Archives

Commentary

“This tragedy that we’re addressing right now is undescribable,” Charleston’s police chief said at a news conference. “No one in this community will ever forget this night. And as a result of that, and because of the pain, and because of the hurt that this individual has caused this community, this entire community, the law enforcement agencies that are working on this are committed — we will catch this individual.”

As news continues to roll in about this apparent hate crime that took a host of lives at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, that pain will only expand. Actions like this have grievous consequences for years, even generations to come.

Lest we forget, terrorist violence of this nature has a long history of targeting black churches.

When I think of this tragedy and the community’s pain, I think of Michael S. Harper’s short but devastating poem, “American History,” which references Charleston and addressed these themes years before this latest tragedy. All I have to say about the vile motives of the vicious and cowardly man who committed these murders, Harper said better in a few short lines.

My heart breaks for the victims of this tragedy, and I hope we can all take a moment to recognize the pain and loss of a community — while committing ourselves to building a world where this never happens again.

 

NC Budget and Tax Center

The Budget and Tax Center’s weekly posting of Prosperity Watch takes a look at how North Carolina’s communities are grappling with stark racial income disparities. Economic exclusion has its roots in predatory and discriminatory economic policies dating back centuries.

The harm of that economic exclusion is stark. Communities of color are far more likely to live in poverty than their white counterparts. To match the state’s white poverty rate of 12.3 percent, approximately 464,000 North Carolinians of color would have to be lifted above the poverty line. Racial disparities keep the economy from reaching its full potential to the tune of $63.53 billion, meaning bringing down poverty among people of color is an economic imperative. It’s also a moral imperative too.

Check out the latest Prosperity Watch for the details.

Commentary

The Daily Beast reported yesterday on the fact that, despite America’s rapidly growing racial and ethnic diversity, the United States Congress remains an overwhelming white, male and Christian-dominated institution.

“The breakdown of the 114th Congress is 80 percent white, 80 percent male, and 92 percent Christian….It’s impossible to make the claim that our Congress accurately reflects the demographics of our nation. And it’s not missing by a little but a lot. If Congress accurately reflected our nation on the basis of race, about 63 percent would be white, not 80 percent. Blacks would hold about 13 percent of the seats and Latinos 17 percent.”

Sadly, a look at the North Carolina Senate and House of Representatives reveals a striking similar pattern.

In the North Carolina general population, less than one in three individuals is a non-Hispanic white male — around 32%. In state government, however, white men continue to monopolize government leadership positions. In the General Assembly, a quick count shows that more than 64% of the lawmakers (109 out of 170) are non-Hispanic white men. Minorities, who make up more than 35% of the state’s population inhabit just 20% of the seats in General Assembly. And all of those minority members are African American. Latinos, Asians and Pacific Islanders and Native Americans are completely unrepresented despite making up as much as 13% of the population.

Interestingly, white women are also badly underrepresented in the General Assembly. Despite making up around a third of the population, they fill just 15.2% of the seats on Jones Street. Obviously, they fare better in the Council of State — filling five of nine positions. But, of course, the fact that the other four are filled by white men serves to highlight that racial diversity amongst statewide elected officials is essentially non-existent.

As for religion, the Daily Beast notes that: Read More

Commentary, NC Budget and Tax Center

Talking about a single North Carolina “economy” doesn’t make very much sense. Whenever new labor market data comes out, there is talk about how the North Carolina economy , or the US economy, or the global economy, are doing. The macroeconomic perspective is important, and talking in broad terms is convenient, but the economy is not some monolithic abstraction, a disembodied thing that we can’t really see. Even in an interconnected global market, the day-to-day economies that human beings experience are local. The economies we see impacting our neighborhood, our circle of friends, our family, and our wallet, those are the economies that we live in.

2014 was a very mixed economic bag for local economies in North Carolina. As will be shown below, parts of North Carolina are growing quite nicely, but it is still very tough sledding in a lot of communities across the State.

2014 End of Year Charts_uneven recovery

Location, location, location warns the old business adage. That’s great if you’re in a hot spot, but as the map above shows, most of North Carolina is not booming. While the November data (see here for the latest county data) are not updated for this map, the fundamental story has not changed. On the one end, counties that are in or around metro centers have largely surpassed pre-recession levels of employment, with some counties posting 10% or greater gains. That sounds like healthy growth, and it is. On the other end, however, many counties have not experienced what anyone would consider a return to robust economic performance. Sixty of North Carolina’s 100 counties have not gotten back to their pre-recession levels of employment, and in fifteen counties current employment is more than 10 percent lower than it was in 2007.

One could argue that some of the shifts seen here are simply the result of increasing urbanization, a trend that goes back well before the Great Recession. As more and more working age people move toward urban centers, the employment level in many rural areas should naturally drop. However, the losses in employment that many counties have experience cannot be entirely explained by urban migration. Based on data from the North Carolina State Demographer, there are only 23 counties in North Carolina where the change in employment between 2007 and 2014 outpaced the change working age residents. Put another way, the growth of employment has not kept up with working age population in more than three-quarters of the counties in North Carolina.

2014 End of Year Charts_barriers for communities of color

Geography is not the only knife dicing up the North Carolina economy. As can be seen above, the recovery is less complete in communities of color around the state. Unemployment remains higher than it was before the recession for all ethnic groups, so there’s still cause for concern across the board. However, unemployment remains even more elevated for black and Hispanic North Carolinians. The unemployment rate for African-Americans remains 2.2 percentage points above pre-recession levels and for Latinos   1.7 percentage points compared to 2.7 and 1.3 percentage points nationally for both groups respectively.  While African-Americans in North Carolina are doing better than the national average, the change in the unemployment rate for this group is nearly twice that for whites in the state who saw their unemployment rate increase by just 1.4 percentage points above pre-recession levels.

Of course this is hardly an exhaustive analysis of the geographic and social lines that shape the economic landscape of North Carolina. But when we start to look more closely at specific local economies, we see very different stories about different parts of our state. While we celebrate the economic bright spots, we can’t let struggling North Carolina communities fall into shadow.

News

The August death of a Bladenboro teenager found hanging from a swingset in a rural part of southeastern North Carolina is continuing to attract national attention.

Journalist Katie Couric recently profiled Lacy’s death, as part of her new reporting project with Yahoo and as the nation reacts to recent decisions not to pursue criminal charges in the deaths of two other black men, Eric Garner of New York and Mike Brown of Ferguson, Mo. (Click here to watch Couric’s video report.)

Lennon Lacy, 17, found dead in Bladenboro in August.

The Guardian, a newspaper based in London, wrote about Lacy’s death in October.

Lacy’s Aug. 29 death has been treated as a suicide, and local authorities have said they don’t have any evidence that he was killed.

But Lacy’s parents have said the high school football player showed no prior signs of depression at the time of his death.

The teenager, who is black, was found near a predominantly-white trailer park in the small town in Bladen County. Lacy, a star high school football player, had been in a romantic relationship with a 31-year-old white woman at the time of his death, and his family now question whether he could have been killed by someone angered by the interracial relationship.

The family, backed by the Rev. William Barber II of the North Carolina NAACP chapter have asked for a federal hate crime investigation into Lacy’s death.

Read More