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PRESS ROOM: NAACP Challenge to 2020 Census Preparations Moves Forward

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “[T]he census must be conducted in a way that will not thwart the goal of equal representation,” wrote U.S. District Judge Paul Grimm, in an opinion granting in part and denying a motion to dismiss brought by the Census Bureau. The ruling allows the case to proceed to discovery and potentially to trial.

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The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and its allies today won a major court ruling that allows them to proceed with a federal lawsuit challenging the government’s inadequate preparations for the 2020 Census.

“[T]he census must be conducted in a way that will not thwart the goal of equal representation,” wrote U.S. District Judge Paul Grimm, in an opinion granting in part and denying a motion to dismiss brought by the Census Bureau. The ruling allows the case to proceed to discovery and potentially to trial.

The suit, NAACP v. Bureau of the Census, No. 8:18-Cv-00891-PWG, was filed last March in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland by the NAACP, Prince George’s County (MD), the NAACP Prince George’s County Branch, and two county residents. The complaint alleges that unless the Census Bureau significantly improves its plans for 2020, the upcoming census will drastically undercount African Americans and other people of color across the country. This undercount will contribute to unequal political representation and reduced federal funding for communities of color.

“It is imperative that the Census Bureau take steps immediately to minimize the undercount in communities of color and immigrant communities, especially given the likely impact of the underfunded census,” said NAACP General Counsel Brad Berry.

In his opinion, Judge Grimm emphasized the importance of ensuring adequate funding for census operations, especially given the recent 35-day government shutdown. “This ongoing state of uncertainty” makes it more likely that the Census Bureau “will be unprepared (in terms of funding, workforce, and testing) for the 2020 Census.”

The NAACP and its partners brought this lawsuit because the ongoing underfunding and understaffing of the Census Bureau violates its legal obligation to conduct a full and fair census. As the plaintiffs explain in their complaint, the Bureau has severely cut back on door-to-door canvassing, community partnerships, and field infrastructure—all of which are essential to encourage participation from communities of color. The government has also cancelled crucial pre-census field tests, even as it attempts to use new technologies and implement a brand-new digitization initiative.

“With fewer than 15 months to go before the 2020 Census, this decision comes at a critical time,” said Rachel Brown, a law student intern with the Yale Law School Rule of Law Clinic, counsel for the NAACP and other plaintiffs. “We look forward to holding the Census Bureau to its constitutional obligation to count everyone equally.”

The plaintiffs are represented by the NAACP Office of the General Counsel, Jenner & Block, and the Yale Law School Rule of Law Clinic.

Contact: Rachel Brown: 202-549-4411; rachel.brown@ylsclinics.org to speak with Yale Law School Rule of Law

Commentary

Biden’s “Plan” to Address the Racial Wealth Gap Won’t Cut It. Only Reparations Can Do That

The plan included steps like establishing a federal effort to address inequality in home appraisals and using government authority to boost support for Black-owned businesses, including through business grants. 

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Joe Biden and Kamala Harris/ Featured Web

OPINION

On June 1, the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre, President Joe Biden announced a plan to support Black homeownership and Black-owned businesses, which he said was aimed at closing the racial wealth gap between Black people and white people. The plan received praise from those who celebrated Biden’s apparent attempt to address the gap, which his administration has identified as a key policy goal.

The plan included steps like establishing a federal effort to address inequality in home appraisals and using government authority to boost support for Black-owned businesses, including through business grants. 

These are all great steps worth taking, but we shouldn’t pretend like they will do anything to meaningfully narrow the racial wealth gap. Only reparations can do that.

According to a recent New York Times piece by Duke University economist William Darity, the wealth gap between Black and white Americans ranges from somewhere between nearly $54,700 a person and $280,300 a person. 

Using the larger estimate, which Darity argues is more appropriate, the total racial wealth gap amounts to $11.2 trillion–“a figure that implies that incremental measures will not be sufficient” to close it, he wrote. 

Another 2016 study from the Institute for Policy Studies and the Corporation for Enterprise Development suggests that white households are worth nearly 20 times more than Black households on average, and that it would take 228 years for Black folks to catch up. That’s assuming white people’s collective wealth doesn’t increase at all during that time. 

And that was before our households and businesses took the devastating economic hit of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Addressing discrimination in homeownership and supporting Black entrepreneurship are worthwhile policy endeavors. But we should be honest about what they represent in the grand scheme of things: At best, they are marginal steps in the right direction. And that’s not going to cut it. If we are serious about addressing the racial wealth gap, then we must get serious about reparations. There’s no way around it. The numbers speak for themselves.

If our elected officials aren’t prepared to go that route, fine — but we should stop letting them pretend like they are serious about the racial wealth gap. A gap created out of centuries of stolen labor, stolen land, and stolen wealth and resources can’t be addressed by a new housing policy or small business grant program.

During the 2020 campaign, then-candidate Biden said he supported H.R. 40, a bill that would commission a congressional study on reparations to determine what that could actually look like. The House passed the bill last year. Biden should push the Senate to pass it, too–and then sign it. 

And even that would only be the beginning.

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Commentary

Will Alameda’s Rob Bonta Save Assault Weapons Ban and Make His Mark?

Instead of strengthening or fixing the law, federal judge Roger Benitez, a Bush appointee based in Southern California, just declared it unconstitutional on June 4.

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What Is Picture Perfect/ Unsplash

When was the last time you heard about an assault weapon wreaking havoc in California? How about two weeks ago in San Jose when nine innocent lives were lost when they were shot and killed by a disgruntled white male who had a problem with diversity. 

Technically, the weapon used wasn’t an assault rifle, but a 9mm pistol jacked up with a high capacity magazine. Still, it’s illegal in California. The point is, there are laws and there are loopholes. But it’s no reason to get rid of California’s assault weapons ban, the first such law in the nation. 

Instead of strengthening or fixing the law, federal judge Roger Benitez, a Bush appointee based in Southern California, just declared it unconstitutional on June 4.

And now, the ban that Asian Americans as victims brought 32 years ago in California will need the new Asian American Filipino attorney general to show his true mettle to make sure he reverses the judge and stays the law.

Bet you didn’t know there even was such a ban in California? Yep, and in states like New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, and Massachusetts, as well as Wash., D.C.

There was even a ban in place for a brief time nationwide.

The pro-gun logic of the judge essentially was that since people in other states could get assault weapons and the ban hasn’t stopped mass shootings, what good was the law? “A 30-year-old failed experiment,” said Benitez, who called the AR-15 assault weapons “fairly ordinary, popular modern rifles.” For example, the law allowed those who owned assault weapons before the ban to register their guns. To date, there are 185,569 assault weapons in the state even with a ban.

But popularity doesn’t make them benign.

Benitez even compared the AR-15 to a Swiss Army knife as “a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment.”

That’s such a strange comparison.

I have a small Swiss Army knife that comes with a toothpick and tweezers. I’ve never seen an AR-15 come with either. Does that make the SA knife the superior tool?

Of course, you’re not really looking to pick the spinach off anyone’s teeth, nor pluck a splinter from a finger, with an AR-15. It’s a weapon with one purpose— to kill. And keep killing. Fast.

Not just one, but many. E pluribus Mass Shootings.

That makes the comparison to a Swiss Army anything absurd. But the judge piled it on. He added that knives kill seven times more people in California than rifles do. Maybe. But around the nation, assault rifles are the death-per-minute king.

The AR-15 was used at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub in 2016, when 49 people were killed. In Las Vegas, an AR-15 was used to kill 58 people at an outdoor concert in 2017.

Imagine the killings in California if the state ban wasn’t in place. That’s an unknowable statistic. But the most important one. 

Without the ban, is there any doubt deaths by assault rifles would rise? More assault rifles. More incidents. More deaths per minute. 

Asian Victims Brought on Ban

The reason we have the law in the first place was because of a school shooting in 1989 in Stockton when Patrick Purdy killed five children of Southeast Asian refugees and wounded 30 others.

Purdy, a 25-year-old unemployed welder was reported to have said he hated Vietnamese immigrants, whom he believed were stealing jobs from native-born Americans. He was also fond of carrying a book from the white supremacy group, Aryan Nations.

That was his book of choice. But his gun of choice was an assault-style weapon, not the AR-15, but a Chinese-made AK-47. On Jan. 17, 1989, Purdy went to the Cleveland School and fired 106 rounds in three minutes, before taking a pistol and shooting himself in the head.

Because of that crime, the state passed the nation’s first assault weapons ban, signed by a Republican governor, George Deukmejian. What a different time. It seems like such a normal reaction. Nowadays, the deaths at Sandy Hook or Parkland  schools aren’t enough to get any law passed, and we fight over gadgets that make regular guns emulate semi-automatic weapons. 

Bonta to the Rescue?

Enter Rob Bonta, Oakland’s former state Assemblyman, a little more than a month into his new job as state Attorney General. He’s called the decision “fundamentally flawed” and now has 30 days to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. From there, whatever the decision, the case will likely go to the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on the constitutional right to have assault weapons.

I imagine the six conservative justices are dying to inject some steroids into the Second Amendment.

But this could also be the case where Bonta, the pride of the Filipino American community, gets to showcase his mettle on a national scale. After just being appointed, he’s already thrust into campaign mode and has at least one strong victims’ rights candidate, vying for his job.

This could be a big-time moment for him and for us. Let’s hope he’s up for the polarizing fight against a gun lobby that twists the 2nd Amendment and forces us to live with unwanted and excessive violence.

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Cheryl Smith

Don’t Start Tripping About Washing Your Hands

Someone has to tell you, an adult, this? What the heck? Weren’t you raised right? Didn’t you learn at an early age to wash your hand when you finished your business? Someone really had to tell you to wash your hands after wiping your behind? Really?

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Hand Washing

MY TRUTH COMMENTARY

When the pandemic hit in early 2020, we received mixed signals. One message that was constant was, “wash your hands.” Even before the mandate to wear masks, health officials were stressing the importance of hand-washing.

The Centers for Disease Control instructed, “To prevent the spread of germs during the COVID-19 pandemic, you should also wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol to clean hands.”

I loved that directive because I have always wondered about people who didn’t wash their hands. Go into any restaurant and you’ll find signs instructing employees to wash their hands. The CDC gave explicit instructions: Follow these five steps every time.

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

Someone has to tell you, an adult, this? What the heck? Weren’t you raised right? Didn’t you learn at an early age to wash your hand when you finished your business? Someone really had to tell you to wash your hands after wiping your behind? Really

Which brings me to my truth.

Yes, there were times when I didn’t act like I had home training. I did things — things that I definitely didn’t want my parents to find out about. But this washing my hands thing? Basic hygiene practices? Nah, didn’t roll like that.

No one has ever had to tell me to wash my hands but I sure as heck have had to tell people to wash their hands especially before coming into my kitchen.

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