Lt. Gov. Northam at visit to the Harrison Museum of African American Culture
In a party-line vote, Virginia House Democrats today sustained Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s veto of a Republican bill to defund Planned Parenthood.
During the debate, Republican Del. Matt Fariss, a white man, asked Democratic Caucus Chair Charniele Herring, a black woman, whether fetuses could be selectively aborted based on race.
“More than-one third of Planned Parenthood patients are Hispanic women or women of color, and both those demographics are disproportionately more likely to die from cervical cancer,” said Herring. “An attack on Planned Parenthood is an attack against women, especially low-income women an
Wednesday evening Congressman Bobby Scott was the special guest speaker at the African-American Culture Leadership Reception at the Harrison Museum of African-American Culture in Center in the Square. Scott, 69, shared his life experiences as an African-American.
“For African-Americans, in particular those in Virginia, there’s always been a struggle between ‘all men are created equal’ and the reality of slavery and racism,” said Scott. His father, a doctor, worked in segregated hospitals in the 1950s and 1960s he said.
Knowing his father was an excellent physician whites would sneak him into the white hospitals said Scott to operate on them. His father was appointed to the school board in 1952 and that was 2 years before Brown v. Board of Education. He then was part of a subcommittee to Richmond on how to respond to the decision.
The response to Brown v. Board of Education that separate but equal was a farce and instead of integrating Virginia schools localities closed school districts in protest. Farmville where the Vice Presidential debate was held Tuesday night closed schools from 1959 until the 1963-64 school year.
Scott is serving his 12th term serving constituents in Virginia’s 3rd district. He was the first African-American elected to Congress from Virginia since reconstruction and is the Ranking Member on Education and the Workforce and Chairman and Ranking Member on Crime, Terrorism & Homeland Security on the House Judiciary Committee.
He grew up in Newport News and graduated from Harvard College and Boston College Law School. He was a lawyer from 1973 to 1991.
As a young lawyer he had his own private practice because law firms were not hiring African-Americans. He eventually began working with three other African-American attorneys. Scott became president of the Newport News NAACP.
Scott realized that to initiate change it would have to be done from within the political system. He was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1977 and was elected to the Senate of Virginia in a special election in 1982, and elected to a full term the following year in 1983 where he served with Sen. Granger MacFarlane.
He was elected to Congress in a regular election in 1992 and took office in 1993.
“The political forum gave me the opportunity to do the kind of work in education that needed to be done,” said Scott. “When the Brown v. Board of Education said education should be made available to all on equal terms. When you look up you find it funded with the real estate taxes. That guarantees it’s not going to be equal,” said Scott comparing the high income areas with high population to the low-income urban areas that generate much less in real estate taxes but need more assistance. That funding formula disparity has been successfully thwarted but could pop up again at any time.
The good part about “No Child Left Behind” was the mandate to close the achievement gap between whites and African-Americans. Scott admitted that it had become “convoluted” and burdensome with excessive testing.
“Access to higher education is going to be a challenge,” said Scott. “In the old days the states used to pay 2/3 of the cost of higher education and a Pell grant would cover most of the rest along with working your way through college.”
Now states cover about 1/3 of the cost and Pell grants haven’t kept up with inflation and fear of significant student debt has prevented qualified students from going to college he said.
Scott said the George W. Bush tax cut that was extended could have paid for a free college education. He quoted Sen. Bernie Sanders cost projection of $900 billion for free college and compared it to the Bush tax cuts that cost the U.S. $3 trillion. Recently this session with no one knowing Congress passed a $600 billion tax cut he said.
“We can afford it – we just have to make the right kind of choices. If we made the right kind of choices in the educational system maybe we wouldn’t have to make the kind of choices we make in the criminal justice system.”
Scott said, “we lock up so many people – we have 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the prisoners …the cost could be put to better use in preventing crime instead of increasing crime.” With having to build and maintain more prisons … “you’re just wasting money.”
Reducing crime includes early childhood education, after school programs and summer jobs that could actually reduce crime and would be a better choice said Scott.
“Get them out of the cradle to prison pipeline and create a cradle to college and career pipeline.”
End mandatory sentences for drug offenses and increase drug courts. Mandatory sentencing disproportionately incarcerate minorities said Scott. “Let the judge be the judge.”
Money can be saved with early intervention and ending mandatory sentences he said.
He explained how onerous the cost is to file a lawsuit for voting discrimination now that the Voting Rights Act has gutted preclearance mostly in Southern states like Virginia. Scott said leaders in Texas and North Carolina put out press releases saying, “Good, now we can pass laws that we couldn’t pass before” after the U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision.
Congress refuses to hold hearing to restore Section Five of the Voting Rights Act.
Governor Terry McAuliffe is surely feeling the pressure to appoint Congressman Scott to fill U.S. Senator Tim Kaine’s spot if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency on November 8.
The whispers and open dialogue suggests Scott was the choice to fill Kaine’s shoes. Carolyn Word remarked, “he is not only knowledgeable but he’s good-looking too.”