"In a spirit of openness, we explore how we are classified, stratified, ignored and singled out under the law because of our race, sex, gender, economic class, ability, sexual identity and the multitude of labels applied to us. . . . [W]e welcome all viewpoints and ideas that are expressed with respect and collegiality. . . . [W]e are a journal that promotes living discussion."

This blog is the brainchild of the Journal of Gender, Race & Justice at the University of Iowa College of Law. It is intended as a forum for people to discuss their personal views concerning topical issues. Posts reflect the opinions of the authors and not necessarily the Board or the Student Writers as a whole. We encourage well-rounded debates and discussions.


State of the Union

-Kapri Saunders, JGRJ Student Writer 2009-10

Friday, February 05, 2010

Many things came out of the President’s State of the Union Address last week. Too much for a single blog post, here are some of my favorite stories since the speech. In a sentence : The President is non-black man who loves gay people, wants Americans to be able to work, and dissed the Supreme Court – right in front of them.

We’re definitely in a post racial society… right?
“I forgot he was black for an hour” – MSNBC Host Chris Matthews re: President Obama delivering the State of the Union
We’ll leave this comment alone, but I would like to point you to this ABC News article. It discusses several non-post racial comments about President Obama from politicians and other prominent individuals. It has the original comment coupled with the cover up comment or apology, if one was available. Wow!

Ask! Tell! You’ll just have to wait over a year.
Supporters of gay rights were ecstatic to hear the president promise the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy. The policy, promulgated during the Clinton Administration, bans individuals from being openly gay in the military, but also bans inquiry into one’s sexuality. This is one blemish in recent American legislative history to which Bush can’t be linked. While it is time to rejoice, it is also a game of hurry up and wait as well.

A study about the impact of allowing homosexuals to openly serve in the military is underway, and the Department of Defense has 45 days to study the regulations used to implement the law and present solutions for a more humane enforcement of the law. However, the Secretary of Defense announced that it will take more than a year to lay the groundwork for a repeal of the policy. But in the meantime, the military will “start enforcing the policy in a ‘fairer manner’.” I am not sure what that means.

As a result of the policy, “more than 13,500 service members have been discharged.” One of those members is Lt. Dan Choi, who will be the keynote speaker at our 14th Annual Symposium Feb. 25-26th, Race, Gender, And Class At A Crossroad: A Survey of Their Intersection in Employment, Economics, and the Law. We’ll just have to wait and see if the promise is kept.

Jobs for the People in America … except the Mexicans on the West Coast
President Obama also focused on creating jobs … not everyone is too keen on the idea.

Growing up in Arizona, I am no stranger to seeing mostly Mexican, immigrant workers standing on the corner waiting for work. Every morning, you can visit certain street corners and find Mexican men waiting for someone, usually a white man in landscaping or construction, to offer them day labor. The exchange is simple: I’ll work for you, you pay me money. It’s a win-win for both parties (leaving out the comments about how there is a little bit of the hiring party taking advantage of the worker).

But yet another city in California doesn’t think so. Costa Mesa banned citizen from soliciting work on the street; since prostitution is already illegal, this is obviously targeted at the day laborers. A group of day laborers filed a suit against the city asserting that the ordinance violates their civil rights. The theory is that forbidding people from seeking employment (specifically, soliciting employment on street corners) violates their free speech rights. The ACLU and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund filed the lawsuit, the eighth in twelve years, most being settled or won by workers. Read the full story here.

So maybe it’s better to say jobs for Americans. Let’s hope this one works out too. There are far too many intelligent, educated, hard-working people without a job, some of them are in school and afraid to leave, and others are scrambling to find a way to support their children.

Dissing the Court
Of course, the President would not be happy with the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. I appreciate his honesty in mentioning the issue (see Alito’s reaction here), I just feel bad for the Court. President Obama’s ability to get the American people to contribute money to his campaign was one of the many things that Obama’s campaign did right. Allowing corporate entities to contribute to political campaigns in an unlimited manner changes the rules of the game… hundred year old rules. Many scholars have predicted that this will lead to corporations buying elections. The candidate with the bigger stock portfolio and corporate baking may be the winner (we’ll be mad at more than the banks for inappropriate spending). Though what I am really interested in (because my law school brain has been trained to think about hypotheticals that will never materialize) is: if the Court granted a corporation the same First Amendment rights as an individual, what does the world look like if the Court grants all of the individuals’ rights to a corporation? I’ll save that for another entry.