When not wrangling copy for the MoJo crew, Ian writes about immigration, sports, and Latin America. His work has appeared in ESPN the Magazine, Wired, and Slate. Got a comment or a tip? Email him: igordon [at] motherjones [dot] com.
Over at Slate yesterday, editor David Plotz wrote about the site's decision to never again refer to Washington's professional football team as the Redskins. In explaining the change, Plotz argued that although the franchise's (racist) first owner, George Preston Marshall, likely chose the name in an effort "to invoke Indian bravery and toughness, not to impugn Indians," ultimately "the world changes, and all of a sudden a well-intentioned symbol is an embarrassment."
It is an absolute embarrassment—for the NFL, for the nation's capital, and for nanny-underpayer/owner Dan Snyder, who has stubbornly vowed never to change the team's name, even in the face of common decency and a federal trademark suit.
And so, in an admittedly small gesture, Mother Jones is also tweaking our house style guide, joining Slate and a group of other publications, from The New Republicto Washington City Paper. From here on out, we will refer to the team online and in print as "Washington" or "Washington's pro football team" or, if we get sassy, "the Washington [Redacted]."
For those of you who come to Mother Jones for your breaking NFL news…never mind, I can't even.
There is a chance, however, that the term will end up back on our pages. We certainly won't strike it from a quote. And if we end up writing a post or two about how Snyder still hasn't changed the name, despite increasing scrutiny, we reserve the right to use it again—if only to highlight how incredibly out-of-touch and backward the Washington football team's owner truly is.
On the former South African president and anti-apartheid leader's 95th birthday, let's revisit some of the songs that helped put—and keep—Mandela in the minds of millions.
1. The Special AKA: "Nelson Mandela"
This super-popular and catchy protest song was released in 1984, when Mandela was nearly 20 years into his life sentence. Here it's performed with a little backup from Elvis Costello and the English Beat's Ranking Roger and Dave Wakeling.
2. Hugh Masekela, "Mandela (Bring Him Back Home)"
Masekela's wish to see the imprisoned Mandela "walking down the street" was all the more poignant considering that the South African trumpeter had been living in exile in the United States since the early '60s.
3. Brenda Fassie, "Black President"
Fassie, a South African pop sensation who died in 2004, sang this tribute in 1990, four years before Mandela was elected South Africa's first black (and democratically elected) president.
4. Johnny Clegg & Savuka, "Asimbonanga"
Mandela's absence was also lamented in the South African singer's 1986 hit, whose title and chorus means "we have not seen him" in Zulu.
5. Salif Keita, "Mandela"
"You shed tears for others," sings the Malian star in this 1995 tribute.
6. Vusi Mahlasela, "When You Come Back"
Before it was used to promote the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Mahlasela's 1994 song alluded both to Mandela and Vuyisile Mini, an African National Congress activist and songwriter who was executed in 1964.
7. Miriam Makeba, "Ndodemnyama (Beware, Verwoerd)"
This 1950s song written by Mini doesn't mention Mandela, but it warns Hendrik Verwoerd, the architect of apartheid, of the struggle to come.
8. Artists United Against Apartheid, "Sun City"
Mandela gets a quick visual shout-out in this '80s-tastic video. (And see if you can spot Run D.M.C., Lou Reed, and Keith Richards among the many musical celebrities crammed into this single penned by Little Steven Van Zandt.)
9. Dishonorable mention: Nickelback, "If Everyone Cared"
There have been some crummy songs about Mandela, too. This one has nothing to say about Mandela (or anything for that matter), but it does shamelessly include him in its video.
There's a scene in the new documentary Documented when former Washington Post reporter turned immigration reform advocate Jose Antonio Vargas goes to see Mitt Romney speak before the Iowa caucus. Four years before, Vargas had covered the caucus for the Post, but this time around he stood on the side of a townhall-style event in Cedar Rapids, holding a sign that read "I AM AN AMERICAN W/O PAPERS." Ever since his blockbuster New York Times Magazine article, "My Life As an Undocumented Immigrant," came out in 2011, Vargas has become, in his words, "a walking uncomfortable conversation," and his presence at the Romney talk was, well, sort of awkward.
Eventually, the local police came at the behest of the event's host and asked him to leave. On his way to the exit, Vargas turned to an officer and asked if he was being arrested. "No, no, no," replied the cop. Sensing an opportunity, Vargas pushed further: What do Iowa police do after stumbling upon an undocumented person? Identify the person, replied the cop, and call the proper federal authorities. "Are you going to do that?" Vargas asked. The officer's response was almost embarrassed: "No, sir."
Telling his personal story has in many ways become Vargas' work, starting with the Times Magazine piece and continuing with a Time cover story a year later. (And, as he freely admits, it likely has protected him from immigration enforcement.) Now, two years after he outed himself as undocumented, he's back with a new chapter, writing and codirecting a film that centers on his relationship with his mother, Emelie Salinas, whom he hasn't seen since leaving the Philippines 20 years ago.
Documented's premiere last Friday at Washington, DC's AFI Docs Film Festival—just as the Gang of Eight's immigration bill gains steam in the Senate—was timed for maximum exposure and influence. So what do Vargas and his advocacy group, Define American, have up their sleeves for this time next year? "I don't know what I'm going to do for the third anniversary," he told me last week. "I want by the third anniversary to have a green card."
Mother Jones: If I understand correctly, this wasn't exactly your initial plan for this film.
Jose Antonio Vargas: The original plan was I was going to make a film that was like Waiting for "Superman" meets the DREAM Act. I figured I had come out in the New York Times and was in a very privileged position to do that, right? After that piece I was like: I'm done, I don't have to tell you about me anymore—now I can go out there and be an undocumented journalist filmmaker and then tell the stories of other DREAMers. So that was my original conception. And then I started filming, that's why I went to Alabama, I went to Iowa, and I started finding DREAMers, mostly online, to do a film on how undocumented people are using social media to tell their own stories. Social media has been in many ways the backbone of the DREAMer movement; the DREAMer movement would not have happened if Twitter and Facebook and YouTube did not exist. I mean this is how people were literally able to find each other, form listservs, all that kind of stuff.
Nearly four years ago, former University of California-Los Angeles basketball star Ed O'Bannon sued (PDF) the National Collegiate Athletic Association and trademark and licensing firm Collegiate Licensing Co. for using his likeness in video games, TV shows, and a variety of other media—all without paying him. O'Bannon had signed a waiver granting the NCAA permission to use his image before starting his career at UCLA, but he argued that the NCAA had violated antitrust laws in partnering with CLC and others to keep student-athletes from getting paid.
Today, the case comes to a major crossroads as a federal judge hears arguments on whether to certify current and former college athletes as a class—a decision that could lead to an enormous restructuring of college sports as we know them.
A young child and his mother wait in a US border detention center before being returned to their home country.
Over the past few years, record numbers of children, usually from Mexico or Central America and often traveling alone, have crossed illegally into the United States. From October 2011 to October 2012, some 31,000 juveniles (PDF) were apprehended by the Border Patrol. And according to a new report, more and more of them have landed in immigration detention centers—alongside adults.
Data obtained by the nonprofit National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) shows that the federal government detained at least 1,366 immigrant children for three or more days in 30 adult facilities between 2008 and 2012. The data, secured in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security and released Tuesday, also shows that nearly 1,000 were held longer than a week. Five children were detained more than a year, and one was held more than a decade, starting at around age 15.
And these numbers could be the tip of the iceberg: DHS provided the NIJC with data from only 30 of the 200 or so immigration detention centers currently in operation.
"The immigration detention enforcement system is broken," says Mary Meg McCarthy, the NIJC's executive director. "If there are 1,300 kids over a period of four years in adult detention facilities, there's a real problem. Because that's not what the law says. That's not what's supposed to be happening. As a country, we shouldn't be detaining these kids, period, but especially not in adult facilities."
Of the immigrant kids housed in adult detention centers, the vast majority of them were 17 years old at the time of detention—though 37 were younger than 15.
Not only does a 1997federal settlement call for apprehended undocumented children to be held in the least restrictive setting appropriate to their age and needs, but it also explicitly mandates that "juveniles will not be detained with an unrelated adult for more than 24 hours." According to DHS data, 19 immigrant children were held in adult facilities for more than 180 days.
McCarthy says the NIJC wanted data from the facilities where it had clients, as well as large, geographically dispersed detention centers. As you can see in the chart below, the 10 adult facilities with the most detained children were all located in border states, with 8 of them in either Arizona or Texas.
McCarthy, who says she's encouraged by the recent headway on immigration reform in the Senate, notes that when undocumented immigrants are detained by DHS, they often don't have access to legal counsel. "They become disappeared in the system," she says. "But when you're detaining more than 400,000 people a year in 200 jails, and you have all these different people involved in this mammoth system without any due process protections, it just lends itself to this type of problem. It just cries out for reform."