Watch the 50th Anniversary of MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech LIVE Wednesday 11:30 a.m. ET
When President Obama takes the stage at the Lincoln Memorial on Wednesday to commemorate the 1963 March on Washington, he will symbolize a big part of the complicated story of the nation’s racial progress in the half-century since the historic demonstration.
Can there be more convincing testimony to the breathtaking advancement of African Americans than a black president?
Yet there is also this: Even as racial barriers have been toppled and the nation has grown wealthier and better educated, the economic disparities separating blacks and whites remain as wide as they were when marchers assembled on the Mall in 1963.
Between 1959 and 1972, the black poverty rated dropped from 55.1 percent to 32.2 percent. But since then, progress has been slow. In 2011, 27.6 percent of black households were in poverty — nearly triple the white rate, according to the Census Bureau.
“The relative position of blacks has not changed economically since the march,” said William Darity Jr., a professor of public policy, economics and African American studies at Duke University. “Certainly, poverty has declined for everybody, but it has declined in a way that the proportion of blacks to whites who are poor is about the same as it was 50 years ago.”
That is hardly what famed labor leader A. Philip Randolph, the driving force behind the event, had in mind when he called for a mass march for “jobs and freedom.” For decades, Randolph, founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first predominantly black labor union, had pushed for economic equality for black Americans.
[R]acial economic disparities are mostly unchanged and in some cases are growing. In 1963, blacks families earned 55 cents for every dollar earned by whites. In 2011, blacks earned 66 cents for every dollar earned by whites. The black unemployment rate averaged 11.6 percent between 1963 and 2012, more than double the white jobless rate over that time.
From CMP: Theft of Wealth from People of Color
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The Economic Immobility and Financial Insecurity of POC
According to a Pew Research Center study released [in 2011], the median wealth (assets minus debt) for white households is a little over $113,000, whereas the median wealth for black households is little more than $5600. According to a study released last year by Insight, Center for Community Economic Development, the median wealth for single black women is $100. Twenty-five percent of women of color have student debt, and nearly 50 percent of women of color have credit card debt in order to pay for basic necessities, thereby endangering financial security and economic mobility. According to Insight “[s]ingle black and hispanic women have one penny of wealth for every dollar of wealth owned by their male counterparts and a fraction of a penny for every dollar of wealth owned by single white women.”
- Single black and Hispanic women have a median wealth of $100 and $120 respectively; the median for single white women is $41,500.
- While white women in the prime working years of ages 36-49 have a median wealth of $42,600, the median wealth for women of color is only $5.
- Nearly half of all single black and Hispanic women have zero or negative wealth, the latter of which occurs when debts exceed assets.
- While 57 percent of single white women own homes, only 33 percent of single black women and 28 percent of single Hispanic women are homeowners.
- Only 1 percent of single Hispanic women and 4 percent of single black women own business assets compared to 8 percent of single white women.
- Social Security is the only source of retirement income for more than 25 percent of black women.
- Prior to age 50, women of color have virtually no wealth at all.
Primary Resources: I Have a Dream, 1963
This is an audio recording of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. giving the “I Have a Dream” speech during the Civil Rights rally on the steps at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963. The speech is regarded as one of the greatest American speeches ever made.
Three years after the worst offshore oil disaster in U.S. history, BP is adopting a new narrative that demonizes coastal businesses for taking advantage of the oil giant’s generosity. In an attempt to reduce the amount BP owes in a settlement for damages suffered, BP has gone with a full offense PR campaign that alleges widespread fraud.
Here is an excerpt of the full-page ads BP has taken out in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal, with the intent of reaching policymakers:
Its other newspaper ads make a similar case, but cite Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue to claim there is rampant fraud. Those ads neglect to mention that BP is a member of the Chamber.
BP launched its increasingly aggressive battle against legal claims after disappointing quarterly profits of $2.7 billion. Ironically, BP is accruing a hefty legal fee for its efforts to draw out litigation.
Millions of Americans suffered a loss of wealth during the recession and the sluggish recovery that followed. But the last half-decade has proved far worse for black and Hispanic families than for white families, starkly widening the already large gulf in wealth between non-Hispanic white Americans and most minority groups, according to a new study from the Urban Institute.
“It was already dismal,” Darrick Hamilton, a professor at the New School in New York, said of the wealth gap between black and white households. “It got even worse.”
Given the dynamics of the housing recovery and the rebound in the stock market, the wealth gap might still be growing, experts said, further dimming the prospects for economic advancement for current and future generations of Americans from minority groups.
The Urban Institute study found that the racial wealth gap yawned during the recession, even as the income gap between white Americans and nonwhite Americans remained stable. As of 2010, white families, on average, earned about $2 for every $1 that black and Hispanic families earned, a ratio that has remained roughly constant for the last 30 years. But when it comes to wealth — as measured by assets, like cash savings, homes and retirement accounts, minus debts, like mortgages and credit card balances — white families have far outpaced black and Hispanic ones. Before the recession, non-Hispanic white families, on average, were about four times as wealthy as nonwhite families, according to the Urban Institute’s analysis of Federal Reserve data. By 2010, whites were about six times as wealthy.
The dollar value of that gap has grown, as well. By the most recent data, the average white family had about $632,000 in wealth, versus $98,000 for black families and $110,000 for Hispanic families.
“The racial wealth gap is deeply rooted in our society,” said Caroline Ratcliffe, one of the authors of the Urban Institute study. “It’s here, it’s not going away, and we need to care about it.”
Factory Fire Kills More Than 100 People in Bangladesh, New York Times:
MUMBAI — More than 100 people died Saturday and Sunday in a fire at a garment factory outside Dhaka, Bangladesh, in one of the worst industrial tragedies in that country…
Bangladesh’s garment industry, the second largest exporter of clothing after China, has a notoriously poor record of fire safety. Since 2006, more than 500 Bangladeshi workers have died in garment factory fires, according to Clean Clothes Campaign, an anti-sweatshop advocacy group based in Amsterdam. Experts say many of the fires could have been easily avoided if the factories had taken the right precautions. Many factories are in cramped neighborhoods, have too few fire escapes and widely flout safety measures. The industry employs more than three million workers in Bangladesh, mostly women.
Activists say that global clothing brands need to take responsibility for working conditions in Bangladeshi factories that produce the clothes that they sell …
Bangladesh exports about $18 billion worth of garments and is a big supplier to companies like Walmart, H&M and Tommy Hilfiger. Workers in the country’s factories are among the lowest-paid in the world with entry-level workers making a government-mandated minimum wage of about $37 a month.
Black Friday Wal*Mart Strike:
In 100 cities across 46 states Thursday and Friday, the protesters were likely to be met by honks and fist pumps from cars as they waved signs and chanted outside Walmart stores. At the Walmart in Paramount, Calif., near Los Angeles, about 600 protesters, including an estimated 100 Walmart workers, turned out Friday morning. In Hanover, Md., 400 store employees, union workers, activists and other supporters showed up at a Walmart Supercenter Friday…
OUR Walmart, the worker organization that is coordinating the protests backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, contests Walmart’s estimates. Nationwide, there have been more than 1,000 individual actions and strikes so far, which is in line with what OUR Walmart projected, according to Dan Schlademan, director of the union’s Making Change at Walmart campaign.
On a conference call Friday, Schlademan said his organization does not yet have a precise count of the number of workers who walked off, as the strikes are ongoing. There have been “hundreds” of workers and “thousands” of supporters so far, he said.
Remembering the 1911 Triangle Factory Fire:
The fire at the Triangle Waist Company in New York City, which claimed the lives of 146 young immigrant workers, is one of the worst disasters since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
This incident has had great significance to this day because it highlights the inhumane working conditions to which industrial workers can be subjected. To many, its horrors epitomize the extremes of industrialism.
The tragedy still dwells in the collective memory of the nation and of the international labor movement. The victims of the tragedy are still celebrated as martyrs at the hands of industrial greed.
From Democracy Now:
The Supreme Court opens its 2012-2013 term [yesterday] with a landmark case to decide whether survivors of human rights violations in foreign countries can bring lawsuits against corporations in U.S. courts. The case centers on a lawsuit that accuses the oil giant Shell’s parent company, Royal Dutch Petroleum, of complicity in the murder and torture of Nigerian activists. Some legal analysts are comparing this case, Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, to the landmark campaign finance ruling in Citizens United. In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled corporations have broad rights under the First Amendment and can directly fund political campaigns. The court is now being asked to decide if corporations have the same responsibilities as individuals for violations of international law. The court’s ruling will also impact numerous other human rights cases being heard by lower courts. We’re joined in New York by Baher Azmy, the legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
In fact, the Economic Policy Institute found that Romney’s plans would actually lead to a net loss of jobs over the first two years of his administration, and the losses could grow even larger if Romney were to stick to his promise of reaching a balanced budget.
EPI had to make assumptions about Romney’s plan because of its lack of specificity, but according to its analysis, Romney’s plan to lower taxes and cut spending would cause a net loss of 554,000 jobs over the next two years if Romney abandons his plan to pay for the massive tax cuts he has promised. But if he maintains his promise to balance the budget while also providing the huge tax cuts, his plan would “lead to employment losses of 608,000 in 2013 and roughly 1.3 million in 2014″