TA B L E O F C O N T E N T S
6 – 11
THE PRISON INDUSTRIAL C O M P L E X : F R O M TA R G E T I N G T O E X P L O I T AT I O N , A S Y S T E M T H AT D I R E C T LY P R O F I T S O F F P E O P L E OF COLOR Marie Berry & Benjamin Owino
12 – 20
B L A C K C A P I TA L I S M Ben Ostfield, Theresa Oduol, Melissa Lau, Kyle Beck
21 – 25
BAN TH E BOX Allison Eng, Eric Bohrer, Jayla Frith, Jeraya Kelly
26 – 30
THE EFFECTS OF NCLB AND ESSA O N T H E R AC I AL AC H I E V E ME N T GAP Valerie Kong, Maria Wothe, John Hanna, Richmond Addae
31 – 36
R AC I AL TE NSI O NS W ITH I N TH E L ABOR MOVEMENT Kent Adams, Anthony Chen, Pearl Ngai, Tyler Pearce
EXECUTIVE BOARD EXECUTIVE DIRECTORS
P U B L I C R E L AT O N S C H A I R
Polina Solovyeva & Zila Ake
RESEARCH DIRECTOR Richard Green
MEMBERSHIP & OUT R E AC H DI R EC TO R Sharon Perlmutter
MANAGING EDITOR Kerry Wong
GRAPHIC DESIGNER Gabriella Shery
I N T E R N A L A FFA I RS C H A I R Sherell Farmer
A N A LY S T S Kent Adams Richmond Addae Kyle Beck Marie Berry Eric Bohrer Antony Chen Allison Eng Jayla Frith John Hanna
Jeraya Kelly Valerie Kong Melissa Lau Pearl Ngai Theresa Oduol Ben Ostfield Benjamin Owino Tyler Pearce Maria Wothe
B L A C K W O R K M AT T E R S Introduction By Richard Green For centuries, Black people have been attempting to undo the purposeful exploitation of their labor, lives, and bodies. Performing the physical and emotional labor involved in mobilizing against various systems that have been specifically built to undercut and undermine the very existence of Black people has led to trauma that has been carried across generations. Despite this, the view that Black lives have less importance than those of others still holds for many and continues to lead to countless deaths at the hands of police. Yet, for the sake of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other victims of egregious police violence, Black people and nonblack allies continue their attempts to uproot the system that allows for these senseless murders. However, bringing their killers to justice in a broken system proves challenging. The Undergraduate Labor Institute understands that the crimes of the state against Black people extend into the work that they perform, and that racism is so often weaponized against Black people either at the workplace or even before they get there. Therefore, in order to support the fight to dismantle white supremacy and to emphasize that Black Lives Matter, we decided to launch a summer series wherein our analysts perform research on Black labor. The exploitation of Black labor is no accident, and the calls for systemic change from America’s Black working class must be amplified. In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr. said that “we know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”¹ As such, those who are sympathetic towards the labor movement must also become advocates for Black liberation. Economic parity has historically been an essential component of advocacy for racial parity for African Americans. In fact, among the demands of the organizers of the 1963 March on Washington was not only a federal program for training and job placement for all unemployed workers, regardless of race, but also a national decent minimum wage.² Rather than meet these demands, however, the government continued to subtly introduce programs that aimed to systematically jailing Black Americans under the guise of fighting
crime, including the War on Drugs, the 1994 Crime Bill, Stop and Frisk, and more. This simply scratches the surface of legislation aimed at subduing the social and economic capital wielded by African Americans following the Civil Rights Movement. As a result of such legislation, the state has succeeded in keeping much of Black labor precarious and indecent, unfairly imprisoning African Americans and subsequently exploiting their labor, putting down Black-owned businesses, and shielding employment opportunities against formerly incarcerated Black people. This comes from the understanding that economic freedom is directly related to the racial justice that has been systematically denied to Black people ever since their existence in the United States. W.E.B. Du Bois illustrated the disharmony of being a Black worker well in his essay, “Strivings of the Negro People,” as he writes that they aim to “escape white contempt” while “on the other hand to plough and nail and dig for a poverty-stricken horde.”³ He encapsulates the message that to struggle against the economic conditions that have been cultivated against Black people by the state, the oppressor must not only undo the legislative wrongs that have alienated Black people from their labor, but must also unlearn the behaviors that lead to these wrongs. With the increasing awareness of Black issues brought about by violence against Black people by the state, it is now more important than ever to encourage and participate in collective action to create real outcomes in order to undo the longstanding injustices against Black people in America. As you read further, you will be presented with issues related to Black labor and our analysts’ research pertaining to undoing these hindrances to the advancement of Black people. We hope to come to a further understanding of the issues and subsequently encourage not only the labor movement, but all people to be unflinching in their solidarity with Black people fighting for their rights. ¹ Martin Luther King. 1968. “Letter from a Birmingham jail.”. [Atlanta, Ga.]: Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. 2 Civil Rights Movement Archive. 1968. “March on Washington, Program.” 3 W.E.B. Du Bois, W. E. B. 1897. Strivings of the Negro People. Boston, MA: Atlantic Monthly Co. http://www. aspresolver.com/aspresolver.asp?BLTC;S9054.
THE PRISON INDUSTRIAL C O M P L E X : F R O M TA R G E T I N G T O E X P L O I T AT I O N , A S Y S T E M T H AT D I R E C T LY P R O F I T S O F F PEOPLE OF COLOR By Marie Berry & Benjamin Owino INTRODUCTION
Recently, the prison system and other institutions have been under scrutiny for disproportionately targeting and affecting Black communities. This targeting has led to the development of a large profit-generating enterprise, the prison industrial complex (PIC), which is the “set of bureaucratic, political, and economic interests that encourage increased spending on imprisonment, regardless of the actual need”.1 With imprisonment being for-profit, the targeting of Black communities has become socially and politically acceptable, promoting a subtle business model that heavily relies on mass incarceration and Black labor exploitation. In this paper, we will look at the political and socio-economic factors that have allowed for the targeting and exploitation of minorities within the PIC. We will do so in three main parts, firstly analyzing the beginning of the PIC through the targeting and criminalization of minority communities, followed by explaining the cyclical, exploitatively racist nature of the PIC and finally discussing possible steps to abolish the need for the PIC moving forward. THE RISE OF THE PRISON INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX THE WAR ON DRUGS AND THE WAR ON CRIME
The large, exploitative prison-industrial complex system we see today has its roots in policies, procedures, and norms that lead to the surge in the number of people incarcerated, and to prison privatization. In fact, under President Nixon, the use of drugs became considered a dangerous crime, rather than a health problem. It became viewed as the biggest menace to American society, and one of the most dangerous crimes that the United States had ever dealt with. The Nixon administration demanded “Law and Order”. However, the situation came to a head when in 1982, Ronald Raegan declared the “War on Drugs,” an affront on the Nation’s worst nightmare. All
an elaborate ruse. Under the guise of the “War on Drugs,” presidential administrations began targeting and massively incarcerating AfricanAmericans and other people of color. To retain appeal in the public eye, there was no room for a soft-on-crime talk in American politics.2 The immediate, and arguably intended, result of this was a trend where each consecutive electoral campaign pushed the boundaries set by the ones that came before it in an effort to sell the “Tough on crime” agenda. Notably, First Lady Nancy Reagan’s Just Say No campaign aimed at warning Americans of the dangers of drugs and crime, followed by President Bush’s attack ad campaign Weekend Passes,3 which accused Governor Dukakis of furloughing convicted criminal Willie Horton - a Black man who committed assault, armed robbery and rape. This likely cost Dukakis his presidential election, despite Horton qualifying for leave under the weekend furlough program even though serving a sentence for murder without the possibility of parole.4 The New York Times coverage of the New York City mayoral election of 1989 made note of this new trend in politics, “Not long ago, law and order was one critical test that divided liberals from conservatives. Today, with crime the top issue on voters’ minds, there is no candidate who will not promise to get tough with criminals.”5 The outcome was a crack-down on petty criminal activity - most notably, drugs - across the nation and a consequent increase in policing in the communities of blacks and other people of color more prone to it. The “tough on crime” agenda culminated in policies aimed to punish criminals more harshly. In the last quarter of the twentieth century, state and federal sentencing laws grew more severe. These included mandatory minimums, truthin-sentencing, and “three strikes and you're out” laws. The federal government passed mandatory minimums, which were laws set by Congress requiring immediate and minimum prison terms for particular crimes - specifically drug-related crimes. States developed sentencing guidelines
including truth-in-sentencing policies that prevented inmates from getting out on parole through requiring minimum prison time - usually 85% of the required sentence. California enacted the first three-strikes law which warranted a defendant with one prior conviction be sentenced to twice the term for the same crime and mandated a state prison sentence of twenty-five to life for a defendant with two or more previous convictions. To add insult to injury, bail bond and plea bargain policies make it even more difficult for those charged with crimes to escape harsh and unfair sentences. One of the most known examples that proved that these political emphases on crime and drugs clearly targeted minority communities was the difference in sentencing laws between crack and cocaine. In 1986, though before then the sentencing for the possession of both crack and cocaine had been the same, Congress enacted a five-year minimum sentence for the possession of 5 grams of crack cocaine. In that same act, they stated that the possession of 500 grams of powder cocaine— 100x times more than crack— resulted in that same 5-year minimum sentence. A couple of years later, the maximum sentence for possession of 5 grams of crack was increased to 20 years, while having any amount of powder cocaine remained at less than 1 year. The two drugs are essentially the same, though crack cocaine was cheaper and easier to produce. It was therefore more widely used by minorities and in poor, urban communities, and was simultaneously a lot more demonized in the media as extremely dangerous without ever being compared to powder cocaine. A domino effect ensued from the “Tough on Crime” policies, with these laws evolving into sentencing regimes that sent more people to prison and for longer, exploding the prison population.6 This created one of the most unfair sentencing schemes ever created, sending disproportionately large amounts of poor, Black people into the prison system. It also allowed presidents to scare populations and to associate drugs and minorities, especially the African-American communities they had been targeting. The War on Drugs and this sentencing scheme began the era of mass incarceration we are currently in, with about 2.2 million people in the nation’s prisons and jails in 2019. This incredibly high increase in the prison population continues to disproportionately
affect “African-Americans and Latinos, with their convictions based almost entirely upon drug crimes, allowing the United States to deprive minority citizens— men in particular— of their Constitutional and god-given rights, while appearing race-neutral.”7 Clearly, the prison system has strayed from accomplishing a public responsibility, in order to move to an entrenched economic system, the PIC, which profits off the exploitation and oppression of Black and Latinx people specifically. I I . T H E C YC L I C A L , E X P L O I TAT I V E , A N D R A C I S T N AT U R E O F T H E P I C A . P R I VAT I Z AT I O N
These “tough on crime” policies perpetuated the main problem the prison system was facing: incarceration was at an alltime high and the prison population explosion was overwhelming the public prison setup. As a result, governments in the United States turned to the private sector for help and settled on prison privatization as a solution to the problem,8 privatization being “the method by which governments outsource formerly publicly provided services.”9 Through this system, “private prisons were built without public support and with private funds which resulted in thousands of inmates being housed in state correctional facilities run by for-profit prison management companies.”1⁰ In regards to private prisons, profits are gained by charging the contracting state or federal government a daily rate per person incarcerated to cover investment and operational costs. 11 Privatization has one main problem: private companies are looking to make profits rather than work to achieve the supposed “reformation” they state as justifications for the prison industrial complex. Since 1980, United States spending on corrections has increased at an alarming rate: from 1979-80 to2012-13 state and local
government expenditures on corrections have increased by 324% (from $17 billion to $71 billion), after adjusting for inflation.12 What was once a niche business for a handful of companies has become a multibillion-dollar industry with its own trade shows and conventions, its own Web sites, mail-order catalogs, and direct-marketing campaigns. The prison-industrial complex now includes some of the nation’s largest architecture and construction firms, Wall Street investment banks that handle prison bond issues and invest in private prisons, plumbing-supply companies, foodservice companies, health-care companies, companies that sell everything including bullet-resistant security cameras to padded cells available in a “vast color selection.”13 The economics of the private-prison industry are in many respects similar to those of the lodging industry: an inmate at a private prison is like a guest at a hotel—a guest whose bill is being paid and whose check-out date is set by someone else. A hotel has a strong economic incentive to book every available room and encourage every guest to stay as long as possible. A private prison has exactly the same incentive. The higher the occupancy rate, the higher the profit margin.1⁴ Consequently, the line between private revenue benefits and public criminal justice has been blurred. As a result, private prison companies try to increase the prison population and control the system in order to receive government financial distributions.1⁵ Many people do not know, however, the actual extent to which America’s companies have a stake in keeping incarceration rates high. In fact, “it is estimated that today corrections is an $80 billion business (this includes jails, prisons, probation, and parole).” With such a large investment in the prison business, decarceration would be extremely unprofitable. This has created a vicious cycle, which allows for private prison companies to lobby federal and state legislators to increase prison population and prison construction, with “the three largest private, for-profit prison corporations: Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), The GEO Group, and Management and Training Corp., having spent at least $45 million combined on campaign donations and lobbyists during the last decade.”1⁶ CCA and GEO have monopolized corrections in the United States, effectively ensuring the cost of prison privatization is not affected by competition. These two companies are therefore able to amass large
capital gains, having a combined revenue of $2.9 billion in 2010 and over $3 billion in 2011. Due to their large resources, they have been able to manipulate the political market by influencing legislators to support the passages of legislation that directly affect their profits.1⁷ Although privatization was coined to try and effectively reduce the cost of running prisons, instead of saving money, government allocations to private prison companies inadvertently incentivized incarcerating U.S inhabitants and created private prison domination.1⁸ T H E E X P L O I TAT I O N O F L A B O R
In addition to the 13th amendment only partially abolishing slavery, featuring the critical segment “except as a punishment for a crime” to essentially allow for its use, the privatization of the prison system and the PIC have created a loophole for many exploitative practices. The very nature of the prison industrial complex calls for the commodification of prisoners, seeing them as goods to “maximize profits for the private industry since private prison contracts are paid per inmate, per day.”1⁹ And when you look at the techniques that directly target AfricanAmerican people and minority communities to put and keep them in prison, it is clear that mass incarceration and the PIC are in many ways a modern continuation of slavery. All of the drug laws, racist policies, and practices lead to the arbitrary arrests and incarceration of minorities and have created a system that defines Black inmates, being a large part of this vast prison population, as property and exploited chattel. Prisoners are consistently used as commodities to keep prisons filled and carry out labor needs, meaning that increases in incarceration advance corporate interests. But it is less known just how much prison labor is exploited by corporations that produce many of the goods we use regularly, just like you wouldn’t know how many U.S. based corporations exploit third world labor power.2⁰
The answer is a lot. And with government-allocated resources supporting the prison industrial complex, the disparate amount of Black people sent into the system to be locked up and exploited dramatically resembles slavery. In fact, just like when using cheap labor from poor countries, corporations are able to compensate prisoners a lot less than the minimum wage. They set problematically low wages in order to be extremely profitable, with “some studies indicating that prisoners’ compensation ranges from $0 to $1.50 per hour, with the average rate at $.40 per hour.”21 Though some jobs include typical prison work like food preparation and laundry services, there are also ‘correctional industries’ jobs which involve the manufacturing of various items, like license plates and most recently sanitizer, and are therefore the most exploited by companies. Prison workers have no labor protections, being excluded from the Fair Labor Standards Act and from the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety protections,22 causing them to have very low wages and dangerous conditions to work in. Prisoners’ lack of protection at work is not only unfair and wrong but also dehumanizing, which is especially true when they are used during crises. During the California wildfires, inmates were paid a couple of cents an hour to work as firefighters, put out the enormous fires, and put their lives on the line, with only some of them having the necessary training.23 However, even the inmates with that training are highly unlikely to receive a firefighting job after incarceration, despite having experience. Or, during the current COVID-19 pandemic, dozens of states were relying on prison labor to manufacture huge amounts of personal protective equipment like hand sanitizer, toilet paper, masks, for no more than 80 cents an hour.2⁴ Despite their intense work, prisoners’ exceptionally low wages prevent them from paying bills, sending money home, or buying commissary, and they often find themselves indebted after their release. In any case, prisons and corporations heavily deprive their prison laborers of good conditions, protections, benefits, and profiting off the hard work of disproportionately Black and Latino inmates, extending the era of slavery and Jim Crow into our modern society. With multiple institutions working together to uphold the prison industrial complex and lead targeted minority and low-income groups into the cycle of incarceration,
they allow a system that dehumanizes inmates and continuously supports the view of people as property. I I I . M O V I N G F O R W A R D : A LT E R N AT I V E S T O THE PIC
Angela Davis explained it best when she said that our prison system “functions ideologically as an abstract site into which undesirables are deposited, relieving us of the responsibility of thinking about the real issues afflicting those communities from which prisoners are drawn in such disproportionate numbers.”2⁵ In fact, if there is any interest in moving away from the current punishing democracy, schools-to-prisons pipeline, the incarceration nation, then the prison industrial complex must be challenged from all fronts; socially, politically, and economically. The dismantling and decarceration movement will not succeed from a one-dimensional perspective; it is inadequate to take down prisons without having other systems in the pipeline to replace them. As such, both reform and abolition are necessary prerequisites for the dismantling of the prison industrial complex. Although it is naive to think that governments will immediately end all private prison management contracts or close every private prison, there are two main steps towards gradually achieving that ultimate goal; (1) calling for a moratorium on prison privatization and (2) redirecting government funds.2⁶ M O R AT O R I U M O N P R I S O N P R I VAT I Z AT I O N
Prison privatization has taken a publicly regulated function, transformed it into a nearly unregulated private enterprise, and allowed two top corporations to seize immeasurable wealth. The CCA and GEO’s resources have allowed them to gain political influence and weaken their competitors thus monopolizing the economic market. Moratoriums - temporary suspensions of an activity or a law until future events warrant
lifting the suspension-2⁷ are the most effective way to begin combating the prison industrial complex. In the face of such inequalities, solicitation of new private contracts must end and current contractual obligations be fulfilled but not renewed. The moratorium should not end until an independent, nonpartisan committee deliberates on the efficiency of prison privatization. If privatization is deemed inefficient - which is more likely - then privatization should be banned completely.2⁸ REDIRECTING GOVERNMENT FUNDS
This is arguably the most important step to solving the prison industrial complex problem. It is vividly clear that the change in U.S drug laws caused the prison population explosion in the United States. There needs to be complete drug sentencing reform, from the termination of mandatory minimum sentencing and three-strikes laws to the reallocation of funds to other sectors like transitional houses providing education, training, and employment opportunities to ex-offenders. Investing monies in punishment while refusing to in the educational programs and institutions that could lower crime, runs counter to common sense, for research clearly documents that supporting people who choose to further their education levels reduces the need for prisons and jails.2⁹ These are important because (1) shorter sentences will reduce prison populations and the perceived need for privatization and (2) both solutions will prevent blacks from continued exclusion from economic participation.3⁰ All in all, a focus on more restorative forms of justice as outlined above is the most humane way of moving forward.
The prison industrial complex is an insatiable beast that attacks the minorities of American society. From the racist implications and outcomes of its inception, to the billions of dollars of revenue it generates each year, it’s clear that there has always been a political and socioeconomic incentive to keep that large profitgenerating enterprise alive. The current prison system has never, and will never, keep the public interest of criminal rehabilitation: there is simply too much money on the
line. If there is a truly vested interest in reform and correction in the United States, the current prison system and PIC must be abolished.
Complex: Activism, Arts, and Educational Alternatives, edited by Hartnett Stephen John, 15-40. University of Illinois Press, 2011. 3⁰ Ibid 6.
1 Lauren-Brooke Eisen. “The Prison Buildup and the Birth of Private Prisons.” In Inside Private Prisons: An American Dilemma in the Age of Mass Incarceration, p. 17. New York: Columbia University Press, 2018. 2 Eisen, Inside Private Prisons, 23. 3 Ibid, 24. ⁴ Ibid, 26. ⁵ Ibid, 26. ⁶ Ibid, 26. ⁷ Cummings 427. ⁸ Patrice A. Fulcher. “Hustle and Flow: Prison Privatization Fueling the Prison Industrial Complex.” Washburn Law Journal, vol. 51, no. 3, Summer 2012, p. 604. HeinOnline. ⁹ RM Beverlin. “Privatization.” Salem Press Encyclopedia. 2019. 1⁰ Fulcher 598. 11 Ibid 6. 12 Stephanie Stullich, Ivy Morgan, Oliver Schak and Evaluation and Policy Development (ED), Policy and Program Studies Service Office of Planning. “State and Local Expenditures on Corrections and Education. A Brief from the U.S Department of Education, Policy and Program Studies Service.” Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, US Department of Education. Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, US Department of Education, July, 2016. 13 Eric Schlosser. The Prison Industrial Complex, (The Atlantic, December, 1998) 1⁴ Schlosser, The Prison Industrial Complex. 1⁵ Fulcher, Hustle and Flow, 606. 1⁶ Pitaro. 1⁷ Fulcher, Hustle and Flow, 602. 1⁸ Ibid, 602. 1⁹ Fulcher, “Hustle and Flow," p. 612. HeinOnline, 2⁰ A.D.P. Cummings. "All Eyez on Me: America’s War on Drugs and the PrisonIndustrial Complex." Journal of Gender, Race & Justice, [s. l.], v. 15, n. 3, p. 421 , 2012. 21 Ibid. 1. 22 Lauren-Brooke Eisen and Lauren Seabrooks. “Covid-19 Highlights the Need for Prison Labor Reform.” Brennan Center for Justice, June 18, 2020. 23 Isabelle Chapman. “Prison inmates are fighting California’s fires, but are often denied firefighting jobs after their release.” CNN, October 31, 2019. 2⁴ Ibid. 24. 2⁵ Lisa Guenther. “An Abolitionism Worthy of the Name: From the Death Penalty to the Prison Industrial Complex.” Deconstructing the Death Penalty: Derrida’s Seminars and the New Abolitionism, edited by Kelly Oliver and Stephanie M. Straub, 1st ed., Fordham University Press, New York, 2018, pp. 246. 2⁶ Fulcher, Hustle and Flow, 612. 2⁷ “Moratorium.” 2003. International Dictionary of Finance, 4th Edition, March, 181. 2⁸ Ibid 6. 2⁹ Erica R. Meiners. “Building an Abolition Democracy; Or, The Fight against Public Fears, Private Benefits, and Prison Expansion.” In Challenging the Prison-Industrial
B L A C K C A P I TA L I S M By Ben Ostfield, Theresa Oduol, Melissa Lau, & Kyle Beck INTRODUCTION
Black capitalism, from its inception, has sparked a major debate about the economic future of the Black community. It was the political and economic movement aimed at advancing Black entrepreneurship and property ownership in America. Black capitalism assumes that racial inequities and political disparities can be addressed through self-sufficient journeys of wealth-building. Conversations about the role of Black capitalism peaked during the civil rights movement where discontent prompted discussions about how to economically empower the Black community. The notion of African Americans utilizing the building blocks of the free market for socioeconomic advancement has endured well through the twenty-first century. The intimate relationship between capitalism and racism in America evokes a strong debate on which facet of oppression ought to be addressed first, racism, or economic inequity. Historically, the concept of Black capitalism has comprised two main strategies: separatist and integrationist. The separatist approach focused on Black rugged-individualized advancement.1 Whereas, the integrationist strategy believed entrepreneurial racial assimilation served as a viable path towards Black mobility.2 The former was championed by the founder of the 1900 Negro Business League, Booker T. Washington, who considered separatist Black wealth as a necessary tool for entry into institutional bodies of wealth and power.,3,⁴ Prominent Black economist Robert S. Browne argued that locally-led educational training and businesses were a non-threatening solution to the existing power structure.⁵ Despite these novel, self-sufficient strategies to address the wealth gap among minority groups in America, systemic disadvantages revealed fundamental challenges when Black capitalism turned into action. Coupled with cumbersome loan approvals, a gross lack of capital and managerial experience served as an impenetrable barrier to successfully run and maintain Black companies.⁶ The 1950-60s reflected a 20% decline in Black-owned businesses.⁷ Evidently, such key systemic disadvantages explain why Black entrepreneurship yielded different outcomes when compared to immigrant communities,
where family-run businesses laid a concrete foundation for the development of generational wealth over time.⁸ In the political realm, Black capitalism played a huge role in revealing how formal discrimination manifested within the Black community—yet more importantly, why the rhetoric supporting the concept appealed to many Americans. Essentially, the momentum of the radical Black movement of the 1960s prompted a political response during Nixon’s presidency to quell rising nationwide racial tensions.⁹ Nixon’s subsequent introduction of the Black capitalism initiative aimed to silence Black nationalist voices. Touting the popular, free-market capitalism agenda as a source of achieving the promises of economic opportunity embodied in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Nixon’s appeal to Black voters encouraged increased conversations regarding Black economic empowerment, which attracted both separatists and integrationists. Through attacks on welfare dependency with concurrent advocacy for supporting Blackowned businesses, Nixon’s plan rallied support by several white conservatives, who subtly promoted such voluntary segregation.1⁰ Framing Black capitalism as an equal chance towards property ownership and executive leadership in top companies echoed the early accounts by Booker T. Washington, whose parallel oratory promised future success for the Black community. However, Nixon’s ostensible enthusiasm for Black commerce as a solution for welfare dependency justified his removal of social safety nets within Black communities. This included the collapse of the War on Poverty programs instituted by former President Lyndon B. Johnson.11 President Nixon’s rollout of the Office for Minority Business Enterprise (OMBE) in 1970 proved inadequate due to funding shortages and the failures inherent to encouraging smallbusiness frameworks amidst a wider disparity of Black representation and ownership in larger
companies.12 Nonetheless, the Commander in Chief ’s rhetoric during his presidential campaign sparked national conversations about if Black people can thrive under a capitalist system. While Robert S. Browne believed in a nonthreatening, locally-led vocational training and small business development, civil rights leader James Foreman believed in a revolutionary takeover resisting the capitalist system. During the 1969 National Black Economic Development Conference (NBEDC), Foreman described Black individuals who subscribe to the capitalist system in America as contributors to the continuous “exploitation of black people around the world.”13 Such exploitation has been the subject of heated debate over the half-century to follow, as one of the greatest challenges towards the economic advancement of colored people would prove to be translating this support for Black communities in the free-market into a wider, tangible impact on racial inequity. The idea of Black-owned small businesses, reflected in Nixon’s Black capitalism initiative, was oversold due to its limited contribution towards Black economic independence and self-determination. Industries such as real estate and pop culture, discussed below, reveal how the wealth of the Black community is held by a select, exceptional few. Meanwhile, the evolution of Black capitalism meets repeated cycles of exploitation for the remaining majority. Accordingly, critics of Nixon’s agenda iterate that Black underdevelopment is a product of semi-colonial capitalism—a system of repeated exploitation towards individuals of a lower socioeconomic status.1⁴ Presenting capitalism to Black communities was interpreted as a door towards re-enslavement.1⁵ Today, denunciation of Black capitalism stems from the continued patterns of historic, institutionalized racism in preventing economic empowerment within Black communities. The twenty-first-century effects of Black disenfranchisement during the twentieth century, seen through the removal of social
programs during and after Nixon’s presidency, expansive yet racially exclusive gentrification, and red-lining hinders the Black community from achieving its potential. As a result, even in our present-day age of “post-racism,” Black individuals still lack the political and economic representation necessary to overcome these enduring institutional barriers.1⁶ Recently, the increasingly mainstream appeal of movements such as Black Lives Matter (BLM) has sought to rekindle the objectives of the Civil Rights Movement where the federal government is called upon to recognize Black voices and redistribute federal resources to empower these communities. At the same time, however, the success of a few prominent Black individuals in pop culture has seen a resurgence in retroactive calls for racial equity through Black economic independence. As such, we are seeing spikes in investment towards Black-owned businesses and start-ups and representation in organizational leadership. Elements of pop culture such as the music industry reveal the platform celebrities of color use to call for institutional change while advocating for increased Black entrepreneurship. Main concerns with Black capitalism as a strategy for socioeconomic mobility focus on falling short of a collective impact by extremely benefiting too few. Thus, given the far-reaching implications of Black capitalism on economic equality in America from its origins through today, we proceed with an examination of two major industries that reflect the concept’s inherent inequalities. Through a discussion of the disproportionately low property ownership in African American communities as well as the treatment and voices of colored artists in the music industry, we provide a juxtaposition of the supposed benefits of Black capitalism with the alternative strategy of direct government intervention, or what could be seen as Black socialism. In doing so, we seek to illustrate that the empty promises inherent to the inequities behind Black capitalism, illustrated through a
discussion of economic discrimination in real-estate and pop culture, reflect the sentiment that Black capitalism was used to replace federal government’s responsibility in implementing a sustainable economic intervention to promote racial equality. R E A L E S T A T E
Real estate is an essential aspect of our economic system, as it is a key commodity that is sold, exchanged, and or purchased within our capitalist economy. With homeownership, a home typically increases in value over a period of time, with its equity used for education, investments, and retirement. Homeownership is also related to resources like good schools, safety, and jobs. 1⁷ As such, real estate encourages the accumulation of wealth. As the concept of Black capitalism assumes racial inequities and political disparities can be addressed through self-sufficient journeys of wealth-building, it is, therefore, important to look at the historical relationship between the real estate market and homeownership with that of Black Americans. Racism within the twentieth century allowed for prejudice to occur within the real estate market. Housing mainly reflects the racial mores of society as both racial segregation and housing are related to location.1⁸ With factors such as the Jim Crow laws that emphasize racial marginality, racial antagonisms became developed within the structure of the real estate market. This resulted in a successful system of Black segregation and isolation within real estate by the 1930s. Several discriminatory practices came together to exploit Black individuals/ families looking to accumulate real estate and to prevent them from successfully doing so. Property owners would contract agreements not to rent or sell to Black people and inflate prices to deliberately seek a heightened profit. In addition, institutionalized methods of segmenting credit dissuaded Black participation within the housing market. As some Black individuals became more involved in the housing market, despite the aforementioned barriers, white individuals started to move from those areas causing the phenomenon referred to as white flight. White flight negatively impacted Black homeowners as the white population brought wealth and resources with them when they left communities, leaving remaining
predominantly Black populations with less funding (for public entities like education), greater poverty, and subsequently higher rates of crime.1⁹ The migration of white individuals also resulted in a loss of customers which caused many businesses to close. The white flight phenomenon further disadvantaged Black individuals within the real estate market by causing an overall devaluation of homes within predominantly Black communities over time. The Great Depression also transformed the housing market as circumstances encouraged government involvement within real estate. The result was the creation of the Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC). The HOLC institutionalized redlining and created a code system in which neighborhoods with the lowest code would receive less funding. This code was mainly assigned to Black neighborhoods, labeling these areas as high risks for loans.2⁰ This further devalued the home of Black individuals and made it difficult for Black individuals to become homeowners. While it was dismantled by the Housing and Urban Development Act (HUD) in August of 1968, such institutionalized practices opened the gateway for corruption within the real estate market. Although the HUD Act aimed to transform low-income renters into homeowners, its lucrative subsidies, the guarantees of mortgage insurance, and the promise of profit led to the predatory inclusion of low-income Black individuals and families.21 Brokers could profit by bribing the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) appraisers to inflate the value of the houses in the new urban market.22 As speculators and real estate agents worked together with their financial counterparts, such collusion practically ensured a system of profiting through the exploitation of low-income Black Americans in the real estate market. Today, there are aspects of real estate that are still discriminatory, reflecting historical challenges that limit Blacks’ access to the real estate market. Microaggressions such as the need
to “un-Black” a house prior to showing it to prospective buyers are still prevalent today. This is a necessary step for Black homeowners, as Black homes are not as valued; a 2001 Brookings Institution study concluded that "wealthy minority neighborhoods had less home value per dollar of income than wealthy white neighborhoods”, with the same relationship holding true in the comparison of poor Black and white neighborhoods.23 A 2007 study by George Washington University conducted by Professor Squires and Freiberg from the Fair Housing Justice Center, explains how evidence indicates that even today, the presence of Blacks, despite neighborhood conditions, is associated with negative aspects of Black neighborhoods, such as crime, which lead to aversion from such areas for white individuals.2⁴ White flight also remains a reality as research shows that in the past 25 years, segregation between white people and minorities hasn't changed much within cities. However, within suburbs, white flight can be seen as white individuals are self-segregating through migratory decisions such as gated communities, unincorporated housing developments, and the countryside.2⁵ The benefits of capitalism always support the owners of the capital, not the people living in enterprise zones, or impoverished areas where economic growth and development are encouraged through policies.2⁶ Using capitalism to fix the racial injustices is not a viable solution as opportunities for transferring capital, assets, wealth, or housing are necessary. However, when the system is inherently against these chances, it further dismantles the opportunity for Black Americans2⁷ to become involved in the real estate market, limiting their wealthbuilding and as a result, participation in the concepts of Black capitalism. Concerns of such limitations are often expressed by musicians through pop culture to illustrate just how pressing the issue can be. P O P C U L T U R E
When examining the role of Black capitalism in American culture, one must look at how that idea has taken pop culture in order to better understand the contemporary role that it plays. This can be accomplished best by examining the music industry, a large and influential institution that provides a notable platform
for Black expression. The positive and negative aspects of Black capitalism are evident in the way the industry continues to operate, as well as in the opinions of some of the scene's biggest stars. One cannot look at American music and the role that music plays in American pop culture, and not acknowledge the profound impact that Black people have had. Genres such as jazz, hip-hop, gospel, and rock-and-roll are just a few examples of quintessentially American music whose origins are founded in the work of Black Americans. While often seen positively in this light, the music industry has a history of mistreating and exploiting the same Black artists who built it. This oppressive system within the industry created the circumstances that allowed for white executives to continue to dominate the industry while only a select few Black artists go on to be successful in their own right. These Black artists are then forced to abide by the rules of a system not built for them and one that allows them to succeed under certain circumstances. While music and pop culture are points of pride and expression for Black Americans, it wasn’t always this way. American commercial music began to take off in the early 20th century, a time when every aspect of life in America was segregated. Thus, the music industry itself was intensely segregated from how records were made to the methods with which they were marketed. This resulted in a sub-industry known as “race records” made of music by a minority for a minority. 28 While originally it provided a way for minority groups to have their voice heard, it quickly became an opportunity for white executives to take advantage of Black artists. Much of this was rooted in the inherent power imbalance of the industry that heavily favored record labels and left often financially illiterate Black musicians at the whim of these large wealthy, predominantly white institutions. During the early years of the race records industry, Columbia Records, one of the largest record labels at the time, tried to make a deal with Atlantic Records, who was considered to
be a strong name in the race record industry, and one of the only labels that gave Black artists royalties. During negotiations, a Columbia executive remarked “You’re paying those [racial expletive] royalties? You must be out of your mind!”, well illustrating the views on Black artists by big record labels at the time and how the artists were to be used by the system.29 Race records were a very important business for record labels as they generated great sales. During the 1920s when race records became popular, they generated an estimated five million dollars annually, worth about sixty-six million dollars in 2020.29,30 This being an extremely large amount of money given that music was not yet widely available as it is today. Additionally, race records helped propel entire genres, such as rock-and-roll, into the mainstream. Record stores such as the famous Record Rendezvous in Cleveland, Ohio, a record store from the 30s that specialized in selling race records and is credited as a “cradle of rock-and-roll” for the Midwest, were key in the prosperity of the genre.32 Still, Record Rendezvous was owned by a white man, Leo Mintz, who profited greatly off of the sale of race records and the promotion of rock-and-roll, a term which he and another white man are often co-credited as coining.33 This period of time for much of the 20th century marked a huge boom for the music industry, specifically Black originating genres such as jazz and rock-and-roll. While Black artists were able to gain some notoriety during this time, it is not accurate to see this as progress for Black capitalism as that distracts from the clear systematic racism within record labels and the music industry as a whole which allowed for them to profit from exploited Black work. While it is true that modern Black artists such as Jay-Z, a storied rapper now valued over one billion dollars, have been able to become successful musicians, such is not the case for other artists and certainly not for the industry as a whole.3⁴ The Billboard Power 100 list is a yearly curated list of the one hundred most influential people in the music industry. Considering the prevalence of Black artists, the lack of diversity on the Power 100 list is startling with less than 10% being people of color.35 This has the consequence of putting these few successful Black executives on a pedestal which is harmful considering how unrepresentative it is of actual Black Americans. While Beyonce signs fifty million dollar deals to play
the Superbowl, the median net worth of single Black women in America is five dollars.36 This all points to the veiling of actual economic issues that Black Americans face behind the pedestaled success of these artists. It doesn’t help when influential names like Jay-Z actively advocate for “gentrifying your hood,” pedaling a message that follows a strict interpretation of Black capitalism.37 While the intent is noble, the message advocates for practices that have been historically used to displace and harm Black communities, referred to by famed Black novelist James Baldwin as “Negro removal.”38 The Barclays Center in Brooklyn, an arena that Jay-Z was a partial owner in and helped create, is an example of how gentrification in the form of eminent domain was leveraged to displace a Black neighborhood for the sake of supposed economic growth in the future. However, due to a lack of the projected financial success, the arena is now seen as a textbook example of abuse of eminent domain and a failure of gentrification practices.39 The speech and action of industry pillars like Jay-Z demonstrate a continued push of the insufficient message of Black capitalism and the harmful outcomes if it is followed strictly.40 Still, there are artists who have worked hard to represent their communities and who offer a somewhat different interpretation of stirring economic prosperity in Black communities. The late Nipsey Hussle was known for both his West Coast hip hop prowess as well as his penchant for economic outreach and support of community-based initiatives. Nipsey’s message was overwhelmingly one of Black entrepreneurship which is troublingly lacking in America.41 Nipsey himself was able to work with real estate developers and use federal tax breaks to stir economic development in his area. The positive aspects of this message and activism help to motivate Nipsey’s neighborhood of Crenshaw in the wake of his untimely death as well as people across the country.42 Nipsey stood for positive change and
investment in his community as well as other low- income areas. The issue here lies in politicians attaching the issue Economic Opportunity Zones to this movement. Economic Opportunity Zones are pieces of federal government policy that were introduced in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.43 Their purpose is to spur economic development in low-income areas by offering capital gains tax breaks to investors so that they will invest in the zones. Opportunity Zones sound like just the type of motivating circumstances to result in economic growth that Nipsey Hussle would have praised, however in practice they primarily appeal to wealthy white investors and push for immediate profits as opposed to long term positive impact.44 Tax breaks are given to wealthy investors without requiring any actual beneficial steps to be made such as requiring job creation targets. Opportunity Zones were designed to appeal to a wide variety of businesses and projects, however, at the moment the investment has been focused on real estate such as luxury apartments and hotels while steering clear of affordable housing projects, local businesses in need of equity partners, or any community-focused initiatives.45 While Opportunity Zones have a degree of promise, currently they provide little actual help to Black Americans. This is despite the emphasis placed on the tax breaks given to a few Black entrepreneurs, like Nipsey Hussle, which only serves to detract from attention on the pervasive income inequality in America.46 This is much the same way that the Power 100 list presents a few Black executives, masking the systemic inequality in the music industry. The case of Nipsey Hussle points again to a strong message from the music industry that has been used to support these policies under the guise of Black capitalism. Looking at Black capitalism in the context of the music industry’s history and the words of some of its most influential artists, one can see the continued pushing of an idea that does not solve the economic problems that Black Americans face.
C O N C L U S I O N & P O L I C Y R E C O M M E N D AT I O N S
Consequently, through this discussion of the implications of Black capitalism associated with both real-estate and the music/pop culture industries, it is evident that dependence on Black capitalism itself is insufficient in tackling racial inequities. Calls for growth in Black-owned property, Black-owned record labels, and Blackowned businesses were rarely addressed., 47,48 Without providing a substantial social safety net to protect minorities of disproportionately lower socioeconomic status or directly legislating for affirmative action in the workplace or in banking—two ideas neglected for fears of socialism—the federal government has largely failed to address economic barriers for Blacks in America.49 Black capitalism as a policy imperative was substantially abandoned because it is unrealistic to expect a historically oppressed minority group to compete effectively with more privileged demographics in a capitalist system without any governmental protection to ensure a fair playing field.50 Accordingly, as Blacks became subject to redlining, were denied small business loans, and faced unequal educational and employment circumstances that contributed to disparate levels of property and asset ownership relative to Whites, the realestate industry began to illustrate the inequalities underlying Black capitalism.51 Likewise, even extraordinarily talented Black artists continue to face an American popular culture founded on the concepts of strict segregation and discrimination based on race and ethnicity.52 Thus, the music industry constitutes a unique outlet for gifted songwriters to voice their dreams of a successful implementation of the principles of Black capitalism. Despite the prevalence and universal appeal of such dreams, however, tangible results must come from the same place that economic opportunity was first guaranteed as a civil right: federal government intervention.
What academic literary analysis of Black capitalism has failed to hereto scrutinize is that just as American capitalism has thrived as a result of an oscillating political business cycle which rotates between increased and decreased government intervention in private markets, such would be necessary for the success of Black capitalism as well. 53 As is visible during the present-day COVID-19 pandemic and as was visible during the late 19th century, unchecked capitalism without government interference heightens alreadyexisting societal inequalities.54 While the pursuit of economic prosperity is certainly a valid strategy through which Blacks and their allies may target and eliminate racial injustices, to employ such a strategy within the guidelines of an economic system which has contributed so heavily to racial injustices in the first place is unproductive.55 Rather, a more effective alternative to Black capitalism is full, enforced integration of Black communities into the national economy.36 To continue to segregate economic participation, even to raise Blackowned capital to the level of that of whites and other groups, will be met with steep opposition in a nation that has still failed to address systemic and institutional racism in its laws and policies. Such integrated economic participation can be derived from policies which drive equity between races and ethnicities in the workplace, such as a system of affirmative action for hiring and employment akin to that of higher education.57 In addition, government action to expand policies of affirmative action to affirm a commitment to Black education in industries of disproportionately low representation, such as in STEM fields, can permit historically underrepresented groups a chance to obtain increasingly skilled jobs ushered in by the present-day digital age. 58 Getting at the root of the issue of racial economic injustice, instead of a weak attempt at bolstering Black-owned businesses apart from successful white businesses in hopes that they will flourish on their own like that under Nixon, certainly constitutes a much more effective policy in highlighting the importance and potential of Black work. Therefore, while the concept of Black capitalism was originally created as a means for Black economic empowerment to overcome institutional racial barriers,
this form of “skillful political rhetoric” turned out to have “a hollow ring.” 59 It is clear that despite any notion that Black capitalism was viewed as a tool to decrease the economic disparities inherent to business opportunities for African Americans, this perception fell drastically short of coming to fruition. Rather, Black capitalism has been used as a medium through which Laissez-Faire conservatives like President Nixon, passionate that the government interfere as little as possible in the free market economy, justified a lack of comprehensive, direct fiscal action to uphold the principles of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.60 The more effective way to demonstrate that Black economic equity matters, that Black Lives Matter, and that Black Work Matters is for federal interference in markets to permit the group to overcome the historic barriers erected to prevent Black people from competing as equals under capitalism. 1 Wayne J. Villemez and John J. Beggs. “Black Capitalism and Black Inequality: Some Sociological Considerations.” Social Forces 63, no. 1 (1984): 117-44. Accessed August 8, 2020. doi:10.2307/2578861. 2 Earl Ofari Hutchinson. "The Continuing Myth of Black Capitalism." Black Scholar 23, no. 1/2 (Winter/Spring 1992): 16. 3 Villemez and Beggs. "Black Capitalism an Black Inequality: Some Sociological Considerations." 4 Robert E. Weems and Lewis A. Randolph. "The National Response to Richard M. Nixon's Black Capitalism Initiative: The Success of Domestic Detente." Journal of Black Studies 32, no. 1(Sept 2001): 70, ⁵ Gordon F. Bloom, Black Capitalism and Black Supermarkets (Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1969). ⁶ Ibid. 7 Hutchinson. “The Continuing Myth of Black Capitalism.” 8 Weems and Randolph. “The National Response to Richard M. Nixon’s Black Capitalism Initiative: The Success of Domestic Detente.” ⁹ Mehrsa Baradaran. "A Bad Check for Black America." Boston Review. August 8, 2018. http://bostonreview.net/class-inequality-race/mehrsa-baradaran-bad-checkblack-america. 1⁰ Barry Bluestone. "Black Capitalism: The Path to Black Liberation?" Review of Radical Political Economics 1, no. 1 (May 1969): 36. https://search-ebscohost-com. proxy.library.cornell.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=22h&AN=27319145&site=e ds-live&scope=site. 11 Baradran. "A Bad Check for Black America." 12 Weems and Randolph. "The National Response to Richard M. Nixon's Black Capitalism Initiative: The Success of Domestic Detente." 13 Stephen M. Ward and Grace Lee Boggs. The Myth and Irrationality of Black Capitalism (1969). Pages from a Black Radical’s Notebook : A James Boggs Reader. Vol. N/a. African American Life Series. Wayne State University Press, 2011. 1⁴ Boggs. “Pages from a Black Radical’s Notebook.”
15 Thomas F. Pettigrew “Post-Racism? : Putting President Obama’s Victory in Perspective,” Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race 6, no. 2 (December 2009): 279–92, https://doi.org/10.1017/ S1742058X0999018X. 1⁶ Ruby Mendenhall, “The Political Economy of Black Housing: From the Housing Crisis of the Great Migrations to the Subprime Mortgage Crisis,” The Black Scholar 40, no. 1 (Spring 2010): 20–37. 1⁷ Mendenhall. “The Political Economy of Black Housing” 1⁸ Alvin Chang. “White America Is Quietly Self-Segregating,” Vox, January 18, 2017, https://www. vox.com/2017/1/18/14296126/white-segregated-suburb-neighborhood-cartoon. 1⁹ Amy Elizabeth Hillier. “Redlining and the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation.” Journal of Urban History 29, no. 4 (May 2003): 394–420. https://doi.org/10.1177/0096144203029004002. 2⁰ Mike Wold. “How the Real Estate Industry Conspired against Black Homeownership,” Street Roots, December 19,2019, https://news.streetroots.org/2019/12/13/how-real-estate-industryconspired-against-black-homeownership. 21 Douglas S. Massey, “The Legacy of the 1968 Fair Housing Act,” Sociological Forum 30, no. Suppl 1 (June 2015): 571–88, https://doi.org/10.1111/socf.12178. Dorothy Brown. “How Home Ownership Keeps Blacks Poorer Than Whites,” Forbes, December 10, 2012, https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesleadershipforum/2012/12/10/how-home-ownershipkeeps-blacks-poorer-than-whites/. 22
Fred Frieberg, and Gregory D. Squires. “Changing Contexts and New Directions for the Use of Testing,” Cityscape, 17, no. 3 (2015): 87–102.
Mart Revenberg. “Can’t Knock The Hustle: Jay-Z, Black Capitalism and Social Justice in Hip-Hop Culture,” MA Thesis, University of Groningen, October 9, 2019, https://www.academia.edu/43193647/Cant_Knock_The_Hustle_Jay_Z_Black_ Capitalism_and_Social_Justice_in_ Hip_Hop_ Culture. 39
Martin Longman, and Brian S. Feldman. “The Decline of Black Business,” Washington Monthly, March 20, 2017, https://washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/ marchaprilmay-2017/the-decline-of-black-business/. 40
Aaron Ross Coleman. “Black Capitalism Won’t Save Us,” The Nation, May 22, 2019, https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/nipsey-killer-mike-race-economics/. 41
Kevin Brady. “Titles - H.R.1 - 115th Congress (2017-2018): An Act to Provide for Reconciliation Pursuant to Titles II and V of the Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2018.,” last modified December 22, 2017, https://www. congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/1/titles. 42
Alex Wittenberg. “Opportunity Zones Don’t Work. Can They Be Fixed? Bloomberg,” Bloomberg CityLab, July 25, 2020, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/ articles/2020-06-25/opportunity-zones-don-t-work-can-they-be-fixed. 43
Sophie Quinton. “Black Businesses Largely Miss Out on Opportunity Zone Money,” Pew, June 24, 2020, https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/ blogs/stateline/2020/06/24/black-businesses-largely-miss-out-on-opportunity-zonemoney. 44
Coleman. “Black Capitalism Won’t Save Us.”
Massey. “The Legacy of the 1968 Fair Housing Act.”
Blakemore. “How ‘Race Records’ Turned Black Music Into Big Business.”
Daniel T. Lichter, Domenico Parisi, and Michael C. Taquino. “Toward a New Macro-Segregation? Decomposing Segregation within and between Metropolitan Cities and Suburbs,” American Sociological Review 80, no. 4 (August 1, 2015): 843–73, https://doi.org/10.1177/0003122415588558. 24
Baradaran, Mehrsa. “Opinion | The Real Roots of ‘Black Capitalism,’” The New York Times, March 31, 2019, sec. Opinion, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/31/opinion/nixon-capitalism-blacks.html. 25
Steven Lewis. “Musical Crossroads: African American Influence on American Music,” Smithsonian Music, September 22, 2016, https://music.si.edu/story/musical-crossroads.
Barry Bluestone. “Black Capitalism: The Path To Black Liberation?,” Review of Radical Political Economics 1, no. 1 (May 1, 1969): 36–55, https://doi. org/10.1177/048661346900100103. 48
Erin Blakemore. “How ‘Race Records’ Turned Black Music Into Big Business,” History, February 22, 2019 https://www.history.com/news/race-records-bessie-smith-big-bill-broonzy-music-business. 27
Justin Joffe. “Capitalism Has Long Suppressed the Contributions of Black Musicians,” Observer, February 2, 2017, https://observer.com/2017/02/capitalism-has-suppressed-black-musicians/.
Hutchinson, Earl Ofari. “THE CONTINUING MYTH OF BLACK CAPITALISM,” The Black Scholar 23, no. 1 (1993): 16–21, https://www.jstor.org/ stable/41069658?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents. 51
Revenberg. “Can’t Knock The Hustle.”
Ward and Boggs. The Myth and Irrationality of Black Capitalism (1969).
Karl Ackerman. “The Black Swan: A History Of Race Records,” All About Jazz, June 8, 2019, https://www.allaboutjazz.com/the-black-swan-a-history-of-race-records-by-karl-ackermann.php 29
“CPI Inflation Calculator,” https://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm.
John Petkovi, and The Plain Dealer, “Record Rendezvous: Cleveland Cradle of Rock ‘n’ Roll Sits Empty,” Cleveland, July 9, 2017, https://www.cleveland.com/entertainment/2017/07/record_ rendezvous_cleveland_cr.html. 31
Ward and Boggs. The Myth and Irrationality of Black Capitalism (1969).
Aaron van Dorn, Rebecca E Cooney, and Miriam L Sabin. “COVID-19 Exacerbating Inequalities in the US,” Lancet (London, England) 395, no. 10232 (2020): 1243–44, https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30893-X. 53
William I. Robinson, “Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century: Global Inequality, Piketty, and the Transnational Capitalist Class,” Twenty-First Century Inequality & Capitalism: Piketty, Marx and Beyond, December 7, 2017, 238–54, https://doi. org/10.1163/9789004357044_015. 54
Leo Mintz, Encyclopedia of Cleveland History | Case Western Reserve University, May 11, 2018, https://case.edu/ech/articles/m/mintz-leo.
Zack O’Malley Greenburg. “Artist, Icon, Billionaire: How Jay-Z Created His $1 Billion Fortune,” Forbes, accessed August 8, 2020, https://www.forbes.com/sites/zackomalleygreenburg/2019/06/03/ jay-z-billionaire-worth/.
Amelia Mason. “What The Rise And Fall Of Black Leadership In The Music Industry Says About Equality Today,” The ARTery, October 5, 2016, https://www.wbur.org/artery/2016/10/05/blackleadership-music-industry.
Lori Anderson, and Thomas J. Ward. “Expectancy-Value Models for the STEM Persistence Plans of Ninth-Grade, High-Ability Students: A Comparison Between Black, Hispanic, and White Students,” Science Education 98, no. 2 (2014): 216–42, https://doi.org/10.1002/sce.21092.
Tim Grant. “Study Finds Median Wealth for Single Black Women at $5,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 9, 2010, https://www.post-gazette.com/businessnews/2010/03/09/Study-finds-medianwealth-for-single-black-women-at-5/stories/201003090163#ixzz0ht4SAqpr. 35
Rakhi Bose. “‘Gentrify Your Hood’: Why Jay-Z’s Freestyle Tribute to Nipsey Hussle Is Dividing Fans,” News 18, April 29, 2019, https://www.news18.com/news/buzz/why-jay-zs-freestyle-tribute-tonipsey-hussle-is-dividing-internet-2119961.html. 36
Weems, Robert E., and Lewis A. Randolph. “The National Response to Richard M. Nixon’s Black Capitalism Initiative: The Success of Domestic Détente.” Elizabeth S. Anderson“Integration, Affirmative Action, and Strict Scrutiny,” New York University Law Review 77 (2002): 1195. 57
Weems and Randolph. “The National Response to Richard M. Nixon’s Black Capitalism Initiative: The Success of Domestic Détente.” 58
Thela Thatch. “Gentrification, ‘Negro Removal,’ and a Housing Crisis,” Black Enterprise (blog), November 2, 2018, https://www.blackenterprise.com/gentrification-black-communities/. 37
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BAN TH E BOX By Allison Eng, Eric Bohrer, Jayla Frith, & Jeraya Kelly INTRODUCTION
The promise of “liberty and justice for all” is inextricably tied to America’s ostensible identity; so much so that the line concludes the Pledge of Allegiance and the Star-Spangled Banner denominates the United States as “the land of the free.” Despite the laudable promises of patriotic hymns, reality has proven the United States to be much less idyllic. While the United States constitutes less than 5% of the world’s population, it contains nearly 25% of the world’s prisoners.1 The prison population has increased by over 500% over the last forty years due to changes in sentencing structures that were enacted under the guise of law and order, such as mandatory minimums and the three-strikes law.2 This proliferation of the prison population, known as mass incarceration, has had a disparate impact on the Black community. At the end of 2017, 33% of the nation’s prisoners were Black, despite the fact that Black Americans constitute just 12% of the population.3 After an individual is released from prison, their ex-offender status proves to be a significant obstacle in his or her pursuit of employment. Although ex-offenders have already paid their debt to society, they still have significantly worse employment outcomes. Employers tend to be averse to hiring ex-offenders due to the supposed risk that is posed by hiring an individual who has a history of violating the law at some point. Studies have shown that when presented with otherwise identical applicants, the employer tends to discriminate against the applicant who was an ex-offender.⁴ When given the opportunity, employers tend to choose the “safer” option, by hiring individuals who do not have a criminal history. Because the Black community is targeted by mass incarceration, Black Americans disproportionately suffer from the negative effects of incarceration in their employment prospects. In turn, these hiring practices that disadvantage those with a criminal history continue to exacerbate racial disparities. The mass incarceration of Black Americans not only obstructs them from attaining their potential educational aspirations, but also has longlasting effects on their financial security by restricting their employment opportunities after they serve their
sentence. Ban the Box aims to ameliorate this discrepancy by eliminating the box on job applications that asks applicants whether or not they have a criminal history. Ban the Box does not preclude employers from inquiring about criminal records entirely; rather, it delays the inquiry until later in the process, once employers have had an opportunity to assess applicants on their merits. By doing so, the Ban the Box movement hopes to remove a roadblock in exoffenders' pursuit of employment and provide them with an opportunity to reintegrate into society. Ban the Box is a crucial initiative because the “box” prevents ex-offenders from having an opportunity to become financially independent and stable following their release from prison. Additionally, there is a demonstrable link between unemployment and recidivism. In other words, if an ex-offender is unemployed after their release from prison, they are more likely to commit another crime.⁵ In this way, society has an interest in reintegrating ex-offenders back into the labor market in order to provide financial stability for those who have already served their time, with a positive externality of reducing recidivism. Ban the Box is significant and worthy of consideration because providing employment opportunities to ex-offenders would prove helpful to both of these goals simultaneously. Legislation like Ban the Box has the potential to begin to dismantle the oppressive economic legacy of mass incarceration that has presented a significant impediment to the success of Black Americans for decades. Finding employment after being incarcerated has a massive impact on reintegrating ex-convicts back into society. Employment can contribute to stability and reform to the lives of those that were formerly incarcerated. However, due to extensive discrimination that exists for job applicants with criminal records; getting a job becomes one of the hardest responsibilities for former inmates. The Prison Policy Initiative report
that was released in 2018 used data from the Bureau of Justice Statistic’s National Former Prisoner Survey that was conducted in 2008, to conclude that more than 27 percent of those that were formerly incarcerated end up unemployed. This makes the unemployment rate of former inmates surpass the total U.S. unemployment rate during any historical period, among those times highlighting the Great Depression.⁶ When former inmates have to reveal their criminal record history at the beginning of the hiring process, this can lead to employers disposing of their applications without even meeting with the potential applicant, therefore disregarding the ex-offenders' qualifications. This causes unnecessary difficulties for ex-convicts who are attempting to turn their lives around. The initiative behind banning the box is that it will serve as a step in the right direction for those who have served their time and want to turn their lives around. It encourages former convicts that have been discriminated against due to their criminal record to continue to get on the right path by helping to reduce the endless cycle of incarceration and poverty that unemployment for a formerly incarcerated individual can lead to. Banning the Box can help make the transition easier for a more successful life after prison. According to a global background screening and onboarding firm, Sterling Talent Solutions concluded in their 2017 Background Screening Trends and Best Practices Report, that out of 507 employers 93 percent of employers conduct pre-hire screenings with criminal record searches and only 10 percent of employers ask about a job applicant’s criminal history after they make the job offer.⁷ Proponents of the Ban the Box movement feel as though those with criminal records who have done their time should be able to make their way through society and reform their lives without being disadvantaged because they have past convictions. Although banning the box does not fully ensure that employers will not question a person’s criminal background later into the hiring process, removing the box provides people with second-chance employment. It allows those with criminal records the opportunity to prove their worth and build on their qualifications.8 Ban the Box allows for applicants to get to the later stages of the hiring process before their conviction is ever discussed. During a tight labor market, it is a smart decision to delay the inquiry of one’s criminal
record until later in the process as it allows for more candidates in the pipeline. When delaying the background check for criminal history, they are able to decide if the applicant’s conviction(s) are related to the job position and/or create any possible risks instead of solely discriminating against them due to a box ex-convicts have to check. It humanizes the person with a record when allowing the person with the criminal record to explain the situation at hand and why their record should not be a limiting factor towards their potential job.⁹ Prior auditing studies in 2003 showed that when employers provided a box indicating whether or not one possesses a criminal record, applicants without records received 62 percent more callbacks than identical applicants with records that happened more than two years after minor, nonviolent felonies.1⁰ By asking for a background check after a conditional offer is made, employers are able to meet the applicant and form a relationship of mutual respect, trust, and fairness, making it harder to disqualify a potential job applicant purely based on the premise of a record. There is a direct relationship between public safety and employment. Banning the box also helps lessen recidivism, meaning former prisoners are less likely to recommit a crime after being released. Providing employment for those leaving prison might reduce their chances of going back to prison as having a job can serve as an important factor in stabilizing someone’s life after release from prison. Having a job will improve the quality of life for those with a criminal record history and further enhance the communities in which they reside, meaning this will directly lessen the rates of recidivism and increase public safety. The Center for Economic and Policy Research, an economic policy think tank, estimated in 2010 that because of convicted felons’ lowered prospects for employment, the U.S. economy loses between $57 billion and $65 billion in output each year.11 Not only will banning “the Box” benefit the justice system,
but the economy as well. The cost of not hiring possible job applicants can drain the economy as there is a loss of many potential workers. On the other hand, there are potential negative externalities that could result from the implementation of a Ban the Box policy. “What my research and what other research is showing is that when employers aren’t able to ask, they use race as a proxy,” Jennifer Doleac, an economist at Texas A&M, says. This would constitute a violation of existing federal anti-discrimination laws, not just the spirit of ban-the-box policies.12 While Ban the Box and Fair Chance laws are intended to provide equal opportunities for the formerly incarcerated, they fail to account for human error. These errors and biases are often seen in employers and can have negative influences on the formerly incarcerated. Since the first Ban the Box law (implemented in the state of Hawaii in 1998), many others like it have been adopted. As of July 2019, in the United States of America, more than 35 states, the District of Columbia, and 150 cities have adopted laws like this.13 Due to an increase in background checks following the September 11th terrorist attacks and high unemployment rates, Ban the Box and Fair Chance Laws are a necessity in the rehabilitation of ex-offenders. When compared to non-offenders, former convicts have an increased amount of difficulty being employed, an essential part of re-entry into society after incarceration. Sometimes, employment is a condition of parole (the early, conditional release of an inmate before they have served their maximum sentence) or probation. If this requirement is not fulfilled, not only is an ex-offender violating this clause, they may not be able to financially support themselves or their families, both of whom may have been hurt by a lack of income while the offender was imprisoned. Despite these difficult parameters and the creation of Ban the Box (and other laws like it), this remains a major issue. A 2016 report from the National Bureau of Economic Research confirms that bias can increase against certain people when Ban the Box is in effect. A study done in 2017 by researchers from Princeton University and the University of Michigan found that Ban the Box policies decrease the probability of being employed by 3.4 percentage points (5.1%) for young, low-skilled (meaning no college degree) black men, and by 2.3
percentage points (2.9%) for young, low-skilled Hispanic men.1⁴ In this study, 15,000 fake job applications were sent to various employers. Employers were sent two identical applications, save for the race of the applicant. The research notes that the Ban the Box law does increase the amount of hired applicants with a criminal past. However, it also notes that white male applicants disproportionately received up to 43% (compared to the 7 percent difference present prior to Ban the Box laws being invoked) more callbacks than non-white men. Due to the increase of white applicants with callbacks, the conclusion is that employers are swayed by the racial and ethnic bias against those in the groups most affected by mass incarceration. These findings support the hypothesis that when an applicant’s criminal history is unavailable, employers statistically discriminate against racial and ethnic groups that include more ex-offenders. This raises the question of whether there has to be a trade-off in relation to the hiring of Black and Hispanic non-offenders, who could be adversely affected, in order to help the prospects of ex-offenders. Are the innocent meant to pay for the errors of the guilty solely because they are a part of the same racial and ethnic groups? Is this fair considering the disparities in the criminal past of these people, and is this an instance in which the greater good comes at the price of prejudice? Non-offenders in these groups may be hurt by the biases of employers, whose prejudice reinforces malicious stereotypes about these racial and ethnic groups. While these hiring policies that disregard criminal history are beneficial in theory, in practice, they can contribute to an increase in discrimination. If a potential employee is a part of a "minority" group, especially one that is mass incarcerated such as Black and Latino people, the lack of disclosure about one’s criminal past may have a negative impact as it opens the door for discrimination from employers in their hiring practices. In addition to a possible increase in
discrimination, doubts with fair-hiring laws exist within small businesses. An article in The New York Times weighs the advantages and disadvantages of the Ban the Box law.1⁵ It cites reports from the National Bureau of Economic Research and the National Employment Law Project, the referenced data suggesting that Ban the Box laws pose costly financial and social repercussions. For small business owners, the cost of background checks for employees is expensive and could be an expense they cannot afford. It was also stated that the incredible lack of hiring of former convicts can result in reduction of the United States’ Gross Domestic Product (due to the large percentage of the population being imprisoned). The social cost lies in the seemingly deceitful nature of an employer not being transparent about hiring criteria. Some business owners fear that they will be exposed to litigation that could harm their company. They fear a potential hire suing them for discrimination based on criminal infractions. However, if these infractions are unknown, then how could they be used against someone? Small business owners have also expressed concerns about not being able to fulfill their job commitments if they have to delay work for things like background checks. Although Fair Chance and Ban the Box laws propose removal of prejudicial practices, they have been proven to contribute as well. The impact of these laws is much greater than what they present on the surface. Regardless of their benevolent intentions, the actual impact of the laws have been proven to be the exact opposite of their goals. Can this be fixed by amendments to this branch of legislation? Does the solution lie in other factors related to hiring practices such as biases based on race, gender, or income? How can Ban the Box and Fair Chance laws be used to their truest capabilities? The Ban the Box law is an extremely important policy that makes it easier for individuals with a criminal record to gain equitable access to employment. Though Ban the Box is meant to help formerly incarcerated individuals, the legislation has negative unintended consequences stemming from implicit bias. Because of this, lawmakers should be motivated to act and strengthen employment discrimination doctrine through fair chance policies, while employers should move towards eliminating implicit biases within their own hiring processes. Fair chance hiring policies provide
other legislation that goes beyond Ban the Box such as record clearing, improving compliance and awareness, and enforcing employment discrimination law amongst both public and private sector employers. Currently, 35 states and the District of Columbia have implemented a Ban the Box policy, and 13 of those states have adopted a similar policy for private employers, which is crucial to ensure that previously incarcerated individuals have a fair chance in a majority of jobs.1⁶ At the federal level, the Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act, or the Fair Chance Act, recently passed and prohibits the federal government and federal contractors from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal record until a conditional offer is made. Further action that can be taken by states, localities and the federal government include adopting Ban the Box legislation in states that have not already adopted it, as well as adopting similar policies that cover both public and private employers.1⁷ Additionally, the government should increase employment opportunities for returning citizens (which will greatly decrease the amount of recidivism) and ensure that these returning citizens have access to supportive services. Lastly, governments should begin to implement legislation or guidance on expungement and record-sealing. Job applications generally ask about criminal records, which can include both arrests and time spent in jail. Any criminal record, such as time spent in jail, that does not result in a conviction should be expunged, and the government should move towards banning employers from asking questions about these arrests. Expungement of records not resulting in a criminal conviction is related to a larger issue of cash bail and the long wait times to even book a court date. Employers need to actively make themselves aware as well as comply with Ban the Box and fair chance policies. These actions include allowing applicants to easily review
their background checks for accuracy as well as allowing applicants to provide evidence of rehabilitation through complying with terms of probation/parole. Furthermore, employers should train their hiring and management teams to recognize implicit biases and discrimination and make concerted policies to rectify such biases, such as removing background information like neighborhoods, or racial information. Both governments and employers need to have a stronger commitment to the collection of employment data and regulatory oversight and enforcement. Employment data includes detailed records regarding why applicants were rejected, whereas regulatory oversight involves being willing to participate in complaint processes. Fair chance policies should eventually become a norm amongst the city’s employers. It is clear that while Ban the Box policies may help previously incarcerated individuals secure more equitable job opportunities, the unintended consequences of implicit biases in the hiring process discriminate against young men of color. Efforts need to be taken by the federal, state and local governments, as well as employers to strengthen employment discrimination doctrine and ensure that hiring processes become fairer. Overall, these efforts need to go beyond securing equitable opportunities of employment and address the root problem of higher incarceration rates amongst communities of color, looking at the school to prison pipeline, higher rates of policing and economic inequality. Remedies need to focus on both reducing incarceration rates and helping people involved with the justice system reintegrate into their communities. 1 “Mass Incarceration.” 2017. American Civil Liberties Union. 2017. https://www.aclu.org/issues/smart-justice/mass-incarceration. 2 “International Rates of Incarceration per 100,000.” https://sentencingproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Trends-in-US-Corrections.pdf 3 “International Rates of Incarceration per 100,000.” https://sentencingproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Trends-in-US-Corrections.pdf ⁴ Doleac, J. and Hansen, B., 2017. The Unintended Consequences of ‘Ban the Box’: Statistical Discrimination and Employment Outcomes When Criminal Histories Are Hidden. SSRN Electronic Journal,. Pp.3. ⁵ Raphael, S. and Winter-Ebmer, R., 1999. Identifying The Effect Of Unemployment On Crime. Pp.259-283. ⁶ Couloute, Lucius, and Dan Kopf. 2018. “Out of Prison & Out of Work.” Www.Prisonpolicy.Org. Prison Policy Initiative. July 2018. https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/ outofwork.html#:~:text=Our%20analysis%20shows%20that%20formerly. ⁷ Maurer, Roy. 2017. “Nearly Half of Employers Continue to Ask About Criminal History on Job Applications.” SHRM: Better Workplaces, Better World. SHRM. August 23, 2017. https://www. shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/ban-the-box-criminal-history-jobapplications.aspx.
⁸ La Gorce, Tammy. “As ‘Ban the Box’ Spreads, Private Employers Still Have Questions.” The New York Times , 23 Nov. 2017, p. 6, As ‘Ban the Box’ Spreads, Private Employers Still Have Questions. ⁹ Maurer, Roy. 2017. “Nearly Half of Employers Continue to Ask About Criminal History on Job Applications.” SHRM: Better Workplaces, Better World. SHRM. August 23, 2017. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talentacquisition/pages/ban-the-box-criminal-history-job-applications.aspx. 1⁰ Agan, Amanda, and Sonja Starr. 2017. “Ban the Box, Criminal Records, and Racial Discrimination: A Field Experiment*.” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 133 (1): 191–235. https://doi.org/10.1093/qje/qjx028. 11 Palazzolo, Joe. 2015. “For Americans Who Served Time, Landing a Job Proves Tricky.” Wall Street Journal, May 17, 2015, sec. US. https://www.wsj.com/articles/foramericans-who-served-time-landing-a-job-proves-tricky-1431900037. 12 “Employers Are Still Avoiding Former Inmates.” 2019. The Atlantic. November 5, 2019. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2019/11/are-states-complyingban-box-laws/601240 13 “National Employment Law Project.” 2018. National Employment Law Project. 2018. https://www.nelp.org/publication/ban-the-box-fair-chance-hiring-state-andlocal-guide/. 1⁴ Agan, Amanda, and Sonja Starr. 2017. “Ban the Box, Criminal Records, and Racial Discrimination: A Field Experiment*.” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 133 (1): 191–235. https://doi.org/10.1093/qje/qjx028. 1⁵ La Gorce, Tammy. “As ‘Ban the Box’ Spreads, Private Employers Still Have Questions.” The New York Times , 23 Nov. 2017, p. 6, As ‘Ban the Box’ Spreads, Private Employers Still Have Questions. 1⁶ “National Employment Law Project.” 2018. National Employment Law Project. 2018. https://www.nelp.org/publication/ban-the-box-fair-chance-hiring-state-andlocal-guide/. 1⁷ “Center for American Progress.” Center for American Progress, Center for American Progress, July 2017, www.americanprogress.org/issues/economy/ reports/2017/07/27/436756/ban-box-beyond/
THE EFFECTS OF NCLB AN D ESSA O N T H E R AC I AL AC H I E V E ME N T GAP By Valerie Kong, Maria Wothe, John Hanna, & Richmond Addae INTRODUCTION
Throughout the history of the US, education has been perceived as the ultimate vehicle for socioeconomic mobility. Yet for all too many Americans, the educational system in this country is the origin point for the inequities that are prevalent in society. The brunt of this inequality is felt by Black and Brown students in minority-majority school systems in the US. America has long failed to provide equal opportunities for Black and Brown students in its educational system. From the days of institutionalized de jure segregation after the end of Reconstruction in the late nineteenth century until the late 1960s, Black students were often forced to attend underfunded and poorly served institutions of education while white students were raised in higher-performing districts. To this day, Black students are more likely to attend schools in minority-majority school systems with larger class sizes, less the racial achievement gap is the difference between educational levels between different ethnic groups. This paper aims to examine the racial achievement gap based on research for K-12 education. The racial achievement gap has been largely driven by socioeconomic factors that are rooted in systemic issues, with data suggesting that it is primarily poverty-based segregation rather than race segregation that perpetuates the achievement gap. Public schools in America are largely funded by property taxes, resulting in public schools from wealthier neighborhoods receiving greater access to quality resources than public schools from lowincome districts. As poverty rates are higher for Black and Latinx families than white families, minority students disproportionately attend underfunded and lowerperforming schools with limited access to resources.1
Although Brown v. Board of Education found segregation to be a violation of the 14th Amendment, the desegregation of schools did not necessarily result in the desegregation of education.2 There have been few pieces of legislation that directly address improving the quality of early education and lowering the racial achievement gap. In 1965, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was passed in an attempt to reform the education system by providing federal funding for primary and secondary education. Those funds are designed to be used for a wide range of resources ranging from professional development to classroom materials and promoting parental involvement. The goal of the act was to reduce the achievement gap and increase equal access to education. ESEA was enacted in 1965 and appropriated funds for professional development, instructional materials, resources to support educational programs, and the promotion of parental involvement, with an emphasis on high standards and accountability.3 The most impactful initiative of the ESEA was Title I, which appropriated the mentioned funds. It wasn’t until the implementation of Title I that a strong positive correlation between overall per-pupil federal revenue and the 1960 child poverty rate became evident.⁴ While the federal revenue was intended for educational programs and resources that would directly provide supplemental resources for access to quality education, Title I funds were often used for alternative purposes, including capital investments, and in some cases, not even education. Misuse of appropriated funds reduces the impact ESEA intended to have. Many years after ESEA, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act was signed in 2002. The act was an early attempt by the government at eliminating racial disparities in public education. The government’s intent was for schools to focus on certain demographics -- economically
disadvantaged, limited english proficiency, and race -- in order to narrow the achievement gap. Pre-NCLD “Statistics show that 12th-grade African American and Latino students have reading and math skills roughly equivalent to those of eighth-grade white students.”⁵ By increasing accountability of results with standardized tests scores, the theory behind these acts was that schools would focus their attention towards students impacted by the racial achievement gap in order to minimize its effects from a quantitative standpoint. While the intended purposes of acts like NCLB and ESEA were to increase accountability in the education system and equalize standards in all schools, data has shown that they have been ineffective at achieving these goals thus far. Schools are primarily financed by property tax revenues generated from their local communities. Unfortunately, due to the institutionalized nature of the racial socioeconomic gap, minority-majority schools are often those receiving the lowest amounts of property tax revenue. This means they are often more reliant on federal and state assistance such as Title I funding and grants. These laws, however, began to increase the connection between school performance on standardized testing, putting many of these schools in an untenable position. If they do not perform at a standard comparable to their wealthier peers who possess much greater funding, they will lose out on federal and state funding which they so desperately need. But the fundamental issue is that without the necessary funding from property taxes to begin with, these schools have lost out on further funding from programs such as Race to The Top, which provides federal grants as incentives for improved performance and specific teaching practices. All of this leads to a death spiral for schools in low income areas: they often struggle to improve student performance to secure funding provided by the federal government, leading to a further gap in funding relative to their wealthier counterparts, and therefore further increasing in the racial education gap. Due to this, while the intentions of legislation like NCLB was to ameliorate the performance of struggling schools and in turn, students, the results have been far from that. Understanding the extent to which recent education policy has impacted the racial achievement gap provides insight into the effectiveness of the policies, and recommendations can then be made to increase the
effectiveness of future education policy. Laws such as NCLB have further increased the racial disparity in K-12 education by tying federal grant aid to school adherence to specific practices and student performance. These standards are often costly to adhere to, leading to decreased funding for schools that need it most, as schools largely depend on property tax revenue, which is substantially lower in many of these areas, leading to a spiraling cycle of inequality. In 2015, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) replaced its predecessor, NCLB. The goal of ESSA was to shift oversight back to the states in an effort to allow the states to develop comprehensive plans focused on closing the achievement gap. When shifting from NCLB to ESSA, the federal government reconstructed several policies that left an ineffective, and even harmful, impact on students of color and the narrowing of the achievement gap. ESSA eliminates the NCLB idea linking teacher and school evaluations with students’ test scores for the reason that schools will not focus on just test scores but on the students academic achievement and growth. ESSA also allocates money differently for the purpose of fixing the holes in NCLB. ESSA eradicates the School Improvement Grant funds and requirements, while making funds more flexible to be transferred between titles. This change will limit schools and districts’ ability to bank out on the struggles of the lower performing students. The federal government gives states and, in some policies, the school districts the responsibility to focus on student achievement. Although the federal government provides a substructure to follow, the substructure is malleable; it is up to the states’ interpretation. State leaders now have the power to decide how teachers will be evaluated. In addition to that, states have the power to choose the ACT or SAR rather than a separate state high school test to assess the performance of the students.⁶ Lastly, states have the ability to design their own school
rating system in order to pinpoint the lowest-performing percentage of students. Since each state had to set their own standards and achievement targets, the federal government’s aim to educate all students and their emphasis on closing the achievement gap was weakened the moment the federal government took a Laissez-faire approach. Without the government’s push to narrow the racial achievement gap, low performing students and schools fell through the cracks, and inherently kept the gap open. On top of laissez-faire attitude, ESSA established a literary education grant program that gave up to 160 million in grants to schools who showed evidence based on literary skills. This was found to be more ineffective than effective because schools were not focused on the wellbeing and success of the students but rather on the money the school could receive from the government. Another way schools received money from the government involved using the struggling students as a beacon to get funding for programs to “develop a plan to improve.” Although School Improvement Grant funds and requirements differ from NCLB there is still leeway for schools to profit off of the system.⁶ This does more harm than good to students of color and the achievement gap because their problems, disadvantages, and concerns were not being addressed. R E C O M M E N D AT I O N
As discussed above, there have been few educational reforms. All of them have been aimed at reducing the racial achievement gap, but there has been little success. It seems that there needs to be a policy that is focused on putting the students first. While putting the students first has been an underlying theme, money has often stood in the way. Since property taxes fund a large portion of local education, one way to level the field would be to equally distribute the money from property taxes across the district.⁷ Equally distributing the funds would mean that living in a more expensive area would not give more money to the local school district. Since minorities historically get paid less than whites, affording a more expensive home is not as possible and minority students get disproportionately placed in underfunded school districts. Reardon et al. states that, “The association of racial segregation with achievement gaps is completely
accounted for by racial differences in school poverty: racial segregation appears to be harmful because it concentrates minority students in high-poverty schools, which are, on average, less effective than lower-poverty schools.”⁸ Equal distribution of property tax funds to schools will help close the gap between school districts. Equal distribution of property tax funds across school districts could also reduce the incentive for families with children to move to wealthier neighborhoods. When there are not equal distributions of these funds, there is an incentive for families who can afford to live in a more expensive neighborhood to move to one in order to send their children to a better school.⁷ This exacerbates the racial achievement gap because minorities are disadvantaged at living in these wealthier neighborhoods. While equal distribution of property tax funds will not completely eliminate the racial achievement gap, it should counter the impact of more economically advantaged families moving to better neighborhoods. Another factor of the racial achievement gap is the ability for wealthier families to afford private education. Private schools generally have more resources per student due to tuition rates and therefore have the ability to engage in more rigorous course curriculums than public schools from low-income areas. Unfortunately, In 2015, “approximately 30 percent of public students attended public schools in which the combined enrollment of minority students was at least 75 percent of total enrollment. 58 percent of Blacks attended such schools. In contrast, only 5 percent of White students attended such schools.⁹ These statistics demonstrate how public schools are overwhelmingly minority. As a result of inequitable public school funding, these students who attend predominantly minority schools are put at an increased disadvantage when compared to their private school peers who have more resources. In addition to schools receiving different amounts of resources, the summer is a time
where students’ educational levels widen because students from better backgrounds are placed in summer programs that reduce the summer slide. The summer slide is related to student’s achievement levels being lower at the end of summer than they were at the beginning due to not being in a learning environment for an extended period of time. Kim and Quinn found that summer reading programs significantly benefited students from lower-income households. This is because lower-income students tend to have a greater loss due to not being involved in summer programs. Kim and Quinn also found that home based learning programs were almost as effective as school based programs.1⁰ The summer slide could be reduced by having books sent to children’s households to read and perform a few critical thinking activities. This is a much cheaper alternative to summer school. Since the summer slide effects disproportionately affects minority students, it will also aid in reducing the racial achievement gap. Since parents have to continue working throughout the summer, those with more resources have the ability to enroll their children in summer programs. These summer programs allow students to continue to improve their skills. A few weeks of paid parental leave during the summer months would allow parents time to work directly with their children on educational skills. It would allow less advantaged families the opportunity to work with their children directly to reduce lost achievement gains during the summer months while also not having a reduction in income. Many minority families would be unable to afford a loss in income, so it is important that this leave is paid and ensures the parent’s job upon return. The final recommendation would be to increase programs around early education. There is already a gap between students on Day 1 of Kindergarten. A child’s early years are critical for childhood development, yet in the United States, there is virtually no support for working parents. The United States has Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which “provides certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year.” However, in order to qualify for FMLA, employees have to “have worked for their employer at least 12 months, at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months, and work at a location where the company employs 50 or more employees within 75 miles.”11 Universal Pre-K would
give parents the ability to continue to work and for disadvantaged youth to get started in the classroom since not all families can afford to pay for Pre-K. Universal Pre-K would aid in leveling the field from the start. This will better support children’s learning outcomes from the start of the beginning of their educational years. Providing universal Pre-K is a proactive approach to minimizing the racial achievement gaps. Preventing the gap of resources that are known to cause the achievement gaps in the first place minimizes the existence of the gap at all, as opposed to remaining neutral during the critical early years and addressing the larger gap later on when children have already fallen behind.
September 2019, http://cepa.stanford.edu/wp19-06 9National Center for Education Studies and American Institutes for Research. Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups 2018. (February 2019.). Retrieved July 31,2020, from https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2019/2019038.pdf 1⁰ Alvarado, Interview by Addae, Hanna, Kong, and Wothe, August 4, 2020. 11 "Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups 2018," National Center for Education Studies and American Institutes for Research, February 2019, https://nces.ed.gov/ pubs2019/2019038.pdf 12 Kim, James S. and David M. Quinn. “The Effects of Summer Reading on Low-Income Children’s Literacy Achievement from Kindergarten to Grade 8: A Meta-Analysis of Classroom and Home Interventions,” Review of Educational Research, 83, no. 3 (2013): 386—431. 13 “Family and Medical Leave (FMLA).” U.S. Department of Labor . Accessed August 13, 2020. https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/benefits-leave/fmla. 1⁴ Ibid.
Overall, it appears that the NCLB and ESSA have not been successful at reducing the racial achievement gap. Every child in America should have access to a quality education. Because Blacks face systemic issues that impact the ability for them to have equal education opportunities, policies such as equal distribution of property tax funding to school districts, paid leave, and universal pre-k will aid in reducing the racial achievement gap. 1 Poverty Rates for Selected Detailed Race & Hispanic Groups: 2007-2011.” The United States Census Bureau, July 31, 2018. https://www.census.gov/library/ publications/2013/acs/acsbr11-17.html. 2 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954). 3 Cameron Brenchley. “What Is ESEA?” HomeRoom: The Official Blog of the US Department of Education. Ed.gov, April 8, 2015. https://blog.ed.gov/2015/04/whatis-esea/. ⁴ Elizabeth U. Cascio, and Sarah Reber. “The poverty gap in school spending following the introduction of Title I.” American Economic Review 103, no. 3 (2013): 423-27. ⁵ Caroline Rothert. “Achievement Gaps and No Child Left Behind.” APRIL-JUNE 2005 - VOL. XXVI NO.2 . National Center for Youth Law, July 1, 2005. https:// youthlaw.org/publication/achievement-gaps-and-no-child-left-behind/ ⁶ Lindsay Jones. “The Difference Between the Every Student Succeeds Act and No Child Left Behind,” Understood, April 17, 2020, https://www.understood.org/ en/school-learning/your-childs-rights/basics-about-childs-rights/the-differencebetween-the-every-student-succeeds-act-and-no-one-child-left-behind. ⁷ Ibid. ⁸ Steven Elias Alvarado. Interview by Richmond Addae, John Hanna, Valerie Kong, and Maria Wothe, August 4, 2020. ⁹ Sean F. Reardon, Ericka S. Weathers, Erin M. Fahle, Heewon Jang, and Demetra Kalogrides. “Is Separate Still Unequal? New Evidence on School Segregation and Racial Academic Achievement Gaps,” Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis,
R AC I AL TE NSI O NS W ITH I N TH E L ABOR MOVEMENT By Kent Adams, Anthony Chen, Pearl Ngai, & Tyler Pearce INTRODUCTION
Racial tensions have always existed within the American labor movement. Although today the movement is largely considered as liberal leaning, this has not always been true. Division on the lines of racial identities has always existed--in the 1950s, for example, labor unions in the South were considered “virtual extensions of segregationist organizations” due to their affiliation with the White Citizens Councils, a network of white supremacist organizations in the United States.1 Racism in the labor movement also took the form of explicit exclusion as it was common for influential labor organizations to refuse membership to Black and non-white workers (Blake and Eidson and Berry and Wachtel).2 Though attitudes within and practices of the labor movement have become more inclusive, it is imperative to contend with this thorny past in order to hold the movement accountable. Of equal importance is understanding the role that police unions have played within the labor movement, especially in regard to how they have often maintained and even perpetuated racist positions (Mason 8).3 In addition to the lack of racial diversity amongst police union leadership and membership, general police union support of the Qualified Immunity Doctrine allows law enforcement officers to use excessive force and violence without consequence, which disproportionately affect and kill Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), which is a clear example of how the structural force of a union can uphold racism (Thomas and Tufts 127).⁴ Given the dramatic rise in conversation around policing in America today, this report will focus on addressing how police unions have developed and gained influence over time, as well as how they have responded to current day conversation around race and racial violence in policing. Through gaining perspective in understanding the past and present nature of police unions in America, as well as the dynamic between police unions and the labor movement, this report will consider how the doctrine of qualified immunity might be reformed, and how police
unions might be reimagined to better serve American citizens while still protecting the employment rights of their constituents. PAS T
Law enforcement and policing agencies have historically been a pivotal part of nearly every society as one of the main defenders and institutions of law. These agencies have the unique position of having a membership that is both law enforcing and part of the proletariat, the working class. Not surprisingly, law enforcement and policing agencies have been at odds with the working class for most of history, and this slight control of power has strained relations on many levels. Law enforcement and progressivism historically have not gone hand-in-hand. The police have always maintained the status quo of the time; for example, during the 1700’s and 1800’s, police forces were largely focused on protecting the business interests of the white ruling class, which included but not limited to, slave owners. Specifically focusing on slavery, Reconstruction and the immediate post Reconstruction, the police were instrumental with the development and continuation of slavery, mainly by aiding slave hunters for runaway slaves. During and post Reconstruction, police maintained Black codes, vagrancy laws instituted to restrict movement and maintain control of former slaves as a cheap labor force, and other Jim Crow-era racial discrimination laws. This gave them free reign to brutally terrorize “non compliant” African Americans, worsening the already strained relationship between Black and people of color and their community police and law enforcement agencies (Stewart 2262).⁵ Outside of direct racial issues, in many major urban cities such as New York, the police were interwoven into political corruption. Used as political intimidation tools, police often coerced citizens and businesses into supporting particular parties and often cracked down, depending on affiliation, on illegal actions, such
as gambling and drinking during Prohibition, saloons, brothels, and abortionists.⁶ Police and law enforcement agencies have always tried to operate in a collective action, but have not been successful until the 1950’s. When a group of Cleveland Police Officers attempted to organize with the AFL in the 1880’s, the union stated “it is not within the province of the trade union movement to especially organize policemen, no more than to organize militiamen, as both policemen and militiamen are often controlled by forces inimical to the labor movement.”⁷ Despite not holding the same viewpoint, major cities such as New York and Boston were quite hostile with the police’s call towards unionization, and collective action for police officers was even illegal in many jurisdictions, as police officers on strike would be detrimental to public safety. This fear harkens back to the 1919 Boston Police Strike when the Massachusetts State Guard was brought in to stop days of lawlessness. In that instance, the striking officers were replaced and their demands for a union were denied. Two major organizations came into existence as quasi-unions, the Fraternal Order of Police and the National Association of Police Officers, both of which could not collectively bargain but were a voice for officers’ interests. In the 1960’s, police officers fought for the ability to collectively bargain through work slowdowns and sitins throughout the country. New York was the first region to allow police officers to collectively bargain, allowing officers to earn better wages and benefits. However, police unions also collectively bargained for the right to defend and protect workers during times of wrongdoing. Throughout history, and seen today, police unions have staunchly defended their members during any instance of questionable action. For example, in nearly 80 collective bargaining agreements, disciplinary records are to be erased after 6 months.⁸ It can be argued that this near-guaranteed protection has contributed to police brutality and overpolicing, that negatively and disproportionately impact Black communities. There is a noted connection between a strong union and police misconduct. For example, when Florida Sheriff Deputies were allowed to collectively bargain, there was a 40% increase in violent misconduct charges.⁹ In 2014, when New York Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo killed Eric Garner while reprimanding him in
an illegal chokehold, the union backed Officer Pantaleo and threatened a blue flu strike, a form of strike tactic where a large number of police officers simultaneously use sick leave, for him to be reinstated. He was reinstated and fired in August 2019, 5 years after the death of Garner. Statistical data from Mapping Police Violence has shown that 28% of people killed by the police since 2013 are Black, disproportionately affecting Black and minority ethnic people.1⁰ Despite the fact that many police departments throughout the country are majority-minority, such as Chicago and New York City, the unions that are aimed at protecting the rights of police officers are majority white. In most cases, the union’s senior leadership is almost entirely white, even in majority-minority police departments. According to The Marshall Project’s research, about four-fifths of the MiamiDade Police Department’s officers and twothirds of the Atlanta Police Department’s officers are non-white, yet the head of both respective unions are white (Hager and Li).11 White police officers and Black police officers have been at odds regarding many fundamental issues, such as racism and discriminatory biases and tactics. The lack of cohesion among Black and white police officers led to the formation of Black police associations, such as the National Black Police Association in 1999, the largest of its kind. These associations are designed to amplify the voices and experiences of Black and other minority ethnic police officers, as their experiences are often different from those of white officers. Black and minority ethnic people are often not represented at the union table and leadership board. This may be a reason why significant biases and discrimination tactics are still in force in many police departments throughout the country. Overall, police unions have had a turbulent presence in this country. While police unions hold many of the same tenets as a traditional union, namely allowing their members to collectively bargain and have a voice
against the employer, the unions’ incessant defense of questionable police tactics and incidents regardless of fault has alienated itself from most traditional unions. These unions and other associations tend to oppose legislation to hold police officers more accountable, and bargain for less accountability, all of which can explain why police brutality has been such an issue in this country and will continue to be in the extended future. PRESENT
Myriad local and national police unions maintain a powerful presence in the country, even as union membership across other industries fell over the last few decades. An estimated 75-80% of police officers belong to a union,12 while American union membership overall fell to a record low of 10.3% in 2019.13 Today, many industries lack the option to unionize. The erosion of organized labor is due to complex factors, including anti-union policy, a shift toward increased employment in sectors historically not organized into unions (healthcare, hospitality, food service), and increasing power of corporations and the extremely wealthy. A clear distinction between leftleaning organized labor, such as the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO headed by Sara Nelson, and right-wing police associations persists. This is evidenced by the International Union of Police Associations’ endorsement of President Trump’s reelection.1⁴ Police departments are still overwhelmingly white nationwide, even in diverse and BIPOC communities. In hundreds of these police departments, there are 30% more white officers than the communities they patrol1⁵ (Ashkenas & Park 2015). It is not possible for these departments to adequately “serve and protect” the communities they work in with such a stark disconnect. While a strike as disastrous as the Boston Police Strike of 1919 has not occurred since, police unions continue to employ “work slowdowns” and depolicing campaigns. Numerous slowdowns have occurred in response to increased scrutiny and indictments of officers involved in excessive force cases. For example, police in Baltimore organized a slowdown after the district attorney indicted officers for the 2015 killing of Freddie Gray. In this case, the medical examiners concluded officers failed to follow established protocol and Freddie Gray was injured, went into a coma, and died of injuries
during transport in a police van. These deliberate efforts to stall enforcement of criminal laws puts the public in danger as crimes such as robbery and homicide can occur without swift response. On top of this is the disproportionate excessive policing of Black citizens causing further injustice and sometimes ending in unprosecuted murders; the lack of accountability of all police officers’ actions perpetuates this inequality. Overall, there is a correlation noted by economists between police unions gaining collective bargaining rights and the increased officer killings of civilians. 1⁶ While an exact causation has not been proven, increased protections for police officers even when they violate conduct and infringe on constitutional rights fails to disincentivize violence. The lack of accountability for police officers is a complex issue that simply cannot be reformed without participation from police unions or reforms of their power. To this day, the police officers that killed citizens such as George Floyd and Breonna Taylor have not been arrested and held accountable. Qualified immunity in particular, a policy defended by police unions and notably supported by more white than Black or Hispanic civilians, renders police officers virtually untouchable in court. The police effectively makes it impossible for citizens to sue a police officer for violations of constitutional rights. Local police union leaders such as Patrick J. Lynch of the Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York and Bob Kroll of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis continuously contradict themselves by assuring the public and policymakers that they are open to reform while halting even the most minor changes to prevent misconduct. For example, Patrick Lynch denounced a judge’s recommendation that NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo be fired for killing Eric Garner with the use of an illegal chokehold. Additionally, the American Federation of Labor and Congress Industrial Organization (AFLCIO) has rejected any calls for the organization to disaffiliate with police unions. The AFL-CIO
has not taken any action in regard to police unions and their continued defense of illegal and immoral actions by officers. P O L I C Y R E C O M M E N D AT I O N
Qualified immunity is a legal doctrine that allows public law enforcement officials to be held accountable for their actions only if and when they violate citizen rights that are “clearly established” by Constitutional case law. An individual victim of police brutality or misconduct must be able to prove that his or her right was violated in the same “specific context” and “particular conduct” as a previous case and if they are unable to do so, the officer cannot and will not be punished. Qualified immunity is largely considered to be an act of judicial policymaking by the Supreme Court established specifically in the 1982 case Harlow v. Fitzgerald where the Supreme Court ruled that government officials are entitled to qualified immunity by interpretation of Congress’ Section 1983 within the Civil Rights Act of 1871. Then, through a series of decisions in the late 20th century, courts nationwide have strengthened the doctrine, increasingly ruling in police favor in excessive use of force cases, among other civil violations. Due to the effective implementation of qualified immunity and the impossibly difficult burden placed upon victims to prove guilt, those seeking redress have seen officers get away with harassment and worse. Ultimately, police officers guilty of misconduct are not required to change and may even feel vindicated after a court rules in their favor. As Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor describes it, the doctrine “tells officers that they can shoot first and think later, and it tells the public that palpably unreasonable conduct will go unpunished”. It comes as no surprise that qualified immunity finds its biggest supporters in police unions across the country. Police unions and advocates of law enforcement claim that qualified immunity is a necessary doctrine that allows police officers to work efficiently and make quick, split-second decisions in life-or-death situations.2⁴ Additionally, proponents of the doctrine claim that qualified immunity allows officers to continue to do their job without the fear or burden of having to constantly stand trial for unsubstantiated claims.2⁵ A doctrine as dangerous and damaging as qualified immunity has no place in America’s democracy.
When clear patterns of abuse towards BIPOC communities at the hands of officers go unchecked, the equal protection that every American bears the right to is fundamentally threatened. In June of 2020, Rep. Amash of Michigan and Rep. Pressley of Massachusetts introduced The End Qualified Immunity Act, which currently has 65 cosponsors.2⁶ Broadly, this bill codifies that “the qualified immunity doctrine is not grounds for defense for officers that violate the law” and more specifically, the legislation would both “[a]mend Section 1983 to explicitly state that the qualified immunity doctrine invented by the Supreme Court does NOT provide police officers that brutalize or otherwise violate civil rights with defense or immunity from civil liability for their actions” and “[c]larify Congress’ original intent for Section 1983 and note the history and necessity of this protection”. 2⁷ The accountability and transparency that the End Qualified Immunity Act demands is a powerful counter to the rampant impunity allowed under the current reading of the Civil Rights Act of 1871. On an organizational level, it is imperative that unions across the country hold law enforcement officers accountable in supporting this bill. In doing so, the labor movement as a whole can confront and take action to address its complicity in racial injustice. Moreover, the AFL-CIO, a well established institution of progressive labor protection and reform, should take steps to support and cosponsor the Act. As an organization of immense influence, the AFL-CIO holds the power to take a hard stance on police misconduct and the corruption that is so easily justified under the qualified immunity doctrine. Though many have called for the AFL-CIO to dissociate police unions from the organization, with a specific focus on International Union of Police Associations (IUPA), this move has been recognized as highly contentious and difficult. In showing support for the proposed Act, the AFL-CIO can signal that it will no longer
tolerate unchecked misbehavior and violence and that, by extension, the institution stands in solidarity with Black lives. Finally, on an individual level, union members and those within the labor movement affiliated with the AFL-CIO must continue to apply pressure to on the organization by signing on to petitions or open letters such as those published under the Justice Collaborative, a nonprofit that supplies legal and policy networking support to those involved in criminal justice reform (the JC website). The Justice Collaborative has issued multiple open letters, signed by various public defenders, faith leaders, and academics, to local governmental bodies, calling for greater police union accountability and reform. However, while several sources have cited that an open letter from The Justice Collaborative addressed to the AFL-CIO has been published, this letter has since been removed from public view and is not available on any website. Supporting organizations such as The Justice Collaborative, signing on to open letters, and supporting the message behind the reform that is called for are all accessible action items that also serve as a radical demonstration of solidarity with the BLM Movement. It unmistakably communicates to AFL-CIO leaders that their members, partners, and stakeholders do not tolerate rampant impunity enjoyed by law enforcement and police union members. Ultimately, instead of waiting for institutions steeped in bureaucracy to change, individuals of the labor movement and allies to the Black Lives Matter Movement hoping for a more equitable future must also be committed to taking action today. 1 Herbert Hill. “Racism Within Organized Labor: A Report of Five Years of the AFL-CIO, 19551960.” The Journal of Negro Education 30, no. 2 (1961): 109-18. 2 Ben Blake, Jennifer Eidson, Erin Berry and Jennifer Wachtel. “African-American’s Rights | Unions Making History in America.” n.d. https://www.lib.umd.edu/unions/social/african-americans-rights. 3 Fred D. Mason Jr. “Police Unions and Race.” International Union Rights 24, no. 2 (2017): 8-9. ⁴ Mark P. Thomas and Steven Tufts. 2020. “Blue Solidarity: Police Unions, Race and Authoritarian Populism in North America.” Work, Employment and Society 34 (1): 126–44. ⁵ G Stewart. “Black Codes and Broken Windows.” Yale Law Journal 107 (1998) ⁶ Edwin G. Burrows, and Mike Wallace. 1999. Gotham: a history of New York City to 1898. New York: Oxford University Press. ⁷ Carl Heustis. “Police Unions” Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 48 (1958): 643 ⁸ Reade Levinson. “Special Report: Police Union Contracts Offer Shield of Protection.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, January 13, 2017. https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usapolice-unions/.
⁹ Dhammika Dharmapala, Richard H. McAdams, and John Rappaport, “Collective Bargaining Rights and Police Misconduct: Evidence from Florida”. University of Chicago Coase-Sandor Institute for Law & Economics Research Paper No. 831, U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 655 (2019) 1⁰ “Mapping Police Violence.” n.d. Mapping Police Violence. Accessed August 12, 2020. https://mappingpoliceviolence.org. 11 Eli Hager and Weihua Li. “A Major Obstacle to Police Reform: The Whiteness of Their Union Bosses.” The Marshall Project. June 10, 2020. https://www. themarshallproject.org/2020/06/10/a-major-obstacle-to-police-reform-thewhiteness-of-their-union-bosses. 12 Ron Delord and Ron York. Law Enforcement, Police Unions, and the Future: Educating Police Management and Unions about the Challenges Ahead. Springfield, I11: Charles C Thomas, Publisher, Ltd, 2017. 13 “Union Membership.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Last modified January 22, 2020. Accessed August 13, 2020. https://www.bls.gov/news.release/union2.toc.htm. 1⁴ Dylan Matthews. “How Police Unions Became so Powerful — and How They Can Be Tamed.” Vox. Last modified June 24, 2020. Accessed August 13, 2020. https:// www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/21290981/police-union-contracts-minneapolisreform. 1⁵ Jeremy Ashkenas. Haeyoun Park, and Adam Pearce. “Even with Affirmative Action. Blacks and Hispanics Are More Underrepresented at Top Colleges Than 35 Years Ago.” The New York Times, August 24, 2017, sec. U.S. Accessed August 13, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/08/24/us/affirmative-action.html. 1⁶ “Police Unions and Police Violence: Planet Money” NPR.org. Accessed August 13, 2020. https://www.npr.org/2020/06/05/871298161/police-unions-and-policeviolence. 1⁷ Majority of Public Favors Giving Civilians the Power to Sue Police Officers for Misconduct.” Pew Research Center - U.S. Politics & Policy, July 9, 2020. Accessed August 13, 2020. https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2020/07/09/majority-ofpublic-favors-giving-civilians-the-power-to-sue-police-officers-for-misconduct/. 1⁸ Matthews, “How Police Unions Became So Powerful.” 1⁹ Amir H. Ali and Emily Clark. “Qualified Immunity: Explained.” June 20, 2019. The Appeal. Accessed August 12, 2020. https://theappeal.org/qualified-immunityexplained/. 2⁰ Ibid. 21 Nathaniel Sobel. “What Is Qualified Immunity, and What Does It Have to Do With Police Reform?” Lawfare Institute, June 6, 2020. https://www.lawfareblog.com/ what-qualified-immunity-and-what-does-it-have-to-do-police-reform. 22 Ayanna Pressley. “Ending Qualified Immunity Act,” June 4, 2020. https://pressley. house.gov/sites/pressley.house.gov/files/Ending%20Qualified%20Immunity%20 Act%20One%20Pager.pdf. 23 Sobel, Nathaniel. “What Is Qualified Immunity, and What Does It Have to Do With Police Reform?” Lawfare Institute. Lawfare, June 6, 2020. 2⁴ Hailey Fuchs. “Qualified Immunity Protection for Police Emerges as Flash Point Amid Protests.” The New York Times, June 23, 2020, sec. U.S. https://www.nytimes. com/2020/06/23/us/politics/qualified-immunity.html. 2⁵ Ali, Amir H., and Emily Clark. “Qualified Immunity: Explained.” June 20 2019. The Appeal. Accessed August 12, 2020. https://theappeal.org/qualified-immunityexplained/. 2⁶ Congress. “H.R.7085 - Ending Qualified Immunity Act.” Library of Congress, June 4, 2020. https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/7085. 2⁷ Pressley, “Ending Qualified Immunity Act,” 2⁸ The Justice Collaborative. “About The Justice Collaborative.” Accessed August 12, 2020. http://thejusticecollaborative.com/about/. 2⁹ Elizabeth Weil-Greenberg. “Police Killings Bring Out Tensions Within The Labor Movement.” The Appeal, June 8, 2020. https://theappeal.org/police-unions-labormovement-afl-cio-george-floyd/. 3⁰ Ibid.
ABOUT US The Undergraduate Labor Institute is a labor policy think-tank run by Cornell undergraduate students. We aim to research and create a collaborative policy document each semester, based on a curated theme associated with changes and problems in the workforce.
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