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This Week: Chi-Raq, Black Women’s Political Leadership, and Voter ID in Alabama

December 7, 2015

Here’s our pick of news, writing, and research this week that investigates political questions at the intersections of gender, race, and region.

1. “Voices. Votes. Leadership. The Status of Black Women in American Politics”
This new report by Higher Heights and Center for American Women and Politics explores the barriers and opportunities that exist to harness Black women’s power at the ballot box and on the ballot. Among the findings: Despite being 7.4% of the U.S. population, Black women are just 3.4% of Congress, less than 1% of statewide elected executive officials, 3.5% of state legislatures, and 1.9% of mayors in cities with populations over 30,000.

2. “In Spike Lee’s ‘Chi-Raq,’ It’s Women vs. Men, With a Vengeance”
Salamishah Tillet in the New York Times: “Because ‘Chi-Raq’ is a racial allegory in which African-American women unite across generations and rival gang affiliations to stop gun violence, the film risks erasing the specific forms of violence they are vulnerable to as women… In the end, much like Aristophanes’ original, the biggest reveal of ‘Chi-Raq’ (Lee’s most important film in a long time) is that hyper-masculinity is its own form of drag, an identity performance on the streets, in the military and too often among police officers, that can have fatal consequences for men as well as women. And in this era of Black Lives Matter, the paramount racial justice movement of our time, one that was founded by the black female activists Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, the idea that sexuality remains black women’s primary political weapon is, in and of itself, a bit of a joke.”

3. ”How history got the Rosa Parks story wrong”
To mark the 60th anniversary of Rosa Parks’ arrest which launched the Montgomery bus boycott, The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks author Jeanne Theoharis discusses why it matters that we tell Parks’ story incorrectly: “We have grown comfortable with the Parks who is often seen but rarely heard. That image of Parks has stripped her of political substance. Her ‘life history of being rebellious’; as she put it, comes through decisively in the recently opened Rosa Parks Collection at the Library of Congress… There, we see a lifelong activist who had been challenging white supremacy for decades before she became the famous catalyst for the Montgomery bus boycott… The Rosa Parks Collection, which opened in February, reveals how broadly Parks has been distorted and misunderstood.”

4. “Muslims in America Condemn Extremists and Fear Anew for Their Lives”
“Muslims and leaders of mosques across the United States say they are experiencing a wave of death threats, assaults and vandalism unlike anything they have experienced since the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001… ‘My identity and everything that I am becomes erased every time one of these incidents occurs,’ said Nabihah Maqbool, 27, a law student at the University of Chicago. ‘It all becomes collapsed into these senseless acts of violence being committed by people who are part of my group.’ Like many other Muslim American women, Ms. Maqbool said that she had considered taking off her hijab, or head scarf, out of fear of being victimized. She said that driving back to Chicago after celebrating Thanksgiving with her family, she had decided not to stop and pray on the grassy lawn outside an interstate rest stop, as she usually does. ‘I just got so nervous that something could happen to me by any unhinged individual who saw me as someone who deserved violence,’ Ms. Maqbool said.”

5. ”Alabama’s Controversial Voter-ID Law Is Challenged In Court”
Ari Berman in The Nation: This week “civil-rights groups—led by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund on behalf of the Alabama NAACP—filed suit against the state’s voter-ID law, arguing that it violates Section 2 of the VRA. The complaint alleges that the law will disenfranchise 280,000 registered voters without government-issued ID but there has been only 1 case of voter impersonation in Alabama out of 22.4 million votes cast since 2000 to justify the measure. Despite the large number of people without voter ID, the state has issued only 6,736 voter ID cards in the last two years.”

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