Monday, February 1, 2016
Today’s #GoogleDoodle celebrates abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Douglass was one of the men present at the signing of the women’s rights Declaration of Sentiments in July 1848, and an early supporter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the women’s movement, though disagreements between the two over the Fifteenth Amendment emerged later.
Another connection between Stanton and Douglass was her support of his later interracial marriage. Here’s an excerpt from my forthcoming book on Stanton, Tracy A. Thomas, “The Pivot of the Marriage Relation,” chap. 3, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Feminist Foundations of Family Law (NYUP forthcoming 2016).
For Stanton believed in the theoretical ideal of free love, resulting “whenever compulsion and restraint, whether of the law or of a dogmatic and oppressive public opinion, are removed.” So when her friend Frederick Douglass remarried to Helen Pitts, a white woman, she sent her personal congratulations and support for his subversive act. She noted that “there’s much hostile criticism on your condescension in marrying a white woman. After all the terrible battles and political upheavals we have had in expurgating our Constitutions of that odious adjective ‘white’ it is really remarkable that you or all men should have stooped to do it honor. The ‘white’ feature of this contract is bad enough, but ‘the woman’ is still worse.” Stanton commented on the gender implications of the controversy in which his “large circle of admiring friends protest” against him risking his legacy as a black civil rights leader on white interests, especially those of a mere woman. Stanton wanted to draft a public announcement of support for Douglass from both her and Anthony and invite him to speak at the next women’s rights convention. Anthony refused, concerned with the potential backlash on “the subject of amalgamation” against the growing consensus on women’s suffrage. Anthony wrote to Stanton, “I do hope you won’t put your foot into the question of intermarriage of the races. It has no place on our platform, any more than the question of no marriage at all, or of polygamy, and so far as I can prevent it, shall not be brought there.” She pleaded, do not “throw around that marriage the halo of a pure and lofty duty to break down race lines. For Stanton had publicly supported interracial marriage before, attending legislative hearings in Boston to repeal colonial miscegenation laws and printing an editorial in her newspaper in support of interracial marriage. But this time, she backed down.
 DuBois, “On Labor,” 65.
 ECS to Frederick Douglass, June 27, 1884; see Maria Diedrich, Love Across Color Lines (1999).
 SBA to ECS, Jan. 27, 1884; Newman, 4.
 ECS to Elizabeth J. Neall, Feb. 3, 1843; “Theodore Tilton’s Opinion of Anna E. Dickinson,” Rev., Nov. 5, 1868.
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
Tessa L. Dover, Brenda Major, Cheryl R. Kaiser, Diversity Policies Rarely Make Companies Fairer, and They Feel Threatening to White Men, Harv. Bus. Rev.
U.S. companies spend millions annually on diversity programs and policies. Mission statements and recruitment materials touting companies’ commitment to diversity are ubiquitous. And many managers are tasked with the complex goal of “managing diversity” – which can mean anything from ensuring equal employment opportunity compliance, to instituting cultural sensitivity training programs, to focusing on the recruitment and retention of minorities and women.
Are all of these efforts working? In terms of increasing demographic diversity, the answer appears to be not really. The most commonly used diversity programs do little to increase representation of minorities and women. A longitudinal study of over 700 U.S. companies found that implementing diversity training programs has little positive effect and may even decrease representation of black women.
Most people assume that diversity policies make companies fairer for women andminorities, though the data suggest otherwise. Even when there is clear evidence of discrimination at a company, the presence of a diversity policy leads people todiscount claims of unfair treatment. In previous research, we’ve found that this is especially true for members of dominant groups and those who tend to believe that the system is generally fair.
All this has a real effect in court. In a 2011 Supreme Court class action case, Walmart successfully used the mere presence of its anti-discrimination policy to defend itself against allegations of gender discrimination. And Walmart isn’t alone: the “diversity defense” often succeeds, making organizations less accountable for discriminatory practices.
Monday, January 18, 2016
Some classic reading on this MLK Day:
Kimberlé Crenshaw, Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics, 1989 U. Chicago Legal. Forum. 139.
bell hooks, Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism (1987)
Serena Mayeri, Reasoning from Race: Feminist, Law, and the Civil Rights Movement (2014)
Pauli Murray & Mary Eastwood, Jane Crown and the Law: Sex Discrimination and Title VII, 34 GW L. Rev. 232 (1965)
And Serena Mayeri speaking on Pauli Murray and "Jane Crow," Reasoning from Race
Friday, December 11, 2015
Group Challenges AZ Susan B. Anthony-Frederick Douglass Selective Abortion Ban as Discrimination for Perpetuating Stereotypes
This Wednesday, the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) will challenge Arizona’s ban on so-called race-selective and sex-selective abortions.
NAPAWF along with the Maricopa County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (MC-NAACP) argue the law “targets and stigmatizes Black and Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) women and is based entirely on racially motivated stereotypes and generalizations about Black and AAPI women’s reasons for deciding to terminate a pregnancy.”
Lawmakers in support of the ban cite high numbers of sex-selective abortions in Asian countries as a primary reason why the ban should be enacted.
The case will be heard in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. In 2011, the Arizona legislature passed the “Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2011.”
An earlier court ruling upheld the law on the grounds the NAACP and NAPAWF had no legal grounds to challenge it. The court said, in effect, that if there is no individual claiming that they were personally denied the ability to obtain an abortion, then there is no harm in this case to bring suit. Both groups are challenging that ruling in the Ninth Circuit Court this Wednesday.
” The Arizona law unconstitutionally and unequivocally discriminates against people of color, including Asian Americans,” Miriam Yeung, Executive Director of NAPAWF said to AsAmNews. “Specifically, lawmakers in support of the ban cite high numbers of sex-selective abortions in Asian countries as a primary reason why the ban should be enacted. The Arizona ban was passed based upon racist stereotypes about Asian Americans that have no basis in fact.”
I have written a bit about the Anthony-Douglass Act and the misappropriation of Susan B. Anthony's name for anti-abortion advocacy. See Tracy Thomas Misappropriating Women's History in the Law and Politicis of Abortion, 36 Seattle L. Rev. 1, 8 (2012).
Monday, September 7, 2015
From US News & World Report:
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it illegal for employers to discriminate against prospective workers based on gender, race or religious preference. But that doesn't mean pay gaps don't exist. An income and poverty report published last year by the U.S. Census Bureau found significant disparities in median household incomes based on race; Asian households brought in $67,065 at the end of 2013, while African-American homes posted $34,598 in annual median income.
Another report from the Economic Policy Institute, drawing in part on Census Bureau data, found that median household incomes for Caucasian male full-time employees hovered around $72,530, significantly higher than African-Americans ($51,610) and Hispanics ($43,240). Female employees' earnings were significantly weaker across the board.
And the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates women spent more than twice as much time caring for and helping children in the household as men did in 2014.
“Women who have taken some time out of the workforce to do care-giving maybe are not able to come back at the same level. They’ve missed a couple steps on the career ladder,” Robbins says. “Women’s disproportionate representation in the lower paid jobs, and, conversely, their lack of representation in some of the best-paid jobs, really does feed into the wage gap.”
Full-time work more often than not offers greater annual earnings than a part-time job, but a greater percentage of women than men isn't enjoying a standard 40-hour work week. The Labor Department estimates 74 percent of working women were employed full-time in 2013, while 24 percent worked part time. That's compared to 86.9 percent of employed men who work full-time and only 13.1 percent who work part-time.
Saturday, July 18, 2015
And in Waller County, Texas, days before she was scheduled to start a new job at her alma mater, Sandra Bland died in police custody. Officers contend she hung herself, but family and friends suspect foul play — especially since video shows officers slamming her head to the ground three days earlier.
Due in large part to social media, Bland’s death has received a lot of attention since the video of her arrest was circulated. And the FBI has already joined the investigation into her death.
”Prevailing narratives around Black violability and anti-Black racial violence pivot around Black men and boys,” Dr. Treva B. Lindsey, assistant professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies told DAME. “Both historically and contemporarily, when many people working towards racial justice around the issue of racial violence, the presumptive victim is a Black male. From lynching to police brutality, the presumed victim is a Black male. Therefore, Black women and girls are viewed as exceptional victims as opposed to perpetual victims of anti-Black racial violence.”
Monday, July 13, 2015
A bit dated by cyberspace terms but still worth reading from the New Republic:
We cannot talk about the violence that Dylann Roof perpetrated at Emanuel AME last Wednesday night without talking about whiteness, and specifically, about white womanhood and its role in racist violence. We have to talk about those things, because Roof himself did. Per a witness account, we know that he said: “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country.” “Our” women, by whom he meant white women.
There is a centuries-old notion that white men must defend, with lethal violence at times, the sexual purity of white women from allegedly predatory black men. And, as we saw yet again after this shooting, it is not merely a relic of America’s hideous racial past. American racism is always gendered; racism and sexism are mutually dependent, and cannot be unstitched.
Wednesday, July 8, 2015
White Americans make up 95% of elected prosecutors across the US, according to a study that cites the non-indictments of white police officers in the high-profile deaths of unarmed black men as the “shocking” reality of a disproportionate and non-diverse criminal justice system that relies on prosecutorial power.
The study, from the San Francisco-based Women’s Donor Network, also found that that just 17% of elected prosecutors in the US are women – and just 1% are women of color.
The combination of these racial and gender disparities means that white men, who represent 31% of the population, hold 79% of the 2,437 elected prosecutors in the country at a time when growing attention to issues of misrepresentation in the criminal justice system has led to calls for reform.
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
Interesting piece from the Boston Globe:
If we accept that gender is fluid — a reflection of some inexplicable spiritual thing inside of us — why not race? Why do we police the boundaries of blackness more rigorously than we police womanhood?
The general consensus seems to be that as much as we want to do away with racial differences and as deeply as we believe in race as a social construct, we can’t accept Dolezal as a black woman trapped in a spray-tanned blonde’s body.
“Rachel Dolezal . . . may be connected to black communities and feel an affinity with the styles and cultural innovations of black people,” Alicia Walters, a black woman from Spokane wrote in The Guardian. “But the black identity cannot be put on like a pair of shoes.”
But wait a minute. I thought we just agreed that the female identity can be put on like a red mini-dress by Donna Karan. What gives? How can blackness — with all its shades and incredible diversity — be more immutable than manhood itself?
Saturday, May 30, 2015
TOKYO — WHEN Ariana Miyamoto was crowned Miss Universe Japan 2015, participants said she stole the show with a saucy strut, an infectious smile and a calm self-confidence that belied her 21 years. But it was not just her beauty and poise that catapulted her to national attention.
Ms. Miyamoto is one of only a tiny handful of “hafu,” or Japanese of mixed race, to win a major beauty pageant in proudly homogeneousJapan. And she is the first half-black woman ever to do so.
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
An article by Jim Lindgren so argues.
How diverse are tenured and tenure-track law faculties? Which ethnic and gender groups are now the most under- and over-represented in law teaching compared to a very broad measure of the pool: English-fluent, full-time working lawyers of a similar age?
In “Measuring Diversity: Law Faculties in 1997 and 2013,” which can be downloaded from SSRN, I explore tenure-track law school diversity in 1997 and 2013. For the gender and ethnicity of law professors in 2013, I use data released by the ABA, representing the 2013-2014 academic year. For the lawyer population, I use data from the government’s 2011-2013 American Communities Surveys.
This study finds that diversity hiring in law schools has been a great success, at least as to ethnicity and gender. All large traditional affirmative-action groups in law teaching are now at or above parity with full-time lawyers, and such groups as women, minorities, and minority women are significantly over-represented in law teaching compared to working lawyers. Indeed, the only ethnic and gender groups that are more than a half slot short of parity on a typical tenure-track faculty of about forty are non-Hispanic whites, males, and non-Hispanic white males, the groups typically thought of as over-represented.
Saturday, April 11, 2015
April Shaw (Arizona), How Race-Selective and Sex-Selective Bans on Abortion Expose the Color-Coded Dimensions of the Right to Abortion and Deficiencies in Constitutional Protections for Women of Color, NY Review of Law & Social Change (forthcoming)
The Supreme Court’s framework on the right to abortion as articulated in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey fails to take into account how race impacts women’s access to abortion. I argue that the race “neutral” framework of Casey’s undue burden test simultaneously erases the racial context of abortion and imposes a conceptual blind spot on how race is used to place a greater burden on women of color relative to white women. Specifically, States are using race to burden women’s access to abortion, but because the right to abortion does not explicitly take race into account, race is not used to measure whether regulations pose a heavier burden on certain groups of women. Applying race as a conceptual lens of analysis is not about inserting race into the legal framework, it is about showing how the current legal framework obscures the impact of race and almost inevitably perpetuates racial stereotypes, disproportionate burdens, and racial inequalities so as to systematically ensure that the right to an abortion as a fundamental right is less secure for women of color.
Thursday, April 9, 2015
From Al Brophy at The Faculty Lounge, Jones on Lynch Nomination
Martha Jones of the University of Michigan's history department and law school has an op-ed at Huffington Post on Loretta Lynch's nomination to be attorney general and the increasing political influence of African American women. Let me use this as an opportunity to mention, as well, the book that Martha has just co-edited, Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women. This obviously builds on Martha's pioneering book on African American women and political ideology in the nineteenth century, All Bound Up Together.
Tuesday, April 7, 2015
At USC School of Law, Reframing the Welfare Queen: Feminist and CRT Alternatives to Existing Poverty Discourse
This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Moynihan Report, a Senate report issued in 1965 that pathologized the creation of black, female single-parent households with long- term dependence on state assistance programs, and in this way laid the political foundation for the political construct known as the "welfare queen." The "welfare queen construct" has played a key role in political debates and facilitated the transformation of public assistance programs. For the past fifty years it has played a prominent role in presidential politics, shaping discussions of poverty during the Reagan, Clinton and even Obama presidencies. Moreover, the construct led to a spate of concrete policy changes in 1996, ones that transformed older open-ended welfare programs into TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). Many TANF features are direct responses to the threat of the welfare queen, including: family caps limiting benefit levels for families above a certain size; workfare programs requiring welfare recipients to work; and strict time limits that sunset welfare benefits after a set number of years.
Numerous scholars, activists and commentators have explored how the welfare queen construct is used to demonize poor women of color in need of state assistance programs. And while the critiques launched by these early conversations about the welfare queen have been important in opening a much-needed dialogue about the needs of the poor, this conference attempts to move us beyond discussions that isolate poor minority female welfare recipients as a special class. Instead the conference explores how the construct of the welfare queen imposes costs on us all, by revealing the hidden institutional norms naturalized by the construct and the cultural anxieties it creates that prevent people from seeking state assistance. Our project is to "reframe" the welfare queen - to challenge the ways in which claims of need are represented as pathological by the state; feminized and racialized in ways that marginalize and render invisible certain needy communities; and foreclose recognition of certain kinds of "need" and certain relationships of support between the individual and the State. By "reframing" the welfare queen have an opportunity to image new forms of governmental assistance that might better match up with the working poor's needs and lived experiences and with feminist values and anti-poverty advocates' goals and understandings.
Thursday, March 5, 2015
Nzinga-Johnson, Sekile. Laboring Positions. Black Women, Mothering and the Academy. 2013. Demeter Press: Ontario
When I offered to review Nzinga-Johnson’s 2013 edited volume on Black women and mothering in the academy I felt compelled to do so as I needed to read something that directly addressed the intersections of my identity as a Black woman, recent mother, professor and administrator. Recent books about women being mothers in the academy have privileged a worker/mother dichotomy that tends to elevate the “worker” identity above that of the mother. This divide did not speak to neither my colleagues of color’s nor my experiences after becoming mothers and performing more care-related work (mentoring, community building, activism) on our college and university campuses. I know that as a working Black mother in the academy my story is not unique, but it is one that if often unheard, under valued, and silenced within the halls of the ivory tower.
That silence is being undone with the publication of Nzinga-Johnson’s 2013 edited volume: Laboring Positions: Black Women, Mothering and the Academy. The fourteen articles in this edited volume speak to the various experiences of Black women, Black mothers, and mothering/care work done in the academy. Using a variety of methods and disciplinary perspectives, Laboring Positions is grounded overall in Black and intersectional feminist understandings of mothering/motherhood.
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Black women have a long history of advocating for fair wages and access to decent employment opportunities for African-American communities. In her recent remarks at the Academy Awards championing the fight against wage inequality, Patricia Arquette seemed wholly unaware of these histories, elaborating backstage that it was now time for all other groups to fight for white women, because they had fought for everybody else.
In 1920 or thereabouts, famed Washington, D.C., educator Nannie Helen Burroughs helped to found the National Association of Wage Earners as both an advocacy group and a training resource for working class black women. Addressing employment inequality and wage inequality for newly freed black women entering the workforce after Emancipation, and later for black women from the South who had migrated North, was a hallmark of black women’s organizing in the late 19th century and the early 20th century. At the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, Fannie Barrier Williams, a socialite, club woman and budding political theorist told the crowd, “in the item of employment, colored women bear a distressing burden of mean and unreasonable discrimination.” Still, she told them, “we believe this country is large enough and the opportunities for all kinds of success are great enough to afford our women a fair chance to earn a respectable living.” In 1925, Gertrude Elise McDougald, an organizer and teacher in New York City, helped to found the Trade Union Committee for Organizing Negro Workers, in order to encourage African-American solidarity with labor and discourage strike-breaking as the pathway to work.
Thursday, February 12, 2015
In The Underrepresentation of Women of Color in Law Review Leadership Positions, Berkeley La Raza Law Journal (2015), A recent law grad analyzes that lack of opportunities available to women law students of color and proposes some affirmative solutions.
In the history of the UCLA Law Review, there has been only one black woman to serve as EIC (there have been no black men). This fact, combined with what I witnessed at the selection meeting, made me very concerned that the opportunities available to women of color law students were being unduly and unfairly limited. The unfortunate fact remains that in competing for law review leadership positions, women of color are significantly disadvantaged.
This Article explores the potential causes, challenges, and remedies surrounding this inequitable playing field. As Clare Dalton put it in describing the importance of investigating women’s issues in law school, “Exposing the sites of legal education and practice as important creators and sustainers of the culture of gender, as well as the culture of law, we can assert the importance of studying the treatment of women, women’s realities and women’s concerns in legal education and the legal profession.”5 The pipeline for women of color making the law review and into law review leadership positions, such as EIC, is one such site of legal education worth exposing.
Part I introduces the problem by examining the limited research that shows a significant underrepresentation of women and people of color in law review leadership positions, and explains the significance of such research. Part II explores the possible causes of this unfortunate phenomenon by uncovering the challenges that women of color face in obtaining law review leadership positions. Finally, Part III offers potential solutions for increasing opportunities for women of color in obtaining law review leadership positions.
Her proposed solutions include: creating a welcoming environment; structural remedies of diversity outreach committees, board quotas, mentorship programs, and transcripts and transparency of the board decisionmaking process.
Friday, January 16, 2015
From the Atlantic:
A scuffle between a largely black sorority and a predominantly white fraternity provides an interesting case study on Title IX.
At first, the kerfuffle at the University of Connecticut between a largely black sorority and a predominantly white fraternity might seem a lot like the big-kid version of a schoolyard fight. It is, after all, a dispute over an iconic boulder on campus affectionately known as the “Spirit Rock.” No one has been physically hurt, and campus officials have taken action in response to the event.
But a closer look at the quarrel likely reveals a racially charged conflict in whichwhite frat brothers, according to university investigators’ initial findings, physically intimidated the group of black women, hurling verbal insults at them, including “fat black bitch” and “whores.” It has forced university officials—administrators accustomed to treating race and gender bias as distinct problems—to grapple with a conflict that’s almost certainly shaped by some combination of both issues. What’s more, the Spirit Rock affair is unfolding at a time when public scrutiny of issues related to sexual violence and harassment on campus has reached an all-time high. Turns out that what happened at the Spirit Rock is hardly a petty matter.
Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Lani Guiner (Harvard), Ivy League's Meritocracy Lie: How Harvard and Yale Cook the Books for the 1 Percent. In this excerpt from Guiner's new book, she traces the elitest and anti-Jewish origins of standardize testing in law schools and discredits the alleged merit evalution of SAT and LSAT tests. Taking the "testocracy" to its ultimate result, she concludes we are admiting students based on a false sense of merit and failing to prepare students as future leaders and professionals.
The top career choices of many male Harvard students—whether it is 2007 or 2013—are severely lacking in any element of service. This is the damage that we are doing through our testocracy. We are credentializing a new elite by legitimizing people with an inflated sense of their own merit and little unwillingness to open up to new ways of problem solving. They exude an arrogance that says there’s only one way to answer a question—because the SAT only gives credit for the one right answer.
Saturday, October 25, 2014
But to the professor Kevin Allred and 32 students at Rutgers University, Beyoncé is something more—a feminist, a gay icon, and a powerful political figure.
Allred teaches a wildly popular women’s studies course, Politicizing Beyonce: Black Feminism, US Politics, & Queen Bey.
The class is at capacity, and the room is cramped—especially because Allred encourages students to bring their friends. But that doesn’t stop them from rocking out to Beyonce’s greatest hits.
“They usually sign up because they're big fans of Beyoncé's music, but they quickly start to make connections beyond just being fans," Allred says.
Allred, 33, says he’s been a huge fan of Beyoncé for a long time, but he didn’t think of her as a political actor until he came across an essay by Yale Professor Daphne Brooks that linked the singer to black, female disempowerment. ***
In Allred’s course, Beyonce’s music is paired with black, feminists texts, another love of his.
“That way, students are getting an education in the history of black feminist theory in the US, just using Beyoncé as the focal point,” he says. “I let them be pretty fan-oriented on the first day, but urge them for the remainder of the semester to push past that and engage academically.”