As we close out Black History Month and the celebration of the many invaluable contributions Black people have made to the U.S., we must also reflect, acknowledge and confront one of the most pernicious issues that has faced generations of Black Americans: racial wealth inequality. Black people have never been able to fully realize the power and freedom that wealth affords since throughout history they have had their wealth systematically blocked or stolen. Despite having the deck stacked against them, generations of Black Americans have been able to save, buy land, start businesses and create their own economic engines.
“It’s not whether you win or lose that counts, but how you play the game that matters.” That’s what my people are often told. But we are not told that this so-called game is rigged, and it’s rigged against us even before we are born. This “game” is life in the divided states of America. This is especially true in the system of criminal justice, a system that has been rigged against Black people since its inception. There Is no better example than this country’s morbid use and fascination with the cold-blooded and premeditated imposition of the death penalty against poor people and its disproportionate use on Black people.
On Oct. 10 — World Day Against the Death Penalty — activists, political leaders and lawyers unite in solidarity from around the world to call for the universal abolition of capital punishment. Now in its 21st year, the day is meant to recognize the cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment and build on the momentum of the current global abolition movement, according to the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty. The death penalty is also disproportionately applied to people of color, as over half of the US death row population is Black or Latino, and typically subjects people on death row to harsher conditions than the general prison population.
A recent NPR headline (7/24/23) declared: “Affirmative Action for Rich Kids: It’s More Than Just Legacy Admissions.” The accompanying story explained: “Affirmative action for minority kids may now be dead. But a blockbuster new study, released today, finds that, effectively, affirmative action for rich kids is alive and well.” Likewise, a Vox headline (7/25/23) reported that “Affirmative Action for White College Applicants Is Still Here.” A Daily podcast (7/27/23) from the New York Times is headlined “Affirmative Action for the 1 Percent,” explaining “just how much elite colleges admissions in the US systematically favor the rich and the superrich.” New York magazine’s Eric Levitz (7/25/23) wrote about “Why Elite Colleges Do Affirmative Action for the Rich.”
A growing problem in American classrooms is that teachers don’t resemble the students they teach. Eighty percent of the nation’s 3.8 million public school teachers are white, but over half of their students are Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American and mixed races. The small slice of Black teachers has actually shrunk slightly over the past decade from 7 percent in 2011–12 to 6 percent in 2020–21, while Black students make up a much larger 15 percent share of the public school student population. A Black teacher can make a positive difference for Black children. Research has shown that Black students are less likely to be suspended and more likely to be placed in gifted classes when they are taught by Black teachers.
Chief Justice John Roberts has historically not decided cases in a way that protects voting rights. In 2013, he authored Shelby v. Holder, which drove a stake through the heart of the Voting Rights Act. And in 2021, he voted to further weaken the Act in Brnovich v. DNC. But this past month, Roberts surprisingly authored two new Supreme Court opinions that support the right to vote. On June 8, the high court struck down a racist congressional district map in Allen v. Milligan, and on June 27, the court preserved judicial review of state legislative enactments in Moore v. Harper.
The Supreme Court of the United States confirmed once again what an utterly reactionary, rightwing institution it is by striking down the right to use affirmative action in college admissions. The 6-3 ruling, issued June 29, stems from two cases – Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard University and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina – which claim that whites and Asians are victims of “reverse discrimination.” What this vote means is that “race-conscious admissions policies,” can no longer be used to assure that working class students of color, especially if they are Black and Brown, will have access to colleges and universities, whose exorbitant tuition fees have put millions into a lifetime of debt.
Boston, MA - Indigenous activists in Boston reaffirm their commitment to overcome historic barriers to higher education for students in light of today’s ruling delivered by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) that guts Affirmative Action in college admissions at institutions of higher education across the country. The Indigenous activists demand the passage of two bills in the state legislature specifically addressing Native issues in public education. Today’s SCOTUS ruling overturns a longstanding precedent that had previously benefited Black, Indigenous, and Latine students in higher education due to a demonstrable historic lack of opportunities for those students.
Since before the country’s formation, unequal health based on race, from inferior care and treatment to shorter life spans, has been part and parcel of American history. Surveys in recent decades have enabled researchers to bring those disparities into sharper and sometimes harrowing focus. But identifying these issues hasn’t brought the country much closer to resolving them. And a new report underscores how truly intractable those problems are — because it brings race-based disparities right into the safest hospitals in the United States. According to the report, which was released this month by the Leapfrog Group, America’s A-graded hospitals do no better at reducing racial health disparities than hospitals at the bottom of the scale.
This summer, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Republican-appointed majority is anticipated to end affirmative action, which for decades has sought to remedy a bruising legacy of discrimination against marginalized groups, including Black Americans. Nearly 10 years ago, Students for Fair Admissions, an organization headed by Edward Blum, a stockbroker turned conservative legal strategist, filed lawsuits against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, claiming that their undergraduate admissions practices are racially discriminatory. The lower courts sided with the defendants, but the high court in the coming weeks is expected to say that schools are barred from considering race when reviewing applications.
We are still living in the aftermath of 2020’s overlapping crises of racial injustice, our nation’s polycrisis. Between the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ensuing economic recession, and the public police murder of George Floyd, we saw a harsh truth about the structure of American political economy: White supremacy has shaped our institutions such that their outcome is consistent Black precarity and premature death. This confluence of tragedies brought awareness of the Black American condition to a new generation. It also reinvigorated interest among academics and policymakers to finally do something about the problem of racial disparities (though activists and community organizers largely never lost interest in this).
Well, they have done it to us again. What for most White Americans is a simple inconvenience, a traffic stop, became for an African American another series of frames from a horror movie. Instead of being pulled over, given a ticket and sent on his way; Tyre Nichols was pulled out of his car by the police, sadistically beaten and sent to the hospital to die. The villain or beast from this real-life horror was not Dracula or Frankenstein. The spawns of Satan that beat Tyre Nichols are not made-up characters from the minds of Bram Stoker or Mary Shelley. This villainous threat to the African American community is real! They are stalking the streets of our cities and towns for more victims every hour of every day and night. This threat, these body snatchers don’t need the cover of darkness or need to operate in the shadows. They conduct their evil in broad daylight under the color of law. They are the urban army that is sworn to “protect and serve”.
Congratulations Fam, I hear that you’ve finally secured the bag, otherwise known as reparations. A cool $800,000 to be paid in eight annual installments, the first $100,000 of which arrived in your bank account today. Well, maybe not quite $100k, but about $75,000 after taxes. Still some nice coin. So, how should we get the party started? You say you want to finally buy a house for you and your family? Seventy-five grand is not gonna get you that deluxe apartment on the upper East side, but it’s a nice downpayment on a three-bedroom condo in Teaneck or Tallahassee. All you have to do is pop into the bank and sign on the dotted line . . . but wait one cotton pickin’ minute; is that a subprime mortgage? Perhaps America’s worst- kept secret is that usurious, adjustable mortgages were not designed to help African Americans who don’t have money but to exploit those who do.
According to ABC News, during the colonial era the wealth of universities, in the form of endowments and benefactors, was inextricably tied to the slave trade, numerous university presidents owned enslaved people and famous alumni such as John C. Calhoun championed the cause of slavery. Enslaved people were owned by universities and worked on campuses until the abolition of slavery. Now, students at those institutions are organizing efforts to focus on erecting monuments, taxing endowments, PILOT programs, creating divestment campaigns and offering alternative campus tours that highlight the university’s history of slavery. Students are also pushing schools to identify and support descendants of people enslaved by the universities.
Elnora Gavin is a lifelong Benton Harbor resident and currently works as the West Michigan organizer with We the People Michigan. In this interview, she talks about her love for Benton Harbor, the challenges facing ordinary people there, and how they’re fighting to address everything from school closures to a disastrous human-made water crisis, and ultimately create a Benton Harbor where everyone flourishes. Eli Day, a Detroit-based writer and We the People Michigan communications director, interviewed Gavin for Convergence.