Archive for poverty
A handful of newly elected radical Republican governors are on a quest to destroy the Democrats electorate base by eliminating unions and passing stricter voter ID laws. They know this new law will reduce voter participation among a number of Americans of color, college students, the elderly, and the poor that typically vote for the Democratic Party. This law is being passed in many states under the pretext of voter fraud. Perhaps the governors themselves are perpetuating the greatest fraud in voter history to destroy the fabric of our democracy. The Republicans will stop short of nothing to get their way, if it means ramming their bills through the state houses and senate and removing all political dissidence. They are about dominance, reductionism, elimination, racism, classism, and the State Supreme Courts are validating these Republican-inspired voter ID laws.
Furthermore, the American people were hoodwinked into voting them back into power during the 2010 mid-term elections, and the only substance the Republicans have given us in the short time they’ve been in office is a far-right radical agenda and politics that operate outside of mainstream political thought. If the Republicans destroy the Democratic base and take full control of this country, they will place “federal policy and decision making” at the service of the wealthiest citizens of this country “who will fill the party’s coffers on an unprecedented scale.”
With the passing of new Voter ID laws, these states have added hurdles and rules that will hinder voter participation that will certainly affect a percentage of Americans of color, college students, the elderly, and the poor who will not be able to surmount this hurdle. In fact, it will deter them from voting, and this is on what the Republicans bank their political strategy. But it is up to the American people to protect our democracy and keep this country from turning into an elite plutocracy, the Republicans true political agenda. Every vote counts.
Governor Rick Scott of Florida signed a bill on Tuesday, May 31, 2011, that requires those seeking public assistance and those already on public assistance to be drug-tested, and they will have to pick up the cost for the test. This bill will affect approximately 58,000 recipients in the state of Florida. Since Americans of all races have lost their jobs, this piece of legislation, in the minds of scholars and practitioners, may be perceived to target so-called “criminally minded, welfare-depended blacks.” There are those who need some public assistance until the job market improves, which should obviate this racial stereotype. Howard Simon, Director of ACLU said:
Once again, this governor has demonstrated his dismissal of both the law and the right of Floridians to personal privacy by signing into law a bill that treats those who have lost their jobs like suspected criminals.
Many white Americans are already under the illusion that welfare is synonymous with people of color, specifically African Americans, resulting in various negative images such as “welfare queens” who eat well and drive fancy cars. The white racial frame can only see African Americans as the only racial group that is draining the system. Even white college students who prepare essays or speeches about welfare in our communication classes tend to overrepresent African Americans on the welfare rolls. However, they have overlooked in the research that more whites receive public assistance.
With this said, does Florida’s drug-testing measure deliberately target people of color, specifically African Americans, given the racial stereotype that they are lazy and want the government to take care of them?
Part Three. Recall that along with a few other Middlebury College students, I spent my January winter term working in a public school in the Bronx. Our Education Studies Program coordinated this valuable learning experience outside of Middlebury’s “bubble.” However, I found this “bubble” not easily escapable; at each turn I found the racist pumps that keep it inflated and witnessed rapid “repairs” to any momentary puncture of its surface, those longing for the fresh air of a counter-frame silenced by the same dominant ideologies that plague the halls of my campus. The following is part of a reflection on my experience.
One day I helped out in a classroom so loud the principal made multiple visits, but to no avail. As the substitute teacher yelled at the students, they responded by making fun of him. “McLovin” they taunted, something to which he did not take kindly. A vicious cycle of verbal attacks escalated between them as I sat down with a small group of students and worked to make the assignment accessible to them. As the pocket of students were producing amazing work, it was clear that if we simply divided up the room amongst us we could reach the students more individually and help them better to engage in the material. When I offered that suggestion to the sub he shut it down without the least bit of hesitation: “That would work in an ideal world, but this happens to be a world of criminals and rapists, and that is who these kids are going to become.”
When I informed the assistant principal of his remarks she halted in disbelief; the administration had just praised him with the offering of an extended position at the school. She thanked me for telling her and ensured he would never be welcome in the school again. “I never would have known,” she admitted. “He looks just like an educated guy.”
It was obvious that white, clean shaven, tie, and a dress shirt equaled educated. Just as obvious was the fact that if any of those elements were lacking it did not hold through. In defining the educated through the white racial frame, the assistant principal defined who her students will never be.
Note: This is an adumbrated version of a paper that was published in the web edition of the Boston Review on January 13, 2011. (The full text can be found here.)
“Culture of Poverty’ Makes a Comeback.” So read the headline of Patricia Cohen’s front-page article in the October 17, 2010 edition of The New York Times. The article was prompted by a recent issue of the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science under the title, “Reconsidering Culture and Poverty.” In their introductory essay, the editors, Mario Luis Small, David J. Harding, and Michèle Lamont, strike a triumphant note:
Culture is back on the poverty research agenda. Over the past decade, sociologists, demographers, and even economists have begun asking questions about the role of culture in many aspects of poverty and even explicitly explaining the behavior of the low-income population in reference to cultural factors.
Cohen begins with a similar refrain:
For more than 40 years, social scientists investigating the causes of poverty have tended to treat cultural explanations like Lord Voldemort: That Which Must Not Be Named. The reticence was a legacy of the ugly battles that erupted after Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then an assistant labor secretary in the Johnson administration, introduced the idea of a ‘culture of poverty’ to the public in his 1965 report on ‘The Negro Family.’
Cohen uncritically accepts two myths woven by William Julius Wilson, the prominent Harvard sociologist, and repeated by his acolytes: first, Moynihan was clobbered for bringing to light compromising facts about black families, and second, that this torrent of criticism constrained a generation of social scientists from investigating the relation between culture and poverty, for fear that it would be pilloried for “blaming the victim.” Thus, a third, patently self-serving myth: thanks to some intrepid scholars who reject political correctness, it is now permissible to consider the role that culture plays in the production and reproduction of racial inequalities….
The problem from the beginning was not Moynihan’s publication of what were actually well-established facts, but rather his distorted interpretation of these facts. Moynihan made the fatal error of inverting cause and effect. Although he acknowledged that past racism and unemployment undermined black families, he held that the pathology in “the Negro American family” had not only assumed a life of its own, but was also the primary determinant of the litany of problems that beset lower-class blacks…. In other words, the imbroglio over the Moynihan report was never about whether culture matters, but about whether culture is or ever could be an independent and self-sustaining factor in the production and reproduction of poverty….
If Moynihan’s critics were unusually vociferous, this was because they understood what was at stake. Moynihan and his supporters contended that the poor were victims of their own vices, thus shifting attention away from powerful political and economic institutions that could make a difference in their lives. If those institutions were absolved of responsibility, the poor would be left on their own.
….If the cultural practices under examination are merely links in a chain of causation, and are ultimately rooted in poverty and joblessness, why are these not the object of inquiry? Why aren’t we talking about the calamity of another generation of black youth who, excluded from job markets, are left to languish on the margins, until they cross the line of legality and are swept up by the criminal justice system and consigned to unconscionable years in prison where, at last, they find work, for less than a dollar an hour, if paid at all? Upon release they are “marked men,” frequently unable to find employment or to assume such quotidian roles as those of husband or father.
….The new culturalists can bemoan the supposed erasure of culture from poverty research in the wake of the Moynihan Report, but far more troubling is that these four decades have witnessed the erasure of racism and poverty from political discourse, both inside and outside the academy….
Thus there is no thought of restoring the safety net. Or resurrecting affirmative action. Or once again constructing public housing as the housing of last resort. Or decriminalizing drugs and rescinding mandatory sentencing. Or enforcing anti-discrimination laws with the same vigor that police exercise in targeting black and Latino youth for marijuana possession. Or creating jobs programs for disconnected youth and for the chronically unemployed. Against this background, the ballyhooed “restoration” of culture to poverty discourse can only be one thing: an evasion of the persistent racial and economic inequalities that are a blot on American democracy.
United for a Fair Economy has a new pdf report (see here for free downloadable copy) on the greater impact of this Bush Depression on people of color, and focuses on the impact on black Americans and Latinos. A few of their conclusions are these:
Blacks earn 62 cents for every dollar of white income, and Latinos earn 68 cents for every dollar of white income; Blacks and Latinos are 2.9 and 2.7 times as likely, respectively, to live in poverty than whites; Black and Latino children are 3.3 and 2.9 times as likely, respectively, to live in poverty than white children.
These proportions of about three fifths have hung around now for many decades in the data we have on black Americans. The data on Latinos are not as lengthy, but these are likely true going back for decades too, for Mexican Americans and other Latinos. They provide much more detailed data on the economic situations of these groups.
They also make some very good suggestions for change, including programs to protect people with homes in loan trouble, getting rid of low taxes (Bush taxes) on the rich, and focusing on programs to help especially high unemployment areas. There is much good data in this report, and it is readable for students. It is noteworthy that the corporate-controlled mainstream media give little attention to the crisis level economic conditions in communities of color.
Rollingout.com has a nice personal interest story, with a very important point. The story is about the Imafidon family, a black-British family, and its very-very-high-achieving children. First there are the two nine-year-old twins, Peter and Paula, who are the youngest to
ever pass the University of Cambridge’s advanced mathematics exam. That’s on top of the fact they have set world records when they passed the A/AS-level math papers.
Nine years old! But these two children are not alone, because their sister Anne-Marie
holds the world record as the youngest girl to pass the A-level computing, when she was just 13. She is now studying at . . . Johns Hopkins University …. Sister Christina, 17, is the youngest student to ever get accepted and study at an undergraduate institution at any British university at the tender age of 11. And Samantha, now age 12, had passed two rigorous high school-level mathematics and statistics exams at the age of 6…
The father immigrated to London from Nigeria three decades back, and he makes a key point about why these working class children have done well in England:
….. he denies there is some “genius gene” in his family. Instead, he credits his children’s success to the Excellence in Education program for disadvantaged inner-city children. “Every child is a genius,” he told British reporters. “Once you identify the talent of a child and put them in the environment that will nurture that talent, then the sky is the limit. Look at Tiger Woods or the Williams sisters … they were nurtured.”
Doubtless, he is underplaying parental efforts here, but still his point is dramatic.
So, of course, in the U.S. we starve and re-Jim-Crow our inner-city educational programs for decades, then when the Bush Depression kicks in, our governments’ solutions include giving a trillion dollars in aid to Wall Street’s white-collar, low-intelligence deviants, but cutting back on many local educational and other social support programs that develop young talent in areas where we need it.
Perhaps we need to send our (mostly white) politicians to study with this savvy father and his very talented kids. Maybe they can get their “low IQs” up a little?
On the front page of the New York Times last Saturday (December 14, 2009), Duff Wilson reported on a federally funded team of researchers from the Universities of Rutgers and Columbia who revealed that children covered under Medicaid are prescribed antipsychotic medications at a rate four times that of children who are covered under their parent’s insurance. In fact the article reported that
Medicaid children are more likely to receive the drugs for less severe conditions than their middle-class counterparts, the data shows.
The article goes further to ask whether these tactics of medicating children are simply a cost-effective technique to control the problems of poor children rather than using techniques and strategies created for children within a higher socioeconomic bracket. This is very important, for it validates what my research and book, released June 2009 and titled: White Prescriptions?: Black Males and the Dangerous Social Potential of Ritalin and Other Psychotropic Drugs critically discusses.
Within my book I looked at the Medicaid system in Illinois and Florida. More specifically I investigated a specific list of psychotropic medications as it related to Black males juxtaposed against the number of all other groups covered under the state systems. The data revealed that Black males were disproportionately medicated than all other groups prescribed these strong medications. A system of social control is in operation as it relates to children, specifically males of color within the U.S. The U.S. and the government have a history of diagnosing and medically treating marginalized children.
For example, on December 30, 1969, John D. Ehrichman, Domestic Affairs Advisor of then President Richard M. Nixon sent a request to the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. The president wanted the Secretary’s opinion as to the advisability of setting up pilot projects embodying some of [the] approaches presented by Arnold A. Hutschnecker, M.D., in his 1,600 page memo which advised the government to conduct nation-wide testing on all children six to eight years old. Such children would be put in special camps, and attend counseling sessions and day care centers that specialized in correcting their violent, delinquent tendencies. his national testing approach would attempt to detect and treat children who possessed homicidal and other violent tendencies.
Hutschnecker, who was at the time engaged in psychotherapy, hoped his proposal for nation-wide testing would allow those children identified as having problems to be subjected to corrective treatment. This line of thought and focus on these children continues today with the federal government, in combination with pharmaceutical companies, is continuously trying to prove the safety of and advocating the use of antipsychotic and other behavioral stimulant drugs in the behavior treatment plans for school age children. For example, in the 1990s, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) attempted to explain the occurrences of violence within the inner cities. Their basis was founded on the possible biological and genetic defects in Black Americans. They proposed to do numerous studies that would have involved intrusive measures such as spinal taps, brain studies, and blood tests. Strong opponents halted the initiative, which resulted in the later resignation of Fred Goodwin, former head of the NIMH. It has been reported [at opensecrets.org] that the total electoral contributions donated by pharmaceutical companies to state and federal electives in 1990 were $3,273,367. In 2006, the donations had blown through the roof to $19,598,807. In 2006, out of the 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, 388 received a total of $9,481,486. Out of the 100 Senators, 92 received a total of $4,592,729 in pharmaceutical contributions. In 2006, Senator Clinton was number fourteen on the top twenty list of senators who received contributions ($124,855). Within this period, the top six contributors were Pfizer, Inc. ($1,743,839), Amgen Inc. ($1,150,925), GlaxoSmithKline ($1,108,101), Johnson & Johnson ($747,215), Abbott Laboratories ($675,896), and Eli Lilly & Co. ($540,921). During the 2008 presidential primaries the top six were Amgen Inc. ($686,500), Pfizer, Inc. ($648,971), GlaxoSmithKline ($520,716), Johnson & Johnson ($480,921), Roche Group ($370,227), and Abbott Laboratories ($366,800). These are the makers of the behavioral stimulants like Paxil, Zyban, Wellbutrin XL, Cleocine Phosphate, Zoloft and etc. These contributions have had an undoubted effect on elected officials.
For example, in 2005, President George W. Bush launched an initiative for a nationwide mental health screening of all children K-12th grade. Due to the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health (NFC), which was an Executive Order issued on April 29, 2002, his primary goal to create an integrated system of care that established identification, screening, and finally responding to metal health problems early within child welfare, public schools, criminal, and juvenile justice systems was enabled. Simply put, every child in the U.S. would be screened for mental health issues and forced prescribed care treatments. As of 2005, these measures have already been implemented in the states of Alaska; Arizona; Arkansas; California; Colorado; Connecticut; Delaware; Florida; Georgia; Hawaii; Idaho; Illinois; Indiana; Kansas; Kentucky; Louisiana; Maryland; Massachusetts; Michigan; Montana; Nebraska; New Hampshire; New Jersey; New Mexico; New York; North Carolina; North Dakota; Ohio; Oklahoma; South Carolina; Tennessee; Texas; Utah; Virginia; Washington; West Virginia; Wisconsin; and Wyoming.
This is an issue that should not be ignored but further investigated due to the lack of scholarship on the issue of medicating children. This also an issue that calls for scholars who are not afraid to look further than SES (socioeconomic status), but both race and gender.
The Center for Social Inclusion has a useful new report–Race, the Job Market, and Economic Recovery: A Census Snapshot. This should be useful for classes and other teaching purposes. It summarizes data on some impacts of the current economic depresssion (which is what it is for many groups) on
photo credit: Kieran Bennett
white, black, and Latino Americans.
As they point out in their summary press release from the report, recent Census data show that
rising poverty and unemployment, and decreasing access to healthcare are undermining recovery in communities of color, slowing the engine of America’s struggling economy.
• Unemployment is 26.5% for young Black men, 14.2% for Young Latino men, and 11.7% for young White men. • Wages dropped 5.6% for Latinos, 4.4% for Asians, 2.8% for Blacks, and 2.6% for Whites.
• Poverty has reached 24.6% among African Americans compared to 23.2% for Latinos, 11.6% for Asians, and 11.0% for Whites.
. . . Greater than 1 in 10 white men aged 20-29 are now unemployed, up from approximately 1 in 20 when the recession began November of 2007. Those are sobering numbers. Graver still, a devastating 1 in 4 Black men and 1 in 6 Latino men, aged 20-29, have become unemployed.
Especially in hard economic times, racial inequality is quite obvious, as these Americans of color pay a very heavy price for the poor corporate and other political-economic decisions of the mostly white and male capitalistic elites and their political allies. The report points out that losing jobs also means losing health insurance for many workers. So,
• The percent of uninsured is 30.7% among Latinos, 18.9% among African Americans, 17.1% among Asians, and 10.8% among Whites.
In addition to showing once again that this is far from an egalitarian country, these data help explain why the demonstrators in Washington, DC, yesterday (Sept. 12), estimated around 50,000, against President Obama and his health care plan were almost all white. Whites as a group simply are not hurting nearly as much as black and Latino Americans, and many other Americans of color, are when it comes to jobs and health care.
The report calls on government to make federal and state “stimulus” efforts extend realistically to all communities of color, which they currently do only in a very limited fashion. It also calls for a much “better job” of government reporting on just how the stimulus money is being spent, and for whom.
“It’s time to act. Economic recovery will exist in name only for too many of our neighbors if we don’t put in place the policies that are needed to reach everyone,” said Maya Wiley, executive director of the Center for Social Inclusion. “The newly poor are disproportionately women, children, Black, Latino and Asian. We can not let a massive recovery effort bypass the hardest hit.”