AP analysis: Blacks largely left out of high-paying jobs

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Jonathan Garland’s fascination with architecture started early: He spent much of his childhood designing Lego houses and gazing at Boston buildings on rides with his father away from their largely minority neighborhood.

AP analysis: Blacks largely left out of high-paying jobs

Image: AP Photo/Charles Krupa

But when Garland looked around at his architectural college, he didn’t see many who looked like him — there were few black faces in classroom seats, and fewer teaching skills or giving lectures.

“If you do something simple like Google ‘architects’ and you go to the images tab, you’re primarily going to see white males,” said Garland, 35, who’s worked at Boston and New York architectural firms. “That’s the image, that’s the brand, that’s the look of an architect.”

An Associated Press analysis of government data has found that black workers are chronically underrepresented compared with whites in high-salary jobs in technology, business, life sciences, and architecture and engineering, among other areas. Instead, many black workers find jobs in low-wage, less-prestigious fields where they’re overrepresented, such as food service or preparation, building maintenance and office work, the AP analysis found.

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Fifty Years On, MLK’s Call for Economic Justice Rings True

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Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down fifty years ago today on April 4, 1968. It was a turning point of the twentieth century, marking an ending and a beginning. It was the end of one phase of the Black Freedom struggle, and the beginning of one of the most volatile periods of U.S. politics since the Civil War.

 

"King was arguably the greatest progressive leader of the past century."(Photo: AP/Gerry Broome)

Image: Common Dreams

Dr. King was a Baptist minister, a prophetic visionary, a great coalition builder, a moral pillar, a polarizing figure, a movement strategist, a practitioner of nonviolence, a radical reformer. King was arguably the greatest progressive leader of the past century.

One the one hand, King’s life and his assassination seem distant after five decades. At the same time, it is haunting to know that King could be alive today had he lived on. He was only 39 when he was killed.

Perhaps it is a natural obsession to wonder what King could have been had he lived. What would he do today? What would he say about Trump? How would he respond to the issues of the day? Truth is, we don’t know. But we can learn urgent lessons from his life’s work.

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With Few Watching, Republicans Have Put in Place New Poll Tax to Disenfranchise Voters

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Preventing people from voting because they owe legal fees or court fines muzzle low-income Americans at a time in our nation’s history when the rich have more political power than ever.

More from Robert Reich at Common Dreams

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Why Can’t White Supremacists Confront the Fact That the Source of Their Economic Problems Are White Economic Elites?

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Frustrated young white men are facing class divisions more than racial divides.

There’s no disputing the white anger and rage seen in Charlottesville, even if conservative publications like the National Review say these “angry white boys do not have a political agenda.”

Their anger is real and grievances differ, even if they took the old path of joining mobs spewing racist filth. Yet these white supremacists are blaming the wrong slices of society for their angst.

Racial divides are not what’s plaguing vast stretches of white America—deepening class divides are. If you think about who is to blame, it is mostly powerful white capitalists and their government servants that decimated regional economies in recent decades.

Many Democrats keep saying inequality is the top economic issue, as Eduardo Porter wrote for the New York Times in a piece that recaps the party’s national political agenda. However, the conventional wisdom that Democrats need to “recover the support of the middle-class—people in families earning $50,000 to $150,000, whose vote went to Mr. Trump,” especially in swing states “where three-quarters of voters are white”—is not acknowledging the roots of America’s latest outburst of white supremacy.

“Our economy is in very serious trouble. Ten or fifteen years from now, the standard of living of our average citizen may actually be lower than it is today,” writes Steve Slavin, author of the new book, The Great American Economy: How Inefficiency Broke It and What We Can Do To Fix It. “Large swaths of the suburbs will be slums, and tens of millions of Americans will have joined the permanent underclass. There will be three separate Americas—the rich and near rich, an economically downscaled middle and working class, and a very large poor population.”

Slavin cites eight major economic trends, pointing out that almost everyone who is not living in wealthy enclaves—usually coastal cities or inland hubs—is facing a downward spiral that’s been decades in the making. These are the same stretches of suburban and rural America that elected Trump, elected the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, where hate groups are concentrated, and where many of those arrested in Charlottesville come from. They hail from the losing end of the trends Slavin cites and forecasts for the country.

It may very well be that the external circumstances of the whites protesting are “pretty good,” as the National Review‘s Kevin Williamson writes, compared to non-white America. That’s even more reason to condemn their visceral rage and hate speech. But as Slavin notes, the national economy and sense of well-being is on a downward slide that accelerated in recent decades.

Those responsible are largely white politicians, white business executives and more recently the graduates of elite business schools—where the curriculum involved outsourcing domestic industries that once allowed people without degrees to prosper.

The culprit here is primarily class—even though race and class are often synonymous. If anything, the downwardly spiraling sections of white America today eerily resemble inner cities in the 1960s, where non-whites called for economic justice. Those urban cores were abandoned after two decades of white flight to the suburbs and manufacturers also leaving.

Here are eight overarching economic trends that Slavin notes have clobbered the middle class, working class and poor.

1. Manufacturing has sharply declined. Notwithstanding Trump’s announcements that a few companies based overseas are returning, factory jobs have widely disappeared across the interior of America, where from World War II through the 1980s they anchored cities and counties.

2. Many cities have fallen into decline. Starting after WWII, the government and industry promoted suburbia, abandoning scores of cities to the mostly non-white poor. Detroit’s carmakers bought and dismantled public transit. That led to today’s costly transportation needs with a nation of commuters paying a lot for private vehicles, gas and insurance and spending hours away from home.

3. Health care costs have left wages frozen. Average wages have not seen increases, after being adjusted for inflation, for decades. A big part of the reason is businesses that provide health insurance have to keep paying more to insurers rather than employees. Meanwhile, insurers keep finding ways to draw on what’s left in people’s pockets.

4. Public education is vastly underfunded. Suburban schools in wealthy enclaves might be fine, but nationally half of high school graduates are not at the same level as graduates of other countries and their better achieving peers. That forecloses opportunity.

5. The government is not reinvesting in America. This is not simply about neglected roads and bridges. The U.S. government supports a beyond bloated military industrial complex that accounts for 40 percent of global spending on weapons. This may be domestic spending, but it is not spending on domestic needs.

6. The criminal justice system is bloated. Here too, the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any industrialized nation; a predatory system that targets lower-income people and creates taxpayer-funded private police forces.

7. The make-work private sector’s useless jobs. This isn’t just the growth of service industries, but “more than 15 million Americans hold jobs that do not produce any useful goods or services,” such as bill collectors, telemarketers, sales reps paid on commission, etc., Slavin writes.

8. The bloated financial sector. This is Wall Street’s diversion of savings from productive investments to speculative ventures, where money is made from tracking the movement of other assets or the public is sold repackaged securities that generate fees.

In every one of these eight areas, wealthy whites in positions of power and privilege have made decisions that collectively have set the country on the path to today’s downward economic spiral. Right after World War II, the federal government would not lend money to black veterans to buy homes in newly expanding suburbs. They gave real estate investors like Fred Trump, the president’s father, money to build what became urban housing projects where many occupants were non-white renters.

There were not many non-white executives in Detroit when the auto industry acted to destroy public transit systems. There were not many non-whites on corporate boards in the 1980s, when the first wave of moving manufacturing abroad hit. The business schools minting sought-after MBAs were teaching predominantly white students to take operations to countries where labor was cheaper, or extolling the virtues of businesses like Walmart that decimated entire Main Streets across small-town America.

The list goes on and a pattern emerges—a class division, more so than race—which has deepened and afflicts America today. As Slavin writes, “Perhaps the most persuasive indicator of our nation’s economic decline is that millennials are on track to be the first generation in our nation’s history to be poorer than its parents’ generation. In January 2017, CNBC reported, ‘With a median household income of $40,581, millennials earn 20 percent less than boomers did at the same stage of life, despite being better educated, according to a new analysis of Federal Reserve data by the advocacy group Young Invincibles.’”

The Young Invincibles are a progressive group concerned about health care, higher education, workforce and finance, and civic engagement. But that moniker could also be used to describe the belligerent attitude of the white marchers in Charlottesville.

As Williamson writes derisively in the conservative National Review, “What does an angry white boy want? The fact that they get together to play dress-up—to engage in a large and sometimes murderous game of cowboys and Indians—may give us our answer. They want to be someone other than who they are. That’s the great irony of identity politics: They seek identity in the tribe because they are failed individuals. They are a chain composed exclusively of weak links. What they are engaged in isn’t politics, but theater: play-acting in the hopes of achieving catharsis.”

But Williamson only hints at what they seem to want—and it’s exactly what Slavin nails. These angry whites are being bypassed by structural changes in the economy that are narrowing their options. Needless to say, most people in dire straits do not embrace violence and racism. But it seems the heart of their grievances appear to be based on class frustrations, not race. If the white marchers want to blame someone, they ought to point their fingers at the wealthy whites on Wall Street and in Washington.

By Steven Rosenfeld / AlterNet

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Baltimore Is a Case Study In How Black Cities Are Not Being Served by Black Leadership

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What are Black elected officials doing to help their Black constituents? What is the purpose and value of Black power if there are Black faces in high places in city government, yet the old systems of institutional racism remain in place and the economic conditions of Black people do not improve?

The most recent events in Baltimore raise these questions. Last Friday, Catherine Pugh, the city’s new mayor, vetoed a measure passed by the City Council that would have doubled the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2022. The move comes as other cities increase their minimum wage, in the face of a growing national movement for a $15 minimum wage and successful efforts in cities such as New York, the District of Columbia, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco and the state of California itself. In keeping with Martin Luther King’s fight for economic and racial justice immediately before his assassination, when he supported striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Black Lives Matter has joined the national Fight for $15 movement, as AP reported.

In a press conference, Pugh elaborated on her reasons for vetoing the wage hike, citing the need to “take into consideration all of the needs of all the people of Baltimore.”

What are Black elected officials doing to help their Black constituents? What is the purpose and value of Black power if there are Black faces in high places in city government, yet the old systems of institutional racism remain in place and the economic conditions of Black people do not improve?

The most recent events in Baltimore raise these questions. Last Friday, Catherine Pugh, the city’s new mayor, vetoed a measure passed by the City Council that would have doubled the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2022. The move comes as other cities increase their minimum wage, in the face of a growing national movement for a $15 minimum wage and successful efforts in cities such as New York, the District of Columbia, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco and the state of California itself. In keeping with Martin Luther King’s fight for economic and racial justice immediately before his assassination, when he supported striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Black Lives Matter has joined the national Fight for $15 movement, as AP reported.

In a press conference, Pugh elaborated on her reasons for vetoing the wage hike, citing the need to “take into consideration all of the needs of all the people of Baltimore.”

For a myriad complex reasons, predominantly Black cities such as Baltimore have Black officials in power, controlling the levers of government from the top down, yet economic inequality, systemic racism, gentrification and institutional discrimination have taken their toll. Baltimore has faced years of economic exploitation, redlining and discrimination in mortgage lending, with banks cheating Black residents based on race even to this day. Police brutality against Freddie Gray and other Black victims has continued under Black leadership, as has the removal of poor Black residents from their homes, making Baltimore the national leader in evictions.

“I think Baltimore shows the sophistication of white supremacy and how it operates,” said Dayvon Love, activist and co-founder of the grassroots group Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, in a 2015 interview with Melissa Harris-Perry on MSNBC. “How it takes Black figures, puts them in institutional positions to give the veneer of justice, when really the same institutional arrangement exists.”

In Baltimore and elsewhere around the nation, Black mayors have taken different approaches to Black power and serving and addressing the needs of the Black community. While some mayors such as the late Maynard Jackson in Atlanta and Chokwe Lumumba in Jackson, Miss., were known for policies that embraced Black economic empowerment, other Black mayors have shied away from the centrality of race, while still others were sent to prison for using their position to personally enrich their bank accounts. Some examples include Sharpe James in Newark, Ray Nagin in New Orleans and Kwame Kilpatrick in Detroit.

Similarly, Baltimore’s leadership has been a mixed bag. Kurt Schmoke, Baltimore’s city’s first elected Black mayor, advocated for economic development and drug decriminalization and enlisted the Nation of Islam with contracts to perform security in public housing. A white mayor on his way to becoming governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley became known for zero-tolerance policing, including unlawful detentions, mass arrests for minor offenses such as loitering and denying elderly prisoners parole, as Think Progress reported. Mayor Sheila Ann Dixon was found guilty of embezzlement for stealing gift cards intended for poor Baltimore residents.

Once a rising star, Dixon’s successor, former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, was cited for poor handling of the police violence problem and the underlying issues of Black deprivation and lack of opportunity in Baltimore. She faced harsh criticism for referring to Black protesters as “thugs” in the wake of the Freddie Gray killing.

Even as a mayoral candidate, Pugh has faced criticism for not wanting to confront racial disparities in a city whose racial inequality problem, part of a national crisis, is often on the extreme end of the scale.

Despite the failure of some big-city mayors, placing the blame solely at their feet is tantamount to reciting the narratives of right-wing think tanks. After all, there are fundamental issues at play, including years of government-sponsored segregation. The exodus of capital and manufacturing away from urban centers has left Black Democratic cities with diminished influence, having fallen out of favor in their state’s political landscape and held fiscal hostage by white Republican state houses.

Exacerbating matters is the role of gentrification, which has hollowed out Black populations and rendered Black folks strangers in their own neighborhoods. The higher rent, property values and taxes that come with gentrification have displaced Black people as white professionals encroach upon these historically melanated spaces. How Black elected officials respond to these socioeconomic forces will make all the difference in how the Black community will fare. If the end goal is to cater solely to the needs of business with tax breaks and other enticements, making way for tech startups and hipsters, then the Black community will lose out. Black political leadership must manage change without leaving their people behind. This means seeking input from the community, making affordable housing a priority and bringing about better communities with improved services and economic development that all can share. Communities can and should be revitalized, but without the harmful side effects of gentrification. It should not take the influx of white professionals for Black mayors to care about improving their cities.

Circling back to Baltimore, if a predominantly Black city — many of whose people are in dire straits — cannot afford a minimum-wage increase, then how can the city grow if its people are left earning pennies? Baltimore is a case study of a larger national issue.

By David Love/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Celebrating Black History Month: North Carolina’s Mechanics and Farmers Bank

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Image: NCpedia

The Mechanics and Farmers Bank, North Carolina’s oldest African American-owned bank, was established in 1908 in Durham under the auspices of the North Carolina Mutual and Provident Association (renamed the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company in 1919). The original charter members included Richard Fitzgerald, John Merrick, Aaron M. Moore, William G. Pearson, J. C. Scarborough, Charles C. Spaulding, J. A. Dodson, and Stanford L. Warren. The bank first operated from space in the building of the North Carolina Mutual and Provident Association, later moving to a building on West Parrish Street.

Mechanics and Farmers became an important source of financing in the 1920s, saving more than 500 African American farms and residences, when its loan department provided $200,000 in individual loans.

Read more at NCpedia

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New Orleans Actor & Activist Wendell Pierce on the “Greatest Crime” in Wake of Hurricane Katrina

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Posted by the NON-Conformist

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