Kneelers of Conscience
Many President Trump observers believe he throws out inflammatory and divisive comments to distract in moments when the news cycle is critical of his erratic, inappropriate and contentious conduct. That appeared to be true last week when more than three million suffering Americans without power or enough food and water in hurricane devastated Puerto Rico were desperately crying for more federal help. Senate Republicans were busy introducing another callous health care repeal bill to deny millions of Americans life giving health care to widespread criticism and President Trump was spouting rhetoric which threatened to bring our nation closer to a military confrontation with North Korea’s intemperate leader. As if these crises were not enough distraction, President Trump chose to pick a loud unpresidential fight urging football players who chose to kneel during the national anthem in nonviolent protest be fired. His blatant and sad attempts to pit us against each other as Americans should shame us all.
It did not take long to recognize that the specter of President Trump in Alabama standing before a boisterous, largely White crowd condemning a predominantly Black group of citizens for a peaceful method of nonviolent protest against injustice was chillingly familiar. Rev. Bernice King, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s daughter, was one of many who immediately pointed out historical parallels. On Twitter she shared photos of civil rights leaders kneeling in protest next to a photo of N.F.L. players Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid kneeling before a game.
It was former Super Bowl quarterback Kaepernick who made the first quiet, courageous and moving decision of conscience last year to kneel during the national anthem written by a White pro-slavery supporter. He was personally and nonviolently protesting against a string of indefensible police-related killings of Black men and the pervasive racial and social injustices evident all across our nation. Reid and then others joined in the peaceful and prayerful gestures of conscience that triggered President Trump’s vulgar and utterly unpresidential outburst. Along with photos of her father, Bernice King commented:
Veteran Congressman and courageous civil rights icon John Lewis shared his photo kneeling with fellow protesters outside a segregated Illinois pool in 1961:
Former Attorney General Eric Holder was among others who shared a photo and message about Dr. King:
Marian Wright Edelman is President of the Children’s Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to www.childrensdefense.org.
Mrs. Edelman’s Child Watch Column also appears each week on The Huffington Post.
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Racist Extremism Remains a Crisis in The United States
Now, therefore, be it resolved that Congress rejects White nationalism, White supremacy, and neo-Nazism as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values that define the people of the United States urges the President and his administration to speak out against hate groups that espouse racism, extremism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and White supremacy; and use all resources available to the President and the President’s Cabinet to address the growing prevalence of those hate groups in the United States.
—Congressional Joint Resolution, signed 9/14/17
Last weekend’s escalation of NFL protests against police brutality seems to have sparked another wave of racist incidents across the United States. A fire chief in suburban Pittsburgh was fired after publicly using a racial slur against Steelers coach Mike Tomlinson. A bar in Missouri created a doormat of jerseys spelling out “Lynch Kaepernick.”
The words of the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” organizer Jason Kessler, interviewed for the most recent episode of NPR’s “This American Life,” may go a long way toward explaining why white supremacism and racial hostility are on the rise.
“We are being replaced culturally and ethnically,” Kessler said, referring to white men. “It’s a genocide by replacement … Our first immigration policy, you know, said that in order to be a citizen you had to be a white person of good character, right? So it was explicitly a white country. Like, there are traditional demographics. And when you don’t respect those, you destroy a people.”
Kessler, 33, does not consider himself a white supremacist. “White supremacy, blah, blah, blah. That’s a BS liberal term that you have been indoctrinated with. That white supremacy, white supremacy!” This is our country!”
The current Congress, the most diverse in history, is 81 percent male and 81 percent white. White men hold about 70 percent of all seats on corporate boards. More than 70 percent of Fortune 500 senior executives are white men. The black unemployment rate is consistently about twice that of whites, and studies show resumes with traditionally “white-sounding” names garner about 50 percent more job interviews over “Black-sounding” names.
In every measureable way, white men are vastly overrepresented beyond their percentage of the U.S. population in positions of power. But men like Jason Kessler look at this overrepresentation and see … white genocide.
Earlier this week, FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress the agency has about 1,000 open investigations into potential domestic terrorists, including extremist white supremacists and white nationalists. Within the past nine years, right-wing extremists in the United States plotted or carried out nearly twice as many terrorist attacks as Islamist extremists. Police managed to foil twice as many of the Islamist cases as the right-wing incidents. Yet the current administration has decided to cut federal funding for groups fighting right-wing violence to shift more resources to fighting Islamist terrorism.
Police told the New York Times, “Militias, neo-Nazis and sovereign citizens” are the biggest threat we face in regard to extremism, and the threat is so high exactly because “it is an emerging threat that we don’t have as good of a grip on, even with our intelligence unit, as we do with the Al Shabab/Al Qaeda issue.”
Earlier this month, President Trump signed a resolution, unanimously passed by the House and Senate, condemning “the violence and domestic terrorist attack that took place” in Charlottesville as well as white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and other hate groups.
The resolution urges the president and his administration to “speak out against hate groups that espouse racism, extremism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and white supremacy,” and calls on the Justice Department and other federal agencies to “use all resources available” to address the growing prevalence of those groups.
It’s unclear how the resolution will affect funding for anti-racism efforts, but we expect Congress to remain committed the principles it espouses and to hold the administration accountable for using “all resources available” to combat racial hate.
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Representatives Hoyer, Pascrell, King, Reichert, Johnson Introduce Bill Reauthorizing Fire Service Grant Programs
WASHINGTON, D.C.—On September 29, 2017, U.S. Representatives Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ), Peter King (R-NY), Dave Reichert (R-WA), co-chairs of the Congressional Fire Service Caucus, and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, announced introduction of the AFG and SAFER Program Reauthorization Act of 2017, which renews vital federal funding streams for local fire departments.
Each year more than one million fire and emergency services personnel respond to over 30 million emergency calls across the country. This bipartisan legislation would ensure that our over 30,000 fire departments continue to have access to the necessary training, equipment, and staffing to conduct emergency response missions and to continue to reduce community risk.
Specifically, this legislation would reauthorize the Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) program, the Fire Prevention and Safety (FP&S) Grants program, and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant program. Congressional authorization for these grants expires tomorrow and sunsets on January 2, 2018.
The measure is a companion to S.829, sponsored by Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Jon Tester (D-MT), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Tom Carper (D-DE), legislation the Senate passed on July 11, 2017 and now awaits action in the House. The bipartisan fire service co-chairs authored a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on August 11, 2017 asking the House to take up and pass the Senate bill.
“Our firefighters put their lives on the line for their communities each day,” said Representative Hoyer. “We must ensure that they have the resources they need to do their job safely and effectively. I’m proud to join in cosponsoring the bipartisan AFG and SAFER Program Reauthorization Act, so that the hardworking men and women who make up fire departments across the nation have access to the proper equipment and training programs to support the critically important work that they do.”
“Firefighters and first responders across our nation deserve all the support they need to keep our communities safe,” said Representative Pascrell, an author of the original bill that created these grant programs. “When I crafted the initial law establishing these grant programs, I knew that towns and cities across our nation needed assistance to offset the costs associated with hiring new staff, replacing deteriorating equipment, and meeting training requirements. These federal grants ensure the brave men and women on the front lines are provided critical resources to support and protect communities across our nation. It is a no-brainer for the House to advance this non-controversial quickly for our fire services and fire safety nationwide.”
“It is essential that our first responders have the tools they need to protect the lives and well-being of the public and themselves,” Representative King said. “This legislation will go a long way to providing the resources, equipment and training for our nation’s first responders.”
“Our firefighters and first responders are the first line of defense in our communities,” said Representative Reichert. “But they are continually asked to do more with fewer resources and safety equipment. This bipartisan bill reauthorizes vital programs which help address the funding shortages for fire departments and first responders across our country. This support is necessary for our firefighters and first responders to perform their critical mission of protecting our families, while also having the resources to protect their own safety.”
“Every day our firefighters risk their lives to keep us safe, so it is important that we make every effort to support the important work and service they provide to our communities,” Representative Johnson said. “This legislation will allow our first responders to enhance their fire prevention program and reduce the incidences of injury or death, helping them to continue the vital services they provide to our community.”
This legislation has been endorsed by the Congressional Fire Services Institute, the International Association of Fire Fighters, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, and the National Volunteer Fire Council.
Background on AFG, FP&S, and SAFER Grant program
Congress created these grant programs to help address the significant staffing, equipment, training, and health and safety needs of fire departments. The SAFER Grant program provides funding to cover the costs associated with hiring personnel to maintain safe staffing levels. The AFG program makes funds available for fire departments to purchase equipment, provide training, and meet other fire department needs. The FP&S Grant program provides assistance to fire departments to support projects that enhance the safety of the public and firefighters from fire and related hazards in order to reduce injury and prevent death among high-risk populations. The current authorization for these vital programs expires in 2017.
Details of the AFG and SAFER Program Reauthorization Act of 2017
In order to improve upon the success of these grant programs, this legislation makes the following minor changes as part of the reauthorization:
• Eliminates the sunset provision: This legislation removes the sunset provision in current authorization for these grant programs in order to keep the programs from expiring on January 2, 2018.
• Extends the authorization date: This legislation extends the current AFG and SAFER Grant programs’ authorization levels of $750 million through FY 2023.
• Individual waiver authority: The last authorization for the SAFER grant program allowed the FEMA Administrator the discretion to waive the local match requirement. Erroneously, the
bill only waived the reference to the local match requirement in one part of the statute and not
the other, creating a situation where FEMA is unable to exercise the waiver authority as Congress intended. This legislation makes the technical correction to ensure the waiver authority operates as Congress intended for jurisdictions with demonstrated local hardship. Erroneously, the statute only waives the reference to the local match requirement in one part of the statute and not the other, creating a situation where FEMA is unable to exercise the waiver authority as Congress intended. This legislation makes the technical correction to ensure the waiver authority operates as Congress intended for jurisdictions with demonstrated local hardship.
• Improved oversight: This legislation requires the FEMA Administrator and Assistant Administrator for the Grant Program Directorate to make grants administration training available online so potential grant recipients are better able to access and manage grants. Additionally, the legislation requires the development and implementation of an oversight framework to reduce potential waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement.
• Expanded use of SAFER funds: This bill expands the use for SAFER grants so that fire departments may change part-time or paid-on-call firefighters to full-time firefighters.
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