Friday, July 28, 2017

Unequal Pay for Women Normal in US

When the BBC published the salaries of its highest paid actors and presenters, female employees were shocked to learn they were systematically paid less than their male colleagues. Nearly fifty years after equal pay acts were passed in the UK and the US, gender pay disparities remain entrenched. 

In my research, I compare civil and human rights in Middle East nations with the United States and other Western self-described "liberal societies". A common flaw in the comparative literature is the Orientalist depictions of Middle East societies as illiberal and oppressive, particularly in the ways they treat women.  

Western governments and their citizens frequently assume Arab and Muslim women are unique in facing gender discrimination. But pay inequality in the US and Europe is a troubling reminder that Western liberalism has also failed women.

Let's look at some Western nations who proclaim their liberal values in comparison to countries in the Eastern and Southern hemispheres. In 2015, a female employee in the US was paid on average 80 cents for every one dollar earned by her similarly situated male colleague. In the UK, a woman is paid only 86 percent of her similarly situated male coworkers' salaries. In France, women earn 15 to 20 percent less than their male coworkers.

Recent high-profile cases remind us that, despite advancements in gender equality in education, pay disparities remain tenaciously entrenched. Despite spending $150 million in diversity efforts, Google was ordered to release its pay records to the US Department of Labor because a preliminary investigation found the giant tech company was systemically discriminating against women in pay.

In the United Kingdom, the BBC pay records revealed large differences in pay between male and female journalists. In learning they were paid less than their male colleagues for the same work, forty-two women journalists issued a letter calling out the BBC for commenting that they would "'sort' the gender pay gap by 2020".

"The BBC has known about the pay disparity for years," they wrote. "We all want to go on the record to call upon you to act now."

These news reports do not reveal any surprises. Pay inequality between women and men in the West has been well documented for decades.

To read the full article published in The New Arab, click here


July 28, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 27, 2017

What Justine Damond and R. Kelly Can Teach Us About Blackness and Innocence

Damondkelly collage



One is a blonde, blue-eyed Australian woman fatally shot down weeks before her wedding.  The other is an African American man from Chicago known for pursing musical success and underage girls with equal enthusiasm.      

At first blush, it might seem that the two have little in common.   However, each news story proves that race and gender distort our view of who should be considered “innocent” in our society. 


Justine Damond

Justine Damond called the police because she thought she heard a woman being attacked near her home.  When the police arrived, Ms. Damond, unarmed and wearing pajamas, was shot and killed.  Robert Bennett, the attorney for Ms. Damond’s family, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that Ms. Damond was “the most innocent victim” of police brutality shooting he had ever seen.

I do not object to Mr. Bennett’s statement.  By all accounts, Ms. Damond was innocent. However, I do object to the fact that Black victims of violence are almost never referred to as innocent. 

When a Black person is killed, the victim’s transgressions – whether serious or trivial – are laid bare for all to see.  People reach for these facts as if to say, “Aha!  This guy was a thug!  It’s a good thing the police got him!”  The sad part is that it doesn’t take much to reach this point because, in America, there is a constant presumption against Black innocence. 


R. Kelly

Robert Kelly’s transgressions against young women began with his marriage to 15-year-old singer Aaliyah in 1994.  After tapes surfaced showing him violating a young girl, he was charged with child pornography and later acquitted.  Last week, allegations surfaced that Kelly had been holding young women in a cult-like environment. 

Despite decades of allegations against Kelly, last week, many Black men rushed to defend him.  “What kind of girl goes to a singer’s room at night?”  “He’s no worse than Hugh Hefner!”  “She was young, but she knew what she was doing!” 

As I listened to these feeble defenses, I could only think of how they were subtle (and not so subtle) ways of not only defending the perpetrator, but blaming the victim.  But the reaction was not entirely surprising because in America, when a woman is raped, she is rarely considered innocent. Indeed, in this country, a woman’s morality is judged by her sexual past.


The Common Thread

The Justine Damond story illustrates society’s reluctance to view Black people as innocent.  R. Kelly’s story demonstrates society’s failure to view women as innocent.  Sadly, when these beliefs combine, Black women are the least likely to be considered innocent, especially when the crime is rape and the perpetrator is a Black man. 

Black men forcefully object when police victims are demonized – particularly Black males.   Nevertheless, these same Black men vilify Black women that accuse Black men of rape.  Ironically, the attacks they thrown at these women are identical to those aimed at the victims of police brutality.  Saying, “He shouldn’t have worn that hoodie,” is the same as saying “She shouldn’t have been wearing that skirt.”  Saying, “He should have listened to the officer,” is no different than saying, “She should’ve known what she was getting into.”  Dredging up the criminal record of a male police brutality victim is degrading and unnecessary, but discussing a rape victim’s sexual history is equally so.   

These dismissive Black male attitudes are particularly problematic because Black women are more likely to experience rape than white women, Asian women, or Latinas.  Sadly, these macho attitudes likely explain why for every sixteen Black women that are raped, only one will report her attack.  

 When Black men fail to see sexism, Black women are left without one of our most important allies.  Therefore, when Black women suffer sexual violence, we suffer alone.  Because we suffer alone, we do not get the support and respect that we need and deserve.  

Obviously, not all Black men defend those that harm Black women.  I am heartened by the number of Black men who have denounced R. Kelly, Bill Cosby, and other men accused of crimes against Black women.  But the thousands of holdouts prevent real progress on this issue.  I encourage the Black men who have been challenging their brothers to keep the conversation going because it is an important first step.

Black women carry the weight of racism and sexism.  It would be wonderful if Black men helped to alleviate our burdens rather than adding to them.   

July 27, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Can We FINALLY Stop Saying that Black People Don’t Value Education?


Little rock nine e eckford

Caption:  Elizabeth Eckford braves a crowd to enter Little Rock Central High.  Source: NPR.


Last week, the Pew Research Center released survey results wherein a majority of Republicans polled – 58 percent – indicated that colleges and universities have a negative effect on our nation.    

In 2017, college – the place where people literally go to learn things – is a bad thing in the Republican mind.  Since 86 percent of Republicans are white, apparently, a solid number of white folks do not value higher education.    

This survey provides further proof that the “acting white” theory promoted by Black and white conservatives should be forever discredited and abandoned.  

For the uninformed, the “acting white” theory operates as follows:  Low-achieving Black youth taunt their more academically gifted peers by accusing them of “acting white.”  As a result, the intelligent youth fail to achieve academic success. 

If this sounds suspicious to you, it should.  The theory has never been proven in any meaningful way.  (See Dr. Ivory Toldson’s epic takedown of the theory here.)  Yet, the myth of “acting white” endures.

The persistence of this myth is problematic for many reasons, but I’ll focus on three.

First, the “acting white” myth perpetuates a most insidious form of white supremacy.  In this myth, white folks are uniformly good, smart, and hard-working – so much so that Black folks envy their superior intellect and industriousness.  This knowledge motivates the jealous Black children to tear down their smart peers for “acting white” because, after all, the children know that to be Black is to be ignorant.   

So, whenever someone deploys the “acting white” theory, what they are really saying – implicitly or explicitly - is that if Black kids embrace whiteness and its positive attributes, they will succeed.  Conversely, their Blackness – and the laziness, stupidity, and inferiority that comes with it – must be avoided or discarded altogether.

Although it goes without saying, I’ll say it:  These assumptions are incredibly racist.  White people do not have a monopoly on intelligence or hard work.  Any theory that is so deeply rooted in false assumptions about white superiority must be rejected. 

Second, the “acting white” theory is not rooted in facts.

Contrary to what “acting white” advocates say, Black youth have positive attitudes about education.  In his analysis of data on student attitudes, Dr. Toldson found that Black males were the most likely to consider high-achieving students “cool.”  Moreover, 95 percent of Black girls said that they would be proud to tell their friends about their academic achievements – the highest percentage of any group.  Black girls were the least likely to avoid telling friends about academic triumphs; white males were the most likely to do so.  Finally, Black females were twice as likely as white males to report that their friends would support their choice to study even if it meant delaying plans to have fun. 

Black people are not anti-intellectual.  Black people are more likely to read than whites.  Compared to whites, Black parents are twice as likely to believe that college is extremely important for their children’s futures.  The number of Black and Latino students earning bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees has been steadily increasing for the past forty years. 

Clearly, the data paint a far different picture than that put forward by the “acting white” mythologists. 

Finally, “acting white” theory diverts our attention from the real cause of Black students’ academic woes – racism.  “Acting white” didn’t keep children of color in segregated classrooms until 1954. “Acting white” didn’t make white folks fight bussing in the North or close public schools in the South.  “Acting white” didn’t create racially exclusive private schools as alternatives to integrated public schools.  “Acting white” didn’t make Republican politicians cut public school funding to the bone.  “Acting white” didn’t cause the poverty that creates the problems that students bring into the classroom. 

The “Acting white” myth, like a good NBA point guard, misdirects our attention while the real target – racism - remains untouched.  

Black youth don’t need to change their attitudes toward education – but society does.  When asked about barriers to attending college, Black students did not cite a fear of “acting white,” but did indicate financial concerns.  Rather than blaming Black children for failing to escape a system rigged against them, we would do better to change the system.  We need a structure that provides meaningful and affordable educational opportunities for all children.  Until that system is in place, I encourage conservatives to stop fabricating myths that keep us from solving the very real problems caused by racism.   

July 20, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Why I am not “Asian” and Other Reflections on Asian American Identities

The experiences of Asian Americans in the legal world are gaining attention—a long overdue development.  This week, Yale Law School published a comprehensive report entitled “A Portrait of Asian Americans in the Law.” The report covers a variety of issues—Asian Americans’ experiences in law schools, clerkships, law firms, government, judgeships, and legal academia, along with the various obstacles that we face.  Shortly after the Yale report was released, the Washington Post published an article on this topic, drawing from the report. 

Just last month, the Law School Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE) also published a report focusing on the experiences of Asian and Asian American law students—especially diversity among these students.  I was invited by LSSSE Director Aaron Taylor to write the Foreword for this report.  LSSSE wanted to address the proper terminology to refer to various Asian American groups, and my Foreword discussed that issue.  Drawing from my discussion with Aaron, I noted that racial terminology is inherently problematic, but that it is necessary to discuss race, and that we have to accept imperfect solutions.  Nevertheless, I do believe that discussing the nuances of this terminology can help rebut stereotypes of Asian Americans and help us understand distinctions within the group.

The Yale report notes that it “use[s] the term ‘Asian American’ and ‘Asian’ in accordance with their usage by cited sources” … but also acknowledges that the terms are not necessarily interchangeable[.]”  I was glad to see the report highlight this tension. Many sources use the terms interchangeably to reduce word counts and avoid repetition.  In one sense, that is understandable.  However, it has long given me pause that people view the terms as synonymous: they often drop the “American” and refer to Asian Americans as just “Asians”—without critical reflection.  The “American” part is really important to many of us.  Throughout our history, Asian Americans have been viewed as perpetual foreigners who can never be “real Americans.”  Simply calling us “Asian” only reinforces that stereotype and erases a core aspect of our identities.  Moreover, lumping different groups together under the rubric of “Asian”—a term that includes 4.5 billion people—obscures far too many differences.

The Yale report also notes that “the term ‘Asian’ may include foreign nationals[.]”  The implication then is that the term “Asian American” may not include such foreign nationals.  My personal view is that anyone who is living in America is “American” regardless of citizenship, nationality, or intent to remain.  I hold this view even more strongly in the context of the Trump administration’s attacks on immigrants. 

Additionally, some people prefer the term “Asian Pacific American” so that Pacific Islanders are included.  Others think that Pacific Islanders should be identified separately from Asian Americans.  The U.S. Census Bureau takes this latter position: its racial categories include “Asian” and “Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander.”  And within Asian American circles, there are distinctions made between South Asian Americans (those descended from the Indian subcontinent), East Asian Americans (those of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean descent), and Southeast Asian Americans (those from Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, etc.). 

These distinctions are especially confusing to people outside of our communities.  Often, when I present my research on South Asian American racial ambiguity to academic audiences, a fellow scholar who is not Asian American will come up to me afterwards to talk about my presentation.  Although I used the term “South Asian American” dozens of time during the presentation, the person will say something like “your work on Southeast Asians is really interesting”—despite the fact that I did not use the term “Southeast Asian” at all.  Of course, I realize that this is a perfectly innocent mistake, but it does reflect a general lack of familiarity with Asian Americans, even among some scholars who are interested in race.

I hope those who are unfamiliar with Asian American identities will take the time to learn about these basic distinctions; and also about the salient issues which affect all Asian American communities.  Discourse on race is such a balance between such commonalities and distinctions, and Asian Americans are no different.  I encourage everyone to read the Yale and LSSSE reports and the Washington Post article … and also my articles

Acknowledgement: Thank you to my colleague Shakira Pleasant for her helpful feedback on drafts of this post.

July 19, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 17, 2017

Giving Voice to the Incarcerated

I recently came across a powerful resource that gives voice to those incarcerated in America's massive prison system - The American Prison Writing Initiative.  With all of the news coverage about America's mass incarceration system, this project gives voice to those directly affected by the myriad flaws with the criminal justice system - the prisoners.  As Mari Matsuda's seminal article, Looking to the Bottom, reminds us "those who have experienced discrimination speak with a special voice to which we should listen."

As such, the APWAs goal is:

"to replace speculation on and misrepresentation of prisons and imprisoned people with first-person witness by those on the receiving end of American criminal justice. No single essay can tell us all that we need to know. But a mass-scale, national archive of writing by incarcerated people can begin to strip away widely circulated myths and replace them with some sense of the true human costs of the current legal order. By soliciting, preserving, digitizing and disseminating the work of imprisoned people, we hope to ground national debate on mass incarceration in the lived experience of those who know jails and prisons best. This is the mission of the APWA."

The over 1200 essays by prisoners can be accessed at:


July 17, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Remembering the Real American Patriots – Black Women




Black woman with flag

Source:  National Archives
Untitled painting of a black woman sewing an American flag, by O, Vereisky, 1964



I have never liked the Fourth of July.  As a child, sparklers and fireworks terrified me.  As I grew older, the more I learned more about America’s complicated history with people that look like me, the less likely I became to wave Old Glory. 

But this year, I had a realization. 

The problem with Fourth of July is not patriotism, but rather that patriotism has been too narrowly defined.  For far too many Americans, patriotism means unquestioning, automatic praise of America.  Criticizing America’s past or present is tantamount to treason. But this need not be the case.  The Oxford English Dictionary says that a patriot is one “who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors.”  

When most think of America’s enemies, they think of those from foreign lands that would harm Americans.  But we must beware of all enemies, whether foreign or domestic.  A man who advocates a freedom of religion that applies to some, but not all, has surely harmed Americans and done violence to the First Amendment.  A man who has shown nothing but contempt for our cherished freedom of the press is surely no friend to the nation or its constitution.  A man who delights in his refusal to vigorously protect our redwood forests, Gulf stream waters, and beautiful, spacious skies surely cannot love America.  A man who advocates sentencing millions of Americans to ill health – and perhaps even death - by denying them health care is no friend to those Americans.

If you truly love something, you want to protect everyone and everything in it.  A person who is actively working to harm Americans and American institutions can only be considered an enemy to America.  

No one has done more to defend this nation against its greatest domestic enemy in recent memory, Donald Trump, than Black women.

Please do not misunderstand.  Black women are not the only patriots in America right now.  There are Black men, white women, Latinos, Arabs, Asians, and many others who are standing against Trump.  However, as a group, Black women have been the most vigorous in their opposition and need to be recognized for this loyalty to their country. 

Black women did everything possible to stop Trump from taking office.  A staggering ninety-four percent of Black women voted for Hillary Clinton.  By contrast, sixty-two percent of white men voted for a man who ran a horribly racist campaign and promised to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens.

Exit poll pic




One could argue that some GOP voters mistakenly believed that Trump was simply making brash campaign promises.   But now, almost six months in, we can clearly see the damage Trump is doing at home and abroad.  Despite this knowledge, post election,  58 percent of white men continue to support him.  Meanwhile, just 14 percent of Black women approved, the lowest of any group in the survey.    

Nbc approval ratings pic


Source: news


Really, which group loves Americans more?

It’s ironic that Trump supporters claim to love America, but praise a man actively working to harm large groups of Americans.  It seems, then, that Trump voters only love parts of America.  But Black women have shown a more expansive love.  We love America even though, after enduring centuries of both racism of sexism, we likely have more reason to hate America than any other group.  We endured the same chattel slavery, Klan violence, and Jim Crow segregation as Black men while suffering the same gender indignities as white women.  Yet, we continue to do what is best for America.  Like Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and many less famous women, we show America her flaws and even help her to fix them.  We continue to lift her up, push her forward, and help her be a better version of herself even when we are rebuked at every turn. 

If that isn’t patriotism, I don’t know what is.

If all Americans adopted the expansive vision of patriotism adopted by Black women and their allies, we would have a government that cared for children, women, the poor, the elderly, the LGBT community, Muslims, Jews, atheists, and all other non-male, non-straight, non-WASP segments of our nation instead of a government devoted to inventing new ways to exclude and dismiss their fellow Americans.    

In short, the view of patriotism adopted by Black women would move us ever closer to achieving the goal of a nation with liberty and justice for all. 

Next year, I think I’ll buy a pack of sparklers.

July 11, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Race, Gender, and Age Discrimination Among Attorneys

A recent article in the Social Science Quarterly, entitled Intersecting Disadvantages: Race, Gender, and Age Discrimination Among Attorneys, conducts a "systematic study that takes an 'intersectional' approach to understanding how attorneys experience discrimination by their professional peers." 

Professors Todd Collins, Tao Dumas, and Laura Moyers "analyze original survey data from over 2,000 practicing attorneys to investigate whether women of color are more likely than other race-gender cohorts to perceive that they are treated unfairly by other attorneys, and what impact such perceptions may have on their satisfaction with their careers." 

The article finds that "minority women are more likely than others to perceive unfair treatment based on race, gender, and age. This also contributes to lower career satisfaction for attorneys who are women of color than for other groups."

The authors proffer that "the findings have important implications for understanding attorney relationships and potential barriers for minority groups within a profession’s culture. These obstacles not only impact attorneys, but could also influence attorney choice for citizens and the prospects for a representative judiciary."

The full article is available at Download Collins_et_al-2017-Social_Science_Quarterly


July 5, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 3, 2017

CFP: Is it Time for Truth & Reconciliation in Post-Ferguson America?

Call for Papers

"Is It Time for Truth & Reconciliation in Post-Ferguson America?"

Sponsored by Michigan State University College of Law

Ever since Europeans first settled the continent over four hundred years ago, racial injustice has existed in North America.  Human bondage was formally recognized in the United States for nearly a century following the Nation's birth in 1776.   While the Thirteenth Amendment officially abolished slavery in 1865 and the Fourteenth Amendment mandated equal protection in 1868, nearly another century passed before "separate but equal" was repudiated and some progress was made.  Today we still see persistent racial inequities throughout American society.   The criminal justice/prison complex disproportionately targets, captures and incarcerates persons of color; and police shootings of unarmed black victims - such as of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in Aug. 2014 - are grimly commonplace.  It is difficult to deny, in light of this history, that America has a major problem of race. What can be done?   Truth and Reconciliation is a process that has been used effectively in other nations and cultures (e.g., South Africa; native nations) following times of deep racial discord/violence.    The idea is that true healing can begin only when past atrocities and injustices are first acknowledged and addressed.

The Symposium Committee, in conjunction with the University's administration, seeks to convene leading activists, scholars, policymakers, and thought-makers for 1-2 days of discussions and conversations on the topic of the Nation's responsibility to account for the history of racial injustice in America.  Selected submissions will be presented at the Law Review Symposium in March 2018, and published in a special symposium issue of Michigan State Law Review.

To be considered, please send an abstract (300 – 500 words) outlining your proposed paper to Professor Catherine Grosso at and Marie Gordon at by August 15, 2017.   Don’t hesitate to contact us if more information would be helpful. 

Faculty Co-Sponsors:  Tiffani Darden; Matthew Fletcher (Director of Indigenous Law & Policy Center); Kate Fort (Director of Indian Law Clinic); Brian Gilmore (Director of the Housing Clinic); Catherine Grosso; Michael Lawrence (Foster Swift Professor of Constitutional Law); Barbara O'Brien (Editor, National Registry of Exonerations); Wenona Singel (Assoc. Director of the Indigenous Law & Policy Center)



July 3, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)