about Lakeside School is it “promotes relationships between teachers and students through small class sizes.” Mr. Duncan’s private school has an average class size of 19.

Jeb Bush (Phillips Andover), the former governor of Florida and the founder of the Excellence for Education Foundation, is responsible for making Florida a pioneer in the accountability movement by issuing report cards for every school based on test results. In the process he had to overcome many obstacles, including how to explain why his state’s rating system was so badly out of whack with the federal government’s rating system. One year the state report cards gave two-thirds of Florida’s schools A’s or B’s, while the federal system rated two-thirds of Florida schools as failing. As a result, there was widespread confusion among parents who couldn’t tell if their child’s school was succeeding brilliantly or failing miserably.

Ambabai's inner circle

Below is an article from our Affirmative Action Media Monitoring Project. These articles represent a wide variety of views. These views do not necessarily represent the views of AAPF but instead are intended to provide you with an overview of the current affirmative action debate. April 17, 2011

By Anosh Malekar

The Anna Hazare blitzkrieg, which shook up the entire system, proved that India is changing fast. A similar tremor of change was felt at the heart of the Mahalaxmi Temple in Kolhapur on Saturday. In this case, the pride of the patriach, the ultimate male bastion fortified by centuries of rules loaded against the fairer sex, was finally breached.

The garbhagruha (sanctum sanctorum) of the important twelfth century temple in a city of half a million, nestled in the lush corner of south Maharashtra’s sugar belt, was witness to a change in the course of history, with one line shouted out by a trustee of the temple a few minutes past 10.30 am: “Let the women devotees in.”

The trustee requested the male devotees to empty the tiny space and make way for the women. What followed was a group of women, who walked up the silver-coated staircase leading to the innermost shrine of Ambabai with a quiet zest in their steps, even as the few priests inside watched, aghast.

The centuries-old barrier had been broken at last, even as the hardcore traditionalists, which most of the priests in the garbhagruha are, watched in dismay because to them the sanctity of the divine abode of Ambabai, one among the Shaktipeeths, had been defiled.

However, for the women devotees, this was nothing short of a glimpse of heaven. Gavlanbai Badhe, a 65-year-old from Ambajogai, could not believe her luck. “I did not know they were allowing women inside the garbhagruha. I could get so close to Ambabai. I must be really lucky,” she said, on being told that she was one of the first few women to be so close to the deity.

Priest Manoj Munishwar tried putting on a brave face. “Nobody ever objected to women entering the garbhagruha. But, according to the tradition and culture of this city, only women from the royal family are allowed to enter and touch Ambabai. The king is an avatar of Vishnu and, hence, his wife is considered Vishupatni or Laxmi. Not everybody can claim that status,” he told Mirror.

However, the air was clearly filled with a sense of freedom and relief, as many women devotees got the chance to make a wish come true, which till now they had thought they would have to take with them to the grave. Advocate Anuradha Kulkarni from Goregaon was overwhelmed. “Today I met my mother without any barrier between us,” she said, her eyes moist with joy. A diehard devotee of Ambabai, the 54-year-old would make it to the Mahalaxmi temple whenever her busy schedule as a lawyer and an amateur actor would permit.

“I have been here many times. Frankly I never expected to get so close to my mother in this lifetime. But yesterday when I saw on television that the government was going to let women inside the garbhagruha I rushed in to be among the first to catch a glimpse of the goddess,” she said. Kulkarni happened to be in Kolhapur after a tour of Karnataka. She told Mirror that she was now raring to come back with her husband for a “very special darshan,” may be later this year.

Shruti Bele, another devotee from Jalgaon, was so excited that she had entered the abode of Ambabai, she could hardly express herself. “Today I have earned a lifetime’s punya. That is how I feel deep down in my heart.”

Hemlata Mankar from Ahmednagar, who was with her extended family of sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren, she had sought peace and prosperity for her family. “I am sure my whispers could be heard by Ambabai. I could get so close to her.”

While the city, a principality under the British, still swears by the progressive ideals of Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj, who initiated the earliest affirmative action in the country in 1902, many of its residents are unhappy with the happenings of the past few days.

Eighty-year-old resident Sulabha Shikhare, who had walked a kilometre for her daily darshan, refused to enter the innermost shrine as a mark of protest. “What is this? They are breaking all traditions. Women are not supposed to touch Ambabai. The goddess will get angry and strike back with a vengeance,” she warned, loud enough for everyone present to hear.

Chetan Chaudhary, who is from a family of priests, said this was a political stunt. On Wednesday, Bharatiya Janata Party state women’s wing chief Neeta Kelkar stormed the sanctum sanctorum with a group of women activists, taking the priestly class by surprise. She had taken a cue from Maharashtra Navnirman Sena MLA Ram Kadam’s demand in the State Assembly that such discriminatory practices be done away with. Kadam and Kelkar were present on the temple’s premises to celebrate their victory in front of television cameras so that the world could see the change.

“Ambabai spares none. She will teach the guilty a lesson,” said S T Sarate, a former Army personnel and security chief of the temple, watching the drama from the sidelines. “The residents of Kolhapur are enraged. But we trust Ambabai to settle the score.” The few trustees present nodded in unison. One of them, Dhanaji Jadhav, said there was little the trust could do as the matter was sub-judice and the trust’s writ was limited to the outer premises of the temple.

In 2000, Narendra Dabholkar of the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti (the anti-superstition brigade) had filed a case in the Supreme Court seeking the removal of restrictions on women’s entry inside the temple. While the members of the Mahalaxmi Temple trust have maintained that they are in favour of allowing entry to women, the temple pujaris have refused to bow down.

However, Saturday was a different day and the priests watched it unfold helplessly. “What can we do? It is for the government to decide,” Aniket Ashte, a young priest, said. The day after the BJP women’s wing forcibly entered the sanctum sanctorum, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar intervened to throw open the doors of the temple to the fairer sex. On Friday, the Minister of State for Home Satej Patil, who hails from Kolhapur, rushed in to announce that women will be permitted inside the garbhagriha between 10 am to 11.30 am daily.

The trustees and the priests believe this is only a temporary measure to calm the frayed nerves of a few women activists and political opportunists. While the argument if the move is politically motivated or not will attract many, the priests of them temple raised a practical problem that will have politicians scratching their heads, especially women leaders.

“Do our politicians know that to maintain sanctity of the goddess it is essential for a devotee to be draped in a single piece of cloth that has to be without a stitch on it. Now, would a decent woman agree to enter a temple with only a saree draped around her and nothing else?” asks Narhar Ramchandra Joshi, a septuagenarian resident of the locality. He also pointed out that the garbhagriha was so tiny, 5 feet x 6 feet, that it would be difficult for women to maintain their dignity with so many men around.

Neeta Kelkar had no answer to that, but clarified that this was not a political stunt but a genuine fight for equal rights in the land of Shahu Maharaj. “Ram Kadam, though from a different political dispensation, is like a brother. And we have got together for a just cause,” she said. But the priests were sceptical. “They will be judged in Kolhapur by their deeds,” warned the priests.

While the debate on whether Ambabai will bring her wrath down on Kolhapur is unlikely to end any time soon, the truth is that our society has finally moved another step closer to creating a society that thrives on individuals, and not just women and men.

About the temple The Mahalaxmi, locally known as Ambabai, temple traces its history to 664 BC, during the Chalukya era and is dedicated to the worship of Shakti. The temple is believed to be constructed over the centuries and took its present form around the 12th century. The architecture of the temple is purely Chalukyan and not Dravidian, says the temple’s website.

One among the Shaktipeeths, the temple is a major attraction for devotees drawn from across the country, but especially from Karnataka and Maharashtra. It is believed that the darshan of Shri Balaji at Tirumala is incomplete without visiting the goddess Mahalaxmi at Kolhapur.

The temple attracts thousands of local and outside visitors daily. The trustees and priests claim the number crosses a lakh during Navratri and other important festival days.

Posted on www.ahmedabadmirror.com

Apartheid

Below is an article from our Affirmative Action Media Monitoring Project. These articles represent a wide variety of views. These views do not necessarily represent the views of AAPF but instead are intended to provide you with an overview of the current affirmative action debate. April 15, 2011

By Vadim Nikitin

In South Africa's remote Karoo steppe, the town of Orania is little more than a ramble of lanes and a few modest bungalows. Street names are stencilled onto the kerbstones. Sheep graze nearby. Concrete road slabs give way to pebbles, dirt and potholes. What passes for the town centre has just a small bakery, a church, a grocery store and the offices of the local authorities. Nearby, one of the town's two bars occupies a wooden shell on the edge of what looks like a scrapyard for disused agricultural vehicles.

It was here in Orania, on a Saturday afternoon in the middle of last month, that the body of Dr Carel Boshoff was lowered into the arid soil. Twenty years before he had established the town as an all-white enclave. Now, the founder may be dead, but his life's work, to establish an independent Afrikaner homeland, stubbornly refuses to follow suit.

"There's been an estrangement between Afrikaners and South Africa, which is becoming a dysfunctional state," Boshoff's son and heir Carel Boshoff IV tells me. With the help of 900 or so true believers, Carel Jr keeps the autonomous Afrikaner community alive. "We are still viewed as the previous elite: the perpetrators, a previously dominant and very visible minority", he says. "So where do you go when you are less than a 10 per cent minority in a system dominated by others?"

Like his late father, a theologist, Orania's current leader is no populist demagogue. The bespectacled former philosophy lecturer looks like a mix between Woody Allen and Boris Becker and peppers his speech with words like "ontological" and "relativised". Boshoff openly concedes that the utopian farming project has not lured anywhere near the expected number of settlers.

"We have seen that we don't attract the masses," he admits. "There are more Afrikaners living in London than in Orania." Nevertheless, he believes the tide may yet turn in the town's favour. "Orania offers the symbolic embodiment of a re-established Afrikaner collectivity that can once again become a historical agent," he says.

There are two main narratives about this small, privately owned agricultural community. One, common among white liberals, paints Orania as a bombastic and pathetic outpost of embittered racists who refuse to live side by side with their newly equal black countrymen. The other, prevalent among many blacks, sees a privatised gated community shielded by a 1950s-style fantasy from crime, poverty, political turmoil and declining white privilege.

Yet the putative Afrikaner homeland is hardly an oasis of privilege. Though it has a flag and even its own currency (the Ora), Orania lacks most of the traditional accoutrements of white South African living: no private swimming pools or landscaped gardens, glass-walled conservatories and two car garages; no luxury high-rises or mansions with their granny flats and quarters for servants (now euphemistically called "domestic workers"). Clearly, those who retreated to this kibbutz-like settlement were not doing so to preserve their elite status or material luxuries. Why did they come?

***

"I don't like black people, I'm sorry," says Barbara, a handsome, ashen-faced woman who I meet as she sits outside the town bakery. That isn't the reason she gives for moving here from KwaZulu Natal a year ago, however. Orania, she says, is the only place where her husband, a lorry driver, could find a job thanks to affirmative action policies that favour blacks. Here, all jobs, from the white-collar to the janitorial, are reserved exclusively for white Afrikaners. Many residents have similar stories. Poverty among blue-collar whites has surged. A recent Standard Bank of South Africa study found the number of whites earning less than $80 a month grew by more than 50 per cent from 2000 to 2004. Apartheid's passing marked the end of artificially protected jobs for low-skilled, poorly educated whites, disproportionate numbers of whom were Afrikaners. In a country with an unemployment rate of 24 per cent, they now compete with similarly low-skilled blacks, who are more numerous, willing to work for lower wages, and who benefit from affirmative action policies that take into account race but not class or wealth.

Other arrivals to Orania are victims of crime. Nearly everyone in the town has a story to tell about having been or knowing someone who has been robbed, stabbed or killed. Violence actually affects blacks more frequently than whites, but for many Afrikaners, the most important feature of the new regime is that they are no longer safe.

"We are living in Orania to protect our language and our culture, not because we hate other people," says Nikke Strydom, a 21-year-old politics student attending nearby Pretoria University who moved here with her parents as an adolescent. Nikke straddles two conflicting Afrikaner identities: at once a modern, upwardly mobile young woman at a prestigious, urban, racially diverse university, and an Afrikaner traditionalist deeply committed to a project of rural self-reliance and racial separation.

"People think we are here because we hate the blacks or whatever, which isn't true at all," she says. "But because of the history and the whole apartheid thing, people don't see it like that."

"We're not here to be a white community - we're here to be an Afrikaner community", concurs Jaco Kleynhans, the movement's PR director.

Yet what makes Orania different from other Afrikaner communities in the suburbs of Cape Town and Johannesburg is the absence of any black people at all, except for occasional visitors to the OK Supermarket from surrounding villages. There are no black shop clerks, engineers, gardeners, maids, civil servants, petrol station attendants, teachers, waiters, nurses or labourers. A teenager recounted how he had been playing the online video game Starcraft with someone in Russia. "In the middle of the game, he had to pause to go help his dad dig the car out of the snow! Can you believe it?", he asked excitedly: a white South African more likely to communicate with a person living thousands of kilometres away than with a black countryman from the next town.

"They are just afraid of black people here", pronounces a plain-spoken Johannesburg building inspector holidaying in Orania, where his mother-in-law now lives. He says he doesn't understand the place: "It's such a waste to do everything here with white labour," he told me. "Sure, black labour can steal, murder and rape. But it is cheap."

Locals, however, say they actually have more respect for black people than their assimilated white counterparts in the cosmopolitan cities.

"I think the problem in the cities is: OK you are the black guy, and you have to scrub my floors and do the dishes and so on, so why would I respect you?" asks Nikke. "I don't see black people as lower than me so they don't have to do my dirty work. I'll do it myself."

There's some truth in Nikke's argument. Still highly segregated and heavily reliant on domestic help, many South African suburbs look more like apartheid-era time-warps than Orania does.

"Why have someone else clean the toilet for you when you can do it yourself?" asks Karen, a young woman who works in the town cafe.

This spirit of Afrikaner self-reliance has a long history, from the time of their original settlement in the Cape to the Great Trek, when scores of farmers journeyed east by covered wagon to escape the colonial rule of the Dutch administration. It also animates Orania's present refusal to take any government grants or assistance, despite paying taxes. Yet there is another, calculatedly political rationale behind this fastidiousness in owing nothing to outsiders or the government.

"If you do your own work and you don't get foreign people to do it for you, then you have more say about what is happening," reasons Nikke, using the word "foreign" to describe black South Africans. "Because it's difficult to say: 'OK you can come and do my work but you can't have a say in the government'. So I think the whole idea behind Orania is to work yourself free."

Free of black political control, that is. If you let them work, you must also be prepared to let them have political control. But if you don't, then you can seclude yourself without guilt. From each according to ability, to each according to his work: it's an almost Marxist position for a group of conservative nationalists to take, but has an elegant consistency.

Like communist true believers criticising the Soviet Union for a lack of ideological purity, some Oranians feel that the apartheid ideal was betrayed by the old South Africa: that it wasn't "apart" enough. The mistake, they believe, wasn't the segregation itself but the exploitation, which predictably led to blacks demanding their rightful share. In Orania, they see the chance to rescue apartheid from its history, strip it of the implications of violent domination and minority rule, and repackage it to mean just what it says: living separately.

***

"I think apartheid was a good idea but they did it wrong", says Nikke. "I think it's not right to say, 'OK, you cannot come here', but each culture must have a place to be where they want to be. I don't think apartheid was as bad as they say, as they want to make it."

Orania offers such traditionally minded Afrikaners a third way between emigration and assimilation; a place to develop a secure identity as a national minority and not feel threatened. "Orania is the only place we can have a normal life, in the sense of it being peaceful, being among people like you, who speak your language", says Sebastiaan Biehl, a gaunt, khaki-clad amateur historian who has recently moved to the community. "Once you have your own land where you can be assured of your future, you can be good neighbours."

He and others deny walling themselves off. "The idea is to be a unique part of South Africa," says his friend Albert van Zyl, a university lecturer who is planning to settle here with his family.

"We want to contribute to the development of the country," claims Jaco Mulder, the provincial leader of the nationalist Freedom Front Plus party and owner of the cafe where Karen works, "because the lights must keep burning in all of South Africa in order for Orania to succeed."

Mulder says the town's pioneering eco-friendly irrigation network, strict recycling programme and mandatory solar-powered water heaters set a good example to nearby communities about bottom-up development, sustainable agriculture and efficient service delivery. Even the fiercely populist president Jacob Zuma visited and declared: "They want to co-operate with other communities so that everyone can learn together. Orania is part of us, and we are part of them." Last year, he appointed the leader of the Freedom Front party a deputy minister of forestries, fisheries and agriculture, a particularly important portfolio for Afrikaners, many of whom are farmers.

"Zuma understands us," says Sebastiaan. "Although he travels internationally, on the holidays he goes back to his roots in rural KwaZulu-Natal, to live like a Zulu and enjoy himself. There's no problem for him to understand that Afrikaners also need to be able to come here and relate to their roots."

Yet many black people continue to treat Orania with a mixture of bewilderment and suspicion. On my drive over, I had asked a petrol station attendant in a nearby town if she had heard of Orania. "Yes," she replied. "It is beautiful, but they don't like black people there. It's a strange place." Then she added: "I do my shopping at the OK Supermarket there sometimes."

"They cannot live with the fact that the world is changing and you have to get integrated or you'll lose out," says Tebzah Mbhele, a postgraduate student of urban planning at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He thinks there's nothing wrong with protecting one's culture, but asks: "What are they scared of? Who are they protecting themselves against? They are holding on to the past like to an old piece of meat, but it is rotten."

Nevertheless, Albert van Zyl's brother Gerhard insists that blacks have an easier time comprehending Orania than whites. "My colleague at the iron ore mine where I work is a Tswana," he says. "And it is easier for me to explain Orania to him than to a lot of white people. White people think it's a racist thing, but as a Tswana, he knows that Afrikaners also need a place of their own. When I tell him that I plan on going to Orania for the weekend, he wishes me luck and doesn't have any bad feelings about it."

***

A major obstacle to such professed interracial understanding is Orania's quasi-religious relationship with Herdrik Verwoerd, the former prime minister known as the architect of apartheid (he also happens to be Boshoff's grandfather).

In the centre of town stands the shrine-like house where his widow lived out her last years. Attached to it is a museum housing Verwoerd's relics: the suit that he wore on the day he was assassinated by a mentally ill parliamentary staffer, the bloodied shirt punctured by five knife wounds marked with little cardboard labels; even his socks, wallet, and scuffed leather briefcase are preserved for posterity.

On a little hillside overlooking the town stands a semi circle of weathered bronze busts depicting Afrikaner political leaders, salvaged from demolition after 1994 and installed here.

Carel Boshoff says Verwoerd's centrality to Orania is the result of a simple family matter: the settlement was founded by Verwoerd's son-in-law. But residents' fondness for South Africa's first republican prime minister manifests a larger nostalgia for the old days.

"We built up this country," laments Sebastiaan, "and now it feels like we have to start all over again." Compounding the sense of loss is the perception, among many Afrikaners, that their language, culture and way of life are under threat from affirmative action, the spread of English, and a racial quota system called Black Economic Empowerment.

At a restaurant in the town's main hotel, I meet Ernst Roets, the youth leader of Afriforum, a conservative organisation campaigning for the cultural and economic rights of Afrikaners. He is on-message, smart and forceful. And savvy: his Facebook profile picture shows him sitting next to a black delegate at a political conference. Like all the young people I spoke to, Ernst calls affirmative action "reverse discrimination".

"It's time to move on", he says. "Our generation had nothing to do with apartheid; we did all our schooling under democracy, where blacks and whites had the same opportunities. Why should a black student who went to a private school and drives a BMW have an unfair advantage over a poor white student who went to a state school?" he asks.

"We were hardly born during apartheid, we didn't take part in it in any way, and still they hate us," says Nikke.

Oranians want to reposition the Afrikaner "brand" from its ignominious legacy into an ethnic minority like any other, deserving of cultural protections and group rights. Yet while the racial gap has shrunk since 1994, whites still earn nearly eight times more than blacks, according to the South African Institute of Race Relations.

Boshoff faults Afriforum for not adequately acknowledging the historic injustice ("It's senseless to say that my kids are not privileged by the privileges I had, and my father had," he admits). But he says that Afrikaners have become fed up with apologising for apartheid. "There's a broad sentiment that we've admitted enough guilt," he says. "There's even a popular song that goes 'we will not say sorry anymore'."

Settling in Orania, with its ascetic lifestyle and rustic self-sufficiency, is itself the best form of atonement, he claims.

"My father used to say, 'I've heard many people apologise for apartheid, but I haven't seen a single one of them sell their Mercedes and buy a bicycle instead'," Boshoff says.

"In Orania, we are not saying sorry with our mouths: we are doing something about it."

Posted on www.thenational.ae

'Gangbangers and Maids' No More

Below is an article from our Affirmative Action Media Monitoring Project. These articles represent a wide variety of views. These views do not necessarily represent the views of AAPF but instead are intended to provide you with an overview of the current affirmative action debate. April 13, 2011

By Daniel Holloway

Since Arizona enacted its harsh immigration law last year, anti-Hispanic sentiment has played prominently in our national conversation. But no amount of finger-pointing from angry white politicians and their angry white supporters can change one immutable fact: The United States is becoming browner.

As the dust settles from the 2010 census, the extraordinary growth of the Hispanic population has come into focus. The census counted 50.5 million Hispanics in the United States in 2010—up from 35.3 million in 2000—representing 16.3 percent of the total population. The Hispanic boom was responsible for most of the nation's 56 percent population growth in the last decade.

When Hispanics look to American film and television, they have traditionally found themselves underrepresented on screen. But Kathryn Galan, executive director of the National Association of Latino Independent Producers, is among those who believe that that is changing. "We think that the recent advances in Latino casting"—particularly in the latter part of the 2010-11 television season, Galan added—"is a direct result of our having identified the fact that the 2009 season was terrible for Latinos," she said. "That coupled with the 2010 census has encouraged much more Latino casting."

NALIP will kick off its weekend-long annual conference, the New Now, Friday at the Island Hotel in Newport Beach, Calif. The conference will feature a TV-actors roundtable, presented by the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and a screening of the film "America," presented by the Screen Actors Guild. On Thursday, NALIP will host a special pre-conference Latino edition of Back Stage's Actorfest.

"Our organization was created to increase the quality and content of images by and about Latinos," Galan said. "Where we have images about Latinos, we need Latino performers to perform them."

'Modern' Marvel

One of the most prominent Hispanic performers on television is Sofia Vergara of ABC's "Modern Family." Vergara will receive NALIP's Outstanding Achievement Award at the conference, and Galan points to the actor—and to the complexity of the character she portrays—as an example of the strides being made by Hispanics on screen, noting that it represents a far cry from the '90s, when "the media only showed Latinos as gangbangers and maids."

Consuelo Flores is the equal employment opportunity director for AFTRA's Los Angeles local and will moderate the union's NALIP panel. She agrees that Vergara's "Modern Family" role, in which the actor plays an intelligent and outspoken woman who marries into a Caucasian family, is a significant landmark. Flores stressed the importance of seeing Hispanic actors represented in series that are racially diverse. In the NBC series "The Event," for example, Lisa Vidal plays the first lady opposite Blair Underwood, who is African-American, as the president. "It's not ever mentioned that she's Latina, but it doesn't have to be," Flores said. "The fact that she is Latina and playing the first lady is the point."

Flores' colleague Ray Bradford, AFTRA's national director for equal employment opportunity, reiterated the importance of making sure that actors of color are given the opportunity to play such "nonethnic-specific" roles. "It's very obvious that if you're trying to cast a Latino character, your first outreach would be to Latino performers," Bradford said. "But we all know that the vast majority of roles and characters that are written are what we call 'nondescript'—the judge, the jury, the grocery store clerk. Those are the roles where the vast amount of employment opportunities lie. According to our contracts, we encourage casting directors, talent agents, and employers to really be broad in their outreach for nondescript roles, and that's what we're seeing."

Though the television networks have yet to set their fall schedules, Bradford, Flores, and Galan spoke of the current pilot season in hopeful terms. This year's crop of pilots features several roles for Hispanic actors, including an untitled NBC show, starring Jimmy Smits as the mayor of Los Angeles, that is expected to have several Hispanic characters.

Market Watch

Adam Moore, SAG's associate national director for affirmative action and diversity, said that as the media landscape broadens, more Hispanic content creators are finding platforms, leading to more jobs for Hispanic performers. "There are purely more outlets for entertainment now, between really quality programming on cable, new-media opportunities, independent filmmakers getting the opportunity to get content out there in a variety of ways," Moore said. "There are just more opportunities out there for underrepresented communities to tell their own stories."

But Galan looks at the increase in opportunities and sees good business sense at work. With the Hispanic market growing faster than any other, media companies must figure out how to appeal to Latinos. She noted that though the full results of the census were not released until last month, the television networks began receiving briefings on it as early as December and January.

"They were reminded that this market is larger and, more important, has grown much faster across the nation," Galan said. "It really is a broad-based consumer and media market."

Posted www.backstage.com

Driving the transformation agenda

Below is an article from our Affirmative Action Media Monitoring Project. These articles represent a wide variety of views. These views do not necessarily represent the views of AAPF but instead are intended to provide you with an overview of the current affirmative action debate. April 11, 2011

Dr Mvula Yoyo, transformation executive at Medi-Clinic, was schooled to understand diversity at an early age, thanks to his upbringing. Born in Victoria West in the Northern Cape, he grew up in an Afrikaans-speaking community – an accident of fate that exposed him at such an impressionable age to issues around diversity.

“When coloured people were moved away from our area, conflicts began to unfold because then we were wittingly made aware of our differences, thus the cat was set among the pigeons,” Dr Yoyo says.

This background is important in understanding what makes him such an indispensable authority on transformation. Precisely the reason Medi-Clinic, traditionally a conservative company – my words, not his – appointed him to drive its transformation agenda.

While attending a cosmopolitan high school in the Eastern Cape, Dr Yoyo was able to forge relations with different ethnic groups; this is where his consciousness about diversity was created.

Suffice to say, diversity has always been a part of his life. “The environments I found myself in gave me a platform to think about the other, the awareness of being different,” he says.

Going to Fort Hare University offered further scope for the young man to broaden his knowledge of diversity. It was one of the few institutions of higher learning open to blacks at the time, as such there were students drawn from all parts of the country and continent.

It was there that most of his views on diversity were shaped and packaged.

In addition to spearheading transformation at Medi-Clinic, Dr Yoyo chairs the MultiChoice Fort Hare Inkwenkwezi Trust. Founded in 2006, it gives Fort Hare University students an opportunity to mentor Grade 11 and 12 pupils from disadvantaged communities of the Eastern Cape.

It is a responsibility he is thoroughly committed to drive – thanks to Dr Koos Bekker, managing director of Naspers, who founded this initiative.

“I think the Eastern Cape and Fort Hare in particular were good choices for such a trust. The province faces serious challenges with respect to education, and the Trust gives us a chance to help meet those challenges,” says Dr Yoyo.

“The role that Fort Hare played in turning out leaders for South Africa and the continent over 90 years qualifies it as an ideal location for this idea.”

Highlights of the Inkwenkwezi Trust

Enabling interactions between university students and high school pupils is the cornerstone of this programme. Prior to this initiative, there existed a lack of access to basic information on education by school children in rural Eastern Cape, where Fort Hare is nestled.

“This outreach is empowering university students to interact with high school learners at a personal level, too, besides being reservoirs of knowledge,” reveals Dr Yoyo.

“It is also fostering competition among learners; scholars with best results receive bursaries for their first year.”

At Medi-Clinic, Dr Yoyo’s key task is to drive its transformation agenda. That is a mammoth assignment for anyone to undertake at such a conservative firm, whose decision to base its headquarters in Stellenbosch does not help to dismiss stereotypes.

The challenges of his portfolio cannot be underestimated. In 2006, Medi-Clinic was named a non-transformative company, following which he was hired to change this perception to the outside world.

“As you can image, the biggest challenge is employment equity,” confesses Dr Yoyo.

Since 2007, he has been at the helm of transforming Medi-Clinic, using a strategy that speaks to its black economic empowerment (BEE) Scorecard.

“However, the BEE Scorecard is not the only vehicle for transformation; we look beyond that, at things such as sustainability, skills development – a very important component of BEE – and forging partnerships with universities,” he adds.

“Additionally, we have six in-house learning centres and have formed relationships with the Department of Health.”

State of transformation in South Africa

According to Dr Yoyo, part of the problem with transformation is that it is seen merely as a compliance issue. He begs to differ, and emphasises this point by borrowing the SABC’s TV Licence slogan: “It’s the right thing to do.”

He recommends this refrain as the right attitude to adopt, but is disappointed that corporations are more concerned about the bottom line. It leaves him no option but to believe there is a lack of commitment to transformation.

“Don’t look at transformation in narrow terms, for instance, companies should not hold back from training staff lest they lose them. Suitably qualified workers will benefit the economy at large, regardless of where they end up in the country,” explains Dr Yoyo.

He describes the pace of transformation in South Africa as “very slow”. This is attributable to genuine issues, but he points out that skills development would accelerate this process. “It’s a channel we should use,” he says.

There are obstacles to transformation, broadly speaking, and at Medi-Clinic specifically because it is a diversity management issue. So how does a company handle it much better?

Dr Yoyo believes there are pockets of resistance manifested in many guises, such as the assertion that there was a lack of suitably qualified blacks to fill certain positions when, in fact, companies could rather be looking at the potential of prospective candidates, grooming them and strategising succession planning, instead of hiding behind smoke screens such as a “lack of suitably qualified people”, he says.

“This gives an opportunity to build a broader pool of people, who can then move into senior positions,” he asserts.

On its part, Med-Clinic’s Leadership Development Programme is a product of such lateral thinking. The objective thereof is to ensure there is no limit of opportunities for black people to aspire to. This scenario is not peculiar to Medi-Clinic because the phenomenon is a microcosm of the South African reality.

“But, specifically, one of the barriers that holds back black professionals at our firm is language. Despite a language policy that recognises English as a medium of communication at the workplace, there are hardened attitudes on the workplace floor,” says Dr Yoyo.

Role of universities in accelerating transformation

Are universities churning out enough quality graduates to spearhead South Africa’s transformation agenda?

“No, definitely not,” responds Dr Yoyo. “There is room for improvement. We need graduates to walk into PricewaterhouseCoopers, and that is not happening presently.

“There are no ready-made people coming through; the reason for this is simply that universities develop people for academic purposes.

“Universities of Technology should be better utilised, as they are tailor-made to prepare graduates for the workplace. Otherwise, we are building a pool of people for failure.

“What else can grade 12s do after Matric?” he asks.

Dr Yoyo advises students to heed the call by Minister of Higher Education and Training Dr Blade Nzimande, to consider enrolling at technical colleges as an alternative to university study.

“We have neglected the foundational phases of our education; our focus is primarily on Grade 12. And in large part, our curriculum is not suitable for preparing students for the future,” he laments.

“We should be paying attention to the quality other than quantity of our school graduates.“

Is transformation of the workplace playing second fiddle to BEE?

“Well, it is easy to reach BEE targets, isn’t it? But there are better options for remedying imbalances of the past, one of which is through broad-based BEE,” says Dr Yoyo.

“Secondly, skills development empowers individuals, whereas enterprise development stabilises fledgling entrepreneurs. We should be combining different pillars of BEE and synergising them.”

He is dismissive of affirmative action, which dispenses with merit. “No, there should be no affirmative action at the expense of merit.”

But, according to Dr Yoyo, the truth is that a set of conditions on the ground favours one group over others.

He takes strong exception to people who mention “transformation” and “merit” in the same breath.

“It’s an insult to equate transformation with mediocrity. By extension, this is an insinuation that transformation has no merit,” says Dr Yoyo, with an unmistakable ring of irritation to his voice.

“Transformation and merit are not opposites,” he says indignantly.

State of transformation at Medi-Clinic

According to Dr Yoyo, a key impediment to transformation at Medi-Clinic is language.

“We have a language policy in place, but Implementation thereof is hard,” he confides.

“It’s a big challenge, but even so, everyone is welcome to work for Medi-Clinic and, indeed, our staff are aware of company policy toward language.

“There is lots of room for improvement before we can safely say we have achieved our transformational agenda. We have not arrived there yet.

“We recently embarked on a structured approach to transformation. Systems are in place. Our hospitals have committees looking into employment equity,” says Dr Yoyo.

Giving back

He adds that the environment outside work also plays a role.

Medi-Clinic staff members do not merely look after the health of their patients, but give back to communities where they serve. They do this through voluntary work at schools, old-age homes and welfare centres.

The company identifies four focus arrears in its corporate social investment strategy, namely: welfare, education, sport and health.

Posted on www.bbqonline.co.za