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June 25th, 2013
11:19 AM ET

Supreme Court limits federal oversight of Voting Rights Act

What do you think? Sound off in a video on CNN iReport.

By Bill Mears, CNN

Washington (CNN) - A deeply divided Supreme Court has limited use of a key provision in the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, in effect invalidating federal enforcement over all or parts of 15 states with past history of voter discrimination.

The court said it is now up to congressional lawmakers to revise the law to meet constitutional scrutiny.

"Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to the current conditions," said Chief Justice John Roberts for the 5-4 conservative majority.

Section 4 of the law was struck down, the coverage formula used by the federal government to determine which states and counties are subject to continued oversight. Roberts said that formula from 1972 was outdated and unworkable.

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Filed under: Discrimination • History • How we live • Politics • Race • Where we live
June 21st, 2013
10:57 AM ET

'Racial Justice Act' repealed in North Carolina

By Matt Smith, CNN

(CNN) - North Carolina's governor says he agreed to repeal a law that allowed inmates to challenge their death sentences on racial grounds because it effectively banned capital punishment in the state.

North Carolina legislators barred death sentences "sought or obtained on the basis of race" in 2009, when both houses of the state General Assembly were under Democratic control.

The, legislation, known as the Racial Justice Act, allowed condemned convicts to use statistical analysis to argue that race played a role in their sentencing.

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Filed under: Discrimination • Race • Where we live
Cumberland Island, Georgia
June 19th, 2013
09:00 AM ET

Juneteenth: Where to honor the end of slavery

Editor's note: This story was first published on June 19, 2012.

By Leslie Gilbert Elman, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger of the Union Army announced to the assembled crowd at Ashton Villa in Galveston, Texas, "In accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free."

It was June 19, 1865.

Never mind that President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation had been written and read more than two years earlier. Juneteenth, named for the June 19 declaration, started as a celebration of emancipation day in Texas and eventually spread to other states. With celebrations dating back to 1866, Juneteenth now commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.

"America cannot understand its own history unless the African-American experience is embraced as a central factor in shaping who we are and what we have become as Americans," writes Lonnie G. Bunch, founding director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington.

Set to open in 2015, the museum will be the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African-American life, art and culture.

In honor of Juneteenth, the museum helped CNN.com choose six destinations that will enlighten and educate visitors about a complicated period of American history, the road to emancipation.

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June 17th, 2013
12:40 PM ET

Justices strike down citizenship provision in Arizona voter law

By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer

Washington (CNN) - The Supreme Court on Monday tossed out a provision in Arizona's voter registration law that required proof of citizenship.

The 7-2 majority said the state's voter-approved Proposition 200 interfered with federal law designed to make voter registration easier.

The state called the provision a "sensible precaution" to prevent voter fraud. Civil rights group countered that it added an unconstitutional and burdensome layer of paperwork for tens of thousands of citizens.

Justice Antonin Scalia said the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 "forbids states to demand an applicant submit additional information beyond that required by the federal form."

But in a nod to state authority, Scalia said the federal law "does not prevent states from denying registration based on any information in their possession establishing the applicant's eligibility."

The appeal was a classic federalism dispute, on the often delicate line between conflict and cooperation between state and federal governments over enforcing voting procedures. During last year's election, there were numerous court challenges to state voter identification laws at the polls. The current fight has produced a range of states, lawmakers and advocacy groups on both sides on the gateway issue of registration. The Obama Justice Department opposed the Arizona law, which went beyond what other states have done to ensure integrity in the registration system.

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Filed under: History • How we look • Where we live
June 11th, 2013
12:24 PM ET

Senate poised to take up immigration

By Ted Barrett, CNN Senior Congressional Producer

(CNN) - The Senate is to vote later Tuesday to begin debate on immigration reform, an emotionally charged proposal with huge political stakes that may never get through Congress despite years of negotiation and major compromise.

It aims to create a 13-year path to citizenship for most of the country's 11 million undocumented immigrants, a bipartisan proposal hammered out by the so-called "Gang of Eight" senators this spring that has the backing of President Barack Obama.

Polls show many Americans also favor some form of immigration policy overhaul, depending on the details of legislation.

GOP leaders have signaled their support for starting debate, so a procedural motion aimed at doing so is expected to receive the 60 votes necessary to take that next step even if the fate of the legislation is uncertain.

Obama and congressional Democrats are anxious to fulfill a long-delayed pledge to Latino voters to pass reforms to the troubled immigration system. Passage could pay political dividends for their party for many years.

Republicans are in a more difficult bind.

Latinos backed Obama over Mitt Romney by a 44-point margin in November and GOP strategists are concerned about the party's long term viability in national elections if that trend is not reversed.

Some congressional conservatives say opposing the "Gang of Eight" plan is a matter of principle and they won't bend. They remain skeptical about any measure offering a path to citizenship. A lot of them consider it amnesty.

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Filed under: How we live • Immigration • Politics • Where we live
Out of the closet on Wall Street
"I was fearful at first that I was risking my career," said Mark Stephanz, a senior investment banker at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, about coming out at work.
June 4th, 2013
09:00 AM ET

Out of the closet on Wall Street

By Blake Ellis,  CNNMoney

(CNNMoney) - Mark Stephanz, a senior investment banker at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, was sure his decision to come out of the closet would end his career.

He had been at the firm for over 20 years, and everyone knew him as a straight, married man with three children. So he knew the news could come as a shock.

"Wall Street has always had that good old boys image, so I was fearful at first that I was risking my career," he said.
But his internal struggle finally became too much to bear. First, Stephanz gradually came out to his family. Then he told his coworkers and managers.

The reaction was surprising. His boss was supportive and said he couldn't believe that Stephanz, who was 47 at the time, had lived his life as he had for so long. His clients, too, were supportive.

That was just a few years ago. If he had come out even earlier, Stephanz doesn't know whether it would have gone so smoothly.

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May 31st, 2013
01:53 PM ET

Why is ad featuring multiracial family causing stir?

(CNN) - The leader of the free world is the child of one black parent and one white parent. The number of Americans who identify as "mixed race" is on the rise. And this year marks the 46th anniversary of the Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court decision, which made interracial marriage legal in the United States.

So why is a Cheerios ad featuring a multiracial family causing a stir?

The commercial features a curly-haired brown girl inquiring of her Caucasian mother and African-American father about Cheerios' healthy attributes.

"Mom, Dad told me that Cheerios was good for your heart. Is that true?" she asks in the commercial, titled "Just Checking."

Adweek reports that YouTube comments made "references to Nazis, 'troglodytes' and 'racial genocide' " before they were disabled.

As of Friday, most of the comments were supportive on the Cheerios Facebook page, like this one:

Cheerios,

I just saw your commercial representing a beautiful mixed family, and I am appalled that hateful people are in such a frenzy over what is a modern family structure. I applaud you and your efforts to acknowledge families with an untraditional structure, and there needs to be more mixed race, minority, adoptive & non-heteronormative families represented in media. Thank you again, and even though I do not eat cereal (my brother loves Cheerios BTW) you can be sure that whatever future child I am blessed with, may probably be mixed heritage, and will be enjoying your product.

But earlier in the week, comments were not as thoughtful. The Huffington Post reported on the vile nature of some responses, like this one:

More like single parent in the making. Black dad will dip out soon.

Reddit featured a link to the commercial on its homepage Thursday, also drawing a range of responses.

Granted, the comments section of the Internet is rarely a reliable space for reflective or thoughtful discourse on race in America.

But the range of reactions to an ad that incidentally highlights a multiracial family might be the start of a discussion on how the American family is seen and portrayed.

What do you think: Is the commercial long overdue or much ado about nothing?


Filed under: How we look • Race • Where we live
May 26th, 2013
06:00 PM ET

Federal judge says Arizona sheriff was racially profiling

By Ben Brumfield, CNN

(CNN) - Arizona lawman Joe Arpaio has required prison inmates to wear pink underwear and saved taxpayers money by removing salt and pepper from prisons. He has, at times, forbidden convicted murderer Jodi Arias from speaking to the press.

The stern Maricopa County Sheriff has said the federal government will not stop him from running his office as he sees fit. But on Friday it did.

A judge ruled Friday that Arpaio's routine handling of people of Latino descent is not tough enforcement of immigration laws but instead amounts to racial and ethnic profiling.

Some of those profiled sued Arpaio, and Judge Murray Snow found their complaints to be legitimate.

The federal court in Phoenix ordered "America's Toughest Sheriff" - a moniker Arpaio sports on his website - to stop it immediately and has banned some of his operating procedures.

The sheriff's office has a history of targeting vehicles with occupants with darker skin or Latin heritage, scrutinizing them more strictly and detaining them more often, Snow ruled.

The sheriff's lawyers dispute the judge's conclusion.

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Filed under: Discrimination • Ethnicity • How we look • Race • Where we live
Opinion: We love and fear the Oklahoma skies
This sign warned drivers to slow down for Plaza Towers school, destroyed when Monday's tornado hit Moore, Oklahoma.
May 21st, 2013
06:16 PM ET

Opinion: We love and fear the Oklahoma skies

Editor's note: Nathan Gunter is the managing editor of Oklahoma Today magazine, the state's official magazine. A graduate of Westmoore High School in Moore, Oklahoma, he holds degrees from Wake Forest University and the University of Oklahoma.

By Nathan Gunter, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Oklahomans have a special relationship with the sky. We know how to look up. On the prairies of western Oklahoma, the skies are so big, and so full, it is easy to feel you may begin to fall upward, or even fly. To live underneath this unbroken expanse of heaven can be at once inspiring and terrifying.
Every Okie has seen those skies turn scary, and every Okie accepts that atmospheric instability is a part of our legacy. In school and from our trusted local meteorologists, we learn from an early age what to look for in a sky, in a radar map and in a safe place.
Green-tinted clouds are never a good sign; a hook echo on a radar - the telltale swirl at the edge of a storm pattern indicating strong rotation - means take cover. Underground is best, in a basement or storm shelter. But a small, ground-floor room with no exterior walls will do if the tornado isn't too strong. Cover up with a mattress or thick blanket to avoid debris; don't open all the windows in the house, contrary to now discredited advice; don't hide under an overpass.

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May 21st, 2013
01:23 PM ET

New York slaying considered hate crime

By Chris Boyette, CNN

New York (CNN) - Police are investigating the slaying of a 32-year-old man in the Greenwich Village neighborhood early Saturday as a hate crime because the gunman made multiple anti-gay comments, they said.

It is at least the fourth violent attack in two weeks believed to be motivated by anti-gay bias, police said.

The suspect's anti-gay remarks were noted before the shooting took place, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. The man was seen urinating on the street outside a bar before going inside and making anti-gay comments to the bartender and brandishing a silver handgun.

A little after midnight, the gunman and two other companions confronted the victim, Marc Carson, and another man he was with on the street. The suspect reportedly made anti-gay remarks and asked them whether they were "gay wrestlers," Kelly said.

Carson and the other man turned toward the taunts, but backed down and kept walking away. They didn't know it, Kelly said, but the suspect followed them.

The gunman confronted the two men again, before shooting Carson in the face, police said.

Carson was pronounced dead on arrival at Beth Israel Hospital.

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