Civil Rights Era 2.0

June 26th, 2013  |  by Veralyn Williams |  Published in Blog, My Two Cents

Civically… there is a lot going on in this moment. Starting on Monday the Supreme Court has ruled on affirmative action, the Voting Rights Act, and same-sex marriage. And on top of all that, my online world erupted last night as Sen. Wendy Davis and her army of protesters blocked Anti-Abortion Legislation In Texas. AND as if all that wasn’t enough the George Zimmerman trial testimonies are happening!

Now honestly for me… there is something a little deja vu about all of this. I think my friend Alison hit the nail on the head when she said, “We are literally fighting for things that we already won.” Now of course that’s only true depending on who you ask, but regardless I think we all can agree: We are living through an important time in this country, so we need to be paying attention!

I have spent the day combing through news stories to make sure I REALLY understand what’s gone down, and what it actually means for Americans. So I thought I’d share the most concrete reports I found:

AffIrmative Action: New York Times, Op-Ed

A Long, Slow Drift From Racial Justice, By Lee C. Bollinger

In its decision on Monday, in Fisher v. University of Texas, the court ordered a federal appellate court to take a fresh look — under the demanding standard of “strict scrutiny” — at whether Texas’ public universities were properly using race as one factor (among many) in admitting a diverse student body. The appellate court will have to examine “how the process works in practice,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in the decision for the majority.

As a law professor, and as the named defendant in the last two major affirmative action cases decided by the Supreme Court… I worry that the new ruling will empower lower courts and, no doubt, litigants to challenge benign considerations of race — those that seek to advance legitimate goals of diversity in education — more easily than ever…

In many school districts, racial segregation is as bad as it was before Brown. About 40 percent of black and Hispanic children attend K-12 schools where 10 percent or fewer of their classmates are white. Residential racial segregation remains deeply entrenched. Proposition 209, a voter-sanctioned ban on affirmative action at California’s public universities, led to a sharp decrease in representation of black students at the Berkeley and Los Angeles campuses. While 43 percent of whites have a college degree, 27 and 19 percent of blacks and Hispanics, respectively, hold one.

Voting Rights Act: Think Progress, Article

Two Hours After The Supreme Court Gutted The Voting Rights Act, Texas AG Suppresses Minority Voters, By Aviva Shen

Just two hours after the Supreme Court reasoned that discrimination is not rampant enough in Southern states to warrant restrictions under the Voting Rights Act, Texas is already advancing a voter ID law and a redistricting map blocked last year for discriminating against black and Latino residents. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott issued a statement declaring that both measures may go into effect immediately, now that there is no law stopping them from discriminating against minorities…

It is only a matter of time before other states with voter ID laws and other election law changes blocked by the DOJ last year follow Texas’ example.

Defense of Marriage Act Unconstitutional: NPR, Tell Me More Interview

SCOTUS Ruling: A Giant Leap Forward For Gay Marriage, Host Michel Martin

The Supreme Court ruled the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, and handed same-sex marriage supporters a victory in California. Host Michel Martin speaks with professor of constitutional law, Margaret Russell, and Joe Infranco from Alliance Defending Freedom, about what the decisions mean.

MARTIN: …Does this mean that same-sex marriage is now permitted around the country? Professor Russell, I’ll start with you.

RUSSELL: No, the decisions today are huge and historic, but they do not rule that. I’ll start with the DOMA decision, with the Defense of Marriage Act, which clearly does reach the subject matter of the discrimination of that law. And the court struck down Defense of Marriage Act, saying that because that law discriminated against same-sex couples who were legally allowed to marry in their jurisdictions and their marriages were recognized, it denied them dignity and personhood, but it didn’t rest on a right to marry.

Texas Anti-Abortion Legislation: Think Progress, Articles

Epic One-Woman Filibuster Blocks Radical Anti-Abortion Legislation In Texas, By Tara Culp-Ressler

Thanks to efforts from hundreds of protesters and state Sen. Wendy Davis (D-TX), an omnibus abortion bill did not win legislative approval from Texas lawmakers early on Wednesday morning. Republicans conceded that their vote to end Davis’ 13-hour filibuster on the legislation didn’t make the midnight deadline, when Texas’ special session officially concluded.

Texas Advances Sweeping Anti-Choice Bill That Will Force Most Abortion Clinics To Close, By Tara Culp-Ressler

The proposed legislation, SB 5, would have criminalized abortion after 20 weeks and forced all but five of the state’s abortion clinics to close their doors. Because of Texas’ size and population, Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards warned that SB 5 would amount to a “virtual ban” on abortion services in the state.

Side note: My friend Amaka shared this Bitch Media, article: Five Things You Need to Know About Texas’s Terrible Abortion Bill, by Sarah Mirk– and I thought their #4, is the piece I wish we spoke about more:

4. Politicians shot down ideas that will actually reduce unwanted pregnancies. Rather than just criminalizing abortion, the smarter idea here would be to address the root issues that lead to women seeking abortions in the first place. About half of all pregnancies are unplanned and science has shown that the country could reduce the number of abortions by 60-70 percent if we would just provide women free birth control. But when Texas Representative Senfronia Thompson introduced amendments to the bill that would fund comprehensive sex-ed in schools and make birth control cheaper for women, they were both shot down.

George Zimmerman Trial: Huffington Post, Tag: George Zimmerman Trial

George Zimmerman Trial, Search Tag

There is just too much happening during this trial to sum it up with one or two articles, but I do want to highlight the testimony of Rachel Jeantel, the young woman who was on the phone with Trayvon Martin the night he was shot. Today she testified that “Martin was aware that he was being followed.” But apparently the “public” wasn’t feeling how she presented herself. Even friends (who’s opinions I usually value) commented negatively on this young woman’s mannor of speaking. (“Uneducated” was thrown around a lot on my FB timeline.)

I finally watched her full testimony for myself… and I co-sign The Black Girl Project‘s Aiesha Turman’s point:

Catching up on the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman trial and while several people I respect have defended Rachel Jeantel so eloquently (though I don’t think she needs defending), all the folks clowning her and talking about what they would do and what she needs to do and how she could do better can eat a bag of diphthongs! So busy policing and correcting people because a) you are 19 and scared; b) was on the phone with your friend as they were murdered; c) have to sit while an attorney is being belligerent; d) are being televised globally! Get on with this respectability politics, policing bull crap! SMH.

Ok. I literally can go on like this all day, but this post is already too long. Let’s all (PLEASE) agree to stay informed… on the FACTS.. not just OPINIONS!

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    My new essay explores how Beyonce’s feminist stance in pop culture helped frame my own feminist awakening:

    “I am in my 30s and was emboldened by Beyonce’s feminist stance on that stage, and can’t help but believe that that image will be equally as powerful to young people who witness that moment, whose first engagement with feminism will be that moment. Maybe, just maybe, Beyonce will serve as the bridgebetween pop culture and feminists like bell and Barbara and Audre, maybe some young woman bobbing her head to ‘Blow’ or ‘Partition’ or ‘Flawless’ will do so while reading Ain’t I A Woman? or Homegirls or Sister Outsider.”

    —FROM my new essay: My Feminist Awakening & the Influence of Beyonce’s Pop Culture Declaration