TIME Civil Rights

Ole Miss Student Who Hung Noose on Statue Indicted on Civil Rights Charges

University of Mississippi Campus
Wesley Hitt—Getty Images James H. Meredith statue on the campus of the University of Mississippi on April 12, 2008 in Oxford, Miss.

The statue was of James Meredith, the first black student to attend Ole Miss

The man who tied a noose around the neck of a statue of James Meredith at Ole Miss last year will face federal civil rights charges, the Justice Department announced Friday, as the prank was intended to “intimidate” black students and faculty at the school.

Graeme Phillip Harris will face federal charges for hanging a noose and an outdated Georgia flag around the statue of James Meredith, who in 1962 became the first black student to attend Ole Miss. According to the Justice Department, Harris “conspired with others under the cover of darkness” to execute the prank, which the indictment said was intended to “threaten and intimidate” black students at the University.

“This shameful and ignorant act is an insult to all Americans and a violation of our most strongly-held values,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement. “No one should ever be made to feel threatened or intimidated because of what they look like or who they are. By taking appropriate action to hold wrongdoers accountable, the Department of Justice is sending a clear message that flagrant infringements of our historic civil rights will not go unnoticed or unpunished.”

Harris and his co-conspirators were members of Sigma Phi Epsilon, and their actions (along with other hazing incidents) prompted the national organization to suspend the Ole Miss Chapter, according to an email to members from Grand President Philip Cox.



A Movement Against Racism Should Be a Movement for Mental Health

Getty Images

The Black Lives Matter movement is exploring how racial discrimination negatively affects the mental health of African Americans

The Black Lives Matter movement–which initially targeted the lack of indictments for the murderers of unarmed African American men and women and has since contributed to a larger conversation about the impacts of racism—has unapologetically highlighted the experiences of African Americans in this country. Another lesser-known but equally critical result of the movement: it raises an opportunity to discuss how racial discrimination negatively affects the mental health of African Americans. To combat the psychological and physical effects of racial discrimination, leaders of institutions that both serve and employ African Americans should first examine their environments and policies to identify implicit biases or overt acts of exclusion are taking place.

It’s no secret that a sense of belonging has been scientifically proven to be an essential human need. For people of color, functioning in a society that consistently pressures them to downplay their cultural identities to fit in can have detrimental health effects. This “shifting” may increase African Americans vulnerability to depression and other psychological problems if certain reaffirming buffers are not in place. Racial discrimination in the workplace can be especially unnerving. Research has also shown that racial discrimination in the workplace is a chronic stressor for African Americans.

The societal pressures to be stoic, yet hyper-vigilant towards both overt and subtle racial threats can be a psychologically daunting task. Research indicates that the daily experience of racism in America is associated with low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety. Experiences of racism have even been associated with physiological reactivity, i.e. high blood pressure, a predictor of heart disease. This finding implicates perceived racial discrimination, a psychosocial factor, as a determinant of this leading cause of death among African Americans, alongside more commonly recognized behavioral factors (i.e. poor diet, lack of exercise).

It’s important to deconstruct the sources for both systemic and interpersonal racism to pinpoint why these infractions still exist, and the steps that are necessary for change. We can kickstart that first step by implementing the second step: talking. Institutional and employment leaders must engage employees in conversations around inclusion, equality, and difference; this is a key step in the process of addressing mental health disorders among African Americans.

Substantive dialogue is critical, but it’s equally vital to note that simply starting these conversations is a powerful thing. It’s a move that shows both internal and external stakeholders that your organization values the tenets of social justice and reflects an investment in community well-being. Beginning these conversations is also an explicit acknowledgement of the problem, which could help employees affected by racial discrimination build back trust in the institution.

This critical dialogue also can’t just be a one-time thing—it requires consistency and commitment. To be effective, these conversations have to be on-going, inclusive, and employ a technique called active listening. Active listening communicates empathy and builds trust by using signs of attentiveness (i.e. paraphrasing, assumption checking, asking questions) to indicate unconditional acceptance and confirming the other’s experience. This type of listening behavior will ensure that an employer’s responses are not dismissive and authoritative. This form of listening reflects that the individual is respecting the other person’s experiential reality, not just waiting to speak and give a predetermined statement.

One of the most important factors in these conversations is to acknowledge up front that racial discrimination does exist, and that the conversation leader and organization genuinely wants to create change that will promote better mental health for African American employees. Of course, conversations can’t fix everything. They need to be complemented with stress reduction and communication workshops. Leaders and executives should also be aware of the signs of depression, anxiety, and stress in others and have a repository of mental health providers for referrals. This action may require additional training, but it is well worth it for the employees will see that they are viewed as fully-functioning humans, and not just producers.

Taking these additional steps will create a culture that respects the voices, experiences, mental health, and holistic lives of African Americans. They present a visceral and impactful embodiment of the growing Black Lives Matter movement.

Veronica Y. Womack is a Social Psychologist and Research Associate at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. This piece was originally published in New America’s digital magazine, The Weekly Wonk. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox each Thursday here, and follow @New America on Twitter.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 27

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Why did Saudi Arabia lead airstrikes on the rebels who’ve seized Yemen? The answer isn’t as clear as it seems.

By Frederic Wehrey at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

2. Three black swimmers swept the 100-yard freestyle at the NCAA swim championships — and swept away a long-standing stereotype.

By Kavitha Davidson in Bloomberg View

3. Could a Facebook deal to host news content make news brands obsolete?

By Felix Salmon in Fusion

4. A new satellite study reveals the rapid breakdown of Antarctic ice. Low-lying nations should be worried.

By Robert McSweeney in the Carbon Brief

5. Here’s how reproductive health rights for women can help end poverty.

By Valerie Moyer in the Aspen Idea

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.


George Zimmerman Accuses President Obama of Inciting Racial Tension

He also says he feels no guilt over the death of Trayvon Martin

George Zimmerman, acquitted of criminal charges in the 2012 Florida shooting death of African-American teen Trayvon Martin, says he has a clear conscience and that President Obama sought to provoke racial conflict over the high-profile incident.

In a video interview posted to his lawyer’s website on Monday, Zimmerman says, “President Obama held his Rose Garden speech stating ‘If I had a son he would look like Trayvon.’ To me that was clearly a dereliction of duty pitting Americans against each other solely based on race.”

Zimmerman also says he does not feel guilty about the incident because, he maintains, he did what he needed to do to survive.

“Had I had a fraction of the thought that I could have done something differently, acted differently so that both of us … survived, then I would have heavier weight on my shoulders. In all fairness, you cannot as a human feel guilty for living, for surviving.”

The Department of Justice said last month that no civil rights charges would be filed against against Zimmerman.

The interview was recorded on March 8 by his attorney Howard Iken.

TIME Food & Drink

Starbucks Baristas Will Stop Writing ‘Race Together’ on Your Cups

Starbucks Race Together Cups
Stephen Brashear—Getty Images Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz addresses the "Race Together" program during the Starbucks annual shareholders meeting on March 18, 2015 in Seattle, Wash.

But the controversial diversity and inequality campaign will continue

Starbucks baristas will stop writing “Race Together” on customers’ cups, according to a company memo, ending one of the key components of the coffee chain’s much-criticized campaign to spark discussions about racial inequality.

CEO Howard Schultz said in the memo that the cups were “just the catalyst” for “Race Together,” which launched Wednesday and invited baristas to write the phrase on the cups, the Associated Press reports. Schultz added that the campaign will still continue as planned, with discussion forums and store expansion into minority communities.

The initiative has attracted controversy as a well-intentioned yet ineffective method to generate more conversations about the topic in a bid to influence change in the wake of racially charged events, like the nationwide protests over police brutality and several officer-involved killings of unarmed black Americans.

Schultz defended the campaign last week in light of the criticism, telling shareholders on Wednesday, “All I am asking of you is to understand what we’re trying to do, to understand our intentions. We strongly believe that our best days are ahead of us.”

Starbucks spokesman Jim Olson says the change is not related to the pushback: “Nothing is changing. It’s all part of the cadence of the timeline we originally planned.”



What Starbucks Can Learn About Race From Chipotle

Starbucks Race Together Chipotle Author Series
Stephen Brashear—Getty Images Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz addresses the "Race Together Program" during the Starbucks annual shareholders meeting on March 18, 2015 in Seattle, Wash.

Starbucks' #RaceTogether needs Chipotle’s food-for-thought recipe: honest storytelling on cups and bags — and nothing more

“Must a cup, or bag, suffer an existence that is limited to just one humble purpose, defined merely by its simple function?” an obscure philosopher by the name of Chipotle Mexican Grill posted online last May.

The answer to that question, according to the burrito chain, is no. And to prove it, Chipotle decided to bestow its cups and bags with original literary nuggets penned by some of the nation’s most venerated and popular writers. A blockbuster screenwriter, a Nobel laureate, a revered M.D.-Ph.D. journalist, among others, were offered the rare chance to publish on Chipotle’s wrinkly, recycled papers, destined for garbage cans nationwide, but not before passing through millions of hands. This way, the company’s food and drink holders could manage, if only for a moment, to hold the elusive attention of its customers. And apparently, the project is a hit: the project, called the ‘Cultivating Thought’ series, kicked off its second edition in January.

On Wednesday, along came another cultural change campaign from another, but even more ubiquitous chain: Starbucks. The initiative started with a curious new slogan on its coffee cups: #RaceTogether. It was a well-intentioned aimed at inspiring customers to talk about race at the cash register, but the early reviews were grim: it was dubbed a “brew-tally dumb” plan by critics who also called out the CEO’s “chutzpah.” After all, how dare a coffee shop attempt to defuse the nation’s most incendiary issue with coffee cups. As the Atlantic Monthly aptly put it, the implosion of #RaceTogether is evidence of another societal truth: “no effort to grapple with race in America will go unpunished.” (Starbucks said it would stop writing “Race Together” on coffee cups on Sunday, though it said it had always intended to phase out that feature and that it’s only part of the broader campaign.)

But the good news for Starbucks is the solution is clear: Don’t grapple with race, or any other divisive issue by running into it bluntly—instead draw from literature to crack the issues open. In other words, take a cup from Chipotle. With #RaceTogether, Starbucks made a responsibility, an argument, out of the idea of race, and in the process they alienated the two groups of people most capable of tapping into Race Together: Activists fighting racial bias think it’s trivial and ineffective, and their opponents, already sick of the discussion of race, certainly won’t put up with this P.C. invasion of their coffee houses.

But as the writers who’ve been published on Chipotle’s cups have shown us, using literature to tackle the hardest topics–death, love, high school popularity, even race–has always been the best way to engage hearts and minds. With art, it’s possible to probe racial issues, even with explicit racial cues, without setting off a firestorm—so long as it’s not overbearing.

For example, while Race Together often relies on sentimental or melodramatic statements (“It began with one voice”), Dominican-American author Julia Alvarez’s Chipotle quote graces a sensitive cultural divide with distance and brevity:

I miss them, Mami. All those words I had to leave behind. Also, words that in English didn’t carry the same feeling.

In other words, it is possible for any of us, even a coffee store, to raise issues relating to non-white characters—just don’t allow their most important qualities to be non-whiteness. That’s exactly what a handful of writers have expressed repeatedly, and achieved very masterfully. Some of the authors who appear on Chipotle’s cups have long been great examples of this. Amy Tan, whose Joy Luck Club (1989) mediates more on mother-daughter relationships than their being Chinese-American; and Toni Morrison, whose Nobel-winning works prioritizes black Americans to re-imagine her characters as “raceless,” even during peak eras of racism. While there are more to these stories than race, race is also pervasive, driving history, dialogue, thoughts, actions.

It’s this simple, balanced awareness of race that is missing in Race Together, and its failed efforts, often subtle, to understand racial equality and racial awareness—writing “one race: human” here and “races” there—have rendered the initiative opaque and embarrassing.

So Starbucks, instead of simplistic, corporate-sounding slogans like Race Together, why not go right to the heart of the issue with an excerpted passage from Morrison’s most well-known novel, Beloved (1987). Those are words that would invite Starbucks’ customers to ponder, if not discuss where race may be of significance, if at all.

“Lay em down, Sethe. Sword and shield. Down. Down. Both of em down. Down by the riverside. Sword and shield. Don’t study war no more. Lay all that mess down. Sword and shield.” And under the pressing fingers and the quiet instructive voice, she would. Her heavy knives of defense against misery, regret, gall and hurt, she placed one by one on a bank where dear water rushed on below.

Of course, at some point, racial biases or stereotypes—not simply cues—demand to be addressed explicitly. Burrito wrappers and coffee cups may not be enough to tackle the raging online debates that flare up when we hear white Ferguson cop Darren Wilson’s racially-charged descriptions of being afraid of black teen Mike Brown. Or when we digest the furious reaction to Fashion Police’s Giuliana Rancic’s remarks about Zendaya’s dreadlocks, even after she apologized for trading in such odious cultural stereotypes.

Neither Chipotle nor Starbucks have waded into specific racial incidents like those, and perhaps that’s good, but either company could host lighter-hearted, thought-provoking moments pulled from literature. Take, for example, Amy Chua’s controversial parenting memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (2011). While a viral WSJ article prior to its publication titled (without Chua’s knowledge) “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” turned her book into a national racial debate, Tiger Mother in fact tells the exact opposite story. Chua unravels that very cultural stereotype, in both poignant and funny ways:

“Ben Franklin said, ‘If thou loveth life, never ever EVER wasteth time.’ Thomas Jefferson said, ‘I’m a huge believer in luck, and the harder I work the more I have of it.’ And Alexander Hamilton said, ‘Don’t be a whiner.’ That’s a totally Chinese way of thinking.”

“Mommy, if the Founding Fathers thought that way, then it’s an American way of thinking. Besides, I think you may be misquoting.”

“Look it up.”

There’s one last very important lesson from Chipotle’s cups—if you’re going to talk about race, push the conversation forward. Whereas Starbucks’ Race Together repeats platitudes about the nation’s enduring racial divides, a piece published by New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell’s on Chipotle’s site, questions more broadly what really counts as social acceptance, and what that’s truly worth. Race becomes just one part of the human experience:

You can imagine what I thought, on the way to the barn-raising: How on earth would a group of Old Orders accept us? This is what we always worry about, of course. If people of different colors and creeds are to get along, we think we need to practice approval and agreement and acceptance.

This more relaxed interpretation of race—not about its groups, but how we approach it—could revive Race Together. Like Chipotle’s desire to give its cups and bags a new function, and like Starbucks’ wish to turn its sales registers into ideas exchanges is worth pursuing. Race Together can gain a broader purpose as a vehicle for thinking about people in general. And that requires looking for more carefully crafted ideas than a hashtag.

And those ideas can be found even beyond literature relating to America: take Katherine Boo’s non-fiction work Behind the Beautiful Forevers (2012), for example, which explores a Mumbai under city to investigate social mobility and justice. These are the kinds of ideas that Race Together needs. And what better way to serve them than on cups to-go?

Maybe because of the boiling April sun, he thought about water and ice. Water and ice were made of the same thing. He thought most people were made of the same thing, too… If he had to sort all humanity by its material essence, he thought he would probably end up with a single gigantic pile. But here was the interesting thing. Ice was distinct from—and in his view, better than—what it was made of.

He wanted to be better than what he was made of. In Mumbai’s dirty water, he wanted to be ice. He wanted to have ideals. For self-interested reasons, one of the ideals he most wanted to have was a belief in the possibility of justice.

Read next: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Starbucks’ Flawed But Wonderful Plan To Tackle Race

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Military

The Army Is Looking Into Allegations of Racial Slurs at an Alaska Base

Soldiers reportedly used racial slurs during "Racial Thursdays"

(ANCHORAGE) — The army says it has launched an informal investigation into allegations that an Alaska-based unit was allowing racial slurs among its members.

Army Alaska spokesman Lt. Col. Alan Brown says he can’t discuss specifics of the case or which unit was involved.

The Army Times reported Thursday that the unit being investigated is a battalion with the 25th Infantry Division’s 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team based at Fort Wainwright.

It said the soldiers were allowed to use racial slurs during “Racial Thursdays.”

Brown says the army was already aware of the allegations and that an informal complaint was “made through command channels.”

Brown says an informal commander’s inquiry is underway. He says that if warranted by the findings, a formal investigation could be initiated after that.

TIME cities

Someone Is Posting Racist Stickers on Austin Storefronts

The stickers used the city’s logo, but the mayor condemned them

Stickers that say “exclusively for white people” were posted on local businesses in Austin, Texas this week.

The stickers were marked with the city logo and claimed to be “sponsored by the City of Austin,” but Mayor Steve Adler moved quickly to reject that claim and condemn them.

“This is an appalling and offensive display of ignorance in our city,” Adler said in a statement Wednesday. “Austin condemns this type of hurtful behavior. Our city is a place where respect for all people is a part of our spirit and soul.”

The city said it would monitor businesses for additional postings and would “take appropriate action” if more stickers show up.


The Controversial First Flights of the Tuskegee Airmen

Tuskegee Pilots
Afro Newspaper / Gado / Getty Images Tuskegee Airmen studying maps in Tuskegee, Ala., 1942.

The establishment of America's first black military pilot squadron was ordered on March 19, 1941. 'They were anxious, eager, studied hard, flew hard, busted buttons bulging their chests at inspection,' TIME wrote then

The order from the war department came on this day, March 19, in 1941: a new Pursuit Squadron and Air Base Detachment was to be formed in Illinois, eventually to be based in Tuskegee, Ala.

Though the order never mentioned race, that squadron had a very special place in the history of the integration of the U.S. Armed Forces. By September of 1941, TIME commented that the Tuskegee Institute was home to “something new in the world”: “All twelve of the gray-clad cadets and the one slim young officer student were Negroes, charter members of the Air Forces’ 99th (all Negro) Pursuit Squadron, soon to become the first Negro flying officers of the U.S. Army. ”

But the existence of the Squadron, and those Tuskegee-based groups that followed, known collectively as the Tuskegee Airmen, was entirely welcomed by supporters of racial equality. Though the group integrated the ranks of military pilots, it was in a segregated manner. The question of integrating the Armed Forces was hardly a new one in 1941, but hopes had been high that the exigencies of World War II would hurry the answer along.

In the fall of 1940, President Roosevelt dashed those hopes by announcing that military training in the Army would be separate but equal. In fact, TIME’s first-ever acknowledgement of the Tuskegee Airmen was headlined “As Jim Crow Flies.” In 1942, the magazine commented that the situation for the pilots “might have exasperated Job”: that they were accused by some of betraying those who urged real integration, while others thought the Armed Forces had gone too far already.

“A white planter [from near the base] telephoned that he would kill the first Negro soldier who ever again waved greetings to his womenfolk,” TIME reported. “An officer called a meeting of white farmers, told them that this is just what Hitler wanted, just this kind of division among the U.S. people; Goebbels would be delighted.”

But when it came to the problems of actually becoming pilots, however, the men of the Squadron were well-prepared, according to a description from that year:

Tuskegee‘s Negroes faced two problems: 1) learning to fly; 2) learning to become aggressive, when every tradition had taught them submissiveness. The raw material was good. Of these Negro cadets, 57% had had technical studies in school, the average had had three and a half years of college. Of the first 81 cadets accepted, 44 were from the South, 26 from the North, six from the Middle West, five from the Far West. They were anxious, eager, studied hard, flew hard, busted buttons bulging their chests at inspection.

Read the full 1942 story, here in the TIME Vault: The Ninety-Ninth Squadron


Report: Black Americans Are 72% Equal to Whites

"It's a tale of two nations"

Black Americans are about 72% equal to whites, according to a new report on racial equality.

The 2015 State of Black America, put out by the National Urban League, looked at five categories to come up with that number: economics, education, health, social justice and civic engagement. The index sets white as the benchmark, because, according to the report, “the history of race in America has created advantages for whites that persist in many of the outcomes being measured.”

A 100% equality index would mean full equality between the racial group being measured and the white population. So with blacks at 72%, National Urban League CEO Marc Morial says the country still has a long way to go. (Hispanics fared slightly better, with an index of around 78%.)

“Black status, when measured in the five areas that we look at, is still not on par with white Americans,” Morial said. “[It’s an] equality gap that represents the distance we need to cross to achieve full equality in this country.”

That gap widens even more when you break the index down by category. The black equality index drops to 56% when you just look at economics.

“I was stunned at the high levels of black unemployment in many cities,” Morial said. “I can celebrate the tremendous growth in jobs, [but] it appears as though those jobs are bypassing large segments of the black community.”

The black education equality index came in at 76%, health at 80%, social justice at 61% and civic engagement at 104% (Morial explained that African Americans tend to be overrepresented in civic engagement because a higher proportion work in the military and public-sector jobs compared with whites.)

But why did the social justice index increase from last year, up from 57%, when the past few months have seen such high-profile cases of social injustice in Ferguson and elsewhere?

“Numbers don’t always tell a whole story,” Morial said. “Numbers help you tell a story.”

For Morial, the most hopeful part of the study was the health index, up from 78% a year ago. He attributed this uptick largely to the Affordable Care Act, which has caused the number of uninsured African Americans to drop.

“It proves that sometimes public-policy interventions make a difference,” Morial said.

There are other policy initiatives Morial hopes the publication of this report will inspire, including a transportation-infrastructure bill, a youth-unemployment bill and raising the minimum wage. He knows there’s a “tremendous” amount of work to get that 72% up to 100%.

“The word I’d like you to think about is crisis,” he said. “It’s a jobs crisis, it’s a justice crisis, it’s an education crisis. You can walk over here and you can look at the numbers and you can cheer. But then when you look more closely there’s another story, and that’s the story of those being left behind. And to me that’s the point. It’s a tale of two nations.”

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