Category Archives: Feature

DACA On College Campuses

Just under five years ago, on the thirtieth anniversary of Plyler v. Doe, then-president Barack Obama put forth an executive order that created the immigration policy known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). In higher education, this policy has conferred many benefits upon certain undocumented residents of the U.S., including limited protection from immigration officers and access to public and private financial aid packages.

DACA grants immigrants a two-year grace period during which they are treated as temporary residents and are eligible for work permits. The policy is only available to those who (a) came into the United States before their sixteenth birthday before June 2007; (b) are currently in school, are a high school graduate, or have been honorably discharged from the military; (c) were born after June 15, 1981; and (d) are not a threat to American security.

Those granted DACA status have no path to citizenship, yet they still can receive a number of benefits normally exclusive to legal permanent residents of the U.S. These benefits include being able to obtain a driver’s license in all fifty states, having an ‘exempt non-citizen’ status that absolves them from the fines for not having insurance under the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, being granted special tax refunds and credits, and being able to obtain temporary social security numbers.

The benefits of DACA for its grantees, however, go far beyond these basics and extend deeply into the American higher education system. In twenty states, DACA immigrants are allowed to register for public community colleges, colleges, and universities with an in-state resident status, which halves their tuition costs in many circumstances. In six states, they qualify for state-funded financial aid packages for public colleges and universities. On top of any state-sponsored financial aid packages for which DACA grantees qualify, there are many private scholarships and grants available. States like Utah offer private funding through public universities to their DACA students.

Some private colleges such as Amherst College and Columbia University offer the same need-blind admission policy to both domestic and non-citizen applicants alike. Others, such as Pomona College, a member of the Claremont Consortium, go further and do not differentiate between documented and undocumented applicants for either admissions or financial aid. Pitzer College and Scripps College, also members of the Claremont Consortium, each offer full, renewable grants for one undocumented first-year student per year. Scripps also recently announced they will follow Pomona’s example and will begin extending need-based financial aid to all undocumented students, regardless of their DACA status, next fall. Meanwhile, at the other Claremont Colleges, Claremont McKenna College and Harvey Mudd College, undocumented students must apply for external scholarships such as the Cal Grant if they require financial assistance, though at Harvey Mudd, they are encouraged to apply for international student financial aid.

Once DACA students have graduated from their respective undergraduate institutions, state law determines the opportunities available to them. In California, for instance, DACA students may acquire licenses to practice law, medicine, nursing, and pharmacy; can study abroad; and, for the University of California postgraduate programs, they are eligible for all financial aid, grants, and fellowships applicable to U.S. citizens.

Nonetheless, even with all of the benefits of the DACA program, DACA students still fear that their information might be passed along to federal immigration officers. While all DACA immigrants’ information has been shared with the Department of Homeland Security, ICE may not access this information at this time. Many DACA students fear that this could change under President Trump. In response to these anxieties, DACA students and their allies have advocated that colleges become ‘sanctuary campuses.’ Like sanctuary cities, they would protect the local undocumented community from deportation and arrest by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers.

Unfortunately for DACA students, neither of these sanctuary environments have any real legal force, as ICE can still conduct raids on a sanctuary campus. The most that these sanctuary communities and immigration activists can do is to refuse to share information with ICE, to hand over undocumented immigrants, or to coordinate with local police as they attempt to assist ICE. Given that ICE only has around five thousand agents, help from local police departments is necessary for successful ICE operations.

Even within the five-college Claremont Consortium, the magnitude of each school’s efforts greatly differ. Pomona’s president David W. Oxtoby acknowledges that calling the college a ‘sanctuary campus’ is not entirely accurate as Pomona cannot offer either literal sanctuary or legal authority in protecting its students; yet, of the five colleges—arguably of virtually all liberal arts colleges—Pomona offers the greatest amount of aid and support to its estimated fifty to sixty undocumented students. Pitzer and Scripps, on the other hand, have declared themselves to be sanctuary colleges, but the services designated for their undocumented students are much more limited than those of Pomona. Harvey Mudd and Claremont McKenna put even less resources toward supporting their undocumented students, have not changed their nondiscrimination policies to the extent which Scripps and Pomona have, and neither institution has come forward offering to help these students find legal aid if needed.

Colleges have been eager to throw public support behind their undocumented students, as evidenced by strong support for DACA among college presidents. All five presidents of Claremont’s undergraduate institutions, along with the presidents of 634 other institutions, signed a letter put forth by President Oxtoby that DACA should not only be sustained, but should also be expanded. Calling DACA’s expansion a “moral imperative” and a “national necessity,” President Oxtoby goes on to state that undocumented students “represent what is best about America.”

Not all college administrators, even those who signed it, are completely on board with the progressive sentiments President Oxtoby expresses in the letter. Claremont McKenna’s president Hiram Chodosh wrote to the CMC community, “I believe that the Statement’s specific advocacy for DACA may … compromise non-partisan values vital to higher education.” All five schools, however, including Claremont McKenna, have promised to offer counseling resources to their undocumented students and to require that Claremont College Campus Security officers not ask students to disclose their citizenship status.

Meet Incoming Pomona President G. Gabrielle Starr

Dr. G. Gabrielle Starr will become Pomona College’s 10th president on July 1st, 2017 after current president David Oxtoby steps down. She is a scholar of English and cognitive neuroscience and is currently serving as the Seryl Kushner Dean of the College of Arts and Science at New York University. Dr. Starr was kind enough answer some questions that I sent to her on behalf of the Independent regarding her thoughts on issues such as a need-blind admissions process for international students, the role of safe spaces on campus, and how to improve upon the services that Pomona provides. What follows are the questions posed to Dr. Starr and her answers, edited for concision and clarity.


CI: Under the current administration, Pomona College has undergone a lot of growth: Pomona achieved the top slot in Forbes’ 2015 college ranking and the class of 2018, consisting of roughly 450 students, is the largest in our school’s history. Yet, Pomona also prides itself on its position as a small liberal arts college with a focus on academics. How do you plan on reconciling the need for Pomona to continue to grow and adapt while also maintaining its unique place in academia?

GS: Pomona is built on the idea that rigorous thinking, exploration, and discovery ought to occur in intimate communities of scholars, and I fully agree. The unique strength of Pomona, however, is that close links with The Claremont Colleges enrich the possibilities for intellectual growth for everyone. I don’t think that “growth” always means increasing the number of students in such a context. Growth for a liberal arts college means continually expanding knowledge and opportunity for faculty, students, and staff. That, at this moment, is what I am interested in exploring with the Pomona community.


CI: Pomona College’s student code lacks mens rea standards for most of its statutes. This means that students can be held accountable for violating a complex array of rules and regulations even when they’ve done so by accident. What are your initial thoughts on this and on the possibility of amending the student code?

GS: The focus of student conduct codes must be on maintaining the highest standards of ethical behavior and on making the community whole after a breach, and this means we have to take intent into account at various stages in the process. However, I have long seen, through my time as a teacher and dean, that many violations of community or of conduct standards are matters of fact, not intention, so there is a balance here. Overall, I care about fairness and equity, and a conduct process that enables people to learn from mistakes.


CI: As a school that prides itself on its academics, Pomona College often leans on the more pre-professional Claremont McKenna College when it comes to career services; however, many of these services, such as mock case interviews, are only offered to Claremont McKenna students. While it may be early for you to be thinking about this problem, it is a time-sensitive one that continues to affect students during each new interview cycle. With that in mind, what are your initial thoughts on this issue and on improvements that could be made to our career services office?

GS: The primary mission of Pomona is to provide a superior liberal arts education and to endow in its graduates the lifetime skills of critical and analytical reasoning that make for a transformative life. That means we are always keenly aware of the way that students enter the world beyond our gates. We share resources with the other Claremont Colleges, and that makes us stronger. I see my role as fostering the life of the mind and the life of the whole student, while also fostering active engagement in the larger world through the life, work, and career concerns of our students. As I move into the office, I will certainly pay close attention to how well Pomona’s students are served in this area, and also across the board. Pomona has expanded its Career Development Office significantly over the past few years and this may be another area that can be addressed more specifically.


CI: Pomona College touts its on-campus diversity and inclusion, but only provides a need-blind admission process to U.S. citizens and those who have graduated from a U.S. high school. Other colleges, including those with smaller per-student endowments such as Amherst College and MIT, provide a need-blind admissions process to all students. What are your thoughts on changing our admissions process so that all students are considered equally, regardless of their financial situation or citizenship status? 

GS: Offering financial aid to the many extraordinary students of Pomona is a pillar of the College. We live in an increasingly global world, and Pomona has done a good job expanding the number of international students, the areas of the world they come from, and the number who receive aid. Any changes to the admissions policy would have to be approved by the trustees, and changes in financial aid would have to be fiscally responsible for the College. I look forward to being on campus and learning more about how we can advance our work in this area.


CI: Pomona is not only demographically diverse; these diverse demographics actually translate into a student body where students belonging to different groups are willing to interact with each other and exchange ideas. Safe spaces are a thorny issue. While they do provide a healing space for many on campus, there are also real concerns that these spaces amount to school-funded echo chambers that give institutional credence to the idea that students don’t need to engage with those who think differently than they do. As president of Pomona College, how do you plan on reconciling these opposing concerns regarding safe spaces?

GS: Freedom of speech is a right that emerges in the context of contest, of dispute. Non-controversial statements never end up evoking questions of free speech. It is when we disagree that free speech matters most. Disagreement and dispute, however, are fundamental to education and to the life of the mind. I expect students to stand up for what they believe in and to listen to and engage with others. Colleges have a special responsibility to model that open engagement. We provide the arena for the rigorous exchange of ideas, and regardless of one’s partisan affiliations or ideological views, we are all part of one community. I expect Pomona to be a place where every individual speaks out and is heard.

Some people hear the word “safe space” and immediately shut down. My goal for Pomona is constant renewal of a community of trust. Trust in speech and action is not the sole responsibility of the speaker or the spoken to. It is established through a mutual understanding that words have meaning. We will not always agree; however, through strength of community, we can establish an environment where ideas and experiences can be shared and examined in the spirit of mutual respect.


CI: On the subject of diversity, Pomona puts in a commendable amount of effort into making many groups feel comfortable on campus. Yet there are still groups on campus that feel marginalized; recently, for example, a pro-Palestinian group painted a mural on Walker Wall with clear anti-Israel overtones. How does your administration plan on reaching out to these people—such as Jews, conservatives, and others who often face unwarranted hostility on campus—and fostering a dialogue with them?

GS: Pomona is engaged and inquisitive and it is a true community. The world is rife with fractious issues: BDS, Standing Rock, “build that wall”, DACA, climate change, and beyond. The loudest or the most ready and commercial voices can often define perceptions and inflame passions.  And indeed, passions move faster than truth and real information in the modern world. We must understand, however, that reasoned, principled people can view an information set and come to opposite points of view. Our job is to develop tools and arenas so that the essential points are uncovered, and reasoned debate can occur if–and that “if” is rhetorical–we want to arrive at better conclusions and wider civic engagement.

Pomona belongs to every member of our community. That sense of real inclusion is what I truly love about my life as a teacher and a scholar and, soon, what I will stand for as president of Pomona.


CI: Finally, in your interview with The Student Life, you mentioned some of your short-term goals, including working with faculty to help them get more resources. What specific policies do you hope to implement or continue with in order to achieve these goals, and what are other specific policies you hope to achieve during your tenure as president of Pomona College?

GS: Pomona is fortunate by just about every standard in the resources we have available. Yet fundraising for faculty research and curricular development will be an important part of building on the level of distinction Pomona enjoys. One focus of my presidency will be to work with faculty, foundations, and private donors to ensure we don’t ever lose track of what faculty need to help their scholarship have an even greater impact on changing students’ lives and the world.

If I might say one last thing, I am eager to be a part of one of the strongest intellectual communities in this country, and I am grateful to the students, faculty, and staff for their engagement in the search, to the search committee, and to the trustees.


Image: Flickr


What a Late-Night Uber Taught Me About American Politics

On Tuesday night, as the final tendrils of orange and red light faded from the evening skies in Washington D.C., I packed my bags and left my apartment for Dulles International Airport, ready to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday with my family in California. Loaded up with a backpack and a small duffel slung over my shoulder, I ducked into my waiting Uber, exchanging the usual pleasantries with the driver.

Mo was quiet. His smooth olive skin and earnest eyes belied his years. He drove cautiously, but with the classic impatience of a Washington D.C. resident, nudging the nose of his van into crosswalks to exploit openings in the stream of pedestrians. We chatted idly for a few minutes about my time in Washington, the weather, and the gridlocked rush-hour traffic.

But then our talk turned to the election.

“America is the land of opportunity,” he told me. “This is the only place where you can go and do anything.”

In addition to driving for Uber, Mo arranges shipments of produce to the Washington D.C. area from Florida and other major agricultural states. He makes a good living this way, and he is proud of it. “I make good money,” he said several times, his face beaming.

Mo is an immigrant. He came to the United States on a green card in the late nineties and has lived and worked in Washington ever since. He has been able to renew his green card in the past, but he fears that under the new administration, he might lose his residency and be forced to return to his country.

“I don’t know if what he says is just rhetoric,” he explained, referring to president-elect Trump. “What he says about immigrants in this country illegally, who are committing crimes; I agree. But a lot of these immigrants are good people, hard-working people. They contribute to this country.”

As we came to a halt at another red light, Mo shifted his gaze to the Washington Monument, rising up out of the ground only a few hundred yards away. “I have met many undocumented people in my job,” he said. “All of them are good people, making an honest living. Their families are here. Their children go to school here. They are afraid that they will be taken away and sent out of this country.”

Even though President Obama has deported more illegal immigrants than all of his predecessors, Mo pointed out, the rhetoric of the fierce 2016 campaign has terrified his undocumented colleagues. Last November, Donald Trump promised to build a “deportation force” to send all illegal immigrants, regardless of whether they had committed crimes in the U.S., back to their countries of origin. He has since softened his position.

“I’ve been here for several past elections,” he said. “I was here for Bush and for Obama, both times.”

He looked directly at me in the rearview mirror.

“But this fear? I’ve never seen it before.”


I have had trouble grasping the true extent of the emotions that have roiled this nation over the course of the election season. Before Election Day, I sensed the anger of conservatives with the status quo, but I never understood its depth until Donald Trump swept the Rust Belt on November 8th to become our president.

Conservatives have long chafed at the derision and condescension of the left, but recent years have deepened their frustration. To President Obama and other progressive icons, Republican political opponents do not simply disagree about how to make America a better place; instead, they occupy “the wrong side of history,” as the president himself has often said. They are bigots, misogynists, and racists, and their economic grievances and political anxieties are without merit. And someday, only a few decades further along the arc of history, their evil, backwards political inclinations will perish from the earth, and the good—progressivism—will triumph at last.

Coastal liberals, ensconced in their ivory towers in Washington and the university, continue to claim that they know best. They are the self-appointed defenders of truth and justice, visionaries bent on fixing our deeply flawed and broken nation. If only the hapless hicks supporting the Republican Party would wise up, absorb the teachings of the enlightened class, and understand how good they have it, the nation might make progress in helping those facing real hardship. As one bitter columnist at Jezebel wrote in the days following the election, the “grievances” of Donald Trump’s working-class supporters “ranged anywhere from distrusting Hillary Clinton as much as they did Obama to believing in racial stereotypes and feeling put-upon by ‘PC’ culture.”

But to the middle-aged factory worker in the Midwest who has lost his job and does not know where to turn to provide for his family, these criticisms are nothing short of insulting. He voted for Barack Obama, believing in the promise and hope of the young then-senator’s presidential campaign. But since then, things seem to have only gotten worse.

President Obama has overseen the weakest economic recovery since the Great Depression, with most of this rebound benefitting America’s urban hubs. Meanwhile, the globalized economy grinds on, sweeping middle-class industrial jobs out of America’s heartland and into the cheap labor markets of China, Mexico, and southeast Asia. In the factories that have survived, automated technologies have replaced bustling crews of laborers with robots and an occasional human overseer. To the victims of these powerful waves of change, blue-collar America is dying—and Barack Obama’s hope and youthful idealism did nothing to stop it.

This election manifested the desperation of middle America. Few Americans actually liked Donald Trump. Nearly seven-in-ten voters viewed Donald Trump unfavorably. They found his behavior to be beyond the pale. His proposal to ban all Muslims was inexcusable, and his vow to build a wall was laughable. Yet nearly half voted for him anyway—because in the end, Donald Trump meant change, and change was what they needed. It’s as simple as that.


But with the turmoil of change comes uncertainty and, for immigrants like Mo, the frightening prospect that they no longer can pursue their dreams in the land of the free. Which Donald Trump should they believe: the one who promised to deport every illegal immigrant and to stop issuing green cards for foreign workers, or the one who will only deport “criminal” aliens and will “reform” legal immigration?

Mo is worried that it might be the former.

“When I was seventeen, eighteen, as a young guy, I came to this country, so you know that adjusting—that will be really hard for job adjustment in my old country,” he explained. “I am right now sixteen, seventeen years in this country. What will I do if I go back?”

“When I drive for Uber, I pay my insurance, I pay my road taxes, I pay my rent,” Mo continued, an edge creeping into his soft-spoken voice. “I contribute to America. Someday, I might buy a house. But if I’m not here, how can I do that? How can I contribute to this great country?”

He glanced at me in the mirror. “The undocumented immigrants, they contribute too,” he added. “Without them, this country’s agriculture would be nothing. The fields would be empty—and no one would take those jobs.”

In the end, as traffic finally began to pick up, Mo expressed a hint of optimism. “I am lucky,” he mused as he steered the car onto the freeway. “I have a wife here who is a U.S. citizen, so I will probably be okay.”

“But I really don’t know.”

#BlackLivesMatter Makes Martyrs Out of Criminals


Not a month goes by without Black Lives Matter dubbing another Black American a martyr of the fight for Black equality. This month, their martyrs are Sylville K. Smith and Korryn Gaines: two armed, long-time criminals who resisted arrest. Smith, a man with a lengthy rap sheet, was pulled over at a traffic stop and fled his car while armed with a stolen gun in an area with poor police-civilian relations. Gaines was fatally shot two weeks ago after threatening to kill police officers who arrived at her house with a warrant for her arrest. Gaines pointed a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun at the responding officers who did not shoot her initially. Using her gun and her five-year old son as a human meat-shield, she presented enough of a threat to the police that a SWAT team was deployed to her house and ultimately shot and killed her.

Black social media, The Huffington Post, and other Leftist, Afrocentric news sources have spun these stories as evidence of White supremacy and “systemic racism.” Violent protests erupted Saturday night in Milwaukee, Smith’s hometown. The protesters destroyed businesses and targeted White people for beatings while chanting Black Lives Matter slogans. Black Lives Matter and its supporters have decided that any African-American shot by a cop or a White civilian—regardless of circumstance or just cause—is a martyr. Almost all of these “martyrs” have been just like Smith and Gaines: violent criminals who threatened an officer’s life.

Here are the unadulterated stories of BLM’s other heroes:

  • Bruce Kelley Jr., a man with a lengthy rap sheet, was drinking publicly with his father in a busway gazebo. When approached by police officers with a ticket for drinking in public, Kelley Jr. began to walk away and then, after being told to stop, rushed the officers. Attempts to tase Kelley Jr. failed because of his heavy coat. A K-9 unit then pursued Kelley Jr., who stabbed the dog as it grasped his arm. He was then shot and killed by a pursuing sergeant.
  • Meagan Hockaday, a domestically-abusive mother and the fiancée of the 911 caller, was shot after charging at the responding officer with a knife less than twenty seconds after he arrived at her apartment.
  • Charley Leundeu Keunang, a homeless, mentally-ill, illegal Cameroonian immigrant, threatened a 911 caller reporting a nearby robbery as soon as responding officers arrived. After ignoring commands and being increasingly aggressive—at one point, even reaching for an officer’s gun—Keunang fought with police and was shot and killed.
  • Ezell Ford, a mentally-ill man pursued by two police officers for erratic behavior, attacked an officer approaching him and attempted to reach for the officer’s gun while being subdued. The other officer shot Ford out of fear for his partner’s life.
  • Michael Brown, a young man who had just stolen cigarillos from a local store and threatened the store’s owner, was stopped by a responding officer who noticed that he and his friend fit the description of the suspect of the robbery. Brown rushed the officer, fighting for the officer’s gun, and was fatally shot.
  • Jonathan Ferrell, a man who crashed his car while drunk-driving, banged on the door of a stranger’s house. The homeowner called the police, and when they arrived, Ferrell charged at them. First, they used a taser to subdue him, but because it missed, the officers resorted to shooting him.

Those mentioned above had charged at the responding officers. Rushing police officers after their repeated attempts to subdue a subject with words, pepper spray, or a taser is a clear threat to their lives. In a news segment on Black Lives Matter protests, a Black Lives Matter activist himself underwent use-of-force training at a police academy. After he “shot” the subject in question in various scenarios, the activist explained that he “didn’t understand how important compliance was” and that his attitude on use of force had changed. Regarding compliance, the following Black Lives Matter martyrs either disregarded a police officer’s orders, resisted arrest and failed to submit to lawful commands, or fled from the scene of the crime or traffic stop.

  • Alton Sterling, a man previously convicted of violent offenses which left him unable to legally obtain, own, or carry a firearm, was the subject of a 911 call in which a homeless person reported that a man selling CDs had threatened him with a handgun. Sterling’s possession of the firearm and his non-compliance after repeated attempts by police to suppress him through various non-lethal means led to his death.
  • Jamar Clark, a man previously convicted of first-degree aggravated assault and awaiting trial for a high-speed chase arrest, was breaking up a fight between the host of a party and his ex-girlfriend who had obtained a Domestic Abuse No Contact Order against him. Clark pulled his ex-girlfriend away from prying eyes and battered her, prompting an onlooker to call for paramedics. Not only did Clark try to interfere with his ex-girlfriend being escorted to the ambulance, he attacked the police officer who tried to hold him back—which ultimately resulted in his death.
  • Freddie Gray, a man with many arrests and citations on his rap sheet, five of which were then active warrants, fled from police in a high-crime area in possession of an illegal switchblade. He sustained fatal injuries after a rough ride in the back of a Baltimore Police Department van, during which he was cuffed but not wearing a seatbelt.
  • Eric Courtney Harris was fatally shot by a reserve sheriff’s deputy while running from a sting operation to arrest him for drug- and arms-dealing. The deputy claimed that he had confused his taser for his gun.
  • Jeramie Reid, pulled over after running through a stop sign, moved around the car against the orders of the police officer after disclosing he had a gun in the glove compartment. After the officer retrieved the gun, Reid attempted to exit the vehicle without the prior instruction of the officer, but the officer kept the door closed, wary that Reid may have had a second weapon on him in the car. Again, without prior instruction, Reid attempted to exit the vehicle—this time after the officer had moved back—and as Reid exited the car, he was shot.
  • Tamir Rice, a young boy playing with an Airsoft pistol with the orange safety tip removed, pointed his toy gun at passersby and the police when they arrived. Not knowing it was fake, the police shot Rice.
  • Eric Garner, a man selling loose cigarettes without tax stamps, resisted arrest until the responding officer took him down and put him in a submission hold until he passed out. Garner was obese, and had asthma and heart disease, which contributed to his death.

Of those listed above, each of whom was shot by a White police officer—a demographic around which Black Lives Matter constructed much of their central narrative—the only cases in which the officers were not charged were those of Brown, Rice, Clark, Kelley Jr., and Sterling—all of whom were killed justifiably without evidence of misconduct. In the cases of Harris and Gray, the White officers were respectively charged with second-degree manslaughter and second-degree depraved-heart murder along with involuntary manslaughter.

While the majority of Black Lives Matter’s heroes were justly killed, there are some examples of clear-cut police misconduct. Yet, in each of these following instances—except in the case of Boyd’s shooter who was found not guilty due to an atypical directed verdict—each officer was placed on leave pending investigation, fired, sentenced to up to fifteen years in jail, and fired, respectively. Bland’s suicide would have been noticed sooner had the police either properly conducted their hourly rounds or put her on suicide watch; given her multiple past suicide attempts, it would have been protocol to check on her every fifteen minutes. Their failure to do so was indeed a policy violation, but there is no evidence that systemic racism is to blame for her death; both the state trooper and sheriff involved were fired.

  • Philando Castile, a man pulled over in a traffic stop, was killed by an officer after disclosing he was legally armed, and then moving his hands as one officer told him not to move while the other officer had told him to show his license and registration.
  • Corey Jones was killed by a plainclothes officer while waiting by his car after it had broken down. While doing burglary surveillance, the officer claimed that he was confronted by an armed subject—evidently Jones—but he gunned down Jones without probable cause.
  • Akai Gurley, a resident of one of the most dangerous housing developments in New York City, was accidentally shot by a rookie officer while patrolling his building.
  • Rekia Boyd, a young woman out with her friends, was shot at a distance by an off-duty detective who claims Boyd’s boyfriend’s cell phone appeared to be a gun.
  • Sandra Bland, an avid Black Lives Matter supporter with a history of suicide attempts and a lengthy rap sheet of misdemeanors, was found dead in her jail cell after she hanged herself with a bed sheet. She had been pulled over for failing to signal a lane change, but was ultimately arrested after assaulting an officer and resisting arrest at the traffic stop.

The following were all killed by civilians, so to use their deaths as evidence of racism in police conduct is nonsensical. McBride’s death, in particular, was likely avoidable and unnecessary, and a jury agreed with this sentiment, sentencing her shooter to seventeen to thirty-two years in prison. This punishment goes against the Black Lives Matter narrative that the justice system perpetuates systemic racism and fails to punish oppressors.

  • Renisha McBride, a young woman who drunkenly crashed her car in the middle of the night, banged on the door of a stranger’s house looking for help. The resident of the home thought McBride was breaking in and shot her with his shotgun.
  • Jordan Davis, a high schooler who started a verbal altercation with a civilian after refusing to turn down his music, reportedly pulled out a shotgun and was then shot by the person with whom he was arguing.
  • Trayvon Martin, an unarmed, hoodie-clad high schooler pursued by the community’s watchman through his gated community, attacked him after being provoked. After a violent struggle between the two, the Hispanic watchman—who claimed to be in fear for his life—stood his ground and shot Martin.

BLM celebrated each and every person here as a martyr, as if each individual contributed meaningfully to Black America and our fight for equality. But instead, we find that almost all of Black Lives Matter’s martyrs were mentally ill, prior criminals, the subject of a 911 call reporting a criminal act, or pursued by police for doing something illegal. These are not role models for our community. By glorifying the deaths of Black people who were killed under justifiable circumstances and failed to comply with lawful orders from police officers, Black Lives Matter is damaging the credibility of its argument against police brutality and doing a disservice to those seeking justice for actually unjust killings by police.

Black Lives Matter would have a much more compelling case if they were willing to concede that shootings by police can be—and often are—justified. Refocusing on issues at specific police departments—such as poor training (notably in the cases of Gurley and Harris) and bias due to the statistically disproportionate amount of crime committed by Black Americans—would give them more legitimacy and have more of an impact on the national discourse on crime, policing, and police brutality.

Image Source: Flickr

Super Tuesday: Go Big or Go Home

What is Super Tuesday?

Since our last feature on the Iowa Caucuses, four states, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada have all cast their votes for both the Republican and Democratic Presidential nominees, respectively. With two caucuses and two primaries, these early voting states represent each region of the United States: the Midwest, the Northeast, the South, and the Far West. Both the RNC and the DNC set rules for when states can hold their primary elections, and excluding these four exemptions no states are allowed to hold primaries or caucuses in the month of February. Washington also held its Republican caucus for local elections earlier this month, but the state doesn’t vote to bind its delegates to a Presidential candidate until the subsequent primary in May. Typically, the earlier a state casts its votes, the more influence it holds in the nomination process.

States and territories from all over the US are holding primaries and caucuses on Super Tuesday, including Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia. Alaska and Wyoming will hold their Republican caucuses, and American Samoa will vote for a Democratic candidate. Super Tuesday is a landmark day in the election season because it almost always determines who ends up winning the nomination and how much longer the primary season will last. The joint predictive power of the four earliest states is dubious because they constitute a mere 4% of the voters in each party. Only one of the fifty largest cities in the US – Las Vegas – lies in these four states. By the end of Super Tuesday, 32% of Republicans and 26% of Democrats will have cast their primary ballots.

Unlike the primaries and caucuses in the early states, Super Tuesday has massive predictive power. In 2008, Sen. John McCain won crucial races in California and Illinois, and won all of the delegates from New Jersey and New York. Pres. Obama narrowly won Super Tuesday over Senator Clinton. Though he went on to win the election, Super Tuesday’s extremely narrow margin correctly forbade a long, drawn-out race that would divide the Democrats until late May of that year. Sen. McCain and Pres. Obama aren’t the only examples of the predictive power of Super Tuesday; Gov. Romney in 2012, Sen. Kerry in 2004, Pres. Bush in 2000, Vice Pres. Al Gore in 2000, Sen. Dole in 1996, and Pres. Bill Clinton in 1992 all won their Super Tuesday contests and were the eventual nominees. In other words, precedent dictates that it is highly unlikely that a candidate will lose Super Tuesday and subsequently win the nomination.


What does Super Tuesday mean for the Democrats?

Hillary Clinton has won three of the past four primaries and is consistently polling slightly ahead of Senator Bernie Sanders. While neither candidate has a clear lead in national polling, Hillary Clinton is doing particularly well with the Super Tuesday states. With the notable exception of Vermont – Sanders’ home state – Clinton is leading in nearly every other state slated to vote on March 1. To stay in the race, Sanders needs victories in Massachusetts and Minnesota. Sanders knows that a loss in Nevada significantly hurt his campaign, and has his eye on Super Tuesday.

The majority of the Super Tuesday delegates will be awarded by states in the South: Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. While most of these states are traditionally Republican, their Democratic bases are largely African-American – a group that supports Secretary Clinton. The recent South Carolina primary indicated Hillary’s popularity with Southern Democrats, and pundits expect other southern primaries to reveal similar results. To his credit, Sanders knew that South Carolina wasn’t going his way and did not spend significant resources on winning the state. In spite of controversy surrounding Secretary Clinton’s record on civil rights, the hashtag #WhichHillary does not seem to have whittled down her support base in the south. To this end, Sanders’ winning strategy involves him mitigating his losses in the South and winning the non-southern races. Because of the delegate-heavy South, Sanders is slated to lose Super Tuesday. Nevertheless, Sanders could very well be the first presidential candidate to lose Super Tuesday and go on to win the nomination if he performs better in the rest of the country.


What does Super Tuesday mean for the Republicans?

Donald Trump has won three of the four early Republican primaries, and is currently polling ahead in all 11 of the states casting their votes on Super Tuesday, aside from Texas where Ted Cruz is showing a single digit lead. Uniform third choice Marco Rubio who has won no primaries thus far, and did not fare as well as expected in his childhood state of Nevada is not currently leading a single Super Tuesday state. However, he is second seed in several states including Virginia and Massachusetts. Rubio and his campaign have assured us all that “early polls really don’t matter.” But do they? Historically, the first four primary states may or may not be indicative of who the Republican party will nominate for President. Because Super Tuesday has not predicted an incorrect winner for the party nomination in the relevant past, if Donald J. Trump walks away the clear winner on March 1, the odds are overwhelming that he will go on to become the Republican party nominee for President of the United States.

The day (or week) after Super Tuesday is often a time when we see the field of potential nominees narrow itself. On the day after Super Tuesday in 2000, John McCain suspended his campaign, allowing George W. Bush to continue on alone to the Republican convention to receive the party’s official nomination. Perhaps this year we will see the end of the ailing campaign of Dr. Ben Carson.

In examining his proposed tax policies and inconsistent responses on both abortion and gay marriage, Donald Trump is undoubtedly the closest Republican to the middle. He has the overwhelming support of moderate Republicans, even in spite of Kasich and Rubio’s perceptions as establishment Republicans. Ted Cruz is far more conservative than either Rubio or Trump, and Rubio sits in between the two. When Chris Christie, a relatively moderate Republican, dropped out of the race, he endorsed Donald Trump. Rubio supporters are more likely to pick Trump as their second choice than Cruz supporters. Between Rubio and Cruz, Trump will benefit more if Rubio drops out than if Cruz drops out. Trump is more likely to win a Trump/Cruz matchup than a Trump/Rubio matchup.


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