Archive for the ‘Racial equality’ Category

Voting Rights Act

July 1, 2013

A brief recap: The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was put into place to stop voting practices which discriminated against African Americans including poll taxes, “literacy tests” (graded at the discretion of the local polling official) and having voting sites at inaccessible or hostile locations.

The VRA was a historic and amazing accomplishment in a society badly wounded by institutionalized racial inequality, a society which has mended somewhat over time, but is not yet healed.

Most of the Act deals generally with ensuring the equal right to vote of  citizens without regard to race or color. Section 4 and 5 dealt with the identification of and special requirements of places where discriminatory voting policies have previously been enacted. Among the requirements was that places designated in Section 4(b) had to ask for permission to change voting practices according to Section 5.

On Tuesday, June 25th, the Supreme Court of the United States of America ruled that section 4(b) of the VRA is unconstitutional, until and unless Congress rewrites section 4(b) to be dependent on newer data, which is unlikely without serious pressure applied by constituents. The result is that Section 5 has become invalid and places which have historically created obstacles to minorities trying to vote will be able to do so again by changing voting practices- create tests or voting requirements, change polling places, etc- without asking for permission of  the Justice Department.

Local governments will be able to require  specific IDs which have to be purchased, and will be able to designate hard to get to or historically “whites only” country clubs as the polling places. And yes, some of these things may run afoul of other sections of the VRA, but without the need to get approval ahead of time, it may mean that large scale disenfranchisement will occur before an appeal is heard, and long before a ruling.

Despite proposed laws even in the last year which were rejected and “would have made it more difficult for hundreds of thousands of minority voters to cast ballots*” there are those who say that Section 5 is now unnecessary.

I disagree. Section 5 is necessary. The coverage map should be changed to make it respond to current conditions, which may have worsened in some unprotected areas, but perhaps a small change to Section 4(b) would suffice.

From this:

(b) The provisions of subsection (a) shall apply in any State or in any political subdivision of a state which (1) the Attorney General determines maintained on November 1, 1964, any test or device, and with respect to which (2) the Director of the Census determines that less than 50 percentum of the persons of voting age residing therein were registered on November 1, 1964, or that less than 50 percentum of such persons voted in the presidential election of November 1964.

To this:

(b) The provisions of subsection (a) shall apply in any State or in any political subdivision of a state which (1) the Attorney General determines maintained on November 1st of the second to last Presidential Election Year, any test or device, and with respect to which (2) the Director of the Census determines that less than 50 percentum of the persons of voting age residing therein were registered on November 1st of the second to last Presidential Election Year, or that less than 50 percentum of such persons voted in the presidential election of November of the second to last Presidential Election Year.

This would ensure that the areas thus covered would be those which recently had issues with no future need to revise to a specific date. Whether or not this solution appeals to you, Congress should act to protect the voting rights of all citizens.

Please remind them of this fact. (You can find your Senate and House Representatives here and here.)

*Brennan Center for Justice

Activist Whiplash

June 26, 2013

Yesterday the Voting Rights Act was gutted, which will cause who knows how many people to be disenfranchised.

Yesterday Obama gave a speech about global warming where he appropriately likened global warming denialists to flat earthers.

From yesterday through this morning Wendy Davis- and her supporters in the crowd- filibustered a bill which would have closed most of the abortion clinics in Texas and (further) compromised bodily autonomy for women.

Today, DOMA was ruled unconstitutional and Prop 8 was deemed a state matter. Which means that marriage is no longer being “defended” from consenting adults who wish to be married, and that my state is belatedly on the right side of this issue.

To say I have strong feelings about these things would be an understatement.

I will attempt to blog about each of them over the next week or so, along with writing about the SF Pride Parade – I will be marching with the atheist contingent – but first I just feel the need to breathe. Maybe after petting Sokka or having a cup of tea I will be able to write about all of this.

Who must give up identity politics?

August 30, 2012

Joe Klein says Democrats must give up identity politics. Excuse me?

Was Todd Akin a Democrat when he attacked women’s right to bodily autonomy?

Was Alan Clemmons a Democrat when he wrote a law which would suppress the voting rights of minorities?

Was Jan Brewer a Democrat when she denied public benefits to young immigrants working in and to the benefit of this country?

Was Peter King a Democrat when he created a panel to persecute American Muslims?

And was the Republican Party Platform somehow hijacked by Democrats where it calls for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman?

No. Those were all Republicans playing to their monochromatic base of male Christians.

Those were Republicans treating women’s bodies as their property, deciding that the voting rights of poor people, dark people, elderly people and students were not as important as winning an election, deciding that working to make a life in the land of the free should be as hard as the government can make it for immigrants, pissing on the First Amendment by trying to create classes of citizen where Christians are above suspicion while those other religions are the focus of hate and fear, and deciding that the genitalia of an individual matters more than the relationship between two people.

And the same things that motivate those Republicans would motivate those who come after, to come after contraception once abortion was illegal. They would further reduce the number of people who have the right to vote until it is only a few white males with enormous pots of money, own land, and have the good sense to be of the majority denomination. They would profit off of the labor of immigrants while paying them pennies and blaming them for anything wrong in a community. It wouldn’t be enough for it to be a Christian Theocracy after a time: you would have to be the right type of Christian. Which denomination of Protestant are you? Lutheran? You are too quiet for the American Christendom. Better to have been Baptist. And as for gays? Have you noticed that when Christian Republicans quote Leviticus, it always seems to be the same verse?

Who needs to give up identity politics?

Hell, nobody on the side of equality until the actions in the list above are political poison.

Immigration as economic driver (And why aren’t more Republicans like Jon Huntsman?)

August 29, 2012

Jon Huntsman, the token sane Republican presidential candidate who I previously hoped would be the Republican nominee, points out that we should be considering immigration for its economic benefits rather than as a security issue alone. He sensibly points out that supporting an aging population with young newcomers would be a benefit, as would the businesses started by immigrants.

Meanwhile, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer reacts spitefully towards children of immigrants who get work authorizations under Obama’s executive order.

Why can’t more Republicans be like Jon Huntsman?

A Rallying Point for Progressive Atheism

August 27, 2012

It seems pretty straightforward to me: once we dispense with systems designed to prop up existing power structures in the guise of “serving god”…

Then we can serve as friends and allies to each other without consideration for what a mythical man might mandate. We can work towards equal rights and equal pay, we can work to improve education and opportunity, we can work to lift humans to the stars rather than bombing each other back to the stone age where the beliefs of religious patriarchs are more at home.

But even within atheism, many people question religion without questioning the host of biases and prejudices that are packaged with it. And so we need A+. We need a rallying place for atheists to not just reject god, but to reject all that “god” was made to champion by self interested “prophets,” politicians and other swindlers.

We need a place for atheists to rally to support and fight for women’s right to bodily autonomy and to equal pay as well.

We need a place for atheists to come together to oppose xenophobia and racism, and to dismantle the biblical teaching of “Cain’s Mark.”

We need a place for atheists to show their support for and work towards equal marriage rights.

We need a place for atheists to work towards a more sensible mental health system that doesn’t have roots in a belief that you can prayer your neurochemisty better.

We need a place for atheists to discuss issues of disability or gender in a way that doesn’t reflect the larger religiously-inspired discomfort with and blame for any deviation from (socially created) norms.

We need a place for people to teach and learn about privilege and oppression and organize to fight the systems that perpetuate them.

And thanks to Jen McCreight, we have one: Atheism Plus.

Atheism Plus Social Activism

August 19, 2012

Atheism Plus logo suggestions by Jadehawk

First, if you haven’t read Jen’s call to action, go read it and the follow up. I have to say: this is the movement I thought I had joined.

My reason for becoming an atheist- the reason I started losing my faith and questioning religion- was because of biblical passages that were anti women, anti homosexual, pro slavery and pro disproportionate response. Yes, I am an atheist because I don’t believe in god, but that is just the definition. I didn’t question the existence of god first. I questioned the morality of god:

I asked how could God kill children with bears just because they called someone baldy? Couldn’t the prophet have used a beneficial miracle or just good works to show that other things are more important than outward appearances? How could it be deemed appropriate by an omnibenevolent and omniscient being to create homosexuals and then declare homosexuality to deserve death by stoning? If it was a sin, why would God make some people have the urge and others without? And how could two adults being in love ever be a sinful thing?

I asked how God could make women the property of their fathers, to be bought for marriage. How could God decide that war and slavery was correct and that virgin women captured in battle were prizes for warriors? I asked how God could flood the whole world and kill everybody for being sinful when he made them to be sinful in the first place.

And the sick thing was, I wasn’t asking “how crazy is this god?” I was asking “how sinful am I that I can’t even begin to understand God’s Perfect Morality?” I was questioning God’s morality to understand it: and thought that it was evidence of my sinful state that I failed to understand.

But it wasn’t understandable as morality because it wasn’t morality. Even when I realized that, I didn’t stop believing in God. At first I simply decided that the bible didn’t properly record His morality. It took me a long time of exploration and questioning before I finally rejected the god hypothesis. But it was the immorality of the Christian Bible that started me questioning.

And it is my humanism that makes me blog as an atheist. My atheism itself might be just a conclusion about rejecting a premise because of insufficient evidence, but pointing out that lack of evidence is a means to an end: that of freeing minds from the shackles of religion, and undoing the social harms done in its name.

If you think that humans deserve equal rights, that women and men are equal, if you think that death sentences by stoning or otherwise deliberately carried out slowly are barbaric, and that love between consenting adults is something to be celebrated rather than to be opposed, if you think that distinctions in pigmentation are trivial and the social differences that result are profoundly terrible and that slavery and rape can never be justified, then you should oppose religion. But you shouldn’t stop at religion.

These wrongs exist outside of religion as well: religion is merely a transmission device that causes the ideas within to be more resistant to change. But we need to oppose misogyny and racism, homophobia  ableism and xenophobia wherever they may be. And while we are at it, we should fight the undervaluing of labor and the overvaluing of capital. Opposing these things helps everybody, whether you are privileged or oppressed on any particular question doesn’t change that: as a white person, it is in my interest to oppose racism just as it is in the interest of a straight person to oppose homophobia.

This especially goes for the situation of social movements focused on achieving progress in one facet of human rights: ignoring the other facets doesn’t work. You can’t claim to be working for human rights, and then say “Yes, but not for those people.” Just as the gay rights movement had to reform to include lesbians, the atheist community has to embrace women, the LGBTIQ community, people of color and has to embrace their issues as well. This should be a natural fit – as I pointed out, those issues are our issues – but I know we are going to have to work to make up for those activists who only care if an issue effects white straight males.

Food, Education and Race.

August 14, 2012


At the same time as the CDC reports that obesity is increasing across the nation…

a study shows that school nutrition laws have a substantial correlation with reduced weight gain.

Also, studies show a persistent gap in health and longevity between people of different education levels and races.

If we were to make education through college- and quality school lunches in K-12- economically available to all Americans, perhaps we could substantially increase the health of America, and reduce health care costs as part of the deal.

Marriage equality supported by Democratic Party’s national platform

July 31, 2012

Over at The Hill, Daniel Strauss writes that the Democratic Party’s national platform will include support for same sex marriage and full equality of rights attendant on marriage.

My feeling is: It’s past time. Didn’t we already have this fight about consenting adults being able to marry who they love? It was called Loving v. Virginia. The decision in that case- that marriage is a basic civil right, intertwined with those of liberty and the pursuit of happiness- should  apply equally to this one, despite that fight being about racial difference and this one about sameness of sex.

Colorblind : spoken word poetry

July 27, 2012

I found this through Emily’s tumblr.

It gets better: and it makes me love our species.

July 11, 2012

I am inspired by our species: by our progress in humanism, by our art, by our moments of bright shining passion: by our love for each other as human, as equals rather than idealizations or icons.

I love when attitudes change towards greater love and equality. Even though it frustrates me that progress is so slow, I love that people are advocating for gay marriage in greater numbers than ever.

I love seeing people fight for their rights, and I love seeing allies fight for the rights of others… and I love that they are doing it sometimes for their loved ones, and sometimes out of a deep and unequivocal realization that treating people as people is something demanded by our very humanity.

And I love when people bravely declare who they are, and the reactions they get include love and respect. I love that safe spaces are being made in communities which previously weren’t safe, and I love that the safe spaces that exist are getting bigger and more inclusive.

I love that when we talk about gender, race, sexuality, disability, wealth and other places where inequalities arise in our societies, more and more people are examining their privilege and are starting to Get It.

And I love being able to say: I am a part of this, however small. We may be a bunch of tragically fragile hairless apes, but we have brains, we have compassion, we have righteous indignation and we have persistence by the ton. We will make our societies more just, more equal and more caring.

Because we are just too damn stubborn not to.

Links from Addicted to Pez. (Emily’s Tumblr)