“Normal Is What Got Us Here”

By Anne Price | Medium

The COVID-19 crisis has exposed how racial inequities are baked into our economic and health systems, in large part due to anti-Blackness. One thing is for sure, we didn’t end up here by accident.

Nationwide, as a result of the rules we’ve created and the narratives we hold dear, Black and Latinx Americans are testing positive and dying of coronavirus at disproportionately higher rates. These communities are overrepresented in jobs that put them at risk of both becoming infected and of being laid off. In California, Black and Asian women have the highest daily risk of exposure to COVID-19. The hotel and restaurant industries have been hit particularly hard by the virus, and Latinx Californians make up 80 percent of dishwashers and housekeepers.

What we are witnessing today is the result of pervasive structural racism, and a worldview professing that profits are a higher priority than the actual needs of people and that government should protect markets at the expense of investment in public goods.

Read and share Anne’s full piece on Medium.

Build Black Women’s Wealth, Heal America

By Anne Price and Andrea Flynn | Inkstick

In this current moment, in which we are looking to enact near-term and sustainable solutions to address the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, we can learn how to climb out of economic catastrophe by looking at the experiences of Black women in America.

Black women have always felt the brunt of the cruel, profit-centered, dehumanizing rules of our economy – rules that have stripped them of power, dignity, and choice. We don’t need to look much further than the data on wealth inequality to see this reality.

Wealth is always important, but it is particularly crucial in moments of crisis, and those who have the least will be hurt the most. As of 2013, Black and Latina women had a median net worth of $200 and $100 respectively, compared to the median net worth of $15,640 for White women and $28,900 for White men. Wealth allows people to continue to pay their mortgage or rent, to access health care when they are un- or under-insured, and to quit a dangerous job – like one that exposes them to sexual harassment, or assault, or to a global pandemic – it allows people to continue to care for their families.

The experiences of Black women provide us a birds-eye view, not only for how racial wealth inequality will widen post-pandemic, but also how difficult it will be for women and their families to recover in the months and years ahead. Even before COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the US economy, Black women had still yet to fully rebound from the 2008 Great Recession. As a result of the last recession, Black Americans saw half of their wealth vanish.

Click here to read the full article.

The US’s Failed Response to the Pandemic Is Rooted in Anti-Blackness

By Jhumpa Bhattacharya | Truthout

With the speed of lightning, the coronavirus crisis is waking all of the U.S. up to a reality most Black people have known for decades — our country fails the most marginalized. Our systems were ill-prepared to help everyday people sans pandemic. Now in the midst of one, the sun is shining down on their cavernous cracks created by deep-seated anti-Blackness. The reality is we are a country built on a racist house of cards, and the pandemic is showing us how racism — specifically anti-Blackness — impairs our ability to respond, hurting all of us.

Anti-Blackness — the dehumanization, subjugation and lack of concern for Black people — exists in the makings of our neoliberal economy and almost every facet of U.S. politics. While most would concede that anti-Blackness existed in our history, many cannot see the continuation of anti-Blackness today. Coronavirus is making it very clear that entrenched inequities have a lot to do with anti-Black racism as data sets continue to show that Black people are contracting and dying from COVID-19 at shockingly high rates. We shouldn’t gloss over this fact or chalk it up to individual behavior of Black people. We should continue to advocate for disaggregated data on COVID-19 and dig deep to understand why this is happening. The answer holds the key to our collective well-being.

There has been a continued effort to deny Black people access to health care, which in turn impacts all people. For example, there is a shortage of hospitals across the country, particularly in rural communities and the South. These closures are due in part to the fact that the governments of many of the Confederate states refused to expand Medicare after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, due to anti-Black racism.

Click here to read Jhumpa’s full op-ed.

Want to Pass Guaranteed Income Policy in the U.S? Start With Black Women.

By Jhumpa Bhattacharya | Ms. Magazine

The COVID-19 crisis has revealed how deeply flawed our social safety net is.

In the last four weeks, close to 22 million people have applied for unemployment, and families across America are sleepless at night wondering how they will keep food on the table and a roof over their heads.

It is increasingly clear that what people need most is a direct, sustained, unrestricted cash benefit. The question on many people’s mind is, “How do we get there?

The answer: Start with Black women.

Policymaking does not happen in a vacuum. Multiple factors determine which policies can get passed—and which can’t—and among the main drivers of policymaking are narratives. More than just stories, narratives contribute to our understanding of the world. They are our cultural frames of reference and mental models, and play a significant role in how leaders create and implement policies.

Black women have been the subject of the most horrid, false, and damaging narrative—the myth of the “welfare queen”—which depicts them as promiscuous, dishonest and undeserving of public benefit programs. Politicians have used this narrative to systematically dismantle and divest from our social safety net. And this narrative also places hurdles in the movement toward Guaranteed Income.

Click here to read the full article.

Report | Re-Imagining a Bay Area Workforce System Grounded in Racial and Gender Equity

Re-imagining a Bay Area Workforce System Grounded in Racial and Gender Equity, a report released by the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, examines how women and people of color have made untold contributions across industries, despite being denied basic rights and fair wages due to racism, sexism, and xenophobia baked into our workforce policies and practices. These injustices are amplified by the COVID-19 crisis, and the report shows why we will need a workforce system designed specifically to meet the needs of marginalized groups in order to have a just and inclusive recovery.

Supported by ReWork the Bay, a collaborative of funders, advocates, workers, and employers housed at The San Francisco Foundation, the report focuses on a growing low-wage workforce, disproportionately comprised of women and people of color, forced by our policy decisions to live on the edge long before COVID-19.

As detailed in the report, the Bay Area’s most common profession, personal care or caregiving, is 80 percent female, largely done by women of color, and pays a median hourly rate of $11.68 — well below San Francisco’s minimum wage.

The region’s top five most common jobs, including retail and food prep, are heavily filled by women and people of color; drastically impacted by the pandemic through high risk of exposure, mass closures, or little or no benefits; and pay a median wage about $90,000 less than other common occupations more frequently taken by white men. The very jobs powering the region barely provide millions of workers enough to keep the lights on and put food on the table, much less weather a health emergency, lay off, or recession.

As a result, nearly 1 in 3 Bay Area households are unable to afford basic needs like childcare, transportation, and housing – despite many struggling households working multiple jobs in sectors considered high-demand and essential.

Drawing on interviews with workforce leaders, practitioners, and marginalized working people, the report examines racial and gender bias and inequities among Bay Area workforce institutions by:

  • Analyzing the impact of key federal, state, and local policies and practices on working people of color and women in the Bay Area;
  • Uncovering dominant narratives in the public workforce system in the Bay Area that drive investments, policies and practice, and examining the extent to which workforce organizations reinforce harmful narratives about people of color, women and work; and
  • Incorporating the voices of systems leaders, practitioners, and working people to uncover both the true barriers to work and promising approaches to addressing racial inequities.

Revealing a lack of holistic and innovative initiatives working to address pervasive racial and gender biases among Bay Area workforce systems, the report highlights key findings from stakeholder interviews and shares recommendations for systems reform.

Click here to read and download the full report (PDF).

Click here to read and download a landscape of the Bay Area’s workforce development system (PDF).

Finding Hope in Local Power: Advancing Racial, Gender, and Economic Justice in this Moment of Crisis

By Jhumpa Bhattacharya and Anne Price | Medium

Last week, the United States saw a staggering 3.28 million workers file for unemployment benefits, shattering the previous record of 695,000 claims filed in October of 1982. With businesses closed and people sheltering at home, there is little doubt that we are heading for a recession — and in a worst-case scenario, a steep recession followed by a sustained depression.

In an attempt to bandage this economic hemorrhage, the Federal Government passed the $2 trillion CARES package. More a relief package than an economic stimulus act, CARES provides emergency fixes, but does not go far enough. More phases to this legislation are hopefully coming as Congress dukes it out on the Hill to ensure all Americans are protected and cared for in what is an unprecedented global pandemic.

The good news is we don’t need to wait for Washington policymakers to make moves to protect Black and Brown communities and women who are facing higher levels of job loss and economic insecurity due to COVID-19. A lot can be done at the local and state levels, and localities are stepping up to fill much needed gaps to ensure racial and gender justice stays front and center in our response to the pandemic.

Read the full co-authored piece here.

Coronavirus Pandemic Gives Rise to Another Contagion — Xenophobia

By Aisa Villarosa | Medium

While issuing a proclamation of national emergency to help curb the spread of one virus, the President and other American leaders have actively promoted another contagion.

Condoned by the single most powerful figure in our government, the resurgent xenophobia tied to Covid-19 — also referred to as “Wuhan virus” and “kung-flu” by White House officials, politicians, and the media — has become weaponized and widely disseminated.

Nationwide surges in anti-Asian violence are again a norm, buttressed by harmful misinformation and further legitimized by institutions and communities. Universities have assured students that “fears about interacting with those who might be from Asia” are acceptable reactions. Many deploy the term “China virus” as if those of Chinese or Asian heritage are themselves a walking, breathing plague. Boycotts of Chinese restaurants and assaults on business owners, workers, and customers persist, driven by racist narratives of Asian food, services, and people being unclean and dangerous.

We are fighting two viruses — coronavirus and racialized hatred — and right now, one is much more relentlessly pernicious than the other. Far from isolated, this new era of “yellow peril” is the latest chapter in a deep American history marked by racism and xenophobia.

Click here to read her full piece.

 

28 Days of Truth Telling is Never Enough

By Anne Price

Black History Month was created in response to lies told about Black Americans.

Since its inception in 1926, Black History Month has not only served to celebrate overlooked contributions Black people have made in shaping American culture and history, but has also been a movement to correct distortions, falsehoods, and stereotypes about Black people and Black life.

In short, we get one month when it’s “okay” to talk about all the ways anti-blackness permeates our policies, programs, and practices — and that’s woefully inadequate.

We must move beyond a 28-day recognition of the extraordinary achievements of Black people by focusing on how to dismantle anti-blackness year-round. We have to continuously work to lift up the humanity of Black people, and focus on how anti-blackness maintains racial oppression and economic exclusion today, and will continue to do so without a sustained effort to address anti-blackness head on.

Click here to read Anne’s full piece.

Episode 30: We Keep Us Safe with Zach Norris

Listen to Zach Norris and Jhumpa Bhattacharya discuss systems reform and new visions of public safety as they explore takeaways from Zach’s new book, We Keep Us Safe: Building Secure, Just, and Inclusive Communities.


Who “deserves” to be safe? And who gets to define safety—and how?

Zach Norris joined Jhumpa Bhattacharya on the podcast to explore these questions and more through a discussion of his powerful new book, We Keep Us Safe: Building Secure, Just, and Inclusive Communities.

Zach is the Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and co-founder of Restore Oakland, a community advocacy and training center that aims to empower Bay Area community members to transform local economic and justice systems and make a safe and secure future possible for themselves and for their families. Zach is also a co-founder of Justice for Families, a national alliance of family-driven organizations working to end our nation’s youth incarceration epidemic.

Sharing detailed case studies and stories, We Keep Us Safe lays out a blueprint for reimagining our vision of public safety and reforming our justice systems in ways that prioritize constructive care and support over fear and punishment. 

Digging in on the book’s themes and inspiration, Zach and Jhumpa discuss the need to move away from false “he keeps us safe” narratives rooted in white supremacy and patriarchy to a “we keep us safe” model that centers impacted communities and their solutions for change.

“The leadership of this movement for genuine safety needs to come from people who have been hurt first and worst by mass incarceration,” says Zach. “[This movement] ultimately is for the liberation of everybody in this country.”

To listen to the full discussion, use the audio player above or subscribe to the Hidden Truths podcast on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, or Android. And if you like what you hear, leave a review for Hidden Truths on your favorite podcast platform.

Read the transcript here or download as a PDF.


To learn more about Zach Norris and his work, visit ellabakercenter.org and follow Zach on Twitter at @ZachWNorris. Learn more about and purchase Zach’s book, We Keep Us Safe: Building Secure, Just, and Inclusive Communities, here

Don’t Fixate on the Racial Wealth Gap: Focus on Undoing Its Root Causes

Inequality is a defining American issue, and perhaps no measure more accurately exemplifies the failures and injustices of historic and current-day economic decisions than the “racial wealth gap.” In the current political moment—when bold ideas to rebalance economic and political power, especially by race, are central to public debate—we have the opportunity to reevaluate how we think about racial inequality and how our current economic system has exacerbated it.

In Don’t Fixate on the Racial Wealth Gap: Focus on Undoing Its Root Causes, Insight Center for Community Economic Development President and Roosevelt Fellow Anne Price examines how focusing on the root of racial wealth inequality rather than fixating on the racial wealth gap can help us build a path toward a fairer and more sustainable economic and political system—one that will right our historical wrongs and prevent such injustices from occurring in the future.

Click here to download and share the report.