Racial Equality Is Within Our Reach

(Originally posted on Daily Kos.)

Four events in the past 10 days invite reflection on the question of race in 2009. Beyond the fact that there was some level of involvement by the ACLU in each, there were no obvious connections between the four. On closer examination, though, each raises significant and related questions about the likelihood of achieving true racial equality in the near future as well as the steps necessary to assure future opportunity for everyone.

On June 26, the Kirwan Institute for Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University, along with partners including the ACLU, announced the launch of a website, www.fairrecovery.org, intending to highlight the uneven impact of the current economic crisis on communities of color and the need to assure that stimulus funding reach those communities. The website contains a host of tools and resources to make it possible for the stimulus funds to be distributed equitably. But included with links to information about the funding and the applicable law controlling its distribution is a sobering message about current inequalities and a cautionary note pointing out how prior efforts to address economic needs not only failed to address wealth gaps, but actually made them worse. The website illustrates how the high levels of unemployment and housing foreclosures which triggered the economic crisis had existed in communities of color long before there was any general concern about the national economic state as a whole. And the site reminds us that highly touted programs such as the G.I. Bill, social security and interstate highway construction programs contributed to conditions which hurt the ability of people of color to enjoy equal opportunity. With that reminder, the site urges us to heed the past and assure that we don’t repeat it.

One day after fairrecovery.org launched, a circuit court judge struck down a proposed ballot initiative aimed at amending the Missouri Constitution to forbid affirmative action in education, public contracting and public employment. The initiative is part of a concerted effort initiated by Ward Connerly, the Californian anti-affirmative crusader, to prohibit the consideration of race in these areas. The effort appears to be based on the belief that the greatest barriers to participation in the social and economic life of the country is suffered by whites, notwithstanding the evidence that shows that people of color continue to be exposed to discrimination regardless of their education or economic level. As significant as the victory is, it is based in large part on state procedural requirements for initiating ballot initiatives, and Timothy Asher, the sponsor of the proposed initiative, has re-started the process in order to try to get the anti-affirmative action initiative on the ballot.

On June 29, in a case in which the ACLU has submitted a friend-of-the-court brief, the U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision holding that the City of New Haven had violated the rights of 17 white firefighters and 1 Latino firefighter to be free from discriminatory treatment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when it decided to scrap the results of a test that the city believed had unfairly disadvantaged black and other Latino firefighters in violation of a different provision of the same statute. The precise effects of the ruling remain to be seen. What is immediately certain is that New Haven, which has a long and sorry history of discrimination in the hiring of nonwhite firefighters and whose nonwhite population is nearly 60 percent, will continue to be served by a fire department with few people of color in its ranks.

At the same time that the Supreme Court was making it more difficult for the City of New Haven to increase the number of nonwhite officers in the ranks of its firefighters, the ACLU announced the release of a report to the United Nations outlining the widespread persistence of racial profiling despite the Bush administration’s denial of the problem. The report documents instance after instance of people denied the ability to participate in society in the most basic way because of their race, religion or ethnicity.

This confluence of recent events reveals a systemic disconnect between the clear fact of continuing racial inequality and the progressively greater roadblocks to its elimination. Courts and government agencies blithely assert the creed of color-blindness in the face of clear and unequivocal proof of the negative impact associated with race in the United States.

Despite this frustrating dissonance, there is hope. Whatever else the Supreme Court did, it did not shut the court house door to plaintiffs seeking relief under federal civil rights laws, nor did it prohibit governments from taking steps to eliminate discriminatory hiring practices. The U.N. has been advocating for the adoption of measures, such as the passage of a federal End Racial Profiling Act, which hold the promise of taking steps to eliminate racial profiling. As fairrecovery.org illustrates, careful use of stimulus funds could result in economic fairness and true equality of opportunity. And, perhaps, efforts to limit the ability of states to bring fairness to their hiring, contracting and educational policies can be defeated.

None of these things can happen without a conscious decision on the part of the government and the American people to recognize the need to take the steps to acknowledge and the address those things which keep us from living up to the promises of our laws and our core beliefs.

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yona loriner

very interesting

Maggie

First of all there were 2 Hispanics that passed the New Haven test, at least 1 that I know of. Or are Hispanics not important to you. 2nd did the minorities study? The main fire fighter took time and money (which was not easy) to study plus he also had a learning disability. 3rd I am quite certain that the majority of the stimulus money will go to minorities.

Maybe it is time for the ACLU to remember that ALL races live in this country and should all be treated the same.

David Scott

Although, I personally am so far to the left that even the democrats appear to me to be "right-wing," I consider myself to be a strict constitutionalist. It is my opinion that since its inception there has been an organized and systematic assault by the conservatives in the United States on the civil liberties written into the US Constitution. The “War on Drugs”; “War on Terror”; “War on Communism” and a host of other wars waged by the right wing are really nothing more than a War on People--an excuse to erode civil rights to the point of non-existence. I invite you to my website devoted to raising awareness on this puritan attack on freedom: http://pltcldscsn.blogspot.com/

Maggie

#3 Have you check out all of the Czars the current administration has put in place? Sounds like a lot of leaders and no followers.

roald

Maggie, you seem to be getting a bit testy. I hope that you are well.

There are several reasons the test results came out the way they did. First, not all groups are equal. Second, the test is biased. Third, the test-takers, as a sample of self-identified, qualified individuals, is not a representative sample of the population of qualified individuals. Fourth, some groups feel entitled to positions, negating the need to be prepared. Which do you think is correct?

In any case, New Haven public policy is to reverse its long history of discriminatory hiring and promotion. Because the test results did not further the public policy, the results were tossed and, I presume, another test or alternative method of finding qualified individuals selected.

Czar has unfortunate associations. I suggest that the intent of each of these positions is to lead efforts in a particular area of importance to the President, cutting through layers of bureaucracy. A Czar does not necessarily have a large staff.

Maggie

Roald, I am ok as you said just a little testy. Heard some things on TV that were extremely upsetting. However, I still believe the Supreme Court made the correct decision. I guess we will see. Thanks for the concern.

William Toodle

WEll i guess my first message never got to you probly part of the continual scheme to keep there dirty lundary in house. other methods are bugging my home telephone services going to college where i attend school speaking bad of me plus contacting potenial empolyment and discourge them from hiring me. Arizona has its own laws different from the rest of the United States its like a bad movie thats has come to life. The court proceeding are unconstitutional at best atleast in my case. where the factal information was ignored my public pretender never showed to one court date and i was allowed to speak to the judge from the seats in the court they would not allow me to speak into the microphone like everyone before me.when i questioned it they became very angry i was also given the wrong court dates on a back of a card in hopes that i would miss the real court date thus make me FTA loseing by default. i ask myself is all this happening cause im black mybe or some bad people raised some bad kids who grew up tobe bad people that patrol our streets and oversee our court rooms. I know police write lies tell lies but judges that was knew to me. and they stand and point the finger at other people, not surprised anymore its the American way,or the white way no harm meant just calling like it is. You might think he's angry not really just wanna see justice work for me after all i'm american it's suppose to regardless of my stature or the poeple who committed the crime status. The people here in arizona are cruel to the bone,only awearness will change what takes place here. I contact the FBI on the West coast aleast no responces i heard on a documentary they use tobe part of the Klan i don't know but i do know this my story is the truth. i told the story to my classmates there was not one dry eye in the classroom my teacher even wrote at the top of the paper powerful strong, maybe so but inside of me i was crushed by the unconstitutional acts by people who were sworn in to do the right thing and never came close to doing the right thing. instead they continue there unscrupulous behavior i guess because they have nothing better to do or the infomation have could ruin many careers i think is not the latter.you might be saying what happen ? swat team police kicked my door down news in front of my house stateing man with guns and drugs holding girl friend and daughter hostage. no guns no drugs found my girl fiends made no call to the police what so ever she even gave a notarized affadavit stating this was a lie we were told don't care about the affadavit. guess what i was charged with?theft of my onw cell phone i paid 30 dollars for the phone. thats a dam shame. but it justice in Arizona or was it blackmans justice in Arizona makes you wonder. know this it was not leagal American justice. i recently 2dys ago sent a letter to the FBI informing that my home and phone was bugged also my computer Will see, you know the old boy system look out for me and i will look out for you and lets sweep the truth under the rug or kill the complaintent Well my story is in 4 out of 50 states somebody going to make sure justice is served i'am sure of that. reply i like to here from you email toodlewilliam@yahoo.com remember my computer is bugg.

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