brotherpeacemaker

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No Justice, No Peace, No Obatala

In the religion of the Yoruba people, Obatala is the king of the white cloth.  This Orisa must love chlorine bleach and Mr. Clean because his white clothing is always unblemished and pristine.  He is often depicted as a wizened elder dressed in his white cloth from head to toe.  His great age is simply a manifestation of his wisdom.  And if he is illustrated with hair it is always the peppered or white that indicates significant age.  He is the one Orisa with the responsibility to create land over the water.  Baba Obatala’s realm is the mountains, especially the ones with snow capped peaks.  He is the old man that rarely moves and when he does, it is slowly and with a purpose.  But when he does move, pay close attention because its significance is as great as a massive earthquake.

His energy is the essence of clarity.  It is clarity that allows humans to make the right decisions and to differentiate right from wrong and perhaps most importantly, to see things as they truly are.  And it is because of this energy that Obatala is the Orisa of the courthouse and of all things judicial.  White forms a perfect background for correctly seeing and identifying that which is around you.  His association with the color white is also viewed as a sign of purity in the ability to discern and to make judgments.  His energy gives us the ability to see the complete picture for any issue needing to be judged and weighed despite the complexity.  For the children of Obatala the world is seen in black and white and there is no gray area.  With Obatala help, we can see things as either right or wrong and there is rarely any middle ground.

Obatala can only help us do our jobs to find clarity and seek the truth when we make the honest search for truth our goal.  But when our law enforcers are not honest and use their position as arbitrator to push a particular outcome based on personal bias and prejudice, Baba Obatala has no choice but to wash his hands of the matter and leave people to their own devices void of any clarity or righteousness.  And the result is chaos and mistrust and nothing that even remotely resembles justice.

Ever since people of African descent set foot in America we have been forced to deal with the painful backhand of America’s justice system.  It is this alleged justice system that judged black people as less than human.  An honest look at what it means to be human would have recognized black people as people with a different skin color and heritage.  But people had an agenda when the question was asked if it was right to consider the children of Africa the equal of the Caucasian.  White people would lose their source of cheap labor if the question was answered honestly.  And therefore, from the beginning black people were judged a lesser form of life void of any hope of justice.  And the lack of true justice that was established then is the same pattern of justice that we continue to follow today.

Today, the prejudice against black people is thick.  Despite the legal presumption that a defendant is innocent until he or she is actually proven to be guilty, our justice system regularly operates under the presumption that black people are in fact guilty and a trial in a court of law is just a formal, drawn out process full of legalese to reach a foregone conclusion.  Statistics show that black people are more inclined to commit crime and so we can dispense with any real determination of facts and just run with our racially tainted prejudice.  Never mind the fact that the circular logic that black people are more likely to be guilty therefore we can find them guilty without really looking for truth.  The chance for real justice is lost, or at the very least unfairly far more difficult to obtain.  It is very unfortunately that our national collective has decided to stumble down this path of mistrust and fear.

Just like all of our other social systems, the judicial system is heavily biased and heavily weighted against the well being of people in the black community.  We like to promote the idea that our courtroom is a place where people are judged by the merits of their case.  But all too often the baggage of our learned social orthodoxies is just as much a part of standard courtroom procedure as a gavel or the black judge’s robe.  Color that robe black and give your honor a matching pointy hat and nobody would know the difference.  Give that same modified uniform to a lot of people who work to keep the wheels of justice moving, if only at a snail’s pace, and you would have a much more precise image of our justice and legal system.

It’s time people wake up to the fact that the United States judicial system was never meant to be a place where black people would be treated fairly.  When it comes to black people America’s special brand of justice is about as blind as the Hubble space telescope.  There is no clarity.  There is no truth.  There is nothing to make sure the process is fair for people in the black community.  That’s the way it was founded.  That’s the way it exists today.  Hopefully, we will come to the realization that this injustice needs some kind of attention.  And just like when the mountain moves things will be shaken up to such a point our national community will have no choice but to sit up and take notice.   And maybe then Baba Obatala will take his rightful place in our courtroom and we will have true clarity for a change.

Friday, April 6, 2012 Posted by | African Americans, Black Community, Black Culture, Black People, Ifa, Life, Orisa, Racism, Spirituality, Supreme Court, Thoughts, Yoruba | | 1 Comment

Westboro Baptist Church And The High Cost Of Free Speech

It should be no surprise that people get offended with a lot of the things I write.  And to tell the truth, I’m often offended by what a lot of the people comment back to me.  I guess what goes around comes around.  But that’s how it works when you live in a social fabric.  Whenever we step outside our world, whether it is physically going through the front door or by reaching out through the walls of our homes through radio and television airwaves and through the internet, we take a chance of being offended.  And if we care to exercise our freedom of speech, we run the risk of offending others.

A lot of people use their voice to offend others.  Somebody is always offended with touchy and strongly opinionated subjects like abortion, race relations, politics at all levels of government from the local to the national, religion, the ethics of certain sciences, intelligent design being taught in our science classes at public schools, the ethics of universal healthcare, school spending, and many, many others.  People will be ready to fight over what’s the better car company between Ford and Chevy.  More than once I had a former soldier tell me that he joined the service to fight for my freedom of speech so I needed to just shut the hell up.  I found that pretty offensive.

On the other hand, some of us wear our devotion on our sleeves and we often look for that which might offend us.  I’m often left scratching my head wondering why some ubër right winged conservative would feel the need to come visit my little website and then leave an over the top nasty comment about me or about black people in general or about liberals in general.  Some people love to troll the net looking for a fight to pick.  Others happen into it by accident.  That’s what happens in a social network.  But the people at the Westboro Baptist Church appear to be doing their best to kick offensive speech into the stratosphere.

Westboro Baptist Church is a group of unbalanced, highly religious, fervent, anti-gay individuals that routinely shows up at the funerals of American soldiers who died in the service of their country to express its belief that the deaths are some form of divine retribution for this country’s tolerance of homosexuals.  Four years ago, the group picketed the funeral of Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder.  Mathew was a Marine killed in Iraq.  When his family was exercising their religious freedom to have a funeral to lay his remains to rest, protesters from Westboro gathered at the edge of the cemetery holding signs saying things like god hates faggots and thank god for dead soldiers.

The family of Matthew Snyder sued the church for intentional infliction of emotional distress and other civil violations.  The family won that case.  But an appeals court held that the picketers were protected under the 1st Amendment.  On Wednesday, the latest version of the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments in this case that will assuredly test our devotion to the principle of free speech.

The members of the nation’s highest court might rule against the protesters out of a truly understandable sense of compassion for Snyder family’s ordeal.  Having people display their bigotry with actions that have the same impact as a neon sign tattooed to President George Washington’s forehead on Mount Rushmore is pretty disturbing.  Having it done to a young soldier who sacrificed his life in service to his country would make such a ruling a slam dunk.  But would that be what’s truly best for the country?

The high court should resist any temptation to make a ruling influenced by emotions of compassion for the Snyder family or distaste for the Westboro members.  To award financial damages for distress caused by the speech of others would be a dramatic departure from the court’s protection of free expression no matter how offensive.  According to Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., we should be eternally vigilant against any attempt to check the expression of opinions we loathe.  That was written nearly a hundred years ago.

And once we go down this slippery slope, who will determine what’s too offensive?  Heaven knows I wouldn’t want people who are often telling me to shut up determining whether or not I’ve gone over the line.  And I know for a fact that a lot if people would never want me to serve on that committee.  Who has the wisdom to determine what speech is free and fair and what speech is offensive and over the line?  From what I’ve seen, such a wise Solomon does not exist.

My heart goes out to the Snyder family.  But just because somebody said something offensive about their dead son doesn’t mean we should be surrendering our right to freedom of speech.  Somebody says something that you find offensive?  I’m truly sorry but freedom of speech is sometimes a freedom to offend.  No offense, but people need to realize that this is a pretty big club.  All of us get offended by something somebody else has said or done.  Offending others just so happens to be one of the more popular American ways of life.

Monday, October 4, 2010 Posted by | Faith, Freedom of Speech, Life, Supreme Court, Thoughts | | 6 Comments

Silence Speaks Volumes

The Supreme Court made another outrageous conclusion.  Essentially, the high court now says that an individual does not have the right to remain silent until he or she specifically says that they want to exercise their right to remain silent.

I must’ve heard the Miranda rights a thousand times.  You couldn’t watch shows like Hill Street Blues and Police Story without hearing them.  The first sentence of the Miranda verbiage pretty much said it all.  You have the right to remain silent.  In that sentence, it is my understanding that my right to remain silent is one of those inalienable entitlements that cannot be taken away from me.  The statement doesn’t say that I have the right to claim my right to remain silent.  The right to remain silent is mine whether I ask for it or not.

But in a five to four split decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the right to silence does not have to be recognized by law enforcement until a person who is being questioned by police specifically claims that right.  In fact, the Supreme Court now says that the police are no longer required to read a suspect his or her Miranda rights.  This decision reverses more than four decades of police reading Miranda rights to suspects in an effort to protect people from self incrimination.

I remember a piece of an episode of Homicide: Life on the Street.  Lieutenant Al Giardello, played by Yaphet Kotto, and Detective Frank Pembleton, played by Andre Braugher, was arguing over a suspect accused of murder.  The lieutenant wanted a conviction and was putting pressure on the detective to do his job and put the suspect away, a young black male from the inner city.  The detective was trying to explain that they had the wrong suspect.  The lieutenant didn’t care.  The murder was high profile and people were out for blood.  They needed a conviction.

Frustrated, the detective threw up his ands and went into the interrogation room where the suspect waited.  The detective started off smooth.  He gained the suspects trust.  But instead of focusing on the case at hand, he started talking about things generally.  He was guilty of not staying in school and disappointing his family.  He knew about problems in the neighborhood and did nothing to help.  Eventually, what started off as smoothness evolved into anger.  The detective told the young man in the seat that by his inaction to help the community, he was just as guilty as the true murderer.  The young man, a boy really, was in tears by the time it was over.  He signed a confession to the murder.

For the convenience of a television episode the whole process took just a few minutes.  It was the amount of time from one set of commercial breaks to the other.  But he had the confession and he presented it to the lieutenant.  The lieutenant saw the whole ordeal behind the one way mirror that covered one wall that has become a police station interrogation room staple.  He tore up the confession and backed off of his detective.

Now I imagine it takes a little more than a few minutes to convince somebody to sign a confession to murder.  In fact, the recent case that brought the issue of Miranda before the Supreme Court was from a confession that took about three hours to pull out.  For three hours Van Chester Thompkins, the major suspect in a murder investigation, remained silent as police interrogated him.  It wasn’t until some clever police officer asked him if he prayed to god for forgiveness for shooting the victim when the suspect broke his silence and answered yes.  That was all people needed.  After three hours they had their confession.  The confession led to a conviction.  The suspect was sentenced to life in prison with no chance for parole.

First, I have a serious problem with criminals.  People who go around committing crimes against society don’t deserve the benefit of understanding from society.  But as a society, we are more civil and more compassionate when we go out of our way to treat even the lowest among us with respect for their rights as a person.  Our police are not entitled to break out laws on our behalf simply because they need a conviction.  If the police have a suspect in custody then they should proceed with their investigation according to law.  And when the law says that a suspect has the right to remain silent, the police need to honor that right.

In order to give police the incentive to follow the law, the law says that evidence obtained unlawfully will be thrown out of a court.  That way, as a collective we keep our civility and our compassion and even our desire to adhere to law.  Otherwise, what’s the alternative?

I don’t have to say that I’m not going to speak to you in order for you to understand that I’m not going to speak to you.  Silence speaks volumes.  Contrary to what some people might believe, police aren’t stupid.  They can tell when somebody is invoking their right to remain silent.  It doesn’t take three hours to figure that out.  But then again, maybe they can’t figure it out and that’s why they spend so much time coercing confessions instead of doing honest work to solve crimes.

But as despicable as the police can be these days, they have found an even shadier collaborator to their underhanded methodologies.  The Supreme Court is truly becoming a tarnished institution.  This is the same court that said even when you do invoke your right to remain silent, the police have the right to come back and ask questions after two weeks.  It appears that our inalienable right to remain silent only last a couple weeks after we explicitly invoke it.

Monday, June 7, 2010 Posted by | Life, Supreme Court, Thoughts | 2 Comments

The Corporate Pursuit Of Happiness

The sixty three year old law limiting political spending by corporations was overturned by the United States Supreme Court today in a decision that called any ban a restraint of free speech.  The ruling will lift restrictions on what corporate America can spend to influence public opinion in elections.  According to the five seat majority, the First Amendment protects more than just the individual wishing to make a statement.  According to our Supreme Court, corporations need protection as well.

A corporation is far from being an individual.  They don’t vote.  Everybody who works in a corporation already have they privilege of free speech.  So why do they need free speech again as their corporate collective?  Unleashing the deep financial pockets of so many companies into the campaign mix is bound to manipulate people to vote against their own interest.  Case in point, healthcare reform, an institution designed to assure that we all receive the medical care we may need from time to time, is something that has become something evil and dastardly.

Corporations don’t like laws limiting their ability to pollute?  All they have to do is put their financial backing behind the candidate that’s more likely to sympathize with their interest.  Wal-Mart wants to move into a town where the city council is blocking their new store?  All it has to do is throw its money behind their opponents.  Exxon wants to drill for oil in a national park?  All it has to do is back the candidate that has about as much an interest in nature as a klan member has for the black community.  Bank of America wants to make Fort Knox a client.  Halliburton wants a contract to operate the TSA as a security investment.  T. Rowe Price wants to handle the privatization of the social security system.  I think you get the picture.

A corporation is not a person.  The only reason it exists is because of a piece of paper filed in some court somewhere.  Even if you don’t believe that President Barack Obama has a legal birth certificate from Hawaii or any other state, you can’t deny the fact that he exists.  The same thing cannot be said about a corporation.  Essentially, a corporation is little more than a work of legal fiction.  Why does this fictional entity deserve free speech?  Honestly, what does the corporation have to say that its board members, officers, directors, and whoever hasn’t already said?  The corporation has no thought process.  The only thinking a corporation does is the thinking of the people who run it.

It all comes just in time for this year’s midterm elections, corporations can now spend unlimited money on ads to support or defeat candidates.  Writing for the minority in dissent, justice John Paul Stevens said that the court’s ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions around the nation.   In a single day, the highest court in the land has altered campaign finance, and not for the better.

We hold these truths to be self evident.  That all men are created equal to the American corporation and that corporate are created by lawyers to have the same unalienable rights as people.  The corporation has no life or need for the pursuit of happiness.  Corporations don’t need happiness.  Only the people who run that corporation have such interests.  And with this gift laid at their feet by our conservatively controlled Supreme Court, they are very happy indeed.

Thursday, January 21, 2010 Posted by | Life, Supreme Court, Thoughts | 10 Comments

Some Republican’s Have Some Splainin’ To Do

Sotomayor Confirmation

The three ring circus better known as the Sonya Sotomayor confirmation hearings to the Supreme Court are over. Ms. Sotomayor sat in the witness chair before members of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee for more than three days in a quest to become the first Hispanic justice and only the third woman to take a seat on the nation’s highest court. Based on her performance the question is no longer if she’ll be confirmed but more likely when she will be confirmed.

Through it all, Ms. Sotomayor ducked and dodged her way through a gauntlet of questions that focused on the single issue of her comment to a group of Hispanics saying that she hoped a wise Latina woman would more often than not make better judgments than a while male who has not had that experience. Ms. Sotomayor was very careful and methodical with her answers confounding her detractors to emerge unscathed. Wise Latina woman one. White males zero. By the end of the hearings Ms. Sotomayor even had a few conservative Republicans wishing her the best although they did not make a commitment to vote to confirm her.

Ms. Sotomayor kept her cool when more than just once she was being portrayed at her Supreme Court confirmation hearing as a hotheaded judge who is sometimes mean to the white male lawyers who appear before her. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham brought the subject to the table citing anonymous comments from lawyers who described Ms. Sotomayor as a terror on the bench and called her temperamental and excitable and prone to make inappropriate emotional outbursts. To his credit, Mr. Graham admitted that there were favorable anonymous comments as well but didn’t bother to reveal any of them.

Even the bastion of legal expertise and adherence to law, Frank Ricci, testified at the hearing in an attempt to block her confirmation. Mr. Ricci is one of the Connecticut firefighters Ms. Sotomayor ruled against as a member of a three judge panel of an appeals court that heard the arguments in a legal battle over claims of racial discrimination by white firefighters who felt entitled to promotions that no one received because the result of the test used to measure promotion merit was heavily skewed along racial lines. Because the Supreme Court ruled in Mr. Ricci’s favor, using a different interpretation of laws established by previous court rulings and incidentally changing how law is applied from the bench, many want to argue that it only confirms that Ms. Sotomayor is not Supreme Court material despite the fact that four out of the nine justices agreed with Ms. Sotomayor’s panel. Had the retiring Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall been replaced with another black man who worked hard to dismantle racial barriers instead of one who works to protect white privilege, those people would be singing a different tune.

But in the end Ms. Sotomayor remained unflappable and despite the best efforts from many high profile Republican politicians, her confirmation is in the bag. For a Republican Party that appears to have lost a great deal of its standing with the Hispanic population for a variety of reasons, like they being the champion of onerous immigration laws designed to appeal to their broad Caucasian base, the nomination of Ms. Sotomayor has spelled serious trouble ever since President Barack Obama announced her as his choice to replace retiring justice David Souter on the nation’s highest court.

With Latinos all across America paying attention to the confirmation hearings, Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn does his best impersonation of Desi Arnaz as Ricky Ricardo wagging his finger at Ms. Sotomayor as if she’s a scatterbrained Lucy Ricardo and saying, you got some splainin’ to do. While Ms. Sotomayor smiled, gave a polite laugh at the gesture, many in that Latino audience were probably thinking, what the fuck? It was probably an innocent stab at some humor. But it is also an undeniable manifestation of the disregard Mr. Coburn has for this heroine of the Hispanic community. Mr. Coburn doesn’t even see the hypocrisy of him judging the racial insensitivity of Ms. Sotomayor’s comments, while engaging his own comments dripping with insensitive stereotypes of Hispanics. Make that score wise Latina two and white males zero.

Mr. Coburn is a first class example of why the Republican Party is in the difficulty it is in today. They just don’t get it. This is just the latest double standard from a party with many of its leaders, whether they are national level politicians or just high profile conservatives, have accused Ms. Sotomayor of being the equivalent of a klan member in a white sheet and a blatant bigot out to avenge the wrongs done by white people.

Despite the all but assured nomination of Ms. Sotomayor, the Republicans will want to slow the process to a crawl in order to appeal to its conservative, prone to protect white privilege base. But Ms. Sotomayor’s supporters, the Democrats, want to schedule a committee vote as soon as possible before the Senate leaves in early August for a four week long summer break. A party line GOP vote against her seems unlikely. The politics are much too dicey. What’s a party with a focus on traditional values skewed in favor of a strong white populace base with little, if any, minority participation or representation to do?

Thursday, July 16, 2009 Posted by | Democrats, Life, Politics, Racism, Republicans, Sonia Sotomayor, Supreme Court, Thoughts | Leave a comment

Firefighters Stoke The Fires Of Disparity

FireInTheForest

Here in America, where white privilege is the status quo, where the white community is well represented in any and every given set of opportunities, we have made the public choice to ignore racial disparity.  The Supreme Court ruled that white firefighters in New Haven, Connecticut were unfairly denied promotions because of their race, reversing a decision endorsed in a lower court.  This latest ruling on employment practices with respect to racial disparity will make it considerably more difficult to prove discrimination because of the condition that it must be intentional.  Accidental racial discrimination is okay.

In a split decision the highest court decided that the city of New Haven was wrong to scrap a promotion exam simply because no African-Americans and only two Hispanic firefighters were likely to receive promotions based on the results.  The city said that it had acted to avoid a lawsuit from minorities.  However, on behalf of the majority of five justices, Anthony Kennedy wrote that fear of litigation alone cannot justify an employer’s reliance on race to the detriment of individuals who passed the examinations and qualified for promotions.  Mr. Kennedy was joined by John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence “wouldn’t spit on the black community if it was on fire” Thomas.

On behalf of the minority of opposing justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that the white firefighters had no vested right to promotion nor have any other non white person received promotions in preference to them.  Ms. Ginsburg wrote that the court should have assessed the starkly disparate results of the exams against the historical and ongoing inequality in the New Haven fire department.  As of 2003, she said, only one of the city’s twenty one fire captains was black.  Justices David Souter, Stephen Breyer and John Paul Stevens signed onto the dissent.  Ms. Ginsburg predicted that the court’s ruling will not have staying power.  Unfortunately, it should be pretty obvious that racial discrimination has a lot more staying power than Ms. Ginsburg gives it credit for.

Karen Torre, the attorney for the white firefighters, said that the ruling is a sign that individual achievement should not take a back seat to race or ethnicity and employers cannot bow to politics and pressure and lobbying by special interest groups or act to achieve racial quotas.  White firefighter Frank Ricci said the ruling proved that if you work hard, you can succeed in America.  I find the implication that black firefighters don’t work hard like their white counterparts a first class example of the typical racial rhetoric that justifies the perpetual second class status of the black community.

As Ms. Ginsburg said we should not be so quick to discard the historic context of what our system built on a foundation of race preference that for centuries have benefited the white community has wrought.  In an attempt to appear utterly race neutral we are ready to ignore the past and the current thinking that somehow if we simply stay the course the racial divide will heal itself.  But when given a prime opportunity to see that a hands-off approach is not working, that a system of opportunity based on the one consideration of a test score, will exempt black people from qualifying, we chose to support racially skewed systems that favor white privilege.

Essentially, Mr. Kennedy wrote that fear of the future, that the city of New Haven could be sued over the fact that no black candidate qualified for promotion, is not reason enough to throw out the test.  But then Mr. Kennedy and his cohorts in the majority make a ruling that is based on fear of the future.  The white firefighters feared the fact that they could lose their advantage in a promotion system that could have been more statistically racially neutral.

The talk that this ruling proves that hard work leads to success in America is nothing but talk.  There is no proof that the white firefighters worked any harder than the black ones other than a numerically higher result on a test.  If someone was to give a test on Chicago trivia I’m pretty sure no one would say that a Chicagoan doing better than a Houstonian is proof that people in Chicago work harder.  There are other factors that should be taken into consideration that are simply forgotten for the sake of expediency.

But one thing this ruling does prove is that we as a national community are willing to disregard the historical context of race discrimination on an entire community in order to protect the advantage of individuals in the white community.  Many people claim that they want to see an end to racial discrimination.  However, the day that our gross condition of disparity along racial lines becomes statistically insignificant won’t happen as long as we continue to protect instances of gross racial disparity.

Monday, June 29, 2009 Posted by | African Americans, Black Community, Life, Racism, Supreme Court, Thoughts | 10 Comments

Voting Rights Need Protection Now More Than Ever

kramer

The Voting Rights Act has been repeatedly renewed by Congress and upheld by the Supreme Court ever since it became part of the civil rights agenda.  And yet, the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, reexamined the law once again.  A provision in the law gives the United States Justice Department the power to review proposed election law changes in several states, mostly in the South, and many other counties and municipalities, where race discrimination with respect to voting has a history of being most flagrant.  A small Texas district challenged this provision claiming that the law unconstitutionally infringed on state powers and was no longer necessary because of changes in voter registration and turnout by racial minorities.

It was argued that the nation’s first black President proved that the law was no longer needed.  The law’s defenders, including the Justice Department in both the Bush and Obama administrations, said minorities still face intimidation and discrimination at the polls.  When the justices of the highest court heard oral arguments back in April, several conservative justices, including Mr. Roberts, suggested that they agreed with the challengers that the historic law that had aided once disenfranchised blacks was no longer needed.  However, when Mr. Roberts announced the court’s ruling, he suggested that a majority might someday be ready to strike down the law.  But for now, the law survives through an apparent compromise among the justices.

This provision in the law was intended to ensure that a local government did not draw new voting district boundaries or enact rules that would negatively impact the votes of blacks or other minorities.  The law allows districts to drop out from under Justice Department review if the districts can show that they have not used any forbidden voting tests for a decade and can show they have engaged in constructive efforts to eliminate intimidation and harassment of voters.  Supposedly, since 1982, only seventeen jurisdictions out of more than twelve thousand have successfully been exempted from the act.  Mr. Roberts said it was unlikely that the legislators intended the exemption provision to have such a limited effect.

While the Supreme Court justices were unanimous in their judgment, Clarence Thomas was the lone dissenting justice who wanted to strike the law from the books outright.  Mr. Thomas said he would find the act unconstitutional because the extensive pattern of discrimination that led the court to uphold the law as a tool to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment protecting the right to vote no longer exists.  It is the opinion of the court that the jurisdictions affected by this law are not currently engaged in any campaign to deny black citizens access to the ballot through intimidation or violence.

However, does anybody remember the fiasco associated with the presidential elections in Florida back in November of 2000?  According to an article by Arianna Huffington named Stealing the Election: Florida’s Ugly Secret, an outrageously large number of African American votes were nullified in Florida.  A detailed analysis of the Florida vote by the Washington Post discovered a staggeringly high percentage of black voters had their ballots rejected.  For instance, up to a third of the ballots cast in Jacksonville’s black precincts were tossed out, four times more than in neighboring white precincts.

Ms. Huffington wrote, “This huge disparity in discarded votes is a reminder that we are indeed two Americas — not just when it comes to education, health care, housing and our vaunted prosperity, but even when it comes to voting. In the precincts of the other America, there were longer lines, less reliable voting machines and less access to technology that instantly identified mismarked ballots and gave voters a second chance. So even when it comes to this most egalitarian of acts, some are more equal than others.”

Florida’s African American community turned out to vote in record numbers, inspired by a push by then Governor Jeb Bush who campaigned on a platform than included the dismantling of affirmative action programs involved that affected university admissions and state contracting.  “We’ll remember in November” was the adopted slogan.  The black community responded by registering new voters in record setting numbers.  But unfortunately, when many newly registered voters showed up at the polls in the precincts with higher black populations, they were not on the rolls and were not allowed to vote.

More affluent precincts were equipped by the election commission with computers that allowed them to tie into the main registration rolls even though it was known that the highest number of new registrants were in African American precincts.  Since election officials knew in advance that the highest number of new registrations to vote were in African American districts, and those districts were not provided with adequate access to county voter rolls, that this was a deliberate act to deny black citizens access to the ballot.

The idea that the right to vote doesn’t need protection because no one tries to deny anyone the right to vote is pure fiction.  The right to vote may not be under threat by blatant acts of intimidation or violence, but it is under threat nevertheless.  To deny people the right to vote through voter manipulation or a lack of adequate voting resources at the booth is an indication that our right to vote is fragile and should be protected at all cost.

Nobody would say that we can take laws that make murder illegal off the books because nobody has been murdered in the past ten years.  Nobody would say that laws against rape are useless because nobody is being raped.  But because we can point to our black President we can throw all the laws that are designed to protect black people from certain elements of the dominant community chomping at the bit to disenfranchise people in the black community.  As a nation we are so quick to believe that racism is a thing of the past that we are ready to ignore or forget blatant acts of racism that happen right before our eyes.

Monday, June 22, 2009 Posted by | African Americans, Black Community, Black Culture, Black People, Clarence Thomas, Life, Racism, Supreme Court, Thoughts | 1 Comment

Too Bad Ahmadinejad Can’t Go To The Supreme Court

IranCartoon

When there was opposition expressed against the election, and reelection, of George Bush, Jr. the United States Supreme Court simply ruled that to question the election results would possibly injure the Bush administration.  Too bad Ahmadinejad can’t take his case to the United States Supreme Court.  Maybe they would rule that the Iranian President would be injured if anyone reexamined the Iranian election results.

Friday, June 19, 2009 Posted by | Iran, Life, Supreme Court, Thoughts | 2 Comments

Sonia Sotomayor Is A Poor Example Of Racism

SoniaSotomayor

People who applauded the fact that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, with her somewhat less than impeccable and rather questionable record of national level executive political experience that was somehow the equivalent of the man who would become President, was the most perfect choice to lead the Republican Party to the routing it received that first Tuesday night back in November of 2008 are now saying that Sonia Sotomayor isn’t qualified to be a Supreme Court.  While the political right was happy to see Ms. Palin entrench herself into the good graces of hardworking typical Americans with eye winks to the camera and a shout out and a promise of extra credit to the students in some way off elementary school’s second grade classroom, these same people are doing their best to give Ms. Sotomayor the equivalent of a political beat down.

The party with all the racial diversity of a Ronald Reagan movie is now pointing at Mr. Obama’s choice to be the next justice on the Supreme Court as a racist.  If confirmed she would be the court’s first Hispanic and only the third woman to enjoy such a post, one of only five people not be a white male.  The Republicans have a variety of reasons to justify the rejection of Ms. Sotomayor.  Controversial conservative talk radio personality Rush Limbaugh called Ms. Sotomayor a reverse racist.  Mr. Limbaugh, who never spares any effort when stirring up the Republican faithful, said he hopes Ms. Sotomayor fails.  Mitt Romney called the nomination of Ms. Sotomayor troubling because she has made a statement indicating she has an expansive view of the role of the judiciary.  Mr. Romney said that the American public deserves is a judge who will put the law above her own personal political philosophy.

Most of the people against Ms. Sotomayor’s nomination point to a line from a 2001 speech to a Hispanic group in Berkeley, California as proof of Ms. Sotomayor’s activist potential when she was describing how life experiences can help formulate judicial opinion.  Ms. Sotomayor said, “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

Newt Gingrich called Ms. Sotomayor an overt racist asking people to imagine a white male judicial nominee saying his experience as a white man makes him better than a Latina woman.  Mr. Gangrich said new racism is no better than old racism and if a white man racist would be forced to withdraw then a Hispanic woman should also withdraw.

What racist white person has ever been forced to withdraw from government service?  George Allen stood on stage during a campaign rally and referred to a minority in the audience using a racial slur.  Bill Bennett suggested that it would be abhorrent but if you wanted to reduce crime abort all black babies.  Sarah Palin said that she doesn’t care about black people and as Governor she wasn’t about to hire black people on her staff.  George Wallace stood in front of a school blocking the entrance to keep black people out.  Mr. Wallace went on to win the office of Governor of Alabama several times after that.  John McCain, the Republican Party nominee for the presidency, referred to some Asians as gooks and refused to apologize for the slur.

Only in America can the leadership of a political party whose members to this day continue to ask questions like what has the first black President of the United States done to earn an honorary doctorate from Notre Dame, an honor the school regularly bestows on just about anybody who shows up to give a commencement speech, can flip the script and call anyone who has ever said anything indicating their willingness to buck the racial status quo.

Whether or not the pick of Ms. Sotomayor is actually a wise choice for the benefit of the nation or not has yet to be determined.  Most of us never heard of her before she was revealed as Mr. Obama’s top nominee to replace David Souter on the nation’s highest court.  Most of us will have to pay close and careful attention to the confirmation process itself and not rely solely on the regurgitated excerpts and commentary from political pundits on all the news shows in order to form an honest opinion.

But it should be no surprise to see the Republicans attack Mr. Obama’s choice with all the vehemence they can muster within minutes after she was announced.  For many, a line from a speech about eight years ago saying that she hoped her experience as a Latina woman makes her wiser than a white man is all the proof they need to label her a racist and an activist.

And the fact that Mr. Obama used code words like “empathy” to describe what he wanted to see in a judicial nominee doesn’t help.  That was an indication that the President was looking for someone who would actually have enough of a consciousness to consider how his or her ruling would impact people.  These people would probably have been happier if Mr. Obama said that he wanted someone who could not care any less about the impact a ruling may effect the population.  I know how much I look forward to seeing that kind of judge hearing any case I bring to court.

It should be noted that most of the people trying to paint Ms. Sotomayor as a liberal activist would love to see someone nominated who would support their position on each and every controversial issue that goes before the court.  They’d love to see an activist judge for corporate America or for the further dismantling of anything remotely resembling affirmative action or an activist judge ready to support for the status quo that is synonymous with patriarchy and white privilege.

Thursday, May 28, 2009 Posted by | Justice, Life, Racism, Republicans, Sonia Sotomayor, Supreme Court, Thoughts | 5 Comments

Why Treat Condemned Criminals Humanely?

Antonin Scalia

It’s been a long time since I heard something that actually made my jaw drop and caused me to hold my mouth open with disbelief. I may have used the cliché to express some disbelief of something or another but it was hardly ever meant to be taken literally. But yesterday I was amazed to hear one of our Supreme Court justices ask an attorney arguing to change the rules of how condemned felons are put to death, where in the Constitution of the United States did it say that prisoners must be put to death as humanely as possible. I’m not a lawyer, judge, Supreme Court Justice, court clerk, or even a bailiff. The last time I went to court was for a traffic ticket that I had to go before a judge to ask for community service because I didn’t have the funds to pay. But if I had to fathom a guess I would say it would be the clause that says something to the effect that protects people from cruel and unusual punishment.

But what can us as the citizens of the United States expect from our high court that makes marvelous nuggets of truth and justice such as the best way to combat racism is to quit making measurements of our pursuit of racial harmony or the lack thereof. The best way to defeat racism is to quit looking at it. Racism will disappear if we remove the legal tools available to the black community to hold the dominant culture with a glaring history of disenfranchising black people accountable. I’m still waiting for this retarded logic to manifest in other areas of law enforcement. I’m still waiting for the high court to say that the best way to counter murder is to quit looking at murderers. When will our Supreme justices say that the best way to fight terrorism is to quit looking at terrorist activities? You know all they want is some attention. Take away the attention and you take away their power over us. So what if somebody gets blown up. The terrorist will be virtually powerless.

The question isn’t whether or not we put our felons to death. Our collective voice says its okay for us to kill people. In fact, people in great state of “Hang’em High” Texas believe that the state regularly puts innocent people to death, but Texans would still defend their right to kill innocent people as long as they can use the death penalty as a means to deter criminal activity. Never mind the fact that evidence has never proven that the threat of the death penalty is an effective deterrent against crime. And never mind the fact that there are relatively easy ways to assure that innocent people are not needlessly murdered by the people of the state such as the use of DNA evidence whenever available. But then with reasonable measures to assure the no one is needlessly executed Texas couldn’t enjoy its status as the most reckless state at being tough against crime.

The question is whether the traditional method of death by lethal injection is too inhumane a process when it is improperly performed. As I understand it the traditional method involves three separate drugs each with its own function. The first drug is meant to put the victim unconscious, the second drug is meant to paralyze the victim so that the body doesn’t manifest any automatic reaction to the third drug which stops the victim’s heart. The proper administration of these three different compounds requires someone trained in their usage be close to the body to monitor their separate effects. But tradition requires that only the warden be in the room with the victim. The drugs are administered through tubes that start in a separate room and end at the victim’s blood vein. But if the needle misses the vein and administers the drug in the tissue the resulting misapplication can make the victim feel his or her body dying. The drug meant to paralyze the heart could make the veins feel as if they are on fire. Paralyzed lungs can make the victim feel like he or she is drowning unable to take another breath. These conditions can exist for as long as an hour.

It is interesting to note that the National Humane Society has ended their use of the triple drug cocktail to put animals down. As a society, Americans are willing to give Fido and Spot the consideration we fail to give other humans.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia obviously thinks that it’s okay for individual states to torture its citizens to death. Chances are slim to none that Mr. Scalia, nor any of his family, would find themselves facing a death sentence anywhere in the country. Personally this justice, nor any of his peers, has anything to lose if states get the green light from the high court to kill people in the most excruciatingly painful of methods. Maybe he’s just playing devil’s advocate. But if that’s the case I would like to play people’s advocate. It sounds like Justice Scalia would be okay if states decided to inject the condemned felons with the AIDS virus and drop them off in the tiger compound at the zoo. Where in the Constitution does it say we should be humane and civilized? It doesn’t. But then again, can anybody tell me where in the Constitution does it say that the Supreme Court has the final say on everything?

Thursday, January 10, 2008 Posted by | Justice, Life, News, Supreme Court, Thoughts | Leave a comment