by Samir Salifou
The notion that equality of opportunity undergirds political and economic success lies at the core of American meritocracy. Hard work and determination, as opposed to family background, should allow individuals to ascend the socioeconomic ladder.
In 1965, when discussing race-based affirmative action, then-President Lyndon Johnson recognized this issue, sayingthe United States had an obligation to do more than undo inequitable laws. “You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say you are free to compete with all the others, and still just believe that you have been completely fair,” Johnson said.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 already bans sex-based discrimination, and the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote, but those changes did not address structural concerns. In 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter FairPay Act. The law restored preexisting law, which helped guarantee that individuals subject to pay discrimination have up to 180 days from their last discriminatory paycheck to file a civil suit against their former employer. But this bill failed to address underlying structural issues.
by Grady Brown
There are a few weeks until the midterm elections, and some Virginians have raised concerns about the state’s voter ID law, passed back in 2013. The contentious bill barely passed the Senate, requiring then Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling to cast the deciding vote.
Lt. Gov. Bolling explained his deciding vote in a press release saying, “I think [the bill] is a reasonable effort to tighten voter identification requirements and assure greater integrity in the voting process.” However, Democrats remained unconvinced. Senator Donald McEachin (D-Henrico) stated, “we still have no evidence of voter fraud. None at all.” Senator John Edwards (D-Roanoke) claimed that the bill was “simply a voter suppression bill.”
Coming into effect this year, the law requires voters to show a valid form of photo identification at their place of polling. Voters may vote provisionally if they lack proper identification, but provisional voters must either mail a copy of their identification or present one in person within three days to County election officials.
Virginia is one of 34 states that has passed a voter ID law. Like many others, the Virginia bill sharply divided Republicans and Democrats. Republicans were primarily concerned with voter fraud in Virginia. The Virginia Voters Alliance recently reported a case of 43,893 duplicate registered voters in both Maryland and Virginia and 164 voters that appeared to vote in both states.
by Elizabeth Brightwell, Ashley Badesch, and Kyle Schnoebelen
Many glorify the life of collegiate student-athletes. The gear, the travel, the coaching, the trainers and all of the other resources available to student-athletes contribute to this perception. These benefits, however, come at a cost largely ignored by the viewing public. Student-athletes wake up before the sun and, all day, shuttle between the athletic fields and the classroom. Bruised and exhausted, they ignore bodily demands and stay up late to avoid falling behind in the classroom. The demands on athletes, especially in revenue sports, are extremely high. Throughout their collegiate career, student-athletes lose control of their schedule and their bodies; this loss of autonomy is often startling. And when it comes to policy, many student-athletes feel powerless in their efforts to express dissatisfaction or have their voices heard. Under the control the NCAA, and more immediately, their educational institution and coaches, student-athletes operate, almost 24-hours a day, as part of a system in which the power of their voice does not match their contribution.
In January of 2014, Kain Colter, the former quarterback of Northwestern University’s football team, joined forces with Ramogi Huma, a former college football player from UCLA, and Luke Bonner, a former college basketball player, to address this discrepancy. Colter, Huma and Bonner formed the College Athletes Player Association (CAPA) in hopes of providing a collective voice for student athlete concerns, enabling them to more effectively bargain with the NCAA and their institutions in pursuit of comprehensive reform. CAPA’s demands have been radically misrepresented in the media. Their list of demands does not include pay for play; instead, the union’s specific demands—notably improved health coverage provisions and expanded academic support—could be accomplished through a formal voice in NCAA policymaking.
In order to more effectively bargain for these demands, CAPA decided to unionize. Kain Colter submitted a petition to the region’s National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), seeking to recognize student athletes as employees, thereby making it possible for them to form a union. On March 26th, the Regional Director of the NLRB, Peter Ohr,decided that Northwestern student athletes did, in fact, qualify as employees, noting that football players devote as much as 40-50 hours a week to football related activities in spite of an NCAA policy that ostensibly limits players to 20 hours a week.
by Ashlyn McCurly
Angry shouts from behind—“stop, don’t move, put your hands on your head”—cop badges, flashing lights, interrogation. Police officers pat you down for concealed weapons and go through your belongings. Regardless of your race, gender, or age, this is an invasion of privacy.
Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and The New York City Police Department created the Stop-and-Frisk Program with the goal of stopping crimes before they occurred. Officers maintained an active presence on the streets to prevent minor crimes from escalating into ones that are larger and more violent. If crime was stopped before it intensified, would murders, robberies, and assaults disappear altogether? Can New Yorkers now walk the streets of the city and feel safe because of a proactive police presence?
Maybe some New Yorkers feel safer due to this policy. But for Latinos and African-Americans, the racial profiling inherit in the Stop-and-Frisk procedures is unfair and discriminatory. From 2002 to 2011, African-Americans and Latinos made close to 90% of the people stopped. About 88% of these stops were of innocent residents.
The program has not significantly decreased the number of shootings. In 2002, there were 1,892 victims of shooting, and 97,296 stops. Nine years later, in 2011, there were 1,821 victims and 685,724 stops. Only 0.2% of the stops found guns on individuals, so the increased frequency of stops has done little to preempt shootings in New York City. The purpose of the program is to get dangerous people off the streets before a crime is committed; however, between 2009 and 2012, 6% of the 2.4 million stops led to arrests, with only a 3% conviction rate. Cumulative data indicates that this intrusive and humiliating practice is ineffective, resulting more in discrimination against minorities than in a reduction in crime.
Efficacy aside, Stop-and-Frisk clearly violates the 4th Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. The court ruling deeming the program unconstitutional is the correct democratic response to the actions of the New York City police. Officers stop innocent people without an objective suspicion of participation in wrongful actions. Observing the way someone walks, fidgets, changes direction, or even if he has a bulging pocket should not be suspicious enough activity to warrant an intrusive search.
by Graham Egan
Nearly 50 years after the demise of Jim Crow laws, administration of justice in the United States is still far from color-blind. In some places, however, color matters more than others. In Texas, African Americans continue to be sentenced to death because of their race. The application of capital punishment in this manner makes a mockery of fundamental principles in the American criminal justice system: fairness and equality before the law.
Duane Buck is the most recent recipient of unequal treatment at the hands of the Texas criminal justice system. In a 6-3 decision handed down on November 20, 2013, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied his appeal for a new sentencing hearing, despite clear evidence that racial bias contributed to his original death sentence. Mr. Buck, an African American in his fifties, was convicted in 1997 of two murders in Harris County, Texas. Although his guilt in these gruesome crimes is undeniable—Mr. Buck does not deny that he committed the murders—the tactics utilized by prosecutors to pursue a death sentence were overtly racist.
The Harris County prosecutors elicited testimony from Walter Quijano, a psychologist, who affirmed that the “race factor, black, increases the future dangerousness for various complicated reasons.” Because a finding of “future dangerousness” is a prerequisite for a death sentence in Texas, the prosecutor relied on Dr. Quijano’s testimony to convince the jury to sentence Mr. Buck to die.