Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Judge's family apologizes 160 years after Dred Scott decision

The famous landmark case, Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857), declared that people of African descent, whether free or enslaved, were not American citizens and, therefore, had no legal standing to sue in federal court. The decision also ruled the Missouri Compromise as unconstitutional and thus prevented African Americans from pursuing freedom in states or territories where slavery had been abolished. The Dred Scott decision sparked heated discussions over the future expansion of slavery, the rise of Abraham Lincoln and the Republican Party, and eventually a civil war that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. Slavery was finally abolished first under the Emancipation Proclamation (1862) and the Thirteenth Amendment (1865), which overturned the Dred Scott decision.

According to the Atlanta Black Star, descendants of the Scott and Taney families will gather together at the Taney statue for a historic apology and to speak against its removal. They hope to inspire reconciliation with a proposal to erect statues of Dred Scott and Frederick Douglass standing in positions of dialogue with Chief Justice Taney, along with an educational display on the Dred Scott decision and its aftermath.

Most historians today agree that this ruling, or more accurately abomination, was one of the worst decisions ever decided in the Supreme Court's history. I hope that this formal apology is a first step to a greater discussion around truth and reconciliation regarding America's past with slavery. Americans need to make amends with its past over the issue of slavery. In addition to Georgetown, more prominent elite institutions such as Columbia and Harvard have begun to investigate its ties with slavery. Most importantly, we must not forget our history--even the painful facts--because future generations need to learn from the mistakes of the past.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) – A family member of the chief justice who presided over the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott decision has apologized to the family of the slave who tried to sue for his freedom.

On Monday, the 160-year anniversary of the decision, Charles Taney IV of Greenwich, Connecticut, stood a few feet from a statue of his great-great-grand-uncle Roger Brooke Taney outside the Maryland State House and apologized for the decision, in which Roger Taney wrote that African-Americans could not have rights of their own and were inferior to white people. Roger Taney lived in Maryland.

"You can't hide from the words that Taney wrote," Taney said. "You can't run, you can't hide, you can't look away. You have to face them."

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Social Work Month 2017: Social Workers Stand Up

The 2017 theme for Social Work Month is "Social Workers Stand Up."

From the National Association of Social Workers:

Social workers stand up for millions of people every day. These include people who are experiencing devastating illnesses and mental health crises, our veterans, children, families and communities. Yet many people still misunderstand who social workers are and the invaluable contributions they bring to society.

This year we will commemorate Social Work Month with a “Social Workers Stand Up!” campaign. This campaign will educate the public about the contributions of social workers and give social workers and their allies tools they can use to elevate the profession.

The 2017 theme for World Social Work Day is "Promoting Community and Environmental Stability."

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Obama Should Have Done More for Black Americans

In November 2008, I watched the television screen as Barack Obama was elected as the first black president of the United States. His charismatic message of hope and change resonated with many Americans. I thought that maybe the most pressing problems facing black Americans will finally be addressed. The Great Recession of 2007-2008 had virtually wiped out the savings of most black households. No one in Detroit knew for sure if the American automotive industry (General Motors, Ford and Chrysler) would survive.

Looking back eight years later, I had a lot of high expectations in Obama. However, I should have known that Obama could not reverse three centuries of racial discrimination in just eight years. Yet, I cannot help that a lot of the optimism and admiration that black Americans entrusted in Obama went unfulfilled. While my family dismissed my pessimism, I cringed when Obama preferred incremental policies that did not address the root of the problems that still plague black Americans: higher unemployment rate regardless of educational attainment than whites, stubbornly high poverty rate, a mass incarceration crisis, under-resourced public schools, and a widening racial wealth gap.

William A. Darity, Jr. explained so eloquently in his must-read The Atlantic op-ed: "Leaders who look like you do not necessarily act in ways that benefit you." Obama did more for immigrants and the LGBT community than blacks who desperately looked up to him as a savior to their plight in the inner city. His successor, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, focused her campaign on three issues--women's rights (e.g., equal pay for equal work, family paid leave, and reproductive rights), amnesty for undocumented immigrants, and support for LGBT rights (including same-sex marriage)--that had little to do with combatting institutional and structural racism.

Many of Obama's executive orders did not help working-class Americans suffering from wage stagnation and free trade policies. Sure, the cost of gasoline is lower now but the cost of housing and health care premiums continues to increase exponentially. In addition, Obama was no friend to organized labor, having never met with the union leaders during his entire presidency. The Democratic national leadership failed to understand that a campaign focused primarily on political correctness and identity liberalism (race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality) runs the risk of ignoring the widening income inequality between the rich and the poor. America was turning into a serfdom society with a shrinking middle class and expanding working poor.

Nonetheless, I was delighted that Obama broke the color barrier in the U.S. presidency. This symbolic moment inspired so many black Americans to not lose hope on their native land. But I wished that Obama had done more to reduce the poverty rate in black communities, especially in Chicago. His leadership failed to provide blacks in the Midwestern cities with decent-paying jobs. Let us hope that President-elect Donald Trump delivers on his proposed pledge, the New Deal for Black America.

Friday, December 23, 2016

University of Michigan Bicentennial: 1817-2017

In 2017, the University of Michigan (U-M) will celebrate its bicentennial--200 years of teaching, scholarship, and service. Established in 1817 in Detroit as the Catholepistemiad or University of Michigania, U-M is the state's oldest university. In 1837, the school moved from Detroit to its present-day location, Ann Arbor. Since its founding, U-M has become one of the premier research universities in the world and boasts the largest living alumni in the world (over 500,000). As of 2016, the university has 19 schools and colleges, 260 degree programs, and 103 of its graduate programs ranked in the top 10. Its official colors are maize and blue, and its motto is "Go Blue!".

The university is historically known for its student activism, popular stop for U.S. presidents and important figures, and its role in defending affirmative action at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 (though Michigan voters in 2006 approved restrictions on the use of race in college admissions in Proposal 2). As a proud U-M alumna, U-M also boasts the best graduate programs in my fields: higher education administration and social work. To my delight, the current U-M president, Mark S. Schlissel, has picked diversity, equity and inclusion as well as poverty solutions as two of his five areas of focus in his administration.

Browse the links below for more information about the U-M Bicentennial:

Five Bicentennial Symposia