Why we are making the change to “Latinx”

The first time I heard the term “Latinx” (pronounced “La-teen-ex”) I was a graduate student at the University of North Carolina sitting among a group of fellow Latino students at the School of Social Work trying to put a schedule together for our student group. My friend and fellow group leader offered that we begin our annual planning with a consideration of a name change to our group. My friend pointed out that our current name “Latino Student Caucus” excluded those who identified outside of gender binaries—individuals who are transgender, gender nonconforming or gender fluid.

She was right. As student leaders, our goal was to offer an inclusive space where all students could feel validated and supported. In order to live up to our stated purposed, we needed to make that linguistic change.

Perhaps you’re wondering why one word could be so exclusive. The thing is, in the Spanish language words have a gender. Words that end with “o” are usually masculine, while those that end with “a” are usually feminine. Masculinized versions of words are traditionally considered gender-neutral. But to many, this designation has never really been gender-neutral because it excludes other identities and can reinforce gender stereotypes.

“Latinx,” therefore offers a truly gender-neutral alternative to Latino and Latina. Writers for the Huffington Post define Latinx as “…the gender-neutral alternative to Latino and Latina, that aims to move beyond gender binaries and is inclusive of the intersecting identities of Latin American descendants. The term has been in use for several years by academics, activists and journalists, among others. Today, more organizations and individuals are adopting the term in an effort to be inclusive in their spaces and in language. The League has become one of them.

Last fall, I began this conversation with my colleagues at the League. A few of us were familiar with the term and we wanted to be purposeful in our work, so we decided to come together and discuss. As staff members at the League, we continually strive to live up to our organization’s values of equity, diversity and inclusion. In order to do so, we have to continually listen, reflect and learn.

Our conversations were fruitful, and we decided that it was time for the League to make this change. Beginning this year, the League will replace the term “Latino” and “Latina” with “Latinx” when referring to individuals of Latin American descent, except for when we are referring to data sources in our charts and graphs.

Our work depends on our commitment to create spaces where all Michiganders’ voices can be heard and valued. This change takes us one more step closer, and we look forward to continuing to break down barriers in all other aspects of our work.

–Victoria Crouse

2017: A blog odyssey, part deux

Earlier this month when I was working on a recap of our best blogs of 2017, it was becoming more of a Casey Kasem Top 40 than a David Letterman Top Ten. While it’s nice to look back at what was shared the most, that’s just one measurement of a blog’s importance and resonance. As the editor of our blog, I was particularly proud of the issues we tackled in 2017, and I think you will be, too. Here are some of the other great blogs and pressing policy issues that I wanted to highlight from the past year.

We had a firsthand account of a 17-year-old’s experience being treated like an adult in the justice system, and why we need to “Raise the Age.”

The League hired a new policy fellow, Victoria Crouse, who wrote several blogs on the experiences of an immigrant family and the threats many immigrants have faced in the last year—including the Muslim Ban(s) and the elimination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

BestBlogsOf2017We continue to lift up racial equity, and the historic and systemic issues that have contributed to current disparities. With 2017 being the 50th Anniversary of the racial uprising in Detroit, we had the opportunity to share the perspectives of our community engagement director Renell Weathers and our CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs who were both living in the Detroit area at the time. We also tackled the harrowing incident in Charlottesville both directly and in a broader policy context.

Through our blogs and our policy work, the League also keeps speaking up for women’s issues, the policies that benefit them and the political rhetoric that doesn’t.

One of the perks of having an economist as our board chair is that we were able to draw on the expertise of Charles Ballard for a look at the Affordable Care Act from an economic angle.

The League’s blog certainly tackled some heavy topics, but we also try to have some fun with it. Our work covers the same range of emotions that our lives do, and the blog is meant to reflect that.

The League put together a couple blogs that allowed all of the staff to share some personal perspectives on what we were thankful for and how healthcare had benefited many of our lives.

We got to do a fun interview-style blog with Phyllis Killips, who celebrated 40 years of service the League this year.

We had great blogs from our interns from the past year—Casey Paskus, Lorenzo Santavicca, Eric Staats and Mallory Boyce.

And in honor of having a Friday the 13th fall in October in 2017, I managed to meld my love for horror movies and progressive public policy in 13 things Congress has in common with Jason Voorhees. I also realized an 11-year dream of making a pun that combines state revenue estimates and an Ice Cube reference.

Our staff and supporters all care about the same things (well, most of the same things—see above), and our blog is one way we can connect on that. Stay tuned to our social media to see what we’ll be working on and writing about in the coming year, and you can also subscribe to our blog via email or RSS feed to get updates directly. Thanks for reading!

— Alex Rossman

Michigan policies must create opportunity and remove barriers for kids of color, immigrants

For Immediate Release
October 24, 2017

Alex Rossman

2017 Race for Results report shows Michigan has lowest child well-being score for African-American children in the country

LANSING—A new national report on child well-being released today shows that African-American children in Michigan fare worse in key indicators than in any other state in the country. The report also shows that Latino children in Michigan fall behind children of other ethnic groups on key milestones. The report, 2017 Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children, produced by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, shows that all Michigan kids are struggling academically, but children of color are doing worse in nearly all indicators across education, health, family and community, and economic security.

The report also indicates that Michigan children in immigrant families are doing relatively well, but uncertainty and outright hostility in state and federal policies continue to pose threats to their well-being and the stability of their families. Additionally, not every group of immigrants has the same experiences, with many struggling with housing, financial security, education and language barriers.

“Seeing how our kids in Michigan fare compared to national numbers is startling. We are failing all of our children, especially our kids of color, and we need policies to remove barriers that have created systemic inequities.

“Some policies like stringent immigration changes are specifically targeting certain kids, some policies are perpetuating historic racial disparities generation after generation, and some policies are just having inadvertent or unintended consequences. If we want Michigan to be a diverse and vibrant state, we have to start doing more to better take care of all of our kids,” said Alicia Guevara Warren, Kids Count in Michigan Project Director at the Michigan League for Public Policy.

This is the second Race for Results report by the Casey Foundation; the Foundation released the first report in 2014. The report measures children’s progress on the national and state levels on key education, health and economic milestones by racial and ethnic groups. The report’s index uses a composite score of these milestones on a scale of one (lowest) to 1,000 (highest) to make comparisons.

The 2017 Race for Results shows that Michigan’s overall index score for White children, 667, is lower than the national average of 713, and the state score of 260 for African-American children is the lowest score in the country—far below the national average of 369 for this group. However, Michigan’s scores for other ethnic groups were higher than the national average. The well-being of American Indian/Alaska Native children in Michigan was scored at 511 compared to 413 nationally, and Asian and Pacific Islander kids in the state scored 804 overall compared to 783 nationally. The report scored the welfare of Michigan’s Latino children at 446, while nationally this group’s score was 429. The index scores for Latino children across the country are alarming, with the vast majority, including Michigan’s, below 500.

“Michigan is not the best state for meeting the needs of African-American kids,” said Alice Thompson, CEO of Black Family Development, Inc. “At a time when racial tensions are running high in our nation, our government and our society are letting these kids down and leaving them behind. ‘Separate but equal’ was a foolish and flawed policy, but so is ‘Together but inequitable.’ We need to help all kids move up together, and we’re going to need an overhaul of our policy approach to do that.”

Regionally, Michigan had the second lowest score for White kids in the Midwest. The lowest score in the Midwest for White children was Indiana with a score of 664, while Minnesota had the highest at 789—the fifth highest score in the country.

The academic indicators continue to be some of the lowest and most distressing for Michigan. The percentage of fourth-graders proficient in reading is lower in all racial and ethnic groups in Michigan than the national average for each group. The starkest difference is among African-American fourth-graders in Michigan, where nine percent are proficient in reading compared to the national average of 18 percent. This is the lowest rate of any state. White and Latino kids in Michigan fall into the bottom five states nationally for the rate of fourth-grade reading proficiency. Similar struggles are seen for all racial and ethnic groups in eighth-grade math, and the math proficiency rate for African-American eighth-graders in Michigan is tied with Alabama for the worst in the country.

“As we work to help Latino children in Michigan thrive, we need to take a broader, two-generation approach to better support their parents,” said Angela G. Reyes, Executive Director and Founder of the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation. “Over a quarter of our Latino kids live with a householder without at least a high school diploma, and their parents’ struggles to finish school affect their own reading proficiency and ability to learn.”

Around 284,000 immigrant kids currently live in Michigan. Some children face the same struggles, whether they were born in the United States or abroad. More than 20 percent of children in immigrant families live with a householder without at least a high school diploma compared to only eight percent of children in U.S.-born families. More than 25 percent of Latino children in Michigan live with a householder without at least a high school diploma. Conversely, all the other U.S.-born racial and ethnic groups have rates between nine and 15 percent.

“Not all immigrants are the same, and our experiences are as varied as the countries and cultures we come from,” said Aamina Ahmed, Executive Director of Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote – Michigan. “Gov. Rick Snyder is trying to bring more immigrants to Michigan, President Donald Trump is trying to keep more immigrants out of the country, and policy approaches to immigration sway with the political winds. Immigrants come here in search of a brighter future, but right now, that search is clouded with fear and uncertainty, leaving them very vulnerable.”

Other indicators showed some significant differences in family structure. Eighty-seven percent of children in Michigan’s immigrant families live in two-parent households, a significantly higher rate than the 66 percent of children in U.S.-born families. Michigan immigrant kids are in the top five nationally in this category. Only 69 percent of all children in Michigan live in two-parent families (just above the national average of 68 percent), ranging from a low for African-American children of 33 percent to a high of 89 percent for Asian and Pacific Islander kids.

While this data is eye-opening, it also raises questions about how policies are affecting children of color and in immigrant families. Michigan policymakers in Lansing and Washington should embrace the following policy recommendations to address the low scores for child well-being and drastic racial disparities for kids of color identified in this report:

  • Use a racial and ethnic equity lens in evaluating and developing public policies, like the Raise the Age effort to keep kids out of adult prisons;
  • Keep families together and in their communities;
  • Increase economic opportunity for all parents, especially immigrants and people of color; and
  • Provide a quality education to help all children meet key developmental measures.

The Michigan League for Public Policy continues to make racial equity a focal point of all of our policy work, recently analyzing the state budget’s impact on Michigan kids and residents of color. The League also strives to lift up the contributions of immigrants and their families to our state at a time when they are coming under severe attack from policies out of Lansing and Washington. A new report, Immigrant Families in Michigan: A State Profile, analyzes Michigan’s immigrant population and the positive impacts they have on our economy and labor force. The League has also compiled immigration profiles for all 83 Michigan counties in conjunction with the Race for Results release.


Release Information

The 2017 Race for Results report is available at www.aecf.org/raceforresults. Additional information is available at www.aecf.org. The website also contains the most recent national, state and local data on numerous indicators of child well-being. Journalists interested in creating maps, graphs and rankings in stories about Race for Results can use the Data Center at datacenter.kidscount.org.

About the Kids Count in Michigan Project

The Kids Count in Michigan project is part of a broad national effort to improve conditions for children and their families. Funding for the project is provided by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, The Skillman Foundation, Steelcase Foundation, Frey Foundation, Michigan Education Association, American Federation of Teachers Michigan, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, United Way for Southeastern Michigan, DTE Energy Foundation, Ford Motor Company Fund, Battle Creek Community Foundation and the Fetzer Institute.

About the Annie E. Casey Foundation

The Annie E. Casey Foundation creates a brighter future for the nation’s children by developing solutions to strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity and transform struggling communities into safer and healthier places to live, work and grow. For more information, visit www.aecf.org. KIDS COUNT is a registered trademark of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Keeping people at the center of public policy

I am still very much a newbie at the Michigan League for Public Policy. I finally know where I can find extra staples, but I still struggle with all of the acronyms and institutional knowledge that this job requires. Luckily, I recently attended a New Staff Training at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). I want to share some of what I learned at my training because I believe the CBPP’s outlook on equity-driven public policy is useful to all of us.

This training was held in Washington, DC, and while I usually love visiting our nation’s capital, I could not put to rest a feeling of anger and frustration. I imagined folks debating the future of healthcare, immigration policy and the federal budget just miles away, and I was not happy about being so close to the people making those decisions without being able to voice my opinion on them.

People 450x667Thankfully, the training environment I stepped into could not have been more different from the bitter scenes I was imagining on Capitol Hill. New advocates, researchers, communications staff and executive leaders traveled from around the country to learn how to make a difference in their states and contribute to national movements for policy change and justice. There was even an entire contingent of folks from Puerto Rico who arrived just as Hurricane Maria made landfall back home.

The room was refreshingly diverse and we spent a good part of our time together discussing racial and ethnic equity, exploring how public policy decisions often have disproportionate impacts on people of color. Everyone in the room was dedicated to studying history, understanding the racism that has driven public policy decisions in our nation’s past, and using that knowledge to develop meaningful research and advocacy.

I love that our work is not simple here at the Michigan League for Public Policy. Our researchers take the time to examine public policies deeply and decipher the impacts they have on vulnerable people. Our staff dedicates a lot of time to talking about racial and ethnic equity, and we are encouraged to point out places where we can grow and become a more inclusive organization, even if that means we have to change the way we have been doing things. I am heartened to see organizations across the U.S. doing the same.

As an advocate, I am particularly moved by the CBPP’s prioritization of community engagement. At our new staff training I understood even better the importance of bringing more people into our policy discussions. We cannot simply put out reports and hope they will make a difference. If we are truly invested in creating sustainable, equity-driven change, we need to develop relationships with our communities. Our communities need to inform how and why we do our work.

Now I am home and ready to get to work! I hope to challenge myself to make racial equity central to my outreach here in Michigan. I feel recharged and I can imagine how desperately other activists are in need of some renewed optimism as they take on more and more public policy fights. I will do my best to share the hope I witnessed as I talk with folks about the importance of forging ahead.

If you’re looking for a way to be part of the process, you can learn more about the League’s opportunities for involvement here.

— Jenny Kinne, Community Engagement Specialist