Month: July 2019

When It Comes To First Nations, Trudeau Doesn’t Get It

Consider a so-called environmentalist who supports buying pipelines with taxpayers’ money. Or reconciliation while ignoring First Nations demanding free prior and informed consent. This is the have-your-cake-and-eat-it, the-world-is-upside-down Liberal vision, where words have no meaning and they can say anything. Or at least they think they can, but increasingly, Canadians aren’t buying their fake bill of goods.

At the nomination for a clearly now ex-environmentalist since he’s running for the pro-pipeline Liberals, Steven Guilbeault and Justin Trudeau were protested for their lack of respect of Indigenous rights and their faux progressivism on the environment. Expect plenty more of it until the Liberals change their ways.

“There are Indigenous communities who want to see this move forward,” Trudeau replied to protests. “Why are you delegitimizing the Indigenous communities who support the energy industry?”

But where was this standing up for Indigenous rights when it comes to the mould crisis facing First Nations? Where was the commitment to reconciliation when the people of Grassy Narrows asked for a mercury treatment centre? Or clean drinking water in Attawapiskat?

This government will champion First Nations when it’s convenient and justifies its pro-corporate agenda, but turns its back when it’s hard.

I see it every day as I travel through our riding in Northern Manitoba. I see communities where overwhelmingly, homes are overcrowded and infected with mould. I see communities living in isolation due to the government’s refusal to invest in an all-weather road system and an ice road season that, due to climate change, is increasingly shorter.

Nearly two thirds of the children in our riding live in poverty. Across Canada, on reserve child poverty is more than 50 per cent. Despite the Liberal rhetoric, communities like the ones I represent are being left further behind. Tragically, First Nations aren’t asking for much from this prime minister — they are simply asking him to live up to his promises.

Instead of buying new fridges for billionaires, maybe invest enough money into First Nation housing. When there are at times 20 people living in one home, the current investments aren’t cutting it. The NDP will implement co-developed First Nations, Métis and Inuit housing strategies, to put an end to overcrowding and to make sure the homes are safe and healthy.

Instead of giving billions of dollars to the oil industry, invest that money in First Nation education, which is sorely underfunded. Give children the opportunity to learn their own languages. Allow them the skills they need for a better life because the current lack of investment is keeping them in enforced poverty. An NDP government will ensure that every child is provided a safe place to learn and an opportunity to succeed, whether on or off reserve.

Stand up for First Nation health needs, which are constantly being cut; medical services cuts that make it increasingly difficult to have support for travel, for translation and for adequate support for some of the most marginalized people in Indigenous communities. Examples include dialysis machines in Berens River, emergency health evacuations by LifeFlight, a birthing centre in Flin Flon. When these services that First Nations in our riding depend on were under attack, the government was silent.

The prime minister likes to say that no relationship is more important to him than the one with First Nations. It’s well past time he showed it.

Racism Is An Impeachable Offense

Donald Trump has a rich, varied history of racism, bigotry, and discrimination going back to at least 1973, when the Justice Department filed a racial bias suit against him for mistreating Black applicants and tenants all over New York. At the time, it was one of the largest lawsuits of its kind. That was 46 years ago. Since then, the list of offenses has piled up.

In a better time, his racist behavior would have prevented him from ever being elected, but here we are. He’s president and now he’s openly carrying that bigotry right into the Oval Office. Not only do I think he is violating his oath of office — I think his open, flagrant bigotry is an impeachable offense.

In the days when Trump was busy tempting the front pages of tabloids in between guest appearances on professional wrestling pay-per-view shows, his racism, misogyny, and even open accusations of sexual assault and harassment were frequently dismissed by the general public with a wink and a nod. An equal mix of wealth, white privilege, and the public’s obsession with celebrities that allowed him to ride above it all. But now he’s president of the United States, not just an NBC employee with a bad reality TV show where not a single “Apprentice” ever developed into an actual meaningful employee. And he is, in theory, subjected to the Constitution and all of the laws governing the presidency. But the thing is, somebody actually has to enforce them.

Do you know the difference between implicit bias and explicit bias? I need to explain it for what I’m about to say to really make sense. Across the country, corporations and government agencies, including police departments, are offering a wave of what’s called “implicit bias training.” The fundamental theory is that, in this country, otherwise well-meaning employees can be racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, or xenophobic in ways that they may not really even be aware of. It’s the notion that people unknowingly or unconsciously discriminate against others. Racial slurs might not be used, but the resulting bias and discrimination are real and painful. It’s about preferences and promotions, and who’s punished and who’s spared. I’m not saying I buy it; I’m telling you that’s what implicit bias is. Implicit bias training is designed to teach people how they may be advancing systemic oppression without being fully aware.

Why don’t corporations and agencies have training for explicit bias? The answer is simple: Explicit bias literally violates thousands of laws, codes, and policies across the country. When you are an open bigot on your job, the standard operating procedure is that you don’t need training, you need to be fired. That’s because bigotry is dangerous. It’s dangerous to have a racist doctor or nurse. It’s dangerous to have an openly bigoted police officer. That’s why responsible prosecutors are now ignoring cases from police officers found to have been openly bigoted on social media — because it’s impossible to trust a person’s judgment and credibility, especially about people different than them, when they publicly admit to hating those people. All over the country, people are routinely fired for explicit bias. As they should be.

If this past week has taught us anything at all, it has taught us that Trump is not implicitly biased. To tell four sitting congresswomen of color that they should “go back” to where they came from is so overtly bigoted that an almost identical phrase is listed on Trump’s own government website for the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:

Ethnic slurs and other verbal or physical conduct because of nationality are illegal if they are severe or pervasive and create an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment, interfere with work performance, or negatively affect job opportunities. Examples of potentially unlawful conduct include insults, taunting, or ethnic epithets, such as making fun of a person’s foreign accent or comments like, ‘Go back to where you came from,’ whether made by supervisors or by co-workers.

Can we pause there for a moment? The United States government literally specifies the very phrase that Trump just uttered as a prime example of unlawful workplace misconduct.

The paragraph also alludes to why explicit bias is so dangerous. After Trump first targeted the four congresswomen on social media, his followers then ran with it and gave his initial attack a life of its own: Thousands of attendees at a Trump rally in North Carolina began chanting “send her back, send her back” to Rep. Ilhan Omar. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I think it was and is one of the single most bigoted moments in modern American politics. The next day, Trump, who has told over 10,000 lies in office, told one of the dumbest of them all – saying that he tried to stop his followers from making the bigoted chant. He said that like we don’t have eyes and ears. He basked in the chant. He stopped giving his speech and allowed the chant to grow. And did so for a full 13 seconds. And when he started speaking again, he said nothing of the moment. In fact, he restarted his attack on Omar as soon as the chant died down.

Let me share a quote with you. And then I’d love for you to guess who said it.

Donald Trump is not just allowing it to happen, but actively encouraging it to happen, is an indefensible disgrace.

The President keeps insisting he’s not a racist, and I’ve repeatedly said that in the 13 years I’ve known him, I’ve personally never witnessed him being a racist.

But since running for the White House, his inflammatory language has flirted ever closer to crossing the line into overt racism, and now he’s crossed that line. Big time.

Let’s be very unambiguously clear: what happened in North Carolina last night was not just racist-fueled demagoguery but bordered on fascism.

There was the President of the United States whipping his supporters into a hyper-animated state of rage about a political opponent because of her ethnicity.

That was from the blowhard Piers Morgan: a lifelong friend and defender of Trump. Before we applaud him, I should note that soon after Morgan made this bold, respectable statement on Trump, he went into his own indefensible attack on Congresswoman Omar. But the greater point is this: Piers fucking Morgan said it “was not just racist-fueled demagoguery but bordered on fascism.”

Presidents and prime ministers across the world are calling Trump out and openly saying that the bigotry demonstrated by Trump and his followers is depraved and unacceptable. On top of that, you couldn’t name a single serious employer in this nation that would allow an employee to say and do what Trump and his followers are saying and doing.

I’d call that a problem. It basically means that the only reason Trump isn’t fired is because he’s president of the United States. He’d be fired from any other major corporation for this dangerous tomfoolery.

And only Congress has any real power to hold the president accountable. And while scores of progressive members of Congress have called for impeachment hearings to proceed, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for whatever reason, is against it.

Let’s examine what the presidential oath of office actually says. It’s one simple sentence. It says, “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

I have questions.

Can we sincerely say that a man who has done what Trump did this week is honoring that oath? Can an explicitly biased person “faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States?” Can an overtly racist person “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution?”

I emphatically say, hell no. An explicitly racist person cannot “preserve, protect, and defend” the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment or the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Both of those clauses were authored to protect groups of people who would otherwise be marginalized. They’ve been challenged and successfully defended for over 150 years because they were designed to ensure that all American citizens are treated equally. When Trump became president, he swore an oath that he, too, would play by these rules.

Can a person who is explicitly, overtly racist treat everyone equally under the law? I feel dumb even asking such a question. Now if you let them tell it, they’ll tell you “yes” a hundred times. But you can’t let a racist be the judge of whether or not their racism negatively fuels and shapes the way they think and make decisions. It’s the very reason why overtly racist people are fired from every single type of place of employment. If you are an overtly racist person, Walmart will fire you from bagging groceries. Uber will fire you from driving cars. Amazon will fire you from packing boxes. McDonalds will fire you from making burgers. Because you are a liability, and you can no longer be trusted.

The president of the United States should be held to a higher standard than an entry-level employee at any Fortune 5000 company in this country. Right now, he isn’t.

And only Congress has the power to change that.

My Parents Proudly Worked For The US Postal Service

When I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, my family planned our vacations around big picnics for post office employees. I remember the thrill of taking the train from San Francisco to one of these gatherings in Santa Cruz.

For my parents, both longtime postal employees and union officers, that was their community. Back then, it was mine, too.

Today, the U.S. Postal Service is under pressure to slash costs in ways that would be devastating for customers and employees of all races — but especially African Americans. For black families like mine, the Postal Service has long been one of the few reliable paths to the middle class.

My parents were so proud in 1957 when they had saved enough money to buy a house. They sometimes held union meetings in our living room and had me put my seventh-grade typing skills to good use addressing envelopes for the union newsletter.

The black postal workers I met back then felt good about who they were and optimistic about where the country was going. The civil rights movement was gaining strength, and the post office was one arena in which they could organize for equality.

Black families will be hardest hit

Today, the Postal Service remains a critical source of good jobs for African Americans. Black employees make up 28.6% of the postal workforce — more than double their share of the U.S. population.

In 2018, average Postal Service wages were $51,540 a year, just slightly below the average for all U.S. workers. According to the Institute for Policy Studies, wages were substantially lower in the nine other occupations in which blacks make up at least 25% of employees. For example, home health aides, 26.1% of whom are black, averaged just $25,330 per year. Barbershop employees, 30.8% of whom are black, earned $33,220.

These numbers make clear why black families stand to be the hardest hit by the Trump administration’s proposals to sell off the Postal Service to for-profit corporations. A presidential task force plan to move in that direction calls for privatizing parts of the service, reducing delivery days, closing post offices, and jacking up prices on most package and mail deliveries.

It would also get rid of the collective bargaining rights that have helped postal workers maintain decent wages. My parents’ generation fought for and won those rights in 1970.

Privatizers say such moves are necessary because the Postal Service is in a financial crisis. But Congress manufactured this crisis through a 2006 law that required pre-funding of employee retirement health benefits up to the year 2056 — a stunning 50 years in advance of when the law was passed. No other federal agency or private corporation faces this burden, and without it the Postal Service would’ve been profitable the past six years, according to a December report by the Treasury Department.

Real reforms expand service

Instead of more cuts, policymakers should do away with the onerous pre-funding mandate and explore new profit sources, such as postal banking. One government report found that expanding services such as check cashing, bill payment and electronic money orders could generate as much as $1.1 billion in annual revenue after five years — all while dramatically expanding financial services for low-income Americans.

Here again, there’s a lot at stake for black families. As Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez noted in a recent statement in support of postal banking, low-income Americans lack access to regular financial services and have to resort to predatory payday lenders and check-cashing outfits. And African Americans and Latinos make up a disproportionate share of the 64 million underbanked Americans.

Throughout our nation’s history, the Postal Service has responded to changing needs while continuing to advance the common good. In the 19th century, the Pony Express and Rural Free Delivery helped bind the nation. During the Civil War, postal money orders allowed Union soldiers to send funds home safely. From 1911 to 1967, people who had lost confidence in banks could deposit their money in a postal savings account.

To this day, I still run into people who remember my dad, Jimmy Glover, as the man who trained them to sort mail by hand and treated them with dignity on the job. To them, he was the real celebrity in our family.

We must protect the Postal Service — and support new innovation to meet 21st century needs. We owe it to my parents and the millions of others who built this vital public infrastructure.