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NEW ORLEANS Legal scholars, educators and community leaders from across the nation joined to discuss the impact of power and privilege on America's democracy and the future of the nation's children.
Joining the panel was Donna Brazile, political strategist,
syndicated columnist and television commentator, who said
she got her start in politics at the age of nine.
In a session moderated by Charles Ogletree, law professor and executive director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard, four panelists highlighted the importance of civic engagement in communities of color, which have been most recently threatened by voter suppression efforts.
“And it was simply a request to build a playground in our community that motivated a child like me to go door to door, urging my friends to get their parents to go and register to vote. That was 1969. And here we are in 2012 I never thought I would see the day when we would spend most of our time and our resources protecting and defending the gains that we've made.”
“Let's be very clear,”
said Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law,
“it is minorities, African-Americans, Asians, Native Americans, Latinos and students who will be most affected by voter identification laws.”
The Brennan Center for Justice estimates the laws may prevent as many as five million persons of color, young people and the elderly from voting in 2012.
America Healing is the W.K. Kellogg Foundation's long-term effort to heal racial divisions by supporting dialogue, thoughtful research, and systemic policy change in local communities where inequities in health, education and financial security are limiting opportunities for children. Last week, nearly 500 leaders of community-based organizations, civil rights groups, academic research institutions and members of the media took part in the four-day meeting in New Orleans.
Joining Brazile and Arnwine in the conversation were Ian Haney Lopez, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley and Peggy McIntosh, associate director of the Wellesley Center for Women.
In addition to a focus on controversial state-level voter identification laws, the panel also discussed the importance of supporting teachers as they explore how the anti-democratic notion that privilege can be conferred and denied based on race and ethnicity, can make its way into the classroom and negatively impact the potential of students.
McIntosh, who leads an institute that trains teachers around issues of racial privilege, asserted that a "democratic" approach to education ultimately helps teachers understand the "reality and validity of every child in their care."
Adding to the idea that power and privilege can harm vulnerable populations was Haney Lopez, who detailed how racism has evolved from the challenge of segregation in the 1950s and 1960s to now "mass incarceration," which has a disproportionate impact on young African American and Latino males, and "mass deportation" of undocumented persons, which has led to thousands of parents having to leave their children behind in the care of the child welfare system - a sometimes dangerous and often damaging process, according to the Applied Research Center, which is a grantee organization of the Kellogg Foundation's America Healing effort.
The 2012 elections were emphasized as critical in advancing policy and community-level solutions to many of the systemic challenges facing children of color and their families.
“We have to increase the level of civic engagement and civic information and civic education in communities of color. We cannot rely on politicians,”
said Brazile, herself a formidable political operative.
“We should not rely on political parties. And God, please do not rely on the media.”p>posted May 1, 2012 6:00 am edt