Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Islam on Trial (Professor Wadie Said)

The Boston Review featured a series of articles by legal scholars and lawyers on the legal, social, and political implications of the rise in Islamophobia in the United States.  Over the next few weeks, we will highlight the essays within this thought provoking and timely series.

Professor Wadie Said addressed the reality that nearly all terrorism prosecutions since 9/11 have involved individuals who do not represent a genuine threat of violence.

"In May 2016 Sajmir Alimehmeti was arrested in the Bronx and charged with providing material support to the Islamic State, along with one count of passport fraud. The authorities began their investigation of him shortly after he was denied entry to Britain on two occasions in 2014. On the second trip, British authorities searched his phone and computer to discover multiple images of the Islamic State and various attacks it had carried out. Once back in the United States, three undercover agents approached Alimehmeti, soliciting his help in leaving the United States to join the Islamic State in Syria. In the roughly nine-month period between his being approached by the agents and his arrest, Alimehmeti made numerous statements indicating his support for the terrorist group. But where does the U.S. government draw the line drawn between espousing hateful, yet legal, views and actually acting on them? And, subsequently, how do they establish legal culpability before an act of terror has been committed? 

Shortly after 9/11, then–Attorney General John Ashcroft announced a new plan for investigating and prosecuting suspected terrorists. The Department of Justice would focus on stopping terror plots before they came to fruition, instead of merely prosecuting individuals for acts of violence already committed. This shift seemed both logical and necessary. And the fear and confusion associated with acts of terror offered a compelling incentive for the government to seek to prevent them, not just punish their perpetrators after the fact.

To read the full article, click here.





March 21, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Presumed Innocence of Racial Vigilantes

The Presumed Innocence of Racial Vigilantes

Jamie Longazel, Nikita Srivastava, and Ruth Thompson-Miller

The incident that recently sparked protests in Anaheim, California allegedly began when Kevin Ferguson, an off-duty Los Angeles police officer, confronted a young girl about cutting through his lawn on her way home from school. According to a witness, a 13-year-old Chicano boy stood up for his friend, telling the man “I’m going to sue you.” The man apparently misheard him, thinking he said, “I’m going to shoot you.”

Onlookers filmed the entire encounter, which appears to show the man grabbing the young boy by his sweatshirt and dragging him across a lawn. The boy remained in the man’s grasp for several minutes. On a few occasions, the boy’s friends attempted to free him by shoving the man. One such shove propelled him, with the boy still firmly in his grasp, over a shrub. When he got back on his feet, it appears as though Ferguson pulled a handgun from his waistband and fired a shot. This sent the relatively large group of youth who had gathered fleeing in fright.

While we can certainly categorize this case as yet another instance of police violence captured on video, the details evoke memories of one incident in particular: the murder of Trayvon Martin.

George Zimmerman killed the seventeen-year-old Martin, who was Black, almost exactly five years prior, setting off protests and a national conversation about race and police / vigilante violence that remains robust. Thankfully, the 13-year-old boy in Anaheim escaped unharmed. Yet, like Martin, he found himself accosted by a grown man with a quasi-judicial, vigilante orientation after engaging in the otherwise routine act of walking home from school.

We have been analyzing the closing argument that George Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, delivered to the jury leading up to his acquittal, and our findings shed light on the racist ideology underlying cases like this.

Attention to deeply-rooted racism, we contend, helps explain both why this happens and why convictions are so elusive when it does. (Although Ferguson’s actions are currently under investigation, it is notable that police took only the boy and one of his peers into custody following the incident; and as of this writing, Ferguson still has his job and is not facing charges).

Sociologist Joe Feagin’s concept of the white racial frame captures what we mean by deeply-rooted racism. Rather than surface-level discussions of things like prejudice, bias, or stereotyping, Feagin suggests that in order to understand the constant recurrence of racist events, we must view racism as a systemic problem.

One component of the white racial frame is its depiction of people of color as subhuman and dangerously animalistic. According to Feagin, “among the outrageous stereotypes and images common in the white racial frame today is the old view of black Americans as being linked to apes and monkeys… black Americans are still often unconsciously or half-consciously, [viewed] by whites as animal-like and not fully human” (pg. 102).

He references numerous examples throughout U.S. history where whites frame people of color as “savages” and “treacherous.” “[In the] eighteenth century,” Feagin writes, “colonists framed Indians as animals—’beasts of prey’... or as ‘animals vulgarly called Indians’” (p. 61).

Applied here, the white racial frame depicts the very existence of young bodies of color as threatening. When addressing the jury in Florida v. George Zimmerman, O’Mara linked Martin to the wider pattern of black criminality that the white racial frame assumes is ever-present, pointing out that Martin “just so happened to match the description of the most wanted criminals” in an area where people convicted of burglary “happened to be black.”

Elsewhere in his closing statement, O’Mara uses animalistic imagery to describe Martin, making Zimmerman, by contrast, appear desperate for safety, and, indeed, heroic given that he managed to prevail. He described Martin’s activity the evening of his death using phrases like “lurking” and “lying.” His argument concludes even more callously, with a rejection of the notion that Martin was an innocent youth and an insistence on his savage dangerousness. “How many times was it said Trayvon Martin was not armed,” O’Mara rhetorically asked, as he picked up a block of cement and carried it in front of the jury...

That’s cement. That is sidewalk, and that is not an unarmed teenager with nothing but Skittles trying to get home… [Martin] used the availability of dangerous items from his fists to the concrete to cause great bodily injury. Not just there for self-defense, but there to cause great bodily injury to George Zimmerman… Any suggestion by the state... that [cement] cannot cause great bodily injury is disgusting.

In contrast, this framing depicts whites as the potential victims of such perceived threats, and, importantly, as not as liable for any subsequent violence they inflict when they “fend them off.”

O’Mara described Zimmerman as a noble man who simply wanted to do good for his community. Zimmerman, he said, “did want to be a cop. He also wanted to be a prosecutor. He wanted to be a lawyer. And he wanted to continue his education and he wanted to help his community… yes, he wanted to be involved.”

Notice how this frame makes Zimmerman’s use of a firearm to kill Trayvon Martin appear justified, in sharp contrast to the savagery of the teenager’s reliance on “dangerous items… to cause great bodily injury.” “In fact, George Zimmerman was armed with a firearm,” O’Mara admitted, “We know he had the right to have it.” In this telling, Zimmerman was not an adult who murdered a child, he seems to imply, but rather someone bravely protecting his neighborhood from predators.

Part of what makes this frame so powerful is that it is so entrenched in our culture, representing far more than an instance of bias mistakenly rising to the surface. The white racial frame is a “vantage point,” with its assumptions widely accepted as “common sense.” Accordingly, it would not be a stretch to assume that O’Mara’s presentation influenced the jury – comprised of all white women – who found Zimmerman not guilty.

We still do not know all the details surrounding the Anaheim case, but from the video that has been circulating, there appear to be several graphic and disturbing similarities. Like Zimmerman, the unnamed cop was extra-judicially protecting “white space” – his neighborhood / property.

Both perpetrators seemingly viewed the boys as predators with little, if any, evidence to validate their fears. Granted, we don’t know what the LAPD officer actually heard and there is no use speculating on his motives, but we can nevertheless ask whether he would have so easily mistaken “sue” for “shoot” had the “intruder” not been a young person of color.

Ferguson’s particular actions are also telling: He, in effect, traps the boy as if he were an unwanted rodent and then, in an apparent display of dominance, fires his gun to scare off the boy’s peers. (“My son shot his gun because they’ve got about 15 people,” the officer’s father, who arrived on the scene and called 911, can be heard saying on the video).

These cases are even more egregious when we consider that these are grown men involved in physical altercations with children. (Twelve-year-old Tamir Rice, who police shot and killed in Cleveland, also comes to mind here.) “I’m only like 13,” the Anaheim boy says at one point in the video, pleading for mercy. The bag of Skittles Martin was carrying at the time of his death likewise became a powerful reminder that he was just a kid.

Yet with racism so deeply rooted, their youth offers no protection from racialized vigilantism. And the legal system fails to hold such men accountable again and again. (Absent charge, the LA Times reports that the boy’s family has filed a civil suit, alleging “that Officer Kevin Ferguson violated the boy’s civil rights and caused the plaintiff emotional distress. It also claims that Ferguson assaulted and falsely imprisoned the boy.”)

Cases such as these demonstrate that policy proposals like increased training for police officers or requirements that officers wear body cameras are insufficient solutions. What we really need is the courage to admit that the problem runs far deeper than that. There are, and long have been, entitled white men all over the country – police officers and otherwise – who see it as within their purview, if not as their obligation, to “protect” themselves and their communities from threats that exist only in their minds. Meanwhile, boys of color struggle to get home from school or to go out for a snack without putting their lives on the line.

Jamie Longazel is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and a Human Rights Center Research Associate at the University of Dayton and the author of Undocumented Fears: Immigration and the Politics of Divide and Conquer in Hazleton, Pennsylvania.

Nikita Srivastava is a law student at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. She has Bachelor’s Degrees in Criminal Justice Studies and Political Science from the University of Dayton, and is currently a Fellow at the Ohio Innocence Project.

Ruth Thompson-Miller is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Dayton and the co-author (with Joe Feagin and Leslie Picca) of Jim Crow’s Legacy: The Lasting Impact of Segregation.

March 14, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 10, 2017

“That’s what America is about”: Misrepresenting White Supremacy

President Donald Trump and senior members of the Trump administration have recently mischaracterized basic points of American racial history. While Trump supporters defend these remarks as innocent, these “missteps” show a willful ignorance about American white supremacy aimed at generating a post-racial ideology of success and a complacency about our challenges connected to the legacy of slavery.

In comments to his department, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson compared the experience of slaves in the Transatlantic Slave Trade with the experience of willing migrants to to the United States. According to the Washington Post, Carson said:

"That's what America is about. A land of dreams and opportunity. There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less,” said Carson, speaking extemporaneously as he paced the room with a microphone. “But they, too, had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great-grandsons, great-granddaughters might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land."

In comparing slaves to immigrants, Carson equated the two as dreamers, but conveniently ignored the Transatlantic Slave Trade’s subordination of the enslaved. Yet, as the Post reported, attendees to Secretary Carson’s remarks did not believe he was making any untoward comments. Carson himself denied any intention of denying the realities of slavery. And in defense of the comparison between slavery and immigration, Eugene Volokh went so far as to quote a number of legal scholars as having compared chattel slavery and voluntary immigration. Conservative critics have even called those objecting to Carson’s comments “hypocritical” and argued that President Obama made a similar comparison.

But this mischaracterizing doesn’t stop with Secretary Carson. Earlier this year, President Trump commented that Frederick Douglass was someone “who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more,” implying that he wasn’t acquainted with the nineteenth century anti-slavery icon. And Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos called Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) “pioneers” of “school choice” while ignoring the fact that HBCUs were created because segregation forbad black students from attending white colleges and universities. Like Carson, DeVos’s comments have been pilloried and defended as innocent misstatements.

The defenses of “lack of evil intent” and “hey look, liberals (or academics) do it too” completely miss the point. These comments by Trump, DeVos, and Carson, read against the rhetoric and agenda of the administration, come off as tone-deaf about the history of the striving for racial equality and equal opportunity in the United States.

Continue reading

March 10, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Islam on Trial (Amna Akbar and Jeanne Theoharis)

Last week, the Boston Review featured a series of articles by legal scholars and lawyers on the legal, social, and political implications of the rise in Islamophobia in the United States.  Over the next few weeks, we will highlight the essays within this thought provoking and timely series.

Amna Akbar and Jeanne Theoharis began the discussion forum with the following:

"In his inaugural address, Donald Trump vowed to eradicate “radical Islamic terrorism . . . completely from the face of the earth.” This pledge—not the first of its kind from an American president—is not as anodyne as it may first seem. It mobilizes a longstanding dichotomy between acceptable and radical Islam, between good and bad Muslims. For too long we have accepted our government’s ability to discern the difference. We have acquiesced to a wide-ranging set of government policies toward Muslims in the United States and around the world to root out the “dangerous ones.” And we have trusted that all of this is necessary for our collective good.

Meanwhile the government has enacted an interlocking system of domestic and foreign policies that reflect, codify, and reenact suspicion of Muslims globally: wars and targeted assassinations named and unnamed; deportations, prosecutions, and policing; a regime of surveillance that goes from sea to shining sea and then wraps around the rest of the world; Countering Violent Extremism programs aimed at shaping the very ideas that Muslim communities discuss and debate, effectively marking certain forms of religious practice or critique of U.S. policies as criminally dissident. The cost of silence—of our failure to scrutinize, question, or resist—is now clear. It is not too late to wake up, but it will take far more than resisting Trump’s Muslim ban." 

To read the full article, click here.



March 7, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 13, 2017

Trump's Immigrant Ban Part of a Long, Sad Tradition

For all of his anti-establishment rhetoric, President Trump’s stance toward immigrants and Muslims is more of the same. Orientalism and Manifest Destiny have long animated American foreign policy and domestic treatment of its racial and religious minorities.  

Trump’s executive orders on Friday, effectively barring immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries, harks back to an era when holy wars were the currency for mass mobilization by the ruler. 

In the eleventh century, for example, Pope Urban II called on his people to defend the Byzantine Empire from encroaching Muslim armies. What became known as the First Crusade in European history books solidified the image of Muslims as fanatical followers of a false religion and a threat to Christendom. Medieval romances and legends of battles between Christian and Muslim warriors nurtured the perception of a dangerous and violent Islam. 

Over time, the stereotype of the Muslim savage animated the West’s domination, restructuring, and deculturalization of the Middle East. 

British colonists brought with them Orientalism, which coupled with the ideology of Manifest Destiny, was used to justify the conversion or termination of Native Americans, enslavement of Africans, and exploitation of the Chinese. As nonwhite and non-Christian, these groups were deemed biologically inferior.  As such, it was the white man’s burden to teach, civilize, and save them from their savage nature.

-- This is an excerpt of an op-ed I published on FoxNews available here


February 13, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

American Universities Respond to Trump's Executive Order (aka "the Muslim Ban")

Below is a non-exhaustive list of links to formal statements by various American universities pertaining to Trump's Executive Order (also known as "the Muslim Ban") targeting immigrants and nonimmigrants from 7 Muslim-majority countries (Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen).   


Association of American Universities  - http://www.aau.edu/news/article.aspx?id=18366 


Association of Public and Land Grant Universities - http://www.aplu.org/members/councils/strategic-communications/immigration-actions/


Auburn (President & Provost) - http://ocm.auburn.edu/newsroom/news_articles/2017/01/auburn-university-statement-regarding-executive-order-on-immigration.htm


Brown (Provost) - https://news.brown.edu/articles/2017/01/immigrationorder


California State University (Chancellor)) - http://www.rochester.edu/newscenter/message-from-jane-gatewood-vice-provost-for-global-engagement-on-recent-immigration-news-213242/


Catholic University (President) - http://www.cua.edu/news/2017/executive-order-statement.html


Columbia (President) - http://news.columbia.edu/content/1559


Cornell (President) - http://statements.cornell.edu/2017/20170129-immigration-exec-order.cfm


Dartmouth (President & Provost) - http://news.dartmouth.edu/news/2017/01/letter-president-hanlon-and-provost-dever-executive-order-immigration?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=institutional


Duke (President & Provost) - https://today.duke.edu/2017/01/message-president-and-provost-federal-immigration-restrictions-updated


Georgetown (President) - https://president.georgetown.edu/message-immigration-jan-2017


Harvard (President) - http://www.harvard.edu/president/news/2017/we-are-all-harvard


Miami - http://miamioh.edu/news/campus-news/2017/01/article.html


Michigan (President) - http://www.wmich.edu/president/statement-immigration-executive-order



Oklahoma (President) - http://www.kjrh.com/sports/college-sports/university-of-oklahoma/university-of-oklahoma-releases-statement-on-trumps-executive-order


Penn State (President) - http://news.psu.edu/story/447807/2017/01/29/penn-state-president-shares-message-following-executive-order-immigration


Pittsburgh (Chancellor) - http://chancellor.pitt.edu/news-story/chancellor-gallaghers-message-us-immigration-decisions


Princeton (President) http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S48/57/21I82/?section=topstories


Texas A&M University (President) - http://president.tamu.edu/messages/response-to-white-house-executive-order-travel-ban.html


University of Texas (President) - http://president.utexas.edu/messages/recent-executive-order?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=UTAustinSocial


University of Pennsylvania (Provost, Vice President, and Vice Presidents) - https://news.upenn.edu/news/messages-about-executive-order-immigration


University of Massachusetts (Chancellor) - https://www.umass.edu/gateway/federal-actions


University of Virginia (Faculty Senate) - http://facultysenate.virginia.edu/faculty-senate-general-faculty-council-statement-immigration-executive-order


University of California (President and Chancellors) - https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/press-room/statement-uc-president-janet-napolitano-and-chancellors-about-recent-executive-order


University of Georgia (President) - http://www.redandblack.com/athensnews/breaking-university-issues-statement-on-trump-s-executive-order/article_8cf41dde-e6f4-11e6-a5ba-1fdd9c60d323.html


University of Houston (President) - http://www.uh.edu/president/communications/communicae/houston-community/013017travel-ban/index


University of Arkansas (President) - http://www.nwahomepage.com/news/fox-24/university-of-arkansas-releases-statement-on-trumps-executive-order/647303966


University of Connecticut (President & Provost) -

If there are statements not listed above, please send them to saziz@law.tamu.edu



February 7, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Maintaining the Audacity of Hope (Professor Paula Johnson)

The next week will be momentous for our country as we recognize a monumental public figure who challenged the U.S. government and society to create the more perfect union that the Constitution demands. On Monday, January 16, the nation remembered Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the official holiday that commemorates his legacy.  Notably, too, on Friday, January 20, we will mark the end the President Barack Obama’s two-terms as the first African American president, and begin the presidency of Donald Trump. 

Many citizens find this transition in U.S. presidential leadership more portentous than promising and have mobilized multiple demonstrations, not in celebration, but in protest and anxiety that the incoming administration portends to undo the measured progress has been made to realize the constitutional promise.  These bookended events should give us great pause to think deeply about what – and perhaps even more important, who – is America, and the continuing relevance of Dr. King’s vision in answering these questions. 

In my work as co-director of the Cold Case Justice Initiative at Syracuse University College of Law, I am intimately involved in the racial and social dynamics of the civil rights era of the 1960s and 1970s, in which the U.S. was steeped in discord and violence, as Black people sought full civil rights and were frequently met with hostility and death.  Many victims of the violence of this era remain unidentified, cases remain unsolved, and perpetrators remain unpunished.  For these reasons, the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Reauthorization Act was passed by the last Congress and signed by President Obama to continue to seek justice in these cases.  These earlier cases continue to resonate in the present as the calls for justice bellow in the spate of racially motivated killings by law enforcement and private actors of mostly unarmed Black and Brown people.

The demand for justice in these circumstances – then and now – is reflected in Dr. King’s critical statement, “Why We Can’t Wait,” and his critical question, “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?”  During his own time, Dr. King understood that the burgeoning Black Power Movement and impatience and dissatisfaction with non-violent practice was in response to societal intransigence and impunity of state and private violations of Black people’s rights and safety.  He knew that Black lives mattered and that Black rage was justified.  ”It cannot be taken for granted that Negroes will adhere to nonviolence under any and all conditions,” he stated.  As Dr. King further recognized, “Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.  There is no other answer.”  In other words, Dr. King, admonished American society, “No justice. No peace.”  While he was implacably committed to nonviolent resistance, he found, “It is purposeless to tell Negroes they should not be enraged when they should be…Mass civil disobedience can use rage as a constructive and creative force.”

The U.S. Department of Justice just released a damning report of longstanding institutional racial violence by the Chicago Police Department against mostly Black persons in that city – often lethal.  The City of Baltimore recently entered a consent decree with DOJ regarding systemic police violence and abuses along the same lines.  Dr. King would have recognized these psychic, physical, and legal harms at the hand of the state and the uprisings they generated.

When King was asked about the 1967 riots in Newark, Los Angeles, Detroit, and Memphis, he responded, “In the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard.  And America has failed to hear that the promises of justice and equality have not been met.” In today’s environment, Ferguson, Dallas, Baltimore, Chicago…all would be known to Dr. King.     

The President-elect campaigned on a platform that was divisive; one that ridiculed and vilified society’s most vulnerable people.  Women were singled out for gross debasement in public discourse and behavior that the candidate sought to minimize.  Immigrants and undocumented workers were singled out as criminals and leeches.

LGBTQ communities, Muslims, disabled people and other marginalized populations question whether the destructive tenor and actions of the incoming administration augur greater discrimination and violation of rights.  Thus far, the President-Elect has evinced a remarkable lack of conciliation overtures to bring the nation together and reassure that the American ideals of equal rights, equal justice, and equal value of all persons will be observed.  As we pause to remember Dr. King, these contrasting visions of America and American values could not be starker. 

Dr. King also exhorted the country to “make America great.”  This was the meaning of the “Dream” speech, given on the one-hundredth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.  Dr. King urged the country to end the crippling inequality that affected people across racial, geographical, and economic divides.  He sought unity, commonality, and appreciation of each other’s unique struggles for justice and inclusion.

Dr. King accepted the Nobel Peace Award in 1964 “with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind.”  He found justice wounded and wanting, but declared, “I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.”  For King, it was an unshakable faith that gave him courage to go on “to face the uncertainties of the future.”  Dr. King was motivated by faith, conscience, selflessness and humility.  He believed that we could be better, individually and collectively as a nation.  His as yet unfulfilled vision of a just and equal society is one in which greatness is measured by what we give, not by what we take.  By serving, not by being served. And by love, for all people.

Dr. King’s vision was uplifting and he believed in protest as ennobling.  As we enter into this uncertain future, we should remember that we are stronger when we are together.  So, as we look toward a future that seems fraught with divisiveness and shameful behavior, we must ask what and who is America?  We must maintain the audacity of hope.

This article by Professor Paula C. Johnson was originally published in the Huffington Post.

January 25, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Locking Black Parents Out of Charter School Board Representation

For readers following the charter school movement and consequent debates, you may find of interest a new article by  Heather Bennett and Steven Nelson entitled Are Black Parents Locked out of Challenging Disproportionately Low Charter School Board Representation? Assessing the Role of the Federal Courts in Building a House of Card

Here is the abstract for the paper:

This paper discusses the role of Shelby County v. Holder in removing protections for minority influence(s) in the school board selection process. The paper cites and analyzes federal case law to support the theory that the Court’s limitations on Section 2 and rollback of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act as well as the Court’s illusory promise to regulate appointed boards via the Equal Protection Clause allows for the limitation of minority participation and influence in the political process, specifically the selection of school boards members. Specifically, this paper argues that charter school movement results in decreased minority political voice and participation in education policy decisions. Moreover, this paper finds that traditional civil rights laws fail to protect the right of Black parents to participate in education policy processes and the politics of education. New Orleans – the epicenter of the charter school movement – is a ripe case study for this investigation. With nearly every public school student in New Orleans enrolled in a charter school, it is important to analyze the policy impact(s) of the displacement of predominately Black policymakers with predominately White policymakers.

The article is published in the Duke Journal of Constitutional Law and Public Policy (2016) and available for download here.

January 19, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 16, 2017

A Colorable Claim of Discrimination (by Professor Vinay Harpalani)

On December 22, 2016, the New York Court of Appeals issued a landmark civil rights ruling.  In People v. Bridgeforth, the Court of Appeals held that skin color discrimination is cognizable for Batson challenges to juror exclusion.  Defendant Bridgeforth, who is a dark-skinned African American, was convicted of robbery at trial.  The prosecutor had employed peremptory strikes to exclude a number of dark-skinned women from his jury pool.  One of these prospective jurors was South Asian American, and the prosecutor did not offer any explanation for striking her.

It was the exclusion of this juror that was the basis of the appeal in Bridgeforth.  What made the case unique was that Bridgeforth did not argue that the South Asian American woman was stricken because of her race.  Rather, he contended that she was excluded as part of a group of dark-skinned jurors.  Thus, while race and color are usually considered together, with race taking the primary role, Bridgeforth’s theory of discrimination separated the two and focused directly on skin color.

Mr. Bridgeforth was represented by Tammy Linn of Appellate Advocates Inc.  The Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality filed an amicus brief in support of Mr. Bridgeforth, assisted by pro bono counsel from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.  Thirty-two individual law professors joined the brief, as did the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT).  Additionally, 20 civil rights organizations joined, including NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, Inc. and Anti-Defamation League (ADL).  Among these organizations were many Asian and South Asian American bar associations—who recognized that Bridgeforth was important not only for addressing skin color discrimination broadly, but also for confronting discrimination against South Asian Americans. 

The trial and intermediate appeals courts in New York both upheld the prosecutor’s peremptory strike.  However, the Court of Appeals reversed unanimously and ordered a new trial for Mr. Bridgeforth.  Six of the seven judges held that skin color is a cognizable category under Batson v. Kentucky (1986).  The majority opinion cited various social science studies and law review articles to show that skin color discrimination is a prominent phenomenon in the U.S.  Moreover, the majority noted that New York’s Constitution and civil rights laws cover discrimination based on color.  Many sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 contain language about color, with most actual cases brought under Title VII’s prohibition of discrimination in employment.  Skin color discrimination has also been recognized under the Fair Housing Act. 

Additionally, the U.S. Constitution provides grounds for addressing discrimination based on color.  The Fifteenth Amendment explicitly states that the right “to vote shall not be denied or abridged … on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”  The Civil Rights Act of 1866, upon which the Fourteenth Amendment was based, included language precluding color discrimination.  In the late 19th century, several U.S. Supreme Court opinions involving the Fourteenth Amendment noted that African Americans faced discrimination based on “race” and “color”—sometimes demarcating them separately.  During the 20th century, however, Supreme Court opinions in major cases began using only the language of “race”—and the Court has never held that “race” and “color” are separate for equal protection purposes. 

Nevertheless, in Bridgeforth, for the first time, a court ruled that the Equal Protection Clause applies specifically to color discrimination—at least in the context of Batson challenges.  The case is binding only in New York, but it does open the door for wider acknowledgment of skin color biases.  The Court of Appeals correctly recognized that while colorism is often subsumed under racism, it can also be an independent phenomenon that the law should address directly.

Vinay Harpalani is Associate Professor of Law at Savannah Law School, where he teaches constitutional law, civil procedure, and employment discrimination.  He served as of counsel on the Korematsu Center’s amicus brief.

January 16, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

EEOC Seeks Public Input on Proposed Enforcement Guidance on Harassment in the Workplace

In light of the increasingly polarized partisan political climate and apparent balkanization of American society along racial and ethnic lines, below is an important opportunity for members of the public to ensure these troubling trends do not infect our workplaces.   
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today that it has voted to release for public input a proposed enforcement guidance addressing unlawful harassment under the federal employment discrimination laws. The proposed Enforcement Guidance on Unlawful Harassment is available for input until February 9, 2017 at https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=EEOC-2016-0009.
This proposed guidance, which is the product of extensive research, analysis, and deliberation, explains the legal standards applicable to harassment claims under federal employment discrimination laws. The laws enforced by EEOC protect individuals from harassment based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age, or genetic information.
Between fiscal years 2012 and 2015, the percentage of private sector charges that included an allegation of harassment increased from slightly more than one-quarter of all charges annually to over 30% of all charges. In fiscal year 2015, EEOC received 27,893 private sector charges that included an allegation of harassment, accounting for more than 31% of charges filed that year. In the same year, federal employees filed 6,741 complaints alleging harassment – approximately 44% of complaints filed by federal employees that year.
“Harassment remains a serious workplace problem that is the concern of all Americans. It is important for employers to understand the actions they can take today to prevent and address harassment in their workplaces,” said Chair Jenny R. Yang. “The Commission looks forward to hearing public input on the proposed enforcement guidance.”
Preventing systemic harassment has been one of EEOC’s national enforcement priorities since 2013. The Commission reaffirmed this priority in its Strategic Enforcement Plan for 2017-2021.  At a public meeting in January 2015, the Commission established a Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace to analyze workplace harassment and identify innovative and creative prevention strategies. Chaired by Commissioners Chai R. Feldblum and Victoria A. Lipnic and comprised of academic experts, legal practitioners from the plaintiff and defense sides, employers, employee advocacy groups, and organized labor, the Select Task Force met 10 times between April 2015 and June 2016 to hear and consider testimony and public comments. At a June 2016 public meeting, Commissioners Feldblum and Lipnic presented their Report of the Co-Chairs of the Select Task Force on Harassment in the Workplace  (“Harassment Prevention Report”) with findings and recommendations about harassment prevention strategies.
“I am pleased that we are able to follow up on the recommendations in our Harassment Prevention Report with this release of the draft enforcement guidance on unlawful harassment,” said Feldblum.  “This guidance clearly sets forth the Commission’s positions on harassment law, provides helpful explanatory examples, and provides promising practices based on the recommendations in the report.  I believe it will be a helpful resource for employers and employees alike, and I look forward to receiving comments from the public.”
 “As we learned from the Harassment Prevention Report this past year, 30 years after the U.S. Supreme Court laid down the law in this area, harassment charges and cases remain a far too dominant part of the work of the Commission,” said Lipnic. “I am pleased the Commission is offering an updated version of its positions on the important legal issues on this topic and look forward to the public input.”
The public is invited to submit input about the proposed Enforcement Guidance on Unlawful Harassment via www.regulations.gov. Alternatively, members of the public may send written feedback to: Public Input, EEOC, Executive Officer, 131 M Street, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20507.  Please provide input in narrative form and do not submit redlined versions of the guidance document. Input will be posted publicly on www.regulations.gov, so please do not include personal information that you do not want made public, such as your home address or telephone number. The deadline for submission of public input is February 9, 2017.
After reviewing the public input, the Commission will consider appropriate revisions to the proposed guidance before finalizing it.
EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.  Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.


January 11, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Postcard from Egypt During Christmas 2016

After a divisive presidential election year with the purported threat of terrorism from the Middle East dominating the news cycle, spending Christmas in Egypt was refreshing. Completely contradicting the xenophobic stereotypes of Arabs as violent and religiously intolerant, I leisurely walked with Egyptians along the boardwalk of the tranquil Red Sea decorated with Christmas trees and holiday lights. Meanwhile, in the hotels and open-air cafes, middle and upper class Egyptian Christians and Muslims friends dined and socialized together during the holiday weekend.   It was a refreshing reality, far removed from the vitriol of Islamophobia, racism, and xenophobia that infects American post-election discourse.

My Christmas visit to Egypt brings to light the reality that what we read in the media about the Middle East is so narrowly focused on violence – real, exaggerated, or imagined – that it is no surprise that Americans are easily manipulated by the politics of fear. We expect all Middle Eastern countries to look like ISIS-controlled territory. We are indoctrinated to believe that we must fight “them” because they want to kill “us.” We are tricked into consenting to spending billions of dollars on military endeavors that have little to do with our public safety and a lot to do with propping up dictators; we do not question our politicians’ false claims of a clash of civilizations between East and West, between Muslim and Christian.

Yes, there is real violence in Syria, Yemen, and part of Iraq where proxy wars are destroying societies. But the day-to-day activities of the other hundreds of millions of people who live in the Middle East does not consist of actively resisting Western democracy or sympathizing with terrorist organizations on social media sites. Most people spend their time thinking about how to make ends meet in stalled economies. As inflation slices salaries in half, more than sixty percent of their income is spent on buying food. They fret over how they will pay the private school fees for their children because the public school system is reputed to graduate students who can barely read. They worry for their sons who cannot get married because they cannot afford to move out of the family home. For the lucky few who can afford a holiday at Egypt’s beautiful Red Sea, they spend quality time with their families away from the stress of urban life in Cairo and Alexandria.

What Middle Easterners are not doing is conspiring to kill Americans or plotting how to join terrorist groups. The over 90 million people in Egypt have other more important things to think about than appeasing Americans and Europeans’ Orientalist racial tropes of the Muslim terrorist. They are looking to work, expand their businesses, and improve their family’s lot in society. And when their authoritarian regimes (most of whom are supported by Western governments) attempt to distract them with conspiracy theories of American plots to destroy the economy – they are not taking the bait. Having suffered from decades of poor governance, they know all too well that these are common ploys deployed to shirk responsibility.

So as our leaders distract us with foreign boogeymen to blame for American politicians’ failures in governance and economic policies, we should learn from our counterparts in the Middle East. Like us, Muslim and Christian Arabs want jobs, decent wages, good infrastructure, and government accountability. Sharing our contempt for terrorism, they view the tiny minority of terrorists in the Middle East as obstacles to their aspirations for personal and societal prosperity.

As global citizens with the same fundamental human aspirations, I hope we in the West will recognize the recent anti-Muslim and xenophobic discourse for what it is – a tool of political manipulation used to persuade Americans to be complicit in the same policies and violence that led us all to this point.

As I write this postcard during Christmas in Egypt, I am inspired by Egyptians’ resilience and tenacity despite challenging economic times and a failed revolution.   I will follow their example to remain optimistic for 2017 as I return to a polarized America split apart by a historically divisive presidential election.

December 29, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 12, 2016

CFP: Innocence Network Conference 2017

Call for Papers Innocence Network Conference:

The Innocence Scholarship Committee of the Innocence Network is seeking high quality social science and legal scholarship for presentation at the 2017 Innocence Network Conference in San Diego, California on March 24-25 (http://www.innocencenetwork.org/conference). 

Areas of research are open but should touch upon the multifaceted causes, implications, and/or remedies of wrongful conviction. International papers are welcome but must be submitted in English. Please submit a title and paper proposal to the Innocence Scholarship Committee at this Gmail account: innocencescholarship@gmail.com by February 1, 2017. Paper proposals must be no more than 200 words. Completed drafts must be submitted to the Committee by March 17, 2017. 

The Innocence Scholarship Committee is actively seeking publication for those papers accepted for Conference presentations in a law review symposium edition. More information about that is forthcoming. 

The Innocence Scholarship Committee is composed of the following Members: Professor Aliza Kaplan, Oregon Innocence Project, Lewis & Clark School of Law, Portland, Oregon; Professor Valena Beety, West Virginia Innocence Project, West Virginia College of Law; Professor Keith Findley, Wisconsin Innocence Project, University of Wisconsin Law School; Professor Stephanie Roberts Hartung, New England Innocence Project, Northeastern Law School; and Associate Clinical Professor Paige Kaneb, Northern California Innocence Project at Santa Clara Law.

December 12, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Still Recovering, But Not Surprised (Professor Ediberto Roman)

After reading all of the post-presidential election excuses concerning the reasons for the failure of Hillary Clinton to win the White House which virtually all seem to center on the failure of democrats, , to find solutions to the White working class in so many rejoins in the country, see for example https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2016/11/16/economic-marginalization-reality-check/ , I remain disappointed with a reality many people of color were reminded of on November 8th.  Donald Trump ran and won because of the power of hate, bigotry, and White Supremacy.

As a reasonable thinking person of color that was mortified by the weekly disqualifying statements by Trump, aimed at virtually every vulnerable minority group in this country: i.e., the physically disabled, Arabs, Muslims, Latinos, African-Americans, and women, just to name a few, I sincerely believed reasonably-thinking people would come out in huge numbers to reject bias. I thus volunteered hundreds of hours on the Clinton Campaign, doing everything from poll watching, to phone banks to writing op-eds both in English and Spanish. My sense was that Democrats, and People of Color in particular were motivated to reject the hateful rhetoric stemming from the other side. Indeed, I perhaps foolishly, like so many other pundits, predicted in both English and Spanish the Latino electorate would come out in massive numbers to reject bias and bigotry. See for example, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ediberto-roman/our-moment-nuestro-moment_b_12769670.html and http://www.univision.com/noticias/opinion/ahora-es-nuestro-momento-latino-para-proclamar-en-voz-alta-con-nuestros-votos-ya-basta 

Like millions of others, and virtually every news account and prognosticator in the country, I was dead wrong on the election results and what actually was reasonable thinking in our times. What the days since have reminded me was the place, People of Color in general and Latinas and Latinos specifically, we currently hold in this society. Many of us were lulled into thinking our world had changed, perhaps in part due to the two-term election of Barak Obama as our President. We believed our world and country had progressed and would act rationally to reject the cornerstone of the Trump campaign—rhetoric centered on White Nationalism. What our collective Psyche failed to appreciate was that the White majority in fact acted rationally—they came out like locust to reject the inclusiveness of the progressive agenda of Obama, the Democrats, and other left of center groups throughout the land. Through the annals of time, leaders from Gloria Steinem, Malcolm X, Cesar Chavez to Harriet Tubman have noted that both freedom and power is not given up freely, it has to be fought for and taken.

On November 7, 2016, the vestiges of self-interest, hegemony (perhaps explaining why so many White women were okay with such an embarrassing misogynist candidate, and how 18% of Latinas and Latinos were okay with the unprecedented hateful and demeaning words directed at them and their brothers and sisters) showed its strength to reclaim “their America.”

For the rest of us, I have a response, perhaps to give us a moment of optimism as we prepare to face challenging days ahead: to use the vernacular of my old inner city New York neighborhood: “no worries, I got you.” You see, I, along with all reasonably thinking progressive people, know the era of successful institutional bias is in the midst of ladder chapters of the annals of U.S. history. You see, the demographics of our populous and in fact the power of education is not with them.  We know an ill-equipped egomaniac unqualified candidate running on his nauseating ego and the interim power of hate will not succeed. Yes, he will be the president, but his self-interest, vanity, and shameful arrogance will hurt millions. We, however, will still be present ready to stand up for the voiceless and be “presente,” using that old Caribbean sentiment to be counted upon to ensure our narrative of inclusion, love, and reasonable thinking will be this country’s lasting legacy after the failure of hate.

by Ediberto Roman, Professor of Law, Florida International University School of Law

-- This is the final blog in the online symposium hosted by the Race and the Law Profs Blog examining the implications of a Trump administration on women, racial, religious, and ethnic minorities, immigrants, LGBTQ communities, disabled persons, and other historically subordinated groups.  Other blogs can be viewed here

Thank you to our contributors and readers.

December 12, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Call for Papers: Examining the Post-Obama Era (SESW People of Color Conference)

Change We Can Believe In? Examining the Post-Obama Era
2017 SESW People of Color Conference
Call for Proposals
March 16th-18th, 2017
Charlotte School of Law
Charlotte, North Carolina
Please submit Proposals by December 15, 2016
The Planning Committee for the 2017 SESW People of Color Conference invites you to submit proposals for discussion  and works-in-progress at the conference, which will take place from Thursday evening, March 16th through Saturday, March 18th at the Charlotte School of Law in Charlotte, North Carolina.
We welcome proposals for concurrent sessions, plenaries, workshops, and works-in-progress devoted to our theme. At recent conferences, concurrent sessions have run for about 60-90 minutes. We welcome ideas for shorter formats, flash or lightening talks. We expect to offer sessions of varying lengths intermingled with plenary discussion and opportunities for free-form discussion and networking.
In January 2009, the world witnessed the inauguration of Barack Obama as the first black president of the United States, following his hard-fought campaign promising “Change We Can Believe In.”  As the sun begins to set on this historical presidency we will consider the legacy he leaves and the significance of his administration on the future for people of color.
Particularly, we will look back and explore some of the hallmarks during President Obama’s term, including progress that was made and setbacks that occurred.  Primarily, we will examine how race relations were impacted as a result of his presidency. We have seen a significant rise in the number of acts of violence born out of bias and racism. Is this the result of having a black president or despite having one?
What did the impact of our country’s first African American President have on immigration policies, health care reform, economic concerns? What bearing did his term have on Congress’s ability to function in a cohesive manner? Were sound policies subverted due to some prejudices or were policies implemented despite this? Most importantly, how did President Obama impact public perception of what equality is and what it requires?
As we face a Trump presidency, we must explore the question of whether he is, as some believe, the answer to the public’s consternation with the current regime, or will he inhibit the progress made during President Obama’s term? Have we seen a rise in far left views and platforms such as those expressed in the Sanders campaign as a result of having President Obama in office? We will explore some of these questions as we continue our dialogue on the struggle for equality and how this struggle will be impacted with the new presidential regime.
We already have three approved panels in the areas of:
1.      Title IX: Impact on Sex discrimination and Transgender issues.
2.      The Education Dilemma Post-Obama
3.      Voter Identification and Suppression
Please let us know if you would like to join one of the established panels.
A suggested list of topics include:
·         Politics
·         Immigration Reform
·         Estate Planning
·         Economics
·         Artists Rights
·         Housing/Real Estate
·         Education
·         New opportunities/limitations for Millennials with first African American President 
·         Obama Care
·         Criminal Procedure/Police Conduct
Other topics related to our theme are welcome.
Please submit your proposals for panels to Mindy Sanchez at msanchez@charlottelaw.edu and Kellyn McGee at kmcgee@savannahlawschool.org with the subject line, 2017 SESW Conference Proposal.  Works-in-Progress should be directed to Professors Stephanie Ledesma and Lydia Johnson at ssledesma@tsu.edu and lydjohnson@tmslaw.tsu.edu.  Proposals should include presenter or author’s name, title of paper or presentation, institutional affiliation, and an abstract of no more than 250 words.
Please submit your proposal by December 15, 2016. Scholars whose submissions are selected for the conference will be notified no later than January 15, 2017.  We encourage early submissions as there are limited spots available.
For any other questions about the conference, please feel free to email me, SESWPOCC 2017 Conference Chair, at cmatthews@charlottelaw.edu.


December 11, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 5, 2016

Backlash in the Name of Inequality (Professor David Troutt)

The presidential election that was too vulgar for us to write about, with accusations too inarticulate to describe policies, and an intimidating atmosphere of racist, nativist and sexist extremism inflaming every imaginable social division, finally received the emotional outcome it created. Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in a historic upset destined to be known as the ultimate political demand for change.  For those dedicated to working against structural inequality, this may be the transformative change we never imagined.  The U.S. will now be run by a Republican president, Congress and a conservative Supreme Court majority.

Cut through the sum of post-mortem line drawing—the country’s coasts, the educational attainment of its voters, where they fit on the metropolitan grid, their race, gender and citizenship status—and we see the power of inequality, upside down. 

The angriest, most betrayed and forgotten constituency was not comprised of the African American, Latino and immigrant communities targeted by institutional discrimination and the continuing effects of the Great Recession, but working-class and blue-collar whites whose position has slipped under the rapid constraints of globalization.  We have always known the economic instability was blind to color in the United States, especially in the last fifteen years.  However, we had not anticipated the strength of its frustration—both its politically fed up and its racially weaponized forms.  Trump’s policies are not clear.  His symbolism, however, is getting clearer.  The tone—which is what we will all live with until the policies kick in—is zero sum.  This suggests a steep climb, if not a repudiation, of some of the core beliefs underlying CLiME’s work—mutuality, the progressive power of changing demographics and the persuasive weight of factual evidence.  We have some reckoning to do.

Before we do, consider this much that we know objectively about the vote for change from various news sources.  Working-class whites from Rust Belt states overwhelmingly supported Donald Trump, especially men.  Hillary Clinton barely won the woman’s vote; 53% of white women voted for Trump.  In battleground states, many white Democrats also voted for Trump, a lot of whom had voted for Obama.  The expected Latino voter surge occurred, but exit polls showed 29% voted for Trump (the same percentage as Asian voters).  African Americans voted overwhelmingly for Clinton, but failed to vote at 2008 and 2012 levels in key electoral states. Non-college educated whites, especially older voters, remain a significant voting bloc, and they are either angry at or dissatisfied with Washington and desperate for an outsider who will hear their calls for change.  They did not trust Clinton to deliver that.

There’s a lot of uncertainty about the president-elect’s actual policies, but we can begin to make objective sense of the implications this election will have on how and whether we can effectively reduce structural inequality.  Obviously, if Trump’s tax and trade policies can remake the terms of a labor economy restructured over the last forty years or more—that is, if his administration can increase the manufacturing sector everywhere it’s contracted and drive up wages in the service sector—that might stabilize household income and community wealth for a broad, multiracial swath of working-class and lower middle-class people, reducing inequality.  But overturning such tides of globalization may take much more than Republicans will deliver.  And it will not reach the structures of inequality rooted in discrimination.

This much seems clear about inequality and the election:

  1. It was a repudiation of President Obama. Some of this was intended by Trump supporters, some a result of disaffection with Hillary among Democratic voters.  Neither campaign emphasized the growth of the economy or job creation under Obama, nor the first increase in middle-class wages and reduction in poverty rates.  The objective gains of the Obama administration were at risk, and the result will mean many will be dismantled or transformed beyond recognition—Obamacare, executive orders on immigration and climate change and, most critically for CLiME’s work, the federal courts and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  In an interview, Trump was quoted pledging to rescind the HUD rule on affirmatively furthering fair housing.
  1. Civil rights advocacy will assume a defensive stance again, and strategies for progressive change will probably avoid federal arenas in favor of local ones. Donald Trump has already signaled his contempt for many federal agencies, and his intention to nominate conservative judges from the Supreme Court on down.  Those facts alone counsel against federal strategies to reduce structural inequality.  The risks of bad precedents are already great.  A refocus to states will also be challenging, given conservative control of many statehouses, declining budgets and—as this election reinforced—profoundly stratified state electorates.  Thus, we will be forced to smaller regionalism and larger localism as the footprint for reforming the institutional arrangements that reproduce structural inequalities.  The electorate’s mood—which was roundly misread—may augur little hope for integration strategies.  Remember, widespread economic inequality was expressed in terms more hostile than unified.
  1. Colorblindness, that myth, has been eviscerated again by the reprise of white identity politics. Pundits and journalists roundly admonished the nation for forgetting about the pains and needs of disaffected white people.  The explosion of explicit racism that became the undercurrent of Trump’s campaign to these voters fueled and legitimated not just their status as economically struggling people, but their entitlement to feel angry about it and to project that anger onto others.  Whatever form of white nationalism this took—I hate that you forgot about me or I hate because you forgot about me, the lesson is clear: white votes matter.  This explicit racialization, routinely fanned by conservative media, makes it hard to argue post-racialism with a straight face. 
  1. Misogyny is a force. “On paper” the canyonesque disparities in presidential qualifications between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have long been acknowledged by people of good will.  But in context, the Trump campaign’s rhetoric fanned a different fire we were making progress on dousing, which amounts to this: Lots of people, including many, many women, will hold a woman candidate for president to an almost impossible standard of ethical rectitude and trustworthy leadership than a man—even a vulgar, politically non-experienced, intemperate and truth-challenged man like Donald Trump.  Whatever her flaws, the hatred of Hillary Clinton transcended Hilary Clinton.
  1. The post-modern death of shared facts imperils evidence-based change. This election showed the extreme relativism in much of the public’s reading of evidence as fact.  A Fox news “fact” is not an MSNBC “fact.”  An NPR “fact” is the inaudible and irrelevant whisper of elites.  Throw in Facebook, Twitter rants and all of our selective blogs, and “the public” has lost more than a common basis for truth.  We don’t even share the same standards for determining what’s true.  It’s not at all clear how we will soon coalesce behind a common faith in fact-telling.  If you cannot count on people’s rational capacity to hear your evidence fairly, the ground beneath your arguments is quick sand.

If those are fair observations of what the 2016 election means to ending structural inequality, let me end with some more interpretive thoughts about race, class, gender and the prospects for mutuality.  Mutuality, CLiME friends may recall, is that progressive notion of interdependency first asserted nationally by Dr. Martin Luther King, who proclaimed “We are tied in an inescapable network of mutuality.”  Despite our spatial, racial and economic balkanization, we are wrapped in a common destiny of cause and effect.  What happens to some of us, affects all of us in important ways.  Yet it is the recognition of these social physics that promises a beloved community.

That promise suffered mortal blows last Tuesday.  What we saw was a prime example of worried and wounded Americans expressing their economic alienation in accusatory and divisive ways rather than seeing the commonality of their misfortunes.  The working class, after all, is disproportionately people of color.  Their economic status has been marginal for generations, and they have benefited very little from anything an Obama Administration targeted at them alone.  As CLiME’s work and that of countless researchers have shown, the struggles of people of color to attain stable middle class status have been confounded mainly by two factors: powerful institutional racial and economic discrimination and structural changes in the post-industrial economy, like globalization.  Working-class blacks and Latinos die sooner, make less money, have less wealth, suffer more poverty and unemployment, fear more crime and violence, attend weaker schools and enjoy fewer resources of an abundant nation’s bounty—even in the same places where whites have struggled.  The white working class, on the other hand, has suffered mainly at the hands of only one of these factors—structural changes that lowered wages, displaced manufacturing and favored capital investors. 

What might have been a moment of broad voter recognition of mutual interests in policies that stabilize all families instead devolved quickly, loudly and sometimes violently into an us-versus-them game of non-evidence-based blame.  I am not suggesting that all Trump voters express the invective aimed at Mexican and Muslim immigrants, the demeaning of blacks, the tacit KKK support and the open “Trump that Bitch” misogyny.  I am saying that they accepted it as part of their vote and have now frustrated the chance to stop it.  It is an indelible part of who and what won last Tuesday, separating us farther from each other than actual facts about social standing and economic vulnerability would indicate.  This is the toxic palliative of inequality, an addictive opioid of fleeting pleasure that separates the desperate interests of people with common concerns, a fix with no easy cure.

This blow to mutuality relied on a powerfully familiar and divisive trope: a hierarchy of vulnerability, entitled on the one hand and discredited on the other, “givers and takers.”  In this frame, white economic alienation is the entitled kind, something we had all better fear and placate, to “take back” from the outsiders inflicting that vulnerability as of right.  That view of vulnerability risks, like the Southern Strategy of Nixon’s era or the Reagan Democrats of the 1980s, being racialized, privileged and institutionalized by the new president, Republican Congress and the federal judiciary.  The minority objects of conservative scorn—whose statistical deficits, rather than supposed gains, remain the canary in the country’s coalmine—are discredited (again), their shared pain and unstable futures deemed something Other, stuck in stereoptyped incompetence and self-victimhood that is not in the national interest to solve right now.  They voted for Hillary.  They had their chance under Obama.

This is fundamentally the wrong premise for a nation tired of inequality.  More than ever, we still need each other’s success.  We still pay the costs of each other’s failures.  The hope had been that we would continue to find new ways not only to show this in our research and advocacy, but to demonstrate effective ways to use policies of mutuality in our common interest. 

Everyone should have the resources to reach their potential.  Everyone should be able to live in decency and with respect.  Everyone of us should have a life and a voice that matters to those who govern and distribute our nation’s immense wealth.  Continue to hope.  It is still in us to change for the better.  But we will have work even harder.  There is no other way.  Keep hope alive.

(this article was originally published with the Center for Law in Metropolitan Equality (CLiME))

by David D. Troutt, Professor and Justice John J. Francis Scholar, Rutgers School of Law

-- --This blog is part of an online symposium hosted by the Race and the Law Profs Blog examining the implications of a Trump administration on women, racial, religious, and ethnic minorities, immigrants, LGBTQ communities, disabled persons, and other historically subordinated groups.


December 5, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 2, 2016

Trump’s Double Assault on Women of Color (Dr. Deirdre M. Bowen and Dylan Johnson)

Donald Trump’s reality TV-style campaign ushered in permission to “see” and confront race again. As bad as the “post-race” claims were with the election of Obama, the new era of confrontational identity politics will be far worse—and particularly for women of color. Women of color face an ever-increasing threat of overt racism in their daily lives with the onset of a Klu Klux Klan endorsed president-elect and the cultural shift his campaign laid bare. But the ramifications of the policies he promises to enact will create far-reaching damage to the health and safety of women of color. Indeed, the fear Trump created for women of color is evident in the way that they voted. Only 6% for him.

Trump’s cultural revolution dismantled the last shreds of civil discourse to be sure. It has also emboldened a certain segment of the population. It is the segment that never engaged in subconscious or implicit bias, but rather sequestered its overt racism to the back rooms where like-minded individuals gathered. Now, Trump’s rhetoric creates a license to bring this racism to the forefront of American life. Reports of hate crimes increased significantly after the election, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

But what about sexual assault? Where is the data tracking the increases in sexual assault? You will not see it. You will not see this data because when the president-elect openly brags about assaulting women, and in turn, others normalize his speech as “locker room talk,” it has a chilling effect. Reporting a sexual assault of one’s body has always been fraught. The cost of reporting such crimes includes the currency of blame and judgment. And this currency gets traded generously on the stereotypes of women of color. Women of color are much more likely to internalize these stereotypes of promiscuity and blame themselves. Whites, too, are much more likely to blame the victim when the victim is a minority woman. Never mind that minority women are already disproportionately attacked and experience police reporting differently from Whites.

By: Deirdre M. Bowen, J.D., Ph. D. (Associate Professor of Law, Seattle University School of Law) and Dylan Johnson

--This blog is part of an online symposium hosted by the Race and the Law Profs Blog examining the implications of a Trump administration on women, racial, religious, and ethnic minorities, immigrants, LGBTQ communities, disabled persons, and other historically subordinated groups. 

The chilling effect, however, becomes an all out freeze effect when one considers the policy message Trump sent with the nomination of Jeff Sessions to head the Department of Justice. Senator Sessions’ remarks could hardly be shrugged off as locker room talk. When asked if the grabbing of women’s genitalia constituted sexual assault, Sessions observed that it was not clear how it could be. Thus, when the nation’s potential lead prosecutor does not view such action as assault, it is difficult to imagine how women, but particularly women of color, would calculate a cost-benefit analysis in which reporting sexual assault would inure a single advantage. It sends an advantageous message to the perpetrator, however. He is likely to get a free pass under this administration. In fact, Fox news reports that college campus groups representing men accused of sexual assault are hopeful that a Trump administration will role back the Obama administration policies on sexual assault prevention and response on college campuses.

One need look no further than the effect of a federal loop hole that does not allow native American tribal courts jurisdiction over non-native criminals. Native American women who live on reservations are two and half times as likely to encounter sexual assault particularly by white men. Why? Because these perpetrators are never prosecuted. With Trump and Sessions in power, a machismo cultural shift has occurred in which men are free to assert themselves over women with impunity. Trump bragged repeatedly of the ways in which he viewed women as objects to be used. And what has become of these woman who came forward? They arrived in time for guest appearances in the reality TV style campaign season only to disappear when the “show” ended. What message does the media send when no follow up on the consequences of Trump’s actions appear forthcoming.

The dehumanization of women certainly did not begin with Trump, but it has taken on new life with his rhetoric and choice of Attorney General. The cultural backlash against women cannot be dismissed as mere “locker room talk.” The consequences are real for women. And the burden will disproportionately be borne by women of color. The question remains whether this backlash is a last gasp of a cohort of men watching their position of power give way to hierarchy inclusive of women and people of color or a retrenchment that promises to survive for generations?

December 2, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Combatting "Deeply Intertwined" Discriminatory Harassment in our Schools Post-2016 Elections (Professor Nancy Chi Cantalupo)

In 1970, African-American lesbian feminist civil rights lawyer and Episcopal minister Pauli Murray wrote that “racism and sexism in the United States… are so deeply intertwined in the country’s institutions that the successful outcome of the struggle against racism will depend in large part upon the simultaneous elimination of all discrimination based upon sex.”  Five years earlier, Murray and a co-author advised that “sex discrimination can be better understood if compared with race discrimination and … the similarities of the two problems can be helpful in improving … the legal status of women.”

After a campaign where the now President-Elect poured forth slurs against many underrepresented groups and the press uncovered a recording of him bragging about sexually assaulting women, this wisdom from a great civil rights activist could not be more relevant or prescient.  In the weeks since the election, the flood of reports of harassment and violent threats against individuals in these same groups by self-proclaimed Trump supporters has burst forth across the nation, including on college and university campuses like the University of Pennsylvania, where virtually immediately following the election, all black Freshmen received messages containing racial epithets and a “daily lynching” calendar.  Particularly when combined with other in-person harassment at Penn that week, many students talked about feeling unsafe, sounded traumatized, and are likely experiencing all the disruption to their educations that inevitably occurs as a result of such fear and discrimination.

The Penn incident brings to mind several connections that Reverend Murray would recognize.  At Dartmouth College in 2014, a “rape guide” posted online targeted a first-year woman student who later reported that she was assaulted at the first party she attended after the posting appeared.  Her experience apparently fit a common pattern of such harassment and threats directed at women Dartmouth students via the website.  The next year, a leader of “Feminists United” at University of Mary Washington was murdered by a fellow student after Feminist United members had been repeatedly threatened and harassed over a social media app called Yik Yak.  Even though no one in either case appears to have alleged a direct connection between the violence and the pattern of harassment and violent threats leading up to it, the potential connections undoubtedly helped bring national attention to these cases.

The larger phenomenon that the Dartmouth, UMW, and now Penn cases exemplify provide lessons for all of us to—as Reverend Murray might say—better understand how to improve our campus communities’ responses to discriminatory harassment directed at many vulnerable groups, not only harassment of women.  Many colleges and universities have recently improved their campus sexual harassment and violence prevention systems by, for instance, recognizing how fear and trauma can disrupt students’ educations in a discriminatory way and by adopting trauma-informed practices to minimize that disruption as much as possible.  Those insights should inform campuses’ responses to student victims of all forms of discriminatory harassment, including the Penn students targeted last week. 

In addition, these incidents remind us of how “deeply intertwined” all variations of discriminatory harassment are and why we need to resist efforts to treat some forms of such discrimination more seriously than others.  Since August, over 100 law professors have signed a White Paper supporting steps taken in recent years by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights that reinforce its commitment to combat disability-based, gender-based, racial and sexual harassment equally strongly.  Post-2016 election, all of us in education must do our part to reach Reverend Murray’s goal: the “simultaneous elimination of all discrimination,” including all discriminatory harassment against students in our schools.

by Nancy Chi Cantalupo, Assistant Professor, Barry School of Law

--This blog is part of an online symposium hosted by the Race and the Law Profs Blog examining the implications of a Trump administration on women, racial, religious, and ethnic minorities, immigrants, LGBTQ communities, disabled persons, and other historically subordinated groups.

December 1, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Tragedy of Race and Democracy: Relying on Good White People


You know those movies where a character goes back in time to the occurrence of some avoidable tragedy earlier in their lives, only now they're invisible, or a ghost, or otherwise incapacitated from interfering, and they're forced to watch helplessly as the same horrible tragedy repeats itself? That's what I'm feeling like in this post-Trump election season. No level of knowledge gained from hindsight and the critical race understanding of systems and institutions of racism is of any use. We just have to sit here and watch. 

Background: the narrative of worthiness. 

What I'm going to describe is not White supremacy or the permanence of racism as those terms are commonly understood. I'm talking about ordinary behavior by ordinary people of all races, and how they produce a racial tragedy. Here's what I mean:

Continue reading

November 30, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Call for Submissions: 50 Years of Loving: Seeking Justice Through Love and Relationship

From Prof. Palma Joy Strand, Creighton Law School:




Symposium, March 23-24, 2017

Creighton School of Law, Omaha, Nebraska

The Creighton Law Review, Creighton’s 2040 Initiative, and the Werner Institute invite you to contribute to the Law Review’s June 2017 issue and/or to attend the 50 Years of Loving symposium hosted by the 2040 Initiative and the Werner Institute at the Creighton School of Law. The symposium will explore how the 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision of Loving v. Virginia has influenced U.S society institutionally, demographically, and relationally.

Race in the United States has historically been socially constructed through interlocking cultural narratives, including law, and cultural practice, including institutions. Racism is a social system enacted and perpetuated by the interactions and relationships of individual people. Exploring the disruptive effects of the interracial “mixing” protected by Loving v. Virginia offers an opportunity to deepen understanding of systemic racism and to develop systems-based strategies for continuing the struggle for social justice. At a time when the demographics of the U.S. are shifting away from a white majority, deconstructing systemic racism is an essential project.

Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967), ended legal prohibitions against interracial marriage in the U.S. By eliminating of longstanding legal sanctions against “miscegenation,” Loving disrupted the pre-existing social system. Loving rejected racial separation and hierarchy and endorsed relationships across previously uncrossable racial lines. Since Loving, the number of interracial marriages has grown significantly: “Nearly 15 percent, or one in seven, of all new marriages in 2008 were between people of different races or ethnicities.”*

The effects of these marriages extend beyond those who are themselves married. “[M]ore than a third of all adults surveyed reported having a family member whose spouse is of a different race or ethnicity – up from less than a quarter in 2005.”* Since Loving, the proportion of the U.S. population with multiple racial heritages has grown dramatically. Moreover, the children born as a result of Loving also have disrupted the social construction of race itself, with more people self-identifying as of more than one race, biracial, multiracial, or mixed.

The Law Review seeks submissions exploring these issues – to range from reflections (up to 1000 words) and essays (approximately 2500-3000 words) to articles (no more than 7000 words, not including references and footnotes). Draft abstracts of up to one page and queries may be addressed to Research Editor Sean Nakamoto at seannakamoto@creighton.edu no later than January 15, 2017. Final submissions will be March 20, 2017. There will be an opportunity at the symposium for selected authors to discuss their submissions at the 50 Years of Loving symposium at Creighton University in March, 2017.**

Authors are also encouraged to join the moderated online discussion on the effects of the Loving decision on our society hosted by the 2040 Initiative and ADRHub at http://blogs.creighton.edu/creighton2040/50-years-of-loving-moderated-online-discussion. Selected excerpts from this discussion will also be featured in the June 2017 Creighton Law Review edition. Discussion entries should respond to the following question: From the perspective of your academic discipline or professional institution, what are the questions, issues, or tensions that have arisen out of 50 Years of Loving?


*john a. powell, Racing to Justice (2012)

** Contact Amanda Guidero at AmandaGuidero@creighton.edu for more information on the symposium and opportunities to present your work.

November 30, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Trump, the Meme of Voter Fraud, and the Risk to American Democracy

Despite losing the popular election by somewhere over two million votes, Donald Trump won the Electoral College. He is the President-Elect. Those are facts. Yet, in a tweet storm Sunday that was the opposite of presidential, Trump claimed that if one deducts the votes of millions who voted illegally, he did not lose the popular vote. He even went on to announce with no evidence "real voter fraud" in Virginia, New Hampshire, and California.

What Trump has done repeatedly is to use the meme of voter fraud to impugn elections and voters in this country. His rhetoric is Internet trolling at its loudest, but the consequence of this rhetoric may be to once again distort policy, endanger political minorities, and imperil democracy.

In a paper called The Meme of Voter Fraud, I warned against the voter fraud meme. I explained how a meme is a picture, idea, or narrative that replicates and evolves without regard for its truthfulness. Memes empower their believer, and the believers then spread the idea. This repetition takes the appearance of truth but a meme doesn’t need to be true to replicate. It simply needs to persuade by resonating with the worldview of people who will spread it. A meme can galvanizes extreme responses in line with the meme—not the truth—and that runs the risk of leading people to disruptive (and unjust) action.

Like many before him, Trump’s tweet storm relies on this the meme of voter fraud: the fallacious belief that elections are under threat because of a mass (invisible, unproven) conspiracy of unworthy voters. Some scholars and policy makers have argued for over a decade (one example here) that this threat is real and present (despite the absence of evidence) to justify stricter regulations for voting. This claim nonetheless has supported the passage of strict voter identification laws, the curtailment of early voting, and proof of citizenship laws.

Trump used his own version of the meme - his rigged election argument - throughout the campaign. He suggested to his supporters that they should engage in voter intimidation and subversion of the rule of law. Recall that Trump claimed that fraud by millions of wrongful voters would thwart his candidacy. Both he and now Vice President-elect Mike Pence called for their supporters to monitor polls and challenge voters they suspect. And in that final debate, apparently because of his belief that the election was going to be rigged (and that he might lose), Trump said he would keep us in suspense about whether he would accept the result of this election. His voter fraud claim of Sunday simply echoed this campaign-long narrative.

To claim a conspiracy of massive voter fraud, especially after one actually won the election, is preposterous. One famous recent study shows that credible in-person voter impersonation has happened only 31 times out of one billion votes cast this century. And professional election scholars agree that a vast voter fraud conspiracy to overthrow a national election is simply a myth.

Trump’s narrative is in apparent response to the recount efforts in battleground states spearheaded by the Green Party in response to claims of discrepancies between the electronic vote count and the paper vote count. While some experts observe such recounts would be pointless, others argue that thousands of Trump votes were padded, though neither the Clinton campaign nor the White House have claimed that there has been evidence of mass voter-caused voter fraud. There are versions of the meme of voter fraud across the political spectrum.

But Trump’s voter fraud meme does something far more dangerous than trigger a recount. Trump's meme seeks to rig our thinking about democracy. Because a meme persuades through appeal rather than logic, evidence is irrelevant when the story is too good. This doesn’t matter much with cat videos on social media, but Mr. Trump’s voter fraud memes are dangerous because they detach us from facts as our basis for making real-world decisions.

To believe that the votes of millions of are illegitimate simply because someone says so is to trade in an ideology of exclusion of those voters. America did this for the majority of its history with the effect of excluding women, African Americans, and naturalized immigrants in favor of property-holding white men. Court decisions, constitutional amendments, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 democratized voting and made clear that just because of one’s identity, one was not a fraudulent voter.

To claim that our elections are rigged by saying without proof that rightful vote are illegitimate is to harken back to this racist, sexist vicious voter narrative. We saw this in Trump’s claims for voter vigilantes, in his claim of ready defiance to the election results, and now in his lie that he’s more of a winner than he actually is.

If history teaches us anything, it is that this kind of rhetoric will serve as excuse to vilify the people he deems his enemies and diminish the institutions designed to serve all the people. This rhetoric will continue to paint a target on his political opponents generally (since supposedly all the alleged illegitimate votes were cast by his opponents). The rhetoric will reinforce the racist, sexist ideology of exclusion, thus compounding the doubt minority voters and other who have suffered historical disenfranchisement suffer.

His claim of voter fraud in the millions also suggests that election structures that validate and tabulate our elections have no legitimacy. His meme preposterously implies that thousands of election officers across this country either were duped or were in on the scheme. And this rhetoric signals further threat to the already-imperiled Voting Rights Act and other laws that make our elections democratic. Why keep the VRA and other inclusivity promoting laws if they allegedly lead to polluted election results? Indeed, even White House Chief Strategist-designate Steve Bannon once suggested that the vote should be restricted to property owners. Were that law, the effect would be that minorities would be disproportionately segregated out of the right to vote - a return to the political America of 1896 (or 1787).

These are the potential consequences when a baseless, discriminatory meme becomes the ground of policy.

To make specious allegations of fraud undermines the legitimacy of our political institutions and, ironically, the legitimacy of Trump’s own election. It tears down the political system purely to pursue apparent pettiness. And like any meme, this rigged election rhetoric seeks detaches us from facts, and that will enable those who wish to resort to racialized segregation to exclude the “vicious voter.” Is that the America we want?

November 29, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)