Saturday, March 23, 2019

The Big Picture.

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( What we are witnessing – the attacks on affirmative action, racial gerrymandering, voter suppression – is not an attempt at mere political realignment, but wholesale societal change. And to go nuts at each new outrage is to lose sight of the big picture.

Affirmative Action: The most recent attacks on affirmative action in higher education, using the complaints of Asian students as the vehicle, is a purposeful attempt to lessen access to America’s elite institutions of higher learning for all people of color. If the true purpose was to argue in favor of a purely merit-based admissions process, the first attack would be on “legacy” admissions. What have these children of alumni done on their own to “merit” priority for admission? Freshman classes at the most prestigious colleges and universities can be composed of 15 to 25 percent of children of alumni, depriving spaces for applicants with higher test scores, more extra-curricular activities or other admissions criteria.

It’s no mistake that the first major push by the civil rights community was for quality education resulting in the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court Decision in 1954. It’s also no mistake that a recent nominee by this administration for the federal bench refused to answer whether she thought that Brown v. Board was a “good” decision. The cornerstone of progress for people of color, and indeed all Americans, has been access to quality education, at all levels, and especially to elite colleges and universities whose networks supply occupants of C-suites at the country’s top corporations, law firms, financial institutions and government agencies.

Voter Suppression: The ballot box is the most powerful tool in shaping democracy and hard fought electoral gains are being eroded by new voter I.D. laws, racial gerrymandering of districts and other forms of voter suppression. Inserting a “citizenship” question in the 2020 census, with the intent to suppress the overall count, particularly in urban (Blue) areas, is yet another attempt to ensure control of the political process.

In the most recent Primary Election for mayor of the nation’s capital, which is tantamount to winning the General Election in the heavily Democratic city, only 7.7% of eligible voters cast ballots in the city’s poorest Ward. What use to complain about the lack of services, pervasive violence and failing schools when politicians know that you pose no significant threat, or benefit, to their chances for electoral victory? This is perhaps to most pernicious form of voter suppression of all: hopelessness.

The Social Safety Net: Since Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal”, America has had a social contract with its poorest citizens. Social Security, followed by Aid to Families with Dependent Children (now Temporary Assistance to Needy Families), Medicare and Medicaid and other programs of Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” were established to ameliorate the most harmful effects of poverty.

Entitlement reform” is a euphemism for the reduction, or outright abolition, of these programs. Instituting “work requirements” for benefits is a new form of peonage where the poor will be forced into low-wage jobs now held by both legal and illegal immigrants. Even though it’s being reported that there are more jobs advertised than people looking for work, and with the unemployment rate at historic lows, we still see the president’s resort at Mar-a-Lago requesting H-2B visas for “temporary guest workers”; so much for America First.

Immigration: While the country’s attention has been focused on the separation of children from their parents at the southern border, bigger and more far reaching changes to legal immigration policy are being implemented by executive action, without the benefit of legislation. The stated goal is to decrease the number of immigrants coming in from “shithole” countries, while bolstering the number from “countries like Norway” in the president’s example.

Again, the hypocrisy of discussions about a “merit based” immigration system is exposed by the fact that the very ancestors of its most vociferous proponents – Stephen Miller, John Kelly, the president himself – would have been denied entry if such a system was in place when they immigrated to America. These people have made a mockery of the long-held archetypical story of the penniless immigrant, speaking no English and arriving with only the clothes on their backs, who went on to make contributions to American society. Irving Berlin, the author of “God Bless America”, the 100th anniversary of its writing being much touted the past 4th of July, was such a character.

In an even more ominous move, the military has quietly begun to discharge immigrants who signed contracts to serve in the armed forces in exchange for a path to citizenship. The Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest, or MAVNI, program had been actively recruiting non-citizens who have language or other special skills the military needs to meets its expanding mission around the globe. According to a report from the Associated Press, these recruits are being denied entry into the armed forces, or being discharged after joining, for no apparent reason; other than their immigrant status.

The Big Picture: It has been well-known, and forecast for some time, that in the not-too-distant future America would become a “majority-minority” country (whatever that means). What has heightened the anxiety of those who fear the loss of a white majority is that now, white deaths outnumber white births, hastening this time.

Recent demographic studies have shown the pronounced effect that the “opioid crisis” is having on the white population coupled with the increase in suicides, particularly among white men. More hypocrisy, as no “war on drugs” has been declared on these addicts as when crack cocaine was the scourge of the black community. All of these moves are calculated to maintain white control, even after whites have ceased to be a majority. Therefore, we can’t overreact to any one of these measures, we have to keep our eyes on the big picture and what the ultimate goal of these moves are.

Unfortunately, the Democrats have so far come up with poor tactical responses, like closing down the government to protect DACA kids and the latest call to “abolish ICE”, to fight back. They have not formulated a strategic response to these policies whose intended effects are to retain a grip on power.

We have to be watchful: what passes for news, especially on television, is mostly trivia and gossip. In order to know what’s going on we have to get information from various sources including print, on-screen and online. We have to be strategic: every fight does not have to be fought. As one columnist recently put it. “we can’t be outraged about everything, all the time”. Finally, we have to act. Registering and voting is a good beginning but we have to do more.

Are we fighting for quality education in our schools and being smart about how we are using our economic clout? Are we filtering out negative images and influences in our communities in favor of positive ones (did we really need a new Superfly movie)? Are we willing to be the change we seek?

The opposition is playing for real. We better be serious too.

Staff Writer; Harry Sewell

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