Tag Archives: blacks

Judge orders probe of state’s failure to issue photo IDs to voters

A federal judge has ordered the state of Wisconsin to investigate reports that transportation workers are failing to issue temporary photo IDs for voting, as required by law.

U.S. District Judge James Peterson issued his order around the same time a civil liberties group filed a motion in a separate case demanding a federal appellate court invalidate voter ID requirements in Wisconsin because the state hasn’t abided by its pledge.

Under Wisconsin law, voters must show a form of government-approved photo identification at the polls. People who lack such identification can obtain free photo IDs at state Department of Transportation Division of Motor Vehicles field offices.

The agency in May announced that people who want IDs but lack the underlying supporting documents such as birth certificates could get a receipt valid for voting. The move was designed to blunt a pair of lawsuits alleging that voters who lack such documents face tough challenges in obtaining free photo IDs.

Peterson ruled in July that the DOT’s petition process to obtain the receipt was a “wretched failure” because it still left black and Hispanic citizens unable to obtain IDs. He ordered the state to quickly issue credentials valid for voting to anyone who enters the petition process but lack the necessary documents, including birth certificates.

The Nation published a story last week alleging that DMV workers at a field office told a man named Zack Moore that he couldn’t obtain a temporary ID because he lacked a birth certificate and that the way IDs were being handled was still up in the air. The story went on to say that Molly McGrath, the national campaign coordinator with VoteRiders, visited 10 DMV stations where employees gave people a wide range of answers about how long it would take to get an ID.

Moore tried to obtain his ID on Sept. 22. That was the same day Attorney General Brad Schimel filed an update with Peterson saying all DMV field staff had been trained to ensure anyone who fills out an application to enter the petition process will get an ID mailed to them within six days.

“These reports, if true, demonstrate that the state is not in compliance with this court’s … order, which requires the state to ‘promptly issue a credential valid as a voting ID to any person who enters (the petition process) or who has a petition pending,”” Peterson wrote.

He ordered the state to investigate and report back to him by Oct. 7.

Transportation spokeswoman Patricia Mayers called the stories of problems at the DMV offices “concerning and … not consistent with DMV protocol.” She said the agency has already launched an investigation and will report its findings to Peterson, as ordered.

“DMV remains committed to working with all eligible voters to ensure they receive free identification, as required for voting,” she wrote in an email.

Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a motion in a separate voter ID challenge before the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The motion alleges that the DOT isn’t issuing voting credentials to people in the petition process and has violated its promise that anyone who goes to the DMV for photo IDs will get an ID with whatever documents they possess.

The ACLU alleged that DMV workers have failed to tell applicants the petition process exists, that applicants have had to make multiple visits to DMV offices and that workers have incorrectly told people that in order to begin the petition process, they need proof of identity such as a social security card — which can’t be obtained without a photo ID. As many as 1,640 eligible voters in Milwaukee County lack both ID and a Social Security card, the ALCU alleged.

The group also claimed that people who present birth certificates with misspellings haven’t been allowed to enter the process and DMV field offices offer limited hours. The motion asks the court allow voters who lack photo IDs to cast ballots by affidavit or completely invalidate the voter ID law.

“People who have started (the petition process) are supposed to get a temporary ID but as we’re seeing on the ground that’s not happening,” ACLU attorney Sean Young said in a telephone interview. “DMV employees aren’t implementing their own procedures. DMV cannot be trusted to this correctly.”

The state Department of Justice is defending the voter ID law in the case. DOJ spokesman Johnny Koremenos said agency attorneys are reviewing the ACLU’s filing.

— By Todd Richmond, AP writer

‘America is weeping’: Taking stock after tragedies

Can this really be America in 2016?

Tumultuous days have brought echoes of decades past and made clear a public that elected a black president hasn’t reconciled its fractured history with race, that a country that lived through unrest and assassinations in the 1960s and 1970s still bubbles with resentment and rage, and that bloody images of violent tragedy aren’t going away.

“America is weeping,” said Rep. G.K. Butterfield, head of the Congressional Black Caucus, reflecting an entire nation’s mounting anger, tension and despair.

It started Tuesday, with a familiar scene: A black man, on the ground, shot by police, with the incident captured on cellphone video. That killing, of a 37-year-old named Alton Sterling, who police say was armed and selling CDs outside a Louisiana convenience store, ignited public outrage, and added Baton Rouge to a long list of places where the death of a black male at the hands of police has come under a cloud of suspicion.

It might have remained just that, with Sterling’s name added to a sorrowful litany alongside Michael Brown and Eric Garner and Freddie Gray.

Then came Wednesday.

In Falcon Heights, Minnesota, another black man was shot dead by an officer, this time after a traffic stop. As 32-year-old Philando Castile sat bloodied and dying, his girlfriend made a live broadcast on Facebook that gave an eerie look into the aftermath. As the video freezes and the woman loses composure and lets out a scream, the sweet voice of her 4-year-old daughter chimes in to comfort: “It’s OK, I’m right here with you.”

And then, like clockwork in a new deranged norm, came another evening, another night of tragedy.

As demonstrators amassed in Dallas on Thursday to mark what had transpired in the two preceding days, five police officers there to help keep the peace were shot and killed and seven other officers and two civilians were wounded. Authorities said it was the work of a sniper. The suspect, who was killed by police, had said he was upset by the recent shootings and wanted to kill whites, particularly white officers.

It was a devastating climax to three horrific days that Americans are struggling to understand.

At the Justice Department, Attorney General Loretta Lynch called it “a week of profound grief and heartbreaking loss.” In Chicago, Archbishop Blase Cupich said, “Every corner of our land is in the grip of terror.” On Capitol Hill, civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis of Georgia said, “We feel the pain. We feel the hurt.”

Kevin Boyle, an American history professor at Northwestern University, thought of the late 1960s and the 1992 Los Angeles riots, seeing “terrifying parallels” and “echoes for me of other really incredibly tense points.” The presence of video documentation of the incidents calls attention to strife that had previously existed only in agonizing private memories.

“It’s not that the incidents are new,” he said, “it’s our ability to see them.”

At the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., Kim Hernandez welled with tears Friday as she took stock of the week. “There’s just a really scary sense of humanity right now,” she said. “I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know how we can fix it, but it doesn’t seem like talking is working.”

At Bible Way Temple in Raleigh, North Carolina, Darnell Dixon Sr., the chief pastor, wondered why more positive change hasn’t come. He presided over the funeral of another black man who was shot by a white officer earlier this year, and was part of a dialogue with police that followed and brought him a sense of healing.

“I started feeling better,” he said. “But yesterday set me back. It bewildered me.”

As rancor grew, a handful of violent incidents against police arose across the country, including the shooting of an officer in Valdosta, Georgia. Authorities said a man called 911 to report a break-in, then ambushed the responding officer.

Some lashed out at the movement that was born of police shootings of blacks and even at President Barack Obama, accusing him of fueling divisions among people of color and whites. Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh called Black Lives Matter a “terrorist movement,” while U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, a Republican from Texas, said the “spread of misinformation and constant instigation by prominent leaders, including our president, have contributed to the modern day hostility we are witnessing between the police and those they serve.”

Black Lives Matter organizers condemned the violence in Dallas, and police haven’t given any indication that the shooter had anything to do with the group.

If the gravity of it all seems clear, the road from here does not.

Does the assemblage of killings by police around the country and the resulting Black Lives Matter movement lead to more than candlelight vigils and calls for change? Does the anger that seemingly fueled the shootings in Dallas precipitate and lead to similar attacks on police akin to Black Panther-style violence of long ago? Is this a turning point or simply a continuation?

Jeanine Bell, an Indiana University professor who authored “Policing Hatred: Law Enforcement, Civil Rights, and Hate Crime,” said the week will not go down as a pivotal point unless it leads to substantive change by police that goes beyond simply diversifying forces and introducing anti-bias training.

“Until there is a call for reorganization of policing practices, not just small changes, then it’s very hard to call this a turning point,” she said.

Pew Research Center, in a survey released last month, found more than 4 in 10 blacks doubt the nation will ever make changes necessary for racial equality with whites and that nearly two-thirds of black adults believe blacks are treated less fairly than whites in the workplace.

This week’s killings come in the midst of a divisive presidential election, amid fears of terrorism and on the heels of the latest mass shooting that claimed 49 innocent lives. The killings in Dallas happened just blocks from the book depository where another sniper took aim at President John F. Kennedy. It ended his life and a period of American history that became regarded as “Camelot,” and became a presage to the strife, unrest and other assassinations that followed.

Two blocks from the shooting site, in Dallas’ historic West End district, Joe Groves owns Ellen’s Southern Kitchen & Bar, where dinner was underway when the gunfire sounded. Many of the officers who were assigned to Thursday night’s demonstration are friends of his, and as the violence erupted, he tapped out three words to two of his uniformed friends: “Love you man.”

Though Groves is white, most of his 72 workers are black and Latino; his clientele is diverse as well. The tension that came to a head in the shootings wasn’t something he’d experienced personally, until now.

On Friday, his restaurant was open again, but the atmosphere was noticeably different. He said people are speaking more quietly, and the enormity of it all seemed to weigh. He sees some good coming of it all, a connectedness between strangers that is rarely there, a willingness to make eye contact. And even though he thinks race relations may have reached their rock bottom, he sees a reason for hope there, too.

“The good news about rock bottom,” he said, “is the only way out is up.”

DIVIDED AMERICA: Minorities missing in many legislatures

As Virginia’s only Latino state lawmaker, Alfonso Lopez made it his first order of business to push for a law granting in-state college tuition to immigrants living since childhood in the U.S. without legal documents.

The bill died in committee.

So Lopez tried again the next year. And the year after that.

Now, in his fifth year in office, Lopez is gearing up for one more attempt in 2017.

“If we had a more diverse (legislature) and more Latinos in the House of Delegates,” he says, “I don’t think it would be as difficult.”

America’s government is a lot whiter than American itself and not just in Virginia.

While minorities have made some political gains in recent decades, they remain significantly underrepresented in Congress and nearly every state legislature though they comprise a growing share of the U.S. population, according to an analysis of demographic data by The Associated Press. The disparity in elected representation is especially large for Hispanics, even though they are now the nation’s largest ethnic minority.

A lack of political representation can carry real-life consequences, and not only on hot-button immigration issues. State spending for public schools, housing and social programs all can have big implications for minority communities. So can decisions on issues such as criminal justice reform, election laws or the printing of public documents in other languages besides English.

When the people elected don’t look, think, talk or act like the people they represent, it can deepen divisions that naturally exist in the U.S.

Campaigning door-to-door in the heavily Latino neighborhoods of south Omaha, Nebraska, first-time legislative candidate Tony Vargas has talked with numerous people afraid to participate in democracy. Some felt shunned or confused when they once attempted to vote. Others have misconceptions about the legal requirements to do so. Some simply believe their vote doesn’t matter.

“You can hear the fear in people’s voices, and you can hear that they feel like less of a member of society, less of an American,” says Vargas, whose parents came to the U.S. from Peru.

Though Hispanics now make up 10 percent of Nebraska’s population, there is not a single Latino lawmaker in its Legislature.

The Associated Press analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Congress and the National Conference of State Legislatures to determine the extent to which the nation’s thousands of lawmakers match the demographics of its hundreds of millions of residents. The result: Non-Hispanic whites make up a little over 60 percent of the U.S. population, but still hold more than 80 percent of all congressional and state legislative seats.

Among major minority groups:

  • Blacks are the least underrepresented but still face sizable gaps in some places. In Mississippi and Louisiana, about one-third of the population is black. Yet each state has a single black member of Congress and a disproportionately small number in their state legislatures.
  • More than half the states still have no lawmakers with Asian or Pacific Islander heritage, and just four states have any in Congress.
  • Hispanics comprise more than 17 percent of the U.S. population, yet they are fewer than 7 percent in Congress and fewer than 4 percent of state legislators. The gaps in representation exist even in California, New Mexico and Texas, with the largest Latino populations.

There are many reasons for the disparities.

The U.S. Hispanic population generally is younger and less likely to be eligible voters. And those who can vote often don’t. Voter turnout among Hispanics (as well as Asian Americans) dipped to just 27 percent in 2014, compared with 41 percent for blacks and 46 percent for whites, according to the Pew Research Center. Low voter involvement can make it harder to recruit minority candidates, and less likely for minority communities to be targeted by campaigns.

“It becomes sort of self-fulfilling _ they’re not likely voters, so you don’t talk to them, and because you don’t talk to them, they don’t become likely voters,” says political consultant Roger Salazar, whose clients include California’s legislative Latino caucus.

The power of incumbency also can work against minority representation. Decades of deeply ingrained name recognition have helped white lawmakers continue to get elected in some districts where population shifts have gradually made racial minorities the majority.

Another factor is the way legislative districts have been drawn. Racial gerrymandering can occur either when minority communities are divided among multiple districts to dilute their voting strength or when they are packed heavily into a single district to diminish the likelihood of minorities winning multiple seats.

In states that have elected a critical mass of minority legislators, they’ve claimed some policy successes.

In California, a new law expands the state’s Medi-Cal health care program for low-income residents to immigrant children, regardless of their legal status. The state budget includes $15 million for nonprofits to help immigrants gain U.S. citizenship or remain in the country. And a law that kicked in last year provided drivers’ licenses to more than 600,000 people living in the country illegally.

But minority legislators in numerous states told the AP that their priorities have been stymied partly due to a lack of others like them.

For 22 years, Delaware state Sen. Margaret Rose Henry has been the only black senator in a state where African-Americans comprise more than one-fifth of all residents. Henry says she has long sought to improve the educational opportunities for black children bused under a Wilmington desegregation plan to suburban schools. But recommendations from multiple studies have gone nowhere over the years.

Now, a new commission has recommended realigning Wilmington area school districts and revising the state funding formula to direct more money to schools with larger numbers of students who are low-income, learning English or at high risk of not completing school. Henry fears the plan will again be difficult to pass.

“If there were more black elected officials, we would have a better chance to get something done,” she says.



Nixon used war on drugs to arrest war protesters, black people

A decades old quote about the war on drugs during President Richard Nixon’s administration is making front page news and being shared widely on the Web. The quote from Nixon’s domestic policy chief John Ehrlichman gained new notoriety after appearing in a cover story in Harper’s Magazine by author Dan Baum.

“You want to know what this was really all about,” Ehrlichman, who died in 1999, said, referring to Nixon’s declaration of war on drugs. “The Nixon campaign in 1968 and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying. We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

On March 23, the Drug Policy Alliance responded to the renewed interest in Ehrlichman’s disclosure.

This explosive admission, while provocative, is sadly nothing new.

The Drug Policy Alliance and our allies in the movement to end the drug war have long known that U.S. drug policies and have been inherently racist and discriminatory. Despite comparable rates of drug use and sales, communities of color and other marginalized groups have been the principle targets of drug law enforcement and make up the vast majority of people who have been incarcerated or otherwise had their lives torn apart by the drug war. That said, it is enormously important that this quote has captured so much attention and shed light on the blatantly racist origins of this horrible policy approach.

DPA’s work is centered on speaking truth to power and demanding accountability for the gross harms caused by the drug war. We challenge draconian sentencing laws, arrest tactics, negligence of life-saving health interventions in favor of prohibitionist policies, stigmatization and bigoted targeting of black and Latino communities here in the United States, as well as minority and vulnerable populations internationally.

As world leaders gather next month for the United National General Assembly Special Session on drug policy, DPA urges participants to publicly abandon the drug war, initiated by U.S. politicians like Nixon, which has resulted in overwhelming damage here and across the globe. In preparation for this gathering, we invite the public to join us for a one-day strategy session with some of the nation’s top thinkers who will address the drug war as a racial justice issue and offer visions for reform.”

On April 17, the Drug Policy Alliance will convene a gathering to explore racial justice and ending the so-called war on drugs.

DPA Fact Sheet.

DPA Network is the  nation’s leading organization working to end the war on drugs. We envision new drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights and a just society in which the fears, prejudices and punitive prohibitions of today are no more.


Oscars’ president announces plans to increase diversity

When the Oscar nominations revealed a second consecutive year of all-white acting nominees, it lit a fire under film academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the first African-American to lead the organization.

“I really was disappointed,” she said after the Jan. 14 nominations.

That disappointment — and the firestorm of criticism that followed — spurred action. On Jan. 22, Boone Isaacs announced sweeping reforms to the organization that include doubling the number of female and minority members by 2020 and adding three new governors to the leadership board.

The academy now aims for women to comprise 48 percent of its 6,000 members and “diverse groups” at least 14 percent as an initial step. Its 51-member board of governors voted unanimously for the changes, which also include limiting members’ voting rights to 10 years, adding new members to key decision-making committees and expanding recruitment outreach globally.

“We all are aware that our membership is pretty closed, if you will,” she said. “However, life has changed. Things have changed.”

Boone Isaacs said she is ready to embrace “any and all ways we can increase the conversation about storytelling and how to bring more diverse voices in storytelling into the marketplace.”

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had been working to diversify its membership for several years before the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag trended on Twitter following the all-white slate of acting nominees last year, she said. The organization invited 322 new members to join last year, with an emphasis on women, young people and people of color. The new inductees included a record number of international filmmakers.

But when the 20 acting nominees were announced — once again, all white actors — the hashtag resurfaced, along with a weeklong storm of criticism and calls for an Oscar boycott. Some of Hollywood’s most prominent African-Americans, including Will Smith and Spike Lee, publicly said they won’t attend this year’s Academy Awards ceremony, which is to be hosted by Chris Rock. 

Boone Isaacs and her academy colleagues realized the work thus far was not enough.

“We all kind of looked at each other and said, ‘We need to step this up,’” she said. “That was really important. It needs to be timely. There’s a lot of conversation out there. We need to get out there with what we’ve been talking about internally, but now we have to put it into action. So that is what we did.”

Other approved academy changes include limiting members’ voting status to a period of 10 years, to be extended only if the individual remains active in film during that decade.

Lifetime voting rights will be granted only to Academy Award nominees and winners, and to members after three 10-year voting terms. Previously, all active members received lifetime voting rights.

Actor-director Don Cheadle applauded the move, but he said it deals with the symptom rather than the cause.

“(This) has to do with inclusion and access and the ability of people of color, women, minorities to get entry-level positions where you can become someone who can greenlight a movie,” he said. “So until the product that’s being spit out is created at a point where there is more diversity, I don’t know that these changes will substantively affect much.”

Boone Isaacs, though, hopes changes at the academy will spread through the Hollywood community and into studios’ executive offices.

“This conversation is penetrating everywhere and that’s the good thing,” she said. “Certainly right now there’s a lot of focus on the academy. But the industry as a whole is listening.

“I think it’s going to affect every single level, whether it’s in front of the camera or behind the camera or in the studio suite,” she added. “Inclusion is the right thing to do, it’s the best thing to do, and for an industry that’s already extremely healthy, it will make it even healthier.”

Audiences are hungry to see their stories on screen, she said, so diverse stories also make good business sense.

Ava DuVernay, director of last year’s best picture-nominee Selma, tweeted that the changes were “one good step in a long, complicated journey for people of color and women artists.”

“Marginalized artists have advocated for academy change for decades,” DuVernay wrote. “Actual campaigns. Calls voiced from the state. Deaf ears. Closed minds.”

A 2012 Los Angeles Times study the academy was 94 percent white and 77 percent male.

UCLA’s latest annual Hollywood Diversity Report concluded that women and minorities are substantially underrepresented in front of and behind the camera, even while audiences show a strong desire for films with diverse casts. 

UCLA also surveyed film and TV executives and found that 96 percent are white.

Last year’s Oscar broadcast, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, was boycotted by some viewers because of the all-white slate of acting nominees. Ratings dipped to a six-year low for ABC.

This year’s telecast is on Feb. 28 and again will air on ABC. Despite calls for him to quit, Rock will host the event, although he has reportedly rewritten his opening monologue to address the controversy.

Jihadi group uses Donald Trump video to recruit U.S. blacks and Muslims

An Al-Qaida recruitment video targeting American blacks and Muslims features video of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump calling on the United States to ban Muslims from entering the country.

The 51-minute video by the Somalia-based al-Shabab militant group describes the U.S. as a country of institutionalized hatred toward blacks and Muslims.

The video presents radical Islam as the solution.

The clip of Trump on the campaign trail consists of his infamous proposal for the “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” to protect the country.

The recruitment video seemed to vindicate Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s statement several weeks ago that ISIS, an unaffiliated extremist organization, was using such quotes to recruit followers. Trump blasted Clinton as a “liar” at the time.

The video was released on Twitter Friday, according to the SITE Intel monitoring group. It tells the story of several Americans from Minnesota who joined al-Shabab and were killed in Somalia, holding them up as exemplary.

Using footage from recent racial conflicts in the U.S. as well as historic quotes from Malcolm X, the video lays out the argument that blacks and Muslims will always face discrimination in the U.S. and should join jihadi movements to fight back.

Al-Shabab is fighting the internationally backed Somali government. It was pushed out of Mogadishu in 2011 with the help of African Union troops.

The militants have still carried out numerous guerrilla attacks in Somalia and the countries contributing troops, including Kenya, Djibouti and Uganda.

Both Democratic and Republican candidates have rebuked Trump’s proposal, made in early December, to ban Muslims. The real-estate developer and reality TV star has a commanding leading in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

Clinton’s campaign declined to comment on the video.

New Mexico city divided over proposal to name streets for King, Chavez

A proposal to rename Roswell, New Mexico, streets after Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez has divided officials and residents.

City councilors flung accusations of racial and ethnic bias while discussing the proposal during a recent meeting.

City Councilor Juan Oropesa says he believes opponents are against the idea because of the race, ethnicity of the two civil rights figures.

“They don’t want it because those are the two individuals,” Oropesa said of Chavez and King.

Councilor Jeanine Corn Best, however, denies the opposition has to do with race.

“Naming new streets make more sense,” said Corn Best, chair of the Infrastructure Committee. “Naming a street that is already named is incorrect.”

City Councilor Caleb Grant said no business owners on the two streets in the current proposal support the renaming. Some merchants said they would have to get all new business cards, letterhead and other materials with their company address. Others expressed concern about the cost of new street signs. Bobby Villegas, a local businessman, said the Hispanic community would raise money to change street signs.

Grant said he would approve of naming a new street “down the road.”

The full council plans to debate the issue in December after a decision on the city’s street naming policy is resolved, the Roswell Daily Record reported.

Residents attending the meeting also reflected the divisiveness stirred by the renaming. Villegas, who is Hispanic, said the city’s population has become more and more Latino. Naming a street after Chavez would “support us for the sake of our kids, for our future,” he said.

But other residents, such as Cleta Coen, believe the renaming is excessive. Roswell already has a park named after King, Coen said

“I don’t see any benefit of changing the names,” Coen said.



Civil rights groups oppose MLK monument by Confederate memorial

A proposal to erect a monument to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. atop Georgia’s Stone Mountain is getting a chilly reception from some of the civil rights groups that King worked with.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which King co-founded, and the Atlanta and DeKalb branches of the NAACP said that they oppose placing a tribute to King near the figures of three Confederate leaders engraved on the mountain outside Atlanta.

The state authority that oversees the mountain and surrounding park said this week that a Liberty Bell replica atop the mountain would recall a famous line from King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. 

SCLC President Charles Steele questioned why the state would place a reference to King, “one of Georgia’s most favorite sons, anywhere near these three traitors?”

The carving is the largest relief sculpture in the world, beating out Mount Rushmore. Critics repeatedly have called for removing the images of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, General Robert E. Lee and General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson on horseback, and renewed those efforts following June’s mass shooting that killed nine members of a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina. 

Supporters of the Confederate battle flag rallied this summer at the giant stone landmark, which for years was the site of Ku Klux Klan cross burnings. 

The SCLC and NAACP leaders said the meeting with Deal will focus on removing Confederate symbols from Stone Mountain, but they also hammered the King proposal. 

“The proposal to include Dr. King is simply to confuse Black folk about the issues,” said John Evans, president of the DeKalb NAACP branch, in a written statement. “It’s an attempt to gain support from Blacks to keep these racist and demeaning symbols.”

A Southern heritage group, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, panned the King proposal this week, calling it “wholly inappropriate” to place a monument atop the mountain because of the site’s designation in 1958 as a Confederate memorial. 

Wisconsin poverty rate up from 2007, median income down

Nearly a quarter of a million Wisconsin children lived below the poverty line in 2014, according to new census data released in September.

The state poverty rate was 10.8 percent in 2007, but rose to 13.2 percent last year. About 738,000 people in the state were living in poverty in 2014, 150,000 more than in 2007.

Other numbers indicate the economic recovery since the recession has boosted incomes for wealthier Wisconsinites but the rest have not seen much increase in incomes — if any — since before 2007. The median income for Wisconsin households in 2014 was $56,622, more than $5,000 less than in 2007.

Taking race into consideration, the income disparities are extreme. The poverty rate for people who identified as black or African-American was 37.7 percent in 2014 compared to 9.6 among white non-Hispanic Wisconsinites. The poverty rate for black children was 49.4 percent, four times the rate of white non-Hispanic children.

And the median income for African-American households was $26,100 in 2014, less than half the $56,100 earned by white non-Hispanic households, according to an analysis of the census data by the nonprofit Wisconsin Council on Children and Families.

“Wisconsin simply can’t accept three quarters of a million Wisconsinites living in poverty as the ‘new normal,’” said Ken Taylor, executive director of the WCCF. “The economy isn’t working for everyone, resulting in too many families not making ends meet. We need to make sure everyone has the opportunity to climb the economic ladder and build a secure future.”

WCCF’s recommendations to decrease the poverty rate include a hike in the minimum wage along with cost-of-living adjustments, reversal of the 2011 cuts to the state earned income tax credit for low-income families and an expansion of BadgerCare to cover all adults up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. “No policymaker who claims to care about Wisconsin’s future can justify ignoring poverty,” Taylor said in a news statement. “We’re all in this together. If Wisconsin is going to thrive, everyone needs a shot at opportunity.”

The new data showed the national poverty rate at 15.5 percent in 2014, down slightly from 15.8 percent in 2013.

The census bureau released the information about two weeks before the U.S. visit of Pope Francis, who has prioritized addressing poverty and income inequality.

Francis, who met with President Barack Obama at the White House and delivered a speech before a joint session of Congress, addressed the U.N. General Assembly in New York City on Sept. 25. 

He referred frequently to the poor and linked extreme poverty to the overconsumption and waste that is wrecking the planet. “Economic and social exclusion is a complete denial of human fraternity and a grave offense against human rights and the environment,” Francis said. “The poorest are those who suffer most from such offenses, for three serious reasons: they are cast off by society, forced to live off what is discarded and suffer unjustly from the abuse of the environment. They are part of today’s widespread and quietly growing culture of waste.”

Two days later, in his address to the General Assembly, President Barack Obama committed the United States to the U.N.’s new goals for eliminating poverty and hunger by 2030. 

Commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals, Obama said, is “not charity but instead is one of the smartest investments we can make in our own future.”

The goals include eradicating extreme poverty, expanding peace and good governance, combating inequality and discrimination, raising living standards and quelling climate change.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said “further progress will require an unswerving political will and collective, long-term effort. We need to tackle root causes and do more to integrate the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.”

Hillary Clinton calls Jeb Bush’s ‘free stuff’ comments ‘deeply insulting’

Hillary Rodham Clinton says Jeb Bush’s suggestion that Democrats offer “free stuff” to appeal to minority voters is “deeply insulting.”

Bush recently told a South Carolina audience that Democrats offer division and “free stuff,” or government help, to black voters while his message is about “hope and aspiration.”

Clinton took issue with the comments during a Facebook question-and-answer session this week. She said rhetoric like that is “deeply insulting, whether it comes from Jeb Bush or Mitt Romney or Donald Trump.”

“I think people are seeing this for what it is: Republicans lecturing people of color instead of offering real solutions to help people get ahead, including facing up to hard truths about race and justice in America,” Clinton wrote on Facebook.

Bush’s remarks drew comparisons to Romney’s comments following his 2012 loss in the presidential election to President Barack Obama, when the former Massachusetts governor told donors that Obama had offered “gifts” to minority voters.

Bush told Fox News over the weekend that his comments were taken out of context and he was making a point that was counter to what Romney had said at the time.

“I think we need to make our case to African-American voters and all voters that an aspirational message, fixing a few big complex things, will allow people to rise up. That’s what people want. They don’t want free stuff. That was my whole point,” Bush said.