(Great guest post from a very brave UT student leader! - promoted by Katherine Haenschen)
Last night, I bared my soul to the University of Texas- Austin's Student Government Assembly. As an undocumented Pakistani resident, my life is filled with fear that few can understand or imagine. But only by showing the world the reality of being undocumented can we cut through the misconceptions and vicious, racist stereotypes to create a dialogue on justice and civil rights.
For weeks, I've planned Undocumented Longhorns Week with the Center for Asian American Studies, Events+Entertainment, the University Leadership Initiative, Asian Pacific Desi American Collective, the Multicultural Engagement Center, and UT student leaders. Oct. 14th to 18th will be filled with events, panels, and workshops on the thorny subject of comprehensive immigration reform, complete with personal stories shared by undocumented UT students that emphasize why we must stand on the right stand of history. Our keynote event is the Undocu-Asian Teach-In.
I shared my story to urge the student assembly to pass AR 16, A Resolution to Support Undocumented Students and Undocumented Longhorns Week which recognizes the groundbreaking work immigrant youth in Texas have done to promote college access and community justice.
UT SG ultimately sent the resolution to the Legislative Affairs Committee, where it will be considered in three parts and a decision will be made on Tuesday, Oct. 15th. I urge you to pressure our student leaders to make the right choice.
Read more on the importance of supporting undocumented Longhorns after the jump.
Monday afternoon Facebook exploded with this photo of two men wearing roughly similar outfits, yet only one of them was denied entrance into Kung Fu Saloon based on a dress code.
Stephen Robinson, the gentleman on the right, was turned away based on the length of his shorts yet Michael Frey, the gentlemen on the left, was let in wearing shorts of a similar length.
They were with a large group of people and pointed out that the doorman had admitted the man on the left earlier. According Scott Hundall on social media the response of from the door man was that they did not want people dressed too "ghetto" inside the bar. This statement is what prompted the large group of patrons to take their business elsewhere.
Since Saturday's verdict acquitting George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin - and even before then - there has been no shortage of excellent analysis on the reasons behind the verdict, implicating everything from lack of evidence to inherent racism in the jurors to inherent racism in our criminal justice system.
I give you three of my favorites: one from Emily Bazelon at Slate, in which she discusses the state of the law in Florida; another from Justin Peters, also at Slate, written before the verdict and articulately laying out the truly difficult burden facing the prosecutors; and finally a trenchant and wide-ranging reflection from Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic.
Read more about Texas' own stand your ground law after the jump.
More than 90 years ago, future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo wrote about judges:
"Deep below consciousness are other forces, the likes and the dislikes, the predilections and the prejudices, the complex of instincts and emotions and habits and convictions, which make the man, whether he be litigant or judge."
On February 20 of this year, Judge Edith Jones of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit gave a talk sponsored by the Federalist Society, a conservative group, at the University of Pennsylvania Law School in Philadelphia, in which, according to a complaint filed yesterday, she made the following points:
•The United States system of justice provides a positive service to capital-case defendants by imposing a death sentence, because the defendants are likely to make peace with God only in the moment before imminent execution;
•Certain "racial groups like African Americans and Hispanics are predisposed to crime," are "'prone' to commit acts of violence," and get involved in more violent and "heinous" crimes than people of other ethnicities;
•Claims of racism, innocence, arbitrariness, and international standards are simply "red herrings" used by opponents of capital punishment;
•Capital defendants who raise claims of "mental retardation" abuse the system;
•The United States Supreme Court's decision in Atkins v. Virginia prohibiting execution of persons who are "mentally retarded" was ill-advised and created a "slippery slope";
•Mexican Nationals would prefer to be on death row in the United States rather than in prison in Mexico;
•The country of Mexico does not provide and would not provide the legal protections that a Mexican National facing a death sentence in the United States would receive.
To read about the ethics complaint, read below the jump.
A Tarrant County Republican activist has a new idea for a club at Tarrant County Colleges: a student union to celebrate and promote white interests.
Richard Railey, a 56-year-old seeking an Associate of Applied Science in IT, calls himself "Mstr Rick" and is currently seeking a school charter for the White Student Union of Tarrant County Colleges. On its website, Railey deems the group "a confederacy of like minds united in pursuit of common political, cultural, educational, and social interests relative to our unique White Heritage". In the past, the Tarrant County GOP has appointed Railey as an election judge and elected him as a precinct chairman.
This is BOR's Video of the Day, or VOTD, our nightly video clip segment highlighting must-see content. If you like today's video and want more people to see it, share it on Twitter and Facebook!
On Friday, the Texas Democratic Party released footage taken by a Lubbock Democratic Party Volunteer who was harassed by four men who were caught vandalizing Democratic and "Lubbock Supports Obama 2012" signs. This has been a widely reported problem for Obama signs in Lubbock in which racial slurs, graffiti, and other forms of vandalism have been reported of in neighborhoods.
Warning: the video contains inappropriate and racially-charged language.
There has been a great deal of hatred throughout this election, and Republicans have repeatedly refused to address it. We applaud the volunteer for his bravery and the state party for recognizing these issues of hate, while working to promote equality within our communities across Texas.
Check out all of our BOR videos of the day on the VOTD tag.
As of Fall 2011, 20% of UT's student body is Hispanic. But that isn't stopping a couple of sororities from throwing a party chock full of racist stereotypes about Mexicans and Mexican-Americans.
Last night, two sororities, Zeta Tau Alpha and Delta Delta Delta, hosted their annual "Zeta-Tri Delt Fiesta Party" at Recess Bar on 6th street. They rented the bar out until 12:30p.m. for their hundreds of guests, many of whom wore ponchos and other stereotypical Mexican garb of a bygone era.
Now, I don't believe that wearing tradition Mexican attire is inherently racist. But I do know that you have to be classy about it. Laying down some ground rules for attire would have been a much better step for the sororities, instead of encouraging hundreds of drunk Texas Greeks to parade around 6th street in clothing which suggests that this is what Mexicans and Mexican-Americans wear. Anyone who's been to a modern-day fiesta knows that this isn't how people dress.
Unfortunately, having no rules led these two sororities to host a party which also accepted, and obviously encouraged, outright racism. See the picture in this post, taken from the event. What the hell does an undocumented immigrant and a border patrol officer have to do with a fiesta party, which is supposed to be a celebration of Mexican-American culture? The "illegals" are clearly what some students thought this party was a referendum on. If you're not an "illegal" - a crude, dehumanizing term suggesting that a person's entire existence is defined by the status of their papers - then you're an ancient Mexican stereotype divorced from today's society. This type of dress should absolutely have been banned by two sororities claiming to be stand-up members of the UT and Austin communities.
It's not that these two sororities are racist, nor that all their guests are. It's that there are bounds of reasons in everything - themed parties included. Your right to free speech doesn't mean others can't critique the way you use it. There are 600 undocumented UT students in the same community as these revelers and they should be able to expect respect from their Longhorn peers. In their efforts both to study on Texas's DREAM Act, while politicians debate ridiculously over a national DREAM Act, it's not right for them to have to put up with this public display of antipathy.
Northwest Austin homeowner Bud Johnson has taken down the empty chair he lynched to a tree in his yard, seemingly owing to the local and national media attention that his racially charged tableau created.
Traffic was reported backed up to the entrance of his subdivision yesterday as rubberneckers drove by for a chance to see and photograph the chair in person. Several media outlets were able to interact with Johnson -- who manages to out-do even Clint Eastwood's best Cranky Old Man routine -- reported that the man said people were "getting the wrong idea" and that he meant it as a show of support for Eastwood's speech. He said he didn't have anywhere else to put the chair so he hung it from a tree. The chair is now sitting on the Johnson's lawn with the flag still attached.
If he meant it as a show of support, why did he lynch the chair in the first place? Why not simply place the chair on the lawn as he has done now?
Let's break it down.
Johnson admits the chair was a sign of support for Eastwood's speech, in which an empty chair symbolized President Barack Obama.
Johnson hung that symbol -- the symbol of an African-American -- from a tree in a manner identical to how white Southerners once lynched thousands of African-Americans.
Johnson now claims lynching a symbol of an African-American isn't racist, but rather a show of support for Eastwood's speech.
Excuse me if I'm a teeny, tiny bit skeptical here.
Local CBS affiliate KEYE was there as Johnson cut down the chair. It's worth taking the time to watch the unedited 5-minute video of a KEYE reporter confronting Johnson.
While plenty of folks are still trying to dismiss this as unimportant, claim it's not racist, or suggest it's not even worthy of coverage, public racism needs to be confronted and called out. It's hard to interpret the lynching of a symbol of an African-American as anything other than racist, and Johnson's explanations do little to mitigate that interpretation.
This isn't the first lynched chair we've seen since the RNC. I do hope it's the last, but given the desperate and frenetic flailings of those who cannot accept an African-American president, I'd be surprised if we made it to November 6 without even more overt public displays of racism. Each of those need to be called out, too. The Republican Party has become the last respite for those who cling to antiquated opposition to equality for all Americans. While plenty of people want to stick their heads in the sand and take comfort in the myth that we've "solved" racism, the truth is much uglier -- as ugly as a neighbor pretending to lynch the President on a leafy suburban lawn.
I'm heartened, however, by the force and volume of the castigating response to Johnson's displays, accelerated by digital media and transmitted by a younger generation of Americans that are vastly more accepting, who celebrate our pluralistic and multi-cultural society, and who value the diversity that makes America great. As my former State Senator Barack Obama said himself in 2004 at the Democratic National Convention, "in no other country on Earth is my story even possible."
So let's work hard these last seven weeks to re-elect President Barack Obama and Democrats up and down the ballot, not merely to show folks who share Bud Johnson's views that they're wrong, but to demonstrate again that as Americans, we're committed to moving our country forward.
Last night we broke the story of a man in Northwest Austin who lynched an empty chair from a tree in his front lawn, seemingly intended to represent the first African-American president.
We've since received an updated photo from a neighbor that should clarify whether the homeowner meant the display to make a political statement. The image is here.
The homeowner has attached an American flag to the chair. If anyone wasn't clear before that he meant the President, hopefully this decorative addition will make it clear: the homeowner is suggesting that Barack Obama be lynched.
This image should curdle the blood of all patriotic Americans regardless of partisan leanings. Our flag is a symbol of our great country, and the ideals of diversity and opportunity that make us a beacon of hope and democracy around the world. Generations of service members have fought and died to protect what that flag represents.
Yet because one sad, old racist can't handle the fact that the President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama, is African-American, he ties that same flag to a public display calling for that President's violent, racially charged death.
Unfortunately, our Austin neighbor is not the first person to come up with the "clever" idea of lynching a chair. A man in Virginia lynched a chair with a "Nobama" sign on it over the weekend, as reported by our friends at Blue Virginia.
Meanwhile, this story is garnering national attention across the blogosphere, and will unfortunately only confirm the worst stereotypes of Texans as intolerant racists. We're not all crazy bigots, and that's why we've got to push back strongly against displays of racism both overt and subtle. Texans, do you really want this kind of imagery to represent our great state? We're the home of LBJ, signer of the Civil Rights Act, and we have a proud history of African-American and Hispanic civil rights efforts.
Demographically, this dude's time is limited. He's 73. Across Texas, the majority of our public school students are Hispanic and African-American. According to the Census Bureau, most children younger than age 1 are minorities.
The Republican Party continues to visibly brand itself as the last respite for public racism, and thankfully it won't win them many elections much longer.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina hit the nail on the head when he pointed out that "We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term." That isn't stopping the angry demographic from raging against the dying of their white majority.
Incidents like this remind us that we've still got a long way to go, and that far from "solving" racism, the election of our country's first African-American president only revealed the festering, backwards beliefs clung to by those who fear the increasingly diverse future of our nation.
As of the time of this post's publication, the chair was still hanging in effigy in Northwest Austin. Neighbors report that the homeowner had a "guard" on his lawn yesterday protecting his installation. If the homeowner wanted to draw attention to his backwards views about the President, he appears to have succeeded beyond his wildest imagination.
Today, Burnt Orange Report received the photo at right, taken in front of a home in Northwest Austin. The resident, a Republican, lynched an empty chair from a tree in his yard, which one can easily interpret to represent a racially motivated act of violence against the President.
Now, one could easily argue "it's just a chair, what's the big deal? That's not racist!"
However, in light of Clint Eastwood's speech at the Republican National Convention, in which he had a largely one-sided conversation with an empty chair he pretended was Barack Obama, this imagery is now associated with the President.
The image of the chair is associated with the President. Now, lynch that chair from a tree, and you've got a pretty awful racist sentiment calling for lynching the first African-American President!
Lynching was a horrific and commonplace act in Reconstruction-era Texas and continued until the mid-1940's, spurred on by Ku Klux Klan groups. Texas is third amongst all states -- behind Mississippi and Georgia -- in the total number of lynching victims between 1885 and 1942. Of those 468 victims, an overwhelming number were African-American.
Perhaps the most well-known and horrific lynching in Texas occurred in 1916, when Jesse Washington was accused of raping and murdering a woman near Waco. He was sentenced to death, and lynched in front of a crowd of onlookers, after which members of the mob castrated him, cut off his fingers, and hung him over a bonfire. Pieces of his body were sold as souvenirs. The gruesome event became part of the NAACP's anti-lynching movement.
Most recently, in 1998, James Byrd Jr. -- for whom the Texas Hate Crimes Prevention Act is named -- was lynched by being dragging behind a vehicle in East Texas.
We have a sad and awful history of white people lynching African-Americans in Texas, and this history is exactly what this Republican's front yard display taps into.
There are folks who will claim that this isn't "racist." Republicans, especially the Tea Party types, like to claim that liberals think every attack on the President is racist. Folks like to claim that hanging a noose up as decoration is "honoring the past of the South," blithely ignoring the context in which those same nooses were used during the pre-Civil War and Reconstruction eras -- by white men to hang African-Americans. Some folks will undoubtedly point out the burning of Bush effigies throughout his administration, especially during anti-war protests.
This is different. This is the specific and deliberate use of a racially charged act of violence -- lynching -- perpetrated by white men against African-American men and women. When you add a Republican symbol for the first African-American President into the mix, you get a pretty awful picture -- the one you see at right, and one that can be seen on a front lawn here in leafy, quiet Northwest Austin.
We're a state that has a horrific history of hate crimes, and given the new context of the "empty chair" created by the Republican Party during their own convention gives this image of a chair hanging from a tree a decidedly sinister, and yes, racist, meaning.
It's awful. Republicans should call out this imagery and the racist rhetoric that has come to pervade their party. But I'm not holding my breath.
Updated 6:28 p.m. Wednesday I called the homeowner to ask about his display, citing my concerns as a fellow Austinite. He replied, and I quote, "I don't really give a damn whether it disturbs you or not. You can take [your concerns] and go straight to hell and take Obama with you. I don't give a shit. If you don't like it, don't come down my street."
Ironically, the homeowner in question, Bud Johnson, won "Yard of the Month" in August 2010 from his Homeowners Association. I guess his display was a little different that month?