Current Trends

Landmark decision striking down key parts of the voting rights act of 1965 feels like a sucker punch to those blacks, minorities still living who remember what it was like to try and vote in the segregated south, being asked who you knew in order to vote, then being told it had to be someone white, further humiliated with a literacy test before even being allowed to register. Court justices arguing times have changed and so must the law, backing up their claim with the fact that the voting rights act as it currently stood, before the decision, targeted states, localities that had racial problems in the 1960’s not present day, telling congress if they want to restructure, continue the civil rights act they must prove discrimination based on current data, not the 40 year old data it used to renew the act for another 25 years in 2006. On the other hand blacks today face voter ID laws and district gerrymandering not only meant to keep out African Americans, other minorities, but opposing party candidates as well; governors/lawmakers in Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Iowa have repeatedly come out with new voting laws before the last major election and after virtually purging the voter pool of anyone who isn’t at least middle aged and white, voter ID laws that will now be unquestionably legal with the court’s decision blatantly discriminating against elderly, disabled, rural and low income people who are predominately either black or Latino. Often  referred to in the black community as modern day Jim Crow laws But aside from the correlation between voter ID and race, the larger question remains have we moved as far as the court seems to think we have in race relations nationwide, particularly in areas meant to be positively impacted by the voting rights act finally giving African Americans the right to make political decisions about the country in which we live; truthfully, taking an unvarnished look at it, recent history screams a resounding no. Further in our information age do the justices already have the evidence they say they require based on news stories, political commentary they should be getting though their televisions like the rest of us, unfortunately that is a sad, resounding yes.

And it’s bigger than the largely seen as manufactured Paula Deen controversy over what she admitted to saying years ago, the idea there were/are no black managers in any of her restaurants, no chance for advancement of minorities according to a lawsuit filed by a former African American employee, forget she wasn’t overseeing the hire of every employee and had staff to do so, going to far more fundamental incidents and pieces of evidence showing we needed the voting rights act to stay whole and intact as it is. It goes beyond the tragic fate of Trayvon Martin, hot button accusations race was a major factor in the death of a 17 year old kid possessing skittles and ice tea rather than a weapon, and for more reasons than it was a “Mexican on black” crime vs. a “white on black crime.” It looms so much larger than questions about is this soft drink ad racist, the comments of Don Imas about a basketball team; instead racism in recent years is solely synonymous with people who wear turbans, head scarves, look Arabic, are Muslim, who might be a terrorist. Racism throughout the latter half of the first decade of the 21st century and well into the second has centered around illegal immigrant Latinos taking our jobs, contributing to the economic downturn, non-citizens collecting welfare, racking up thousands in medical bills they can’t possibly pay, having children just so they can stay in the country because their child is by default a U.S. citizen, sparking crusades to make laws that say: get stopped by the cops prove you’re a citizen, here on a valid student/work visa, while immigration law remains a thick morass of mess for anyone who wants to come here the right way, people whose children can’t wait years, people who need a better life now. But the profound issues still plaguing races relations in America regarding blacks have never truly gone away; they have simply receded into the shadows drowned out by bigger, supposedly more relevant headlines, more glaring problems largely left to fend for themselves this time around.

Go here to view a discussion of a cereal ad gone viral

 Eye-opening for the justices should have been when a cheerios commercial featuring an interracial couple white mom, black dad and their biracial child putting the cereal on his chest and a discussion about its potential health benefits, brought to a child’s level, sparked an online feeding frenzy about said ad, mostly negative, some calling it disgusting, saying it made them want to vomit, whether or not they heard legal analyst  Star Jones on the Today Show fairly accurately calling the internet, online forums, comment boards the new KKK, white hood anonymous arena. Worse is this was today in 2013, going on while the justices were in the midst of handing down their decision, just as they voted on civil rights for arguably one of the most historically disenfranchised ethic groups in American second only to the American Indian. Of course considering the kicking of the can job they just did on affirmative action, who could be surprised at this, all because some white kid from a good, middle class family didn’t get into their first choice of college and claimed she was denied a spot because she was white. It couldn’t be because like so many of her Caucasian peers she lacked a sob story of hardship, struggle, she couldn’t detail being from the poorest local neighborhood, a derelict family of alcoholics, drug addicts or homelessness and still doing well unlike the Latino young man who was forced to go to college without financial aid because his parents brought him here as a toddler and he is a much vilified illegal immigrant, depending on friends for a place to sleep, food to eat while he simply tried to get educated in the only country he remembers. No it couldn’t have anything to do with that, or the fact that maybe she wasn’t the first person in her family to go to college; as to the lower grades and test scores, considering her reaction to being rejected, it couldn’t be because they found the 42 white students and 5 black students accepted aside from her had better personalities, would fit better into the existing student body of the school.

Reality is affirmative action probably had nothing to do with the school’s decision, but again missed by the justices are existing disparities in education, and closely related, employment very much alive and currently in practice where employers still, today in the 21st century, are throwing out the résumés of job candidates because they happen to live in X neighborhood, and are black to boot, disregarding the applications of candidates who have dreadlocks or corn rows in their hair based only on their fashion statement. Not that it hasn’t happened in the 5 years since and during the recession to all people over walking gate, condition of teeth, glasses, even acne, yet situations for African Americans haven been going on far longer and are much more systemic to say nothing of acceptable to business owners and operators, corporate individuals, even some of the general public. Contrastingly certain states passed laws disallowing employers to weed out job candidates not already employed at the heart of the recession where millions were losing their jobs. People thought being judged by walking gate, condition of teeth absurd when it applied to middle class, white individuals however it remains the norm for black persons in specific areas of the country. What Paula Deen does bring to light is employment disparity goes on; people readily believed there was plausibility and significant probability to the lawsuit, whether she or her company is guilty of racially motivated anything, a story once more broken as justices weighed their decisions on two major issues drastically affecting the black community. Oh but we no longer need affirmative action because there now exist so called race neutral alternatives; sure.

Click above link to hear the RNC chairman in all his shameful glory

 Going beyond tea party posters depicting president Obama as a monkey(as if we should ever see that in a race progressive, non-discriminatory country a full decade into the 21st century), past conservative comments from white politicians like Mike Huckabee stating the president is from Kenya educated in madrasas rather than any American school public or private, even ignoring Michele Bachmann’s to camera comments about things being better in times of slavery because there were more 2 parent homes as the ill-informed drivel most people took it for, fact remains, other members of this nation were drawn in by what they had to offer, their vision for America; he was a candidate for the highest office in the land in 2012 not 1960-1970, she said that and still retained her seat in the United States house of representatives, reelected in 2012, instead of both these people being publically shamed for their racist, ridiculous comments and losing any hope of holding public office ever. Yes Maine’s 2012 RNC chairman was ousted after his bewildered comments about the number of black people who came out to vote, his veiled allegations of voter fraud and sheer wonder at where all these black people came from, his mission to find out was made public; nevertheless he made the comments in the first place. A person who thinks that way was able to be RNC chairman in Maine in 2012 not 1912; still justices don’t think someone needs to oversee changes to voting laws in problem areas, when the above issue originated out of a place not known for its racial divide. How about the state house seminar on how president Obama used cold war mind control tactics to win a second term fueled less by sore loser-dom than that they really believe the president to be Muslim and therefore detrimental to America more likely they could not stand a second term with him, not only for his polices but his race, being both African American and publicly popular. Granted the aforementioned seminar was held by someone who should be wearing a tinfoil hat, who was later ousted for being obviously unfit to hold the office, but people were sitting in the forum listening rather than running out the doors as fast as their feet could carry them. We, the public, wouldn’t know about it if it wasn’t for someone’s hidden camera and he might still be “dutifully” serving his great state of Georgia.

 See local news footage and reaction to the now former Georgia senate majority leader

Substantiating ideas many negative reactions post the 2012 election could have something to do with race are the states who actually petitioned to secede from the union after president Obama’s reelection, unaspiringly the majority were southern states with a long history of  racial tension and racial bias. Returning to voter ID laws, unlike the members of the supreme court apparently, someone did do their homework on just how these statutes will impact currently registered, potential and would be if I could register, voters; half a million have no vehicle and live more than 10 miles for a place issuing an acceptable ID, 10 million voters live at least that far from an ID station open more than 2 days per week, as many are only open one day per week for such service, the 5th Wednesday of every month was the example given in the research compiled by Brennan Center For Justice at New York University School of Law. Problem only 4 months of 2012 had 5 Wednesdays; other, again predominately southern states, house rural identification offices impacting 1 million eligible voters who fall below the poverty line, who will be disenfranchised by the cost of obtaining necessary paperwork to receive a photo ID, birth certificates and marriage licenses for married women who need to demonstrate their current legal name cost between $8-20 vs., as they pointed out, the poll tax outlawed during civil rights cost $10.64 in present day U.S. dollars. But times have changed so much we don’t need a voting rights act; see if you can sell that line to the 12 million people eligible to vote who are now very possibly rendered incapable by laws enacted in the last 2 years instead of laws still on the books from almost 50+ years ago. Tell that to the thousands of registered voters who stood in hours long lines just to exercise their constitutional right because the other side thought they could win no other way than shutting down early voting, limiting polling places and voting machines on top of the complicated new ID laws confusing many, greatest impacted elderly, disabled and minority voters many of whom were black.                                  

 Looking at the day to day lives of minorities today yes things are different, yes things are better, yet some fundamental things haven’t changed when there are still segregated proms in 2013 owing to them being organized by private entities, not the school system, free to invite or exclude anyone they want; and yes fortunately students this year fought to end such a discriminatory practice however, the shocking thing for the supreme court along with fellow Americans should be that we have parents young enough that their children are graduating high school who still see racism as ok. Papa John’s some may remember found itself in hot water during election season after one manager declared he would not hire workers, potentially fire workers to cover the cost of Obama’s healthcare plan; well now one Papa John’s is in trouble for a whole different reason stemming from a recorded voicemail sent to a customer from an employee who “accidently butt dialed” the customer after delivering the pizza. In the video you see a receipt validating his purchase, verifying legitimate calls placing the order and delivery personnel locating the residence, customer stating he tipped 21%, a routine occurrence for him, then he proceeds to play the accidental call/voicemail during which not only does the delivery driver lie about getting a tip he continues by repeatedly referring to the customer as the N word, going on to make up not one but two crude songs about n***ers. The one thing you can hear clearly is his totally obscene use of the word over and over, posting/occurring barely a month ago. Relevant too is where these things are indeed happening regardless of our nation being supposedly beyond race now that we have elected a black president; segregated prom, Georgia, Papa John’s delivery nightmare, Florida, Mike Huckabee is governor of where, Arkansas. Perhaps someone should remind the court also it’s been 15 years not 50 since the dragging death of James Byrd, a black man, by white assailants in Texas.

  All signs point to we haven’t got there yet, yes we have made progress but we are not where we need to be; if we were as progressive as they seem to think we are not only would things like this no longer be popping up with video evidence of individuals getting caught doing, saying X, people just wouldn’t think that way. Fact personified by the 16 year old incident, not 60, involving actor Terrence Howard, a flight attendant, a sexual assault accusation and everyone, including polices’ attitude while he simply tried to take his young daughter to the bathroom, an incident that never made it to court but left Mr. Howard still having nightmares in 2005 he told press. It’s New York City’s stop and frisk law warned to disproportionately and discriminately accost black individuals not fully realized perhaps until Forest Whitaker was frisked in a New York deli for shopping while black; yes there is even a term for this and it is not at all out of date. Apparently Mr. Whitaker was shopping in an upscale deli and for some utterly idiotic reason store personnel A- didn’t recognize the academy award winning actor for his performance in The Last King of Scotland, independent of the fact many stars frequent their establishment and B- thought the well-dressed black man had a reason to steal something. We are not there yet when even before, but certainly after Trayvon Martin black mothers are still having uncomfortable conversations particularly with their sons as young as 14-15 reciting the unspoken rules of how to survive right now today in America, sans suspicion and a bogus rap sheet, including keep your hands out of your pockets or you will be seen as a threat, possible thief, take hoodies down when you go inside, if you buy something as simple as a pack of gum, get a bag and a receipt, don’t stand too close to people especially a woman, when stopped by police don’t reach for anything, be respectful, ask if you can call your parents. Having to think 2 steps ahead just so their children come home alive in 2013; what more evidence does the Supreme Court need?