Actualizing the Potential of the 1619 Project

By Anne Price, President, and Jhumpa Bhattacharya, Vice President of Programs and Strategy

On August 18, 2019, the New York Times launched the 1619 Project. Curated by writer Nikole Hannah-Jones, the 1619 Project is a collection of essays and artwork from renowned researchers, activists, and artists brilliantly documenting the ways in which the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, and anti-Blackness continue to undergird our economic and social systems and policies, and deeply impact our American culture and narrative.

Among social justice advocates, 1619 quickly became the talk of the town. Our Twitter feeds were filled with high praise and love for it.

Yes, finally, we thought. This is exactly what we need to be able to diminish the false race vs. class dichotomy. Now more than ever, our colleagues won’t shy away from talking about the impact of structural racism in economic issues. Race will become a part of our collective vernacular, and we will finally stop hesitating to talk about how anti-Blackness — the devaluing and de-humanizing of people who are Black — is deeply rooted in our economy, the criminal justice system, and public benefit programs.

Perhaps that was wishful thinking.

We are headquartered in the Bay Area, which prides itself on being a progressive bastion of justice and equity. In some ways we are, but when it comes to talking about race, we’re no gold standard. There is still a great deal of reluctance, even among the progressive minded, to talk about race specifically, to consider the Black experience as unique and foundational to shaping our nation’s economic and social policies, and to embark on a serious and sustained effort to center Blackness as a necessary condition of economic liberation for all Americans.

We continue to encounter a class focus in our work on fines and fees, government-sponsored child support debt, and the future of workers — all of which disproportionately impact Black people. Many well-intentioned advocates working in these and other spaces are still not speaking to race for fear of backlash.

The 1619 Project shows us that we can no longer shy away from talking about race when talking about justice of any kind…

Read the full letter here >>>

Preserving Black-Owned Land Is One of Our Greatest Triumphs Against Racial Wealth Inequity

Click here to read Anne’s full piece on Medium.

When “Going Back” Means Staying Put

By Jhumpa Bhattacharya | Ms. Magazine

I’ve always had a complicated relationship with the word American. I hit all the marks by definition—I was born in the United States, in the Heartland, no less; have lived here my entire life; and my career has centered on making America a country that lives up to its values of freedom, justice and dignity for all. I balk at the idea that there is just one type of American.

Yet, like many children of immigrants, there is a seed planted deep within me that sprouts hesitation when it comes to fully claiming to be an American. Watching the President tell “the squad” to “go back to their countries” reminded me why.

My Brown skin can always be seen by others as inherently un-American. That reality haunts me.

Read the full article here >> 

Moving from Debate to Action

With the first Democratic primary debates taking place last week, we are seeing a more representative field of candidates take on the bigger and bolder policy ideas that have increasingly shaped today’s progressive policy visions.

While further clarity and commitment in articulating them is needed, we are seeing the issues of entrenched racism and sexism increasingly highlighted as the core drivers they are in fostering and sustaining deep and yawning economic inequities in the U.S.

From identifying maternal mortality and gender pay equity as racial justice issues, to putting reparations at the front and center of our national conversation, elected representatives and candidates are connecting the dots among race, gender, and wealth on a national stage.

At the Insight Center, we are committed to continuing to inform and drive this conversation through our work to spark, amplify, and seed progressive thought leadership.

This month, we are pleased to highlight our latest contribution to the national dialogue around bold, progressive policy proposals that are uniquely positioned to target wealth inequities at their roots in institutionalized racism and sexism.

Click here to read Anne’s full piece.

Why This Matters: The Racial Wealth Gap Is a Symptom of Our Long-Broken Economy

Insight’s Jhumpa Bhattacharya had the honor of partnering with the Roosevelt Institute on an issue brief highlighting how and why the Guaranteed Income conversation must address racial and gender economic justice. Roosevelt’s Rakeen Mabud and Kendra Bozarth wrote an excellent primer on why this paper matters today, particularly on the heels of the Democratic debates.


By: Rakeen Mabud and Kendra Bozarth
Originally published: June 19, 2019 on BLOG and ECONOMIC INCLUSION

In “Exploring Guaranteed Income Through a Racial and Gender Justice Lens,” Jhumpa Bhattacharya of the Insight Center connects two of the ideas that have bubbled up to the surface of the 2020 political debate: The need to address the racial wealth gap that exists between people of color — particularly Black Americans — and white Americans, and a guaranteed income as one big idea that is capable of redefining these wealth divides. Ultimately, Jhumpa finds that it is only a “universal basic income plus” model, first popularized by former Roosevelt Fellow and current Community Change President Dorian Warren, that will allow for wealth accumulation for low-income communities of color and address the racial wealth divide.

Read the full piece on Medium>>

Exploring Guaranteed Income Through A Racial And Gender Justice Lens

Race- and gender-based wealth inequities are two of the greatest failures of the American economy. Economic policy choices and practices put forth by those in power, such as the GI Bill and redlining, created wealth-building opportunities for white men but established barriers for everyone else. Implemented in tandem with the rise of corporate power by which profit is revered over people, these racist policies have resulted in racial and gender economic stratification that have reached epic heights. Today, approximately 160,000 households in America own more wealth than the poorest 90 percent combined— the highest concentration of wealth since 1962 (Igraham 2017).

Without bold, visionary action and policies to address these issues, the chasm between those who are economically secure and those who are not—mainly Black, brown, and Native American communities and women—will continue to grow, ultimately threatening our nation’s ability to finally achieve our promise of freedom, dignity, and security for all.

Race- and gender-based wealth inequities are two of the greatest failures of the American economy.

A growing group of progressives is committed to tackling racial wealth inequities head on (Newkirk II 2019). Once seen as fringe, “pie in the sky” ideas, a number of seemingly progressive economic policies have entered the public discourse, including a government-funded cash benefit program. Often referred to as “guaranteed income,” this big idea is a no-strings-attached direct cash benefit from the government that would provide a basic floor of living regardless of employment status or income by offering people a regular cash payment (Marinescu 2017).

With that context, this issue brief will explore to what extent and under what type of design a program that is usually discussed as a way to boost regular incomes could make a dent in racial and gender wealth inequities.

Click here to read the full issue brief (PDF).

Harriet Tubman stamp on $20 bill. (Photo courtesy of Dano Wall.) (Dano Wall/ Artist/Dano Wall/ Artist.)

Can They See Us?

How Mass Incarceration Destroys Lives and Economic Security

Opportunity for Every Worker: Toward a Fair Chance Workforce in the Bay Area

The Fair Chance Workforce System project was initiated by Rise Together, the Insight Center for Community Economic Development and Urban Strategies Council through a shared commitment to ensuring all people in the Bay Area have the opportunity to provide for themselves and their family, regardless of race, gender or status. Identified as a priority by Rise Together’s Opportunity for Every Worker workgroup, the project focuses on increasing the availability and accessibility of proven workforce development and employment opportunities for individuals with a criminal record in order to improve their economic stability and well-being, with a focus on Alameda, Contra Costa, and Solano Counties. The resulting report and recommendations are designed to be a guide for philanthropy, government, and local communities seeking to increase employment for individuals with a criminal record.

When justice-impacted people are hired, they perform just as – if not better than – their workplace peers. Economic and employment research conf rm that employees with records have better retention rates, more loyalty, and lower turnover (ACLU/ Trone, 2017). Despite these potential gains for employers and businesses, systemic barriers to employment for the justice impacted persist. The harms of policies, practices, and narratives discriminating against individuals with records are even greater for people of color. The collective cost of these barriers is stunning: In addition to losing an estimated $87 billion per year in gross domestic production nationwide, more than half a million capable, qualified people are left out of the national workforce – and, as a result, are more susceptible to poverty, homelessness, and cycles of debt. In recent years, reforms such as California’s Ban the Box policy have emerged from a groundswell of advocacy to improve outcomes for justice-impacted workers. Nonetheless, much still needs to be done to ensure that all Bay Area residents have a true “Fair Chance,” regardless of race, gender, or record status.

Enacted in 2018, California’s statewide Ban the Box (BTB) policy delays any use of a background check or inquiry into conviction history until later in the hiring process – after a candidate has met job qualifications. Despite the passage of BTB, and even with the Bay Area’s currently low unemployment rate of 3 percent, persistent obstacles to stable employment remain for people with criminal records. At virtually every stage of the hiring process, justice impacted applicants can be denied a job based on their record alone – either through employer practice, licensing restrictions, or both. In California, over 4,800 laws impose collateral consequences on people with arrest or criminal records, most of which have no benefit or relationship to public safety. Many of these laws exist solely to make it harder for people to get good jobs, or any job at all.

Click here to read the Executive Summary.

Click here to read the full report (PDF).

Fresh, Feminist Voices are Exactly What Our Nation Needs Right Now

Jhumpa Bhattacharya | Ms. Magazine

Paul Ryan’s advice to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on navigating Capitol Hill was to lay low and avoid ruffling any feathers. Thankfully, she didn’t listen to a thing he said—and neither did Rep. Ilhan Omar, one of many of AOC’s freshman colleagues in the most distinctly diverse and female Congress in American history.

Instead, they’ve scorched their own brilliant paths forward by doing the exact opposite: AOC has become a driving force, in just a matter of months in office, behind the Green New Deal; Omar stirred controversy, most recently, for speaking up against anti-Muslim sentiment in politics.

Both women are forcing much needed national conversations on complex issues never before thought possible—and whether you agree with their politics or not, it’s remarkable to see how they’ve fought to make their voices and perspectives matter and electrified and motivated a base of support which cannot be ignored.

“Clipped Wings,” a report on the millennial wealth gap for women, showcases just how important their voices are.

Click here to read her full op-ed.

The Payback Problem

Our new report, released in collaboration with PolicyLinkThe San Francisco Financial Justice ProjectTipping Point Community and Western Center on Law & Poverty, reveals that taking parents’ child support payments to pay back the cost of public assistance harms California’s low-income parents and children.

According to the report, The Payback Problem, inequitable public assistance payback policies take money away from children in poverty, set low-income parents up to fail, and discourage parents from making payments at all. The report also recommends reforms that have proven successful in other states.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of California children living in poverty do not receive all of the child support payments made by their parents. For low-income parents, most of their child support payments do not go to their children. Instead, the majority of their payments go to the government to pay back the cost of public assistance. In California, more than 70 percent of outstanding child support debt is owed to the government—not children.

Low-income parents should not be a source of revenue for our safety net. When families cannot pay they face punitive penalties including incarceration, suspension of driver’s licenses, and high-interest rates which balloon the debt they owe the government.

In addition, families of color are disproportionately impacted by public assistance payback policies. Due to persistent barriers to economic security, 85 percent of parents who owe child support are men of color and more than 75 percent of the children impacted by public assistance payback requirements are children of color.

There should be no price tag on our safety net for low-income families. Recent rules and reforms at the federal level encourage states to send more of parents’ child support payments through to their children. The report proposes reforms, many of which have proven successful in other states and are currently being put forward by members of the California Legislature.

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


WEBINAR
Join us on Tuesday, April 30 to learn more about the payback problem, its negative impact on low-income families of color, and how you can help advance reforms.

WHAT: The Payback Problem Webinar

WHEN: Tuesday, April 30 from 11:00am – 12:00pm PDT

REGISTER: Click here to learn more and register to attend.