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“Freedom To Discriminate”: We’ve Been Here Before; “No Negroes, No Mexicans, No Dogs Allowed”

In 1942, with the United States newly entered into the Second World War, the Lonestar Restaurant Association in Texas printed flyers for its members to paste on their windows that read: “No Negroes, Mexicans or Dogs Allowed.”That iconic and painful reminder of America’s history of discrimination came to mind in recent days as I listened to Indiana Governor Mike Pence struggle through a mind-numbingly contorted defense of his state’s recently enacted Religious Freedom Restoration Law. Let’s be clear that what Gov. Pence singed into law has little to do with religious liberty and a lot to do with the desire to discriminate against entire sectors of our society but especially gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Americans. We’ve been here before.

In the ’40s and ’50s, as the civil rights movements in Black and Latino communities gathered steam and pushed against the barriers of public and private racism and discrimination, some state governments and businesses responded by claiming that desegregation was an attack on their freedom to choose with whom to share classrooms, bathrooms, restaurants, train stations and the like. In short, they equated their freedom to discriminate with other Americans’ claims to equality. Looking back, we can take great comfort and pride that when faced with this false choice, Americans almost always chose equality.

Yet the battle for equality isn’t over; it never is. This time, the targets of discrimination are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans. This time, the discrimination cloaks itself in the mantle of religious liberty and “freedom of conscience.” This time, the forces of discrimination have cast themselves as a persecuted minority, fending off attacks against their most sacred religious values. Nonsense. No law in this country compels a religious person to act against their religious values and ideals. No law compels that churches or mosques celebrate marriages for gays and lesbians. No law compels a rabbi, pastor or imam to give a religious benediction to homosexuality.

What the law does compel, however, is that one not discriminate in business or in government against a person for their appearance, their nationality, their color, their creed, and, yes, their sexual orientation. That’s not an attack against religious liberty; it’s a defense of American values.

For many Latinos across the country, gay and straight, this Indiana law and its companion in Arkansas, are a painful reminder of our own struggle for equality in the United States. When we see what is happening in Indiana and Arkansas and other states across the country, we recognize the discrimination because we have been and are still its targets. We see it today with attempts to pass anti-immigrant laws in Arizona, Alabama, Pennsylvania and elsewhere. And because of these historic and ongoing struggles, we cannot be silent in the face of these deeply un-American acts. We will not be silent.

The defenders of discrimination and bigotry may control many statehouses and governor’s mansions in this country, but they’re on the wrong side of history. Americans of good conscience will always rise up in defense of equality. We know. We’ve been here before.

 

By: Jose Calderon, President of the Hispanic Federation; The Blog, The Huffington Post, March 3, 2015

April 4, 2015 Posted by | American History, Discrimination, Religious Freedom Restoration Act | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Those Bad Things Are Gone Now”: How The Supreme Court Is About To Explode America’s Racial Wealth Gap

When discussing race, the conservative argument is best expressed by the famous words of Chief Justice John Roberts: “The best way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” Translation: America has done bad things in its history, but those bad things are gone now, so we should move past those horrors and look forward.

Conservatives believe that if blacks and Latinos simply work hard, get a good education and earn a good income, historical racial wealth gaps will disappear. The problem is that this sentiment ignores the ways that race continues to affect Americans today. A new report from Demos and Brandeis University, “The Racial Wealth Gap: Why Policy Matters,” makes this point strongly. The report shows that focusing on education alone will do little to reduce racial wealth gaps for households at the median, and that the Supreme Court, through upcoming decisions, could soon make the wealth gap explode.

Wealth is the whole of an individual’s accumulated assets, not the amount of money they make each year. As such, in his recent book, “The Son Also Rises,” Gregory Clark finds that the residual benefits of wealth remain for 10 to 15 generations. To understand why that matters, consider the fact that Loretta Lynch, Obama’s recent nomination for U.S. attorney general, is the great-great-granddaughter of a slave who escaped to freedom. (That’s four generations). Consider also that most people on Social Security today went to segregated schools. (That’s two generations.) If Clark is correct in his thesis, then the impacts of wealth built on the foundations of American slavery and segregation will continue to affect Lynch’s great-great-great grandchildren.

It is therefore unsurprising that addressing just one aspect of this disparity cannot solve racial wealth gaps. Demos/Brandeis find that equalizing graduation rates would reduce the wealth gap between blacks and whites by 1 percent, and between Latinos and whites by 3 percent at the median. Equalizing the distribution of income would only reduce the wealth gap by 11 percent for blacks and 9 percent for Latinos. Part of the durability of wealth gaps is the disproportionate benefits that whites still enjoy: They face less job market discrimination and are more likely to reap a big inheritance, for example. This means that the returns to education and income are generally higher for whites. But even after controlling for these returns, income and education can’t explain the entire wealth gap.

Because America’s primary vehicle for wealth accumulation is our homes, much of the explanation of the racial wealth gap lies in unequal homeownership rates. According to the Brandeis/Demos analysis, equalizing homeownership would reduce the racial wealth gap by 31 percent for blacks and 28 percent for Latinos. This effect is muted because centuries of discrimination—including racial exclusion from neighborhoods where home values appreciate, redlining, and discriminatory lending practices—mean that people of color are segregated into relatively poor neighborhoods. Indeed, in 1969, civil rights activist John Lewis bought a three-bedroom house for $35,000 in Venetian Hills, Atlanta. He and his wife were the first black family in the middle-class neighborhood. In his book, “Walking with the Wind,” he notes that, “within two years… the white owners began moving out.” Had the value of his house simply kept up with inflation, it would be worth $222,881 today. But Zillow shows that three-bedroom houses in Venetian Hills, Atlanta, are currently selling for around $65,000 to $100,000.

Systematic disinvestment in communities of color means that even when blacks and Latinos own their homes, they are worth far less than white homes. In addition, blacks and Latinos are targets of shady lending. They are more likely to be offered a subprime loan even if they are qualified to receive a better rate. In the wake of the financial crisis, big banks like Blackstone scooped up foreclosed homes and are now offering them to people of color to rent, further pulling wealth out of these communities to benefit rich whites.

The financial crisis had a disparate impact on people of color. A Center for Responsible Lending report examined the loans originated during the subprime boom (2005 to 2008), and found that blacks and Latinos were almost twice as likely to have foreclosed during the crisis. The New York Times reported that Wells Fargo “saw the black community as fertile ground for subprime mortgages, as working-class blacks were hungry to be a part of the nation’s home-owning mania.” They discovered that loan officers “pushed customers who could have qualified for prime loans into subprime mortgages” and “stated in an affidavit… that employees had referred to blacks as ‘mud people’ and to subprime lending as ‘ghetto loans.’”

These problems are troubling, but, as unlikely as it seems, things are about to get even worse. The Supreme Court is set to decide Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, a landmark case challenging the disparate impact test, which allows a practice to be considered discriminatory if it disproportionately and negatively impacts communities of color, even if a discriminatory intent can’t be proven.

The case involves an excellent example of why disparate impact is so important: Nearly all of the tax credits that the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs had approved were in predominantly non-white neighborhoods. At the same time, the department disproportionately denied the claims in white neighborhoods. A federal judge decided that regardless of racial intent, the result had a “disparate impact” and increased neighborhood segregation. As Nikole Hannah-Jones has extensively documented, disparate impact has been crucial in holding banks accountable. For instance, the Justice Department used it to settle with Bank of America for $335 million after it was discovered that a mortgage company purchased by BofA had been pushing blacks and Latinos into subprime loans when a similar white borrower would have qualified for a prime loan. Because there was no official policy that required blacks and Latinos to get worse loans, the case would not have been won but for the disparate-impact statute.

The Supreme Court has already decimated the Voting Rights Act, opening the door for onerous restrictions on voting. They upheld a law banning affirmative action at state universities and have already crushed integration efforts at K-12 schools. Worryingly, as Demos Senior Fellow Ian Haney López told ProPublica, “It is unusual for the Court to agree to hear a case when the law is clearly settled. It’s even more unusual to agree to hear the issue three years in a row.” Given the importance of neighborhood poverty to upward mobility and wealth building, this case had the potential to be the most destructive, dramatically curtailing opportunity and making the wealth gap into a chasm. As Patrick Sharkey notes, “Neighborhood poverty alone accounts for a greater portion of the black-white downward mobility gap than the effects of parental education, occupation, labor force participation, and a range of other family characteristics combined.”

Demos and Brandeis suggest policies to boost homeownership, like better enforcement of anti-discrimination laws, lowering the cap on the mortgage interest deduction so blacks and Latinos can benefit and authorizing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to allow homeowners to modify their loans. In addition, America needs to systematically invest in poor neighborhoods. Equalizing public school education funds for poor and nonwhite schools would increase home prices in poor neighborhoods. In addition, a baby bond program would directly reduce wealth gaps by giving children money that could be used for a down payment on a house or an investment in their education. What’s clear is that we cannot simply hope that wealth gaps will disappear. These gaps were created by racially biased federal policies and need to be remedied by public policy as well. Government created the white middle class in the 1950s; now it’s time to create a black and Latino middle class. The Supreme Court, with its supposedly race-neutral philosophy, will only make it more difficult to close racial wealth gaps.

 

By: Catherine Ruetschlin, a Senior Policy Analyst at Demos & Sean McElwee, Research Assistant at Demo: Salon, March 14, 2015

March 16, 2015 Posted by | Discrimination, SCOTUS, Wealth Gap | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Tramp Stamps, Racism And ‘Icky’ Pronouns: 8 New Life Tips From “Bell Curve” Author Charles Murray

Weeks after Rep. Paul Ryan was slammed for citing his writing,The Bell Curve” author Charles Murray is out today with a new book: “The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead: Dos and Don’t of Right Behavior, Tough Thinking, Clear Writing, and Living a Good Life.”

Murray, whom Ryan cited as a source demonstrating “this tailspin of culture in our inner cities in particular,” and the Southern Poverty Law Center labels a “White Nationalist,” addresses his new book to readers who are “in or near your twenties,” “intelligent,” “ambitious,” and “want to become excellent at something.”

He is most famous for co-authoring “The Bell Curve,” a 1994 book (in the author’s’ words) “about differences in intellectual capacity among people and groups and what those differences mean for America’s future.” Describing what they called “the cognitive differences between races,” Murray and co-author Richard Hernstein wrote that “It seems highly likely to us that both genes and the environment have something to do with racial differences.” They also claimed, “There is some evidence that blacks and Latinos are experiencing even more severe dysgenic pressures than whites, which could lead to further divergence between whites and other groups in future generations.” (They describe “a dysgenic effect” as “a downward shift in the ability distribution.”)

Murray was supposed to conduct an interview with Salon (having agreed to it last week), but abruptly dropped out hours beforehand. In the interview’s place, here are some of his new book’s eight most memorable life tips:

On Tattoos: “As for tattoos, it does no good to remind curmudgeons that tattoos have been around for millennia. Yes, we will agree, tattoos have been common – first among savage tribes and then, more recently, among the lowest classes of Western societies. In America, tattoos have until the last few decades been the unambiguous badge of the proletariat or worse – an association still acknowledged in the phrase tramp stamp.”

On Pronouns: “The feminist revolution has tied writers into knots when it comes to the third-person singular pronoun. Using the masculine pronoun as the default has been proscribed. Some male writers get around this problem by defaulting to the feminine singular pronoun, which I think is icky.” Instead, “Unless there is an obvious reason not to, use the gender of the author or, in a cowritten text, the gender of the principal author. It’s the perfect solution.”

On jobs: “Here’s the secret you should remember whenever you hear someone lamenting how tough it is to get ahead in the postindustrial global economy: Few people work nearly as hard as they could.”

On subordination: “But in all cases when you have problems in your interactions with your boss, there’s one more question you have to ask yourself: To what extent is your boss at fault, and to what extent are you a neophyte about supervisor-subordinate relationships? … What you see as arbitrary, insensitive, or hostile behavior on the part of your boss may be nothing more than the way in which supervisors have been treating subordinates from time immemorial.”

On “problematic”: “For example it is appropriate to say that a proposed voter ID bill is problematic because it risks disenfranchising more eligible voters than it prevents fraudulent votes, but not to say that it is problematic because it is racist and offensive. That may be your sincere opinion, but people on the other side can be just as sincerely convinced that it is not racist and offensive and neither side can prove the other wrong.”

On “flaccid nonjudgmental nonsense”: “If he says instead, ‘Marriage works for some people, not for others; it’s no big deal what people choose,’ then my point about artistic merit is unchanged, except more emphatic: You mustn’t indulge yourself in that kind of flaccid nonjudgemental nonsense … To say something like, ‘Marriage works for some people, not others; it’s no big deal what people choose,’ is as idiotic as saying that it’s a matter of opinion whether a Titian painting is superior to artistic dreck, except that in this instance there is a moral dimension to your obligation to think through your judgments that doesn’t burden your judgments about art.”

On marriage: “For ninety-five percent of the population, showing up for family means making oneself available for marriage.”

On manners: “The two who have embodied great manners for me have been William F. Buckley, Jr., the late conservative writer, and his brother James, a former senator and retired judge.”

(William Buckley wrote, and as late as 1989 defended, the National Review’s 1957 editorial citing the “cultural superiority of white over Negro.”)

Murray also argued in 2000 that while one “cannot imagine” a presidential candidate saying “a lot of poor people are born lazy,” in fact “It is almost certainly true” that “the population below the poverty line in the United States has a configuration of the relevant genetic makeup that is significantly different from the configuration of the population above the poverty line.”

In a much-cited 1994 review in the New Yorker, evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould accused Murray and Hernstein of “pervasive disingenuousness,” “blatant errors” and “violation of all statistical norms that I’ve ever learned,” in the service of “anachronistic social Darwinism.” (Responding to criticism from Paul Krugman last month, Murray wrote that “Our sin was to openly discuss the issue, not to advocate a position,” and that those making “allegations of racism” never accompanied them with “direct quotes of what I’ve actually said.”)

Six days after a publicist for Murray’s new book scheduled an interview with Salon, a spokesperson for the American Enterprise Institute, where Murray is a fellow, notified us Monday that Murray “is not willing to do the interview this afternoon and will not be rescheduling.” The spokesperson wrote that “Given Salon’s body of work he doesn’t think he’s going to receive a fair shake.”

He also shared a blog post from Murray objecting to a recent Huffington Post story quoting him stating that “No woman has been a significant original thinker in any of the world’s great philosophical traditions” and that “Social restrictions undoubtedly damped down women’s contributions in all of the arts, but the pattern of accomplishment that did break through is strikingly consistent with what we know about the respective strengths of male and female cognitive repertoires.” Murray criticized reporter Laura Bassett for not quoting from that essay’s subsequent passages, which he noted said that “Women have their own cognitive advantages over men, many of them involving verbal fluency and interpersonal skills,” and also that “women are more attracted to children than are men, respond to them more intensely on an emotional level, and get more and different kinds of satisfactions from nurturing them.”

 

By: Josh Eidelson, Salon, April 8, 2014

 

April 9, 2014 Posted by | Charles Murray, Racism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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