After reading the ColorLines article entitled "Ralph Nader’s Racial Blindspot" written by Vanessa Daniel, I want to respond and describe my record on advocating for the rights of people of color. Issues concerning racism have been central to the work I have done in the past, and continue to the present day.
I have been very critical of the criminal justice system, which is highly discriminatory against people of color. Ever since I was a law student, I have opposed the death penalty–unlike Gore and Bush, who both support state sanctioned murder. It has been shown on numerous occasions that people of color disproportionately receive the death sentence.
The lack of competent legal services for the poor results in an unequal justice system. Those who cannot afford competent legal counsel are more likely to receive harsher sentencing. In addition, racism inherent in the criminal justice system results in harsher sentencing of people of color. Racial biases of some judges play a role in sentencing.
Other criminal justice matters that require attention as human rights and civil rights violations include racial profiling, illegal police violence, the prison industrial complex, and the war on drugs. Racial profiling, a blatantly discriminatory practice, is not a legitimate law-enforcement technique. It denies individuals of equal treatment. Where is "equal protection under the law" when people of color are suspected of wrongdoing before they have even done anything? I endorse the end of pretextual traffic stops and passage of the Traffic Stops Statistics Act.
Community policing reduces police violence because police work and live in the neighborhood. When police are not trained properly and are not subject to penalties like everyone else, the system breaks down and the critical public respect for the police force dissipates.
The prison industrial complex is a modern-day form of serfdom. The extensive locking up of individuals, disproportionately people of color, is an injustice, to say the least. There should be no corporate prisons. Incarceration is a public responsibility, not a private enterprise.
The failed War on Drugs has been responsible for the imprisonment of many of our nation’s citizens. Instead of criminalizing drug use by jailing drug addicts, we need to spend more time, energy, and money on treatment and prevention. We don’t send alcoholics or nicotine addicts to jail. Incarceration of people who need treatment and economic opportunity is senseless. The Drug War has been a war especially against the poor and people of color.
I actively supported the boycott against Coca-Cola, which aggressively markets to Black consumers, yet discriminates against Blacks as employees. Black employees at Coca-Cola are paid less than White employees, and are underrepresented in top pay-grade levels.
I strongly support affirmative action measures in employment, which seek equal pay and equal partnership, to remedy the effects of discrimination. After more than 300 years of affirmative action to benefit White males, we definitely need affirmative action for people of color and women to offset historic wrongs as well as present-day inequalities.
Another one of my battles has been to expose the biases of tests administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). Culturally biased tests are denying poor youngsters of color and other poor youth access to educational opportunities. Low-income families, often desperate, exploited and situated in brutish surroundings, cannot often offer a learning climate at home, or receive the same at dilapidated schools, that leads to higher test scores.
African American teachers who do pass teacher tests score lower than whites on average, but beginning African American teachers earn higher performance ratings than their white counterparts, according to "The Effects of Competency Testing on the Supply of Minority Teachers," by Dr. G. Pritchy Smith, Professor at the University of North Florida. I advocate the elimination of such multiple choice standardized tests, which are a great barrier to opportunity for low-income people of color.
I sponsored "Civics for Democracy," an educational guide, which extensively addresses slavery, Jim Crow laws, school desegregation, civil rights marches and boycotts events not dealt with adequately in public school texts.
In 1993, our associates exposed home mortgage lenders who had been involved in the illegal practice of racial "redlining." I was involved in uncovering 49 home mortgage lenders across 16 cities that made little or no loans in neighborhoods of color. After pinpointing these practices, we called for federal investigation, prosecution, and new regulations to address this racist practice, which discourages people of color from pursuing home ownership.
When considering the grave injustices that have occurred in the past and continue to occur in the present-day, it is necessary that we implement a system of institutional "Marshall Plans" to correct what has been taken away and is still being taken away from African-Americans and their children in terms of economic and educational opportunity, self confidence, and overall quality of life.
Randall Robinson writes in his book, The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks, "When a government kills its own people or facilitates their involuntary servitude and generalized victimization based on group membership, then that government or its successor has a moral obligation to materially compensate that group in a way that would make it whole, while recognizing that material compensation alone can never adequately compensate the victims of great human rights crimes." This is not about cash for individuals. It is about a wealthy white dominated society recognizing that major institutional responses and democratic empowerment for those institutionally abused as a group is an act of honor, justice and enlightened self-interest.
I hope this makes clear my past and present dedication and work for the rights and remedies for people of color, and other poor Americans.