Friday, March 18, 2016

White Out

I just finished reading an article in the Guardian where job candidates had "whited" their resume to obscure their racial identity,  I am not surprised by the findings and this is not the first time this has been done.  There are many factors in job searches and the simple moniker of one's name is often the simplist screening device.  And then one looks at other factors, such as what school one went to, gender and of course work history where gaps or lengthy resumes indicate time off for whatever reason presumed or aging.  The reality is that like hires like and that is what runs the show.

Then I found the article below with regards to black Judges. Funny, was Clarence Thomas busy or is that the fact that is he is largely mocked on the Supreme Court as the silent shadow judge to the dead Scalia? And now over 20 years later the subject of an HBO movie and his history regarding the  Anita Hill hearings just a coincidence? All coming on the heels of eight years of a black President who was largely undermined by a Republican Congress to the point that race cannot be overlooked as a factor in that obstruction. 

And all while the reality of the bias and sheer level of discrimination towards people of color and largely those of black skin has imploded across the country, which has led to an examination of the prison pipeline that grew out of the war on drugs that began under white male Presidents. Then we have had a long resentment of social programs designed to elevate the poor and again largely minority to move them into the upper classes. But when all else fails we fall to race and race baiting.  In other words what we are seeing played out in our current election cycle now directed to immigrants and those of Islamic faith. This concept of dog whistle politics and subterfuge that began with Jim Crow Laws and other legal means to subjugate and isolate those of color in a country that has never reconciled its issues with color, other than white.

 I work in the public school system, you cannot get more integrated despite a shortage of Teachers of color, there are many many people of color (other than Islamic women who are nowhere to be seen). And the last four years I inadvertently (and yes I do mean that)  still very engaged in the court system both civil and criminal. Thankfully that is winding down after now four years of fighting and challenging all what happened to me at the hands of a date who was a young man of color and of Islamic faith. And to think that anyone gave a shit about him and his role in that is laughable. Not one ounce of effort was ever made to find the young man, to question him and actually believe in his existence despite the phone number, the calls made by the hospital staff that night and the texts documenting and read by the staff that night.

Funny that Apple is under fire for not allowing the security code to be broken on the phone, the hospital staff had no problem reading and accessing my phone and Verizon would have provided all the phone records, texts and calls made with a court order. And yet none was requested, by either the City Attorney nor my own. And for the record the Judge was black and yes utterly incompetent. Do I think his incompetence was due to his race? I have no idea. He was not Barack Obama that much is certain. Any man of color who is working the municipal court sector is also an elected position.  He largely serves a clientele of those of color. In other words those most in his courtroom are and I was there for a year to see that rainbow or lack thereof.

 And yet in Seattle most of the Judges who have been quietly targeted by PACS and groups who have been labeled poor are of color. But  I also stood before a white highly educated Judge in my civil case who later in other case sentenced a woman based on color and was later overturned by our largely appellate court and that was noted in the judgement.  And when one looks at her case history she has many cases lost on appeal.  Yet she went to Columbia University,  a top tier school, so was it her gender or that she is biased.  Many reviews and comments on the few ratings regarding Judges comment as such.

As for the black judge in the City case, my Attorney,  a former classmate of Obama, who for the record was not privileged and grew up homeless but has a B.A. in Physics and Math and was awarded a scholarship at Harvard, commented that he knew that the Judge was utterly confused about the law;  declaring a Supreme Court verdict not applicable in my case.  And yet it was Clarence Thomas who said nothing when asked about the belief in going to a lesser tier school with those of your same "level."  Yes this is where we are 50 years after Brown, segregated and having the same argument that Booker T. Washington and W.E.DuBois had about integrated education. So perhaps the Judges in the study were lesser educated and not necessarily liberal

The study itself is of bias, well it is Harvard. First of all they confined their study to the Federal Courts where less trials of conflict that one sees in the cities (Chicago, Ferguson, etc) that are tried by City or County judges. And it is there there are many Judges of color and well many many more cases with people or color. So what cases are they speaking of that were largely overturned - criminal or civil?  Both are decided in federal courts.  And there may well be  simply fewer federal Judges of Color  and of course they are just as incompetent as many of the Judiciary are.   So when 20 cases hit the appeals courts, and 4 are from a Judge of color it says what exactly? That black Judges suck?

Two Judges, two colors and both of the Judges I stood before were both assholes, equally inept and arrogant. One was elected and one was originally appointed then later elected to the bench.  So what does that say? It says we have no idea who is in our Judiciary and when appointed they are often subject to more scrutiny but what does that really mean? Nothing. Just ask Clarence Thomas. And he was in the system with a name that is not any more or less "black" and we elected a President with a very "black" name and the inference that he was not American was the result of that. Would we have elected "Barry Obama:?" I doubt it as that rings more ingenious. So what do we really want when it comes to color? Ask Donald Drumpf? I see that names do matter.

 'Black judge effect': study of overturning rates questions if justice is really blind 

A Harvard analysis found that black federal district judges are significantly more likely to be overruled than their white counterparts, suggesting not just implicit bias but racism within the justice system

The paper, entitled Is Justice Really Blind? Race and Reversals in US Courts, states that ‘cases decided by African American lower court judges are up to 10 percentage points more likely to be overturned than are cases written by similar white judges’.

Last year, a Harvard University study found that black federal district judges are significantly more likely to be overruled than their white counterparts, and that such an increased likelihood cannot be explained away by factors such as qualification disparities or types of cases.

 The data-heavy study has so far remained under the radar – but with the announcement of Barack Obama nominating Merrick Garland to the supreme court, the findings are newly significant. The nomination and its process force us to contend with the plausibility of a justice system tainted with human subjectivity.

During a news conference yesterday in the White House’s Rose Garden, although Obama highlighted Garland’s “life experience” as helping him understand the impact laws can have on people, Garland was first and foremost presented as a legal scholar able to meticulously apply the law in an unbiased way. In his own accepting remarks, the judge stated: “People must be confident that a judge’s decisions are determined by the law and only the law.”

 Academic studies show us that the idea of an impartial justice system is less simple. This study goes one step further: it does not just highlight the subjectivity of judges’ decisions, it also points to the seeming existence of racism within the justice system. According to the study, which was authored by Harvard political science professor Maya Sen, “implicit bias” appears to be at least partly responsible for the difference in overturning rates. The possibility that black judges are more likely to be liberal, or perceived as more liberal, is also positively entertained as part of the disparity explanation.

In her paper, Sen blankly, if a little cynically, refers to the increased likelihood of reversal for rulings written by black judges as the “black judge effect”. The paper, entitled Is Justice Really Blind? Race and Reversals in US Courts, states that “cases decided by African American lower court judges are up to 10 percentage points more likely to be overturned than are cases written by similar white judges”. In real terms, this means that between 2000 and 2012, a black federal district judge will have statistically had around 20 extra rulings overturned than if they had been white.

The average number of cases authored by black judges and reversed over that period is 196. Advertisement The differences in overturning rates were “very stark”, Sen told the Guardian, adding that the findings match what studies have shown are the effects of implicit biases across a wealth of settings – from academia and public health to housing and the halls of Congress. But in the case of the justice system, such findings are perhaps uniquely problematic.

 “This means how your case is decided not only depends on what your case is about but also who your judge is. And how it proceeds through the legal system and how it is appealed up actually depends on these things as well,” Sen says. In other words, the race of the judge who hears your case will affect the degree of validity it is bestowed within the judicial system. In academia, “implicit bias”, or implicit racial bias as it is here, refers to subtle forms of possibly unintentional prejudice affecting judgment and social behavior. In this case, implicit bias appears to be held against black federal judges, and carried by their mostly white colleagues at the federal appellate level.

 Federal district judgeship's are prestigious positions to hold. They are political appointments that come straight from the president and must be approved by the Senate. There are 678 federal district judgeships available at any one time, with a tenth of those positions open for political and Senate-blocking reasons. There are currently 85 African American judges actively serving on the federal district court bench. Advertisement

 Appointments done under liberal presidents tend to include more minorities and women, while nominations during conservative presidencies have been overwhelmingly dominated by white men. Rulings by these “lower courts” deemed suitable for review and potential reversal are sent to appellate courts, or “higher courts”, where judges generally sit in committees of three and generally know the identity of the federal judge whose ruling they are reviewing, the study points out. There is only one level above the federal appellate court, which is the US supreme court.

‘Their work is not as valued’ Paul Butler, a law professor at Georgetown University, says the study’s findings come as no surprise: he has witnessed these kinds of biases in federal courts firsthand. In the 1980s, Butler clerked for Mary Johnson Lowe, a black federal district judge in the southern district of New York, he explains. He distinctly recalls her cases, as well as those of other black colleagues, seeming to be picked significantly more often by the appellate court for review. There was something about race and gender that almost overwhelmed these lawyers to look at my judge impartially Paul Butler Butler also recalls acts of casual racism in court, when lawyers would for instance repeatedly call his judge “Constance Baker Motley”, the one other African American female judge sitting in the same district. The two judges looked nothing alike.

 “My judge would say to the lawyer, Judge Motley and I are both African American and female, but we are both different people. “For these lawyers, these two black judges were basically interchangeable. There was something about race and gender that almost overwhelmed these lawyers to look at my judge impartially,” he says. That these kinds of inabilities to overcome racial prejudice have survived on many levels only confirms what we know more generally, based on other kinds of evidence and experiences of people of color, Butler says, that “their work is not as valued and does not receive as much credit”. “I think now we get too hung up on the implicit part of bias – it may be explicit,” he ventures.

Striving for more diversity in the judiciary As it stands, the judicial system is still overwhelmingly and disproportionately white and male. “Neither in the federal system nor in the state system do we have a judiciary that is representative of the population as a whole, according to gender, race or ethnicity,” says Kate Berry, a staff attorney with the Brennan Center for Justice. And yet achieving greater diversity in the judiciary continues to be an important battle for a number of reasons cited by advocates and academics alike, she says. Most oft-cited reasons are that a diverse bench promotes public confidence, it creates better and richer decision making, assures that different perspectives are included, establishes role models and contradicts prejudices.

 Studies have up until now concentrated on the diversity in legal opinions issued by judges that or not white or male. Recent studies, for instance, have suggested that black judges are more likely to vote in favor of affirmative action policies or to uphold civil rights. This difference in decision-making only makes the consequences of Sen’s study more important: Sen finds that black-authored overturned cases are not clustered into racially salient areas such as civil rights.

 Higher overturning rates for black judges occur across all subject areas, and rates do not at all differ between civil rights and non-civil rights cases. We are being judged based not on the quality of our work, not the content of our character, but on the color of our skin Paul Butler Sen also preemptively silences critics who may hang on to beliefs that black judges hold appointments thanks to diversity drives, not competence levels. She includes levels of qualifications in her analysis, comparing black and white judges with similar education backgrounds and American Bar Association rankings, among other factors; and she still finds, through her numbers, that the difference – this “black judge effect” – remains.

 The ramifications of this are very real: the question, beyond representation, becomes: to what extent are these voices being upheld and valued, rather than disproportionately muted or sidelined? Where it can be addressed That these types of biases have survived the test of time is disheartening but predictable, Butler says. “It shows that like in so many other areas we are being judged, based not on the quality of our work, not the content of our character, but on the color of our skin.”

 “These are African Americans who are doing everything right. These are people who have overcome a lot of adversity,” Butler says poignantly of black federal district judges. Butler ponders it is a reflection of a democracy in a post-Obama era that is still being confronted with tangible manifestations of active and institutional racism. There is a place where this can be meaningfully addressed though: at the very top, where reversals are no longer applicable.

“The experiences that the [supreme court] justices have had, both in their personal and their professional lives, has an impact on the cases that come before them. Right now we do not have a supreme court that represents the demographic diversity of this country,” Berry says.

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