Here’s why Wisconsin’s voter ID law got struck down

See on Scoop.itOUR COMMON GROUND News Board •● ☥●• The Third Eye Parenthesis

This time, the plaintiffs presented plenty of evidence that it imposes a substantial burden on certain classes of voters.

OUR COMMON GROUND Omnibus‘s insight:

Is there any serious evidence of in-person voting fraud that could be prevented by a photo ID law?

The evidence at trial established that virtually no voter impersonation occurs in Wisconsin. The defendants could not point to a single instance of known voter impersonation occurring in Wisconsin at any time in the recent past.

See on www.motherjones.com

Black Success Can’t Change Warped Views Like Donald Sterling’s

See on Scoop.itOUR COMMON GROUND Informed Truth and Resistance

Hateful words attributed to the Clippers owner remind us how anti-black sentiment contradicts our notion of transcending race.

OUR COMMON GROUND Omnibus‘s insight:

Sterling’s reported statements, though, while roundly condemned, illustrate that, despite rumors to the contrary, anti-black sentiment can still trump racial achievement in the minds of some—even when such sentiment concerns black folks whose accomplishments would make them seemingly immune to the ordinary revulsion and fear that regularly greets African Americans.

See on www.theroot.com

Has Civil Rights Activism Been Replaced by Endless Panels? Φ Crew of 42

Has Civil Rights Activism Been Replaced by Endless Panels?

Posted On 09 Apr 2014
  Ask yourself: Have you ever seen a photo of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. sitting on a panel? On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act we should ask ourselves: Has activism been replaced by “paneling” and hot air?

At every annual convention.  At every luncheon.  At every conference. There is the panel discussion as the centerpiece of the “agenda.”  And for the most part, these sessions repeat already known information and no calls to action.

Where the centerpiece of the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s was results based physical activities such as marches, boycotts and civil disobedience, the centerpiece now appears to be lots and lots of talking.

The activities of five decades ago yielded big results — like the Civil Rights Act — few of those big results and political victories can be seen today. And the problems, for the African American community in particular, are getting larger. 

Can panels create change and get results at a time when the wealth gap between black and white is the worst in 40 years and the dropout and incarceration rates remain at crisis levels?  Can marches get the same results they did in the 1960s as a more money and tech driven political landscape drives agendas?

Were it not for Rev. William Barber’s Moral Mondays there would be no consistent activism at all.  But even with those events one has to ask: Are the marches yielding tangible results?  It’s likely Dr. King didn’t have time for panels.  The actions Dr. King took got results and won victories.  Like the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Lauren Victoria Burke is the creator of the blog Crewof42 and is the Managing Editor of Politic365.com. Ms. Burke has enjoyed employment with USAToday.com and ABC News and holds a B.A. in History from The American University. Contact: LBurke007@gmail.com. Twitter: @Crewof42

– See more at: http://www.crewof42.com/slide/has-civil-rights-activism-been-replaced-by-endless-panels/#sthash.onItQYKK.dpuf

Justice Sotomayor’s Powerful Defense of Equality

AP Photo/Steven Senne

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor

 Yesterday, the Supreme Court upheld a provision of Michigan’s constitution that bans the state or any of its subdivisions from “grant[ing] preferential treatment to any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.” The Court was fractured; the six justices who voted to uphold the amendment did so for three independent reasons. Written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the plurality decision—to which Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito signed on—was narrow: It upheld the amendment without disturbing any precedent. Far more interesting was Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent, which makes a strong case for a robust interpretation of the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment and represents perhaps her most compelling work in her tenure on the Court so far.

The case for upholding Michigan’s amendment, which was adopted through the ballot-initiative process, seems compelling at first glance. Even if one agrees that affirmative-action programs are generally constitutional, it surely cannot be the case that the Constitution requires states or the federal government to adopt affirmative-action policies. Had Michigan never adopted affirmative-action policies or had the legislature repealed them, this would presumably not raise a serious constitutional question. So why wouldn’t the citizens of Michigan be able to make the same policy choice? “There is no authority in the Constitution of the United States or in this Court’s precedents,” Kennedy asserts in the plurality opinion, “for the Judiciary to set aside Michigan laws that commit this policy determination to the voters.”

In the most relevant precedent, the Court ruled in 1976 that a Washington constitutional amendment that banned the use of bussing to integrate schools violated the 14th Amendment because it “impose[d] substantial and unique burdens on racial minorities.” Joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Sotomayor makes a powerful argument that this and related precedents require the Court to strike down the Michigan initiative.

The core of the Court’s “political-process” precedents, Sotomayor observes, is that minorities have access to the state’s democratic procedures. The Constitution “does not guarantee minority groups victory in the political process,” but it does “guarantee them meaningful and equal access to that process. It guarantees that the majority may not win by stacking the political process against minority groups permanently, forcing the minority alone to surmount unique obstacles in pursuit of its goals—here, educational diversity that cannot reasonably be accomplished through race-neutral measures.” Reallocating power in the way Michigan does here therefore raises serious equal-protection concerns.

Sotomayor’s dissent cites a landmark Kennedy opinion: Romer v. Evans, in which the Court struck down a Colorado initiative forbidding the recognition of sexual orientation as a protected category under existing civil-rights laws. Sotomayor observes that Romer “resonates with the principles undergirding the political-process doctrine.” The Court forbade Colorado from preventing a disadvantaged minority access to the state and local political processes, even though states are not constitutionally required to pass civil-rights laws.

When burdens are placed on minorities that affect access to the political process, the possibility of discrimination is particularly acute, allowing exclusionary politics to become self-perpetuating.

Sotomayor’s dissent also offers a useful defense of the political-process doctrine and its strong roots in the 14th Amendment. Starting with the famous fourth footnoteof Carolene Products in 1938, the Court has held that state actions that burden minorities should be subject to heightened judicial scrutiny. When burdens are placed on minorities that affect access to the political process, the possibility of discrimination is particularly acute, allowing exclusionary politics to become self-perpetuating.

It is instructive that in their concurrence Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas mock the influence of Carolene Products: “We should not design our jurisprudence to conform to dictum in a footnote in a four-Justice opinion.” This is grimly ironic, given that Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas recently joined an opinion gutting the Voting Rights Act based on highly implausible bare assertions made by dicta in an opinion written by Chief Justice Roberts less than five years ago. With respect to Carolene Products, conversely, what matters is not merely the footnote in one opinion but the fact that it conforms to the 14th Amendment, and was elaborated on in many subsequent cases. Several of these precedents were the political-process rulings that were supposed to control the outcome in yesterday’s case. As both Scalia from the right and Sotomayor from the left argue, it’s hard to deny that these precedents have been silently overruled, even if the plurality says otherwise.

The consequences of Michigan’s constitutional amendment illustrate the ongoing relevance of the Court’s equal-protection precedents. As the dissenters point out, the percentage of African-American students getting degrees from the University of Michigan was the lowest since 1991 after the amendment passed. In addition, the percentage of racial minorities in freshman classes at Michigan’s flagship university has steadily declined—even as racial minorities comprise an increasing percentage of the state’s population. This does not in itself prove that the Court was wrong to uphold it, but it does show that the elimination of affirmative action is unwise, and at a minimum the Supreme Court should show deference to elected decision-makers who determine that it is necessary.

Race-Blind Admissions Are Affirmative Action for Whites

Race-Blind Admissions Are Affirmative Action for Whites

EDMUND ZAGORIN

APRIL 21, 2014

In 1994, University of Michigan rejected Jennifer Gratz, setting in motion the overturning of state’s affirmative-action policy. Now, she’s challenging a black student who’s protesting her own rejection.

Brooke Kimbrough always dreamed of becoming a University of Michigan Wolverine. Her score on the ACT—a college-readiness test—dwarfs the scores of most of her classmates. Earlier this month, she was part of a winning team at the National Urban League Debate Championship in Washington, D.C. Last week, she became a powerful symbol for exactly how Michigan’s race-blind college admissions policies have failed.

In December, the University of Michigan informed Kimbrough that her application for admission had been wait-listed. Two months later, she received the letter that she had not been accepted. But instead of conceding defeat, Kimbrough decided to fight. Today she hopes that her story will highlight how Michigan’s current approach to race in admissions fails exceptional students of color. Black students comprise just 4.6 percent of the 2012 freshman class; in 2008, the number was 6.8 percent.

Over the course of this year, I had the honor of working with University Preparatory Academy debate coach Sharon Hopkins, who guided Kimbrough and her partner, Rayvon Dean, to victory. Shortly after her team won the debate championship, I spoke with Kimbrough about her protest of the University of Michigan’s admission policy.

“This isn’t about me,” Kimbrough said. “That’s not why I’m doing this. The real problem is when students are denied and don’t speak up, don’t question the system that failed them.” To that end, Kimbrough has joined with the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) to advocate for the rights of black students in admissions and on campus.

Nearly 15 years ago, Jennifer Gratz, a white high-school senior, was denied admission to the University of Michigan. Rather than keeping quiet, she also fought. Gratz began by mounting a coordinated legal and media battle to challenge her rejection. In 2003, the Supreme Court ruled in her favor, and its decision in Gratz v. Bollinger ended the university’s system of preferential admission based on race. Encouraged by this victory, Gratz and other opponents of affirmative action went on to champion a statewide ballot initiative that completely banned any use of race as a criteria for admissions at Michigan’s public universities.

At the University of Michigan, the years following the high court’s decision have seen a precipitous drop in the number of African-American students. For Kimbrough, who uses discussions of racial privilege and cultural politics in her debate competitions, her rejection from Michigan became an opportunity to highlight a concrete instance of colorblind discrimination.

While both Gratz and Kimbrough fought their decisions, Jennifer Gratz bristles at comparisons. “I fought for all applicants to be treated equally—as individuals, without regard to race,” Gratz said in a comment on the Detroit News website. “This woman is standing up for group rights and asking for preferential treatment based on race while others are discriminated against, she wants unequal treatment. Ms. Kimbrough is fighting because she wasn’t accepted; I fought because of discrimination in the admissions process, a major difference.”

What critics of affirmative action like Gratz don’t talk about, and what they aredeeply invested in keeping hidden, is the racial violence and culture of white aggression that intensifies and pervades campus life for students of color when affirmative action policies are taken away. This dirty secret was blown apart earlier this year when University of Michigan’s Black Student Union decided that they’d had enough, launching the viral Twitter campaign known as #BBUM (Being Black at U-M). Stories ranged from hurtful micro-aggressions to racial slurs to threats of physical violence. Overall #BBUM highlighted the dysphoria of a campus population of color whose number is in steep decline.

But so incensed is Gratz, 37, that she has challenged Kimbrough, 17, to a public debate on the issue of affirmative action, according to the Detroit Free Press. In an apparent attempt to appear gracious, Gratz, citing her potential opponent’s youth and inexperience, offered to allow Kimbrough to include a BAMN representative on her side of the debate.

The attitude expressed by Gratz betrays a seemingly willful obliviousness to the fact that no group experiences more affirmative action than white people. Michigan’s formal pro-white affirmative action policy, colloquially known as “legacy preference,” puts the children of alumni ahead of other applicants. It unquestionably favors the white and the wealthy, at the expense of the poor and the black. Outside of the U.S., legacy admissions mostly went the way of feudalism. But at many U.S. universities, and especially at Michigan, legacy admissions amount to an eternal parade of white pride.

Why does legacy preference work this way? Because it reinforces the demographic power of previous generations of whites that benefited from dozens of explicitly segregationist federal and state institutions. Those institutions, from the New Deal to the G.I. Bill, helped whites out of Depression-era poverty while explicitly disadvantaging blacks, locking whole communities into cycles of violence and misery. “When I think about the fact that my grandmother’s grandmother was a slave baby—like, literally owned as property—and then I hear people talk about how whites don’t experience affirmative action from legacy, it’s so frustrating,” Kimbrough said. “People want to put that behind them. They’d prefer not to think about it. The thing is that black people can’t put that history behind us because we live it every day.”

And legacy doesn’t even scratch the surface of the biggest instrument of racial discrimination in so-called “race-blind” university admissions: standardized testing.Most scholars of education policy agree that the ACT testing process, like the SAT, favors wealthy white students from suburban environments at the expense of students who are poor black and urban. This favoritism is often deemed a “necessary evil” of education policy, done in the service of meritocratic apples-to-apples comparisons of students’ analytical skills. There are many reasons for performance disparities, from cultural assumptions of the test writers to unequal access to prep materials and tutors.

“We don’t have time to prep for the ACT the way some students do,” Kimbrough explains. “I come from a single-parent household. We worry about keeping the lights on and food on the table. Even though I want to go to college, people have to understand that the ACT isn’t a priority. Michigan talks about ‘holistic’ admissions. I wonder what’s so holistic about it.” Standardized testing is literally the example given in sociological texts to define the term “institutional racism”.

It must be nice to live in the world of Jennifer Gratz. It is a world in which America somehow happened without colonialism or slavery, where we are born into bodies in which race is invisible (which is how the concept of race generally functions for members of the white majority). In Gratz’s worldview, disparities in wealth and access to public goods have no bearing on the measure of that mystical quotient of “ability”.

“Public universities are supposed to represent us,” says Kimbrough. “Blacks and Latinos are 14 percent of the population, and yet our public universities can’t represent us. We pay taxes for that university to stand as tall as it does. It’s sad.”

The American Prospect

Supreme Court Case Winner Challenges High School Student to Debate on Affirmative Action

See on Scoop.itOUR COMMON GROUND News Board •● ☥●• The Third Eye Parenthesis

In 1994, University of Michigan rejected Jennifer Gratz, setting in motion the overturning of state’s affirmative-action policy. Now, she’s challenging a black student who’s protesting her own rejection.

OUR COMMON GROUND Omnibus‘s insight:

"In December, the University of Michigan informed Kimbrough that her application for admission had been wait-listed. Two months later, she received the letter that she had not been accepted. But instead of conceding defeat, Kimbrough decided to fight. Today she hopes that her story will highlight how Michigan’s current approach to race in admissions fails exceptional students of color. Black students comprise just 4.6 percent of the 2012 freshman class; in 2008, the number was 6.8 percent."

See on prospect.org

Black People Are Cowards

See on Scoop.itOUR COMMON GROUND News Board •● ☥●• The Third Eye Parenthesis

In light of the recent decision by a professional basketball team, comprised of mostly black players, to respond to their boss basically saying “I hate niggers” by turning their shirts inside out the next day at work, I have come to the decision that I agree wholeheartedly with the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, and I too do not want black people invited to my events.

OUR COMMON GROUND Omnibus‘s insight:

"It’s almost as if people have forgotten that struggle includes struggling. You might have to lose your job. You might have to lose your life. That’s what it takes for change to happen. There’s no easy way to do this. If you’re scared to stand up for yourself, for whatever reason, all I ask is that you stop pretending. Stop with the Facebook posts. Stop with the meaningless conversations. Just stop. Be honest. About how you behave. About your part in all this madness. About what you are. A coward. Just a coward. No need to put on an act for the rest of us. We can all see right through each other."

See on gawker.com