Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

The Olympics & Gabby’s Hair

December 3rd, 2012 No comments

By: *Staci Pesin

Blog Category: Race & Economics in the Media

I would consider myself quite the expert in pop culture.  My weekly subscriptions to Us Weekly and People magazine would not normally lend to a professional blog topic, but in this case I had the perfect source.  US weekly featured an article in the “Beauty” Section that focused on Gabby Douglas, two time Olympic gold medalist.   However, this article was not published to praise the sixteen year old on her accomplishments as a world champion.


During the 2012 Summer Olympics, Douglas was a hot topic in the media for her athletic accomplishments and surprisingly for her personal appearance.  The controversy specifically centered on the African American community criticizing Douglas for her hairstyle during the Olympics.  Douglas was seen throughout the Olympics wearing her hair in a ponytail with barrettes and gel. Her hair was chemically-straightened.  Douglas, according to critics, did not properly represent her culture with this hairstyle.


Gabby Douglas is a gymnast, an Olympic champion, a world class athlete, and most importantly, a role model to young girls. She was competing in the Olympics, not a beauty pageant.  The fact that Douglas needs to worry about responding, and in some essence defending herself, for wearing her hair a certain way while competing is “disrespectful and ignorant,” according to Douglas.  I agree with her.  Anything that people say to make headlines seems to be the trend.


Actress Gabrielle Union and Olympic athlete Serena Williams have defended Douglas on Twitter.  Hey, if people are “tweeting” you have to be pretty popular.  For Douglas, the negative publicity seems to have subsided, however, the good thing is that she is still making headlines for her athletic accomplishments.


The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.


*Staci Pesin is currently the Senior Managing Editor on the Widener Journal of Law, Economics and Race. To learn more about Staci Pesin, click the link to view her page: Staci Pesin

To read more about this topic visit the following website:


Categories: Headline, Media, Sports Tags: , , ,

Bridging the Digital Divide

December 3rd, 2012 No comments

Blog Category: Race and Economics in the Media

By: *Alison Palmer

With a continuous increase of everyday events and services taking place in cyberspace, the government, most recently the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”), has been scrambling to determine the best way to bridge the digital divide.  The digital divide refers to the 40% of Americans lacking access to broadband internet, a divide leaving many low-income, black and Latino households on the side, lacking access due to the high cost of internet service.

The government has recognized that with jobs, classes and even many government services now taking place primarily on the internet, there is a need for all Americans to have access to this technology.  Despite this observation, past attempts to increase the availability and free or cheaper access to the internet have largely failed.  The FCC’s Chair, Julius Genachowski, stated earlier this year that it plans to apply its Lifeline program to broadband internet.  Lifeline is an FCC-run program seeking to ensure that phone-access is available to all Americans as it is an essential communication device and this same idea would be applied to providing internet access to those who cannot afford it.

There are anticipated problems with implementation of a Lifeline program to bridge the digital divide, though, including the FCC’s difficulty in regulating the internet as it is not deemed an “essential” communication device at this point, in 2012, despite its ubiquitous image.  Furthermore, concerns exist over whether the program can even reach enough people to bridge the divide, as only ten million participants are included in the current Lifeline phone program and approximately one hundred million Americans lack internet access.

Though smart phones have helped low-income individuals bridge the gap, a need continues for home-based internet access which provides a more participatory experience in society and democracy.   The FCC seems to be on the right track, but will it be enough?


The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.


*Alison Palmer is currently a staff member on the Widener Journal of Law, Economics and Race. To learn more about Alison Palmer, click here to view her page: Alison Palmer

To read more about the socioeconomic digital divide, read:

The FCC is Trying to Close the Digital Divide- Sort Of, by Jamilah King in Colorlines


Categories: Headline, Media Tags: , ,

“Talking Around Race: Stereotypes, Media and the Twenty-First Century Collegiate Athlete”

November 19th, 2012 No comments

Blog Category: Race & Economics in the Media

By: *Kevin P. Diduch

Generally, people watch a sport to get away from their daily lives and enjoy one of America’s many pastimes, not to discuss race-related issues and their prevalence in society.  Although sportscasters try to avoid discussing these important issues, there is no true escape – racial stereotypes have continuously infiltrated their way into the dialogue.  How has this happened?  The Wake Forest Journal of Law and Policy recently answered this question in an article entitled, “Talking Around Race: Stereotypes, Media and the Twenty-First Century Collegiate Athlete,” focusing on the various ways the NBA and NFL have put minority collegiate athletes at an educational and social disadvantage – and the way sports broadcasters have stereotyped those athletes by “talking around” the issue.

I partially agree with the article’s conclusion that the issues adversely affecting minority athletes have been “talked around,” but only to the extent that sports broadcasters are reluctant to address the issue directly during broadcasts such as SportsCenter and SportsNite.  Broadcasters may simply prefer to discuss these issues in a different forum outside of the sports world.

To read more about the article, and a means of forming your own opinion, click here.


The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.


*Kevin P. Diduch is currently the Bluebook & Research Editor on the Widener Journal of Law, Economics and Race. To learn more about Kevin Diduch, click here to visit his page: Kevin P. Diduch

Categories: Headline, Media Tags: , , ,

Light Skin v. Dark Skin: Is this issue still relevant?

November 12th, 2012 No comments

Blog Category: Race & Economics in the Media

By: *Jade Morrison

We have long seen the struggle between “house” and “field Negros” as they were divided based on skin complexion. Spike Lee highlights this phenomenon in his 1988 film entitled “School Daze.” Lee in this film shines light on racism based on skin tone and hair texture in the African American Community.[1] More recently, the African American community took to social media to discuss Gabrielle Douglas’ hair texture, referring to it as “unkempt,” after she won the gold medal during the Olympics.[2] Is colorism still alive? Is the legal community taking this issue seriously?

Are wealthy African Americans expected to look, dress and speak with a certain dialect? Trina Jones in a recent article discussed the social and economic desirability of African Americans (and other ethnic minorities) with lighter skin tones.[3]  Jones shares a case study highly relevant to the legal profession:

A typical example might involve two African- American female associates at a law firm: L.K. Johnson and Shymeka Smith. L.K. Johnson, has permed hair, wears understated jewelry and dresses conservatively. She socializes with her coworkers, avoids committee work involving racial or gender issues. . . . L.K. lives in a predominantly White suburban neighborhood and is very careful to always use standard, crisply enunciated, English. Shymeka Smith has long, flowing dreadlocks and wears African-inspired attire and bold, colorful jewelry. Shymeka tends not to socialize with her coworkers, has been vocal and actively involved in the firm’s diversity committee, lives in the inner city . . .”L.K. is promoted to partner and Shymeka is denied promotion.

Assuming roughly the same talent level, one could argue that Shymeka was passed over because she chose to embrace her racial identity rather than to downplay or distance herself from that identity. That is, Shymeka was harmed because her identity performance did not conform to mainstream norms. According to Professor Kenji Yoshino, Shymeka failed to “cover;” that is, she failed to “mute the difference between herself and the mainstream.”[4] Instead of reflecting racial differences, what Shymeka should have done was to minimize those differences by adopting a racial performance closer to Johnson’s. [5]

Does colorism affect the socioeconomic class of African Americans? Although most courts today recognize colorism claims under Title VII on the grounds of interracial discrimination, however, only a few plaintiffs actually recover under this theory. [6] Colorism claims are mostly seen in the context of employment discrimination. The legal community must take this phenomenon seriously. Colorism affects African Americans and other racial minorities in their everyday lives. The Media and professional establishments have created a stereotypical ideal African American image throughout the course of history. This image is demonstrated by L.K. Johnson in Jones’ article. African Americans should not be forced to choose between their cultural identities and their profession.  Lawyers should not shy away from pursuing colorism claims because of the low rates in which plaintiffs succeed. These claims will help move toward equality for African Americans within their own communities. This will create true diversity, not a superficial concept of diversity based on one’s skin complexion of an organization’s employees.


*Jade Morrison is currently the External Managing Editor on the Widener Journal of Law, Economics and Race. To learn more about Jade Morrison, click here to visit her page: Jade Morrison

[1]        SCHOOL DAZE (Columbia Pictures 1988)

[2]        Gabrielle Douglas Responds to Her Hair Critics, (Aug. 12, 2012)

[3]        Trina Jones, Intra-Group Preferencing: Proving Skin Color and Identity Performance Discrimination, 34 N.Y.U. REV. L. & SOC. CHANGE 657 (2010).

[4]        Kenji Yoshino, Covering: The Hidden Assault on our Civil Rights; Devon W. Carbado & Mitu Gulati, Working Identity, 85 CORNELL L. REV. 1259 (2000);

[5]        Kenji Yoshino, Assimilationist Bias in Equal Protection: The Visibility Presumption and the Case of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” 108 YALE L.J. 485, 500 (1998).

[6]        See Hansborough v. City of Elkhart Parks and Recreation Dept., 802 F.Supp. 199 (1992); Walker v. Secretary of Treasury I.R.S, 713 F.Supp. 403 ( 1989); Burch v. WDAS AM/FM, No. CIV.A. 00-4852, 2002 WL 1371703 (E.D. Pa. MAR. 12, 2003); Brack v. Shoney’s, Inc., 249 F. Supp. 2d 938 (W.D. Tenn. 2003).

ACLU vs. Morgan Stanley

October 29th, 2012 No comments

Blog Category: Race & Economics in the Media

Written by: *Megan A. Hunsicker

On October 15, 2012, the American Civil Liberties Union (“ACLU”) filed a lawsuit against Morgan Stanley for violating the Fair Housing Act, particularly for discriminating on the basis of race in the secondary mortgage market, which is where high-risk loans are bundled and marketed to investors.

Specifically, the ACLU alleged Morgan Stanley sought high-risk loans disproportionally concentrated in non-white neighborhoods—“Subprime loans were five times more likely to be found in African American neighborhoods than in white neighborhoods”—with the expectation that those loans would default.

That practice directly conflicts with the provisions in the Amendments to Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act, which state that, “‘pooling or packaging loans’ on the basis of race is a violation of Title VIII.”  While the government has attempted to litigate the harms of the subprime crisis under fraud principles, this lawsuit is the first major lawsuit to advance claims under the Civil Rights Act.

If the lawsuit is successful, the implications will be profound and staggering, considering the damages suffered from predatory lending practices, which triggered the foreclosure crisis, and the importance of framing the issue and damages as a civil rights violations.


*Meghan A. Hunsicker is the Internal Managing Editor on the Widener Journal of Law, Economics and Race. To learn more about Meghan A. Hunsicker, click here to view her page: Meghan A. Hunsicker
John A. Powell, Civil Rights Today: The Landmark Case of Adkins et. al. v. Morgan Stanley, EQUAL JUSTICE SOCIETY (October 17, 2012),

Dean’s Leadership Forum: “Diversity and Sports: The History, The Challenges, and The Future”

April 1st, 2009 No comments

This year’s theme brought scholars and experts from around the country to the Widener Law Harrisburg campus to address a myriad of issues related to minority participation in sports and the public eye. Symposium organizers chose the subject matter based on the recognized place of sports in culture and society.

To watch some of the presentations, follow the links below:
Daniel Frankl, Ph.D., California State University Los Angeles and Marie Hardin, Ph.D. Penn State John Curley Center for Sports Journalism