A few months ago, I got into an argument on Twitter with a right winger over voting and taxes. I was watching MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry’s show and one segment was about felon disfranchisement. I posed this question to my Twitter followers: "Should people who have paid their debt to society still be taxed if they aren’t allowed to vote?" This question immediately attracted said right winger, who answered, "Yes." We got into a short back-and-forth, which I won’t elaborate here, but the crux of his belief was that if a person didn’t want their rights taken away, they shouldn’t commit a crime. Never mind that many people, black Americans especially, have been railroaded by our criminal justice system. Whatever happened to "no taxation without representation?"
This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, but the celebrations are tempered by the United States Supreme Court’s recent gutting of the landmark legislation. Despite what the majority of the justices in that case would have us believe, racism in the electoral process is still alive and well in America. Felon disfranchisement, which disproportionately impacts Americans of color, is one problem that is at the forefront of the current movement for voting rights. States have different laws regarding incarcerated people and voting, with the most draconian disfranchising for life people convicted of felonies, to the most lenient that allow people in prison to vote in all elections. California is in the middle, restoring voting rights to the formerly incarcerated after they have completed their sentence and parole.
Voting rights advocates tend to frame disfranchisement in moral terms: that it’s undemocratic to exclude people from participating in our democracy. But, getting back to my Twitter argument with the right winger, I wanted to frame the issue in terms I thought conservatives would understand: would they sympathize with an apparent anti-tax argument when it came to the formerly incarcerated? At least that right winger didn’t, and I can’t say I’m surprised. Because I posed the question to expose what, I think, was a big reason behind felon disfranchisement laws: to ensure that black Americans have little to no say in how our country’s resources - through taxes - are distributed. The right winger didn’t say anything about race, but he didn’t have to.
Ultimately, voting is about deciding if, when and how much to tax ourselves, where and on whom those dollars are spent. Racism is about animosity toward other groups, but it's also about economics — keeping disfavored groups at an economic disadvantage relative to one’s own group. What better way to take resources away from blacks and the poor, and redistribute them to whites and the affluent, by making certain behaviors criminal felonies, disproportionately targeting and arresting members of marginalized groups for those behaviors, and passing laws taking away those groups’ voting rights after conviction? Now, this may sound to some like tin-foil hat conspiracy theory, but it's no coincidence that the era of the Drug War, mass incarceration, and the right-wing anti-tax revolt began not long after President Lyndon Johnson signed the set of civil rights laws guaranteeing black Americans’ equal participation in U.S. democracy.
The close of June has seen a stunning series of events for President Obama, our Democratic Party and the American people. The last few weeks were marked by farce, horrific tragedy and soaring triumph. And we seem to be on the verge of a serious and long-needed national conversation about the impact of race and racism on our society.
Let’s start with the triumphs. The U.S. Supreme Court handed President Obama his first victory this session by, once again, upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. After dozens of tries, the GOP failed in its latest attempt at stripping millions of Americans of their health coverage. Next, the high Court majority thwarted a right wing attempt to gut the Fair Housing Act by affirming the doctrine of ― "disparate impact," meaning that people suing over racial discrimination don’t have to prove racist intent, but only that the offending behavior had a racially discriminatory effect. And finally, love won out over bigotry as the Court upheld and expanded the fundamental right of gay and lesbian couples across America to wed.
But for every step forward in human rights, it seems we take three steps backward when it comes to race in America. We seem no closer to stopping the epidemic of police violence against unarmed black and brown people, even when the victims are innocent children simply trying to go to a swim party. And just when we thought it couldn’t get worse, it got worse. A young man addicted to the high of white supremacy and drunk on hatred of black people, walked into a Charleston, South Carolina, church with a gun and slaughtered eight parishioners and their pastor, who was also a popular state legislator. The national conversation had suddenly moved from questions of racial identity surrounding the bizarre story of the Spokane, Wash., NAACP leader, who for years had posed as a black woman, to a discussion of racial violence and racist symbols.
Black people in Charleston were immediately exhorted to forgive the alleged killer, and family members of the victims did so publicly within two days of the tragedy. But I know from reading many commentaries in online publications and on social media, that many other black Americans do not forgive and are tired of the constant pleas for black people to ―turn the other cheek‖ when it comes to racist violence. To not call this act of violence a terrorist attack — which it most certainly was — not only disrespects black people, but it’s also hypocritical. Whenever an act of gun violence is committed by someone who is Muslim, it is immediately deemed a terrorist attack and Muslims are unfairly lumped together for collective accountability. But when an act of gun violence is committed by a white American, the go-to explanations are "lone wolf," "hate crime," and/or "mental illness" - never terrorism. This, despite the fact that according to a recent study by law enforcement experts, right-wing, anti-government extremists have been involved in many more deadly terror attacks in the U.S. than jihadists.
That the Charleston massacre took place at a church famously known for its civil rights activism is telling. South Carolina was the first southern state to secede during the Civil War, and old feelings die hard. For decades, a majority of the state’s legislature had defiantly rebuffed calls to remove the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of their capitol. However, it looks like the flag might not be there much longer. Unfortunately, it may have taken the lives of nine innocent people to finally shame South Carolina officials towards getting rid of that symbol of slavery, racism, violence and outright theft. But removing symbols is easy. Dismantling America’s institutionalized racism is a much harder task.
David Weisman, longtime member of the Culver City Democratic Club, who survived a complex of health problems in recent years, died on May 27, shortly after being diagnosed with cancer. He was 88 years old.
An environmental engineer, “he kept track of the cleanliness of the ocean,” his widow, Ruth, explained.
Full obituary at The Front Page Online.
Culver City Democratic Club – 62 Years General Membership Meeting – Veterans Auditorium Rotunda Wednesday, May 13, 2015 CORRECTED MINUTES Call to Order 7:19 by Sylvia Moore, President. Pledge of Allegiance led by Bill Wynn. Approval of April 8, 2015 Minutes: Sylvia thanked Khin Khin for filling in for Pat by doing the Minutes for last month's meeting. Motion by Neil Rubenstein to accept the April minutes, Seconded by Tonya A.. Announcements: The meeting is sponsored by Bill Wynn in honor of Pat's and Bill Wynn’s Birthday. Tom Camarella announced his birthday was the previous day. Introduction by Bill Wynn of Jamon Allgood, journalist http://www.jaminallgood.com/?p=706 Sylvia made a report on Mayor's Luncheon to honor Meghan Sahli-Wells. Bill Wynn also commented that it was the first year that the Club had a table at the event. Sylvia discussed the Newsletter and asked for comments: Greg recently invited members to accept the Newsletter to have people get Newsletter delivered by email vs the snail mail. Sylvia reports it costs $1200/year. Some people requested they need to receive a hard copy, others felt that email only is sufficient. A suggestion was made to put the option on the application. Officer Reports Finance (Eric Fine) not present, no report Membership (Diane Rosenberg) 110 members- Henna Lee is special guest Fundraising (Amy Cherness) Introduced Ronnie Jayne who spoke about her play which is having a fundraiser for the Club this Sunday. The most amazing play of the century! Loopholes- A pain in the IRS. Ronnie Jayne is the Composer, Musical Director and co-lyricist. At Hudson theater. $30 tickets. Outreach (Sylvia Moore) trying to get the MOE application together to move forward on contacting Democrats for membership. Correspondence- Stephen asked Club members to do more endorsements and resolutions so he could send out more letters. Legislative and resolutions (Nyabingi Kuti)- Nyabingi brought forth a resolution calling for the release of county incarceration diversion funds and moving focus from mass incarceration to providing services related to homelessness, poverty, mental health and unemployment. Discussion followed. The intent was supported but rewording was suggested. Stephen Murray suggetsed endorsement of AB356 (Williams) that would help protect groundwater threatened by underground injection wells. Tom motioned that the Executive Committee should decide on behalf of the club for AB356, seconded by Michelle. Tom Camarella recommended that resolutions need to printed out. Khin Khin and Michelle suggested a power-point slide. Programs: Maya Douglas, Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas was scheduled to speak but there was a scheduling error and Maya Douglas, Senior field representative for the Assemblymember spoke before the club about the offices accomplishments. The Honorable Sebastian Ridley-Thomas has introduced 26 bills on floor, is on the Banking and Finance committee, Health Committee and chair of the Elections and Redistricting Committee, He is also chair of the select Committees on Mental and Behavioral Health, member of Committee on Civic Engagement, the Select Committee on Infectious Diseases in High Risk Disadvantaged Communities and the Select Committee on Regional Transportation and Interconnectivity Solutions Maya listed a couple bills that may be interest to club members. AB 1299: Medical assistance for foster youth. Transfers the responsibility for providing mental health services from the county of original jurisdiction to the residence county. This occurs when foster children are transferred or moved to other counties, the bill seeks to insure that counties of residences will be reimbursed and delays barriers to care. AB466: Bill would repeal the sunset date of the Baldwin Hills Conservancy so they can do their work indefinitely. This would help to maintain funding for projects from federal and others. AB755: Bill to provide tax relief to business along the Crenshaw corridor. To help alleviate issues that are adjacent to the construction of rail lines. The member is a big proponent of diversity in the workplace. His office has sponsored two events to celebrate women in business: African American empowerment of Women in Business, Latinas Breaking Barriers event. Tomorrow is another event- Women in Finance. Another event next Thursday Senior Scam Stopper whose purpose is to equip the community with tools and techniques to empower themselves to stop fraud. Maya personally deals with Women's health and mental health issues. She left her business card and invites contact and then opened for questions 1.) Questions ranged from long term unemployment, the tax relief of AB755, BHC appointment delays, taxes, document requests, City storm water funds, 2.) A number of questions were asked on the members position on various Bills. Maya deferred answering and suggested calling the capital office for information about the members positions and further details. Encouraged sign up on website to be informed about all events, bills on the floor and other news of the district.