Contributors

Showing posts with label Civil Rights. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Civil Rights. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Our Demand Is Simple: Stop Killing Us

Welcome to the 21st century of the civil rights movement...

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Indiana A Go Go

Let the mad scramble to "explain" the new Indiana law begin!

I've watched with great amusement as conservatives in Indiana and across the nation have been falling all over themselves to reassure folks that their law does not allow discrimination against gay people. They've foamed at the mouth about "narratives" (code for "shit, we got caught with the truth again") and made false equivalencies to other laws which are supposedly the same thing. If they had only followed their own ideology of laws and unintended consequences, perhaps it might have turned out differently.

Instead, they passed a law to protect the thousands (see: absolutely fucking no one, misleading vividness) of people (see: Christians) being persecuted by the state (see: Obama...somehow) for their religious beliefs (see: making a cake for a gross gay couple) across Indiana. Didn't they realize that the free market (oh, hee hee hee ho ho...giggle fit complete with stomach grab) and the FIRST FUCKING AMENDMENT might not work in their favor?

Well, now Republican legislators are scrambling to add language to the bill that won't allow for discrimination against gays and lesbians. Shit...there goes the whole "I hate gays and won't serve 'em cuz my religion says so" point of this law!

AP has a nice summation of all of the latest, including this most excellent part.

Republican Senate President Pro Tem David Long stressed that the new law is based on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which has been upheld by courts. But the Human Rights Campaign said it's disingenuous to compare the two laws. 

The campaign's legal director, Sarah Warbelow, said the federal law was designed to ensure religious minorities were protected from laws passed by the federal government that might not have been intended to discriminate but had that effect. The Indiana law, she said, allows individuals to invoke government action even when the government is not a party to a lawsuit. It also allows all businesses to assert religious beliefs regardless of whether they are actually religious organizations.

Disingenuous...shocking!

We've Already Had This Conversation


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Disturbing Parallels

TPM has a post up about the parallels between the segregationists that opposed the Civil Rights movement during the 1950s and 1960s and the Tea Partiers we see today. It's incredibly disturbing and nauseating. As the president noted...

[A]t the time of the marches, many in power condemned rather than praised them. Back then, they were called Communists, half-breeds, outside agitators, sexual and moral degenerates, and worse – everything but the name their parents gave them. Their faith was questioned. Their lives were threatened. Their patriotism was challenged.

Conservatives today have said all of these things about liberals and progressives. Indeed, the same people that were against federal government involvement in Alabama are blowing bowels all over our country about federal government involvement in health care and immigration.

Of course, these are the same people that think the Civil War was about states rights, not slavery.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Selma (Best Picture Nominee #3)



The film Selma isn't good. In fact, it's poor. Most of the reason for this is Ava DuVernay, the director of the picture. In looking at her past credits, it's clear why the movie is so uneven. The pacing is horrible and the story is more interesting if you just go out and watch a documentary like Freedom Riders.

The historical accuracy is Selma is also way off. Lyndon Johnson is played as an inept villain who seemingly tried to block the Voter's Rights Act from being passed. That never fucking happened. I'm no Johnson fan and think, in fact, that he was our nation's worst president but get the guy right, for pete's sake.

Don't waste your time with this film.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Giving Me Hope


















The Times has an amazing piece about John Lewis up this week that everyone should read. It's very refreshing to see how far we have come since he walked across Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday. It also gave me a great deal of hope to see that Eric Cantor took the walk across the bridge with Congressmen Lewis this year with his college age son in tow.

These are the kinds of stories we need in this day and age.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Voting Rights Act Redux

My initial take on the Supreme Court decision yesterday to nullify sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act is not quite as outraged as my fellow Democratic and progressive colleagues. It's obvious that this was to be expected given the make up of the court but is it really as bad as they say it's going to be? Possibly but I have my doubts and the main reason why I do is the last election.

All of the gymnastics the Right did in 2012 simply resulted in a more concerted effort to get the non white vote out. It worked. They voted in record numbers in 2012. Changing demographics in the states affected by the SCOTUS decision means that there will be very little the state houses can do to suppress votes. The court is right to note that times have indeed changed and, although discrimination still exists, I just don't see any way they are going to get away with it.

And, if I can be extremely political here, the only states that matter for right now out of those nine affected the most by the changes are Florida and Virginia. The other states are going to be red for just a little bit longer, I suspect, with the exception, perhaps, of Texas. But the Lone Star state is a great example of those changing demographics. So is Florida, actually, as we saw people wait in line for seven hours to make sure they had the chance to vote.

People are resilient and will adapt to any bullshit the Right tries to pull with voting. It's happened before and it will happen again.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

It Always Takes A Few Dead Bodies

I'm happy to report that Anoka-Hennepin schools have reversed their awful bullying policy and now allow homosexuality to be talked about openly by resolving the pending litigation and civil rights issues. I'm not at all happy that, as is usually the case, it took dead bodies to effect any sort of change.

I may be in a different district than Anoka-Hennepin but when I became a teacher, the well being of all children became my responsibility. Those kids, just like the ones I teach, were my kids. I will always feel that loss every single day for the rest of my life. Anyone who seeks to undermine the well being of a student anywhere near my back yard is going to get me up their fucking ass morning, noon, and night until they back off and keep their views to themselves.

How it took this long is a fine example of what happens when we allow bigots and ignorant homophobes to set policy. More often than not, they simply don't think and this is the kind of bullshit that happens. People who take that extra step into action (based on their ignorant bias) should be immediately held legally accountable for their actions. Honestly, they should be put in fucking prison for civil rights violations and not one of those country club jails...FEDERAL pound me in the ass prison.

It worked in the 60s and it would damn well work now.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Have All the Wrongs Been Righted?

Recently the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case on affirmative action at the University of Texas. The legalistic argument usually made against affirmative action is that racial preferences are bad no matter what, even if they exist to right historical wrongs.

But when you dig a little deeper, the general sentiment of many who oppose affirmative action is actually, "Get over it! Slavery ended almost 150 years ago. How long are you going to make us feel guilty for what our great-great-grandfathers did?"

But the surprising fact is that slavery did not really end until 1941! The Thirteenth amendment abolished it, but left an exception for punishment, which was widely abused in the South until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. At which point Roosevelt ordered a crackdown to avoid a propaganda attack by the Axis. The Thirteenth Amendment states:
Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. 
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Everyone knows about chain gangs and share-croppers in the South, which were effectively slave labor. But after Reconstruction whites in the South used the Constitutional exception to falsely imprison millions of blacks and force them into slavery in industries such as logging, manufacturing, construction and mining.

This practice, known as convict leasing, is the subject of a PBS documentary called Slavery by Another Name. It's based on a book by The Wall Street Journal's Atlanta bureau chief Douglas Blackmon. Blackmon, a white southerner, wrote an article in 2001 about how many companies, including U.S. Steel, used convict leasing in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He expanded his research into a book in 2008.

It worked like this: whites passed laws against vagrancy, loitering, gambling, spitting and so on. They also turned lesser crimes, such as stealing a pig worth one dollar, into felonies. Blacks were stopped on the street and if they couldn't prove they were employed, they were arrested on the spot. The state then sold the labor of prisoners, the vast majority of them black, to companies for a few dollars a month. The slave economy was back in full force, just in time to create an economic boom in the South as the industrial revolution hit.

Convict leasing was in some ways worse than slavery. It's in the best interests of slave owners to avoid abusing slaves because they have a lot of economic value: a slave can labor for decades. But convicts were leased by the month. If one died you just got another one. Many convicts were forced to work for 16 and 20 hours at a stretch at filthy, dark, cold, and wet jobs at coal mines, lumber camps and railroad lines. Overwork and mistreatment killed them by the thousands.

Another common practice in the South was peonage, or indentured servitude, where people were enslaved to work off debts. This practice was common in Mexico and supposed to be illegal in the United States. But in the South it was common for debtors to be forced to sign contracts to provide labor. Even worse, there were cases where law enforcement would round up blacks, claim they owed them money, get a justice of the peace to falsely "legalize" the claim, force them to sign a "contract," and then force them into slavery for money they never owed.

In one famous case in the early 1900s the U.S. government convicted the leader of one of these gangs, John W. Pace, of peonage. On appeal Pace claimed he was innocent because the people he enslaved didn't really owe him money, so he couldn't be guilty of peonage. And since there was no actual law against slavery—Congress didn't think to pass one since it was a Constitutional amendment—Pace's lawyers said he'd done nothing illegal. Teddy Roosevelt later pardoned Pace who went back to using peons.

Now, blacks weren't the only victims of these outrageous crimes, through they were in the vast majority. In 1923 a North Dakotan named Martin Tabert was arrested in Florida for vagrancy by Sheriff J.R. Jones. Jones had a contract with Putnam Lumber: he received $20 (plus expenses) for each prisoner he turned over to the company. Tabert had pleaded guilty to riding a freight train through Tallahassee, and was sentenced to pay $25 or serve three months of hard labor. He didn't have the money and was sent to the prison camp, where they worked him from 4 AM to 6 PM. One Friday Tabert was whipped 100 lashes for failing to keep up with the other prisoners as they marched back and forth to a swamp where they often worked in hip-deep water. He died four days later. Perhaps the worst thing is that Tabert's parents had wired their son some money but, as Sheriff Jones wrote in a letter, "it was sent in his name—I therefore returned it."

This sort of thing happened every day to blacks. But only when convict leasing killed a white man from North Dakota did it draw the attention of the New York Times (the full story is behind a paywall at the Times), and things start to change.

Perhaps the most vile aspect of this whole sorry episode in American history is the corrosive effect convict leasing had on the general impression of blacks. The PBS program points out that before the Civil War blacks were perceived as loyal and hard-working (as they are portrayed in movies about the era). Afterwards, subjected to massive unemployment and false arrest on trumped-up charges, they came to be viewed as lazy and criminal. Which makes me ask: was the pattern of absentee black fathers that society has decried for the past 50 years set in place when young black husbands were abducted off the streets by white sheriffs and sent off to slave labor camps?

There are Americans still alive today who were once enslaved by our justice system. There are Americans still alive today who were systematically prevented by their government from voting and using the same lunch counters, restrooms, buses, classrooms and drinking fountains as the rest of us. And there are Americans still alive today whose fathers and husbands were systematically murdered by their white neighbors while law enforcement participated or stood by and watched. Hell, these lynchings have occurred in my lifetime.

That means there are Americans still alive today who perpetrated those crimes. Can we really say all wrongs have been righted when there are still Americans alive today who feel those crimes were justified?