Saturday, January 14, 2017

Obama Should Have Done More for Black Americans

In November 2008, I watched the television screen as Barack Obama was elected as the first black president of the United States. His charismatic message of hope and change resonated with many Americans. I thought that maybe the most pressing problems facing black Americans will finally be addressed. The Great Recession of 2007-2008 had virtually wiped out the savings of most black households. No one in Detroit knew for sure if the American automotive industry (General Motors, Ford and Chrysler) would survive.

Looking back eight years later, I had a lot of high expectations in Obama. However, I should have known that Obama could not reverse three centuries of racial discrimination in just eight years. Yet, I cannot help that a lot of the optimism and admiration that black Americans entrusted in Obama went unfulfilled. While my family dismissed my pessimism, I cringed when Obama preferred incremental policies that did not address the root of the problems that still plague black Americans: higher unemployment rate regardless of educational attainment than whites, stubbornly high poverty rate, a mass incarceration crisis, under-resourced public schools, and a widening racial wealth gap.

William A. Darity, Jr. explained so eloquently in his must-read The Atlantic op-ed: "Leaders who look like you do not necessarily act in ways that benefit you." Obama did more for immigrants and the LGBT community than blacks who desperately looked up to him as a savior to their plight in the inner city. His successor, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, focused her campaign on three issues--women's rights (e.g., equal pay for equal work, family paid leave, and reproductive rights), amnesty for undocumented immigrants, and support for LGBT rights (including same-sex marriage)--that had little to do with combatting institutional and structural racism.

Many of Obama's executive orders did not help working-class Americans suffering from wage stagnation and free trade policies. Sure, the cost of gasoline is lower now but the cost of housing and health care premiums continues to increase exponentially. In addition, Obama was no friend to organized labor, having never met with the union leaders during his entire presidency. The Democratic national leadership failed to understand that a campaign focused primarily on political correctness and identity liberalism (race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality) runs the risk of ignoring the widening income inequality between the rich and the poor. America was turning into a serfdom society with a shrinking middle class and expanding working poor.

Nonetheless, I was delighted that Obama broke the color barrier in the U.S. presidency. This symbolic moment inspired so many black Americans to not lose hope on their native land. But I wished that Obama had done more to reduce the poverty rate in black communities, especially in Chicago. His leadership failed to provide blacks in the Midwestern cities with decent-paying jobs. Let us hope that President-elect Donald Trump delivers on his proposed pledge, the New Deal for Black America.

Friday, December 23, 2016

University of Michigan Bicentennial: 1817-2017

In 2017, the University of Michigan (U-M) will celebrate its bicentennial--200 years of teaching, scholarship, and service. Established in 1817 in Detroit as the Catholepistemiad or University of Michigania, U-M is the state's oldest university. In 1837, the school moved from Detroit to its present-day location, Ann Arbor. Since its founding, U-M has become one of the premier research universities in the world and boasts the largest living alumni in the world (over 500,000). As of 2016, the university has 19 schools and colleges, 260 degree programs, and 103 of its graduate programs ranked in the top 10. Its official colors are maize and blue, and its motto is "Go Blue!".

The university is historically known for its student activism, popular stop for U.S. presidents and important figures, and its role in defending affirmative action at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 (though Michigan voters in 2006 approved restrictions on the use of race in college admissions in Proposal 2). As a proud U-M alumna, U-M also boasts the best graduate programs in my fields: higher education administration and social work. To my delight, the current U-M president, Mark S. Schlissel, has picked diversity, equity and inclusion as well as poverty solutions as two of his five areas of focus in his administration.

Browse the links below for more information about the U-M Bicentennial:

Five Bicentennial Symposia

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Atlantic: How to Kill the Middle Class

In the past decade, state politicians have attacked the middle class with the passage of draconian lives that reduced their salaries, fringe benefits, and sick paid leave. If these trends continue, the traditional middle class may cease to exist in America. See The Atlantic article for more details:

Back in 2009, Rick Erickson was happy with his job as a teacher in one of the state’s northernmost school districts on the shores of Lake Superior. He made $35,770 a year teaching chemistry and physics, which wasn’t a lot of money, but then again, he received stellar healthcare and pension benefits, and could talk honestly with administrators about what he needed as a teacher every two years when his union sat down with the school district in collective bargaining sessions.

Then, five years ago, Wisconsin passed Act 10, also known as the Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill, which dramatically limited the ability of teachers and other public employees to bargain with employers on wages, benefits, and working conditions. After Act 10,Erickson saw his take-home pay drop dramatically: He now makes $30,650. His wife is a teacher, too, and together they make 11 percent less than they did before Act 10. The local union he once led no longer exists, and so he can’t bargain with the school district for things like prep time and sick days. He pays more for health care and his pension, and he says both he and his wife may now not be able to retire until they are much older than they had planned.

See this related article, Severe Inequality Is Incompatible with the American Dream:
The numbers are sobering: People born in the 1940s had a 92 percent chance of earning more than their parents did at age 30. For people born in the 1980s, by contrast, the chances were just 50-50.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

New Ed Department Report Focuses on Diversity in Higher Education

The U.S. Department of Education recently released a report, “Advancing Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education.” It builds on the Obama administration's efforts to expand college opportunity. The presents key data that show the continuing educational inequities and opportunity gaps for students of color and low-income students and highlights promising practices that many colleges are taking to advance success for students of all backgrounds. From the official press release:
More than ever before, today’s students need to be prepared to succeed in a diverse, global workforce. Diversity benefits communities, schools, and students from all backgrounds, and research has shown that more diverse organizations make better decisions with better results. CEOs, university presidents, the military, and other leaders have accordingly expressed a strong interest in increasing diversity to ensure our nation enjoys a culturally competent workforce that capitalizes on the diverse backgrounds, talents, and perspectives that have helped America succeed.

“I applaud the commitments to creating diverse campus communities that so many colleges and universities have long sought to implement by attracting, admitting, and educating diverse students. But we must acknowledge that we have more work left to ensure that our campuses are safe, inclusive, and supportive environments that encourage student success and college completion for students from all backgrounds,” Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. said.