Tag Archives: Voting Rights Act

Celebrating the 19th Amendment: August 26, 2013

26 Aug

SufferageToday marks the 93rd Anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution.  After a very long and hard struggle for women to get the right to vote — fought by such heroes as Alice Paul and many  others — women were finally granted the right to vote.  Finally, in 1920 all women were being treated as full equals.

Oh but wait.  Sadly, this is far from true. While I am exceedingly grateful for the passing of the 19th Amendment, we still have a long way to go towards treating all women equitably.  Even more sad is that the recent Supreme Court ruling regarding the Voting Rights Act.  With this ruling, we now witness the very intentional disenfranchisement of targeted voters: poor women, women of color, and a large percentage of people of color.

Today is a great day for action.  Today we should be standing in solidarity with all women to celebrate the 19th Amendment but to also initiate respectful conversations around what populations are being kept from the polls and how we shore up the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. While five members of the Supreme Court may not remember history, there are many of us that do and are more than happy to offer a history lesson to prevent us from repeating our mistakes.

I would also like to celebrate the National Women’s History Project today, co-founded by Molly Murphy MacGregor. Today is Women’s Equality Day as proclaimed by the President of the United States.   Click here to find out more about the National Women’s History Project.

Racism in the Wake of Paula Deen and Trayvon Martin’s Murder

19 Jul
We Have a Long Way to Go.

We Have a Long Way to Go.

Recent events dominating the news have coalesced to demonstrate how far our country has to go around the issue of race. This is a difficult and complex piece to write and a difficult time for our country, as the dominant culture — white, hetero, male — reacts to these events in yet another wave of racist behavior.  United States history never starts from a place of innocence, and our entrenched history of marginalization and racism is quite long.

When the story first hit about Paula Deen, I had dozens of readers emailing me to make her Bigot of the Week. I was reluctant to do so and even more reluctant to call her a racist without more facts. As a social worker, I understand that someone can practice racist behavior without being fundamentally racist. Applying that label is very powerful and gives the person no place to go, no way to address the negative behavior.

I have never been a very big fan of Paula Deen, so seeming to defend her — especially given the nature of the charges —  was somewhat painful for me. We were dealing with partial information, taken from an adversarial process as she responded to an attorney representing a woman suing her companies, mostly deriving from the actions of her brother. I felt I needed to take the time to let more context emerge before passing judgment, something our media are incapable of doing anymore.

Sadly, her behavior in conjunction with her silence certainly do qualify her behavior as racist and sexist behavior. She has admitted to her own shortcomings and seems remorseful, but does not seem to want to do any type of repair work. Far more disturbing is the fact that as the person in charge, she did nothing to put her brother’s horrible behavior in check. By turning away, she became complicit and thus colluded with his behavior.

While I’m glad the media picked up on the racism of Deen and her brother, they certainly did not do justice to the misogyny.  After spending two weeks gathering information, I was not only sad to learn of the awful racist behavior on behalf of this family, but why was no one talking about the issue of women, sexual harassment. and power?

To make the mar even larger on our country’s history, the George Zimmerman verdict came in last Saturday declaring Zimmerman innocent and declaring to the United States that it is still not safe to be a black man. This chilling decision, that lethal violence was justified because a scared kid reacted badly to being hunted by a man with a gun, has given racist America permission to demonstrate its ugliness.

Pat Robertson said we all need to “chill out” because Martin was a “fully formed African-American male” and “justice was served.” Sadly, I’m not sure what century Robertson is living in currently. Rush Limbaugh boldly declares that he’ll be using the word “nigga” because it’s a term of affection in the African American community so it isn’t racist–I’m sorry Rush, but you DON’T get to decided what people of color are allowed to find racist!  Dozens of pundits blame Martin for his own death because he made the mistake of wearing a hoodie — something millions of kids do every day without being hunted and shot.

As our history shows, our laws and policies were created to justify racist behavior and to ensure that white people were treated better and with different rules.  This was reaffirmed with the United States Supreme Court decision that struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act. When laws and people in power, such as the Supreme Court normalize racist behavior, it paves the way for individuals to exercise their racist views. When President Obama was elected, the bigots felt threatened and reacted with coded language and horrific behavior. The Deen case shows just how horrifically people still use their power in racist, misogynistic ways. Tragically, the Zimmerman verdict has given the forces of hate permission to bellow their bigotry loudly with a hideous, we-told-you-so attitude.

A recent study published in The Root disclosed that over a 1/3  of white Americans believe African Americans are racist. Nothing demonstrates more clearly how fundamentally our nation misunderstands — or worse, willfully ignores — how power, privilege, and multi-generations of oppression and marginalization have created our modern dynamic. There is much work to be done. Those of us who believe in equity and fairness must use this tense, powerful moment in the American conversation to demand positive action towards racial equity and equity for all those that are marginalized.

Bigot of the Week Award: June 28, The Supreme Corruption

28 Jun
Bigot of the Week

Bigot of the Week

The Supreme Court wrapped up its judicial year this week with a number of major decisions. On the four that got the most press — and had the largest impact — they managed one disaster (Voting Rights), one victory (DOMA), and two adequate indecisions (affirmative action and Prop 8). As those rulings were rolled out, however, the aggressive activists on the right of the bench bared their ugly souls once again.

The most vile decision was Shelby County v Holder, in which the Four Injustices of the Apocalypse were joined by two-faced Kennedy in gutting the Voting Rights Act. Despite the fact that the VRA was renewed unanimously by the Senate and by an overwhelming majority in the House after extensive research, the Court ruled that Congress acted capriciously and violated States’ rights. That rationale fails to disguise the clear desire to allow states to practice voter suppression, disproportionately impacting marginalized populations which coincidentally vote overwhelmingly for Democrats.  Talk about intentional disenfranchisement!

Chief Racist Roberts penned the poison decision, helping secure his horrible legacy. He also wrote an ugly dissent in Windsor v United States, the case that overturned DOMA.

Speaking of ugly legacies, Justice Scalia managed to spew his usual bile with flair and volume. He continues to argue that calling a bigoted law bigoted is biased against bigots. That’s some weird reasoning. He also displayed his split personality in the Shelby and Windsor rulings. To support racism, he trumpets States’ rights and blames Congressional overreach. To support homophobia, he says that Congress should have the final say, and the will of the states that support LGBT rights be damned. In a curious bit of double-speak, his Windsor dissent includes:

It is an assertion of judicial supremacy over the people’s Representatives in Congress and the Executive. It envisions a Supreme Court standing (or rather enthroned) at the apex of government, empowered to decide all constitutional questions, always and everywhere “primary” in its role.

That is one huge spleen that Scalia has!  Justice Alito-Mussolini, joined in the discrimination chorus. He also demonstrated his ongoing behavior as a petulant brat. During Justice Ginsburg’s scathing Shelby dissent, he rolled his eyes and shrugged his shoulders. He displayed similar disrespect to opinions offered by Justices Kagan and Sotomayor on other matters. Racist, homophobe, misogynist — score three for Alito, but of course “he does make the trains run on time.”

Justice Thomas remained inert, participating only far enough to support a version of the Constitution that must have been written in 1276, content to continue suppressing the rights of others now that he’s got his lifetime gig.

What a horrible example of judicial activism and abuse of power!

There’s plenty of dishonorable mention to spread around, as well, so let’s just highlight two magnificent examples.

  1. Texas Governor Rick Perry, whose efforts to crush Planned Parenthood and severely restrict reproductive choice in his state were thwarted by true democracy in action, chose to demonize state Sen. Wendy Davis. He argued that she’s lucky she wasn’t aborted by her unmarried mother and should take a lesson from that. My he is Klassy!
  2. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R – What’s the Matter with Kansas) followed the DOMA decision by introducing a new bill to ban same-sex marriage in the U.S. Constitution. I guess the House didn’t waste enough taxpayer time and money defending the indefensible.

Many of the usual homophobes spewed their bigotry in despair after the Windsor ruling as well. Rather than bother with names and quotes, let’s take a lesson from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, whose flawless response to their angry bloviating was a calm, “Who cares?”

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