A+ R A-

Julianne Malveaux

60-Year Journey from 'Brown'

E-mail Print PDF

(NNPA) Because I was a horribly ill-behaved child, I found myself shipped from San Francisco to Moss Point, Miss. in August 1969. My mother’s plan was that I’d spend my junior year in high school there and live with my schoolteacher aunt, Annie Mae Randall, who was somewhat affectionately known as the “kid breaker.”

It was legend that if you did not understand rules, she would beat them into you, but her method was unlimited interrogation, not physical correction (much). In any case, I landed in Moss Point 15 years after the Supreme Court ruled that legal segregation was illegal. However, by ruling that the Brown decision should be implemented with “all deliberate speed,” many towns in Mississippi saw this as a signal to “take your own sweet time.” I ended up attending all-Black Magnolia High School, while the all-White Moss Point High School was in rather close proximity. A year later, Magnolia became the town’s junior high school, and Moss Point High was the school for everyone.

Until 1970, though, the city’s educators had come up with truly bizarre ways to give a polite nod to integration. For a period, Black teachers went to teach in White schools, while White ones taught in the Black schools. To this day, I can’t figure out the proportional representation that had Black teachers in the White schools about a third of the time, with White teachers in the Black schools about half of the time. My numbers may be wrong, but both Black and White students were short-changed when they were robbed of the continuity of instruction.

On the days that Auntie Annie Mae had to go to the White schools, she woke up muttering that this was not integration, and mumbling that “all these years after Brown” integration had not happened in Moss Point schools. Since the “kid breaker” didn’t really yell, she took her frustration out on anyone who would listen, talking legalisms, history, and the way it ought to be. Occasionally Auntie would say, “at least we aren’t in Virginia,” then she would talk about the schools that actually closed rather than admit Black students. In that state developed a plan of “massive resistance” that denied funds to integrated schools that had the effect of denying education to Black children for at least four years.

In 1969, most African Americans had experienced de facto segregation, but few Californians had experienced the de jure segregation that Brow ended. Without the Mississippi experienced, I would have thought that segregation was as much a fairy tale as Santa Clause, or as distant as “the old days. Neither fairy tale, nor distant fact, de jure segregation is alive and well today.

Today, schools are segregated by income and zip code, not by race. Cash-strapped urban school systems, largely funded by eroding property taxes, have fewer resources than well-funded suburban schools. There are also oases in urban public schools where higher income parents come together to fund activities at their neighborhood schools, such as sports and music that have been eliminated from other public schools for financial reasons.

K-12 school segregation transfers into an advantage for students from the best-financed schools. These young people have the advantage of Advanced Placement (AP) and international Baccalaureate (IB) classes that are not often offered in those urban school districts struggling to provide bare basics. When colleges give students with advanced classes extra admissions consideration, they implicitly disadvantage those who did not have the opportunity to take advanced classes because of where they live.

There are dozens of other consequences to defacto segregation, including the racial achievement gap and unequal access to scholarships, internships, networking, and employment opportunities. Brown opened the door and, by ending de facto segregation, changed the terms and conditions of African American life. It got us to the starting line, but now, 60 years later, we are still a long way from the finish line.

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is President Emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.

A Slow Response to Nigerian Atrocity

E-mail Print PDF

(NNPA) Long after completing his 8-year presidency, William Jefferson Clinton acknowledged that he should have intervened in the conflict in Rwanda. Hundreds of thousands perished from the genocide that shaped the country. In his zeal for international peace President Clinton intervened in Ireland, the Middle East and Bosnia. He acknowledged that had the United States intervened in Rwanda, at least 300,000 deaths may have been prevented.

Now nearly 300 Nigerian girls have been kidnapped from their school by an extremist group that calls themselves Islamic (I don’t know of any legitimate Islamic group that approves of this kind of activity). Beyond the 300 stolen from their schools for the sole purpose of marrying them off, or selling them, it is not clear how many others have been taken from their schools. This extremist group opposes “Western education and uses their beliefs to justify their action.

Some have shrugged that this is a “cultural” or internal matter that Nigerians must settle among themselves. The United States and the United Nations are nodding on Nigeria if they choose to do little more than offer lip service in this crisis situation. It has been documented in Bosnia and Rwanda that rape was an instrument of war. What about Nigeria?

Dozens gathered outside the White House and outside the Nigerian Embassy to plead that the powers that be “bring back our girls.” First Lady Michelle Obama has also carried a sign to that effect. Nearly a month after the girls were seized the international community has begun to pay attention to this vile kidnapping. Again, this capture may well be the tip of the iceberg. Who knows how many girls have been captured from their homes or their schools.

Women have too often been tools in genocide, yet too often this form of genocide has been ignored. The United Nations spews pithy pronouncements and declares one year or another the year of human rights. But as former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has often declared, “women’s rights are human rights.”

Now, every woman in the United States Senate has called for relief for kidnapped girls in Nigeria, President Barack Obama, referencing his own daughters, has offered relief. There have been “high level” meetings to talk about the ways that U.S. can intervene in this repugnant situation.

Our intervention is spot on, but why did it take so long? Were these Bosnian women would there have been so much “deliberation?” As grateful as I am for U. S. intervention, the pace of it saddens me. Were we nodding on Nigeria?

The status of women and girls should be a global concern. Nigeria is one of the countries that visibly impose inequality. We have intervened in human rights that have no gender component all over the world, but have been notably silent when the African continent is involved. We say that these are “internal matters” that countries must settle on their own, but when human rights activists are massacred in China, we manage to get involved.

To again quote Hilary Clinton, “women’s rights are human rights.” To suggest that women deserve any less is to deny our humanity all over the world. We cannot fight for social and economic justice by taking weapons from half of the army. The women who have experienced direct subjugation are often, also, the most passionate spokespeople.

Our country has been a champion of human rights all over the world, and when we nod on Nigeria we are suggesting that women’s rights do not matter. We know about 300 Nigerian girls today. How many will we learn about tomorrow? How many in another country. How many will be swallowed in world patriarchy because we refuse to act?

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is President Emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.

Economy is Still Recovering

E-mail Print PDF

During 2013, the U.S. economy experienced a reasonable level of growth. The 3.4 percent growth rate in the second half of 2013 represented a solid growth rate, but not enough to trickle down to those who live at the periphery of the economy. Those with low or stagnant wages might find that their lives have not improved by 3.4 percent. Indeed, the gains from gross domestic product growth may mostly be captured by the wealthy.

The first quarter of 2014 was an amazing disappointment. Instead of the modest growth of 3.4 percent from the second half of 2013, the economy grew by just one tenth of one percent. This is the one of the slowest growth rate in the five years of so-called economic recovery. Based on these data, the economy grew more than 300 times slower than it did in the last half of 2013. Some say we are growing at a snail’s pace, but even the most sluggish snail can do better than this.

Can we blame this stagnant economy on the harsh winter we have experienced? Between snow, hail, sleet and rain, housing starts have slowed. People who might hit the malls are staying home. People aren’t buying cars at expected rates. Since consumer spending drives about three-quarters of our nation’s economic growth, postponed spending dampens growth. But consumer spending has not slowed as much as GDP has. Spending on health care (thanks to Obamacare) and on other services suggests that consumers have had mixed engagement as spenders.

On the other hand, businesses aren’t spending as much as they might, and along with holding off on spending makes it difficult for them to add employees to their payrolls. It also impacts GDP. What are these businesses waiting for to persuade them to invest in the economies that went into debt for their survival? Banks aren’t lending as much as they might, and even consumer credit is tighter than it should be. Consumers are spending despite, not because of, sluggish economic growth.

Growth might be stronger if the job market were more robust. As we saw from Friday’s unemployment figures, unemployment isn’t dropping significantly. Wages are stagnant. Every measure that President Obama has introduced for job creation our Congress has rebuffed, including unemployment assistance. While economic growth is, at best, sluggish, there are many who have not experienced any recovery at all.

While macroeconomic indicators deal with overall issues of economic growth, few indicators are disaggregated by race or income status. The Obama initiatives to raise wages, lower unemployment and create jobs are important because they are modest ways to spread the wealth and to ensure that economic growth is more evenly distributed. After all, we know that those at the top garneared the most gains from money thrown at them because they were “too big to fail.” Are those at the periphery just too small to survive?

We can’t have sustained economic growth when those who depend on banks to provide funds for economic expansion are shut down. We won’t have sustained economic growth if (0fficiallly) one in 15 people, and one in eight African Americans cannot find work. Economic recovery is meaningless to someone who lost a home during the great recession, and is clawing back to survival. While those with mortgage challenges were promised relief, few of them are have received it.

Some expect the economy to come roaring back in the second quarter, but I don’t expect the growth rate will be much higher than 3 percent. Further, the growth rate does nothing to close the wage and income gap that clearly slows economic growth. Who gains and who loses based on the growth rate? This is as an important an issue as is the issue of sluggish economic growth.

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is President Emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.

Supreme Court Continues to Limit Affirmative Action

E-mail Print PDF

The Roberts Supreme Court decided last week that voters in the state of Michigan had the right to ban affirmative action policies in college admissions. Michigan is one of many where mediocre White students challenge the fact that African American students, far more qualified than they, have been admitted to college. This has happened in Texas and California, among other states.

These challenges to affirmative action have roots in the 1976 Bakke case, where the 38-year-old Alan Bakke sued because his application to medical school was rejected and he felt that he was displaced in favor of a minority student. The Supreme Court ordered Bakke admitted to the University of California at Davis, and also ruled that affirmative action was permissible under law.

What bothers me most about these anti affirmative action cases is the implicit White skin privilege that compels them. College admissions are an art, not a science. Students whose parents contribute generously to a college get an edge. In the name of diversity, a student from California, regardless of race, may get a bit of an edge at Dartmouth or Columbia. A violist, newspaper editor, or budding sports star, might also get a break. Meanwhile obdurate and privileged Whites don’t go after these people. Their ire is directed toward African Americans and other people of color.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor got it completely right when she said that race still matters. When the Supreme Court upholds these anti affirmative laws they deny history. Make it plain. The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, a scant 60 years ago. Affirmative action policies were developed shortly after that so that the formerly closed doors of academia could be opened. Affirmative action had a short shelf life before it was challenged in 1978, just 14 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act. The opponents of affirmative action say that the color blindness that the Civil Rights Act mandated prevents remediation from past discrimination. What about contemporary discrimination?

The University of Michigan, in its admissions policies, has evaluated students by a points system. Students get extra points if they have participated in Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses. How many high schools in troubled Detroit, have access to these classes. Yet the people of Detroit pay taxes to support a college that discriminates against them/ When the anti-affirmative action crowd talks about fairness do they take this into consideration?

When University of Michigan admits do not reflect the demographics of Detroit, aren’t the Whites who attempt to dominate the welfare recipients of the state? The attempt for fairness is misplaced when anti-affirmative action proponents want people of color to pay for a university system that gives White people preferential treatment.

In a few weeks we will commemorate the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. While it took some time for Brown to be implemented, it was a Supreme Court decision that opened doors to equal education for those who have been discriminated against. With the most recent affirmative action case, the Supreme Court has chosen to slam doors in the face of those who have experienced historical discrimination.

This Supreme Court, collectively, has behaved no better than Southern night riders who would stop at nothing too exclude African Americans from participation in education, voting, or owning property. This court is no better than the administrators at the University of Georgia who denied Charlayne Hunter Gault and Hamilton Harris admission, despite their qualifications. This court has legalized educational segregation, and Sonia Soyomayor’s blistering attack on her colleagues reflects the sentiments of millions of people who are tired of this court trampling on their rights and history.

Justice John Roberts is 59 years old. He attended college when long excluded people of color were admitted because of race-conscious policies. What are his resentments toward his classmates who, equally qualified, may have “displaced” some of his friends? Does everyone who has been “displaced” have grounds for a lawsuit? What impact will Roberts have on race matters in the future? While Justice Sotomayor is on the court to check him, and while her opinions will have some weight, she and her colleagues will not be able to outvote the myopic conservative majority.

Roberts led the cabal that slammed the door in the faces of people of color. His justice is a “just us” attempt to reinforce White privilege.

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is President Emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.

Women Get Unequal Pay for Equal Work

E-mail Print PDF

(NNPA) When John and Ann started working on January 1, 2013, John had an immediate advantage. Because women earn 77 cents for every dollar men earn, it took Ann until last Friday [April 11, 2014] to earn the same amount of money that John earned in the calendar year of 2013.

The issue of unequal pay is so important that President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act 50 years ago. While we have come a long way, baby, the pay gap has remained stubborn. This is why President Obama signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act as soon as he assumed office.

This year, to commemorate National Equal Pay Day (that’s the day Ann finally earns as much as John), the president signed an Executive Order protecting workers from retaliation when they speak of unequal pay in the workplace (one of the ways employers can maintain unequal pay is to make discussing pay grounds for firing). The president, through the Secretary of Labor, is also requiring federal contractors to provide data on pay, race, and gender to ensure that employers are fairly paid. Furthermore, the Senate is considering the Paycheck Fairness Act, which may pass the Senate, but not the House of Representatives.

We know all about John and Ann, but what about Tamika? If women earn 77 percent of what men earn, what about African American women? Women surely have come a long way, but some are moving far more slowly than others. How many African American women are there in the Senate? Among Fortune 500 leaders? In other positions of power? What about pay? African American women earn about three quarters of what other women earn, meaning that if it takes Ann until April 11 to catch up with John, It will take Tamika until about June 1 – about another six weeks – to catch up. Tamika earns in 18 months what John earns in 12 months.

Even African American women with the highest levels of education experience these differences. White men with a postgraduate degree earn a median salary of $1,666 a week African American women earn a median salary of $1,000 during the same time period. For all the talk of pay equity and paycheck fairness, the status of African American women is largely ignored.

It wouldn’t take much for the president, or some of those feminist groups who support paycheck fairness to throw in a line or two about African American women. Nor would it hurt African American organizations, especially those who serve Black women, to point out this injustice. Are African American women invisible? Don’t we count? African American women raise the majority of our children, and shoulder many of the challenges in the African American community. Ignoring us in a conversation about unequal pay simply marginalizes our experiences and us.

The focus on “overall” data is yet another way of marginalizing not only African American women, but other people of color well. Reporting aggregate data gives some notion of economic progress. Reporting specific data about African American women and men makes it clear, for example, that African Americans experience depression-level unemployment rates.

I was delighted when President Obama signed the Lily Ledbetter Act, and I have been privileged to hear Ledbetter speak on more than one occasion. She is an amazing woman with a talent for “breaking it down.” When she learned that men doing the same job she did earned more money, she cried “foul” but the law said it was “too late” for her to complain. In her inimitable way, she said that grocers did not charge her less money because she was female, nor did doctors, or anyone else. She said that higher-paid men didn’t have to make uncomfortable choices about which child would get new shoes or clothes.

African American women can tell the same story as Lily Ledbetter. Indeed, the gaps African American women are likely to be more severe than the ones Lily Ledbetter faced. The pay gap for African Americans is larger and too many live in food deserts where the cost of food is higher even as the quality is lower.

Lily Ledbetter deserves the limelight she earned because she brought this matter to the president’s attention. There’s a Black woman out there who can tell a similar or more compelling story. She, too, needs to be lifted up. We ought to know her name, see her name on a piece of legislation. Ledbetter is an ordinary shero, a working class woman who stood up for her rights. She reminds us that, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “You don’t have to be great to serve.” We need a sister to remind us that we don’t have to be elected, appointed, or anointed to make a difference.

When African American women are marginalized, so are our girls. They are left with the mistaken impression that we have not fought for our rights. We’ve been fighting and fighting, but somehow the story of a sister struggling is too unremarkable to be noted by the media.

Race and gender continue to shape the opportunities that African American women have, and race and gender continue to marginalize us Black women. When do African American women have equal visibility in the policy and imagery arena? When we demand it and when we stop applauding our own marginalization.

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is President Emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.

Page 4 of 26

Quantcast