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ReMARCs: Bold Leadership Amidst Blatant Bigotry

Posted by Admin On May - 7 - 2014
Opening ReMARCs

By Marc H. Morial

President & CEO, National Urban League

Last week served as a national wake-up call to the shameful malignance of bigotry that still persists in America.  Yet, it also was an encouraging reminder of the positive impact of collective action and bold leadership.

On Monday, April 28, 2014 the National Urban League issued a statement calling for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to take swift and strong disciplinary action against Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for his horrid and indefensible remarks –  including placing a lifetime ban from the NBA on Sterling.  On Tuesday, we stood united with the National Action Network, NAACP and National Coalition on Black Civic Participation/Black Women’s Roundtable to applaud the commissioner’s strong and uncompromising stance in indeed banning Sterling from the league for life.  By acting in such a bold, courageous and resolute manner, Commissioner Silver sent an unambiguous message that the views expressed by Sterling do not represent  the National Basketball Association as an organization today or the kind of organization that it seeks to be in the future.

Unfortunately, over a period of less than 10 days, there was an onslaught of events that came to light and reminded us, yet again, that racial hatred and intolerance are alive in America – from Sterling; to Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s despicable comments that he has “often wondered, are they (Blacks) better off as slaves, picking cotton…”; to a racist bulletin board in a Long Island, NY town facility with a picture of a monkey beside a picture of an African American employee with the words “Jimmy’s baby picture”; to a voicemail allegedly from a Belleville, NJ city councilwoman and mayoral candidate stating that she didn’t want her town to become “a f*****g n****r town!”

Racism is now, as it has always been, an ugly blemish on our nation.  But when we demonstrate, as we did last week, a collective outrage and intolerance towards bigotry, we show those who propagate divisiveness and racial inferiority – as well as ourselves – that America is better than we’ve ever truly given it the opportunity to be.

To Be Equal
“Race matters…because of the long history of racial minorities being denied access to the political process…because of persistent racial inequality in society — inequality that cannot be ignored and that has produced stark socioeconomic disparities.”  Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Supreme Court of the United States
To Be Equal #17

Sotomayor’s Supreme Dissent: A Voice of Reason among Reckless Rhetoric

“Race matters…because of the long history of racial minorities being denied access to the political process…because of persistent racial inequality in society — inequality that cannot be ignored and that has produced stark socioeconomic disparities.” Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Supreme Court of the United States

Last week, in a disturbingly lopsided 6-2 vote, the United States Supreme Court once again became a willing accomplice in the recent onslaught of attacks on 50 years of civil rights progress.  On the heels of last year’s decision by the Court to dismantle the Voting Rights Act of 1965, on April 22, the Court ruled that Michigan voters had the right to ban race, i.e. affirmative action, as a factor in college admissions.  The Court’s decision undermines a landmark 2003 ruling that affirmed the use of race-sensitive admissions policies at the University of Michigan Law School because of a compelling interest in fostering diversity in higher education.

In 2006, opponents of that ruling successfully campaigned and passed Proposal 2, a state constitutional amendment that gave voters the right to supersede elected University Trustees and the right to ban the consideration of race as one of many factors in admissions.  It is important to note that only race was singled out for the ban.  Other factors, such as alumni status, athletics and geography remain in place.  A federal appeals court subsequently ruled Prop 2 unconstitutional as it violated the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  The case made its way to the Supreme Court, and in last week’s egregious decision in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, the 2006 amendment was allowed to stand.

Justice Anthony Kennedy was joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito, Scalia, Thomas and Breyer in concurring in the judgment.  Having worked on the case when she was Solicitor General, Justice Kagan recused herself.  The two dissenting votes were cast by Justices Ginsberg and Sotomayor, the Court’s most reliable civil rights defenders.  Justice Sotomayor’s written dissent is an exceptionally scholarly, eloquent and impassioned argument in defense of affirmative action.  She methodically eviscerates the majority’s legal justification for its decision, citing several previous cases where the Court overturned attempts to change rules midstream in ways that were detrimental to minority voters.  She also reminds the Court of its obligation to right historical wrongs and to expand educational opportunities for those who have traditionally been locked out.

Her dissent is based primarily on the Court’s untenable allowance of a change of rules that nullify the authority of elected University governing boards and now permit a majority of voters to end affirmative action in higher education – a clear violation of the Equal Protection Clause.  Justice Sotomayor writes, “… a majority may not reconfigure the existing political process in a manner that creates a two-tiered system of political change, subjecting laws designed to protect or benefit discrete and insular minorities to a more burdensome political process than all other laws.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy was joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito, Scalia, Thomas and Breyer in concurring in the judgment.  Having worked on the case when she was Solicitor General, Justice Kagan recused herself.  The two dissenting votes were cast by Justices Ginsberg and Sotomayor, the Court’s most reliable civil rights defenders.  Justice Sotomayor’s written dissent is an exceptionally scholarly, eloquent and impassioned argument in defense of affirmative action.  She methodically eviscerates the majority’s legal justification for its decision, citing several previous cases where the Court overturned attempts to change rules midstream in ways that were detrimental to minority voters.  She also reminds the Court of its obligation to right historical wrongs and to expand educational opportunities for those who have traditionally been locked out.

Her dissent is based primarily on the Court’s untenable allowance of a change of rules that nullify the authority of elected University governing boards and now permit a majority of voters to end affirmative action in higher education – a clear violation of the Equal Protection Clause.  Justice Sotomayor writes, “… a majority may not reconfigure the existing political process in a manner that creates a two-tiered system of political change, subjecting laws designed to protect or benefit discrete and insular minorities to a more burdensome political process than all other laws.”

Mindful of Michigan’s shameful history of segregation in higher education and of a significant decline in minority enrollment and graduations since Prop 2 took effect, Sotomayor concludes,  “The effect of [the Court’s ruling] is that a white graduate of a public Michigan university who wishes to pass his historical privilege on to his children may freely lobby the board of that university in favor of an expanded legacy admissions policy, whereas a black Michigander who was denied the opportunity to attend that very university cannot lobby the board in favor of a policy that might give his children a chance that he never had and that they might never have absent that policy.”

We may have lost this battle for affirmative action, but as long as there are voices as clear and strong as Sonia Sotomayor’s on the Supreme Court, we are confident that in the end, equal opportunity, equal protection and equal justice will prevail.

Nonetheless, six other justices clearly demonstrated that our fight for civil rights is still not over – even in 21st century America.  It is an unfortunate commentary on the direction of our nation when the highest court of our land determines that it is acceptable to consider factors that have seldom – if ever – been used as a basis for discrimination, such as legacy, athletics and geography in admissions, but not race.  As Justice Sotomayor reminded her colleagues, “As members of the judiciary tasked with intervening to carry out the guarantee of equal protection, we ought not sit back and wish away, rather than confront, the racial inequality that exists in our society.”

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Welcome to CopyLine Magazine! The first issue of CopyLine Magazine was published in November, 1990, by Editor & Publisher Juanita Bratcher. CopyLine’s main focus is on the political arena – to inform our readers and analyze many of the pressing issues of the day - controversial or otherwise. Our objectives are clear – to keep you abreast of political happenings and maneuvering in the political arena, by reporting and providing provocative commentaries on various issues. For more about CopyLine Magazine, CopyLine Blog, and CopyLine Television/Video, please visit juanitabratcher.com, copylinemagazine.com, and oneononetelevision.com. Bratcher has been a News/Reporter, Author, Publisher, and Journalist for 33 years. She is the author of six books, including “Harold: The Making of a Big City Mayor” (Harold Washington), Chicago’s first African-American mayor; and “Beyond the Boardroom: Empowering a New Generation of Leaders,” about John Herman Stroger, Jr., the first African-American elected President of the Cook County Board. Bratcher is also a Poet/Songwriter, with 17 records – produced by HillTop Records of Hollywood, California. Juanita Bratcher Publisher

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