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“Racist And Offensive”: Scalia Makes Racially Charged Argument In Affirmative-Action Case

About a month ago, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia spoke to first-year law students at Georgetown, where he drew a parallel between gay people, pedophiles, and child abusers. What would he do for an encore?

This morning, the high court heard oral arguments in a Texas case on affirmative action and the use of race in college admissions, and NBC News reported that Scalia “questioned whether some minority students are harmed by the policy because it helped them gain admittance to schools where they might not be able to academically compete.”

At first blush, that sounds pretty racist, so let’s check the official transcript:

“There are – there are those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to ­­ to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less­-advanced school, a less – a slower-track school where they do well.

“One of – one of the briefs pointed out that – that most of the – most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas. They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re – that they’re being pushed ahead in – in classes that are too ­­ too fast for them.”

If we were to go out of our way to be charitable, I suppose we could emphasize the fact that Scalia prefaced these comments by saying “there are those who contend.” In other words, maybe the far-right justice himself isn’t making such an ugly argument, so much as the justice is referencing an offensive argument from unnamed others?

It is, to be sure, a stretch. At no point did Scalia say he disagrees with “those who contend” that African-American students who struggle at good universities and are better off at “a slower-track school.”

David Plouffe, a former aide to President Obama, highlighted Scalia’s quote this afternoon and asked a pertinent question: “Motivation lacking for 2016?”

As for the case itself, Fisher v. Texas, which has been bouncing around for a long while, MSNBC’s Irin Carmon reported that the dispute stems from a complaint filed by Abigail Fisher, a white woman “who claims she was denied admission to the University of Texas because of her race, despite the fact that a lower court found she wouldn’t have been admitted regardless of her race.”

And how did oral arguments go? Carmon added:

The liberals worked to poke holes in the argument that Texas cannot put race on the list of holistic factors. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made the same point she had made the first time Fisher came to the court, which is that the supposedly “race-neutral” process of admitting the top 10 percent, which isn’t being challenged in this case, isn’t race-neutral at all, because it makes virtue out of a long history of school and housing segregation and discrimination. Justice Elena Kagan didn’t say a word, because she has recused herself, having worked on the case as solicitor general. Justice Sonia Sotomayor fiercely challenged Fisher’s attorneys.

Meanwhile, three of the four most conservative members of the court reiterated that they oppose affirmative action and would overturn the court’s precedent that it is allowed as a last resort to promote educational diversity. Chief Justice John Roberts repeatedly asked when remedies to racial discrimination would no longer be needed. (Judging from his past decisions, he believes the time is now.) Justice Samuel Alito tried to argue that advocates for affirmative action are themselves making racist or condescending judgments.

A decision is expected by June.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 10, 2015

December 11, 2015 Posted by | Affirmative Action, African Americans, Antonin Scalia, Racism | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Dangling Corpses”: The Real Lynchings In SAE’s Oklahoma Backyard

The fraternity of blacks lynched in Oklahoma has 50 known members, including a man named Ben Dickerson who was spirited away from the jail in Norman just ahead of a mob, only to be seized and hanged a few miles away.

“That was fortunate,” a Norman newspaper said of the 1911 incident. “We would have had a lynching right under the shadow of the state university.”

This being the same University of Oklahoma where members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon were recently filmed on a party bus chanting a racist ditty that included the lines “There will never be a n—-r SAE. You can hang him from a tree, but he will never sign with me.”

One of the students who have since been expelled has said in a statement that “the song was taught to us.”

The obvious questions are: Who taught it to them, and where did those people learn it?

A Reddit posting suggests that the song was also being sung at SAE’s University of Texas chapter at least two months ago.

A photo taken of an SAE house on another Oklahoma campus shows that one of the members had a confederate flag hanging in his room for passers-by to see, as if the romanticism over the fraternity’s roots in the Antebellum South could be separated from the accompanying evils of slavery and racism.

The song they all should have been taught is one written by the son of an undersheriff said to have been part of a mob that lynched a black woman and her son from an Oklahoma bridge.

The woman was 35-year-old Laura Nelson, who was with her husband, 14-year-old son, and toddler daughter in their cabin outside Paden when a four-man posse arrived in search of a stolen cow on the night of May 4, 1911.

The lawmen found the butchered remnants of one, and the husband, Austin Nelson, later admitted that he had stolen the cow because his kids were hungry.

What happened next remains in some dispute. The most likely scenario is that one of the lawmen moved to disable a shotgun that was hanging on the wall. The teenage son, L.D. Nelson, would later say he thought the lawman intended to kill his father with the shotgun.

The son grabbed another weapon, a rifle. His mother stepped in to wrest it from him and it discharged. The bullet passed through the first lawman’s pant leg and chanced to fatally wound a 35-year-old deputy sheriff named George Loney.

The father was immediately arrested and charged with the theft of “a domestic animal, to wit one cow.” He pleaded guilty and was sent to state prison on a three-year term that might very well have saved his life.

The mother and the son were arrested the day after the shooting and charged with murder. They were denied bail and consigned to the county jail pending arraignment on May 25.

The lawyers for Laura Nelson and her son would later suggest that an intervening preliminary hearing had called into doubt whether the prosecution had enough corroborating evidence to make a prima facie case.

In another Oklahoma case, in Idabel, local white guys had remedied a weak prosecution performance in a preliminary hearing against a black man named Oscar Martin by simply staging a lynching right then and there in the courtroom.

In the Laura Nelson case, local white guys decided to take more pre-emptive action.

Late on the night of May 24, a mob stormed the jail. Laura Nelson had been allowed to care for her young daughter, Carrie, and the mother is said to have been clutching the girl as she and her son were gagged and dragged away.

Other Oklahoma mobs had been known to shoot as well as hang their victims. They sometimes lowered a victim before he was dead and burned him alive.

“When he was nearly dead, his body was taken down and a fire kindled under it,” a newspaper wrote of the 1906 lynching near Norman of a man named John Fullhood. “The fire soon consumed his body and all that was left was a pile of bones. A hole was dug and all the ashes and bones were gathered up and buried.”

The mob that carried off Laura Nelson and her son is said to have raped her, but it otherwise stuck with just a pair of hemp ropes. Mother and son—she with her arms hanging loose, he with hands bound—were found dangling dead from a bridge the next morning by a black youngster who happened by with, of all things, a cow.

The mother is said to have set little Carrie down by the foot of the bridge as she was being hustled to her execution. A neighbor apparently found the child and took her home.

As word spread, white people came to get a look. A photo of the crowd on the bridge shows numerous kids among those gawking at the dangling corpses.

The more prominent members of the lynch mob are said to have included Charles Guthrie, a real estate broker and local pol who was also an undersheriff at some point. He continued on with his life and had a son he named Woody the following year.

Woody Guthrie grew up to become America’s preeminent troubadour of social justice. He would suggest that part of what formed him was the shock of seeing a postcard reproduction of that photo of the lynching in which his father seems to have played a role. A song the younger Guthrie wrote about the lynching goes in part:

“You can stretch my neck on that old river bridge,
But don’t kill my baby and my son.”

Another song that Woody Guthrie wrote is the one that the boys of SAE should have been taught, along with so much more about fundamental fairness and justice.

The SAE boys showed that they are pretty good at learning lyrics, so they should not have any trouble with these:

“This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.”


By: Michael Daly, The Daily Beast, March 12, 2015

March 13, 2015 Posted by | African Americans, Fraternities, Racism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Myth Of Absence”: How America’s Original Affirmative Action Is Still Going Strong

George W. Bush used to joke about it, his mediocre record at Yale, his less-than-diligent efforts throughout his educational career. So many laughed along at every bit of the persona he played into – the incurious certainty, the attempts to pronounce “nuclear” and the confident attitude throughout it all. But few questioned his right to take that place at Yale, another at Harvard and the privileged path that led to the White House.

That is how America has always worked, with the rich and the ones with the last names that matter usually stepping to the front of the line. It’s a system that has overwhelmingly benefited whites and males and, to look at the boards of Fortune 500 companies, still does.

Yet, you don’t see the righteous indignation or a spate of lawsuits to rid higher education of the curse of legacies. Voices are rarely raised to demand that elite colleges and universities take the thumb off the scale for families with a fat checkbook or a name on a campus building. There is not a suggestion that “they” don’t belong.

When Abigail Fisher was refused admittance at the University of Texas, she didn’t think that because she didn’t earn her way into the top 10 percent of her high school class — a bar that in Texas would have gained her automatic admission – that just maybe she should have studied harder. She refused the school’s offer to attend another Texas university, earn good grades and transfer in.

She didn’t consider the university’s logical explanation that it, like every other school, takes a “holistic” approach when putting together a class – using musical talent, community service, athletic ability, SAT scores, disadvantages overcome and yes, family legacy, among a long list of qualifications.

She did not consider the facts, as Pro Publica pointed out in a breakdown of the case, that UT offered provisional admission to 42 white students with lower test scores and grades, and that 168 black and Latino students with grades as good as or better than Fisher’s were also denied entry.

What Abigail Fisher did was assert that she was discriminated against because she is white. She has expressed her disappointment in not being accepted to a school she had dreamed of going to, one her family members had attended. But she has never acknowledged that a dream her family members could dream for generations could only be shared by African Americans starting in 1956, when they were first admitted there. (It wasn’t until 1964 – fewer than 50 years ago – that blacks integrated the residence halls.)

If life is a zero-sum game – what someone else gets takes away from me – then recruiting minorities for a diverse student body at UT, using race and its legacy as a consideration among many when choosing a freshman class, takes away Fisher’s rightful place.

Does she know or care about the history of the University of Texas, where minority students didn’t even get the chance to compete for so long, giving unfair advantages to every white hopeful? Does she know or care about the ways she as a woman has benefited from the tactics and gains of the civil rights movement, from the lessons pioneering feminists learned from the protesters who changed a segregated nation?

Would Fisher ever acknowledge that her family history at the university gave her an advantage and she still could not cut it?

The Supreme Court compromised in its ruling on Fisher’s case against the University of Texas last week, sending it back to lower courts for review but telling the courts to carefully scrutinize any consideration of race in programs to promote diversity.

Not every childhood finger-painted creation on the refrigerator door is a masterpiece, no matter what mom and dad say, and not every student is going to get first choice on the college list. But after this Supreme Court ruling, expect more legal challenges from students who get the skinny college envelopes in the mail.

And you know the lawsuits won’t examine the SAT scores of millionaires, or ask if too many oboe players made the cut. In America, where a man with degrees from Columbia and Harvard is blithely referred to as a “food stamp” president by opponents, any perceived gain by a minority is too often seen as a loss for the way things should be rather than a step toward equality and inclusion that’s valuable for all.

The lack of respect for black achievement is nothing new.

What’s truly missing in American education is a comprehensive history class, one that clearly states what African Americans have contributed, as a counter to a characterization that has taken hold of many minorities as undeserving takers. It was a belief on full display when privileged presidential candidate Mitt Romney – wealthy son of a governor – complained about the 47 percent who expect to be given things such as food and health care. There was outrage but also support for his statements, especially from the high rollers in the room who ignored the minimum wage workers serving them and the guy mixing drinks and making the tape.

In Charlotte, N.C., where I live, an exhibit that should be required viewing for every American fills in some of that history. The Kinsey Collection: Where Art and History Intersect has opened at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, named for a former Charlotte mayor and honored architect who had to sue his home state of South Carolina for the right to attend Clemson University. Bernard and Shirley Kinsey’s amazing collection of art and historical artifacts and documents, one amassed during more than 40 years of marriage and shared goals, is American history, no hyphen required.

It includes a Currier and Ives lithograph of “The First Colored Senator and Representatives in the 41st and 42nd US Congress,” from 1872, a portrait of seven distinguished men elected after the Civil War — when black soldiers suffered a mortality rate 35 percent greater than other troops. After post-Reconstruction disenfranchisement of black voters in the South for much of the 20th century, such officials vanished until the Voting Rights Act of 1965, weakened last week by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The contributions of African Americans to this country have not been noted, but “we’ve got the documentation,” Bernard Kinsey told me as we walked slowly among the proud portraits, the books written and overwhelming evidence of the sacrifices made during a preview of the exhibit last week. He called it “the myth of absence.”

Despite the privilege that would assert otherwise, the descendants of these history makers aren’t stealing anyone’s seat. They are merely taking their rightful place.


By: Mary C. Curtis, She The People, The Washington Post, July 1, 2013

July 2, 2013 Posted by | Affirmative Action | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Please Proceed SCOTUS”: Affirmative Action Has Helped White Women More Than Anyone Else

In the coming days, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule in a potentially landmark case on the constitutionality of affirmative action. The original lawsuit was filed on behalf of Abigail Fisher, a woman who claims that she was denied admission to the University of Texas because she is white. But study after study shows that affirmative action helps white women as much or even more than it helps men and women of color. Ironically, Fisher is exactly the kind of person affirmative action helps the most in America today.

Originally, women weren’t even included in legislation attempting to level the playing field in education and employment. The first affirmative-action measure in America was an executive order signed by President Kennedy in 1961 requiring that federal contractors “take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin.” In 1967, President Johnson amended this, and a subsequent measure included sex, recognizing that women also faced many discriminatory barriers and hurdles to equal opportunity. Meanwhile, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 only included sex in the list of prohibited forms of discrimination because conservative opponents of the legislation hoped that including it would sway moderate members of Congress to withdraw their support for the bill. Still, in a nation where white women and black people were once considered property — not allowed to own property themselves and not allowed to vote — it was clear to all those who were seeking fairness and opportunity that both groups faced monumental obstacles.

While people of color, individually and as groups, have been helped by affirmative action in the subsequent years, data and studies suggest women — white women in particular — have benefited disproportionately. According to one study, in 1995, 6 million women, the majority of whom were white, had jobs they wouldn’t have otherwise held but for affirmative action.

Another study shows that women made greater gains in employment at companies that do business with the federal government, which are therefore subject to federal affirmative-action requirements, than in other companies — with female employment rising 15.2% at federal contractors but only 2.2% elsewhere. And the women working for federal-contractor companies also held higher positions and were paid better.

Even in the private sector, the advancements of white women eclipse those of people of color. After IBM established its own affirmative-action program, the numbers of women in management positions more than tripled in less than 10 years. Data from subsequent years show that the number of executives of color at IBM also grew, but not nearly at the same rate.

The successes of white women make a case not for abandoning affirmative action but for continuing it. As the numbers in the Senate and the Fortune 500 show, women still face barriers to equal participation in leadership roles. Of course, the case for continuing affirmative action for people of color is even greater. The median wealth of white households is 20 times that of black households. Researchers found that the same résumé for the same job application will get twice as many callbacks for interviews if the name on the résumé is Greg instead of Jamal. School districts spend more on predominantly white schools than predominantly black schools. The fact that black workers earn, on average, 35% less than white workers in the same job isn’t erased by the election of an African-American President — one who, by the way, openly praises the role of affirmative action in his life and accomplishments.

As for Fisher, there is ample evidence that she just wasn’t qualified to get into the University of Texas. After all, her grades weren’t that great, and the year she applied for the university, admissions there were actually more competitive than Harvard’s. In its court filings, the university has pointed out that even if Fisher received a point for race, she still wouldn’t have met the threshold for admissions. Yes, it is true that in the same year, the University of Texas made exceptions and admitted some students with lower grades and test scores than Fisher. Five of those students were black or Latino. Forty-two were white.

By: Sally Kohn, Time, June 17, 2013

June 22, 2013 Posted by | Supreme Court, Women | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“He’s Still An Idiot”: Will Rick “Oops” Perry Do It Again?

As soon as Rick Perry uttered his infamous “oops” during the Republican presidential primary, most Americans likely figured the Texas governor’s political career would soon fade to black. Even before he forgot which federal departments he wanted to axe, Perry’s performance had been less than inspiring, and the aftermath only made things worse, culminating with an overtly homophobic ad complaining that “there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military, but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.” I’m guessing once Perry finally suspended his campaign, those outside Texas imagined he’d return to Austin and quietly wait out the rest of his gubernatorial term.

But his latest decisions—including a string of more than two dozen vetoes—seems to only further confirm what most Texas insiders have been saying for months: Perry is paving the way for a second act and a second bid for the White House. And he’s not moving toward the center.

The series of votoes has placed him clearly on the right and in a position to play to a national audience. Republicans dominate the Texas Legislature, and any bill that passes through it by definition has significant Republican support. Among other things, Perry chose to kill a measure meant to stop wage discrimination against women and a bill to require transparency for dark-money groups—both issues Tea Party Republicans at the national level have opposed. (Significantly for state governance, he also vetoed measures to allow the legislature some oversight of the University of Texas Board of Regents, which has been at war with the school’s president, Bill Powers.) Perry also took out his veto pen for smaller line items, like nixing $1.5 million—pocket change in the budget—that would have funded the University of Texas’s Mexican-American Studies Center. In doing so, he could both take a small swipe at the university and also offer a nod to those in his party not so pleased by studies of Mexican history or culture.

Meanwhile, Perry is also burnishing his conservative credentials in other ways. During the regular legislative session, his presence loomed darkly over Medicaid expansion, preventing more moderate Republicans from considering measures that would increase healthcare coverage for low-income residents—one-in-four Texans are uninsured. He brought the legislature back for a special session to task them with passing redistricting maps—hoping to keep a couple Congressional seats in Republicans hands, which could win him some favors in Washington. He added to the agenda a charge to pass an abortion ban for all pregnancies over 20 weeks, which would make Texas among the most restrictive states in the country. Just to keep things interesting he also added a measure to prevent groping from Transportation Security Administration officials at airports—a major focus for Tea Party folks and followers of conspiracy-theorist Alex Jones. All of it puts Perry on the far right, socially and politically.

Economically, Perry’s making his case by going to enemy territory—liberal states on both coasts—and urging companies, in particular gun manufacturers, to relocate to Texas. He ran television ads in California and Illinois noting why businesses would be better off in Texas, and just yesterday prompted a confrontation with Connecticut’s Governor Dannel Malloy when he started urging gun makers in Connecticut to relocate, after lawmakers passed gun control measures in the aftermath of the Newtown shooting. Perry’s interest in business has always been a big part of his political platform, as he often reels off the companies that move to Texas for its super-business-friendly climate. (If only consumers in the state got such a good deal.)

Plenty in Austin are speculating as to whether Perry plans to make another bid for governor or simply wait to run for president. At the very least, a presidential bid would give Perry a chance remake his national image and be remembered for something other than “oops.” While it’s hard to think of another politician screwing up quite that badly and then seeing national success, plenty of folks have come back from disappointing runs and recreated themselves. A run for president, and showing the country he’s not an idiot, would help Perry regardless of whether he’s actually got a shot at winning or simply angling for a presidential appointment.  But Perry’s term is up in 2014, and he’s already held the office longer than anyone else. Another bid for governor is risky at best; Attorney General Greg Abbott, who’s made a name for himself suing the Obama Administration, already has $18 million in the bank and a significant staff ready for the 2014 race. Perry, however, currently commands a huge lead over Abbott in polls. Polls aren’t nearly so nice when it comes to his presidential aspirations. Perry garnered a paltry 10 percent measure of support in the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll, while Ted Cruz, the state’s newly elected senator and a Tea Party favorite, got a whopping 25 percent. Perry faces choppy waters either way, but there’s no question he’s gearing up for a run for something.

No matter what he chooses, it’s hard to imagine anything will be worse than his last campaign.


By: Abby Rapoport, The American Prospect, June 18, 2013

June 21, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


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