Nader/U.S. Election

Dayne Goodwin dayneg at
Tue Nov 7 02:00:56 MST 2000

Nader: not "new" to fighting racism

Ralph Nader Responds to ColorLines
On August 17, 2000, ColorLines published an article by Vanessa Daniel
criticizing presidential candidate Ralph Nader for downplaying issues of
race and racism in his campaign, and calling on him to make these
crucial issues central to his campaign and the public debate surrounding
the election. That article can be accessed at
Today we received the following response from Mr. Nader.

After reading the ColorLines article entitled "Ralph Nader's Racial
Blindspot" written by Vanessa Daniel, I want to respond and describe my
record on advocating for the rights of people of color.  Issues
concerning racism have been central to the work I have done in the past,
and continue to the present day.

I have been very critical of the criminal justice system, which is
highly discriminatory against people of color.  Ever since I was a law
student, I have opposed the death penalty--unlike Gore and Bush, who
both support state sanctioned murder.  It has been shown on numerous
occasions that people of color disproportionately receive the death

The lack of competent legal services for the poor results in an unequal
justice system.  Those who cannot afford competent legal counsel are
more likely to receive harsher sentencing.  In addition, racism inherent
in the criminal justice system results in harsher sentencing of people
of color.  Racial biases of some judges play a role in sentencing.

Other criminal justice matters that require attention as human rights
and civil rights violations include racial profiling, illegal police
violence, the prison industrial complex, and the war on drugs.  Racial
profiling, a blatantly discriminatory practice, is not a legitimate
law-enforcement technique.  It denies individuals of equal treatment.
Where is "equal protection under the law" when people of color are
suspected of wrongdoing before they have even done anything?  I endorse
the end of pretextual traffic stops and passage of the Traffic Stops
Statistics Act.

Community policing reduces police violence because police work and live
in the neighborhood.  When police are not trained properly and are not
subject to penalties like everyone else, the system breaks down and the
critical public respect for the police force dissipates.

The prison industrial complex is a modern-day form of serfdom.  The
extensive locking up of individuals, disproportionately people of
color, is an injustice, to say the least.  There should be no corporate
prisons.  Incarceration is a public responsibility, not a private

The failed War on Drugs has been responsible for the imprisonment of
many of our nation's citizens.  Instead of criminalizing drug use by
jailing drug addicts, we need to spend more time, energy, and money on
treatment and prevention.  We don't send alcoholics or nicotine addicts
to jail.  Incarceration of people who need treatment and economic
opportunity is senseless.  The Drug War has been a war especially
against the poor and people of color.

I actively supported the boycott against Coca-Cola, which aggressively
markets to Black consumers, yet discriminates against Blacks as
employees.  Black employees at Coca-Cola are paid less than White
employees, and are underrepresented in top pay-grade levels.

I strongly support affirmative action measures in employment, which seek
equal pay and equal partnership, to remedy the effects of
discrimination.  After more than 300 years of affirmative action to
benefit White males, we definitely need affirmative action for people of
color and women to offset historic wrongs as well as present-day

Another one of my battles has been to expose the biases of tests
administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS).  Culturally
biased tests are denying poor youngsters of color and other poor youth
access to educational opportunities.  Low-income families, often
desperate, exploited and situated in brutish surroundings, cannot often
offer a learning climate at home, or receive the same at dilapidated
schools, that leads to higher test scores.

African American teachers who do pass teacher tests score lower than
whites on average, but beginning African American teachers earn higher
performance ratings than their white counterparts, according to "The
Effects of Competency Testing on the Supply of Minority Teachers," by
Dr. G. Pritchy Smith, Professor at the University of North Florida.  I
advocate the elimination of such multiple choice standardized tests,
which are a great barrier to opportunity for low-income people of color.

I sponsored "Civics for Democracy," an educational guide, which
extensively addresses slavery, Jim Crow laws, school desegregation,
civil rights marches and boycotts events not dealt with adequately in
public school texts.

In 1993, our associates exposed home mortgage lenders who had been
involved in the illegal practice of racial "redlining."  I was involved
in uncovering 49 home mortgage lenders across 16 cities that made little
or no loans in neighborhoods of color.  After pinpointing these
practices, we called for federal investigation, prosecution, and new
regulations to address this racist practice, which discourages people of
color from pursuing home ownership.

When considering the grave injustices that have occurred in the past and
continue to occur in the present-day, it is necessary that we implement
a system of institutional "Marshall Plans" to correct what has been
taken away and is still being taken away from African-Americans and
their children in terms of economic and educational opportunity, self
confidence, and overall quality of life.

Randall Robinson writes in his book, The Debt: What America Owes to
Blacks, "When a government kills its own people or facilitates their
involuntary servitude and generalized victimization based on group
membership, then that government or its successor has a moral obligation
to materially compensate that group in a way that would make it whole,
while recognizing that material compensation alone can never adequately
compensate the victims of great human rights crimes."  This is not about
cash for individuals.  It is about a wealthy white dominated society
recognizing that major institutional responses and democratic
empowerment for those institutionally abused as a group is an act of
honor, justice and enlightened self-interest.

I hope this makes clear my past and present dedication and work for the
rights and remedies for people of color, and other poor Americans.

Ralph Nader

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