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.
My passion for the fight to abolish oppressive policing systems – especially the family policing system (also known as the “child welfare system”) – is fueled by my personal experience of having my two children ripped from me in 1999. The two and a half year fight to regain custody, the many additional investigations after my children were returned to me and my learning through research what communities were being impacted by the family police and outcome of the children they claim to protect. The family policing system can completely destroy people’s lives. After I reunited with my children, I knew other parents and families were experiencing the same harm I had experienced, and I knew I had to do something to change that.
Juneteenth was designated as a federal holiday during 2021 by the United States administration of President Joe Biden. This act of recognition came in the aftermath of an upsurge in mass demonstrations and electoral mobilizations in response to the rash of police and vigilante killings of African Americans during 2020-2021. The holiday had been recognized and celebrated within African American communities largely concentrated in Texas and other areas of the South for over a century. After the surrender of the Confederate military forces in early April 1865, the fate of slavery as an economic system was sealed. Nonetheless, then President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, with immediate effect beginning January 1, 1863.
The maternal mortality rate in the United States is 23.8 deaths per 100,000 births — the highest of any developed country. The U.S. is also the only developed country where maternal mortality rates are rising. The crisis is especially dire in the South. As of 2018, Louisiana had the highest maternal mortality rate of any state with 58.1 deaths per 100,000 births — over three times the national rate. It was followed by Georgia with 48.4 maternal deaths per 100,000 births. Of the 10 states with the highest maternal mortality rates, six were in the South. Besides Louisiana and Georgia, they are Arkansas (37.5), Alabama (36.4), Texas (34.5), and South Carolina (27.9). The rates are even higher for Black and indigenous women.
Jacksonville, FL - Throughout the months of January and February, there were over 20 bomb threats directed towards historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and Black churches, most of which were in the South. These concentrated actions over the last few months are a microcosm of the extensive history of racism and national oppression that Black people have faced within the United States, particularly its southern region. In general, all Black communities within the United States face systemic racism. The evidence is in the economically depressed ghettos of every city (big and small), riddled with deprived schools and social organizations, and lacking any significant political power. But racism alone cannot explain the particular violence that Black people face within the United States.
The mismanaged integration of the United States into the global economy has devastated U.S. manufacturing workers and their communities. Globalization of our economy, driven by unfair trade, failed trade and investment deals, and, most importantly, currency manipulation and systematic overvaluation of the U.S. dollar over the past two decades has resulted in growing trade deficits—the U.S. importing more than we export—that have eliminated more than five million U.S. manufacturing jobs and nearly 70,000 factories. These losses were accompanied by a shift toward lower-wage service-sector jobs with fewer benefits and lower rates of unionization than manufacturing jobs.
The Iranian government vowed today to impose sanctions on the United States over racial and policing issues. Secretary-General of Iran's Human Rights Office Kazem Gharibabadi said the Islamic Republic will publish a list of American entities and individuals involved in human rights abuses. They will then be subject to sanctions from Iran, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported. Gharibabadi did not offer specifics on what the sanctions will entail, but said the move relates to policing issues in the United States, particularly in regard to Black Americans. “Human rights experts confirmed that police brutality in the US against people of color especially, African-Americans, should be considered systemic racism,” he said.
The poet Dwayne Betts for a long time hid the fact that he had been incarcerated from the ages of 16 to 24 for a carjacking. Betts, a lawyer who was sworn into the Connecticut bar two years ago, is finishing up his PhD at Yale University, where he also earned his law degree. He currently works as a public defender. In his book ‘A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison,’ and in his poems, including his third book of poems ‘Felon,’ he grapples with the degradation, humiliation, and trauma of prison life. Betts, like Virgil in Dante’s ‘Inferno,’ leads his readers into the dark and frightening labyrinth of the American prison system, where, as he writes, “Black men go to become Lazarus.” Confronting evil has a cost.
Biden rescinded the Trump executive order that threatened efforts to address racial disparities in the workplace under the implausible guise of “combating anti-American race and sex stereotyping.” But just because the push to stop people from talking or learning about racism, sexism, heterosexism or this country’s history of oppression has moved off the front page does not mean that it’s gone away. Legislators in some 27 states are trying to require teachers to avoid what are termed “divisive concepts” in classrooms and curricula, an extremely thinly veiled effort to force teachers to propagandize about US history rather than teach it, and to punish those that don’t toe the line. It’s deeply disturbing. But it turns out teachers don’t take kindly to being told to underserve their students by distorting historical and present reality.
Even the most transit-rich cities in America are failing to connect people without cars — who tend to be disproportionately low-income or people of color — to job opportunities, a new analysis finds. Analysts at TransitCenter comprehensively measured disparities in public transportation access among demographic groups in six major cities between February 2020 and February 2021, a period during which some of society’s most enduring inequities were only magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic. All six of the cities analyzed in the group’s new Transit Equity Dashboard — Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Washington — rank in the top 10 largest transit systems in the United States by ridership (a seventh portal for the Boston region is forthcoming).
Just past midnight on December 14, 2020, Osamah Alsaidi walked near a police cruiser on a dark city street of Paterson, New Jersey’s third-largest city just outside New York City. Shortly thereafter, that very same police car cut off Alsaidi’s path and out jumped officers Kevin Patino and Kendry Tineo-Restituyo. They immediately accosted the 19-year-old, striking him numerous times and dropping him to the ground where they continued their assault. The police report they filed described Alsaidi as “acting belligerent” and “screaming profanities.” That report would remain the only evidence of the incident until surveillance footage surfaced from a store just across from where the beating took place. That footage, vindicating Alsaidi’s claims, would ultimately go viral at the beginning of 2021.
I am the author of a book, The Color of Law, that disproves the myth of de facto segregation. In truth, we are residentially segregated, not naturally or from private bigotry, but primarily by racially explicit policies of federal, state, and local governments designed to prevent African Americans and whites from living as neighbors; these 20th-century policies were so powerful that they determine much of today’s residential, social, and economic inequality. Because powerful government policy segregated us, racial boundaries violate the fifth, 13th, and 14th amendments. Our nation thus has a positive constitutional obligation to redress segregation with policies as intentional as those that segregated us. The federal government made housing and homeownership critical to families’ economic stability and upward mobility.
Not so long ago, business was business. The vast majority of corporations happily functioned according to the doctrine of economist Milton Freidman, who believed a company’s sole responsibility was to make gobs of money for its shareholders to roll around in. And, whether due to ideology or cynicism, few expected anything more from the business world. Today, corporate executives have taken to substituting the word shareholder with "stakeholder," a buzzword for the broader group that also includes customers, employees, even neighboring communities. But companies that espouse the "interests of all stakeholders" best take care to follow their words with action, especially when it comes to social and environmental justice.