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Nation Topics - Racism and Discrimination

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Nation Topics - Racism and Discrimination

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Abby Aguirre's October 10, 2002, web-only piece on e-mail harassment of Palestinian activists inspired many letters to the edito

During one pleasant dinner aboard the Nation cruise, one of my
tablemates told an amusing story about Einstein giving a lecture in
which he stated that he expected the solar system to im

Even after twenty-five years, the bitter taste of Argentina's "dirty war" lingers.

There's a joke circulating on the Internet: A grandmother overhears her
5-year-old granddaughter playing "wedding." The wedding vows go like
this: "You have the right to remain silent.

With the 1996 welfare law expiring this fall, Congressmembers would do
well to stop congratulating themselves on its alleged successes and turn
their attention to the glaring failures of the ne

Any fan who over the years has attended a baseball game at Boston's
Fenway Park notices how few African-Americans are in the stands.

This book makes a good case for racism--the word, not the ideology. What
necessitated a defense?

Admiral James Loy, the nation's top aviation security official, confirmed at an August 22 press conference what thousands of immigrant airport screeners have dreaded for nearly a year. Loy promised that the Transportation Security Administration would without question meet the Congressionally mandated deadline to replace America's 30,000-member screener force with government-trained federal employees.

For Loy to accomplish this task, the TSA must remove an estimated 8,000 immigrant screeners from security checkpoints by November 19 because they fail to meet the new citizenship requirement. "The law of the land is the law of the land," Loy replied, when asked how the TSA justifies the impending shakeout at a time when the agency is scrambling to train and place an additional 16,000 employees at airports nationwide over the next eleven weeks.

Indeed, Loy is merely obeying the demands of Congress. Signed into law following a post-September 11 flurry, the Aviation and Transportation Security Act created the TSA and charged the agency with placing airport security under federal jurisdiction. Section 111 of the ATSA requires US citizenship for all screeners, which sets the absurd precedent that immigrants can join the military (no citizenship required) but not scan sneakers at airline security posts.

Both the TSA and members of Congress offer careful replies when it comes to explaining the reasons for the citizenship requirement. An aide for Senator John McCain, one of the ATSA's main proponents, did not want to comment on the provision's rationale. The Justice Department, however, came close to touching on the truth in a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of nine screeners trying to keep their jobs. "It bears repeating that the ATSA was passed in the aftermath of an attack on the US by non-citizens, who penetrated the US aviation system," the motion stated.

The case, Gebin v. Mineta, names Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta and his former No. 2, John Magaw (who was replaced by Loy), as the defendants. Federal Judge Robert Takasugi promised a decision on the case in early June but still has not issued a ruling.

All nine plaintiffs are noncitizens, lawfully living in the country as permanent residents. The lead plaintiff, Jeimy Gebin, believes that her three years in the US Army should be enough to allow her to stay employed at Los Angeles International Airport. Erlinda Valencia, a leader of the San Francisco airport's screening force, is another plaintiff. Two years ago Valencia's security firm honored her when she detected a toy hand grenade and two weeks later, a loaded handgun. But federal attorneys argue that the government can do as it pleases with its "alien guests," and that Congress acted rationally when, in the interest of airport security, it required screeners to formalize
their "loyalty" and "commitment" through citizenship.

The situation between the government and immigrant screeners begs the comparison of Japanese-Americans who were fired from their jobs after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and were then herded into internment camps. Ironically, Secretary Mineta and Judge Takasugi were among those interned.

In addition to being unfair to immigrants, dismantling experienced screening units at the nation's 429 commercial airports could itself be a major security risk. By the November deadline, 80 percent of San Francisco International Airport's 915 screeners will be forced out of their jobs because they are not citizens. Washington-Dulles will also lose 80 percent of its existing force;
Los Angeles International Airport will lose 40 percent; and Miami
International Airport will lose 70 percent. Even worse, their replacements
are being whisked through the training process: one new screener working at the Norfolk, Virginia, International Airport told Alan Gathright of the San Francisco Chronicle that he received only fifteen minutes of explosive detection training. There is also the matter of how the remaining 40,500 screeners waiting to be hired will complete the federally mandated 100 hours of classroom and onsite instruction before they begin work in late November.

While it is true that most federal employees and civil servants must be US citizens, screeners arrived on the job without this requirement; and the ATSA does not "grandfather" exemplary workers into the applicant pool for a federal screening position. "I am a legal immigrant. Now they are trying to make me a second-grade citizen," said Ashok Malakar, a San Francisco screener who is only a year from naturalization. "That is discrimination."

An antigay ballot initiative spurs some surprising political
coalitions.

Historians have made much of the ways that the social protest movements of the 1960s unsettled the morals of the dominant culture, but it is often forgotten that activists themselves were sometimes jarred by the new sensibilities as well.

Blogs

Policy experts and activists explain what’s keeping people in the streets and what the movement should consider next.

December 16, 2014

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman wants his office to be able to prosecute cases in which police officers kill unarmed citizens.

December 16, 2014

Rev. Al Sharpton should not co-opt the grassroots protests that have broken out in reaction to the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

December 15, 2014

Lesson 1: It's never about race.

December 8, 2014

How to bury two dead black men in the “reverse racism” narrative.

December 5, 2014

If civil rights movement history is any guide, the protests against police brutality are just getting started.

December 4, 2014

Sensitivity training will not be enough. “Diversity” will not be enough. The only way to end police violence is to admit to ourselves that cops are an inherently oppressive force.

December 3, 2014

On Black Friday, protesters across movements came together with a common demand: spend not one dime.

December 1, 2014

Black youth are perceived as adults, and their behaviors criminalized at every turn. Can this moment help change that?

November 25, 2014

Unrest kept Michael Brown’s memory alive, and unrest is the key to justice.

November 24, 2014