Category Archives: politics

“Black Crime” revisited

African Americans have disproportionately been victums of a punitive society and legal system. Did Blacks Really Endorse the 1994 Crime Bill. Here in California I was involved in The initiative called Proposition 47 which was passed to classify “non-serious, nonviolent crimes” as misdemeanors instead of felonies. I also creates a Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund to distribute monies to education, victim compensation. A great move, but what happened to cause these problems?

Today political candidates are talking about the 1994 crime bill and the concept that black citizens asked for it (True). They explain that the black as well as all communities wanted change. However the New York Times recently disputed that, ad explored the legislation’s shortcomings and concluded that “punitive crime policy is a result of a process of selectively hearing black voices on the question of crime”.

At the time, calls for tough sentencing and police protection were paired with calls for full employment, quality education and drug treatment, and criticism of police brutality. When “blacks ask for better policing, legislators tend to hear more instead”.

Selective hearing has a deep history. For example, W. E. B. Du Bois wondered in his 1903 classic The Souls of Black Folk. Du Bois’s captured the struggle of African Americans to forge and maintain a positive identity in a U.S. society that reduced their existence to that singularly alienating phrase “the Negro problem.” and during the 1960s, blacks argued for full socioeconomic inclusion and an end to discriminatory policing. Instead, they got militarized police forces.

With the 1994 Crime Billl of 993, black communities pushed back. The N.A.A.C.P. called it a “crime against the American people.” Also, the Congressional Black Caucus introduced an alternative bill that included prevention and alternatives to incarceration. The caucus also put forward the Racial Justice Act to use statistical evidence of racial bias to challenge death sentences. And so, Black support for anti-crime legislation was highlighted, while black criticism of the specific legislation was tuned out. This led to a compromise which eliminated $2.5 billion in social spending but only $800 million in prison expenditures. 26 of the 38 voting members supported the legislation.

This legislation wanted vulnerable urban communities to be managed through harsh punishment and heightened surveillance.

So, I urge the NA members and allies to be vigilant on making sure history is not rewritted and that they continue to support the struggle for racial parity and fight the mass incarceration of people of color.

Source:
New York Times

Circles

I have blogged on the lack of face to face communications previously, and in a recent New York Times article the concept of the three circles interested me. Remember the idea of the “six degrees of separation”? It is theory that everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world, so that a chain of “a friend of a friend” statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps. The NYT article talks about, say the first ring the third (called the middle) and the last of these. Thus, the inner, middle, and outer circle of contacts.

Today, we have a political dysfunction which llies deep in society. If there’s truly going to be improvement in this, there has to be improvement in the social context politics is embedded in.

So, when I grew up I lived close to members of a family, my neighborhood, my school, in a a different nation, continent and world. My life had a varied but coherent circle.

Fast forward to my twenties and I am an immigrant to the US. I noticed a community/membership mind-set despite the Vietnam war that was waging I never regretted my move. There was a welcoming attitude. Sidebar: I was still a white person, who was “embedded” in the Peace Movement at Berkely but not completely cognsant of the privilege my skin color granted. Later I dated an African American who slowly and surely educated me on this.

Recently our nation has an individualistic and autonomotous direction and how large companies and rich individuals have restricted individual rights while advancing their power and their own interests.

Which brings me to my earlier writings. I have said “that the NA has a proud history of emphasizing people skills especially at the margins of society, practice being a friend face to face”. and pointed out that this could be “an antidote to the 120 character communications a la Twitter, we often live in”. The problem is that the more people interact with a person or the real world through a screen rather than in real life, the less emotion is attached to the exchange.

Meanwhile, the individualist turn in society has compounded this divide such that the NYT quotes that “47 percent of Americans reported that they knew none or just a few of their neighbors by name”. Even sadder is there has been a sharp rise in the number of people who report that they have no close friends to confide in. And that’s where we as interracial connected men can act.

How can we do that? First learn, as stated above, that there are “Middle-ring relationships”, that can help people become skilled at deliberation. The guy sitting next to you at Starbucks may have political opinions you find abhorrent, but you still may have to get stuff done with him, week after week.

Given that the NA is a cauldron of diversity these middle-ring relationships can diversify your identity. You are also a citizen in a neighborhood in. Sometimes it seems that your neighborhood or, of course, the world is bigotted. However, as you go on our Facebook page with 12,000 members and rant, your middle-ring memberships may be deteriorating causing a lack of deliberation. People then may find it easier to ignore inconvenient viewpoints and facts. We’re good at bonding with people like ourselves but worse at bridging with people unlike ourselves. I am not saying that one should abandon your principles but nurture the local membership web to include diverse political opinions as well as nurture the local membership web that includes diverse opinions ad well as diverse skin colors and sexual identity, Go to your local groups including your local NA chapter, as well as Facebook.

Remeber we may even be happier and more fulfilled. We can reach all of our discrete individual desires if we cultivate those middle rings of our lives. Once again, I believe NA friends and allies tend to the garden of our lives by feeding all three of our rings and not relying on those “six degrees of separation”.

Sources:

New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/12/opinion/how-to-fix-politics.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0
Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_degrees_of_separation

White Identity and Economic Dysfunction

jobs

TRANSCRIPT:
This podcast looks at White Identity and Economic Dysfunction. While the NABWMT is a 501c(3) tax exempt organization, and cannot endorse political candidates, it can explore issues in society. So, today we will look at Donald Trump’s supporters. We do this from the lens of statistics from the Census Bureau and our source is the New York Times*.

As an example, The Times asked Trump supporters who their ancestors where and some respondents don’t give a standard answer like “English” or “German.” Instead, they simply answer “American.” They went on to look at current primary demographics and past elections and elections and found that “Trump counties” are places where white identity mixes with leconomic concerns.

So the NABWMT and it’s members I would guess, instinctively would label Trump supporters as racists, but the data is more nuanced than that. I have also published many podcasts on “White Priviledge” but here this concept is not as germain.

Trump has done well in the North and South, liberal and conservative, rural and suburban. So let’s look the data a little further. Yes they are mostly White, with no high school diploma. They also identify as “American” on the census. However, and here is the factoid that may cut across racial boundaries since they were in so called “old economy” jobs like agriculture, construction, manufacturing, or trade. In addition, their labor participation rate was low. (out of a job of given up looking for a job. They have largely missed the transition of the United States away from manufacturing and into higher technical jobs.

Moreover, they missed the traditional “American Dream” of owning a home and “settled” for living in a mobile home. This may be construed as the stereotype of “Trailer trash” but lets move on from that.

This is not just a recent concern, say the damage from the 2008 financial crisis. Rather, the economic problems that line up with strong Trump support have long been in the making, and defy simple fixes.

An then there is the high proportion of whites Trump supporters without a high school diploma has lasting consequences for incomes, for example. The education pay gap starts small when people are early in their careers before widening over the decades of their working lives.

In the Times analysis, surprisingly, it didn’t show a particularly powerful relationship between the racial breakdown of a county and its likelihood of voting for Trump. There are Trump-supporting counties with both very high and very low proportions of African-Americans, for example.

Clearly these American’s are angry at their situation and feel like they are “losing the American way of life”, and that is understandable. But before we get too sympathetic, there are underlying currents of concern. They have a history of voting for segregationists like supporting George Wallace in 1968.

So the take away from this appears to be: we understand why Trump supporters are angry at the political situation but we must be on guard against candidates that by their votes they empower candidates that could produce policies that promote racism, homophobia and income inequality. So, be careful what you wish for. American society is becoming more diverse and policies that embrace that are likely to align with the NA’s statement of purpose.

My President ’tis of Thee

So we are into the primary season and I have been able tor resist backing one candidate while blogging on NABWMT. However I will talk about one ex candidate – President Obama.

I am an ex-pat Brit and though I have lived here longer than in England, I am still amazed how uncivil the political campaigns have been, particularly by the Republicans. I know that the NA mission statement is opposite to the platform of that party.

So I have been reminiscing of the times of the Obama “hope and change” era. Yes, he has not been perfect, but his demeanor has always been to my taste. Maybe thats because I am a Brit (famous politeness as the stereotype goes). This blog is not about his achievement, there have been many (healthcare, marriage equality, disarmament and more). This blog is not about his failures (get out of the wars, immigration). This is about his integrity and style.

So, he is rarely the “angry black man” or the war hawk but shows smoothness and thoughtfulness (“no drama Obama”). I can “dig” that, again because of my background and my analytical nature based on my scientific training. And of course he has been accused of not “bonding” with the Congress in his first term and can be aloof at times. But let’s not forget he has bee vilified more than any President in the current era. Hostility and outright racism have been rampant against him.

Of important is that his administration has been free of scandal compared to other presidents. He has appointed and cultivated people who are required to abide by a decent code of conduct.

Michelle and Barak Obama have nurtured a great family and shown grace and poise along the way. Say what you will about his policies, his believe in the dignity and decorum of his office is a true indicator of his character.

Here at the NA we hope to maintain such integrity, our mission statement demands it, our history records it. Yes, we get angry, but in my opinion, the majority of our members and board over the years have shown the rectitude needed to maintain our path ahead.

So, my President ’tis of thee, and my NA it is of you too!

Elections are on us

It looks like the election primary season is upon us and at the NA, based on our tax status, we cannot talk about the candidates but can talk about the issues.  And the issues that have kept us together are, amongst others, racism and homophobia.

On the Republican side of the fence it seems obvious that there is a deep mistrust of immigrants. On previous blogs I have tried to argue that this is wrong and racist. There are many reasons to encourage immigration not the least of which is that immigrant rights are black and white rights to.

In addition, Republicans appear fear the loss of “their way of life” family values. These ideas are understandable but do not seem germane to the US in the long run since we are becoming a country with a more diverse make up than before. The concept of conservative politics seems to have been co-opted into prejudice.

As a European immigrant I realized that in England the Conservative party was much more friendly to workers and those struggling, the less educated, the working class and the poor.  And I noticed that the Conservative leader just announced a plan for a more social approach. where government can play a role in rebuilding social capital and in healing some of the traumas fueled by scarcity and family breakdown.

On the Democrats side there is much to agree with their ideas. Both candidates for president oppose prejudice, both want to reduce economic inequality and want change.  The NA members would agree on this, however, how they go about fighting these evils is an issue to think about.

One of the candidates wants to to work on primarily income inequality, the other wants to attack

racism, sexism and other forms of prejudice because they are  powerful forces in their own right.

Paul Krugman in the New York Times* thinks that “the rise of the American hard right was the rise of a coalition, an alliance between an elite seeking low taxes and deregulation and a base of voters motivated by fears of social change and, above all, by hostility toward you-know-who”, read President Obama.

He goes on to say that the American right uses “racial dog whistles, demagogy on abortion and so on would be rolled out during election years, then put back into storage while the Republican Party focused on its real business of enabling shadow banking and cutting top tax rates”.

So whats more important social issues other than income inequality or the latter? The division in politics and our methodology as progressives sets the stage for the way forward. Do we go for a radical change and attack “the root of all evil – money” or hitting hard on a variety of issues and slog through making, gradually, the changes to root out racism and homophobia and other preducies?

It’s a tough call but I am warmed that these issues important to the NA are being voiced by all Democrats in these times. Again all the above is not to endorse a candidate or suggest that the NA favors one approach but to give my opinion. What is yours?

_____________

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/29/opinion/plutocrats-and-prejudice.html?ref=todayspaper

 

Affirmative Action

This is another blog on the upcoming decision at SCOTUS the Supreme Court of the United States. This time on an attack on affirmative action as represented by the appeal on the University of Texas’s admission policies.

Based on reports by the New York Times*, “the affirmative action plan at the University of Texas seemed to be in trouble at the Supreme Court on Wednesday. By the end of an unusually long and tense argument, a majority of the justices appeared unpersuaded that the plan was constitutional”.

First some background. In 2003, the court said that public colleges and universities could not use a point system to increase minority enrollment but could take race into account in vaguer ways to ensure academic diversity. And there is rub so to speak, vague can be interpreted as almost anything!

Justice Scalia his usual conservative take and said:  “minority students with inferior academic credentials may be better off at “a less advanced school, a slower-track school where they do well.”

In addition he said: “Most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas,” he said. “They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them.”

And the usually liberal Justice Kennedy, spent almost all of his time exploring whether the university should be allowed to submit more evidence to justify its use of race in accepting students.

However, at UC Berkley, in a state that banned affirmative action in college admissions, fewer black and Hispanic freshmen were enrolled**. Thus, between 1990 and 2011 Hispanic enrollment went down from 23% to11%. This is despite the increase of California’s college aged residents from 35% to 49%. There is a similar trend in Black enrollment.

The case, Fisher v. University of Texas, No. 14-981, was brought by Abigail Fisher, a white student who says the University of Texas denied her admission in 2008 because of her race. She has since graduated from Louisiana State University. At that University during the same Hispanic and Blacks suffered the same enrollment stalling**.

Adding to the fuel on this fire is the so called “Top Ten” policy of Texas colleges that the State of Texas has such that “If you attend a public high school in Texas you must submit a transcript that indicates that you will graduate under the state’s Recommended or Distinguished/Advanced high school programs as defined in the state’s Uniform Admissions Policy or a transcript that shows you will graduate under the state’s Foundation high school program. Students graduating under the Foundation program must show proof of the distinguished level of achievement to be eligible for top 10 percent automatic admission”.***

This Texas admissions plan, which accounts for 75 percent of the student body, does not directly consider race but increases racial diversity largely because many high schools in the state are not diverse.

For the remaining students, the plan takes account of race as one factor among many, the approach used by many selective colleges and universities nationwide. Ms. Fisher sought admission under the second part of the plan.

And the champion of liberal jurisprudence Justice Ginsburg said  “It’s totally dependent upon having racially segregated neighborhoods, racially segregated schools, and it operates as a disincentive for a minority student to step out of that segregated community and attempt to get an integrated education.”

However on a breath of fresh air, Justice Breyer said, that the Supreme Court will “kill affirmative action through a death by a thousand cuts.”

I remain very concerned that this decision may railroad affirmative action after a 12-year-old compromise was granted.

More and more SCOTUS is acting on some laws where people at the margins in the US are losing ground in an era where income and race inequality are becoming more evident. This blog and a previous blog on SCOTUS and the vote**** are more reasons to vote in ALL elections that lead to consideration of candidates that favor diversity and human rights.

_________________________________________________________________

Sources:

*http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/10/us/politics/supreme-court-to-revisit-case-that-may-alter-affirmative-action.html?_r=0
**http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/06/24/us/affirmative-action-bans.html
***http://www.uh.edu/admissions/apply/apply-freshman/admissions-criteria/
****http://www.nabwmt.org/all-people-or-eligible-people/

All People or Eligible People?

Today I want to update you on a matter of importance in terms of equal justice, and crucial for representation of us all and people at the margin.

The US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) hears arguments in Evenwel v. Abbott regarding according to SCOTUS blog “Whether the three-judge district court correctly held that the “one-person, one-vote” principle under the Equal Protection Clause allows States to use total population, and does not require States to use voter population, when apportioning state legislative districts”.

So what has this to do with NABWMT? Directly nothing, but indirectly a whole lot to our mission to fight racism.

First, some background. The US Constitution requires “counting the whole number of persons in each state” for apportioning seats in the House of Representatives among the states. In the US, according to the Atlantic blog*** “”The (population) difference is no longer about where people live, it’s about how people live: in spread-out, open, low-density privacy — or amid rough-and-tumble, in-your-face population density and diverse communities that enforce a lower-common denominator of tolerance among inhabitants”. Cities tend to vote Democrat which, arguable leads to more tolerant voters.

The US Census is the main vehicle to determine the Congress make up, and any other method may be hard to assemble and likely to discriminate against people of color. Hence it would be antithetical to the work the NA has done over the last 30 years or more.

These areas of tolerance have produced sex sex marriage initiatives, better opposition to discrimination of minorities in the justice system and much more. The Census showed a higher percentage of blacks than whites voted in a presidential election for the first time in history during the matchup between President Obama and Mitt Romney. If the black vote is diminished by legislation of SCOTUS it would not bode well for equal participation of people at the margins.

The opposite view is given by the Wall Street Journal**** citing concern on the effect of “illegal immigrants” on the votes. As a note you may want to read my blogs on the racism against undocumented workers (http://www.nabwmt.org/anti-immigrants-rhetoric/). But I digress, the Wall Street Journal suggests that this block of voters “dilutes” other peoples right to vote. They state “If Ms. Evenwel prevails, legislative districts will have to be reworked in Texas, and presumably in much of the U.S. too. The next legal challenge would be to Congressional districts, which could mean a re-allocation of seats in the House of Representatives. States like Florida, California, New York, Arizona and Texas, with large illegal populations, could lose House seats. We cannot agree more, this loss of seats would be detrimental to civil rights.

Remember when Black people were counted as one-fifth vote, under this plan Blacks and Native Americans under 18 would perhaps be on-third votes, Asian Americans would be 45% and Hispanics 55%.

Let’s not let this fly under the radar. Talk to your chapters, communities and legislators and campaign against this latest round of attacks on minorities and voters.
____________________________________________________
Sources:
* http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/evenwel-v-abbott/
** http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/09/us/politics/supreme-court-to-hear-arguments-on-one-person-one-vote.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0
*** http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/11/red-state-blue-city-how-the-urban-rural-divide-is-splitting-america/265686/
**** http://www.wsj.com/articles/one-person-but-only-2-3of-a-vote-1449534404

Podcast Election Fever

podcast

Ken  collects comments and ideas on the GOP debate season with the caveat that the NABWMT cannot endorse candidates for office but can and must discuss issues on human rights and how the 2016 election could impact people at ther margins
GOP presidential candidates had six prime-time hours on the national stage on Wednesday to tell the American people why they should lead the country and its scary.

There was a strong vein of xenophobia, fear mongering and lies.