Equality and Liberty

  • August 15, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    Congressman Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) argues in The Guardian that the United States needs to get weapons of war out of middle America.

    Amanda Taub of Vox explains why America’s police force resembles “invading armies” and why the trend is dangerous.

    The Washington Post’s Petula Dvorak reports on how the events of Ferguson, Mo. resonate with black residents of Washington, D.C.

    Blair L.M. Kelley of The Root discusses the similarities between Dred Scott and the shooting of Michael Brown.

    In Salon, Chauncey Devega explains how white supremacy in the United States led to the death of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. 

  • August 13, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Dr. Amos Brown, NAACP National Board Member

    *Noting the 50th anniversaries of Freedom Summer and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, ACSblog is hosting a symposium including posts and interviews from some of the nation’s leading scholars and civil rights activists.

    In the 1950s, the winter of the civil rights movement in Mississippi, I worked alongside many brave black youth who actively fought racism and segregation, long before the press from northern communities ever arrived. Their heroic efforts and stories of courage in the face of staunch resistance in the 1950s are untold and unacknowledged.

    I organized the first youth council of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Mississippi in the fall of 1955, after being deeply impacted by the mutilated head of Emmett Till on the cover of Jet Magazine in August of that year. At only 15 years old, I asked my mother for permission to travel with Medgar Evers from Mississippi to San Francisco to attend the National Convention of the NAACP. At this convention, I was deeply inspired by the dream shared by a 26-year old Martin Luther King Jr.. This speech, given on the Wednesday night of the Convention, got my young peers and I fired up. We all agreed to return to our respective communities and become more involved.

    In 1958, under the NAACP, what was then called a sit-down was organized in Oklahoma Cityand led by Barbara Posey, a young woman who had served as the president of the youth council and engaged youth from elementary school through high school. This lunch counter sit-down was a success in its attempt to break down segregation. After this, there were a number of other successful youth led sit-downs around the country,  in cities such as Wichita and Louisville.

  • August 13, 2014
    Video Interview

    by Caroline Cox

    This year marked the 50th anniversaries of both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Freedom Summer, but these victories have not erased many persistent racial inequalities in the United States. In a discussion about race, education, and the legacy of Brown v. Board decision at the 2014 ACS National Convention, Tomiko Brown-Nagin, the Daniel P.S. Paul Professor of Constitutional Law and Professor of History at Harvard University, explained how the world has changed in the years after these civil rights landmarks.

    While Brown-Nagin argued that the United States has managed to achieve the promise of Brown in many respects, these successes are qualified. The decision slowly eliminated de jure segregation, but de facto segregation continues and even thrives in the post-Brown world. Brown-Nagin explained that public support is “shifting away from support for an affirmative movement of students across neighborhood lines, away from even having students of different races in the same school building.”

    The majority of people, according to Brown-Nagin, agree with the principle of racial equality. But this belief does not in and of itself mean that inequality no longer exists. This is not the inequality seen during the Warren Court, but rather are the result of “social conditions related to race” that are largely ignored because “people don’t understand them as related to racial animus.”

    The way to bring the ethos of Brown into a new era, Brown-Nagin argued, requires the formation of new coalitions and policies that can address inequality but are not necessarily race-conscious. Race does matter, but in a time when Parents Involved has made addressing racial inequality in schools more difficult, Brown-Nagin made clear that the real solution is “to be creative and innovative in the policies that we choose.”

    ACSblog hosted a symposium on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Freedom Summer, and a collection of blog posts on the legacy of Brown v. Board. Watch the brief interview with Tomiko Brown-Nagin below or here

  • August 12, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    Time’s Nolan Feeney reports that for the first time since June 2013 a prohibition against same-sex marriage has withstood a constitution challenge.

    The Editorial Board of The New York Times praises 16 states that have made it easier to vote despite the recent changes to the Voting Rights Act: “Congress needs to quit seeing voting in partisan terms and make it a fundamental right that cannot be limited by states trying to block access to the polls.”

    Dahlia Lithwick argues in Slate that Justice Breyer is the “unsung feminist” of the Supreme Court. 

    Adam Liptak of The New York Times discusses a new study from Harvard Law School Professor Cass R. Sunstein that questions the value of unanimity on the Supreme Court.

    In the Huffington Post, Philip Marcelo reports on Chief Justice Roberts’ recent comments at the American Bar Association’s annual meeting in which he advocated for lawyers to mend the growing partisan divide.

    The Brennan Center for Justice provides arguments against Arkansas’s new photo ID law based on an amicus brief filed yesterday. 

  • August 1, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Atiba R. Ellis, Associate Professor, West Virginia University College of Law

    *Noting the 50th anniversaries of Freedom Summer and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, ACSblog is hosting a symposium including posts and interviews from some of the nation’s leading scholars and civil rights activists.

    As we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, and the fiftieth anniversary of the Freedom Summer protest, it is well worth reflecting on the how the movement challenged us to not only establish formal legal equality, but also to address enduring poverty. The Civil Rights Movement sought to persuade America that all Americans are equal. The Freedom Summer riders (and the many, many more who pressed for civil rights) sought to expose the inequality and oppression in the segregated south of 1964.

    The passage of the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act, still impact us today.  These enactments represent significant progress towards the goal of fostering equality. Moreover, with the contemporary tide of referenda and judicial rulings on marriage equality, the Civil Rights Movement continues to evolve to protect many people who fifty years ago weren’t deemed deserving of civil rights.

    Though we think of Martin Luther King, Jr., Freedom Summer, and formal legal equality when we think about the Civil Rights Movement, we should also remember that the struggle is really, as historian Jacqueline Dowd Hall explained, a “long civil rights movement.”  Hall’s work locates the genesis of the twentieth century movement in the 1930s with the social transformations that occurred due to economic disruption of the Great Depression.  Moreover, the long arc of legal transformation to foster equality began with the Civil War and the Reconstruction Amendments.  The civil rights struggle began with confronting the subordination and poverty slavery created.

    In this sense, the long civil rights struggle had economic equality of opportunity at its core from the beginning. As Jeremy Leaming discussed on this blog, the question of racial equality in twenty-first century America is at a crossroads in light of retrenchment in civil and voting rights.  Yet racial inequality and poverty walk hand and hand and continue to affect the lived experiences of people of color.

    NPR host Michel Martin recently wrote an article in the National Journal, discussing the key obstacles that women of color continue to face in the twenty-first century.  In discussing this article on NPR’s All Things Considered (where she called her essay her own “Letter from the Birmingham Jail”) she explained how poverty creates an enduring problem for racial minorities:

    People of color particularly — but not exclusively blacks and Latinos — are connected to poverty and to disadvantage in ways that often our white colleagues don't understand. That causes you to have to think about things that they aren't thinking about. And that's the kind of thing that I really feel a need to call attention to.

    Martin’s words -- especially as they reflect her own experience navigating the intersection of race and class-- remind us that poverty daily affects the lives of people of color, no matter how affluent.  Indeed, it is a yet-to-be-fulfilled civil rights issue of the long civil rights movement.