Disparate impact of recession on Blacks shows that institutional racism still exists

If anyone had any doubt about the racial bias of the current recession, the Associated Press article that came out this past weekend should be an epiphany, a revelation or the nail in the coffin.  There can be no doubt: African-Americans are being hurt worse than others in our current economic turmoil.   

This paragraph from the AP story says it all:

Economists say the Great Recession lasted from 2007 to 2009. In 2004, the median net worth of white households was $134,280, compared with $13,450 for black households, according to an analysis of Federal Reserve data by the Economic Policy Institute. By 2009, the median net worth for white households had fallen 24 percent to $97,860; the median black net worth had fallen 83 percent to $2,170, according to the EPI.

The article reports that since the end of the recession, the overall unemployment rate has fallen from 9.4 to 9.1 percent, while the black unemployment rate has risen from 14.7 to 16.2 percent.

The polite lawyer might call it disparate impact.  I prefer an expression I first heard years ago in the stacks of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee library at 3:00 am while planning a demonstration for the next day: institutional racism.

Disparate impact is when a negative impact, predicted or unforeseen, is not planned, such as when a last-hired-first-fired policy leads to a layoff primarily affecting African-Americans and other minorities.  Institutional racism means racism that is built into the system. 

The question is not what to do to help African-Americans come back from the recession.

We know what will work: greater support of public education; funneling more students into vocational and technical high schools; making sure all children have adequate nutrition and medical care; increased spending on job-creating infrastructure improvements. 

The real question is, how do we elect leaders who will do these things, instead of the current bunch who seem more interested in protecting the vested interests of the entrenched moneyed classes?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, now: we have to get the poor, minorities, those under 30 and the unemployed to vote, and to vote for progressive candidates. 

Another study reported over the past weekend proves the obvious: that most unemployed people don’t vote.  It’s obvious because the unemployed tend to be the poor, minorities and young people, all groups that traditionally don’t vote. 

Getting non-voters to the polls takes three basic tactics:

  1. Educate non-voters in simple, slogan-like messages about the progressive stands on Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, public schools, unemployment benefits, and unions, and let them know which candidates are supporting progressive positions.
  2. Fight for open voting rights: motor voter, expanded absentee possibilities, no ID, restored rights to ex-cons, paper ballots, same-day registration.
  3. Rent vans—lots of them—and take potential nonvoters to the polls on election day.  Send fleets of vans into inner cities and onto college campuses and take the voters to their voting polls.

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