The Racialicious Links Roundup 4.18.13

On Wednesday, a minority of senators gave into fear and blocked common-sense legislation that would have made it harder for criminals and people with dangerous mental illnesses to get hold of deadly firearms — a bill that could prevent future tragedies like those in Newtown, Conn., Aurora, Colo., Blacksburg, Va., and too many communities to count.

Some of the senators who voted against the background-check amendments have met with grieving parents whose children were murdered at Sandy Hook, in Newtown. Some of the senators who voted no have also looked into my eyes as I talked about my experience being shot in the head at point-blank range in suburban Tucson two years ago, and expressed sympathy for the 18 other people shot besides me, 6 of whom died. These senators have heard from their constituents — who polls show overwhelmingly favored expanding background checks. And still these senators decided to do nothing. Shame on them.

I watch TV and read the papers like everyone else. We know what we’re going to hear: vague platitudes like “tough vote” and “complicated issue.” I was elected six times to represent southern Arizona, in the State Legislature and then in Congress. I know what a complicated issue is; I know what it feels like to take a tough vote. This was neither. These senators made their decision based on political fear and on cold calculations about the money of special interests like the National Rifle Association, which in the last election cycle spent around $25 million on contributions, lobbying and outside spending.

To spot the difference, you’ll have to go to building 18, where all but one unit is leased to renters of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent. Most of the other buildings have none.

The federal government thinks this is by design. According to a lawsuit filed by the feds on Thursday and first reported by the Morning News, complex manager Nancy Quandt systemically denied housing to “curry people,” as she called them.

Quandt, according to the lawsuit, instructed her leasing agents that they should funnel any person who had an Indian-sounding surname or accent or, basically, was brown and looked as if they might enjoy curry, into buildings 16 and 18. If those were full, they were to claim the entire complex was occupied, despite the fact that, throughout 2009 at least, there were no fewer than 20 units available.

It’s not just that Quandt didn’t want such people living in her complex. She didn’t want them living at all. She was once overheard musing to a tenant about how she hated Middle Easterners and wished she could put them on an airplane or island and “blow them up.”

Why the search, the interrogation, the dogs, the bomb squad, and the injured man’s name tweeted out, attached to the word “suspect”? After the bombs went off, people were running in every direction—so was the young man. Many, like him, were hurt badly; many of them were saved by the unflinching kindness of strangers, who carried them or stopped the bleeding with their own hands and improvised tourniquets. “Exhausted runners who kept running to the nearest hospital to give blood,” President Obama said. “They helped one another, consoled one another,” Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, said. In the midst of that, according to a CBS News report, a bystander saw the young man running, badly hurt, rushed to him, and then “tackled” him, bringing him down. People thought he looked suspicious.

What made them suspect him? He was running—so was everyone. The police reportedly thought he smelled like explosives; his wounds might have suggested why. He said something about thinking there would be a second bomb—as there was, and often is, to target responders. If that was the reason he gave for running, it was a sensible one. He asked if anyone was dead—a question people were screaming. And he was from Saudi Arabia, which is around where the logic stops. Was it just the way he looked, or did he, in the chaos, maybe call for God with a name that someone found strange?

Want to prevent more Gosnells? Make sure abortion is safe, legal and accessible. The women who visited Gosnell’s office were largely low-income and of colour. The later-than-legal abortions and infant murders that Gosnell is accused to perpetrating were performed on women with few resources and few options. No one wants to have an abortion late in their pregnancy. But thanks to efforts from anti-abortion activists, many insurance companies do not cover abortion procedures. Medicaid, which helps to provide health coverage to low-income Americans, won’t cover abortion.

Low-income women who need to terminate pregnancies are on their own to figure out how to fund the procedure. While they are saving up the hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars that an abortion can cost, the clock is ticking. By the time they have enough money, it may be too late for a legal procedure. Low-income women and women of colour are also less likely to have access to things like affordable contraception, which help prevent unintended pregnancy in the first place. Again, you can thank pro-life actions against family planning funding, Planned Parenthood and birth control access for those gaps.

Gosnell preyed on those vulnerable women. The solution is not to make more women vulnerable. It is to deal with the factors that create that vulnerability.

While most press releases will likely celebrate the included “path to citizenship” for the undocumented who arrived prior to 2012, pay fines, submit to a background check, and learn English all while not taking a dime in any benefits programs, the proposal guts a key rallying point for many organizations, family unification.

While the bill provides for an unlimited number visas per year for foreign spouses, children and parents of U.S. citizens and permanent legal residents, eighteen months after the law goes into effect, 70,000 visas reserved for siblings and married children over 30 years of age of U.S. citizens will be eliminated. Seems like family will only include your legal husband or wife and kid. The definition of family is further limited in the bill by offering no provision for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgender couples. This can only be interpreted as a nod to conservative evangelicals who have always formed a part of multiple coalitions fighting for comprehensive immigration reform.

Often heard in the sweeping rhetoric leading up to the release of the bill is the “American dream” narrative, with migrants coming for better opportunities and creating them here, not arriving armed with the tools for success like higher education and money. The new bill will favor immigrants who have already achieved a certain level of success via academia or business.

The Diversity Visa program, a lottery which offered visas for individuals coming from underrepresented countries, many of them African nations, will be gutted. The Senate doesn’t want to take a chance on the kind of immigrant who arrives. Instead 220,000 new green cards will be offered to the “exceptional” including scientists and professors. Visas for highly skilled engineers and computer programmers would double from 65,000 to 110,000, possibly rising up to 180,000. The bill exempts those with doctorates in STEM fields, from annual limits, as well as qualified physicians and multinational executives. There will also be new start-up visas for entrepreneurs, and awards merit based visas to individuals based on a point system for education and employment.

On any given day, the color of a sign could mean the difference between an inmate exercising in the prison yard or being confined to their cell. When prisoners attack guards or other inmates, California allows its corrections officers to restrict all prisoners of that same race or ethnicity to prevent further violence.

Prison officials have said such moves can be necessary in a system plagued by some of the worst race-based gang violence in the country. Just last week, at least four inmates were taken to the hospital after a fight broke out between over 60 black and Hispanic inmates in a Los Angeles jail.

The labels “provide visual cues that allow prison officials to prevent race-based victimization, reduce race-based violence, and prevent thefts and assaults,” wrote the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, in response to a lawsuit.

But legal advocates say such practices are deeply problematic. “I haven’t seen anything like it since the days of segregation, when you had colored drinking fountains,” said Rebekah Evenson, an attorney with the nonprofit Prison Law Office.