Black Americans have endured the unendurable for too long. Sixty years after the famed March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his landmark “I Have a Dream” speech, African Americans are on a path where it will take 500 more years to reach economic equality. A new report, Still A Dream, coauthored by Institute for Policy Studies and the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, examines the economic indicators since 1963. Our country has taken significant steps towards racial equity since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ‘60s.
There was no more defining moment in modernity than the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Within that revolution domestically to the United States, the most significant incident was the Titusville, Pennsylvania oil drilling find , which began our internal deluge of oil. This was the beginning of the troika of oil, coal and gas being the foundation of our modern economy. As the saying goes “there are no free lunches”. With this abundance of cheap energy, the release of carbon in our environment has caused a constant rise in our temperatures globally over the past approximately 180 years .
Nearly half of all unhoused adults in California are over the age of 50, with Black residents dramatically overrepresented, according to the largest study of the state’s homeless population in decades. University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) research released on Tuesday also revealed that 90% of the state’s homeless population lost their housing in California, with 75% of them now living in the same county where they were last housed. The study further found that nearly nine out of 10 people reported that the cost of housing was the main barrier to leaving homelessness.
It has long been established that people of color — and especially Black people — are disproportionately criminalized, prosecuted, and incarcerated by the criminal legal system. When it comes to arrests, charges, convictions, and sentences, at every step, Black people are treated much more harshly than white people. But even though this reality is not new, just how unequal the system is across New York is still surprising: In Manhattan — one of the wealthiest and least equal places in the country — courts convicted Black people of felonies and misdemeanors at a rate 21 times greater than that of white people over the past two decades. This disparity is the largest of any county in the state. This troubling statistic features prominently in a lawsuit filed recently by the New York Civil Liberties Union challenging the constitutionality of a ban on people with felony convictions serving on juries in Manhattan.
The place of Black men in higher education, both as students and as educators, has always been precarious—even before the pandemic. A U.S. Department of Education report found in 2016 that Black men made up just 2 percent of the nation's teaching workforce, representing the lowest population group in education. As the realities of the pandemic set in last year, many school districts in the South were chastised for taking a lackluster approach to ensuring safe reopenings for their students. For Everton Blair, an educator and the first Black member of the Gwinnett County, Georgia, Board of Education, openly addressing the risks and the realities was a priority in his district.
While wages for many Americans have rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, earnings for Black workers declined in the first quarter of 2021, growing the wage gap to its highest level since before the pandemic, according to a new analysis. In a report of earnings data by the Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity (LISEP) real median earnings have increased by 1 percent for the first quarter of 2021, driven in large part by a 1.6 percent increase in real earnings by Hispanic workers, while real earnings for white workers remained virtually unchanged. Wages for white earners have fully recovered to pre-pandemic levels and are currently 0.3 percent higher in real terms than in December 2019.
When Lajuana Phillips was shot and killed by a police officer in late 2018, she was a mother of three children, a daughter and a cousin who was described by family as “a hard worker,” according to an online memorial. But Phillip’s death received little media attention. There were a few local stories when she was first identified by police, and others detailing the circumstances that led to her being shot at six times. But that was about it. Phillips isn’t alone. Crystal Danielle Ragland, who was killed in Huntsville, Alabama; Latasha Nicole Walton of Florida; and April Webster of South Carolina, to name a few, also received little news coverage after their fatal encounters with law enforcement. Most people fatally shot by police get little to no attention from national media outlets.
The median salaries of women and people of color at 14 unionized Gannett newsrooms was at least $5,000 less than those of their male and white colleagues, a new study by the NewsGuild Gannett caucus found. The median full-time salary for women in fall 2020 was $47,390, while the median for men was $57,235, representing a pay gap of $9,845. Journalists of color earned a median salary of $48,006, or $5,246 lower than the median salary for white journalists, $53,252. A team of six volunteers put together the study, which was released Tuesday and includes data for roughly 450 employees from fall 2020. Newsrooms that participated in the study include The Arizona Republic, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and The Indianapolis Star.
A new analysis from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy provides critical data for the debate over whether to repeal the $10,000 cap on state and local tax (SALT) deductions. The report, Not Worth Its SALT: Tax Cut Proposal Overwhelmingly Benefits Wealthy, White Households, finds that repeal of the SALT cap without other reforms would worsen economic disparities and exacerbate racial inequities baked into the federal tax system. Black and Hispanic families are respectively 42 percent and 33 percent less likely to benefit from SALT repeal than white families. Overall, 72 percent of the benefit of SALT repeal would go to white households. More specifically, white households earning more than $200,000 a year are 6.7 percent of all households but would receive 66.8 percent of the benefit of SALT repeal.
The past six months have highlighted the fight that Black people are in against state violence, both in the form of policing and the US healthcare system. Though the ruling class cries that the coronavirus pandemic is “the great equalizer ,” the virus continues to demonstrate exactly who our capitalist health-care system was designed to keep alive. So far, across the country, about 42% of coronavirus deaths have been Black people , even though they were only about 21% of the population in the areas analyzed. In Louisiana , over 70% of people who died were Black (despite Black people being only 32% of the population). Along with high rates of death, countless stories have emerged about Black people turned away from hospitals, struggling to access testing, and being disproportionately arrested or ticketed for not following public health guidelines.
Identity politics currently is in the forefront of the United States political agenda, and things do look quite dismal in regard to wealth, opportunity, and quality of life of a significant number of minority workers—but this is also the case, when we look closely, for a large segment of the overall population of our country. The question I see is where do we want to go and how can we change the situation? It is quite clear to me that the current ruling class has no intention of giving up their ruling position without a concerted fight. The ruling elite (the capitalist class or rich people as a class, not individually) have fought throughout the history of its existence—about 350 years, for its ruling position. I think the choice for us is this: Parity or Emancipation?
Uprisings for racial justice are sweeping the country. Following the police murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others, named and unnamed, America has finally reached its moment of reckoning. And politicians are starting to respond. But you can’t end police violence without ending police surveillance. That starts with banning facial recognition, a technology perfectly designed for the automation of racism. I live in Detroit, a city with more than 500,000 Black people. In my city, we live under constant surveillance. We are in a perpetual lineup. Our faces are caught on camera everywhere we go—harvested and analyzed by algorithms. Numerous studies have shown that facial recognition algorithms exhibit systemic racial and gender bias. Detroit’s police chief openly admitted that their software is wrong up to 96 percent of the time.
After about a two-hour debate the Oakland School Board tonight voted unanimously to eliminate the Oakland Unified School District Police Department from campuses. The “George Floyd Resolution” eliminates the school districts police force of 10 sworn officers and 50 unarmed campus safety officers. The Board also added several amendments to the final proposal. One requires the superintendent to ensure all staff receive training. Citing the disproportionate arrests of Black students by Oakland’s school police, as well as the district’s “obligation to promote the healthy development of each one of its students” and the many alternative ways to handle discipline inside schools, the board directed the superintendent to take steps required to eliminate the department.
In the past weeks, I’ve watched the news about the explosion of protests against police brutality and racism in the United States and around the world, and the resulting conversations on police defunding, reform or abolition. As I scrolled through social media and obsessively scanned and rescanned the headlines, a small thought tugged at me. It was the story of how one of my heroes, Elinor Ostrom, who won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2009, had arrived at the research that made her famous. Ostrom has become celebrated as the person who introduced the world to “the commons” — that is, how people can, and do, manage the resources in their community through participation and sharing, instead of violence and competition. Her work was revolutionary and has changed the fields of economics, planning, public policy and environmental science.
“We’re all in this together” has become a rallying cry during the coronavirus pandemic. While it is true that COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way, the magnitude and nature of the impact has been anything but universal. Evidence to date suggests that black and Hispanic workers face much more economic and health insecurity from COVID-19 than white workers. Although the current strain of the coronavirus is one that humans have never experienced before, the disparate racial impact of the virus is deeply rooted in historic and ongoing social and economic injustices. Persistent racial disparities in health status, access to health care, wealth, employment, wages, housing, income, and poverty all contribute to greater susceptibility to the virus—both economically and physically.