Posts Tagged ‘racism’

First there was Aaron Schlossberg that New York City lawyer whose rant against restaurant Spanish-speakers went viral. In the video taken of Schlossberg’s exchange, he said he’d be calling Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to have the Spanish-speaking workers “kicked out of my country.”

He also complained to a restaurant manager, “it’s America” and “staff should be speaking English.” What the hey güey? “SEE IT: White man threatens to call ICE on Spanish-speaking workers at Midtown Fresh Kitchen.”

But like I told someone who asked — no, I don’t think he’s going to be disbarred for his off-the-wall outburst. Loyola Law Professor Jessica Levinson has it right — mostly.

NPS map symbol fishing.svgI say “mostly” because last time I looked, New York is one of a handful of remaining jurisdictions with a so-called ethical ‘catch-all’ rule. It’s Rule 8.4: Misconduct that says “A lawyer or law firm shall not: (h) engage in any other conduct that adversely reflects on the lawyer’s fitness as a lawyer.” In other words, if the discipline folks really want to hook you on something, there’s always the catch-all rule to do it.

You could ride a freight train through that vague tunnel of overbroad ambiguity.


Which means that the lawyer disciplinary folks in the Empire State could still parse out punishment — short of disbarment — based on the elasticity of that rule, especially when two NYC pols have filed bar complaints against angry Aaron. Politically speaking, I won’t be surprised if they come up with a wrist-slap of some kind. But beyond all that, it’s not like public opinion isn’t already pillorying the guy. SeeLawyer’s firm gets bad Yelp reviews after he is named as man in video ranting about Spanish-speakers.”

Just the same, fearful of its potential for abuse some commentators have called for eliminating the ‘catch-all,’ See “New York’s Catch-All Rule: Is It Needed? Part 1.”

What the güey in ELA?

I despise racism whenever and wherever it rears its ugly poisonous head. As a proud melanic Hispanic (aka Latino) and a native Spanish speaker who grew up in East Los Angeles (ELA), I’ve seen my share both then and now. I take comfort, however, in knowing that since ELA remains 98% Latino that a guy like Schlossberg wouldn’t get away with his kind of rant at, for example, an eatery like what was once my local King Taco — not at least without potentially unpleasant consequences.


Even so, I’m for free speech — even his despicable kind. Moreover, the last thing I’d want to see are the self-styled lords of lawyer discipline deciding permissible and impermissible speech. There are plenty of state and federal laws already on point dealing with discrimination without unleashing the agenda-driven prosecutorial paragons of partiality from the state bar.

But now there’s news of more. A story out of small-burg Montana talks about how last Wednesday a Border Patrol Officer stopped and detained two Spanish-speaking U.S. Citizen convenience store patrons for speaking Spanish. The New York Times reports, They Spoke Spanish in a Montana Store. Then a Border Agent Asked for Their IDs.”

So has it really come to this? Of course — it has. Again, what the hey güey?

But racial profiling? As the Times reports, “It had nothing to do with that,” the officer, who identified himself as Agent O’Neal, responded in the cellphone video. “It’s the fact that it has to do with you guys speaking Spanish in the store in a state where it’s predominantly English-speaking.”

And yet I ponder what will become of those immortal words of stand-up comic and fellow ELA homeboy Paul Rodriguez from his comedy album — “You’re in America now, speak Spanish”?


Credits: NPS map symbol fishing, National Park Service fishing symbol, Wikimedia Commons, public domain; Bakersfield, California. On the Freights. Helping a newcomer hop a freight, Partridge, Rondal, 1917-, Photographer (NARA record: 8464464, Wikimedia Commons, public domain; Boyle Heights King Taco, by Mimi C. at Yelp, fair use commentary; Paul Rodriguez album cover, fair use commentary.


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It was premature to say so. But the election of Barack Obama did not augur the start of a new ‘Post-Racial’ America. If there was any doubt about that, a 2013 Pew Research Center poll cleared it up.

50 years after Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech, the Pew Survey indicated only 26 percent of African-Americans believed the situation for blacks had improved the past five years — while 21 percent said it was actually worse.

Race is still with us. And even on “M.L.K. Day,” there’s this fatuous example from the racial-justice cognoscenti Sarah Palin who after noting today’s remembrance twitters Obama should stop ‘playing the race card.’

There are miles to go before there’s a color-blind society — assuming it ever happens. Yet surprisingly, others have suggested that the evils the civil-rights movement fought against have been “vanquished.” Racism is dead. What remains are simply “lousy schools, a thriving drug trade and a misguided governmental response, the collapse of marriage.”

RestaurantMarinated malignment?

Who knew?

So no surprise there was such a furor from the racism-is-dead crowd when last November Oprah Winfrey told a BBC interviewer, “There are still generations of people, older people, who were born and bred and marinated in it, in that prejudice and racism, and they just have to die.”

People 27701Admittedly, the 60-year old Oprah painted the greatest and not-so-greatest older generations with too broad a brush of aggrievement. And astonishing, too, coming from the one-time architect of touch-feely television therapy whose stock-in-trade is engagement, approachability, and likeability.

KKK public-domain-Library-of-Congress-Creative-Commons-ImageBut perhaps Oprah was merely affirming — although in a ham-handed way what Denis Leary said a few years ago about the generational legacies we leave our children. “Racism isn’t born,” Leary said. “It’s taught.”

Race matters.

Bigoted attitudes may be fading with the passing of preceding generations. The young do appear generally more enlightened and open-minded on such matters. But that’s not to say they don’t linger. Not long ago, yet another survey revealed that for those 18 to 30-year olds of the Millennial Generation, race continues to matter.

And unfortunately, it also still matters and in a much less benign way to members of the Boomer generation. Of whom one refers to as “the last reminders of our racist, homophobic, sexist past. When you look at those “white only” diners and drinking fountains in those photos from the 1960s you just can’t believe it. Or how women were treated. And gays. But many of our beloved boomers were teenagers back then, living with parents who watched Ozzie and Harriet and raised to believe that people who weren’t white weren’t to be trusted, women were meant to stay at home and gays were sinners.”

Habitually repentant?

https://lawmrh.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/judge-cebull.jpgAnd with that, we turn back to another signpost that race continues to matter and to that aptly named former Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for Montana and now retired — 70-year old Dick Cebull. No matter his other achievements, he’s the jurist now best-remembered for passing around racist anti-Obama emails.

Well, there’s an update. As it happens, what was once believed to be aberrational and leading to a belated racist email repentance — has now turned out to be something of a bad habit. It now appears he just happened to get caught forwarding that one particularly nasty email that suggested President Obama’s mother had sex with a dog.

“I didn’t send it as racist, although that’s what it is,” he afterward. “I sent it out because it’s anti-Obama.”

Last Friday, a Memorandum of Decision in the Proceeding in Review of the Order and Memorandum of the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit divulged that Judge Cebull had actually sent hundreds of other bigoted emails.

The majority of the emails the former Montana federal judge sent via his office email account were political in nature. But as the memorandum additionally disclosed, “A significant number of emails were race related. Whether cast as jokes or serious commentary, the emails showed disdain and disrespect for African Americans, Native Americans and Hispanics, especially those who are not in the United States legally. A similarly significant number of emails related to religion and showed disdain for certain faiths. Approximately the same number of emails concerned women and/or sexual topics and were disparaging of women. A few emails contained inappropriate jokes relating to sexual orientation.”

But for the objection of U.S. 3rd Circuit Judge Theodore McKee, the public might never have known the extent of Judge Cebull’s misconduct.

Judge McKee had accused the 9th Circuit investigative panel of hiding Cebull’s misconduct because of their failure to release their findings. Once Cebull conveniently resigned, they’d proclaiming the whole thing “moot” and filed away Cebull’s embarrassing revelations.

Fortunately, the Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability of the Judicial Conference of the United States found the lower panel in error when it withheld its investigative findings. The Committee stated, “The imperative transparency of the complaint process compels publication of orders finding judicial misconduct.”

Which leads me to finally conclude with what the late Christopher Hitchens said in reply to the question — “What is it you most dislike?” Hitchens answered, “Stupidity, especially in its nastiest forms of racism and superstition.”

Photo Credits: Barack Obama, by DonkeyHotey at Flickr via Creative Commons-license requiring attribution.

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