Saturday, January 26, 2013

Rainbow PUSH Coalition Statement on Voting Rights Act and Affirmative Action By Janice L. Mathis, Esq. This year – fifty years after King implored justice to roll down like a mighty stream - President Obama must speak out to preserve two of the bulwarks that have held back the America’s persistent tide of racism. The Supreme Court will take up the continued vitality of both Section V of the Voting Rights Act (which requires some states to get prior approval for voting changes) and affirmative action in higher education and contracting. Blacks continue to experience persistent discrimination in housing education, financial services and employment. It is a mistake to assume that the fight for equality for blacks squarely lies in the past – at Selma. The President is right to refer to the Stonewall gay bar riots that opened the door to gay activism in 1969. 10% of Americans are gay. Add in their families and there are 60 million powerful political reasons to address discrimination against the LGBT community. Beyond the merely political, most gays have no more choice over their orientation than I have over my color. And you should not be punished for what you cannot help or change. It is also appropriate that the President should offer policy solutions to help promote tolerance and equality for LGBT. Ben Jealous is also right to call on the President to nominate an African American woman to the U.S. Supreme Court. I would only add that it should be a liberal African American woman. Being black is not enough. I would rather see a white liberal female appointment than a conservative black one. After all, Clarence Thomas is black. Not only is racism still part of our culture – it appears to be getting worse. A recent poll by AP and Stanford University revealed that 79% of Republicans have explicit negative attitudes toward blacks. In all, 51 percent of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes, compared with 48 percent in a similar 2008 survey. Another recent study revealed that in New York it is easier for a white male high school dropout to find employment than it is for a college-educated African American man. Not surprisingly, the economic collapse and the election of a person of color as President have resulted in racial backlash. The President is urged to open a national conversation on race. He should use the power of his office to mend or defend affirmative action. The President says that he received a great education, in part, because of affirmative action. Looking at what he accomplished, it would seem that we need more affirmative action – not less. And we must act now to end the failed war on drugs. Selma proved that racial discrimination is susceptible to improved public policy. The President is right to go on radio and encourage black fathers to be more attentive, but no amount of great parenting will erase the antagonism that some whites have toward all blacks. The specter of red-state electoral systems unsupervised by the Justice Department is frightening, especially given the lengths to which extremists have proven they will go to intimidate and suppress the vote. The President is implored to speak on behalf of blacks who invested time, talent, treasure and hope in his re-election. As Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote a decade ago in her brilliant dissent to the Gratz opinion striking down the University of Michigan law school’s affirmative action program, to pretend that we have achieved equality for blacks is to “pretend that history never happened and that the present doesn't exist."


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