La Shawn Barber

I first read the name “Carol Swain” while scanning a 2004 Boston Globe column by Cathy Young, who’d written about a panel discussion that took place around the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education – the Supreme Court case that outlawed government-mandated racial segregation in government schools.

Swain, a professor at Vanderbilt University Law School, talked about subcultural factors that impede the academic progress of black students, such as a lack of parental involvement in schools, the “acting white” phenomenon, and lowered standards and expectations. Quoting Swain, Young wrote that these factors “created a negative incentive structure for African-Americans who have either internalized societal messages about inferiority or have chosen an easier path of not exerting themselves too vigorously.”

While Swain probably wouldn’t describe herself as politically conservative, her ideas certainly are atypical of many liberals. She’s written about the negative effects of illegal immigration on low-income black Americans and the Congressional Black Caucus’s (CBC) stunning silence on the issue.

Because the CBC has “elected to organize as a racial caucus,” Swain wrote in a Washington Times op-ed, members have “placed upon themselves the obligation to represent the interests of the millions of black constituents who have faithfully and repeatedly sent them to Washington.”

Swain cites statistics that show the national unemployment rate was 4.5 percent in April 2007. For Hispanics, it was 5.4 percent. For blacks, 8.2 percent. For black men, the rate of unemployment was 9.7 percent.

Swain accused the race-centric, taxpayer-supported caucus of turning a blind eye on a mounting pile of data that reveals illegal immigration is harming low-income, low-skilled black Americans. In a new book of essays, Debating Immigration, Swain contends that lax enforcement of immigration law helps businesses hire wage-suppressing illegal aliens at the expense of citizens.

But the CBC couldn’t care less. The group hasn’t listed immigration reform as a legislative priority, according to Swain, and it mentioned illegal immigration in only one press release out of close to 100 on the web site. Instead of focusing on the well-being of constituents, the CBC is forming a black-brown coalition with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to “create a task force to study immigration issues and provide information about the impact of immigration reform on the black and Hispanic communities,” according to The Hill.


La Shawn Barber

Freelance writer La Shawn Barber blogs at the American Civil Rights Institute blog.