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Income Inequality Rises In all 50 States

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Income inequality is rising and it affects workers in every state, according to a new report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

Researchers from EPI, a nonpartisan think tank focused on low- and middle-income workers, analyzed Internal Revenue Service data for all 50 states and found that not only was the income gap between the top 1 percent of earners and everyone else getting wider, but that the disparities were not just confined to financial centers in the east or technology centers on the west coast.

All workers took a hit during the Great Recession, but top earners have recovered faster than low- and middle-income earners. According to the report, the top 1 percent of earners captured all of the income gains (100 percent) in 17 states following the Great Recession.

And Blacks live disproportionately in states that experienced the greatest income inequality.

In seven of those states where the top 1 percent captured 100 percent of the income growth since the Great Recession, the share of the population that is Black is higher than the national average. Those states include Delaware (22.1 percent), Florida (16.7 percent), South Carolina (27.9 percent), North Carolina (22 percent), Louisiana (32.4 percent ), Virginia (19.7 percent) and New York (17.5 percent).

With the exception of Texas, where Blacks account for 12.4 percent of the population, the Black population is higher than the national average in states where the top 1 percent collected at least 80 percent of the income growth including Illinois, Arkansas, Michigan, New Jersey, and Maryland.

Mark Price, an economist at the Keystone Research Center in Harrisburg, Penn., said in a statement that state leaders and policymakers need to realize that inequality is a problem everywhere.

“If states are not passing progressive taxes and raising revenue from top earners, they are missing out on a large and growing source of income,” said Price.

Researchers found the greatest disparities between the top 1 percent and the rest of workers in New York and Connecticut where the top 1 percent earned 48 times more than the bottom 99 percent.

Disparities exist in every state.

“Even in the 10 states with the smallest gaps between the top 1 percent and bottom 99 percent in 2012, the top 1 percent earned between 14 and 19 times the income of the bottom 99 percent,” EPI reported.

Estelle Sommeiller, a socio-economist at the Institute for Research in Economic and Social Sciences in Greater Paris, France and co-author of the report, said that every state and every region in the United States is going to have to grapple with the effects of rising inequality.

“Our study paints a picture of the top 1 percent in each state. While there are differences from the 1 percent nationally, no state has escaped the troubling growth of inequality.”

The report comes on the heels of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address where he urged employers to invest in their workforce and to pay employees overtime that they earned.

“And to everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, try it,” urged Obama. “If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.”

According to a 2014 report on wages by the Center for American Progress, a progressive, education and research think tank, said raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would increase the collective income of people of color by $16.1 billion.

As income inequality rises, labor union leaders, policy makers and workers express heightened concern about stagnant wages.

During a recent Raising Wages conference at the Kellogg Center at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C,, Richard Trumka, president of AFL-CIO, said that immigration and race are also work and wage issues.

“We must have a pathway to citizenship for all immigrants, and we must be a country of dignity for all people, regardless of race or ethnicity,” said Trumka. “Justice at work and justice in our community are intertwined, and both must advance for either to grow.”

Lakia Wilson, a guidance counselor in the public school system in Detroit, Mich., said that even though you hear on television that the economy is coming back, it hasn’t come back for everyone.

“I’m struggling, all of my counterparts in my profession are struggling and in other professions we’re still struggling, so the economy is only coming back for some,” said Wilson.

Wilson, a Detroit native, with no children and degrees in elementary education and counseling, said that she considers herself part of “the working poor,” because sometimes she can’t even afford gas money to get to work.

In 2004, Wilson purchased home and used a part-time job at the community college to help cover her bills. When she lost that job, she also lost her house. She rescued her house from foreclosure by cashing out her retirement account.

Now Wilson said that sometimes she secretly envies people with food stamps at the grocery store.

“I’m counting out every penny for groceries and I realize that I don’t have enough to make it,” said Wilson.

Wilson added that people of color need to know that the struggle is real and that all workers have to get involved from the pizza workers to the professionals.

“We all have to join together to raise the wages,” said Wilson. “The money is there, we need to demand it.”

The EPI report said that today’s levels of inequality in the United States raise a “new American Dilemma.”

It explained, “In the next decade, something must give. Either America must accept that the American Dream of widespread economic mobility is dead, or new policies must emerge that will begin to restore broadly shared prosperity.”

Blacks Urged to Ramp Up Involvement in Internet Issues

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By George E. Curry
NNPA Editor-in-Chief

NASSAU, Bahamas (NNPA) – Blacks need to become more involved in what might appear to be arcane debates over “net neutrality – having an open Internet – because the fast-evolving Internet will have a major impact on their lives, including how they consult with medical providers in the future, says Kim M. Keenan, president and CEO of the Multicultural Media & Telecom Council (MMTC).

“The next wave is going to be telemedicine,” she said, referring to what the American Telemedicine Association defines as the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications – including smart phones, email, and video – to improve a patient’s clinical health status. “The day is going to come when better care is going to come through telemedicine and if our grandparents don’t have access to broadband – fast broadband – they are going to be left out.”

Keenan, who recently assumed her new position after serving as general counsel and secretary of the NAACP, made her comments here in an address to publishers attending the mid-winter conference of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA).

The Multicultural Media & Telecom Council, which recently changed its name from the Minority Media & Telecom Council, is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and preserving equal opportunity and civil rights in the mass media, telecommunications and broadband industries, and closing the digital divide.

Keenan said African Americans should be concerned about the elderly, young students and everyone in between, all of whom are affected by a digital divide.

According to a study by John B. Horrigan, there is an economic divide that parallels the racial divide. It found that compared to more affluent students, 12.3 percent of all low-income students either lack access to the highest speed tier or were overrepresented in the bottom tier. It also found that “13.8 percent of all African American students who, compared to whites, either lack access to the highest speed tier or are overrepresented in the lowest tier.”

Keenan said that gap will likely expand under some programs, such has those launched by Google, that will target certain neighborhoods with service that will be 10 times faster than other offerings.

Although there is universal agreement that the Internet should be open to all, there is sharp disagreement on how that should be implemented.

MMTC favors placing consumer broadcast services of the jurisdiction of Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, but others –including President Obama – believe it should be covered by Title II of the act, an older section that initially covered telephones and other utilities.

Obama said in his Nov. 10 statement, “The FCC is an independent agency, and ultimately this decision is theirs alone.”

In its filing with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), a coalition representing more than 40 major racial and ethnic civil rights organizations, including MMTC, Rainbow PUSH and Blacks in Government (BIG) said:

“The National Minority Organizations recognize that access to broadband, adoption, and digital literacy are critical civil rights issues broadband is essential to living a life of equal opportunity in the 21st century. Without broadband access, low income and middle-class Americans – and particularly people of color – cannot gain new skills, secure good jobs, obtain a quality education, participate in our civic dialogue, or obtain greater access to healthcare through tele-health technologies.

“…If strong consumer protections are adopted and enforced, and a presumption against paid prioritization is adopted, Section 706 would be well suited to meet the goals of the Commission and communities of color. This authority will enable the Commission to adopt and enforce smart net neutrality rules that meet the goals of transparency and equity, while fostering broadband adoption and informed use. Section 706 has been successful in paving the way for today’s open Internet, protecting consumers, promoting digital literacy and civic engagement, connecting schools and communities, and stimulating employment and entrepreneurship.”

Because major Internet service providers, such as Comcast and AT&T, also favor coverage under Section 706, the civil rights coalition has come under blistering criticism.

Lee Fang, writing in the online publication Republic Report said, “In other words, something close to half of the entire civil rights establishment just sold out the Internet.”

MMTC issued a statement saying, “These recent posts are false, and we believe they subtly embrace coarse racial stereotypes.” It continued, “MMTC and the national minority organizations formed their views on the Open Internet independently of the telecom companies, with no financial quid pro quos. Their position in the Open Internet rulemaking is the same as FCC Chairman Wheeler’s position except that the minority organizations sought stronger consumer protections than the Chairman did – specifically, a fast-track complaint process modeled after Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.”

Keenan was still bristling at such criticism when she addressed NNPA publishers.

“People have basically said. ‘They bought y’all out. That’s why y’all have this position.’” Kennan said. “It’s so insulting that people think that as Black people, we can be bought or that we don’t care about who will make it right for our community – that we won’t do what’s right like normal people do.”

Keenan praised Jesse Jackson’s push to diversify Silicon Valley.

“Much has been said about Rev. Jackson, but if I were to look back over his lifetime and say, ’What is the most significant thing that he’s done, I would point to this,” she said. ”A company [Intel] invests $300 million and comes out and say, ’We’re going to make our workforce look like America, we’re going to make sure we have Black engineers, but not just engineers. ’They need to have Black lawyers, Black accountants.’ People focus only on so many engineers, but there’s a whole lot of these other people.”

She also lauded Black publishers, saying, “When you tell our story, it gets told in our voice.”

Report: Black Girls Should Matter, Too

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George E. Curry
NNPA Editor-in-Chief

WASHINGTON (NNPA) –Black girls are disproportionately suffering from punitive school disciplinary policies and actions yet society fails to take note of their plight the way attention is focused on Black males who get trapped in the school-to-prison pipeline, according to a report by the African American Policy Forum, a New York-based national think tank connecting academics, activists, and policy-makers whose goal is to dismantle structural inequality.

The report, titled “Black Girls Matter: Pushed-Out, Overpoliced and Underprotected,” was scheduled to be released on Wednesday, Feb. 4. A copy of the report was obtained in advance by the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) News Service.

Anyone who doubts that Black girls are being severely disciplined for minor infractions in school need to look no further than reporting in their local media to learn otherwise, according to the report.

The report noted:

“In 2007, a 6-year-old girl was arrested in a Florida classroom for having a tantrum. Later that year, a 16-year-old girl was arrested in a California school for dropping cake on the floor and failing to pick it up to a school officer’s satisfaction.

“In 2013, an 8-year-old girl in Illinois was arrested for acting out, and a 16-year-old girl in Alabama who suffers from diabetes, asthma, and sleep apnea was hit with a book by her teacher after she fell asleep reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in class. The student was later arrested and hospitalized due to injuries caused by violent interactions with the police. Also in 2013, in Florida, a 16-year-old was arrested when her ‘science experiment’ caused a small explosion in her classroom and a 12-year-old girl was threatened with expulsion from an Orlando private school unless she changed the look of her natural hair.

“In 2014, a 12-year-old girl faced expulsion and criminal charges after writing ‘hi’ on a locker room wall of her Georgia middle school, and a Detroit honors student was suspended for the entire senior year for accidently bringing a pocketknife to a football game.”

The U.S. Department of Education reported last March that for the 2011-2012 school year, “Black students are suspended and expelled at a rate three times greater than white students. On average, 5% of white students are suspended, compared to 16 % of black students.

“While boys receive more than two out of three suspensions, black girls are suspended at higher rates (12%) than girls of any other race or ethnicity and most boys.”

In addition, “Black students represent 16 % of student enrollment, 27 % of students referred to law enforcement, and 31% of students subjected to a school-related arrest. In comparison, white students represent 51% of students enrolled, 41% of referrals to law enforcement, and 39% of those subjected to school-related arrests.”

That disproportionate pattern begins at an early age.

Black children represent 18 percent of preschool enrollment but 48 percent of preschool children receiving more than one out of school suspension. On the other hand, White students represented 43 percent of preschool enrollment but only 26 percent of preschool children receiving more than one out of school suspension, according to the Department of Education.

The African American Policy Forum report grew out of a 2012 conference it convened on girls of color at the UCLA Law School.

“Girls have rarely been included in either the discussions about exclusionary disciplinary policies or the broader concerns about the underachievement of youth of color,” the report stated. “Yet the data suggest that Black girls face a variety of factors – historical, institutional, and social – that heighten their risk of underachievement and detachment from school, as well as the lifelong consequences of dropping out.”

It explained, “Research and public policy debates, however, often fail to paint a nuanced picture that addresses the degree to which girls are vulnerable to many of the same factors faced by their male counterparts. For example, reports about zero-tolerance and push-out policies frequently fail to disaggregate or highlight the consequences of such policies for girls of color. Available information about the challenges that they face in regards to suspension, expulsion, and other disciplinary practices often go underreported, leading to the incorrect inference that their futures are not also at risk.”

Among the report’s observations:

• At-risk young women say that in zero-tolerance schools, discipline receives a higher priority than educational attainment;

• Increased levels of law enforcement and security personnel sometimes make girls feel less safe and therefore less likely to attend school;

• Black girls sometimes get attention than males because they are perceived as more socially mature and self-reliant;

• Conflicts better addressed through counseling are too frequently referred to the juvenile justice system;

• Failure of schools to intervene in instances of physical or sexual harassment of girls contributes to their insecurity at school;

• Girls sometimes resort to “acting out” when their counseling needs are overlooked or disregarded; • School-age Black girls experience a high incidence of personal violence;

• Girls are often burdened with family obligations that undermine their capacity to achieve their goals and

• Pregnancy and parenting make it difficult for girls to engage fully in school.

Recommendations included providing funding programs that serve the needs of women and girls as well as men and boys; reducing the overreliance on punitive interventions; create an environment where students are free of sexual harassment; devise programs that help identify and assist students who have been sexually victimized or traumatized by violence; offer support programs for pregnant girls or mothers with young children and mobilize the public to help address the challenges facing young girls.

Authors of the report funded by the Schott Foundation stated, “This modest but long-overdue effort to cast light onto the lives of marginalized girls should be replicated and expanded across the nation.

Ideally, the conversation ‘Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced, and Underprotected’ engenders within communities and among philanthropists, policy makers, stakeholders, and advocates will lead to the inclusion of girls in efforts to address school discipline, pushout, and the pathways to incarceration, poverty, and low-wage work. We are hopeful that ongoing efforts to resolve the crisis facing boys of color will open up opportunities to examine the challenges facing their female counterparts.”

Non-Medical HIV Workers Flunk Test on Knowledge of Virus

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Most non-medical HIV health care workers earned a “D” when surveyed on the science and treatment of the virus, according to a new report released this week by the Black AIDS Institute.

While 70 percent of the HIV workers scored below 70 percent or the equivalent of an academic “D” grade, just 4 percent earned an “A,” the report said that “The average score on treatment-related questions was 56%, or an ‘F.’”

The Black AIDS Institute (BAI), a national HIV/AIDS think tank focused solely on Black people, surveyed more than 3,600 non-medical health care workers from AIDS service organizations, community-based groups and state and local health departments, “making it the largest ever knowledge assessment of the HIV/AIDS workforce and the first time that anyone looked at the level of science and treatment knowledge in the workforce,” said Phill Wilson, the president and CEO of the Institute.

More than 70 percent of the workers polled said that their organization offered prevention services, 62 percent provided treatment and prevention education, while nearly 50 percent offered treatment and care.

“Black-serving organizations represented the majority (56%) of organizations represented in the survey, with nearly one in three organizations serving people living with HIV (35%) and men who have sex with men (32%),” stated the report. “Seventy-five percent of participants were employees, 12% were consultants, and 13% were volunteers.”

Respondents from Ohio, Pennsylvania and Missouri recorded the highest average scores and North Carolina, Georgia and Florida recorded the lowest scores.

“HIV has evolved over time and today some of the main tools that we use to fight HIV are biomedical tools,” said Wilson. “In order to use those tools you have to have a competency in science and treatment.”

Although better tools exist today, health care professionals who work in the HIV/AIDS field worry that they may not have the labor force skilled enough to properly use those tools.

With a new infection rate that is eight times the new infection rate for Whites, Blacks account for 44 percent of all new infections in adolescents and adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Hispanics account for 21 percent of new infections.

Despite increased exposure to the effects of the AIDS epidemic, Black and Hispanic HIV health care workers tested lower than their White peers on the survey.

“This is true even after controlling for education, region of residence, time working in the AIDS field, or any other variable taken into account in the survey,” stated the report.

Wilson said that despite the disproportionate rate of HIV infections among Blacks and Latinos, HIV/AIDS awareness has historically been lower and the stigma associated with the disease has been higher in both communities.

“African Americans and Hispanic respondents may be entering the HIV field with a lower knowledge base concerning HIV/AIDS which increases the need for having training when bringing new staff on board,” said Wilson.

Wilson continued: “We do know that there are elevated levels of stigma in the Black and Latino communities around HIV. People who are entering the field who are Black and Latino are coming into the field with some of that baggage and that may influence their knowledge.”

The stigma is connected to knowledge, Wilson added, and when you increase knowledge you can reduce the stigma.

“If the non-medical healthcare providers and the outreach workers don’t have a high enough level of literacy, they are not equipped to fight the conspiracy theories that are pervasive in our community,” said Wilson. “The more knowledge they have the better equipped they are to address those issues that are in our community.”

Wilson said as more and more people get treatment and have a positive response to the treatment, the stigma will go down.

“This is not the AIDS epidemic of 1986, or 1996 or even 2000,” said Wilson. “Too many people, particularly in our community, still have memories of the old ways that you got tested where there was blood drawn and you had to wait a week or 10 days. Today, you can get an HIV test for free, there’s not necessarily any blood, it can be an oral swab or a finger prick, you can get the results back in a minute; you can even get the results in the comfort of your own home.”

The use of biomedical prevention tools has also emerged.

“In 2011, the HIV prevention enterprise dramatically changed with the release of results from the HPTN 052 trial, which found that antiretroviral therapy reduced the risk of sexual HIV transmission by 96 percent,” the report explained. “The implications of this landmark study were immediately apparent. The very drugs that have transformed HIV infection from an automatic death sentence to one that is often chronic and manageable also have the potential to stop the epidemic in its tracks.”

Wilson said that the most exciting recent developments in the field are the new scientific biomedical prevention tools.

“We now have the ability to potentially reduce HIV transmission by 96 percent,” said Wilson. “What that requires is for us to help people living with HIV to get linked, to care to stay in care and to reach viral suppression.”

Wilson noted that the survey is not an overall evaluation of the knowledge of the workforce, just an analysis of the science and treatment knowledge of the workforce.

“Treatment as prevention is new,” said Wilson. “[Pre-exposure prophalaxis] is new. A lot of these biomedical interventions have only come onboard over the last few years.We’re not saying that [HIV health care workers] have low knowledge about everything, they just have a low knowledge in this particular area.”

Wilson said that it’s important that non-medical health care workers receive training on the current HIV science and treatment tools, because Black people are disproportionately impacted by HIV and that Blacks are also the ones who are going to be disproportionately getting their HIV health care from clinicians who are not HIV specialists.

As more people gain access to health care under the Affordable Care Act, including people who are infected with HIV and those suffering from AIDS-related diseases, health care professionals have to evolve to meet the growing needs of the new consumers.

“We are calling for a national push for increased science and treatment knowledge in the HIV workforce,” said Wilson. “Because that is what it’s going to take to end the AIDS epidemic.”

Black Press Called 'Essential' to Future Progress

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By George E. Curry
NNPA Editor-in-Chief

NASSAU, Bahamas (NNPA) – A top Bahamas official praised the Black Press last week as essential to truthfully and creditably chronicling African American progress from one generation to the next.

Philip E. Davis, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Works and Urban Development, commended the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) for 75 years of excellence.

“It goes without saying that your relevance, with time, is all the more important as the stories of struggle and sacrifice are passed on to each generation of Blacks,” he said in a speech at the NNPA mid-winter convention here. “This is essential so that our youth and future generations understand and appreciate the price of what they enjoy today.”

NNPA publishers were also greeted by Minister of Tourism Obediah H. Wilchcombe. A former journalist, Wilchcombe pledged to advertise in NNPA newspapers to help attract tourists, especially African Americans, to the Bahamas.

In his speech, Davis said, “No one has the authority to tell your story like you can so as to aptly illustrate in the words of an old African proverb: ‘Until the lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunters.’”

Davis urged publishers to continue providing robust coverage of their communities while embracing the technology favored by young people.

“As you move to celebrate Black History Month beginning early next week, I encourage you to continue as responsible generational leaders, being the critical voice that gives the perspective that others are simply not equipped to give,” he said. “I also entreat you to embrace the technology of youth. Arming yourselves in this way will allow you to exponentially contribute to nurturing hearts and enlightening minds throughout the world.”

Davis drew a direct link between the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and recent unrest across the nation when unarmed African Americans were killed by police officers who were never prosecuted.

“Today, history screams as loudly in Ferguson [Mo.] as it did in Mississippi during the 1960s,” he said. “We must, though, be careful that the ideologies which led to our bonded and disenfranchised forebears to unrest and uprising are not used to rationalize the actions of those who resist the necessary casings of law and order.

“As journalists, your role as peacekeepers, therefore, can never be overstated. You must do all that you can to continue to be forthright and objective truth-tellers, calming the waters, while providing an accessible resource for young emerging leaders.”

Like African Americans, Davis said, the Bahamas has had its own struggles with racial tension. He said that history is “painfully punctuated with accounts of bloodshed and death, poverty and provocative policemen, incited cities and solemn cemeteries.”

He explained, “Much as that history derives from the abominable Jim Crow that survives today dressed in the fabled emperor’s new clothes.”

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