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Tell your state officials: Stand against ‘Shoot First’ laws

12:35 pm in Uncategorized by Rashad Robinson

This week, ColorOfChange launched a campaign calling on state officials to repeal Shoot First Laws – the dangerous law that’s being used to shield George Zimmerman, the man who shot Trayvon Martin.

Please join us in calling on elected officials in your state to stand against these laws. Here’s the email we sent to our members.

Dear ColorofChange Member,

Florida’s ‘Shoot First’ law allowed Trayvon Martin’s killer to walk free without formal charges — for more than a month. Shoot First laws legalize vigilante homicide, even in circumstances that would otherwise merit murder charges.1 In Trayvon’s case, local law enforcement hid behind the Shoot First law as justification for failing to arrest George Zimmerman, saying that his claim of self-defense stopped them from pursuing even manslaughter charges.2

Florida’s dangerous Shoot First law was spread to many other states across the country by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Please join us in calling on our elected officials nationwide to take a stand against the shoot first agenda. It only takes a moment:

http://act.colorofchange.org/sign/Trayvon_ALEC Read the rest of this entry →

At urging of ColorOfChange, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo sever ties with ALEC

5:54 pm in Uncategorized by Rashad Robinson

Today, NPR broke the news that PepsiCo has also dropped its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The shadowy group has pushed discriminatory voter ID laws in statehouses across the country. ALEC is also behind Kill at Will bills like the Florida legislation being used to defend George Zimmerman, the man who killed Trayvon Martin. From the NPR piece:

Coca-Cola’s announcement came hours after a civil rights group, ColorOfChange.org, launched an online drive calling on Coca-Cola to stop underwriting the ALEC agenda on voter ID laws in several states… Read the rest of this entry →

Millions Disenfranchised

4:31 pm in Uncategorized by Rashad Robinson

National Voting Rights Museum and Institute (Photo: iamthebestartist, flickr)

National Voting Rights Museum and Institute (Photo: iamthebestartist, flickr)

Today, ColorOfChange.org launched a campaign calling for corporations to stop funding the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC has drafted and distributed model legislation that appears to be the inspiration for restrictive and discriminatory voter ID bills advanced in numerous state legislatures this year, bills that would require voters to produce specified types of photo identification at the polls.

Voter ID laws unreasonably increase barriers to voting access, with a disproportionate impact on black people and other people of color, young people, the elderly and the poor. The new laws will disenfranchise as many as 5 million Americans.

Below is the email that we sent to our more than 800,000 members today.

Dear ColorOfChange.org Member,

For years, the right wing has been trying to stop Black people, other people of color, young people, and the elderly from voting for partisan gain — and now some of America’s biggest companies are helping them do it.

These companies have helped pass discriminatory voter ID legislation by funding a right wing policy group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Voter ID bills linked to ALEC have already passed in seven states,1 and similar voter ID bills have been introduced in 27 other states.2

Supporters of discriminatory voter ID laws claim they want to reduce voter fraud (individuals voting illegally, or voting twice). But such fraud almost never actually occurs, and never in amounts large enough to affect the result of elections.3 What is clear is that voter ID laws prevent large numbers of eligible voters from casting a ballot, and could disenfranchise up to 5 million people.4 Read the rest of this entry →

Voter ID Laws: The New Poll Tax

10:52 am in Uncategorized by Rashad Robinson

For anyone who thought legal disenfranchisement was a thing of the past, think again. The 2012 campaign season — which will pick up speed in the wake of the elections held around the country today — may well bring the harshest attack on voting rights in decades. As evidenced by a new video released today by the Advancement Project and Brave New Films, a blitz of new voter identification restrictions has flooded state legislatures, threatening to disenfranchise millions of voters who don’t have the money, transportation or paperwork to secure necessary IDs.

A report from the Brennan Center for Justice finds that the majority of these voters are from groups traditionally viewed as part of the Democratic base. But whatever their party affiliation, the new legislation stands to limit the participation of millions of African-American, Latino, young and elderly voters.

The numbers don’t lie. According to a report from our partners at the Advancement Project, the new laws could disenfranchise 21 million Americans and cost taxpayers $20 million in free IDs. This at a time when state budgets are already strapped. Last month, one news report explained how those targeted by this new wave of restrictions are the same populations that are particularly vulnerable to political, social and economic neglect. For example, a quarter of Black citizens nationwide do not hold the proper state-issued photo ID required under the new state laws. What used to be achieved through poll taxes and literacy tests is now the work of conservative state legislators and governors. In South Carolina, 61-year-old Willie Blair, an African-American farmer, was recently featured on NPR describing the bureaucratic nightmare to which he’s been exposed because of the new restrictions. Read the rest of this entry →

Troy Davis is dead; the movement continues

12:38 am in Uncategorized by Rashad Robinson


At 11:08 pm Wednesday, the state of Georgia killed Troy Davis. Just before he was executed, Troy maintained his innocence, urged people to dig deeper into the case to find the truth, and said “For those about to take my life, may God have mercy on your souls, may God bless your souls.” It’s a tragic day for Troy, for his family, and for equality, fairness, and justice.

It’s hard to know what to say at a time like this. In this moment, and in the days and weeks before Troy’s execution, we’ve felt all kinds of things — anger, sadness, inspiration, hope and hopelessness. This is a time to mourn and remember Troy, to contemplate the profound loss we’re facing, to send love and support to Troy’s family and friends. It’s incredibly important to take the time to spiritually and emotionally care for Troy’s family and the amazing community that has arisen to support Troy — and it feels hard to muster the energy to do much more than that.

But before he died, Troy told us that this was about more than him — and he called on those of us who have fought against his execution to continue fighting for justice, even if we weren’t successful in saving his life. Now is also an important moment to take stock of what’s brought us to this point — the criminal justice system that allowed this to happen, and the movement we’ve built to fight for Troy and others facing injustice and oppression at the hands of that system.

Race, the criminal justice system, and the death penalty

At every stage of the criminal justice system, Black people and other minorities face inequality and discrimination. We all know about people who’ve been treated unfairly by police or by the courts. When the entire system treats Black people unequally, it means that the death penalty is applied unequally too. Troy Davis’ case underscores the way in which this systemic inequality can lead to a tragic miscarriage of justice.

In most cases, people who’ve been treated unfairly or wrongly convicted have some chance to correct the injustice. People who have been mistreated by the police can sue them. People who are wrongly serving time can be granted new trials, can be released from prison, and are sometimes entitled to compensation. As we all know, the safeguards that can correct abuse by the criminal justice system often fail, and rampant inequality persists. Usually, people can at least keep trying.

But there’s no way to correct a death sentence. If Troy Davis were serving a sentence of life in prison without parole, he could continue to press the legal system to grant him a fair trial — but because the death penalty exists, he will not have that opportunity.

Troy Davis’ case has sparked a national conversation about the death penalty. In the past, much of the debate around the death penalty has focused on the morality of killing people as a legal punishment — a very important question that brings out a lot of strong opinions. But even if we completely leave aside the question whether or not it can ever be right for the government to punish a murderer by killing them, there’s an entirely different debate to be had — whether or not we can have the death penalty and actually avoid the possibility of killing innocent people. In a criminal justice system that routinely misidentifies Black suspects and disproportionately punishes Black people, Black folks are more likely to be wrongfully executed.

There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that the death penalty has been used to kill innocent people many times. Since 1973, more than 130 people have been released from death row because of evidence that they were wrongly convicted. Troy Davis is one of many people who were executed despite serious questions about their guilt, and he’s called on his supporters to continue working to end the death penalty.

A group of NAACP organizers went to visit Troy in prison yesterday, and NAACP’s Robert Rooks said this about the visit:

For someone that was facing death the very next day, he was just full of life and wanted to spend time talking to the younger staff, the interns, giving them direction and hope and asking them to hold onto God. And he challenged them. He challenged them by saying, “You have a choice. You can either fold up your bags after tomorrow and go home, or you can stand and continue this fight.” He said it doesn’t—it didn’t begin with Troy Davis, and this won’t end if he is executed today. He just asked us all just to continue to fight to end the death penalty, if in fact he’s executed.

A powerful movement

For years, ColorOfChange members have been an important part of a growing movement to stop Troy Davis’ execution. Hundreds of phone calls from ColorOfChange members to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole helped delay Davis’ execution twice. Over the past year, there’s been a huge outpouring of support for Davis from ColorOfChange members — more than 100,000 of us have signed petitions, and we raised more than $30,000 to run radio ads in Georgia calling for justice for Troy.

And we’ve been part of an even bigger movement — NAACP, Amnesty International, National Action Network, Change.org, and others have all been a major part of the fight for Troy Davis, and there are now over close to a million petition signatures overall. Prominent people from all across the political spectrum have spoken out: members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Desmond Tutu, former President Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI, former FBI Director William Sessions, former Georgia Republican congressman Bob Barr, and former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Norman Fletcher.

This movement couldn’t stop Davis’ execution — but it’s a movement that won’t die with Troy Davis. There’s no better way to honor Troy’s memory than to keep fighting for justice.

ColorOfChange.org in Chicago: Justice for the Cook County Ten

5:17 pm in Uncategorized by Rashad Robinson

This week, I joined Chicago-area ColorOfChange.org members to deliver more than 66,000 petition signatures to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office. The petition demands that State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez immediately acknowledge the innocence of 10 falsely accused Black men (known as the Cook County 10) and agree to vacate the convictions of nine who were convicted for crimes they didn’t commit.

Terrill Swift, one of the men who was coerced into falsely confessing to a crime, and his family joined us for the delivery. Please check out video from the day’s events:

Swift was paroled last year after spending 15 years in an Illinois prison for rape and murder. DNA testing performed during the original investigation indicated his innocence. Earlier this month, he told Chicago Tribune reporter Steve Mills, “If I was guilty, I would have done my time and tried to proceed with my life. But I can’t continue to walk around like a convicted felon when I didn’t do nothing. So I’m fighting it.” Read the rest of this entry →

Tell Monster.com to Ban Discrimination Against Unemployed Workers

3:56 pm in Uncategorized by Rashad Robinson

There’s a growing problem with companies that refuse to hire people who don’t already have a job. With unemployment at 9%, this kind of discrimination affects a huge number of people. And it hits Black communities particularly hard, as more than 15% of African Americans are unemployed.

Our friends at USAction launched a campaign asking job listing websites like Monster.com to ban ads that discriminate against the unemployed. But not only did Monster.com refuse to ban these ads — they actually threatened legal action against USAction for raising the issue. Other job listing websites have been completely silent. It’s outrageous.

Today ColorOfChange members are joining USAction, Change.org, and CREDO Action in calling on Monster.com and other job listing websites to stop publishing ads which discriminate against the unemployed. Please join us.

From the email we sent to our members this morning:

At a time when more than 9% of Americans are out of work, during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, no one should have to have a job in order to get a job. This type of discrimination hurts everyone who’s looking for work. But Black people are nearly twice as likely to be unemployed as White folks. And Latinos are also unemployed at a higher rate than Whites.4 Whether it’s intended or not, discrimination against the unemployed is discrimination against Black and Latino Americans.

Democrats in the House and Senate are crafting legislation that would make this kind of discrimination illegal. We’ll keep an eye on that legislation and let you know how you can help get it passed.

But right now, without any law to prevent discrimination against the unemployed, job listing websites could do more than anyone else to stop this practice. These companies are supposed to be in the business of helping people find jobs. But by continuing to publish help wanted ads that say “you must be currently employed to apply,” they’re enabling a practice which makes it even harder to recover for the people who are struggling the hardest in this economy.

Read the rest of this entry →

Tell Fox: Fire Eric Bolling

7:44 pm in Uncategorized by Rashad Robinson

ColorOfChange.org today launched a campaign calling on Roger Ailes, Chair of Fox Business, to fire host Eric Bolling. Late last week, Bolling said that President Obama has a habit of having “hoods in the hizzy,” a reference to the president of Gabon and rapper Common, two recent White House guests. Clearly, the statement plays off of racist stereotypes. Bolling is the same Fox personality who said recently that President Obama was too busy “chugging forties” in Ireland to respond to the tornadoes in Missouri.

We’re calling on Ailes to either fire Bolling or admit that Fox accepts his brand of stereotyping and race-baiting. Please sign the petition and join us. Here’s the email we sent to ColorOfChange members today:

Dear ColorOfChange.org member,

“It’s not first time he’s had a hoodlum in the hizzouse.”

That’s what Fox Business host Eric Bolling said on Friday about President Obama’s meeting at the White House with the President of Gabon, Ali Bongo, while photoshopping a gold tooth onto the man’s image. Then a photo of popular hip-hop artist Common, who participated in a White House poetry event last month (and was later smeared by Fox), appeared on-screen .1

It’s just the latest from Bolling, who last month accused President Obama of “chugging a few forties” in Ireland.2 Bolling’s attacks are part of a long history of racially-coded language and stereotypes that Fox uses to create a negative perception of the president.

Please join us in demanding that Roger Alies Chariman of Fox News and Fox Business fire Bolling. If enough of us speak out, it will ensure that Fox’s leaders face some public accountability for its consistent race-baiting. It only takes a moment:

http://act.colorofchange.org/sign/bolling
Read the rest of this entry →

MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan: Breitbart won’t be on again without disclaimer he’s a race-baiter and liar

4:31 pm in Uncategorized by Rashad Robinson

I had a great conversation with Dylan Ratigan last week to discuss Andrew Breitbart’s recent appearance on his show, and why he would host someone who has a clear history of race-baiting and deceit.

As you may know, ColorOfChange members led the charge to ensure that Breitbart’s credibility and image weren’t sanitized by ABC News or the Huffington Post. After we saw Breitbart on Ratigan’s show, with Ratigan seemingly praising Breitbart as “smart” and a “sharp shooter who gets results,” we were deeply concerned.

When I spoke with Ratigan, he explained what he was trying to do. He quickly agreed that Breitbart was a race-baiter, dishonest, and undeserving of credibility — without question. And he frankly hadn’t thought about the legitimizing effect that having Breitbart on his show — without clearly labeling him as the race-baiter and deceiver he is — would have.

Ratigan’s core issue is exposing the corruptive nature of corporate dollars in politics (which I, and many ColorOfChange members would agree is a critical and important endeavor). Ratigan’s goal in interviewing Breitbart was to ask him why he chose targets like Sherrod or the NAACP, while Breitbart and the Tea Party activists he defends seems to agree that banks and corporations with undue influence over government are actually the ones destroying our country. It’s an important criticism of Breitbart. Ratigan’s goal was to keep the conversation there, and he believed that if he focused on Breitbart’s penchant for race-baiting and deception, it would simply trigger Breitbart, and he’d end up in the same conversation others have where Breitbart goes on a rampage and the cconversation goes nowhere.

Moving forward, Ratigan said that if he deals with Breitbart at all in the future, it will be with the explicit disclaimer that Breibart is someone who deceives and race-baits. Ratigan recognizes and respects the argument that there’s a problem with giving Breitbart a mainstream platform, and he’s committed to making sure that his show is not used to lend Breitbart the appearance of legitimacy and credibility.

When I reached out to leadership at MSNBC, they were also receptive to our concerns — here’s what Jeremy Gaines, a spokesperson for MSNBC submitted to me when going on the record:

James, I understand and appreciate your concerns. Our goal is to ensure that our network has a high standard of integrity and that guests whose integrity or credibility may be in question are presented as such. You might notice that the next time Breitbart appeared on our network, the following day, Martin Bashir held Breitbart’s feet to the fire and engaged in a line of questioning that brought to light the specific issues of Breitbart’s integrity and credibility which I understand to be your concern.

Gaines was careful in his formal statement but the sentiment from the conversation was clear and it’s reflected in his words. Gaines agreed that MSNBC has a responsibility around presenting guests of questionable integrity as such. He then holds up Bashir as a presumed way to correct what happened on Ratigan’s show, saying it helped “[bring] to light the specific issues of Breitbart’s integrity and credibility which I understand to be your concern.” While Bashir’s line of questioning was helpful, Breitbart shouldn’t have even been on his show in our view. But it’s clear what MSNBC was trying to do. Given my conversations, the writing is on the wall. I think it’s quite likely you won’t see Breitbart on any show of MSNBC’s again, without some pretty clear disclaimers that the guy is a liar and a race-baiter.

At ColorOfChange, we had been contemplating a campaign to demand that MSNBC stop treating Breibart as a credible commentator. Breitbart’s appearance on Ratigan’s show seemed to be another case of a mainstream news organization lending Breitbart legitimacy — and thousands of ColorOfChange members have taken action in the past to stop this from happening at ABC and Huffington Post. But in this case, when we reached out to Ratigan and MSNBC, they responded quickly and indicated they would not treat Breitbart as legitimate in the future.

We’ll be keeping our eyes open to see how MSNBC deals with Breitbart moving forward. But while I still believe it was a mistake for MSNBC to host Breitbart in the first place, Ratigan and his producers deserve credit for being receptive to our concerns, agreeing with our assessment of Breitbart, and committing to treat him as the liar and race-baiter that he is.

Victory! ColorOfChange Campaign Helps Drive Beck Off Of Fox News

2:46 pm in Uncategorized by Rashad Robinson

Fox News has announced that Glenn Beck’s TV show will end later this year. This is great news, and it wouldn’t have happened without the efforts of ColorOfChange.org members. Since our campaign began in 2009, more than 285,000 of us demanded that Beck’s advertisers stop supporting his show, and they listened — roughly 300 companies abandoned his show. And we’ve made sure that major advertisers have stayed away from Beck — since the end of 2009, Beck’s only advertisers have been companies selling things like gold coins and exercise machines.

Beck’s lack of advertisers made him a financial liability for Fox, and it’s clear that this was a driving factor in his departure from Fox. This is an incredible and unprecedented victory.

Before this announcement from Fox, we already considered this campaign a huge success. Back in August 2009, when we had pushed about a dozen advertisers off of Beck’s show, the New York Times called our campaign “unusually successful.” After all major advertisers left Beck’s show in response to our campaign, it became extremely clear that the way Beck stokes fear and division is not acceptable in the mainstream. The media coverage of our campaign helped expose Beck for what he is — someone who twists the truth, stokes racial fear and tension for political and personal gain.

We always knew that we could reduce Beck’s influence and push him to the margins of political discourse — where he belongs.

Everyone who took part in this effort should feel proud. It’s because of us — everyday people taking a stand and demanding accountability — that Glenn Beck’s race-baiting and fear-mongering will no longer have a platform on a major TV network. We also want to thank our partners at MoveOn, CREDO Action, Media Matters, and StopBeck for all their hard work and support in this campaign. This victory is theirs too.

Our statement about Beck’s departure from Fox is here.