Stop being colorblind, race does matter

I recently had the opportunity to attend a conference in D.C. where among the many workshops offered, one was focused on the implications of racial messaging. In conjunction, I’ve been reading Colorblind: The Rise of Post-Racial Politics and the Retreat from Racial Equity, by leading anti-racism writer, Tim Wise.

So what have I learned about racial messaging, post-racial politics, and racial equity? Well, I’ve learned that not targeting racial inequities, but implementing policies that will inherently impact communities of color is racist.

How is that racist?

Well, communities of color have very different experiences because of their history, resulting in compounded stressors that come from centuries of racial inequities. Even when you take out class differences, people of color from all economic backgrounds continue to suffer health disparities.

Therefore, creating policies to improve social welfare, without specifically targeting people of color, is basically saying that these inequities do not exist, and everyone should be treated the same.

Since the 1970s, it has been seen as more acceptable to use ‘colorblind universalism’ rhetoric when describing goals of anti-poverty programs to deter racialized images of welfare recipients. Even during the 2008 presidential campaign, citizens were told that the economic recession cut across race and class, that all people were being negatively impacted.

It is true that many people have been struggling as a result, but the facts show people of color have always struggled more, and the recession is hitting them that much more than those just starting to feel the pains of a precarious economy.

Socially, we have been taught to downplay race, to treat everyone equally. But we are not all equal. We all come from different backgrounds, have had different starting lines, and it is important to recognize these differences. Therefore, colorblind policymaking ignores the institutional and structural racial inequities that continue to be so persistent.

Programs that have targeted communities of color have proven to improve health and lift people out of poverty as research on early childhood development shows. Unfortunately, these are the types of programs that are the first to be cut as the budget deficit grows.

It’s time to stop being colorblind, and start taking race into account, because race does matter.

LETTER — Senator-elect is wrong: Earned income tax credit is not a ‘welfare giveaway’

Sen.-elect Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, wrongly labeled the Earned Income Tax Credit a “welfare giveaway” during an interview on WKAR’s “Off the Record.’’ Let us set the record straight.  Nov. 28, 2010  —  Holland Sentinel

Unless Congress acts, thousands of Michiganders will lose jobless benefits this week

Jobless benefits will expire for tens of thousands of unemployed Michiganders this week unless Congress approves an extension.  Nov. 29, 2010  —  Michigan Radio

Many Genesee County families could lose unemployment benefits without vote from Congress

Some Genesee County families that rely on unemployment benefits could find their benefits running out a little sooner than expected.  Nov. 29, 2010  —  The Flint Journal

Thousands on brink of losing jobless aid

Some 2,057 Livingston County residents are among the 42,000-plus unemployed Michiganders who will exhaust their unemployment benefits by the end of the month, according to the Michigan League for Human Services.  Nov. 25, 2010  —  LivingstonDaily. Com

Michigan unemployed face uncertain Thanksgiving

In Michigan, it takes an average of about 10 months for an unemployed worker to find a new job. Extended benefits for workers who are unemployed more than six months are about to expire unless Congress acts before next week.  Nov. 25, 2010  —  Michigan Radio

With unemployment benefits to end this month, Gov. Jennifer Granholm makes plea for extension

Once again, Gov. Jennifer Granholm and family advocacy groups are pleading with Congress to extend unemployment benefits set to expire Nov. 30.  –Nov. 26, 2010  —  Grand Rapids Press

United Way of Bay County fall campaign contributions increase for first time in five years

For the first time in five years, the United Way of Bay County is celebrating an increase in annual campaign giving.  Nov. 26, 2010 — The Bay City Times

Mich. families need unemployment benefits

Contact Judy Putnam at (517) 410-5798
Nov. 24, 2010

Without Congressional action to extend emergency unemployment benefits, 168,520 jobless Michigan workers will lose benefits by the end of April. That’s more than 1,100 a day losing vital support for their families.
 
A new fact sheet (pdf) with county-by-county numbers has been posted on the League’s website.  (Please note that the county numbers include some “99ers” in December who will reach the end of their maximum 99 weeks. The statewide number of 168,520 does not include 99ers.)
 
Statement from Sharon Parks, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Human Services:
 
“We have too many hardworking people in Michigan who have lost their jobs and are unable to find new jobs through no fault of their own. During this ongoing period of economic turmoil, it’s important to these workers, their families, and Michigan’s economy, that these emergency benefits continue.
 
At no time since the end of WWII has Congress failed to extend emergency benefits while unemployment remained above 7.2 percent. With the national unemployment rate at 9.6 percent and Michigan’s at 12.8 percent, Congress should extend emergency benefits through 2011.”

Tax credit is not a handout

As a longtime advocate of both the federal and state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) it was pretty frustrating to hear Sen.-elect Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, call the state EITC a “welfare giveaway” during an interview on WKAR’s Off the Record program.

For the record—the EITC is a federal and state tax credit that is given only to those who work for a living. It is not a handout. In fact, it is helping more than 755,000 working families across the state, and 16,000 working families in Sen.-elect Jones’ district in Allegan, Barry and Eaton counties. Nearly one in seven filers in the senator-elect’s district claimed the EITC.

The state EITC (pdf) is modeled after the federal EITC. Those who qualify for the federal EITC also qualify for the state credit that is 20 percent of the federal credit. 

The state EITC was enacted through a bipartisan effort in Michigan, and has broad support as a tool that rewards work and helps hardworking families. It is a successful anti-poverty, pro-work strategy with a proven track record.  One big fan of the EITC was President Ronald Reagan. “Giving a leg up to those struggling to move up is what America is all about,’’ Reagan said. 

The EITC is also shown to be an effective way to stimulate the economy.  A study last year by The Anderson Economic Group estimates that for every dollar of EITC received, $1.67 is generated in new economic activity in local communities. If Sen.-elect Jones were to deny the credit to 16,000 working families in his district he would, in turn, harm small businesses in Grand Ledge, Eaton Rapids, Allegan,
Holland and elsewhere in the 24th District where these families spend their money.

Michigan has $35 billion in tax code spending (pdf) (credits, deductions, exemptions, etc.). Much of this spending is through business tax credits that were approved decades ago and have never been examined for their effectiveness in fulfilling a useful public purpose. Sen.-elect Jones, and others who would scale back or eliminate the state EITC, have much to choose from in the tax code in order to generate revenue.

Unfortunately, he has targeted the very credit that has been effective in helping lower- and moderate-income working families keep their heads above water during the worst recession since the Great Depression.

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