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Reports in Review

The Public Eye, Fall 2009

A Look into the “Queer Asian” Community

Queer Asian Compass: A Descriptive Directory of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBTQ) Asian American, South Asian, and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Organizations
By the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, July 2009. (PDF)

“Queer Asians” are a minority within minorities. As this report explains, “LGBTQ individuals are invisible in mainstream AAPI communities, and AAPI individuals are marginalized in mainstream gay communities.” By surveying 34 queer AAPI organizations about their composition and work, this network makes a vitally important contribution to both the groups and their potential funders.

Two-thirds of the groups are multigender, a decided shift from unisex groups of previous years. Few have paid staff. Only three have youth programs. Just under half are unincorporated, without nonprofit tax status, which is a severe limitation for building out the infrastructure of the movement. Groups are centered on the East and West coasts, with West Coast groups largely native born and East Coast groups reporting to be two-thirds immigrant. Only one third have non-English language materials.

The organizations provide social and service networks for people coming out, and also support asylum seekers with letters to immigration officers.  Some members were reportedly professionals in their home country who overstayed tourist visas to stay here.

Many of the organizations reported needing greater leadership. Often potential leaders are reluctant to step forward in case their visibility puts jobs or citizenship in jeopardy. Another issue is that the native born LGBTQ community has not reached out to non-English speaking Americans, including AAPIers, creating a rift of ignorance between the two groups. The groups surveyed also generally reported tension in balancing social and political activities. Yet the report reveals a need for a more comprehensive campaign for immigrant rights. – Jaime Coyne

Changing the World of Women and Girls

Equality for Women: Where do we stand on Millennium Development Goal 3?
International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank, Washington D.C., 2008 (PDF)

Starting from an understanding that that gender inequality is both unfair and economically inefficient, the authors examine whether and how countries are funding and pursuing improvements in women’s status and labor force participation. Gender equality is Millennium Development Goal 3 that emerged from the international community’s Millennium Declaration in 2000, and this 350-page “midterm” report evaluates progress toward “a world in which women and men work together as equal partners to build better lives.”

Concretely, the goals include increasing gender equality in education, the ratio of literate females to males, the percentage of women in wage employment in the nonagricultural sector, and the proportion of women working in national governments.

Eighty-two of 122 countries achieved the official midterm target of equality in primary and secondary education, but 19 countries, including 13 in Sub-Saharan Africa, are unlikely to reach this aim even by 2015. Girls from tribal, ethnic or linguistic minority groups are the most disadvantaged in achieving gender equality.

To explain the sharp differences in labor force participation rates among countries, the authors examine the link between economic development and social barriers. “In poor countries, female participation is high and women are concentrated in farm employment or family enterprises. Increases in incomes move women out of the labor force, both because of income effects and because of social barriers to women working for pay. At high levels of development, women begin to move into white collar employment as their education levels rise.”  

One key indicator that the authors acknowledge is missing from the study is women’s access to reproductive and general healthcare, and an analysis of how that influences their access to education and the paid labor force. This is an important gap that limits their policy suggestions.

Beyond changing laws, institutions and policies, the authors emphasize the “need to change cultural norms, traditions and day to day practice,” suggesting that governments offer families financial incentives to change their behavior towards girls.  – Maya Burns

David Horowitz: Slanting the Facts about Education

Facts Still Count: An Analysis of David Horowitz’s One-Party Classroom
By Free Exchange on Campus

David Horowitz claims in One-Party Classroom that only liberal ideas are taught in college classrooms – generally by incompetent professors with ulterior motives that are evident in their course syllabi. This report debunks Horowitz’s arguments by exposing how he omits and changes data, takes information out of context, or is just plain wrong.

“Much of One-Party Classroom is the equivalent of researching a dissertation in chemistry using a 19th-century alchemy textbook as source material – and then misquoting it,” write the authors. To start with, he looks only at selected courses at 12 elite universities that posted syllabi online, and then misuses what he finds. In his allegations against University of California Santa Cruz professor Bruce Larkin, for example, Horowitz uses an outdated edition of the course syllabus and misquotes it to make a statement about Iraq into an entirely different statement about al-Qaeda. 

Horowitz loves looking at course reading lists. But he neglects to mention books on the lists that would display diverse perspectives.  Horowitz slams University of Southern California professor Douglas Becker for teaching a course using three “leftist propaganda” texts, but forgets to mention four other course texts from differing perspectives.

In questioning a faculty members’ teaching abilities, he doesn’t seem to do even cursory research into the person’s experience. For instance, he criticizes University of Missouri at Columbia sociologist Srirupa Prasad for teaching a course on women’s health without any knowledge of medicine.  In fact, Prasad had published four articles related to public health and once taught in the University of Wisconsin’s Department of Medical History and Bioethics. – Jaime Coyne

An Unequal Recession

Race and Recession: How Inequity Rigged the Economy and How to Change the Rules
Applied Research Center, Oakland, Calif., May 2009. (PDF)

This report tracks the stories of two dozen people of color from ten states and uses supporting data to illustrate patterns of racial inequality within the current economic crisis. The strength of this report is in looking at historical inequity to understand how people of color are experiencing the economy now.

Even before the latest downturn, the unemployment rate for people of color was higher than that of Whites.  For this reason, Blacks are said to face a “permanent recession.” In 2008, 16.3% of Blacks and 15.2% of Latinos, but only 8.7% of whites, were underemployed, meaning they are working but are forced into part-time jobs because full-time work is not available.

To reveal discriminatory hiring, the report follows the story of Tanya Alina, who reported that an employee warned her she wouldn’t be hired by the boss because he was looking for “young, white, eye-candy girls.” Criminal records are a huge impediment to employment for all races but especially for Blacks. “Being black in America today is just about the same as having a felony conviction in terms of one’s chances of finding a job,” the report argues.  

Companies marketed the subprime loans that caused such economic upheaval to people of color who otherwise would be eligible for prime rate loans, one part of a long history of discrimination in housing. These loans start with a few lower interest payments and then escalate to high payments that many people cannot make, leading to foreclosure. In the case of a Mrs. Mallory, a 63-year-old Black woman, her payments jumped from $500 to $1600 a month after six payments, an amount impossible on her $960 a month income.

Among the report’s recommendations: use Racial Equity Impact Statements during policymaking,  raise the minimum wage, create universal healthcare, and bar criminal records questions from job applications – Jaime Coyne

Getting Ahead with the Green Economy

Job Opportunities for the Green Economy:  A State by State Picture of Occupations that Gain from Green Investments
By Robert Pollin and Jeannette Wicks-Lim, Political Economy Research Institute, Amherst, Mass., June 2008. (PDF)

Last issue we reviewed a report warning that green jobs don’t neccessarily pay high wages. This 12-state study identifies just which relatively high-paying jobs would grow if we challenged global warming by investing in: retrofitting buildings to be more environmentally sound, mass transit, energy-efficient automobiles, wind power, solar power, and cellulosic biomass fuels.

The answers are not always what you’d expect. The report estimates there are currently more than 500,000 jobs called “production helpers.” These are not the inventors or designers, but the individuals who do much of the paperwork and processing necessary to produce the technology. PERI argues these jobs will likely become much more complex, resulting in specialization and, more jobs, as well as higher wages. Even industrial truck drivers will be in higher demand, with over 1.7 million employed in the states studied, earning roughly $12-$14 per hour, as will be needed to transport materials for different green projects throughout the country. Indeed, most growth would be in existing job types. --Kris Coombs

Human Rights at Home

The Power of Justice: Applying International Human Rights Standards to American Domestic Practices
By William Schulz, Center for American Progress, Washington, D.C., June 2009. (PDF)

This report tries to explain why progressives have not fully embraced a “human rights” framework, and how doing so would further their domestic campaigns.  It argues that one major reason for this is the failure of the UN Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International to support and recognize African American freedom struggles in the 1960s. The UNHRC thought that critiquing U.S. policy towards African Americans constituted a breach of member-state sovereignty, while Amnesty International focused primarily on “traditional political rights, such as the ‘freedom of belief’.” Reframing domestic “civil rights” as international “human rights,” Schulz contends, can provide new avenues for progressives to advance their agenda. And respecting international standards domestically would further American foreign policy goals by insulating it from charges of hypocrisy. For example, discriminatory practices towards Muslims make “it easier for Al-Qaeda to characterize the United States’ response to terrorism as a ‘war on Islam’.” – Stas Moroz