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Study: Racial Bias Not Real Culprit in Black Child Abuse Cases

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By Stacey Patton, Special to the NNPA from thedefendersonline.com –

Once again, National Child Abuse Prevention Month is here and the conversation on the physical safety and welfare of children is taking place amid blazing headlines over the controversial issue of paddling in schools. A recent study on race and child abuse reporting published in the March issue of Pediatrics is making waves throughout the social services community.

As disproportionate numbers of Black children continue to enter foster care, and a higher number die each year as a result of abuse and neglect, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have sparked a serious debate over the causes. Are the high numbers of Black child victims reflective of a higher degree of abuse at home? Or are the numbers a product of racial bias in reporting from mostly White social workers who are more likely to suspect maltreatment among Blacks?

The study titled “Racial Bias in Child Protection? A Comparison of Competing Explanations Using National Data,” says that child abuse really is more common in Black than White homes. The study also challenges long-held suspicions that the disproportionately high numbers of Black abuse cases are driven by racial bias in the largely White social welfare workforce that reports abuse.

“We knew [abuse of] Black kids was reported about twice as often as it was for White kids, and we were concerned that that might be due to racism,” said Brett Drake a social work professor at Washington University and the study’s lead author. “We also knew Black kids, in terms of economics, were facing a lot of problems that most White kids were not facing.”

Using national reports and the most recent available data from the Census Bureau, the study found that of the 702,000 cases of substantiated child abuse in 2009, 44 percent involved White children who make up 75 percent of the population, and 22 percent involved Black children, who comprise 12 percent of the population. In 2009, Black children represented 21 percent of the total population of abused children.

“The problem is not that (child protective services) workers are racist,” Drake said. While the study does not preclude the possibility of a racial thread in reporting child abuse, Drake argued that the main problem is that huge numbers of Black people are living under devastating circumstances. “Mitigating poverty, and the effects of poverty, would be the most powerful way to reduce child maltreatment,” Drake said.

Drake and his colleagues found that about 17 per 1,000 Black children were abused or neglected in 2009, compared to only 9 in 1,000 White children. The study noted that almost three times as many Blacks as Whites live below the poverty line, and that economic need plays a huge role in child abuse.

Elizabeth Bartholet, a professor at Harvard Law School supports the study’s findings. “There is no good evidence Black kids are removed for reasons related to bias,” she said at a recent conference on race and child welfare hosted by Harvard. “We need to focus on prevention of maltreatment and protection of Black children as well as White,” she added.

The study is not without its critics.

Sondra Jackson, Executive Director of the Washington, D.C.-based Black Administrators in Child Welfare said that this study is yet another attempt to shift the discussion away from race and toward other causes like poverty. “People can use research to disprove stuff they don’t want to deal with,” she said.

Richard Wexler, Executive Director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform (NCCPR) offered critical comments about this and other studies, saying they are rife with fatal flaws in that they fail to take into account that child welfare decisions are affected by both class and racial biases, and they reinforce each other.

“Three-quarters of all “substantiated” cases of child maltreatment involve neglect,” said Wexler. He noted that state statutes typically define neglect as lack of adequate food, clothing, shelter or supervision – “the definition of poverty.” Wexler added, “It makes perfect sense that poverty, in addition to causing higher rates of infant mortality, low birth weight, etc. would both contribute to more actual maltreatment, if only due to the additional stress that comes with being poor, but also, more important, to the appearance of more maltreatment when the poverty itself is confused with neglect.”

Wexler and other critics have noted that since Blacks are disproportionately poor, they are disproportionately at risk for being mislabeled as guilty of neglect. “To know where the class bias leaves off and the racial bias begins, it’s necessary to use methods that control for poverty,” said Wexler. He noted that studies conducted by the NCCPR has shown that caseworkers are more likely to describe a child as “at risk” when the family is Black.

Wexler asked: “Why do these distinguished researchers believe that the bias that still is part of every facet of American life somehow disappears at the child welfare agency door, or the office of a doctor or some other mandated reporter of child abuse?” While acknowledging that he has seen improvement in attitudes about poverty and child protection, Wexler said the fact remains that so many are willing to “cop to class bias rather than be accused of racial bias is at least a small step in the right direction.”

The Washington University study also concluded that the rate of abuse among Hispanic children was proportionately higher than that of Whites but lower than that of Blacks. Researchers call it the “Hispanic Paradox.” So why is it that Hispanics, who suffer high poverty rates and poor access to health care, have fewer numbers of child abuse cases?

Researchers explain that the answer may lie in cultural factors. Drake and others have explained that Hispanic communities tend to be more child-centered and have stricter mores against the maltreatment of children than in Black communities. Polls and studies of racial attitudes have shown that many African Americans support physical discipline of children, which can sometimes lead to more serious abuse. Wexler said that understanding culturally specific factors that place Black children at risk is needed, as well as the role that poverty plays.

“Sometimes, very poor people have to make really awful decisions . . . We’re pretty darn sure that poverty is associated with abuse and neglect,” Drake said. “There is a lot of evidence that being poor is rough on people and rough on parents.” So long as our society permits such a large number of our children and young families to live in horrible economic circumstances, we can expect to see high rates of child maltreatment. Reducing current racial disproportionality in the child welfare system can be best achieved by reducing underlying risk factors that affect Black families, specifically poverty.”

And, still others call for more Blacks to be placed in administrative positions within the child welfare system and for more sensitivity training among teachers, caseworkers, and doctors.

I think that a holistic approach to child protection is necessary, one that addresses the individual, social, emotional, and physical needs of children and families. The training of social workers needs to be balanced with considerations of the role of macro-level poverty and community perspective simultaneously.

The problem of racism is still deeply ingrained and systemic in all of our institutions. Thus, the child welfare system does not exist in a vacuum, unaffected by the past and present treatment of Black people. Similar racial disparities can be found in health, employment, education and criminal justice. If there is a lack of equitable resources, if people can’t feed their children, pay their bills, or find ways out of the poverty of life, we shouldn’t be surprised to see this disturbing data on child maltreatment.

As long as we continually try to fix people rather than the institutional racism that burdens us all, the problems will persist and children will continue to be become hapless victims of the poverty of life and scores more will die.

Stacey Patton is a writer for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Japan Crisis Blamed for Cancelled Nigerian Elections

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

The tsunami in Japan was the latest explanation given for the failure to deliver ballots to all of Nigeria’s 150 million citizens.

Attahiru Jega, chair of the Independent National Election Commission, said the vendor’s plane carrying results sheets and ballots was diverted to carry relief supplies to earthquake-stricken Japan.

But, the botch up has prompted some activists to call for Jega’s firing.

"Prof. Jega was given almost one billion dollars to run this election - and he can't even get ballot papers printed on time? He has created a national fiasco of monumental significance," said Roland Ewubare, head of the National Human Rights Commission.

“There’s something fundamentally untoward about an electoral system that’s gobbled gargantuan funds and yet is susceptible to the kind of logistical snafus that aborted last Saturday’s polls,” said author Okey Ndibe. “Yes, democracy doesn’t come cheap. But, democracy is not simply the sum of periodic elections. Nor does it make sense to permit the ritual of voting to constitute a profoundly oppressive financial burden on a people who lack the most basic things that a human, every human, should be entitled to.”

Citizens of Africa's most populous nation are scheduled to vote next Saturday in a presidential election and for state governors the following week.

HBCU Morgan State University Shares in $95.8 Million Grant from NASA

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Grant is largest in school's history

Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American newspapers –

Morgan State University will receive a landmark $28.5 million portion of a massive $95.8-million, five-year grant from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. The grant, which allows the East Baltimore school to conduct research supporting NASA’s Earth and space science projects, is the largest in Morgan’s 144-year history.

Morgan will now play an integral part in the Goddard Earth Sciences Technology and Research Studies and Investigations (GESTAR) research team. “This grant represents a significant recognition of the quality of Morgan’s academic programs and research in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics),” says Dallas R. Evans, chairman of Morgan’s Board of Regents, in a prepared statement. “I am proud that NASA has acknowledged the talent of the students on our campus by selecting Morgan as a partner in GESTAR.”

The Universities Space Research Association (USRA) will lead the GESTAR participants, which includes Morgan professors and graduate students. The team will study some of the most prolific and pertinent issues in modern science, including atmospheric chemistry, polar climate change, oceanography and more.

School President Dr. David Wilson, who announced plans to double grants and research at Morgan in 10 years during his inaugural speech, celebrated the grant and its potential impact on students.

“Morgan is committed to its graduates being strong, not just in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields but also in critical thinking and global awareness and that is exactly what this grant will do,” said Wilson in a statement. “I am convinced that through this partnership our students will be provided with even richer experiences and many more opportunities, for example, to do internships at NASA. On the other hand, NASA benefits from having access to a more diverse body of talent from which to recruit in the future.”

It was Morgan’s commitment to STEM disciplines that prompted USRA to select the school for its elite research team. Morgan boasts doctoral programs in bioenvironmental sciences, the state-of-the-art Richard N. Dixon Center for Science Research and the Center for the Built Environment and Infrastructure Studies, which is currently being built.

Baltimore officials reacted to news of Morgan’s historic grant, including Maryland state Sen. Joan Carter Conway, who lauded NASA’s partnership with the school. “I am elated to hear that Morgan was selected for this partnership with USRA and NASA,” said Conway in a press release. “This really affirms the University’s stature in the higher education community as one of the nation’s leaders in producing African-American scientists and engineers.”

Among the objectives of the GESTAR team is to “increase the involvement of minority and women scientists in earth science research.”

The Johns Hopkins University and the I.M. Systems Group will join Morgan and USRA as members of the GESTAR team.

Georgia Residents Tell Riveting Stories of Unemployment

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By Kalin Thomas, Special to the NNPA from The Atlanta Voice –

ATLANTA – Thirty-seven year-old Tonya Pinkston was raised by her parents to get a good education, a good job, and to contribute to society. But, something happened while she was climbing that ladder to success – she was laid off three times.

"I have a college degree, but I never dreamed I'd be faced with no job security and wondering how I'm going to feed my family," said the single mother of an eight-year-old daughter.

It's becoming is a hauntingly popular refrain, some observers say.

Pinkston was just one of several panelists who testified at the Speak Out for Jobs event held recently to provide a forum for Atlanta's unemployed and underemployed.

Community activist and WAOK-AM personality Derrick Boazman said the forum – held at Trinity United Methodist Church – was an eye-opener for some observers.

"When you're used to eating three meals a day, you sometimes forget about those who can't," Bozeman said. "But now there are people who had big cars, big houses, and 401-ks who now find themselves in line at Hosea Williams Feed the Hungry," he said. "So, we're all in this together."

Metro Atlanta lost more than 12,000 jobs in 2010, statistics show, and its unemployment rate was 10.4 percent for the first quarter of 2011. That's why the 9 to 5 National Association of Working Women and Atlanta Jobs with Justice decided to sponsor the Speak Out event.

"This event is about unity. If we unite, we can make some changes and help create jobs," said Atlanta Jobs with Justice Coordinator Tony Romano. "We believe everyone deserves a job with dignity."

To get the crowd started, he yelled, "Don't bite your tongues – call a spade a spade. Now, let the Speak Out begin!"

Participants formed long lines at two microphones to give their testimonies. One man said he was unemployed and living in a shelter, but when he goes to fill out a job application, they won't accept it because he can't use the shelter as an address.

Another participant, Dracy Blackwell, tugged at the audience's heartstrings when she told of how four years of unemployment has devastated her husband. “It's been really hard on him. Sometimes he's suicidal," she said. "I want to see him feel like a man again."

Some observers offered solutions and hope. One woman talked about becoming an entrepreneur by selling Avon. And, a former homeless man said he now is working for the Homeless Task Force. "Don't give up hope!" he shouted.

One 17-year old girl noted she'd been looking for work to help her mother, who is a single parent. "Just the other day all of our electricity was cut off," she lamented.

To help relieve the pain, state Sen. Nan Orrock told the audience she's fighting to make Georgia sign President Obama's bill for extended unemployment benefits.

Romano added, "Our next step is to try to defeat the anti-immigration bill, which also affects jobs, and to keep holding events like this so we can videotape testimonies and put them on You Tube. We're hoping this will help us find solutions."

Georgia state Sen. Vincent Ford advised attendees to boycott the lottery. "Lottery ticket money comes from the working poor community," he said, "but you don't benefit from it."

After the program, organizers provided free lunch and free services, including: legal aid, resume help, food stamps, Medicaid applications, career counseling, child care, housing, health screenings, and even free massages and haircuts.

One participant, Alvin McCordy, said he was happy to get a haircut for an upcoming job interview. "The barbers treat people like me with compassion," he said. "I'm going to feel better and look better."

One barber, Siegfried White, said he doesn't mind offering free cuts on a Saturday – the day that barbers usually make the most money.

"Someone did this for me when I was going through my transition and I wanted to give back," he said.

Another barber, Gene Grisby, said participating in the program has become like a ministry for him. "I used to be homeless too," he said, "so I try to give these brothers some hope to let them know if I can make it, they can make it, too."

For her part, Pinkston said despite her dilemma, she remains encouraged and is considering starting her own business. She won't give up, she said, and read a poem that ended with the inspiring phrase: "Faith is everything."

Some in South Carolina Embracing Confederacy-era Values

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

NAACP is taking a stand against Southern celebrations of the “War Between the States”

The reverberations from down South over the Confederate flag and the 150th anniversary of the kickoff of the Civil War, can be felt even as far way as a Voorhees, N.J. gym.

That’s where the laughter of Sollie Walker, 64, a South Carolina native, can usually be heard above the clank of the weights and boom of voices at the gym just outside Philadelphia.

But, Sollie Walker wasn’t laughing last week as he was asked about the Confederate flag that hangs over his former state capitol building. Nor was he smiling when he talked about the upcoming Fort Sumter anniversary in South Carolina.

“Blacks, in my family as well as others, are really upset,” he said, especially over the cavalier preparations of some Whites for the celebration.

To many, the event commemorates the bombing of and invasion of the U.S. government by insurgents to preserve a way of life involving the buying and selling of human beings — Black human beings.

Last December the celebrations included a gala “Secession Ball” complete with period costumes.

NAACP president, the Rev. Dr. Lonnie Randolph said another celebration is coming up with the commemoration of the firing on Fort Sumter, the start of Civil War hostilities.

“The big event is on April 12 — that is the day Fort Sumter was fired on by the Confederacy. There will be another re-enactment of a firing on a military installation,” he said, adding the Fort Sumter installation is now under the management of the National Park Service.

“The National Park service has been very quiet about all of this,” he said.

Mississippi and South Carolina are the only two states that fly Confederate flags on state house property.

Derrick Johnson, head of the Mississippi state NAACP could not be reached for comment.

In South Carolina, Randolph said the local NAACP was not yet prepared to announce its plans for the commemorations.

In the past, the NAACP has shown its displeasure with the Confederate flag as well as Confederate galas forcefully.

The organization registered its disgust with the location of Confederate flag with the launching of a nationwide tourist boycott against South Carolina to end the practice of flying the Confederate flag over the statehouse. NAACP officials like Randolph, say the boycott has been successful, even though the flag was not moved all the way off the state house grounds.

“The monument on the statehouse ground is a shrine to White supremacy, yet they would not allow a monument to [slave revolt conspirator] Denmark Vesey in Charleston,” Randolph observed.

Vesey, himself a free man of color at the time, was captured and hanged but remains a hero to Blacks in that area.

Meanwhile, according to Randolph, monuments to White supremacists like John C. Calhoun and Nathan Bedford Forrest, founder of the KKK, dot the urban landscape and the countryside.

Though the flag was not moved all the way off the statehouse grounds, the impact of the NAACP nationwide boycott has been felt in other ways.

The boycott has been particularly successful in dissuading sports events from coming to South Carolina.

Myrtle Beach decided not to apply to host the 2012 Olympic Trials for Beach Volleyball for fear an NAACP boycott on South Carolina will hurt its chances at attracting the event, a decision that has left future sports tourism in question.

The state was previously embarrassed when the ACC baseball tournament was awarded to, and then withdrawn from, Myrtle Beach for 2011 to 2013; it was withdrawn after the NAACP raised concerns.

The boycott has also influenced the NCAA, which will not award predetermined championships to South Carolina. But, John Rhodes has said the boycott has had limited impact on Myrtle Beach because African-American tourists, unaware of the boycott, are still coming.

“People think this is some happy-go-lucky event,” said Randolph about the celebrations. “The Confederacy was a terrorist organization. We don’t re-enact things like Timothy McVeigh [the bomber of Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Okla.]. We don’t re-enact the people who bombed the World Trade Center and killed all those people on 9/11,” said Randolph.

In neighboring North Carolina, NAACP executive director, Amina Josey Turner, [whose mother, Dorothy Johnson Josey, once wrote for the Tribune and whose husband is a relative of Nat Turner] said she agreed with Randolph’s characterization of Confederates who deliberately bombed and attacked the U.S. government as terrorists.

“We’re decades away from Civil War time,” she said. “But we’re still reliving the wounds from that period, generations of racism and classicism. Yes, we do have an African-American president, but there is also a resurgence of racism and its attendant problems. They’re celebrating what was painful in Black history.”

Sollie Walker and experts agree the Civil War did throw a wrench into the South’s “economic system” that had been based on “theft of services” and the buying and selling of human beings.

After the war, control of the South temporarily passed to federal troops, who occupied the South from the 1860s to the late 1870s. But, after the election of Rutherford B. Hayes as President, federal troops were withdrawn. The old White ruling class and the poor Whites they controlled returned to power.

Utilizing a campaign of terror via groups like the KKK and the Red Shirts as well a system of Black Codes designed to keep Blacks down, they established a new kind of slavery that some say was worst than the first — sharecropping, which reduced former slaves to the level of serfdom. Blacks, though “free,” returned to their “place” on the plantation tilling the land and “sharing” it with the plantation owner.

Though Whites no longer engaged in the legal ownership of Blacks, these people of color remained dependent on Whites, since they had to “buy” their tools and equipment from planters who controlled them through such indebtedness.

It wasn’t until the 1960s that many of the most overt shackles of Jim Crow segregation were broken. Mechanization put an end to sharecropping, though in many cases Blacks culturally and economically still remain dependent on Whites even to this day even in the North.

In fact, some have described modern day prisons as the “New Jim Crow,” since so many young Black males are scooped up from the streets on minor drug violations or manufactured cases and thrown into modern prisons, which employ huge numbers of Whites as well as some Black corrections officers.

The prisoners are not educated or taught useful skills and in some cases their voting rights are taken away. Some refer to this system as the “Prison/Industrial Complex” — a new method of controlling Blacks that has been privatized to make money for eager companies, usually headed by Whites.

And, there is evidence that for many the Civil War is not over.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, despite Obama’s election, the number of hate groups at work in America for the first time has topped 1,000.

Meanwhile, “an anti-government ‘Patriot’ movement expanded dramatically for the second straight year as the radical right showed continued explosive growth in 2010,” the Center stated.

A graph on the front page of the report indicated that South Carolina alone may have as many as 170 neo-Nazi groups, as well as a substantial number of White supremacist groups.

“In South Carolina, we have the second highest number of hate groups in the country, more than the entire state of California,” said Randolph. “It’s not state’s rights these people want; it’s White supremacy,” said Randolph.

The memories of South Carolina disturb Sollie.

“When my grandmother would see that flag she would always say ‘there go my reparations.’ She said, ‘That flag means you got to pay me for all that free labor you got out of my mother and other slaves.”

The Rev. William J. Barber II, North Carolina’s NAACP president, commented about the resurgence of White supremacy in the report on the tea party released months ago.

“We have to have particular concern about supremacy attitudes, violence, hate language, particularly when it’s rooted in notions of restoring or taking back or redeeming the country,” Barber stated. “Because, in the American social-historical-political psyche, we have historical markers that tell us how dangerous this is to be given legitimacy.”

“We know in 1867 when the Ku Klux Klan, for instance, laid out its political purposes, it was about restoring and re-enfranchising, if you will,” stated Barber. “And, then when you go to the Reconstruction Era, you find this same attempt to spew this division, this hate language out … ‘we need to restore America. We need to take it back.’”

Barber moved on to 1963

“When George Wallace used this language and themes of division, very vitriolic hate language,” Barber said, “Medgar Evers was killed in June of that year …we had the bombing of a church (in Birmingham), four girls were killed at Sunday school and then we had a president (John F. Kennedy) assassinated.”

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