President Barack Obama announced “My Brother’s Keeper,” an initiative to help young Black and Brown men succeed.
In the years after enslavement, Southern Whites did all they could to return to a manner of slavery. No White “owned” a Black person, but many Whites behaved as if they did. Theoretically, Blacks were free to come and go as they pleased, but if they went to the wrong store, sat in the wrong part of the bus, or failed to yield narrow sidewalks to Whites, they could expect a physical confrontation.
In President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, he appealed to our nation’s employers to raise wages from the current minimum of $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour. He has already signed an executive order that requires federal contractors to be paid $10.10 an hour, an only appropriate move since so many workers on federal contracts are living in poverty.
Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Baines Johnson declared a war on poverty.
Happy New Year! Jan. 1 and Jan. 2 are the days when most think of the “new” year, yet with the first Monday in January falling on Jan. 6, that’s probably when most people will return to their desks with focused energy and ready to go.
If I close my eyes, I can remember 1984. I am among those running from meeting to meeting working to pass Proposition J, the San Francisco ballot initiative that required the city to divest pension funds from companies doing business in South Africa.
All Renisha McBride wanted to do was to go home. She had been in a car accident, her cellphone was dead, and she needed help.
The brilliant surgeon Dr. Benjamin Carson is out of order and out of control when he compares the Affordable Care Act to slavery. As a physician, he must know how many people lack health care, and how much work this administration had done to right that wrong. As a health advocate, he must have seen those men and women who decide to forego pain medication in favor of something to eat for their children.
At press time, it was unclear whether Congress would finally evade a government shutdown on Oct. 1. I do know, however, that I am sick of the budgetary brinkmanship that plagues our government. Every few months there is some crisis or another that has the House of Representatives and the White House at loggerheads. This time, Republicans in Congress want to defund Obamacare as part of the budget that must be passed and say they are willing to let government close to meet their goal. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says that Republicans are holding a gun to the American people’s heads, and he isn’t lying.
When the poverty data was released on Sept. 17, comparing the poverty situation in 2011 to that in 2012, many hoped that poverty levels would drop as an indication of economic good news. But while the gross domestic product has risen, and the wealthy are gaining income, those stuck at the bottom are still simply stuck.
Steven and Laurie, a White married couple that lives near Richmond, Va., work at a big box store. She is a cashier; he works in the storeroom. Each earns about $9 an hour but neither works 40 hours a week. Indeed, they are lucky to pull 40 hours a week combined. Sometimes, they are fortunate enough to pull 45 hours a week between them. Some weeks their combined hours are just 30.
President Barack Obama stepped on a big limb when he threatened “limited action” against Syria because the country’s leaders allegedly used chemical weapons against their own people. There are international bans against the use of chemical weapons, with Syria one of few countries not supporting the ban. Chemical weapons allegedly killed more than 1,400 Syrians, and the ongoing civil war may have killed as many as 100,000.
The 1963 March on Washington was a pivotal moment for African Americans, a day when people joined to fight for jobs, peace and justice. More than 250,000 people traveled to Washington, coming by busses, trains and occasionally planes.
Every time I hear the voice of Russell Simmons, I hear a cool, clean, clear meditative voice, especially on Twitter where he drops his yoga knowledge in a reflective way. I guess he wasn’t folding his legs and saying a centered “Om” when he decided to ridicule an African woman. How did his voice distort itself to decide that he would post a YouTube video on a space where everybody could watch a so-called parody of Harriet Tubman having sex with her White slavemaster with the intent of filming it and blackmailing him? How could he, this forward-focused man, decide to demean an emancipation heroine? Choose to demean her by making her a sexual object? Even as he took the offensive tape off his website, please tell me, somebody, what Simmons was thinking? (In my first draft of this column, I called this man a “brother,” but really I mean the brother from another mindset.)
Research shows that this generation of young people, no matter their race, are likely to do less well than their parents did. Shackled by a trillion dollars worth of student loans and a flat labor market, the New York-based Demos organization says the student loan burden prevents young people from buying homes and amassing wealth. While there are some racial gaps, many young people enter the labor market already behind the space their parents occupied.
Last week, workers at fast food restaurants demonstrated outside their places of work, highlighting the low wages they receive and demanding more. They say twice as much, or $15 an hour, will provide them with a living wage. In Washington, D.C., the City Council has sent legislation to Mayor Vincent Gray requiring “big box” stores such as WalMart and Best Buy to pay $12.50, which is more than the D.C. minimum wage of $8.25 an hour. In response, WalMart says it may not build all of the six stores it had slated for D.C. Responses depend on whom you talk to, with some of the unemployed saying that an $8.25 job is better than no job, and others saying that $8.25 is not a living wage.
The United States Senate finally stepped up to ensure that student loan rates would not double. There have been weeks of back and forth, but now senators says they will tie student loan rates to the federal funds rate, which means that in the short-run the lowest student loan rates will be 3.86 percent, up slightly from 3.4 percent. The bad news is that these loan rates may rise up to a rate of 8.25 percent, depending on prevailing interest rates. All other loan rates, including those for graduate student, for Parent PLUS loans, and others, will rise as well.
Nelson Mandela turned 95 years old on July 18. He has been hospitalized for more than a month, and the world holds its breath as we witness the decline of the lion that roared for freedom in South Africa. Mandela’s insistence and persistence for freedom for Black South Africans, which included a 27-year jail sentence, reminds us of the persistence it takes to make structural and institutional change.
Trayvon Martin might not be dead except for the fact that George Zimmerman carried a gun and acted as a wanna-be policeman. Rev. Al Sharpton and others deserve props for rallying people and insisting that Zimmerman be brought to trial. Anytime a gun goes off, I think somebody has to go to trial, simply to ensure that their actions be accounted for. Zimmerman was found not guilty, but at least he has been made somewhat accountable for his actions.
I was 20 years old when Roe v. Wade was decided. A year before the decision, a young woman who lived in my dormitory attempted an abortion on herself and hemorrhaged so badly that she was hospitalized. I’ll never forget the blood on the floor of her room, and the anguished screams of her roommate.
Last week, I attended a “think tank” conversation with leaders of the Rodham Institute, a newly established center at George Washington University, who are dedicated to reducing health disparities in Washington, D.C. This is an important effort because Washington is such a divided city. East of the Anacostia River – Wards 7 and 8 – are the poorest areas in the district, with some of the most challenging problems. They have an obesity rate of more than 40 percent, which is more than the national average, and more than the extremely poor state of Mississippi. There are food deserts east of the river, where it is easier to get potato chips than an apple or banana. While there are rudimentary hospitals and health centers, most referrals to a specialist will likely require a Ward 7 or 8 resident to take an expensive taxi ride across the river. This city is rife with health disparities.
Although the overall unemployment rate still exceeds 7 percent, and the official Black unemployment rate is greater than 13 percent, there are some who insist that there is a robust economic recovery in progress. Indeed, we were declared “post-recession” in 2011, based on the definition of recovery as GDP growth for three quarters in a row. The perception of whether the recovery is stumbling or soaring depends on your own financial status. White and Asian households headed by those age 40-61 and have a two- or four-year degree recovered all but 2 percent of their wealth by 2012. Similarly situated African American and Hispanic households had just 58.7 percent of the wealth they had at the beginning of the recession. Wealth recovery depends on race, pre-recession portfolio (which speaks to the racial wealth gap), home value, stocks (the wealthier are more likely to hold stocks than others), savings (lower for African Americans) and debt (higher for African Americans).
On May 21, I had the opportunity to testify before a Congressional Progressive Caucus meeting on how federal dollars drive inequality by paying contractors who pay too many of their workers too little. The hearing was driven by a study from Amy Traub and her colleagues at Demos, a New York-based think tank, that issued a report exposing the many ways that federal contracting often adds to the burden of the low income, especially those who earn less than $12 an hour, or less than $25,000 a year.
Why do sports play such a prominent role in college education? Does it crowd out the attention we pay to other aspects of college life? Why are student athletes treated like slaves or gladiators, playing to pay colleges for the fruits of their labor? Other students enjoy “school spirit” when their team wins, and universities collect revenue from advertisers when they make it to the big leagues.
When Beyonce Knowles sang the Etta James song At Last at President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration, the song could have had several meanings. At last we have an African American president? At last, the muscle of the Black vote has been flexed? At last, there is some hope for our country to come together with the mantra “Yes, we can.”
The Senate’s Gang of Eight have put together an 844-page monstrosity known as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, legislation that President Obama says he “basically approves” of. The crafters of this essentially unreadable bill was put together by senators Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Michael Bennett, D-Col., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsay Graham, R-S.C.
African American students achieve at a different level than White students. Test scores are lower, as are high school and college completion rates, and the number of African Americans attending four-year institutions is falling. The rate of African American suspensions and expulsions from K-12 schools is higher than that of other groups. By almost any metric there are gaps between African American students and White or Asian students (Latinos achieve at about the same rate as African Americans).
(NNPA) – I don’t know where CNN’s John King got the information that a suspect in the Boston bombing was “a dark-skinned male,” but beyond apologizing, he needs to explain himself. How many sources gave him the false tip? If it was fewer than two, then he violated a basic journalism rule. Who were these sources (if you don’t want to out them publicly, tell your editor)? Did King understand that he used the kind of racial/ethnic coding that once got people, even uninvolved and innocent people, lynched?
The right wing seems determined to associate President Barack Obama with any government program that helps people on the bottom. Thus, the term Obamacare was used to attack the health care program that Obama fashioned and worked with Congress to approve. While Obamacare is not perfect, it brings more people into the health care system, and further solidifies the safety net that many have attempted to fray.
(NNPA) - Unemployment rates were “little changed” in March 2013 – they were either holding steady or dropping by a tenth of a percentage point or so. The unemployment rate dropped from 7.7 to 7.6 percent representing a steady, if painstakingly slow, decrease. This declining unemployment rate was reported with some circumspection because even as the rate dropped, nearly half a million people left the labor market, presumably because they could not find work. Further, in March, the economy generated a scant 88,000 jobs, fewer than in any of the prior nine months. An economy that many enjoy, describing as “recovering,” has not yet recovered enough to generate enough jobs to keep up with population increases.
The selection of Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the next leader of the Catholic Church was, in some ways, inevit le. Latin America is home to the largest Catholic population in the world, and it has been more than past time for the tradition of selecting European popes to end. Hopefully, Bergoglio, to be known as Pope Francis, will be able to stem the tide of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church as well as put the church on the path of more transparency and integrity. Proposals to allow women to be priests and to allow married priests into the clergy are, for Catholics, revolutionary ways to modernize the church. Francis, who brings a reputation of frugality and humility to the church, may well be able to deal with these proposals.