This is a super story about a super young man in the New York Times, Of the People feature. It highlights Antonio Lewis, one of the Mayor’s Youth Program (MYP) students during my term as mayor. He graduated from Atlanta Public Schools and earned a scholarship to Middle Georgia, which he lost after the first semester. While he was on winter break, he visited me as mayor and asked for my help in attending a local community college. Instead, I called our local Lincoln University-Missouri alumni contact who arranged for a partial scholarship that was matched with MYP funds. Four years later Lewis graduated with honors as Lincoln University student body president. The following year he joined the Obama field team and the rest is history. This happened hundreds of times during the six years of the program at the City. His success is the result of a village of people like, Deborah Lum and the staff at the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency, who supported him. I am happy that we caught him before he fell through the cracks like far too many of our young people, unfortunately, have done.
“If men could learn from history, what lessons it might teach us! But passion and party blind our eyes, and the light which experience gives us is a lantern on the stern which shines only on the waves behind.” Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Poet/philosopher)
This Saturday, April 16 at 8:00 p.m. EST on HBO, “Confirmation”, the story of the 1991 public hearings on the Senate vote for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas with witness Anita Hill will debut on cable television. As a raging progressive and lukewarm loyal Democrat, I admit to watching the hearings hoping that in this real-life saga, the woman would win. And in some small way, I hoped all women would win. But for three days during those crisp Washington, DC October days, I saw an America where men judged women about an issue they had little knowledge of and even less patience for understanding. Four votes could have made the difference in who is sitting on the high court now but maybe “passion and party” blinded their eyes. However, the final floor vote was not strictly along party lines: 41 Republicans and 11 Democrats (Dixon (D-IL), Exon (D-NE), DeConcini (D-AZ), Robb (D-VA), Hollings (D-SC), Fowler (D-GA), Nunn (D-GA), Breaux (D-LA), Johnston (D-LA), Boren (D-OK), and Shelby (D-AL) now (R-AL)) voted to confirm Justice Thomas while 46 Democrats and 2 Republicans (Jeffords (R-VT) and Packwood (R-OR)) voted to reject the nomination.
Television has afforded us the ability to have a piercing and lasting image of how we remember history. Even though Vice President Joe Biden, as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted against Clarence Thomas and authored the Violence Against Women Act, I can’t forget the memory of him presiding and looking down at Hill during those hearings. Though the hearings were conducted to confirm Thomas they were really much more about sexual harassment in the workplace. Hill had the courage to withstand the public aggressive intimidation by a dozen men who were not her peers. Biden among them. He did very little to change the “optics” on what we saw on television. He did not stop the vicious and searing attacks from Senators Orrin Hatch, Alan Simpson, and the late Arlen Spector. Anita Hill’s public humiliation was felt by many women who knew her story firsthand from assembly lines to corporate board rooms. There is no question that while Thomas won the confirmation, nameless women in the workplace have benefited from Hill’s heroic stand.
The Anita Hill story has been written about and a documentary was also done, but this weekend Kerry Washington transforms into Anita Hill to tell the story once again. “If men could learn from history, what lessons it might teach us!”
As more and more people become engaged in the presidential campaigns either as voters, caucus members or active campaigners, news articles and columns are speculating about which supporters are best positioned or angling for appointments and VIP statuses the new administration.
There is talk all over Atlanta about who will get the nod for which positions in which administration. Ambassadorships and Cabinet appointments are among the most mentioned. Hopes are high in political circles that at least a few Georgians will follow their predecessors – United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young, White House staff person Rita Samuels, Director of Presidential Personnel Veronica Biggins, Ambassador Gordon Giffen or Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates are among the host of other Atlantans who have served among a President’s most respected and trusted advisors. Even as those considerations are being entertained, most voters and most polls expect Georgia to remain a red state in November. The growth of Georgia’s population over the last decades and the demographics – young, black, brown and international have changed the “color” and “culture” of the state’s residents, but we have yet to see a change from “conservative and right leaning” political philosophy in statewide or Congressional elections.
Last year Cabral reminded me about having thousands of qualified registered yet seemingly uninterested voters move to the state or the city doesn’t automatically change election outcomes. Even massive voter registration drives like Georgia House Minority Leader and State Representative for the 89th House District Stacey Abrams’ New Georgia Project in 2012 haven’t moved the needle much. The population of Georgia might be browner and more left leaning but so far election results haven’t shifted.
Before anyone starts packing for Washington, DC maybe we should ask them to focus on a few of the issues that face at least a million Georgians. Those who live on limited or fixed incomes have the greatest needs but all Georgians suffer when we “play politics” while Georgians face social and political obstacles to improve their everyday lives. From the LIMITED accessible, affordable, clean public transportation, affordable housing, healthcare and mental healthcare options, affordable post-secondary and higher education, funding for medical research, support for technology incubators, business retention and expansion incentives, business opportunities for small, minority and female businesses to HIGH rates of incarceration and recidivism, high school, community college and college dropout rates, family and child poverty and persistent and growing high levels of homelessness in both cities and the suburbs, Georgia officials and civic leaders, all of us, have a lot of work to do at home before moving up the ladder to national leadership.
I count myself as responsible to do some of the hard work too. Whether Georgia is red, blue or purple in the November elections, we should choose the road less traveled and double down on getting Georgia on the right track for those who are most in need.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump made his rounds on the Sunday morning talk shows amidst criticism that he has incited the recent violence at his campaign events. His public remarks on the campaign trail against Muslims, immigrants and others have fueled physical attacks and angry protests. In the spirit of throwing a rock and hiding his hands, his response on “Meet the Press” was, “I don’t accept responsibility…….They’re not angry about something I’m saying. I’m just the messenger”.
The impassioned anti-Trump protestors that appear to be diverse and varied are increasing as the campaign travels. There are ample photos and video footage from protests that led up to the cancellation of the Chicago campaign event due to security concerns. The violence has grown from a simmering dislike to full on hate. From protestors being ordered out of Trump events to being punched in the face to yelling obscenities and even to journalists being roughed up and thrown out of his events. This weekend, in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, there were injuries and arrests and in Kentucky, Trump reportedly promised to defend his supporters if they fought with protestors and in Chicago, he relegated his detractors to “thugs”. It is rumored that Trump may pay the legal fees for the supporter who punched the protester at his recent rally. If so, then his responsibility will be decisive and clear—he will be putting his money where his mouth is.
And in another unbelievable act of messenger amnesia, Trump warned Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders that if his campaign people keep coming to his events, he would send his supporters to Sanders’ events. Whether it is threatening or bullying, Trump’s bravado has instigated flagrant and irresponsible discourse. Trump’s shameless reliance on fear and intolerance to fuel his campaign is likely the result of frustration and resentment from the crowds who support him. People who have seen their lives dramatically impacted by economic and social changes they were unprepared for. People looking for hope in small towns and big cities—desperate for a new and better future. Unfortunately, the billionaire candidate has chosen to pillage their hope with the tactics of fear. He has found acceptance as the messenger of hate but as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “hatred and bitterness can never cure the disease of fear”. The only question now is when will it be too much for the majority of GOP voters because it is already too late for the rest of us to believe he is more than the Wizard of Fear.
From time to time we will write a case that exemplifies why who gets elected might matter to the thousands of our neighbors and friends who haven’t registered to vote. Voting matters because whoever gets elected can impact your life in ways you would never expect.
Take the case of a friend who supports himself doing special projects while going to school. He has a chronic disease which is managed by his doctor’s close attention to every detail about his wellbeing and a collection of prescription drugs which keep him well. With the reelection of Georgia Governor Nathan Deal it wasn’t clear he was at risk of losing affordable access to his prescription drugs, but that is what happened. His monthly deductible jumped from $26 to $1395. What working person can afford this change? Only the rich!
Here’s the full story…..
In 2014, the state of Georgia decided to move all persons who have Plan D Medicare coverage and were participating in the no cost Ryan White Care Drug Assistance Program Part B, from this program and require them to utilize their Plan D coverage for their HIV drugs. Many of these individuals are on disability or individuals who returned to work and were able to maintain their Medicare coverage. For those working, they are the working poor. By making this policy decision effective 2015, Governor Deal’s goal was to shift the burden to the Federal government, claiming that this opened up slots for people in need of the Part B plan of Ryan White. In effect, this social policy decision placed an undue burden on the working poor, who already have a 20% co-pay under Medicare, by making these individuals subject to the infamous Plan D Medicare “doughnut hole.” Individuals, using Plan D to pay for their HIV drugs, if they don’t qualify for Medicare Extra Help, or non-profit grant assistance, are left with staggering out-of-pocket deductibles. The way this works, once you have spent $2,840 in Medicare for drugs, you then “fall” into a co-payment hole you have to spend your way out to the tune of $4,550, then your co-payments fall back down. This recently happened to my friend who did not qualify for any assistance. His HIV medications, which normally costs him $26.06 per month in co-payments, rose to $1,395 per month overnight. Those who are working and struggle, get buried in medical debt – this is but one example of who gets left behind when the cost effective measures to our health care social policy and make the working poor subject to outrageous co-payments. Governor Deal led the state to make it harder for my friend to get the medications he needs and to add insult to injury the state didn’t notify him. He found out when he went to the doctor 30 days after the effective date of the policy shift.
A governor who cares about the well being of all Georgians could do something about this. Georgia has elected and reelected a governor who doesn’t care and who leaves hard working people to fend for themselves. Shame on Governor Nathan Deal and shame on every qualified Georgian who doesn’t register to vote or any registered voter who doesn’t vote. If this story reminds you of someone in your family or your circle of friends, get registered and vote in November.
Prior to the environmental fiasco in Flint, I would never have imagined the likelihood that an elected official would make a budget decision that would poison an entire city. It is unimaginable, yet here we are. For those unfamiliar with the widely publicized story, a brief summary is offered.
In 2011 when many cities had still not recovered from the 2008 economic recession, the financially strapped city of Flint was taken over by the state. Then Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, retained emergency managers to cut costs and manage the struggling city.
Two years later, it was decided that Flint should break away from the Detroit water system that pulled water from Lake Heron and join a new water district. In April 2014, Flint switched its water system and started drawing water from the Flint River. There are lead pipes throughout the system and in older homes with copper water pipes that were held together with lead solder, the lead corroded the water. The World Health Organization has said that lead poisoning can cause adverse neurological effects.
The problem is now headline news as reports of sick school children who now have lead poisoning, state EPA officials have resigned, truck loads of donated water arrive in Flint everyday and both the state and federal government officials have declared a state of emergency for the city.
I wish this was just about a bad budget decision, but the cries of environmental racism can’t be overlooked. And not just from political candidates hammering for sound bites. New York Times columnist, Charles Blow wrote,”An entire American city exposed to poisoned water. How could this be? It is hard to imagine this happening in a city that didn’t have Flint’s demographic profile — mostly black and disproportionately poor.”
If not racist it is clearly unjust, unfair, and unacceptable.
Contributor, Cecelia Corbin Hunter
Just when I thought the national discourse had deteriorated as far as it would go in this election cycle, Ted Cruz says Hillary Clinton should be spanked and not in a playful lets get sexy way. The new Republican leaders seem to believe that (1) they can say any ugly constitution denying rhetoric that they can dream and (2) women are irrelevant and insignificant. It’s the second observation that gives me great pause. It’s become standard fare for the grand old party to discuss and legislate female innards, but a “spanking?” Oh no!!!! Ted has gone too far. Should the flogging be done clothed or should Hillary and all her “girl” supporters strip or just bare their bottoms. Should we gather in a stadium at high noon or be gathered up by Knights in white at midnight.
The days of white men spanking, flogging or beating women for having the audacity of exercising their right to be more correct, to think and unflinchingly to express their thoughts are gone. Ted can get on board or get out of the way. Hillary and the women of 2016 reject his supposition and thinking. We are here and a spanking from you is not on the agenda. Mr Cruz, spanking may be the norm in your house, but not for the woman who is White House bound.
The year 2015 is behind us and a new one has just started and I am baffled by the continuing contradictions evident in what we believe, how we live and how we treat one another in the name of religion, security and cultural values. As a mother whose child has died, my heart aches for others whose loved ones have been buried too young. The stories of those who die violently from war, from abuse and hatred linger as troubling reminders of a world detached from the reasonable standards of fairness and justice.
In Cleveland a grand jury decided not to charge police officers in the shooting death of 12-year old Tamir Rice. In Chicago, police officer Jason Van Dyke pleads not guilty in the death of Laquan McDonald, a 17-year old who was killed last October. And the recent death of 19-year old Northern Illinois college student Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones, 55, a mother of five who were both killed the day after Christmas by a Chicago officer responding to a domestic disturbance call. Officials have admitted that Jones was killed accidentally, but she was a mother who is already missed by her children. The family of both victims has filed lawsuits in Chicago.
At 70 years old, my life is more over than not. Yet I live another day baffled by the mystery of my long life in the face of the death of the young. Someone wrote to me during this difficult time that, “I know you like me, would give your life for your child.” What parent wouldn’t? Imagine your loved is a 12 year-old boy in the park like Tamir, or on a street at night in the lights of a police car like Laquan or on the other side of an apartment door like Quintonio. Public debate about these cases dominate the local and national news and casual discussions among friends and neighbors. Lots of people are baffled about how these horrific instances continue.
In the absence of Congressional legislative action, today President Obama has exercised his executive powers to tighten access to guns and to address the nation’s deficiency in mental health care access and funding. This is a positive development. In Georgia we have witnessed decades of denial and underfunding for mental health care. The Department of Justice (DOJ) forced the state and the Governor to invest in mental health reform and care a couple of years ago. Georgia had spent decades underfunding and ignoring the needs hundreds of mentally fragile residents. It is yet to be seen whether the state’s DOJ approved plan has reached the majority of those in need of mental health services.
Solutions are possible. They always are in a country as resourceful and wealthy as America. Mayors, governors and other elected officials must own the actions of police and government to better understand the challenges the officers face, the demands of the public for safety and the rights of everyday folks including those they distrust or fear.
Elected officials must adopt a fearless position to honor their commitment to transparency even in when its unpopular to be honest about what might have happened. The cover up of information is never acceptable. Citizen Review Boards can exercise their full authority to investigate…….States, cities and counties can adopt the DOJ standard ………..And all of us must question the use of force, especially deadly force in every case.
Or let’s try other ideas… But the status quo has got to go!!!!!
This post originally appeared on the American Constitution Society Blog on Dec. 11, 2015.
Were Justice Scalia’s Remarks in Fisher v. Texas Racist?
by Tanya Washington, Professor of Law, Georgia State University College of Law. Follow the professor on Twitter @Profwashington8
But, more important than how his comments are perceived is how they frame the debate about affirmative action and how they will inform the Supreme Court’s decision in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.
The issues before the Court center on whether the means of obtaining the racial diversity that serves educational prerogatives is narrowly tailored and therefore constitutional, and not whether the end to be achieved (educational diversity) is a compelling and constitutional goal. Though the constitutionality of educational diversity was settled as a matter of law in Grutter v. Bollinger in 2003, the comments of several justices, including Justice Scalia, during oral arguments in Fisher suggest that its constitutional future is far from certain.
In oral arguments before the Court on December 9, 2015, Justice Scalia made the following controversial statements about the legitimacy of educational diversity:
There are . . . those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, … a slower-track school where they do well. . . . One of the briefs pointed out that most of the Black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas. . . . They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re that they’re being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them. . . . I’m just not impressed by the fact that the University of Texas may have fewer [Blacks]. Maybe it ought to have fewer. And maybe some you know, when you take more, the number of Blacks, really competent Blacks admitted to lesser schools, turns out to be less.
Justice Scalia is not the first justice to express these views. In his dissent in Grutter v. Bollinger Justice Thomas observed, “[O]vermatched students . . . . find that they cannot succeed in the cauldron of competition. And this mismatch crisis is not restricted to elite institutions.” These views tap into the perception of affirmative action as a way of admitting “unqualified” students of color into colleges and universities where they cannot compete.
Of greater concern to me than the patronizing tone of Justice Scalia’s remarks and Justice Thomas’ observation is the fact that both reveal a lack of understanding of educational diversity. The University of Texas (UT) is using race to obtain an educational benefit. Can the Court determine whether how UT is using race is constitutional if it doesn’t understand why it is using race?
The goal that the majority in Grutter recognized as a compelling interest was educational diversity, of which racial diversity is but one aspect. Educational diversity relies on the theory of cognitive disequilibrium as provoking higher order thinking. It takes advantage of a racially diverse student body to provide the cognitive dissonance that forces students to reconcile different perceptions produced by different experiences.
Justice Scalia’s comments cast affirmative action as an ill-conceived goal that harms, rather than helps, Black students. Implicit in his statement is the idea that the goal of affirmative action is to help Black students, when in fact the goal of educational diversity is not to remediate the effects of racial discrimination for students of color; rather, it is to use racially diverse experiences in the classroom to enhance the educational experience of every student.
To be fair, Justice O’Connor’s opinion in Grutter did not distinguish between remedial affirmative action and educational diversity, leaving room for Justice Scalia to confuse the two goals. The confusion has constitutional consequences and will inform two questions the Court’s decision in Fisher is expected to answer: 1) whether UT’s use of race as a “factor of a factor of a factor” in a holistic review of applicants is narrowly tailored to achieve educational diversity; and 2) how much racial diversity is enough for UT to achieve the educational benefits it seeks?
As a proud beneficiary of affirmative action and a graduate of the University of Maryland and Harvard law schools, I was offended by Justice Scalia’s statements, and I know that his comments linking intellectual capacity and race are not true for Black or White students. Having taught at esteemed historically Black colleges and universities, like Howard University, I also know that institutions Justice Scalia refers to as “slower track schools” and “lesser schools” educate and graduate some of the most brilliant minds in the nation, including the late Justice Thurgood Marshall. I understand why his statements inspired such passionate debate.
Pondering whether Justice Scalia’s comments are racist is certainly a provocative question – hence the title of this post. However, it is also important to consider how his remarks obscure the goal that schools employing race-conscious admissions policies seek to achieve. Those Justices in favor of upholding Grutter’s ruling that educational diversity is a compelling interest would do well to define the goal, thereby increasing the odds that using race to that end will withstand constitutional scrutiny in Fisher and beyond.
If we allow the moral line of what is right to be moved at will, then the outcome should not surprise us but instead frighten us.
The debate on gun control in this country is not an argument for the Constitution—the Second Amendment is not an excuse to buy military-style assault weapons. However, couched under the anger and debate about guns are some contradictions that cannot be ignored.
Some obvious contradictions.
If you have legislation that allows law enforcement to determine their level of threat and fear without intermediate options then there will be countless and arguable cases of citizens being subjectively shot and killed.
If there are laws that allow private citizens to gauge their fear, based on personal stereotypical interpretations like hoodies and Skittles, then neighborhood watch programs become appealing to vigilantes.
If a US presidential candidate can, criticize his female opponent’s physical attributes, make light of Americans with disabilities, be a finalist for Time magazine’s Person of the Year, and call for the ban of any group of people, not just Muslims, but especially a group that represents 1.6 billion of the world’s population then we should be afraid of him and the crowds who eagerly support and endorse him.
Republicans today may not publicly agree with Donald Trump’s ban on Muslims from entering the US, but they seem to care more about keeping gun laws unchecked, rather than terrorists from entering the country since they are unwilling to support “no fly, no buy” gun laws.
It is no surprise that Trump continues to move the line on who is excluded from his brand of fear-based patriotism. Trump’s latest attack on Muslims reignites the words of Protestant pastor Martin Niemöller who opposed the Nazi regime and whose words are now famous……..
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Moral contradictions can be dangerous.
New York Times op-ed columnist, Thomas L. Friedman shares his views on the subject.