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Survey Reveals Ethnic Tensions, Hopes

The first national multilingual poll of Asian, Black, and Latino Americans reveals tensions between the three groups as well as shared hopes for racial progress and recognition of a common destiny.

A poll of 1,105 Asian-American, African-American and Latino adults taken in August and September and released today by New America Media, a national ethnic media association, showed all groups agreed by large margins that racial tension is a major problem in this country. A clear majority of Asians and overwhelming majorities of Blacks and Hispanics agreed their communities are subjected to “a lot of discrimination.”

The poll explores tensions between groups and stereotypes held by the three groups about each other, revealing “some unflattering realities,” said NAM executive editor Sandy Close. But it also finds majorities agreeing that Hispanic culture has enriched all Americans, and that Black leadership on civil rights has helped all ethnic groups.

Belief in the “American Dream” that hard work is rewarded was much stronger among the predominantly immigrant groups. Some 55 percent of Latinos and 80 percent of Asians are foreign-born, and 74 percent of Latinos and 64 percent of Asians believe that “if you work hard you will succeed.” Over 60 percent of African Americans disagree with that proposition.

And 71 percent of African Americans said they believe that the criminal justice system in the U.S. “is for the rich and powerful”; majorities of Hispanics and Asians disagreed.

Overwhelming majorities — ranging from 86 to 92 percent — agreed that African Americans, Latinos and Asians have similar problems and should put aside differences and work together against discrimination and for equality. All believe ethnic media has a responsibility to bring Latinos, African Americans and Asian communities closer together. And all three groups said they believe relations between different racial and ethnic groups will improve over the coming decade.

Founded in 1996 by Pacifica News Service, New America Media is the largest collaborative of ethnic media in the nation. It produces and aggregates editorial content from and for ethnic media outlets and publishes an annual directory to America’s ethnic media. The group is based in California, where it reports that ethnic media are the primary news source of over half the state’s new ethnic majority.

Human Rights, Race, and Torture in Chicago

With Chicago taxpayers now expected to pay nearly $20 million to settle lawsuits stemming from police torture — in which no perpetrators have been prosecuted, and ringleader Jon Burge continues to collect his city pension — a new report on racial discrimination and human rights in Chicago has harsh words on criminal justice.

“Chicago’s criminal justice system continues to plague efforts to secure respect for fundamental human rights in Chicago,” according to the report.

”Long-observed patterns of police abuse continue unabated and lack of accountability within police structures have led to widespread distrust of the justice system in minority communities. Sharp disparities in service and inadequate efforts to establish better community relations reinforce the distressing reality of unequal treatment.”

A coalition of over 30 community and civic organizations sponsored the report, which will be submitted to the U.N. committee overseeing the International Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which meets in February in Geneva. Along with criminal justice it covers issues of poverty, housing, health, education, and transportation.

The report was presented to the mayor on Monday, December 10, with a letter requesting that he join in an effort to set citywide human rights standards, similar to initiatives in San Francisco and New York City. A follow-up meeting is being sought, said Brian Gladstein of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs.
The report notes that between 2001 and 2005, the city paid nearly $100 million to settle 864 lawsuits alleging police abuse, yet the Chicago Police Department fails to monitor and discipline officers repeatedly accused of misconduct and brutality.

In the Burge case, “despite solid evidence of police torture” none of the perpetrators has been prosecuted. “Impunity is allowed to prevail” as law enforcement agencies “have failed to pursue legal accountability for perpetrators of human rights abuses.”

The report also notes a “two-tiered system of police services,” with 911 response times far higher on the South and West Sides; and a CAPS program that “has failed to provide effective community involvement for all of Chicago’s communities of color.”

On other issues, the report gives detailed accounts of the effect of racial discrimination across the spectrum, from TANF to the CHA’s Plan for Transformation to CPS’s Renaissance 2010.

Racial Profiling and Effective Policing

On Thursday, Jane Addams Hull House will sponsor a forum on Police Intervention with Communities of Color: Profiling, Contact, and Force (December 13 at 10 a.m. at the group’s Sargent Center, 1030 W. Van Buren).

Featured will be University of Toledo law professor David Harris, a nationwide expert on racial profiling. His 2002 book, “Profiles in Injustice,” details the growth of racial profiling as a strategy and shows how it is ineffective. His 2005 book, “Good Cops,” uses stories of successful preventive policing from across the country to argue that preventive strategies protect civil liberties and are more effective at keeping communities safe.

Harris will speak along with Clyde Murphy of the Chicago Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Reservations are requested; call 312-235-5391 or email

Legislature Graded on Racial Equity

The state legislature has fallen far short on legislation that would address racial inequality, according to a report to be released Monday.

“Facing Race 2006″ is a report card that gives collective grades to the Illinois Senate and House and also rates individual legislators, along with information on the racial makeup of their districts.

“Racial disparities are pervasive in Illinois” but “they need not be permanent,” said Josina Morita of the Applied Research Center, lead author of report. She points out that the proportion of residents who are people of color grew in all but seven Illinois counties between 2000 and 2005, and that a majority of the state’s residents are projected to be people of color by the year 2050.

Lawmakers need to “give more explicit attention to eliminating inequitable racial impacts of public policies,” she said.

The report looks at 16 legislative initiatives that would significantly address racial disparities that have stagnated in Springfield, along with 20 bills recently enacted that promote racial equity, Morita said.

She said ARC will continue monitoring the legislature, and plans to release the report card on an annual basis.

State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-13) will join Morita at a media briefing on “Facing Race 2006″ on Monday, November 13 at 9:30 a.m. in the 15th floor press room of the Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph. A teleconference briefing follows at 11 a.m.

A public briefing on the report at 1 p.m. will feature former legislator Jesus Garcia, executive director of the Little Village Community Development Corp., along with Joseph Geevarghese of the Hospital Accountability Project, Marva Williams of the Woodstock Institute, and Rev. Patricia Watkins of the Target Development Corp. The public briefing will be held in the Loop Room on the second floor of the University Center, 525 S. State (Monday, November 13, 1 p.m.)

Conference: Reducing Racial Disparities

Some 250 activists and advocates are expected at an upcoming conference that will focus on social problems from an angle which has gained new attention in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina: racial inequity.

“So many people trip over race; they see it as such a controversial and contested topic, they just hope it will go away,” says Terry Keleher, director of the Chicago office of Applied Research Center, sponsor of a conference on Advancing Racial Justice, Friday, October 21 to Saturday, October 22 at UIC, 828 S. Wolcott. The Center for Urban Economic Development at UIC is a cosponsor.

The conference will bring together activists and researchers to fashion new strategies and policies to address systemic inequities revealed by the the persistence of deep racial disparities in areas like education, employment, health care and housing.

“We’re trying to connect people whose analysis includes race,” said Kelleher. “Racial equity differs from the more-common diversity training” which involves “expanded cultural competence and prejudice reduction,” he said. “Our work is about reducing institutional racial disparities.”

Oakland-based ARC opened an office in Chicago in 2002 to strengthen advocacy and organizing work by nonprofit Chicago organizations. Its local partners have included the Coalition of African, Asian, European, and Latino Immigrants of Illinois, Arab-American Action Network, Southwest Youth Collaborative, and Organization of the Northeast.

Almost as soon as he opened his doors in Chicago, ARC was pressed into service, says Keleher, working with a broad coalition of groups responding to racial profiling after September 11. In addition to providing groups with training around the issue, ARC partnered with other groups to collect stories of racial profiling. The group hosted two forums, one downtown and one on the South Side, that featured individuals describing their experiences with racial profiling.

Keleher sees some progress on racial justice in Chicago. “A lot of groups have begun to have more internal conversations around how to address racial inequities, and people have been using those conversations to inform their campaigns.”

Conference topics include “Naming and Framing Race in the Press,” race and education, multiracial electoral campaigns and multiracial alliances, and post-9/11 racial profiling. In addition to workshops and panels, the conference will use a collection of policy case studies to launch strategic discussions.

Does Race Matter?

With laws banning segregation and discrimination, race is no longer socially or politically significant, according to some. Ed Yohnka of the ACLU of Illinois disagrees.

He points out that in Cook County, minority youth have much better chances than whites of being charged as adults for similar offenses. He sees racial profiling behind post-9/11 detentions of Muslim and Arab immigrants who have no connections to terrorism.

And he thinks the reversal of the federal government’s support for affirmative action raises the question: “Will we continue to try to give people of diverse ethnic backgrounds access to our institutions of higher education, which are the key to the upper echelons of our society?”

ACLU of Illinois is presenting “a candid discussion on issues of race, public policy and the justice system” on June 3 at the Chicago Historical Society. It will feature Dalia Hashad, who coordinates outreach to Arab and Muslim communities for ACLU’s national campaign against racial profiling. She’ll be joined by Sam Ozaki, a retired CPS principal who was interned during World War II; Randolph Stone of the Macarthur Center for Justice; and Chicago attorney Martin Castro, with State Senator Barack Obama expected.

The forum is Tuesday, June 3, 7 to 9 p.m. at the Chicago Historical Society, Clark and North. Admission is free but reservations are required (call 312/201-9740 x 329, or email

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