Official Blogs from the Anti-Defamation League » ADL Blogs
providing inside access to our work on topics ranging from anti-Semitism and extremism to anti-Israel activity and much more
July 3, 2015 2

Yes, Justice Thomas, the Government Can Deprive People of Dignity

The word “dig­nity” appears 30 times in last week’s Supreme Court mar­riage equal­ity case, Oberge­fell v. Hodges. Describ­ing the same-sex cou­ples who aspired to marry, Jus­tice Anthony Kennedy, writ­ing for the 5–4 major­ity, stated:

Their hope is not to be con­demned to live in lone­li­ness, excluded from one of civilization’s old­est insti­tu­tions. They ask for equal dig­nity in the eyes of the law. The Con­sti­tu­tion grants them that right. supreme-court-civil-rights

 

 

 

In a bit­ter dis­sent, Jus­tice Clarence Thomas demurred, stat­ing that “the Con­sti­tu­tion con­tains no ‘dig­nity’ Clause.” He argued that the gov­ern­ment is “inca­pable of bestow­ing dig­nity,” stat­ing flatly that” human dig­nity can­not be taken away by the government.”

Aston­ish­ingly, Jus­tice Thomas then attempted to prove his dubi­ous propo­si­tion by cit­ing two extreme and rep­re­hen­si­ble gov­ern­ment actions that were actu­ally designed to deprive vic­tims of “equal dig­nity under the law” – slav­ery and the incar­cer­a­tion of Amer­i­cans of Japan­ese descent dur­ing World War II:

Slaves did not lose their dig­nity … because the gov­ern­ment allowed them to be enslaved. Those held in intern­ment camps did not lose their dig­nity because the gov­ern­ment con­fined them.

But the gov­ern­ment did not “allow” blacks to be enslaved – the laws of the time facil­i­tated and empow­ered slave own­ers and enforced slavery.

And the Japan­ese Amer­i­can Cit­i­zens League was rightly “appalled” by Jus­tice Thomas’ blind­ness to the impact of the government’s shame­ful and unwar­ranted forcible relo­ca­tion and incar­cer­a­tion of 120,000 Amer­i­cans of Japan­ese descent, the vast major­ity of whom were citizens.

In 1942, just 10 weeks after the sur­prise attack on Pearl Har­bor, Pres­i­dent Franklin D. Roo­sevelt issued his Exe­cu­tion Order 9066, pro­vid­ing the legal author­ity for this depri­va­tion of lib­erty and dig­nity. Roosevelt’s exec­u­tive action was issued against the back­drop of wide­spread, base­less fears that Amer­i­cans of Japan­ese ances­try might pose a threat to the U.S – anx­i­ety that was cer­tainly fed by a long his­tory of prej­u­dice and xeno­pho­bia direct against Japan­ese Americans.

Those incar­cer­ated in the camps were uprooted from their com­mu­ni­ties, sep­a­rated from their fam­i­lies, their homes, and their pos­ses­sions, and lost their per­sonal lib­er­ties and free­doms until the end of the war.

Trag­i­cally, the president’s exec­u­tive order was bol­stered by addi­tional con­gres­sional enact­ments. And when the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of these actions was chal­lenged in two main cases before the U.S. Supreme Court – Hirabayashi v. U.S. andKore­matsu v. United States – the Court held that these clearly dis­crim­i­na­tory actions by the gov­ern­ment were, in fact, jus­ti­fied and constitutional.

Now, 73 years later, the Anti-Defamation League uses the cruel and unwar­ranted wartime treat­ment of Amer­i­cans of Japan­ese descent as a teach­able moment for our nation on the dan­gers of stereo­typ­ing, prej­u­dice, and racial pro­fil­ing. While we can honor and admire indi­vid­u­als that can retain their per­sonal dig­nity under the most adverse con­di­tions, there should be no doubt, Jus­tice Thomas, that the gov­ern­ment can deprive peo­ple of their “equal dignity.”

For­tu­nately, a Supreme Court major­ity has now held that the Con­sti­tu­tion man­dates that same-sex cou­ples are enti­tled to equal treat­ment – and mar­riage equality.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

July 2, 2015 0

Confederate heritage group denounces extremists, but has them in ranks

The Sons of Con­fed­er­ate Vet­er­ans (SCV), a so-called Con­fed­er­ate “her­itage” group, recently denounced the deci­sion of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, a North Carolina-based Klan group, to hold a July 2015 protest in front of the South Car­olina state­house in Columbia.

Missouri CCC members receive SVC awards

Mis­souri CCC mem­bers receive SVC awards

Accord­ing to a press release issued by the SCV, the group’s mem­ber­ship “vehe­mently oppose[s] and denounce[s] this hate­ful and divi­sive event.” The SCV also trum­peted what it referred to as its “strictly enforced ‘hate’ pol­icy,” claim­ing that any­one with ties to any racist orga­ni­za­tion or hate group is denied mem­ber­ship and will be “imme­di­ately expelled.” The state­ment was attrib­uted to Charles Kelly Bar­row, the “commander-in-chief” of the SCV.

One may legit­i­mately won­der how “strictly enforced” the SCV’s “hate” pol­icy actu­ally is. After all, one of the major fig­ures in the SCV for many years has been Kirk Lyons, who has played a major role in the politi­ciza­tion of the SCV dur­ing that span. For decades, Lyons has been a friend to and rep­re­sented numer­ous white suprema­cists in court cases, once describ­ing him­self as an “active sym­pa­thizer” of their causes. Lyons has also spo­ken to or before a vari­ety of extrem­ist groups, rang­ing from the white suprema­cist web­site Storm­front to the equally white suprema­cist Coun­cil of Con­ser­v­a­tive Cit­i­zens (CCC).

The SCV has its own CCC prob­lem. The con­nec­tions between the “her­itage” group and the white suprema­cist group—the lat­ter allegedly a source of edu­ca­tion and inspi­ra­tion for Charleston church shoot­ing sus­pect Dylann Storm Roof—are exten­sive. In Jan­u­ary 2014, for exam­ple, three mem­bers of the Coun­cil of Con­ser­v­a­tive Cit­i­zens, includ­ing its founder and leader Gor­don Lee Baum (who died in March 2015), all of whom were SCV mem­bers, received “SCV War Vet­eran Medals” from one of the group’s Mis­souri chap­ters. Another CCC founder, Leonard Wil­son, who died in 2013, was an SCV mem­ber and the for­mer Alabama state com­man­der of the SCV.

In 2014, SCV mem­ber (and for­mer Ten­nessee state com­man­der) Gene Andrews spoke at the CCC’s annual national con­fer­ence. Andrews also con­tributed an arti­cle to the CCC web­site in 2010. In 2009 and 2011, Cecil Fayard, then the “National Chap­lain” of the SCV, spoke before the Car­roll County, Mis­sis­sippi, chap­ter of the CCC. In 2008, SCV mem­ber John Flip­pin, also a CCC mem­ber, spoke before the Web­ster County, Mis­sis­sippi, chap­ter. These are just a few exam­ples of SCV-CCC crossover.

Even Charles Kelly Bar­row, the cur­rent com­man­der, may have had extrem­ist ties. Accord­ing to a 2002 South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter report, Bar­row was a mem­ber of the League of the South, a neo-Confederate hate group that has recently orga­nized protests that have included neo-Nazis and issued dire warn­ings of “race war.”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

July 1, 2015 2

Mainstream Figures Demonize Hispanic Immigrants with Bigoted Rhetoric

Donald Trump

Don­ald Trump

There has been a back­lash against Don­ald Trump’s big­oted com­ments about Mex­i­cans in his kick­off cam­paign for the pres­i­dency.* How­ever, Trump is just one fig­ure who has been demo­niz­ing Mex­i­can immi­grants in the last few weeks. Polit­i­cal pun­dit Ann Coul­ter has a new book on The New York Times best­seller list that attacks the Latino com­mu­nity, par­tic­u­larly Mex­i­cans. Pat Buchanan, another polit­i­cal pun­dit has also weighed in on the issue.

When Trump announced his run for pres­i­dent on June 16, he referred to Mex­i­cans as rapists and crim­i­nals and accused them of bring­ing drugs into the U.S. Almost two weeks later, when try­ing to clar­ify his com­ments on CNN, he actu­ally extended his vit­riol toward other immi­grants. He said that peo­ple com­ing over the bor­der were “really bad. “ He added, “You have peo­ple com­ing in, and I’m not just say­ing Mex­i­cans, I’m talk­ing about peo­ple that are from all over that are killers and rapists and they’re com­ing into this country.”

Net­work tele­vi­sion sta­tions NBC and Uni­vi­sion sev­ered their ties with Trump due to his com­ments. How­ever, he is just one main­stream fig­ure who has attacked immi­grants in recent weeks. Coul­ter, a syn­di­cated colum­nist, gave her book the provoca­tive title, Adios, Amer­ica! The Left’s Plan to Turn Our Coun­try into a Third World Hell­hole. In the book, Coul­ter makes sim­i­lar com­ments to Trump.

Coul­ter attacks His­panic cul­ture and then says, “How can any immi­grant assim­i­late if Amer­i­cans refuse to men­tion their lit­tle cul­tural annoy­ances such as lit­ter­ing, drunk dri­ving, and child rape.” In an inter­view on the Fusion show, “Amer­ica with Jorge Ramos,” the host ques­tioned Coulter’s asser­tion that Amer­i­cans should fear Mex­i­cans more than the ter­ror­ist group ISIS.

In response, Coul­ter said, “I have a lit­tle tip. If you don’t want to be killed by ISIS, don’t go to Syria. If you don’t want to be killed by a Mex­i­can, there’s noth­ing I can tell you.”

Another polit­i­cal pun­dit and syn­di­cated colum­nist, Pat Buchanan, has also added his own view on the issue of immi­gra­tion. Buchanan wrote a recent col­umn titled “Is Third World Amer­ica Inevitable?” In it, he praises Coulter’s book and says that “if the next pres­i­dent embraces amnesty and a path to cit­i­zen­ship for ille­gal immi­grants, that will mean the end to Amer­ica as the West­ern nation we have been, and the begin­ning of America’s life as what Ann calls, unapolo­get­i­cally, a ‘Third World hellhole.’”

Taken together, these com­ments demon­strate that anti-immigrant rhetoric is not just an issue for white suprema­cists and other extrem­ists but is very much a part of the main­stream. While you have a Con­sti­tu­tional right to be a bigot in this coun­try, there are usu­ally social and eco­nomic con­se­quences.  Trump has paid a price for his bigotry.

* As a 501(c )(3) non-profit orga­ni­za­tion, the Anti-Defamation League does not sup­port or oppose can­di­dates for polit­i­cal office.

Tags: , , , , , , ,