RACISM CONTINUES TO AFFLICT AMERICAN DEMOCRACY-PART 2

Elizabeth Hill, press secretary for the Department of Education, told ProPublica that the new “enforcement instructions seek to clear out the backlog while giving every complaint the individualized and thorough consideration it deserves.” Lifting the requirement of collecting three years of data will allow complaints to be addressed “much more efficiently and quickly,” she said in an emailed statement.  For many years, the Department of Justice has used court-enforced agreements to protect civil rights, successfully desegregating school systems, reforming police departments and ensuring access for the disabled. Under Sessions, however, the Justice Department is turning away from one of its most effective weapons against discrimination, “consent decrees” and its Civil Rights Division has issued verbal instructions through the ranks to seek settlements without consent decrees that result in no ongoing court oversight.  This action is just one part of a plan by the Trump administration to limit federal civil rights enforcement. Other Federal departments have also scaled back the power of their internal divisions that monitor such abuses. In a previously unreported development, the Education Department recently reversed an Obama-era reform that broadened the agency’s approach to protecting rights of students. The Labor Department and the Environmental Protection Agency have also announced major cuts to their enforcement actions.

At best, this administration believes that civil rights enforcement is superfluous and can be easily cut. At worst, it really is part of a systematic agenda to roll back civil rights,” said Vanita Gupta, the former acting head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division under President Barack Obama.

The Trump administration is also preparing to weaken legal deals struck by the Justice Department under President Obama forcing local police to prevent excessive force or racial bias, Sessions said during his confirmation hearings. He also said that he would not rule out the “withdrawal or modification” of consent decrees secured by the Justice Department from police departments such as Ferguson and Missouri, which he said tend to “undermine respect for our police officers”. 

Sessions, a so-called “law-and-order conservative,” has consistently attacked what he sees as the overreach of federal authorities into local policing. While allowing that some consent decrees were legitimate, Sessions said that it was a “difficult thing” for a city to be taken to court by the federal government.

“I think there’s concern that good police officers and good departments can be sued by the Department of Justice when you just have individuals within a department who have done wrong,” said Sessions. “It can impact morale, it can impact and affect the view of citizens to that police department.”

Although it is unlikely that affirmative action will be completely eliminated, too many schools are committed to maintaining a diverse student body. College administrators will find one way or another to achieve balance in their admissions. However, if the current trends continue, women and minorities will need to seek out new sources of college financial aid and develop new strategies for gaining entrance to the nation’s top universities.

The lack of respect for the Office of the President and Attorney General under the Obama Administration was unprecedented.  Congressional Republicans wanted to impeach Obama apparently for the crime of being President while Black.  For almost eight years, “all manner of conservatives including libertarians, Republicans, and teabaggers were obsessed with one topic and they spent every waking minute preoccupied with how to turn back time and pretend Barack Obama was never elected as President of the United States,” according to a Huffington Post article published in August 2013.

Before and after his election and re-election to the presidency, Barack Obama had been vilified as subhuman in graphics, email transmissions and posters used to undermine him. He has been portrayed as a shoeshine man, an Islamic terrorist, a non-American citizen, and a chimp. The image of his altered face was shown on a product called Obama Waffles in the manner of Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben. The depictions of Obama as ape-like sparked the most controversy, considering that blacks have been portrayed as monkey-like for centuries to suggest that they’re inferior to other groups.  When Marilyn Davenport, an elected official in the Republican Party of Orange County, Calif., distributed an email depicting Obama and his parents as chimps, she initially defended the image as political satire.  Mike Luckovich, Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, had a different take. He pointed out to National Public Radio that the image wasn’t a cartoon but photo shopped.

“And it was crude and it was racist,” he said. “And cartoonists are always sensitive. We want to make people think—we even want to tick people off occasionally, but we don’t want our symbolism to overwhelm our message. …I would never show Obama or an African American as a monkey. That’s just racist. And we know the history of that.”

We now live in a Trump American where hate, bigotry and vitriol against people of color has become the norm.  The recent violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August of 2017 at a white nationalist have become a new touchstone in the nation’s long-running debate over racism, free speech and violence.  One woman was killed and many more injured when a car driven by a rally participant, sped into a crowd of anti-racism protesters.  The event quickly took on enormous political importance as an overwhelming majority of Americans, both Republicans and Democrats, condemned the violence and the white supremacist views embraced at the rally.  Trump, of course, said that both side were responsible for the bloodshed and would not criticize the Neo-Nazis and White Supremacy groups since they are part of his group of supporters.  Klan leader David Duke even tweeted his thanks to Trump about his support for those hate groups.

As civil rights activist Pauli Murray once cautioned, “Racism is like a deadly snake coiled and ready to strike, and one only avoids its dangers by never-ending watchfulness.”

 

RACISM CONTINUES TO AFFLICT AMERICAN DEMOCRACY-PART 1

In the past, I wrote about the subject of “racism,” and while that term continues to be a sensitive topic for discussion, I had to consider if I really wanted to approach this subject again. After careful consideration, however, I have concluded that a significant number of events have occurred since Donald Trump has been elected President that continue to produce ample evidence for me that twenty-first century racism, bigotry and hate have increased significantly.  Racism and the “Jim Crow” era have resurged with added vitriol and hate among some members of the Republican Party and various hate groups that identify with Republicans.

Neo-Nazis and White Supremacy groups suddenly seem highly visible following their recent violent riot in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left counter-protester Heather Heyer dead. The protest was largely void of Klan hoods, suggesting that neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan are feeling more emboldened since Trump had verbally encouraged such hate and violence during his candidacy. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the number of hate groups is currently near the country’s all-time recorded high in 2011. The SPLC reports that as of 2016, there are 917 active groups. (That’s 100 fewer than the 1,108 groups reported in 2011.) The SPLC’s hate map identifies groups by tracking their publications and websites. Of those 917, more than 90 are neo-Nazi groups. California has the highest number with 79, followed by Florida with 63 and Texas with 55.

The purpose of this article is not to imply that all white Americans are racist.  On the contrary, most are loving American citizens who believe strongly in equality for all.  In fact, the majority of Americans who confronted the recent Nazis and White Supremacy groups in Charlottesville where White Americans even though the groups’ vitriol primarily targets people of color.

Racism is nothing new to African Americans and other minorities.  As a 75 year old senior citizen, I have personally experienced both blatant and subtle racism.  I entered Federal Service in 1961 and witnessed discrimination in hiring, promotion and work assignment practices.  African Americans were typically assigned to the docket, mail room or messenger pools regardless of how they scored on Civil Service and Federal entrance examinations.  However, after the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, Federal agencies were required to establish hiring goals that opened a number of opportunities for African Americans and other minorities.  That was also a time when Federal Equal Employment Opportunity officers were hired by agencies to monitor progress.  Although these events were welcomed by the minority community, they were not readily accepted by members of the white community.  At my Federal agency, for example, some of my white colleagues would barely acknowledge African American employees within the confines of the building and completely ignored most while passing on the street.  However, after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King on April 4, 1968, when six days of riots erupted in Washington, DC, suddenly, white sentiment changed; politeness and courtesies were finally extended to African American employees.  It was unfortunate that a riot produced these results.

Much progress had been made in attempting to eliminate racism and bigotry; however, there was a significant set-back caused by members of the Republican Party when President Obama was inaugurated as the first African American President and re-elected to a second term.  Overt racist attacks became even more blatant through congressional Republican verbal assaults on President Obama, Attorney General Holder, and some African Americans in Congress.  We shouldn’t forget that a racist nucleus of mad white Americans has never supported racial equality.  In fact, their political representatives voted against both the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965.

The Supreme Court dealt a major blow to Civil Rights, more specifically, affirmative action on Tuesday, April 22, 2014, upholding the decision of Michigan voters — and by implication similar bans in California and six other states — to forbid the use of race as a factor in deciding who is admitted to state universities. In a 6-2 ruling, the Court brushed aside claims that such bans amounted to discrimination against minorities, ending constitutional challenges to the state ballot measures.

“This case is not about how the debate about racial preferences should be resolved,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said for the court. “It is about who may resolve it. There is no authority in the Constitution of the United States or in this court’s precedents for the judiciary to set aside Michigan laws that commit this policy determination to the voters.”

In a vehement dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor faulted her colleagues for what she said was their “refusal to accept the stark reality that race matters.”

The Constitution does not “give the majority free rein to erect selective barriers against racial minorities,” she said, reading her dissent aloud in court. She cited a brief from the University of California chancellors reporting on the drop in the percentage of African American and Latino students at UC Berkeley and UCLA.

To take away the rights of minorities is a shocking decision,” said George Washington, a Detroit lawyer who challenged the law. “With this, and the voting rights decision last year, it’s clear the Supreme Court is undoing the rights gained by blacks and Latino people in the 1960s and 1970s.”

To continue to weaken affirmative action policies and programs, the Trump Justice Department has redirected its Civil Rights division’s resources toward investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants, according to a document obtain by the New York Times.  That document, an internal announcement to the Civil Rights division, seeks current lawyers interested in working for a new project on “investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.”

Although the coverage the Trump Justice Department got from the media on its new policy simply suggested that the Justice Department has having fallen into the hands of racists, the louder message was the one heard by conservatives. Although conservatives might have doubt about Trump’s conduct, veracity, and allegiance to conservative ideas, the “almost fired” Attorney General Jeff Sessions has given disgruntled Republicans one more reason to think their efforts to elect Trump were justified. For progressives, however, the Justice Department’s policy shift is simply a payoff to white racists and extremists who resent any help given to minorities.

CONTINUED IN PART 2

DONALD TRUMP, THE GREAT DEAL MAKER

Friday, March 24, 2017, was a good day for one president – and it wasn’t Trump.  Throughout his campaign, the Great Deal Maker consistently boasted about how prodigious his deal making skills were.  Yet, he couldn’t even get his Republican members to come together and support his first legislative achievement – Replace and Repeal Obamacare – even though during the Obama Administration, Republicans voted over 50 times to repeal this historic legislation. Trump was incapable of mustering at least 215 House Republicans to support him – “The thrill of victory (Obama), the agony of defeat (Trump).”  Finally at the last minute before taking a vote, House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the bill from the floor and proclaimed that Obamacare was the law of the land.  Of course Trump never accepts responsibility for his actions and was quick to begin the “blame game” first saying that he should not have listened to Speaker Ryan’s recommendation to proceed with repealing Obamacare, and that his failure to win was all Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer’s fault.  (Surprised that he didn’t blame Obama.)

Coming down the stretch, Trump attempted to “strong-arm” some House Republicans warning them that they would pay at the ballot box if they failed to repeal and replace Obamacare, but they just wouldn’t adhere to his bullying tactics.  Only Trump, Ryan and a few Republicans really supported what has become known as “Trump Care.” The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that Trump Care would leave 24 million people without insurance by 2026 who would have it under Obamacare.  While the Bill would reduce the deficit by $337 billion over the next 10 years, it does so at the expense of older people.  For example, older patients with low incomes would see big spikes in their premiums along with higher deductibles and out-of-pocket costs especially if they lived in rural areas where health care tends to be expensive. A 64-year-old making $26,500 would pay an average of $12,900 more per year in premium costs according to the CBO, and their insurance would not cover as much.  According to a Quinnipiac University poll released on Thursday, March 23, 2017, 56 percent of U. S. voters disapprove of Trump Care, only 17 percent in favor and with 26 percent undecided.

Since he was sworn in on January 20th at President, it has been all downhill for the Trump administration.  With the courts blocking one of his most significant Executive Orders – the Muslim Ban – the firing of Michael Flynn, his National Security Advisor who has ties to Russia while also serving as a lobbyist for the Turkey government, Senate and House Intelligence Committees investigations of the Trump Administration ties to Russia, and most significantly, the FBI Director’s statement that he has, “been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election,” Comey said in testimony before the House Intelligence Committee. “That includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.”

In addition, Senate Democrats have started to filibuster Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, primarily on the grounds that a president who is the subject of an FBI corruption investigation and who has nominated a judge who would have a life-time appointment should be held up pending the conclusion of the investigation.  Such investigation could very well include criminal charges.

Will Trump succeed with getting any significant pieces of legislation moved through congress, or with his big Trump Care loss, has he become an irrelevant president?  Moreover, since his approval rating is 36%, the lowest of ANY president at this point in his administration, will the Trump administration last a full term? We will all know soon enough, but that’s just my take.