Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Court Limits Suits on Pay Discrimination

Court Limits Suits on Pay Discrimination - Washington Post

There is little doubt in the minds of most women and minorities that they must make a greater effort to achieve pay equal to White males. This is the case whether one is the singular Lilly Ledbetter at Goodyear, or nearly 80 million African-Americans and Latinos.

While protection from racism initiated the 1964 Civil Rights laws, it was good fortune that had sexism tacked on, in a failed last-minute attempt to thwart the act. Nonetheless, the legal protection for the two is the same. On the surface, the recent Supreme Court ruling against Ms. Ledbetter’s discrimination award seems based on a technicality – a 180-day filing requirement - and the prevailing justice’s predictable interpretations. But there is more to it.

If we accept, for the moment, that minorities and women must work harder for the same pay, relative to White males, might we ascertain a measure of how much harder they must work? What of this effort is due to discrimination? Could reasons exist beyond these traditional culprits of gender and race?

This debate begs the clarifying distinction of whether the minority worker is required to produce more output for the same pay, or does circumstance, which we shall review, cause him or her to expend more effort to produce the same result as a White male.

Historical data, compiled by many sources, including the National Urban League, a long-time leading civil right organization, tells us that for every $1 that a White man in America earns, a black man will earn approximately $0.73. Wage disparities exist for males and females as well, with the rate for men being higher relative to women. Under these terms, the Black man earns 27% less than does his White male counterpart, for possessing the same qualifications and performing the same work. However, if we examine what is required to produce the same output as a White male, yielding true equivalency, the question is really about why the Black man, as folklore describes it, is working ‘harder’ than his White peer. In fact, if he is truly working harder, in effort or hours, to produce the same result, would this not describe him as relatively less efficient and therefore deserving of a lower compensation? Alternately, if he consistently produces the equivalent or greater output of a White man, for a similar effort and time, a disparity in wages means the case for racism would exist.

The logical question for a wage disparity analysis is whether the differences we experience are predominantly skills based, and therefore a market-driven response in pay, or more simply they are related to sex, race, or some other non-objective criteria. Central to the study is the point at which skills development disparities reveal themselves, prior to hire, along with the degree to which the employer can accurately assess any divergence and legally act upon it. Organizations act on what they know, or suspect, by either not hiring an individual or hiring and, more reactively, employing that person at a reduce wage over time to reflect any revealed disparity in output, or efficiency.

Studies of school-age children have shown that divergence of skills occurs early and sustains itself through adolescence and into adulthood, at rates comparable to the wages disparities we see. The best measure of this skills disparity is graduation rates, at nearly 30% lower for blacks in high school, and 43% lower for White females versus White males in college (engineering sciences). It is counter-intuitive to expect wage rate disparities in women or African-Americans to be anything other than consistent with this divergence in performance established in early childhood through working-age. Importantly, this data is not saying why the skills disparity develops, just that it is real, and wage disparities are a market response.

The Supreme Court may have chosen a technicality for explaining their reversal of Ms. Ledbetter’s victory, however, our misunderstanding of the origins and relationship between long-term skills development and wage disparity, which the high court failed to illuminate in their decision, is a side-step of the issue. This maneuver will have supporters of each position preparing for a rematch down the road, rather than moving toward better programs to close the performance and wage gap.

James C. Collier


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Friday, May 25, 2007

Pope: Injustices Done in Colonization

Pope: Injustices Done in Colonization - Washington Post

With all due respect to his holiness, the Pope is blowing smoke at the people of Brazil, and the rest of the world, for that matter. The missionaries that brutalized, raped and pillaged all corners of the world in the name of Catholicism, did so with the full knowledge and support of laws tailored by and for their religious expansion.

If the pontiff is really sorry for the sins of his predecessors, I would personally ask why his Church is spending $200 million in Oakland CA, to build a downtown cathedral, with architectural splendor glorifying God, while failing the community the Church is claiming to serve? A community, by the way, whose poor are in crises, not including sexual abuse by Catholic priests under cover of Church leadership.

Less there be any doubt in our minds, a quick trip to Rome educates us to the export business of the Church and the historical and economic benefits received. The city, including the Vatican, is awash in wealth derived from forcing vulnerable communities into their brand of Christianity, including remunerations to the mother Church for the privilege.

There is no doubt that the church should be embarrassed by their past, considering that it claimed to be the moral ‘compass’ at that time, as it does now. The truth, of course, is that the church’s moral authority has been no better or worse than any other organization or sovereignty, in search of selfish fulfillment. In fact, the number of people killed in the name of God has always ranked well ahead of all other second place atrocities of man.

Apologize all you want, but what about the people?

James C. Collier


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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Finding Ways to Better School African American Boys

Finding Ways to Better School African American Boys - Washington Post

I just drove a black male classmate of my sixteen year-old daughter to his home, after he and my girl worked together on a class project, under the watchful eye of her mother. Our not-so-baby-girl has not earnestly begun dating, so this boy captured my yet-to-be-throttled interest.

He is in the process of transferring to a better school, in academics and sports, so we had something else to talk about, aside from any hidden hormone-driven agenda I might ferret out, accidentally (of course). The fact that the boy was damn handsome, in a geeky sort of way, did not help his case one bit.

Not too surprising to me, I liked the boy. He is smart, serious and funny, respectful, proud, and best of all, he wants to make something out of himself. Now clearly, he was putting on a show for me, but damn if he did not put a very good display of what success in a young black male might present, 3.6 GPA and all.

This boy was so impressive that I introduced the subject of my son, age 12, and some of his growing pains, firmly planted in my backside. Again, the kid stepped up. He gave me some advice, base on his own experience, which I will surely try to utilize on my son.

All this is to say that meeting this kid gave me optimism that I have not felt for a long time regarding what will become of black boys-to-men in this country. He is just one kid, and certainly he is lucky to have parents who care greatly for his well-being. However, I parted with him thinking that this kid will succeed in life, and just maybe my daughter will be fortunate to fall in love with someone like him, when they are ready.

James C. Collier


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Sally Jenkins - Landis: Doping Or Just A Dope?

Sally Jenkins - Landis: Doping or Just a Dope? - washingtonpost.com

James C. Collier


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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Obama Downplays Campaign's Racial Factor et al

Obama Downplays Campaign's Racial Factor - AP

A Question Of Race Vs. Class - Washington Post

Barack Obama can soft-shoe around the issue of affirmative action for his two daughters if he wants, and this might be well and good for this stage of his candidacy. However, his words do not mitigate the fact that at least two ‘little’ issues in this scenario remain unaddressed.

The first issue is that affirmative action is arbitrary in applying to his rich kids and to poor black kids as well, while ignoring poor and deserving non-blacks. In this way, AA does more damage than good because many more blacks are injured by a resentful society of whites, still largely in control. Their bad attitudes prevail after more than a generation of getting short-changed, amidst black malaise.

The second issue is that regardless of rich or poor, the ‘plus-factor’ points handed out by admissions committees cannot translate into academic performance on par with kids who earned their place, via the textbook trenches. Whether as legacies or AA admits, mediocre grades follow arbitrarily placement in classrooms over their academic heads.

So, in the end, America is left to guess at what Mom and Pop Obama really believe about themselves and all the folks who either want to keep or jettison affirmative action. The soft-shoe may work for now, but dancing in the middle of the road ultimately sets up two-way road kill.

James C. Collier


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Monday, May 14, 2007

The Sting of the Bee

The Sting of the Bee - Washington Post

My kids pushed me to see the movie ‘Akeelah and the Bee’. In fact everyone who knows me seemed to push me to see this movie. Once I watched it, I understood why they saw me all over the screen. I have said, some might say droned, that academic competition fosters intellectual advancement – something first forbidden by slavery law, and now shunned as a part of black culture.

Competition, via academic contests, may be bad for white kids suffering from Advanced Placement overdose, but for black kids, it is essential medicine. The fierce competition on the schoolyard playing fields and courts desperately needs to occur in the classroom as well, in order for us to escape the ‘bottoms’. Competitive spirit and mastery that follows are not beyond the abilities of black kids, but they are currently beyond the dreams of too many.

Pedagogically, good spelling is right up there with mastering nouns, verbs, adjectives and the like. Why? Because there is a logic, or critical reasoning skill, to good spelling, that becomes part of the learning base and which reinforces confidence. Without this knowledge base, all learning becomes much more difficult, leading blacks away from the competitions that accelerate development.

Upon entering my Jesuit high school, thirty-five years ago, the kids with the weakest verbal scores were required to take four years of Latin. Now it may indeed be a dead language, but it certainly brought to life my understanding of grammar, sentence structure, and the critical thinking all good communication demands. The nuance of words is expressed in the variations of spelling. Poor spelling and poor thinking go hand-in-hand.

As for competitive pressures - acknowledging accomplishments is important, but too often society is celebrating it’s ‘first black’ this or that, ignoring the question of why it took so long, except when racism is deemed the culprit. The day when black kids look forward to spelling bees, math bees, writing contests, and debate teams, will be the sounding bell of blacks meeting, en masse, the intellectual disparities the group and the rest of society suffers.

Making black contributions to advancement commonplace, rather than exceptional, in our own eye for starters, is what we really need.

James C. Collier


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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

50 Years Later, Little Rock Can’t Escape Race

50 Years Later, Little Rock Can’t Escape Race - New York Times

The story of the sacred cows.

In the beginning, the first cows into the barn let all other manner of cows, weak and strong, join, even though resources are scarce and the farm is in difficulty. It is this burden, in part, with weak cows, that is holding back the progress of the farm. The lead cows justify their actions by saying, ‘we are just doing what the previous cows did’. But the previous cows paid the price for their misdeeds – they are now wandering the fields, hungry - and this too is the looming fate of the current cows.

Now along comes a special cow with proven leadership, who says he knows of ways to progress. With difficulty, he releases the marginal cows into the field and focuses on the opportunities of the cows that remain. The farm begins to improve and everyone is glad, except the first cows and their remaining cohort. They feel vulnerable because their status is no longer protected by friendship and seniority, but rather is based on their contribution to the farm.

The disgruntled cows look for opportunities to thwart their new leader, and return to the past. They say he smells and acts different than them, and that other cows should not be fooled by the apparent progress of the farm, by his hand. They confront him with issues unrelated to the objectives of the farm, as proof that he is unworthy.

In the end, the first few cows re-establish their domain so that they are to be happy once again, while the farm threatens to slip back into poor health. Cows who believed in the new leader will retreat and leave for better opportunities, while the farm and its sacred cows will ultimately cease to exist.

James C. Collier


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Acting White: Cho Didn't Get Court-Ordered Treatment

Cho Didn't Get Court-Ordered Treatment - Washington Post


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Monday, May 07, 2007

Republicans Defect To Obama Camp

Republicans defect to the Obama camp - TimesOnline

While time and the electorate will decide if Obama can be president, he is playing it smart so far. He is really an immigrant-minded politician who happens to be black, rather than a man vying to be the first black president. The distinction is very important.

The background and the behavior model that lead him to his current spotlight is one of assimilation and competition, not redress for past sins. This has put off many blacks who remain steeped in outmoded civil rights strategies and tactics. But, it has also has invigorated blacks and whites who are looking for someone pushing something other than the familiar black is good, white is bad rhetoric.

Of course, there is a potential downside to his approach. Conservative whites entering Democratic politics can also purposely push Hillary to second place, thereby leaving the eventual Republican candidate to a one-on-one with the ‘black guy’, with all the race-card politics that are available for play by the Lee Atwater note-takers. Call this getting 'Bushwhacked'.

Finally, the leadership of current President Bush has left the whole political landscape in such rubble that the entire electorate may just be as disenchanted as his approval rating suggest. In that case, it could be a real ‘horse race’, where people honestly vote their hopes for a leader who will pull up on the stick.

James C. Collier


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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Study of N.B.A. Sees Racial Bias in Calling Fouls

Study of N.B.A. Sees Racial Bias in Calling Fouls - New York Times

I admit that I am a throwback to the “BT” days of basketball, where “BT” stands for before tattoos. Trash-talkin’ has always been part of the game, but I liked it when it had limits and was not for audience entertainment, but rather for ‘psyching-out’ your opponent. In those days players did not have to worry about getting a drive-by, courtesy of someone’s posse, after the game.

Anyway, what struck me about this whole fouls and race ruckus, is how, among the range of NBA professionals quoted, only team owner Mark Cuban understood that the distinctions shown in the data are reasonably invisible to the naked eye, but nonetheless important in a game of ‘inches’. This is the whole reason for statistical analysis, to get beyond assumed truth to that which can be verified.

The NBA as an organization is biased to the outcome and looks silly challenging the independent findings, without a willingness to prove the robustness of their in-house data and analysis, via an independent peer review.

These responses remind me how during Brown v. Board of Education, eventual justice Thurgood Marshall successfully argued that Plessey’s separate-but-equal doctrine might ‘look and sound’ fair, but looks are often deceiving. That actual data showed something very different about the plight of black education in Topeka, KS. Thank goodness the late justice and team were able to see and argue past the end of their noses, on that one.

James C. Collier


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Queen Urged to Apologize for Slavery

Queen urged to apologize for slavery - UPI

It is this kind of grandstanding that mires this country in petty racial bickering while our real world accelerates to hell-in-a-hand-basket.

Who cares if the Queen apologizes for slavery. Did the royals violate their own laws or moral code? Absolutely not. They fabricated laws and codes as they went along to suit whatever need they felt they faced. During that time, as well as before and after, they had unwavering objectives – rule the land and collect the bounty, with iron fist.

The African slave trade was a way to make easy money, pure and simple. This occurred after the Queen’s ancestors had exploited the locals in every way possible, including slavery.

So forget about apologies. She is a symbol of evolution. A snap shot of a time that thankfully is gone. Let’s debate real stuff.

James C. Collier


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