Maybe it’s purely coincidental that the number one movie in the nation in recent weeks — and one of the top-selling books in America — has been “The Help,” which is about Black maids in Jackson, Miss., in the early 1960s.
Maybe it just so happens that the Census Bureau informed us last week that the overall poverty rate has climbed to 15.1 percent for Americans across the board but to 27 percent for Blacks and to 40 percent for Black children. That goes along, of course, with our already well documented 16.7 percent Black unemployment rate.
Highlighted by “The Help,” we’re forced to recognize a disturbing pattern of Black economic disenfranchisement, complicated by a seemingly worsening series of race-based negative factors.
For example, according to Catalyst, which focuses on women’s employment issues, women comprised 51.5 percent of management, professional and related positions in 2010. However, Black women represented just 5.3 percent of those same positions. A different level of discrimination than that endured by maids in the 60s, but painful, nonetheless, for Black females.
It appears that the book and the movie have created an interesting backdrop, reminding us that even though African Americans may have thought they were suffering when they were relegated to demeaning, menial jobs during the Civil Rights era, the 21st century is, in many ways, proving to be even worse because, in far too many Black households, we have no jobs at all or are significantly underemployed.
I must admit I didn’t actually see the movie version of “The Help.” I don’t go to movies much, any more.
But, hold up! It’s not just me.
According to those who follow such things, move ticket sales actually peaked in 2002, at 1.55 billion, but have fallen off since then to 1.33 billion in 2010. That’s 220 million fewer tickets sold!
Call me crazy if you want, but like so many others I’ve become a slave (there’s that word, again) to media multi-tasking, and I find it increasingly difficult to sit still and narrow my input to a single screen for an extended period of time. Now, for me, a movie is just something that’s on the small screen, in the house, while I’m doing two or three other things.
Stop me if I’m wrong, but don’t you more and more find yourself listening to music while exercising, emailing while web-surfing, and —God forbid — responding to urgent text messages at traffic stops while driving from place to place?
We’re being bombarded, constantly, by all manner of print, video, audio and digital input and we’re learning — for good or bad — to juggle two or three at a time.
Brilliant university researchers are telling us, for example, that the average American is being exposed each day to more than 3,000 advertising messages alone. That’s a lot. But, you know what? It’s starting to feel “real normal.”
And you know what? Two hundred twenty million former movie ticket buyers are starting to feel the same way about movie theaters — due to technology or due to the rapidly rising price of admission, which far outstrips the rate of inflation.
Like I said, I didn’t see the movie or read the book, which was on the New York Times best seller list for an amazing 100 weeks and sold an incredible 5 million copies. The topic, however, based upon what I’ve seen in reviews and on video trailers, does intrigue me.
Apparently, the story included all of the standard Black-white confrontation episodes we’ve learned to expect from Mississippi during that period. The women worked hard, were grossly underpaid and constantly disrespected. None of the content was new or surprising. It was, I’ve been informed, explained in an engaging and telegenic way for movie audiences, who had either forgotten how things used to be for Black maids, or who today may be too young to have ever known in the first place.
Both film critics and predominantly female, mostly older audiences seem to love the movie. It came out of the gate at a respectable $35 million, but wound up only in second place at the box office. However, to the surprise of the entire country, it went on to claim first place for three weeks in a row over the more highly touted and substantially bigger-budgeted “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”
During the movie’s first week of release, Cinema Score rated “The Help” an A+, a designation that has been given only about twice a year since 2004. And, even in a year when summer movie audiences had fallen to their lowest levels in 14 years, “The Help” grossed $137 million as of last week. That’s with a production budget of a “measly” $25 million, as compared to the $93 million it took to produce “Planet of the Apes.”
Recently, there’s been “Oscar buzz” for the brilliant African-American women who played the two lead roles — especially for Octavia Spencer, who portrayed Minny, the outspoken “sister” who refused to bite her tongue when she felt she was being treated unfairly and who wound up being fired from 19 jobs as a result.
Sounds like a great flick. And if I went to movies at all, I’d probably go to see it.
But, as is the case in most issues, there’s a reason to be cautious about “The Help.” There is, in fact, a temptation to believe that the movie’s message is that — back in the day — Black maids used to be mistreated, they used to be underpaid and, at one time way back in the Civil Rights era, Black female employees used to be the victims of sexual harassment and discrimination in the work place.
If you came away from having read the book or having watched the movie believing any of those things, you need to get another belief.
According to a 2010 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 1.4 million persons employed as “maids and housekeeping cleaners” right now in the United States, 89 percent of whom are female. The hourly wage level for those maids started at $10.17, for an annual wage of $21,150, and the median wage was $9.28, some going as low as $7.68 an hour.
Having maids has also never been a Southern-only phenomenon. To that point, the Florida Courier newspaper recently wrote: “Historians estimate that 70-90 percent of the African- American women who worked before WWII did some type of domestic service for whites.”
Want to be reminded that Black maids caring for well-to-do white families’ children isn’t a relic from the past? Just take a casual stroll on any sunny day through Society Hill or Rittenhouse Square, where the average household income exceeds $322,000.
You’ll note that it’s quite common to see baby carriages containing white toddlers or infants being pushed by Black women. It’s also a rare elderly, disabled white senior citizen who’s not being guided along the sidewalk by a youngish Black female.
“The Help,” during these precarious times of runaway Black poverty and unemployment levels, is also a somber reminder that even marginal, low-paying jobs are now in great demand across the country.
Think I’m kidding?
Another intriguing bit of information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ files on “Maids and Housekeeping Cleaners” is that in 2010, 5 percent of maids and domestics were Asian, 40.8 percent were Latino and just 16.3 percent were Black.
Who would have thought that the day would come when, at the same time, college-educated Black women were holding on “by the skin of their teeth” in Corporate America and Black women without college degrees could no longer be hired at all, even as domestics?
A. Bruce Crawley is president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management Inc.
I hope you watched “Extreme Home Makeover” on Dec. 2, as I did. For me it was an opportunity of pride, as Bennett student Dominique Walker was featured, with her family, for a trip to Los Angeles, and a home upgrade. Why? Because her family remained in pain because their 11-year-old brother killed himself after vicious bullying.
Carl Walker-Hoover was hazed because folks thought he was gay. He was bothered, bullied and besieged. He tried to talk to folks, but he eventually found out that no one wanted to hear what he had to say. He hanged himself at home, and the family avoided his bedroom because they were in pain.
Our pain. The child was bullied and badgered and he couldn’t take it. He was like more than one in six young people who say bullying is part of their lives. Many manage, and many manage by becoming bullies themselves. Many don’t manage. They are left out, dropped out, worn out, pulled out with parents so oblivious to the effect of bullying that they think it is just a childhood thing. A game young people play with each other. Not.
The worst of it is that the Internet compounds what used to be simple schoolyard chatter. Now, young people put rumors and nonsense into cyberspace about each other. And cyberspace doesn’t simply whisper, it yells. Young people’s reputations are on the line because bullying has taken on an Internet space.
Carl Walker-Hoover, an 11-year-old, was “outed” as gay when at 11 he probably was only different. Young people decided to play with him in the worst way, picking at him and on him and around him and through him. One day he awakened and told himself he couldn’t take it anymore. Now his life can be our light and his family can be a symbol against bullying.
What is it about us human beings that allow us to batter each other? Does it make us feel better? Do we grow when others shrink? Do we flourish because they shrivel? While we pay lots of attention to yo0ung people and their bullying, shouldn’t we also pay attention to the adults among us, those who think we gain because others lose, we rise because others fall, we use our tongues in a way to diminish, not flatter? As I watched the pain of the walker family on “Extreme Home Makeover,” I realized that perhaps few meant harm, but many contributed to the utter tragedy that family had to manage.
We are all indebted to ABC and the “Extreme Makeover” team for deciding to help this family. They remind us that pain and passion reverberate. I saw lots of ads following the special, and into the next few days, of young people talking about the effects of bullying. Carl Walker-Hoover’s suicide puts a face on bullying and reminds us that there is a possibility of an anti-bullying movement. The ads tell the story, but can the people tell more?
Here’s the bottom line. We have all been bullied, one way or another, with a friend or colleague with a vicious, ugly mouth. And because we have all been bullied, we have all been bullies in our space. Humanity requires us to understand that the behavior we model is behavior that young people replicate. It requires us to understand that everyone can’t meet a bully, face to face, eye to eye, and resist the nonsense that can be called hazing.
For whatever reason, Carl Walker-Hoover could not stand up to his bullies. He had enough. He shared how much of enough he had with his suicide. Who knows what he might have been — an author, a scientist, a leader? When he died he was a young Black man whose life spread out before him, a life he chose to end because he could not endure bullying. How many more lives will we lose? How can we learn to value every life, and to kick bullying to the curb?
I am so proud that Carl’s sister, Dominique, is a Bennett student. We hope to use her knowledge to help us grapple with the many ways we choose to hurt ourselves. She is a survivor of this bullying nonsense, as so many are. She is one of the leaders we have been waiting for!
Julianne Malveaux is president of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.
The Black community and children in Philadelphia are once again the casualties of political war.
The Fact Finding Report to Mayor Michael A. Nutter Concerning Charter Operator Selection Process of the Martin Luther King School released last Thursday unveiled another tragic story of discord and power plays amongst Black leaders and politicians.
Sadly, buried under the mountain of political debris are the futures of our children and community. As a pastor and father, my heart is grieved by the political fighting and infighting. Now, more than ever, our community is in desperate need of courageous, selfless leaders solely focused on the best interests of our great City.
The report by Joan Markman is not just disconcerting because of her conclusions. Most disturbing is the continuing revelation that some of the most powerful Black leaders in Philadelphia simply could not find a way to work together, not even for the betterment of the impoverished and politically inept.
Do you mean to tell me that when only sixty-three percent of our children are graduating from high school and much fewer matriculate into college that we can’t put aside political discord and take action that is in their best interest? When thirty-one percent of African Americans in Philadelphia are living in poverty, we can’t trust our leaders to forego political vengeance and instead coalesce around a promising vision? To say the least, we are in serious trouble in Philadelphia.
Machtpolitik, or “power politics,” is how twentieth century international scholar, Martin Wight, would have labeled this latest fiasco. Power politics occurs when those in power seek to protect their own interests by threatening another with military, economic, or political aggression. “Power tends to corrupt,” Sir John Dalberg-Acton contended, “and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
While we will never completely know the full story of who was involved in the MLK High School debacle, one has to ask some critical questions. What was the machtpolitik in the MLK school debate? Why did the Markman report only surface after the superintendent was released and three days after the SRC chair resigned? What is really occurring, given this is a mayoral election year and November 1st is less than six weeks away?
The Markman Inquiry clearly is being utilized as a political apparatus and cannot be viewed as completely objective. The report, at best, reveals instances of poor judgment and, perhaps, meetings and conversations that should not have been had. However, it neither uncovers any illegalities nor provides remedies to improve the quality of education or the quality of life for the citizens of Philadelphia. Ultimately, the report engages in character assassination of Black leaders and political repositioning while many in our community continue to be disenfranchised, uneducated, and unemployed.
So where do the unfortunate and tragic events of 2011 leave Blacks in Philadelphia? Where do we go from here when our Harvard-trained, pro-parent superintendent is gone, a distinguished corporate lawyer’s reputation is tarnished, a politically-powerful legislator is sullied, the only Black, female lobbyist in Philadelphia is implicated and the judgment/competence of a promising interim superintendent is questioned?
“To be a poor man is hard,” said W.E.B. DuBois, “but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships.”
Beloved, to be a “poor race” and at “the very bottom of hardships” is unacceptable. While we throw darts at one another, the larger community manages to hold onto multi-million dollar contracts. Are Archie and Evans “godfathers,” or could they be the smoke screen for the City’s “true godfathers” who have benefited for years off the backs of Philadelphia’s taxpayers and the masses of poor Black and Brown children whose large numbers provide a great profit for many interested parties? In sum, it is not about a $50 million five-year contract, a strong-willed Black woman, or even our undereducated and continually underserved children — it is about control of a $3 billion school district budget.
Yes, the crisis of Black leadership in Philadelphia is a moral issue and a responsibility. Most of our wounds are self-inflicted. If we continue on this trajectory, we will become, as DuBois prophetically warned us, “like falling stars, and die sometimes before the world has rightly gauged [our] brightness.”
To be quite honest, we, as parents, citizens and community-minded people, must expect more from our leaders. We realize they will inevitably disagree, but their disagreements should never rise above the interests of the community or stymie our collective advancement or progress. Whatever the reasons for this most recent family feud, it must cease and cease immediately.
Clearly there has been a misuse of power. In the past, Black people have not always had power to determine their destiny. Today we do.
In a city where the leadership ranks include a Black mayor, Black district attorney, Black police chief, Black fire chief, Black majority leader of City Council and, until recently, a Black SRC chair, school superintendent, and chair of Appropriations of the Commonwealth’s House of Representatives, we have the wherewithal to do better to yield better results for our community. We can no longer afford to get bogged down in territorial warfare. When we do, we all lose.
We need our Black leaders to put aside their differences and work together. Black families in Philadelphia are in the wilderness. Lives are at stake, futures are on hold, dreams are deferred and our children and community are failing because we are failing them.
If Blacks are ever to reach their full potential in Philadelphia and our great country, then we must understand and adhere to Dr. King’s call for unity: “…somehow, and in some way…We must all learn to live together as brothers [and sisters] or we will all perish together as fools.”
As always, let’s keep the faith and remember “whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”
Dr. Kevin R. Johnson is the senior pastor of the Bright Hope Baptist Church.
“So please ask yourself: What would I do if I weren’t afraid? And then go do it.”
— Sheryl Sandberg
In a stroke of marketing genius befitting the Chief Operating Officer of the social media phenomenon Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg chose Women’s History Month to launch her new book, “Lean In”, and begin a national dialogue about “Women, Work and the Will to Lead.” Ruth Standish Baldwin was a co-founder of the National Urban League more than a century ago, and the inclusion and empowerment of women has been one of our most important priorities. Today, Former Labor Secretary Alexis Herman serves a senior vice chair on our board, and almost half of our 95 local Affiliate CEOs are women. For that reason, we applaud Sandberg for her new book and are proud to join in the conversation.
We all know that historic barriers of gender discrimination, as well as the responsibilities of bearing and caring for children have made it more difficult for women to balance work and family. But Sandberg contends that women too often “hold ourselves back in ways big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in.” “Lean In” appears to be written by and for women for whom the path to executive leadership has always been a realistic, if somewhat difficult, journey. But the book has sparked another conversation in Black America about how women of color have always had to “lean in” to overcome the dual hurdles of racial and gender bias.
Consider how Harriet Tubman leaned into the face of death to lead a thousand slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad. Or how Sojourner Truth stood up and boldly asked “Ain’t I a woman?” at the 1851 Ohio Women’s Rights Convention. Consider how Fannie Lou Hamer, who was “sick and tired of being sick and tired,” fought for African- American voting rights as an organizer of the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer and vice chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Or how a quiet seamstress named Rosa Parks leaned in, sat down on a bus and lit the fuse of the Civil Rights Movement.
Decrying the lack of women at the top of corporate America, Sandberg does admit that, “The gap is even worse for women of color, who hold just 4 percent of top corporate jobs, 3 percent of board seats and 5 percent of congressional seats.” But, with rising numbers of Black women in college, preparing themselves for successful careers, clearly a lack of drive or ambition is not the problem.
“Lean In” urges women to “Sit at the Table,” “Seek and Speak Your Truth,” “Don’t Leave Before You Leave,” and “Make Your Partner a Real Partner.” These recommendations present a roadmap of success that has obviously worked for Sheryl Sandberg. But, it is largely the lack of support, the pressures of single parenthood, and systemic racial and gender discrimination that continue to keep women of color from getting a foot in the corporate door. The empowerment of all women depends on closing the wage gap, protecting women’s reproductive rights, providing greater workplace flexibility, having more women in non-traditional professions like science and engineering, and supporting common sense measures such as the Violence Against Women Act which was recently reauthorized and signed into law by President Obama.
If men and women lean in together, we can foster gender equity and a better America. — (NNPA)
Marc H. Morial, former mayor of New Orleans, is president and CEO of the National Urban League.
Philadelphia police beat a blind man!
A man legally blind in both eyes beaten after attacking an officer during a nighttime police investigation into a suspected drug deal where officers did not recover any drugs or money normally involved in drug deals?
Philadelphia police officials are investigating this “alleged” August assault on Darrell Holloway in West Philly that left the 22-year-old blind man facing a slew of traditional attack-on-cops charges, according to an article by Philadelphia Tribune crime reporter Larry Miller and other media coverage.
Eyewitnesses refute police claims of Holloway attacking an officer.
Police contend this blind man apparently utilizes some kind of super-human radar/sonar enabling his targeting capabilities for battering a cop he couldn’t see.
Police officials contend Holloway punched an officer who was detaining him, leading to a violent scuffle where two officers sustained minor injuries.
During that scuffle (get this) when other officers separated the attacking Holloway from his arresting officer, Holloway charged after the arresting officer — again the blind man seeing enough to see where the arresting officer was — in the dark.
Holloway’s attorney told the Tribune’s Miller that a police officer grabbed his client, slammed Holloway on a car and started punching him.
A Philadelphia Municipal Court judge, despite questioning the lack of eyesight angle, bound Holloway over for trial on the charges filed by the police instead of (courageously) exercising her judicial powers to toss those seemingly fabricated assault-on-cop charges into the dismissed trash bin.
A cell phone video of the incident, that is too dark to reliably see what is happening, does contain distinctive audio of eyewitnesses shouting, telling police that Holloway is blind including one man who issued the “he’s-blind” notice twenty times during one minute/eleven-seconds.
The audio on that video contains eyewitness comments like “Why you hitting a blind man” — “He hit a F-ing blind man” and “This is crazy!”
Questionable court procedures kept evidence/eyewitnesses countering police claims against Holloway from that municipal court proceeding thus setting up the expense and court-system clutter of a Common Pleas Court trial or out-of-court resolution.
Sadly, this “alleged” beating of a blind man is not an isolated incident for Philadelphia police who continue their perverse patterns of brutality that stretch back into the late decades of the 1800s.
The Pittsburgh Courier newspaper in its July 4, 1931 edition reported a Philadelphia incident where a Philly police captain and three officers beat a Black man with a rubber hose and then denied it claiming “the man struck (the captain) with a policeman’s club.”
As respected Philadelphia Tribune editor/journalist Eustace Gay wrote in a December 1950 commentary, “Philadelphia policemen know only one thing when handling certain types of citizens — the use of the club, unnecessary physical force, brutality…”
One discernable distinction between Philly police abuse during most of the 20th century and that in the 21st century is that the top police officials now offering explanations (and/or excuses) are Black.
Policing is dangerous business as evidenced by the recent fatal stabbing of a veteran police officer in Delaware while responding to what was initially logged a disorderly conduct call.
The law gives police latitude to employ force necessary to handle the often violent and/or recalcitrant suspects they encounter. Most fair minded members of the public accept the common sense reality of police having such latitude.
Problems arise, particularly for persons of color, when police abuse that latitude as a license for brutal I’m-the-LAW-F-U abuse — abuse that’s blindly accepted by police officials, prosecutors, politicians and judges.
Misconduct by cops extends beyond the borders of Philadelphia across America and across the Atlantic.
Juan Gonzalez, the renowned New York Daily News columnist and Democracy Now co-host, recently wrote about NYC’s finest roughing up and handcuffing a NYC Councilman after disregarding the City Council ID that dreadlock-wearing Councilman produced for police.
In August, paralleling the Philly police assault on Holloway, destructive and deadly riots rocked London triggered by yet another police abuse incident.
Those riots around London and across England erupted during a peaceful protest at a North London police station over the fatal police shooting of a young Black man when police clubbed a 16-year-old female protestor who — allegedly — threw something at police.
Since those August riots four other men have died in the custody of British police, London activist Cristel Amiss said during an interview last week.
“Police won’t investigate charges of rape but they will send a dozen police on armed raids against sex workers. This is wrong,” said Amiss, who works with the Black Women’s Rape Action Project. “These killings are like genocide against us.”
The standard response for addressing police misconduct is “better training.”
Tribune editor Gay’s 1950 column called for training police in “human relations.”
Despite the value of enhanced training, an effective counter to persistent misconduct by police is treating law-breaking officers as criminals. Assault is a crime and those committing the crime of assault are criminals.
“Make it a basic rule that any officer found guilty of unnecessary brutality will be immediately dismissed from the police force,” Philadelphia Tribune columnist Dorothy Anderson wrote in a June 1960 article.
Forty years later state elected official LeAnna Washington proposed a similar approach in July 2000 calling for the prosecution of brutal officers “to the fullest extent of state and federal law.”
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Journalism Fellowship Program.
In my first career, as Advertising and Public Relations director at a major Philadelphia bank, I was struck, one day, by the fact that the company had eight African-American branch managers — and not one of them was a Black male.
When I called the senior vice president of the bank’s Human Resources Department to ask why that happened to be the case, he told me that: “Black males simply don’t interview well.”
That response, of course, surprised and disappointed me. I thought it was simplistic, condescending and inaccurate. How could this multi-billion dollar banking company really believe that Black male college graduates “interviewed” less effectively than Black females, for the same jobs? In our further discussions on the subject, I learned that, on paper, the Black males and females the bank invited in had virtually the same academic credentials. Both came from similar family backgrounds and, in many cases, had even graduated from the same schools — with the same degrees.
The Human Resources department had brought them into the company after careful screening, and reference and background checks. However, the process fell apart once the Black male applicants moved to the next step of the interview procedure, i.e., meeting face-to-face with the managers in the departments in which they would have to work, once hired.
Somehow, at that point, a harsh, racially tinged subjectivity would set in and, following the interviews, more often than not, the HR department would be informed that “There was something about the candidate that made us think he wouldn’t be a good fit, here,” or “I’m not quite comfortable with that (Black male) candidate’s responses. Who else do you have?”
Curiously, the same interviewing departments didn’t seem to have quite the same reservations about hiring Black females. That “extra bias” against Black males was not unique to the bank where I worked.
With all of that as background, I took special interest in the buzz on mainstream media outlets last week that informed us that Black males now constitute just two percent of all teachers in America’s school classrooms. The version of the story on CNN included a great deal of weeping and gnashing of teeth, and a sympathetic profile of a young, Black, male kindergarten teacher, in D.C., who was trying to make a difference. But then, as is the network’s style, CNN moved on immediately to cover something entirely different.
In a better world, the network could have easily done a more comprehensive and in-depth treatment of Black male employment and unemployment challenges, here in the U.S., but, not unexpectedly, it chose not to do so.
I guess the editors didn’t want to bore or antagonize their largely non-Black viewing audience by putting too much context around that story. If you were looking for a reason why this situation happens to exist, here’s what CNN gave you: “If you ask most African-American men why they don’t teach, they’ll tell you it just doesn’t pay the bills.”
So there you have it, America. We have evidence that only about one in 50 teachers in the county’s schools are Black males, and mainstream media tells us that has nothing to do with lack of opportunity, or discriminatory hiring practices. No, Black males, it seems, just want to get paid more than all white teachers, and Hispanic and Asian teachers, and Black female teachers are earning, so they simply choose not to go into the profession.
At least, that’s the impression the average CNN viewer would get having watched that poorly reported and misleadingly presented story.
If the horrific issue of Black male joblessness and underemployment is as simple as what was reported about the teaching profession, then how do they explain the bigger picture?
How about the fact that 8 percent of Black men in this country lost their jobs from 2007 to 2009? How about the fact that a 2011 report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) disclosed that, contrary to the CNN story, “Occupational preferences ... are not the causes of employment disparities between Blacks and whites.” Indeed, according to the Center For American Progress, by systematically excluding those other causes, EPI concludes that discrimination must exist in today’s job market.”
Wow! Who knew?
Quick! Send an email to CNN and to all those other media outlets, and to the elected officials that keep wanting us all to believe that discrimination has been totally expunged from workplace decision-making in America.
While you’re at it, include in your email some even further, enlightening information on the topic that has been recently announced by New America Media. That would include the fact that “Black men without criminal records tend to have a tougher time finding employment than do white men who have been convicted by the criminal justice system.”
Also, add this one, from the same source: “Black men earn 70 cents to every dollar for a white man.” And then, throw this one in from Education Week: “College-educated Black men who are working still make far less than their white counterparts.”
It’s also important to mention, here, that the employment and unemployment challenges in the African-American community clearly are not limited to Blacks who have achieved college degrees. A report by the University of Wisconsin informs us that Black male employment rates, from 1970 to 2010, have all declined in every one of the 40 largest metropolitan areas in the country.
There is growing evidence that this national phenomenon has little to do with Black males feeling in need for greater salaries than every other job-seeking applicant. The cold fact is that discrimination’s ugly head is clearly visible when we note that only two major metropolitan areas — D.C. and Dallas — had a Black employment rate higher than 60 percent; while, at the same time, only two metros — Portland and Detroit — had a white male employment rate that was less than 70 percent.
As shocking as it was to hear about Black males representing less than two percent of all school teachers, we should be no less alarmed to realize that Black males with less than a high school diploma only represent 1.4 percent of apparel store workers; 1.4 percent of hotel and motel workers; 1.7 percent of trucking service employees; 3.1 percent of department store employees and 5.8 percent of construction workers, according to the Employment Policies Institute.
While most of us in the country seem to be oblivious to these issues, or just “used” to catching these bad breaks in the employment arena, the rest of the world seems to be paying close attention.
Recently, the British-based Economist magazine noted: “Despite all of this, worklessness among less-educated men does not seem to be a priority for American politicians, in either party.”
I happen to believe the Economist is right on the money. If you’re watching the candidates, they all seem committed, instead, to finding jobs, solely, for the so-called “middle class.”
The Economist also let us know that it is wide awake on the whole issue of Black male joblessness; but it added this: “Poor educational performance also interacts perniciously with America’s habit of imprisoning large numbers of young Black men.
Remind me to renew that subscription to the Economist!
Another interesting sidebar to this whole effort of bringing much-needed awareness to the issue of Black male joblessness was the filing in 2010 to the United Nation’s Human Rights Council, which sought a U.N. investigation of the lingering issues of Black unemployment in the U.S., and referred to that situation as a “human rights issue.”
I happen to agree.
This crisis should be taken a lot more seriously by a lot more national decision-makers. We can’t afford to ignore it much longer.
A. Bruce Crawley is president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management Inc.
WASHINGTON — After President Obama gave a stem-winder of a speech that drew a standing ovation from most of the crowd attending a Congressional Black Caucus gala last month, his most vociferous Black critics among the liberal elite should have been temporarily quieted. But they were not. They distorted his remarks as an excuse to keep up their volley of disrespect, disparagement and blame.
So be it. There are few better ways to remain relevant on the public stage than to be among the well-known Black activists who bitterly criticize the nation’s first Black president.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume that some of the criticism that emanates from familiar quarters — Tavis Smiley, Cornel West — has its foundation in a genuine disappointment that Obama hasn’t done more to usher in an age of equal opportunity for the nation’s Black citizens, who have been pummeled by the economic downturn. Let’s take at face value the idea that Obama ought to have a “Black agenda” that attempts to erase the economic barriers that pose a particular problem for Black Americans.
What would such an agenda look like? Is it possible for Obama to eliminate the remaining vestiges of systemic racism? Can he solve the decades-old problems that have resulted in a Black unemployment rate that is twice as high as the national average?
Those questions deserve more serious analysis than the superficial resentments that come from Obama’s most persistent Black critics. The rhetoric in his speeches — whether pointed or professorial, condescending or comforting — is unlikely to do much to prod a business owner to hire an unemployed Black man without a high school diploma.
A wrenching economic downturn has brought into stark relief the financial realities of many Black households: Prosperity is tenuous, security is elusive and footholds on the economic ladder are slippery. Of course, millions of working-class whites would no doubt argue that their economic fortunes have been similarly tenuous.
That’s why it makes perfect sense for Obama to concentrate on broad policies that create jobs across-the-board. Inevitably, Black unemployment will drop when companies start signing up workers again. Obama’s speech to the CBC emphasized his jobs bill, which he hopes will spur hiring.
U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., and chairman of the CBC, says the group deserves some of the credit for putting the issue of “unemployment on the front burner in the American dialogue” when much of political Washington was consumed by the debt debate. “Many of the proposals in the jobs bill are things we have been pushing,” he said. (Cleaver, by the way, has sometimes clashed with the president over policy, but says he was “not offended” by the speech.)
So is Obama right to assume that a rising tide lifts all boats? The Clinton-era economy brought a level of unprecedented prosperity to Black households, as it ushered in good fortune for all.
Still, it’s true that a rowboat will be more vulnerable to swells and wakes than a yacht. Black Americans struggle with disadvantages that are peculiar to our history in this country. And most of those are beyond a president’s ability to fix, even a Black president. They include the lingering vestiges of institutional racism, as well as the more persistent — and more pernicious — implicit biases. Those are the subconscious prejudices that make it more difficult for a young Harvard grad named DeShawn to get a corporate job than for a young Harvard grad named John.
Furthermore, the nation’s first Black president is constrained in discussing those lingering biases because he has to prove to skeptical whites that he isn’t consumed by racial issues or attempting to pass special favors to Black constituents. Even in the absence of evidence, some white voters insist that Obama has done more for Black Americans than for whites — testimony to the tribal instincts that refuse to die.
“I understand why he would hesitate to do a lot of talking about (racial issues),” said Cleaver, who was the first Black mayor of Kansas City, Mo., which has a predominantly white population. “I know you have to sometimes walk between raindrops.”
Even so, both Cleaver and Obama are potent reminders of the racial progress that has been possible over a few short decades. Obama can’t wave a magic wand and eliminate job barriers or racial prejudices, but his presence in the Oval Office is still a powerful symbol of the possibilities.
On April 16, 2007, our nation suffered its deadliest shooting incident ever by a single gunman when a student killed 32 people and wounded 25 others at Virginia Tech University before committing suicide. Five years later, have we learned anything about controlling our national gun and gun violence epidemic? A look at just a few of the sad headlines across the country so far this year suggests we haven’t learned much, if anything at all.
In February of this year, a 17-year-old high school senior, who other students described as an outcast who’d been bullied, shot and killed three fellow students and injured two more at Chardon High School in suburban Cleveland, Ohio. Would this have happened without a gun?
In Washington state, three children were victims of gun violence during a three-week period at the end of February and at the end of March. A three-year-old died after shooting himself in the head with a gun left under the front seat of the car while his family stopped for gas. The 7-year-old daughter of a police officer was shot and killed by her younger brother after he found one of their father’s guns in the glove compartment of the family van. And an 8-year-old girl was critically wounded at school when her 9-year-old classmate brought in a gun he found at home that accidentally went off in his backpack. Would this have happened without a gun?
There already has been a rash of shootings in Chicago this year, including the especially violent weekend in mid-March when 49 people were shot and 10 were killed. One of the victims was a 6-year-old girl who was sitting on her front porch with her mother getting her hair brushed before a birthday party when she was killed by shots fired from a passing pickup truck. Would this have happened without a gun?
And in Florida, unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin was shot and killed walking home from the store in February after being followed by self-appointed “neighborhood watch captain” George Zimmerman. Would Trayvon’s death have happened without a gun? Now that George Zimmerman has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder, Trayvon Martin’s family is finally moving forward in their quest for justice.
As a nation we can’t afford to keep waiting for common-sense gun control laws that would protect our children and all of us from indefensible gun violence. It’s time to repeal senseless gun laws such as the “Stand Your Ground” laws enacted by 21 states. The laws have grabbed so much attention in Trayvon’s case and allow people in Florida to defend themselves with deadly force anytime and anywhere if they feel threatened. More than 2 million people have signed online petitions saying they want to repeal these laws. It’s time to require consumer safety standards and childproof safety features for all guns and strengthen child access prevention laws that ensure guns are stored safely and securely to prevent unnecessary tragedies like those in Washington state. And in a political environment where the too secretive and powerful advocacy group American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) pushed “Stand Your Ground” laws in other states along with other “model bills” that benefit some corporate bottom lines or special interests such as the NRA, it’s time for all of ALEC’s corporate sponsors to walk away from enabling or acquiescing destructive laws that protect guns, not children.
It’s a tragedy that five years after Virginia Tech so little has changed. How many years must we wait until tragic headlines about school shootings, children dying, and people using the “shoot first and ask questions later” defense to take the law into their own hands go away? When will we finally get the courage to stand up as a nation and say enough to the deadly proliferation of guns and gun violence that endanger children’s and public safety? — (NNPA)
Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children’s Defense Fund.
Karl Rove, a star political strategist, is outraged that Donald Trump, a star real-estate mogul and reality show host, is staging a reality show with real Republican presidential candidates and calling it a debate. Yet, with all due respect, Trump is only exploiting a process that political strategists like Rove already hijacked.
Trump, you may recall, earlier this year considered a presidential run and says he might yet consider one again. Meanwhile, he will host a debate on Dec. 27 in Iowa that will be televised on the conservative Newsmax website and the ION cable television network.
And with the typical Trump hyperbole that would embarrass P.T. Barnum, the website describes the event as “the most important meeting of the major Republican candidates before the Iowa caucus and primaries in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida!” Exclamation theirs.
But Rove, speaking on Fox News Channel Monday, sees the event as an abomination.
He accused Trump of helping to “trivialize the most important decision that we Americans have, which is who we're going to elect as our president.”
Forgive me, but I see a certain poetic justice that Rove is riled. After all, he is one of the reigning kings of the political spin-doctor community, an industry that has taken over the political process in the TV age with the gusto of Occupy Wall Street protestors planting themselves in city parks.
Yet, with or without the consultants, TV is a reality that candidates cannot ignore. With that in mind, Rove, now a Fox News contributor, raises at least a couple of legitimate points for anyone who might mistake Trump’s event for a conventional debate. One, Trump has said he intends to endorse one of the candidates later. Indeed, don’t look for impartiality in this debate moderator. Look instead for something like the glowing respect paid to The Donald by the contestants on his reality show “Celebrity Apprentice.”
And, “More importantly, what the heck are the Republican candidates doing showing up at a debate with a guy who says ‘I may run for president next year as an independent,’” said Rove. “I think the Republican National chairman ought to step in and say we strongly discourage every candidate from appearing in a debate moderated by somebody who’s going to run for president.”
Trump characteristically responded by attacking Rove. The mogul called the consultant-commentator “highly overrated,” not “a smart person” and “basically ... a loser.” That’s also pretty much how Trump described Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul, the first candidates to flatly turn down his invitation.
By contrast, Trump was all smiles after a meeting Monday with current frontrunner Newt Gingrich, who accepted Trump’s invite in keeping with Newt’s tradition of taking advantage of every offered microphone.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus washed his hands of the spat Sunday, leaving it up to individual candidates to make up their own minds. That’s wise. Leave it up to the candidates and ultimately the voters — and TV viewers — to decide whether Trump’s latest reality show is worth watching.
By the way, I’m using “reality” in the way the broadcasting industry uses it, not to imply that I believe, say, “Jersey Shore” or the Kardashian family’s televised adventures reveal anything very real. That is, unless your concept of reality is talent-free people clowning it up for ever-present TV cameras.
“Unscripted” is more accurate description. It is the possibility of surprise — like Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s “Oops!” as he forgot one of three government departments that he wanted to cut — that keeps the curiosity suckers, uh, seekers coming back for more.
In that spirit, I offer this suggestion to Trump: Why not go all the way? Bring in some guest judges from “American Idol” or “Dancing with the Stars,” to help the audience make up its mind.
Imagine, say, “American Idol” judge Randy Jackson gushing, “I really dug your deficit reduction plan, dawg!”
Or “Dancing With the Stars” judge Bruno Tonioli, with his grand hyperbole. “Mah-vel-lous! Your rhetoric soars! It glides like a drone missile over Islamabad!”
Hey, we want to get more people to care about politics. Maybe a little show biz is the price we pay.
How do you say Black History Month in Spanish?
Since this still is Black History Month, I want to raise what has long been a nagging question for me on the whole subject of racial categorization: Why is it that the Census Bureau includes "Hispanics" together with "non-Hispanic whites" to comprise a total U.S. "white population," but fails to include the significant numbers of "Hispanics" of African descent as part of the country's overall Black population count?
According to everything I've read, the Hispanic population in the U.S. — both citizen and "undocumented" — is estimated at about 50.5 million people. Of that number, it's been reported, only about 26.7 million are "white." Of the remaining 23.8 million people, 22.5 million of them identify themselves as either "Black," "two or more races," or "some other race," categories which do not include American Indians, alone, Asians, alone, or Pacific Islanders, alone, who constitute the remaining 1.3 million Spanish-speakers.
Potentially, it seems, the inclusion of those 22.5 million visibly black, visibly Mulatto or mixed race, and genetically African- descendent Hispanics, when added to 42 million Census Bureau-counted blacks, that have already been identified, would increase the U.S. black population count to 64.5 million people in this country. That would equate to 20.6 percent of the overall U.S. population.
Wouldn't that be interesting?
Why is it, after all, that the Census Bureau and the rest of U.S. society separates Spanish-speaking Blacks from the rest of the country's Black population?
People of European descent, regardless of the language they speak at home, or their country of origin, are pretty much classified as "whites" here. Blacks, at the same time, who speak any other language other than Hispanic, are considered, simply "Blacks." They can be absolutely fluent in German, French, Russian or Italian. Doesn't matter, they're classified, simply, as "Blacks."
Take me, for example. During all the years that I tried in vain to become fluent in the Japanese language, I suffered no delusions, whatsoever, that people, here, would start referring to me as "that Japanese guy." It just doesn't happen.
So what's the deal with "Spanish," and how does an ability to speak that particular language convey the power and authority to make people of African descent no longer "Black," once they arrive in places such as New York City, Philadelphia or Cleveland?
As a further example of this curious phenomenon, the headline on a recent story carried on CNN read: "Hispanics Drive Growth of U.S. White Population." It went on to quote Census Bureau data that disclosed that the growth in the U.S. white population, in the decade ending in 2010, was due largely to a rise in the number of the country's Hispanics.
Even though America's "white" population grew by 6.5 percent to 231 million people over the period, 74 percent of that growth was traced to the increase of "Hispanics," many of whom had been counted as "white," even though they self-reported as "multi-racial white," i.e.,"white and black," or "white and Asian" (a much smaller percentage).
It's curious to me that if you are a Spanish-speaker in the "good old U.S.A.," you can be counted as "white," even though you self-describe as "multi-racial white." On the other hand, an English-speaking "multi-racial white" person, can "aspire" only to be classified as "mixed race" or "two or more races," but certainly not "white."
Seems as though the Census Bureau has been overcounting people as "whites," and seriously undercounting people who should be categorized as "blacks."
The more you drill down into the curious history of racial categorization for Spanish speakers, the stranger it actually gets. For example, most Americans don't know that George Washington, himself, approved the Naturalization Act of 1790, which actually barred any Puerto Ricans who were not of the "white race" from applying for U.S. citizenship, and that, up until the middle of the 20th Century, only Puerto Rican immigrants of the "white race" could become naturalized citizens of the United States.
With that as context, we can readily understand that racial-self identification in Puerto Rico, despite the population's strong African slave heritage, is a much different thing than it is here. In fact, Puerto Rican racial categorization is done almost 180 degrees differently than in the U.S.
It's common knowledge, for example, that the Census Bureau and virtually all of American society, beginning early in the 20th Century, has used the "one-drop rule," by law, to determine whether an American citizen is either black or white. If a person has had "one drop of black blood," by those laws, they were considered black.
On the other hand, due largely to a desire to be able to move freely onto the U.S. mainland, Puerto Ricans who could demonstrate having at least one white ancestor, over four generations, could legally be classified as "white." As a result, especially up through the 1950's, every Puerto Rican, no matter their appearance, hair texture, or Negroid features, who could prove "one drop" of white blood was classified as "white," and could be approved for entrance into the U.S.
Strange, huh? Who knew that language and cultural history could have the power to actually change a person's race, on an as-needed basis?
It'll be interesting to watch whether, in the not-too-distant future, people, here, or in Latin America, or in other parts of the world, will still be compelled to place a priority on claiming a stratified, white, self-identification, given the shifts taking place in global economic and military power -- away from the West and toward the East, Middle East, Africa and South America.
Won't it be great, finally, for people to be able to freely claim African and any other diverse heritage, and not feel that their non-white status will bring with it economic and social disadvantage?
Won't it be much better to take pride in our collective heritages and no longer have to, as blacks, continue to address the lingering effects of slavery and second-class citizenship, which still impact our residential patterns, job opportunities and ability to generate family wealth?
Won't it be a real sign of progress to be able to explore the world's various races, ethnicities and cultures -- those that are part of our genealogy, and those that are not -- and not have to be concerned, at all, about how they fit into some racial or social hierarchy?
Won't it be good, finally, to be able to walk into a place of business, anywhere in this country, and to no longer have to wonder if the deck might be stacked against us, simply because we are considered Black, somewhat Black, or not entirely white?
As I watch how the world is evolving, and how nations across the color and language spectrum are now beginning to be recognized as "equal players," in emerging global power centers, I have to think that such a day is coming, fairly soon.
To get a head start on all of this, let's get on with the rest of Black History Month; then, let's get ready for Asian-Pacific Islander Month, in May, National Hispanic Heritage Month, in September, and American Indian Heritage Month, in November.
Hey, we'll know we really have "overcome" when we can all comfortably take interest, also, in German-American Heritage Month, Italian-American Heritage Month and Polish-American Heritage Month, all of which are observed during the month of October.
Oh, and by the way, the way you say "Black History Month," in Spanish, is "Mes de la Historia Negra."
With so many enlightened Spanish-speakers of African descent now living in the U.S., that might just come in handy.
A. Bruce Crawley is president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management Inc.