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“The Human Society Has Begun To Work Against Itself”: If Republicans Cared About Families, They’d Stop Blocking Paid Leave

Several participants at the Republican debate last week spoke fervently about putting Rosa Parks’ image on the $10 bill. They also spoke fervently in support of a decision by Congress to defund Planned Parenthood—an organization that counted Rosa Parks among the members of its national board.

The contradiction would have been obvious and painful to Ms. Parks. Like many of us, she’d have been bewildered by the priorities of candidates who have held vote after vote on shutting down vital health services for women, but won’t even schedule a hearing on the FAMILY Act, a bill to provide affordable family and medical leave. It’s impossible to care about families and leave communities bereft of services for contraception, mammograms and other cancer screenings, and dozens more critical health services for women. It’s also impossible to call yourself “pro-life” and oppose a badly-needed, common sense program to make family and medical leave affordable to care for a new child or a seriously ill family member.

In 1993, the Family and Medical Leave Act passed Congress with bipartisan support. The FMLA provided up to 12 weeks unpaid leave for care of a new child or a serious personal illness or that of a child, spouse or parent. Republicans as well as Democrats saw that valuing family meant making sure people could care for family members without losing their jobs or health insurance. Many of the state and local campaigns within Family Values @ Work’s national network have leaders from both parties—including the numerous Republicans leading the charge for the Family Care Act in Georgia.

So what’s the problem in the nation’s capital today?

The FMLA is now 22 years old. While it constituted a major breakthrough and established the principle that having a family shouldn’t cost you your job, the leave remains out of reach for millions—some because they’re not covered by its protections (two-fifths of the nation’s workforce), and many who are eligible because they cannot afford to take unpaid leave. According to a study done for the Department of Labor (DOL), nearly one in four employed mothers who are pregnant go back to work within two weeks of giving birth—with disastrous results for maternal and infant health. Others who take the time they need to heal and bond with a child often face financial hardship.

A new report from the DOL highlights the high cost of doing nothing—lost family income, lower earnings and weaker job security for women, more stress and worse health, worse outcomes for children and seniors, and fewer men taking leave. Businesses also sustain losses in replacing experienced and skilled staff. Our nation suffers in comparison to all our economic competitors.

The lack of paid leave adds to the growing inequality in our nation. A mere 5 percent of low-wage and part-time workers have any pay during leave. And, as the report points out, there are costs harder to calculate: “We are compromising the needs of our children and our parents. We are sacrificing the fundamental value of spending time with one’s family.”

Pope Francis called the family “a great test bench” for how we organize work. “When the organization of work holds it hostage or, in fact, places obstacles in its way, then we are certain that the human society has begun to work against itself!”

If elected officials are serious about promoting family values, they need to stop wasting time on frivolous bills that are a detriment to women and their families and pass the FAMILY Act, a bill that actually helps families everywhere.

 

By: Ellen Bravo, Director of Family Values @ Work; The New Republic, September 24, 2015

September 25, 2015 Posted by | Family and Medical Leave Act, Family Values, Planned Parenthood, Women's Health | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Pamela Geller Is No Rosa Parks”: Trying To Cash In On The Moral Authority Of The Movement While Scrapping Its Moral Foundations

After armed gunmen attacked a Muhammad cartoon contest in Garland, Texas, last week, event organizer Pamela Geller went on Fox News to explain the moral righteousness of her cause. Responding to critics like Donald Trump, who accused her of “taunting” Muslims, she asked, “What would he have said about Rosa Parks? Rosa Parks should never have gone to the front of the bus. She’s taunting people.”

Nor was Geller alone in seeing the civil rights parallel. John Nolte, writing for Breitbart, contended, “Anyone who knows anything about history understands that tactically and morally, Geller’s provocative Muhammad Cartoon Contest was no different than Dr. Martin Luther King’s landmark march from Selma to Montgomery.”

They’re both wrong, in a particularly pernicious way. By drawing a parallel between Geller’s anti-Islamic events and the civil rights movement’s anti-Jim Crow protests, they are trying to cash in on the moral authority of the movement while scrapping its moral foundations.

There is a surface-level similarity between the two movements, one Geller and Nolte hope no one probes too deeply. Civil rights activists in the 1950s and 1960s knew that if they violated the laws and norms of the Jim Crow South, white Southerners would react with spectacular violence. Putting that violence on display was the point. Jim Crow laws gave Southern racial violence the veneer of a civilized legal code. The protests showed the rest of the world the ever-present threat of violence upon which that legal code was built.

Geller, too, meant to provoke violence with her Muhammad cartoon event. The question is, to what end? We already know that violent extremists are violent and extreme. If we want to see how extremists respond to people who draw Muhammad, we only need look at recent events in Paris and Copenhagen. The point for Geller and her cohort is to demonstrate that the West is at war with Islam – and ultimately to devote more resources to that war.

In other words, Geller hopes to use the violence she provokes to justify violence in return. And that’s where the civil rights analogy utterly fails. The radical potential of the early civil rights movement grew out of its moral commitment to nonviolence. And not just nonviolent action – King called upon activists to be nonviolent in word and thought as well. The reason the movement has such moral authority in America is because it was built on this deeply held belief in the transformative power of love-based politics and resistance.

Geller’s movement has none of that. She and those in her camp seek not a world with more peace but one with more war. Given that, it is especially repugnant that they call upon the names of Parks and King, trading on their courage and sacrifice while undermining the values of love and peacefulness that makes their work worth emulating.

 

By: Nicole Hemmer, Historian of Modern American Politics and Media; U. S. News and World Report, May 12, 2015

May 15, 2015 Posted by | Civil Rights Movement, Muslims, Pamela Geller | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“The RNC Reflects On Ending Racism”: The Republican Party No Longer Qualifies For The Benefit Of The Doubt

For all of its many benefits, Twitter’s brevity can cause trouble for plenty of political voices. Yesterday, for example, the Republican National Committee decided to honor the anniversary of Rosa Parks’ “bold stand,” which seemed like a perfectly nice gesture. The RNC added, however, that Parks played a role “in ending racism.”

Not surprisingly, the message was not well received. Despite what you may have heard from Supreme Court conservatives in the Voting Rights Act case, racism hasn’t ended, it certainly wasn’t vanquished on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955.

A few hours later, realizing that they’d made a mess of things, RNC officials returned to Twitter to say, “Previous tweet should have read ‘Today we remember Rosa Parks’ bold stand and her role in fighting to end racism,’” which was a welcome clarification, though the damage was done.

In fairness to the Republican National Committee, it’s hard to believe the party was trying to be deliberately offensive. For that matter, I rather doubt the RNC believes Rosa Parks helped end racism 58 years ago. This was likely the result of clumsy tweeting, not ignorant malice.

But in the larger context, stories like these resonate because the party no longer qualifies for the benefit of the doubt. Too many incidents come quickly to mind: the Nevada Republican who’d embrace slavery, the North Carolina Republican whose appearance on “The Daily Show” became the stuff of legend, the birthers, the fondness for Jesse Helms, the widespread voter-suppression laws that disproportionately affect African Americans, the Maine Republican who wants the NAACP to kiss his butt, the former half-term Alaska governor who’s comfortable with “shuck and jive” rhetoric, etc.

The RNC, in other words, can’t lean on its credibility on racial issues to easily dismiss poorly worded tweets. The fact that the party can’t even say a nice thing about Rosa Parks without screwing up and getting itself in trouble only helps reinforce the extent to which race is a systemic problem for the party.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 2, 2013

December 3, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Republican National Committee | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Vulnerability Of The Vote”: Insurance Against Racial Suppression Should Not Be On A Backwards Slide

An odd scene unfolded in Washington on Wednesday: as the president and leaders of Congress were dedicating a statue to Rosa Parks, the lifelong activist whose defiance on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus helped spark the Civil Rights Movement, across the street the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on one of the signature piece of civil rights legislation, the Voting Rights Act.

Specifically, the court heard the case of Shelby County v. Holder, in which that Alabama county seeks to overturn Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which was passed in 1965. That section requires states — and some municipalities — to get pre-clearance from the Justice Department or the District of Columbia federal court before making any changes to voting laws.

The fundamental question is whether states that have a history of voter suppression should forever have to live with the legacy of that past.

The problem with the law, in my mind, is that it should be expanded rather than struck down.

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University maintains that “Section 5 is an essential and proven tool.” According to the center:

“Although progress has been made since the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965, voting discrimination still persists. Between 1982 and 2006 (when Congress overwhelmingly renewed the law), the Voting Rights Act blocked more than 1,000 proposed discriminatory voting changes. Without Section 5’s protection, these changes would have gone into effect and harmed minority voters.”

The center calls the passage of the Voting Rights Act “a reflection of the promise of our Constitution that all Americans would truly have the right to vote without facing discrimination, poll taxes, and other abuses,” and I wholeheartedly agree with that point of view.

The problem that the law may run into is that it’s too narrow.

In a 2009 ruling questioning the constitutionality of Section 5, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote:

“The evil that Section 5 is meant to address may no longer be concentrated in the jurisdictions singled out for preclearance. The statute’s coverage formula is based on data that is now more than 35 years old, and there is considerable evidence that it fails to account for current political conditions. For example, the racial gap in voter registration and turnout is lower in the States originally covered by Section 5 than it is nationwide.”

If the Voting Rights Act covered all states and not just some, Justice Roberts’s argument would be null. In fact, there is growing evidence that such a national requirement would be prudent. Many of the states that sought to install voter suppression laws leading up to last year’s election were in fact not covered by Section 5.

Roberts hammered this point home Wednesday during oral arguments, asking, “Is it the government’s submission that the citizens in the South are more racist than the citizens in the North?”

Seven of the nine states covered by Section 5 are in the south (Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia). The other two states are Arizona and Alaska. Some counties and townships are covered in other states.

The Southern states that Section 5 applies to span the Black Belt of the south, a region with the most glaring electoral abuses in the 1960s.

A November Pew Research Center report points out the obvious: blacks were the largest minority group in 1960, but that is no longer the case.

According to the report, blacks were 11 percent of the population, while Hispanics were 3.5 percent and Asians were .6 percent. Since then, the demographics of the country have changed dramatically. According to Pew, in 2011 blacks were 12 percent of the population, while Hispanics were 17 percent and Asians were 5 percent. And the numbers are projected to change even more. By 2050 Pew estimates that blacks will be only 13 percent of the population, while Hispanics will be 29 percent and Asians 9 percent.

To boot, Hispanics and Asians geographically dispersed differently than blacks.

We not only need to keep Section 5 in place, we also need to consider expanding it so that every voter has fair and equal access to the ballot. There are hurdles to achieving this goal, of course. The court might also find that it’s unconstitutional to broaden that section of the law, deeming it too onerous and an infringement on states’ rights — particularly those states that don’t have a demonstrable, endemic, systematic history of discrimination.

Still, it’s worth some thought.

During oral arguments, Justice Antonin Scalia went so far as to call Section 5 the “perpetuation of racial entitlement.” (That guy…) It’s not a racial entitlement, sir, but insurance against racial suppression.

In the president’s remarks at the statue dedication, he rightfully hedged his words. Instead of saying that because of people like Parks our children grow up in a land that is free and fair and true to its founding creed, he said that because of them it is “more free and more fair; a land truer to its founding creed.” (Emphasis mine.)

We’ve come a long way, but we’re not there yet, and the last thing we want or need now is to slide backward.

 

By: Charles M. Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, February 27, 2013

March 3, 2013 Posted by | Civil Rights, Voting Rights | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Rush To The Defense? Not So Fast”: We Know Where Limbaugh Stands Today

Dear David from Georgia:

I want to thank you for the email you sent last week. It made me laugh out loud.

It seems you were unhappy I took a shot at Rush Limbaugh a few days back. Limbaugh had argued that John Lewis might have avoided having his skull fractured by Alabama state troopers while protesting for voting rights in Selma, AL 48 years ago, if only he’d been armed. I suggested, tongue in cheek, that Limbaugh would have given the same advice to Rosa Parks, who famously refused to surrender her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, AL, bus.

Which moved you to write: “If Rush Limbaugh were on that bus that day, like so many of us, he would have insisted that Ms. Parks REMAIN seated. … Rush doesn’t need me to defend him from your silly assumption, but I just like to bring it to your attention that just because Rush is WHITE doesn’t mean he is not a gentleman!”

Ahem.

David, Rush Limbaugh is the man who once said the NFL “all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips” and told a black caller to “take that bone out of your nose and call me back.” So the idea that, in Alabama, in 1955, as a black woman was committing an illegal act of civil disobedience, this particular white man would have done what 14 other white passengers did not is, well, rather fanciful.

But then, it’s seductively easy to imagine yourself or your hero on the right side of history once that history has been vindicated. So of course “Rush” would have stood up for Rosa Parks. Of course “Rush” would have defended Jews who were turned away while fleeing the Holocaust. Of course “Rush” would have supported women agitating for the right to vote. Of course he would’ve defended human rights. Wouldn’t we all?

Actually, no. Not then, and not now.

As it happens, David, your email appeared the same week as news out of Flint, MI, about Tonya Battle, an African-American nurse who is suing her employer, the Hurley Medical Center. Battle, an employee since 1988, was working in the neonatal intensive-care unit when, she says, a baby’s father approached her at the infant’s bedside, asked for her supervisor and then told said supervisor he didn’t want any black people involved in his child’s care.

So, of course, the hospital stood up for its 25-year employee, right?

No. According to her suit, a note was posted on the assignment clipboard saying, “No African-American nurse to take care of baby.” The hospital, naturally, has declined comment.

David, this is ultimately not about “Rush.” He is a rich blowhard and therefore, unexceptional. No, this is about the implicit, albeit unstated, “of course” that comes too easily to you and frankly, to many of us, when we contemplate how we would have responded to the moral crimes of the past.

There is to it an unearned smugness that insults the very real courage of those like Medgar Evers, Viola Liuzzo and James Zwerg, who did take the morally correct stand at hazard of life and limb. It is easy to “stand up” for the right thing when doing so requires only paying lip service 50 years after the fact, something at which Limbaugh and his brethren have become scarily adept.

But the need for real courage, for willingness to stand up for human dignity, did not end in 1955, something to which our gay, Muslim and immigrant friends — and Tonya Battle — would surely testify. So there is something starkly fatuous in your vision of “Rush” defending Rosa Parks. No, sir. We know where he would have stood then because we know where he stands now.

Perhaps you find comfort in your delusion. But some of us realize we live in an era where bigotry has its own talk show and cable network. Can we find comfort in delusions like yours?

Of course not.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., The National Memo. February 20, 2013

February 22, 2013 Posted by | Civil Rights, Human Rights | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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