We Will Not Be Fine – Stop the Devaluation of Black Womanhood

sandrabland

Sandra Bland

By Christina Perry

On July 9th, Sandra Bland left her home in Naperville, IL en route to Prairie View, Texas. Sandra, 28, had recently accepted a new job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M.

On July 10th, just miles away from campus, she was stopped by a police officer for allegedly failing to use her turning signal when changing lanes.

The seemingly routine traffic stop escalated as video of the incident shows two police offers forcibly restraining Bland on the ground near her vehicle. She was arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer.

On July 13th, she was found dead in her jail cell.

We can honor her life — and the lives of countless other Black women killed during police encounters — by disrupting the narrative around police violence in this country and demanding equal protection of Black womanhood and Black women’s bodies from state violence.

We know that Black women are being victimized as the result of state-sanctioned violence. We know that this often gender-specific violence takes many forms and extends beyond the use of excessive and lethal force.

We know that Black women and girls are consistently rendered invisible in the discussion surrounding police brutality. Black women are hyper-visible; however, in the movement to address and reform the systems of oppression reinforcing state violence against communities of color.

However, Americans continue to dissect police brutality and state-sanctioned violence almost exclusively through the frame of Black maleness and the use of lethal force.

Enough is enough. We must be emboldened to disrupt the narrative. Yes, we must protect Black men and boys. We must encourage each other to be our “Brother’s Keeper”. But, Black womanhood must be valued and protected with the same vigor.

The devaluation of Black womanhood and Black women’s bodies through state-sanctioned violence and sexual assault is not a modern phenomenon. Black womanhood in this country has been irrevocably shaped by the collusion of two distinct forces: sexist oppression and the realities of racism. In order for Black women to be fully protected by any policy reform, this intersectionality — and how it informs police interactions with women of color — must be recognized and affirmed in the public conversation surrounding police brutality.

If the impetus for policy changes is defined by a male-specific frame, Black women will remain vulnerable to continued violence.

 

Taking the Flag Down is a First Step, Not a Giant Step for Mankind

SCflagOn Friday, the Confederate flag waved a final goodbye in the wind as it was lowered from a pole on the South Carolina statehouse grounds. But it was not without ceremony and controversy. An estimated crowd of over a 1,000 people gathered at the site and cheered the removal of the flag to its final resting place in a museum. Even as the flag removal was being streamed online and broadcasted live, the commentaries of “so what” were making headway on the information highway. There is nothing wrong with presenting multiple sides of an issue. This post is not a criticism of the dissonance but an observation of how some first steps have helped to advance our understanding of the incredibly complex issue of race in America.

History has aptly documented that legislation and legal authority do not change hearts and minds.

—The 13th Amendment to the US Constitution abolished slavery but did not provide citizenship nor equal rights.

—The 14th Amendment granted African Americans citizenship but not civil rights

—The 15th Amendment said that race could not be used to deprive men of the ability to vote yet voter suppression continues

—The Supreme Court’s decision in Plessy v. Ferguson confirmed the principle of “Separate but Equal” and sanctioned Jim Crow laws

—The Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education ordered the desegregation of public schools yet 61 years later segregation is still commonplace for many American school children

We know that neither the South Carolina legislature nor the US Supreme Court can order the end of hate. And as other states examine their collective responses to the removal of racist and offensive monuments and images around the country, the debate will continue. Some will argue it is not enough to simply remove these images that honor intolerance and bigotry. We agree. More must be done to begin the long overdue journey to eradicating racism. But it is important to remember historic first steps that help make the journey possible.

With all deliberate speed has not worked in the dismantling of discrimination. The removal of the Confederate flag is merely a first step— it is not a giant step for mankind. It is a subtle reminder that first steps make impressions in the sand, no matter how long the journey. Without Jackie Robinson’s first step, there might not have been a Hank Aaron; without Althea Gibson, no Serena Williams; without Benjamin O. Davis Sr., no Colin Powell; without Gwendolyn Brooks, no Toni Morrison; without the first African American Senator Hiram Revels, no Barack Obama. So while there will be no victory battle hymn sung for the removal of the flag, it is worth honoring a first step in the march toward justice and equality. This is as good a time as any for people of goodwill and earnest hearts to recommit themselves to achieving fairness and opportunity for all Americans and immigrants whose contributions are essential to America’s future.

 

150 Years is Long Enough

To celebrate the Confederacy with public displays of a flag which stood for enslavement and hateful violence against Americans 

Just in case there is any question, Blogging While Blue supports removing the Confederate flag in all its versions from every public space and facility in Georgiaimage. It is a relic of the past and is appropriate for history books and museums but not the public space. It seems odd to us that Governor Deal has called for the redesign of Georgia license tags and hasn’t taken down the flags. Tags, yes; but flags, no? He wouldn’t be an outcast even among Republican governors, if he took it down. This is a perfect chance for the Governor to lead the state into the 21st century. I recall a fair amount of discussion during Maynard Jackson’s term, some of it threatening, about whether Atlanta was obligated to fly the state flag in its buildings and on its property. Intimidation works sometimes but is never a strategy that insures compliance with the intent of the law. As mayor, Maynard Jackson resisted any display of the Confederate flag. He was both on time and ahead of his time.

This is a chance for Governor Deal to acknowledge the hurt and pain felt by many Georgians who love the state but who cannot and will not do so blindly ignoring the human rights violations perpetuated against African Americans. Slavery and Jim Crow nor their symbols should be celebrated or honored in any public forum.

Deal could follow his colleague, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley who ordered the Confederate battle flag and other symbols of the Confederacy be taken down from the Capitol grounds. He told a reporter, “it is the right thing to do.” Governor Deal has a unique opportunity to set the record straight and to act on behalf of all Georgians who are descendants of slave owners and slaves and the millions of good people who have migrated to the state expecting Georgia to represent their human rights and values.

“But, conscience asks the question, is it right? And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right.”–Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Deal should remove the Confederate flag from all state property and lead his party and the Georgia Republican dominated legislature to accept his actions in the best interest of all Georgians. He should insist that the Confederate Memorial Day be struck from the state holiday calendar and eliminate Robert E. Lee’s birthday as a state holiday. Replace them with two vacation days to be used at the employees’ discretion since they are already funded.

Nathan Deal left Congress to run for governor presumably because he wanted the power and authority of the position. Well now is the time to exercise that power and take down the Confederate flags.

 

 

What a week in Washington!

President’s progressive agenda moves full steam ahead in his newly found fearlessness!

By Gary Cox

OBamaIn a recent Los Angeles radio interview, President Obama declared, “I am fearless.” This liberating pronouncement came ahead of a week of sweeping victories in the courts and in Congress. At the beginning of the week, the U.S. Supreme Court handed the President major victories on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Fair Housing. In a 6-3 decision, the High Court gave a “conservative” interpretation of the ACA by looking at what Congress intended in the overall legislation. Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “Congress did not mean for health insurance markets to work in some states and not work in others!”Chief Justice Roberts reaffirmed Congress’s intent and let stand insurance tax credit subsidies for residents whose state, like Georgia, does not have a state operated insurance exchange. This was a major victory which will assure that access to insurance and healthcare remains a basic fundamental right.

The High Court also upheld the Fair Housing Act of 1968, noting in the case of Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Community Project, “disparate impact” is an integral part of the Fair Housing Act and can be taken into account whether or not the discrimination was unintended or deliberate. In the 5-4 decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, “. . . disparate impact under the FHA has played a key role in promoting racial equality in housing and fighting discrimination,” This ruling holds intact the basic premise of the Fair Housing Act which is to end discrimination in the sale, financing or rental of housing based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

Lastly, as predicted by Blogging While Blue when the Supreme Court refused to issue a stay to prevent same-sex marriages in Alabama, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned state constitutional bands on same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges(Ohio). Jim Obergefell married his terminally ill partner in Maryland and wanted to be listed as the surviving spouse on his husband’s death certificate. He won, but the State of Ohio appealed and the lower court decision was overturned – which led to the U.S. Supreme Court challenge. Obergefell stated he never intended to be the face of gay marriage, but Ohio forced his hand. With this victory came Georgia’s first gay couple to be married Emma Foulkes and Petrina Bloodworth of Atlanta. They were married by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jane Morrison, who is openly gay.

With President Obama at the helm, progressive policies and ideas are in the forefront of social change. Healthcare is a basic human right, fair housing opportunities are a basic civil right and marriage equality, now the law of the land, has come full circle since 2004 when many of the state constitutional bans against same-sex marriage were enacted. Progressive ideas that were once considered “radical thought” are now mainstream law. Yet, the battle is not over. The attainment of civil and human rights is an “evolutionary process” and not a “revolutionary” one.

Should We Care about Affordable Care Act Subsidies? YES

ACAThe U.S. Supreme Court could release its decision in the King v. Burwell case any day, deciding whether some 412,000 Georgians will lose tax credits that go toward their health insurance premiums under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). What is to be decided is whether the government can provide subsidies in the 34 states that opted out of offering their own insurance exchanges, which includes Georgia.

It is a fact that over 400,000 Georgians, many hardworking, honest people who contribute to the economy of the state but whose employment or income limit their health insurance options could face serious consequences.

Somehow the political debate minimizes their individual stories and ignores their wellbeing. The political discourse seems to be the familiar wrong headed, selfish partisanship. This situation raises questions. Who votes for these politicians? Why do people who have benefits not care about those who don’t? Why don’t those who need the benefits vote their interests or in record numbers? Access to affordable healthcare isn’t about race, ethnicity or gender. It shouldn’t be a politically volatile issue. It should be a unifying issue. Everyone needs access. Too few Georgians vote and too few vote for candidates that share their interests.

This issue requires voters to elect candidates who can see beyond partisanship and who understand that the “pursuit of happiness” must include accessible, affordable, cutting edge healthcare- prevention, research and treatment for everyone.

President Lyndon B. Johnson and the Congress understood the necessity to support the medical needs of the elderly when in 1965 he signed the Medicare bill into law. Many between the elderly and the young and those we count on to work to support themselves and their families are caught in the middle of this senseless debate. They and adults with special medical and mental health needs will suffer serious harm if the Court rules against the ACA.

Culturally we expect Americans to work, to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, to make it on their own and to carry their own weight. It takes a village to support a child and the health, education and wellness of the adults who care for them makes all the difference in their success. It would be a waste if America forgets the basic needs of every man, woman and child.

 

 

http://politics.blog.ajc.com/2015/06/16/two-gop-congressional-districts-among-the-top-five-that-would-be-impacted-by-an-adverse-obamacare-ruling/

The Dispossessed Deserve Better

Kalief Browder

Kalief Browder-Ebony photo credit

“The nature of the criminal justice system has changed. It is no longer primarily concerned with the prevention and punishment of crime,but rather with the management and control of the dispossessed.” From Michelle Alexander’s, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

Mass incarceration is a system designed to imprison people based on racism and classism and being poor is a common denominator.

After Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri, media attention highlighted a municipal court system that had a history and tradition of excessively ticketing those in the predominately black community. Some might argue that Michael Brown’s death and the municipal profiteering had little in common, that would be a naïve and reckless assumption.

The attention also drew the ire of state politicians in both parties. State Sen. Bob Dixon was a member of a bipartisan Missouri group of lawmakers who tried to address some of the systemic issues that came to light. Among the issues was the rate at which St. Louis County was ticketing poor minority motorists. It typically takes a long time for statewide policy decisions to be made but in this case, the legislature passed a bill limiting the percentage of traffic revenue cities could keep. House Speaker Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) said at the time, “We ought to have been prioritizing this a long time ago. It’s not right to have a system in our state where we’ve got municipalities that are basically funding the basic operations of government through traffic fines.”

The U. S. Department of Justice’s report that focused on Ferguson also revealed that national statistics were trending on a similar practice as a revenue generator. If a community is preyed on in the streets and in the courts, it is no surprise that the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson was an incident waiting to happen.

Last week, Atlanta’s Creative Loafing featured a story Fines, Fees and Inequality by Tiffany Roberts that reflects a familiar refrain in other cities and states. A former Fulton County public defender and co-founder of Lawyers United for a New Atlanta wrote the story. The exceptionally data driven piece did not fail to highlight the disparity between race and class as a premise for a questionable public policy. Whether you agree with her conclusion, there is no debate about the trend of the indigent and poor who find themselves with limited legal options if faced with criminal allegations.

Recent changes by the California Judicial Council now allow drivers to appear in court first to challenge a fine before paying it. It was not unusual for a traffic ticket to cost a motorist $500 in a state that reported in 2013 16.6% of its residents lacked enough resources to meet their basic needs.

While traffic fees are just one way to disenfranchise those who can least afford it. The case of New York’s 22 year-old Kalief Browder whose charges were dismissed is another more horrifying example of what happens when defendants can’t pay. In his case the damage was fatal. Kalief committed suicide after spending over three years in Rikers Island. Browder’s family could not afford the $3,000 bail imposed based on an allegation that he stole a backpack. It has been reported and confirmed with video evidence that he was beaten by guards and inmates and he spent two years in solitary confinement. Because he was innocent, Kalief refused plea deals.

And while St. Louis area jurisdictions are paying closer attention to the inequality of traffic fines, a recent St. Louis Post-Dispatch story suggests that fines are being written for other offenses but target the same group.

Of course, we are not simplistically suggesting that criminals should not have their day in court to face allegations of wrongdoing. But the burden of a municipality’s budget whether Ferguson or any other city should not rest on the shoulders of those unable to avoid the persistent pursuit of an unjust policy.

 

The National Center for Civil and Human Rights Celebrates its First Year

AndrewThomasLeeIf the question is can we, all of us, play a role in promoting peace, understanding and justice in America and around the world- in Baltimore, Atlanta, Nigeria and Nepal then the answer is yes and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights offers lessons and spaces for dialogue and debate about what we can all do to make this a better world. Tonight, the Center will celebrate the contributions of five human rights advocates – each having taken a stand and made a difference in the lives of hundreds of people. The include:

Estela Barnes de Carlotto, an Argentine human rights activist and leader of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo. She is one of the human rights icons whose portrait, painted by Atlanta fine artist Ross Rossin, is featured in The Center’s Defenders exhibit. Senora Carlotto dedicated her life to reuniting more than 100 missing children with their families. After a 34-year search, she found her own grandson in 2014.

Vernon Jordan, the NCCHR Chairman Emeritus, a well-known business executive and civil rights activist.

Kerry Kennedy, the daughter of Robert and Ethel Kennedy, is a human rights activist, writer and currently the president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights.

Ada Lee and Pete Correll are well-known Atlanta philanthropists. Pete is chairman of the Grady Hospital Corporation and Atlanta Equity and is chairman emeritus of Georgia Pacific Corporation. Ada Lee Correll , a dedicated community volunteer, has led efforts supporting youth development, youth in the arts and access to health care.

The Center is part history and part current events embracing the lessons learned from the Civil Rights Movement in the American South to the current ticker tape reports on human rights violations and challenges facing millions of people worldwide. In his guest column in the Atlanta Business Chronicle below Doug Shipman captures the significance of the moment.

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Loretta Lynch and the Political Power of African American Women

Sometimes the improbable happens.Lynch

In the case of the Presidential nomination and U.S. Senate confirmation of U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch it shouldn’t have been improbable given her impressive educational preparation and her extensive legal experience.

The Senate finally voted to confirm Loretta Lynch after five months. The 56-43 vote makes her the first African-American female attorney general in the United States.

Lynch comes from a long line of super accomplished women who have served honorably and with distinction in top federal government positions and even more who should have based on their credentials. It just so happens that Lynch is the first African American woman to serve in this position and only the second woman. Somehow women like Janet Reno and Loretta Lynch were passed over for decades.

When Attorney General Lynch’s appointment seemed to languish in the U.S. Senate, women and some men all over the country started asking questions. Some went into action starting with the sisterhood of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. that was joined by other Greek organizations.

Atlantic magazine’s Theodore Johnson wrote in his recent article, The Political Power of the Black Sorority, “….unlike most other sororities, membership in a black sorority is not simply a college phase, but a lifelong commitment. Alumnae comprise 75 percent of the active membership of these groups. Black sororities do not confine their concerns to college campuses. And their fight for Lynch’s confirmation only represents the surface of over a century’s worth of work.”

Black sororities and fraternities have been active advocates for over a century and with Lynch’s confirmation in limbo they activated their vast network to push for her confirmation. There was no loyal to letters instead it was collective political activism joining together to do the right thing.

Last week all the “action” finally paid off and America can proudly celebrate the crushing of yet another glass box that separates qualified candidates from public service. Unfortunately Georgia Senators voted against Lynch’s confirmation putting them on the wrong side of American history. African Americans represent a large voter constituency in Georgia and 70% of eligible African American women voted in 2012, which represents approximately 10.4 million voters. Their numbers are not likely to be ignored. When African American women put their issue-based advocacy into action they can influence elections in political races, especially when the numbers are small.

Discrimination anywhere is….,,,,”

 

Will Georgia issue a “license to discriminate?”

Governor Nathan Deal says he will sign religious liberty legislation

GACareBy Gary S. Cox

Back in July 2014, in Blogging While Blue I “prophesied” that Senator Josh McKoon was going to once again introduce his “license to discriminate” legislation also known as Preservation of Religious Freedom Act based on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Sebelius vs. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. The Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Kyle Wingfield published an editorial from an interview with the good Senator in light of the High Court ruling. Unfortunately, in this case we are dismayed our predications of last summer have come to fruition.

This week, Senate Bill 129 took a “hard right turn” in the Georgia House of Representatives, when the House Judiciary Committee rejected amendments that would have clearly prohibited discrimination against minorities and LGBT Georgians. Now, the “wing nuts” of the Republican Party have shown their cards. Speaker Ralston stated in a recent speech to the Atlanta Press Club that he wanted to understand the “motivation” behind the legislation, “Before we move forward, we have to understand what the impact of this legislation will be on the rule of law in this state. We need to know if this legislation opens the door to unintended consequences of any type, that some may try to exploit.” He went further by stating, “Closing the door to anyone is closing the door to all …”

Well, Mr. Speaker, here it is in black and white, the purpose and motivation behind the religious freedom legislation is to grant some the right to discriminate against the LGBT community. Anyone who has been following the struggle of the LGBT community’s freedom to marry court battles knows, when the Supreme Court decided not to interview in Appeals Court rulings in Alabama, Idaho and other states, the inevitability of same-sex marriage was upon us as a society. The High Court allowed same-sex marriages to take place in states where their state constitutional bans were struck down. Among political savvy court watchers, the money is on the High Court overturning all state constitutional bans against same-sex marriage – and that includes Georgia. Some Georgia conservatives want the right to refuse to marry same-sex couples. Some conservatives want the right to refuse service to LGBT couples from wedding cakes to providing medical care to the children of same-sex couples. Simply put, the religious conservative wing of the Republican Party wants to say, “It is against my faith,” and discrimination in Georgia will once again become lawful as an “act of faith.”

Moreover, the unintended consequences that Speaker Ralston fears may be a national boycott against the state of Georgia. Hateful legislation has consequences – take a look at the backlash taking place in Indiana! Within hours of Governor Mike Pence (R) signing the legislation, the NCAA is talking about moving their basketball tournaments. Apple Computers, MailChimp, the mayors of Seattle and San Francisco are all talking about boycotting the state of Indiana. Here in Georgia MailChimp spoke out against Georgia’s RFRA. We could be subject to losing basketball tournaments and even the 2019 Super Bowl. Speaker Ralston and Governor Deal would be wise to look at Indiana before allowing our version of this hateful legislation to become law – it is the Speaker’s worst fears – the law of unintended consequences.

Spring Madness in Charlottesville

mj78432March Madness is the common reference to the NCAA basketball post season. But the madness in Charlottesville, Virginia is another kind of spring madness. Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) agents arrested third-year University of Virginia student Martese Johnson after being denied entry into a bar near the campus. Johnson was beaten by agents and later required 10 stitches from the attack, which was caught on a cell phone from a witness. In the interest of full disclosure I am the parent of a UVA alum.

Police violence seems to be more common than any of us really understood or realized. The case in Charlottesville strikes too close to home for every college student of color. Is it possible that an officer of the law can bludgeon a student because “because a determination was made” to arrest him apparently without reason. What words or actions would justify this kind of treatment? It shouldn’t matter that Johnson is majoring in Italian and media studies and holds several leadership positions in campus organizations and has no criminal record.

Did the ABC officers miss or flunk the part of their training that included mediation, negotiation, and deescalating tense situations? These are ABC officers near a college campus, where there is likely to be alcohol, so what kind of alcohol arrest warrants this level of violence? I can’t accept the notion that police and security do a better job of keeping the peace by resorting to violence. Somehow everyone including law enforcement agencies have to come to grips with the unbridled use of violence. As a young college student I listened to the radicals in the civil rights movement as much as I listened to the nonviolent principled leaders. I grew to believe the use of violence would cause even more violence. We have little hope of a civil society if chiefs of police, sheriffs and other law enforcement commanders don’t get their troops properly trained and motivated to keep the peace without uusing or threatening violence. It is time for the leadership of law enforcement to take responsibility for enforcing the law without causing reckless harm to those they pledge to protect and to do so without targeting for violence and abuse African American and Latino men. The balance between enforcing the law, using common sense and protecting the public may be difficult in some circumstance but it is possible. The officers and the public they pledge to protect must be safe. It is not too much for the public to expect for law enforcement leaders in every city, town or village to take responsibility for eliminating police violence and police abuse of power.