Thursday, July 28, 2011
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
The wealth gap is said to be the widest in nearly three decades
The wealth gap between American whites and minorities has grown wider during the recession, according to an analysis of US Census data.
It found the median wealth of white US households in 2009 was $113,149 (£69,000), compared with $6,325 for Hispanics and $5,677 for blacks.
This left whites with about 20 times the net worth of blacks and 18 times that of Hispanics.
Those ratios compared with 7:1 for both groups back in 1995.
Asians also lost their top ranking to whites in median household wealth, more than halving from $168,103 in 2005 to $78,066 in 2009.
The report suggests Asian households were clustered in places such as California that were hit hard by the property market meltdown.
The study, compiled by the Pew Research Center from 2009 data, found the wealth gap was the widest it has been since the government began publishing such statistics by ethnicity in 1984, when the white-black ratio was roughly 12:1.
The data analysis demonstrates that the economic recession, which plunged housing values and caused widespread unemployment, widened an existing racial wealth gap significantly.
In other findings:
About 35% of black households and 31% of Hispanic households had zero or negative net worth in 2009, compared with 15% of white households
The share of wealth held by the top 10% of American households increased from 49% in 2005 to 56% in 2009
About 24% of all Hispanic and black households in 2009 had no assets other than a vehicle, compared with 6% of white households, a situation little changed since 2005
"What's pushing the wealth of whites is the rebound in the stock market and corporate savings, while younger Hispanics and African-Americans who bought homes in the last decade... are seeing big declines," Timothy Smeeding, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor who specialises in income inequality, told the Associated Press news agency.
Between 2005 and 2009, the median net worth of Hispanic households dropped by 66% and that of black households by 53%, according to the report.
That contrasted with the median net worth of white households, which dropped by just 16%.
Before the recession, housing equity accounted for about 66% of the net worth of Hispanics and some 59% of black families. About 44% of the wealth of white families consisted of housing equity.
A geographic analysis of the study suggests a disproportionate share of Hispanics live in California, Nevada and Arizona, states which have experienced some of the steepest declines in US housing values.
Hispanics and blacks are the two largest minority groups in the US, making up 16% and 12% of the population respectively.
The figures reported in the Pew study are based on the Census Bureau's Survey of Income and Program Participation, which surveyed 36,000 households on wealth from September to December 2009.
Back in the Jim Crow days, there were two basic approaches to racism in the segregated South. You were an aggressor—a lawmaker wedded to segregation, a member of a lynch mob, a scientist trying to prove non-white people were inferior, or your garden variety white person who might use a racial epithet. Or you were a bystander—someone who maintained the status quo by saying, "We don't want any trouble."
Nowadays, being racist in public is less acceptable, so people come up with all kinds of excuses for prejudice. Like, "Just kidding!" Or, "I'm not racist, I'm just honest. (Variation: I'm just exercising my First Amendment Rights.)" "I have black friends." "Posting on Facebook can't be racist." And so on. Even amid claims that America is now post-racial, one of the tried-and-true ways to be racist has endured: the argument that fighting against bigotry is more trouble than it's worth.
Take, for instance, what happened recently at an Arkansas graduation: A black teen mom named Kymberly Wimberly was the top student at McGehee Secondary School in Little Rock. Despite these accomplishments, a white co-valedictorian was named along with her. Was it because this white student had the same GPA? Nope, it was because school officials worried that making Wimberly valedictorian would result in a "big mess" at the majority-white school.
This response may seem antiquated, but it's not uncommon—and neither is the old-school racism it defends. When Prescott, Arizona, residents shouted racial epiphets at non-white students while they were painting a school mural, the administration's first thought wasn't to speak out against racism. It was to lighten the skin of the Hispanic boy depicted on the mural. Why? They wanted to avoid "a controversy."
As late as last year, schools in states like Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama have held segregated proms for black and white (and sometimes Hispanic) students. Overt racism still exists—one parent in Charleston, Mississippi reportedly said in 2008, "I'm not going to have any of those niggers rubbing up against my daughter"—but others prefer these divided dances because they want to side-step "racial flareups, a fight."
In this case, fear of violence is code for fear of change. And that's not much different from the Jim Crow era. A student named Chasidy Buckley, ensnared in the Mississippi prom fight, didn't mince words when she described what was at the heart of the segregation: "The [school] said, 'why change now? Let's just keep going.' That's the whole thing with our town. Everybody's afraid of change. It's just horrible."
Nona Willis Aronowitz
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Friday, July 22, 2011
PHOENIX — The massive dust storms that swept through central Arizona this month have stirred up not just clouds of sand but a debate over what to call them.
Phoenix Dusts Off After Giant Sandstorm Whips Through (July 7, 2011)
Phoenix Dusts Off After Giant Sandstorm Whips Through (July 7, 2011)
The blinding waves of brown particles, the most recent of which hit Phoenix on Monday, are caused by thunderstorms that emit gusts of wind, roiling the desert landscape. Use of the term “haboob,” which is what such storms have long been called in the Middle East, has rubbed some Arizona residents the wrong way.
“I am insulted that local TV news crews are now calling this kind of storm a haboob,” Don Yonts, a resident of Gilbert, Ariz., wrote to The Arizona Republic after a particularly fierce, mile-high dust storm swept through the state on July 5. “How do they think our soldiers feel coming back to Arizona and hearing some Middle Eastern term?”
Diane Robinson of Wickenburg, Ariz., agreed, saying the state’s dust storms are unique and ought to be labeled as such.
“Excuse me, Mr. Weatherman!” she said in a letter to the editor. “Who gave you the right to use the word ‘haboob’ in describing our recent dust storm? While you may think there are similarities, don’t forget that in these parts our dust is mixed with the whoop of the Indian’s dance, the progression of the cattle herd and warning of the rattlesnake as it lifts its head to strike.”
Dust storms are a regular summer phenomenon in Arizona, and the news media typically label them as nothing more than that. But the National Weather Service, in describing this month’s particularly thick storm, used the term haboob, which was widely picked up by the news media.
“Meteorologists in the Southwest have used the term for decades,” said Randy Cerveny, a climatologist at Arizona State University. “The media usually avoid it because they don’t think anyone will understand it.”
Not everyone was put out by the use of the term. David Wilson of Goodyear, Ariz., said those who wanted to avoid Arabic terms should steer clear of algebra, zero, pajamas and khaki, as well. “Let’s not become so ‘xenophobic’ that we forget to remember that we are citizens of the world, nor fail to recognize the contributions of all cultures to the richness of our language,” he wrote.
Although use of the term often brings smirks, Mr. Cerveny said the walls of dust could have serious consequences, toppling power lines and causing huge traffic accidents. Although ultradry conditions in the desert are considered one cause for the intensity of this year’s storms, Mr. Cerveny pointed to another possible factor: the housing bust that left developments half-finished and unmaintained, creating more desert dust to be stirred up. NYT