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Losing The Black Middle Class

March 22, 2017, 5:54 PM UTC

A new report from UCLA delves into the very real problems black workers are facing in Los Angeles. “Los Angeles is in the throes of a Black jobs crisis,” it begins. Though the study is city-specific, the findings remind us that it’s hard out there, for some people more than others.

Among their major findings:

  • Since the 1980s, the Black population in Los Angeles has declined by over 100,000 residents from 13% to 8% while the Inland Empire has gained over 250,000 Black residents.
  • Black workers with a high school or less education experience unemployment at almost double the rate as white workers at the same education level.
  • Black workers are underrepresented in professional jobs and have lower rates in manager and supervisory positions.
  • Whether working full or part time, Black workers earn only three-quarters of what white workers earn. For Black women, the wage gap is even more severe.

Grim stuff. Here’s one that really got my attention:

  • Black workers experience a myriad of negative health outcomes due to racial discrimination in employment

It’s almost like racism is literally breaking people’s hearts.

Los Angeles was one of the destination cities for black folks during The Great Migration, the slow but steady movement of six million African Americans between 1916 and 1970, from the violent repression of the Jim Crow South, to the North and West in search of a better life. Last fall, I asked Isabel Wilkerson, the author of The Warmth Of Other Suns, to explain why this history is so relevant today. “The North had not been – and has never been – forced to deal with the underlying biases and hierarchies that were as present in the South,” she told raceAhead. “When people arrived in these northern cities – looking for work, for better lives – they were met with great hostility and hyper-segregation in housing and education. And it’s dispiriting to see that hostility still exists.”

It also explains, she says, the other headlines of 2016. “Police overreach and brutality cases are a direct result of the unaddressed tensions and hostilities that are still with us. Think about it – Cleveland, Baltimore, Ferguson/St. Louis, Chicago, and Milwaukee – the most dramatic cases of police brutality are all happening in the places where people sought refuge.” And history repeats. The study suggests that black people in the Los Angeles area are feeling the need to move again.

This report drops as we are also engaging in a fraught, and long overdue conversation about white middle-class workers, many of whom are now facing several generations at or near poverty. Why were they abandoned? What is the real remedy? But history reminds us that it’s impossible to have one conversation without the other. Our stories are joined together: To leave out the experience of one group of people is to deny a fundamental reality of the other. That is the truth of our difficult history, and like it or not, no rallying cry or political fist-shaking can make it disappear.


On Point

Trump administration publishes its first list of immigrant crimesThe "Weekly and Declined Detainer Outcome Report," is putting pressure on sanctuary cities that are protecting immigrants from deportation, and is designed to shame local jurisdictions into turning over undocumented persons to federal authorities. Univision analyzed the report: common criminal charges are domestic abuse, driving while intoxicated, assault and robbery and sexual assault. The majority of people were charged not convicted, and most come from Latin American countries.Univision

The hijab as a symbol of feminist resistance
Women who have not worn hijab, even if their mothers do, are starting to wear it as a symbol of defiance and feminist strength, reports USA Today. The movement to wear hijab also includes non-Muslim women who don it in solidarity. The hijab itself is controversial; critics worry that the garment oppresses women. “I do believe hijab support feminism," said one hijabi student. "The way you look at it from a religious perspective, it empowers you by strengthening your relationship with God. It’s a step you are taking to further yourself within your own religion.”
USA Today

Uber to make sexual harassment findings public
An internal investigation into sexual harassment allegations against the ride-sharing company will conclude at the end of April. Board member Arianna Huffington said in a call with reporters, "Whatever the investigation finds will be honored by everyone at Uber." It is hoped the move will reassure the public that Uber’s troubled culture is transforming, though Huffington was quick to add that the removal of CEO Travis Kalanick was not on the table. “It’s not something that’s been addressed because it has not come up, and we do not expect it to come up,” she said.

TaskRabbit CEO: “Where I’m from, people don’t know they can be a CEO of a tech company”
Stacy Brown-Philpot has been a tech treasure for ages now, a Stanford MBA who rose up the ranks at Google – she also started the black Googler network – then joined TaskRabbit  as COO, then CEO. The company has embraced empathy from the start; all taskers are paid at or above minimum wage. “[W]hat TaskRabbit has done, and many other sharing economy companies, is actually formalized the side hustle in the sense that we are now giving people a way to earn an income that is meaningful.” She talks about growing up working class in Detroit, with a single mom who got it figured out. If you want a roadmap for being successful in tech while maintaining your identity as a black woman who understands the world, this is it.

Johns Hopkins accepts the first black woman as a neurosurgery resident
She’s Ghana-born medical student Nancy Abu-Bonsrah, and she plans on using her training to make a difference. “I am very much interested in providing medical care in underserved settings, specifically surgical care,” she wrote after she learned the news. “I hope to be able to go back to Ghana over the course of my career to help in building sustainable surgical infrastructure.” Abu-Bonsrah immigrated to the U.S. with her family when she was 15. The good news overshadowed the other news of the day: It took until 2017 for Johns Hopkins to find and accept a black woman into their neurosurgery program.
Huffington Post

The 2017 Diversity In Tech Awards
They’re May 4th in New York City and Code/Interactive, a non-profit focused on providing industry opportunities for STEM students, have published their list of finalists in four categories: Individuals, Organizations, Initiatives and Media. Many of your favorite people and organizations are on the list. Click through to vote, and be aware raceAhead will be sitting up straight and looking sharp to get on the list for next year.

The Woke Leader

The contradictions in our past
Good, smart, decent people can also hold deeply racist ideas. This is the message of this important essay by Ibram X. Kendi, who offers a review of historical figures who are correctly beloved for their good works yet spared the necessary analysis of where they did real damage. “Some of America’s greatest warriors against anti-Black racism have been some of America’s greatest enforcers of racist ideas,” he writes. Ignoring history does us no favors, he asserts, taking on Harriet Beecher Stowe, Abraham Lincoln, Earl Warren, and John Marshall Harlan, the lone dissenter in the Plessy v. Ferguson decision on southern segregation. “Our Constitution is color-blind and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens,” is what Harlan is remembered for. “The white race deems itself to be the dominant race in this country. And so it is,” is what people have forgotten he said. 

NYPD officer who delighted the crowd at the Gay Pride parade, dies of a 9/11 related cancer
The video made headlines back in 2015, and kicked off a spate of “cops dancing with underserved communities” videos, which were all fine. But this one was great. Michael Hance, an NYPD veteran, thrilled the city when a cell phone video captured him twerking with a reveler at the Gay Pride parade, while both on duty and in uniform. Hance was neither gay or an official gay officer advocate, he was just moved by the moment. “I was as impressed as I was happy,” said Brian Downey, the president of the NYPD’s Gay Officers Action League said about the video. Hance worked a “bucket brigade” in the pit after the 9/11 attacks; he was diagnosed with brain cancer last November. He was, by all accounts, a good guy.
New York Daily News

There are hardly any black craft beer brewers
But why? Dave Infante starts his attempt to gather diversity statistics about the craft beer world with this hilarious observation: “Craft beer is white. Whiter than a ski lodge. Whiter than a Whole Foods in the suburbs.” He pesters the only black brewmaster he could find who tells him to go read. “My best answer is ‘See Coates, Ta-Nehisi,’” said Oliver Garrett of Brooklyn Brewery. Infante smartly digs deeper on his own and comes up with his an answer and another question: craft beer is white because the overall American beer industry has always been white. But why? Let’s discuss over a couple of frosty Brooklyn Lagers.


I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races – that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people…while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.
—Abraham Lincoln