Wednesday, April 8, 2015


One of the goals of the Civil Rights movement was access. Whether it was gaining access to voting, education, or quality jobs to help historically disenfranchised peoples capture the American Dream, the goal was to create an environment for the equal treatment of people of all stripes.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 helped deal with voter discrimination and issues of segregation. Today, unfortunately, we find a mixed picture where many of the political and economic gains made during the 1960s have either stalled, or are suffering setbacks.

As UFW co-founder Dolores Huerta put it, the issues of civil rights today "are much more complex."

As evidence, it's clear that recent redistricting patterns and voter ID laws not only work to undermine democracy in America, but may even be turning back the clock on some of the gains achieved by the civil rights movement. Commenting on this, Reagan-appointed 7th Circuit Court Judge Richard A. Posner made it clear that we need to recognize that voter ID laws are effectively designed to discourage voting among the weakest and least represented groups in America.

To better understand and address these and other issues that confront our nation, California State University Bakersfield in collaboration with Bakersfield College is rolling out the Center for Social Justice on campus tonight. The goal of the Center is to take a look at political and social issues that challenge the San Joaquin Valley.

Among the issues that we are in the process of studying include voter disenfranchisement in Tulare County (just south east of Fresno) and the relationship between home ownership and voting in southern Kern County (just south of Bakersfield).

Tonight we will have presentations on high school expulsion rates in Kern County - and what it means for our region's youth - and how the presence of 'food deserts' impact civic participation and community life in Bakersfield. In the FYI category, we will be presenting on all of these issues next week in Chicago, where our group will be panelists at the Mid-West Political Science Association's annual conference.

For those of you in the Bakersfield and Kern County region, tonight's presentation will be held at 6 pm in the Walter Stiern Library's Dezember Room on the CSU Bakersfield campus.

- Mark

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