Civil rights

  • November 3, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Gregg Ivers is Professor of Government at American University. He is currently working on a book, Swingin’ at Jim Crow: How Jazz Became a Civil Rights Movement.

    In September 1962, Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett was looking for something – anything – that would boost his sagging political fortunes. Just three years before, Barnett had barely prevailed in a four-way contest for the Democratic Party’s nomination, winning just 35 percent of the vote, barely one percent more than his closest rival. While Barnett would win handily in the subsequent run-off and run unopposed in the 1959 general election, by mid-1961 his autocratic and less-than-honest governing style had rubbed many white Mississippians the wrong way. Sure, he was among the founders of the state’s first Citizens’ Council, an organization of suit-and-tie businessmen set up after the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education to maintain Mississippi’s unparalleled commitment to racial apartheid in every aspect of public and private life. And, yes, Barnett had shown the Freedom Riders who was boss the previous spring, when he sent the remainder of those who had survived their harrowing May 1961 ordeal in Birmingham and Montgomery to Parchman Farm, the state’s most notorious prison, after their arrival in Jackson for violating the state’s segregation laws.

  • October 25, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Reuben Guttman, Founding member, Guttman,Buschner & Brooks PLLC

    *This piece was originally posted on Huffington Post.

    There is a scene in the movie Private Parts – the life and career of Howard Stern – where NBC officials, committed to dumping the shock jock, check out the latest ratings and learn, to their dismay, that the DJ’s popularity has rocketed. Pouring through the data, they find that the “number one reason” people tune into Stern is because they are waiting to hear what he will say next.

    For all the time that Donald Trump spent on the Stern show, this may be the one lesson he learned. From North Korea’s “rocket man” to “crooked Hillary,” and a dash of Ryan and McConnell bashing, people tune in to this President to hear what he will say or tweet next. For their part, the members of the news media seem to fixate on Trumpian commotion.

  • October 17, 2017

    by Dan Froomkin

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions has a perplexingly contradictory view of civil rights law when it comes to transgendered people.

    On the one hand, he is enthusiastic about prosecuting murder cases in which the victims were allegedly targeted because of their gender identity. On the other hand, he went out of his way to give employers a green light to discriminate against transgender people in the workplace; rejected the Obama administration interpretation that nondiscrimination laws require schools to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice;  and defended Donald Trump's half-baked tweet in favor of banning transgender troops.

    The backtracks on transgender protections are among several stark and abrupt reversals from practices during the Obama era that have come under Sessions's watch. One on level, that's not so surprising, coming from the attorney general for a president who on Monday described himself, accurately, as "very opposite" from his predecessor.

  • October 3, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Ryan J. Suto, J.D., Government Relations Manager, Arab American Institute

    On September 24, the Trump White House released a new Presidential Proclamation effective October 18, which essentially makes permanent the temporary Muslim/refugee Ban the president signed earlier this year. The Proclamation, like Trump’s previous Muslim Ban actions, relies on the fundamental assumption that foreigners, and specifically Muslims and Arabs, pose a heightened threat. Arguing “...foreign nationals who may commit, aid, or support acts of terrorism, or otherwise pose a safety threat…” the Administration holds tightly to creating xenophobic fears, despite no existing evidence to show that foreign nationals commit crimes at greater rates than citizens.

    Whereas the temporary travel ban, EO 13780, included Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, the Sept. 24 proclamation removed Sudan and added Chad, North Korea, and Venezuela. It also added nuance by providing a rationale to the Administration’s additions to the banned countries list, something we hadn’t seen with previous iterations.

  • October 2, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Gregg Ivers, Professor of Government, American University

    In early September 1957, Central High School in Little Rock became the focus of world-wide attention when Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus decided to deploy the National Guard to prevent the nine African American students who had applied and been chosen to integrate the school from entering the building. For a three week period, the Central High grounds resembled the set of a science fiction film of the era – upright American soldiers with bayonet-tipped rifles protecting innocent children from an alien force in their midst. Finally, on September 25th, the Little Rock Nine, now with the support of a federalized Arkansas National Guard and the 101st Airborne Division – activated and sent to Little Rock by President Dwight D. Eisenhower – were escorted into Central High to begin a school year that they and everyone else in Little Rock would never forget.

    The Little Rock crisis did not escape the attention of former Brooklyn Dodger Jackie Robinson. Just over nine years before, Robinson entered, almost overnight, into the lives of white America when he became the first African American to penetrate one of the most sacrosanct citadels of white supremacy – professional baseball. On April 15th, 1947, when Robinson jogged to first base on Opening Day at Ebbets Field, he did more than just break the color barrier in what was then America’s most popular sport. He destroyed it.