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“No Excuse For Inaction”: The Awful Race Disparities That Still Haunt Us

Even though a black family lives in the White House, hardly anyone seriously argues that we live in a postracial society. That aspirational description of 21st century America came into vogue about four years ago, as President Barack Obama raced to victory in the 2008 presidential election, and a great number of black and white Americans wanted to believe the nation was finally closing the books on its discriminatory history.

But no. President Obama’s election didn’t suddenly sweep away all the accumulated consequences of past racism in our society. The preexisting racial disparities, so engrained in the fabric of our economy and culture, didn’t erase themselves in the wake of his victory.

As my Progress 2050 colleagues Christian E. Weller, Julie Ajinkya, and Jane Farrell make regrettably clear in their recently released report, “The State of Communities of Color in the U.S. Economy: Still Feeling the Pain Three Years Into Recovery,” racial and ethnic minority groups aren’t living in a paradise free of racial disadvantage. Quite the contrary, their research demonstrates that people of color aren’t benefiting apace with white Americans as our nation gradually rebounds from the financial collapse and economic recession that gripped us all when President Obama took office:

[T]he data we summarize in this report shows that communities of color are substantially less likely than their white fellow citizens to enjoy the opportunities that come from having a good job, owning a home, and having a financial safety cushion in the form of health insurance, retirement benefits, and private savings. This difference exists because economic opportunities eroded faster for communities of color than for whites during the Great Recession—and those opportunities have been coming back much more slowly for communities of color than for whites during the economic recovery.

The disparities Weller, Ajinkya, and Farrell write about aren’t new. Anyone who’s paid scant attention to the drumbeat of sour economic news knows that white unemployment, while at near-record heights, never drew within spitting distance of the chronically high rates suffered by African Americans and Latinos. As a result of this one fact, my colleagues write, a host of other calamities followed for people of color during the economic downturn like toppling dominoes, including:

— Black Americans enjoying fewer job opportunities than all other racial and ethnic groups.

— Poverty rates, already higher for communities of color, rising faster in the recession and declining slower during recovery than for white Americans

— Homeownership, a major source of financial security, disappearing faster for black Americans during the recession and recovery than for white Americans

Those are old, bitter, and racially disparate facts. But what is especially galling is the yawning silence and indifference that seems to accompany the periodic recitation of them. Worse, there exists in some conservative quarters a refusal to acknowledge the truth and an eagerness to embrace discredited notions about postracialism. Acting as if racial disparities don’t exist or believing we’re now living in some fantasy world free of racial divisions is nothing more than an excuse to preserve the status quo. It serves to protect the advantages of those who are already employed and comfortable, while keeping racial and ethnic minorities locked out of the improving economy.

But despite the cloudy pessimism disclosed in the report, there also exists the opportunity for hopeful change. More than a catalogue of racial disparities, the report provides a roadmap for policies that, if implemented, would help equalize the burdens faced by people of color. Specifically, it suggests federal policies that would accelerate job creation, shore up unemployment insurance, raise the minimum wage, increase access to health insurance, and implement comprehensive immigration reform to protect workers’ rights.

Armed with the facts of disparity and a prescription for change, policymakers have no excuse for inaction. Reporting the bad news, as Weller, Ajinkya, and Farrell have done, removes the blinders from their eyes. Policymakers’ indifference to the pain of their fellow citizens can only be interpreted as willing refusal to ensure that all Americans—including communities of color—share equitably in the rebuilding and recovery of the nation’s economy.


By: Sam Fulwood III, Center for American Progress, Published in AlterNet, April 17, 2012

April 23, 2012 Posted by | Poverty | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Regressive Politics: Why Herman Cain Scares Me

When Herman Cain said he was on the GOP panel of candidates  for the presidency for comic relief, I laughed, because I thought “this guy’s a  joke.”  But he isn’t. The polls show he  is gaining more and more acceptance and popularity among those on the right;  and, the facts show, this man is dangerous.

Let’s start with Mr. Cain’s racism. I believe he is a bigot.

From saying that a Muslim would have to go through certain   requirements to ensure he or she isn’t a terrorist to work for him, to  stating  that communities should be able to ban mosques from their  cities and towns, Cain has made several bigoted statements.

I am sure that the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would  roll in  his grave listening to Mr. Cain’s remarks. And Mr. Cain forgets where   he came from. He grew up in the segregated, racist South. Has Mr. Cain  looked  in the mirror lately?

Or how about glancing at our Constitution? Dr. King  gave his life for to ensure the civil rights for all  Americans, Muslims included. And how about that First Amendment? You  remember that one,  something about religious freedom for all?! Hmmm.

Having a Muslim prove he isn’t a terrorist is as bigoted as  requiring a  black man (like Cain) prove he isn’t lazy, living on welfare, and   father to numerous children with different mothers. Both are disgusting   negative stereotypes and are not true.

Oh yes, I know, Mr. Cain apologized to the Muslim community;  like Mel  Gibson apologized to the Jewish community. An apology doesn’t change   one’s heart nor one’s prejudices.

And speaking of bigotry, how about toward his own community,  African-Americans?

His 9-9-9 plan makes me want to call 9-1-1!

This plan benefits the rich and places the tax burden on the  middle  and lower income families in America; the African-American community   would be hit especially hard.

Let’s look at a few of the problems with the 9-9-9 plan,  shall we?

  • Capital Gains: This  would ensure that a large portion of the rich’s  income would essentially go  untaxed. Middle and lower income families  do not have the resources to invest  and benefit from this tax break.
  • Cutting the federal budget by 70 percent: The federal government  is  one of the largest employers in the United States. How many people would   lose their jobs as a result of this?
  • Does the 9 percent apply to purchasing homes? Stocks? What  about businesses?
  • Where’s the math to prove that this would work?
  • When it comes to sales tax, this would amount to a tax  increase for the middle, lower, and poorer income levels in America.

Herman Cain says on his website that he has top economists  and well  known people who back the 9-9-9 plan and can speak to its merit; yet  he  refuses to list them.

A vote for Herman Cain, in my opinion, is a vote for moving  backward.  Back before our civil rights laws, perhaps even before the  First  Amendment, as Mr. Cain has repeatedly dodged the question regarding  former  Gov. Mitt Romney’s Mormon religion being a cult or not  Christian.

The bottom line is, if you want to be commander in chief of  this  country, you need to be able to make decisions to benefit all of this   country: black, white and yes, Muslim. Oh, and Mr. Perry, that means  Mormons as  well.

By: Leslie Marshall, U. S. News and Woeld Report, October 12, 2011

October 13, 2011 Posted by | Bigotry, Class Warfare, Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, GOP, Ideologues, Republicans, Right Wing | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Southern Republicans Aim To Make White Democrats Extinct

State Rep. Stacey Abrams serves as the Georgia House Minority Leader.

Across the state, legislative maps are drawn to split voters along artificial lines to isolate them by race. Legislators see their districts disappear, themselves the target of racial gerrymandering. Citizens rise up in protest and demand the right to elect the candidate of their choice, but the ruling party ignores them. Racial groups are identified and segregated; their leadership eliminated. It is the way of the South. Only this isn’t 1964, the year before the signing of the Voting Rights Act. This is Georgia in 2011.

But this time, the legislators at risk are white men and women who have had the temerity to represent majority African-American districts, and Latino legislators who spoke up for their growing Hispanic population. In crossover districts, where whites and blacks have worked together for decades to build multi-racial voting coalitions, the new district maps devised by the Republican majority have slashed through those ties with speed and precision.  If the maps proposed by the GOP in Georgia stand, nearly half of the white Democratic state representatives could be removed from office in one election cycle. Call it the “race card”—in reverse.

Reapportionment is a dangerous business. Once every 10 years, the naked ambition of political parties wars with the dwindling hope of voters that this time their voices will be heard. In the South, the voting lines traditionally aimed for specific targets—racial discrimination that purged minorities, diminishing their numbers and political power. If a legislator had the poor fortune to be of the wrong race, that district would disappear for a decade or more.  The voters who relied on you would find themselves isolated and polarized, the victims of racial gerrymandering.

For most of the nation, the battle lines are drawn by partisan leaders who search for the sinuous lines that will connect like-minded voters to one another and disadvantage those who have shown a preference for the other side. That, as they say, is Politics 101.

But for a handful of states, the stakes are higher. Below the Mason-Dixon Line and scattered across the country, a legacy of poll taxes and literacy tests required a special remedy—Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Voting Rights Act has a simple goal—integrate the voting of minorities into the fabric of our democracy. For any state held to its obligations, no changes can be made to election laws without pre-clearance by the Justice Department. In the last decade, the minority population across the South has increased, and by any measure, the Voting Rights Act has been the engine of racial progress.

In Georgia, the gains made under the Act are undeniable. Districts populated predominately by African-Americans have routinely elected white legislators to speak for them. In enclaves across the state, white voters have punched their ballots to elect African-American and Latino representatives. Crossover districts, where blacks and whites and Latinos co-mingle, have grown in prominence–combining with majority-minority districts to comprise nearly 35 percent of the House of Representatives.

In 2011, Georgia should stand as a model for the South and a beacon for those who believe in the rights of voters. However, based on the maps passed last week by the Republican majority, we are in danger of returning to 1964.

Redistricting is fundamentally about voters, and in Georgia, minority voters comprise fully 42 percent of the population. More importantly, these populations have aligned themselves with majority white constituents to demonstrate political power. Under the proposal, Republicans will pair 20 percent of Democrats and 7 percent of Republicans in the state House and eliminate the sole remaining white Democrat in Congress from the Deep South. The House pairings pit black Democrats against white Democrats in four contests, white against white in another and eliminate multi-racial coalition voting across the state. When the dust settles, between pairings and the creation of GOP-leaning districts, Republicans stand to knock off 10 white Democrats—half the total number. They will pick up seven new seats, for a total of 123 Republican seats, 56 Democratic seats and one Independent. This will give Republicans a constitutional majority in the state of Georgia; in other words, they will be able to pass any piece of legislation without opposition.

Let’s be clear. It is absolutely the prerogative of the majority party to maximize its political gains. No one questions the right of the GOP to draw as many districts as it can legally muster. The issue is not whether the GOP can increase its hold, but how.

The GOP’s newly drawn voting lines in the state of Georgia reveals a pernicious new cynicism in our politics—the use of the Voting Rights Act as a weapon to destroy racial, ethnic, and gender diversity. It is no consolation if individual black legislators benefit in the GOP’s new scheme. The Voting Rights Act was never intended to protect a particular minority. Indeed, the highest goals of the Act, one of modern America’s most progressive pieces of legislation, was to encourage multi-racial cooperation and understanding. Precisely, what we in Georgia have begun to achieve. More alarmingly, this new strategy targeting white legislators is not limited to our state. If effective here, the cradle of the civil rights movement, the strategy is expected to be implemented in mid-term redistricting across the South. Republican lawmakers in Alabama, Louisiana, North and South Carolina, Mississippi, and Virginia are watching closely.

Today, we all decry a national partisanship that seems unhealthy and corrosive. But there is nothing wrong with partisanship, when it is a battle of ideas. The Voting Rights Act is intended to ensure that differing ideas be heard, that no single voice drown out the rest. Sadly, that is not what we see rising in the South. The Voting Rights Act is in danger of not protecting the promise of a new day, but becoming a new tool in the politics of destruction.

By: Stacey Abrams, Georgia House Minority Leader, Published in U. S. News and World Report, September 19, 2011

September 20, 2011 Posted by | Bigotry, Conservatives, Constitution, Democracy, Democrats, Elections, Equal Rights, GOP, Government, Human Rights, Ideologues, Ideology, Justice Department, Lawmakers, Politics, Racism, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Teaparty, Voters, Wisconsin | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yearning For A Whiter America: Michele Bachmann’s Misplaced Immigration Nostalgia

In both of this month’s Republican presidential debates, Rep. Michele Bachmann hailed what she evidently believes was the golden age of American immigration — the period before the mid-1960s when, she said, “immigration law worked beautifully.”

Ms. Bachmann’s nostalgia is touching but misplaced, unless she really pines for a return to laws that explicitly favored white immigrants from a handful of Northern European countries while excluding or disadvantaging Jews, Asians, Africans and practically everyone else.

Ms. Bachmann didn’t frame it that way, of course. She blamed “liberal members of Congress” for upsetting a system that she characterized as requiring immigrants to have money, sponsors, and clean health and criminal records. In Ms. Bachmann’s world, those immigrants would learn American history and to speak English.

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 fundamentally changed the system of immigration in this country but not in the way Ms. Bachmann evidently imagines. That law, pushed by Democrats including Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rep. Emanuel Celler (D-N.Y.), threw out four decades of immigration quotas whose explicit goal was to emulate America’s ethnic balance as it stood in the year 1890, when the country remained overwhelmingly white.

Specifically, the 1965 measure ended a legal regime dating from the early 1920s that generally shut out Asians (especially Japanese) and capped immigration from Latin America, Eastern and Southern Europe, and other areas at very low levels. The effect was to overhaul that hidebound, exclusive quota system. The new system, whose cornerstone gave preference to family reunification and job skills, broadened what had been a narrow pool of immigrants to include soaring numbers of newcomers from Asia and Latin America.

The shift has contributed to the nation’s diversity, dynamism and rich cultural kaleidoscope even as it challenged society, especially schools, to accommodate waves of new Americans whose looks, language and customs were unfamiliar to their neighbors.

By talking about sponsorship, English-language competency and the like, Ms. Bachmann is either confused or deliberately misleading. Most legal immigrants are still required to have family or employer sponsors, as they did in the gauzy past she idealizes. As for learning English, American history and the like, those were, and remain, requirements for citizenship, not immigration.

Ms. Bachmann, whose campaign did not respond to a request for comment, may not care for the changes and effects wrought by the 1965 bill; many other critics on the right do not. Patrick Buchanan, for example, has blamed the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech on the immigration overhaul, noting that the gunman “was among the 864,000 Koreans here as a result of the Immigration Act of 1965, which threw the nation’s doors open to the greatest invasion in history, an invasion opposed by a majority of our people.” If Ms. Bachmann shares such views, let her address the issue honestly and head on, not in code.


By: Editorial Board, The Washington Post, September 15, 2011

September 17, 2011 Posted by | Bigotry, Birthers, Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Constitution, Democracy, Democrats, Education, Elections, Equal Rights, GOP, Government, Human Rights, Ideologues, Ideology, Immigrants, Immigration, Liberty, Politics, Racism, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Marriage Vow”: The Candidate “Pledge” To End All Pledges

So in the wake of the “Cut, Cap and Balance Pledge” signed by seven Republican presidential candidates, and the “Pro-Life Presidential Pledge” signed by five, along comes Iowa social conservative kingpin Bob Vander Plaats of the Family Leader organization with a new pledge–actually an oath–it calls “The Marriage Vow.”

You have to read this document to believe it. Styled as a “pro-family” platform, the pledge goes far beyond the usual condemnations of same-sex marriage and abortion and requires support for restrictions on divorce (hardly a federal matter), the firing of military officers who place women in forward combat roles, and “recognition of the overwhelming statistical evidence that married people enjoy better health, better sex, longer lives, [and] greater financial stability.”  If that’s not enough, it also enjoins “recognition that robust childbearing and reproduction is beneficial to U.S. demographic, economic, strategic and actuarial health and security.”  This, in case you are wondering, is a nod to the “Full Quiver (or Quiverfull) Movement” that encourages large families in a patriarchal structure as a religious obligation, not to mention to those anti-choicers who want to ban some of the most popular forms of contraception.

The preamble to the “Marriage Vow” is even weirder, asserting among other things that “faithful monogomy” was a central preoccupation of the Founding Fathers; that slaves benefitted from stronger families than African-Americans have today; and that any claims there is a genetic basis for homosexuality are “anti-scientific.”

The “Marriage Vow” seems tailor-made to feed the backlash against ever-proliferating “pledges” imposed on Republican presidential candidates by the Right.  But Vander Plaats and his group cannot be dissed without risk by anyone wanting to win the Iowa Caucuses.  A perennial statewide candidate (his 2010 primary challenge to now-Gov. Terry Branstad won a surprising 41% of the vote), Vander Plaats was co-chair of Mike Huckabee’s victorious 2008 Iowa Caucus campaign, and also spearheaded the successful 2010 effort to recall state Supreme Court judges who supported the 2009 decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

Kevin Hall of The Iowa Republican suggests that the “Vow” is a power-play by VanderPlaats to influence the outcome of the August 13 Iowa State GOP straw poll, in which The Family Leader has pledged neutrality, by separating candidates deemed acceptable from those who won’t sign the oath.  And indeed, Michele Bachmann, rumored to be Vander Plaats’ current favorite, signed it virtually before the ink dried.  What will really be interesting is whether Tim Pawlenty, who has been eagerly accepting every ideological demand made of him by the Right, signs this document.  It is certainly designed to freak out the more secular-minded Establishment Republicans he will eventually need if he is to put together a winning coalition of everyone in the party who doesn’t like Mitt Romney.  But he has to do well in Iowa for that to matter, so my guess is that he will follow Bachmann in kissing Vander Plaats’ ring and associating himself with a fresh batch of extremism.

By: Ed Kilgore, The Democratic Strategist, July 8, 2011

July 10, 2011 Posted by | Abortion, Conservatives, Elections, Equal Rights, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Iowa Caucuses, Politics, Pro-Choice, Republicans, Right Wing, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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