News

Student debt fueling black-white wealth divide

The gap between black and white student debt is large and growing, according to a new paper from the Center for Demography and Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The paper, “Racial Disparities in Student Loan Debt and the Reproduction of The Fragile Black Middle Class” tackles the way in which “the burden of rising debt is racialized, and is disproportionately shouldered by students of color and particularly black youth.”

From the paper:

First, supporting prior research, we find that at baseline (intercept) race is significantly associated with debt levels, such that black youth report 83.3% [e.606] more debt than their white counterparts, after adjusting for family background and postsecondary characteristics. Second, we find that these racial differences in debt at baseline grow over time. After adjusting for all intercept controls (Model 1), the black/white disparity in debt grows by about 6.8% annually. That is, black youth start their young adult careers with more debt than whites, and this disparity grows over time. To demonstrate the magnitude of this growing disparity in debt: While blacks hold 83.3% more debt at baseline than 17 whites, fifteen years later we would predict that this disparity to have increased to approximately 185.3%. In other words, racial disparities in debt are large, and more than double across the course of young adulthood.

The paper cites a variety of data pointing to sources of this disparity:

  • Black students are more likely to have private loans, which carry high and variable interest rates, have high fees for deferment and forbearance, and offer few protections for borrowers.
  • Black students are disproportionately steered toward predatory, high interest loans that are difficult to repay.
  • Black young adults are often funneled toward or have access limited to predatory for-profit institutions and underfunded schools, which are associated with high levels of debt accumulation. These institutions also offer fewer labor market benefits and have high drop-out rates, increasing the risk of loan default and and making the debt more difficult to repay.

Add to that the disparities in recovery from economic turmoil and the wealth and debt gaps continue to grow wider, the paper argues. Read more

News

Students, faculty in UNC History department support student charged with Silent Sam

Earlier this week Maya Little, a graduate student in UNC’s History department, took the movement to remove the “Silent Sam” Confederate statue on the Chapel Hill campus to a new level – defacing the statue with red paint to which she added her own blood.

Little, who released a statement calling her demonstration a necessary act of civil disobedience, was arrested.

She now faces charges of defacing, striking, marking or injuring a public statue, according to the Orange County Magistrate’s Office. Her first court appearance is Monday.

A number of students and faculty in UNC’s History department are standing behind Little and decrying the inaction of the school’s administration in the face of pressure to remove – or even vocally oppose –  the statue.

Sarah Shields, a professor in the History Department and its director of Graduate Studies, sent the following letter to Chancellor Carol Folt, the provost and the direcotr of campus security:

As members of the History Department and the broader UNC campus community, we write to reaffirm our belief that the 1913 monument known as Silent Sam is a festering wound on the campus.  Abundant historical research documenting its racist origins makes clear there is no place for such a monument on a campus that claims to welcome all of its diverse members.  We support our student and colleague Maya Little and other members of the campus community who employ their right to use non-violent civil disobedience to protest this affront to the Carolina Way. Read more

News

“Black Mama’s Bail Out Action” tackles racial disparities in cash bail system

 

Regular Policy Watch readers will be familiar with our recent stories on the problems of the cash bail system and the for-profit bail industry.

Southerners on New Ground is tackling the problem this month with their Black Mama’s Bail Out Action.

From the group:

“This Mother’s Day, we are bailing out as many Black women, broadly defined, across the South as we can. More than often, people are sitting in cages because they cannot afford to pay bail. SONG crews will be participating in bail outs along with holding events to discuss the devastating impact of money bail and pre-trial incarceration on our communities.

We ask you to donate to SONG to connect Black families and loved ones and highlight the inhumane and destructive bail practices.

Contributions will be used to bail out Black women, and to support continuing on-the-ground organizing of participating grassroots organizations. All resources we get that are not used for the action will be saved for future bail outs or to advance long-term liberation work in our communities! Across the Southeast, we see bail outs as an ongoing tactic to build a base, to expose the crisis of cash bail and the beast that is the criminal-legal system, to change hearts and minds, to make real and material impacts on the lives of our people, and to build power.”

The group says it bailed out 65 mothers across the South last year and 100 nationally.

The group is accepting donations here.

News

Greensboro is the latest N.C. city to announce lawsuit against opioid manufacturers

 

North Carolina’s third largest city is joining the state and a number of other municipalities in filing a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers.

On Tuesday night the Greensboro City Council passed a resolution saying “the opioid crisis unreasonably interferes with rights common to the general public of Greensboro,” and “involves a significant interference with the public health, safety, peace, comfort, and convenience of citizens and residents of Greensboro.”

 From the story in Greensboro’s News & Record:

It’s technically not a class-action suit, according to Mike Fox of the Tuggle Duggins law firm in Greensboro, one of the local attorneys who will handle the case. The city will be able to negotiate independently if leaders don’t feel the settlement is high enough, he said.

Hundreds of local governments across the country have joined the suit in an attempt to recoup the millions they’ve spent fighting opioid addiction and the fallout from related issues.

“This is something that is tearing our community apart,” Fox said. “The crisis is real, and communities like Greensboro all across the country are struggling to find a solution to it.”

Fox said the city will argue that manufacturers and distributors violated laws on drug distribution and reporting; were negligent by selling drugs they knew would cause harm; and were fraudulent in their claims that opioids are not as addictive as now believed.

 

Late last year Attorney General Josh Stein announced his office was filing suit against Insys Therapeutics, Inc., manufacturer of Subsys, a synthetic opioid spray.

The drug is about 50 times more powerful than heroin and 100 times more than morphine. The lawsuit alleges the company used kickbacks, fraud and deceptive marketing to push doctors to prescribe the highly addictive drug to patients for which it wasn’t approved.

The drug, approved for cancer patients experiencing pain that other drugs can’t address, has been much more widely prescribed. Over-prescription of such drugs has greatly contributed to the ongoing opioid epidemic.

Since then more than 200 local governments have filed similar lawsuits, including more than 15 in North Carolina and native tribal governing organizations.

News

“Silent Sam” statue defaced at protest on UNC campus

A student involved in the protest movement against “Silent Sam,” the Confederate statue on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill, defaced the monument at a protest Monday.

Maya Little has taken her protest of the statue from the administration to the UNC Board of Governors. On Monday, she said she’d had enough.

Little, a doctoral student in UNC’s History department, smeared the statue with what appeared to be red paint in a protest streamed live on Facebook.

Little was arrested and charged with defacing, striking, marking or injuring a public statue, according to the Orange County Magistrate’s Office.

She was released on a promise to appear in court. Her first court appearance will be on Monday, May 7 at 9 a.m.

Anticipating her arrest for what she called an act of civil disobedience, released a written statement Monday afternoon. That statement appears below in its entirety.

“I have been an organizer for the Silent Sam Sit-In since September 2017, when campus police confiscated the belongings of the 24 hour occupiers. Every weekday we provide context around the statue. This is an opportunity to teach. It is also our duty to continue the struggle against white supremacy that countless others have led since black students have been on this campus. The statue, a symbol of UNC’s commitment to white supremacy, has been defaced and protested since 1968. Yet the statue remains on campus 50 years later. These last 5 years Carol Folt has been chancellor and she has not taken a single step towards removing Silent Sam. The armed, Confederate soldier dedicated and built by racists during Jim Crow has remained. However, the dedication and courage of each successive group of students fighting for racial equality at UNC has made our message louder and clearer. The threat of Neonazis and white supremacists marching on our communities has made it more urgent. Read more