Showing posts from 2010

No Time for Compromise; It’s Time to Fight

In the words of President Obama, the Democrat Party took a " shellacking " on Election Day. Congressional Republicans picked up at least 60 seats in the House, regaining control of the chamber. They took at least six seats in the Senate, though not enough to take control from the Democrats. I eagerly anticipated the President's first press conference. I wanted to hear his take on the election and to hear what he had to say about how Democrats with the help of their progressive allies would move forward. I was hoping that he would stand up, dust himself off, and recommit to the vision he had when he won the White House. I was wrong. Instead, Obama was somber and sounded beaten rather than emboldened by the Republican's triumphant return to power. Rather than say he was ready to fight, the President said that he had been humbled by the election results. He sounded contrite, almost apologetic for the past two years. He even agreed with a claim made by Tea Party activists

Culture versus Structure: The Never Ending Debate About The Causes Of Black Poverty

Ever since the publication of then, assistant secretary of labor, Daniel Patrick Moynihan's report entitled, "The Negro Family: The Case for National Action," there has been a fierce debate in both popular and scholarly literature about the causes of black poverty and racial and ethnic inequality in American society more generally. In what became known as "the Moynihan report," the future U.S. Senator from New York created a firestorm of controversy with his contention that cultural pathologies, including the breakdown of the black family, were the leading causes of black poverty. Many conservatives and some liberals praised Moynihan's work. Critics, on the other hand, responded that Moynihan did not focus enough on structural factors, such as discrimination in the labor market, to explain racial inequality and that his emphasis on cultural factors amounted to simply blaming the victim. In the decades since the publication of Moynihan's study, the schola

U.S. Government Sponsored Ghoulish Experiments On People Of Color Are Being Brought To Light

Another reprehensible chapter in the dark history of medical experimentation on people of color by the U.S. government was recently brought to light. Between 1946 and 1948, American scientists intentionally infected prisoners and patients in a Guatemalan mental hospital with syphilis and gonorrhea. The recently unearthed National Institutes of Health (NIH) experiment, which was conducted over 60 years ago, prompted President Barack Obama and Secretary of State, Hilary Rodham Clinton, to call the president of Guatemala, Alvaro Colomto, to officially apologize . "We are outraged that such reprehensible research could have occurred under the guise of public health," said Clinton and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The NIH-funded experiment to test what was at the time a relatively new drug, penicillin, was discovered by a Wellesley College medical historian. The purpose of the study was to see if penicillin could prevent some sexually transmitted diseases.

Poverty Figures Are Bad; They Could Be Much Worse

The latest figures measuring poverty in America are quite horrifying. According to data recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau , the number of Americans living below the poverty line has reached its highest level in 51 years. About 14.3 percent of Americans live below the poverty threshold (absurdly defined as $22,050 for a family of four) according to Census Bureau data for 2009. The official poverty rate is the highest it has been since 1994. The economic crisis, dubbed "The Great Recession," has pushed a record number of Americans into poverty. With 44 million poor – an increase of 4 million over the previous year – the number of people in poverty has not been this high since 1959, the first year that poverty estimates were made available by the Census. Not surprisingly, people of color are disproportionately represented in those numbers. Nearly one-quarter of blacks and Hispanics live below the poverty line. Between 2008 and 2009, the black poverty rate rose from 24

Shirley Sherrod Walked into a Live Minefield: Conservative Myths About Race and Racism in America

The Shirley Sherrod affair made me think a lot about some powerful myths – historical and contemporary – about race and racism in America. What has been abundantly clear to me about the whole sordid Sherrod affair is just how deeply ingrained in the American psyche is the conservative narrative about race and racism in America. During the last several decades, books and articles written by conservative writers – many of them housed in conservative think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute, the Manhattan Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the Hoover Institute at Stanford, University – have defined much of our racial discourse. Some of their books have become best-sellers. There is not enough space to list them all, but two of the most well-known and successful books are: Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray: Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life Dinesh D'Souza: The End of Racism What is striking about both of these books is that they prom

A Jobless Recovery for the Unskilled and Less Educated

For the last several months, the Obama Administration has been talking a lot about "a jobless economic recovery." The Administration points to statistics showing that the unemployment rate has dropped to about 9.5 percent, down from a peak of 10.1 percent last October, to justify its policies to stimulate the economy. For the millions of Americans who are unemployed, underemployed, or have abandoned the job market out of frustration, however, the talk out of Washington about "a jobless economic recovery" is utter nonsense. In particular, for the long-term unemployed, talk of a jobless recovery must sound like a cruel joke. Let's get real. The proportion of the work force that has been out of work for more than six months is an astonishing 4.4 percent. The more than 46 percent of the unemployed out of work for more than 6 months is twice the previous post-war high set in 1983. Although the long-term unemployment rate was obviously higher during the Great Depres

From Plantations to Ghettos: The Plight of the Black Poor

What does the face of racial inequality look like? Rather than list a bunch of boring statistics, this depiction by The Alameda County Public Health Department of the differing life opportunities for black and white children born in Oakland, California, in a report titled, Life and Death from Unnatural Causes: Health and Social Inequity in Alameda County , says it all: "Compared with a White child in the Oakland Hills, an African American born in West Oakland is 1.5 times more likely to be born premature or low birth weight, seven times more likely to be born into poverty, twice as likely to live in a home that is rented, and four times more likely to have parents with only a high school education or less. As a toddler, this child is 2.5 times more likely to be behind in vaccinations. By fourth grade, this child is four times less likely to read at grade level and is likely to live in a neighborhood with twice the concentration of liquor stores and more fast food outlets. Ultimate

Closing The Achievement Gap Won’t Be Easy; And Charter Schools Will Not Be The Answer

The U.S. is becoming an increasingly diverse society. Nowhere is this more evident than in the nation's public schools. According to a new report, The Condition in Education 2010 , by the U.S. Department of Education National Center for Educational Statistics , between 1988 and 2008, the percentage of white students in the nation's public schools dropped from 68 to 55 percent. During the time period covered in the report, white enrollment decreased in every region of the country, while Hispanic enrollment increased. In fact, Hispanic students experienced the most growth. Between 1988 and 2008, the percentage of students who are Hispanic increased from 11 to 22 percent. Black student enrollment remained stable, while Asian student enrollment increased in the Northeast and Midwest and remained stable in other regions of the country. Even though the nation's student population is becoming increasingly diverse, racial and ethnic isolation in the schools is nearly as bad as it w

No Surprise Here: Growing Socioeconomic Segregation and Racial and Ethnic Isolation In the Schools.

The U.S. Department of Education National Center for Educational Statistics recently released its annual Condition of Education report. This year's report includes a special section that focuses on high-poverty schools in America, examining the types and locations of schools, the characteristics of the students and their teachers and principals; and student achievement. According to the report, The Condition in Education 2010 , socioeconomic segregation in the nation's public elementary and secondary schools is on the rise, leading to a wide and persistent gap in educational achievement between racial and ethnic groups. Between the 1999-2000 and 2007-2008 school year, the percentage of students who attended high-poverty schools (schools in which 76-100 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced-priced lunch (FRPL)) increased from 12 percent to 17 percent – a 42 percent jump. Just about 20 percent of elementary school students and 6 percent of secondary school stude

I Earned My Bachelor’s Degree Without A Ton Of Debt; But That Was a While Ago, When A College Education Was Affordable

It's hard for me to believe that I graduated from high school nearly 26 years ago. I was only 17 when I enrolled in Eastern Michigan University (I turned 18 in October of my freshman year) in 1984. It's even harder for me to believe that I earned my bachelor's degree without burying myself in debt. Looking back on it all, it was highly improbable that I would attend college; it was even more improbable that I would go on to earn a Ph.D. eleven years later. The odds, it seemed were stacked against me. First of all, I grew up in a welfare-dependent household. Second, neither my mother nor my father had earned a high school diploma. And last, even though two of my siblings had attended college, neither had successfully completed their degree. That I enrolled in college was pure luck. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't a terrible student, but, at the same time, I wasn't a great student either. And although my parents had not attended college, they stressed that all their

It is Time to End the Insanity of our Nation’s Drug Laws

Back in the early 80s, when I was still in high school, I was asked if I wanted to sell drugs by two kids I knew who lived in the Brewster-Douglass Homes public housing projects. It was not the first time – nor would it be the last time – I was asked about getting into the drug game. It would have been easy to become a drug dealer. I lived only two blocks from the Brewster-Douglass Homes, at the time, the largest, and one of the most dangerous, housing projects in the city of Detroit, a place where out-in-the-open drug dealing was easy to find and easy to get involved in. Brewster-Douglass was actually two housing projects. The Brewster Homes, the nation's first federally funded public housing development for blacks, were completed in 1941. The Fredrick Douglass Homes were built between 1942 and 1952. The combined housing projects were five city blocks long and three city blocks wide. At their peak, somewhere between 8,000 and 10,000 people lived in them. During the 1970s, when I


Ever since the publication in 1966 of sociologist James S. Coleman report Equality of Educational Opportunity , there has been a raging debate about how to close the racial gap in educational achievement. Coleman's report ignited a firestorm of controversy. Using data from over 600,000 students and teachers across the country, Coleman and his team of researchers concluded that academic success was related more to the social composition of the school, the student's sense of control of his environment and future, the verbal skills of teachers, and the student's family background, than to the quality of the student's school. The researcher's most controversial finding, and the one that most policy makers and the media focused on, was that Black students do better in racially integrated setting. By the mid-1970s, however, after a decade of intense opposition to busing by White parents and White flight to the suburbs to avoid school integration, Coleman concluded in anot