It might surprise you to hear we have a progressive majority right now, but we need to stop wasting dollars chasing and trying to change the minds of conservative white swing voters. The progressive policy agenda will benefit all working people, as is the case with Obamacare, but we can’t waste time or money chasing a shrinking sector of the electorate when growing communities of color are eager to engage and work with us to reshape America’s policies and priorities.
Next month is Black History Month. We will hear stories about black Americans and their successes in this country against the barriers (slavery, Jim Crow, poll tax just to name a few) thrown in their paths. Yet for every success story, there is still the nagging fact that the median net wealth of white households is 12.2 times greater than that of black households.
On Monday, the AFL-CIO Civil, Human and Women’s Rights Department and the NAACP DC Branch hosted the first Race and the Labor Movement Town Hall. In light of the recent racial injustices in Ferguson, Mo., Baltimore and most recently the brutal racially motivated killings in Charleston, S.C., the town hall provided a space for an open conversation on race and the role it plays in the lives of millions of workers across the country.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released data on the labor market’s performance in February. The online version of their report links to supplemental tables normally left out of stories. One of those tables shows the unemployment rates of young workers 16 to 24 years old, by whether they are enrolled in school and by their education attainment and race. The table for those who are no longer enrolled and presumably completed with their education was very telling. It reported those out of school, white high school drop-outs had an unemployment rate of 17.5%, while black college graduates had an unemployment rate of 17.7%.
There is history—the facts of events—and then there is myth and fable—the essence of things, the narratives that shape our understanding of complex events inspiring, motivating, rallying and galvanizing us as people and nations.
Fifty years ago this week, the U.S. Senate passed the version of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that would be passed by the House and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The bill faced a filibuster of 14 hours and 13 minutes by the late Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia. Between the passage by the Senate and debate by the House, three young civil rights workers—Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Earl Chaney—disappeared into the night on June 21, 1964, driving in the rural area near Philadelphia, Miss. Schwerner, Goodman and Chaney were later found dead, having been murdered for trying to register African American voters in Mississippi.
A recent interview of Morgan Freeman by CNN host Don Lemon lit a firestorm of conversation. Freeman argued that his personal success, and that of Lemon’s, made it clear that racism was not a factor in closing America’s growing problem of inequality. Freeman argued that inequality was a crisis because a vibrant middle class was needed for the growth of the economy and stability of society, and the current chasm between the 1% and the 99% was unhealthy. Clearly, Freeman’s views on inequality are incontrovertible, so why the storm about his statement on the role of race?
This week marked the loss of a powerful voice in Maya Angelou. Fortunately, many in the nation paused to notice her loss. Dancer, actress, poet and teacher, Angelou captured everyone’s attention because of her ability to talk honestly out of her own pain and to get people to empathize, to share in the human experience.
In what should be considered standing logic on its end, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week that while public colleges have an interest in having a racially diverse student body, nonetheless, the racial majority of a state can vote to remove racial diversity as a goal. This is a radical and activist reinterpretation of the Constitution, since by strict construction, the 14th Amendment had been added to explicitly limit white majority action to deny full legal protection to the newly freed slaves and their descendants. The purpose was to limit majority rule from becoming mob rule, continuing a legacy of inequality.