Tag Archives: race

Dismantling the False Paths to Equity

New Orleans      I’ll never forget the surprise on a colleague’s face who was working to build a nonprofit community development organization in the Mississippi delta several years ago when we first met.  A lot of her work had been focused on schools and enhancing their curriculum for young people.  When I questioned her and stated flatly that education was fine and good, but was not a path to equity, she had a stricken look on her face, as if I had tossed a cup of cold water in it.  We went back and forth for several minutes. I referenced studies and research, and she spoke from a lifetime of deeply-held personal ideology and belief and a family tradition that had been dictated from her mother and followed by her large family to some success around the country.  It was not an argument that I sought or thought I could win, even as I was trying to nudge her towards organizing for power, so I left it quickly and retreated to safer ground for further discussions.

The Pulitzer Prize winning reporter, Nikole Hannah-Jones, eviscerates such claims without much worrying about any middle ground in a recent article in the New York Times citing the fact that, “college simply does not pay off for black Americans the way it does for other groups.” They are as likely to be “unemployed as white Americans with a high school education.”  Black graduates still hold “less wealth than white Americans who have not even completed high school.”  As many studies have noted, and she underlines, they are forced to borrow more for college and have more debt when they graduate.  Even conservatives, like the Times own columnist, David Brooks, have finally conceded that education is not the path to racial equity.

Of course, that is not to say that other paths to racial equity are all that much better.  Hannah-Jones enlists an array of facts,

  • Poor white families making less than $27,000 annually have as much wealth as black families making between $48,000 and $76,000.
  • Black families save at a higher rate than white families and offer more financial support for their children’s higher education than whites.
  • Homeownership isn’t the answer, as ACORN has painfully come to realize, since black Americans have higher mortgage rates with equal credit and their homes do not appreciate value in their neighborhoods.
  • Family structure isn’t the answer, because white single women with children have the same amount of wealth as black women with no children, while the average white single parent has twice the wealth of the typical two-parent black family.

If as a society and a country we want to achieve more equity, especially racial equity, it is impossible not to follow paths that involve significant reparations.  There’s just no way around it.

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Will Masks Become the New Class and Race Divide?

New Orleans        It is no secret that opening versus stay-at-home from state to state and nationally has now, somewhat amazingly, but unsurprisingly as pandemic combines with polarization in the United States, become equally politicized.  Having recently returned from my monthly commute from Louisiana to Mississippi to Arkansas and back, I can’t help but reflect that this experience may be more divisive than simply red states versus blue states, although that is going to be hardcore as well, no doubt.  There is every sign that we will be able to see the masks as new markers of racial and class division.

In Greenville, Mississippi as I drove through this small delta city on the way to WDSV, the noncommercial radio station, we help manage, I saw literally no one wearing a mask in this working-class, agriculturally-based, largely African-American town.  At the station, my partner and programmer there was wearing a homemade mask, and that was the first I observed.  A woman up the hall from the station had one around her neck.  In Mississippi, the stay-at-home and shutdown had already been lifting.  Restaurants in some cases had two lines for customers, one that said take-out and the other separated by a rope in one case I observed, indicating eat-in.  Tables were spaced out from each other.  I had a mask on as I looked in, and I noticed, as I was leaving, that the counter server had put on a mask after seeing mine.

In southern Arkansas on the other side of the Mississippi River, fewer restrictions had been lifted, but the same no mas no masks seemed to exist.  Stopping for gas from place to place, there were some changes.  Plexiglass shields had been hung with string.  Workers weren’t wearing masks behind the shields though.  Customers weren’t either.

Lake Village, McGehee, and Dumas, Arkansas, black and white, no masks.  Lake Providence, Tallulah, and Hammond, Louisiana, black and white, no masks.  I saw one family waiting to get in the restroom at a gas station in Vicksburg, Mississippi, who were all wearing masks.  I’m afraid, they, like me, were just passing through.

Even in New Orleans, peeling my eyes along St. Claude and Franklin Avenues and out in East New Orleans, people were lining up at snoball stands and walking the streets.  Very, very few masks, if any, from what I could see.   Across from the office recently a group of twenty young, African-American men on the corner.  No masks.  No distancing.  Riding bikes along the Crescent City Park in New Orleans next to the Mississippi River, a haphazard spray of masks here and there.

I think we can see the future weeks pretty clearly.  There’s a geographic, racial, and class divide emerging.  It is hard to believe that masks for the masses is going to be part of the post-pandemic.

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Please enjoy “Your Love Is to Blame” by Don Bryant

Thanks to WAMF.

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