Tag Archive: race

Dear Netroots Nation

Karen Gaffney, who led a training at Netroots Nation this week in St. Louis – an #NN16 Voter’s Pick – has been teaching and training about race, including whiteness, for years. She’s been an English professor at Raritan Valley Community…
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Christie takes welcome step in right direction on gun violence in America

This deserves a promotion as a point of discussion, should last-minute shoppers, Chanukah celebrants and others want to get into it. Here’s where I stand on Witherspoon’s nod to Gov. Christie’s milder, more-reasonable-than-usual take on the reported execution-style killing of two Brooklyn cops: Yes, there’s some value in a Governor not making some dumb remark. But remember – he seems to have reserved that moment for the death of the two cops. When it was two men of color dead at the hands of police – with no indictments via the justice system he used to represent – his response was “Im not going to get into it” (Ferguson), “It’s Obama’s fault” (Ferguson unrest), and “I’m not going to second-guess the grand jury” (Eric Garner). That leaves the impression that this particular GOP presidential candidate is more responsible in his comments when it’s cops dead and perhaps less so when it’s just men that many of his potential voters would consider “thugs”. That’s my two cents. – Rosi

Appearing on NJTV’s with Steve Abubato last night, Governor Chris Christie answered one question in particular without the usual partisan cheapshot. It was refreshing to hear the Governor speak without the audacious and vilifying tone that most in the state have grown tired of.

The answer was in response to a question posed (10:35 mark) by Mr. Abubato in regards to comments made by partisans suggesting prominent activists have created an environment that encourages and propagates violence against police officers that results in things like the murder of two Brooklyn police officers by a deranged and suicidal gunman.

One of the things that disturbs me about the entire conversation that we’re having right now is it seems like lots of people are trying to score political points here,” Christie said when asked about the same issue. “And, what I’m thinking about as we sit three days away from Christmas, are those two families of those two police officers who will not have them at their dinner tables at Christmas time, who won’t have them there to open up present under the Christmas tree, who will not have them, not only this Christmas, but every Christmas going forward. And I think before we get into that analysis, it may be time for everybody in this region and around this country to take a deep breath and to think about the loss that’s been suffered by these two families.

Despite differences between left and right, the Governor changed pace by using this opportunity to transcend partisan divide and request that we focus on what truly matters: life, family, and respect. While some may consider this site partisan, I think it’s better to describe it as political. We applaud messages and policy we feel are right and just-not simply by our political allies. Chris Christie’s thoughtfulness is correct here and deserves praise.

However, despite the Governor’s thoughtful and kind remarks on the issue, I wish the Governor would have went further and offered the eloquence penned by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Time on Monday.

What’s happening with Formula 1? Can’t get straight answers.

As a Hudson County resident, I’ve been following the Formula 1 updates and news closely.  I live in WNY, and the race is greatly going to affect my way of life for a few weeks.

If you’ve read the articles closely, you will see information varies greatly and often don’t provide facts to back up the claims of the Formula One officials.  We keep hearing about a contract having been signed.  I searched for it online and called WNY and Weehawken for more information, I found nothing.

Am I safe? I feel like cars racing at such high speeds should be in an enclosed track, not my skinny side street.

I hope officials in the area (legislators, freeholders and mayor/commissioners) get down to the bottom of this. I don’t have confidence that this race will happen or will be beneficial to my town.

I urge folks to ask their elected officials questions about this race. Let’s make sure we are doing the right thing for New Jersey before jumping into a disaster.  

Pretty Little Blond Girl Goes Missing

Pretty little blonde girl, just 12, petite and with a name – Autumn – that marks the season she was murdered, hops on her bike in the early afternoon and never comes home.

And now we know. The bike was found. Then she was found, and it was awful. I know somebody who lives in that town, and is deeply affected, so I’ve been tracking the story all day, along with a lot of other folks.

Newspaper accounts are factual, TV reports more or less direct. What fascinates me today, though, are the comments after the stories, and the Facebook remarks following postings of the awful details of Autumn’s death.

The boys now charged with Autumn’s murder are black. She was white. And the bloodlust that has risen up since that fact – and their picture in cuffs – is in evidence is frighteningly racist, and worked-up in a way that singularly seems tied to the loss of a blond girl and the guilt – alleged – of young black men.

No, I won’t be linking. But along with the community’s heartfelt sympathy and expressions of sadness for her, and fear for their own kids, there are discussions of stringing the boys up. “Lynching them old-school.” “Pitchforks and torches.” Suggestions there should be “retroactive abortion”.

I can only wonder at the shadow-streak of sadness across Clayton, NJ tonight. There’s a community church service going on right now; it must be both awful and beautiful to be there in her memory.

When little blond kids go missing, the world takes notice in ways we don’t all take stock of. I’m not immune. When I was 16, I might have saved a little blond boy – it happened fast and I’ll never know. When I was 22, I searched Manhattan for a little blond boy; Etan Patz. Was that because he was a neighborhood kid? Or a photogenic little white face whose heroine I wanted to be? I’ll never know.  

But not too far from where I live, the threat to little kids is constant. And I confess: I hardly ever touch on it in my mind. But it’s inescapable in some houses, for some families, in some neighborhoods. In my town, which used to be white and well-off and is less those things now, some of my neighbors have lost some of the neighborliness that should define small towns like this one, and maybe like Clayton. The crumbling facades and empty stores aren’t about the economy, a rerouted road, local Wal-Mart or anything random for these people. No, these people are most comfortable seeking scapegoats among their neighbors. Impossible not to notice that the neighbors my neighbors hate are darker than they are. And the terms they use to describe them are awful.

Autumn Pasquale’s death is awful, and will and should be felt deeply. But I’m troubled by the fact that too many of us only raise our heads and open our hearts when the randomness of the horror – girl killed for bike parts – seems so improbable and the victim so attractive to us that it consumes us. When the violence is everyday, when the conversation is about spiraling murder rates and walks to school are scary, drive-bys take the boy next door, and the one down the street, is the currency of young lives lost somehow less? I know we would never say so. But don’t we act as though it’s true?

When we see TV, radio and social media light up for a pretty white child gone missing, and barely take note when another child is taken, exploited, killed randomly or killed with intent, aren’t we valuing one life above others? And what are we saying to those parents?

My neighbors speak about their neighbors like their parents don’t worry about them, as though

He Said What??

Although it’s not a surprise that a Republican said something stupid what is surprising is that no one in the main stream media really wrote about it.

Last October Congressman Scott Garrett was at an event where a supported made the comment that doing business in the American Midwest was easier because of their “straight-forward” attitude.  

Congressman Garrett had this to add to that;

“Other ethnicities are not that way,” Garrett said. “They’ll say yes to you constantly and then you’ll realize they really didn’t mean it.”

Then in typical republican fashion he tried to back track, but that wasn’t very successful either he clarified his statement by saying that “he meant people in other countries”.  

One of the few places it was covered was MotherJones.com you can read the whole article here: http://www.motherjones.com/moj…  

Why Whitney Houston Matters

I still can remember the exact MOMENT I was told of Whitney Houston’s death.  My heart sank and my stomach did a strange flip.  I felt sudden overwhelming sadness.  

I still remember when she burst on the scene as a young singer and then proceeded to supply a kind of soundtrack for my Generation X for the next 30 years.  I was in college – in the Rutgers marching band and one of the new freshmen in my rank had grown up with Houston and sung in the choir with her.  I still remember being fascinated and asking question after question – what was it like singing next to Whitney in choir?  What was Whitney REALLY like?  I just HAD to know.  

Little did I realize that by the time I went to my very first College protest – a march and speech by Jesse Jackson about making Rutgers divest its portfolio in South Africa, Whitney had already been involved in trying to help Nelson Mandela bring an end to Apartheid.  She was already working on trying to better the world.  She was already making a difference – thanks to success obtained by being an extraordinarily talented entertainer.

At that time, though, as an aspiring singer, I was just blown away by what this girl could do with her voice. But as I get older in these post-911 years, I come to realize the value of art for the power it holds to change the world.  

Just looking back through history, at the height of the battle over changing hearts and minds during the 1800’s in regards to slavery, a woman – without the right to vote herself, wrote a book called Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  That book had such great influence – that President Lincoln – when he met Harriet Beecher Stowe would say – “So you are the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war.”  

In this day and age of everyone in their own private space, with their own little earbuds listening to their own private music, or watching their own personal movies, medicated so that we don’t feel the normal emotions of humans anymore – fear, anger, or real true joy even. We even botox our facial expressions away. In this day and age when the news of the world makes us want to run for the covers to pull over our heads to wait it out and let others deal with it – fight our wars, and grieve out of sight – as long as WE are safe and secure – we realize we actually DO value those who make us actually feel something anymore.  Who remind us we are human after all – with all the good and bad, happiness, anger, or sorrow that entails.

Race and Redistricting: A look at the new Congressional map

Last Friday, when he chose the Republican map, Redistricting Commission tiebreaker John Farmer suggested that the new map “honors more completely New Jersey’s diversity.” To say this about a map which targets the only Jewish member of the delegation for elimination (though Congressman Rothman obviously isn’t cooperating with Dean Farmer’s plan) and provides no new meaningful opportunities for minorities elsewhere takes, well, chutzpah. Follow me below the fold as I explain why this map denigrates, rather than honors, New Jersey’s diversity.

Tom Moran’s False Equivalency

I like Tom Moran.  I think he’s a heck of a writer, and often has pretty good things to say. However, he has been infected by an insidious sickness running through the news media of false equivalency.  

This is the disease that causes TV news shows to cover evolution by giving the scientists and young earthers equal time, thus creating the impression that both have valid points.  Young earthers do not.  It’s the disease that allows major news magazines to give scientists and oil company shills the same weight when covering global climate change, thus slipping doubt into what is a close to scientific fact as we get.

In Moran’s case, it is the pretense that both Democrats and Republicans are equally to blame for the dearth of African Americans and Latinos in the state legislature.  In yesterdays column, Moran’s infection oozed the puss of false equivalency all over the pages of the Star Ledger in an opinion piece called “New Jersey’s parties both fall short on blacks, Latinos.”

Republicans in New Jersey don’t have a single African-American or Latino in the state Legislature. Their governor has none in his inner circle and he has removed the only African-American from the state Supreme Court.

On the whole, their record on minority representation is somewhere between bad and awful.

Not a bad beginning, pretty clear.  A good description of the situation.  Yet for some reason he then goes after the Democrats.

But let’s not just pick on Republicans. Because the Democratic machines that control the slate of candidates are mostly controlled by white men who have a keen affinity for their own kind as well.

Take Camden. When the African-American senator representing Camden resigned last year, the South Jersey machine boss George Norcross knew just what to do: He put his brother, Donald, in the seat.

What Moran doesn’t note is that this anonymous “African-American Senator” is Dana Redd, and the reason she resigned was to become Mayor of the state’s second largest city.  Not exactly a demotion for her.  Oh, and the Democrats also selected Redd as Vice-Chair of the Democratic Party and a rep to the DNC for the past six years.  How dare they treat an African-American so badly?

And it’s not until much later that Moran notes that the two Assembly members who run with Norcross are African American and Latino.  So now the three major races in the district are all represented, and — not for nothing, here — that district has more minorities than the entire GOP state delegation.  Again, damn those Democrats!

But Moran tries to redeem himself after using false equivalence to damn the Democrats, noting that while his headline and article has so far slammed the crap out of them,

On the whole, Democrats are light years ahead of Republicans. One in three of their state legislators is black or Latino, and they can reasonably defend the Norcross and Ryan appointments.

But before he completely recovers from his disease, Moran has a relapse by allowing the Republicans to re-frame the debate.  Here’s the final quote of the piece.

“Both sides have to do better,” says Republican Bill Palatucci, a confidante of the governor who is leading this fight over the map. “Since Gov. Kean left office, my party’s record on diversity is nothing to write home about. I’m not saying we’re 100 percent right.  But neither are they.”

And there you have the most exquisite diagram of the virus that causes false equivalence, plotted out and sitting there for all to see.

Republicans have exactly zero African-Americans in the State House or the Governor’s cabinet.  Democrats have more than 20 percent of their delegation as blacks — far higher than the state’s 14 percent African-American population — and 10 percent of their delegation as Latinos — far higher than the state’s Latino voting population.

But Palatucci gets to say, “Our 0% is the same as their 90%. A pox on both their houses!”

And Moran let’s it slide.  

Race and Redistricting: What the Voting Rights Act means for New Jersey

Redistricting is a partisan activity. Democrats want to elect more Democrats, and Republicans want to elect more Republicans. Incumbents want to be re-elected, and good government advocates often want more competitive elections. But much of the public debate surrounding redistricting focuses not on partisanship, but on race. Why is this?

The main reason so much of redistricting battle centers around race is that a federal law regulates how New Jersey can draw its legislative and congressional districts. That law is the Voting Rights Act of 1965, or the VRA for short. The VRA includes many sections and provisions, but the part that is relevant to New Jersey’s redistricting fight is Section 2. Section 2 prohibits discriminatory voting practices, including vote dilution. The leading Supreme Court case on Section 2, Thornburg v. Gingles, set out a three-part test to determine whether the method (usually a legislative district map of some kind) used by a state, county, or local government in electing representatives to a governing body dilutes minority votes:

1. Is the minority group sufficiently large such that a geographically compact, single-member minority-majority district is possible?

2. Is the minority group politically cohesive?

3. Does racial bloc voting by the white majority enable it to defeat the minority group’s preferred candidate?

If the answer to all three of these questions is yes, then the vote dilution claim succeeds and the method or map in question is illegal. If the answer to one of these questions is no, the vote dilution claim fails and the method or map in question is legal.

Below the fold, I explore further the Gingles vote dilution standard and attempt to explain the impact Section 2 might have on redistricting at the state, county, and even local level in New Jersey. I make no normative arguments in this diary because I believe that, to understand the debate surrounding redistricting, it is important to understand the law governing it. The threat of litigation under the VRA affects line-drawing strategies of both Democrats and Republicans in redistricting. Politicians, leaders of minority groups, pundits, tea partiers, and other interested parties also deploy the VRA as a rhetorical weapon in the battle over redistricting. In doing so, some may overstate or understate its power to serve their own political goals. But who actually has a bullet in the chamber, and who is merely making empty legal assertions? Follow me below the fold to find out.

Republicans, Race, and Redistricting

promoted by Rosi

The Republican Party tends to advocate for “race-blind” policies (like in this recent dismantling by Gov. Christie of an office to work with minority and women-owned businesses). Except, that is, once every ten years when it comes to redistricting when they start to talk a whole lot about diversity and the importance of race-based representation.

So perhaps they should be forgiven for being a bit out of practice on the facts. Like in today’s first meeting of the state’s Legislative Redistricting Commission. There, Republican Commissioner Irene Kim Asbury claimed that the African-American population in New Jersey had decreased in New Jersey since the last Census, thus inferring that African-American representation was less important than representation of growing Latino and Asian populations.

Only problem is – the comments have no basis in reality. More on that – and the broader story of redistricting strategy – below the fold.