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Archive for August, 2009

Ted Kennedy Was One Of Us

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

I’ve often read about the Kennedy family mystic. There was nothing mystical about Ted Kennedy. He was one of us. He fought for African Americans, women and everyone in between.  He helped to pass more race based and women legislation than anyone else in the last 40 years. He championed causes of justice. He fought for justice for all.

I met Senator Kennedy at American University in 2008 when he and other members of his family endorsed Barack Obama for the presidency. It was a moment of historic proportions. Senator Kennedy was eloquent and moving in his endorsement for President Obama, the first African American president.

I will remember him for all the ways he supported women and African Americans. He introduced the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 allowing African Americans to be served in establishments open to the public. African Americans no longer had to go through the back door or no door of restaurants, stores, hotels and other public facilities.  The bill forbid discrimination on account of race in employment and education.

He later helped to pass Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1972 which prevented discrimination against women in higher education. This bill paved the way for women such as myself to attend Ivy League universities.

Senator Kennedy voted against a bill that would have ended funding for female owned businesses.  

In 2009 we saw the passing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay act which helped to restore equal pay rights due to discrimination.  Senator Kennedy was instrumental in the passing of this Act.

He co-sponsored legislation to create a Smithsonian Museum dedicated to African Americans.

He sponsored the Women, Infants and Children’s Nutrition program ( “WIC”).

He helped pass legislation providing funds  for Native American women to fight breast and cervical cancer.

These are just a few highlights of his contributions to women and African Americans. Senator Kennedy fought for a just society.  He truly believed in justice for all.  Ted Kennedy was one of us.

President Obama, Protesters and Guns

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

I was appalled at the recent so-called town hall meetings and the gun packing protesters.  Living in Washington, DC, I’m used to protests, demonstators and public events.  Everyone protests here from anti-abortion, anti-gay rights to IMF and World Bank protests. Since 9-11, many restrictions have been placed on those attending public events.  Gone are the days when you are free to roam and bring whatever your heart desires to an event.  There is always a restricted list of forbidden items. I understand the need for these restrictions.

Violence is real in this country. I’m not speaking about the street violence in urban cities.  There’s violence in suburban America where many of the town hall meeting raucus took place.   I’m talking about killing an abortion doctor in Wichita, Kansas in May, 2009 because his views differed from the killer.  In Maryville, Illinois, a gunman entred a church in March and killed the Pastor. Then there’s the recent gym killing of women during an aerobics class in suburban Pittsubrgh.

What is scary is the attitude of the demonstrators attending these protests. They cannot be called town hall meetings anymore. Anger, rage, temper and guns are never a good mix.  It’s like always drinking and driving. Something bad is bound to happen. So why not risk the ire of the NRA and prohibit guns, knives and any other dangerous weapons from any political events with the President. Is that too much to ask to protect our President?

We cannot rely on the National Rifle Association to police its members. That won’t happen.  They’re broadening their so-called “right” to bear arms.  Perhaps President Obama and his advisors do not want to upset the NRA. The thinking here is wrong, if that’s the case.

Protecting our President should be our paramount concern. If gun restrictions limit the gun toters rights for several hours, where is the harm?They can always pack after the President leaves.

Troy Davis: Supreme Court Doing the Right Thing

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

This week, the Supreme Court ruled that it will allow an evidentiary hearing for death row inmate Troy Davis to present evidence of his innocence. Troy Davis has been on death row since 1989 for killing a Georgia police officer. He has always maintained his innocence. Everyone from the Pope to Desmond Tutu  has supported his battle.  Since his conviction, 7 of the 9 eyewitnesses have recanted their stories. It is alleged the real killer is among the remaining 2. Is Troy Davis innocent?  I don’t know whether he’s innocent or not.  I do know the Supreme Court’s decision is a victory for all. 

Chief Justice Roberts stated the possibility of executing an innocent man trumps everything else.  It is a rare and bold move by the Supreme Court. Following the law to the letter would have denied Troy Davis this opportunity.  Justice Scalia, a dissenter, maintains the Supreme Court has not  ruled on forbidding the execution of a convicted person given a fair trial who is later able to prove his innocence.  That makes no logical sense. Making even less sense was Justice Clarence Thomas. Justice Thomas called the decision a “fool’s errand”. If anyone is foolish, it is Justice Thomas.  It is foolish and foolhardy to deny an opportunity to potentially avoid putting an innocent man to death.

So this is a major decision for Troy Davis and the Supreme Court. The shift in thinking seems to place the importance of life above death. The loss of even one innocent life is one too many. Nationwide death penalty statistics show 130 innocent people have been condemned to die.  At least 14 states have abolished the death penalty due to the real risk of execution error. In Maryland, Kirk Bloodsworth served 8 years on death row before being exonnerated by DNA evidence.

Like Troy Davis, not all potentially wrongfully convicted death row inmates can prove their innocence through DNA evidence. They deserve the opportunity to prove their innocence in other ways.

Giving Mr. Davis an evidentiary hearing to prove his innocence, is not only the right thing to do. It’s the fair thing to do.

Gun Rights and Voting Rights Together Forever

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Just like a recurring nightmare for the District of Columbia, he’s back. Attorney Alan Guru filed a new federal lawsuit last week to allow D.C. residents to lawfully carry guns on the streets of DC. It was not enough that gun rights advocates won the right for DC residents to keep handguns in their homes for protection. After overturning the DC gun ban, now they want guns on the street for protection.  They’re using the same argument as in the previus lawsuit.  Gun rights advocates now claim DC’s law prohibiting guns outside the home violates the Second Amendment of the Constitution.

Gun rights proponents argue the bad guys have guns and the good guys need guns too. If law abiding citizens think they can protect themselves with guns and outshoot the bad guys, God bless them. They are in for a rude awakening. DC will only become the wild wild west or the O.K. corral.  More guns on the streets will lead to the loss of innocent lives. Imagine people leaving bars after drinking with loaded hand guns. With federal buildings, monuments, museums, tourists, Congress, Senators and the President here, it’s illogical to think the courts should allow citizens to carry guns on public streets.  States and the District may place limitations on gun ownership. The Supreme Court’s decision striking down D.C.’s gun ban did not preclude limitations on gun ownership.  Restrictions on gun ownership are valid to protect the public.

Yet, timing is everything. The timing of the challenge to DC’s gun law is important for understanding the real issue behind the argument.  For 30 years, the DC gun ban stood.  It stood through the years when DC was known as “chocolate city”. It stood without challenge when the city was overwhelmingly African American.  It stood without challenge when homicide rates and crime rates were at their highest. No one contested the constitutionality of the gun ban then.   As homicide and crime rates have decreased, gun rights proponents are increasing their battle.  So why now?

As the racial composition of the city has changed, so has the desire to own guns for protection.  As the District becomes more gentrified, the right to bear arms is now becoming front and center. Alan Guru is really fighting for the rights of some to defend themselves against their perception of black crime. That’s the component of this gun battle that is hidden behind Second Amendment rhetoric.

Gun rights advocates will do anything to advance their fight. They use gorilla tactics and hold the District hostage. A bill supporting DC voting rights in Congress was withdrawn because of gun law provisions attached to it. What do gun rights and DC voting rights have in common? DC will soon find out the answer again.  With this new gun lawsuit, DC may be forced to decide between its love of gun restrictions or its love for voting rights.   It may not be able to have two loves.