Newswire: Biden’s first 100-day challenge: transitioning to a more inclusive economy 

By Charlene Crowell

Biden and Harris
 

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – The tumultuous 2020 presidential election triggered a record number of participating voters. Never before had so many people cast their preferences. And similarly, together substantiated how divided the nation is.
 
For Black America, the financial ravages of the year have brought deeper and more devastating circumstances to bear. Disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, our communities have been denied the opportunity to comfort loved ones hospitalized, or even to collectively mourn the loss of family and friends. The continuing pandemic has also depleted the financial resources of those who lack sufficient resources to cover financial emergencies. When these same economically- disadvantaged consumers also suffer job losses, lay-offs and reduced working hours, mounting household debts are inevitable.
 
“We are in the midst of a pandemic caused by an abject failure of federal leadership that has left tens of millions unemployed, the economy in collapse, nearly half of the nation’s Black small businesses decimated, 40 million Americans at risk of foreclosure and eviction, and Black homeownership at levels not seen since the 1960, when racial discrimination in housing was legal,” noted the National Urban League’s President and CEO, Marc Morial.
 
In the throes of these challenges, the President-Elect has yet to receive cooperation in our hallmarked peaceful transition of power. He must instead draw upon the expertise and insights of those proficient in key areas of concern to construct a myriad of remedies needed now more than ever.
 
While pundits focus on the first 100 days of the next Administration, people from all walks of life hope in earnest for an inclusive economic recovery, one that includes communities long-marginalized. And lest anyone purport that communities of color are overly-sensitive, we need only remind naysayers of how the housing recovery from the Great Recession left behind the very people who were harmed the most: Black and Latino communities.
 
If this recovery is to be different, the calls for action must be heeded. Now is the time to stand up and speak out not just for what we want, but for what we also deserve.
 
A straightforward first step is for President-Elect Biden to move swiftly to restore fair housing rules that were gutted by President Trump’s Administration.
 
In 2015, President Obama’s Administration issued the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation, which provided long-overdue guidance for local governments and others to implement a key mandate of the same name in the Fair Housing Act of 1968. This key development in civil rights law’s AFFH mandate required active steps to end segregation, promote integration, and ensure all neighborhoods are well-resourced. It also assured that local residents would have access to housing opportunities.
 
Under President Trump. The Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD, repealed the regulation and replaced it with a rule that was described as “weak and toothless” by Lisa Rice, President and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance.
 
Similarly, the outgoing leadership at HUD promulgated an administrative rule that would defang the “disparate impact” standard, a critical legal tool to uncover and stop harmful mortgage discrimination. Nikitra Bailey, Executive Vice President with the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) argued that “[I]t is unfathomable that HUD would gut one of the primary anti-discrimination instruments as the nation reckons with systemic racism.”
 
Even the collection of data on mortgage discrimination has been cut. These rollbacks and others are described in a report entitled, Turning Back the Clock: How the Trump Administration Has Undermined 50 Years of Fair Housing Progress released by Ohio’s Sen. Sherrod Brown, the Ranking Member on the U.S. Banking Committee.
 
At the same time, we know that real progress must be pursued beyond familiar and often ineffective remedies. Preserving the status quo will never provide help that is desperately needed.
 
Toward this end, CRL has proposed a 100-day agenda for the incoming Administration and the new Congress to address financial justice in all of its forms.
 
To expand fair, inclusive, and sustainable homeownership, CRL calls for several actions including:
• Targeted reparations in a homeownership program that includes direct down payment grants for low-wealth, first-time Black and Brown homebuyers as well as others disadvantaged by exclusionary federal homeownership policies; and
• Eliminating reliance on credit-scoring systems that entrench historic discrimination.
 
Recognizing that the broken higher education financing system also perpetuates the racial wealth gap, CRL suggests a range of reforms to immediately relieve the crushing burden of student debt, including broad-based cancellation.
 
“Too often, predatory financial services and products prevent families and small businesses from accessing opportunities, and instead impede our ability to reduce poverty and close the racial wealth gap”, states a new CRL policy brief that includes a combination of administrative and legislative actions.
 
Even before the dual crises of the pandemic and a faltering economy, U.S. household debt was on the rise, reaching $14 trillion. CRL’s policy recommendations include an end to the collection of so-called “zombie debt”, bills that are too old to be legally collected.
 
Another practice of heightened concern is the increased use of bank overdraft fees. These fees harm consumers with low or no cushions in their bank accounts. These are the same consumers who can least afford added fees in already tight budgets. CRL proposes to halt these regressive fees until the economy has recovered. Once achieved, CRL recommends a permanent limit to the number of fees that can be charged monthly and annually.
 
One action the federal government did take in the COVID-19 crisis was to fund small businesses threatened with closure. However, Black small businesses and entrepreneurs were largely shut out of tis aid. A key remedy for CRL is to launch a focused effort to meaningfully assist them.
 
The achievements of Black businesses are often overlooked in analyses of America’s economy. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, America’s estimated 2 million Black businesses are about 10 percent of all U.S. businesses and about 30 percent of all minority-owned businesses.  Collectively, Black businesses have an annual payroll of $23.9 billion and employ 920,000 people.
 
As impressive as these numbers are, several reports, including a recent one by Citi Global Perspective and Solutions, show that if Black businesses had greater access to affordable credit, this key sector of the economy would grow significantly and boost the nation’s economy as well.
 
Black businesses are more often created with their own personal resources than are white start-ups. Instead of business loans, Black entrepreneurs are more likely to use personal and business credit cards that can carry higher interest rates and fees. Additionally, Black-owned businesses are the least likely to receive approval for loans from large banks, or from investors.
 
The financial playing field could better serve Black and other businesses of color with more robust capital support and technical assistance, according to CRL. A direct grant program tailored to the specialized needs off businesses of color, as well as increased lending capacity at minority deposit institutions and community development financial institutions would be key to accessing affordable credit when needed.
 
Nor is CRL alone in calling for change that brings genuine relief to Black America. Civil rights groups like the National Fair Housing Alliance and the National Urban League have also identified action plans that will deliver a better day. If some of these proposals seem familiar to readers, it is because our fight for freedom, equality and the American Dream have remained a quest instead of an achievement.
 
On April 16, 1963 – 57 years ago, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. penned his immortal, Letter from a Birmingham Jail. In part, he wrote, “[W]hen you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outward resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of ‘nobodiness’ – then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.”
As a people, let’s call upon a new Administration to end our long-suffering wait.

Charlene Crowell is a Senior Fellow with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.

Newswire : Betsy DeVos slammed for wanting to use ESSA funds to purchase guns in school

 By Lauren Poteat, NNPA Washington Correspondent

parents protesting guns in schools

After the unveiling of explosive reports where U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, openly considered allowing schools to use federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) funding, to purchase firearms and provide firearm training to educators, members of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (TLC) have stepped in with an open letter to the same administrator—in protest. Comprised of over 200 national organizations working together to promote and protect civil and human rights of all people, the open TLC letter was released on Sep. 17, demanding that “the department immediately publicly clarify, that ESSA funds could not be used for weapons.” “On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights… we write to share our significant concern regarding the Department’s reported contemplation of the use of Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants provided to states under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for purchasing firearms and firearms training for school staff,” the letter stated. Questioning the department’s intent, the letter further went on to the explore the risks of increased violence that this option could potentially cause. “The Department’s consideration of this use for the funding is inconsistent with both congressional intent and evidence-based educational practices, working against ESSA’s purpose to ‘provide all children significant opportunity to receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education, and to close achievement gaps.’ Having more firearms in schools would expose children and school staff to a greater risk of gun violence and make everyone in schools less safe,” the letter continued. Since issuing these statements in late August, that were said to be sparked by requests from Texas and Oklahoma to tap into federal money to pay for “school marshals, Devos has ultimately left the decision to local districts to decide on how they would like to use the ESSA grant money. In her letter to Congress, DeVos stated that she would not take “any action concerning the purchase of firearms or firearms training for school staff,” however, Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League and a member of TLC, reflected that an ‘option’ such as this, should have never even been presented. “This is whole idea is just lousy and makes no sense,” Morial said. “ESSA money should be used to by books and give disadvantaged youth a chance at better education. African Americans already face large amounts of gun violence outside of school, so to even propose such an idea is an added insult to injury.” “School should be a safe haven for students and there is not one scant of evidence that shows children are safer around guns. The National Urban League does not want or support this,” Morial continued. In agreement with TLC’s belief that ESSA funding should not be used to support guns in school, last week the state of New York issued their own memo to school district leaders, stating that they would not allow schools to use federal or state money to buy guns. “We simply cannot afford to use federal education dollars that are intended for teaching and learning to pay for weapons that will compromise our schools and communities,” New York Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia wrote. In a report done by CNN, Black Americans (particularly males), were shown to be more likely to die and to be involved with gun violence over their White counterparts, a startling statistic that the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund (LDF), an legal organization devoted to fighting for racial justice,fears might spill into the classroom, should states actively pursue such an option. “We need the department of education to immediately and publicly clarify, that ESSA funds cannot be used for weapons,” Nicole Dooley, a LDF general counsel member said. “The only thing that this option will do is place more students at risk, especially African Americans, who experience implicit bias daily. The purpose of ESSA is to improve educational opportunities, not to create more dangerous practices.”

Newswire : Nine Civil Rights organizations led by Lawyers’ Committee For Civil Rights Under Law file Amicus Brief In SCOTUS case regarding discrimination In public accommodations

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – A broad coalition of civil rights organizations led by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed an amicus curiae or “friend of the court” brief Monday for the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case, Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, in which the justices will decide whether discrimination by businesses is lawful in our country.
The Masterpiece case is part of a trend involving businesses denying goods and services to same-sex couples, and the consequences could include the nullification of civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in public accommodations. The brief was filed in the wake of the Justice Department’s unusual move of filing a brief in the case, in which the Department argued that such discrimination is protected speech under the First Amendment.
“Throughout this country’s history, public accommodation laws have played a vital role in ensuring that all businesses are open to everyone on a nondiscriminatory basis and that individuals from marginalized communities are not treated like second-class citizens,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “The Supreme Court has repeatedly and emphatically rejected challenges to public accommodation laws similar to the challenges brought in the Masterpiece case, and we expect them to do so once again.”
In their brief filed Monday, nine civil rights organizations underscore the importance of public accommodations laws that protect racial, ethnic and religious minorities from discrimination. These organizations express concern that the Masterpiece case could pave the way for businesses to lawfully discriminate against racial and other minorities pursuant to a free speech exemption.
In addition to the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the brief was joined by: The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Color of Change, the National Action Network, the NAACP, the National Urban League, and the Southern Poverty Law Center. In their brief, the organizations state:
“Despite the advances our country has made in eradicating segregation and other forms of invidious discrimination, African Americans, including LGBT African Americans who experience discrimination at the intersection of race and sexual orientation, continue to suffer from structural and pervasive discrimination, as evidenced by the recent increase in hate crimes across the country. Discrimination infects the marketplace as well, where minority consumers continue to receive worse treatment and experience disparate access to goods and services as a result of business owners’ biased attitudes. Today, public accommodation laws remain vital by providing relief when consumers of color experience discrimination.”
“We are proud to stand on the right side of history and join this friend of the court brief. It is beyond shameful that the Justice Department that fought against DOMA and supported marriage equality is now advocating for a constitutional right to discriminate against LGBTQ people. Their position runs counter to constitutional principles and recent Supreme Court precedent. This case is not about the cake. It is about dignity, fairness, and equality.” Vanita Gupta, President and CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
“The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund believes that this case presents a direct assault on the civil rights laws, both state and federal, that protect everyone from discrimination. It is imperative that the Supreme Court rejects this effort to undermine the enforcement of those protections central to American society.” Kenneth Kimerling, Legal Director, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund
“We’re standing with the LGBTQI community for equality. A ruling permitting discrimination in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission would in effect legalize discrimination against LGBTQI people, women, minority faiths, and people of color. If the Supreme Court allows for a broad exemption in non-discrimination laws for so-called ‘creative’ enterprises, this would open the floodgates for discrimination by other business owners. No one is above the law, and it is our duty to rebuff attempts to legalize discrimination.” Vincent Warren, Executive Director, Center for Constitutional Rights
“Black people continue to face blatant profiling and racial discrimination in public accommodations. We will not stay quiet as businesses seek to roll back critical civil rights laws that we have fought so hard for and that protect our right to participate in the economy free of discrimination.” Rashad Robinson, Executive Director, Color of Change
“Today, we stand united against prejudice and discrimination in any form. Inclusion and equality are what make America great. Public accommodation laws serve a vital role in securing equality for all.” National Action Network’s Washington Bureau
“The NAACP has long advocated for equality in public accommodations, as these laws ensure that businesses treat customers equally. It is against this backdrop that businesses like Masterpiece Cakeshop seek to upend laws that protect some of our most vulnerable communities.” Derrick Johnson, President & CEO, NAACP
“Public accommodation laws protect consumers’ rights to shop wherever they please, no matter their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sex, or sexual orientation. It is unacceptable to suggest that the biased attitudes of business owners deserve more protection than the rights of consumers.” Marc Morial, CEO, National Urban League.

Has Trump helped Black America in his first 100 days?

An Analysis by NBC News – Michael Cottman

“Today and every day of my presidency I pledge to do everything I can to continue that promise of freedom for African-Americans and for every American…We’re going to bring this country together.”- President Donald Trump
President Donald Trump has offered grand gestures, questionable policies, and a litany of promises to skeptical African Americans.
He promised to rid inner cities of crime. He promised to invest in education for black public school students and historically black colleges. He promised to rebuild boarded-up urban neighborhoods. He promised to heal a racially polarized America.
When Trump toured The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. last month, he pledged to confront racism and create a bridge of unity for what he called a “divided country.”
But 100 days into Trump’s chaotic presidency, there are few signs – at least publicly – that Trump is focused on racial healing or any of the pre-election commitments to the nation’s citizens of color.
“President Trump’s promises to African-Americans were nothing more than vapid campaign promises,” Neil Foote, a journalism professor at North Texas University and Editor of PoliticsInColor.com, told NBCBLK.
Consider Trump’s position on criminal justice: Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants to stall a federal review of police departments where racial profiling, excessive use of force and racially discriminatory police practices have been exposed.
During the Obama Administration, the Justice Department began 25 investigations into police departments and sheriff’s offices and resolved civil rights lawsuits filed against police departments in more than 15 cities.
Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, said Sessions has a legal obligation to investigate troubled police departments. “He can’t just cherry pick the cases he wants to investigate,” Ifill told NBCBLK.
Ifill said the Trump administration threatens progress to criminal justice reform, education, health care and a myriad of social programs that are on Trump’s chopping block.
“Our first priority is voting rights,” Ifill said. “Voting ensures that African Americans fully participate in the political process—and not just during presidential elections.”
But Katrina Pierson, a spokeswoman for America First, a conservative organization that supports Trump’s legislative agenda urged black folks to give Trump a chance.
Pierson said Trump will help improve the quality of life for African Americans through education, jobs, health care – and building the border wall to crack down on crime, drugs and human trafficking.
“Illegal immigration impacts the black community,” Pierson said. “When illegal immigrants settle in the United States, they don’t settle in gated communities, they settle in black communities and poor communities. You can’t have an honest discussion about illegal immigration without talking about the cost of illegal immigration, financially, socially and culturally.”
Civil rights organizations take issue with Pierson and her conservative views. They believe Trump’s policies are detrimental to the prosperity of African Americans and they are distrustful of black conservatives.
Marc Morial, president of The National Urban League, said Trump wants to cut social programs that benefit black Americans instead of making good on his campaign promise to rebuild urban communities.
“We will resist any effort to cut funding for human programs,” Morial told NBCBLK. “This is not good public policy to gut these programs and shift funding to the military. We will resist cuts to community development programs, housing programs, workforce programs. These are job killers and dream killers.”
Morial said he believes there is a great opportunity to create a bipartisan jobs initiative. “People – blacks, whites, Latinos – are all dealing with wage stagnation and a jobs initiative could unite America,” he said. “It’s a challenge for urban America. It’s a challenge for rural America.”
This week the Congressional Black Caucus released a report, What Did Trump Do? The First 100 Days #StayWoke List, to make sure African Americans stay informed about the Trump administration policies that impact citizens of color.

“In general, “stay woke” or “stay awake” means to stay focused on what is really being said and done to and around you, especially as it relates to police brutality and other elements of African-Americans’ years-long struggle to fully achieve the American Dream,” Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Democrat from Louisiana, said in the report.
Highlights from the CBC report pull out key budget cuts that would:
· “… cut the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) budget by $6 billion. HUD is responsible for providing housing assistance to extremely low-income families and the homeless, and reinvesting in America’s cities and counties.”
· “… eliminate programs that help limit children’s exposure to lead paint. According to the CDC, African-American children are three times more likely to have elevated blood-lead levels.”
· “… eliminate the Minority Business Development Agency, which funds a nationwide network of business centers to help minority-owned business stay competitive and create jobs.”
The Congressional Black Caucus has also underscored how racially polarized America has become since Trump won the White House. While Trump promises a new order for black America, hate groups have risen across the nation. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported that more than 400 incidents of harassment or intimidation against blacks, Jews, gays and Muslims occurred in the early days of Trump’s presidency.
Many civil rights activists are also concerned about Trump’s attempts to roll back education initiatives designed to assist students of color. Trump has pledged to make education a priority for black Americans but Besty DeVos, his Secretary of Education, has been criticized for her steadfast support for privatizing public schools.
Two weeks ago, DeVos further angered educators and parents by appointing Candice Jackson as the acting head of the department’s Office for Civil Rights. Jackson, as a student at Stanford University, once complained of racial discrimination because she is white. She said affirmative action promotes racial discrimination.
Critics of the Trump administration question how Jackson can objectively oversee claims of racial discrimination from African Americans and other people of color.
Tracey Winbush, the Ohio Republican Party Treasurer, said DeVos is simply trying to fix underperforming schools – many of them, she said, are located in low-income black communities. She said most African Americans are being overly critical of the president instead of trying to work with him.
“President Trump is doing his best to reach out to all people and especially African Americans,” Winbush, who is African American, told NBCBLK. “The president is making good on his campaign promise to move the African American community forward and get the black community out of its present situation.”
Winbush said too many African Americans “are hating on Trump because he’s a billionaire.” “As an African American Republican, I don’t mind that Trump is a billionaire and his cabinet is the wealthiest cabinet in history, they know how to make money and we can learn from them,” Winbush said. “We have been taught to hate success. Trump is trying to reach out to African Americans but they don’t want to talk to him. We’re losing political clout. Are we moving forward or backward?”
Wilson and other black college presidents met with the new President early in his term. They were hoping that Trump would set aside additional funding for historically black colleges. Instead of a substantive meeting, some said, black college presidents were lured into the Oval Office for a hastily arranged photo-op with Trump.
“Showing up and sitting at the table doesn’t always mean you get what you want,” Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of ColorofChange.org, told NBCBLK. “Every invitation isn’t necessarily an invitation that you want.”
“There is a deep threat to civil rights policies and we have to respond differently,” Robinson said. “These folks are dismantling the ideals of American democracy. We can’t wait for meetings at the White House.”
Trump, who received eight percent of the black vote during the presidential election, has tried to convince black Americans that he is a champion for their concerns. [Trump fared a bit better than Mitt Romney, who only garnered six percent of the black vote when he ran for president in 2012.]
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