Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Employee says to manager, "We couldn't hire Jamar because, you know, of his bad credit" (wink & nod).
This is an important lawsuit in the so-called age of colorblindness. If the allegations are true, Kaplan would have used credit history as a proxy for race to deny jobs to qualified candidates. How is this possible? It's pure math.
Blacks possess a fraction of the nation's prosperity in wealth compared to whites, and the gap is actually growing despite the Obamas and the few other well-to-do black families that are in the public eye. A legacy and continued patterns of property denial/predatory access to credit, inferior education, limited job opportunities and advancement, lower earnings, among other barriers connected to past and present racism, bring in and trap Blacks into generational cycles of debt. TMA applauds the EEOC for taking on this issue, even with expected backlash from colorblind proponents.
And for a brilliant illustration of how these systemic forces severely limit individuals' choices and debt-escaping opportunities, check out this post, "If America were a monopoly game."
We couldn't have explained it better ourselves.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Progressive Legal News: Local Community Radio, Second-Parent Adoption Ruling, Lawsuit Challenging the Use of Mace Against Schoolchildren, and Consumer Rights' Case Analysis
Local Community Radio Act. Timothy Karr of the Huffington Post wrote a nice summary on the passage of this little-known bill-now-law, which will open up the radio airwaves to thousands of local independent radio stations. Great news for people who enjoy a variety of news and media sources.
North Carolina Strikes Down Second-Parent Adoption. This heap of bad news is delivered via a wonderful blog, Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage, run by WCL's own, Professor Nancy Polikoff. Not only did the Court rule that second-parent adoption (most often the only means by which same-sex couples can adopt) is not available in the state, but the ruling invalidates all previous adoptions. Professor Polikoff is particularly angry at the biological parent of the former lesbian couple who brought this claim at the expense of North Carolina families. There are just so many reasons to be outraged--so many reasons.
Southern Poverty Law Center Says "You Can't Mace School Children." It's hard to believe that this issue has to be litigated but apparently Alabama has not received the memo that macing school children, as a form of school discipline, is not only wrong, but unconstitutional. SPLC announced that it is filing suit against the Birmingham school officials who refused to address the issue after it had been brought to their attention that armed school guards were macing children, and apparently taunting the students after the fact. Yuck. If this issue is of interest, TMA is featuring in its soon-to-be released fall issue, an essay about the transition of schools into young people prisons, by Lizbet Simmons.
Understanding a Major Consumer Rights Case, AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion. The National Campaign to Restore Civil Rights (NCRCR) Interview Series continues this week with Catholic University's Suzette Malveaux who breaks down a California arbitration class action lawsuit that may have a big ripple effect on consumer protection and the public's access to justice against corporations.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
The Modern American is celebrating the repeal of DADT, which we've tracked in recent months, here and here, but we hope that the political season is not so virulently anti-immigrant that some positive legislation can pass next term.
Our friends at The Root recently posted three articles, seemingly in conversation with one another, about a recently-coined phenomenon discussed in a new study called "reverse passing." It's arguably a new name for the one-drop rule, however, unlike the one-drop rule, it's individuals themselves, not the U.S. government, identifying people as Black despite White ancestry.
First among these articles, "Reverse Passing? Kidding...Right?", obviously takes a certain position; then, a few minutes later appeared a post titled, "Why Biracial Means Black," only to be followed shortly thereafter by "Passing for Black?" Each article begins by mentioning Barack Obama and delves into the history of racial politics around black identification.
We have a variety of our own views here at The Modern American, but we're interested in what you have to say? Do you "reverse pass"? Is this a misguided description? Throw in your two cents.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Update: Evidently the prison protest ended on Friday. The Root sums things up in a brief post.
Monday, December 13, 2010
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Two Queer Issues, One Critical Critique: Why Queer Left Community Groups Are Right About Hate Crimes, Anti-Bullying Laws
With friends at Dyke March, DC Pride, 2008
The Washington Blade, Washington D.C.'s nationally-syndicated, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) newspaper, reported two stories this week of interest to people with leftist queer politics: latest developments in the murder of gay middle school principal, Brian Betts, and the D.C. City Council's anti-bullying legislative debate. On the surface they are routine stories covered by the LGBT paper, but these two stories illustrate the critiques of Left queer community groups on hate crimes and anti-bullying legislation, which often go unheard and unnoticed by gay liberals.
More of the Same
The first issue is hate crime penalty enhancements. In the very tragic story of Brian Betts, the gay D.C. middle school teacher was slain in his Silver Spring home this summer, allegedly by four teenagers who sought to rob him after one of the teens was invited to his home via a sex chat line. Betts was shot and killed when "the robbery went bad." The identified shooter, Alante Saunders, who is 19 years-old, plead to a felony murder charge, resulting in a 40-year prison sentence (20 year minimum). The second teenager, Sharif Lancaster, who is also 19 years-old, plead to robbery and use of a handgun during a commission of the felony, and he faces a maximum penalty of 35 years in prison. Plea negotiations are underway for the other two young men. Clearly, these young people are not "getting off easy," nor is there any sign that local prosecutorial misconduct.
Then, why is Gloria Allred, here?
Attorney for-the-stars, Gloria Allred, has been hired by the Betts family to "explore whether or not Brian’s murder should also be prosecuted under the new Matthew Shepard federal hate crimes law.” The Matthew Shepard Hate Crime and James Byrd Jr. Act, passed in 2009, added sexual orientation and gender identity to existing hate crimes protections that enables federal investigations and prosecutions of alleged crimes motivated by LGBT bias. Many LGBT activists applauded the passage of law, which in principle, humanized queer lives under the law as deserving of to be free from violence, and in practice, equipped federal authorities to intervene in cases where local prosecutors were not making a reasonable effort to investigate allegations, pursue charges, or prosecuting a case. But, the most well known and controversial provisions of the Matthew Shepard Act were the penalty enhancements--on both the Right and the Left.
In particular, New York queer community groups, representing queer people of color, including The Sylvia Rivera Project, Queers for Economic Justice, Audre Lorde Project, among others, challenged gay liberals by announcing their opposition to a comparable state hate crimes proposal that was being discussed while the Matthew Shepard Act was making its way through Congress. Their open letter explains:
In other words, queer groups feared that hate crimes penalty enhancements would not be administered blindly-- they would be used to further punish queer victims who were of color and/or simply put more young people of color away into the Prison Industrial Complex without providing meaningful opportunities for rehabilitation. One's imagination need not go too far back into history to envision the former scenario; the New Jersey 4, black lesbians acting in self-defense but later prosecuted themselves, is a sad reality faced by some queer folks of color. As for the other scenario, we can just look at the Betts case.
Betts was a white professional gay man and each of the four teenagers arrested for his murder are of color. Two of the teens will be in prison for more time than they have been alive, and the same is projected for the other two. It difficult to see the purpose penalty enhancements in this case--adding on 2 or 3 levels (several years depending on the person's offense, history, etc.)--serves any system of justice. These young people will be stored in prisons for decades. Worse, by incapacitating them for years, we only give them more incentive to hate queer people when they are released (notwithstanding the complicated, sexual politics of prison). Gloria Allred is professing a popular position behind hate crime laws but this position doesn't account for the real issues raised by people most affected by the law, and ironically, people most at risk for anti-queer violence.
Too Much Libertarian, Too Little Justice
The second issue is anti-bullying protection for LGBT students. Needless to say this issue is in response to media attention on LGBT-bullying. America has woken up to learn that young queer people (real or perceived) are subject to abuse and violence by fellow students (at least as much older people abuse, taunt, harass, and inflict violence on queer people, generally). The always-progressive D.C. Council has taken up the Bullying Prevention Act, and the Harassment and Intimidation Act, which are measures that would require all DC schools, including charter schools, and the University of D.C., to implement anti-bullying policies at least as strong as the District's model policy created by the proposed laws. Given the rash of suicides and murders, who would have reservations about the legislation?
Well...liberal champions, like the D.C. ACLU.
Apparently the D.C. ACLU supports anti-bullying legislation in theory, but doesn't believe that bill's language of the bill "tightly" defines bullying in its current form. In the Blade article, Arthur Spitzer who is the chapter's local director, rhetorically asks, "What does it mean by harming a student? Does that mean hurting a student's feelings?" Of course, the bill provides a number of definitions, and sub-definitions, all of which complement Supreme Court case law (Tinker and Bethel, for example) that further define the threshold for an act to substantially disrupt a learning environment. While I understand the ACLU's inclination to be concerned about free speech (I'm a long-time member myself), sometimes, the organization can be too liberty-focused, and not enough justice-focused.
Here it is. In 2009, nearly 9 out of every 10 LGBT students experienced school harassment alone, according to the leading LGBT student advocacy organization, GLSEN. And, most local activists or organizers can tell you that technical legal squabbles related to language are usually worked out by the governing body's legal counsel, whom often will invite stakeholders like the ACLU to the table for revisions. The queer Left has long-advocated that isolation kills, and that queer young people experience their own school-to-prison pipeline as they are forced out of school at high rates due to un-addressed bullying. Frankly, the D.C. ACLU needs to get it together--make suggestions to the language of the bill--and get behind it. The ideological liberals' predilections really can miss the big picture of saving lives.
A message to my gay liberal friends: listen a little more and a little more carefully, and you may learn something from your Left-radical friends. We may not be working toward the same goals, but we have more in common than not.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Friday, December 3, 2010
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Monday, November 29, 2010
Thirty Years after Lifting the Moratorium on Capital Punishment, Changes of Heart in the Legal Institution
The New York Times just ran a piece about Supreme Court Justice Stevens’ reassessment of his stance on the death penalty, more than thirty years after he promoted and helped reintroduce the policy. Stevens writes about his observations and revelations in a review for a new book on capital punishment called Peculiar Institution: America’s Death Penalty in an Age of Abolition. Early in his career as a Supreme Court Justice, Stevens advocated for the death penalty by voting to lift a moratorium on the practice with the expectation that the punishment could be used wisely, and with utmost care in deliberation. More than thirty years later, Stevens explains his major concerns with the death penalty today stem from trigger-happy judges, political alliances on the bench, and the court’s refusal to recognize and rectify race-based sentencing. Death penalty sentencing became not about the accused, nor even the injured, but the judges themselves. All of the concerns that Stevens cited as limitations of his support of the policy became the standard, as rationality gave way to personalities and prejudices.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Richael Faithful, TMA's Editor-In-Chief here. Just before tomorrow's holiday, I wanted to offer two important angles to the recent TSA security inspection controversy.
For transgender or gender non-conforming people, TSA's new inspection procedures may prove especially invasive and troublesome. The National Center for Transgender Equality issued a really helpful resource this week, "Transgender Travelers and New TSA Policies," which tells trans and gender non-conforming people their legal rights against inspection abuse. In my mind, the value of this resource is that it helps people navigate situations in which ignorant or unprofessional officials may subject certain individuals to additional scrutiny (e.g. if one's appearance does not "match" one's ID gender marker) that may led to serious problems.
Another troublesome implication of the new TSA policies is that some politicians are exploiting this opportunity to promote racial profiling. Although most notably, Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) wrote to President Obama that he supports behavioral profiling over the new policies, he has commented to the press that he supports "profiling not solely based on race." The latter is racial profiling while the former is an effective law enforcement tool. Anti-racial profiling advocates make this key distinction all of the time--one is illegal and the other is not, for good reason. Check-out the Rights Working Group's new report on racial profiling, "Faces of Racial Profiling: A Report from Communities Across America."
If you are traveling for the holiday, be safe and informed.
Friday, November 19, 2010
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Monday, November 15, 2010
The first blog in the series discusses former U.S. Congressman's Bob Barr's recent call for DOMA's repeal. His new post, coming soon, will offer insight into his panel debate with Maggie Gallagher, of the National Organization for Marriage, which took place this past weekend, and whom Pam describes as "the grande dame of discrimination."
Friday, November 12, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
In October 2010, President Obama signed a piece of critical legislation (Public Law 111-260), the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act. The Act passed because of bi-partisan support, including the leadership of Congressman Markey (D-Mass) and Congressman Barton (R-Tex). The dedicated multi-year advocacy campaign of the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology is a key reason for the Act's passage. Title II of the Act provides the requirements for video programming. Section 203 of the Act imposes, among other requirements, a minimum number of hours of audio described shows per week. The Act specifically authorizes the Federal Communications Commission to possess the regulatory authority to impose accessible video programming mandates.
Friday, November 5, 2010
We'll see what comes of it.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
The Jurist reported that last night Oklahoma voters approved a state constitutional amendment, which bans the use of Islamic Law and international law in state court decisions.
A little more detail can be found here. And CNN has extensively covered this story here and views of legal experts can be found here.
The referendum approval is shocking on several levels. On a practical level, as pointed out in the latter link about legal scholars' reactions, is that the ban on the use of international law and the imposition of certain English-only requirements will prove hard for courts, which deal with multi-national and international issues all of the time. Like business law, for example.
I've also taken Islamic Law at American University; although sparingly applied by American courts, Islamic law is sometimes the most sensible law to apply from a choice-of-law perspective. Mainly, Islamic law, for the most part, addresses family law-like issues, and sometimes, litigating parties may prefer its application. Though admittedly sensitive, the application of Islamic law in American courts, is a perfectly sound rational and legal approach.
Of course, on a cultural level, this development is heartbreaking, from the view that Islamphobia has reached such a fervor in "middle America." I don't have much to say other than, "ugh."
If you are interested the intersection of Islamophobia and First Amendment rights, we'll have a special commentary on this subject in our fall issue slated for early December publication.
Thanks for reading.
Update: Nov. 4, Advocacy group files suit against Oklahoma: http://www.theroot.com/buzz/muslim-group-sue-oklahoma-over-sharia-law-amendment