A+ R A-

More Commentary

Africans Reunite in Italy

E-mail Print PDF

(NNPA) It was an unusual setting in Italy, or at least so I thought. My wife and I sat at a meeting there of the directorate (national leadership) of an immigrant association known as “Prendiamo La Parola.” Looking around the room, it felt more like we were attending a leadership meeting of a Pan African Congress. The African World was represented in the room. Actually, not just represented; it was the entire room.

Hailing from the Dominican Republic, Peru, Tunisia, Algeria, Ethiopia, the Cameroon and Nigeria were leaders of a developing movement in Italy of migrants. Like migrants around the world, they left their home countries for an assortment of individual reasons. Taken together, it represented the response by millions of people to the legacy of colonialism, the slave trade, wars, environmental devastation, and economic underdevelopment, all largely imposed on the global South by the global North. The slogan that summarizes this movement, not just in Italy but in much of the world, was coined in Britain: “We are here because you were there!” In other words, migration from the global South is the direct result of the assault on the global South by the global North over hundreds of years.

There are migrants from other parts of the world in Italy, for sure. The Philippines has a large contingent that is especially centered in domestic service. Eastern Europe has sent waves, especially from Albania and more recently Rumania. Yet, it is the migration from the African World that has especially become the site of controversy in Italy since it has been seized upon by right-wing groups as a way of scaring non-migrants with the fear of a racial takeover of the country by the ‘hordes’ from the South. Most recently the Italian Minister for Integration—a woman of African descent—has come under assault, literally and figuratively, by right-wingers, including being satirized as an orangutan. It is this sort of right-wing racism that has brought groups like Prendiamo La Parola together, and focused them on building alliances with other parts of Italian society to fight not only against such racist attacks, but for an expansion of Italian democracy.

One feature of the plight of African migrants to Italy—a plight suffered by many migrants to the USA—that struck me was the near irrelevance of the skills that they had gained in their home countries once they have arrived in Italy. Individuals who gained advanced degrees from credible institutions and/or practiced in respectable professions in their home countries, have found themselves relegated to janitorial positions, tour guides, personal service, or dangerous manufacturing once they migrate. It may be around this matter that these and other migrants begin to push the envelope, i.e., to pose the question as to why is that their prior skills and achievements should be cast aside?

Sitting in a room with people from Africa and those of African descent was sobering. It placed the issue of migration and immigration in a very different light. I would like to have captured that experience and the countless discussions on film and shown them to African American audiences in the USA. It would become, to borrow the cliché, a teachable moment.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. Follow him on Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

Black and Latino Wealth Drops to Record Lows

E-mail Print PDF

(NNPA) As part of the 43rd annual Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Conference, the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB) unveiled new and disturbing research on how communities of color are suffering a worsening racial economic disparity. The State of Housing in Black America reveals that while the private sector and financially secure consumers recover financial ground from the Great Recession, much of Black America is being economically left behind.

Long-time civil rights activist Benjamin Chavis, Jr., wrote the report’s foreword advising,

“African-Americans have a large buying power nowadays, yet we continue to be the most foreclosed and wealth-depleted community in America. We cannot and will not just be bystanders as the American economy continues to rebound.”

Julius L. Cartwright, NAREB president added, “Not only has our homeownership rate plummeted, but also accessing mortgage credit has become nearly impossible outside of government insured programs such as the FHA and VA.”

The report examines how African-Americans and Latinos have been cut off from the housing market and home finance in addition to employment opportunities. Further, according to the report, until economic equity and recovery are added to the long-standing issue of equal access to housing, the ability for communities of color – Black and Brown – to build wealth will remain an elusive and distant dream.

For example, today the majority of mortgage loans made to African-Americans are FHA backed. Long-lured by FHA’s low down payment requirement (usually 3.5 percent), today’s costs for these loans have increased, particularly in the areas of mortgage insurance and fees. Consequently, although available, FHA loans will cost more over the life of the loans and they will also be higher than a decade ago.

By contrast, the report states that loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, “are all but impossible for many African-Americans to secure.” The typical credit scores of borrowers for these mortgages are in the upper 700 range with down payments at or near 20 percent and usually resulting in a more affordable monthly payment.

According to James Carr, lead author of the report, “One of the major problems with most proposals to revamp Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is that access and affordability is not the driving goal of those recommendations. Rather, risk sharing between the private and public sector seems to be the driving mantra.”

In the meantime according to the report, nearly 5 million borrowers remain either in the foreclosure process or are seriously delinquent on their mortgages. Between January 1, 2007 and May 31, 2013, nearly 14.8 million foreclosure notices were filed. Since the onset of the crisis, African-Americans had 7.8 percent of mortgage originations, but 11.6 percent of completed foreclosures. When similar statistics for Latinos are combined, people of color are more likely to have completed foreclosures at a rate higher than 70 percent.

The loss of homes to foreclosures is also lost family wealth. While African American and Latino families respectively lost 53 and 66 percent of their net worth, non-Hispanic White households lost wealth was limited to 16 percent.

The report states, “More than 90 percent of the amount of total aggregate wealth lost during the collapse of the housing market and the subsequent recession has been recovered. However, this wealth recovery is not equally shared across households as a large proportion has occurred for stocks that are disproportionately held by high-income, typically non-Hispanic White households.”

The report urges measurable progress in four key areas before consumers of color can begin to financially recover:

Reducing the existing number of underwater mortgages through principal reduction;
More consumer mortgage purchase originations
Easing of tight mortgage credit; and
Reducing the growth of investor purchases that transform former owner-occupied dwellings into rental properties.

“Owning a home has been the most successful vehicle for people of color to build wealth”, observed Carr. “But with a tightening housing market and weak labor market and no exceptional programs to assist communities battered by the crises, the outlook does not look promising.”

Charlene Crowell is a communications manager with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at Charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.

Obama Should Not Play 'Global Cop'

E-mail Print PDF

(NNPA) The central issue that should concern us when it comes to the chemical weapons crisis in Syria is not the identity of the perpetrator but which international body responds to such a crisis. What we are looking at in the current situation is the Obama administration (following from its predecessors) ignoring international law when it fails to suit their strategic objectives. Instead, again like its predecessors, the administration has decided to follow the law of the ‘star chamber,’—a body that sees itself above the law, is unaccountable, and believes itself capable of making and implementing any decision it deems appropriate—that is, the law of the self-appointed, akin to vigilante ‘justice.’

In some respects, the issues at stake are simple and clear. International law instructs us that a nation can use military means when it has been attacked or when facing imminent attack. There are no exceptions outside of agreed upon international actions through institutions such as the United Nations. Every argument made by the Obama administration fails this test. It suggests that the gravity of the killings in the chemical weapons attack in Syria should lead us to ignore international law in the name of taking a stand against a cruel action. This argument is simply flawed.

There are cruel actions, in fact, criminal violations of international law that take place on a regular basis across this planet. In Palestine, there is an open ignoring of international law when it comes to the so-called separation (apartheid) wall established by the Israelis, not to mention the illegal Israeli settlements on occupied land.

No cruise missiles have hit Israel.

There is, in other words, a selective approach by the administration when it comes to the question of at what moment military means are appropriate in response to violations of international human rights law. In the current situation, the administration is simply dead wrong.

There have been many progressives who have engaged in a debate as to whether the chemical attack was carried out by Assad’s forces or the rebels. While I think that it is quite probable that it was carried out by Assad’s forces, especially in light of the sorts of military activities in which it has engaged, that is not the central discussion to have right now. The central point at this moment is that it is not up to the U.S.A. to play global ‘cop’. It is up to international bodies to investigate the situation and recommend action.

Should the U.S. wish to play a constructive role, it should take the advice that so many have been offering: work with the Russians and other stakeholders to achieve a political settlement of the Syrian civil war. Naked aggression in violation of international law brings us no closer to a constructive resolution of this chemical weapons incident, or the Syrian civil war itself.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the co-author of Solidarity Divided. He can be reached at papaq54@hotmail.com.

Rapper Macklemore Acknowledges 'White Privilege'

E-mail Print PDF

(NNPA) Is Hip Hop losing its color? Recently Rapper Macklemore recognized that it is White privilege that catapulted him to success. In a Rolling Stone cover interview, Macklemore, born Ben Haggerty, said, “If your gonna be a white dude and do this shit, I think you have to take some level of accountability. You have to acknowledge where the art came from, where it is today, how you’re benefiting from it. At the very least, just bringing up those points and acknowledging that, yes, I understand my privilege, I understand how it works for me in society, and how it works for me in 2013 with the success with the success that The Heist has had.”

He goes on to say, “We made a great album, but do I think we benefited from being white and the media grabbing on to something. A song like ‘Thrift Shop’was safe enough for the kids. It was like, ‘This is music that my mom likes and that I can like as a teenager,’ and even though I’m cussing my a– off in the song, the fact I’m a white guy, parents feel safe. They let their six-year-olds listen to it. I mean it’s just… it’s different. And would that success have been the same if I would have been a black dude? I think the answer is no.”

Why would he need White privilege to be successful in a Black art form? Macklemore says we have to recognize where the art form came from. We know it came from Black and Brown people out of New York and they got their swag from the blues and the blues from slave hymns leading back to Africa. But in 2013, is White privilege selling Hip Hop records?

Let’s first analyze the quality of African-American rappers who are signed by major record labels. Most of these artists fit a stereotype and offer no level of empowerment to the art form or the culture itself. We hear rappers with destructive messages and lack logical thought. In an interview with Hardknock TV, Hip Hop Veteran Scarface vents, “There is no f—— way that you can tell me that it’s not a conspiracy against Blacks in Hip Hop. You make us look dumb. You brainwash a generation of Hip Hoppers with this f—— crud and then when these other rappers come out, splitting it down the middle, these other rappers’ s— sound like ‘Wow!’ ya’ll look great!” ’Ya’ll look stupid!’ … Then (MFs) start going over here and pretty soon, Hip Hop is White now.”

Vulgarity aside, in so many ways, that’s true. The reality is White executives control what we hear on the airwaves. By only allowing artists who are willing to destroy their culture to be heard, you eliminate the fear of White children following behind the buffoonery. When you take the logic out of the music it becomes hard to believe.

Hip Hop was an outlet where Black millionaires were created and at its height the artist made money and branched off into other industries. Black artists and executives met the demand, populated record labels and began heading branches, choosing new records to break, new artists to bring in and new methods of marketing. This left the White executive out in the cold and labels began to go under because they couldn’t contain the money that Hip Hop was, making and commanding.

A young Black man who degrades women, talks about selling and doing drugs, killing people and throwing money around is never going to be a role model for White America. But for a young Black man who doesn’t know what type of opportunities that are afforded to him, it’s a way of life. It’s easier to convince young white children that this is not a person to aspire to be like.

In the meantime, white rappers are ushered in with messages that are appealing, non-threatening and vulgar free. I admit it is somewhat amusing to see a White person spit rhymes. But we must remember as we cheer them on, we are cheering ourselves out.

Look at Justin Timberlake, a pop artist, who crossed over into Hip Hop to broaden his appeal and now reigns as the King of Pop. How about Miley Cyrus who is trying to use a bad girl image to promote herself. Twerking a dance made famous by Blacks now is a household conversation because she did it. Kellogg’s has even introduced Buzz the Bee with his own Honey Nut Cherrios Hip Hop Video ‘It Must be the Honey.’ So while Hip Hop is on the decline for Black artists, sales are up for people who want to utilize the power to convince, influence and promote messages.

We need to take a page out of Tyler Perry’s book and use our earnings to build our own distribution companies. If we continue to rely on others races to fund our success, we will always rise to the top and end up where we started from – the bottom.

Jineea Butler, founder of the Social Services of Hip Hop and the Hip Hop Union is a Hip Hop Analyst who investigates the trends and behaviors of the community and delivers programming that solves the Hip Hop Dilemma. She can be reached at jineea@gmail.com or Tweet her @flygirlladyjay

New Football Season, Same Offensive Names

E-mail Print PDF

I cannot let a football season open without raising the question of the names of sports teams generally and the Washington “Redskins” in particular. I continue to be absolutely amazed at the resistance on the part of team owners to changing the names of these teams, but also the tolerance by so many fans of these racist names.

I have to pick on the Washington Redskins both because I was once a fan of the team and also because I live in the D.C.-area and have watched this situation close-up. As I raised in a column a few months ago, a poll was released this spring that indicated that most fans wanted to leave the name of the team as it is, despite the fact that it insults Native Americans. For some this was seen as the end of the discussion because it appeared to vindicate the position taken by the team’s owners.

Let’s flip the script for a moment and consider the problem from a different vantage point. It would be worth looking at polls that were taken in the South during the early 1960s to ascertain the level of White support for the continuation of Jim Crow segregation. The mere fact that a majority of people favor or do not favor something does not automatically settle an argument. Rather, it serves as a barometer, telling us about where people stand today but it does not necessarily tell us anything about the morally correct position.

It is unclear why it needs repeating—especially to African Americans—that the preponderance of opinion among Native American indicates that terms, such as “redskins,” are racially offensive. This is not about intent any more than a White person calling one of us a “nigger” should be judged based on intent. The word is so patently offensive that, used by someone of another racial or ethnic group against us, it serves as an act of aggression. Someone can stand before us and tell us that they love us, but were they to name a team the “Kansas City Niggers,” there would not be enough love and sincerity in the world to override our objections.

So, why is it any different for Native Americans? Why do we have to keep going through this silly argument when the morally correct position is clear? Why should it matter whether the team will need to create a new image? That should not concern us any more than we would have been concerned about the work involved in removing “Negro Only” or “White Only” signs from public institutions 40 years ago. It is what needed to be done 40 years ago and it is, today, about what must be done.

Send a note to the Washington Redskins owners. Ask them about the last time that they permitted someone to use terms like “nigger” in the offices of the Washington Redskins. If such terms are objectionable, why do they think that “redskins” is any different?

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. Follow him on Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

Page 20 of 91

Quantcast