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Cyber Child Abuse

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(NNPA) I was strolling down a very busy Broadway in New York City a couple of weeks ago.  It was a very nice Saturday and it seemed like everyone was out walking and shopping.  In front of me was a woman and her very young child (maybe 3- or 4-years old).  The woman was completely entranced by her cell phone.  She was texting away.  Her daughter was walking a few steps behind her and was meandering around.  My wife and I found this very unsettling.  So, too, did two young men who were approaching us.  They looked at each other and got ready to say something to the young mother.  My wife beat them to the punch, telling the woman that she needed to pay attention to her child because someone could simply grab the child since the mother appeared completely oblivious to the surroundings.  The mother grunted –  there is no other way to describe it – and yelled to her child to stay with her.  As we crossed the street I looked behind me and noticed that, while the daughter was closer to her mother, the mother was back at texting.

This all reminded me of an episode from Star Trek:  The Next Generation, where members of the crew discover this toy that completely captivates them to the point that they can do nothing but play with it.

On another recent day, I saw a mother and her child walking to school with the mother texting away, ignoring the child altogether. Let me be clear.  I use my cell phone regularly. But what I am seeing is not simply the usage of cell phones.  Rather, it is the cell replacing real human contact. It is the cell as a narcotic.  The woman in NYC had completely lost focus.  Her child could have vanished in a nano-second and she would not have noticed.

Yet, there is another aspect to this.  When I was a child and with my parents, my parents would talk with me.  I do not mean that I was the center of every conversation, but we spoke about all sorts of things.  If a parent is focused on that cell –  and  dollars to donuts they are not cutting deals for some hedge fund or handling major issues in their organizations – they cannot pay attention to the questions that the child might be asking or might wish to ask.

Let me put it even more directly in case I have been too subtle:  what is so important in that cell phone that one feels comfortable ignoring a child?

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a racial justice, labor and global justice activist and writer. Follow him on Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

Immigration: Organized Chaos

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(NNPA) It appears nearly impossible for our nation to have an orderly and simple immigration program. It should be quite easy and routine with a simple application form and a written process and time lines. A big problem is that obtaining American citizenship is a very big accomplishment for a foreigner. No other nation on earth has such demand. It is because of our capitalistic society where dreams can come true and democracy flourishes. The demand is so high that corruption, manipulation and schemes get in the way of doing the right thing.

We have many thousands of educated people who have H1B work visas and work in many technical fields. When their visas expire they have to leave. Why can’t they receive permanent status as they are an asset to our workplace and society? It seems that our elected officials can’t seem to work that out.

Instead, what we have now is another big scandal coming at the request of the White House. Normally, Mexico strongly secures its southern border. Now people are crossing into the country to connect with smugglers known as “coyotes.” Each person is usually charged about $700 to be led across Mexico to our southern border. Once they arrive, our border agents who should be turning them around, actually let all of them in and put them on a bus. Then they drive them to a processing station. After a cursory screening, they are released on their own. At this point, they have completed an illegal process and become illegal aliens – compliments of the American government. Thus, we now have an administration that is involved (actually created) an illegal act. The whole thing is unconstitutional.

These illegal aliens travel through Mexico at great risk. Many of the girls are being raped along the way, some as young as 10 years old. There is no sanitation provided. Disease is spreading among them at a rapid rate. The whole picture of this is ugly. The processing centers are at full capacity as the population of the aliens is growing exponentially. Homeland Security is now taking them to military bases, causing even more confusion. Recently, more than 20,000 have arrived at various stations along the southern border.

Wait. It gets worse. As they are being processed, there are buses waiting to transport them to unsuspected towns. Phoenix, Dallas, Tucson are just some of the towns receiving these indigent, non-English speaking people. They have even put them on planes and have flown them to Baltimore and other cities. They release them to empty buildings and hope the local governments will provide for them. These buses and planes have been contracted by the federal government to do this dirty activity. What kind of contracting is that? The federal government is letting formal contracts to violate the constitution and commit illegal and dangerous acts.

When they release them, Homeland Security assigns them a date to appear for formal review. None of these illegal aliens are going to show up for the review. They are going to melt into our population and live a life in hiding and on the run. The quality of life for many of our towns and neighborhoods will be disrupted for a very long period of time.

This is indeed chaos. But the worst thing about it is that it is organized. It is well organized by the White House. The only response the White House is giving is to ask for $3.8 billion to handle this mass flow of illegal activity. They are predicting that this is going to last for a long time and as much as 50,000 more will cross the border illegally.

Another illegal act the White House is committing is to silence their employees working in the processing centers. They cannot speak to the press or anyone else about this without getting fired. Visitors cannot take pictures or speak with the illegal aliens. Even the press is denied access. Congressmen have been turned away. Is this America?

Some communities are starting to protest this government-sponsored invasion of illegal aliens. They find it detestable that our own government is doing such a low life thing. One town, Murrieta, Calif.,, formed a crowd and blocked the buses from dropping off the unsanitary, disease and lice ridden illegal aliens. The buses left and went off to another center.

America has never seen such brazen illegal acts by the federal government. I guess government officials are saying “what are you going to do? Report it to the government – ha! It is so shameful and sad that things are going awry without an end in sight. Impoverished people fleeing despair in one place; traveling incognito across thousands of miles; being abused and raped along the way to arrive in a place called America as illegal aliens. Their dream of free citizenship is highly unlikely.

Harry C. Alford is the co-founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce®. Website: www.nationalbcc.org. Email: halford@nationalbcc.org

Supreme Court Seeks to Gut Labor Unions

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(NNPA) The Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Harris v Quinn essentially means that personal care attendants who are represented by a union do not need to pay a service fee that would cover the cost of representing and advocating on their behalf.  The Supreme Court’s conservative majority justified this decision purportedly on the basis of freedom of speech.

What is clear is that the Supreme Court’s conservative majority has a sniper’s scope trained on workers and unions.  They will soon aim to eliminate the ability of labor unions to collect service fees from non-members to cover representation.  The implications of this are profound but a little context is necessary.

In the public sector, there are many states, counties and municipalities that permit union membership and collective bargaining, but do not require that employees in a given agency join the union. While they may join the union, they are obligated — if there is such an agreement– to pay a service or agency fee. The idea here is that regardless of whether one is a union member or not, the union is obligated by law to represent fairly and fully all workers in what is called a “bargaining unit,” which is a recognized body of workers who share similar interests.

This means that whether a given worker likes the union or not, if they have any challenges, the union must represent them.  As you can imagine, representation costs money, including legal fees, cost of staff, administrative costs, etc.  Additionally, the union lobbies on behalf of those workers around salaries, benefits and working conditions.  Thus, in the absence of a fee, a worker can benefit from all that the union brought about but pay nothing.  This is why agency or service fees are permitted.

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority is trying to say that this is a violation of free speech. Thus, using the Supreme Court’s logic, a person working in a given situation who gains the benefits of a labor union and can be guaranteed representation, should not have to pay anything. This is frequently called “right to work,” but a more accurate description is freeloading.

Think about it for a moment. Is there any other institution in the U.S. that permits this?  If you do not agree with the policies of a government, can you choose not to pay taxes yet gain the benefits of public education, water, police and fire?  Of course, not.  So, why should it be different in a collective bargaining context?

The answer is simple. The Supreme Court’s conservative majority, along with other forces on the political Right, simply wish to gut labor unions.  It is really that simple and that deadly.  And, unless they are stopped, they will succeed in doing just that.

I was wearing a T-shirt the other day from the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists.  A guy sitting next to me on a plane said to me:  ”Yes, we really need unions.  At a time when there is such a polarization of wealth, we really need unions to fight for us.”  I smiled.  It is not rocket science. Which is precisely why the forces of wealth and greed are so determined to bring about an extinction moment for unions.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a racial justice, labor and global justice writer and activist.  He is the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions.  Follow him on Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

The Supreme Court’s 'Religious Freedom' Scam

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(NNPA) Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two decisions that the Court’s conservative majority and the larger conservative movement pretended were about “religious freedom.”

In the one case, involving the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores and the Conestoga Wagon Specialties company, which makes wood cabinets, the majority ruled that a federal law guaranteeing “religious freedom” means family-owned corporations don’t have to provide insurance coverage for contraception under the Affordable Care Act.

That decision, which the Court issued on June 30, seemed to leave in place the law’s provision governing nonprofit organizations in place. The law allowed nonprofit organizations to, if they wished, transfer the delivery of free contraception to others. However, in the second ruling, which the Court handed up on July 3 and specifically involved Illinois’s Wheaton College, a conservative Christian institution, the court majority temporarily exempted it from having to comply at all with the contraception provisions of the law.

Critics of the decisions, which produced extremely sharp dissents from the court’s three female justices, said they have stripped women workers of any guarantees that contraception coverage will automatically be part of their health insurance. That’s because these rulings aren’t about “religious liberty.” They actually have an entirely different purpose: jerry-rigging a legal framework around the efforts of the white Christian right to impose its religious beliefs on other Americans. The Christian Right has been pursuing that goal, of course, for decades. But it’s become clear in recent years that it was losing control on two of its most important issues: women’s reproductive rights, and the rights of gays and lesbians, especially regarding same-sex marriage. So, now they’ve re-cast themselves as “victims” whose “freedom” to adhere to their religious beliefs is being violated. It’s a scam the conservative political movement is pushing in brazen fashion—as exemplified by a strikingly apt word in the Hobby Lobby opinion written by Justice Samuel A. Alito.

That word is “fiction.”

On page 18 of the majority opinion, Alito acknowledges that defining corporations as persons in legal terms is a “fiction,” but asserts that “the purpose of this fiction is to provide protection for human beings … When rights, whether constitutional or statutory, are extended to corporations, the purpose is to protect the rights of those people.” A moment later, Alito defines “those people” in this way: “And protecting the free-exercise rights of closely-held corporations thus protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control the companies.”

As Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank pointedly noted two days before the Wheaton College decision, that sentence does not contain any mention of the rights of these corporations’ employees. In other words, in declaring that a family-owned corporation –  which, after all, is an artificial entity created in accordance with governmental regulations –  can, in effect, take on the religious coloration of “those who own and control” it, the court’s conservative bloc was indulging in another of the “fictions” by which it’s been trying to hold back the expansion of democracy for more than a decade.

That became even clearer once it issued the Wheaton College ruling.

Given that it is indeed a “fiction” to pretend the ruling was not a politically driven gift to the Christian right, here are some questions to think about:

How long will it be before some conservative Christian business owners require their female employees to wear dresses (no slacks, please) down to their ankles? And for all employees to genuflect before crosses set up at entrances to their businesses? And to join them in “prayer sessions” before and after the workday? And to attend only those houses of worship they “approve” of?

And how long will it be before some white business owners claim—as in the Jim Crow days—that their  “religious beliefs” require that they not serve or employ Black Americans? Or, will they try that on Muslim Americans first? Or gays and lesbians? Or Hispanic Americans? Or Jewish Americans?

If those possibilities sound far-fetched to you, you’ve forgotten that for most of American history, the “white” version of Christianity was part and parcel of the many crackpot justifications for the exclusion and oppression of women and Americans of color.  And you’ve forgotten that the Court’s conservative majority crafted numerous “fictions” in its 2010 Citizens United decision to enable corporations to make unrestricted political contributions, and again in the 2013 decisions that significantly narrowed affirmative action and voting rights protections.

Those facts underscore that there’s little in the Christian right’s efforts to limit the freedom of others that the Supreme Court’s “5 political operatives” (as a headline in The Huffington Post so accurately put it) will consider “far-fetched.”

Lee A. Daniels is a longtime journalist based in New York City. His latest book is Last Chance: The Political Threat to Black America.

Defending Democracy: 50 Years Later, the Civil Rights Act Remains Embattled

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Editor’s Note: In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act (CRA), BVN chose to analyze the legacy of the CRA and re-examine why the landmark legislation is relevant and must be protected. This editorial is a retrospective of the CRA that provides context to the political landscape 50 years ago in comparison to today’s issues.


 


It wasn’t too long ago that America was on the wrong side of history. Today, 50 years later, lessons of the past are being relearned as the rights minorities painstakingly earned on July 2, 1964 are once again besieged on a new battleground.

Jim Crow is no more, but for segregation to meet its demise, civil rights activists dedicated years of their energy to relentless strife to demonstrate their will and be included in civic participation. Their argument was clear: all men are equal under God and African-Americans were worthy, contributing U.S. citizens who should not be segregated or discriminated against anywhere, including at the polls. President John F. Kennedy was an early proponent of the Civil Rights Act. During this time and as years passed, America became torn at the seams in the Jim Crow South, where civil unrest devolved into violent clashes and deadly confrontations. In the midst of this, legislation was making its way up the chain in Congress and finding support on both sides of the aisle. The Civil Rights Act had more than its fair share of detractors who amplified and validated the opposition’s dispute with the pending legislation. However, President Lyndon B. Johnson, undeterred, chose not to wade out of the issue before he ultimately signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Civil Rights Act also became the marquee for the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Next to the Emancipation Proclamation, Johnson’s stamp of approval on both acts was the most significant and sweeping landmark legislation in black American history. Gone were the shuttered polls when black voters would arrive. Gone were the senseless competency tests. (Remember the jelly bean test?) Black voters were often subjected to a demeaning impromptu quiz at their polling office that would require them to calculate the number of jelly beans in a jar.

Unlike today, Democrats were not as supportive of the civil rights agenda. Many of the jelly bean test administrators were Democrats. About 15 years before, some Democrats who harbored segregation sentiments branched out and became a part of the later-defunct “Dixiecrat” movement. But Republicans like Rep. Bill McCullough (R-Ohio) and Rep. Clarence Brown of (R-Ohio) were staunch supporters of the Civil Rights Act so it was not uncharacteristic for Republicans to welcome African-American voters – sans the jelly beans – to cast their ballot during elections. Once an ally, to the behest of Tea Party conservatives, the Republican establishment has seemingly pivoted from its stance 50 years ago in several key ways.

LOSING GROUND

Almost exactly one year ago, minority voting rights were dealt a serious blow when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 25 in the Shelby County v. Holder case. A 5-4 majority ruled that Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional because the formula used to determine coverage for preclearance was antiquated.

Largely, Republicans didn’t refute the decision. Conservatives are pushing back against President Obama at the expense of anyone who supports him, i.e. minorities.

From the filing of the Shelby County v. Holder case to the Supreme Court’s ruling, this was a compounding issue that allowed personal ideology to prevail. Upon dissecting the background of this case alone, the picture becomes clear.

The case was Shelby County V. Holder. It was filed against Eric Holder, current U.S. Attorney General, an Obama appointee.

Shelby County is in Alabama, which was a hotbed for visceral racism and violence. It was often the heart of the Civil Rights Movement.

The ruling was supported by a majority of conservative-leaning justices.

In 2012, one year before the case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, Republicans came under fire for attempting to suppress voters, particularly minority voters in ethnically diverse jurisdictions.

The long push for altering racially-gerrymandered voting districts hasn’t helped either. The issue remains prevalent and divisive – and probably one of the reasons why the U.S. House of Representatives will remain red after the 2014 mid-term elections in November.

RECLAIMING WHAT WAS LOST

Many conservatives now want to walk black America back in time. They cannot win all of their battles in court so they seek out legislative avenues. They rely on code words such as “urban” and “low-income” to infer blacks and Hispanics. They identify their targets with far-reaching mediums that relate to the minority circumstance. Step by step, they have gained ground, but the blueprint designed by our predecessors cannot be easily undone.

It’s no secret our Congress is more polarized than ever, sometimes evenly divided along party lines because the spirit of cooperation is diminished. Despite this, President Obama and Holder pledged to move forward and find ways to protect citizens’ access to vote using every law possible. But what will the African-American constituency do? There is an endangered legacy to protect, one that required tears and bloodshed to materialize. Organizations like the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) are only so strong – and relevant – without the guidance and input of black voters.

Standing on the eve of Independence Day, we should “let freedom ring” and reap the joys of what our forefathers have left for us. And that includes the equal opportunity, regardless of color, to shape our world and reclaim every single right intended for us.

Corey Arvin is a Contributing Editor for Black Voice News and a winner of the national Scripps Howard Award for Web Reporting. His column is published every week on blackvoicenews.com. He can be reached at Corey@Blackvoicenews.com and followed on Twitter at Twitter.com/CoreyArvin.

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