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Obama’s Civil Rights Moves

Conservatwits love to criticize Obama for “having some nothing for black folks”, knowing full well that in the one or two cases he has said something, they can whine full throttle about our “racist President”.

Obama’s approach from the beginning has been low key. Despite all the caterwauling, whimpering, and hysterics of the Republicans – he gets it done. Sometimes his hand moves in ways which the Public never really recognizes until way too late. This one is a masterstroke!

Case in point – The Justice Department working for Civil Rights in local courts around the country. Of course in some places, specifically those with right wing justices, they know they can’t win – but they can put a point on the case which will may change things in higher court. This started a long time ago under former Attorney General Eric Holder. Good to see Loretta Lynch is continuing the struggle.

Justice Dept. Presses Civil Rights Agenda in Local Courts

Burlington, Wash., was a small city fighting what seemed like a local lawsuit. Three poor people said that their public lawyers were too overworked to adequately represent them in municipal court cases. The dispute went mostly unnoticed for two years, until the Obama administration became involved.

Unannounced, the Justice Department filed documents in the case and told the judge that he had broad authority to demand changes in Burlington and nearby Mount Vernon. The judge quickly agreed and ordered the cities to hire a new public defense supervisor. He also said he would monitor their legal aid program for three years.

That 2013 decision was a significant victory for the Justice Department in a novel legal campaign that began early in the Obama administration and has expanded in recent years. In dozens of lawsuits around the country involving local disputes, the federal government has filed so-called statements of interest, throwing its weight behind private lawsuits and, in many cases, pushing the boundaries of civil rights law.

The federal government has typically waded into local court cases only when the outcome directly affected a federal interest, such as national security or diplomacy. Recently, however, the Justice Department has filed statements of interest in cases involving legal aid in New York, transgender students in Michigan, juvenile prisoners in solitary detention in California, and people who take videos of police officers in Baltimore. The government has weighed in on employment discrimination claims brought by transgender plaintiffs and a lawsuit over the right of blind people to be able to use Uber, a car-sharing service.

“The Justice Department is sending a clear message: that we will not accept criminal justice procedures that have discriminatory effects,” former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in February after filing documents in a case involving high court bonds in Alabama. “We will not hesitate to fight institutionalized injustice wherever it is found.”

Loretta E. Lynch, who became attorney general in April, has continued the initiative unabated.

Civil rights groups have applauded the move — and in turn flooded the Justice Department with requests for government intervention in their cases. But to lawyers on the other side, it can feel as if the government is using private court cases to make political points.

US DOJ Chief Prosecutor of Civil Rights Enforcement, Vanita Gupta. “We want to do as much federal civil rights work as possible, and statements of interest are effective, efficient tools,” Vanita Gupta, the Justice Department’s top civil rights prosecutor, said in an interview.

“From the community’s perspective, it was an ongoing nightmare,” said Scott G. Thomas, the lawyer for Burlington in the lawsuit over legal aid. The Obama administration’s involvement turned the city of about 8,000 people into a national symbol. “Why is the Department of Justice interested in a little case involving two little communities in northwest Washington?” Mr. Thomas said…

By using such court filings in civil rights cases, the Obama administration is saying it has an interest in preserving constitutional rights in the same way it has an interest in foreign policy. There are examples of past administrations using statements of interest to coax public policy — such as in 2005 when the Bush administration intervened in the case over whether to keep Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman with severe brain damage, on life support. But neither career Justice Department officials nor longtime advocates can recall such a concerted effort to insert the federal government into local civil rights cases…

When the Justice Department intervened last year in a lawsuit over legal aid in New York, for example, officials said it took no position on whether the state was violating the constitutional rights of indigent defendants. But government lawyers adopted the same core legal arguments as the plaintiffs and encouraged the judge to scrutinize the legal aid system broadly.

“It was a game changer,” said Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, which was involved in that court fight. The state settled the lawsuit soon after the Justice Department became involved. Ms. Lieberman said the agency’s intervention was “a powerful way to help support a fundamental right.”…More

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2015 in The Post-Racial Life

 

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Financial Reform Bill Includes Diversity Requirements

Couple of factoids –

  1. Black people in the US start about 30% of the new incorporations each year – they receive less than .03% of the Venture Capital and Investment Money put into new or growing businesses.
  2. Women of all colors  start about 60% of new businesses in the US – they receive only 3% of the Venture Capital and Investment Money.

Not much of a “level playing field” – now is it?

Republicans and conservatives have opposed any move to change this, and make things more fair using disingenuous arguments about “quotas”, and other racially tinged code words.

Now the reason I call “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” black conservatives “Uncle Toms” is this – pulling yourself up by your bootstraps is exceedingly difficult, when those bootstraps have been cut by the fact you don’t have access to the very thing which makes every one of your non-minority businesses that is successful,  successful in the first place…

Access to capital.

So expect a fight by the right against ANY effort to level that field – including false arguments like quotas, Affirmative Action, and reverse discrimination…

And a lot of hayteration directed at Maxine Waters.

My own experience with exclusion of Minority owned firms dates form the early 90’s when I owned a Government Contracting Firm which specialized in very high end telecom and computer engineering. Most of my customers were other Government Contracting Firms. I never filed for any sort of 8a or Small Disadvantaged Business Classification, although we did file as a Minority Owned Small Business with the Feds. My company had 12 people working at a major Federal Contractor, who was having “problems” meeting their minority SDB and Minority Owned Business (8a) goals – and was filing for an exemption, claiming that there were no minority owned firms which could do the technical work. I pointed out to the Program Manager that indeed, 1/4th of his development staff was being supplied by my company – which was a Minority Owned Firm, although not a SDB (for which we could qualify if we wanted) or a MWOB (Minority Owned Disadvantaged Business or 8a for which we also could qualify if we wanted) and as such, they could indeed reach the 10% requirement. Although it would require hiring more people from my firm, or other like firms, of whom I gave him a list of 10 who were fully qualified and capable fo doing the work who were already certified as SDBs and MWOBs. (And no – white folks can own both SDBs and MWOBs, if they can meet the eligibility requirements).

They terminated my contract 48 hours later, and successfully got an exemption from having to hire Minority Firms because “none were technically competent to do the work”. This is the game that has been played for years at the Federal Contracting level, with the Federal Government Agency sometimes being willing participants. Republicans had managed to gut any enforcement or penalty for not meeting contract requirements (Much as they gutted the Criminal Penalties in Title IV of the Civil Rights Act) in this, and only this one area – meaning that there really wasn’t any penalty for ignoring Small Business or Minority  contract requirements.

That “level playing field” on the side of a mountain thing… Again.

Feds demand diversity on Wall Street

A little-noticed section of the Wall Street reform law grants the federal government broad new powers to compel financial firms to hire more women and minorities — an effort at promoting diversity that’s drawing fire from Republicans who say it could lead to de facto hiring quotas.

Deep inside the massive overhaul bill, Congress gives the federal government authority to terminate contracts with any financial firm that fails to ensure the “fair inclusion” of women and minorities, forcing every kind of company from a Wall Street giant to a mom-and-pop law office to account for the composition of its work force.

Employment law experts say the language goes further than any previous attempt by the U.S. government to promote diversity in the financial sector — putting muscle behind federal efforts to help minority- and women-owned firms gain access to billions in federal contracts. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Dept. of Education Starts to Enforce Civil Rights Laws Again

After a 8 year hiatus in enforcing any Civil Rights Laws, except those of the majority population – the new Administration has finally turned it’s focus on to enforcing Civil Rights again. I’m not sure what took the Obama Administration so long to figure out the Civil Rights well had been poisoned by the anti-Civil Rights conservatives of the Bushit Administration leading to a number of structural issues from education to jobs to the destruction of Minority Small Business…

But they seem to have gotten there – if a bit belatedly.

What will be interesting about the DOE’s efforts, is how they intend to execute against this objective. Since the Supreme Court hasn’t seen a Civil Rights violation it couldn’t overlook since the appointment of the infamous 5-4 majority – legal action, even in egregious cases isn’t likely to be successful. The SCUMUS 5 are no more likely to be sympathetic to the Civil Rights of Minority children, than a KKK Grandmuckus to the victim of a lynching. And that doesn’t even get into the issue of the lower courts poisoned with ideologues and syncopates during the Bushit.

Officials Step Up Enforcement of Rights Laws in Education

Bloody Sunday, Police Attack Civil Rights Workers in Voting Rights March. Cong John Lewis is seen on the Ground After Being Hit in the foreground.

Seeking to step up enforcement of civil rights laws, the federal Department of Education says it will be sending letters in coming weeks to thousands of school districts and colleges, outlining their responsibilities on issues of fairness and equal opportunity.

As part of that effort, the department intends to open investigations known as compliance reviews in about 32 school districts nationwide, seeking to verify that students of both sexes and all races are getting equal access to college preparatory curriculums and to advanced placement courses. The department plans to open similar civil rights investigations at half a dozen colleges.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan is to announce the initiatives in a speech on Monday in Selma, Ala., where on March 7, 1965, hundreds of civil rights marchers were beaten by Alabama state troopers.

Mr. Duncan plans to say that in the past decade the department’s Office for Civil Rights “has not been as vigilant as it should have been in combating gender and racial discrimination and protecting the rights of individuals with disabilities,” according to a text of the speech distributed to reporters on Sunday.

It continues, “We are going to reinvigorate civil rights enforcement.”

At the end of high school, white students are about six times as likely to be ready to pursue college-level biology courses as black students, and more than four times as likely to be ready for college algebra, department officials said. White high school graduates are more than twice as likely to have taken advanced placement calculus classes as black or Latino graduates…

Some civil rights advocates said they had hoped the administration would move more quickly last year to ramp up the activity of the Office for Civil Rights, the department’s second-largest, with 600 employees.

“This whole area has been a dead zone for years, and people were worried that new actions were too slow in coming,” said William L. Taylor, chairman of the Citizens’ Commission on Civil Rights, a Washington group that monitors federal policy and practices. “There had been strong hopes that they would move more quickly. This sounds like positive movement, which we’ve all been asking for.”

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2010 in Black History

 

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