Category: Struggle for African American equality
Green Party of New Orleans opposes monument legislation

Green Party of New Orleans opposes monument legislation

The Green Party of New Orleans decries current efforts of the state legislature to impede the removal of Confederate monuments from our local streetscape. 

“The Green Party finds that local grassroots governing best serves communities,” said Anika Ofori, a Green Party of New Orleans organizer and member of the Green Party of the United States Black Caucus. “Recent events reveal the psychological significance of these confederate monuments very clearly. Removing these monuments to a place where their history is recognized, as Confederates, can be achieved in an appropriate location.”

The fight to have such monuments removed is decades long. In 2015, the will of the people and the will of our municipality converged into an overwhelming vote to remove. These monuments were deemed public nuisances and declared to no longer represent the values the city wishes to achieve in our future.

Legislative opposition, just as the final plans for removal are implemented, shows how important it is for the city to continue with the removal. The state legislature’s attempt to block the removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee meddles in our city’s concerted resolve to remove public exaltation of the crime of slavery.

Given the Legislative Black Caucus’ walkout from this process, this legislation creates the specter of largely white legislators’ foisting racist laws on the state’s largest city, which also happens to be majority African American.

“Sadly, this is nothing new,” said local party member David Bryan. “It is clear that the state legislature identifies with monied interests at the expense of the state’s most vulnerable and largely African American citizens.”

In 2002, New Orleanians approved a referendum increasing the city’s minimum wage by one dollar over the federal minimum wage, and the state promptly outlawed this modest pay increase for some of her poorest citizens. In 1998, New Orleans’ then-mayor Marc Morial filed a class-action lawsuit against gun manufacturers for the gun violence plaguing the city. Despite a decade of record-setting murders in New Orleans, Louisiana’s legislature sided with the gun manufacturers over the interests of her own citizens and passed legislation that retroactively stopped the lawsuit.

“We are alarmed at the continued attempt to abrogate and override local municipal control,” said Ryan Hargis, Secretary of the Green Party of Louisiana. “The decentralization of political power is a key value for Greens. Decision-making must remain with the communities most affected by the decisions.”

CALL TO ACTION: We urge all Greens in Louisiana, and any residents who care about these issues, to contact their senators and urge them to oppose House Bill 71, House Bill 292, Senate Bill 198, and any other bills which would impede the will of the people in removing monuments to white supremacy.

Find your legislators via the Louisiana State Legislature website.

NC Republicans illegally used race during redistricting, US Supreme Court rules

https://www.rt.com/usa/389263-nc-racial-redistricting-scotus/

NC Republicans illegally used race during redistricting, US Supreme Court rules

NC Republicans illegally used race during redistricting, US Supreme Court rules
North Carolina’s GOP-led legislature illegally used race to redraw congressional districts, the Supreme Court has ruled. It’s the latest case where justices ruled against race-based redistricting, even after tossing many protections for minority voters.

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that North Carolina relied too heavily on race when redrawing two congressional districts in the Tar Heel State. The justices unanimously rejected the “reshuffle” of voters in District 1 and voted 5-3 to reject that of District 12. The decision upheld a lower court’s ruling from last February.

“The Constitution entrusts states with the job of designing congressional districts,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the majority. “But it also imposes an important constraint: A state may not use race as the predominant factor in drawing district lines unless it has a compelling reason.”

In recent statewide and federal elections, North Carolina split along partisan lines, but Republicans hold 10 of the 13 congressional districts in 2016, compared to only six in 2010. The GOP-controlled legislature, which redrew the map in 2013, argued that its redistricting effort was an attempt to protect majorities for its politicians, which is allowed, and not a way to diminish the impact of minority voters.

The justices disagreed, finding that the 1st District ‒ in which the black voting-age population increased from 47.6 percent to 52.65 percent ‒ “produced boundaries amplifying divisions between blacks and whites,” while in the 12th ‒ in which the black voting-age population increased from 43.7 percent to 50.66 percent ‒ “race, not politics, accounted for the district’s reconfiguration,” Kagan wrote.

Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy, dissented on the court’s ruling for the 12th District, believing that the district was redrawn to help Republicans, not to disenfranchise black voters in neighboring districts.

“Partisan gerrymandering is always unsavory, but that is not the issue here,” Alito wrote, referring to redistricting that favors one party. “So long as the legislature chose to retain the basic shape of District 12 and to increase the number of Democrats in the district, it was inevitable that the Democrats brought in would be disproportionately black.”

Monday’s ruling, Cooper v. Harris, is significant because of a 2013 decision in which the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to overturn a key part of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965. This law was put in place during the Civil Rights Movement to obstruct voting for African-Americans in historically racist states as part of the systemic discrimination known as Jim Crow laws, which were adopted in the century following the abolition of slavery.

The part that was invalidated, Section 4, explained the formula used by Congress to identify regions of the US subject to extra scrutiny when local lawmakers try to change election rules. States that prevented African Americans from registering to vote or running for office, in addition to other infractions, were singled out by Section 4.

Despite the 2013 decision, federal courts still found that state redistricting and voter identification laws are discriminatory. Along with such rulings in North Carolina, judges held that two different strict voter ID laws in Texas and the use of prison populations to manipulate voting districts in Florida and Virginia were all unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court also upheld the practice of creating voting districts based on the total population, throwing out a challenge last April that would have seen them redrawn based on eligible voters instead. The decision was seen as a boon to the Democrats, as accounting for the total population, which includes children, felons, and noncitizens, can lead to vast differences in the number of voters in a particular district, as well as differences in the power of those voters.

In 2015, the Supreme Court also found that individual majority-minority legislative districts in Alabama were racially gerrymandered, forcing the state to redraw its electoral map. In March, the justices called for further review of 11 state legislative districts in Virginia, because it appeared that “race for its own sake” was unconstitutionally “the overriding reason for choosing one map over others,” Kennedy wrote.

“This is a watershed moment in the fight to end racial gerrymandering,” former US Attorney General Eric Holder, who is now the chair of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee after focusing on redistricting during his time at the Department of Justice, said in a statement.

“North Carolina’s maps were among the worst racial gerrymanders in the nation,” he continued. “Today’s ruling sends a stark message to legislatures and governors around the country: Racial gerrymandering is illegal and will be struck down in a court of law.”

Governor Roy Cooper (D-North Carolina) was named as a plaintiff in the case, even though he was not yet in office when arguments were heard. He praised the decision Monday.

“North Carolina voters deserve a level playing field and fair elections, and I’m glad the Supreme Court agrees,” he said in a statement. “The North Carolina Republican legislature tried to rig congressional elections by drawing unconstitutional districts that discriminated against African-Americans and that’s wrong.”

Republicans complained about the ruling, however, saying it compounds “the confused state of the law.”

“The Supreme Court says race can be a factor in redistricting but not the predominant factor, a rule that is so vague, so broad, and so lacking in a definable legal standard that it is not really a rule at all,” Hans von Spakovsky of the conservative Heritage Foundation said.

New Orleans Removes Third Confederate Monument Amid Threats
P.G.T. Beauregard Statue

New Orleans Removes Third Confederate Monument Amid Threats

© AP Photo/ Gerald Herbert
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https://sputniknews.com/us/201705171053716292-new-orleans-third-confederate-monument-removed/

The city of New Orleans has taken down a third Confederate monument amid massive tensions and threats.

Shortly after 3 a.m. on Wednesday, city workers donning helmets and bulletproof vests removed a statue of Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard. Demonstrators, both for and against the monuments removal gathered at the scene.

“Today we take another step in defining our City not by our past but by our bright future,” Democratic New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a statement. “While we must honor our history, we will not allow the Confederacy to be put on a pedestal in the heart of New Orleans.”Last week, a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis was removed and placed in a warehouse with the other monuments until an appropriate home for them can be determined.

“After nearly two years of planning and court battles, City officials began the process today of removing the three remaining monuments that prominently celebrate the ‘Lost Cause of the Confederacy.’ The statues that are being removed were erected decades after the Civil War to celebrate the ‘Cult of the Lost Cause,’ a movement recognized across the South as celebrating and promoting white supremacy,” Landrieu’s office said in a statement as the workers were removing the Davis monument last Thursday.

Late last month, workers removing the first statue also donned helmets, masks and bulletproof vests, as they had reportedly received death threats.The statue was erected in 1891 to honor the failed rebellion of the Crescent City White League militia, which sought to topple the biracial government after the Civil War.Landrieu began his quest to remove the offending statutes two years ago, but faced legal hurdles and challenges by opponents. Those who wanted the monuments to stay cited historical relevance and context.

There is now one more monument that the city has set for removal, that of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, which will surely be the most contentious removal.

Confederate monuments: Washington and Lee University not interested in New Orleans statues

http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/05/confederate_monuments_robert_e_1.html

With the monument to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee the final of four expected to be taken down in New Orleans, there’s one place to cross off the list as its possible destination: Washington and Lee University.

In a May 10 email to NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, a spokeswoman for Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s office wrote that “Landrieu and members of his staff have spoken with individuals affiliated with a number of different organizations — including Washington and Lee University, Beauvoir and the Smithsonian Museum — to gauge interest” in acquiring the city’s four Confederate monuments slated for removal.

However, a spokeswoman for Washington and Lee subsequently reached out to NOLA.com to deny that any such conversation had taken place, saying she was “not aware of anyone from the city of New Orleans contacting Washington and Lee about the statues.”

A spokesman for Landrieu has since clarified the original statement.

“An alum of Washington and Lee mentioned that university as a possibility,” said Landrieu’s communications director, Tyronne Walker. “Since that time, we have received communication officially saying to us that in fact Washington and Lee is not a good option from their perspective because the statue that exists in New Orleans is about his time as a soldier, and their university focuses on any work he did around education post the war. … That’s the extent of our exploration of that option.”

Landrieu and his office have consistently said the four Confederate monuments — which, in addition to Lee, include statues of Jefferson Davis and P.G.T Beauregard and an obelisk commemorating the Battle of Liberty Place — should be placed somewhere in their “proper context,” but there has yet to be consensus as to what that will be once all four are removed. Until those determinations are made, the monuments are being housed in an undisclosed city warehouse.

In an interview last week, Thomas Payne, executive director at Beauvoir, the Biloxi, Mississippi, home housing Jefferson Davis’ presidential library, confirmed his team would appreciate any of the Confederate monuments.

Walker didn’t know which specific museum within the Smithsonian Institution might be interested in the monuments, but noted it’s possible the four statues could be sent in different directions.

“Our focus has primarily been on the removal process. … The truth is (where they end up) is not determined yet,” he said. “We’re open to ideas from institutions and museums who may be interested in the monuments once we have some viable options.”

Green Party of New Orleans statement on monuments

http://www.lagreens.org/nola_monuments?utm_campaign=gpnola_may17&utm_medium=email&utm_source=greenpartylouisiana

The Green Party of New Orleans enthusiastically supports the City’s efforts to remove monuments to white supremacy from the streets of New Orleans, and we wholeheartedly endorse the efforts of Take Em Down NOLA in pressing the demands of this cause.

Jefferson Davis, Slave Owner

As students of history, we know that these monuments were not erected as memorials to the Civil War so much as symbols aiming to reinforce the dominant ideology of white supremacy. The Confederacy, after all, lost the war, and slavery was outlawed; the monuments were designed to say, “Yet still, we rule.” They were designed to maintain and reproduce a harsh and rigid racial caste system.

It is time to unequivocally repudiate this oppressive system. Removing these monuments is symbolic of that ongoing effort.

We understand the value of historical artifacts. We call on the City administration to take great care with the monuments, once removed, to ensure that they are placed in a proper educational context, where they can be studied and remembered for what they are.

We are proud of the leading role that liberatory activists in our city have played in the long struggle for justice. At the same time, we recognize that this work is far from complete. As the struggle continues, we aim to work with those who organize and fight for justice and liberty.

[Revised 13 May 2017]

Texas university cancels GOP senator’s speech after 800+ students sign petition

https://www.rt.com/usa/388179-black-tx-university-cancels-senator/

Texas university cancels GOP senator's speech after 800+ students sign petition
Security concerns caused Texas Southern University in Houston to cancel a scheduled commencement address by Senator John Cornyn, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate. The move comes amid a growing debate about free speech on college campuses.

“Every consideration is made to ensure that our students’ graduation day is a celebratory occasion and one they will remember positively for years to come. We asked Senator Cornyn to instead visit with our students again at a future date in order to keep the focus on graduates and their families,” said the university’s Facebook page.

Over 850 students signed the petition at the historically black university protesting the commencement address by Texas Senator Cornyn. They also urged graduating students and their families to “express their discontent” if he did speak.

“This is our graduation. We have the right to decide if we want to refuse to sit and listen to the words of a politician who chooses to use his political power in ways that continually harm marginalized and oppressed people,” said the petition on the Change.org site.

The action was sponsored by Rebecca Trevino, 26, a 2017 graduate in social work from San Antonio who told the Houston Chronicle she had no desire to censor Cornyn but rather to represent the values of the school.

“What I want people to realize is that this is our commencement,” Trevino said. “This is something we’ve worked hard for and we want someone who represents us and our values.”

Among the complaints against Cornyn was that he had voted for Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, approved Besty DeVos as Secretary of Education, and supports the idea of needing a photo ID to vote in federal elections.

Cornyn aides said the decision to cancel his appearance was the school’s, not his.

“Sen. Cornyn was honored to be invited to address TSU’s graduates, but he respects the administration’s decision and looks forward to continuing to engage with the University in the future,” said a Cornyn spokesman.

The petition comes shortly after DeVos was booed at a commencement address this week at Bethune-Cookman University, a black college in Daytona Beach, Florida.

The actions come amid a growing national debate about free speech on college campuses, following increasingly frequent student protests and several high-profile cancellations, mostly directed at conservative speakers.

Students protested at the University of California at Berkeley before administrators pulled the plug on a speech by conservative commentator Ann Coulter, and a previous cancellation of a speech at the same campus by right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos has spurred the protests.

Texas Southern, founded in 1927 as the Houston Colored Junior College, is considered one of the nation’s leading historically black colleges, with nearly 10,000 students. About three-fourths of the students are African American, with the rest a mix of other races, including Hispanics, whites and international students.

Cornyn’s invitation to commencement was reportedly extended in part because of his help in securing federal funding for historically black colleges, according to the Houston Chronicle.

US Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D, Texas) and the singer Al Green will deliver the commencement address.

The disease killing white Americans goes way deeper than opioids

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/03/24/the-disease-killing-white-americans-goes-way-deeper-than-opioids/?utm_term=.f55eba3dc5b4

Wonkblog

March 24

In rich countries, death rates are supposed to decline. But in the past decade and a half, middle-aged white Americans have actually been dying faster. Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton first pointed out this disturbing trend in a 2015 study that highlighted three “diseases of despair”: drugs, drinking and suicide.

On Thursday, the pair released a deeper analysis that clears up one of the biggest misconceptions about their earlier research.

The problem of dying whites can’t only be blamed on rising rates of drug overdoses, suicides and chronic alcoholism, they say. More and more, middle-aged white Americans are dying for all kinds of reasons — and the underlying issue may have less to do with opioids and more to do with how society has left behind the working class.

“Ultimately, we see our story as about the collapse of the white, high school educated, working class after its heyday in the 1970s, and the pathologies that accompany that decline,” they write.

On the streets of Chillicothe, Ohio: ‘Shooting heroin is like drinking beer’

Chillicothe, Ohio is grappling with an addiction epidemic driven by opioids like heroin. But some here aren’t letting overdoses rule. (Lee Powell/The Washington Post)
Chillicothe, Ohio is grappling with an addiction epidemic driven by opioids like heroin. But some here aren’t letting overdoses rule. On the streets of Chillicothe, Ohio, the fight against an opioid addiction epidemic means police work. And high school students taking to those streets. (Lee Powell/The Washington Post)

This is slightly different than what they said in their first paper, where they emphasized that the trend of rising white mortality was “largely accounted for by increasing death rates from drug and alcohol poisonings, suicide, and chronic liver diseases and cirrhosis.” That’s technically correct — but by focusing only on the increase in death rates, Case and Deaton distracted from the larger picture.

The alarming fact isn’t just that middle-aged whites are dying faster, but also that mortality rates have been dramatically declining in nearly every other rich country. The United States is getting left behind.

In the last 15 years, a chasm opened up between middle aged whites in America and citizens of European countries like France, Germany and the United Kingdom. While white death rates in America rose slightly, death rates in those other countries continued to plummet. In comparison to what happened in Europe, the situation for American whites starts looks much more dire — and it’s a bigger problem than opioids or suicides can explain. It’s not just about what went wrong in America, but what stopped going right.

Fifteen years ago, middle-aged whites in the United States were neck and neck with their German counterparts. Now, middle-aged white Americans are 45 percent more likely to die than middle-aged Germans.

As Case and Deaton show, the gap in mortality between white middle-aged Americans and middle-aged Germans is about 125 deaths per 100,000 people now. Every year, of 100,000 Germans between the ages of 45 and 54, about 285 die. In the United States, it’s more than 410.

Out of those 125 additional American deaths, only about 40 might be explained by the spike in deadly drug use, drinking and suicides. And the rest? It’s hard to say. In their latest paper, Case and Deaton say that heart disease is part of the problem. While other countries have cut down heart disease deaths by over 40 percent in the past 15 years, heart disease remains a significant killer for white middle-aged Americans.

There’s still much left unexplained, but the latest data tell a larger — and more troubling — story. Most of the increase in white deaths is concentrated among those who never finished college. These are the same people who have been pummeled by the economy in recent decades. It’s gotten more difficult for them to find jobs, and what jobs they do come across nowadays don’t pay as well.

Yet, it’s not entirely a matter of income either. Some of these same economic trends — driven by globalization and automation — afflicted countries like the U.K. and Germany, where the death rate has been dropping. Besides, according to a Washington Post analysis of recent Census Bureau data, white American men without a college degree still earn 36 percent more than their black counterparts. But the death rate among less-educated black Americans has actually been decreasing. In recent years, the two groups have converged — they are dying at about the same rate — even though white Americans still earn more.

So the theory comes back to despair. Case and Deaton believe that white Americans may be suffering from a lack of hope. The pain in their bodies might reflect a “spiritual” pain caused by “cumulative distress, and the failure of life to turn out as expected.” If they’re right, then the problem will be much harder to solve. Politicians can pass laws to keep opioids out of people’s hands or require insurers to cover mental health costs, but they can’t turn back the clock to 1955.