Monday, July 22, 2013

The Obama administration is tackling some of the most insidious civil rights issues of our time

I'm really glad that Spandan over at The People's View wrote a response to Tavis Smiley yesterday giving him a list of what President Obama has done for African Americans. But I see that Cornel West has (of course) joined Smiley's bandwagon this morning by suggesting that Barack Obama is some "johnny come lately" to concerns about how the criminal justice system has affected African Americans.

Of course Brother West is wrong. I'd like to take some time to document why.

First, lets go back to the time when Barack Obama was a State Senator in Illinois. It was there that he actually led the fight against racial profiling. But he also spoke out against a state gang database, joined an effort to examine a complete overhaul of the state's criminal code, supported a moratorium on the death penalty, introduced legislation against zero tolerance policies in schools, and spoke out against mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes.

But perhaps the President's critics will suggest that somehow he has been corrupted since he got to the White House. Let's remind ourselves that the President's primary responsibility is administering laws. And so often we forget to look at what he has done in that capacity as opposed to simply focusing on the legislative arena.

When it comes to civil rights, the most powerful thing the President did was nominate the first African American Attorney General - Eric Holder. And then they nominated Thomas Perez to head up the DOJ's Civil Rights Division - the one that had been decimated by the Bush administration. What we saw immediately was that the Division started actually hiring lawyers with a background in enforcing civil rights. Just take a look at some of the people they brought on board.

These folks got to work pretty quickly bringing an unprecedented 17 investigations of police brutality to departments in some of the countries largest urban areas like New Orleans, Seattle, and Newark. Of course the most noted story along these lines was the suit DOJ brought against Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio for civil rights abuses.

Back in the summer of 2011, the Department of Justice teamed up with the Department of Education to launch the Supporting School Discipline Initiative, which was the opening act for this administration to tackle the school-to-prison pipeline. One outcome of that effort was that DOE's civil rights office resumed the collection of racial data in school disciplinary activities. That data has led to investigations of racial bias launched in 20 school districts across 14 states. In the most serious case, DOJ filed charges against the town of Meridian, MS - leading to a consent decree to protect students of color.

Finally, the Obama administration recently issued A Drug Policy for the 21st Century that basically declared the "war on drugs" over.
Put simply, an enforcement-centric “war on drugs” approach to drug policy is counterproductive, inefficient, and costly.
I get that people like Smiley and West are more interested in listening to themselves talk than they are in actually taking the time to learn what this administration is doing. But lets be clear...on the ground where it really matters, the Obama administration has been busy tackling some of the most insidious civil rights issues of our time.


  1. One of the things President Obama did was put in place US Attorneys who had a deep devotion to civil rights. Apparently Smiley and West are unaware that the vast majority of cases are pursued at the DOJ district level, not in Washington. Prosecutions of everything from mortgage fraud to hate crimes has occurred at this level, and the media have taken scant notice. I suppose I should not be miffed at Smiley and West for not getting the press releases from US DOJ offices - but I am. I get them. Daily. They could easily do the same. They don't even have to LIVE somewhere to get them. On hate crimes issues, I get them from around the country - and that includes cases on voter rights abuses.

    So I'm smarter than West and Smiley for one reason - I took the time to learn what the DOJ under this president has been doing. No excuse for their being less well informed than I.

    1. By the time Holder brings a suit for fraudulent foreclosure on a bank, there won't be any Americans with homes left. He let insurance company lobbyists write health care. He escalated the war dramatically and he signed the NDA and beefed up The Patriot Act. Not such a steller record.

    2. It's hard for me to understand why it is that Tavis and Smiley refuse to even do their homework. This is why I love the Internet. The time was when the ego-driven 'intellectuals' could lord it over average folks, making themselves out to be more educated and aware. Now we see them for the frauds they are. You'd think they'd want to be at least *as* informed as the rest of us just to hold up their end of a conversation. Now they won't even bother with that. The intellectual laziness is just sad.

      Thanks, Smartypants for always doing your homework and sharing with the class.

    3. Did I get their names wrong? Oh well.

    4. Anonymous @ 8:34 pm

      You ought to do your homework as well. For example: read the article. It isn't about Obamacare or war or NDA or the Patriot Act.

      On foreclosure fraud, you can start reading by reading here and here and here.

  2. Smartypants - I find it interesting that Cornell west, with all his brilliance (and the look of a homeless pallbearer) basically compared an random white dude killing an unarmed teenager to a list of 'crimes' committed to Obama including:
    1. Bradley Manning
    2. Edward Snowden
    3. Assata Shukar
    4. Anwar Al-Awaki

    So in doing so, Cornell West compared Travyon Martin to two alleged spies (one on the run, the former pleading guilty), a convicted cop killer and a known terrorist.

  3. BTW, anyone who is shocked the Democracy Now would put this crap out there from 'Brotha West' obviously have better things to do on their drive time radio.

  4. Great post Smartypants.

    I wish people like Smiley would be realistic also about the hatred of the President in part of Congress and the country. If he signed a proclamation promoting motherhood and apple pie, a number of people would attack it just because Barack Obama was for it.

    That what I thought about when the President so wisely said that it's hard for politicians to lead discussions on race. He knows that if he tried to do that, it would go nowhere because so many people want to hate on him on principle.

    So it's on all of us, the people of this country, to have that conversation and that's where the responsibility should be anyway.

  5. You know, I am so tired of tiny eyed Travis and the unkept professor/homeless pall bearer spewing their hate perpetrating in the name of intelligence. They have been exposed. We see through their money making schemes. We see through their lies. We see through their jealousy. And it is shameful that cannot embrace and respect this President. Their souls are showing and it is not a pretty thing to see. They seem to be weak, whiny wannabes(republicans). Stop hiding and come out and be who you are. It is one thing to have an opinion, but when you don't or can't it up with facts, it's just another Emprog, libertarian, right-wing LIE!
    Tavis, Billary did not win and will not win next time around. West....go west....just go!


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