Employers are now free to deny women access to contraceptives through their employer-subsidized health plans, though they will be violating their own purported Christian principles if they do.
Conservatives routinely attack LGBT non-discrimination laws as unnecessary, burdensome and threatening to religious liberty. But in state after state and city after city, their horror stories haven’t come true.
Federal law still doesn’t prohibit discrimination against LGBT people in private employment, housing, or public accommodations, despite widespread public support for such protections.
As a result, many city and state governments have taken to adopting their own non-discrimination measures. In March, Maryland banned discrimination on the basis of gender identity. Since then, cities like Houston, Fayetteville, and Roland Park have similarly extended existing non-discrimination protections to their LGBT residents.
Debates about local non-discrimination laws are routinely hijacked by conservative activists and media outlets that warn that protecting LGBT people is unnecessary, burdensome, and threatening to religious liberty.
Here are the five most common right-wing talking points about LGBT non-discrimination laws, debunked:
MYTH: LGBT Discrimination Isn’t A Real Problem
Research shows that LGBT Americans continue to face widespread discrimination. A 2011 Williams Institute study found that nearly 40 percent of all LGB people open about their sexual orientation in the workplace will experience some form of employment discrimination in their lifetime. A 2013 study by the Department of Housing and Urban Development found widespread discrimination against same-sex couples in housing. And conditions are even worse for the transgender community, which faces astronomical rates of discrimination and harassment in all aspects of public life.
MYTH: Non-Discrimination Laws Create “Special Rights” For LGBT People
LGBT non-discrimination laws typically just add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the list of characteristics already protected under the law. In San Antonio and Fayetteville, for example, city governments merely expanded their already-existing non-discrimination laws to include LGBT people.
Myth: Non-Discrimination Laws Infringe On Religious Liberty
Non-discrimination laws typically include exemptions for religious institutions like churches and federal law already prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion. The First Amendment also protects anti-LGBT speech and religious beliefs.
But non-discrimination laws are concerned with discriminatory actions, not beliefs. Religious convictions don’t give business owners a legal right to discriminate against LGBT people, in the same way they can’t be used to justify racial or sex discrimination. And courts have repeatedly found that non-discriminations laws regulating commercial activity do not violate free speech or religious liberty.
In cities like San Antonio, where opponents predicted that a non-discrimination law would criminalize Christianity, horror stories about violations of religious liberty haven’t come true.
Myth: Non-Discrimination Laws Will Cause Frivolous Lawsuits
A 2011 study by the Williams Institute found that LGBT employment discrimination complaints are filed at nearly the same rate as race and sex discrimination complaints - roughly 4 complaints per 10,000 employees:
A 2014 study published by the LGBQT Policy Journal at Harvard’s Kennedy School echoed those findings, concluding that “the rate at which LGB people file complaints under these laws is similar to the rate at which women and people of color file complaints under sex and race nondiscrimination laws.”
Managing editor of the LGBQT Policy Journal Crosby Burns told Equality Matters:
Anti-LGBT conservatives continually return to the argument that nondiscrimination protections will lead to a deluge of lawsuits. However, the data and on-the-ground experiences of these localities show that those arguments simply carry no weight.
Myth: Non-Discrimination Laws Let Sexual Predators Sneak Into Women’s Restrooms
Law enforcement officials, human rights workers, and sexual assault victims advocates have dismissed this argument as “beyond specious.” In states and cities where non-discrimination laws have been in place for years experts have found no evidence linking these laws to sexual assault or misconduct in public restrooms. Simply put, criminals who are willing to break the law and commit sexual assault aren’t concerned with the scope of local non-discrimination law.
Luke Brinker contributed research to this report.
Facebook should read up on its queer history: You never want to mess with drag queens.
Claiming the use of legal names will “keep our community safe,” Facebook has begun shutting down the profiles of individuals who do not to use their “real” or legal names when creating and logging into their accounts. The new requirement is drawing the ire of many in the LGBT community who argue it is a policing tactic that could be harmful to both artistic and queer communities.
Billo The Clown’s persistent campaign to deny #WhitePrivilege [TW: White Privilege, Ethnocentrism, Racism]
Earth to Billo The Clown: White Privilege exists.
Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly has led a sustained campaign to deny the existence of white privilege in America, drawing on his belief that he did not benefit from it growing up and using statistics to claim the existence of “Asian privilege.”
Fox’s O’Reilly On White Privilege: “That’s A Myth.” During the September 8 edition of The O’Reilly Factor, O’Reilly was joined by Fusion’s Jorge Ramos for an interview to be shown in full on America With Jorge Ramos. After Ramos confronted the host about his views on white privilege and whether it played a role in the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, O’Reilly asserted that attributing the teens’ deaths to “the color of their skin” was “not based on facts.” After Ramos claimed that “whites are doing much better than African-Americans,” O’Reilly pointed to successes of Asian-Americans, using his claim to assert that white privilege is a “myth.” [ Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 9/8/14]
From the 08.26.2014 edition of FNC’s The O’Reilly Factor:
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson continued his pattern of championing anti-LGBT discrimination, warning that gay rights and Christianity are incompatible and asserting that a society that affirms LGBT equality “is a society bent on suicide.”
In an August 7 Townhall.com column titled “Tolerate or Be Stamped Out,” Erickson lamented the growing marginalization of anti-LGBT attitudes, charging that pro-equality activists are determined to purge Christians from American society:
In fact,enormous energy is being expended by the left in America to make Christianity and Christians unacceptable. A New York Times writer wants to stamp out those views “ruthlessly.” He describes those with orthodox Christian views on marriage as unworthy of civility. Anonymous groups expose the home addresses of mostly Christians and subject them to harassment. This is not happening to orthodox Jews or Muslims, but to Christians.
It raises a serious question Americans must confront — are gay rights and Christianity compatible? The answer appears to be no. As gay rights activists use the tactics of Bull Connor to push for what they declare civil rights, they are targeting churches, religiously affiliated groups and Christian businesses for harassment and lawsuits.
Across the country, the left has decided our sexual preference is something we are born with, but our gender is something we get to decide. Anyone who thinks otherwise is threatened and harassed. Several thousand-year-old pillars of society are being shoved aside in the name of tolerance. Those who speak up for sanity, tradition and faith are treated scornfully.
This will not end well for any of us. Despite surveys designed to show the contrary, children tend to do best with mothers and fathers.A society that willfully undermines perpetuating itself is a society bent on suicide. One thing is for sure — a faith that survived its followers being used as torches to light the streets of Rome will survive a modern age hell bent on ruthlessly stamping it out. [emphasis added]
Erickson’s latest apoplectic screed is par for the course from the Fox News commentator. Last month, he endorsed a Georgia congressional candidate’s view that “the homosexual movement … is destroying America.” Previously, Erickson has written that gay people are on the “road to hell" and warned businesses that serve gay couples that they are "aiding and abetting" sin. Moreover, Erickson is a prominent supporter of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a right-wing legal group working internationally to help criminalize homosexuality.
h/t: Luke Brinker at MMFA
Much to the chagrin of women’s rights advocates, Hobby Lobby has won its legal battle — but claims of “victory” for religious freedom must be emended. Make no mistake: This is no victory for the freedom to exercise Christian principles. Though employers like Hobby Lobby are now free to deny women access to contraceptives through their employer-subsidized health plans on the basis of religious objection, they will be violating their own purported Christian principles if they do. While Christians are not compelled by their faith to engage in religious practices that impose upon the freedoms of others, they are compelled — by their belief that all persons, men and women, are created in the image of God — to oppose discrimination.
Some corporations that have objected to the contraceptive requirements of the Affordable Care Act, like Hobby Lobby, claim that they do not wish to discriminate against women by denying them access to contraceptives generally, and that their opposition is merely to abortion. However, their understanding of which medications act as abortifacients rests on an outdated understanding of medical science and is at odds with the facts of the matter. Use of these contraceptive methods is not tantamount to abortion, and moreover, providing women with access to safe, reliable contraceptives for free drastically reduces the actual abortion rate.
It is likely that women will ultimately retain coverage, anyhow, though religious employers are now able to legally withhold it. The Supreme Court assumed in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that the government has a compelling interest in ensuring that women have full access to preventive care. It appears that a majority of the court believes that this interest is compelling. The issue still under real legal dispute is how that coverage will be provided.
One suggestion is that the Obama administration extend to closely held, for-profit corporations the same accommodation already in place for religiously affiliated nonprofits. If a corporation objects, on religious grounds, to covering contraceptives in its health plan, it can fill out a two-page form, with five questions (two of which are providing a signature and the date), self-certifying that it meets the requirements for religious accommodation. By submitting this form, employees will be provided contraceptive coverage directly from their insurance company rather than through their employer.
This very exemption, however, currently faces its own legal threat from some Christian religious organizations, which claim that notifying the government of their objections to contraceptive use is itself religiously objectionable, as doing so will “trigger” the provision of coverage by a third party. The University of Notre Dame and Wheaton College are among several institutions that have brought such challenges. There is very little sense to be made of claims that your freedom of religion is substantially burdened by someone else’s providing services that you do not want to provide yourself. This suggests that the legal challenges are not merely aimed at allowing corporations to abstain from facilitating behavior they deem immoral but instead are seeking to effectively prevent women from engaging in that “immoral” behavior by keeping financial barriers for women, and administrative barriers for the government, in place.
This is economic coercion. Opponents to the contraceptive mandate have insisted that women remain free to purchase whatever health care services they choose, but this is woefully insensitive to the reality that low-income women and families face. For these women, there is a very large difference between what is available to them for purchase in principle and in effect. It is easy for those who do not regularly face desperate decisions due to financial insecurity or medical complexities to forget the difference. An intrauterine device, for example, can cost a low-income full-time worker more than a month’s wages. For some women, this is both the safest and most effective medical option, yet hopelessly unaffordable.
This kind of economic coercion is distinctly at odds with Christian principles. There is only one incident described in the Christian scriptures where Jesus is represented as employing coercive force, and it was not used to prevent people from engaging in sin. It was used, instead, to prevent people from dishonoring God by exploiting religious practice for personal gain. The gospels describe Jesus’ reaction to those who sought to profit from the Passover pilgrimage to the temple as fierce: “And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, ‘Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.’” This is where corporations that claim their operations constitute religious practice of the Christian faith ought to take note.
Read previous contributions to this series.
Hobby Lobby offered coverage for some of the contraceptives it now claims its religious faith forbids it to have any association with, until shortly after the Becket Fund for Religious Freedom asked it if it would be interested in filing suit. The company continues to profit from investments in the manufacturers of the “objectionable” contraceptives through the 401(k) plan it offers its employees. Recently, Hobby Lobby has faced legal trouble for false advertising. It has built a fortune, in large part, by selling goods manufactured in China, infamous for its poor labor conditions and related human rights violations. These are the practices of a corporation that will emphasize the Christian faith of its owners when convenient and profitable, but set that faith aside when it would be costly to do otherwise.
Hobby Lobby is not the only corporation which has objected to the law through what seems to be quite selective applications of Christian principle. Offering health care coverage as called for by the Affordable Care Act is morally permissible according to the Catholic philosophical tradition, and the sincerity of institutions like the University of Notre Dame is questionable.
The more pressing question religious corporations should ask themselves is whether denying women comprehensive health care while providing it to men, and so failing to respect women’s inherent dignity and equality, is consistent with their religious values. Since the Supreme Court focused on the practical effects at stake (that is, whether women would be able to obtain coverage elsewhere, and thus by a less restrictive means) rather than on the expressive function of the law, Hobby Lobby is now free to discriminate in its provision of health care. But the question remains, why would it want to?
Houston became the latest Texas city to enact legal protections for LGBT citizens on Wednesday, joining Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, and San Antonio. But in the East Texas city of Pittsburg, one restaurant is going out of its way to demonstrate the need for such protections, banning a same-sex couple from ever returning and citing a policy of only serving men who “act like men.”
After eating breakfast at Big Earl’s Bait House and Country Store, Collin Dewberry and his partner Kelley Williams were told by their server that they were not welcome to come back, KTLV-7 reported on Tuesday. She cited a three-year-old company policy — printed on a sign at the door — that the establishment reserves “the right to refuse service to anyone,” prohibits “baggy pants,” and requires that “men act like men and women act like ladies.”
The server’s father, owner Earl Cheney (“Big Earl”), told a local reporter that while “homosexuality, Blacks, [and] Hispanics” were all welcome to eat at his restaurant, it was the duo’s public display of affection that lead to their banishment. “A man’s supposed to stand up and be a leader. He’s not supposed to be a woman. He’s not supposed to come in here in a dress,” he explained. The couple denied the Cheney’s claim that they had been rubbing legs and Cheney refused to show the reporter the surveillance video. Cheney’s admitted his daughter told the couple the restaurant does not “like fags.”
Numerous Facebook users took to the company’s page to express their outrage at the restaurant’s policy of discrimination. However, the restaurant countered: “numerous phone calls received tonight from people that feel the same way we do has been outstanding. We have new customers due to the news story, and will continue to feel the same way.” On Wednesday, Big Earl’s posted:
My goodness, does anyone read or study? Big Earl has spent his life in the military to defend this country and will be happy to explain the constitution to you. Earl is well versed in the Bible and Christianity, has travelled the world and is well educated. It would have been nice for the full interview to have played in order to explain the background to what caused the incidence. The quote “we don’t serve fags here” was never said, instead, after being badgered, the young lady said “We do not like fags”. The behavior portrayed by the young couple was simply inappropriate and would have been considered so no matter what sexual orientation.
Since the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it has been illegal to discriminate against customers in public accommodations (such as hotels, lunch counters, or movie theaters) based on their race, color, religion, or national origin. While 17 states and many localities have enacted additional protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, Texas and the city of Pittsburg have not.
Opponents of LGBT protections have recently tried to frame such laws as violating the religious liberties of “artists” like photographers and cake bakers, whose consciences prevent them from participating in same-sex marriage ceremonies. But this example demonstrates that the absence of public accommodations protections for LGBT people can leave them vulnerable to being discriminated against in something as basic as their right to eat in public dining establishments.
Last month, in the wake of the Fort Hood Military Base shooting spree that left four dead and sixteen injured, conservative filmmaker and Breitbart.com contributor Patrick Dollard tweeted, “If there is even one more act of Muslim terrorism, it is time for Americans to start slaughtering Muslims in the streets, all of them.”
As it turned out, the killer was not Muslim, and the motivations for the assault were not terrorism. But this did not stop the backlash from reaching the Muslim-American community.
Although Dollard received criticism from a few media outlets, his actions were never formally punished. As of this writing, he has neither deleted nor apologized for the tweet, despite being told that several Muslim Americans felt offended and threatened by it. When it comes to online hate speech against Muslims, this is frequently the case. Dollard’s tweet is only the most recent high profile case in a string of online bigotry and violent hate speech against Muslims living in the United States, the vast majority of which often goes unpunished and unaccounted for, even when voiced by public figures.
It’s in this context that the Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition (MACLC) released a report titled Click Here to End Hate: Anti-Muslim Bigotry Online & How to Take Action. The report breaks down perpetrators of Islamophobic hate speech into three categories: public officials, hate groups and activists, and individuals.
“We have repeatedly heard from community members about their concern about how hate speech spreads online,” Madihha Ahussain, the lead author of the report says. “But they don’t know how to respond or what tools are available to them through Internet platforms to try to counter the hate that is online.”
On the Internet, there are approximately 11,500 websites devoted to anti-Muslim hate, not including isolated posts. In addition to politicians and other public officials using their platforms to advance stereotypes about Islam and sway their constituents’ perception of Muslims and Muslim-Americans, there are several independent hate groups and “Celebrity Islamophobes” with large online followings. Although some of these groups are exclusively online, many galvanize their supporters into offline actions that often have real-life consequences for the Muslim community.
The most notorious example of this is Pamela Geller’s Stop the Islamization of America, a group that, shortly after forming in 2009, galvanized enough support to oppose the Park 51 “Mosque at Ground Zero” bringing thousands of right wing activists to the streets of lower Manhattan, and Geller and her organization’s agenda to the national spotlight. These protests, although relatively short-lived, changed the perception of Muslims in the United States. A 2010 Public Religion Research Institute study showed that 49 percent of Americans believed the values of Islam were incompatible with the American way of life, a notable increase from previous studies. Hate crimes against Muslim Americans and vandalism and arson attacks on mosques leapt to an all-time high.
Although Geller has not necessarily made mainstream news headlines since then, her personal Facebook following has exploded from 19,000 to over 78,000 in the past year alone.
It doesn’t take a celebrity Islamophobe like Geller or notorious right-wing commentator like Patrick Dollard to stir anti-Muslim sentiment in the community. Smaller blogs, particularly ones focused on local communities can have serious and violent repercussions. One of the most common—and sinister—examples is online bullying amongst high school students.
“There was one instance where an American-Muslim high school student was threatened online, and told her school administrators and the police about it, but there was no action taken,” Ahussain says. “Later she suffered from a concussion because of it.”
After the assault, the students who attacked her were talking and bragging about it online.
Should the Internet be regulated? Legally, hate speech is too loosely defined to fall squarely inside or outside of the First Amendment. Although the First Amendment includes caveats, such as speech that could “incite” violence or be deemed threatening, it is difficult to pass comprehensive laws that address all forms of hate speech to make a meaningful impact.
What about the Internet companies? As private companies, online platforms like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook can enforce regulations on content that are not as beholden to the First Amendment as they would be coming from Congress. Still, with an average of 58 million tweets and 4.75 billion pieces of content shared on Facebook per day, it would be nearly impossible to monitor everything.
In the absence of comprehensive regulation, the MACLC report advises community members to report hateful content and engage in what Ahussain terms, “counter speech.”
“Really the conversation about hate speech should not impact the first amendment in anyway. We are not advocating for speech to be censored,” says Ahussain. “But hate speech online has consequences for people’s real lives. We need to talk about it in a way that allows people to respond using more speech, counter speech.”
Ahussain defines counter speech as anything ranging from promoting positive portrayals of American Muslims to holding public officials who engage in hate speech accountable.
Sabina Mohyuddin, a board member of the American Muslim Advisory Council in Coffee County Tennessee engaged in counter speech concerning an incident with county commissioner Barry West. Last year, West posted a picture on Facebook of a man cocking a gun straight at the camera. It was captioned “How to Wink at a Muslim.” After many members of the Tennessee Muslim community called and voiced their outrage, West issued an apology.
“We were happy that he apologized, but we felt like we needed to do more than just get an apology. He needed to understand who we were,” Mohyuddin told The Nation.
“So, me and my husband decided the best thing is to get together with him in an informal setting,” she continues. “I think he understood that we’re part of the community, we have kids that we want to succeed, we volunteer in the community. So, slowly over tea and some baklava we had the spark of a friendship forming.”
Inspired by their dialogue, Mohyuddin planned a public forum called “Public Discourse in a Diverse Society” so that more of Coffee County could get to know the Muslim community. News of the forum went viral, and 1,000 came from across the country to protest, including top level Islamophobes like Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer.
“I gave a talk about American Muslims and hate crimes,” Mohyuddin recounted. “When I showed a picture of a burned down mosque, people in the audience were cheering.”
Barry West was in attendance.
“You could tell he was emotional,” Mohyuddin says. “He understood that me and our families are good people and he wanted to show some support for us. The lesson learned is if you reach out and talk to people, and offer a hand in friendship, good things come out.”
And the GOP wonders why it has a woman problem.
Update 5/21/2014: David Perdue finished first in the May 20 primary with 31 percent of the vote. The race now goes to a July 22 runoff, where Perdue will face the runner-up in the primary vote, Rep. Jack Kingston.
With Republicans trying to avoid a repeat of 2012’s Todd Akin disaster and retake the Senate, the Georgia GOP establishment was happy to see David Perdue, a self-funded businessman, leading in the polls ahead of Tuesday’s Senate primary. Compared to gaffe machines such as Rep. Paul Broun, who has pushed personhood for zygotes, and Rep. Phil Gingrey, who defended Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment, the former Dollar General CEO seemed unlikely to introduce fraught gender issues into the general election—where Michelle Nunn, the likely Democratic nominee, is polling well against the GOP field.
But Perdue’s record on women’s issues—specifically, whether women are entitled to equal pay for equal work—is far from clean. In 2006, three years into Perdue’s four-plus years as Dollar General’s CEO, federal investigators at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that female store managers who worked for the company he ran “were discriminated against,” and “generally were paid less than similarly situated male managers performing duties requiring equal skill, effort, and responsibility.” A year later, separate from that investigation, thousands of female managers who were paid less than their male counterparts joined a class action suit against the company—which Dollar General eventually settled, paying the women more than $15 million."Dollar General has set up a system which permits stereotypes about men and women to be used in judging their pay."
"Dollar General has set up a pay system which permits stereotypes about men and women to be used in judging their pay, performance, and salary needs," female Dollar General managers claimed in sworn statements. "This includes stereotypes about men being the breadwinner, head of the household, or just more deserving because they are men."
The case began on March 7, 2006, when Janet Calvert, the former manager of a Dollar General in Alabama, sued the company for paying her less than male managers. Dollar General, which was still under Perdue’s leadership, tried and failed to prevent other female employees from joining Calvert and suing as a class. By 2008, more than 2,100 current and former employees had joined a certified a class open to women who worked as store managers for Dollar General between November 30, 2004 and November 30, 2007. (Perdue was CEO from April 2003 to summer 2007.)
Source: Molly Redden for Mother Jones
Arkansas Congressman and 2014 #ARSen candidate Tom Cotton: LGBT Job Protections Would Burden Businesses With ‘Frivolous Lawsuits’
It’s still legal for people to be fired for their sexual orientation in 29 states and for their gender identity in 32 states, but according to Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR), it’s important for businesses that such discrimination continue to be allowed.
In a letter sent to a constituent earlier this month and recently obtained by ThinkProgress, Cotton explained why he does not support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would create LGBT job protections nationwide. He claimed that the protections would “encourage frivolous lawsuits” that would burden businesses because LGBT identities are “subjective”:
The proposed legislation, unfortunately, could have the unintended consequence of making it harder for all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation, to find jobs. It might encourage frivolous lawsuits designed to win big legal fees, not to promote equality before the law. To that end, it would increase the cost of doing business, partly because of the cost of these lawsuits. When costs increase, employers are less likely to expand their businesses and thus less likely to hire more employees. Because the legislation would protect classes that are subjective, legal uncertainty and costs could be particularly acute.
Further, the legislation could impose undue burdens on freedom of religion and association. It does purport to include religious-liberty exemptions, but these “protections” have been litigated repeatedly in other contexts, which itself is burdensome. And that’s not to mention Barack Obama’s regulatory agencies, which have repeatedly shown hostility toward religious freedom.
Cotton said he supports “equality before the law” on the basis of sex, race, creed, or religion, but his letter did not contain details about how he distinguishes between identities that he considers “subjective” or “objective.” His implication seems to be that people might claim an LGBT identity that they don’t have as grounds to sue, but there’s nothing from preventing them from doing the same with a creed or religion, as examples. And contrary to his claim, there has been no evidence of excessive litigation in the 21 states that have offered some form of LGBT protections.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) has similarly said that he feared ENDA would lead to a lot of litigation and impose on business owners’ religious beliefs, but he eventually voted for it. Though the Senate passed ENDA 64-32 last year, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) says there is “no way” it’s coming up for a vote because he believes the protections are “unnecessary.”
BTW, Cotton is running for Senate in 2014, against incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor.
Segregation Now: Investigating America's Racial Divide, 60 Years After Brown v. Board of Education [TW: Racism, Ethnocentrism, White Privilege, Segregation]
In Tuscaloosa today, nearly one in three black students attends a school that looks as if Brown v. Board of Education never happened.
Though James Dent could watch Central High School’s homecoming parade from the porch of his faded white bungalow, it had been years since he’d bothered. But last fall, Dent’s oldest granddaughter, D’Leisha, was vying for homecoming queen, and he knew she’d be poking up through the sunroof of her mother’s car, hand cupped in a beauty-pageant wave, looking for him.
So, at about 4:30 in the afternoon on October 18, Dent, age 64, made his way off the porch and to the curb along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in the West End of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Soon he could hear the first rumblings of the band.
There was a time, little more than a decade ago, when the Central High School homecoming parade brought out the city. The parade started in the former state capital’s lively downtown and seemed to go on for miles. The horns of one of the state’s largest marching bands, some 150 members strong, would bounce off the antebellum mansions along the streets. Revelers—young and old, black and white, old money and no money—crowded the sidewalks to watch the elaborate floats and cheer a football team feared across the region.
Central was not just a renowned local high school. It was one of the South’s signature integration success stories. In 1979, a federal judge had ordered the merger of the city’s two largely segregated high schools into one. The move was clumsy and unpopular, but its consequences were profound. Within a few years, Central emerged as a powerhouse that snatched up National Merit Scholarships and math-competition victories just as readily as it won trophies in football, track, golf. James Dent’s daughter Melissa graduated from Central in 1988, during its heyday, and went on to become the first in her family to graduate from college.
But on that sunlit day last October, as Dent searched for Melissa’s daughter in the procession coming into view, he saw little to remind him of that era. More caravan than parade, Central’s homecoming pageant consisted of a wobbly group of about 30 band members, some marching children from the nearby black elementary schools, and a dozen or so cars with handwritten signs attached to their sides. The route began in the predominantly black West End and ended a few blocks later, just short of the railroad tracks that divide that community from the rest of the city.
The reason for the decline of Central’s homecoming parade is no secret. In 2000, another federal judge released Tuscaloosa City Schools from the court-ordered desegregation mandate that had governed it for a single generation. Central had successfully achieved integration, the district had argued—it could be trusted to manage that success going forward.
Freed from court oversight, Tuscaloosa’s schools have seemed to move backwards in time. The citywide integrated high school is gone, replaced by three smaller schools. Central retains the name of the old powerhouse, but nothing more. A struggling school serving the city’s poorest part of town, it is 99 percent black. D’Leisha, an honors student since middle school, has only marginal college prospects. Predominantly white neighborhoods adjacent to Central have been gerrymandered into the attendance zones of other, whiter schools.
Tuscaloosa’s schools today are not as starkly segregated as they were in 1954, the year the Supreme Court declared an end to separate and unequal education in America. No all-white schools exist anymore—the city’s white students generally attend schools with significant numbers of black students. But while segregation as it is practiced today may be different than it was 60 years ago, it is no less pernicious: in Tuscaloosa and elsewhere, it involves the removal and isolation of poor black and Latino students, in particular, from everyone else. In Tuscaloosa today, nearly one in three black students attends a school that looks as if Brown v. Board of Education never happened.
Tuscaloosa’s school resegregation—among the most extensive in the country—is a story of city financial interests, secret meetings, and angry public votes. It is a story shaped by racial politics and a consuming fear of white flight. It was facilitated, to some extent, by the city’s black elites. And it was blessed by a U.S. Department of Justice no longer committed to fighting for the civil-rights aims it had once championed.
Certainly what happened in Tuscaloosa was no accident. Nor was it isolated. Schools in the South, once the most segregated in the country, had by the 1970s become the most integrated, largely as a result of federal court orders. But since 2000, judges have released hundreds of school districts, from Mississippi to Virginia, from court-enforced integration, and many of these districts have followed the same path as Tuscaloosa’s—back toward segregation. Black children across the South now attend majority-black schools at levels not seen in four decades. Nationally, the achievement gap between black and white students, which greatly narrowed during the era in which schools grew more integrated, widened as they became less so.
In recent years, a new term, apartheid schools—meaning schools whose white population is 1 percent or less, schools like Central—has entered the scholarly lexicon. While most of these schools are in the Northeast and Midwest, some 12 percent of black students in the South and nearly a quarter in Alabama now attend such schools—a figure likely to rise as court oversight continues to wane. In 1972, due to strong federal enforcement, only about 25 percent of black students in the South attended intensely segregated schools in which at least nine out of 10 students were racial minorities. In districts released from desegregation orders between 1990 and 2011, 53 percent of black students now attend such schools, according to an analysis by ProPublica.
The Dent family, from grandfather to granddaughter, has lived out integration’s fleeting wonder, a fact that hardened James Dent’s face as he stood on that Tuscaloosa curb last October. The parade—just 15 minutes old, and yet almost over—quickly brought D’Leisha before him. Nene, as her family calls her, beamed and waved. Dent waved back and looked around to share the moment. But besides his wife and his stepson, no one else was there.
In the hours after the parade, James Dent sat back in a worn wingback chair in the cramped but tidy house he and his wife rent in the West End. As dusk brought out the whirring of cicadas, he quietly flipped through a photo album devoted to D’Leisha’s many accomplishments. She’s the class president, a member of the mayor’s youth council, a state champion in track and field. Later that night, she would be named homecoming queen as well.
Dent never went to college. One of 13 children born into the waning days of Jim Crow, he took his place in the earliest of integrated American institutions: the military. He served four years in the Air Force, including a year in Vietnam, before returning to the West End to spend the next 40 mixing cement for a living. The work was steady, but the pay meager.
Thin, with chestnut skin, and seldom seen without a Vietnam-vet cap, Dent is a reserved man, not prone to soapboxes. But after a long silence, he gently suggested that maybe his granddaughter deserved a little more than a 12-car salute at a brief and sparsely attended parade. When D’Leisha graduates this spring, she will have spent her entire public education in segregated schools. Just like he had.
“I think about it all the time, and ain’t nothing I can do about it,” he said. “It ain’t going to get no better.” He said he just hoped she was learning as much as the city’s white students were, then grew quiet again. If integration was going to prove so brief, what, he wondered, had all the fighting been for?
To read the full long-read article, including a timeline, click here. (Or at the link on the top of this post.)
In my colleagues’ view, examining the racial impact of legislation only perpetuates racial discrimination. This refusal to accept the stark reality that race matters is regrettable. The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination.
Gawker is reporting that Fox News discriminated against longtime anchor Shepard Smith because Smith is gay and decided last year to finally, officially, come out.
If true, Fox News’ actions could constitute a violation of both New York city and state (2002) employment law, which bans job discrimination based on sexual orientation.
It has long been rumored that Smith is gay – a gay Fox News employee told me that he knew for a fact that Smith was gay over ten years ago. But what Gawker is alleging is entirely new.
Gawker is claiming that Smith had intended to come out last year, was told “no” by Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, and that because of internal fears that Smith might come out anyway, and Fox News’ conservative audience would not approve of a gay host, Fox essentially demoted Smith, removing him from the network’s prime-time line-up.
Smith, in fact, has not come out publicly. Though he as been seen in NYC with his reported boyfriend.
Fox News’ actions, if true, could be a violation of the New York State and New York City human rights laws, which prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Smith is not, however, protected by federal law, which permits job discrimination against people who are gay.
Such discrimination would be outlawed under the proposed ENDA legislation (Employment Non-Discrimination Act), which has been languishing before Congress for decades.
While I wouldn’t expect Smith, a longtime and loyal Fox News employee, to sue the network for discrimination, all bets are off if the network pushes him too far, and/or lets him go.
Smith is also now in an odd position. If the allegations are true, Fox News may want him to publicly deny them. Of course, such pressure from Fox News could only add to Smith’s ultimate damages in any future court case.
Fox’s newest show, Outnumbered, features a rotating cast of four female hosts, one male host, and a litany of sexist tropes.
The program premiered April 28 with female co-hosts Jedediah Bila, Harris Faulkner, Sandra Smith, Kimberly Guilfoyle and their male co-host of the day Tucker Carlson, who was honored with the Twitter hashtag #ONELUCKYGUY and described by the women as “a good enough sport to join us on day one.”
When Fox announced the new show, Amanda Marcotte noted its premise: ”The man will be ‘outnumbered,’ meaning that even though Outnumbered is supposedly a female-centric show, the male point of view is still so central that it gives the show its title.” The Washington Post's Alyssa Rosenberg similarly predicted that the program would find its “heat” by highlighting opposition between men and women, essentially parodying “what conservatives often accuse feminists of wanting to do to men: overwhelm them and shout them down as a sort of rhetorical reparations for years in a subordinate position.”
These predictions proved accurate. In fact, Outnumbered's set even placed the lone man at the center, surrounded on a couch by the female hosts wearing Fox's famous short skirts. The hosts kicked off the show by indulging the parody that men and women are profoundly opposed to each other, with Carlson joking at the very beginning that he was “in a defensive crouch already,” because living with four women had given him experience he needed to ”submit” and handle this “outnumbered” position:
The debut episode’s first potential “feminist” altercation focused on how a woman’s appearance might affect a presidential run, with the hosts contemplating a hypothetical Democratic primary between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). While Guilfoyle quipped that, when it comes to looks, “I think if it’s between Hillary and Elizabeth Warren, it’s even,” Carlson argued that “it works both ways. I don’t think anyone would be standing with Wendy Davis in Texas if she, you know, weren’t a handsome woman … you don’t see a lot of bald guys running for president.”
Studies have shown discussion of appearance does negatively hurt female candidates — one study found that any mention of female politicians’ appearance, even discussion that was coded as a “compliment,” lost the candidate votes. But instead of pointing this out, the female co-hosts quibbled with Carlson’s description of a woman as “handsome,” asking if he meant “pretty.”
Later, while discussing a female teacher recently accused of giving an under-age male high school student a lap-dance, Carlson insisted that not only was the student not a “victim,” because “this is the dream of 15-year-old boys,” but he also invented a new double standard for victims, claiming that a female student who received a lap dance from a male teacher would be a victim because “girls react differently to this kind of thing, it’s just reality.” Facing his co-hosts’ understandable outrage, Carlson said “lighten up, America, come on,” and suggested that the teacher facing charges is “obviously a very enthusiastic teacher.”
While the women of Outnumbered sometimes pushed back on Carlson’s sexist stances, they also pushed plenty of tired sexist tropes right along with him.
For instance, Guilfoyle previewed a discussion of McDonald’s toys (a recent study revealed McDonald’s employees refused to give girls the so-called “boy” toy) by claiming “girls like pretty ponies, and boys like toy trucks.” Bila threw in that she was “odd” as a child and did not play with Barbies, even though she is “obviously” a female. Though Faulkner noted that she tries to get her two daughters a variety of toys, she concluded: “You want to rule the world, little girls, you’ve got to know what the guys like.”
Fox is notorious for its incredible sexism — Fox News CEO Roger Ailes even allegedly once offered to increase a female producer’s salary in exchange for sex, and became livid after a female host appeared on air wearing pants. The women of Outnumbered seem prepared to fall in step. In addition to the hosts featured today, future hosts include Andrea Tantaros and Katie Pavlich, both of whom have come under fire for slut-shaming and launching sexist attacks on women.
The announcement for the show claimed that the ensemble of four female panelists and one male would allow them to “tackle top new headlines from all angles and perspectives.” Rather than presenting “all angles and perspectives,” Outnumbered sticks to Fox’s favorite tried and true angle — favoring male perspective while capitalizing on female conflicts.
Conservative talk show host Lisa Benson warned on Sunday that Somali refugees control the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and insisted that she will not ride in taxis with Somali drivers out of fears for her safety.
“There is an exclusive contract with the Somali community both for janitorial services and for taxi driving” — not exactly sure how an airport has an “exclusive contract” with an ethnic community, but she goes on — “the refugee community has unrestricted access at my airport to baggage, to planes, to many, many things.”
“Getting out of the plane last weekend I went to a taxi stand and quietly asked the attendant to put me in a cab, preferably not a Somali cab – that was my first mistake as I was trying to protect myself,” she said, suggesting that she would be a victim of an anti-Semitic attack if she was in a car with a Somali driver.
CAIR reported on Benson’s remarks and noted that “Benson’s Board of Advisors includes notorious Islamophobes such as Nonie Darwish, Steven Emerson and John Guandolo.”
h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW