Friday, July 24, 2009

No, Not Post-Race Yet.

The arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr. the other day in Cambridge has opened up another opportunity to discuss race in America. Dr. Gates is Harvard's Director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. What complicates the scenario--woman sees (black) men pushing in (stuck) front door of (his) house in nice neighborhood, police respond-- is that the responding and arresting officer Sgt. Crowley also teaches other officers about racial profiling. He claims he was only following procedure; and, Dr. Gates was confrontational. (Note: Police Officers are authority figures with guns and must be treated with deference.)

While the charges have been dropped, and it appears to be a he said/ he said situation the result is an opportunity to discuss race some more, in more depth. Oh, yes, I know we have had a Black Secretary of State or two, Oprah is among the most admired and richest people and we have a President who is black--but that does not mean we are any where near post-race in this country. In fact, after Obama's election, neo-nazi/ex-clan leader David Duke called the president a "visual aid" in recruiting separatists to hate organizations. The FBI and The Southern Poverty Law Center ( have noted increased sales of arms and increased membership in these white separatist (hate) groups.

Race is a social construction that has become institutionalized. There are (at least) two books that look how we have institutionalized racism--one by Gloria Browne-Marshall Race, Law, and American Society : 1607 to Present (2007),and the other is Ian Lopez' White by Law 10th Anniversary Edition : The Legal Construction of Race (2006).

Racism is a form of, and a misuse of , power. Because you are X you can______; if you are Y you can _______. And only Xs with a few Ys can make these rules. So people try to pass as Xs--they are the privileged ones. Racism can be upfront or it can be disguised in the minutiae of life. See for instance, yesterday's New York Times Op Ed "Racial Bias in Fire Exams Can Lurk in the Details"

So, what do we need to do, to move beyond race? Some people are taking the tactic that since we have a few black people of note, we do not need affirmative action programs and we can return to a meritocracy. This same meritocracy that gave a pass to white men who have merit based on their legacies not their ability. . . Meritocracy, like racism is insidious.
In my humble opinion, the first step is to really discuss the issue, the problems, with everyone at the table, and really listen. The next steps should follow based on everyones' input.

BUT we have to take the FIRST step--we can not just blithely skip over it thinking we are post-race because of Obama-Oprah-Powell-Rice.....

p.s. W.E.B. Du Bois' childhold home (or its foundation) is on Rte 23 just west of Great Barrington.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

On Neutrality

Judge Sottomayer's hearings last week brought to light the racism and misogyny inherent in our society. While these seem to be invisible to many of the older-white-men-in-suits, feminists and others have been pointing out this problem for a long time. Simone de Beauvoir explored why and how women become othered in The Second Sex (1949).

While white men in suits have held power, they are not the majority: white men are only 32% of the population. Women make up 52% of the population.

Unfortunately no one seemed to effectively call them out on their racism and misogyny while they were trying to hold on to their power. We need to be able to call people out on their statements instead of looking the other way, or ignoring them.

Steven Colbert did so with humor. Here is Steven Colbert's take on why white people might think they are the default or neutral, and every one else is "othered." From the color of band-aids(tm) before designs & cool colors to the color of the crayon in that big box of Crayola Crayons (tm) named "flesh" Colbert reflects back the non-neutrality of it all.

Steven Colbert on White as Neutral:

On a more serious note: Joan Tronto & I wrote "Truth and Advocacy" about the very gendered concept of citizen:

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pay Equity???

Seems that even at the White House there is no pay equity--so much for "practice what you preach..."

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

a LOL (or Aha!) moment

One of the Google (tm) ads that popped up on this blog after my short memo to Gov. Palin was for her newest pac: SarahPAC ( Trolling (phishing?) for new supporters, no doubt.
So, after a brief chuckle came the Aha! moment when I clicked on the ad which took me to the pac's webpage. SarahPAC claims at the bottom of its homepage that it is"not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee." Yet the main text notes: "Please note: There are many websites claiming to support Sarah Palin. is the ONLY political action committee authorized by Sarah Palin."
So I deduce: that since the Governor is not NOW a candidate, both statements on the surface are true.
I investigate a bit more:
The FAQ page answers the question about how donations will be spent as follows:

"Your support of SarahPac will make it possible for Gov. Palin to continue to be a strong voice for energy independence and reform. By supporting SarahPac, you will allow Gov. Palin to help find and create solutions for America's most pressing problems; priority number one is building a strong and prosperous economy that recognizes hard work, innovation and integrity by rewarding small businesses and hard working American families. SarahPac will support local and national candidates who share Gov. Palin's ideas and goals for our country. "

"[r]ecognizing hard work. . ." I am not that sure that she could (see Memo to Gov. Palin).

But as to the future GOP candidate, that is a different story. According to the Boston Herald today
"Romney leads all Republican presidential contenders, garnering 25 percent of the vote, edging out Palin (24 percent), former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (22) and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (14 percent) in the Rasmussen poll released yesterday."
The article continues with "The poll also found that 40 percent believe Palin’s resignation hurts her presidential hopes while 24 percent said it helps. But Palin still led all potential candidates in favorabiltyy with 76 percent. Romney was second with a 73 percent favorability rating."

S0, as a means to create a network of supporters--political and financial--the Governor's pac might be on to something.


Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Memo to Gov. Palin

"When the going gets tough the tough get going" means that they get motivated and working to produce results, they do not quit.


Five Men in Robes

Five men in robes are actively interpreting law and some would say: misinterpreting laws that go
against the American values of equality and justice. These three cases all have in common that these men in robes disregarded legal precedent, and the plain reading of the statutory language.

For many, these cases only affect a few, who are really the majority: women, people of color and with the last decision, older workers.

In Castle Rock V Gonzales* which in 2005 said that the police do not have to respond to every violation of an order of protection--this case was tragic: 3 young girls died because the police did not respond to their mother's 6 (!) calls over the course of an evening that her ex-husband had violated the order and had taken the girls. In this case, the justices found that police enforcement of even mandatory arrest statutes when there is a violation of a protective order is not a constitutionally protected property interest. Protective Orders according to the Court are “benefits” that are not constitutionally protected entitlement property interests. And, though the Colorado law had stated if there was a violation the police shall arrest the violator, reinterpreted the word shall to mean may--as in may or may not. Congress did add a section to the Violence Against Women Act authorization in 2005 which set up Jessica Gonzales Victim Assistants to serve as liaisons between DV victims and law enforcement agencies in order to effectively enforce protection orders.

In 2007, in Ledbetter V Good Year Tire Co. the Justices decided that suits based on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act over race or gender pay discrimination have no standing if the claims are based on decisions made by the employer 180 days ago or more--even if the employee had no knowledge of the original pay discrimination (and many do not, since it is considered gauche to talk about one's pay and in some companies grounds for punitive action). It has taken an act of Congress to re-state the original intent of Title VII (Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009).

And, in this session which just ended the 5-4 decision in an AGE discrimination case***, re-directs the burden of proof to rest solely with the worker who now must prove that age was a deciding factor previously, age only had to be one of the factors in a demotion or layoff. Congress needs to take corrective action.

So much for these justices and their ideological base who claim not to be activist judges

*Castle Rock v. Gonzales, 545 U.S. 748 (2005).
**Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 550 U.S. 618 (2007)
***Gross v. FBL Financial Services Inc. (No. 08-441) 526 F. 3d 356, vacated and remanded.

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