A Poll Tax by Another Name

Despite decades of progress, this year’s Republican-backed wave of voting restrictions has demonstrated that the fundamental right to vote is still subject to partisan manipulation. The most common new requirement, that citizens obtain and display unexpired government-issued photo identification before entering the voting booth, was advanced in 35 states and passed by Republican legislatures in Alabama, Minnesota, Missouri and nine other states — despite the fact that as many as 25 percent of African-Americans lack acceptable identification.


Conservative proponents have argued for photo ID mandates by claiming that widespread voter impersonation exists in America, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. While defending its photo ID law before the Supreme Court, Indiana was unable to cite a single instance of actual voter impersonation at any point in its history. Likewise, in Kansas, there were far more reports of U.F.O. sightings than allegations of voter fraud in the past decade. These theories of systematic fraud are really unfounded fears being exploited to threaten the franchise.

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Remembering Martin Luther King and the March for Jobs and Freedom

With the formal unveiling of the statue of Dr. Martin Luther King on August 28 – the anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom – the National Mall will house a memorial to a man who never held the nation’s highest office but brought it closer to its highest ideals.

Together with the national celebration of his birthday, the commemoration of the march and the quotation of his speeches, the new memorial ensures that Dr. King will be remembered. But will he be remembered rightly, not only as the subject of a monument but also as the leader of a movement for “jobs and freedom”?

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Minority babies almost the majority

White infants are on the verge of being displaced as the majority of newborns now that nearly half of babies in the USA are ethnic and racial minorities.

Only 50.2% of babies under age 1 are white and not Hispanic, according to the 2010 Census — a sharp decline from 57.6% just 10 years earlier.

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From USA Today: Other views: 'Dr. King would rejoice'

Algernon Austin, Economic Policy Institute: "King's memorial, the first on the National Mall to an African American, stands as a testimony to how far the country has come on the path toward racial equality. We should not, however, let it obscure our vision as to how far we still need to go. Today, blacks with college degrees are twice as likely as whites to be unemployed. The United States leads the world in imprisoning its citizens, disproportionately its black citizens. The call of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom is still very relevant today. While we remember Dr. King's role in the civil rights movement, we should not forget that he was not alone. There were hundreds of thousands of others involved, and we will need a similar movement to fully realize his dream."

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Shortchanged by the Bell

AFTER a summer of budget cuts in Washington and state capitals, we have only to look to our schools, when classes begin in the next few weeks, to see who will pay the price.

The minimum required school day in West Virginia is already about the length of a “Harry Potter” double feature. In Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Milwaukee, summer school programs are being slashed or eliminated. In Oregon and California this year, students will spend fewer days in the classroom; in rural communities from New Mexico to Idaho, some students will be in school only four days a week.

For all the talk about balancing the budget for the sake of our children, keeping classrooms closed is a perverse way of giving them a brighter future.

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Help "The Help" or Can "The Help"?

Help "The Help"
I saw a surprisingly good Hollywood movie last week, unexpected because black working women are rarely at the center of a mainstream film.

There were some well known aging actors as well, and that alone is unusual for Hollywood and its youth obsession.

The Help, based on the bestselling novel by Kathryn Stockett, is a story about a young white woman who writes a book based on stories she is told by black maids working in the South in the 1960s.

...How many more films exploring American racism will Hollywood produce in light of the current racial second-guessing? Will Hollywood run scared? And potential roles for these or other black actors in midlife or older could remain as scarce as ever.

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Can "The Help"
I find that Hollywood is way too bone-headed and self-absorbed to tackle any subject as convoluted and complex as racism. Instead, The Help just throws every stereotype at you at once about black people and white people. Whenever black people have to “act like black people” in movies, there seems to be a disconnect between the reality of the culture and the movie version of black lives.

And it’s not just white filmmakers that have this problem. It’s the same issue I have with Tyler Perry movies: they are just stereotype after stereotype and I think they do more harm for the perception of black people than good. Whenever one of my white friends talks about Tyler Perry movies and what they found funny in the movie, I realize a disconnect between me and them that is only there when race comes into play. It seems to me, sometimes white folks are laughing at us rather than with us.

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Black Scientists Less Likely to Win Federal Research Grants, Study Reports

A research grant application from a black scientist to the National Institutes of Health is markedly less likely to win approval than one from a white scientist, a new study reported on Thursday.

Even when the researchers made statistical adjustments to ensure they were comparing apples to apples — that is, scientists at similar institutions with similar academic track records — the disparity persisted. A black scientist was one-third less likely than a white counterpart to get a research project financed, the study found.

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More Unequal Justice?

Hundreds of New Yorkers who have been caught with small amounts of marijuana, or who have simply admitted to using it, have become ensnared in civil child neglect cases in recent years, though they did not face even the least of criminal charges, according to city records and defense lawyers. A small number of parents in these cases have even lost custody of their children.

... Over all, the rate of marijuana use among whites is twice as high as among blacks and Hispanics in the city, the data show, but defense lawyers said these cases were rarely if ever filed against white parents.

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What's in the Tea?

Actually, the Tea Party’s supporters today were highly partisan Republicans long before the Tea Party was born . . .

. . . So what do Tea Partiers have in common? They are overwhelmingly white, but even compared to other white Republicans, they had a low regard for immigrants and blacks long before Barack Obama was president, and they still do.

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No Work at the Post Office

Proposed cost-cutting measures that became public last week could eliminate 20 percent of the postal service workforce. The proposed cuts are the latest knock against a set of federal jobs that were once a trusted gateway to middle-class stability for families like Briscoe’s.


In time, the postal service stayed in urban areas as other employers moved out, said Gary Burtless, a labor market expert at the Brookings Institution. “They still have sizable pockets of employment in communities that do not have lots of other good jobs. These jobs have decent wages, good health benefits and vacation benefits.”

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Where Are the Jobs?

D.C. jobs fair draws record crowd of over 4,000

Attendance was up by more than 1,000 from last year’s fair, according to officials. “It’s breaking records, and it’s breaking my heart,” said Norton (D), the District’s representative in the House.

. . . Norton said the numbers show the “great hunger” for jobs in the District.

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Chicago jobs fair draws 9,000

“I go to job fairs all over the country but I’ve never seen one this big,” said Rodrigo Cervantes, a recruiter for Southwest Airlines, one of 29 transportation companies represented at the event.

. . . Velvet Hays-Dawson, 58, a former hospital phlebotomist, and her daughter Jessica Dawson, 21, arrived at 6:30 a.m. Mrs. Hays-Dawson’s husband drives a C.T.A. bus and is “the only check” in the family, she said.

Their home is in foreclosure. When the youngest daughter, Janelle, 19, reached college age, the family faced a decision: tuition or mortgage. “We made the decision to push her on into college,” Mrs. Hays-Dawson said. “Now we’re really in the hole.”

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How America's Safety Net Has Become A Dragnet

He had been enjoying the luxury of an indoor bed until December 2008, when the police swept through the shelter in the middle of the night looking for men with outstanding warrants. It turned out that Szekeley, who is an ordained minister and does not drink, do drugs, or cuss in front of ladies, did indeed have one -- for “criminal trespassing,” as sleeping on the streets is sometimes defined by the law. So he was dragged out of the shelter and put in jail.

“Can you imagine?” asked Eric Sheptock, the homeless advocate (himself a shelter resident) who introduced me to Szekeley. “They arrested a homeless man in a shelter for being homeless?”

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Rebuilding the Dream of Homeownership for People of Color

For most Americans, owning a home is part of the American dream. But for African Americans and Latinos, this part of the dream is rapidly slipping away. The dream of homeownership for people of color has been battered by predatory subprime lending, the foreclosure crisis, and high unemployment from the Great Recession. We will need strong leadership from Washington to restore the opportunity of homeownership for people of color.

The black homeownership rate inched higher with each passing year until 2004, when it peaked at 49.1 percent of black households owning their home. Since then, the black homeownership rate has dropped 3.7 percentage points to 45.4 percent in 2010, returning blacks to the homeownership rate they had in 1998. Given the current state of the economy and the high level of black unemployment, we can expect homeownership rates to continue falling for blacks.

For Latinos, their homeownership rate continued to rise until 2007, but their rate dropped the fastest in the recession’s wake, declining 2.1 percentage points through 2010.  (In the 2007-10 period, the overall average dropped 1.3 percentage points, and blacks saw a 1.7 point decline.) More declines in the Latino homeownership rate are expected because, as the Pew Research Center reports, “33% of Hispanic homeowners report being underwater [in terms of the value of their home], compared with 15% of blacks and 13% of whites.”  

How did we get here?

First, there was deregulation that allowed bankers to play fast and loose with lending practices. Then there was the “giant pool of money” from China and India seeking investment opportunities. People of every race and in many countries across the globe were hurt by an environment where mortgage brokers and bankers could make lots of money and suffer no repercussions for selling bad products. 

But communities of color were hurt disproportionately because they had fewer conventional financial institutions providing mainstream products. Into this vacuum, the peddlers of high-priced loans stepped in. With the same income or even the same credit score, African Americans and Latinos were more likely than whites to receive high-priced subprime loans. Gregory Squires and other scholars have shown that, after taking into account other factors affecting subprime lending, the more racially segregated a community, the greater the amount of subprime lending that occurred there. 

Race should not have determined whether one received a low- or high-price loan, but it did. The fact that blacks and Latinos were more likely to receive high-priced loans when they should have received lower ones loans increases their likelihood of suffering foreclosure.

The recession has also led to a large increase in the unemployment rates in communities of color. From July 2007 to July 2011, the white unemployment rate is up 3.9 percentage points, the black rate is up 7.8 points, and the Latino rate is up 5.4  points. The high and long-term unemployment that communities of color are experiencing also increases the rates of foreclosure in these communities. 

To save the dream of homeownership in communities of color we need a strong economy that is putting people back to work. Unfortunately, our leaders in the federal government have prioritized cutting jobs over creating them. The budget-cutting mania that has infected Washington will cost jobs. The government is a large employer, and government cuts mean fewer government jobs. Also, the aid that the federal government provides produces jobs indirectly, so less government aid also translates to fewer jobs. My organization, the Economic Policy Institute, estimates that the budget cuts from the debt-ceiling deal will cost the economy over 300,000 jobs in 2012. Increasing the numbers of the unemployed will only weaken an already anemic economy. 

All of the serious macroeconomic analysts have shown that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act reduced unemployment. As of last year, the Recovery Act was estimated to have reduced the overall unemployment rate by 1 to 2 percentage points. Because black and Latino unemployment is always higher than the overall rates, the Recovery Act likely reduced unemployment by about 2 to 4 percentage points for blacks and about 1.5 to 3 percentage points for Latinos. Communities of color, as well as the nation as a whole, need more economic stimulus.

But we also need to ensure that the financial sector operates fairly and responsibly. The creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is an important step in the right direction, but unfortunately there are forces gathering in Washington trying to weaken this agency. It is necessary for President Obama to stand firm behind this agency to make sure that it remains a strong watchdog for American consumers. We need strong consumer financial protection to prevent another subprime mortgage crisis, or something similar, from occurring.

A healthy economy and smart financial regulations are necessary for rebuilding the dream of homeownership for African American and Latinos. We know what steps are needed to get there. The question is:  Will our political leaders take them?


HIV Rising Steadily among Young Gay Blacks

The number of people becoming infected with the AIDS virus was about 50,000 a year between 2006 and 2009, according to data compiled by government epidemiologists. That stable incidence, however, masked a steady 12 percent-per-year rise in one high-risk group: young black male homosexuals.

In all, the number of gay black teenagers and men in their 20s becoming infected each year rose by nearly 50 percent, from 4,400 in 2006 to 6,500 in 2009. It was the only group of gay males that showed a significant increase.

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Blacks have highest unemployment among foreign-born workers

At 12.4%, black immigrants had the highest unemployment rate among foreign-born workers in 2010. In comparison, the unemployment rate was slightly lower for Hispanic immigrants (11.3%) and significantly lower for white (7.4%) and Asian immigrants (7.3%).

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Record Numbers Are Receiving Food Stamps

The number of Americans receiving food stamps rose to a record 45.753 million in May, up 2.5 percent from the previous month, the Department of Agriculture said. Recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program subsidies for food purchases were 12 percent higher than a year earlier, the Agriculture Department said Tuesday in a statement on its Web site.


Middle-Class Blacks Live in Low-Income Neighborhoods

Affluent blacks and Hispanics live in neighborhoods that are noticeably poorer than neighborhoods where low-income whites live, according to a new study that suggests income alone does not explain persistent segregation patterns in housing.

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The Satan Sandwich

“My constituents are suffering; they’ve lost their jobs and their homes, and now to cut the very programs that could have provided them with support while the rich are given a pass — it’s ridiculous.” --Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.)

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II (D-Mo.) tweeted that the deal was “a sugar-coated Satan sandwich. If you lift the bun, you will not like what you see.”

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