New Film Documents Community’s Response to Sikh Temple Shooting

Waking in Oak Creek, a new film produced by Not In Our Town in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, documents the community and law enforcement response to a Sikh temple shooting two years ago in Oak Creek, Wisc.

The film is a story of the community’s healing after a White supremacist killed six worshipers and injured four others at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin – an act of hate that forces the town to address hidden intolerances.

“Sikh, Muslim, South Asian and Arab-American communities have an additional element to contend with: greater scrutiny and suspicion after the 9/11 attacks,” wrote Deepa Iyer for NBC News on the anniversary of the shooting earlier this month. “I have heard from many community members who tell me they are routinely targeted, whether being secondarily screened at an airport, harassed for wearing a hijab or turban, or surveilled by authorities in their places of worship, student or community gatherings.”

It is this continued surveillance nationwide that requires we share the story of Oak Creek and have meaningful conversations about how to affect change in our communities – especially in light of other recent tragedies that have resulted from profiling. Not In Our Town and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services have partnered to provide free DVDs of Waking in Oak Creek to help facilitate community screenings and discussions, in addition to lesson guides for educators – all which are downloadable here.

Be sure to share these resources – and watch the film’s trailer below:

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John Oliver Takes on Predatory Payday Lending

Calling them the Lays potato chips of finance – because they’re not good for you, but you can’t have just one – John Oliver in a recent segment described payday lending as “one of America’s most resilient industries” – a $9 billion industry that’s been around for just over 20 years.

Payday lending companies present themselves as a way for people to get back on their feet, but the loans are often accompanied by frightening levels of interest and fees that consumers probably aren’t aware of. That’s why so many people become trapped in an impossible pattern of repayment.

According to a CFPB report released last year, payday loans’ circular repayment structure and lack of underwriting creates for many consumers a cycle of indebtedness. “To the extent these products are marketed as a short-term obligation,” the report says, “some consumers may misunderstand the costs and risks, particularly those associated with repeated borrowing.”

Established by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, the CFPB began overseeing payday lenders in January 2012, and as of November 2013 accepts complaints from borrowers who encounter issues with payday loans.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights passed a resolution at its national board meeting in December 2013 urging states, Congress, and federal agencies to increase regulatory oversight and enforcement of payday lenders.

See Oliver’s entire segment on the industry below:

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The Truth About Tipped Workers

By Gabriela Vasquez, a Summer 2014 Leadership Conference Education Fund Intern

The minimum wage for tipped workers has remained at $2.13 since 1991, a fact that is sometimes obscured in discussions about raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and the Restaurant Opportunity Center (ROC) held a forum on tipped workers on July 23 to address the question of why tipped workers should receive the full minimum wage. And with 70 percent of tipped workers in the food industry, much of the conversation centered on restaurant workers.

Laura Fortman from the Department of Labor discussed the role the Wage and Hour Division plays in regulating wages of tipped workers. Fortman’s perspective was that the division should enforce the federal law that requires employers to pay $2.13 per hour to tipped workers who earn at least $30 in a month. The goal of the Wage and Hour Division, according to Fortman, is to “make sure that a fair day’s work results in a fair day’s pay.”

Since EPI recently released a report on tipped workers in coordination with the Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics (CWED) of the University of California at Berkley, the bulk of Wednesday’s forum focused on the findings of that report – “Twenty-Three Years and Still Waiting for Change: Why It’s Time to Give Tipped Workers the Regular Minimum Wage.” Sylvia Allegretto, CWED co-chair and one of the authors of the report, advocated for eliminating the tipped minimum wage altogether. Using the seven states that have no subminimum wage as an example, Allegretto claimed that the “restaurant industry does not hinge on paying tipped workers $2.13.” David Cooper of EPI, who co-authored the report, further explained several of the report’s findings. Cooper stated that the “vast majority of [tipped] workers are not doing that well,” but are doing much better in states where they are paid the full minimum wage. In fact, Cooper pointed out that the gender gap is smaller and poverty rates are dramatically lower for workers in these states.

Providing more personal perspectives were Marcie Gardner and Amber Grinden, who are tipped workers in the restaurant industry. Both women touched on the difficulties of having their income depend on customers’ tips. Imar Hutchins, owner of the Florida Avenue Grill, shared his views as a restaurant owner, pointing out that many people aren’t even aware of the existence of a subminimum wage for tipped workers.

While accomplishing reform nationwide faces many obstacles, it is clear that Cooper was right in saying that “the system needs to change.”

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Mascot Debate Should Focus on Harmful Effects on Youth

A month after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) cancelled six federal trademark registrations for the name of Washington’s football team, the Center for American Progress says the team’s name is more than just racist: it has real effects on American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) youth every day.

The report, “Missing the Point: The Real Impact of Native Mascots and Team Names on American Indian and Alaska Native Youth,” reveals that offensive mascot names can foster hostile learning environments for AI/AN students, result in lower self-esteem and mental health, and lead to the development of cultural prejudices since the stereotypical depictions are often understood to be true.

AI/AN youth, according to the report, have some of the nation’s lowest high school graduation rates and have a suicide rate that is 2.5 times higher than the national average. Native mascots not only misrepresent the AI/AN community – they mask an enduring affliction that is felt every day.

In May, 50 senators wrote a letter to National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell, urging the team to change its name. That request was quickly denied, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D. Nev., continues to be outspoken on the issue.

Members of Congress aren’t the only ones opposing the name. Last week, the granddaughter of the team’s founder said the name should change. In December 2013, The Leadership Conference voted unanimously at its national board meeting for a resolution urging the team’s owner to change the name.

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34 Years After Signing, United States Still Hasn’t Ratified CEDAW

By Amrita Bamrah, a Summer 2014 Leadership Conference Education Fund Intern

Today marks the 34th anniversary of the United States signing the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) – a United Nations treaty intended to bring equality to women around the world. But more than three decades after Jimmy Carter signed the treaty, the United States still stands out as one of a handful of countries that has not ratified it.

CEDAW is an international agreement designed to uphold fundamental human rights. Also known as the women’s equality treaty, it supports equality between men and women around the globe by providing countries with guidelines on how to promote progress for women. By ratifying CEDAW, countries commit to implementing measures that would help end discrimination against women in all forms. The treaty has helped overcome barriers to combating discrimination throughout the ratifying countries, for example, by decreasing sex trafficking and domestic abuse, ensuring the right to vote and ability to work, and helping to improve maternal health care.

Today, 187 countries have ratified CEDAW – and the United States remains one of only seven countries that has not taken this step despite support from Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama.

Ratifying CEDAW would affirm the United States as a leader in promoting equality for women everywhere. During a Senate hearing last month on combating violence and discrimination against women, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D. Mass., said, “The U.S. must be committed to protecting the rights of women and girls, committed to preventing violence and discrimination against women across the globe.” Warren also urged, “Investing in women and girls means investing in the future. It is prosperous, secure, just, and peaceful for all and it’s time for Congress to carry this fight forward.”

Share this image on social media if you think it’s time for the United States to join 187 other countries in ratifying the women’s equality treaty.

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Is America Really a Nation of ‘Soon to Haves’?

By Juliet Eisenstein, a Summer 2014 Leadership Conference Education Fund Intern

Our country was founded as a land of opportunity, and we have long upheld the ladder of success to be equally accessible to all. If everyone is created equal, however, as our Declaration of Independence asserts, how have some experienced much greater success than others, more so than merit can account for? “Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver explored issues surrounding income inequality in a recent segment, saying, “Just because politicians can’t talk about income inequality doesn’t mean we shouldn’t.” In 14 minutes, Oliver explores the current economic divides permeating American society and introduces a system called “America Ball,” a version of the lottery where the wealthiest and most low-income citizens are really playing two separate games: one which easily grants some individuals continued wealth, and one system that struggles to operate, allowing little to no upward movement.

Oliver also shows a clip of Sen. Marco Rubio, R. Fla., testifying that America is “a nation of haves and soon to haves” to drive home frequent misconceptions of income inequality. Oliver uses Rubio’s terminology throughout the segment to question how accessible our nation’s ladder of success truly is, and to ask how “soon” those at the bottom of the income ladder may experience the successes of those at the top.

Watch the full segment here:

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Henderson: Common Core an Important Part of Driving Equitable Change

During the Rethinking Accountability conference last month in Washington, D.C., Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said that by supporting the Common Core State Standards – which he calls “an important part of driving equitable change in our public school system” – we are also supporting greater investments in education to prepare effective teachers and provide the resources students need to succeed.

“This is a moment when – because of the anniversary of the decision in Brown v. Board of Education, because of the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act – we have both looked back as a nation, but we’re also looking ahead,” Henderson said. “And in looking ahead, we recognize the diversity we celebrate today – the emergence of the Latino community, the continued expansion of the African-American community, the Asian American community, as well as a group of progressive Whites of a new generation, who believe that the values that we support as a country should affect us all and are committed to achieving the same goals that we want for ourselves. I’m actually very optimistic that our country will be able to address the needs of its educational system and to make sure that equity is a principle we can all support.”

The conference discussed how schools, districts, and communities across the nation are charting new paths to student- and learning-focused accountability, and how new approaches are making a difference in improving education. It was hosted by the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education and sponsored by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Sandler Family Foundation.

Watch Henderson’s interview and keynote address at the conference below.

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