March 07, 2013
By George E. Curry
In the oral arguments last week before the Supreme Court to determine whether a key section of the Voting Rights Act should be upheld, Justice Antonin Scalia referred to the provision as “perpetuation of racial entitlement.”
It was the kind of comment that could easily spark a demonstration in front of the court. But when Scalia made his comment about the pre-clearance provision of the 1965 law last Wednesday, there were already protesters in front of the U.S. Supreme Court marching in support of the Voting Rights Act.
The Voting Rights Act was originally passed in 1965. When Section 5 was scheduled to expire, it was extended by Congress in 1970, 1975, 1982 and for another 25 years in 2006. It was approved the last time with broad bipartisan support. It passed the House by a 390-33 margin and the Senate 98-0.
Under Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination must receive pre-clearance from the Justice Department or a federal court before they are allowed to make any changes in their voting procedures.
Inside the court, Scalia addressed the various extensions of the Voting Rights Act since its passage.
“…The initial enactment of this legislation in a—a time when the need for it was so much more abundantly clear—in the Senate, there—it was double-digits against it. And that was only a 5-year term. Then, it is reenacted five years later, again for a 5-year term. Double-digits against it in the Senate. Then it was reenacted for seven years, Single digits against it. Then enacted for 25 years, eight Senate votes against it. And this last enactment, not a single vote in the Senate against it. And the House is pretty much the same.
Scalia then said, “Now, I don’t think that’s attributable to the fact that it is so much clearer now that we need this. I think it is attributable, very likely attributable, to a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement. It’s been written about. Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political process.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor did not let Scalia’s entitlement comment go unchallenged.
She pressed Bert W. Rein, the lawyer representing Shelby County, Ala., four times on the issue. She asked, “Do you think that the right to vote is a racial entitlement in Section 5?” Rein finally answered, “…May I say Congress was reacting in 1964 to a problem of race discrimination which it thought was prevalent in certain jurisdictions. So to that extent, as the intervenor said, yes, it was intended to protect those who had been discriminated against.”
Stephen G. Breyer said the case should be looked up through a historical context.
“So in 1965, well, we have history,” he said. “We have 200 years or perhaps of slavery. We have 80 years or so of legal segregation. We have had 41 years of this statue. And this statue has helped a lot. So, therefore Congress in 2005 looks back and says don’t change horses in the middle of the stream, because we still have a ways to go.”
If Section 5 is upheld on this conservative-leaning court, it would probably be on the vote of Anthony M. Kennedy. The right-leaning justice hinted that the Voting Rights Act may have run its course.
After Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. praised the effectiveness of the Voting Rights Act, Kennedy said, “Well, the Marshall Plan was very god, too, the Morale Act, the Northwest Ordinance, but times change.”
Sotomayor said Shelby County has not changed enough.
“Assuming I accept your premise, and there’s some question about that, that some portions of the South have changed, your country pretty much hasn’t.” she said. “In the period we’re talking about, it has many more discriminating—240 discriminatory voting laws that were blocked by Section 5 objections.”
Shelby County went to court after the Justice Department rejected a redistricting plan that evidently played a role in the defeat of Ernest Montgomery, the only Black member of the 5-member city council in Calera, Ala., a bedroom community of 12,000 people near Birmingham.
Montgomery was elected to the council in 2004 from a district that was nearly 71 percent Black. The district was redrawn two years later, reducing the Black presence to 23 percent. Montgomery narrowly lost his 2008 re-election bid to a White challenger. But the Justice Department invalidated the election because district changes had not been pre-cleared. Shelby County went to court to overturn the decision. In meantime, Montgomery won a newly-called election.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote an opinion in 2009 that might signal how he will vote in this case.
He said at the time, “Things have changed in the South. “The evil that Section 5 is meant to address may no longer be concentrated in the jurisdictions singled out for preclearance. The statute’s coverage formula is based on data that is now more than 35 years old, and there is considerable evidence that it fails to account for current political conditions.”
Elena Kagan, an Obama appointee, referred to Senate support of the Voting Rights Act.
“Well, that sounds like a good argument to me, Justice Scalia,” she said. “It was clear to 98 Senators, including every Senator from a covered state, who decided that there was a continuing need for this piece of legislation.”
March 07, 2013
By Maya Rhodan
NNPA Washington Correspondent
WASHINGTON (NNPA) – As Black History Month came to a close, a Civil Rights icon made history once again in the halls of the U.S. Capitol.
On Feb. 27, in a ceremony hosted by President Obama and members of Congress, Rosa Parks became the first Black woman to have her full-length likeness depicted in the National Statuary Hall.
The statue of Parks, which stands at 9-feet tall, depicts the Civil Rights icon seated and clutching her purse to commemorate her refusal to move to the back of a Montgomery, Ala. bus, sparking the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955 that lasted more than a year.
During his speech, President Obama told the story of Parks’ encounter with the bus driver on Dec. 1, 1955 which led to the boycott.
Parks had been kicked off the bus by the same driver twelve years prior for entering through the front door when the back was too crowded.
“He grabbed her sleeve and he pushed her off the bus. It made her mad enough, she would recall, that she avoided riding his bus for a while,” President Obama said. “And when they met again that winter evening in 1955, Rosa Parks would not be pushed.”
Later, when Parks refused to move from her seat, even after the bus driver who had kicked her off the bus 12 years before threatened, and later delivered on his promise, to have her arrested, she remained.
“Some schoolchildren are taught that Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat because her feet were tired,” then Sen. Obama remarked at Rosa Parks’ funeral in 2005.“ Our nation’s schoolbooks are only getting it half right. She once said: “The only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”
For 385 days, Black people across Montgomery boycotted the bus system until it was desegregated; a feat President Obama said last Wednesday led to “the entire edifice of segregation” beginning to tumble like the “ancient walls of Jericho.”
Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga), who grew up in Troy, Ala., only 40 miles from Montgomery, did not meet Parks until he was a student at Fisk University.
“I was only 15 years old during the Montgomery bus boycott,” Lewis said. “But I, like everyone else I knew in Alabama, had a deep admiration and respect for Rosa Parks because of her dignity, her courage and her integrity.”
President Obama referred to Parks as a woman who “defied the odds and defied injustice.”
Although known for sparking the bus boycott, Parks’ activism extended far beyond refusing to be removed from her seat. She was an eternal activist who served in her local NAACP, and worked with Congressman John Conyers of Michigan from 1965-1988.
At 74, Parks opened the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development, an organization that educates and trains disadvantaged youth for employment. Twelve years later President Bill Clinton honored an 86-year-old Parks with a Congressional Gold Medal.
“Rosa Parks held no elected office. She possessed no fortune; lived her life far from the formal seats of power. And yet today, she takes her rightful place among those who’ve shaped this nation’s course,” President Obama said during the ceremony.
Parks, whose casket became the first of an African American to lie in the Capitol Rotunda when she died in 2005 at age 92, now stands among 100 of the most notable leaders in our nation’s history.
“Rosa Parks’ singular act of disobedience launched a movement. The tired feet of those who walked the dusty roads of Montgomery helped a nation see that to which it had once been blind,” President Obama said during the unveiling. “It is because of these men and women that I stand here today. It is because of them that our children grow up in a land more free and more fair; a land truer to its founding creed.”
The icon who would have turned 100 on Feb. 4, joins the likenesses of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Sojourner Truth in the hall of more than 180 pieces of art that celebrate men and women who are “illustrious for their historic renown.”
Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), the current chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, released a statement on the unveiling praising Parks for her “dedication to ensuring no human being is treated like a second class citizen.”
She added, “I am grateful to Mrs. Parks for her contributions to our country. As the statue of Mrs. Parks will remind every person who walks through the halls of the U.S. Capitol, the sacrifices and the fight to secure civil rights in this country are far from over.”
March 07, 2013
By Kalin Thomas
Special to the NNPA from The Atlanta Voice
Southern Christian Leadership Conference CEO Charles Steele Jr. has a stern warning for the FBI – leave State Rep. Tyrone Brooks alone.
“If they can bring about the harassment and intimidation of a man like Tyrone Brooks, just think what they can do to others,” Steele said, referring to reports that FBI officials are investigating Brooks for alleged improper use of funds. “We’re going to show U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that intimidation of people of integrity like Tyrone Brooks will not be tolerated,” he added. “If they think they saw a movement in the 1960s, we’re going to make that look like a Sunday school picnic.”
Federal Bureau of Investigation officials reportedly have questioned members of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials (GABEO) – which Brooks heads – about funding for the re-enactment of the 1946 Moore’s Ford Bridge lynchings in Monroe, Georgia.
Brooks coordinates the annual event to spur the FBI to actively investigate one of most heinous civil rights era murders on the books. Many observers believe that some of the white killers of two black couples –including a pregnant woman – are still alive and should be brought to justice.
Georgia NAACP president Edward DuBose called the reported investigation of Brooks a “witch hunt” and said federal authorities should focus on the Moore’s Ford Bridge killers, not on Brooks.
“The NAACP has coordinated quite a few organizations to speak out in support of Tyrone Brooks,” he said. “We think it’s a witch hunt and an effort to detract from the real issue of bringing the Moore’s Ford Bridge killers to justice.”
Neither the FBI nor U.S. Attorney Sally Yates’ office responded this week to repeated calls for comment.
For his part, Brooks said this kind of FBI “intimidation” is nothing new.
“I understand exactly what’s going on,” said Brooks, a veteran civil rights activist. “I haven’t been contacted by the FBI directly, but we heard about it in Quitman, Georgia at our winter conference this past weekend. And we heard that the black-owned restaurant in Athens that feeds us has also been threatened.”
Brooks vows, however, that no attempt at intimidation will stop the movement.
“We still will continue our plans for our annual march across Moore’s Ford Bridge on April 6,” he said. “And if they kill me, Charles Steele and Edward DuBose will carry on the fight.”
March 07, 2013
By COREY WILLIAMS | Associated Press
DETROIT (AP) — Mayor Dave Bing acknowledged Wednesday that an emergency manager will be appointed to oversee Detroit’s finances and said he won’t participate in the city’s appeal of a report criticizing local officials for their handling of the economic mess.
The City Council approved a resolution authorizing an appeal of Gov. Rick Snyder’s finding that an outside overseer is warranted because Detroit is in a financial emergency with no good plan to get out of it.
Bing, who had the option of either joining that appeal or filing his own, told reporters that he sees no way of avoiding an emergency manager, even though he opposes it.
“We need to end the drama and the infighting and understand that whether we like it or not, an emergency financial manager is coming to Detroit,” Bing said.
Under Michigan law, emergency managers have the power to develop financial plans, renegotiate labor contracts, revise and approve budgets to help control spending, sell off some city assets and suspend elected officials’ salaries.
Snyder said Friday he agrees with a state-appointed review team that spent two months delving into Detroit's finances. The city’s budget deficit is at $327 million. It also has long-term debt topping $14 billion and has had trouble in recent months making payroll and paying other bills.
He scheduled a hearing date for next Tuesday in case his decision was appealed. Chief Deputy Treasurer Mary MacDowell will preside over that hearing in Lansing as Snyder’s designee, spokesman Terry Stanton said.
“There is no statutory time frame for the governor to either confirm or revoke his determination that a financial emergency exists in Detroit,” Stanton wrote in an email to the Associated Press.
Bing said he met with Snyder this week in Lansing and concluded efforts to head off a manager will be fruitless.
The Republican governor said he already has a person in mind to take the emergency manager’s job if he decides Detroit needs one to get out of its fiscal mess.
“For me, I don’t mind fighting, but I’m not stupid,” Bing told The AP Wednesday morning. “If I know I’m going to get in a fight that I have no chance of winning, why in the hell should I get in that fight? I'm much better off walking away from that and fight another day.”
Council President Charles Pugh said he was holding out hope that Snyder may ultimately not appoint a manager and that city officials “are going to try every avenue that we can.”
Bing said he disputes portions of the review team’s report, namely the determination Detroit has no plan to deal with its financial emergency. Bing also said he questions if Detroit is responsible for budget problems in the city’s 36th District Court.
The court had $279 million in outstanding accounts receivables as of June 30, according to the review team report. Of that amount, an estimated $199 million is owed to the city.
Court officials, as of early this year, had taken no actions to reduce expenditures and had 350 workers while budgeted for 285, the review team said.
If Snyder does appoint a fiscal overseer, Bing said he intends to work “collaboratively” with that person instead of battling with Lansing.
“This city has a reputation of fighting, fighting, fighting and so we wind up fighting each other,” Bing told the AP. “And when we do that, the city loses.”