Archive for October, 2008

Obama will end affirmative action

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

If Barack Obama gets elected next week, there are a lot of people who think this is proof positive that America is now color-blind, or at least that racial discrimination has been reduced to a minimal level.

While electing the first African American President would be ground-breaking progress in race relations, let’s not overreact. Should Obama win, he will have had to counter the roughly 6% of the public who would not in any circumstances vote for him because he is black. In comparing him with John McCain, it is amazing the race is even close.

Might the “Obama effect” lead to an end to affirmative action? I think this is very much a possibility. There are several examples of high-profile people of color in the Bush administration – Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, Alberto Gonzales, Norman Mineta come to mind. If an African American is elected President, there will be significant pressure to abolish Affirmative Action programs under the mis-guided assumption that they are no longer needed. Several states have passed ballot initiatives prohibiting race conscious programs, and more are certain to try it if Obama is elected.

Just because there are a few high-profile minorities in positions of power does not mean racial discrimination does not exist in the workplace. Affirmative action programs exist to correct evidence of historical discrimination, and should be sun-setted when racial parity is achieved for the entire workforce, not just the top position.

Colin Powell plays the race card?

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

When Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama for President over the weekend, lots of folks assumed he did this because he is African American and wanted to support the first black candidate with a real chance of winning. Why is it so hard to believe that Powell actually thinks Obama would make a better President than John McCain?

Think of the political risks Powell is taking by making this endorsement. He has always been a loyal Republican foot soldier, taking a disproportional share of the blame for presenting faulty intelligence to the United Nations in the lead up to the Iraq war. He was essentially thrown out as the sacrificial lamb for Bush and Cheney – his career ended, reputation tarnished, and legacy questioned. If ever a guy could be excused for holding a grudge, this would be one of those situations. Yet Powell has scarcely criticized the Bush administration, and treated them with kid gloves in his published memoir.

So despite the fact that the majority of the American people feel Obama would make a better President than McCain for a whole host of reasons, Powell is being criticized for simply supporting a fellow African American. Why is it that the very people who insist race isn’t an issue are always the first to make it an issue?

Racism without racists?

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

According to NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, “scholars” believe this is the phenomenon that Barack Obama faces with respect to votes he could lose because he is an African American. He contends that there is a faction of the population that aren’t racist, but would just naturally gravitate toward one type of candidate versus another. He cites statistics showing white job interviewer, when faced with borderline candidates, will recommend the white candidate 76% of the time, and the African American candidate only 45% of the time.

Isn’t this the very definition of racist behavior? I guess in Kristof’s opinion, 76-45 isn’t a large enough disparity to call the interviewers racist. I’m not sure which is more appalling, knowing that African Americans already start with almost a 2 to 1 disadvantage at job interviews, or that some people are willing to write this disparity off as within the margin for error without the need for accountability, either by the interviewers, hiring managers, or the companies.

Latino athletes’ growing role in sports

Sunday, October 12th, 2008

Sports Illustrated has a nice article about the expanding role of Latinos in sports. While there is prominent mention of superstars like baseball’s Alex Rodriguez, golf’s Lorena Ochoa, and soccer’s Ronaldinho, it is more important to look at the overall influence of Latinos on the sports industry – both on and off the field.

Latinos are responsible for half the population growth in the U.S., and watch sports in greater percentages than non-Latinos (36% to 30%). 94% of Latino males consider themselves sports fans. Put these facts together and it doesn’t take a PhD in math to figure out who the industry (TV, media, leagues, teams, sponsors, etc.) should be catering to.

Are people of color the scapegoats for the subprime lending crisis and bailout?

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

The blame game for the $700 billion mortgage bailout is shifting into high gear, with Congressional hearings conducting a show trial with the CEO’s of Lehman and AIG. All of these folks have high-priced attorneys and lobbyists protecting their interests, and in many instances the golden parachutes they took with them. Who will represent the homeowners?
As the story goes, the government began pressuring Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and banks to increase loans to low-income borrowers, including minorities. These entities acted as a conduit by packaging pools of these loans to large institutional investors, underwritten by large Wall Street investment banks like Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, and Lehman. Since many low-income borrowers didn’t have the cash to make a deposit or the income to make the mortgage payments, these loans were obviously riskier. To underwrite the increased risk, insurance giant AIG jumped in by protecting the investors against defaults.

Everybody made huge profits because of one factor – leverage. They were able to package, sell, and insure billions of dollars of these loans with minimal amounts of collateral, which translated into enormous returns on investment. But leverage is a two-way street. If real estate values increase, profits will be large. If they don’t rise, and defaults increase, the losses would be substantial. Because the real estate market was strong, competition to invest in subprime loans became over-heated, and lenders did not increase pricing or tighten underwriting standards to compensate for the increased risk.
It is clear that many loans were made to people who couldn’t afford them. But who is to blame for that? Lenders, investors, investment banks, or insurance companies who were making obscene profits and taking huge risks, or honest Americans, many of whom are people of color, trying to live the American dream. I fear Wall Street will turn the homeowners into scapegoats, and claim more than their fair share of the bailout funds.

Ethnicmajority Housing page.

Flaws in the Stanford race survey

Saturday, October 4th, 2008

If you read the recent press about this survey, which was designed to gauge public opinion about race, you would conclude that Obama has a huge mountain to climb to cancel out the racist vote. According to one of the AP stories, “one-third of white Democrats harbor negative views toward blacks — many calling them ‘lazy,’ ‘violent,’ responsible for their own troubles”.

First problem – the graph shows the percentage of white Democrats answering “lazy” to be 10%, and “violent” 13%. I wasn’t a math major, but both of these responses look to be far south of one-third.

Second problem – according to the survey, the answers from the black respondents (about 12%) don’t appear to be significantly different than all respondents. I suspect that if you asked the same question of whites, Hispanics, Asians, or Americans in general, you would probably get similar answers.

Clearly there are still race issues in this country that put Obama at a disadvantage. But in order to properly quantify it, we would first need to do a survey to assess the inherent bias against rich, old guys who don’t know how many homes they own.

New Ethnicmajority blog

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

You folks may have noticed that we have predominantly been using this Blog to post news stories of interest to our website visitors. In order to make our site more interactive, we want to encourage visitors to post and comment on issues important to our community.

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Let’s all stay informed, and stay engaged.

– Clifford Tong, Founder of

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