Archive for the ‘Civil Rights’ Category

Congress Must Act to Bolster Voting Rights Act

Saturday, July 5th, 2014

(Huffington Post, Rep Hank Johnson, Georgia 4th District) Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet." - Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

I wish every member of the Supreme Court had the wisdom and insight of Justice Ginsburg. Her message, written one year ago, is clear: Preclearance was working.

We are closer to the goal of equal voting rights, but we are not yet there. Efforts made to restrict the right to vote in the last election prove that we still have a long way to go. The progress we have made proves that the law works and is a reason to keep the Voting Rights Act intact, not a sign that it has become obsolete.

This is especially true here in the South.

During the last renewal of the landmark law in 2007, Congress conducted more than 21 hearings with nearly 100 witnesses and amassed a 15,000-page record documenting the ongoing discrimination against minority voters. Congress voted to renew the law in overwhelming bipartisan majorities: 390-33 in the House and 98-0 in the Senate.

But this activist, conservative court struck a dagger in the heart of the law last year. Ruling from the bench Jim Crow-style, the court held 5-4 that the decades-old law used to protect minority voting rights had outlived its usefulness.

Full story…

Prominent black men ask Obama: What about black women and girls?

Saturday, June 7th, 2014

(Washington Post) A group of prominent black men — 210 so far — have written an open letter to President Obama, asking that he consider the plight of young women of color in tandem with his administration’s focus on young men of color. Signed by scholars, ministers and activists, the letter comes as the White House announced this week that former basketball star and entrepreneur Earvin “Magic” Johnson will co-chair “My Brother’s Keeper,” a $200 million public- and private-sector effort that will direct resources to black and Hispanic boys.

The signers of the letter, among them actor Danny Glover and civil rights activist James M. Lawson and leading academics, write to Obama that they were “were surprised and disappointed that your commitments express empathy to only half of our community — men and boys of color.”

We write as African American men who have supported your presidency, stood behind you when the inevitable racist challenges to your authority have emerged, and have understood that our hopes would be tempered by the political realities that you would encounter. While we continue to support your presidency, we write both out of a sense of mutual respect and personal responsibility to address what we believe to be the unfortunate missteps in the My Brothers Keeper initiative (MBK). In short, in lifting up only the challenges that face males of color, MBK — in the absence of any comparable initiative for females — forces us to ask where the complex lives of Black women and Black girls fit into the White House’s vision of racial justice?

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Michelle Obama Cites View of Growing Segregation

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

(New York Times) Sixty years after the Supreme Court outlawed “separate but equal” schools for blacks and whites, civil rights advocates say American schools are becoming increasingly segregated, while the first lady, Michelle Obama, lamented that “many young people are going to schools with kids who look just like them.”

“Today, by some measures, our schools are as segregated as they were back when Dr. King gave his final speech,” Mrs. Obama told 1,200 graduating high school seniors Friday here in the city that gave rise to the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case.

In a speech that was part commencement address, part policy pronouncement and part journey into her own past, Mrs. Obama said that Brown’s advances were being reversed. “Many districts in this country have actually pulled back on efforts to integrate their schools, and many communities have become less diverse,” she said, leading to schools that are less diverse.

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Voting Rights: The Real (and Continuing) Battle Against Racism

Friday, May 9th, 2014

(Huffington Post) While the racist harangues of Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling have been consuming air time and newsprint, institutional racism in the form of discrimination against African-American voters remains on the rise in states dominated by Republican governors and legislators.

In the '60s the entire power structure in the Deep South — from the state house down to each county sheriff — collaborated to prevent African Americans from voting,beating and sometimes killing those who tried to exercise our most basic right of citizenship.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 outlawed poll taxes, literacy tests and other tactics that had been used to prevent African Americans from registering to vote. It also gave the federal government the power to enforce the VRA.

But in June of last year, by a vote of five to four, the Supreme Court struck downSection 4 of the VRA, which had required states with a history of racial discrimination to get preclearance from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) before changing their voting laws. Without the preclearance provision, the DOJ can no longer prevent a biased law from going into operation; it must react case by case.

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Donald Sterling controversy swirls around NAACP

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

(AP) — The Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP offered the same thing for Clippers owner Donald Sterling and civil rights advocate Leon Jenkins – an opportunity for image rehabilitation.

Sterling, a big-name donor, made contributions that helped earn him NAACP awards as he tried to recover from a damaging discrimination lawsuit. Jenkins, the LA chapter's president, sought to use his volunteer work to show he was ready to return to practicing law after having been disbarred.

But in the days since racist comments from the NBA team owner became public, both men have fallen further and tarnished the organization that brought them together.

"We do have this society that gives people an out by allowing them to redeem themselves through charity," Daniel Borochoff, president of CharityWatch, said. "And that's something that can be worth it – if it doesn't destroy the integrity of the organization."

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Michigan affirmative ban is OK, Supreme Court says

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

(AP) – A state's voters are free to outlaw the use of race as a factor in college admissions, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in a blow to affirmative action that also laid bare tensions among the justices about a continuing need for programs that address racial inequality in America.

The 6-2 decision upheld a voter-approved change to the Michigan Constitution that forbids the state's public colleges to take race into account. That change was indeed up to the voters, the ruling said, over one justice's impassioned dissent that accused the court of simply wanting to wish away inequality.

The ruling bolsters similar voter-approved initiatives banning affirmative action in education in California and Washington state. A few other states have adopted laws or issued executive orders to bar race-conscious admissions policies.

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Black preschoolers more likely to face suspension

Friday, March 28th, 2014

(AP) – Black students are more likely to be suspended from U.S. public schools – even as tiny preschoolers.

The racial disparities in American education, from access to high-level classes and experienced teachers to discipline, were highlighted in a report released Friday by the Education Department's civil rights arm.

The suspensions – and disparities – begin at the earliest grades.

Black children represent about 18 percent of children in preschool programs in schools, but they make up almost half of the preschoolers suspended more than once, the report said. Six percent of the nation's districts with preschools reported suspending at least one preschool child.

Advocates long have said get-tough suspension and arrest policies in schools have contributed to a "school-to-prison" pipeline that snags minority students, but much of the emphasis has been on middle school and high school policies. This was the first time the department reported data on preschool discipline.

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Senate blocks Obama’s pick for civil rights post

Monday, March 10th, 2014

(AP) – President Barack Obama's choice to lead the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division was blocked by bipartisan Senate opposition Wednesday in an emotional postscript to the long-ago murder of a Philadelphia policeman and the legal help his killer received.

The vote against advancing Debo Adegbile toward confirmation was 47-52, shy of the majority needed under new procedures Democrats put in place late last year to overcome Republican stalling tactics.

In this case, though, to the dismay of civil rights organizations and the White House, Democratic desertions played a decisive role in the outcome. Eight members of Obama's party joined all 44 Republicans in preventing a final vote.

Obama swiftly condemned the action. In a statement, he called it a "travesty based on wildly unfair character attacks against a good and qualified public servant."

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Clarence Thomas: Americans Are More ‘Sensitive’ About Race Now Than In The 1960s

Saturday, March 8th, 2014

(Huffington Post) Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said Americans are too sensitive about race, claiming the nation is more "difference-conscious" now than in the 1960s.

“My sadness is that we are probably today more race and difference-conscious than I was in the 1960s when I went to school. To my knowledge, I was the first black kid in Savannah, Georgia, to go to a white school. Rarely did the issue of race come up,” Thomas said during a Tuesday appearance in Florida, according to Yahoo. “Now, name a day it doesn’t come up."

Thomas said "everybody is sensitive" about sex and race, or if "somebody doesn't look at you right, somebody says something."

"If I had been as sensitive as that in the 1960s, I’d still be in Savannah," Thomas said. "Every person in this room has endured a slight. Every person. Somebody has said something that has hurt their feelings or did something to them — left them out."

Full story…

How Advocates Are Trying To Protect The Right To Vote

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

(Huffington Post) When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act last June, justices left it to Congress to decide how to fix the law. But while Congress deliberates, activists are turning again to the courts: At least 10 lawsuits have the potential to bring states and some local jurisdictions back under federal oversight 2013 essentially doing an end-run around the Supreme Court's ruling.

A quick refresher: The Voting Rights Act outlaws racial discrimination against voters. But the law's real strength comes from its "preclearance" provision, which forces jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination to submit new voting measures to the federal government for approval.

In last summer's Shelby County v. Holder ruling, the Supreme Court threw out the part of the law that spelled out when states were automatically subject to federal oversight. States that have been released from preclearance have already passed a rash of new restrictive voting measures, as ProPublica reported earlier.

Enter the lawsuits, which hinge on a different part of the Voting Rights Act, the so-called "bail-in" provision. It lets federal courts impose preclearance if a state or local jurisdiction violates the Constitution's 14th or 15th amendments, which guarantee equal protection and the right to vote.

Full story…

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