Extra Fizz: Racial Agenda?

By Josh Feit August 14, 2009

Pramila Jayapal, the founder and executive director of the immigrants' rights group OneAmerica (formerly Hate Free Zone), is also a blogger at the

A PubliCola reader just pointed me to a blog post Jayapal wrote on Tuesday that picked up on the interview we did with mayoral candidate Joe Mallahan. (Mallahan had criticized Mayor Greg Nickels' efforts to focus on racial issues in the neighborhoods, on the grounds that it took the Department of Neighborhood's focus away from basic needs and, more important, Mallahan's campaign says, that the results (of tackling race issues) have been underwhelming.

Jayapal's blog essay challenges the idea that electing Barack Obama means we now live in  a "post-racial" America. She looks at three recent examples—the "Wise Latina" dustup, the Henry Louis Gates Jr. arrest, and Mallahan's comments—to argue:

Unfortunately, too many high-profile local and national conversations disregard these facts and attempt to dismiss the need to focus on race as a critical part of the agenda for how to achieve real progress on a whole host of issues.

The facts?
The 2009 National Urban League book, "The State of Black America 2009: Message to the President," states that "African Americans remain twice as likely as whites to be unemployed, three times more likely to live in poverty and more than six times as likely to be incarcerated." In education, the results are equally telling. Nearly half of black students and nearly 40 percent of Latino students compared with 11 percent of white students attend high schools in which graduation is not the norm.

Re: Mallahan, Jayapal had this to say:
I must say I was bewildered by Mallahan's comment. What on Earth is he talking about? When I hear these words, rightly or not, it sounds like code aimed at the same conservative voters who are afraid of immigrants overrunning our town. And it doesn't seem a coincidence that Mallahan has suddenly seen an uptick of support since that comment from Republicans, older voters and independents, who are generally most prone to wanting to ignore the race conversation.

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