The Trayvon Martin case illustrates that we still have a hard time dealing with issues of race in this country. The issue of racial injustice, coupled with economic injustice, is not likely to fade away.
The Census Bureau estimates that by 2042, the population will no longer be majority white. Many believe that this demographic shift will automatically bring with it a qualitative improvement in the situation for people of color.
At the other end of the spectrum, there is a segment of white America that deeply fears the demographic changes and sees in them a threat to its status. Such fears lead some of these people to gravitate toward right-wing populism.
But the demographic changes are not expected to bring about any significant improvements for most people of color, particularly blacks and Latinos, according to a new study, State of the Dream 2012: The Emerging Majority, by the Boston-based United for a Fair Economy.
If current trends continue, we will witness widening gaps in income and wealth, as well as in education and incarceration rates. The study predicts, for instance, that blacks will make 61 cents and Latinos will make 45 cents for every dollar whites make in terms of median family income.
Contrary to right-wing populists' "dystopia for whites," the report paints a picture of a reconfigured Jim Crow — almost an apartheid situation of haves and have-nots.
Most whites won't be benefiting, either. The overall living standard of most of this country, which began to decline in the mid-1970s, will continue to decline. The fates of poor and middle-class whites will be much more connected to those of people of color than to the very rich and largely white ruling elite.
The implications of this report are sobering — even frightening.
We need concerted political and economic action in the days and months and years ahead if we are to conquer our racial and economic disparities. That means not just continuing affirmative action. It also means launching policies of redistributive justice.
Let's face it: Those at the top have been redistributing income and wealth their way over the past three decades. If we don't implement policies that redistribute income and wealth to the vast majority of Americans who need it, our country will become increasingly — and dangerously — divided.
Bill Fletcher Jr. is a scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies and the co-author of "Solidarity Divided." He wrote this for Progressive Media Project.
Dedrick Muhammad, Senior Director of the NAACP's Economic Department and co-author of State of the Dream 2012: The Emerging Majority, and WPKN radio's "Between the Lines" host Scott Harris discuss the alarming possibilities for the race and class divides in U.S. if social and economic trends continue for the next several decades. Muhammad shares various strategies to reduce racial disparities and urges listeners to encourage support for those solutions from their lawmakers.
State of the Dream 2012: The Emerging Majority co-authors Wanjiku Mwangi and Tim Sullivan have an in-depth discussion of the report with WBAI Pacifica "Talk Back!" host Hugh Hamilton on his Martin Luther King, Jr. Day broadcast and fundraising drive. UFE and WBAI are partnering to offer the report as a complimentary gift to the first 100 listeners to pledge $50 or more toward WBAI's work to "foster understanding amongst nations and individuals, encourage creativity, and promote innovative, uncensored distribution of news." Visit WBAI.org to pledge your support.
Track 1 (feat. interview with Tim Sullivan and Wanjiku Mwangi):
Select Coverage of State of the Dream 2012: The Emerging Majority
UFE's ninth annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day report assesses the current racial economic divide and offers a glimpse at a future that could be. Its findings should prompt people of all races and walks of life to unite in action for a more just and racially equitable future.
This timely publication is being covered online, in print and in broadcast media. The links below are a sampling, and the list will be updated as new coverage emerges.
If you are a member of the media or a blogger on social and economic issues and would like to schedule an interview with a co-author or spokesperson for the report, please contact Maz Ali at 617-423-2148 x101 and/or firstname.lastname@example.org.
|11/28/2012||NNPA (national syndication)||Lawmakers ponder fiscal cliff, Blacks already in poverty ditch by Freddie Allen|
|11/1/2012||CNN.com||In 2012, Racism's Tenacious Hold on U.S. by Donna Brazile|
Kansas City Star
Nation's Racial Disparities are Steadily Worsening by Lewis Diuguid (Nationally Syndicated!)
|1/13/2012||MSNBC.com||Race Relations & MLK's Dream: Welcome to the Generation Gap by James Eng|
|1/13/2012||CommonDreams.org||Massive Movement Needed to Fix Perverse Concentration of Wealth|
|1/13/2012||NonprofitQuarterly.org||Report Finds King's "Dream" Looks Bleak Unless New Alliances Converge|
|1/14/2012||SEIU national blog||State of the Dream 2012 synopsis by Kawana Lloyd|
|1/15/2012||Inequality.org||A Financial Nest Egg for Every American Baby?|
|1/15/2012||The Daily World||Remembering Marting Luther King, Jr.|
|1/15/2012||Black Economic Development||Racial Economic Divide Threatens Stability of the Entire Economy|
|1/16/2012||KBOO-FM (Portland, OR)||Tom Becker reads from State of the Dream 2012|
|1/16/2012||Concord Monitor||King's Legacy: Workers' Rights by Arnie Alpert|
|1/16/2012||Black Agenda Report||Listen to Black Agenda Radio (week of January 16, 2012) with Glen Ford|
|1/16/2012||Facing South (Institute for Southern Studies blog)||Dr. King's March to Occupy D.C. for Economic Justice by Chris Kromm|
|1/17/2012||YourBlackWorld.com||What is the State of "The Dream?" by Dr. Julianne Malveaux|
|1/17/2012||WPKN-FM "Between the Lines" with Scott Harris||PODCAST feat. Director of NAACP Economic Dept. & State of the Dream 2012 co-author Dedrick Muhammad|
|1/17/2012||AllGov.com||Median Income for White Families in U.S. Almost Double Blacks and Latinos|
|1/17/2012||OurFuture.org (Campaign for America's Future)||Romney on the Side of Disenfranchising Black Voters by Isaiah J. Poole|
|1/17/2012||WBAI-FM "Talk Back!" with Hugh Hamilton||PODCAST feat. State of the Dream 2012 co-authors, Wanjiku Mwangi & Tim Sullivan|
|1/17/2012||The Louisiana Weekly||U.S. Cities, Nation Face Challenge as Americans Paulse to Remember MLK|
|1/18/2012||The Seattle Medium||A Diverse U.S. Population Will Not Guarantee Parity by George E. Curry|
|1/19/2012||Dollars & Sense magazine||The Great Recession in Black Wealth by Judy Wicks-Lim|
|Photo h/t jonesor on Flickr|
For as long as unemployment data by race have been collected (about 39 years), black unemployment has been roughly double that of whites. Today, the black unemployment rate is an alarming 16 percent. If discouraged workers are included, that number would be much higher.
The causes of disproportionate unemployment in the black community are many and varied, but economists believe that the main three are the lingering effects of discrimination, the educational attainment gap and economic segregation.
The erosion of manufacturing jobs in recent decades, coupled with the anti-government attack on public-sector jobs, have worked together to exacerbate these historical inequalities.
The Center for Economic and Policy Research estimates that between 1979 and 2007, manufacturing jobs held by blacks fell from 23.9 percent to 9.8 percent. The auto industry, for example, has had above-average employment for blacks for a long time, but it has crumbled, meaning that the loss of jobs has been devastating for that community.
Similarly, the assault on public-sector workers — teachers, social workers, food inspectors and more — has a clear racial impact. United for a Fair Economy’s 2011 State of the Dream report notes that blacks are 30 percent more likely than the overall workforce to hold public-sector jobs, and 70 percent more likely to work for the federal government.
Unemployment levels experienced in the black community continue to concentrate high levels of poverty in already-struggling communities, which has profound social effects in perpetuating a downward spiral of crisis. Children growing up here are exposed to high rates of crime and violence, to low-quality foods, and to some of the worst-performing schools, with a lasting impact throughout their lives.
Policymakers in Washington must take bold action to break this cycle. Leaders need to target job creation and retraining strategies in communities hardest hit by the Great Recession. Targeting job creation strategies will help lift struggling black communities in ways that the “shovel-ready” focus of previous job creation efforts cannot.
That’s one reason the Congressional Black Caucus in 2009 called for more job creation funding for economically distressed communities. As unpalatable as it is to the austerity mindset in Congress, increased federal government spending is necessary to keep people working, including black Americans.
This op-ed was originally published in the Atlanta Journal Constitution on October 25, 2011.
Foreclosures continue to decimate communities around the nation, with black neighborhoods being the hardest hit. Some pundits and politicians point to federal policies that encouraged homeownership in low- and moderate-income communities, coupled with reckless behavior on the part of greedy homeowners, as the crux of the problem. One example is the statement by Fox News reporter Neil Cavuto that "loaning to minorities and risky borrowers is a disaster." To the contrary, our recent research demonstrates that it is outside investors living in other, predominantly white neighborhoods, not local homeowners, who account for the adverse impact on our nation's black communities.
Observers ranging from Credit Suisse to the Center for Responsible Lending estimate that about 6 million families have lost their homes to foreclosure and project that 12-15 million families altogether will lose their homes before the crisis is over. According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury $17 trillion in household wealth was eliminated between 2007 and 2009 and more losses are sure to come. Such losses reduce property taxes, cut consumer buying power for local businesses, and weaken the ability of municipalities to provide vital services. In the end, all households, businesses, and non-profits suffer if they or their neighbors are foreclosed and lose their homes.
Recent foreclosure activity and the subsequent costs are not race neutral. According to the Center for Responsible Lending approximately 8 percent of African-American and Latino families have lost their homes to foreclosure compared to 4.5 percent of white families. United for a Fair Economy has estimated that a third of black households and 40 percent of Latinos are at risk of falling out of the middle class and into poverty as a result of the foreclosure and related economic crises.
So what accounts for the concentration of subprime lending and foreclosures in minority neighborhoods? The culprit, at least in Louisville, is investors, primarily white investors who do not reside in the affected communities. In our research we found that in 2007 and 2008 there were approximately 2,000 foreclosure sales each year in Louisville. There were 39 per census tract (a rough approximation of a neighborhood) in black communities compared to 20 in white tracts. More telling is the fact that there were 15 foreclosures on properties owned by investors rather than owner-occupants in black communities compared to two foreclosures in white areas. A close examination of foreclosed properties in black neighborhoods found most owners were white and often living miles away in suburbs.
It is investors seeking a quick profit, not homeowners, who are the real problem in black neighborhoods. We suspect Louisville's story is not unique. Louisville is right in the middle of this pack, ranking 103 out of 203 metropolitan regions in the rate of foreclosures in recent years.
Several factors account for why a property goes into foreclosure and why foreclosure rates are higher in some neighborhoods than others. Race is certainly not the only factor, and may not even be a consideration when other variables are taken into consideration.
We controlled on a range of variables that contribute to foreclosures -- crime rates, housing values, household income, employment levels, vacancies, number of high-cost loans -- and found that the rate of foreclosures for owner-occupants was no different in black and white Louisville neighborhoods. That is, race was not a factor in accounting for differences in the rate of owner-occupied foreclosures among Louisville neighborhoods.
But when we examined investor foreclosures, neighborhood racial composition was the primary predictor. Not only was race a significant factor in accounting for different levels of investor foreclosures among Louisville neighborhoods, race was the single most important factor, even more important than the rate of high-priced or subprime lending
So black communities have been hardest hit, but not because of the federal policies pointed to by Cavuto and other conservative observers like Lou Dobbs, Charles Krauthammer and editorial writers from the Wall Street Journal and a range of other newspapers. Their prime target is the federal Community Reinvestment Act that prohibits redlining. Yet as researchers with the Federal Reserve, National Community Reinvestment Coalition, and several other government, non-profit and academic institutions have demonstrated, this is simply nonsense. [...]
The relentless focus on federal budget-cutting has burned up so much of the country's political oxygen that it nearly choked off dialogue on a more immediate, urgent concern: poverty.
Two well-known Americans tried to move this point to the front of the bus last month with their "Poverty Tour: A Call to Conscience." [...]
The instigators of the bus tour, PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley and Princeton professor Cornel West, did the nation a favor by turning the spotlight onto the very real needs of poor Americans. They feel "invisible" and "disposable," Smiley said during the tour, which ran from Minnesota to Memphis, Tenn.
The sentiment is not surprising. The poor have been left behind by what little economic recovery there has been since the 2008 crash. And in Washington's deficit-obsessed political climate, the talk is all about slashing government — not poverty rates.
Millions of people are without jobs, homes or hopeful futures. Minorities are disproportionately afflicted: Blacks and Hispanics experience unemployment and poverty at far higher rates than the rest of the population does. [...]
[T]he "Call to Conscience" tour was constructive because it pushed the problem of poverty back into the center of a national conversation that had been hijacked by fiscal hawks who see only the cost, not the value, of government.
Unlike the abstractions of long-term deficit projections, poverty is a tangible, here-and-now reality. The country waged a "war on poverty" in the 1960s, but the problem — fed by structural changes in the U.S. economy, policy choices, social shifts and other factors — grew in ensuing decades. Unfair mortgage practices and the epic recession triggered in 2008 exacerbated the trend, wiping out years of progress.
Today, disparities in income, educational attainment, home ownership and family wealth are growing. The rich are getting richer, while the ranks of the poor are poised to expand as government shrinks and job creation remains stagnant.
The employment cuts are likely to have an outsized effect on minority communities, according to the group United for a Fair Economy's "State of the Dream 2011" report. The federal government is an important source of employment for blacks, data indicate.
Rich vs. poor inequities, and the hopelessness that can accompany them, are poisonous to democracy. In the final analysis they are likely to be every bit as destructive, if not more so, than large budget deficits.
Nearly 15 percent of the population — including an estimated 15 million children — live below the federal poverty line, which is about $22,500 a year for a household of four. "Research shows that, on average, families need an income of about twice that level to cover basic expenses," according to the National Center for Children in Poverty, of the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University.
"Using this standard, 42 percent of children live in low-income families," the organization reported. Rates are highest among black, Latino, and American Indian children, data show. [...]
A nation that looks to tax cuts and budget slashing as the answer to 44 million living in deep poverty — many with little hope of overcoming it — is either deluded or uncaring.
Neither of those terms represents the America we know and love.
We are a nation based on the principles of equality and opportunity. Let's live up to them by confronting the factors that lead to entrenched poverty.
Promoting "personal responsibility" is an important key to this challenge. But so is government, which can help communities get through the worst of times and build better foundations for the future.
Economic growth that provides jobs for unemployed and underemployed Americans is vital. But we must not pretend that poverty can be reduced by putting government on a starvation diet.
The issue of poverty belongs at the center of the nation's political priorities, not at the fringe. Smiley and West raised its profile. Their bus tour has ended, but we hope that a new era of understanding has begun.
After Warren Buffett called for the federal government to raise taxes on the super wealthy this week, Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann had a suggestion for the billionaire: Send any unwanted money to the U.S. Treasury.
“Mr. Buffett, write a big check today,” Bachmann said. “There’s nothing you have to wait for.”
The Minnesota congresswoman is correct. The federal government has had a law on the books for 50 years that allows anyone to open up his checkbook, write out a donation payable to the Bureau of the Public Debt, and send it to a post office box in Parkersburg, W.Va. — or make an online payment at www.pay.gov.
Through the first three quarters of the current fiscal year, Americans had donated about $2 million to the fund — compared with $2.8 million in donations for all of fiscal 2010.
That amounts to roughly one ten-thousandth of a percent— that is, 0.0001% — of the federal debt.
The money is set aside and ultimately used to pay the principal on maturing Treasury bills that are issued as debt to finance government operations, according to McKayla Braden, spokeswoman for the debt bureau.
“We send everybody a thank you,” Braden said, noting that the agency gets more donations whenever there’s a public crisis like a natural disaster or the summer deadlock than over raising the debt ceiling.
But millionaires and billionaires who, like Buffett, support higher taxes on the super-rich, say voluntary donations won’t solve the country’s debt problems. Even Buffett’s fortune of approximately $50 billion amounts to less than half a percent of the total.
“It’s better to have a policy than to just bank on individual, idiosyncratic discretion,” said Judy Pigott, a Seattle heiress to a trucking fortune. She is also a member of Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength, which advocates for raising taxes on those who earn more than $1 million a year.
“We all benefit from being part of our country ... and those of us who have abundant financial resources also have abundant privileges,” Pigott said.
Relying on voluntary donations wouldn’t bring in a reliable amount of money that could match revenue from raising taxes across the board, said Lee Farris, a tax policy coordinator for United for a Fair Economy.
A subgroup of that organization, Responsible Wealth, focuses on raising taxes on the wealthy.
“I’m sure Rep. Bachmann would probably not agree that all people who owe money to the U.S. Treasury should make voluntary contributions,” said Responsible Wealth member John Russell, a real estate developer in Portland, Ore. “There’s a fundamental issue of fairness, and nobody wants to be treated in a manner that’s different than other people.”