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George Curry

University of Texas' History of Racism

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(NNPA) The affirmative action program at the University of Texas now under review by the United States Supreme Court should not be looked at in isolation. As Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote in Grutter V. Bollinger, an affirmative action case involving the University of Michigan, “context matters when reviewing race-based governmental action under the Equal Protection Clause.”

An amici curiae (friend-of-the-court) brief filed by the Advancement Project, an equal opportunity advocacy group, in support of the University of Texas provides excellent context of how the issue of race has played out in Texas and the University of Texas for decades.

“UT is the progeny of a state that seceded from the Union in 1861 with the explicit goal of preserving ‘negro slavery’ for ‘all future time,’” the brief observed. “Even after rejoining the Union and despite passage of the Reconstruction Amendments, Texas sought to implement its goal of excluding blacks from public life and political personhood. In the early decades of the twentieth century, the Court repeatedly struck down Texas statutes designed to deny blacks full citizenship.”

The brief noted, “Nixon v. Herndon, 273 U.S. 536 (1927), ranks among the many Texas-based cases that illustrate the state’s relegation of blacks to second-class citizenship. The litigation involved Dr. L.A. Nixon, a black physician in El Paso, Texas and a member of the Democratic Party. Dr. Nixon filed suit claiming he was unlawfully excluded from participating in the Democratic Party primary elections. The case made its way to the Supreme Court, where Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, writing for a unanimous Court, held that Dr. Nixon’s rights had been violated under the Fourteenth Amendment.”

Despite the ruling, Texas refused to allow Dr. Nixon to participate in the political process. He appeared before the Supreme Court again five years later and got another ruling that forced Texas to comply.

Higher education was also subject to state-mandated segregation.

“Texas’s flagship university was founded by white Texans for white Texans,” the Advancement Project brief stated. “UT categorically barred black Americans from the University and from its graduate and professional schools.”

In one of the most famous Supreme Court cases, Sweatt v. Painter, the court forced the University of Texas Law School to admit Herman Sweatt, a qualified African-American who had graduated from Jack Yates High School in Houston and Wiley College.

“As the public face of the struggle against segregation in higher education, Sweatt faced harassment, on and off UT’s campus,” the brief recounted. “During Sweatt’s first semester at the law school, a cross was burned on the law school grounds. Opponents of integration threatened Sweatt’s life, in person and by mail. Vandals defaced his home and threw rocks, shattering windows. Sweatt fell ill and struggled academically, financially, and personally. Life at UT became unbearable. Sweatt eventually dropped out of school—a “physical and emotional wreck.”

Blacks who followed Sweatt at the University of Texas also faced barriers.

“UT excluded blacks from living in the on-campus dormitories designated for whites and specifically forbade all black students from entering the living quarters of white women,” the brief recounted. “UT established separate and inferior residential housing for blacks. UT barred black students from intercollegiate athletics, excluded them from extracurricular activities such as music and theater, and permitted segregated fraternities and sororities. UT even banned black students from using the same bathroom facilities as whites. All told, in Sweatt’s wake, blacks faced an all-encompassing stigma, purely on account of race.”

Not surprisingly, the Brown decision was not well received in Texas.

“One of the most significant racial flare-ups in recent years at UT concerned a campus landmark built in 1954 and named in honor of William Simkins, a professor at UT’s law school from 1899 until his death in 1929,” the brief stated. “Within five weeks of the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, UT named its new dormitory in honor of Simkins …

“Simkins was not merely a member of the Ku Klux Klan. He, along with his brother Eldred James Simkins (a regent of UT from 1882 to 1896), was ‘a criminal and a terrorist, a gun-toting, mask-wearing, night-riding Klansman who headed a group in Florida that murdered 25 people in three years in just one county.’”

The Advancement Projected brief stated, “Black students continued to experience a hostile environment. In 1969, for example, Professor Robert Hopper greeted black sociology major Rosetta Williams on the first day of class in a most unwelcoming way. ‘I want feedback from the students because I don’t want you sitting around like a bunch of niggers nodding your heads not saying nothing.’”

A campus statue of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was defaced in 2003 and again in 2004. The Daily Texan, the campus newspaper, came under fire earlier this year when it published a cartoon that mocked the killing of Trayvon Martin, unarmed Florida teenager, and ran a feature referring to him as “a colored boy.”

As Justice O’Connor stated, context matters.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and editorial director of Heart & Soul magazine. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

Maxine Waters Case: A Political Train Wreck

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By George E. Curry

NNPA Columnist The headlines proclaim that Rep. Maxine Waters, the outspoken Democrat from California, has been cleared of charges that she violated House ethics by advocating on behalf of a Black bank in which her husband held a substantial investment. The real story, however, is that Waters case serves as Exhibit A for how a Black elected official who has done nothing wrong can have her name smeared for several years largely because of partisan politics. Although the official report is filled with carefully calibrated references that downplays the infighting and partisanship that characterized the investigation,  it is clear from the report that when the investigation commenced, it was obvious that Waters had never tried to hide her husband’s participation in OneUnited Bank, the Boston-based institution at the center of the investigation, and that she believed she was acting on behalf of the National Bankers Association, an organization of Black banks, when she arranged between a group of bankers and then-Secretary of Treasury.

OneUnited, a member of the National Bankers Association, was in danger of closing its doors and was seeking $50 million in federal bailout money to stay afloat. Waters’ husband, Sidney Williams, a former board member of OneUnited, owned bank stock valued at $350,000 that he would have lost if the bank had tanked. House conflict-of-interest rules prohibit members of Congress from using their official position on behalf of an entity in which they have a personal interest. In Waters’ case, as a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee and a strong advocate for Black banks, it was not uncommon for her to arrange meetings between federal officials and the National Bankers Association.

According to the report “Outside Counsel concluded that Representative Waters reasonably believed, at the time she requested the meeting, that the  attendees would be speaking on behalf of minority banks generally.  While it appears that all of the minority bankers who attended the meeting were associated with OneUnited, and that OneUnited was alone in requesting substantial financial assistance from the Treasury Department at the meeting, the record indicates that Representative Waters did not have reason to know of either of these facts when she arranged the meeting.”

Waters made no secret of her husband’s involvement in OneUnited. She made it part of her public financial disclosure reports. In addition, according to the Ethics Committee finding, “it appears that Representative Waters recognized and made efforts to avoid a conflict of interest with respect to OneUnited. She informed the then-Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee that she was ‘not going to be involved in’ OneUnited’s request for assistance from the Treasury Department, and then relayed this decision to her COS [Chief of Staff].” House Republicans were aware of the pertinent facts but decided to pursue the case against Waters anyway. The final report noted that there was “an extended, and at time contentious investigation of the allegations.” The committee hired William “Billy” Martin, a respected African-American attorney, to serve as outside counsel.  His investigation found that some staff members communicated only with members of one party without communicating with the rest of the committee and that one staffer had made comments that were “racially insensitive and completely inappropriate.” Although Martin did not name the specific party in question, it is easy to deduce that staffers were communicating with Republicans, who hold a majority on the committee, and not Democrats. In addition, Republican committee members were also communicating with House leadership about the investigation, which was supposed to be non-partisan. The investigation became so tainted that, in what they described as a move to assure that Waters was being treated fairly, the entire 10-member panel and staff investigating Waters were replaced. And it was this new committee, working with Martin, that exonerated Waters. “Outside Counsel recommended and the Waters Committee concluded that Representative Waters did not violate any House Rule, law, regulation, or other applicable standard of conduct,” the report stated.

It did not reach the same conclusion about Mikael Moore, the congresswoman’s chief of staff and grandson.

The report said, “However, the Waters Committee finds that Representative Waters’ COS violated House rules by taking specific actions that would accrue to the benefit of OneUnited, a bank Representative Waters had a significant financial interest in and which interest could have been significantly impacted by the actions.” The committee found Moore’s testimony on the matter lacked credibility and issued him a letter of reproval. Congress prohibits its members from hiring of close relatives, a definition that does not include grandchildren. Because of the Waters case, however, the committee members think that time has come to broaden the definition of close relatives to include grandchildren. Waters contended all along – and the evidence was there to support her assertion – that she had done nothing improper. But House Republicans were intent on dragging her name through the mud. This is one of the few times that they have been fully exposed. How many other Black lawmakers have been subjected to the same treatment, but that information never became public?

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and editorial director of Heart & Soul magazine. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

Companies Continue to Insult Black Consumers

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By George E. Curry

NNPA Columnist

When I was in the process of reading and writing about Nielsen and the National Newspaper Publishers Association’s report on African-American buying power for this week’s Black newspapers, I was reminded of how many top companies continue to take advantage of Black consumers while providing little, if anything, in return. They are not the only ones at fault – so are we. People treat you the way you allow them to treat you. The same can be said of corporations, though they are not, as Mitt Romney contends, people. The Nielsen report notes that Black spending power, which totals $695 billion a year, is expected to soar to $1.1 trillion by 2015. And very few of those dollars are reinvested by advertising in the Black media. It’s a matter of respect. As Black publishers point out, if a company advertises in the Washington Post or the New York Times, it could be speaking to anyone. However, when it advertises in the Black media, we know they are speaking directly to our audience and are taking us seriously as valued consumers. For the most part, that’s not happening.

When Nielsen lists the top companies advertising with Black media, some familiar names are nowhere to be found. Eight of the top U.S. 10 banks are not on the list of top 10 financial/insurance companies advertising in the Black media. JP Morgan Chase has overtaken Bank of America as the top bank in the U.S., with assets of $2.2 trillion. Don’t shed any tears for second-place Bank of America, which has assets of $2.13 trillion, or CitiGroup with $1.8 trillion. Neither of them is among the top 10 entities advertising with the Black media.

But African-Americans hold checking or savings accounts at all three banks. Let’s put them on notice by sending them a copy of this column and my story, which is carried in this week’s NNPA papers and is posted on BlackPressUSA.com. Tell them that by the time the next Nielsen report comes out a year from now if they are not on that list, they will be added to one of our lists, not the one people brag about. If banks can disregard us, we can disregard them by closing our accounts and moving them to a bank that shows its appreciation. If you have accounts at either JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, CitiBank (CitiGroup), Bank of New York Mellon, PNC Financial Services, State Street Corp., Capital One or SunTrust Banks, put them on notice today that they will lose a valuable customer if they continue along this path. In terms of a national campaign, I suggest first focusing on the three largest banks. Here’s contact information for their top official:

Mr. James Dimon Chairman and Chief Executive Officer JP Morgan Chase 270 Park Avenue, 39th Floor New York, NY 10017 Phone: 212-270-1111 Fax: 212-270-1121 Email Address: HYPERLINK "mailto:jamie.dimon@jpmchase.com"jamie.dimon@jpmchase.com

Mr. Brian T. Moynihan Chief Executive Officer Bank of America Corporation 100 N. Tryon St. Charlotte, N.C. 28255 Phone: 704-386-5681 Email; HYPERLINK "mailto:Brian.T.Moynihan@bankofamerica.com"Brian.T.Moynihan@bankofamerica.com

Mr. Vikram Pandit CEO CitiBank 399 Park Avenue New York, N.Y. 10022 Phone 212/793-1201 or 212/559-1000 Email: HYPERLINK "mailto:vikram.pandit@citi.com"vikram.pandit@citi.com

Let the “banksters” know how you feel about their actions. To add insult to injury, $182.5 billion of our tax dollars went to bail out American International Group – or Notorious AIG., as comedian Bill Maher calls them – but they have not reciprocated with the Black media. AIG, the largest insurance company in the world, is MIA.

You can’t turn on the television without seeing one of those horrendous man/ape commercials about GEICO. Yet, GEICO is monkeying around with us by also being absent from the list of top advertisers. African-Americans over index on mobile phones. Verizon is a top advertiser with the Black media but not AT&T, Sprint or T-Mobile. If they haven’t joined the list by next year, we should pull the plug on them.

At various times and to varying degrees, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and the NAACP, among others, have had a public grading system for Corporate America. But that measurement has been abandoned. It’s time to reinstate it. Instead of competing with one another, this is an excellent opportunity to prove that our civil rights organizations have what they call “operational unity” and join together to produce an annual Economic Report Card. Given its ties to Corporate America, perhaps Marc Morial and the National Urban League can take the lead on this. It’s time for leaders to lead.

As Jackson said at the press conference releasing the Nielsen report on Black buying power, perhaps we should stop boasting about our spending power and closely examine what companies spend with us. And based on those findings, we should do what the lady who reads the church announcements each Sunday admonishes – govern ourselves accordingly. George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and editorial director of Heart & Soul magazine. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

15 Memorable Quotes from the Democratic Convention

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By George E. Curry

NNPA Columnist

#15 – Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (Mo.): “Congress is unable to do the work of the American people because too many politicians believe that compromise means capitulation. This must change, because just as bees cannot sting and make honey at the same time, members of Congress cannot simultaneously make passionate enemies and expect political progress.”

#14 – Rep. Barney Frank (Mass.): “When it comes to Wall Street reform, you’d think Republicans have amnesia. Like they’ve forgotten how we got into the Great Recession in the first place. Did they forget they were in power leading up to the crisis? That it was their plan that set Wall Street free and crashed the economy? Did they forget that this whole crisis started because banks gave out loans they knew people couldn’t pay? That those banks were gambling with our money? Using the kinds of financial tricks only Mitt Romney’s accountant would understand?”

#13 – Newark Mayor Cory Booker: “When your country is in a costly war with our soldiers sacrificing abroad and our nation is facing a debt crisis at home, being asked to pay your fair share isn’t class warfare. It’s patriotism.”

#12 – Massachusetts Gov. Devaul Patrick “Mitt Romney talks a lot about all the things he’s fixed. I can tell you that Massachusetts wasn’t one of them. He’s a fine fellow and a great salesman, but as governor he was more interested in having the job than doing it.”

#11 – Former Florida Republican Gov. Charlie Christ: “Half a century ago, Ronald Reagan, the man whose relentless optimism inspired me to enter politics, famously said that he didn’t leave the Democratic Party; the party left him. I can certainly relate. I didn’t leave the Republican Party; it left me. Then again, as my friend Jeb Bush recently noted, Reagan himself would have been too moderate and too reasonable for today’s GOP.”

#10- Massachusetts Senatorial Candidate Elizabeth Warren: “After all, Mitt Romney’s the guy who said corporations are people. No, Governor Romney, corporations are not people. People have hearts, they have kids, they get jobs, they get sick, they cry, they dance. They live, they love, and they die. And that matters. That matters. That matters because we don’t run this country for corporations, we run it for people.”

#9 – First Lady Michelle Obama: “Barack knows the American Dream because he’s lived it…and he wants everyone in this country to have that same opportunity, no matter who we are, or where we’re from, or what we look like, or who we love. And he believes that when you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity…you do not slam it shut behind you…you reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.”

#8- HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius: “What’s missing from the Romney-Ryan plan for Medicare is Medicare. Instead of the Medicare guarantee, Republicans would give seniors a voucher that limits what is covered….”

#7 – Rep. Luis Gutierrez (Ill.): “President Obama is protecting immigrants. Mitt Romney wants to send them back. This election will determine whether high school valedictorians, football team captains, and student council presidents will be treated with respect – or treated like suspects.”

#6- Musician James Taylor: “It’s an empty chair, it makes you nervous, don’t worry — I’m going to sit on it. I’m not going to talk to it.”

#5 – Former President Bill Clinton: “In Tampa, the Republican argument against the president’s re-election was actually pretty simple – pretty snappy. It went something like this: ‘We left him a total mess. He hasn’t cleaned it up fast enough. So fire him and put us back in.’”

#4- Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley: “Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan now say they want to take America back. And so we ask: Back to what? Back to the failed policies that drove us into a deep recession? Back to the days of record job losses? Back to the days when insurance companies called being a woman a ‘pre-existing condition’? No, thank you. I don’t want to go back.”

#3- The late Senator Ted Kennedy (clip from 1994 debate with Mitt Romney): “I have supported Roe v. Wade. I am pro-choice. My opponent is multiple-choice.”

#2 – Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm: “Mitt Romney loves our lakes and our trees. He loves our cars so much, they even have their own elevator. But the people who design and build and sell those cars? Well, in Romney’s world, the cars get the elevator, and the workers get the shaft!”

#1- Ted Strickland, former Ohio governor: “If Mitt was Santa Claus, he’d fire the reindeer and outsource the elves.”

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and editorial director of Heart & Soul magazine. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

Obama’s Mixed Record on Appointing Judges

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By George Curry

NNPA Columnist

Many speakers at this week’s Republican convention in Tampa have focused on the economy and unemployment as they sought to contrast the Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan GOP ticket with the record of President Barack Obama. But there is another battle underway that is receiving less attention but is at least equally import – the fight to appoint federal judges.

For several decades, Republicans have made judicial appointments a top priority. It is still a priority for the GOP and should be one for Democrats, especially because the 5-4 Supreme Court conservative majority could be widened or shifted in the other direction with the possible appointment of two justices over the next four years. Both President Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney have made it clear they would appoint a different kind of judge to the federal bench.

So far, the Obama record on appointing judges is like his race – mixed. Obama has appointed two Supreme Court justices – the same number as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush appointed over eight years. He appointed 30 appeals court judges, roughly the same number that Clinton and Bush averaged over a term. The real difference was at the district court level, where most cases are decided. Obama has appointed only 125 district judges, compared to 170 for Clinton and 162 for Bush at this point of their presidency.

Part of the problem was that Obama made judicial appointments a low priority as he tried to push his health reform initiative through Congress. Although he fell far behind Bush’s pace in his first year, he later accelerated the process but not fast enough to equal Bush. A second problem was GOP opposition to Obama’s nominees. Even so, Obama did make significant changes.

The number of appeals court judges appointed by Democrats is now 49 percent, a 10 percent increase over when Bush left office. When Obama took office, judges appointed by Democrats dominated only one federal appeals circuit. Now, six of the 13 circuits are dominated by judges appointed by Democrats.

An Aug. 17 New York Times article on Obama’s judicial record observed:  “…Mr. Obama has also largely shied away from nominating assertive liberals who might stand as ideological counterpoints to some of the assertive conservatives Mr. Bush named. Instead of prominent liberal academics whose scholarly writings and videotaped panel discussions would provide ammunition to conservatives, Mr. Obama gravitated toward litigators, prosecutors and sitting district judges and state judges, especially those who would diversify the bench.”

Many of those were met with Republican obstruction. “The Republicans’ goal has been clear from the start – to keep as many seats as possible vacant for a future Republican president to fill with ultraconservative judges,” noted the Alliance for Justice, an association of more than 100 progressive organizations.

Obama’s goal of diversifying the federal bench has been complicated by the American Bar Association, a group of judicial professionals that vets candidates for federal judgeships.

The New York Times article stated, “Awkwardly, the American Bar Association’s judicial vetting committee later scuttled at least 14 finalists for nominations – nearly all women and minorities –by declaring them ‘not qualified.’” In 2001, the George W. Bush administration announced that it would cease cooperating with the ABA in advance of judicial nominations, preferring to go with judges favored by the conservative Federalist Society.  However, Obama has been unwilling to appoint judges not approved by the ABA.

There is a down side to making safe judicial appointments, especially when conservatives are unabashed in their quest to remake the courts. In a report on the last term of the Supreme Court titled, “The One-Percent Court,” the Alliance for Justice observed that in the landmark decision upholding the Affordable Care Act, Justices Elena Kagan, appointed by President Obama and Stephen Breyer, appointed by Bill Clinton, joined the five staunch conservatives on the court in holding that limits can be placed on Congress’ ability to address some national issues, including civil rights, under the commerce clause of the U.S. constitution. Obama’s only bold move in this area was the nomination of Goodwin Liu, a liberal University of California-Berkeley law professor, to the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco. Senate Republicans blocked his appointment with a filibuster.

He briefly considered nominating another liberal, Pamela Karlan of Stanford University, but stayed with candidates that he believed would be more acceptable to Republicans.

The Times article stated,  “While she said she was not disappointed, Ms. Karlan expressed worries that if Republicans nominated outspoken conservatives but Democrats did not nominate equally liberal ones, the center of mainstream legal debate would shift to the right.”

And that’s exactly what has happened.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and editorial director of Heart & Soul magazine. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

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