Tag: civil rights

Hillary supporter John Lewis disses Chicago

All right, John Lewis didn’t actually diss Chicago explicitly, although the civil rights leader, U.S. Representative, and Hillary Clinton supporter claimed that he didn’t see Bernie Sanders participate in the Civil Rights Movement of the mid-20th Century, and used that claim to justify his support for Hillary.

While I have a ton of respect for John Lewis, as he’s someone who put his life on the line to fight for racial equality in America, just because I have respect for someone doesn’t make someone immune from my criticism of him. I think that Lewis’s remarks, while likely accurate, were very elitist of him.

While Lewis’s claim that he never saw Bernie in the Civil Rights Movement are probably true, since most of Lewis’s activism was concentrated in the South, virtually all of Bernie’s civil rights activism, outside of being one of hundreds of thousands of people in the crowd at the 1963 March on Washington, was on the campus of the University of Chicago, located in Illinois’s largest city. Specifically, Bernie, Bruce Rappaport, George Wells Beadle, and other civil rights activists fought against racially-segregated apartments that were owned by the University of Chicago, and Bernie has the arrest record to prove it.

The reason why I’m criticizing Lewis over a likely factual remark is this…Lewis implied that he thinks that he’s the gatekeeper who was and wasn’t a civil rights activist (he’s not, and nobody is), and he also implied that civil rights activism in Chicago wasn’t/isn’t as valuable as civil rights activism in the South. Both of those are examples of absolutely absurd logic. Even today, there are many activists affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement who are based in one part of the country who haven’t met Black Lives Matter activists in other parts of the country. That doesn’t devalue their work for racial equality in any way. What John Lewis did was devalue Bernie’s work at ending segregation in Chicago, and that is flatly unacceptable.

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The U.S. Justice Department fights a different kind of segregation in Georgia

When most people think of the words “Georgia” and “segregation”, most people in this country think of racial segregation of the Jim Crow era of American history.

However, segregation still exists in Georgia, although it’s a different kind of segregation: segregating schoolchildren with behavioral disabilities from non-disabled schoolchildren and giving the disabled schoolchildren a far inferior educational experience than the non-disabled schoolchildren. Now, the U.S. Department of Justice has stepped in, and they’re using the federal Americans with Disabilities Act to try to end this form of segregation in Georgia schools:

The Justice Department has accused Georgia of segregating thousands of students with behavior-related disabilities, shunting them into a program that denies them access to their non-disabled peers and to extracurricular activities and other basic amenities, including gymnasiums, libraries and appropriately certified teachers.

The department’s years-long inquiry into Georgia’s programs, and the pressure it is now putting on state officials to revamp the way they educate students with disabilities, have brought hope to advocates in the state who have long tried unsuccessfully for change.

[…]

Justice did not investigate Georgia’s lapses under the nation’s main law for protecting the interests of special education students — the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA. Instead, the department focused on the state’s failure to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, a much more powerful civil rights tool, according to legal experts.

Once again, the school system in Georgia is running a separate and unequal scheme, but, this time, it involves giving students with behavioral disabilities an educational experience that is far inferior than the educational experience that non-disabled students receive. That is absolutely disgusting, and I hope that the Justice Department succeeds in its effort to bring an equal education experience to all Georgian schoolchildren.

My thoughts about no charges being filed against the police officer who killed Tony Robinson

Earlier today, Dane County, Wisconsin District Attorney Ismael Ozanne announced that he would not file any criminal charges against Matt Kenny, a member of the Madison, Wisconsin Police Department, despite the fact that he shot and killed 19-year-old Tony Robinson, who was unarmed at the time of the shooting.

Here’s my thoughts about this:

Right Decision, Bad Law

Given the description that Ozanne of what led to Kenny’s decision to shoot and kill Robinson, I believe that Ozanne made the right decision, given the current Wisconsin state law regarding law enforcement officers using deadly force. However, I believe that the law gives police officers in Wisconsin too broad of authority to use lethal force, and that many other states have similar laws on the books. Because Wisconsin state law allows law enforcement officers to use deadly force if, for whatever reason, the officer reasonably believes that someone is threatening to either kill or cause great bodily harm to the officer, the police shooting of Robinson was justified in the eyes of the law, but not justified in the eyes of my personal opinion. I believe that deadly force should never be used against an unarmed person like Robinson was at the time he was shot and killed by Kenny, and that deadly force should only be used if the suspect(s) is/are armed, the suspect(s) show(s) intent to use the weapon(s) against law enforcement officer(s) and/or others, and the officer(s) have no other option but to use deadly force.

Madison’s Police Taser Policy is Absurd

If you’re wondering why Kenny did not use a taser in order to stop Robinson without killing him, that’s because of an absurd policy in Madison that prohibits law enforcement officers from using a taser except when another officer is present at the scene. Madison’s taser policy should be amended to allow for officers to use tasers to stop suspects without another officer being present, and similar policies in other jurisdictions should be amended as well.

Racial Disparities are Systemic in Madison

Despite being America’s most progressive city, there’s systemic racial disparities between white people and black people in Madison. If you’re a black person in Madison, you’re anywhere from 8 to 11 times more likely to be arrested than a white person in Madison:

The Race to Equity report also found that black adults in Dane County were more than eight times as likely to be arrested as white adults in 2012, which was higher than the black-white arrest disparity in Wisconsin (4-to-1) and the entire nation (2.5-to-1) in 2010. While black men made up only 4.8 percent of the county’s total adult male population in 2012, they comprised more than 43 percent of all new adult prison placements that year.

Updated numbers for only Madison may be even worse: Erica Nelson, who authored the Race to Equity report, told PolitiFact Wisconsin that black adults are 10.9 times as likely as white adults to be arrested in the city, based on a preliminary analysis of the Madison Police Department’s 2013 annual report.

I Strongly Support a Peaceful, Constructive Movement Against Police Brutality and Systemic Racism

So as long as the protests are peaceful and constructive in nature, I strongly support protests against brutality by law enforcement officers and systemic racism in our society. A lot needs to be done to make America a truly equal place. Protests should be non-violent, raise awareness of the problems of police brutality and systemic racism, and raise awareness of various solutions to hold police officers who engage in brutality accountable and end the systemic racism in this country.

The problems of police brutality and systemic racism in this country go beyond Madison, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Baltimore, New York City, and Ferguson. They are nationwide problems that need to be addressed by the people, the media, and public officials. Most importantly, there needs to be a concerted effort in this country to, through non-violent protests, supporting progressive-minded candidates for public office, and implementing new laws and policies, to end police brutality and systemic racism in this country once and for all.

Refusing to provide a certain type of product is not the same thing as refusing to serve customers because of who they are

In the wake of Republican-controlled state governments in Indiana and Arkansas passing religious discrimination laws, right-wing bible-thumpers have tried to frame small businesses who refuse to bake cakes containing messaging that LGBT people would find highly offensive. The bible-thumpers are doing this by trying to order a cake containing anti-LGBT messaging and, when the business refuses to make such a cake for them, claiming that the business is discriminating against them.

Azucar Bakery, a Denver, Colorado small business that makes cakes and Peruvian-style desserts, was the target of a bogus legal complaint for refusing to make a cake that contained offensive anti-LGBT messaging. Bill Jack, an anti-LGBT bigot from Castle Rock, Colorado, tried to order a cake from Azucar Bakery that featured icing depicting two groomsmen with a red “X” over them and messages claiming that homosexuality is a sin. Marjorie Silva, the owner of Azucar Bakery, refused to write the messages that Jack wanted on his cake, and Silva offered to bake a cake that contained no messages whatsoever and give Jack a pastry bag and icing so that he could decorate the cake with bigotry himself. Jack filed a state civil rights complaint against Silva and Azucar Bakery, and the Colorado Civil Rights Division rejected Jack’s complaint, ruling that Silva and Azucar Bakery did not discriminate against Jack. Azucar Bakery is selling t-shirts with anti-hate messages printed on them; you can buy the t-shirts here.

Cut the Cake Bakery, a Longwood, Florida small business that also makes cakes, has been subjected to threats and negative online reviews for refusing to provide bigoted televangelist Joshua Feuerstein with a cake decorated with anti-LGBT messaging. After Feuerstein uploaded a video of his phone call with Cut the Cake Bakery to YouTube, Feuerstein’s bigoted followers posted negative reviews of Cut the Cake Bakery online and left phone messages threatening the owner of the business, Sharon Haller. Cyndol Knarr, Haller’s daughter, has launched a GoFundMe campaign to support Cut the Cake Bakery; you can donate to that campaign here.

What the bible-thumping bigots in this country don’t understand is that refusing to provide a certain type of product, in this case, cakes decorated with hateful messages that gays, lesbians, bisexual people, and transgender people would find highly offensive, is not discrimination, so as long as their policy to not provide certain types of products is applied equally to all customers. What is discrimination is when a business refuses to serve customers because of who they are, such as the Walkerton, Indiana-based pizza parlor Memories Pizza publicly refusing to cater to the weddings of same-sex couples because the people who are getting married are of the same gender. Business owners have the right to refuse to manufacture and/or sell a product that they don’t want to provide to anybody, whether it be because the product in question conflicts with their values or otherwise.

I strongly oppose this effort by right-wing hate mongerers to frame small businesses who are unwilling to sell anything with bigotry and hate speech on it.

What if Martin Luther King, Jr. were alive today?

I don’t usually write “what if” posts, but, since today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I’ll share my thoughts about what I think MLK would be doing nowadays if he were alive today.

MLK would probably be a very vocal critic of voter suppression and, especially in the wake of the recent shootings of unarmed black males at the hands of white police officers, police brutality and police militarization if he were alive today. To a lesser extent, MLK would have been a vocal supporter of worker’s rights and a vocal opponent of public school privatization, as he saw so-called “right-to-work” laws and he probably would have seen the “school choice” agenda as a way of resegregating public schools. Issues where MLK would have probably not been vocal about are women’s rights and LGBT rights issues like abortion and marriage equality.

MLK was not the kind of person to leave the spotlight graciously and was a fearless advocate for the ideals that he believed in, so he probably would still be a very vocal civil rights leader if he were alive today.