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Study: Race a Factor in Charity, Social Programs

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By Dwight Ott, Special to the NNPA from The Philadelphia Tribune –

No one was home in the small, fenced encampment hidden in the trees on the south side of the approach to the Ben Franklin Bridge leading to Philadelphia.

The inhabitants may have been away because of the chill and the unceasing downpour last Wednesday that cut rivulets of rainwater in the mud and grass. Or they might have went looking for food to bring back to their three tent-like hovels, which where patched together with clear plastic, mosquito mesh, blue and yellow blankets, rags and towels.

But, whatever the reason for the absence, it was clear that the people living there were literally on “the other side of the fence” — or, as one author called, in “The Other America.”

According to three, Ivy League-affiliated researchers, such ragged encampments are likely the result of America being stingier than Europe in providing for its most down and out citizens.

And, the reason for this stinginess: Race!

“I think people who are willing to cut Medicaid and Medicare are driven by heterogeneity,” said Albert Alesina, one of the researchers, with “heterogeneity” here clearly meaning racial differences.

Indeed, based on their 2001 study — which they say is still applicable today — the three researchers concluded that race is a major factor in the generosity or lack of generosity built into American social assistance programs. With unabashed bluntness, the study — completed by Harvard economics professors Alesina and Edward Gleaser, and Bruce Sacerdote of Dartmouth — stated: “Race is the single most important predictor of support for welfare. America’s troubled race relations are clearly a major reason for the absence of an American welfare state.”

The study goes on to conclude that, “A natural generalization of race-based theory is that Americans think of the poor as members of some different group other than themselves, whereas Europeans think of the poor as members of their own group.”

In other words, people who dislike transferring money to people of a different color seem to be a major determinant in why there is a “redistribution gap” between the United States and Europe.

But, while the professors assert that race is the most “salient” predictor of support for welfare, they are unable to fully identify why this is the case.

The professors state: “We do not really know why interpersonal altruism seems linked to race. It is possible that human beings are hard-wired to dislike people with different skin color. A more reasonable theory is that human beings are genetically programmed to form in-group, out-group associations and to prefer members of what they perceive as their own group.”

In their study, “Why doesn’t the U.S. Have a European Style Welfare State?,” the researchers indicate that White Americans have no problem giving to programs that are seen as supportive of Whites, but some oppose programs which seem to support Blacks.

“People have a negative, hostile reaction when they see welfare recipients of a different race, and a sympathetic reaction when they see welfare recipients of their own race,” the study states.

And, at least two of the researchers contacted last week said they believed their study was as relevant now as it was a decade ago. Indeed, today, as an urgency to cut the deficit ramps up, entitlement programs — which typically help Blacks and other minorities — are on the chopping block.

“We have hit a point where it is obvious we can’t give to everybody,” said Sacerdote, referring to the current hard times that have limited America’s options. “We have reached the point where it’s obvious we can’t give to everybody.”

Sacerdote also said that hard decisions will have to be made. “The question of how to divide the pie is becoming more important,” he stated.

The study also demonstrates why Blacks may be among the hardest hit by the recession and current budget cutting. “Racial discord plays a critical role in determining beliefs about the poor,” the researchers conclude in their document. “Since racial minorities are highly over-represented among the poorest Americans, any income-based redistribution measures will redistribute disproportionately to these minorities.”

However, a recent poll found that 70 percent of tea party members — a group particularly intent on cutting spending in social programs — do not favor cuts in Medicaid and Medicare.

In the recent McClatchy-Marist survey,70 percent of ‘tea party supporters’ were strongly opposed to cutting the healthcare plan for the elderly and indigent, compared to about 80 percent of registered voters.

And yet, phasing out Medicare for those under 55 has been a major proposal by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, a high profile Republican legislator.

Republicans seem to have targeted social programs, which heavily benefit Blacks, for the very reason that Blacks make up a high percentage of the impoverished and unemployed. To some Whites, these programs seem to represent a “transfer” or “redistribution” of wealth.

It’s almost as if anti-socialism — many on the right have called Obama and his supporters “socialists” — has become a code word for pro-racism, one professor agreed.

According to the study, while Europeans consider the poor as people like themselves who just may be having hard luck. “Americans are more likely to associate poverty with laziness and to consider the poor unworthy.”

Because of the resultant neglect, the poor in the United States are likely to be “poorer” than those in Europe, the study claims.

“It would appear that, because of a smaller emphasis on policies that redistribute toward the poor, the bottom decile [10 percent] of the income ladder in the United States is less well off than the bottom decile in European countries. That is, the U.S. poor are really poor.”

The study also said America has a smaller government than some and yet larger government tends to reduce inequalities.

Even among U.S. states there is a race-based disparity. Especially in the South, welfare benefits are smaller in areas with large, non-majority Black populations.

And though opportunities seem to be about the same in the U.S. and Europe, Americans seem — by a nearly 30 percent polling margin — to believe that the poor have more of a chance of escaping poverty in the U.S. than they may actually have.

“Americans are inherently more hostile to government, and more prone to believe that governments are wasteful and likely to spend on projects that the voters oppose. Indeed, the United States was created from an ant-igovernment revolution, and its history includes a civil war in which roughly half the country fought against the federal government,” states the study.

Here, the authors seem to redeem a smidgen of the image of America’s generosity by pointing out that, while European social welfare is more generous, Americans give more to charities than Europeans. But, the study does not make it clear if that charity cuts across racial lines.

What was obvious, though, was that the inhabitants of that little Camden encampment near the Ben Franklin Bridge probably are having a harder time here than if they were in Europe.

Because whatever their ethnicity or nationality, the ultimate reason for their economic disparity, like so much else in this country, likely does have more to do with skin color than pure economics or objective prioritization.

Public Ambivalent About Osama bin Laden Death

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By Eric Mayes, Special to the NNPA from The Philadelphia Tribune –

Officials with the local chapter of the Council on American Muslim Relations greeted the news of Osama bin Laden’s death with a relief shared by most Americans.

We’re proud of President Obama and of our Armed Forces for bringing justice to the world,” said Meoin Khawaja, executive director of the local group. “He’s attacked people all over the world.”

Bin Laden’s role — and that of all radical Muslims — in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks cast a shadow over all Muslims, Khawaja said.

“I’ll never forget that day 10 years ago when my country was attacked,” Khawaja said. “I’ll also never forget that my religion and that of over one billion people was tarnished in such a manner that Osama bin Laden became one of the most recognized Muslims in the world. Now, I’m confident that my fellow Americans know that Islam isn’t and never was bin Laden or his ideology, but like all religions is a path to peace and love.”

Spontaneous celebrations were reported in New York City and Washington D.C. The Phillies game was interrupted when the crowd broke into chants of “U.S.A.” and “Bye Bye Bin Laden” after news of his death in a U.S. raid was reported.

Individually, Philadelphians had varied reactions.

“Next they should go after Bush,” said William Payton. “You let his family out of the United States.”

Payton refused to be swept up in the euphoria reported across the nation.

“Show me some proof that he’s dead,” Payton said. “He might be; he might not be. I want to see some proof.”

Photos of a blood spattered Bin Laden were flashed across the globe in Monday morning’s papers. Reports from both CBS and ABC news said they were composite photos and that the White House had withheld real photos because of their gruesome nature.

“You can put anything in the paper,” said Payton.

Officials in Washington said they had DNA samples to prove that the al Qaida leader was in fact dead.

Others took officials at their word.

“Mr. Obama made a promise and he kept it,” said a woman who asked to be identified only by the initials D.E., adding that she was relieved by the news. “Now they will go after the rest of them and they will stop killing people.”

Like Payton, she suggested that bin Laden was not caught during the Bush administration because of personal or financial concerns.

“Why didn’t Bush get him a long time ago?” she asked rhetorically. “They were friends.”

Several Muslims declined to discuss the death.

“I don’t get into politics,” said a young man wearing a taqiyah and shalwar kameez, as he stood near the Clothes Pin across from City Hall with a woman in a full burqa. He declined to give his name.

Another man agreed.

“I’ll let God handle this,” the man said. He too refused to give his name. “He [bin Laden] never did anything to me.”

Others were glad that the terror leader was dead.

“I’m at peace,” said O. James. “Hopefully, all this comes to an end. I hope it brings peace.” Officials with the Department of Homeland Security and city police were on heightened alert following the news.

James said was concerned about the possibility of retaliation.

“You still have his followers out there,” she said.

Khawaja remained optimistic.

“It’s the long-term beginning of the end,” he said. “I really hope and feel that this is the beginning of the next 10 years, and that the next 10 years will be a winding down of terrorism.”

Contact staff writer Eric Mayes at (215) 893-5742 or emayes@phillytrib.com.

Racist Letter Addressed to Black Students at Pennsylvania School

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By Christian Morrow, Special to the NNPA from the New Pittsburgh Courier –

“Maybe if you niggers wernt (sic) in this school, west a (sic) might actually be a perfect school. So do us a favor and get the f… out you motherf… niggers!”

That is just part of a letter eight African-American students found on their seats—personally addressed—when they arrived for their first-period classes at West Allegheny High School in Imperial, April 15.

“It was a total surprise to me. I wasn’t so much scared as shocked,” said sophomore Lewis Walls. “I never expected anything like this to happen.”

Calls to the district for comment were not returned by New Pittsburgh Courier deadline.

Walls’ mother, Sheila Johns, contacted the Courier about the incident 10 days later, after growing frustrated with the lack of action by the school district.

“They’re saying it’s an isolated incident and they’re investigating, but they don’t know who did it,” she said. “Some parents think it could have been an adult because some of the spelling mistakes seem intentional, but we don’t know. A lot of us came out here to get away from the craziness in the city and to get a better education for our kids—and now we get this.”

Bonita Pannell’s daughter Tyler also received a letter, but Pannell, whose children have been in the West Allegheny District for several years, said this incident is just the latest in a long progression.

“My son is 27 now, and things like this were going on when he was still here,” she said. “There have been incidents of nasty texts, calling people names in the cafeteria and the principal keeps saying they are isolated incidents. But, if there are this many, how isolated can it be?”

Pannell said some think it could be related to a fight between a White girl and a Black girl the day before, which resulted in both being suspended. However, the White girl received 10 days for instigating the fight, twice as much time as the Black student.

“The principal said they are looking at security tapes, but how long does that take,” she said. “So we’ve gotten together and sent a certified letter to the principal and superintendent asking for a May 2 meeting with all the parents, before we take this to the school board May 11.”

Don Elvoid’s two sons also had letters addressed to them. Both were so angered by the incident that the vice principal asked her to take them out of the school for the rest of the day.

“I’d heard it stemmed from the fight too, but that’s just rumors,” she said. “I tell my boys to deal in facts, but right now we don’t have any. So, when we meet with the principal, we’re going to ask for some changes. Kids shouldn’t have to put up with this. Now that we’ve sent the letter, I expect a different tone.”

Walls agreed, he said one student in his class let loose a verbal assault laced racial epithets on another Black student in the cafeteria about a month earlier.

“He’d have been the obvious suspect for the letter, but it couldn’t have been him—he was suspended at the time,” Walls said. “I mean, two years ago, I was at a Catholic school that was racially balanced so I’ve never experienced anything like this before. I’d like it to stop. I don’t think I should have to go through this again, neither should anyone else.”

 

Mumia Abu-Jamal's 1982 Death Sentence Again Declared Unconstitutional

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Special to the NNPA from thedefendersonline.com –

The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has unanimously declared that Mumia Abu-Jamal’s death sentence is unconstitutional.

In today’s decision, the Court of Appeals reaffirmed its 2008 finding that Mr. Abu-Jamal’s sentencing jury was misled about the process for considering evidence supporting a life sentence.

The Court found that, in violation of the United States Supreme Court’s 1988 decision in Mills v. Maryland, the jury was improperly led to believe that that it could only consider unanimously agreed upon evidence favoring a life verdict. This mistake rendered Abu-Jamal’s death sentence fundamentally unfair.

The NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) and Professor Judy Ritter of Widener Law School represent Mr. Abu-Jamal in this appeal of his 1982 conviction and death sentence for the murder of a police officer in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

“This decision marks an important step forward in the struggle to correct the mistakes of an unfortunate chapter in Pennsylvania history,” said John Payton, Director-Counsel of LDF. “Again acknowledging the existence of clear constitutional error in Mr. Abu-Jamal’s trial, the Court of Appeals’ decision enhances confidence in the criminal justice system and helps to relegate the kind of unfairness on which this death sentence rested to the distant past.”

Ritter noted that, “Pennsylvania long ago abandoned the confusing and misleading instructions and verdict slip that were relied on in Mr. Abu-Jamal’s trial in order to prevent unfair and unjust death sentences. Courts now use clear and unambiguous language to advise sentencing juries about their ability to consider evidence that favors a life verdict. Mr. Abu-Jamal is entitled to no less constitutional protection.”

Mr. Abu-Jamal he has been on death row in Pennsylvania for 29 years.

Women Overcoming the Shame and Stigma of HIV

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By Tamara E. Holmes, NNPA Contributor –

For years Del'Rosa Winston-Harris kept her HIV diagnosis a secret. When seeking HIV/AIDS resources, she says, "I went to places that were way outside of where I lived so no one could identify me." When a friend ran into her at the hospital and asked why she was there, "I said, 'I'm here to get my cancer checkup,' " the 49-year-old recalls. "My biggest concern was that I couldn't tell anybody."

A fear of disclosing one's HIV status is not unusual because stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS is ingrained in American society, says Bambi W. Gaddist, Ph.D., executive director of the South Carolina HIV/AIDS Council. Most people would rather look the other way than acknowledge how many people are living with HIV, Dr. Gaddist says. "After 30 years of AIDS, people are still asking, 'Is that a problem?' " And, unlike diseases like cancer and Alzheimer's, there's the often unspoken rationalization that those with HIV brought the disease upon themselves.

"HIV is a human immunodeficiency virus that's causing a fight inside my body, yet people have made it about lifestyle," says Elveth Bentley, 46, of Atlanta. As a result of that widespread perception, many women hide their HIV status, fearing that people will judge them for having sex or succumbing to an addiction.

But, AIDS activists are hoping to change that. In March, SisterLove, an Atlanta-based reproductive-health organization that focuses on HIV/AIDS, launched a mini documentary series called "Everyone Has a Story," which features interviews with Black women who have HIV sharing the realities of life with the disease.

"We want to get more HIV-positive women talking and disclosing and really stepping into leadership where HIV/AIDS is concerned in the community," says Tiffany Pennick, a spokeswoman from SisterLove. The documentary series is part of the organization's 2020 Leading Women's Society program, in which 2,020 HIV-positive women will be trained during the next decade to help other women across the world better manage their sexual and reproductive health.

The Power of Disclosure

Both Winston-Harris and Bentley participated in the documentary series, which covers such experiences as disclosing HIV status to family members for the first time, finding a support network, and dealing with strained family relationships. While both women are now more comfortable sharing their status with loved ones and strangers alike, the documentary gives them an even larger audience for their stories.

Winston-Harris began the process of disclosure after watching a friend who'd kept her diagnosis a secret die alone. Realizing how isolating the stigma of HIV could be, she had an epiphany.

"The idea of dying alone is one thing, but living alone is another," she says. "I realized somebody had to speak up and let people know this is a disease that anyone can get."

For Bentley, the road to disclosure began as she noticed how damaging shame could be. "You lose your sense of identity when you begin to buy into the stigma," she says. "You let the disease define you." She also saw that self-defeating behaviors often accompanied shame, such as avoiding the doctor's office or HIV clinic because of a fear of being seen.

Since disclosing their HIV status, both women have felt empowered and seen their lives improve. "I've learned how to communicate and socialize with any kind of person," says Winston-Harris.

I can meet people where they're at now. Pre-HIV, I didn't know how to do that."

Bentley feels the same: "If I tell you about my HIV status myself, I've taken the power from you to say anything about it. What can you really say that I have not already said?"

There's also a political benefit that comes from sharing one's struggle with HIV. "When we get more women to do that, then we will see a social movement like we've seen with breast cancer," says Dr. Gaddist. "Until we get to that, we'll never have a social change."

For those who are struggling to move past the stigma of their diagnosis, Winston-Harris and Bentley share some of the insights that have helped them overcome the shame;

Forgive yourself. Before you can learn to ignore others' judgments, you've got to get past your own, says Winston-Harris. "I can remember being so angry with myself," she recalls. Once she stopped blaming herself for her HIV status, talking about it became easier.

Find purpose in your story. Whether you're using your voice to educate others about HIV or to build intimacy in your personal relationships, understand why it's important for you to share your story with others, advises Bentley. When you feel fearful about opening up, let that purpose motivate you.

Know that it's a process. While disclosing your HIV status will likely get easier over time "it's still uncomfortable," says Bentley, particularly when you're talking to people whose opinions matter to you. "The unknown is always uncomfortable, but you find your voice more and more each time."

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, D.C.-based journalist who writes frequently about emotional health and wellness.

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