Racial Justice

Racial Justice Book Club

Every other month, a high quality, carefully vetted book focusing on racial justice issues is selected for participants to read and discuss. Find the selections here and consider joining us at our next discussion. You can also see a list of the books we have already discussed.

Overcoming Obstacles to Create Community

“Overcoming Obstacles to Create Community” is an initiative of the Women’s Voices’ Racial Justice Committee. Read more here.

 

The 1619 Project -The New York Times

August 18, 2019

“The 1619 Project is a major initiative from The New York Times observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to re-frame the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.”

Access the entire New York Times Magazine devoted to the project here.

The New York Times Magazine, The 1619 Project, is available for purchase here.

Below are individual links to The New York Times Magazine (August 18, 2019) essays, followed by other links about the project.

>Listen to the hour-long show on National Public Radio’s 1A devoted to the project.

>Access the PBS Newshour’s discussion with Professor Khalil Gibran Muhammad about his essay analyzing how American sugar production cemented slavery within the U.S. economy — and how its legacy endures.

>Subscribe to the series of podcasts on the 1619 project from The New York Times.

 

Missouri’s shrinking Medicaid rolls raise red flag on vetting process

August 19, 2019

“When Missouri officials announced earlier this year that more than 100,000 people, many of them children, had been dropped from the state Medicaid program, critics assailed the cuts as callous and unnecessary.

But House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, said Monday that the cuts largely resulted from a new computer system’s ability to weed out enrollees who earned too much money to qualify for the program.”

….

“But others are skeptical of the claim that an improved economy is behind a decrease in eligibility. The state’s economy hasn’t improved enough in recent years to push so many recipients off the rolls, said Tim McBride, Washington University Health Economics professor.

“Most of those kids probably should be eligible for Medicaid unless their parents’ income doubled or tripled, but I don’t see evidence in other economic data to suggest that’s what’s going on,” said McBride, who until recently oversaw the state’s Medicaid Oversight Committee.”

Read the article here

St. Louis must invest in young, black males to grow

February 14, 2019

HomeGrown STL convened its annual summit on February 7 at the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University, where it’s based. Its focus was succinctly stated in the title of the policy brief released and discussed at the summit: “Social Mobility: The Necessary Focus of St. Louis Investment in Black Males.” …Their thesis is pretty simple: if St. Louis does not make major investments in improving the social mobility of young black males in the region, then it does not much matter what else does get the region’s investment and attention. Read more here.

 

Black Children In St. Louis Far More Likely To Visit The ER For Asthma Than Whites

January 14, 2019 – St. Louis Public Radio

The vast majority of St. Louis emergency room visits for asthma are from black children, according to report from Mayor Lyda Krewson’s office.

The Equity Indicators report found black children are 10 times as likely as white children to visit the emergency room for asthma-related health problems, making it the lowest-scoring indicator of the 72 measures studied by the city.

Read the full article here.

Department of Education Recommends ​Ending Discipline Polities that Protect Children of Color

December 18 – Forbes Magazine

A federal commission headed by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos released a long-awaited school safety report today that recommends, among other things, that the Department of Education abandon Obama-era policies aimed at protecting children of color from excessive discipline in school. The 177-page report says that disciplinary decisions should be left to classroom teachers and local administrators who should not have to follow guidance issued by the federal government….

…Research shows that when students are suspended, expelled or arrested, they are more likely to drop out of school and suffer negative consequences. Critics of discriminatory discipline, including the ACLU, have called it the “school to prison pipeline.”…

…A survey of superintendents found that only 16% had modified their disciplinary practices because of the Obama policy, but of those that made the change, 44% said it resulted in a positive experience and 4.5% said the experience was negative.

Two former Obama administration education secretaries, Arne Duncan and John King, criticized the commission’s report in a statement. “Today’s recommendation to roll back guidance that would protect students from unfair, systemic school discipline is beyond disheartening,” they wrote.

Read the full article here

Note: A report released in October, 2017 found that black students in Missouri were 4 times as likely to be suspended as white students. The report detailed the ways in which black students and students with disabilities are disproportionately suspended, arrested and otherwise disciplined in Missouri schools. See here

Suspensions Are Down In U.S. Schools But Large Racial Gaps Remain

December 17, 2018 – NPR

Students in U.S. schools were less likely to be suspended in 2016 than they were in 2012. But the progress is incremental, and large gaps — by race and by special education status — remain.

The Child Trends analysis highlights findings that when a student disrupts class, a school can disrupt that student’s education — and his or her entire life. Research suggests suspension and expulsion, arrests and referrals to law enforcement, is associated with dropping out of school and going to jail. All of these consequences happen more frequently to black students, even in preschool.

Black high school students are still twice as likely (12.8 percent) to be suspended as white (6.1 percent) or Hispanic (6.3 percent) high school students.

Read full article here.

Note: A report released in October, 2017 found that black students in Missouri were 4 times as likely to be suspended as white students. The report detailed the ways in which black students and students with disabilities are disproportionately suspended, arrested and otherwise disciplined in Missouri schools. See here

St. Louis’ poorest residents ask: Why can’t our houses be homes?

October 17, 2018 –

St. Louis is one of six communities the Center for Public Integrity is profiling this month on the eve of a critical midterm election that will decide the balance of power in Washington. These communities are connected by their profound needs and sense of political abandonment at a time when the Trump administration has declared the nation’s war on poverty “largely over and a success.”

Read the article to learn about the housing programs in St. Louis and why “some of the city’s poorest residents say the city is failing them.”

Members Attend Poverty Summit

September 20, 2018

Jeanne Bubb, Mary Clemons and Barbara Finch attended the “2018 Missouri Poverty Summit” on “Building Resilient Communities” which addressed the five components of poverty – economic and family security; education; food and nutrition; health; and housing and energy. The Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis quoted author Bryan Stevenson, “the opposite of poverty is not wealth, it is justice,” and urged us to join her in the Poor People’s Campaign to bring about a moral revival in this country where 45% of women and girls experience poverty at some point in their lives. PaneIists agreed that government has a moral obligation to support the needs of the poor. Brian Colby, policy director of the Missouri Budget Project, pointed out that Medicaid covers expenses for the majority of the elderly in our nursing homes and pays for the delivery of the majority of babies born in Missouri. He asks, “If we love Grandma and like babies” why haven’t we expanded Medicaid? We may need a ballot initiative so the people have an opportunity to vote for expansion.

Dr. Jason Purnell of the Washington University Brown School emphasized that “financial health is physical health”. “If you want to lower my blood pressure, help me pay my electricity bill,” is a quote that speaks to the connection between poverty and health equity. In discussing the depth and damage from residential segregation Dr. Purnell said that “where you live determines how you live” and affects all the five components of poverty. Place matters when it comes to the value of your home, the quality of your schools, your physical safety and your ability to access healthy food.

Barbara Finch received an ovation for her comment on achieving resilient communities. She said that poor people are resilient; they have to be! What we need to do, she emphasized, is to “take our feet off their necks and change public policy.”

Letter to Clayton Mayor and Police Chief on Racial Profiling

July 19, 2018

On behalf of the 500 members of Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice, most of whom live in the St. Louis area, we write to insist that the City of Clayton and the Clayton Police Department take ownership of the racial profiling of the 10 Washington University students stopped after leaving the I Hop July 7. Read full letter here.

Reflections on the 4th of July

The Obama-era guidelines encouraging affirmative action have been rescinded. Our board member Judy Arnold wonders: Does anyone realize that affirmative action has been around since the founders wrote the Constitution–for whites, that is. As Waking Up White (our racial justice book club selection for August) notes, the G.I. Bill, FHA housing policies, laws that protected realtors, Jim Crow, and many other policies gave whites a leg up. So why are we so indignant about trying to compensate African Americans for years of exclusion from those policies?

Read or listen to the NPR report about this issue here.

Segregation in St. Louis: Dismantling the Divide

April 25, 2018

Segregation in St. Louis: Dismantling the Divide is a 115-page community-driven report on segregation and housing in St. Louis, created in partnership with ArchCity Defenders, Ascend STL Inc., Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council (EHOC), Empower Missouri, For the Sake of All, Community Builders Network, Team TIF, and others. The report presents an extensive history of our region’s use of segregation housing policies and practices and concludes with 11 key recommendations to dismantle our significant divides. Read the report here.

Why America’s Black Mothers and Babies Are in a Life-or-Death Crisis

April 15, 2018

At our Nov. 2017 Women’s Voices program we learned that infant mortality is a racial equality issue in St. Louis where 2 out of 3 babies who die are African American. This article from the New York Times Magazine describes how “systemic racism can create a kind of toxic physiological stress, resulting in conditions — including hypertension and pre-eclampsia — that lead directly to higher rates of infant and maternal death.” The author continues, “that societal racism is further expressed in a pervasive, longstanding racial bias in health care — including the dismissal of legitimate concerns and symptoms — that can help explain poor birth outcomes even in the case of black women with the most advantages…… Though it seemed radical 25 years ago, few in the field now dispute that the black-white disparity in the deaths of babies is related not to the genetics of race but to the lived experience of race in this country.” Read the article here

Important New Study on Income Disparity

March 19, 2018 – Black boys raised in America, even in the wealthiest families and living in some of the most well-to-do neighborhoods, still earn less in adulthood than white boys with similar backgrounds, according to a sweeping new study that traced the lives of millions of children….If this inequality can’t be explained by individual or household traits, much of what matters probably lies outside the home — in surrounding neighborhoods, in the economy and in a society that views black boys differently from white boys, and even from black girls.“

One of the most popular liberal post-racial ideas is the idea that the fundamental problem is class and not race, and clearly this study explodes that idea,” said Ibram Kendi, a professor and director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University. “But for whatever reason, we’re unwilling to stare racism in the face.”

Read more in this New York Times article

Black Panther and Black History

February 20, 2018 – Mike Jones of the St. Louis American writes that “Black Panther is not an action film produced to entertain the underdeveloped intellect of the American entertainment consumer. It is a serious work of art built on a black aesthetic that becomes your creation story as you watch it. Black Panther provides a balm in Gilead that will make you feel whole; it is inspirational and could also become transformational. It provides comprehensive, emotionally satisfying answers to those eternal existential questions all people ask: Who are we? Where did we come from? Why are we here? For the two hours of this film, we know what it feels like to be a whole human being.” Read the commentary here

No progress for African Americans on homeownership, unemployment and incarceration in 50 years

“Fifty years after the historic Kerner Commission identified “white racism” as the key cause of “pervasive discrimination in employment, education and housing,” there has been no progress in how African Americans fare in comparison to whites when it comes to homeownership, unemployment and incarceration, according to a report released Monday by the Economic Policy Institute.” Read more here

Remembering Frankie Muse Freeman

1916-2018

We mourn the loss of Frankie Muse Freeman who died January 12 at age 101. Mrs. Freeman was a civil rights lawyer and activist and was the lead counsel in the 1954 case Davis et al. v. the St. Louis Housing Authority which ended legal racial discrimination in public housing. She was the first woman appointed to the US Commission on Civil Rights and was inducted into the Civil Rights Walk of Fame at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. You can visit her statue, dedicated in 2011, at Kiener Plaza in St. Louis. Learn more about Mrs. Freeman and other local civil rights leaders at the Missouri History Museum exhibit, #1 in Civil Rights: The African American Freedom Struggle in St. Louis.

Statement on Stockley Verdict

We believe that the verdict finding ex-police officer Jason Stockley not guilty of murder is another troubling sign of injustice and racial divide in our community. Women’s Voices will continue to stand with those who have been unfairly treated by the justice system. We recognize and support the rights of people to voice their frustration and anger and urge law enforcement officials to respect this fundamental right. We have seen too much violence in recent years and hope that the demonstrations do not result in injury to people or damage to property.

After Charlottesville: Responding to Hate and Racial Divisiveness 

The Southern Poverty Law Center website has an excellent guide, “10 Ways to Fight Hate”. Take a look, you’ll find many good suggestions! Click here for the guide.

Women’s Voices wrote the following statement August 13, 2017:Members of Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice stand in solidarity with the peaceful demonstrators in Charlottesville, VA, who gathered on Aug. 12 to oppose the hate-filled rhetoric and actions of a group of white supremacists. Racism and anti-Semitism continue to plague our country and all too frequently lead to violence and acts of destruction. We stand with people of good will in every community and we pledge to continue our work for racial justice and understanding of this shameful legacy and its effects in our country.

Study Shows Average Black Family Would Need 228 Years to Build the Wealth of a White Family.

An article about the study in The Nation notes, “Just as past public policies created the racial wealth gap, current policy widens it.”

From the article: It took 400 years of slavery, segregation, and institutionalized discrimination in the labor and housing markets to build the wealth gap that we see today. For example, by the time the Fair Housing Act made discrimination in housing illegal in 1968, people of color had missed out on decades of robust growth in the housing markets (and much of the next generation missed out on that wealth building in the 20 years it took to fully implement the law). “The racial wealth divide is how the past shows up in the present,” Chuck Collins tells The Nation.

read more here