This Week: Undocumented residents in Flint, Gynnya McMillen, and #1000BlackGirlBooks

January 31, 2016

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

1. “Undocumented immigrants in Flint say they’ve been denied free water and are scared to get help
Casey Tolan for Fusion: “In interviews with Fusion, a half dozen undocumented people said that either they’ve been turned away from free water or are worried that they’ll be deported if they try to get help. Some who don’t speak English only learned about the problems with the water in the last few days, and have been drinking contaminated tap water for months. Officials at some fire stations—where the National Guard is distributing free bottled water and filters—have asked residents for a form of identification. Immigrants in Michigan without legal status are unable to receive drivers licenses or state IDs… Moreover, when National Guard officers go door to door to deliver water to elderly and disabled people, undocumented immigrants are unlikely to open their doors. Rumors are flying about the Obama administration’s undocumented immigration raids nationwide, and on social media, immigrants encourage one another to keep the door shut. There’s also a lack of awareness about the water problem to begin with. Most Flint residents have known not to drink the tap water for months, at least since state officials acknowledged the elevated lead levels in October. But with no local Spanish-language radio station or TV channel, some undocumented people who don’t speak much English simply don’t know about what’s going on.”

2. “Official: Detention staff used martial arts on Gynnya McMillen
“The day before a teenage Kentucky girl was found dead in her juvenile detention cell, staff used an ‘Aikido restraint’ on her, a spokesperson for the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice confirmed Friday… Her death is currently under investigation by the Kentucky State Troopers and the Justice Cabinet’s Internal Investigation’s Branch. Officials have so far indicated they believe McMillen died in her sleep. Officials confirmed Thursday that Reginald Windham, a Lincoln Village Juvenile Detention Center employee, was placed on paid administrative leave. Officials said Windham, who has been with the state’s juvenile justice department for 10 years, failed to check on McMillen every 15 minutes, a requirement for those in isolation at the detention center in Elizabethtown. McMillen was placed in a cell by herself on Jan. 10, and officials say she was found dead, in a sleeping position, the next day at 9:55 a.m. Officials previously confirmed to 48 Hours’ Crimesider that McMillen did not respond that day when food was offered at 6:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., or later when her mother called. It is not clear when McMillen died, but she was not checked on, despite her lack of communication.”

3. “11-year-old Jersey girl launches #1000BlackGirlBooks
“[Marley] Dias’ latest social action project is the ‘#1000BlackGirlBooks’ book drive. Frustrated with many of the books she’s assigned in school, she confessed to her mother during dinner one night that she was unhappy with how monochromatic so many stories felt. ‘I told her I was sick of reading about white boys and dogs,’ Dias said, pointing specifically to ‘Where the Red Fern Grows’ and the ‘Shiloh’ series. ‘What are you going to do about it?’ [my mom] asked. And I told her I was going to start a book drive, and a specific book drive, where black girls are the main characters in the book and not background characters or minor characters.'”

4. “The Chilling Rise of Islamophobia in Our Schools
Kristina Rizga in Mother Jones: “Nour told of overhearing several students blame all Muslims for the attacks in a casual conversation with each other during class. She said she wanted teachers not to ignore such comments, and instead to stop the class briefly to explain why they are form of racial stereotyping; teachers could also relate the comments to other forms of abuse that students at their school can identify with, such as anti-black comments or language targeting undocumented Latino students. Another intervention that needs to happen, students suggested, was to have teachers include more Middle Eastern history in their coursework and add more books by Arabic and Muslim authors. ‘How can American students be prepared for the future if they don’t understand what’s going on the Middle East?’ Nour said. At the end of December, Nour and others presented the students’ suggestions to a panel of social studies teachers.”

5. “Which way will African American women vote?
In Iowa, Melissa Harris-Perry interviews Symone Sanders, National Press Secretary for Bernie Sanders, and Erika Alexander, Hillary Clinton supporter, about the appeal of their candidates for black women voters. Harris-Perry: “In the Democratic party, once we get to the general election, the question of African American women’s votes is the question of the election; black girls actually are magic when it comes to the election… what is the case for Mr. Sanders and for Mrs. Clinton from the perspective of African American women voters, recognizing that we are diverse?”


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