Colorlines - 4 hours 38 min ago
Half of all families in the United States are poor, near poor or face economic insecurity where "one major setback in income could push them into poverty." That's the shocking conclusion of a report released today by The Hamilton Project. Released by the left-of-center think tank housed at the non-partisan Brookings Institution, the report is a bombshell for those who believe that the current workings of the economy are both sound and fair.
According to the report titled "A Dozen Facts About America's Struggling Lower Middle Class," families with household incomes under $60,000 a year "live in economically precarious situations." The earnings of half of all American households fall between $15,000 and $60,000. And it's barely sufficient for many to keep their head above water.
Sadly, the tough news for workers who face economic insecurity and their children doesn't end with lower pay. Four out of 10 kids who live in families earning between $15,000 and $60,000 face hunger, food insecurity or food-related health challenges such as obesity.
And on top of it all, working poor and lower-middle-class workers pay the highest marginal tax rates of any other group of taxpayers in America, reaching up to 95 percent of earned income.
For many The Hamilton Project's analysis will not come as surprise. These longterm trends are showing up in data from across the U.S. economy, including in the disappointing "Black Friday weekend holiday sales.Given that wages are at a 40-year low and the ongoing impact of a still struggling economy, living on the verge of "economic chaos," as the report puts it, is now standard fare for most.
New America Media - 9 hours 33 min ago
above photo: Richmond City Council cracks down on use of electronic cigarettes. (Photo by: Tawanda Kanhema)Electronic cigarette smokers will have to think twice before lighting up in Richmond, as the city council voted Tuesday night to expand its smoking ban... Nancy DeVille http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
New America Media - 9 hours 48 min ago
Photo: Seniors stretch in a fitness class at Detroit's Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development. Read about the program here. (Martina Guzman/WDET)NEW ORLEANS -- Five years after the Great Recession scrambled the retirement plans of many baby boomers, the decisive... Barbara Peters Smith http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
New America Media - 10 hours 18 min ago
(Traducción en español)NEW ORLEANS – In Death with Interruptions, the late Portuguese novelist and Nobel laureate José Saramago imagined Death as a white woman who suddenly takes time off from her work. People, in the unnamed country he writes about,... José de la Isla http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
New America Media - 12 hours 3 min ago
NUEVA ORLEANS – En Las intermitencias de la muerte, el finado novelista y premiado con el Nobel, José Saramago, se imagina a la Muerte cual dama de blanco quien de repente se da un descanso. La gente, en aquel país... José de la Isla http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
Colorlines - 19 hours 40 min ago
The so-called knockout game may not actually exist--but talking about it certainly does. The New York Times ran an article about two weeks ago indicating that authorities are split about whether this is an increasing menace or another urban myth.
Real or imagined, the knockout game narrative is a racialized one: young black men are the ones perpetuating violent crime. Over at Patheos, Alan Noble has taken the current racist obsession with the knockout game to task:
What goes mostly unspoken in these commentaries on the "knockout game" is the idea that these assaults are racially motivated and so white people should be wary of groups of black men. Some take this further and blame the "liberal media" for the violence, since the media allegedly hid the "truth" about the race of the criminals. If only the media would tell us when black people attack white people, we'd know to not trust them and we'd be safe, the logic goes.
But are these pundits correct? Are these crimes committed by roaming packs of black "savages" against white people?
Here's the fascinating thing about this "spreading" trend: nobody seems to have any evidence that it's spreading, or that it's new, or that it's racially motivated, or that black youths are the ones typically responsible, or that whites are typically targeted.
But that didn't stop CNN's Don Lemon from playing perpetrator against a rabbi and martial artist Gary Moskowitz on live television yesterday. During the awkward segment, Lemon was concerned that he might be harmed. He pointed to his face and explained, "This is my livelihood right here."
Colorlines - 19 hours 46 min ago
Those who graduated from college in the class of 2012 are sitting on a whopping average of $29,400 in student debt, according to a new report released today from The Institute for College Access and Success's Project on Student Debt.
Student debt in the U.S. is large. So large in fact that since 2010, student loan debt topped credit card debt in the country, and in 2012 surpassed the $1 trillion mark. Based on TICAS findings, the student debt load is still growing. Seventy-one percent of students who graduated in 2012 left school with loan debt, up from 68 percent in 2008. In that same span of time, student debt rose by an average of six percent every year.
Black students are more likely than their white counterparts and other students of color to graduate with high debt loads. According to a 2010 College Board study, almost one-third of black students graduated with $30,000 in debt, compared with 16 percent of white students.
Colorlines - 19 hours 49 min ago
Today, President Barack Obama delivered a speech about economic inequality at an event hosted by the progressive policy research institution Center for American Progress, which itself released three reports on the widening problem this morning. For Obama, his overall point was to show that the vaguely-defined "opportunity gap" in America is "now as much about class as it is about race." But Obama did take a few moments to recognize the role of racism in keeping many people of color in poverty to begin with -- a rare admission from the president. Early in his speech, he noted that "racial discrimination locked millions out of opportunity." But later in his speech, when outlining "myths" that exist about why so many Americans are poor and what the government can or can't do about it, he topped the list with this nugget:
First, there is the myth that this [poverty] is a problem restricted to a small share of predominantly minority poor -- that this isn't a broad-based problem, this is a black problem, or a Hispanic problem, or a Native American problem. Now, it's true that the painful legacy of discrimination means that African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans are far more likely to suffer from a lack of opportunity -- higher unemployment, higher poverty rates. It's also true that women still make 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. So we're going to need strong application of antidiscrimination laws. We're going to need immigration reform that grows the economy and takes people out of the shadows. We're going to need targeted initiatives to close those gaps.
"Targeted initiatives" -- conservatives will have a field day with that one. Meanwhile, such race-based initiatives to mitigate centuries of racial discrimination is what many people of color have called for from Obama since he took office in 2008. He's also earned plenty of criticism for not doing more to champion policies that target black and Latino communities.
Obama's endorsement of targeted initiatives may, for many, be five years too late and, billions of dollars short (actually, he didn't put a dollar amount on them), but there's some comfort in the fact he publicly supported them at all. It's an uneasy comfort, though, given the vague and limited reference he made to race-focused solutions -- one paragraph out of a five-page transcript. Other parts of the speech added to the discomfort by refusing to acknowledge precisley how racism caused much of America's poverty problems.
This part of his speech was particularly nauseating:
"During the post-World War II years, the economic ground felt stable and secure for most Americans. ... But starting in the late '70s, this social compact began to unravel. Technology made it easier for companies to do more with less, eliminating certain job occupations. ... As values of community broke down and competitive pressure increased, businesses lobbied Washington to weaken unions and the value of the minimum wage."
The post-World War II years may have felt stable and secure for white Americans, but the same certainly can't be said for African Americans who during that time were kept out of many New Deal benefits, lived under the continued threat of lynchings and were pushed into ghettoes formed in large part by the federal government. As ProPublica's Nikole Hannah-Jones, who's reported extensively on unfair governmental housing policies, recently told This American Life:
"So in the early to mid '30s, the federal government realized that home ownership was going to be a major way to build and fortify the middle class. So the Roosevelt administration starts to back loans. And so you only had to put down 20%. And this is when the practice of redlining actually began. The federal government was the one who introduced redlining. ... And what ultimately happens, of course, between 1934 and 1964, 98% of the home loans that are insured by the federal government go to white Americans, building up the white middle class by allowing them to get home ownership. And black Americans are largely left out of that process. And, if there's one thing that's amazing about all of this, is how efficient the federal government was in creating segregation."
Near the end of Obama's speech, he emphasized this point: "The decades-long shifts in the economy have hurt all groups, poor and middle class, inner city and rural folks, men and women and Americans of all races."
But clearly some races were hurt more than others. If targeted initiatives that address legacy racial discrimination are in fact coming, it will be interesting to see what shape they take. Given the impossibly stubborn gridlock of Congress, they would have to come from the White House, which would be great for Obama's legacy and, more importantly, for the people they would help. How the white electorate responds will be far more interesting, especially as the 2014 mid-term elections approach.
Colorlines - 19 hours 54 min ago
New Jersey governor and rumored GOP presidential hopeful Chris Christie says he supports tuition equity for undocumented immigrant students, just not S2479, the New Jersey DREAM Act passed by the state legislature last month which would offer that very benefit.
Democratic lawmakers are accusing Christie of flip-flopping his position from remarks he made this fall during his successful re-election campaign. On Monday, Christie denied those allegations. "I said the legislature should move in the lame duck session towards tuition equality in New Jersey. Period," ABC reported. "That's what I said. I didn't support any particular piece of legislation. And I still support tuition equality."
But to advocates of the state's tuition equity bill, Christie's support of S2479 seemed clear. In an October speech in front of Latino civic groups, Christie said he supported tuition equity for "everybody in New Jersey," the Associated Press reported.
Colorlines - Wed, 12/04/2013 - 23:44
2013 was a huge year for the racial justice movement. While we had our share of losses, we also achieved unprecedented victories and took on challenges we'd never considered possible. From media justice, to legislative protections, to the accountability of our own movement, there's a lot to celebrate!
In this video, we revisit 10 victories from 2013. If you'd like to help us work toward more wins in 2014, here's one easy way to help.
Colorlines - Wed, 12/04/2013 - 21:31
The NBA Global Games tips off in Mexico City today, and over the next year, a dozen NBA teams will play ten games in seven countries over the next year. But the San Antonio Spurs got an early start against one of Mexico's most coveted teams--a group of very young players from Oaxaca.
Basketball is pretty big among indigenous people in the south of Mexico, where players often ball barefoot. Fancy kicks are both hard to find and they're expensive, so players prefer to play without shoes. There are a growing number of young Triqui players from Oaxaca who are fast becoming serious players. It's not always easy when they're away from home, however--they've been forced to wear sneakers on the court in the US in the past, and their play was compromised as a result. Nonetheless, they won an international title in Argentina recently, where they were allowed to play barefoot.
The Spurs wanted to see what the commotion was all about, and invited the young Triqui players to a game yesterday in Mexico City--where both sides played barefoot. The Spurs played a great game, but lost 10-4. Watch the video and you'll see why.
Colorlines - Wed, 12/04/2013 - 19:17
Need a little something to get you into the holiday spirit? Danielle Brooks and Uzo Aduba -- better known to Orange Is the New Black fans as Taystee and Crazy Eyes, respectively -- made a Christmas video and it's just the thing you need.
(h/t New York Magazine)
Colorlines - Wed, 12/04/2013 - 18:49
Jeanne Deroo, beauty editor of French Elle, had the dumb idea to go to a recent holiday party dressed in blackface as Solange Knowles and put up evidence on Instagram.
Of course, after a public backlash, Deroo feels really bad about the whole thing and said as much on Twitter:
"I realise how much the fact of painting oneself brown is an offensive act. I didn't realize the seriousness of my action when I went to a private party last Saturday evening, which [sic] the theme was "Icons" and I chose to embody Solange Knowles, of whom I am a fan. During this private party, I posted a picture of myself on my Instagram without intention of hurting anyone. I deeply regret and would like to present all my apologies. I would also like to indicate that this picture published in a private context does not involve in any way the French ELLE magazine."
But, come on, as the beauty editor at an internationally recognized fashion magazine, shouldn't she know better?
(h/t Rolling Out)
Colorlines - Wed, 12/04/2013 - 18:40
It's been a big year in black film, but Shani O. Hilton points out over at Buzzfeed that there's trouble with lumping this year's black films -- "Fruitvale Station", "12 Years a Slave", "The Butler", etc. -- together:
...honoring the achievements of black filmmakers by declaring it "their" year does them a disservice. Lumping together heavy dramas with lighthearted romcoms simply because of the skin color of the actors or director prevents these films from being measured against the whiter counterparts that actually share their genre -- inadvertently ghettoizing the former and protecting the latter from scrutiny. It's difficult to imagine pulling, say, Blue Is the Warmest Colour, The Great Gatsby, The Hangover Part III, and The Fifth Estate into a story declaring 2013 the year of the "white movie."
If 2013 is notable for black filmmakers in any way, it's that the models for distribution are more diverse than ever. [London black filmmaker Patrick Victor] Monroe's smart script led Cumberbatch and his SunnyMarch production company partners to jump on board. The team launched a crowdfunding campaign, leaning on the actor's name in an attempt to raise about $40,000 on IndieGogo -- and ended up with nearly $140,000. (Monroe noted, "I wasn't sure about using Benedict's name to raise money -- it just didn't feel right to me -- but Benedict was totally in to do it and to be involved.")
And not only that, according to Hilton, but we've also been here before:
The independent black film wave adds a layer of richness to an experience familiar to many black Americans. "Back in the late '80s and '90s, it was, 'Spike Lee has a movie and we have to go see it -- gotta go support it,'" said Malcolm D. Lee. "Now there's a bunch of movies and talented filmmakers out there, and they're getting their movies funded and they're going to festivals -- and that's a beautiful thing for filmgoers, the popcorn filmgoer, and the search-out-the-arthouse-theater filmgoer."
It's a compelling argument. Read more over at Buzzfeed.
New America Media - Wed, 12/04/2013 - 12:00
Editor’s note: An American physician who worked in a rural health clinic in Haiti says multinational corporations are exporting processed foods with high-salt content that is worsening health in impoverished countries.The Haiti that Mackenzy Brun returned to in 2005 was... Palav Babaria http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
New America Media - Wed, 12/04/2013 - 11:30
Photo: Darren Walker, president of the Ford FoundationEditor's Note: In September, 2013, Darren Walker became the second African American and 10th president of the Ford Foundation, America’s second largest philanthropy organization with $500 million in annual giving. After a stint... New America Media http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
Hyphen Blog - Wed, 12/04/2013 - 03:26
After 22 days, the compelling "Fast for Families" action for immigration reform garners support by the thousands.
Colorlines - Wed, 12/04/2013 - 01:53
After dozens of Chicago Public Schools slated for closure were shuttered this fall, education activists in the city's South Side neighborhood of Bronzeville decided to focus on holding on to one last high school in the neighborhood: Dyett High. Late last month organizers with the new Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School launched a campaign to persuade Chicago Public Schools to listen to the community's plans to hold on to the neighborhood public school.
Activists have been using the phrase "school deserts," borrowing from the food justice lingo of "food deserts" which refer to the dearth of healthy food options in low-income communities to describe what happens when school closures sweep across neighborhoods.
The campaign has taken on a new significance since Chicago Public Schools (CPS) announced last week that the district will not close any more schools this coming year, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. This year's halt comes with a proposed five-year moratorium on school closures, just months after the district finished closing 50 district schools.
The moratorium wouldn't save Dyett, and without it, there would be no public high school in the area. "If Dyett leaves, we wouldn't have no neighborhood high school where students can go," says Diamond McCullough, a 17-year-old senior at the school who's joined the campaign. According to Jitu Brown, a member of the coalition and an education organizer with the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, the closest institution would be Phillips Academy, a charter school some 2 1/2 miles away.
Chicago Public School officials designated the school for phase-out--an education world euphemism for being marked for a slow death--in February of last year. While it won't officially close until 2015, Dyett is not receiving new students and the already under-resourced school is bleeding programs and district support.
The District's Rationale
In voting to shutter the school, Chicago school officials cited Dyett's chronically low standardized test scores and graduation rates, and the expensive underutilization of the school building. Indeed, the district's graduation rate average is 65.4 percent, but at Dyett this year, just 38 percent of seniors graduated. But, say neighborhood education advocates, the district has starved Dyett of resources undercutting the school's ability to improve its test scores. What's more, 100 percent of the students at Dyett are designated low-income, according to the district, and a quarter of the students have special needs. Yet in the last five years, the school's well-loved AVID college-prep program and its remedial Read 180 program were axed. Today, the only honors courses at the school are administered online, says McCullough. Even physical education is taught from inside the school's computer lab via online courses.
Instead of closing the school, coalition members, which include parents, students, school council representatives, education activists and academics, want to reorganize it as Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School. They're working with education professors at the University of Illinois-Chicago to craft a plan to present to CPS in January. Among their allies are the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), which has spoken out about Chicago's rash of school closures. Part of the CTU's interest is that school closures directly impact their membership. But, says Norine Gutekanst, coordinator of CTU's organizing department, neighborhood public schools are more likely to employ aides, teachers and staff from the neighborhoods they serve than the charters popping up all over Chicago's South Side.
Black and Brown Schools Are Most Likely to Close
School closures are not evenly distributed across the city. A map of Chicago's recent school closures is a rough proxy for marking the city's poor black and Latino neighborhoods. "What we have seen is the closures overwhelmingly take place in communities that are black communities and Latino communities, and we feel the school closings represent a disinvestment in the community that just accelerates problems," CTU's Gutekanst says. "We know they would not do this in more middle class communities and communities that are majority white."
When the Chicago Board of Education voted to close 53 schools this spring, it was the largest round of school closings at one time, according to WBEZ. Black students were, by far, most likely to go to schools marked for closure. They make up 43 percent of the city's school district enrollment, but were 88 percent of the students affected by school closings. Latino students are 44 percent of the district and were 10 percent of those affected by the latest round. Meanwhile white students, who make up 7 percent of Chicago Public Schools, were 0.7 percent of those whose schools were closed, according to the Opportunity to Learn Campaign.
Coalition member Brown says the closures are unfair. "People that pay taxes don't have a public school in their immediate area," he says, citing the shuttered Price Elementary in the North Kenwood neighborhood in Chicago's South Side. Since the school closed in 2012, "You have neighborhoods now that for more than a square mile there is not a school to serve the needs of the children."
But in the slash-and-burn ethos of school district officials, keeping "failing" schools open is too expensive a burden. Better to shut down schools and relocate students across the district, the logic goes. But school closures haven't proven to be a helpful education reform tactic. And they instead destabilize an entire community, activists argue.
Going to a school on the chopping block isn't easy, Dyett senior McCullough says. "It sends the message that you're a failure, and your school doesn't deserve to be open, so you gotta close," she says. "It might not be your school today, but it might be your school eventually."
Colorlines - Wed, 12/04/2013 - 01:34
It takes a certain discipline to resist R. Kelly. He's a genius of contemporary R&B and, as evidenced by his absurd "Trapped in the Closet" series, he's quite funny. But--at least for responsible and/or semi-literate adults--there has to be a code we live by. A code that says that when some people make art, even really enjoyable art, we shouldn't support it.
As we all know, R. Kelly is a pedophile. Yes, he's evaded prison time but anyone who remembers how he married Aaliyah or watched the video of him literally urinating on a hairless pubescent black girl knows that "show me some ID please" isn't just a line in the "Bump and Grind" remix. It's a tongue in cheek hat tip to his illegal desire for underage girls.
Which brings us to his latest album, "Black Panties," a musical offering that the allegedly feminist blog Jezebel has called "A Magnificent Ode to Pussy." While mocking his absurdity, a very clever writer Isha Aran posits that R. Kelly's latest work is worth our financial support.
Everyone's favorite masterful weaver of stories, Robert Sylvester Kelly, has blessed us with an 18-track opus, winding his musical threads on his freaky sex loom, and you can stream it in it's spectacular entirety over at Vibe.
Should you choose to accept this sensual mission, approach with caution and be prepared to be bombarded with some super sexy R. Kelly sex. Like, more than usual. There's "Crazy Sex," there's sex in "Every Position," there's some "Physical" sex, there's sex with the "Lights On." And then there are the real ballads. ...
Of course, no song quite reaches the heartfelt poignancy of "Marry the Pussy," a song which not only boasts repeating the word "pussy" 56 times, but also is an actual proposal song to a woman's sex organs. Yes. A marriage proposal to a pussy. And one that will undoubtedly usurp the stronghold Train's 'Marry Me' has on the first dance at far too many weddings.
That's some really hip writing. Aran certainly captures the guilty pleasure that one can derive from Robert Kelly and even provides the release date for "Black Panties." What she doesn't figure out is how is how to tell the truth about R. Kelly and still be funny. She skips over the part where there's visual evidence that R. Kelly has raped at least one black girl. (Yes, rape. Pubescent girls aren't old enough to consent.) I challenge any hipster to put that image in the frame and still come out chuckling. I'm also asking Lady Gaga, who simulated soft porn in the Oval Office with Kelly during this year's American Music Awards, to explain how any of this is OK.
Look, my friends and family will tell you that I'm not innocent of listening to old R. Kelly albums even after seeing that tape. Just as the NAACP nominated this man for an Image Award while he was facing trial for sex with underage girls and actually gave him a 2013 award this year for penning Whitney Houston's "I Look to You," I've been guilty of choosing pretty melodies over what is right. But this isn't fodder for jokey joke writing.
It's called hypocrisy.
An ugly hypocrisy that is only possible when you temporarily ignore and devalue the young girls whom Kelly has assaulted, or call them liars, or insist that they tempted him, or claim it was his brother, or allow the jagged memory of those vile scenes to go soft. If that's what we're doing--and that is what we're doing when we bump R. Kelly--we should at least be real about it.
Or we could just do the right damn thing and ignore this man.
Colorlines - Wed, 12/04/2013 - 00:54
Although the overwhelming number of immigrant detention centers are privately owned and operated, the El Paso Processing Center is run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Nevertheless, it confines immigrants who are being held for civil--not criminal--matters. Many of those held there are asylum-seekers, and staying in detention only adds to the trauma.
Many of the asylum-seekers--who are mostly from Central America and India and fear violence because of their sexual preferences or religion--say they have established credible fear of persecution or torture with U.S. authorities. According to ICE, those asylum-seekers who have established credible fear are eligible for release from detention on a case-by-case basis. Parole requires a humanitarian need or a public benefit, and a reasonable expectation that the asylum-seeker doesn't pose a security threat.
Colorlines has obtained a document smuggled out of the detention facility that lists 32 Indian men who have passed their credible fear interview but remain in detention nonetheless. Some entered in May 2013, were granted an interview and established credible fear the same month. Yet seven months later, these 32 men remain in detention, without any indication of when they will be paroled.
That's why at 12 p.m. Mountain Time, up to 40 detainees began a demonstration in the common area where they're served lunch. Ungo Ramírez, a 33-year-old asylum-seeker from El Salvador, spoke to Colorlines by phone before the action. "We're going to sit down on the floor of the patio and refuse to eat," said Ramírez. "We're going to explain that we've been here long enough."
Ramírez says he fears returning to El Salvador where he's already been tortured by police officers for refusing to participate in a drug ring. But what he faces in detention, he says, is not much better and that's why he's participating in today's protest. ICE has been known to retaliate against immigrant detainees who demonstrate inside of its facilities, and it's unclear whether Ramírez and others will be placed in solitary confinement for their action today.
The National Immigrant Youth Alliance has started a petition demanding the release of those asylum seekers who have already established credible fear.
A phone call requesting comment about today's protest to ICE's El Paso Field Office was transferred to voicemail, and wasn't immediately returned.
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