White Defenders



racist16_400

copyright © 2010 Forgiven.  The Disputed Truth

Originally Published on Sunday, January 10, 2010

In a private conversation reported in a new book, Reid described Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign as a “light-skinned” African-American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”

I have to be honest that I am always a bit skeptical when white folks feel compelled to step up and defend black folks from other white folks. I am even more cynical when it is white Republicans doing the defending. This would be the same Republican party who has since the 60’s run on the southern strategy, whose conventions look more like all-white country clubs, and who have from his election sought to de-legitimize this President. Now we are to believe that they are so concerned with the delicate psyche of African-Americans that Senator Reid’s remarks rises to the level of Trent Lott?

For those who don’t remember Trent Lott was the Republican majority leader who stated that the country would have been better off if unrepentant segregationist Strom Thurmond had won the presidency in 1948.

For the sake of argument, let’s look at Senator Reid’s reported statement concerning then Senator Obama. He stated that he was a light-skinned black man which as far as I can tell would be a true statement. My guess is that Senator Reid was alluding to the fact that historically lighter skinned blacks have fared better in American society than darker skinned blacks so that would be a positive in his bid to become president. On the surface this would appear to be a callous statement however if we look at not only the history of blacks within the majority society but also within the black community the statement tends to stand on its own merits. Now does this excuse the fact that darker-skinned blacks tend to be discriminated more than light-skinned blacks? Of course not, but the truth is still the truth.

Let’s face it folks whites tend to be more comfortable with light-skinned blacks. If you were to poll blacks and say does the fact that President Obama is light-skinned does that diminish his status as an African-American I think the answer would be a resounding no based on the fact that he received almost 100% of the black vote.

The second part of Senator Reid’s remarks could be more problematic in the sense that he stated that Obama had no Negro dialect which could be offensive to some blacks. The question then becomes do blacks, as a group, speak differently from whites and can those differences be readily apparent to the listener? I think Senator Reid was stating that Barack Obama could choose to speak black or white depending on his audience. The problem here is that we are talking about politicians who often craft their message depending on their audience and for a politician to be able to speak to multiple groups is an asset. I think I remember during the campaign how Hillary and Bill changed dialects when they were speaking in black churches or to primarily black audiences. Does that make them racists? I think not, it makes them politicians.

As every successful black man knows who is not in the entertainment business or a professional athlete knows, we live in two different worlds we have to adept in the white world as well as the black world. I have to be able to speak to white businessmen as well as black community folks and they are not the same.

The biggest problem I have with this faux Republican outrage is that in order to determine Reid’s remarks one has to look at his intent. Was his intent to racially disparage Barack Obama? No, in fact in his mind he was giving a list of the positives for then candidate Obama. We must remember this was the beginning of a historical campaign and who amongst us did not consider these if not other positives and negatives of the candidates. The problem for Senator Reid is that his remarks were recorded. To me this just demonstrates the problem with the current Republican strategy and that is it shows their total lack of principles. When you attack everything you find yourself defending some former positions that you once opposed, by doing this you appear hypocritical at best and insane at worse. Republicans defending Medicare?

So what we have is Senator Reid stating that Barack Obama was a light-skinned black man who could speak to both black and white audiences. Yeah, that’s grounds for his immediate dismissal. Speaking as a black man I’m still missing the outrage no matter who had made the statement.

For Michael Steele to go on television and equate what Senator Reid reportedly said to what Trent Lott said is beyond me. Are we to believe that saying the country would be better off today if in 1948 an avowed racist had won the Presidential election is comparable to saying that Barack Obama was more electable because he was light-skinned and he spoke to both blacks and whites? I don’t think so. Have we become so racially sensitive that stating the obvious is now considered racist? The reason Mr. Steele will never be able to accomplish what he was elected to do which I think was to reach out to African-American voters is because in order to defend his task masters he losses any credibility with the very voters he is charged with attracting. Mr. Steele’s remarks may appeal to whites but if that is his core audience then the Republicans would have better served if they had elected another white man who would not have brought the baggage Mr. Steele has obviously brought. Do Republicans believe that blacks are that gullible? I hope not for their sakes.

“Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped.”

~ Elbert Hubbard  

Did Racism Help Cause the Mortgage Crisis? Part One

I am honored to present the work of Ralph Brauer.  For some time I have marveled as I read his research and reflected upon his work.  Today, this author of note shares with readers at BeThink.  I welcome Ralph Brauer.  May I invite you to peruse his prose.  Please ponder; then share your thoughts.

copyright © 2008 Ralph Brauer. The Strange Death of Liberal America

There is an elephant in the room no one wants to mention when you bring up the housing crisis.  It is the same elephant that has occupied the room since the very beginning of this nation.  Yes, it was there that hot Philadelphia summer when they drafted the Constitution.  Maybe that is what Ben Franklin is gazing at as he sits in the center of the famous painting of the signing of the Constitution by Howard Chandler Christy that hangs today in the House of Representatives east stairway.  Certainly the elephant had haunted Franklin much of his life causing him to call it “a constant butchery of the human species” in an anonymous letter written in 1772.  That elephant that haunted Franklin and continues to haunt us today is racism.

The economic crisis we face today has produced countless essays analyzing its origins and proposing all manner of cures, but almost no one has dared to mention the elephant in the room.  As I researched this topic I found only one person who seemed to be on to it: John Kimble, who wrote an excellent op ed piece in the New Orleans Times Picayune in October that should be required reading for everyone.  One sentence gets to the heart of the matter:

What few today remember is that one of the government’s central goals in undertaking mortgage market reform was to segregate American cities by race.

That such a piece should come from New Orleans does not surprise me; that few have sought to connect what to me seem rather obvious dots is more of a mystery to me.  But that is the power of that elephant in the room.

Perhaps now with an African American President we will finally have more open discussion of the elephant in the room and that discussion should begin by acknowledging that the elephant played a significant role in causing the mortgage crisis which in turn has toppled financial giants as if they were a row of dominoes.  To understand why we need to go back to the years immediately after the Second World War when the housing boom began.

The Creation of the Suburb

The discussion of the role of racism in America should begin by confronting the most important social, cultural and political reality of the past half century: the American suburb is largely a creation of racist loan policies that came from none other than the federal government.  The suburban migration stands as one of the largest freely-undertaken, government-subsidized mass social movements in history.  It accomplished by democratic means what dictators over the ages have tried to accomplish by force: alter the physical, economic, and social environment to create a unique culture.  As Kenneth Jackson writes in Crabgrass Frontier, his history of the American suburb:

Suburbanization was not an historical inevitability created by geography, technology, and culture, but rather the product of government policies.  (p. 293)

Through a variety of government subsidies, the creation of the suburbs allowed people of modest means to attain what real estate ads have christened the American dream.  The immensity of this achievement is only beginning to dawn on us, for it constituted the kind of land and social reform that governments everywhere still try to accomplish.  Kenneth Jackson notes:

Single family housing starts in this country rose from 114,000 in 1944 to 937,000 in 1946, 1,183,000 in 1948, and 1,692,000 in 1950.  (p. 233)

The federal government financed this growth through the Federal Housing Administration, an agency created during the New Deal to help spur the growth of home construction.  During the postwar housing boom Jackson points out:

The main beneficiary of the $119 billion in FHA mortgage insurance issued in the first four decades of FHA operation was suburbia.

Drawing the Color Line

A half century before the creation of suburban America, W.E.B. DuBois had written in the very first sentence of The Souls of Black Folk the immortal and prescient words:

HEREIN lie buried many things which if read with patience may show the strange meaning of being black here at the dawning of the Twentieth Century.  This meaning is not without interest to you, Gentle Reader; for the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line.

Little could DuBois have predicted that the color line would become a red line drawn around the American suburb by none other than the FHA.  The name redlining actually dates back to the 1930s when the FHA first began using color codes to designate areas where they should not invest.  Red areas were off-limits.  Jackson states:

FHA also helped to turn the building industry against the minority and inner-city housing market, and its policies supported the income and racial segregation of suburbia.

Even as the suburbs mushroomed across the American landscape, a few were asking questions.  In 1955 Columbia Professor Charles Abrams charged:

From its inception, the FHA set itself up as protector of the all white neighborhood.  It sent its agents into the field to keep Negroes and other minorities from buying houses in white neighborhoods.  (Jackson, pp. 213-214)

In what has become the classic source on FHA discrimination, The Politics of Exclusion, Michael Danielson quotes an FHA underwriting manual:

If a neighborhood is to retain stability, it is necessary that properties shall continue to be occupied by the same social and racial classes.  A change in social or racial occupancy generally leads to instability and reduction in values.(p. 203)

FHA policies also required appraisers to determine the probability of people of color moving into a neighborhood and even forced homeowners to agree not to sell their property to someone of another race.  According to one commentator,

“[T]he most basic sentiment underlying the FHA’s concern was its fear that property values would decline if a rigid black and white segregation was not maintained.

With the rise of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, the FHA began to make some attempt to right these wrongs, but with the election of Richard Nixon in 1968, the so-called “Southern Strategy” soon put a stop these efforts.  Chris Bonastia documented Nixon’s dismantling of FHA’s residential integration efforts in his paper, “Hedging His Bets: Why Nixon Killed HUD’s Desegregation Efforts.” Nixon’s refusal to back HUD’s reform efforts would have an impact on American society that ranks right up there with the decision by President Rutherford B. Hayes to abandon the South to the segregationists, essentially ending Reconstruction.

Yet to see one man and one decision as a historical lynch pin is to take an outmoded view of history, for the truth is that by 1968 the die had already been cast and DuBois’ color line had been drawn like a moat around the suburbs designed to keep people of color from entering. It would have taken considerable political will–and perhaps even federal law enforcement–to desegregate the suburbs by then.  Dr. Martin Luther King, jr.’s infamous march into the Chicago suburb of Cicero, where he was met with bricks and catcalls, showed the depth of that moat. There is a moment in the video of that march when you hear what sounds like a shot and King turns suddenly as if wondering where the shot came from.

This does not excuse Nixon’s actions, which at best were misguided and at worst cowardly and racist. While historians debate how much Richard Nixon personally bought into the Thurmond catechism, his elevation of Thurmond aide Harry Dent to the White House staff after the election sent a clear signal of his alliance with Thurmond. Dent was the one who sat outside the Senate chamber with a pail in case Thurmond needed a quick bathroom break during his record-setting filibuster. Nixon himself put it bluntly:

I am not going to campaign for the black vote at the risk of alienating the suburban vote.

For the federal government to go further than the law, to force integration in the suburbs, I think is unrealistic. I think it will be counter-productive and not in the interest of better race relations. [quoted in Charles M. Lamb, Housing Segregation in Suburban America Since 1960, p. 4, p. 9]

Still, as Lamb would point out in a footnote, two decades later a University of California study found that 44% of white Americans favored encouraging African Americans to move to the suburbs.

The Creation of the Subprime Market

Yet the FHA did not just discriminate against people of color who sought to live in the suburbs, it also made  it more difficult for them to obtain loans, period, by refusing to insure loans in areas with high concentrations of people of color.  The systemic impact of this is still reverberating through America’s inner cities.  Without FHA insurance, no reputable bank would issue a home loan to someone living on the other side of the “color line.” This in turn had a host of social and cultural impacts, from resource-poor schools to lack of jobs because businesses would not build where the FHA would not write loans.

You don’t need to be a systems modeler to see how each of these came to feed on each other. In the last decade scholars have begun to refer to this as “structural racism,” by which they mean a convergence of forces and policies that conspires to sustain the color line. Just imagine one systemic loop: you cannot get a good job because you live in a neighborhood with substandard housing and were educated in a substandard school and so you cannot qualify for a loan for better housing which in turn further reinforces the substandard housing. Structural racism is also not a bad metaphor, either, for it suggests the immense weight of these multiple factors that presses down on people living inside those red lines drawn by the FHA.

Where legitimate businesses and institutions are prevented from entering, illegitimate ones will grow. Since regular banks would not lend to people of color in inner city neighborhoods and FHA policies kept them from lending to the few people of color who could afford suburban housing, there obviously was a need for someone to supply these loans and so we have the growth of the so-called subprime market, only back in those days they were known as loan sharks and other unprintable words and had reputation to rival check cashing operations, greedy landlords and take and bake furniture renters. Anyone who has grown up in the inner city can tell stories not only about price-gouging home loans, but high-priced loans for everything from cars to buying furniture or clothes on credit.

What Is Subprime Lending

Subprime lending is a mixture of old-fashioned altruism and blatant thievery with an American twist. Some entered into the business of making loans to people of color because they genuinely believed people deserved an equal opportunity, others saw a chance to make a quick buck. The reality of the situation was that without FHA insurance even the most well-meaning lenders still had to charge more than they would have for a white suburban home-buyer.

A 2003 study for the Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights Under Law reported:

While red-lining has served to exclude poor and minority residents from the benefits of mainstream mortgage lending, purveyors of predatory lending (or so-called “reverse red-lining”) practices have targeted many of the same poor and minority households that traditional lending institutions have ignored or excluded.

In testimony before the House Committee on Banking and Financial Services in 2000 Bill Brennan of the Atlanta Legal Aid Society outlined how subprime lending works for lenders:

Here is what these companies do, the predators. They overcharge on interest and points, they charge egregiously high annual interest and prepaid finance charges, points, which are not justified by the risk involved, because these loans are collateralized by valuable real estate.

Since they usually only lend at 70 to 80 percent loan-to-value ratios, they have a 20 to 30 percent cushion to protect them if they have to foreclose. They usually always buy at the foreclosure sale and pay off the debt and sell the house for a profit.

As for those taking out the loans, Gary Gensler, Undersecretary for Domestic Finance at the treasury Department, told the same Committee:

Borrowers in these markets often have limited access to mainstream financial services. This leads to two things, as the Senator said earlier. Some borrowers who really would qualify for prime loans-we estimate anywhere between 15 and 35 percent of the subprime market could qualify for prime and cannot get that prime loan. Second, the rate and term competition is limited. Subprime lenders don’t tend to compete as much on price.

Beyond preying on vulnerable populations, beyond the limited access to mainstream financial services, is that abusive practices tend to be coupled with high-pressure sales tactics, whether by a mortgage broker, a home improvement contractor, sometimes a lender themselves in the local community.

Perhaps the most extensive and longest longitudinal study of predatory lending practices has been the Woodstock Institute’s periodic reports on Chicago.  It’s 1999 report “Two Steps Back” was among the earliest to blow the whistle on predatory lending.  They found:

Documented cases of abuse include fees exceeding 10 percent of the loan amount, payments structured so that they do not even cover interest (resulting in increasing principle balances), and flipping a loan numerous times in a couple of years.

At the same time, lending to lower-income and minority communities is often viewed as an isolated line of business, in which the focus is on the short term transaction and associated fees. Lenders active in such communities tend to be mortgage and finance companies subject to much less regulation than banks and thrifts. The increased scale of the subprime industry itself has resulted in a larger number of abuses. Moreover, there has not been a proportionate increase in regulation or regulatory resources devoted to this new industry.

As usual, graphs and tables tell the story in black and white:





The date on the graph may be a little difficult to see. It is 1998. On the first table, the percentage of subprime loans going to African American communities is 53%. Only 9% went to predominantly white communities. The Woodstock study went on to deal with the obvious question: is it race or income that is the strongest determinant of who receives a subprime loan? They found it was the former:

Thus, whether a neighborhood is predominantly African-American explains the greatest amount of variation in subprime lending,

The Final Results

In 1997 Bill Brennan could tell the New York Times:

We have financial apartheid in our country. We have low-income, often minority borrowers,  who are charged unconscionably high interest rates, either directly or indirectly through the cover of added charges.

Three years later Census data would confirm Brennan’s charge. The Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights Under Law found:

The typical white person lives in a neighborhood that is overwhelmingly white, with a few minorities (80.2% white, 6.7% African American, 7.9% Hispanic American, and 3.9% Asian American), the typical African American lives in a neighborhood that is mostly black (51.4% black, 33.0% white, 11.4% Hispanic American, and 3.3% Asian American). By comparison, the typical Hispanic American lives in a neighborhood that is more evenly Hispanic American and white (45.5% Hispanic, 36.5% white, 10.8% black, and 5.9% Asian American); and the typical Asian American lives in a neighborhood that is mostly white (17.9% Asian American, 54% white, 9.2%  black, and 17.4% Hispanic American).

In a study released this year by United for a Fair Economy, the authors note:

According to federal data, people of color are more than three times more likely to have subprime loans: high-cost loans account for 55% of loans to Blacks, but only 17% of loans to Whites.

This is a decade after the Woodstock study identified a similar pattern in Chicago.

Reflections

This history makes you wonder what kind of country we might have become had racism not pervaded the home mortgage market. The United for a Fair Economy study puts it eloquently:

While the housing crisis has affected all sectors of society, it has disproportionately affected communities and individuals of color. For them, the dream that Martin Luther King, Jr. once spoke of has been foreclosed.

Now the injustices white America heaped on black America for half a century have come home to roost. The sobering thought to ponder is that what you have read so far is merely the very tip of a rather large iceberg, for there are literally dozens and dozens of books and countless articles on racism and housing. If you enter “racism” and “housing” in Google you will find over four million entries. Yet despite over half a century of studies, reports and papers about discriminatory lending, little was done about it.

The most damning piece of evidence in this entire story is not that racism fostered predatory loans, but that like organized crime going from petty bootleggers and drug dealers to big time operators, the practice of predatory loan sharking expanded and went mainstream– moving from being the providence of small-time shady operators to mainstream banks. Essentially, loan-sharking cast off its sleazy past and the bigger it became the more people looked the other way.

That is until it suddenly threatens to take down the entire American economy. Now like the figures in that painting of Constitution Hall, fingers are pointing and people are staring.

If racism played a big role in creating the mortgage crisis, the solution to our current problems will prove tougher to deal with than what the so-called experts have been telling us. We could be witnessing the fourth American revolution. The first was the war for independence, the second the Civil War, the third the Great Depression and now the present crisis which combines the themes of the previous two–race and economics.

The next essay in this series focuses on how we got here and why, for only by understanding that journey can we see a way out of the current morass. What is clear so far is that this crisis is not merely the fault of a few misguided CEOs, but rather the culmination of decades of discrimination in which all of us are culpable.

Now the time has come to stop pretending there is no elephant in the room and deal with it.

Resources

For a good bibliography on the subject click here.

Crossposts: The Strange Death of Liberal America, My Left Wing, Progressive Historians, The Wild, Wild Left

Did Racism Help Cause the Mortgage Crisis? Part One

I am honored to present the work of Ralph Brauer.  For some time I have marveled as I read his research and reflected upon his work.  Today, this author of note shares with readers at BeThink.  I welcome Ralph Brauer.  May I invite you to peruse his prose.  Please ponder; then share your thoughts.

copyright © 2008 Ralph Brauer. The Strange Death of Liberal America

There is an elephant in the room no one wants to mention when you bring up the housing crisis.  It is the same elephant that has occupied the room since the very beginning of this nation.  Yes, it was there that hot Philadelphia summer when they drafted the Constitution.  Maybe that is what Ben Franklin is gazing at as he sits in the center of the famous painting of the signing of the Constitution by Howard Chandler Christy that hangs today in the House of Representatives east stairway.  Certainly the elephant had haunted Franklin much of his life causing him to call it “a constant butchery of the human species” in an anonymous letter written in 1772.  That elephant that haunted Franklin and continues to haunt us today is racism.

The economic crisis we face today has produced countless essays analyzing its origins and proposing all manner of cures, but almost no one has dared to mention the elephant in the room.  As I researched this topic I found only one person who seemed to be on to it: John Kimble, who wrote an excellent op ed piece in the New Orleans Times Picayune in October that should be required reading for everyone.  One sentence gets to the heart of the matter:

What few today remember is that one of the government’s central goals in undertaking mortgage market reform was to segregate American cities by race.

That such a piece should come from New Orleans does not surprise me; that few have sought to connect what to me seem rather obvious dots is more of a mystery to me.  But that is the power of that elephant in the room.

Perhaps now with an African American President we will finally have more open discussion of the elephant in the room and that discussion should begin by acknowledging that the elephant played a significant role in causing the mortgage crisis which in turn has toppled financial giants as if they were a row of dominoes.  To understand why we need to go back to the years immediately after the Second World War when the housing boom began.

The Creation of the Suburb

The discussion of the role of racism in America should begin by confronting the most important social, cultural and political reality of the past half century: the American suburb is largely a creation of racist loan policies that came from none other than the federal government.  The suburban migration stands as one of the largest freely-undertaken, government-subsidized mass social movements in history.  It accomplished by democratic means what dictators over the ages have tried to accomplish by force: alter the physical, economic, and social environment to create a unique culture.  As Kenneth Jackson writes in Crabgrass Frontier, his history of the American suburb:

Suburbanization was not an historical inevitability created by geography, technology, and culture, but rather the product of government policies.  (p. 293)

Through a variety of government subsidies, the creation of the suburbs allowed people of modest means to attain what real estate ads have christened the American dream.  The immensity of this achievement is only beginning to dawn on us, for it constituted the kind of land and social reform that governments everywhere still try to accomplish.  Kenneth Jackson notes:

Single family housing starts in this country rose from 114,000 in 1944 to 937,000 in 1946, 1,183,000 in 1948, and 1,692,000 in 1950.  (p. 233)

The federal government financed this growth through the Federal Housing Administration, an agency created during the New Deal to help spur the growth of home construction.  During the postwar housing boom Jackson points out:

The main beneficiary of the $119 billion in FHA mortgage insurance issued in the first four decades of FHA operation was suburbia.

Drawing the Color Line

A half century before the creation of suburban America, W.E.B. DuBois had written in the very first sentence of The Souls of Black Folk the immortal and prescient words:

HEREIN lie buried many things which if read with patience may show the strange meaning of being black here at the dawning of the Twentieth Century.  This meaning is not without interest to you, Gentle Reader; for the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line.

Little could DuBois have predicted that the color line would become a red line drawn around the American suburb by none other than the FHA.  The name redlining actually dates back to the 1930s when the FHA first began using color codes to designate areas where they should not invest.  Red areas were off-limits.  Jackson states:

FHA also helped to turn the building industry against the minority and inner-city housing market, and its policies supported the income and racial segregation of suburbia.

Even as the suburbs mushroomed across the American landscape, a few were asking questions.  In 1955 Columbia Professor Charles Abrams charged:

From its inception, the FHA set itself up as protector of the all white neighborhood.  It sent its agents into the field to keep Negroes and other minorities from buying houses in white neighborhoods.  (Jackson, pp. 213-214)

In what has become the classic source on FHA discrimination, The Politics of Exclusion, Michael Danielson quotes an FHA underwriting manual:

If a neighborhood is to retain stability, it is necessary that properties shall continue to be occupied by the same social and racial classes.  A change in social or racial occupancy generally leads to instability and reduction in values.(p. 203)

FHA policies also required appraisers to determine the probability of people of color moving into a neighborhood and even forced homeowners to agree not to sell their property to someone of another race.  According to one commentator,

“[T]he most basic sentiment underlying the FHA’s concern was its fear that property values would decline if a rigid black and white segregation was not maintained.

With the rise of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, the FHA began to make some attempt to right these wrongs, but with the election of Richard Nixon in 1968, the so-called “Southern Strategy” soon put a stop these efforts.  Chris Bonastia documented Nixon’s dismantling of FHA’s residential integration efforts in his paper, “Hedging His Bets: Why Nixon Killed HUD’s Desegregation Efforts.” Nixon’s refusal to back HUD’s reform efforts would have an impact on American society that ranks right up there with the decision by President Rutherford B. Hayes to abandon the South to the segregationists, essentially ending Reconstruction.

Yet to see one man and one decision as a historical lynch pin is to take an outmoded view of history, for the truth is that by 1968 the die had already been cast and DuBois’ color line had been drawn like a moat around the suburbs designed to keep people of color from entering. It would have taken considerable political will–and perhaps even federal law enforcement–to desegregate the suburbs by then.  Dr. Martin Luther King, jr.’s infamous march into the Chicago suburb of Cicero, where he was met with bricks and catcalls, showed the depth of that moat. There is a moment in the video of that march when you hear what sounds like a shot and King turns suddenly as if wondering where the shot came from.

This does not excuse Nixon’s actions, which at best were misguided and at worst cowardly and racist. While historians debate how much Richard Nixon personally bought into the Thurmond catechism, his elevation of Thurmond aide Harry Dent to the White House staff after the election sent a clear signal of his alliance with Thurmond. Dent was the one who sat outside the Senate chamber with a pail in case Thurmond needed a quick bathroom break during his record-setting filibuster. Nixon himself put it bluntly:

I am not going to campaign for the black vote at the risk of alienating the suburban vote.

For the federal government to go further than the law, to force integration in the suburbs, I think is unrealistic. I think it will be counter-productive and not in the interest of better race relations. [quoted in Charles M. Lamb, Housing Segregation in Suburban America Since 1960, p. 4, p. 9]

Still, as Lamb would point out in a footnote, two decades later a University of California study found that 44% of white Americans favored encouraging African Americans to move to the suburbs.

The Creation of the Subprime Market

Yet the FHA did not just discriminate against people of color who sought to live in the suburbs, it also made  it more difficult for them to obtain loans, period, by refusing to insure loans in areas with high concentrations of people of color.  The systemic impact of this is still reverberating through America’s inner cities.  Without FHA insurance, no reputable bank would issue a home loan to someone living on the other side of the “color line.” This in turn had a host of social and cultural impacts, from resource-poor schools to lack of jobs because businesses would not build where the FHA would not write loans.

You don’t need to be a systems modeler to see how each of these came to feed on each other. In the last decade scholars have begun to refer to this as “structural racism,” by which they mean a convergence of forces and policies that conspires to sustain the color line. Just imagine one systemic loop: you cannot get a good job because you live in a neighborhood with substandard housing and were educated in a substandard school and so you cannot qualify for a loan for better housing which in turn further reinforces the substandard housing. Structural racism is also not a bad metaphor, either, for it suggests the immense weight of these multiple factors that presses down on people living inside those red lines drawn by the FHA.

Where legitimate businesses and institutions are prevented from entering, illegitimate ones will grow. Since regular banks would not lend to people of color in inner city neighborhoods and FHA policies kept them from lending to the few people of color who could afford suburban housing, there obviously was a need for someone to supply these loans and so we have the growth of the so-called subprime market, only back in those days they were known as loan sharks and other unprintable words and had reputation to rival check cashing operations, greedy landlords and take and bake furniture renters. Anyone who has grown up in the inner city can tell stories not only about price-gouging home loans, but high-priced loans for everything from cars to buying furniture or clothes on credit.

What Is Subprime Lending

Subprime lending is a mixture of old-fashioned altruism and blatant thievery with an American twist. Some entered into the business of making loans to people of color because they genuinely believed people deserved an equal opportunity, others saw a chance to make a quick buck. The reality of the situation was that without FHA insurance even the most well-meaning lenders still had to charge more than they would have for a white suburban home-buyer.

A 2003 study for the Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights Under Law reported:

While red-lining has served to exclude poor and minority residents from the benefits of mainstream mortgage lending, purveyors of predatory lending (or so-called “reverse red-lining”) practices have targeted many of the same poor and minority households that traditional lending institutions have ignored or excluded.

In testimony before the House Committee on Banking and Financial Services in 2000 Bill Brennan of the Atlanta Legal Aid Society outlined how subprime lending works for lenders:

Here is what these companies do, the predators. They overcharge on interest and points, they charge egregiously high annual interest and prepaid finance charges, points, which are not justified by the risk involved, because these loans are collateralized by valuable real estate.

Since they usually only lend at 70 to 80 percent loan-to-value ratios, they have a 20 to 30 percent cushion to protect them if they have to foreclose. They usually always buy at the foreclosure sale and pay off the debt and sell the house for a profit.

As for those taking out the loans, Gary Gensler, Undersecretary for Domestic Finance at the treasury Department, told the same Committee:

Borrowers in these markets often have limited access to mainstream financial services. This leads to two things, as the Senator said earlier. Some borrowers who really would qualify for prime loans-we estimate anywhere between 15 and 35 percent of the subprime market could qualify for prime and cannot get that prime loan. Second, the rate and term competition is limited. Subprime lenders don’t tend to compete as much on price.

Beyond preying on vulnerable populations, beyond the limited access to mainstream financial services, is that abusive practices tend to be coupled with high-pressure sales tactics, whether by a mortgage broker, a home improvement contractor, sometimes a lender themselves in the local community.

Perhaps the most extensive and longest longitudinal study of predatory lending practices has been the Woodstock Institute’s periodic reports on Chicago.  It’s 1999 report “Two Steps Back” was among the earliest to blow the whistle on predatory lending.  They found:

Documented cases of abuse include fees exceeding 10 percent of the loan amount, payments structured so that they do not even cover interest (resulting in increasing principle balances), and flipping a loan numerous times in a couple of years.

At the same time, lending to lower-income and minority communities is often viewed as an isolated line of business, in which the focus is on the short term transaction and associated fees. Lenders active in such communities tend to be mortgage and finance companies subject to much less regulation than banks and thrifts. The increased scale of the subprime industry itself has resulted in a larger number of abuses. Moreover, there has not been a proportionate increase in regulation or regulatory resources devoted to this new industry.

As usual, graphs and tables tell the story in black and white:





The date on the graph may be a little difficult to see. It is 1998. On the first table, the percentage of subprime loans going to African American communities is 53%. Only 9% went to predominantly white communities. The Woodstock study went on to deal with the obvious question: is it race or income that is the strongest determinant of who receives a subprime loan? They found it was the former:

Thus, whether a neighborhood is predominantly African-American explains the greatest amount of variation in subprime lending,

The Final Results

In 1997 Bill Brennan could tell the New York Times:

We have financial apartheid in our country. We have low-income, often minority borrowers,  who are charged unconscionably high interest rates, either directly or indirectly through the cover of added charges.

Three years later Census data would confirm Brennan’s charge. The Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights Under Law found:

The typical white person lives in a neighborhood that is overwhelmingly white, with a few minorities (80.2% white, 6.7% African American, 7.9% Hispanic American, and 3.9% Asian American), the typical African American lives in a neighborhood that is mostly black (51.4% black, 33.0% white, 11.4% Hispanic American, and 3.3% Asian American). By comparison, the typical Hispanic American lives in a neighborhood that is more evenly Hispanic American and white (45.5% Hispanic, 36.5% white, 10.8% black, and 5.9% Asian American); and the typical Asian American lives in a neighborhood that is mostly white (17.9% Asian American, 54% white, 9.2%  black, and 17.4% Hispanic American).

In a study released this year by United for a Fair Economy, the authors note:

According to federal data, people of color are more than three times more likely to have subprime loans: high-cost loans account for 55% of loans to Blacks, but only 17% of loans to Whites.

This is a decade after the Woodstock study identified a similar pattern in Chicago.

Reflections

This history makes you wonder what kind of country we might have become had racism not pervaded the home mortgage market. The United for a Fair Economy study puts it eloquently:

While the housing crisis has affected all sectors of society, it has disproportionately affected communities and individuals of color. For them, the dream that Martin Luther King, Jr. once spoke of has been foreclosed.

Now the injustices white America heaped on black America for half a century have come home to roost. The sobering thought to ponder is that what you have read so far is merely the very tip of a rather large iceberg, for there are literally dozens and dozens of books and countless articles on racism and housing. If you enter “racism” and “housing” in Google you will find over four million entries. Yet despite over half a century of studies, reports and papers about discriminatory lending, little was done about it.

The most damning piece of evidence in this entire story is not that racism fostered predatory loans, but that like organized crime going from petty bootleggers and drug dealers to big time operators, the practice of predatory loan sharking expanded and went mainstream– moving from being the providence of small-time shady operators to mainstream banks. Essentially, loan-sharking cast off its sleazy past and the bigger it became the more people looked the other way.

That is until it suddenly threatens to take down the entire American economy. Now like the figures in that painting of Constitution Hall, fingers are pointing and people are staring.

If racism played a big role in creating the mortgage crisis, the solution to our current problems will prove tougher to deal with than what the so-called experts have been telling us. We could be witnessing the fourth American revolution. The first was the war for independence, the second the Civil War, the third the Great Depression and now the present crisis which combines the themes of the previous two–race and economics.

The next essay in this series focuses on how we got here and why, for only by understanding that journey can we see a way out of the current morass. What is clear so far is that this crisis is not merely the fault of a few misguided CEOs, but rather the culmination of decades of discrimination in which all of us are culpable.

Now the time has come to stop pretending there is no elephant in the room and deal with it.

Resources

For a good bibliography on the subject click here.

Crossposts: The Strange Death of Liberal America, My Left Wing, Progressive Historians, The Wild, Wild Left

Are African-Americans Black Enough or Anglo Americans Too White?

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

This year, perhaps more than any time in the past, Americans are reminded of race relations each and every day.  On televisions, on the radio, airwaves are filled with talk of the current Presidential campaign.  For the first time in this nation’s history, a viable Presidential hopeful is not a white.  Barack Obama is a Black man; he is profound and has purpose.  Early on, Anglo Americans, and even some people of color, wondered if Obama authentically represented African-Americans.  Countless inquired of Obama’s experience, not in Congress, but in the ghettos of this country.  The prominent periodical, Time Magazine, published a cover story titled, “Is Obama Black Enough?  As Sociologists assess, there is reason to believe another question is apt, “Are Caucasians white enough, or are they too white to understand the Black experience?”  

The Black experience is as all other occurrences.  Each is unique to the individual.  Nevertheless, in a society where clear delineations are evident, we can observe, life as an African-American is not as easy.  Circumstances common among Blacks are unthinkable to Caucasians.  Anglos rarely appreciate persons of color are not truly different, only the conditions they live under vary.  

While white Americans are happy to acknowledge that the Black man or woman they work with, as a singular person, is wonderful, Caucasians are quick to avow, that the individual they know is not like the rest of “those” people.  Pinkish people do not understand.  Hence . . .

Whites Underestimate the Costs of Being Black

Columbus, Ohio – How much do white Americans think it “costs” to be black in our society, given the problems associated with racial bias and prejudice?

The answer, it appears, is not much.

When white Americans were asked to imagine how much they would have to be paid to live the rest of their lives as a black person, most requested relatively low amounts, generally less than $10,000.

In contrast, study participants said they would have to be paid about $1 million to give up television for the rest of their lives.

The results suggest most white Americans don’t truly comprehend the persisting racial disparities in our country, said Philip Mazzocco, co-author of the study and assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University’s Mansfield campus.

“The costs of being black in our society are very well documented,” Mazzocco said. “Blacks have significantly lower income and wealth, higher levels of poverty, and even shorter life spans, among many other disparities, compared to whites.”

For example, white households average about $150,000 more wealth than the typical black family. Overall, total wealth for white families is about five times greater than that of black families, a gap that has persisted for years.

“When whites say they would need $1 million to give up TV, but less than $10,000 to become black, that suggests they don’t really understand the extent to which African Americans, as a group, are disadvantaged,” Mazzocco said.

What Anglos do understand are the generalizations they hold dear.  Black persons are different than whites, and they are, in large part because a society that favors people of pinkish paler hues has created a cast system that bars African-Americans from achieving as they might.  

Incomes are lower, access to adequate educational facilities are few.  Health Care coverage is out of reach for those with limited opportunity and wealth.  Discrimination against those whose color differs from the main is ample.  In the abstract, Anglo Americans grasp that those placed lower on the socio-economic ladder suffer.  White Americans know they would not wish to live as a Black American does.

[I]n one study, whites were told to imagine that they were about to be born as a random white person in America, but they were being offered a cash gift to be born as a random black person. Once again, white participants requested relatively small sums to make a life-long race-change.  In addition, some were given a list of some of the costs of being black in America, such as the racial wealth disparity.  The result was that whites in this latter scenario requested significantly higher amounts than those in the previous studies – about $500,000.

Finally, some participants were given a similar scenario except all references to blacks, whites, and America were taken out. They were asked to imagine they were born into the fictional country of Atria, and were born either into the “majority” or “minority” population.  They were given a list of the disadvantages that the minority population faced in Atria (which were identical to the real disadvantages faced by blacks in America).  In this case, white participants in the study said they should be paid an average of $1 million to be born as a minority member in Atria.

“When you take it out of the black-white context, white Americans seem to fully appreciate the costs associated with the kinds of disparities that African Americans actually face in the United States,” Mazzocco said. “In this case, they asked for a million dollars, similar to what they want for giving up television.”

Mazzocco said blatant prejudice was not the reason for the findings.  Results showed that whites who scored higher on a measure of racial prejudice did not answer significantly differently than others in the study.

Often those who are out of touch with what is true for another are not knowingly bigoted.  As children, we learn to believe as we do.  Most Americans are oblivious, no matter how well informed they, we might be.

However, if we are honest with ourselves, people know what is philosophically true for them personally, may not be valid.  We are each similar, yet, never the same.  A human desire to categorize places us in jeopardy.  When we define others, or ourselves as Black or white we cripple our communities, as evident through statistical data.  The numbers speak volumes, so too do people if we bother to ask them of their values.

Social Scientists surveyed those of disparate groups, and discovered what we could know intellectually.   Those who physically do and do not resemble us share our values.  Although experiences may be divergent, we need only think of our siblings to realize the adage  “All men are created equal,” does not mean every being is identical in appearance; nevertheless, essentially we are related.  My blue eyed-sister is not as I am.  She sees the world through her own lens.  A brown-eyed brother cannot think, say, do, feel, or be as me.  Still, we are akin.  Biologically persons may be similar.  They are never the same; nor are there stark contrasts.

Every human values principles that honor all men, women, and children unvaryingly.  Innately, two-legged creatures crave caring connections.  We all want to have the rights reverence affords, just as our brethren do.  Every person is made of blood, sweat, and tears.  Humans have inherent worth.  Shared ignorance does not allow people to act on our deepest beliefs.  the essence of our beauty is not just skin deep.  It is part of our being whether we are Black or white.

Researchers remind us, in November 2007, it is time to “Redefine What It Means to Be Black in America.” The Social and Demographic division of Pew Research Center, in conjunction with National Public Radio surveyed a large group of Americans, a large portion of those who participated were Black.  This fact alone sets this report apart from earlier examinations which most relied on data from white Americans.  The review titled, Blacks See Growing Values Gap Between Poor and Middle Class, Optimism about Black Progress Declines, we discover the times and trends are changing, or perhaps our awareness of what is has been altered.  Many African-Americans do not identify themselves with the accepted definition of Black.

A Single Race?

Another revelatory finding in the Pew poll is that 37 percent of African Americans now agree that it is no longer appropriate to think of black people as a single race.  A little more than half of the black people polled,  53 percent, agreed that it is right to view blacks as a single race.  And the people most likely to say blacks are no longer a single race are young black people, ages 18-29.

Forty-four percent of those young black people say there is no one black race anymore, as compared to 35 percent of the 30- to 49-year-old black population, and 34 percent of the black people over age 65.

The split in the black race comes down to a matter of values, according to the poll.  In response to the question, “Have the values of middle-class and poor blacks become more similar or more different?”  61 percent of black Americans said “more different.”  White Americans agreed, with 54 percent saying there is a growing values gap between the black middle class and the black poor; 45 percent of Hispanics agreed, too.

At the same time, 72 percent of whites, 54 percent of blacks, and 60 percent of Hispanics agree that in the last 10 years, “values held by black people and the values held by white people (have) become more similar.”

While the ethos may appear equivalent, upon closer examination a variance among respondents emerges.  In nationwide telephone interviews, with a representative sample of 3,086 adults, conducted from September 5-October 6, 2007, we learn what an “over-sampled” total of 1007 African Americans, 388 Hispanics, and 1671 Anglos believe.

  • Big gaps in perception between blacks and whites emerge on many topics. For example, blacks believe that anti-black discrimination is still pervasive in everyday life; whites disagree.  And blacks have far less confidence than whites in the basic fairness of the criminal justice system.
  • Over the past two decades, blacks have lost some confidence in the effectiveness of leaders within their community, including national black political figures, the clergy, and the NAACP. A sizable majority of blacks still see all of these groups as either very or somewhat effective, but the number saying “very” effective has declined since 1986.
  • These statements may correlate to what is real for too many African-Americans.  Income Gap Between Blacks, Whites Expands.  The Brookings Institute in cooperation with National Public Radio revealed in a recent report, while Black Americans can no longer be thought of as a distinct group, if they ever were, as a whole, people of color have not benefited from a “free and open” society, as Caucasians have.  Anglos remain oblivious.  Intolerant attitudes inform whites.  The same bigoted perspectives hinder an ability to relate, and recognize how different the Black experience is.

    Again, in November 2007, Americans were given an opportunity to assess the clash bias has created.  In a culture, founded on the principles of equality, Americans prefer to practice prejudiced policies.  In the United States, people whose skin is dark are not afforded the opportunities bestowed upon their counterparts, Caucasian Americans.

    Economic Mobility of Black and White Families

    In brief, trends show that median family incomes have risen for both black and white families, but less so for black families. Moreover, the intergenerational analysis reveals a significant difference in the extent to which parents are able to pass their economic advantages onto their children. Whereas children of white middle-income parents tend to exceed their parents in income, a majority of black children of middle-income parents fall below their parents in income and economic status. These findings are provided in more detail below.

    Median family income for both black and white families has increased over the last 30 years, but income gaps still persist.

    Between 1974 and 2004, white and black men in their 30s experienced a decline in income, with the largest decline among black men. However, median family incomes for both racial groups increased, because of large increases in women’s incomes.  Income growth was particularly high for white women.

    The lack of income growth for black men combined with low marriage rates in the black population has had a negative impact on trends in family income for black families.

    There was no progress in reducing the gap in family income between blacks and whites.  In 2004, median family income of blacks ages 30 to 39 was only 58 percent that of white families in the same age group ($35,000 for blacks compared to $60,000 for whites).

    Black children grow up in families with much lower income than white children.

    White children are more likely to surpass parents’ income than black children at a similar point in the income distribution.

    Overall, approximately two out of three blacks (63 percent) exceed their parents’ income after the data are adjusted for inflation, similar to the percentage for whites.

    However, a majority of blacks born to middle-income parents grow up to have less income than their parents.  Only 31 percent of black children born to parents in the middle of the income distribution have family income greater than their parents, compared to 68 percent of white children from the same income bracket. . . .

    White children are more likely to move up the ladder while black children are more likely to fall down.

    Startlingly, almost half (45 percent) of black children whose parents were solidly middle class end up falling to the bottom of the income distribution, compared to only 16 percent of white children.  Achieving middle-income status does not appear to protect black children from future economic adversity the same way it protects white children.

    Black children from poor families have poorer prospects than white children from such families. More than half (54 percent) of black children born to parents in the bottom quintile stay in the bottom, compared to 31 percent of white children.

    Perhaps, the way in which the Black population experiences income inequity and discrimination, accounts for the lack of confidence in African-American leaders among the population, or did until very recently.  In the Fall of 2007, before the first caucus in Iowa or the initial primary ballots in New Hampshire were cast, people of color in the United States expressed a glimmer of hope.  While many people whose skin cast a brownish-purple hue were devoted to the Clinton campaign, they recognized that Barack Obama shed a powerful light on the issue of color.  Again, the Pew Research Center, Social and Demographic Trends division concluded . . .

  • The most newsworthy African American figure in politics today – Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama – draws broadly (though not intensely felt) favorable ratings from both blacks and whites. But blacks are more inclined to say that his race will detract from his chances to be elected president; whites are more inclined to say his relative inexperience will hurt his chances.
  • Three-quarters of blacks (76%) say that Obama is a good influence on the black community. Even greater numbers say this about Oprah Winfrey (87%) and Bill Cosby (85%), who are the most highly regarded by blacks from among 14 black newsmakers tested in this survey. By contrast, just 17% of blacks say that rap artist 50 Cent is a good influence.
  • Months prior to these results a conversation ensued that may have helped to alter a long accepted perception.  The son of a white woman from Kansas, whose father was native to Kenya, Barack Obama was asked, “How important is race in defining yourself?”  Perhaps, esteemed Senator, and Presidential candidate, Obama spoke for many African-Americans, most of whom understand their bloodline may be mixed.  He might have also addressed what  Anglo Americans understand, if not consciously.  No matter the color of our skin, few of us are purebred.  While people may presume to know who we are based on a preconceived notion, we are all more than our appearance. [If only as a society, we acted on this veracity.]

    Obama: I think all of us in America and particularly African-Americans have to think about race at some point in our lives. The way I like to think about it, I am rooted in the African-American community, but I’m not defined by it.  I am comfortable in my racial identity and recognize that I’m part of a very specific set of experiences in this country, but that’s not the core of who I am.  Another way of saying is that’s not all I am . . .

    One of the things that helped me to resolve a lot of these issues is the realization that the African-American community, which I’m now very much feel a part of, is itself a hybrid community. It’s African.  It’s European.  It’s Native American.  So it’s much more difficult to define what the essential African-American experience is, at least more difficult than what popular culture would allow.

    What I also realized is that the American experience is, by definition, a hybrid experience.  I mean, you know one of the strengths of this country is that we have these people coming from, you know, all four corners of the globe converging, and sometimes in conflict, living side by side, and over time coming together to create this tapestry that is incredibly strong.

    And so, in that sense, I feel that my background ironically, because it’s unusual, is quintessentially American.

    Americans of any race know that their ancestry is likely mixed.  Whites are not pedigrees; nor are Blacks.  Yet, pinkish people feel they can or must delineate when they define a dark complexioned person.  Too often, in the United States, an African-American is described by their visible lineage, set apart because of the color of their skin.  Yet, what of whites?  How do we classify a paler person who may be part Irish, Italian, German, or English?

    Apparently, a year ago, in February 2007, 60 Minutes Host Steve Kroft thought he knew what it meant to be Anglo or to be raised among white people.  Mister Kroft made repeated references to the candidate’s Caucasian mother, and Obama’s childhood history.  He said, “You spent most of your life in a white household.”  “I mean, you grew up white.”  “You were raised in a white household?”  These statements were presented as though they were significant.  The presumption was, in a white home people think, say, do, feel, and are different than those in a Black family.  The evidence says this is not so.  Yet, the myth remains firm.  Hence, the journalist offered an observation, odd as it may be to some.

    Kroft: [A]t some point, you decided that you were black?

    The answer might have informed Black and white alike.  The response may have encouraged African-Americans to be more vocal by the time they were surveyed nine months later. Possibly, the response had no influence.  After centuries of racial discrimination, Black person may just be sick and tired of being sick and tired.

    Whatever the reason for the realizations that emerged in the Pew Research report, finally, there is an incentive to believe.  Hope is alive.  A Black American, or many African-Americans, together, can change the persistent culture.  

    Presidential aspirant, Senator Obama spoke a truth that rattled a rigid reality.  Stereotypes are exactly that.  They need not characterize any of us, nor do we, as a nation need to endorse what divides us.  Barack Obama explained . . .

    Well, I’m not sure I decided it. I think if you look African-American in this society, you’re treated as an African-American.  And when you’re a child, in particular that is how you begin to identify yourself. At least that’s what I felt comfortable identifying myself as . . .

    [T]here is racial prejudice in our society that we do continue to carry the historical legacy of Jim Crow and slavery. We’ve never fully addressed that.  It manifests itself in much higher rates of poverty and violence and lack of educational achievement in minority communities.  But I know in my heart that there is a core decency to the American people, and that decency can be tapped.

    I think America is at the point now where if a white person has the time to get to know who you are, that they are willing on average to look beyond race and judge you as an individual.  That doesn’t mean that they’ve stopped making snap judgments.  It doesn’t mean that before I was Barack Obama, and I was just Barack Obama, that if I got into an elevator, a woman might not clutch her purse a little tighter.  Or if I’m walking down the street, that you might not hear some clicks of doors locking, right. I mean, there’s still a host of stereotypes that I think a lot of people are operating under.  But I think if they have time to get to know you, they will judge you as they would judge anybody else, and I think that’s enormous progress.  

    We’ve made progress.  Yes, things are better.  But better is not good enough. And we’ve still got a long way to go.

    Indeed, America has much to do as a nation if we are to heal what has harmed us as a people.  If this country is to be truly healthy and authentically honorable, we must act as equals.  To allow Black Americans to suffer at the hands of “compassionate” Caucasians, to deny the similarities, and amplify the differences does not bode well.  A man, woman, or child must be judged by the quality of his character, not the color of his skin.  Let us have the courage of our convictions.  It is time to create a culture of community.

    Once you label me, you negate me

    ~ Soren Kierkegaard [Danish Philosopher]

    Sources and Stereotypes . . .

    Race Relations in America; Colormute, Not Colorblind

    copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

    It’s never been my interest to run a race-based campaign.

    My message has always been that I want everyone included in a broad coalition to bring about change.

    I want to spend more time talking about solving the problems that people are feeling right now.


    ~ Barack Obama [United States Senator and Presidential Aspirant.  January 27, 2008]

    In any Presidential election year, we hear of the race.  Yet, discussions of “race” are void, or are since a truce was tendered.  Americas would like to think of themselves as colorblind.  We are not.  Citizens of this country embrace “colormuteness, a term coined by Mica Pollock, Associate Professor of Education at Harvard University.  What Professor Pollock observes in classrooms and in the hallways of schools throughout the nation occurs each day on the campaign trail.  Children who wish to achieve excellence in the classroom are restricted by conventions they learned at an early age in our nation’s communities.

    When a young Caucasian child encounters a Black being, if they have never seen a person with a dark complexion, he or she may point, tug at the a parent’s trouser, point, and say, “Mom, Why is his skin so brown?”  A lass might inquisitively exclaim, “Daddy, What is wrong with her complexion?  Characteristically, Mother or Father will say, “Shush!  It is not polite to point.”  Then the parent will pass on the message that they learned at their parent’s knee.  That communication will vary dependent on the family.  Nonetheless, what is true, no matter who the guardian might be, the tone will be hushed.  The tot will learn, we do not discuss the differences in skin tone or facial features.

    What we were taught in our youth resonates in adult life.  We see it on the campaign trail.  Certain topics are acceptable and the one is forbidden.  This etiquette is evident in our most recent election.  Criticism is fine, as long as we do not broach the single most sensitive subject, “race,” as it relates to the color of one’s skin.

    Candidates compete as they sprint towards the White House.  They rack up the votes, and rail against their rivals.  As Presidential hopefuls run for the Oval Office, they find themselves embroiled in discordant campaigns.  Whatever they might say, the electorate will react.  A delicate balance must be maintained.

    Attack advertisements will fill the airwaves.  Hurdles will be jumped in an attempt to make an opponent look or sound bad.  The war veteran is no hero, and the soldier who stayed behind did not truly serve.  In cyberspace, the calculations are conventional.  The conversation can be extremely cruel.  Religion will rule if he or she becomes President.  His or her faith is not “right.”  His wife, her husband is [fill in the blank.]  Can a damsel deliver as Commander-In-Chief, or will a drama result in her distress.  However, the question that is addressed tentatively is, “Is America ready for a Black President?”  

    Americans are intimately familiar with the scandals.  Constituents have witnessed what a little gossip can do.  Within each campaign, people observe divisiveness.  The demise of a fellow Democrat is fine.  A rival Republican can ridicule another with reason.  All is fair in love and war.  While an aspirant may be fond of Party loyalty, in a Presidential campaign, faithfulness and friendship are not generously applied to adversaries.  It is important to focus on differences if a candidate wishes to be the nominee for his or her Party, as long as the variation in skin color  is not mentioned.

    Our countrymen think it vital to understand Mitt Romney is a Mormon.  The public believes it is important to contemplate, Mike Huckabee is a Preacher.  It is grand that Hillary Clinton is a woman, but do we need to say aloud, Barack Obama is Black.  

    Sure, the words are said and the response is consistent.  “It should not make a difference.”  Yet, it does.  No one wishes to be labeled a bigot.  As adults, individuals recall what their parents said, “African-Americans are people too,” or one would hope they were thought to be in the United States.  Still, each citizen of this country understands, Black people fight for parity.  Even when conditions and circumstances improve for African-Americans, a few thrive, most struggle to survive.

    Our Constitution claims “all men are created equal.”  However, in the States it seems that has never been the case.  While Americans are proud of the fact that finally they can choose to vote for someone who is not white, they do not wish to speak of “race,” only of the race.  Ah, how well-trained Americans are.

    Supposedly, citizens have progressed beyond our repressive roots.  However, in truth, racism is rampant.  Just as Americans have done in past Presidential election years, and do each day of our existence, we place one “race” above another.

    Being Black in the United States is a topic discussed among those who are, and balked at by persons who rather believe themselves without bias.  Carefully colormuted Caucasians do not wish to admit that that the sight of a dark skinned person can cause them to tightly clutch the pocketbook that hung loosely at their side.  Anglos do not wish to confess that they feel an the urge to clench a fist, or place keys between their fingers, just in case they need to use the pieces of metal as a weapon when in the presence of a person whose complexion is a purplish-brown.  

    Few white individuals will tell of how they tremble when near an African-American stranger.  Fortunately, many need not think of what they might do if a Black individual was near.  In the United States, numerous neighborhoods are segregated, sometimes subtly, often overtly.

    “Is it true that “Anna” stands for “Ain’t No N*gg*rs Allowed?”  I asked at the convenience store in Anna, Illinois, where I had stopped to buy coffee.

    “Yes,” the clerk replied.  “That’s sad, isn’t it,” she added, distancing herself from the policy.  And she went on to assure me, “That all happened a long time ago.”

    “I understand [racial exclusion] is still going on?”  I asked.

    “Yes,” she replied.  “That’s sad.”

    ~ conversation with clerk, Anna, Illinois, October, 2001

    Anna is a town of about 7,000 people, including adjoining Jonesboro.  The twin towns lie about 35 miles north of Cairo, in Southern Illinois.  In 1909, in the aftermath of a horrific nearby “spectacle lynching,” Anna and Jonesboro expelled their African Americans.  Both cities have been all-white ever since.  Nearly a century later, “Anna” is still considered by its residents and by citizens of nearby towns to mean “Ain’t No N*gge*s Allowed,” the acronym the convenience store clerk confirmed in 2001.

    It is common knowledge that African Americans are not allowed to live in Anna, except for residents of the state mental hospital and transients at its two motels.  African Americans who find themselves in Anna and Jonesboro after dark – the majority-black basketball team from Cairo, for example – have been treated badly by residents of the towns and by fans and students of Anna-Jonesboro High School.

    Towns like Anna and Jonesboro are often called “sundown towns,” owing to the signs that many of them formerly sported at their corporate limits – signs that usually said, “N*gge*r, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On You In __.”  Anna-Jonesboro had such signs on Highway 127 as recently as the 1970s.  In some areas, these communities were known as “sunset towns” and, in the Ozarks, “gray towns.”  In the East, although many communities excluded African Americans, the term “sundown town” itself was rarely used.  Residents of all-white suburbs also usually avoided the term, though not the policy. . .

    The overlooking of sundown towns, stands in sharp contrast to the attention bestowed upon that other violent and extralegal race relations practice, lynching.  The literature on lynching is vast, encompassing at least 500 and perhaps thousands of volumes; at this point, we have at least one book for every ten confirmed lynchings.  Still the books keep coming; Amazon.com listed 126 for sale in 2004.

    Yet, lynchings have ceased in America.  Sundown towns, on the other hand, continue to this day.

    Nonetheless, the threat of such an act looms large in the United States.  In the enlightened era of the Twenty-First century, Americans have discussed or dismissed the appearance of nooses throughout our homeland.  More than a year passed before the mainstream media reported on the appearance of three nooses hung on a tree in Jena, Louisiana.  Naturally, the incident was said to be a Southern phenomenon.  However, weeks after a march on the city, in support of Civil Rights, another hangman’s rope was displayed on the office door of a Black faculty member at the Teachers College at Columbia University.  At a prestigious, Northern educational institution of higher learning, Americans were subject to lessons from the past.  In this nation, Blacks, regardless of their economic status, or social stature are not safe; nor are they respected as peers.

    Granted, the goodly among us will state as Lee C. Bollinger, President of Columbia University, declared, “This is an assault on African-Americans and therefore it is an assault on every one of us;” however, unless we speak of the unmentionable, those not victim to an attack, cannot imagine the wounds.  Niceties do not heal the invisible and deep scars.  Wounds are easily opened for they were never attended to.  Colorblind as Caucasians allege to be, they are not cured of the ills of prejudice.

    Only weeks ago, Americans again observed how easily we move from the topic of racial discrimination to decrees of settlement.  No harm done, no words of division will be uttered.  The offender and the offended do not discuss inequity, injustice, insults, and intolerance; the reality of race relations is left behind.  School grounds, the campaign scene, and the world of sports are as the streets of America, battlegrounds for bigotry.  Yet, in each of these venues, participants replace the actual topic with another.  Apologies suffice.  Our parents would be proud.  Americans can admit when they are wrong and move on, or pretend to.

    When Golf Channel commentator Kelly Tilghman joked on-air during the second round of the Mercedes-Benz Championship that ambitious young players should “lynch (Tiger Woods) in a back alley,” she set off yet another incidence of the stagecraft that passes for racial discourse in this country, with a tragic moment followed by the requisite scenes of accusation, remorse and demands for the protagonist’s head, all backed by a chorus of conflicting voices echoing to the rafters.

    There were plenty of soliloquies but distressingly little dialogue and no catharsis.  For her part Tilghman was held accountable through a public scolding by the punditocracy and a two-week suspension by her employer; but for me, there’s another, far more interesting character in this drama – Tiger Woods. . . .

    Whether Woods likes it or not, the episode serves to remind him, and everyone else, that regardless of how he attempts to transcend race with his accomplishments on the golf course, he can never fully escape his status as a person of color.

    Much the way the fried-chicken-and-collard-greens joke Fuzzy Zoeller made at the 1997 Masters pushed Woods into the role of African-American Golfer, Tilghman’s gaffe reinforces his heritage and its burdens, lumping Tiger in with the estimated 5,000 men who were lynched in America between Reconstruction and the Civil Rights movement of the ’60s. . . .

    For his part Tiger was quick to forgive and forget, saying through his agent, Mark Steinberg, that the incident was a “nonissue” and later releasing a statement that said, “Regardless of the choice of words used, we know unequivocally that there was no ill intent in her comments.”

    Rarely does the individual who delivers a racist epithet mean to offend.  The child who points does not intend to hurt someone’s feelings.  The parent who speaks in hushed tones purposely attempts not to insult.  For those raised in a world where in the privacy of a home, unkind comments in reference to people of color abound, such assertions seem sound.  Empathy escapes those who are not victim to the wrath of whites.  

    Anglos do not understand how a seemingly innocent statement can slice an African-American  to the core.  

    To suggest that a successful Black man might need to be put in his place, or lynched, is to acknowledge a truth that is always apparent to an African-American gentleman or lady.  A dark-brown-complexioned person who is perceived as one who does not know his or her station can expect to be reminded regularly, he or she is not equal to whites.  

    Decidedly, a dark-skin man or woman may do well in school or in the work place.  A gentleman or a lovely lady may excel beyond all belief.  A few elite Afro-Americans might be invited to live among Caucasians in an all white neighborhood, even in a Sundown Town.  A token or two is always welcome.  One with fame, fortune, and finesse may actually be appreciated.  After all, a community must make a good impression.  No locality would wish to be labeled intolerant, just as a parent, or child, does not desire to discriminate aloud.  Consider cities in the Northern region of the United States.  These humble townships have long maintained a noble image, false as it maybe.

    Outside the traditional South-states historically dominated by slavery, where sundown towns are rare-probably a majority of all incorporated places kept out African Americans. . . .

    Ironically, the traditional South has almost no sundown towns.  Mississippi, for instance, has no more than 6, mostly mere hamlets, while Illinois has no fewer than 456.

    Appearances are a lovely illusion.  Indeed, the presence of a Black person in a white world can be wrought with peril.  Driving While Black is a common crime. Even so, in an automobile, there is some protection for the brownish-purple complexioned person passing through a predominantly Anglo section of town.  If a Black man, or women, were to walk alone in an alley, in an affluent area, or in a slum, unaccompanied by an entourage, his or her life could be in danger.  Tiger Woods, [Michel Jordan, Denzel Washington, Venus and Serena Williams,] in casual clothes, without the cameras, or a gold plated golf club to identify him, could easily become a casualty of racial chauvinism.  Anglos, when alone or amongst an allied group of racists, are not colorblind.  Nor are they colormuted.  Whites will see, and say, as they truly believe.  Indeed, if a successful man or woman, whose facial features, and color, are not characteristic of a Caucasian, they may well find themselves in a position to be attacked.  In all likelihood, a Black person will be assaulted.  

    At times, the barbs will be verbal.  On occasion, physical jabs will be offered.  Perchance, a Black person may suffer a slight.  Most who react to ‘race’ are subtle in their approach.  However, it is rare when a white American does not express the bias that has been building for centuries sooner or later.  What simmers and stews within eventually will come to a boil.  The pain that hate gives rise to will spill out.  As a culture, when we pretend to be colorblind, and act on colormutedness, we give no air to what is real.  Racism has caused us to rot from within.

    Intellectually, Anglos know that to diminish the worth of those whose complexion is a brownish-black, to scorn or snub an African-American merely because their appearance is considered less “acceptable,” or to suggest that someone of color might be lynched is outrageous.  Yet, as long as Americans refuse to acknowledged the roots of racism, and recognize their own bigotry, intolerance will flourish.  If conversations are hushed, as they have been in this year alone, what we have witnessed will continue to burgeon.

    Within days of the Tilghman incident, Golf Week Magazine glorified the schism.  The sportscaster and her employer were the cover story or were meant to be.  So much for these intentions, be they ill-willed or wise.

    Golfweek Noose Elicits Strong Reaction

    By Doug Ferguson

    The Associated Press

    Friday, January 18, 2008; 12:18 AM

    The editor of Golfweek magazine said he was overwhelmed by negative reaction to the photo of a noose on the cover of this week’s issue, illustrating a story about the suspension of a Golf Channel anchor for using the word “lynch” in an on-air discussion about how to beat Tiger Woods.

    “We knew that image would grab attention, but I didn’t anticipate the enormity of it,” Dave Seanor, vice president and editor of the weekly magazine, said from the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fla. . . .

    “Look at the executive suites at the PGA Tour, or the USGA, or the PGA of America. There are very, very few people of color there,” he said.  “This is a situation in golf where there needs to be more dialogue. And when you get more dialogue, people don’t want to hear it, and they brush it under the rug. This is a source of a lot of pushback.” . . .

    Asked if he regretted the cover, Seanor paused before answering.

    “I wish we could have come up with something that made the same statement but didn’t create as much negative reaction,” he said.  “But as this has unfolded, I’m glad there’s dialogue.  Let’s talk about this, and the lack of diversity in golf.”

    Golfweek Editor Seanor may have thought the conversation vital; however, the mainstream, the average Joe and Joanna, the persons in power, and those who have none, would rather not discuss the disparity that envelops us.  Remember, etiquette is essential.  Colormuteness and colorblindness are cool.  Those who do not heed these calls are not.  Editor, Dave Seanor was replaced one day after a racially insensitive graphic, a noose, ‘graced’ the cover of Golfweek.

    Any lack of compassion, when public, can cause quite a controversy.  When the same deficit is subtle, there are few problems, that is, if the offender’s skin is pinkish in color.  This contrast is sharply evident in this election season, just as it was in Elementary School.  Our Presidential candidates and political Parties, like Mom and Dad, endorse colorblindness and colormuteness.  The electorate embraces a truce that prohibits colorful conversations.  

    When race relations are discussed, the Democrats wish to appear more compassionate than the Conservatives.  While it may be a tad true that the Democrats did better for Black America than the Republicans have, still, every Administration since America became a nation, did not authentically embrace equality.  The statistics, even when improvement is apparent, reveal an awful truth.

    The Conservative Agenda: Serving African Americans?

    By Tim Westrich and Amanda Logan

    Center For American Progress

    January 17, 2008

    How have African Americans fared since conservatives have been in charge of the economy? Not very well.  Their increases across key economic indicators have been slower under Bush as compared to the 1990s.  Here’s a look at the numbers:

    African Americans’ median income declined by an average of 1.6 percent per year under the current administration.

    In 2006, African Americans’ median income was $32,132, which is actually $2,603 lower than their median income of $34,735 (in 2006 dollars) in 2000. This is an annualized average growth rate of -1.6 percent. In contrast, this number increased at an annual average growth rate of 3.2 percent from 1992 to 2000. And African Americans’ median income is still substantially lower than Whites: In 2006, their median income was $32,132, as compared to $52,432 for Whites.

    Under Bush, the percent of African Americans without health insurance has increased from 18.5 percent to 20.5 percent.

    In 2006, 7.9 million African Americans were not covered by health insurance. The rate of African Americans not covered by health insurance increased by an annual average percent point change of 0.30 between 2000 and 2006. This is a much different picture compared to the 1990s. From 1992 to 2000, the number of uninsured African Americans decreased from 20.1 percent to 18.5 percent, an average annual percent point change of -0.20.

    The employment to population ratio for African Americans has declined faster than that of the Whites under the current administration.

    In 2007, the employment to population ratio – the percentage of the civilian population that is employed-for African Americans stood at 58.4 percent compared to 63.6 percent for white Americans. Between 2000 and 2006, the employment to population ratio for African Americans declined by an average of – 0.4 percent each year after increasing by 0.8 percent on average between 1992 and 2000.  The employed share of the African-American population grew faster than the employed share of the White population throughout the 1990s, but has shrunk faster than Whites since then.

    The increase in African-American homeownership has been slower under Bush than the 1990s.

    The homeownership rate for Whites increased three times faster than the homeownership rate for African Americans between 2000 and 2006. During this time, the homeownership rate for African Americans increased by an average annual growth rate of just 0.1, from 47.2 percent to 47.9 percent, whereas Whites’ homeownership rate increased by an average annual growth rate of 0.3 percent. This trend is in part because African Americans have actually seen their rate decline since 2004. Compare this to the 1990s, when African Americans’ homeownership rate increased by an average annual growth rate of 0.8 percent from 1994 to 2000. Whites’ rate was 0.6 percent during this time (homeownership data by race are not available before 1994).

    More African Americans are in poverty under Bush.

    More African Americans were in poverty in 2006 than in 2000, just after we saw a vast improvement the 1990s. In 2006, 24.2 percent of African-American individuals were in poverty. Compare this to 2000, when 22.5 percent were below the poverty line, a percentage point change of 0.28. Poverty among African Americans decreased substantially from 1992 to 2000, going from 33.4 percent to 22.5 percent, or an annual average percent point change of -1.36.

    The number of impoverished persons of color frequently increases.  At times, it decreases.  On occasion, it remains the same.  Yet, no matter who is in the Oval Office, Americans worry less about the fact that the dark skinned among us are more likely to live in poorer neighborhoods.  African-Americans are less likely to have adequate Health Care.  Doctors discriminate.

    Schools are segregated along racial lines.  Citizens of this country understand that a person who lives on the wrong side of the railroad tracks is probably Black.  Sundown Towns may have begun to allow Afro-Americans in; however, these persons better realize, they have their place.  Dark-skin people are encouraged to believe they are powerless to create genuine change, and Anglo Americans like it that way.

    There was hardly a rumble when the former First Lady, and Presidential aspirant explained, “Dr. King’s dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” Clinton continued. “It took a president to get it done.”  This statement seemed reasonable to those who have deterred the dreams within the Black community.  Rival candidate, and Senator Obama softly declared the comment “unfortunate and ill-advised”; nonetheless, he too was willing to remain colorblind and colormute.  A Black person knows better than to incite a riot.  African-Americans, in the childhood are taught as well as whites.

    In this country, citizens of all colors accept the truth and dare not drastically change it.  It is for this reason the electorate is barely disturbed by statements from a former President, his aides, or allies.  Even prominent Black Americans, grateful for small favors, and Presidential appointments, will stand by the side of a spouse and a former Commander-In-Chief when he states bigotry is believable and logical.

    Voting for president along racial and gender lines “is understandable because people are proud when someone who they identify with emerges for the first time,” the former president told a Charleston audience while campaigning for his wife. . . .

    Bill Clinton said civil rights leaders Andrew Young and John Lewis have defended his wife.  “They both said that Hillary was right, and the people who attacked her were wrong, and that she did not play the race card, but they did,” he said. . . .

    Clinton also told about 100 people in Charleston that he was proud of the Democratic Party for having a woman and a black candidate.

    For the former President, colorblindness and colormuteness helped to heal a division that he now justifies.  In America, racism, and chauvinism, are not only acceptable, these characteristics are considered a source of pride, and not a sign of prejudice.  Americans would rather be smug [and self-important] than address the sad fact people are not treated equally.  

    However, the message is mixed.  On one hand, the Clintons are prideful of the support they receive from the African-American population.  On the other, the two Clinton’s conclude Blacks will automatically congregate around their brethren.  When people do not admit to the color they see and will not hear of it, there is ample confusion.

    The puzzlement continues.  As votes are tallied, the temptation is to discount a rival’s win, or blame it on the color barrier, the one that supposedly does, or is it, does not exist.  When a Presidential aspirant or her husband speaks of the race [to the White House], the implicit untouchable topic of “race,” is tenderly tackled.

    In Charleston [South Carolina, during the 2008 primaries] last week, Bill Clinton said, “They are getting votes, to be sure, because of their race or gender, and that’s why people tell me that Hillary doesn’t have a chance of winning here.”

    Again, Americans must decide, does a person’s race make a difference?  Can people of color perform miracles as an Anglo might? In this country, we still argue whether we have seen this occur in the past.

    Hillary Clinton reminds white Americans of the accepted wisdom, even a great and honorable Black leader, such as Reverend, Doctor Martin Luther King Junior could not “get the job done.”  This prominent person of color needed the white man [or woman] in the White House to achieve what had never been accomplished before.  Senator Clinton’s words help cultivate the belief, a Caucasian, has the power to change the nation or make dreams come true.  Americans cannot know with certainty if this is true for even as some select Black persons climb, the old adage is reinforced.

    “Race doesn’t matter!” the crowd at Obama’s victory celebration in Columbia chanted last night, and when he spoke, the senator elaborated on the theme.  He said his victory disproved those who argue that people “think, act and even vote within the categories that supposedly define us” — that blacks will not vote for a white candidate and vice versa.

    “I did not travel around this state and see a white South Carolina or a black South Carolina.  I saw South Carolina,” he said.  The election, he said, “is not about rich versus poor or young versus old, and it’s not about black versus white. This election is about the past versus the future.”

    Americans wonder what will the future bring.  Can the United States, as a country, change so significantly.  After all, although voters are older and hopefully wiser, each was trained as a toddler.  Perhaps, we must go back to school, to begin at the beginning.  It may be that what we witness among adults could be quelled in the early years.  Conventionally, in Elementary School, and on into Secondary Schools children were separated or tracked.  In a desire to create a more balanced educational environment, the racial divide can be more apparent.

    Beth C. Rubin, an assistant education professor at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., describes how a school system’s efforts to end tracking-the practice of grouping students in separate classes by academic ability-inadvertently stigmatized minority students in one high school classroom. In that class, a teacher’s careful efforts to balance student work groups by race, gender, and ability enraged an African-American student.

    “You trying to get all the black kids away from each other, before we cause a nuclear holocaust!” the student exclaimed. Meanwhile, the white students in the class, most of whom were high-achieving, relegated the minority students in their groups to roles that gave them little opportunity to hone their academic skills, according to Ms. Rubin’s account.

    “I guess I’m asking teachers to think about race a little differently, and not so much about having to have kids equally distributed among groups,” Ms. Rubin said in an interview.  “And also,” she added, “to think of group work as skill-building over the course of the year.

    Americans are reminded each day, integration without conversation does little to create balance.  People must not merely live together in neighborhoods, or work with one another in schools, or in offices.  We must learn to be open, honest, and willing to work through our differences.  What we do not understand will destroy us.  

    A word, a look, will be interpreted through our personal background and experience.  If you are Black, a criticism might mean, “Get Back!”  If white, the same statement might be construed as, “It will be all right.”  If we remain colormute and colorblind, if we never bother to learn who each of us is, we can be certain, change will not come.  This is evident in numerous studies.  Our expectations rule.

    Balance is also key to the kind of instructional climate teachers should provide in racially diverse classrooms, [communities or campaigns] according to Ronald F. Ferguson, the director of Harvard’s Achievement Gap Initiative . . .

    Geoffrey L. Cohen, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Colorado-Boulder, recommends that, in offering students critical feedback, teachers convey the idea that the criticism reflects a high standard, and that they believe in the student’s ability to reach that standard . . .

    Mr. Cohen has found that such messages can be more motivating for minority students, who are often wary of the feedback they get from teachers, than when educators overpraise them or give the same feedback to all students.

    “Being a member of a stereotyped group puts one in a sort of bubble in which one can’t be certain whether the critical feedback comes from bias against their group or a teacher’s motivation to help one improve,” Mr. Cohen said in an interview.  “In general, though, whites can enter a school situation thinking, ‘Teachers here believe in me.'”

    For many Black Americans, an educator is frequently another white person who works from a premise of fear or futility.  Too often, a teacher seems pompous or pretentious.  It is not uncommon for an African-American to feel patronized when in the presence of an Anglo authority figure.  A comment meant to express care, can be heard as contrived.  

    Every individual, regardless of color, has a history.  Experience teaches us more than a professional mentor might.  It is hard to trust that a person might be colorblind, if that is even possible, if they are colormute.

    As long as Americans choose to avoid the discussion of diversity, to deny differences, and to reject hat our distinctive appearances enhance our experience, then life will be as it is and was.  Change cannot come.  Admittedly, Anglos are [color] blind.  Apparently, Caucasians, and even Blacks prefer to be [color] mute.  This must end if we are to evolve.

    When Americans, teachers, preachers, or Presidential hopefuls, do not empathetically approach the topic of intolerance then, as a society, we will continue to clash and crumble.  We may wish to hide from what haunts us.  However, there is a price to pay for racial discrimination and the income inequity we accept.

    Economically and emotionally, bigotry is  expensive.   Americans can see the cost of dilapidated schools.  Residents in this Northern region of the globe experience what occurs when students do not have the opportunity to soar.  Employment possibilities are limited.  Without a satisfactory job, homeownership is not feasible.  Even apartment life is not cheap.  In a culture that creates illiteracy, the streets may provide the only shelter.  

    A society that houses hordes of those with dark skin in slums does not truly serve us equally.  Citizens of the United Sates might understand, when a person is poor, as too many Black people are, they cannot afford adequate Health Care.  Hence, everyone, the affluent, and those who struggle but survive, contribute to the costs an ill and impoverished America creates.  

    In this country, in our local communities, during this political campaign, if Americans remain colorblind and colormute, nothing will change.  The possibility that conditions will worsen is one we must acknowledge.

    Barack Obama may be correct.  Differences exist.  However, they need not divide us.  Conversations about colorblindness and colormuteness can make his dream, our shared hope, come true.  Let us imagine that one day, this vision will be ours together.  As one people, united, perchance in time Americans will say . . .

    The choice . . . is not between regions, religions, or genders. It’s not about rich versus poor; young versus old; and it is not about black versus white.

    It’s about the past versus the future.

    It’s about whether we settle for the same divisions, distractions, and drama . . . or whether we reach for  . . . common sense, and innovation – a shared sacrifice and shared prosperity . . .

    When I hear that we’ll never overcome the racial divide . . . I think . . . Don’t tell me we can’t change.

    Yes, we can change.

    Yes, we can heal this nation.

    Yes we can seize our future.

    Anglo-Americans must no longer hold their children tightly when in the company of Black man or woman.  Pinkish people cannot continue to caution their progeny, to tell them they must pretend to be colorblind, and authentically become colormute.  If we are to ever heal, Caucasians in this country must mentor their offspring to believe, colors are beautiful.  Americans need to see the tone of a person’s skin, to speak of an individual’s race, and the realities without criticism.  If this country is going to change, if the United States expects to excel, then, we, the people must truly be, and act as equals.

    Resources For Racism . . .

    Is Biden a Racist? Was Kerry “Electable”? America Decides.

    © copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert


    Please view the video and listen to Presidential hopeful Joseph Biden describe the dreaded “incident.”
    Biden Responds to Obama ‘Clean’ Black Comment.

    For former Governor Howard Dean, the end began with a passionate scream.  Apparently, some thought expressing excitement is not Presidential.  For Senator Joseph Biden, the close of a Presidential campaign may have started with a stumble.  Say it ain’t so Joe.  This foot-in-mouth blunder may have profoundly altered a campaign that began only hours earlier.  The elder statesman offered this assessment of his fellow Senator and Democratic candidate Barrack Obama, “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.  I mean that’s a storybook, man.”

    Years ago, Joseph Biden tripped on his own tongue.  He made a disparaging remark about Indians.  For decades, many of the electorate thought Biden the storybook man.  Senator Joseph Biden was often thought of as an electable candidate.  He seemed to have it all, good looks, a strong and consistently liberal voting record, a grasp of the issues, a white face, and a male body.  Yet, Senator Biden consistently creates what he cannot control, an endless downward spiral.  Perchance, Americans join him.  Our fellow citizens make arbitrary assessments again and again.

    Numerous persons say Senator Biden is just too chatty.  When he apologizes for one misstep, he stumbles into a deeper hole.

    A symbol of Biden’s predicament was that the Delaware senator could not decide which verbal sin warranted the biggest apology.  He abjectly apologized to Jesse Jackson and Sharpton — both prior presidential candidates — for implying that they were not as “articulate and bright and clean” as Obama.  Biden also gave contradictory explanations of what he meant by “clean,” saying in a press conference that it was a shorthand for “clean as a whistle,” and then insisting to Stewart and Sharpton that he was praising Obama’s “fresh” ideas.

    As I reflect on the Biden blunder and contrast it with the Dean Scream, I find myself horrified.  I do object to the seemingly racist comment Senator Joseph Biden made this week, and the one he uttered years ago when he was out on the campaign trail.  However, I never struggled with the enthusiastic utterance made by Governor Dean.  My problems with Dean were deeper.  I actually enjoyed his energy and thought he was more “electable” than John Kerry.  Nevertheless, the choice is not mine alone to make. 

    What horrifies me is, how we as a nation judge so quickly.  Our assessments are superficial and frequently shortsighted.  As I contemplate whom we vote for and why, I feel deeply distressed.

    Although Americans are raised to believe beauty is only skin deep, they often act as though the opposite is true.  Citizens in the United States consider what is on the surface and then decide.  Good looks and great sound bites often sell a candidate.  Name recognition solidifies a lead.  During our last Presidential election, presumed electabilty ruled the race.  Substance was, and today is, rarely considered.  Actually, an intelligent man or woman is not highly thought of in Party circles. 

    Public relations experts say a scholarly sort cannot relate to the common people.  The pundits prefer a likable popular fellow or female.  You might recall the numbers that stated they wanted to go have a beer with George W. Bush.

    This was on my mind as I listened to Senator Biden speak of his African American opponent, Barrack Obama.  Biden spoke favorably of the Black American  Senator from Illinois, or so he thought.  He mentioned characteristics that he believed to be complimentary and I thought of Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm.  However, unlike Obama who may have a chance, Congresswoman Chisholm never did  The Congresswoman knew this and spoke of it.

    “I am a candidate for the Presidency of the United States.  I make that statement proudly, in the full knowledge that, as a black person and as a female person, I do not have a chance of actually gaining that office in this election year.  I make that statement seriously, knowing that my candidacy itself can change the face and future of American politics – that it will be important to the needs and hopes of every one of you – even though, in the conventional sense, I will not win.”
      ~ Shirley Chisholm June 4, 1972

    Perhaps, we as a nation might ponder; what constitutes a “win.”  Missus Chisholm may not have become President of the United Sates; nevertheless, she won great respect.  Shirley Chisholm was a forthright, determined educator-turned-politician.  The Congresswoman shattered racial and gender barriers.  she became a national symbol of liberal politics in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  this woman, this African American person, this fine female won the hearts and minds of many Americans.  Shirley Chisholm made possible what was considered impossible for centuries.  She may not have been President of the United Sates of America; nonetheless, she left quite a legacy.

    Many that never took the highest office have made quite an impression.  Consider former Senator and Vice President Albert Gore.  People continually push him to seek the seat that was meant to be his.  They want the Nobel Prize nominee to take the podium and rightfully claim the office he was elected to.  Many forget the compromises Al Gore felt forced to make as a Presidential candidate.  Likely, he recalls. 

    America is Wal-Mart country; we look for a bargain, not brains.  We want a quick fix, not quality.  Americans wait for a crisis before they act.  You might recall Senator Albert Gore published his book  Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit in 1992.  He was passionately concerned about the environment more than fifteen years ago.  Then many thought him silly.  Now as climate change creates infinite hardships worldwide, we turn to Albert Gore.  We honor him.  We listen to his wisdom.  A Presidential candidate, Al Gore may be forced to stifle his passion again.  You doubt it?  Remember Dean, the scream, and then let us talk about Dukakis.  What was his sin?

    Howard Dean was considered a man of strength, a campaigner that stood by his convictions, and that hurt him.  Mark Singer, a Journalist writing for Time Magazine penned his perspective of the Dean downfall and discussed how it damaged the Democratic Party.

    Dean would have one more, less tangible advantage: he doesn’t sound like a politician.  One reason the flip-flop charge has stuck is that Kerry, with his meandering, caveat-filled speaking style, often seems like a guy trying to avoid a straight answer.  Sensing that vulnerability, Republicans have run the same playbook they ran against Al Gore: portraying Kerry’s personality deficiencies as deficiencies of character.  As a result, while Kerry leads Bush on most domestic issues, voters turn sour when asked about Kerry the man.  In last week’s TIME poll, Kerry’s biggest deficit versus Bush was in “sticking to his positions.”  Only 37% of registered voters in the survey said Kerry does that, compared with 84% for Bush.

    Dean wouldn’t have that problem.  Polls in Iowa showed him doing best among voters who value a candidate who “takes strong stands.”  It’s true that Dean’s passion exploded the night he lost Iowa – into a scream heard around the world.  But it was the flip side of the spontaneity that made him seem authentic, a straight shooter.  With his blunt, no-nonsense style, Dean actually evoked – more than any of his Democratic rivals – President Bush.

    Were Dean the nominee, the Bush campaign would probably be going after him not as a flip-flopper but as a lefty.  Lefty isn’t exactly a term of endearment.  But at least it evokes issues rather than character.  Character debates sank Al Gore and threaten to sink John Kerry now.  A debate about issues, on the other hand – especially the biggest issue of all, Iraq – is something Democrats could win.

    The nature of a person is difficult to discern when the media and the opposing Party promotes an image.  A candidate’s attempts to control the message can also cause difficulty.  It seems that more American’s remember the image of Michael Dukakis in a tank than they recall what he stood for.  Issues are rarely discussed on the campaign trail and when they are, watch out.  Consider what a contender says and how he says it.  The public certainly will.  The honorable Governor Dukakis was devastated throughout his run, rarely were issues the focus.  Character was.  When Michael Dukakis answered a question too calmly he was considered cold and thus, not electable.  Yet, let us look at the man again.  Perhaps, time will afford a more accurate assessment

    The National Governors’ Association honored Dukakis in 1986, naming him the most effective governor in the nation.

    By 1988, the stage was set for Dukakis to ascend to the White House.  He won a tough primary, sharpening his political teeth against several well-heeled challengers, including Al Gore, a senator from Tennessee, and Gary Hart, a former senator from Colorado.

    “The best America is a nation where the son of Greek immigrants, with your help, can seek and win the presidency of the United States,” Dukakis told a crowd of supporters during his contentious presidential campaign.

    As Dukakis squared off against Republican nominee and then Vice President George H.W. Bush, his campaign hit a few rough patches.

    He struggled with image problems as the Bush campaign attacked him for being too liberal.  For his part, Dukakis called himself a “proud liberal” and attempted to link the Bush campaign to one of the Reagan administration’s biggest scandals — the Iran-Contra affair.

    One of the most pivotal moments of the presidential campaign came during the second debate between the hopefuls.

    CNN’s Bernard Shaw asked Dukakis, a well-known opponent of the death penalty, if he would support a death sentence for the killer if his wife were the one raped and murdered.

    Dukakis’s rote answer to such an emotional question — that he opposed the death penalty because he did not consider it a deterrent to crime — sounded unfeeling to some.

    Others criticized the question itself as unfair.

    In November 1988, Dukakis lost the presidential election to Bush, and he returned to Massachusetts to finish his term as governor.

    Still, Dukakis counts losing the presidential election as one of his biggest disappointments.

    “I think about it every morning when I open the newspaper and read about the current President Bush,” he told CNN.

    Howard Dean was reamed for being too passionate; Dukakis for being too composed.  Chisholm was too Black, too feminine, too respectable, and Senator Biden might be too contrite or not repentant enough.  Perhaps he is a racist, though his voting record does not reflect this.  Were I Michael Dukakis, I would not feel disappointment.  I would rejoice in not being elected by a populace that is so frivolous.  Howard Dean might  assess American’s and understand that they can be shallow.  Albert Gore may look at the public and think, how glib.  Shirley Chisholm might reflect on America and conclude, this nation is racist and sexist.  She would be correct, or so I believe. 

    I experience my countrymen and women as critical, judgmental, disapproving, and disparaging.  We are discriminating, though not in the best of ways.  We categorize and compartmentalize our candidates.  Gore is too stiff and Obama is inexperienced.  Kerry was decidedly electable; yet, he was not. 

    In America we determine who we think will win and forget to consider whom might best serve the needs of a nation at risk.  Congressman Dennis Kucinich is a name rarely mentioned.  Senator Tom Harkin was a hush.  Governor Tom Vilsack of Iowa is but a blur for now.  Some names are barely memorable.  There is no spin.  Authenticity, altruism, and ardor are not desirable qualities in a presidential candidate.  Americans wants a looker, a likeable guy, or a person that listens to them.  Oh no, not the latter.

    Presidential Pondering . . .

  • Biden Responds to Obama ‘Clean’ Black Comment.  YouTube.
  • Biden, President ’08
  • Obama’s race dilemma, By Joan Vennochi.  Boston Globe.  February 4, 2007
  • The Ticket That Might Have Been. . .  President Chisholm.  P.O.V.  Public Broadcasting Services.
  • Earth in the Balance.  Ecology and the Human Spirit.  By Albert Gore
  • Al Gore Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize.; By Doug Mellgren.  Associated Press.  Breitvart.  February 1, 2007
  • If Howard Dean Were the Candidate …  By Peter Beinart.  Time Magazine.  September 27, 2004
  • pdf If Howard Dean Were the Candidate …  By Peter Beinart.  Time Magazine.  September 27, 2004
  • Running On Instinct, Howard Dean’s critics say he is winging it.  Can that get him to the White House?  By Mark Singer.  The New Yorker.  January 12, 2004
  • The Ticket That Might Have Been…  President Chisholm, By Gloria Steinem.  Reprinted by permission of Ms. Magazine. © 1973
  • Dean Dumps Campaign Manager. CBS News. January 28, 2004
  • Biden Tells Dems He Regrets Obama Remark, By Nedra Pickler.  Associated Press.  Forbes.  February 3, 2007
  • Who’s more likeable, Bush or Kerry? By Richard Benedetto.  USA Today.  September 17, 2004
  • Then & Now: Michael Dukakis.  Cable News Network.  September 29, 2007
  • Kucinich for President
  • Tom Harkin for President 1992 Campaign Brochures; `Tom Harkin is fighting to reclaim the American Dream.’  4President Corporation.
  • Iowa governor announces White House bid, Vilsack becomes first Democrat to declare candidacy.  By Charlie Neibergall.  Associated Press.  MSNBC.  November 9, 2006
  • Thanksgiving. Will Our Past, Our Present Be Prologue? ©

    As the celebration continues and the cynicism mounts, a delivery was made to me.  I thank William S. Burroughs for his Thanksgiving Prayer.  I am grateful to bzbb of My Left Wing fame.  S/he shared the text and resource with me. 

    After reading my Thanksgiving story of genocide, some decided that they knew I loathe the holiday; I do not.  I do have disdain for humans that knowingly hurt other humans.  I am disquieted when I realize that man, woman, or child intentionally commits crimes against nature.

    When people speak against “evil” and then act in ways that I think they might deem “sinful” I am confused.  While, I personally do not believe in either concept, I wonder why those that do think these constructs are valid behave in ways that could be defined as wicked.

    As I listen to William Burroughs and read the text of his musings, I am miffed.  What are we giving thanks for on this the fourth Thursday in November?  What do we welcome in the days that follow?  I offer the Burroughs prayer so that we all might ponder.

    Thanksgiving Prayer
    By William S Burroughs [1914 to 1997]
    American Novelist, Essayist, and Social Critic

    Thanks for the wild turkey and the passenger pigeons,
    Destined to be shit out through wholesome American guts.
    Thanks for a continent to despoil and poison.
    Thanks for Indians to provide a modicum of challenge and danger.
    Thanks for vast herds of bison to kill and skin leaving the carcasses to rot.
    Thanks for bounties on wolves and coyotes.
    Thanks for the American dream,?
    To vulgarize and to falsify until the bare lies shine through.
    Thanks for the KKK.
    For n****r-killin’ lawmen feelin’ their notches.
    For decent church-goin’ women, with their mean, pinched, bitter, evil faces.
    Thanks for “Kill a Queer for  Christ” stickers.
    Thanks for laboratory AIDS.
    Thanks for Prohibition and the  war against drugs.
    Thanks for a country where nobody’s allowed to mind the own business.
    Thanks for a nation of finks.
    Yes, thanks for all the memories– all right let’s see your arms!
    You always were a headache and you always were a bore.
    Thanks for the last and greatest betrayal of the last and greatest of human dreams.

    I cannot thank William Seward Burroughs II enough.  My mind would never travel in the places his did.  However, perchance, you dear reader might relate.

    If nothing else, I think this performance might provoke a deeper pondering.  I invite each of us to reflect, to meditate, and contemplate, what does Thanksgiving Day mean to us.  What does the holiday season connote?

    How might our past relate to our present and what will our future be.

    “Those who forget the lessons of history are condemned to repeat them.”
    ~ George Santanya

    “What’s past is prologue.”
    ~ William Shakespeare

    Consider Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, and Korea.  Is there talk of occupation or might we overthrow regime after regime? 

    Contemplate racial profiling.  Does the Patriot Act make this legal. 

    Look within your local cities.  Are there slums, ghettos, gangs, and girls walking the streets to make a decent wage?  Perhaps, workingwomen are not the only ones looking for work.  There are those that lost their employ so long ago they are no longer counted by government tallies.  They dropped off the rolls, and have since dropped out of sight.  In actuality, these persons are still visible; look out your window.  There they are, on the avenue. 

    Are Blacks treated as whites; are the rich revered, are the poor?

    What of women; what of immigrants?

    Might we recall the Native Americans and the wilderness that welcomed our forefathers?  What became of these?

    What occurs in your home or that of your neighbors?  Is communication prevalent in your abode, or in that of those living adjacent to you?  Is care evident and flourishing or is this concept one you and others crave, but only dream of.  I wonder. 

    What did you give thanks for yesterday and what will you be grateful for tomorrow?

    Thanksgiving.  The Past, Present, and Pondering

  • Burroughs. By bzbb. My Left Wing. Friday, November 24, 2006
  • William S. Burroughs – Thanksgiving Prayer. YouTube.com
  • Practice to Deceive Chaos in the Middle East is not the Bush hawks’ nightmare scenario–it’s their plan. By Joshua Micah Marshall. Washington Monthly. April 2003
  • US Patriot Act. American Civil Liberties Union. November 14, 2003
  • Streetgangs. Streetgangs.com
  • Ghettos: The Changing Consequences of Ethnic Isolation, By Ed Glaeser.  Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. Spring 1997
  • Living Wage, Facts at a Glance. The Economic Policy Institute. 2006
  • Jobs Picture, November 2006. The Economic Policy Institute. 2006
  • The Two Nations of Black America. Frontline. Public Broadcasting Services
  • The Rich Get Richer. The Washington Post. Tuesday, April 12, 2005
  • Income Inequity. The Real Reason the Rich Get Richer. ©  By Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org
  • Women’s History in America.?Presented By Women’s International Center
  • Poverty in America, One Nation Pulling Apart. Poverty in America Project
  • The World Confronts Its E-waste Nightmare. By Tam Harbert.  Natural Resources Defense Council Fall 2006
  • Talking Turkey, Eating Shit and Taking the Heat, By starkravinglunaticradical.  Booman Tribune. November 24, 2005
  • Immigrants’ Rights. American Civil Liberties Union
  • The Natural History of Neighborhood Violence, By Jeffrey Fagan, Columbia University and Garth Davies, Simon Fraser University.  Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, SAGE Publications Vol. 20, No. 2, 127-147.  2004
  • Communication. By Stefanie Cox, Larry Graber, Gregory Olson, Peacemakers. Better Endings, New Beginnings
  • Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High.  By Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler.  McGraw-Hill Trade. June 2002
  • Give Thanks for Genocide. Thanksgiving, National Day of Mourning © By Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org