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Comments by YACCS
Saturday, April 01, 2006

No one knows if you're black or Mexican on the internet

Jazmyn Johnson, 9, recently helped her mother,
Barbara, use their high-speed DSL Internet
connection at their home in Duluth, Ga.

Digital Divide Closing as Blacks Turn to Internet

Published: March 31, 2006

African-Americans are steadily gaining access to and ease with the Internet, signaling a remarkable closing of the "digital divide" that many experts had worried would be a crippling disadvantage in achieving success.

Civil rights leaders, educators and national policy makers warned for years that the Internet was bypassing blacks and some Hispanics as whites and Asian-Americans were rapidly increasing their use of it.

But the falling price of laptops, more computers in public schools and libraries and the newest generation of cellphones and hand-held devices that connect to the Internet have all contributed to closing the divide, Internet experts say.

Another powerful influence in attracting blacks and other minorities to the Internet has been the explosive evolution of the Internet itself, once mostly a tool used by researchers, which has become a cultural crossroad of work, play and social interaction.

Studies and mounting anecdotal evidence now suggest that blacks, even some of those at the lower end of the economic scale, are making significant gains. As a result, organizations that serve African-Americans, as well as companies seeking their business, are increasingly turning to the Internet to reach out to them.

"What digital divide?" Magic Johnson, the basketball legend, asked rhetorically in an interview about his new Internet campaign deal with the Ford Motor Company's Lincoln Mercury division to use the Internet to promote cars to black prospective buyers.

The sharpest growth in Internet access and use is among young people. But blacks and other members of minorities of various ages are also merging onto the digital information highway as never before.

According to a Pew national survey of people 18 and older, completed in February, 74 percent of whites go online, 61 percent of African-Americans do and 80 percent of English-speaking Hispanic-Americans report using the Internet. The survey did not look at non-English-speaking Hispanics, who some experts believe are not gaining access to the Internet in large numbers.

In a similar Pew survey in 1998, just 42 percent of white American adults said they used the Internet while only 23 percent of African-American adults did so. Forty percent of English-speaking Hispanic-Americans said they used the Internet.

Despite the dissolving gap, some groups like the Intel Computer Clubhouse Network, which introduces digital technologies to young people, say the digital divide is still vast in more subtle ways. Instant messaging and downloading music is one thing, said Marlon Orozco, program manager at the network's Boston clubhouse, but he would like to see black and Hispanic teenagers use the Internet in more challenging ways, like building virtual communities or promoting their businesses.

Vicky Rideout, vice president of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, which has studied Internet use by race, ethnicity and age, cautioned that a new dimension of the digital divide might be opening because groups that were newer to the Internet tended to use less-advanced hardware and had slower connection speeds.

"The type and meaningful quality of access is, in some ways, a more challenging divide that remains," Ms. Rideout said. "This has an impact on things like homework."

In addition, Internet access solely at institutions can put students at a disadvantage. Schools and other institutions seldom operate round the clock, seven days a week, which is especially an issue for students, said Andy Carvin, coordinator for the Digital Divide Network, an international group that seeks to close the gap.

But not everyone agrees that minorities tend toward less-advanced use of the Internet. Pippa Norris, a lecturer on comparative politics at Harvard who has written extensively about the digital divide, said members of minorities had been shown to use the Internet to search for jobs and to connect to a wide variety of educational opportunities.

"The simple assumption that the Internet is a luxury is being disputed by this group," Ms. Norris said.

I'm stepping over computer junk every day on my curb. I have always thought the digital divide was overblown as an issue as was really about marketing, not some innate problems the colored have with them computin' machines. The large companies never bothered to sell computers to minorities, letting the schools do it instead.

But the simple fact is that black folks face the same increasing computerization that everyone else does. More and more things are being done online and you need access to a computer to manage your life. From church flyers to paying bills, it's an essential part of American life.

Or if you're a Mexican-American teenager, it's an easy way to subvert the man and surprise America.

Student Protests Echo the '60s, but With a High-Tech Buzz
Youths used a popular website to organize their walkouts. And some did know what a 'sit-in' was.
By Scott Gold, Times Staff Writer
March 31, 2006

Shuffling her feet in her Garden Grove home last weekend, Mariela Muniz stared into the carpet and suffered, as teenagers do, the silent deliberation of her parents. Soon, her father nodded and her mother uttered the words she'd been waiting to hear: "Lo puedes hacer."

"You can do it."

The next morning, the 15-year-old sophomore at Garden Grove High School — with the permission of her parents, both of whom are factory workers and Mexican immigrants who became U.S. citizens after entering the country illegally — skipped school for the first time in her life.

Following in the footsteps of those who led the first of the student walkouts March 24 and the adults who organized last Saturday's massive protest against proposed immigration legislation, Muniz became one of a few dozen students in Southern California who helped spearhead a national exhibition of civil unrest, one of the largest and most boisterous since the civil rights movement four decades ago. By the end of today — in Fresno, in Monterey Park, in San Diego — more than 40,000 students in California will have walked out of their schools to protest the proposed reforms.

There is little question that some students took advantage of the protests to ditch school. Some acknowledged they had little idea what all the fuss was about. Others took the opportunity to throw bottles at police and to shut down freeways. Law enforcement officials criticized them for diverting resources from more pressing needs, and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told them to go back to school.

But for the small group of students who instigated the walkouts, most of whom hadn't been politically active but were well-connected on campus and online, it was a transformative week.

Using modern technology — mostly their communal pages on the enormously popular MySpace website — they pulled off an event with surprising speed and dexterity. Planned in mere hours on little sleep, lacking any formal organization, the protests were chaotic and decentralized and organic.


They had heard about the March 24 walkouts at several high schools in Los Angeles, and decided to launch a protest of their own. On Sunday afternoon, they posted a bulletin on MySpace — since discovered by school administrators, who were not pleased — announcing that anyone wishing to participate should stand up at the 8 a.m. tardy bell Monday and "meet in front of the school."

In the scattered, rapid-fire text typical of students' MySpace missives, the bulletin continued: "dOnt b scared…. All these politic officials are trying to make their dreams come true by destroying ours, AND THEY WILL, unless we do something about it!!"

On the Internet site, which serves as a free-of-charge, virtual gathering place, users can send bulletins to all of their MySpace "friends." The lists can include dozens of people and the bulletins can be passed along in seconds.

It didn't take long before most of Garden Grove High's roughly 2,200 students knew what was coming, without the knowledge or involvement of teachers or parents.

Soon, the bulletin crossed over an invisible but critical line between teens who were friends but attended different schools. Students began posting their telephone numbers, and soon dozens more pledges to participate were obtained through phone calls and instant text messages.

Still, when the tardy bell rang Monday morning, Muniz had no idea what to expect. Teenagers can talk a big game. But would they follow through?

She waited in front of the school. Soon, the doors opened, and scores of students — most of them Latino, but a handful of whites, African Americans and Asian Americans too — joined her. They marched through Garden Grove and Anaheim, picking up students at several other schools as planned through MySpace bulletins. By 1 p.m., they had covered 10 miles. An estimated 1,500 students had walked out. Muniz was a truant — and, to her friends, a hero.

School administrators have since informed her that she'll have to perform community service as penance. Back at her home, a humble ranch-style house with family photographs on the wall and avocados on the dining room table, she said it was worth it.

"Sometimes you have to stand up for what you believe in," she said. "We did. And it worked."

This was all done off an ad-hoc network of semi-public websites, blogs and cell phones within days. Looking at recent polling, the idea that Americans find immigration a massive problem is undermined by polling, the Time poll showing 79 percent for a guest worker program. I think the massive, ongoing protests had something to do with that.

posted by Steve @ 12:14:00 AM

12:14:00 AM

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