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No to Discrimination

From an article in today's NY Times by David W. Chen titled "New Jersey Court Backs Full Rights for Gay Couples":

New Jersey's highest court ruled on Wednesday that gay couples are entitled to the same legal rights and financial benefits as heterosexual couples, but ordered the Legislature to decide whether their unions must be called marriage or could be known by another name. In a decision filled with bold and sweeping pronouncements about equality, the New Jersey Supreme Court gave the Democratic-controlled Legislature 180 days to either expand existing laws or come up with new ones to provide gay couples benefits including tuition assistance, survivors' benefits under workers' compensation laws, and spousal privilege in criminal trials... The New Jersey court did not go as far as Massachusetts, which in 2003 became the first state to permit gay marriage. Instead, it could be considered the new Vermont, which created civil unions for gay couples in 2000, in the politically, legally and culturally charged world of same-sex marriage... "We do not have to take that all-or-nothing approach," Justice Albin wrote of the marriage question in the majority opinion. "We cannot find a legitimate public need for an unequal legal scheme of benefits and privileges that disadvantages same-sex couples," he said. "We cannot find that a right to same-sex marriage is so deeply rooted in the traditions, history, and conscience of the people of this state that it ranks as a fundamental right."

In my opinion, that's the way it should be...states should have the right to define "marriage" as they choose, but they should NOT discriminate among their citizens based on sexual preference. Which brings me to another hot-button issue: affirmative action. In an opinion piece in The Chicago Tribune titled "Reverse discrimination gets another look", Steven Chapman discusses an upcoming ballot initiative in Michigan:

On Nov. 7, voters in Michigan will decide on a ballot initiative banning racial preferences in the public sector, and if it passes, opponents say, it will put the state back into the Dark Ages. Proposal 2 represents a reaction to the University of Michigan's use of racial double standards in selecting its students. In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the preferences used in undergraduate admissions were unconstitutional but those used for law school admissions were not. The court said it was OK to favor minority applicants--and discriminate against whites--in order to promote diversity, as long as the school wasn't too blatant about it... The resulting measure...would amend the state constitution to bar the use of racial or gender preferences by public universities and government agencies. If it passes, no one would be penalized or rewarded for their skin color or sex. That was the point of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Today, though, colorblind policies are denounced as a form of oppression... At the University of California at Berkeley and at Los Angeles, California's most selective state schools, the percentage of students qualifying for need-based federal aid has risen sharply since 1996. In socioeconomic terms, those campuses have become more diverse, not less. But in Michigan, the concept of diversity begins and ends with race. The claim that women would suffer without special help in college admissions is a particularly outlandish invention. At Berkeley and UCLA, women increased their numbers after gender-based preferences were scrapped. There is not much doubt that Proposal 2 would reduce the number of black and Latino students at the University of Michigan, the flagship public institution. But in California, the top schools have not become replicas of Ole Miss, circa 1960. The biggest gainer has been another racial minority--Asian-Americans. Nor have African-Americans and Hispanics been exiled from higher education. The total number of blacks at all University of California campuses has fallen only slightly, and Hispanic numbers have risen substantially. The chief difference is that many (though certainly not all) minority students have been shifted from the most selective state schools to somewhat less selective ones. Are these students worse off for not getting into Berkeley or UCLA? Quite the contrary. In the old days, black and Hispanic students generally got worse grades and flunked out at much higher rates than whites and Asian-Americans. But that is changing... Racial preferences, always a clear detriment to whites and Asian-Americans, have now been exposed as a false friend to those they are supposed to help. Michigan will have a better future if its voters abandon this relic of the past.

I tend to agree. A case can certainly be made for the benefits of affirmative action, but in the end it's just too bass ackward to discriminate in the name anti-discrimination and diversity.

Study: Diversity rises in suburbs

From a USA Today article of the same title by Haya El Nasser:

Suburban counties, once the bastion of white America, are becoming multiethnic tapestries, and white populations are inching up in some urban areas after big losses in the 1990s, according to new Census estimates out Friday. "Suburbs and especially fast-growing outer suburbs are not just attracting whites anymore," says William Frey, demographer at the Brookings Institution, a think tank. "All minority groups are coming. They're a magnet for blacks as well as Hispanics and Asians." The changes are dramatic in the South. About 74% of the growth in the U.S. black population happened there from 2000 to 2005. The region also generated about 71% of the national growth in whites, 42% of the Hispanic growth and 27% of the Asian growth.


The Color of Love

A while back I heard a segment on This American Life about Gene Cheek and his book The Color of Love: A Mother's Choice in the Jim Crow South. His is an amazing, sad, and tragic story. It caught my special attention because it occurred in Winston-Salem, NC where I grew up. I ordered the book and and read it during our vacation in the mountains of NC. I think the book would have been more powerful had I not already known the basic outline of the story from the radio show...I knew what was coming. So, if you're gonna read the book, I recommend not listening to the radio bit first. It was kind of a shock to me that in 1972, the year when I was born, inter-racial marriages were still illegal in NC and that Gene Cheek's story was happening in the previous decade. I'm so thankful that my parents raised me such that I wasn't taught any of the racism that was the norm when they were growing up and still wasn't nearly dead when I did.


Church debates slavery pay-back

From an AP article of the same title by Andrew Welsh-Huggins:

The Episcopal Church is poised to apologize for failing to oppose slavery, but making up for its 19th century inaction won't come without 21st century controversy. At its national convention beginning June 13, the church is expected to approve a resolution expressing regret for supporting slavery and segregation. A second resolution is more controversial: It calls for a study of possible reparations for black Episcopalians... The church is struggling over whether reparations would be a meaningful gesture 141 years after the Civil War ended. Reparations could mean anything from cash payments to college scholarships.

The article doesn't detail why the Episcopal Chruch is feeling this guilt. On a related topic, the documentary "Traces of the Trade" sounds interesting. According to an Episocopal News Service article by Daphne Mack, it "...tells the story of the DeWolf family, the largest slave-trading family in US history and also a prominent part of the Episcopal Church in Rhode Island."

Grim Forecast for Young Black Men

From an article by Michael E. Ross on

At a time when the U.S. economy is on the upswing and more people are finding work, young African American men are falling further behind. That's the grim portrait painted by three new and forthcoming books by scholars at Columbia, Georgetown and Princeton universities. The picture isn't new, but the depths of its despair and pathology are. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates there are about 5 million black men in America between the ages of 20 and 39. The new books, and an earlier one from Harvard, find them losing ground in mainstream American society, despite advances made by black women, presumably part of the same socioeconomic experience. This vexing problem, caused by a variety of social ills, is equally vexing when scholars consider what causes it. Among the studies' findings:

  • Rates of imprisonment for young black men escalated throughout the 1990s and continued climbing well into the current decade. About 16 percent of black men in their twenties who were not college students were either in jail or in prison.
  • African Americans are seven times more likely to go to prison or jail than whites.
  • Almost 60 percent of black male high school dropouts in their early thirties have spent time in prison.
  • The percentage of young jobless black men continues to increase, part of a trend that generally hasn't abated in decades. In 2000, about 65 percent of black male high-school dropouts had no jobs, either because they couldn't find work or because they were in jail. By 2004, the studies found that number had grown to 72 percent. The numbers for young black men were higher than for whites and Hispanics similarly affected.


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