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Julianne Malveaux

Black Unemployment has not Improved

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(NNPA) When unemployment numbers were released on Friday, commentators reacted joyfully. Alan Krueger, who heads the White House Council of Economic Advisors, described the creation of 247,000 jobs as a victory because the predictions were that the economy would only generate 170,000 jobs. Unemployment rates went down to 7.7 percent, while predictions were that they would drop to 7.8 percent. Some might call this good news, but many might wonder who is affected by this good news.

A deeper examination of the unemployment data shows the disappointing reality that African American unemployment rates remained level, at 13.8 percent. Meanwhile, White unemployment rates fell to 6.8 percent and the rate for White men dropped to 6.3 percent. The racial disparities in unemployment rates are not new, but it is hypocritical to celebrate a drop in White unemployment rages, without noticing or mentioning the stagnation in Black unemployment rates.

More than new construction jobs were generated last month, but since Black unemployment rates remained level, that suggests that African Americans are not being brought into that industry (if at all) at the same rates that Whites. Implicitly, these data make the case for continued affirmative action, especially in well-paid jobs. In times of economic hardship, those hiring are inclined to look after their own instead of spreading the jobs around. And recent data suggests that African Americans enter the labor market with a shallower rolodex than Whites. Fewer contacts mean fewer job opportunities.

Whose employment situation has improved?

The number of long term unemployed remained level at 4.8 million people who have been unemployed for 37 weeks or more. To be sure, this is a drop from the 39 weeks of a year or so ago. Still, the situation for some of the unemployed has simply not improved. One of the reasons that the unemployment rate dropped is because 130,000 people dropped out of the labor force because they could not find jobs.

Eight million people work part-time for economic reasons. They would take full time work if only they could find it. The number of “marginally attached” workers stands at 2.4 million. If underutilized workers are included, the unemployment rate is 14.3 percent for everyone. If the relationship between underutilization and reported unemployment is the same for African Americans as for Whites, then the real unemployment rate is 25.5 percent, or almost a fourth, for African Americans. That’s alarming, yet as I watch televised reports on Black unemployment rates, this is unmentioned.

Black unemployment rates are at more than Depression levels, which ought to be completely unacceptable. It is not. Yet few are paying attention to the plight of the unemployed, underemployed, or out of the labor force Black worker. The White House and others love to talk about all of us being in the same boat. Yet some are hanging onto the board by their fingernails, and others are drowning. And some are struggling to row. Others are riding relatively smoothly through this recession, watching their situation improve.

CEA Chairman Krueger says the data from this employment report suggests that we are well on our way to economic recovery. From my perspective this recovery is neither robust nor inclusive. In order for this recovery to be fully celebrated, every sector of Americans should see their material conditions increase. They’ve increased for some. What about the others? Where are their advocates?

Too many African American leaders are asleep at the wheel when it comes to the employment situation. Unemployment rates become a line in their speeches, not a lode for their leadership. High unemployment rates explain why so many African Americans, at the economic margins, don’t support civil rights organizations. They are asking what’s in it for me.

What if huge numbers of unemployed people were mobilized? What if, in their economic misery, some rose up and demanded that Congress and others pay attention to their situation? To watch the situation of Whites improve, while Black unemployment rates remain the same, suggests that the vision of a post-racial society is extremely unrealistic. African American people are bearing a disproportion amount of pain in the current employment situation. Black people are starving, and it seems that no one, not even civil rights advocates, will act on their behalf.

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

Onion's Apology is Not Accepted

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(NNPA) In the midst of the Academy Awards drama on Sunday, February 24, one of the Onion’s writers (we don’t know who he is – I doubt a “she” would have stooped so low), described the lovely and talented child Quvenzhané Wallace with a filthy word that took her all the way out of her name. Using a very crude word for female genatalia, the Onion writer observed that she was a c***. Excuse me! Blessedly hundreds of people shared their outrage in the electronic media so forcefully that the Onion’s CEO, Steve Hannah, apologized. But somehow sorry doesn’t always make it right. In my letter to the Onion, I’ve asked for reparations, or an effort to repair the harm that was done. I’m sharing my statement and hope you, too, will share it with the “leaders” of The Onion. Until officials of The Onion respond, I think it wholly appropriate to withhold support from them. As Dr. King once said, “to cooperate with evil is to be evil.” To besmirch a child, whether you are a satirical publication or not, is nothing but evil. My letter:

Dear Mr. Hannah:

While your apology for the vile statement made by your staff regarding the wonderful and talented Quvenzhané Wallis is duly noted, it is an insufficient response to the heinous insult lobbed at a 9-year-old girl; additionally, the community of women and African American women in particular. Your apology is received, but not accepted. You must mitigate the damage that your comments caused, not only for Quvenzhané, but also for the women who, reveling in her success, were damaged by the sucker punch we experienced when your writer found it acceptable to describe a 9-year-old girl in a crude term for genitalia, a term that most adult women would

Your apology might be more readily received if,

1- The disciple, though the offensive writer, was detailed and their name revealed so that they can be monitored for their gendered racism in the future.

2- Your company made amends to both Quvenzhané and the community that supports her by;

3- Offering the organizations that monitor gender and racial discrimination a financial contribution. My suggesting is that you direct at least $50,000 each to The Black Women’s Roundtable, The National Organization for Women, and the National Council of Negro Women. Additionally, I would suggest that you offer $50,000 to the charity of Quvenzhané’s choice.

Meeting with representatives of African American and women’s organizations in Washington DC on a date that is mutually agreeable, but no later than March 31, 2013 to discuss the though process behind this insult and the ways that future occurrences will be prevented.

Share information on the number of women and people of color on your staff, and share the ways that they impact editorial decisions.

4- Your company provides scholarship opportunities to African American women students at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to indicate that you do not see young women in the disparaging ways, but as scholars. There are two HBCUs that are women’s institutions, Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, North Carolina, and Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. At least one scholarship for each of these institutions would be an effective way to apologize.

5- Your company provides speakers to the colleges that will have you to, at no fee to the colleges, explain the difference between satire and offense. To notify interested colleges, it is my suggestion that your company take out a full page advertisement in Diverse Issues in Higher Education to both reprint your apology and offer the opportunity for your staff to meet on colleges.

Please note that, as a former president of an HBCU focused on women, I was repelled by your writer’s comments. Taking them down and then apologizing is the simple way out for this offense. I call upon you to take proactive action to redress this wrong.

Let me also note that I have no invested interest in any of the organizations I have mentioned here (except that I am President Emerita of Bennett College for Women, and my association with young women makes this all the more offensive).

I am asking friends and colleagues to withdraw any support to The Onion until your apology is enhanced by action. I am also asking all women’s and African American organizations to join my insistence that your apology is insufficient.

I do look forward to your response.

If you agree with me, please forward this column or your own letter to Chairman David Schafer (davidkschafer@gmail.com); President and CEO Steve Hannah (shannah@theonion.com)

COO Mike McAvoy (mmcavoy@theonion.com)


(312) 751-0503 Fax 312-751-4137
#200, 212 Superior St, Chicago, IL – 60611

If anyone from Chicago is reading, perhaps you could organize a picket outside their office! Sorry doesn’t always make it right.

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

Turning the Clock Back on Voting Rights

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(NNPA) Shelby County, Ala. is suing the Justice Department because they think that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (and its reauthorization in 1982 and 2006) is unfair. The facts: The small city of Calera redistricted its boundaries in a way that the sole African American councilman lost his seat. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act forced a new election with different boundaries, and Ernest Montgomery regained his seat.

Shelby County (which includes parts of Birmingham) objects to the provision of the Voting Rights Act that requires that areas with histories of past discrimination have changes to voting laws and boundaries monitored by the Justice Department. This would include many southern states, as well as areas, such as Alaska, that have historical discrimination against Native people, and Texas and parts of California, that have historic discrimination against Latinos. They say that it’s all equal now and there is no need to monitor them.

Not surprisingly, conservatives and the Attorney Generals of several affected states have filed amicus briefs to support Shelby County. These include the states of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Texas. Additionally the usual suspects such as the Conservative Legal Defense Fund, the Cato Institute, the Pacific Legal Foundation and the Southeast Legal Foundation, among others, have lined up to support Shelby. It is not surprising that the conservative Project 21, nominally an African American organization, has lined up to support Shelby.

It is more surprising that the National Black Chamber of Commerce has filed an amicus brief. I’d be most interested in leaning where the Black Chamber polled its membership before filing this brief. If I were a member, I’d have to cancel my membership. If my dues were used to support that nonsense, I’d be repelled. I guess it just goes to show that “everybody brown ain’t down”, and raises questions about this organization.

Many suggest that Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act means there is no need for Section 5. While Section 2 allows lawsuits, it forces plaintiffs to show that changes in voting provisions are motivated by “invidious practices.” Section 5 says that those who are known to have engaged in such practices are required to have the Department of Justice review them.

If our nation had never chosen to implement the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, there would have been no need for the Voting Rights Act. The Fourteenth Amendment actually states that state population decides the number of Congressional representatives, but if enough people are denied the right to vote, Congressional representation should be reduced. This provision has never been enforced, even when the whole Black population in some southern states could not vote.

The Fifteenth Amendment prohibits denying the right to vote based on race, color, and previous condition of servitude, and authorized Congress to enforce this amendment with the appropriate action and legislation. Until 1876, federal troops enforced the right that African Americans had to vote, spurring an unprecedented level of African American civic participation. Because the African American population (and number of voters) was greater than the number of Whites in Mississippi, Louisiana and South Carolina, African Americans were elected as lieutenant governors, secretaries of state and treasurers (not to mention Gov. Pinchback of Mississippi, who served a scant two months and was denied seats he was elected to in the Senate and to Congress). Additionally 16 African Americans served in Congress – two in the Senate and 14 in the House of Representatives. No wonder some were eager to nullify the Fifteenth Amendment. Federal troops were withdrawn from southern states in 1877; in 2013, 136 years later, southern states are asking that voting protection be withdrawn from their states.

Why? Just as the election of 16 African American legislators alarmed the South, so has the election and reelection of President Barack Obama alarmed our nation. His election reminds us all of the power of the vote, and emboldens those who would limit it. That’s why several states have passed voter ID legislation requiring people to have an official government ID in order to vote. That’s why a 102-year-old Black woman waited more than six hours to vote. That’s why some states have consolidated voting places, making people travel further and wait longer to vote. We don’t have poll taxes anymore (although forcing people to travel more than an hour and wait more than an hour is an implicit poll tax), nor do voters have to take a fitness test, so the means of voter suppression have been both more and less subtle. It reminds us of why we had the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, and in our nation’s failure to implement, the Voting Rights Act.

The court heard these arguments on Wednesday, February 27. We must be alarmed and, if we live in states that filed amicus briefs, aware of those who would suppress our vote.

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

State of the Union on Point

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(NNPA) I was among the 33.5 million people who sat riveted to their televisions, parsing every second of the State of the Union address. I was stunned to learn, through a Washington Post article by Lisa De Moraes, that viewership was less substantial for this address than last year’s 38 million, and even lower than the 48 million that watched in 2010. Are people less interested in what our president has to say? Or is there something else going on?

In any case, this was an important and significant SOTU address. Unleashed from the pressure of re-election, and able to set forth a progressive and aggressive agenda, President Obama dealt with some of the key issues that face our nation. He was able to utter the word “poverty” without his tongue freezing up. Unfortunately, he is still unable to utter the words “Black” or “African American.. Still, President Obama laid out an agenda that will ultimately have a positive effect on the African American community, especially if some of his efforts are targeted.

In 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. It is socially as cruel and blind as the practice of cannibalism at the dawn of civilization, when men ate each other because they had not yet learned to take from soil or to consume the abundant animal life around them. The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty.”

President Obama was not so direct, nor so cutting. But he offered important clarity to an issue his administration has ignored heretofore. While focusing on the middle class, he also noted that people should not work full time and still earn a wage that puts them beneath the poverty line. His advocacy for a minimum wage of $9 per hour, or about $18,000 a year for a single worker who might support a family, was a significant move forward for the poor. Missing was a conversation about poor people and health benefits, and about the employers who refuse to employ people full time so that they can avoid paying benefits. Obamacare will cover many of these employees, but the fact that profitable companies would rather offer a worker 22 hours than 30 to save money is reprehensible.

The State of the Union address is not an opportunity to drill down on every issue, so I very much understand that President Obama could not offer details to the many proposals he raised in SOTU. Still, it was refreshing to hear the president talk about poverty, about women’s work and wages, and about issues of equality. The first legislation that President Obama signed was the Lily Ledbetter Act, which dealt with equal pay issues, without acknowledging race in any of these conversations or the fact is African American women (and Latinas) are at the bottom of the pay scale. Advocating equal pay and dealing with issues of poverty, and implementing solutions, improves the material conditions of women at the bottom.

President Obama discussed infrastructure improvements in his 2008 campaign. Partisan bickering has made it difficult for him to work with states to refurbish, as he says, 70,000 bridges, as well as roads and highways. The last time our nation paid attention to these structural issues was in the 1950s when President Eisenhower, in a job-creation move, built federal highways across our nation to facilitate easy transportation. Have you driven on an interstate highway lately? Whether you are Democrat or Republican, we should all agree that these highways (some called pot hole central) need improvement? Some politicians are so willing to undermine the Obama administration that they are also willing to see our nation become dysfunctional.

The two emotional high points in this speech included the shout out to the 102-year-old woman who waited all day to vote, and the call to gun reform, mentioning victims by name. I was most moved by the family of Hadiya Pendleton, who sat with First Lady Michelle Obama, who had attended their daughter’s funeral. They are not only important as parents of a gun violence victim, but as proxies for the more than 500 people shot in Chicago in the last year or so. It was also moving to see former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, unable to clap, who brought her hands together. The president’s comments got a standing O, but as soon as the president’s speech was over, thirsty vultures, including Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) ran to the media to voice opposition.

The president has offered an ambitious agenda, and one that will improve the lot of all Americans. While I chafe at his failure to mention African Americans, I am excited by proposals to close the wealth gap. His agenda won’t be implemented unless we advocate for it. What will you do to move it forward?

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

Whole Foods and Whole Fools

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(NNPA) There is a Whole Foods store about three blocks from my home, and around the corner from my gym. I am enamored by the displays of produce, the red peppers contrasting the yellow ones, the kale, chard, and collard glistening from their morning sprinkle. I love the way the fish gleams back at you, char and salmon, swordfish and tilapia. When I walk over to the prepared food, I grin at the ways the veggies are layered with cheese, crumbs, and so much more. They have sandwiches that I identify with, ingredients that I salivate about. And now I must declare that I would rather drink muddy water or sleep in a hollow log that to indulge in whole foods.

I am utterly appalled that Whole Foods CEO John Mackey described Obamacare as “fascism.” Fascism is an incendiary word that speaks totalitarianism, or dictatorship, and it descries it in a pejorative way. Whatever dissent there may be about Obamacare, the fact is, enough members of Congress voted for it to make it a law. John Mackey, what were you thinking when you called Obamacare (a term I proudly embrace) totalitarian and fascist? Is President Obama so mesmerizing that he forced opposing members of Congress to vote for his plan?

I had mixed feelings when the store also known as Whole Paycheck swooped into my neighborhood. People earn less hourly than the price of a pound of cheese. Most folks, though, were happy to have jobs. Happy, that is, until they complained about the terms and conditions of their work. I really didn’t pay much attention, but there was a niggling sense that something was wrong.

Some of the workers grumbled outside the store. If you asked if they could help you, they were emphatically negative. I can understand folks preferring to keep their jobs than to put it out there for justice. But from the swing of the head, the cut of the eye, it was clear that all has not been good at Whole Paycheck.

Unease translated into disease for me. How dare John Mackey decide to flip his lip without a script to describe national health care as “fascism?” He seems to be trying to start a fight, to diminish a president, to ignore that vote of Congress, to put President Obama in a context that he does not deserve to be in. Fascism? One dictionary describes fascism as “a right wing nationalist ideology or movement with an hierarchical structure that is opposed to democracy and liberalism.”

How did President Obama get in this mix? CEO John Mackey, unsupportive of Obamacare (as many business leaders are) chose to take opposition to another level, and decided that “fascism” was a great way to frame his ire. Then he said it didn’t matter, that his word choice was careless, that his ignorance would not affect his corporate profit, that he simply misspoke. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said to support evil is to embrace evil, is to be evil. This is an evil I can gleefully walk away from. Mackey says that it doesn’t matter that conscious people won’t support his store. He may have a point. But I’m going to take my little $200 a week elsewhere and I know others who will do the same thing. John Mackey, your words have been duly noted.

If my words are irrelevant, keep shopping at Whole Paycheck and supporting oppression. If you agree with me, send John Mackey a note via Libba.Letton@wholefood.com or Kate.Lowery@wholefoods.com. To use a term like “fascism” in the context of public policy is ugly and unacceptable. To cooperate is to be complicit.

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

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