Trayvon Martin: his presence may be gone, but the name lingers on. That sickening, sinking feeling has crawled into our guts yet again. Trayvon Martin becomes another martyr for the seemingly never ending Civil Rights struggle. Trayvon joins Emmett Till, Medgar Evers, four little girls killed in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, Dr. Martin Luther King, and thousands of other African Americans who have been killed primarily because of their race. The nation is still talking about the verdict in the Trayvon Martin murder trial in songs, teach-ins, panel discussions and legislative proposals. In Congress, Rep. John Conyers has introduced the End Racial Profiling Act, Sen. Ben Cardin is sponsoring the Senate version of the bill. Aside from banning racial profiling, the bill seeks to strengthen law-enforcement training to ensure officers are basing their patrols and apprehensions on behavior, not skin color. Hearings are being held to discuss various aspects connected with the case. Here in California the State Assembly's Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color, formed by Speaker John Perez last year, will examine the progress made toward keeping kids in school, implementing approaches for campus safety, and addressing the violence youth experience in their communities. The committee is also advocating for a package of bills tacking these key areas and will identify priorities next year. California's boys and young men of color are more likely to grow up in neighborhoods marked by poverty, lack of opportunity, violence, underfunded schools and low-wage jobs that do not represent pathways to careers and success. After a series of hearings last year, the committee released a draft report and action plan intended to be a blueprint for the next 10 years, outlining key legislative proposals to advance outcomes on health, education, employment, juvenile justice and youth development. Having an identity is one thing. Being born into an identity is quite a different matter. This is part of the discussion that America is starting to have now. Sadly, to get the ball rolling, it takes violence, discrimination, assault and the specter of denial to be pulled out into the light. It takes a lot people saying "Enough". If there is one set of laws, one Constitution for every citizen, its protections hopefully applied equally to all, then why do results seem to differ so radically? Recently, President Obama spoke personally and eloquently about race in America. He put himself right in the middle of it. The backlash was swift as it was bizarre. That's when I knew he was onto something. You have to value all these young people. You have to see yourself in them. You cannot divorce their plight from your own. They should not be broken. Because it all matters. It is life and death. It is the present and the future. It is everything. In this year marking 50 years of civil rights progress, we must renew our commitment to building "a more perfect union." There is no celebration without continuation. The 21st century civil rights struggle has never before confronted us so boldly and clearly.
[caption id="attachment_4333" align="alignleft" width="300"] CCDC President Bill Wynn stands next to the club's official banner[/caption] Members of the Culver City Democratic Club and guests gathered at Lindberg Park on July 4, 2013, to celebrate Independence Day. Photos courtesy of Recording Secretary Pat Levinson. [caption id="attachment_4332" align="alignleft" width="225"] Corresponding Secretary Mollie "Lee" Welinsky shows off the Independence Day cake[/caption]
Voting Rights Act Loses a Key Provision A deeply divided Supreme Court halted enforcement of the federal government's most potent tool to stop voting discrimination over the past half century, saying it does not reflect racial progress. In a 5-4 ruling, the court declared unconstitutional a provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act that determines which states and localities must get Washington's approval for proposed election changes. President Barack Obama, issued a statement saying he was "deeply disappointed" with the ruling. The decision effectively puts an end to the advance approval requirement that has been used, mainly in the South, to open up polling places to minority voters in the nearly half century since it was first enacted in 1965, unless Congress can come up with a formula that Chief Justice John Roberts said meets "current conditions" in the United States. Roberts, writing for a conservative majority, said the law Congress most recently renewed in 2006 relies on 40- year-old data that does not reflect racial progress and changes in U.S. society. "The coverage formula that Congress reauthorized in 2006 ignores these developments, keeping the focus on decades-old data relevant to decades-old problems, rather than current data reflecting current needs," Roberts said. President Obama was sharply critical of the ruling and called on Congress to reinvigorate the law. "While the Courts decision is a setback, it doesn't represent the end of our efforts to end voting discrimination, "the President said. "I am calling on Congress to pass legislation to ensure every American has equal access to the polls." On the local front, Southland supporters of same-sex marriage are celebrating, with the U.S. Supreme Court clearing the way for same-sex unions to resume in California, although the high court fell short of setting a precedent that would legalize gay marriage across the country. In a 5-4 ruling, the court found that backers of Proposition 8 , which was approved by California voters in 2008 and banned same- sex marriage, lacked legal standing to challenge a lower court ruling that found that measure unconstitutional. "We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to," according to the court's ruling, penned by Chief Justice John Roberts. "We decline to do so for the first time here." Roberts was joined in the majority by Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Antonin Scalia. Since Proposition 8 supporters had no standing, the court did not issue a ruling on the merits of same-sex marriage or Prop. 8 but merely let stand the original federal court ruling striking down the measure. The Supreme Court's action means same-sex marriage will be legal in California, but not across the nation. These historic decisions were rendered by our highest court in the land, as our nation is preparing to celebrate its birthday. Happy Birthday America
Our Era of Political Extremism Last year James Porter, the recently elected president of the National Rifle Association, declared that President Barack Obama was a "fake president....whose entire administration is anti-gun, anti-freedom, and anti-Second Amendment." Last month Adam Kokesh, a failed Republican candidate for Congress from Arizona and a Internet talk show host, declared he would lead a July 4 march in Washington, D.C. of thousands of followers with loaded rifles slung across their backs as a demonstration against "tyranny." District law bars private citizens from carrying firearms in public, and city police officials have said they won't permit such a march. Kokesh said such action would show that "free people are not welcome in Washington, adding that "we would rather die on our feet than live on our knees." If the first term of the Obama presidency proved anything about today's American political culture, it showed conclusively that we live in an era of conservative extremism. The assertion of extreme ideas and actions spewing from conservative elected officials, office-seekers, political operatives, talk show hosts, and donors has become so commonplace that it's sometimes difficult to gauge the depth of this GOP led corrupting of the traditional practice of politics. There's seemingly no end to the bizarre notions and tough- guy posturing and outright racism, sexism and homophobia that represent conservatism today. These policies have underscored that conservatism is rooted in callousness, and the more it comes under pressure from the movement toward greater equality of opportunity, the more deranged it becomes. This perspective on the conservative movement unyielding opposition to anything President Obama proposes, whether it be legislative policies or appointees to the cabinet and federal judgeships, makes his achievements in office all the more impressive. But it also indicates what grievous damage has been done to the president's program --- and to the American political tradition.