Race and race relations

Photo Courtesy of Andre Wright

Andre Wright, CEO of the fashion label Born Leaders United, saw a post by his friend Jason Sole on Facebook months ago. Sole wrote that as as a culture, we need to stop stereotyping people based on how they dress. In that post, he pointed specifically to the hooded sweatshirt.

Wright picked up the phone and called Sole, and the Humanize My Hoodie campaign was born. 

Ames Historical Society Website

For the past three years, Iowa State University's "Teaching and Learning Iowa History" series has taught courses about social justice in Iowa. This summer, a new course will highlight American Indian Iowans and their contributions to social movements in the state.

Gage Skidmore

The movie Black Panther features a cast full of strong black characters, both male and female. Its release is a powerful moment for many people who have longed to see themselves and their culture reflected on screen.

“I never saw that [growing up],” says Noreen Naseem Rodriguez, an assistant professor of elementary social studies at Iowa State University. “It’s so important, especially as an educator, to provide those mirrors to children, to affirm them, to show them that you have different options in life.”

Emily Woodbury

When Leigh Ann Erickson taught in Chicago and New York, she witnessed the effects of social injustice every day.

But the view from small town Iowa can be very different. That’s why Erickson founded a social justice course, an African American literature course, and the CARE Conference at Mount Vernon High School. Through this curriculum, Erickson hopes to broaden her students' perspectives about income inequality, race, and the criminal justice system. 

In her book "White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide," professor Carol Anderson writes about what she says is a trend as old as the nation itself: "white rage."

The book takes readers back to Reconstruction, which was when Americans were rebuilding after the Civil War.  Instead of creating an inclusive and vibrant democracy, she argues the country chose to go a different route. In her book, she talks about the terrorism waged by the Ku Klux Klan but also talks about the subtler and systematic way in which policy makers discriminated against African-Americans.

police car
Diego Parra / Pixabay

Four civil rights groups are asking the Iowa Supreme Court to ban pretextual traffic stops on the grounds they are unconstitutional and perpetuate racial disparities in the criminal justice system. 

A pretextual traffic stop is when a police officer stops a driver for a minor issue like a broken taillight with the intent to investigate a suspected criminal offense. 

"African-Americans and other Iowans of color are more likely to be stopped, and that’s what we’re trying to prevent," says Betty Andrews, president of the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

Officials with NAACP of Iowa are planning to try again next year to win protections for African-Americans who face barriers to employment after serving time in prison.    

The initiative known as Ban the Box would eliminate a common question on job applications about an applicant’s criminal history, while preserving the employer’s right to get that information later in the hiring process.  

Backers say ex-convicts who have paid their debt to society are too often turned away in the first round of screening regardless of their fitness for the job.  

IowaPolitics.com / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode (cropped, light and color adjustment from original)

During the writing his forthcoming book, Todd Pettys says he came across many interesting aspects of the process Iowans went through to make the state constitution. Pettys is a Professor at the University of Iowa College of Law and H. Blair and Joan V. White Chair in Civil Litigation. His book, The Iowa State Constitution, will be coming out next month and it's a walk-through of the provisions of the constitution.

Resisting Hate

Aug 24, 2017

The racial violence that occurred in Charlottesville last week has ignited an intense, nationwide discourse about race in America. Many people are unsure how to broach the subject of race, as well as the differences between free speech and hate speech.

City Year / Flickr

It was ten days ago that violence broke out in Charlottesville, Virginia, when white nationalists protesting against the planned removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee clashed with anti-racism demonstrators.

One woman was killed when a suspected white nationalist drove his car into a crowd.

Joyce Russell/IPR

This program originally aired on November 8, 2016.

The Iowa African-American Hall of Fame recognizes the outstanding achievements of African-Americans who have enhanced the quality of life for all Iowans. Since its inception in 2002, 65 Iowans have been inducted into the IAAHF. This year, they inducted four.

Kesho Scott

Courtesy of Debby and Bill Marine

50 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court declared state laws against interracial marriage unconstitutional. Until this ruling, intermarriage was forbidden in many states.

Iowa became the second state to legalize interracial marriage a century before the rest of America, back in 1851.

When the Supreme Court finally banned laws against interracial marriage in all states, just three percent of newlyweds were intermarried. Since then, that number has increased fivefold. Today, one in six new marriages is mixed race.

The new documentary I'm Not Racist... Am I? shows the journey of 12 teenagers from New York City who meet over the course of a school year to talk about race and privilege in a series of workshops and in conversations with friends and family members. The film's director, Catherine Wigginton Greene, hopes the film will inspire others to recognize and interrupt racism in their own lives.

John Pemble/IPR

Racial profiling by Iowa law enforcement officers was the subject of a hearing at the statehouse this week though time ran out for a bill to address the issue. 

Instead, senators will request an interim committee to study how to outlaw taking someone’s race into account when a traffic stop is made.  

Banning racial profiling is a top priority of the NAACP.

University of Iowa Press

Between the 1930s and the 1960s, northern universities became a destination for black students from the south looking for the kinds of opportunities they didn't have access to back home.  The process of integrating Iowa's public universities was long and slow.  Black athletes and artists were among the first students to cross the academic color line in Iowa City.   This hour, we'll hear about a new book that tells the stories of many of the black students who were among the first to study at the University of Iowa.

Nick Wiebe / Wikimedia Commons

Even before her involvement with the Black Panther Party in the 1970s, Angela Davis has been advocating for change. She grew up in segregated Birmingham, Alabama where family friends were victims of the 16th Street Baptist Church. Her experience of being on the FBI’s Top 10 Most Wanted List galvanized her as an activist. Today, she is a Distinguished Professor Emerita at the University of California Santa Cruz and the author of many books.

Lou Gold / Flickr

A bill eliminating the terms 'Oriental' and 'Negro' from federal documents sailed through Congress with bipartisan support and was signed by President Obama last week. Now, official documents will use the words 'Asian American' and 'African American.' Mae Ngai, Lung Professor of Asian American studies and professor of history at Columbia University, says the move is long overdue.

"It's a welcome change. It's symbolic, of course, but nobody wants to be insulted, even if it's symbolically."

New reforms to Iowa sentencing code in the areas of child endangerment, non-violent drug offense, and robbery were signed into law on Thursday. Gov. Terry Branstad calls the legislation "a balanced approach" aimed at making Iowa’s criminal justice system more equitable.

Child Endangerment

People convicted of child endangerment resulting in death in Iowa now must serve 30 to 70 percent of their sentence before they can be paroled. Though the crime has the sentence of 50 years, offenders have been immediately eligible for parole.

Michael Coghlan from Adelaide, Australia / Wikimedia Commons

Supporters of a sentencing reform bill approved by the Iowa legislature this session call it a "step in the right direction," despite the fact that there is bipartisan agreement that more steps are needed to address racial disparities in Iowa's criminal justice system.

The bill is awaiting Governor Terry Branstad's signature.

Victor Daly / Ft. Des Moines Museum

Nearly 100 years after the Army's first black officers' training program debuted in Iowa, dozens of old photographs have been discovered showing what life was like when Fort Des Moines was gearing up for World War I. 

The country's oldest African American fraternity returned to its early roots this month when the Fort Des Moines Museum welcomed members of Alpha Phi Alpha in remembering their brothers from generations ago. In 1917, the national fraternity helped recruit black college students to become officers, and a racial barrier was broken. 

Al Ravenna, World Telegram & Sun

Thurgood Marshall is a familiar name to most, and his work as a Supreme Court Justice is known to many. But his enormous success as an attorney fighting for civil rights is not as prominent in our minds. Author Wil Haygood says that part of his life and legacy laid the groundwork for his Supreme court appointment. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

African-American activists cheered as Governor Branstad today signed into law one of the legislative priorities of the NAACP.    

The bill will keep court records confidential in most juvenile cases.  

The bill came out of the Governor’s Working Group on Justice Policy Reform.

Activists argue that black juvenile offenders are most affected because of their disproportionate  numbers in the courts.   

Washington Area Spark / Flickr

In May of 1917, the first class of African-American officers in U.S. military history were trained at Fort Des Moines.

Chad Williams, associate professor of African and African-American Studies at Brandeis University, says the fight to establish the class was an arduous one. Joel Spingarn, a white man and former NAACP leader, struck a deal with the General Leonard Wood: if he could find 200 acceptable candidates, they would create a training camp for them. In the end, 1200 men came to train, and 639 graduated.  

Iowa Public Radio / John Pemble

A bill aimed at preventing racial profiling by Iowa law enforcement passed a State Senate subcommittee on Wednesday. Key components of the NAACP-penned legislation include training, a community-policing advisory board, and mechanisms for tracking officer interactions in hopes of identifying racially motivated stops.

WIKICOMMONS / Klaus with K

Iowa’s NAACP chapter is asking state lawmakers to pass a number of significant criminal justice reforms this year. The organization says these reforms will improve the lives of African-Americans in Iowa who are arrested and incarcerated at disproportionately high rates.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A bill to make it easier for convicted criminals to re-enter the workforce after they’ve served their time was under discussion at the statehouse. 

So-called “Ban the Box” legislation is a top priority of the NAACP.  

Some job applications include a box to check if the applicant has a criminal history.   Advocates say for some that automatically impedes re-entry into normal society.  

Betty Andrews with the NAACP says blacks are affected most because of their disproportionate numbers in the criminal justice system.

WIKICOMMONS / Bobak Ha'Eri

Sioux City municipal employees are at work Monday, but next year, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day will be a paid holiday. A new contract negotiated by AFSCME for 400 city staff takes effect in 2017, and one provision included the civil rights leader's birthday. 

Sioux City's NAACP chapter says its been raising the issue of the federal holiday not being a city holiday for decades. 

Dick DeMarsico / Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Two Iowa museums are offering special programming on Martin Luther King Day today, that examines the country's complicated history with race.

The African American Museum of Iowa in Cedar Rapids is giving a presentation on Martin Luther King’s life and legacy. It's also screening a documentary on the Children’s March, a protest which was part of the 1963 Birmingham Civil Rights campaign. 

Iowa Public Radio / John Pemble

Iowa’s Chief Justice Mark Cady is calling on the state to pay closer attention to who serves on juries as a way of reducing racial disparities in the criminal justice system. During his annual Condition of the Judiciary address on Wednesday, Cady told lawmakers one of the ways Iowa can work to combat inequality is to track and maintain data on the racial composition of juries.

"The internal data will help us determine if [the] jury selection process we use could be improved," says Cady.

Iowa Public Radio / Sarah Boden

Two African-style hair braiders in Des Moines are suing the Iowa Board of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences.

Hair braiders in Iowa are required to complete 2,100 hours at a licensed cosmetology school and pass an exam, even though these requirements generally don’t train or test the practice of African-style hair braiding. The lawsuit says Iowa code is burdensome, arbitrary and impair a hair-braider’s “constitutional right to economic liberty.”

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