Scalia Calls Voting Rights Act of 1965 A Racial Entitlement

by Deona Hooper, MSW

State of the Union
Desiline Victors at the Presidential State of the Union 2013

After opening arguments at the US Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, it appears the landmark civil rights legislation is in trouble. Justice Antonin Scalia called the Voting Rights Act a “racial entitlement” which drew large criticism from onlookers as well as other Supreme Court Justices. This statement is especially polarizing after Desiline Victor, the 102 year old African-American woman,  who was in line for six hours to vote in the presidential election 2012. Many Americans, both white and of color, were outraged at the voter restriction legislation put in place by Republican led legislatures in order to reduce democratic turnout in battleground states. Democratic voters of all ages and color went out in record numbers to vote with a vengeance. President Obama won 11 out of 12 battleground states with the exception of North Carolina which was lost with less than 100,000 votes.

Despite a popular vote win with 2.6 million votes over Mitt Romney, many state legislatures retained Republican control or gained a Republican super-majority which means the House, Senate, and Governor are controlled by the GOP. Did the massive lines single to Republicans that the American people will not stand for voter restrictions laws? No, it only singled to them that their plan is working which may bring them the desired effect in another 10 years which is a gerrymandered federal election. The GOP has utilized think tanks for decades planning not only for the next four to 8 years. They were planning for the next forty years to return this country back to the status quo of whites only making decisions and running all levels of government as well as the private sector.

The civil rights movement occurred because it was a joint effort between whites and people of color, and the GOP did not plan for another mass exodus of White Americans in Election 2012 who have embraced equality and diversity for all in this great country.  It’s time for progressives to do more than sign petitions and starting strategically planning for the next couple of decades to restore a balance of power back to our local governments and state legislatures. Will the US Supreme Court seek retribution for the right after upholding the Affordable Health Care Act as constitutional? Stay tuned for the summer block buster for diversity and equality with both DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) and Voter’s Rights Act of 1965 before the Supreme Court.

Chuck Hagel Finally Confirmed As US Defense Secretary

by Deona Hooper, MSW

Photo: AP Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing
Photo: AP Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing

Today, the United States Senate finally confirmed Chuck Hagel as the US Defense Secretary with a 58 to 41 vote after a grueling confirmation hearing. With sequester cuts looming on the horizon, Hagel’s confirmation couldn’t have come at a better time with the deep cuts slated for the defense department on March 1st.  No surprise that the Senate voted largely along party lines, but the confirmation is being seen as a win for the Obama Administration. Chuck Hagel became the first Secretary of Defense in US History to be filibustered on order to prevent a confirmation vote. However, the GOP claims that it was not a filibuster more than a prolonged inquiry.

MacCarthyism was mentioned quite a few times during the Chuck Hagel confirmation hearings largely due to accusations made by freshman Republican Senator Ted Cruz from Texas.  MacCarthyism was named after Republican Senator Joe MacCarthy who made accusations that the State Department had been infiltrated by communist during the Truman Administration without any basis or evidence. The Washington Post did an extensive article on some of the accusations made against Hagel. Here is an excerpt:

Even before Hagel was formally nominated, conservative media had publishedallegations that the former Republican senator from Nebraska was anti-Semitic. The innuendo reached a whole new level when freshman Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) suggested at a Senate hearing that Hagel may have received speaking fees from “extreme or radical groups,” adding: “It is at a minimum relevant to know if that $200,000 that he deposited in his bank account came directly from Saudi Arabia, came directly from North Korea.”

Next, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) gave credence to a hoax, published credulously in the conservative press, that Hagel had received funds from a fictitious group called Friends of Hamas. Asked about this by radio host Hugh Hewitt, Paul replied: “You know, I saw that information today, also, and that is more and more concerning.”

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Trayvon Martin: Parents Reflect on Anniversary of Slain Teenager’s Death

by Deona Hooper, MSW

Photo: AP
Photo: AP

One year ago, Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman while walking home from the store with a bag of skittles and ice tea. The story captivated the nation and evoked the examination of  “Stand Your Ground Laws”  being applied in red states across the country. Many who advocated on behalf of George Zimmerman argue that he is a victim of racial tension which has drawn much scrutiny to a self-defense case. However, advocates for Trayvon Martin state that self-defense is an argument to be made in front of a jury and not a police officer determining whether to arrest or not.

On February 26, 2013,  the parents of Trayvon Martin, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, held a million hoodies vigil to mark the one year anniversary of his death. Trayvon’s death sparked a national debate on gun violence, and his parents have since become activist in speaking out on tragedies such as Aurora and Sandy Hook. George Zimmerman’s trial is set to begin in June after a judge denied a request by his attorney’s for a delay.

US Today did a great article complete with a time line from the initial shooting, and here is an excerpt:

Robert Zimmerman wears bulletproof vests when he goes outside his house. He doesn’t greet neighbors or look grocery store cashiers in the eye. Once, angry customers at Starbucks confronted him over one of the nation’s most controversial cases.

Zimmerman is not a suspect, but his brother, George, is the man accused of murdering Trayvon Martin a year ago Feb. 26. Like Trayvon’s family, Zimmerman’s family has been forever changed since the night Trayvon, a teenager who prosecutors say was racially profiled, was fatally shot in a dark Florida subdivision.

Amid plans for a vigil in memory of Trayvon in New York City, the families of George Zimmerman and Trayvon are speaking as publicly about the case as ever.

“George’s entire family was smeared by proxy,” said Robert Zimmerman, 31, who moved from Virginia to act as a full-time spokesman for his family. “The situation goes from peaceful to anxious, having uttered the Zimmerman name in public.”

Trayvon’s father, Tracy Martin, 46, continues to be haunted by the moment he identified his son’s dead body. For him, Feb. 26, the day of the shooting, and Feb. 27, the morning he identified his son, mark the worst days of his life.

“I just want to erase those two days,” he said. “No healing has been done inside my heart.”

Martin, a truck driver, hasn’t gotten a chance to grieve because of his public battle to get George Zimmerman arrested and charged. Instead of grief counselors and moments of reflection, the last year has been about speaking out against the racial profiling he says led Zimmerman to target his son. For Martin, peace may begin if a jury convicts Zimmerman.

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View Pundits discussion the Trayvon Martin Case and Gun Violence

Michelle Obama’s Appearance at the Oscars Infuriated the Right Wing

by Deona Hooper, MSW

Michelle Obama

First Lady, Michelle Obama with some assistance from Jack Nicholas announced the winner for Best Picture at the Academy Awards 2013. At the end of all the suspense, Argo directed by Ben Affleck snagged the Academy’s top award after not being nominated for Best Director. Although this was a major upset with Lincoln being the favorite to win, this Oscar moment triggered lots of angry tweets by right wingers at Michelle Obama’s Oscar appearance.

The New Civil Rights Movement was one of the first to report on this massive upset, and they also took the initiative to create a storify archive of all the tweets. Here is an except from their article:

“It’s through cinema,” Mrs. Obama added, that “our children learn to open their imagination and dream just a little bigger and to strive every day to reach those dreams.”

But the First Lady also delivered a shout-out to the LGBT community, concluding, “These lessons apply to all of us no matter who we are or what we look like or where we come from or who we love.”

Cue. Right. Wing. Freak. Out. Now… Read More

photo credit: Pete Souza/White House

Oscar Pistorius Allegedly Murder Girlfriend on Valentine’s Day

by Deona Hooper, MSW

PistoriusOscar Pistorius, Olympic athlete known as the Blade Runner, is sitting in a South African jail awaiting a hearing after being arrested on Valentine’s Day for killing his girlfriend. Reeva Steenkamp, model and law school graduate, was found dead in the runner’s home from a gunshot wound. News reports state that Reeva’s career was beginning to take off with a new reality tv show set to premiere. Reports have described her as a very caring and kind person. As recently as four days ago, Reeva sent out a tweet encouraging her followers to speak out against rape and violence against women. Currently, there are conflicting reports on how this Valentine’s Day tragedy occurred. News reports suggest that Pistorius may have shot his girlfriend accidentally by misidentifying her as an intruder. However, police reports show that there has been prior domestic disturbances at his home. It’s not clear if those disturbances occurred with the recently deceased Reeva Steenkamp.

Pistorius gained world fame as a double amputee who uses carbon fiber prosthesis to run in the 2012 Olympics. Although, he did not win Olympic gold his participation in the Olympics made history and made him a household name.  Nike has pulled it’s commercial of Pistorius which coin the term “Bullet Out the Chamber” for the advertisement. Only time will tell about how this story will unfold.

View the Tweet by Reeva Steenkamp encouraging others to speak out against rape.

 

Photo Courtesy of  http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/sport/olympics/article3687963.ece

Building Equity and Opportunity in a Southern City: Mayor Otis Johnson

by Deona Hooper, MSW

Former Mayor of Savannah, Georgia, Otis Johnson, will be kicking off a new lecture series hosted by Manpower Development Corp (MDC) in Durham, NC on February 21, 2013 at 6:00PM EST. Doors will open at 5:30PM for a photo exhibitition by Alex Maness of Danville, Virginia. For almost 50 years, MDC has been dedicated to identifying and removing barriers that separate people from opportunity. They have worked extensively with the Annie E. Casey Foundation in using evidence based research and practices to increase outcomes for vulnerable populations living in poverty.

The Honorable Otis Johnson will reflect on his 30 year career in public service which includes leading the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Youth Futures Commission for his state and being the Dean for Savannah State University’s School of Social Work. Currently, he is a member of the Aspen Roundtable on Comprehensive Community Change, and he will be discussing ongoing efforts to close the gap between communities and their business leaders. The lecture will be held at MDC offices at 307 West Main Street, Durham, NC. The lecture will also include a streaming live web cast of the event. For more information go to www.mdcing.org.

Here is an excerpt from Savannah Now, a local Georgia news paper, on how his legacy may be judged:

First black mayor

From his first days on council, after being elected in 1983 to serve as a District 2 alderman, he sensed the time for a black mayor was near. Floyd Adams, a newspaper publisher, and Robbie Robinson, an attorney, also were serving on council.

Johnson resigned in 1988 to head the Youth Futures Authority. Robinson was murdered in a 1989 mail bombing.

Adams stayed on, working his way from alderman to mayor pro tem. Susan Weiner, the city’s first female mayor, was running for re-election in 1995.

Her administration, Johnson said, “had been a disappointment to everybody.”

“It was an opportunity then for a strong black candidate,” Johnson said. “I thought about it then. I knew I had the qualifications to become mayor.”

He knew, though, that Adams “really wanted it” and, Johnson thought, Adams had earned the right by staying on council. Johnson decided not to run.

Would he have wanted the distinction of being the first black mayor?

“Yes! But I wasn’t willing to have two blacks in the race and split up the black vote and lose the opportunity,” he said. “I told myself, ‘When Floyd can’t run, then it will be my turn.’”

He won narrowly in 2003 run-off against Pete Liakakis. In 2007, with little opposition, he returned on nearly 70 percent of the vote.  Read Full Article

Lance Armstrong: Classic Narcissist or Psychopath Maybe Both

by Deona Hooper, MSW

Lance Armstrong Interview w/Oprah

A media sandstorm was unleashed after Lance Armstrong did his tell all interview with Oprah on her cable network channel OWN this past Thursday night. The cloud of Armstrong using performance enhancing drugs during his seven Tour de France wins has loomed over the cyclist for almost 15 years. However, the allegations are now reality because Armstrong has finally admitted to doping in order to achieve his record wins.

Reporters, sports analysts, and former victims of Lance Armstrong have all used terms such as narcissist and/or psychopath to describe Armstrong’s behavior in conducting and protecting his doping scheme over the past decade. Lance Armstrong has built a reputation that has utilized tactics to literally destroy anyone both in character and financially who questioned, eluded, or reported any of his wrong doings. During  Armstrong’s  interview with Oprah, several videos were aired of Armstrong shaming and showing disdain for those who questioned his seven Tour de France wins.

We have seen this saga play out before with other high-profile athletes accused of using performance enhancing drugs to excel in their respective sport, but what makes this case different? The difference in this case is the manner in which Lance Armstrong went after his detractors. Armstrong and his team of lawyers destroyed anyone who dared to question his integrity. After all, Armstrong created the Livestrong Cancer Foundation in which he made sure the two could not be separated. Many have since stated that Armstrong used Livestrong as a shield because no one wanted to undermine the great work of the foundation. Is classic narcissist or psychopath a fair analysis of his past behavior and lack of remorse as described by many after watching the interview?

“He will give the impression that he is highly accomplished at anything and everything he does. He will always be right no matter what. Even if he is wrong, he will twist the truth so that he can assign blame to anyone or anything other than himself.” Lifescript. com How to Deal with Narcissistic Behavior

“Imagine – if you can – not having a conscience, none at all, no feelings of guilt or remorse no matter what you do, no limiting sense of concern for the well-being of strangers, friends, or even family members. Imagine no struggles with shame, not a single one in your whole life, no matter what kind of selfish, lazy, harmful, or immoral action you had taken.” The Mask of Sanity

View the video clips of Armstrong’s interview with Oprah, and you decide.

How Many Dead Will It Take

by Deona Hooper, MSW

Another mass shooting occurred today in Newtown, Connecticut taking the lives of 20 children and 8 adults including the principal, but how many dead will it take before better gun control measures are put in place? Details are still developing, and the identification of the shooter is still sketchy. It is currently being reported that the shooter’s mother worked at the school, and it is currently being reported that the majority of fatalities occurred in her class.

Under our current gun laws, 40% of all guns sales do not require any background checks which can also be purchased online via the internet. Many second amendment defenders argue that guns don’t kill people, and they insist that people kill people. Yet, most victims who are murdered or commit suicide utilize guns as their weapon of choice. As Americans, we need to closely examine the motives of those who oppose reasonable gun control measures. The National Rifle Association (NRA) should not have more power over our elected officials than the will of the American people.  It is disheartening to see the pain and aftermath as the types of events unfold on a weekly basis. I fear that mass shooting are becoming normalized in our society. I fear that our society will implement more responsive actions like active school shooter drills and more law enforcement special response teams instead of implementing stricter gun control laws.

My prayers go out to the families, first responders, medical and mental health personnel who are involved with this tragedy. Photo: State police personnel led children from the school following a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, Dec. 14, 2012. (Shannon Hicks/The Newtown Bee)

View the President’s address to the Nation on this horrific tragedy earlier today:

[youtube]http://youtu.be/H3tYW6P3bY8[/youtube]

The Changing Electorate and What it Means for Immigration

by Jose Raul Gonzalez, BSW Student

Last Tuesday’s election losses for Republicans have been an embarrassment and their Mitt Romney “self-deportation” immigration solution.  Hispanic voters, the largest growing demographics, voted for President Obama in numbers above the 70 percent mark.  Many influential Republicans like former Florida governor Jeb Bush have advised his party to take a new stance on Latinos and immigration.

Even GOP House Speaker John Boehner has started to call for comprehensive immigration reform, something he has not advocated for in the past.  The extreme right has even delved into the political forum of immigration which was taboo for them since immigration reform was tantamount to amnesty.  Remember that the far right holds immigration reform, and entitlement programs with a condescending contempt not worthy of any elected official working for the people of the United States.  Now it seems that conservative Fox News host Sean Hannity is advocating for a “pathway to citizenship” for otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants.

Courtesy of Mother Jones

The tide is turning and political futures are at stake now.  Many are changing their rhetoric to a softer stance not wanting to be the ones on their way to political suicide if they continue to denigrate the growing Hispanic electorate.

President Obama racked up a presidential victory with a 71-27 percent edge over Romney among Latinos, but on Election Day, the state of Maryland became the first to approve a measure that allows some undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition.

The pressure has been applied and now it is incumbent for the Republicans to change their past extremism to a more moderate stance and for the Democrats to finally deliver on this controversial issue.

It is interesting to see what exactly will take shape if any reform is indeed passed.  Will the “Dream Act” effort that was defeated in 2010 finally become a reality for many struggling youths whom by virtue and deeds are as American as any of us who are born citizens?  The people have spoken with their votes and they have defined what it means.  This country is changing and we as a nation must change to reflect the ever growing electorate and to preserve the greatness we all feel as Americans!

 

10 Years in Prison for Same Sex Relationships

A bill which suggests 10 years in prison for living with someone of the same sex, 10 years in prison for supporting the idea of a pride march, and 14 years in prison for trying to have a wedding, one would expect that it addresses a crime. However it only refers to someone being gay.

In 2007, the Pew Research Center conducted a study in Nigerian attitudes towards LGBTQs. Based on that study, 97% of the Nigerians in Nigeria supported the idea that homosexuality is and should be a non acceptable behavior.

Regardless the facts though, there are still individuals who are NOT BEHAVING HOMOSEXUAL, but instead of having a heterosexual orientation, they have a homosexual orientation; same thing, different route! What about those individuals then? Where are the potentials for well-being? What is the answer from the social work profession in Nigeria, in Africa, and Internationally? How are those policies and changes in the social world communicated through education to the newly qualified fellow social workers? How empathetic are professionals in order to care a bit more? What kind of strategies have been followed to such issues?

The questions here could be endless, as when associated to the social work profession, one should remind thy self, that such policies step over human rights, and majority of the social work principles and values that social workers take a vow for.

I hear colleagues of mine saying that they conduct international affairs and practice!! That is another bit to be added in our education. Taking action does not always mean to physically present yourself in the crisis, but to support the cause in any given circumstances.

Also see: www.allout.org/nigeria-veto

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