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Op-Ed

Proof that the Supreme Court Got it Wrong in Shelby

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George-E.-Curry
By George E. Curry
NNPA Columnist

 

When the Supreme Court gutted a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act nearly two years ago in Shelby County v. Holder, many of us suspected that Chief Justice John Roberts in particular was distorting the severity of voting violations in jurisdictions covered by the act. As a popular GEICO commercial says, now we know.

We now know because of extensive research conducted by William R. Kenan, Jr., a professor at the California Institute of Technology, titled, “Do the Facts of Voting Rights Support Chief Justice Roberts’ Opinion in Shelby County?”

By a vote of 5-4, the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional Section 4 of the law that requires certain jurisdictions with a proven history of racial discrimination to pre-clear any changes in their elections – such as redistricting, annexations and switching to at-large elections – with either the Justice Department or the federal District Court in Washington, D.C.

Despite renewals of the Voting Rights Act by Congress in 1970, 1975, 1982 and a 25-year extension in 2006, Roberts contended that the preclearance provision was no longer needed.

Writing for the majority, Roberts said, “…. But history did not end in 1965. By the time the Act was reauthorized in 2006, there had been 40 more years of it. In assessing the ‘current need’ for a preclearance system that treats States differently from one another today, that history cannot be ignored. During that time, largely because of the Voting Rights Act, voting tests were abolished, disparities in voter registration and turnout due to race were erased, and African-Americans attained political office in record numbers. And yet the coverage formula that Congress reauthorized in 2006 ignores these developments, keeping the focus on decades-old data relevant to decades-old problems, rather than current data reflecting current needs.”

However, as Kenan points out in his research, “Neither the Chief Justice nor any scholars or civil rights proponents or opponents have systematically examined the evidence on the entire pattern of proven voting rights violations over time and space.”

Kenan examined the issue by compiling what he called the largest such database in existence, including numerous maps to make his point.

“Congress in 2006 was not presented with maps or other documents that laid out the pattern of proven voting rights infractions so starkly, but it received plentiful evidence in the form of lists and discussions of cases that showed that the problems were still overwhelmingly concentrated in the South and that discrimination continued to be widespread,” he wrote.

“And the map would have shown that the number of voting rights infractions had increased, not decreased, compared to the earlier period.”

Kenan explained, “An objective observer in 2006 comparing the number and location of all successful voting rights events in the period since the last renewal in 1982 with the events of the years from 1957 to 1981 would conclude that Section 5 needed to be renewed, and that the coverage scheme still fit the problem remarkably well, hitting the target about 94% of the time. Even among Section 2 cases, which could be filed anywhere in the country, 83.2% of the successful cases from 1982 through 2005 originated in covered jurisdictions.”

Roberts was joined by the court’s conservative majority, including Clarence Thomas. As usual, Thomas asked no questions during the proceedings. In his concurring opinion, he stated, “I join the Court’s opinion in full but write separately to explain that I would find Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional as well.”

That comes as no surprise. But what did come as a surprise, as I have written here, was that the National Black Chamber of Commerce (not to be confused with the U.S. Black Chambers, Inc.), established by Harry C. Alford and his wife, Kay, filed a brief in support of Shelby County mirroring the objections raised by John Roberts.

In its shameful friend-of-the court brief, it claimed, “Section 5 is no longer necessary to combat widespread and persistent discrimination in voting and now, perversely serves as an impediment to racial neutrality in voting and to the empowerment of state and local officials who represent minority constituencies.”

The research undercuts the premise advanced by John Roberts and Harry Alford’s group and notes the role courts play in undermining access to the ballot box.

Professsor Kenan wrote, “…by rendering decisions that make it easier or harder to bring and win voting rights cases or make objections, the Supreme Court can, in effect, manipulate the evidence of discrimination, which it can then use, in a second stage, to justify a decision to further weaken or strengthen the tools. It can create the reality that it subsequently reacts to. The Rehnquist and Roberts Courts have done exactly that.”

 

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and BlackPressUSA.com. 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 and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook. See previous columns at http://www.georgecurry.com/columns.

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Activism

Nonprofit Launches Effort to Support Immigrants Seeking Early Childhood Education Careers

Upward Scholars is introducing an academic and career support initiative called TeacherUp, which will help residents enroll in college, connect with employers and receive wraparound support, like stipends. 

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The County of San Mateo, California logo. (San Mateo County via Bay City News)
TeacherUp will bring real solutions to early educators who can benefit from our track record of delivering academic and career support for adult immigrants from low-income households.

By Olivia Wynkoop | Bay City News Foundation

A San Mateo County-based nonprofit announced on Nov. 17 that it is launching a program to support immigrants seeking careers in early childhood education.

Upward Scholars is introducing an academic and career support initiative called TeacherUp, which will help residents enroll in college, connect with employers and receive wraparound support, like stipends.

The program builds on the 2018 workforce development pilot called the Teacher Pipeline Project, developed by the organization Community Equity Collaborative to address the shortage of early childhood educators across the Bay Area’s peninsula. It was backed by local community colleges, schools, nonprofits and policymakers.

The project also successfully prompted state legislation to increase awareness on the challenges and financial barriers residents face when seeking careers in early childhood education, which disproportionately affect women and people of color.

Executive director at Community Equity Collaborative Dayna Chung said now is the time to invest toward an equitable learning workforce amidst the worsening educator shortage.

“Early childhood educators are an essential ingredient in the human infrastructure that supports healthy families and strong, local economies,” Chung said. “Unfortunately, COVID-19 revealed and exacerbated systemic inequities, including poverty wages that drive the early educator shortage and force roughly 1 in 3 parents to take time off or leave their jobs.”

TeacherUp plans to also provide students with tutoring, scholarships, laptops, food vouchers, transportation assistance and other services from Upward Scholars’ other programs, like NannyUp.

“With its roots in the Teacher Pipeline Project and its future with our organization, TeacherUp will bring real solutions to early educators who can benefit from our track record of delivering academic and career support for adult immigrants from low-income households,” said Upward Scholars Executive Director Linda Prieto.

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Advice

From the 1800s to Today: Empowering Veteran Business Owners

Amid the success of the family business, the McKindras never lost sight of the support they had been given—and the importance of passing it on to others in their community and society. Generations of McKindras have dedicated their lives to the military, including his grandfather, father, and brother (pictured right), and subsequently to their communities when they returned home.

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Three generations of McKindras pictured from left to right: Alex Jr. (West Point, Air Force), Q.R. McKindra (Alex Jr.’s grandfather, WWII veteran), Alex Sr. (career Army officer), and Marcus (Alex Jr.’s younger brother, Air Force Academy) (Courtesy photo)
Three generations of McKindras pictured from left to right: Alex Jr. (West Point, Air Force), Q.R. McKindra (Alex Jr.’s grandfather, WWII veteran), Alex Sr. (career Army officer), and Marcus (Alex Jr.’s younger brother, Air Force Academy) (Courtesy photo)

From JPMorgan Chase

From his years of service in the military to his current work helping former soldiers build their own businesses through JPMorgan Chase’s veteran initiatives, Alex McKindra Jr. is a veteran success story.

Moreover, as we celebrate Veteran’s Day this year, Alex’s story is a uniquely American one that veterans and members of the military community across the country can relate to. But, as he is the first to admit, his success story, like many, has a long history tracing back through generations of his family in the small town of Union Chapel, Arkansas.

Becoming a Cornerstone of the Community

In the late 1800s, Alex’s great-great grandfather, Reuben Frank McKindra, moved his family to Union Chapel, a town originally settled by freed Black slaves.

Working on their family farm, the McKindras made a name for themselves by demonstrating their resourcefulness and aptitude for hard work. Namely, the family utilized mentorship programs, as well as public and private funding, to not only start but grow their family farm.

Amid the success of the family business, the McKindras never lost sight of the support they had been given—and the importance of passing it on to others in their community and society. Generations of McKindras have dedicated their lives to the military, including his grandfather, father, and brother (pictured right), and subsequently to their communities when they returned home.

“I would not be in the position I am today if not for the opportunities that mentorship provided,” says McKindra. “The farm my family was able to start, through the support and mentorship of others, has helped to educate and put clothes on every generation of my family since the 1880s.”

Honoring a Legacy

McKindra chose to honor his roots by joining the service himself. He graduated from West Point in 1993 and then completed a tour of duty serving across the U.S. as Captain in the United States Air Force. He worked as a procurement officer, including on the B-2 Bomber Program, which allowed him to travel across the country, learning from and serving others. During that time, he also spent his nights and weeks pursuing an MBA from the University of Southern California.

Armed with the life experience and knowledge he gained from the service—and a freshly-minted MBA and banking internship under his belt— McKindra dove into the world of corporate finance. Quickly building a reputation for his intelligence, reliability and kindness, he rose through the ranks. Today, he works as a Managing Director for JPMorgan Chase Commercial Banking in San Francisco

Paying It Forward

Alex didn’t want the chapter in his family’s story to end with commercial success.  He wanted to help those who—like his great-great-grandfather Reuben—had risked their lives for the country and were now seeking to put down roots as civilians. With that in mind, he decided to co-lead JPMorgan Chase Commercial Banking’s veteran initiatives alongside Army veteran, Terry Hill. Alex, Terry and their team across the firm share a passion for mentorship and community building. Through various programming, they tap into their military backgrounds to connect with aspiring and current military-connected entrepreneurs to help them access the resources they need to be successful over the long-term.

For example, McKindra worked with JPMorgan Chase to partner with Bunker Labs, a national nonprofit that supports the ventures of veterans and military spouses, to build programs to help veteran business owners.

Today, JPMorgan Chase is powering Bunker Labs’ CEOcircle, a monthly peer accountability group for growth-stage companies looking to scale. Through this program, veteran business owners and their families gain access to the guidance and resources they need to succeed, including education, networking, and one-on-one financial coaching. This year, CEOcircle welcomed 71 new individuals to the program including Office Libations from Alameda.

The program uplifts businesses that will support military families for generations to come — businesses like the McKindra farm.

“If I’ve learned one thing from my family’s history, it’s that hard work and preparation aren’t always enough. Sometimes we need to create our own opportunities as well,” Alex says. “That is what we are hoping to do with CEOcircle, to create the opportunities and provide the support veteran entrepreneurs need to help them overcome systemic obstacles to business and professional growth.”

Generational Impact

Less than an hour north of Little Rock, the McKindra’s family farm still stands in Union Chapel. Today, the manicured green fields and trees remain a testament to the effort, determination, and community it takes to create a successful business.

“If my great-great-grandfather were here today, I would want him to know that what he built didn’t just support our family, it also instilled the values in us that would seed the acceleration and growth of hundreds of other veteran-owned businesses in the future,” McKindra says. “I know he’d be proud of that.”

If you are a veteran or know someone who is and want to learn more about how JPMorgan Chase support veterans whether through career advancement or small business support or anything in between, please visit: https://www.jpmorganchase.com/impact/people/military-and-vets

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Activism

COMMENTARY: The Fight to Save Affirmative Action for All of Us

These are the folks within our community who have been used by a white anti-civil rights activist named Ed Blum in an attempt to topple this thing in society that has allowed previous generations of not just Asian Americans, but all people of color, and women, and anyone else who has been qualified, to break through the color barriers in life. They just needed that benevolent boost we’ve known as “affirmative action.”

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Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. His web show is on www.amok.com
Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. He does a webshow on www.amok.com

By Emil Guillermo

Don’t think for a second that Asian Americans are rooting to end affirmative action.

You might get that impression as the Supreme Court heard two cases concerning the use of race in college admissions at Harvard and the University of North Carolina.

The Harvard case in particular has Asian American plaintiffs represented by a group called Students for Fair Admissions, or SFFA.

Don’t be misled. The group isn’t representative of Asian Americans at all. They’re a minority within a minority. National polling data of Asian American voters show that nearly two-thirds actually support affirmative action.

What you’re witnessing is a classic “divide and conquer” strategy, where some Asian Americans are being used by a white anti-civil rights activist named Ed Blum, who has dedicated his life to upending diversity and race equity in society from voting rights to higher ed.

And now it looks like his time has come.

Remember, conservatives aren’t automatically against affirmative action. The late Justice Sandra Day O’Conner wasn’t—totally. To the court’s credit, it’s always allowed for race to be addressed within reason. No quotas, of course. But race has always been allowed as a factor.

Then came 2012, the Fisher v. Texas case, where Blum hand-held a white female plaintiff in an attempt to destroy the use of race in admissions at the University of Texas. It didn’t work, but Blum learned a lesson.

He realized he didn’t have a perfect victim. That was clear when even Antonin Scalia wondered aloud what the damage was to the white Fisher when she was not able to gain admission in a process where she had to compete fairly against people of color.

Indeed, what was the harm? The cost of the application fee?

So, this time, Blum found aggrieved rejections from Harvard and UNC on the internet. And he found a large group of plaintiffs among a new generation of Asian Americans immigrants from the 1990s and after, or rather their sons and daughters.

They were the ones who never quite understood why their little darlings with the straight A’s and perfect scores would be rejected from Harvard.

They have enabled Blum’s yellow-faced attack against affirmative action.

It’s created a civil war between Asian Americans, only the Mason/Dixon line is the year of your family’s immigration.  1980s? ’90s? 2000s?

These are the folks within our community who have been used by Blum in an attempt to topple this thing in society that has allowed previous generations of not just Asian Americans, but all people of color, and women, and anyone else who has been qualified, to break through the color barriers in life.

They just needed that benevolent boost we’ve known as “affirmative action.”

It’s impossible to say exactly how the court will come down on the Harvard and UNC cases. You can’t really tell by the questions asked by the justices.

Clarence Thomas took a swing at UNC by questioning the educational value of diversity.

“I didn’t go to racially diverse schools, but there were educational benefits,” he said. “And I’d like you to tell me expressly when a parent sends a kid to college, that they don’t necessarily send them there to have fun or feel good or anything like that; they send them there to learn physics or chemistry or whatever their study. So, tell me what the educational benefits are.”

North Carolina Solicitor General Ryan Park, arguing for UNC, spoke of the benefits of racial diverse environments, but not to Thomas’ satisfaction. “Well, I guess I don’t put much stock in that because I’ve heard similar arguments in favor of segregation, too.”

Thomas would be indicative of the hardline conservative attitude.

But the court’s first African American female was there, too. Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson questioned the SFFA attorney about the harm the race conscious approach had in admissions. The SFFA attorney couldn’t speak to any significant harm and admitted that even whites benefitted from the system now in place.

So, why even bother with the plaintiff’s SCOTUS appeal if the lower courts have already decided Harvard and UNC’s programs weren’t discriminatory?

Well, the only thing that’s changed is the six solid, unyielding conservative justices in the high court.

You saw what they did to abortion. Would they do the same thing to affirmative action?

In a heartbeat.

That’s what worries people. A decision is expected in 2023. I’m being optimistic while I still can. Affirmative action has been a considerable tool to fight racism. Without it there’d be no BIPOC middle class.

So, what’s the ultimate way to beat a court hell-bent on playing politics?

Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. He does a webshow on www.amok.com

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