Silver Rights

News, thoughts and comments on civil rights and related issues.

Friday, December 10, 2004  

News: Alabama vote backs segregated schools

If a majority of voters in Alabama had their way, the state's schools would still be racially segregated. Federal law made segregated schools illegal when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Education (1954). But, on November 2, Alabamans voted to retain state laws meant to sustain segregation. They rejected an amendment that stated racial segregation violates the state constitution. That amendment was meant to fix another one. The pro-segregation amendment had been passed during the Massive Resistance movement against racial desegregration. A recount of the ballots has confirmed the voters' choice to retain it.

CNN reports.

MONTGOMERY, Alabama (AP) -- A statewide recount showed that Alabama narrowly voted to keep language in the state constitution supporting segregation and poll taxes, according to unofficial totals released Friday.

Secretary of State Nancy Worley said voters defeated the amendment by just 1,850 votes out of more than 1.3 million cast. The original vote count showed the amendment lost by the same margin, or 0.13 percent.

. . .The amendment would have erased unenforced language from Alabama's constitution that required segregated schools and poll taxes, which were designed to keep blacks from voting. Supporters of the amendment said the language is a painful and embarrassing reminder of the South's divisive past, and makes Alabama look bad to companies who might want to do business in the state.

Rejection of the amendment is not the only way some Alabamans, and other white Southerners, have shown their opposition to school integration. Many white students attend private schools that started as segregation academies -- schools established so that white children would not have to attend schools with blacks. Private religious schools often serve the same purpose. In addition, white taxpayers often refuse to adequately fund public schools in their areas, which, as a result of white flight, are predominantly black.

I find the reason offered for opposing removing support of segregation from the Alabama constitution misleading.

But the measure also would have removed language that said there is no constitutional right to an education at public expense in Alabama. Opponents said removing it could have led to huge, court-ordered tax hikes for schools.

National media have not picked up on why it matters whether Alabama recognizes a right to free public education. Those of us who watch the far Right, especially its racist component, closely, understand the reasoning behind the opposition. Much of the religious Right opposes public education because of its lack of religious imprimatur. Segregationists oppose public education because of integration. Often, the reasons for opposition overlap. The ideal public schools in the minds of many white Southerners would be both religious and segregated. It is not public spending for education these people oppose. It is public spending for secular, integrated schools. Retaining language that says the state need not fund public schools allows them to hope that state support of public schools they disapprove of may someday be withdrawn. So, the reason offered for opposing the amendment is itself the product of religious and racial intolerance.

Among those who campaigned against the anti-segregation amendment is former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore. Still riding high with the religious Right because of his crusade to make it legal to install symbols of religion on government property, he was among those who influenced the outcome of the election. Moore is responsible for having revived the segregationist amendment after it was ruled illegal more than a decade ago.

In 1993, amid a lawsuit over state education funding, a circuit judge in Montgomery struck down the amendment. The state Supreme Court upheld his ruling in 1997.

But in 2002, during Moore's tenure as chief justice, the court reopened the case and reversed itself.

There may be a Band-Aid 'solution,' to this situation down the road. The segregationist language may be removed from the constitution. But, the results of segregation, including school systems underfunded because they serve African-American students, will remain intact. So will the anti-democratic motivations of politicians like Moore and Gov. Bob Riley.

Reasonably related

•Roy Moore is also busy promoting the merger of religion and government. His advocacy group recently filed a brief in support of displaying the Ten Commandments in courthouses in Kentucky. Read about the case here.

•Both Moore and Riley are favorites of the neo-Confederate movement. The Gutless Pacifist is perturbed by Riley's pandering.

posted by J. | 10:15 PM

Wednesday, December 08, 2004  

News: Biased official departs under fire

It is the kind of outcome I wish occurred more often. The norm in situations where racial or sexual discrimination is happening is still to ignore it. Often, the denial goes beyond that. Other people in the workplace will join the bigot in his offensive behavior, either tacitly or overtly. A physician and administrator in Portland probably expected just that to happen. He was in for a surprise. The Oregonian reported about the not so good doctor last week.

Multnomah County Chairwoman Diane Linn put the county's most highly paid employee on leave Wednesday while officials investigate an allegation that he tried to intimidate an employee who complained two years ago that he called African Americans "mud people."

Dr. Peter Davidson, who denied making the racial slur, was placed on paid administrative leave from his $157,000-a-year job as the county's medical director of mental health and addiction services. He reports directly to Linn.

. . .He was placed on leave Wednesday after an African American employee -- who works in the mental health division as a senior program development manager -- filed a complaint with her supervisors. She said Davidson was trying to keep her from talking to The Oregonian about the 2002 incident. The woman asked not to be identified because she feels her job could be adversely affected.

"Peter stated to me over the phone that . . . it was all a misunderstanding, that we get along fine and that things are OK between us," the woman said in her complaint Wednesday. "I thought that Peter was trying to dissuade or intimidate me from speaking" to the media about the incident.

Davidson's alleged attempt to bully the employee into supporting him became the proverbial straw.

Biased behavior by him was not isolated. He reportedly referred to a presentation by an official with a Japanese surname as "Kabuki theater." In Davidson's world, the low-income are "Jerry Springer families" and "Les Schwab workers." Most tellingly, Davidson's bigotry apparently influenced how he did his job. He is said to have asserted a lower standard should be applied to employees who are minorities. Investigators reported conduct that resulted in a disciplinary letter to Davidson in July.

[He] told members of his staff that minority mental health providers "should be held to a lower standard than other providers." The investigation concluded that Davidson "gave the impression you would treat professional staff members as well as providers differently based upon stereotypic ideas of race, educational qualifications and language skills."

KATU-TV reports Davidson resigned, apparently realizing that things were not going the way they were 'supposed to.'

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - A doctor who led the reform of the Multnomah County mental health system has resigned after allegations he tried to intimidate a black woman who complained he had made a racist comment.

Dr. Peter Davidson submitted his resignation shortly after county Chairwoman Diane Linn asked for it yesterday.

The resignation came as county officials were preparing to hire an outside investigator to look into the allegation. But now that the 48-year-old Davidson is leaving, the county says an investigation is no longer necessary.

There is no doubt in my mind that the reports of his behavior are accurate. I've observed such conduct myself and had it described to me often enough to know that it occurs daily in many workplaces. And, the leadership is too often implicated. Nor do I believe Davidson had any intention of changing. His recent attempt to bully the African-American woman who had reported the "mud people" remark was more of the same. A believer in stereotypes, he thought he could easily intimidate her into bowing to his demands. He was wrong.

Good-bye, Dr. Davidson. And, good riddance.

What's the art?

A black woman who appears to be worried -- probably with good reason.

posted by J. | 11:45 PM

Monday, December 06, 2004  

News: Gunman is false hero

It is the kind of tale the American Rifle Association basks in the glow of. It is also the kind of story that makes me skeptical. A Washington man shot and killed someone he said was burglarizing his home. Strangers supposedly entered his garage in the middle of the night, as his wife slept. He responded with superior fire power. So, hail the right of a man to protect his castle and its contents. Embrace the Second Amendment. Feature the fellow in an advertisement for the the NRA. Right?

The Columbian reported Shawn Michael McAndrews's story.

McAndrews said he walked into the garage and saw three people, one who pointed a semiautomatic pistol at him. McAndrews said he went into a room and grabbed a rifle.

Finding the intruder still holding the gun, McAndrews fired one or two shots, police said. McAndrews said the other two intruders then dragged the wounded man through the open garage door onto the driveway.

After the shooting, the other two intruders, possibly a man and a woman, left the scene, police said.

The dead man was Ronnie Taylor, 34, or Portland. He died of a gunshot wound to the chest in McAndrews' driveway.

Local media picked up the account, largely reporting it as McAndrews, also 34, told it. The anecdote about a citizen exercising his rights as a gun owner would have become one cited by gun enthusiasts, but for common sense intervening.

I was skeptical about the story because, if McAndrews was able to confront three intruders, one of them armed, and leave, it did not seem they were bent on harming him. If he had time to locate a gun and return to the scene and shoot one of them, he also had time to secure his home and call the police. A person is entitled to use whatever force is necessary to overcome a threat in self-defense, but killing the alleged intruder did not seem necessary.

Detectives apparently had some of the same doubts I did. McAndrews has been charged with two unrelated crimes and is in custody. Though no charges have been filed in regard to the shooting in his garage, the circumstances look very shady.

The Oregonian has the details.

VANCOUVER -- What began last week as an investigation into the shooting of an armed intruder took a twist Wednesday when police arrested two residents of the east Vancouver house where the shooting occurred on unrelated charges.

Vancouver Police Chief Brian Martinek said the married couple, Shawn McAndrews, 34, and Samantha Kuhn, 31, knew the dead man, Ronnie E. Taylor, 34, of Portland. McAndrews shot and killed Taylor on Friday during what he told police was an act of self-defense against an armed burglar in his garage.

"It was not random," Martinek said Wednesday during a news conference announcing the arrests. "The people involved are known to each other at least through a common acquaintance."

Vancouver police had been investigating McAndrews and Kuhn on possible fraud charges and had scheduled an interview with the couple the day of the shooting, Martinek said. During a search of the couple's home after the shooting, police said they found evidence linking them to fraud, forgery and theft.

McAndrews was arrested on 10 counts of theft and forgery. Kuhn faces three counts of theft and forgery. The crimes involve at least 10 victims, said police Cmdr. Rick Smith.

The circumstances do not fit the scenario that some people like to associate with shootings. Instead of an upstanding citizen being targeted by the 'criminal element,' it appears that all of the persons there may have been involved in unlawful activities. A more likely scenario than the one McAndrews reported is a dispute among criminal associates that resulted in one shooting another. That scenario does fit what is often true of violent crimes, though people don't like to think about it. The persons involved are family, friends or acquaintances. The weapon belongs to one of them. It is used within the group, not against an interloper.

Authorities believe Taylor, McAndrews and Kuhn were involved in fraud and theft. Counterfeit checks and stolen property were found in the home when detectives investigated the shooting.

There are things to be learned from a situation such as this one. But, the truth is more complex than simplistic tales promoted by the NRA.

posted by J. | 9:30 PM