Every Friday, PRA brings you a monthly update on a different social justice issue. This week, we are recapping the last month in Racial and Immigrant Justice.
Senator Ted Cruz Says “Stand Your Ground” Laws Protect Black Americans
Texas Senator Ted Cruz (R), during a Senate hearing on “stand your ground” laws, announced that these laws actually “protect” Black Americans rather than harming them. The hearing came about as a result of the 2012 shooting of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. Cruz stated that because many Black Americans tend to be victims of violent crimes, they would benefit from using “stand your ground” laws as a defense. He then addressed Sybrina Fulton, Martin’s mother, and suggested that her family was “simply mourning the loss of [their son],” while others were trying to turn this tragic event into something more than it was. Studies have found that the considered “justified” killing of Black Americans is 22 percent higher than White Americans.
Conservative Lawmaker Says He’d Support Slavery if Constituents Want It
Nevada lawmaker Jim Wheeler’s comment regarding slavery, and whether or not he would vote in favor of it depending on what his constituents wanted, has been criticized for its lack of immediate condemnation. A YouTube video of a Republican gathering in August of this year shows Wheeler at a Storey County Republican Party event saying, “If [slavery’s] what [the citizens] wanted, I’d have to hold my nose…they’d probably have to hold a gun to my head, but yeah.” Wheeler claimed the quote was taken out of context and that his point was not that he’d actually vote for the reinstitution of slavery, but that he’d represent his constituents no matter what they demanded.
Push Continues to Get “Redskins” Name Dropped
Activists and legislators have been protesting the Washington NFL football team’s name and mascot, the Redskins, in hopes that the racist epithet of Native Americans can be eliminated from Washington’s club. The team’s owner, Dan Synder, has responded to the push by asserting the team has created 81 years of memories, which they honor and pride. Many politicians, from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to Rep. John Lewis, along with American Indian civil rights leaders, continue to push for Washington to finally replace it’s racist team name and mascot with something that doesn’t harm a whole racial group of people.
Tucson School District Un-Bans Latino Books
In 2010, the Arizona legislature passed a law essentially banning Latino books from Tucson schools, as well as the rest of Arizona. The law also suspended Tucson’s Mexican American Studies program, which Attorney General Tom Horned said would “politicize students” or “demonize White people.” Now, the Tucson Unified School District voted 3 to 2 to un-ban seven books—six of which are written by Latino authors. While teachers are not expected to utilize the books in their classrooms, they now, at least, have the option to offer them to their students.
32 States Failing to Follow Law Keeping Native American Families Together
Back in 1978, after learning about the substantial number of American Indian children who were removed from their homes by public and private agencies, Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act in order to keep Native American families together. Today, however, 32 states are not meeting this act’s requirement, with South Dakota being perhaps the most grim example. The state claims that the current removal of Native American children from their families is due to neglect—although many representatives, such as Bob Walters of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, contend that “neglect is subjective” and the real issue blighting them is poverty. Financial incentives for White families to adopt American Indian child exacerbates the problem, as, a decade back, South Dakota designated all Native children as “special needs,” which offers adoptive parents a bonus of up to $12,000. Despite comprising 15 percent of the child population in South Dakota, Native American children make up more than fifty percent of the ones housed in foster care.
DOJ Cracks Down on Racist Rental Practices in Pittsburgh
Last month, the U.S. Justice Department sued S-2 Properties, owner of Baldwin Commons Apartments, for racial discrimination in their renting process. Located in Pittsburgh, where White residents make up more than 65 percent of the population, this issue was brought to federal court after the Justice Department organized a sting with agents posing as renters to check for discriminatory bias. They discovered that when their White testers inquired about space for rent, S-2 Properties staff members overwhelmingly favored them to move into the 100-apartment complex in Baldwin Borough, while their Black testers were placed on a waiting list. The same result occurred even after one of their Black testers spoke with S-2 Properties a mere few hours before a White tester.
New Study Says Racists More Likely to be Gun Owners
A study conducted by Australian and British researchers suggests that White Americans who exhibited “symbolic racism” were more likely to be gun owners. Individuals were asked multiple questions to test their racial prejudices, one of which was, “How well does the word ‘violent’ describe most blacks?” with five options ranging from “extremely well” to “not at all well” given. The “extremely well” answer was an indication that the person accepted racist stereotypes. The study found that the higher the score, the better the chance the respondent owned a gun. Researcher Kerry O’Brien offered that the discussion over this finding might be “tricky” if White Americans remain opposed to gun reforms more so than any other racial demographic.
SCOTUS Weighs University Affirmative Action Case
U.S. Supreme Court Justices are divided over an affirmative action case in Michigan state schools. In 2006, a measure known as Proposal 2 amended the SCOTUS decision in 2003 to uphold race as a factor for law school admissions “to ensure educational diversity.” Affirmative Action advocates have sued to block part of Proposal 2. Some justices, such as Antonin Scalia, did not find just cause for repealing the amendment, proclaiming, “It’s not a racial classification. It’s the prohibition of racial classifications,” while others favored striking down the measure stating. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, “We can’t put hurdles in the way of a disadvantaged minority.” If Proposal 2 in Michigan is overturned, the ruling could affect affirmative actions bans in other states, such as California, Arizona, and Florida.
NYC’s “Stop and Frisk” Policy Not Gone Yet
Despite the push to do away with the stop-and frisk policy in New York City that overwhelmingly targets Black and Latino people, and despite a federal judge’s ruling that said the NYPD violated the civil rights of these people of color, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals is halting efforts to reform the policy. The previous ruling is currently on hold after the judge in charge on the case was removed for “[running afoul] of judicial conduct. The Court of Appeals claimed she had failed to appear impartial. This will push back the ruling until next year, when a new judge is appointed to overlook the policy. The future of the policy could also hinge on the decisions made by newly elected Mayor Bill de Blasio.
California GOP Focuses Attention on Winning Over Asian Americans
The GOP, in order to diversify and expand its fairly White party, is focusing its attention on the Asian American community. At the California Republican Party Convention last month, Republican leaders spoke out at the Asian Pacific American Roundtable about their need to communicate better with Asian Americans. While the GOP struggle to win over Black and Latino voters, Nimfa Gamez, vice chair of the Filipino American Republican Party of Northern California, suggested they will have better success with Asian voters because they share “many of the party’s core values of family, education and religion.” Republicans in California plan to hire 15 Asian workers overall by the end of this year to reach out to the Asian American community.