Archive for the ‘Civil Rights’ Category

Yesterday began the trial of Lance Corporal Steve Garren for violating the civil rights of Marvin Grant last year. Garren tried to pull Grant for speeding in Greenwood County in June of 2007, and Grant, who is undeniably an idiot and probably a menace to public safety, floored it, and then abandoned his vehicle and fled on foot. That’s when Garren ran him down with his patrol car.

Garren is being described in the local press as “a father of two and a church member.” Because both of those things are relevant, right? Grant is described as “a father of three,” but not as a church member. Shame on Marvin Grant. If he were a good Christian, he wouldn’t be out driving under suspension. He’d be nailing the fuck out of such people, just like Jesus would do.

Garren’s defense boils down to two points: Grant would never have run into trouble with Garren if Grant had been behaving like a responsible citizen, and Garren didn’t mean to hit him. The first is undeniably true; the second is a little harder to swallow, especially since we have tape of Garren saying, “I nailed the fuck out of him … Yeah, I hit him. I was trying to hit him.”

I don’t know a lot of Highway Patrolmen, but the ones I know are decent, honorable public servants. Unfortunately, there are more than a few bad apples in the patrol, too. Now that the feds are involved and the governor has fired the Director of Public Safety and the commander of the Highway Patrol, it’s hoped that things will improve.

More SCHP video:


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Yes on 8In a flyer put on out by the anti-gay bigots of Yes on 8, the California Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage is described this way: The narrow decision of the State Supreme Court effectively renders all civil marriage meaningless…

Think about that, Mormons, Evangelicals and Catholics. Your co-religionists at Yes on 8 believe your marriage is meaningless. If same-sex couples are allowed to marry — and they already are — you marriage has no meaning at all.

You might object that you don’t have a civil marriage; you were married in a church or a temple or a cathedral. Not so. If you’re legally married, you have a civil marriage. If your marriage is registered with the civil authorities, you have a civil marriage. When your clergy officiated at your wedding, they were acting not only as agents of God, but also as agents of the state. That’s the only reason you are legally married. And — according to Yes on 8 — it means nothing.

Whatever sanctity or meaning you thought your marriage had was just an illusion. Your marriage means nothing if people you hate can get married, too.

Now, the true believers of Yes on 8 say this is because of the California Supreme Court decision, but that obviously can’t be true. If same-sex marriage renders your marriage meaningless, you have to remember that same-sex marriage will become legal in Norway on 1 January 2009. It became legal in South Africa in 2006, in Spain in 2005, in Massachusetts in 2004, in Belgium and nationwide in Canada in 2003, and in the Netherlands in 2001. If same-sex marriage makes all civil marriage meaningless, your marriage has been meaningless since 2001.

Zip. Nada. Nil. That’s what your marriage means, they say.

You might be surprised to learn that the only thing meaningful about your marriage was that same-sex couples were excluded from marriage, but that’s what the Yes on 8 people would have you believe.

You might have thought the religious rites you celebrated when you were married had some meaning. You might have thought your promises before your families and friends and your God had some meaning. You might have thought your love and commitment to each other meant something. According to Yes on 8, you were wrong. They say your marriage has no meaning except the exclusion of gay people. If you agree with them, you should probably vote with them, but it won’t make any difference. Your marriage will still be meaningless. You might as well leave your spouse now.

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The elephant in the room.

We don’t like to talk about race in America — not anymore, not publicly. We like to think we’re past that. Unfortunately, we all know we’re not.

I have many misgivings and reservations about Barack Obama. There are a lot of reasons I think he might not be the president I’d hope to have in the White House. His race isn’t one of them.

Race — or more precisely, racism — is still a problem in America, though, and while the talking heads on television have commented on the problem extensively, they’ve danced all around it. That’s what’s (not so) hidden beneath all the talk about “working class whites” who supported Hillary Clinton but won’t support Barack Obama. “Working class whites” is the new euphemism for racists, I guess. I find it insulting, in that it seems to convey the idea that only (a) working class people and (b) white people are racist, which everybody knows is not true. I’m waiting for one of the talking heads to just say it: Obama won’t get the white racist vote.

Obama will lose a lot of the racist vote, for sure. I think there are a lot of people out there who would prefer not to have a black president, but will still vote for Obama because they’d hate having a Republican president, or John McCain specifically, even more, but even so, there are still a lot of white people who just won’t be able to bring themselves to vote for a black man.

That might be hard to believe, if you live in Oregon or Manhattan or Boston, but it’s true. Racism is alive and well in America, and not just in the Deep South. In the Midwest, in the Plains states, and even in New York City, racism still thrives. There are millions of white people who just won’t vote for a black man for president. Some of them might vote for a black mayor, or a black congressman, but a black president? That’s going too far.

It puts Barack in a tricky situation. On the one hand, he’s not going to win this race if he doesn’t get aggressive, and soon. On the other hand, an aggressive black man pushes all kinds of racist buttons in white America. The very fact that a black man still has to think about things like that is an indication of just how pervasive racism still is in this country, but there it is.

I don’t know how the campaign will handle it, but I know how I’d handle it: I’d go aggressive, fast. I’d go after McCain tooth and nail. I’d be vicious and merciless. That’s what the Republicans do, and that’s a big part of how and why they win. They don’t set out to persuade the electorate in a reasoned discussion; they go all out to destroy their opponents. I’m sorry that’s the reality of politics in America today, but it is. We all know it. That kind of campaign runs the risk of alienating even more of the white people who aren’t comfortable with black people, but I think it’s a risk the campaign has to take.

What the Obama campaign decides to do, and how that works out, is something we’ll all know in another two and a half months. We’ll see.

Something personal provoked this post.

Look, I understand racism. I was brought up on it. I’m from the Florida panhandle, which is much more like Dothan or Birmingham than it is like Miami. In Pensacola, even the Navy people — not exactly a bastion of liberal tolerance themselves — talk about how backward the locals are. My mother’s a hillbilly; some of my relatives on that side of the family were in their forties before they ever met a black person, and some of them don’t know any black people socially to this day. My father’s side of the family is no different. He’s from a Midwestern city that was lily-white and unabashedly racist when he lived there. He’s often told me that the rule for black people used to be, don’t get caught in Sheboygan after dark.

Things have changed — in the Midwest, in Appalachia, and in the Deep South. The attitudes that were prevalent among white people in the 1950s and 1960s are much less prevalent than they used to be. But things haven’t changed as much as we’d like to think. There are still a lot of people of my parents’ generation, and of my generation, and — saddest of all — of the generation after me who aren’t too far removed from Lester Maddox in their racial attitudes. They just watch what they say a little more, and who they say it around.

And I understand these people. Hell, I grew up among them. They are, like it or not, my people.

I was lucky, in a way, to have a grandfather who was virulently prejudiced against anybody who wasn’t Irish, who ranted and railed against the Krauts and the Polacks and the Spics and the Nips and the Woodenshoes and the Wops and the Frogs and the Limeys and, yes, the Niggers, on a daily basis. It helped me to see that prejudice against African-Americans was no different than all those other prejudices. It was stupid and it was rooted in fear and insecurity, as hate usually is. Racists, and bigots of all kinds, are really just cowards down in their dark little hearts.

The fact that my grandmother’s family was German helped me see the stupidity of it. The Krauts Grandpa railed against were, more often than not, his in-laws — my relatives; even, by extension, me.

“I’m sick of these goddamned Krauts comin’ in an’ outa my house all the time,” he’d say. “I never woulda married a goddamned Kraut if I’d known I was gonna have these goddamned Krauts in an’ outa my house for the rest of my life.”

As you can imagine, the in-laws weren’t exactly eager to visit, anyway. But that’s the kind of bullshit I heard growing up, and when you grow up that way, you realize pretty early on just how stupid it is. I mean, he was talking about my Great-Grandma. It didn’t take a lot of brains to figure out that his other prejudices, and the prejudices of the other people I knew, were just as stupid. Like Fred Phelps, my grandfather did his bit for tolerance, however inadvertently, by making it absolutely clear what bigotry really was.

But racism is insidious; it’s easy to let it worm its way into you. The weak smile when somebody tells a racist joke, the excuses you make for your racist friends and relatives — “He grew up that way;” “She doesn’t know any better.” That’s not their racism; it’s mine. It’s me not caring enough, not being honest enough, to tell the truth. Being willing to settle for racism is racist.

I’d even wonder whether my impatience with black Republicans wasn’t racist — I figure if you’re black in America, you ought to know better than to be a Republican — if I didn’t feel the same about gay Republicans. I’m definitely not homophobic.

But you know what? It’s enough. Yeah, racists grew up that way. We all grew up that way in America, or most of us did. Get over it. You can’t blame your parents and your grandparents forever. Somewhere along the line, if you have any morals, any decency, any brains, you have to start thinking for yourself. You have to start taking responsibility for your own attitudes and your own actions. We have the right to expect better than racism from the people we know — especially ourselves. We have a moral duty to stop making excuses for them, and for ourselves. Giving racism a free pass, just because you’re used to it, is racist.

It’s not good enough, either, to say that when another generation or two dies off, racism or homophobia or sexism won’t be as bad as now. Nobody should have to wait for that. Nobody should have to think that every time a grandparent dies, we all get a little more free. That kind of complacency, that resignation, is morally repulsive. It’s repulsive in rationalists who know that all living things are related. It’s repulsive in Christians whose holy book tells them explicitly that all people are members of one family. No matter who you are or where you come from, you really do know better. You know you do.

So, the bad news: I learned today that my mother’s eldest sister, a woman who has voted Democratic as long as I can remember, has decided that she just can’t vote for “a black.” It’s a great personal disappointment to me that somebody I love and respect has decided to let racism win over her better judgment. I’m not taking it very well. At the same time, I’m tempted to make excuses for her — to you, and to myself — to explain why she’s that way, and why it doesn’t make her a bad person. But I won’t. Enough is enough. No more excuses.

The good news: Her children are voting for Obama.

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If you’re not reading Pam’s House Blend every day, you should. Another must-read from the Blend:

Why doesn’t Bush want veterans voting?

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Nelson MandelaNelson Mandela celebrates his 90th birthday today, surrounded by family and friends and cheered by well-wishers worldwide. The father of his country, who spent 27 years in prison under the apartheid regime, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and was President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. Friday is also the tenth anniversary of his marriage to Graça Simbine Machel, who was formerly the widow of Mozambican President Sambora Machel. (Ms. Machel is the only woman to have been married to the presidents of two different nations.)

If that’s not enough, Friday is also the anniversary of the first meeting of The Elders, a group of elder statesmen and activists who work for peace and human rights. The group was announced last year on Mandela’s 89th birthday, and now includes Mandela; Machel; former Archbishop Desmond Tutu; former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan; Ela Bhatt, the founder of the Self-Employed Women’s Association; Lakhdar Brahimi, a former Algerian diplomat; former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland; former Brazilian President Fernando Cardoso; former U.S. President Jimmy Carter; former Irish President Mary Robinson; and Bangladeshi economist and retired banker Muhammad Yunus. The group also honors Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest in Burma for much of the last twenty years, as one of its own.

Mandela is celebrating his birthday at his home in Qunu, and wryly remarked on the occasion, “We are honored that you wish to celebrate the birthday of a retired old man, who no longer has power or influence.” His 34-year-old grandson, Thembus (Chief) Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandla Mandela, walked 25 kilometers (15 miles) on a symbolic journey to bring three cattle for his grandfather’s birthday feast. Mandela’s father, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa (1880-1928), had been deposed as Thembus of Mzevo and moved his family to Qunu, but the title was restored to the family last year, when Mandela’s grandson was inaugurated as Thembus. The party will continue tomorrow.

View a clip from Mandela’s birthday speech here:

Read more:

The Elders

Nelson Mandela celebrates 90th birthday as tributes pour in

Live: Mandela’s birthday (BBC Radio)

Happy birthday, Madiba!

Madiba my grandfather

Journey to the heart of a hero

A long walk to give grandpa his present

Digg it! Digg it!   Stumble it! Stumble it!

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Please watch this video. Cenk Uygur points out what ought to be obvious: We don’t defend our country by giving up fundamental freedoms. Barack Obama’s decision to throw the fourth amendment overboard, in the apparent belief that it will help him to be elected, wasn’t just a shocking assault on the rights of American citizens; it was politically stupid.

It’s too bad Cenk wasn’t one of Obama’s advisors before the vote on the FISA Amendments Act, because now it’s too late for him to take Cenk’s advice. Obama is firmly committed, along with McCain, to the politics of weakness.

Meanwhile, any money or support we might have given to Obama should be directed to the thirty-two Senators who voted against this assault on our freedom and against the politics of weakness ― and also to the ACLU, which has declared that it will fight this abomination in court: ACLU Announces Legal Challenge To Follow President’s Signature

See also Alex Koppelman’s column: Was Obama’s FISA vote “calculated”?

Digg it! Digg it!   Stumble it! Stumble it!

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Thanks to the Repeal FISA blog for this:

Digg it! Digg it!   Stumble it! Stumble it!

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