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To Be Equal

Guest Editorials

Eradicating Childhood Poverty One Nose At A Time

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” —Franklin D. Roosevelt, Inaugural Address, January 20, 1937

Broadcasting from a refugee camp in Sudan on Christmas day in 1985, Comic Relief U.K., the British charity behind Red Nose Day, spearheaded a fundraising phenomena that, decades later, continues to chip away at the global childhood poverty rate and has made its symbol, a clown-style red nose, a popular, poverty-fighting fashion accessory.

The telethon was started by comedians who believed they could raise awareness and money, with the help of mass media and celebrities, to change and save the lives of children living in poverty in the United Kingdom and abroad. Since its first televised broadcast, Red Nose Day has raised more than $1 billion in donations for organizations dedicated to eradicating poverty—and for the first time in the event’s long and successful history—Americans have been invited to put on red noses and assist in the widespread effort to transform the lives of children living in poverty globally, and across our nation.

One in five children in the United States live in households with incomes below the assigned federal poverty level—$23,550 a year for a family of four. Not surprisingly, our nation’s tremendous child poverty rates are highest among its most vulnerable citizens: Black, Hispanic and American Indian children. Analyzing the plague of childhood poverty through a global lens, the numbers are far more devastating. Of the estimated 2.2 billion children living in the world, one billion—one out of every two children in the world—lives in poverty.

No matter what continent, country or community you call home, growing up in a poor family does not happen by chance, which means defeating childhood poverty will not happen without employing targeted, effective strategies.

For our longstanding work with at-risk youth through our signature Urban Youth Empowerment Program, the National Urban League has been recognized and selected as one of twelve U.S. based poverty-fighting charities to benefit from Red Nose Day’s television fundraising event. The money raised will be used to fund programs—like ours—that address the immediate needs of children and young people living in poverty in the U.S. and internationally in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Our Urban Youth Empowerment Program is a powerful example of work already being done to change the lives of young people by providing them with opportunities through life skills training, education, mentorship, internships and on-the-job training—all strategies research and experience tells us can help lift the most vulnerable from a life mired in poverty. Through our work, we have impacted and improved the lives of more than two million young people and adults annually through direct service programs implemented by 94 Urban League affiliates—serving 300 communities in 36 states and the District of Columbia. With the continued help of our donors, and our new partnership with Red Nose Day, we will continue to empower youth and impact and improve thousands more lives in hard-hit communities.

Red Nose Day crossed the proverbial pond and landed on our shores in a live, star-studded special, airing Thursday, May 21. The three-hour benefit promises A-list artists from the worlds of film, television, comedy and music for a night of entertainment for an important cause.

Anyone and everyone can—and must—play a part in the struggle to eradicate childhood poverty around the world..

The red noses are the official symbol of the movement and would become a symbol of your commitment to make a difference. Wear your nose to support the cause. Wear your nose to inspire others—“because the more you nose, the more you help.”

Marc H. Morial is president and CEO of the National Urban League.

Marc H. Morial is president and CEO of the National Urban League.


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Blacks Need To Join Discussion On The Economy

BY BENJAMIN F. CHAVIS, JR.

One’s worldview or social perspective is mainly informed by a matrix of different socioeconomic and political circumstances. A polling of Black America about the current “recovery” of the economy of the United States would produce a dramatically different set of responses from the polling results of White America That is because the vast economic inequality between Blacks and Whites in the U.S. today appears to be escalating.

According the latest reports from the U.S. Department of Commerce, the steady overall pace of the recovery of the economy continues grow and expand. Yet while there was a .7 percent decline in the economy for the first quarter of 2015, the forecast for the remainder of 2015 looks very favorable and profitable, especially for those who are already wealthy.

I have always believed that Black Americans should become much more aware of the economic trends that are affecting the U.S. economy as a whole. Too often we get left out of the national discussion concerning the economy because we do not consistently articulate the overall daily national economic interests of 45 million Black Americans.

While it is important to continue to cite the fact that the current annual Black American spending in the U.S. economy totals more than $1.2 trillion, how do we really leverage that fact to help empower Black American families and communities to get out of poverty? Economic productivity is not just about how much a person or a group spends. Economic productivity is also about how much a person or a group produces, invests, and leverages to achieve sustainable financial development and empowerment.

The wealth gap between Black and White Americans continues grow wider. The U.S. Census Bureau reported in 2011 that the median White household had $111,146 in wealth holdings, compared to only $7,113 for the median Black household. Four years later, that gap has widened to the point that it is now being called the “racial wealth gap.”

The state of Black America’s economy has to be a priority issue that is addressed in every municipality and in every state where Black Americans are concentrated. This also needs to be addressed as well at the federal level not once a year but every day of every month in each of the four quarters that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is determined and debated. The GDP, as defined by the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis, is the value of the aggregate production of goods and services in the United States and that is adjusted for price changes.

Black American economists and professionals in the financial services arena should formally issue on a quarterly basis a report on the Black American GDP. Do not misunderstand what I am calling for and the reason for doing such a report routinely each quarter. This is not just about statistics. This is about the need to make the national economic debate more inclusive of the economic interests of the Black American community.

We are grateful to the National Urban League for its annual report on the State of Black America that is published each year. Its 2015 report, State of Black America—“Save Our Cities: Education, Jobs + Justice,” that documented the facts that economic inequality between Black and White Americans was rapidly increasing across the nation. Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, emphasized, “Black America is in crisis—a jobs crisis, an education crisis and a justice crisis.” I agree with Morial and I would add that Black America’s crisis today is also an economic crisis.

We should remain vigilant and not let the disparities or the increasing economic inequalities break our spirit. We have been through hard time before today and we will face hard socioeconomic times in the future. Our ancestors did not let racism, injustice and inequity break their collective and individual determination to make progress even in the face of brutal and institutionalized oppression. Our struggle and labor for economic equality will continue in America and throughout the world. Let’s keep pushing forward to advance the social and economic progress of Black America.

Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is the president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and can be reached for national advertisement sales and partnership proposals at: dr.bchavis@nnpa.org; and for lectures and other professional consultations at: http://drbenjaminfchavisjr.wix.com/drbfc.


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Justice Is Not Blind

BY JULIANNE MALVEAUX

When racist attitudes, either conscious or subconscious, are combined with the discretionary powers that law enforcement officers have, the result is a differential outcome, with African Americans more likely to be the targets of “blind justice.”

Most of our politicians and leaders are exploiting subconscious racism, and pandering to explicit racial fears. Even worse, they are rewarded when they say they are “tough on crime.”

Soledad O’Brien documented some of these attitudes in her most recent “Black In America” series. Included was an interview with a young Black man was stopped more than 100 times as he stood outside his college. Of course, he’d done nothing wrong, but police officers, “doing their duty,” felt free to harass him.

In a more telling segment, two young men, one Black and one White, staged the “stealing” of a bike to show how members of the public responded to watching the apparent theft. The young men were dressed similarly—T-shirts, casual pants, caps. People walked by as the White guy did everything he could to break the lock on the bike, including using a chain cutter. One even offered to help him take “his” bike, even though he acknowledged it was not his.

Within moments of the Black man approaching the bike, White people, one or two of whom called 911, surrounded him. As opposed to the benign response the White guy got, the Black guy was simply assumed to be a criminal.

How does this play out on the streets and with officers of the law? Police officers use their discretion selectively. A Black man (Eric Garner) selling loose cigarettes is manhandled, arrested, and dies when he is choked and cannot breathe. Most have seen the video by now, and wonder why Daniel Pantaleo was not charged with any crime, even though he used an illegal chokehold on Garner.

Pantaleo could have told Garner to move on, or he would risk arrest. Instead, Pantaleo and his posse of lawless cowboys chose to kill the man. Would a White man be similarly treated, or did unconscious racism play into the callous way Eric Garner was treated?

During the late 1990s, Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s “stop and frisk” policies resulted in African American men being stopped more than five times as frequently as Caucasians, even though these frisks led to nothing more than the humiliation of Black men, some simply coming off the subway or walking down the street. Hispanic men were stopped about three times as often as Caucasians. White men were stopped and frisked less frequently than others. Unconscious racism? Discretion? The law sanctions both.

Stop and frisk incidents increased dramatically with no concomitant increase in crime. However, since New York Mayor Bill Blasio took office, the number of stop and frisk incidents has dropped by almost three quarters, again with no increase in crime. It appears that whether stop and frisk occurrences are aggressive or gentle; the incidence of crime does not increase.

There are many occurrences where police can make discretionary decisions. First, they can decide whom to stop. Then, when they stop they don’t have to arrest or frisk. A simple conversation that explains the reason for the stop will yield a more favorable outcome than wrestling someone to the ground, knee in his or her back, or handcuffing someone without explaining why.

Police resistance to the use of body cameras suggests these officers know that they are out of order in dealing with the public. Once someone is arrested, the police have the right to charge him or her with a minor crime or let them go. Finally, prosecutors can decline to bring charges. All of these decisions can be minimized or maximized, based on discretion.

Justice is not blind when police officers use discretion to stop one segment of the population to harshly mistreat and let the other population slide. If police officers wonder why there is antipathy and distrust toward them in the African American community, somebody needs to tell them that their use of discretion suggests that justice is hardly blind.

Julianne Malveaux is author and economist. She can be reached at www.juliannemalveaux.com.