U.S. Senate Apologizes for Slavery

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This week, the United States Senate passed a resolution that apologizes for slavery. It’s pretty sad that it took well over one-hundred years to get to this point, but at least it’s something. It should be noted that Michigan Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow both co-sponsored the resolution.

To be sure, a Senate resolution can’t under the reality of dehumanization and oppression–or the legacy of slavery’s contemporary manifestations–a fact that the Senate recognizes:

Whereas an apology for centuries of brutal dehumanization and injustices cannot erase the past, but confession of the wrongs committed and a formal apology to African- Americans will help bind the wounds of the Nation that are rooted in slavery and can speed racial healing and reconciliation and help the people of the United States understand the past and honor the history of all people of the United States;

The Senate resolution apologizes for both slavery and Jim Crow:

Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), That the sense of the Congress is the following:

(1) APOLOGY FOR THE ENSLAVEMENT AND SEGREGATION OF AFRICAN-AMERICANS.

The Congress–

(A) acknowledges the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery and Jim Crow laws;

(B) apologizes to African-Americans on behalf of the people of the United States, for the wrongs committed against them and their ancestors who suffered under slavery and Jim Crow laws; and

(C) expresses its recommitment to the principle that all people are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and calls on all people of the United States to work toward eliminating racial prejudices, injustices, and discrimination from our society.

Of course, the kicker:

(2) DISCLAIMER.–Nothing in this resolution–

(A) authorizes or supports any claim against the United States; or

(B) serves as a settlement of any claim against the United States.

It’s disappointing that the resolution excludes the prospect of reparations, but that is likely to be an ongoing battle that needs to be waged by progressives and radicals.

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Muslim Civil Rights Group Seeks Clarification on Hijab in Michigan Courts

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is seeking clarification on a new administrative rule adopted by Michigan’s Supreme Court that could allow judges to demand that witnesses remove religious head coverings while testifying.

The Washington-based group says that the removal of religiously-mandated attire such as a hijab would violate the constitutional right to religious freedom. In a press release, Dawud Walid of Michigan’s CAIR chapter said, “Michigan residents of all faiths need clarification as to whether they will be forced to remove their religious attire in order to appear in a state court.” The group says that the rule could be used against people of other faiths who wear head coverings.

The rule was adopted by the Supreme Court via a 5-2 decision. The two opposing judges said that there should be a clear written exception fore religious attire.

As it currently stands, the rule reads:

“The court shall exercise reasonable control over the appearance of parties and witnesses so as to (1) ensure that the demeanor of such persons may be observed and assessed by the fact-finder, and (2) to ensure the accurate identification of such persons.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan has furthered argued against the rule saying that numerous studies have shown that jurors have an easier time assessing the credibility of a witness testimony by simply listening to a witness rather than watching their facial expressions.

Rally Tomorrow in Support of Benton Harbor Civil Rights Leader

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Tomorrow, a federal appeals court in Grand Rapids will begin hearing an appeal by the ACLU on behalf of the Benton Harbor activist Reverend Ed Pinkney who has been targeted by the government for his civil rights work in Benton Harbor.

Outside of the hearing, a coalition of supports will be staging a demonstration. An announcement of the demonstration was sent to MediaMouse.org:

ACLU Defends Persecuted Benton Harbor Civil Rights Leader in Grand Rapids Appeals Trial

Concerned Citizens Rally in Defense of a “Voice for the Voiceless”

Who: The Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice (MECAWI), the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization (MWRO), the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights (MCHR), the Grand Rapids IWW, and people from throughout Michigan who support social justice.

Why: Rev. Pinkney has been fighting for social justice in Benton Harbor as leader of the Black Autonomy Network of Community Organizers (BANCO). He was convicted by an all-white jury on trumped-up charges related to false allegations of voter fraud. The ACLU was successful in winning his release from prison, on bond, pending the outcome of his appeal.

What: Picket in Support of Rev. Pinkney’s Civil Rights

When: June 9, 8 am. Trial begins at 9 am.

Where:

Court Of Appeals Building

350 Ottawa

Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Headlines: Key Democrats Waver on Employee Free Choice Act; Supreme Court Limits Voting Rights Act

Democracy Now Headlines: Key Democrats Waver on Employee Free Choice Act; Supreme Court Limits Voting Rights Act

Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.

Obama Lifts Stem Cell Research Ban

President Barack Obama has overturned a ban on federal funding for stem cell research, reversing the policy of his predecessor George W. Bush.

President Obama: “When it comes to stem cell research, rather than furthering discovery, our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values. In this case, I believe the two are not inconsistent. As a person of faith, I believe we are called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering. I believe we have been given the capacity and will to pursue this research, and the humanity and conscience to do so responsibly.”

Religious conservatives have generally opposed embryonic stem cell research, because it involves destruction of embryos, which they view as human life. On Monday, President Obama said the research will not be used for cloning humans.

President Obama: “I can also promise that we will never undertake this research lightly. We will support it only when it is both scientifically worthy and responsibly conducted. We will develop strict guidelines, which we will rigorously enforce, because we cannot ever tolerate misuse or abuse. And we will ensure that our government never opens the door to the use of cloning for human reproduction. It is dangerous, profoundly wrong, and has no place in our society or any society.”

Supreme Court Limits the Reach of Voting Rights Act

In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court has refused to expand the protections for minorities under the federal voting rights law, a decision that may affect the redrawing of legislative boundaries after the 2010 Census. The court’s conservative majority ruled only electoral districts with majority of blacks or other minorities are to be protected by a provision of the Voting Rights Act. Civil rights groups said the ruling could result in more districts with minorities constituting less than half the population, diluting their voting strength.

35,000 Jobs to Be Lost After Pharmaceutical Mergers

In business news, the pharmaceutical giant Merck has announced plans to buy one of its chief rivals, Schering-Plough Corporation for $41 billion. The move comes just weeks after Pfizer said it would buy Wyeth. The two mergers in the pharmaceutical industry are expected to result in 35,000 job losses. Questions have been raised over the link between the mergers and the taxpayer bailouts of the banking industry. Dr. John Abramson of Harvard Medical School said the mergers are only happening now because the drug companies can get the money from the banks thanks to the Treasury Department’s Troubled Asset Relief Program. Abramson said, “The TARP money is supposed to be loosening up credit and keeping Americans employed. They shouldn’t be using bailout money to get rid of people.”

Obama Administration to Review Bush Signing Statements

In other news from the White House, the Obama administration has called into question the legitimacy of all signing statements issued by President Bush. The New York Times reports Obama has ordered executive officials to consult with Attorney General Eric Holder before relying on any of them to bypass a statute. However, President Obama has refused to rule out using signing statements himself.

At Least 25 Die in Iraq Bombing

In Iraq, at least twenty-five people died today when a suicide bomber attacked a group of tribal leaders as they left the mayor’s office in the town of Abu Ghraib. Police officers, soldiers and journalists were said to among the dead.

Dalai Lama: China Has Turned Tibet into “Hell on Earth”

The Dalai Lama marked his fiftieth year in exile earlier today by demanding “meaningful autonomy” for his Tibetan homeland, where Chinese authorities have tightened security to stifle protests against their rule. The Dalai Lama slammed China for bringing “untold suffering and destruction” to Tibet and turning the region at times into a “hell on earth.” His words came on the fiftieth anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese troops, which led to his exile.

Pro-Tibetan Protesters Rally Outside White House

Protests are being held today around the world to commemorate fifty years of Tibetan resistance to Chinese rule. On Monday, pro-Tibet activists gathered outside the White House.

Tsering Palden, president of the Tibetan Youth Congress in New York and New Jersey: “Today fifty years ago, the Tibetans in Tibet have voluntarily rose up against the Chinese occupation. So that resistance still continues, and we wanted to keep this force of resistance alive and be the voice of those Tibetans inside Tibet, because they don’t have any voice outside, because they closed Tibet from the outside world. No foreigners are allowed. No journalists are allowed. The whole of Tibet has been militarized. It has become virtually–Tibet is under virtually martial law.”

Yangchen Lhamo of Students for a Free Tibet also spoke.

Yangchen Lhamo: “We’re here really with tens of thousands of Tibetans and supporters around the world today to mark this anniversary by taking these fifty years of resistance, the spirit of the fifty years of resistance, to the streets of our cities and our towns and to urge–here in our nation’s capital, to urge the US government to increase the pressure on China to meet with the Dalai Lama and engage in meaningful negotiations and also just to immediately withdraw all of the troops that have been deployed in Tibet.”

China & US Trade Accusations Over US Navy Spy Ship

China and the United States are trading accusations after five Chinese ships approached a US Navy surveillance vessel off the southern Chinese island of Hainan. China accused the US of violating international and Chinese laws by conducting illegal surveying. Pentagon officials said the ship was in international waters. The US accused the Chinese of harassing the spy vessel.

Key Senate Democrats Waver on Employee Free Choice Act

The Wall Street Journal reports key Senate Democrats are wavering in their support of the Employee Free Choice Act, dealing a potential blow to organized labor. The bill would stop employers from demanding secret-ballot elections and require them to recognize unions if a majority of workers consented. The bill has been fiercely opposed by the Chamber of Commerce and other business groups. At least six senators who have previously supported the proposal now say they are opposed or not sure. Senators on the fence include Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, and both of the Democratic senators from Arkansas, Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln.

Ford and UAW Agree on New Compensation Plan

In other labor news, Ford and the United Auto Workers have reached a deal where the union has agreed to cuts in their compensation package, including a freezing of wages and restructuring retirement benefits. In exchange, Ford made commitments to the UAW to seek sacrifices from its executives, salaried employees and bondholders. The new deal is expected to save Ford millions of dollars.

British Aid Convoy Arrives in Gaza

A British convoy carrying aid for Palestinians arrived in Gaza Monday. The convoy left London last month and traveled through at least seven countries in Europe and North Africa. Members of the “Viva Palestina” convoy included British parliamentarian George Galloway.

George Galloway: “We have brought with us many vehicles, much equipment, much medicine–everything we could carry. And we will hand it to Ismail Haniyeh, the elected prime minister of Palestine.”

Top US Cyber Security Chief Resigns

The top cyber security chief at the Department of Homeland Security has resigned and has accused the National Security Agency and the military of trying to take control of the government’s cyber security efforts. Up until last week, Rod Beckstrom served as head of the National Cyber Security Center. Beckstrom opposed efforts by the NSA to move the National Cyber Security Center to its base at Fort Meade in Maryland.

McClatchy Newspapers to Eliminate 1,600 Jobs

In media news, the McClatchy newspaper chain has announced plans to eliminate 1,600 jobs, or 15 percent of its workforce. Newspapers affected by the layoffs include the Sacramento Bee, the Kansas City Star, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Fresno Bee. Meanwhile, the New York Times has announced it has sold twenty-one floors in its fifty-two-story headquarters in Times Square in an effort to raise $225 million. Under the terms of the deal, the paper will lease back the floors for the next fifteen years.

Bolivia Expels Senior US Diplomat

The Bolivian government has ordered a senior US diplomat to leave the country after President Evo Morales accused him of participating in a “conspiracy” against his government. Morales said Francisco Martinez was in contact with opposition groups involved in anti-government unrest. Martinez was the second secretary of the US embassy in La Paz.

Lawmakers Urge US to Take Neutral Role in El Salvador Election

Thirty members of the US House of Representatives have sent President Obama a letter calling for US neutrality in Saturday’s presidential election in El Salvador. Polls indicate the leftist FMLN party will beat the right-wing ARENA party, which has ruled for the past two decades. Historically, the ARENA party has had close ties to Washington. Five years ago, the Bush administration was accused of threatening to cut off aid to El Salvador if voters supported the FMLN.

Police Officer Shot Dead in Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, tension is rising after another member of the security forces has been shot dead. A police officer was killed last night in County Armagh after he responded to a call for help. This marked the first murder of a police officer in Northern Ireland since 1998. The shooting came two days after a pair of British troops were shot dead outside a British military base in Northern Ireland. The dissident republican group, the Real IRA, claimed responsibility. On Monday, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams condemned the killings.

Gerry Adams: “Just make it clear, on the one hand, that the people who carried out this attack don’t have any support within the broad republican family or the broad republican constituency and that Sinn Feinn will go toe-to-toe and ensure that there is no ambiguity around the unworthiness of this action and the fact that this action should not have taken place.”

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited Northern Ireland on Monday and said the peace process cannot be shaken.

Gordon Brown: “What I’ve seen this morning is the unity of the people of Northern Ireland and the unity of the political parties, that they stand united behind the peace and political process that they’ve been building for many, many years, that they are going to continue to work together, and they want to send out a message to the world, as I do, that the political process will not and never be shaken. In fact, the political process is now unshakable.”

Ward Churchill Trial Opens in Denver

Opening statements begin today in Denver, Colorado in Professor Ward Churchill’s trial against the University of Colorado at Boulder. Churchill sued the school after he was fired in 2007 on charges of research misconduct. But Churchill maintains that the allegations were a pretext to remove him for his unpopular political views. In 2005, he described the September 11 attacks as a response to a long history of US abuses and called those who were killed on 9-11 as “little Eichmanns.”

Mass Transit Use at 50-Year High

And more people rode the nation’s public buses, subways and commuter trains last year than in any year since 1956. This according to a new report by the American Public Transportation Association. The trade group estimates Americans took nearly 10.7 billion rides on public transportation in 2008.

Judge Refuses to Remove Michigan Civil Rights Initiative Ballot Proposal Despite Finding “Systematic Voter Fraud”

United States District Court Judge Arthur Tarnow has ruled yesterday that the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI) could stay on the November ballot despite the court’s finding that the MCRI was a product of “systematic voter fraud.”

United States District Court Judge Arthur Tarnow ruled yesterday that the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI) could stay on the November ballot. In a 34-page ruling, the court found that “the MCRI engaged in systematic voter fraud by telling voters that they were signing a petition supporting affirmative action,” but that because such deception was used to gain petition signatures from people of all races the fraud, while unacceptable, was not a violation of the Voters Rights Act. The ruling builds on the findings of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission earlier this summer that concluded that the MCRI campaign engaged in an “organized and widespread” pattern of misrepresentation to gather the signatures to place the MCRI on the ballot. The Michigan Civil Rights Commission report contained the testimony of hundreds of petition signers—including those testifying at a hearing in Grand Rapids—who said that they were told that the MCRI was designed to protect affirmative action in the state rather than to eliminate it.

The court declared that the conduct of the MCRI in gathering signatures was “unprincipled” and stated that should the MCRI pass, “it will be stained by well-documented acts of fraud and deception” that Tarnow contends were not credibly denied by MCRI organizers. This deception was systematic and went beyond “mere ‘puffery’ and was in fact fraudulent because it objectively misrepresented the purpose of the petition,” with both circulators and the public being misled as to the purpose of the petition and the MCRI. However, rather than using this as a basis to remove the MCRI from the ballot, Tarnow argues that the MCRI’s effort “targeted all Michigan voters for deception without regard to race,” and as a consequence, the Voting Rights Act does not apply because it prohibits only practices that result in unequal access to the political process because of race. Tarnow states that the issue of voter fraud should have been addressed by state institutions including the Michigan Courts, the Board of State Canvassers, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the Bureau of Elections, all of whom “demonstrated an almost complete institutional indifference to the credible allegations of voter fraud.” The opinion states that citizens of Michigan should be concerned by the indifference of Michigan’s institutions and their failure to investigate the fraud.

In a press release, one of the organizations that has been fighting the MCRI and pushed the question of voter fraud to the forefront—By Any Means Necessary (BAMN)—objected to Tarnow’s decision not to issue an injunction to remove the initiative from the ballot despite his contention that “the evidence overwhelmingly favors a finding that MCRI defendants engaged in voter fraud.” BAMN argues that the only two investigations into the issue of voter fraud, one by the Michigan Civil Rights Commission and the District Court case, have both found widespread voter fraud, thereby suggesting that the MCRI should not be place on the ballot. Moreover, BAMN rejected Tarnow’s logic that because the fraudulent petition gathering effort did not target African-Americans exclusively; the Voting Rights Act does not apply. Shanta Driver, an attorney and national spokesperson for BAMN, said that “By that logic, all of the discriminatory schemes targeted at black voters in our nation’s history would still stand – the grand father clauses, poll taxes, and literacy tests which targeted black voters throughout the American South also deprived millions of white people of their right to vote. Judge Tarnow’s logic is that because white people were victims as well, there is no protection for anyone.” In light of what she termed as Tarnow’s “absurd” logic, she also stated that BAMN would be appealing the decision.

City Commission in Grand Rapids Unanimously Passes Resolution Opposing the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI)

At its Tuesday meeting, the Grand Rapids City Commission unanimously passed a resolution that puts it on the record as “adamantly opposing the misleading” Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI) and encouraging the County and other area townships and cities to pass similar resolutions opposing the MCRI. The text of the resolution not only objects to the MCRI in because of its policy consequences of limiting diversity and equal opportunity, but also because—in an interesting application of its new Sustainability Plan—is “contrary” to the aims of that plan. The media’s coverage of the resolution—both before and after its passage—focused primarily on the legal question of whether or not the City Commission can take a position on state ballot initiatives rather than explaining why the City Commission was opposed to the MCRI.

The resolution as passed by the City Commission:

Whereas, the City of Grand Rapids in all of its official policies and statements has officially supported fighting racism, sexism, and any kind of bigotry in our community; and

Whereas, the City of Grand Rapids wishes to provide leadership to erase the insidious effects of racism and sexism and seeks to promote harmony among diverse citizens; and

Whereas, the ethnic heritage, gender, and social background of every individual has value and must not be diminished, ignored, or ridiculed; and

Whereas, government has a proactive responsibility to ensure equal treatment of all citizens and to create an environment of respect and equal opportunity for all citizens; and

Whereas, the character and economic strength of any community is ultimately defined by its ability to include a diverse population; and

Whereas, the “so called” Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI) ballot proposal would interfere, threaten, and eliminate many programs, policies, and strategies that currently provide diversity in educational institutions and in the workplace; and

Whereas, the MCRI ballot proposal would be harmful to government, businesses, our economy, and the State of Michigan as a whole; and

Whereas, the MCRI Ballot proposal is contrary to our Sustainability Plan and its triple bottom line and inconsistent with our officially adopted Racial Justice Institute’s Covenant for Racial Justice;

Resolved, that the Grand Rapids City Commission does hereby go on record as adamantly opposing the misleading named Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, urge voters to oppose its passage, and call upon the County of Kent and all cities and townships throughout West Michigan to join us in opposing this ballot proposal that threatens the equitable treatment of persons who live and work in our state.

Lawsuit Filed Seeking Injunction against the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative

A lawsuit was filed last week in United States District Court by opponents of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI). The lawsuit seeks an injunction that will removing the MCRI from the ballot on the basis that the fraud documented by the Michigan Civil Rights Commission in the campaign to get the MCRI on the ballot was a violation of both the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.

On Thursday, a lawsuit was filed in United States District Court seeking an injunction to prevent the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI) from being placed on the November ballot. The lawsuit, filed by Operation King’s Dream/BAMN, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, the Macomb County NAACP, and numerous African-American and Latino individuals, charges that the MCRI’s financial backer Ward Connerly, the MCRI’s Executive Director Jennifer Gratz, the MCRI, the Michigan Secretary of State, and the State Board of Canvassers violated the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 during the collection of petition signatures and in making the decision to place the MCRI on the ballot. In addition, two of Detroit’s labor unions—AFSCME Local 207 and Local 312—signed on to the lawsuit due to the large number of members who believed they were signing a petition in support of affirmative action.

The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI) would ban affirmative action programs in the state of Michigan and has consequently drawn considerable opposition from both regular citizens and organizations such as By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) and One United Michigan. The lawsuit filed on Thursday was a product of organizing done by BAMN who actively worked to prevent the MCRI from being placed on the November ballot. Indeed, it was BAMN’s organizing efforts that led to hearings by the Michigan Civil Rights Commission investigating the question of voter fraud in the campaign to gather the necessary signatures to place the MCRI on the ballot. The Civil Rights Commission gathered over a thousand pages of testimony outlining “systemic” fraud in the campaign to place the MCRI on the ballot while issuing a report recommending that the state of Michigan remove the MCRI from the November 2006 ballot (testimony was collected in Grand Rapids). The findings of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission are the basis of the lawsuit, with national spokesperson for Operation King’s Dream stating that “After the Civil Rights Commission’s report, no one can pretend that they do not know the massive nature of the fraud that the MCRI has perpetrated.” The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 125,000 African-Americans who were fraudulently convinced to sign a petition that Attorney George B. Washington told the media gets to the question of “how do they get 125,000 black people to sign a petition so their kids can’t go to college and the answer is obvious,” with the lawsuit and Washington concluding that the signatures were gathered through fraudulent means.

The text of the case filed last Thursday specifically charge that Connerly, Gratz, and the MCRI violated Section 2 of the Civil Rights Act in their systemic and racially-targeted fraud used to obtain ballot access for the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. The filing goes on to state that the Secretary of State and members of Michigan’s Board of Canvassers have violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in supporting the MCRI’s inclusion on the November ballot without an investigation. The plaintiffs explain that they believe a filing in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan is appropriate as a substantial number of those affected and targeted by the fraud live within the district. In the sub-section “Statement of Facts,” attorneys filing the lawsuit further argue that campaigners for the MCRI purposely concealed its intent in their petition language and actively misrepresented the MCRI to black voters as being a constitutional amendment in support of affirmative action rather than one that would ban it.

A decision in the case will be made before September 1st when ballots are printed for distribution overseas, with the lawsuit seeking to have a decision on the expedite the process of deciding the case.

Grand Rapids School Board Passes Resolution Opposing the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI)

On Monday, the Grand Rapids Public Schools’ Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution opposing the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI) and calling for its removal from the November 2006 ballot. The MCRI, which will ban affirmative action programs if passed, has drawn extensive criticism in Grand Rapids and around the state.

At its Monday meeting, the Grand Rapids Public Schools Board of Education passed a resolution opposing the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI). The MCRI, a controversial ballot initiative that bans affirmative action, has drawn considerable criticism recently in Grand Rapids. A hearing held by the Michigan Civil Rights Commission in the Board’s chambers in May featured hundreds of residents who claimed that they had been fraudulently approached to sign the petition, with testimony from the Grand Rapids and three other hearings held around the state, resulting in the Civil Rights Commission releasing a report documenting widespread and systematic fraud in the campaign to place the MCRI on the ballot. The board members unanimously (with the exception of Jim Rinck who was absent) pass the a resolution reading:

WHEREAS, the Board of Education of the Grand Rapids Public Schools stands firm in its dedication to support programs to advance equal opportunity and access for women and minorities in public education, contracting, and employment; and

WHEREAS, the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI) is attempting to ban affirmative action and equal opportunity programs throughout the State of Michigan; and

WHEREAS, the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative has used questionable means in gathering signatures to support their aim to put the Initiative on the November 2006 Michigan ballot;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Board of Education of the Grand Rapids Public Schools hereby urges the Governor, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, and other appropriate agencies to decline placing the MCRI proposal on the November ballot.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Board of Education will continue to support voluntary public-sector affirmative action programs in education, contracting, and employment.

Organizers with the Detroit-based group By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) were present at the meeting and argued in favor of the resolution’s passage. Heather Miller thanked the board for bringing up the resolution and emphasized that widespread voter fraud was found in the campaign to get the MCRI on the ballot, while Tristan Taylor reminded the Board that the Michigan Civil Rights Commission is calling on the Michigan Supreme Court and Attorney General to act to stop the MCRI. Various members of the board then responded that the believe equal opportunity is necessary for a just society and that the Board is of the position that the MCRI must be removed from the November ballot. As part of ongoing organizing efforts to this end, BAMN is encouraging people to send a fax to various state elected officials and candidates urging them to speak out against both the MCRI and the fraud documented by the Michigan Civil Rights Commission.

Civil Rights Commission Finds Fraud in Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI)

The Michigan Civil Rights Commission has found an “organized and widespread” pattern of misrepresentation by organizers of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI) in their effort to get the MCRI on the November ballot. According to Michigan Civil Rights Department spokesman, Harold Core, organizers of the MCRI purposely misled signers of petitions into believing that the MCRI would support and expand affirmative action programs rather than eliminate them. Allegations of misrepresentation were widespread at a Civil Rights Commission hearing into fraud and the MCRI held last month in Grand Rapids, with numerous people testifying that they were lied to about the purpose of the petition or told it was for something entirely different, only to later find their names on the list of MCRI signers. In light of such testimony at four hearings across the state, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission is recommending that the Attorney General launch an investigation into the allegations and implement laws to prevent deception, while the Michigan Supreme Court is being urged to define whose responsibility it is to look into allegations of fraud before the Board of State Canvassers is allowed to place issues on the ballot. Additionally, the Supreme Court is being asked to reconsider a ruling that placed the proposal on the November ballot and to allow opponents of the MCRI the opportunity to appeal that ruling.

The Michigan Civil Rights Commission will host press conferences on Monday, June 12 to formally announce the results of their investigation and to outline recommendations for action by the state Attorney General, the Michigan Supreme Court, and the Michigan Legislature. A press conference will be held in Grand Rapids at 4:00pm at the Grand Rapids Public Schools Administrative Offices as 1331 Franklin Street SE.

Affirmative Action Debate needs to shift towards a Discussion of Racial Prejudice

Frank Wu, Dean of Wayne State University’s Law School, spoke in favor of affirmative action last night at the Wealthy Street Theatre while encouraging a shift in the debate towards a discussion of the underlying racial prejudice that makes affirmative action necessary.

Last night at the Wealthy Street Theatre, Frank Wu, Dean of Wayne State University Law School and noted scholar on race, spoke to a small crowd as part of the Legacy 2006 Series. Wu, who contends that affirmative action is one of the most controversial but valuable policies in the United States, spent most of his talk advocating for affirmative action which he said was essential to defend if people really believe in equality and civil rights. Wu’s comments were particularly timely in light of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative ballot proposal that would ban affirmative action in the state.

Wu began his lecture by describing how his parents, both of whom emigrated from China, were subject to a variety of forms of racism. Wu described how his parents felt that their treatment was due to their difficulties with language rather than racial prejudice. He talked about how racial prejudice function in the extreme sense with “cranks” on margins such as white supremacist groups but also described how racism continues to function in the mainstream in less overt ways. Among these he described how children come up to him and make karate poses or how white Americans will walk quicker if an African-American male approaches them at night. He also explained that unlike people of color, white Americans never really have to think about race because they benefit from their race in terms of everyday privileges. He also described how offhand remarks and jokes about race, while seemingly not that serious, reveal an underlying racism that likely affect hiring and admission practices.

Perhaps the most interesting portions of Wu’s speech were his contention that “reasonable people” could disagree on affirmative action “without malice in their hearts.” He went on to say that he would not attack Ward Connerly, the California businessman backing the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, or his motives. Instead, Wu advocated for a higher level of discourse that would move beyond “angry slogans” and debate and instead address the real issue underlying affirmative action—racial prejudice. Wu argued that the current debate over affirmative action is a distraction from that issue and that people consequently focus too much time on the minutia of how affirmative action works rather than on racial prejudice. Moreover, the current “debate” has been one that has been conducted with simple slogans rather than dialog and action, essentially functioning as political entertainment rather than a serious discussion. Instead, Wu argued that the question that we should be asking ourselves is when will the need for affirmative action end, not when will affirmative action end.

Wu concluded by describing how the abolition of affirmative action has had detrimental effects in states where it has been abolished. For example, in California, racial hostility towards people of color on college campuses has increased. He also described how the elimination of affirmative action would not affect people of color but also women and those from rural areas, pointing out that rural white Americans would be the most disadvantaged if colleges switched to a pure grade and test score admittance system. Wu argued that race is important for admission to colleges if it is considered as one of many factors, not just by itself. Similarly, he argued that affirmative action has benefited corporations and other institutions, a contention that he supported by referring to Friend of the Court briefs filed in the University of Michigan affirmative action case by Ford Motor Company who supported affirmative action because it meant increased profits and the US military who supported it because it meant a more effective fighting force. Wu ended by encouraging the audience to act and fight racial prejudice in the institutions of which they are a part.