Category Archives: Race

Modern Day Hockey Created by Blacks?

As the NHL All-Star Weekend comes to a close in St. Louis, this is a great time to reflect on the black origins of modern hockey. American history has always promoted the myth of the original thirteen colonies. In truth, at the time of the American Revolution, there was no such thing as thirteen colonies. There were actually nineteen – six of those colonies did not agree with the Revolution. Those colonies became Canada where Black men created modern hockey!

Below is an ESPN segment about the Black origins of Hockey.

Out of the four major professional sports in the United States (football, baseball, basketball and ice hockey), ice hockey has been the Whitest. Nearly all of the National Hockey League’s (NHL) players are White, and the well-known history of the sport would make people believe that Caucasians created and developed the sport on their own. Our knowledge of the roots of hockey has been based almost solely on the historical records maintained by early White historians. Because of this, the misconception that hockey is a White man’s invention has persisted. We know today, such an assumption could not be further from historical fact.

While history books showcase White players that date back to the 1800s, the roots of the sport actually comes from Native Americans, and the game was revolutionized by African Canadians. It was Black hockey players in the later half of the nineteenth century whose style of play and innovations helped shape the sport, effectively changing the game of hockey forever. 

According to the book “Black Ice,” written by George and Darril Fosty, the sons and grandsons of American slaves who escaped to Canada were not given the proper credit for innovating the game.

The first reports of hockey being played dates back to 1815 along the Northwest Arm, which is a river south of Halifax in Canada. At that time, the region was not home to a large White settlement, but was instead the site of a small Black enclave. Reports say that the residents would play hockey in the winter months, when the river froze over. It is unknown whether or not these were the first ice hockey games, but it does mean that Blacks were playing the sport well before it became popular in the late 1800s.

As the development of the sport into contemporary ice hockey took place, the first organized indoor game was in Montreal in 1875, and by the mid-1890s, there were hundreds of teams in Canada and Europe. At this time, there was the first recorded mention of all-Black hockey teams, which appeared in 1895. By 1900, the Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes (CHL) was created, and it was headquartered in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The NHL by contrast was not created until November 26, 1917.

The CHL was initially a church league formed by Black Baptist Ministers and church administrators who wanted to use the league to help Blacks climb up the social latter and gain equal footing with the White community. They used sports as the catalyst. The league was based on faith and emphasized sportsmanship and athleticism over brute force. The league used the Bible as their rulebook.

The league featured more than 400 African Canadian players who were typically natives from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. As the game continued to develop, the CHL featured more faster-paced action on the offensive end of the rink than the White leagues, which played a more physical style of game. It has been reported that the slap shot, which has been a staple for more than a century, was first used in the CHL, about 50 years before it became popular in the NHL. The league also revolutionized the goaltender position by allowing the goalie to play in an upright position, which allowed him to use his feet to a much greater degree.

At times, the top Black teams were able to defeat the best White teams. Typically there would not be a rematch, and those victories were not well-publicized.

The CHL flourished until World War I, but the league collapsed, and it was pretty much forgotten about. The innovations that came out of the league were later credited to White players, and the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto did not recognize the accomplishments of the league.

During the nineteenth century the English introduced the concept of competitive sports to much of the world. In an age of the Victorians and Victorian ideals, sports were regarded as models of teamwork and fair play. Many believed that sports could raise the lower classes and non-White races to a higher level of civilization and social development. All was well, the theory held as long as White men continued to win at whatever sport they played. Hockey was no different. By recognizing Canadian hockey Stanley had accomplished something more. He has given the game “royal acceptance” removing its status as a game of the lowly masses and creating a tiered sport based on club elitism and commercialism. It is no secret that the Stanley Cup was only to be competed for by select teams within Canada. At the time of its presentation, it was a symbol for self-promotion all the while serving a “supposed need”. In time, those who controlled the Challenge Cup controlled hockey, effectively creating a “bourgeoisie” sport. A sport that now, by its very nature, would exclude and fail to recognize Black contributions.

The most noted moment of Blacks in hockey happened when Willie O’Ree broke the color barrier in the NHL in 1958, even though Black players greatly contributed to the game years before the NHL existed.

Today there are no monuments to the Colored Hockey League. There is no reference to the league in any but a few books on hockey. There is no reference to Henry Sylvester Williams, James Johnston, James Kinney or the scores of players who wore the Colored League uniforms. There is no reference in the Hockey Hall of Fame of the impact that Blacks had in the development of the modern game of hockey. No reference to the Black origin of the slap shot. There is no reference to the Black origin of the offensive style of goal play exhibited by Franklyn. There is no reference to the Black origin of goalies going down on ice in order to stop the puck. There is no reference to the Black practice of entertaining the crowds with a half-time show. It is as if the league had never existed. For hockey is today a sport Whiter in history than a Canadian winter.


Republished under fair use claim, from OriginalPeople and Our Weekly material.

Black kids and suicide: Why are rates so high, and so ignored?

by Rheeda Walker, University of Houston

Teen suicide rates among black youth are increasing. In 2016 and again in 2018, national data revealed that among children age 5-11, black children had the highest rate of death by suicide. For the years 2008 to 2012, 59 black youth died by suicide, up from 54 in the years 2003-2007.

Black youth may be less likely to share their thoughts of loneliness or depression than other youth, which could be a reason for higher rates of death by suicide among black youth. Motortion Films/Shutterstock.com

Also, the 2015 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s biennial Youth Risk Behavior Survey reported that, compared to non-Hispanic white boys, black high-school age boys are more likely to have made serious suicide attempts that require medical attention.

I am a professor of psychology and also director of the culture, risk and resilience research laboratory at the University of Houston, and I recently co-authored a study that suggests that new risk profiles may be needed for better suicide prediction in African Americans in particular.

Comprehensive suicide awareness

Suicide has become a leading cause of death in the U.S. among all age groups, but particularly in youth and young adults. It is the second leading cause of death among 10- to 34-year-olds. Parents, teachers and professionals must be able to both talk about it and understand the risks for vulnerable children of any race. But those of us who work with black youth may also need to address some myths about suicide in the African American community.

For example, one such myth has its start almost three decades ago, Kevin Early and Ronald Akers’ interviews with African American pastors concluded that suicide is a “white thing” and that black people are accustomed to struggling through life challenges without succumbing to suicide. those authors concluded that black people see suicide as a “white thing” but it is a myth that black people do not die by suicide.

Based on anecdotal conversations that many others and I have heard in day-to-day conversations and that sometimes emerge in popular media, this opinion about suicide in the black community has shifted relatively little.

More importantly, black youth at risk may even be more difficult to identify than non-black youth. One study referred to college age racial/ethnic minority people, including African Americans, as “hidden ideators” who are less likely than other youth to disclose thoughts of suicide. Because suicide is occurring and at shockingly young ages, comprehensive efforts are needed to address this public health problem.

Studies suggest that stigma about mental illness and the feeling that one will be outcast further or ignored may keep black youth from sharing their thoughts. Also, public health and mental health experts may be unaware that suicide risk factors could show up differently depending on ethnic group.

Simply put, a one-size-fits-all approach does not work for identifying suicide risk. And little or no action has been taken to address the increasing crisis. As an African American psychologist, I find this frustrating when children’s lives are lost – lives that could be saved.

African American youth face challenges that non-Hispanic white youth may not. 

Unique needs in African American mental health

Most mental health services are not designed with cultural and social nuances in mind. My research team has found consistently that the challenges that black kids face in navigating dual cultural contexts may increase their risk of suicidal thoughts.

In research on adults, we found that black men and women who used more Eurocentric or individualist approaches that was more self-focused rather than managing stress via the belief in a Higher Power were more likely to consider suicide. This was not true for those who used more culturally meaningful, spiritual coping.

When there are cultural differences, therapists must be willing to “think outside of the box” to fully evaluate risk for suicide. As an example, the racism that black Americans encounter increases stress for many. Thus, their stressors and mental health issues will need different solutions and approaches than treatments that work for white people.

In another study published in Comprehensive Psychiatry, we observed different patterns of risk for black adults compared to white adults who were admitted for psychiatric care. We examined sleep-related problems, which are elevated among black Americans, and suicide because sleep issues are a serious but understudied risk factor for suicide crisis. It turns out that inadequate sleep can escalate an emotional crisis. Our research found that problems staying awake for activities such as driving or engaging in social activities, which reveal inadequate sleep, were associated with a four-fold greater risk for suicide crisis compared to non-suicide crisis in black adults who were admitted for psychiatric treatment.

We have also found that experiencing racism is associated with thoughts about suicide for black youth and adults.

A caring, loving adult in a child’s life is essential. It is also important not to downplay a child’s feelings, telling her to cheer up or get over it. fizkes/Shutterstock.com

How to find help

Caring adults are a child’s first line of defense. If a child discloses that he is thinking about dying, it is important to ask him to share more about his ideas and if he knows he might die. If a child has a suicide plan, it is time to get professional help. The Crisis Text Line at 741741 could be an option for teens who need help to cool down in a crisis.

When it comes to finding a mental health professional, parents need an expansive list of referral options, including university-affiliated mental health clinics that offer evidence-based services on a sliding scale and federally qualified health centers for the uninsured. Regardless of the setting, a well-trained therapist may be of a different race.

Parents and caregivers must be willing to sit, listen and try to fully understand what is most upsetting for a child who is experiencing a difficult situation and a lot of emotions.

For those who believe that the alarming statistics will eventually reverse course without any action, this may be true. In the meantime, saving one life is worth the effort.

Thoughts of suicide do not mean that a child or teen needs to be hospitalized. It means they are in emotional pain and want the pain to end. Adults can investigate the problem and remove it or help the child deal with it. Online resources such as Stopbullying.gov include interactive videos that are useful to parents, educators and youth. Suggesting to a child that she “get over it” is less than helpful. A child who is already in a vulnerable state cannot problem-solve without meaningful support from the caring adults in charge.


Republished with permission under license from The Conversation.

Children of color already make up the majority of kids in many US states

by Rogelio Sáenz, The University of Texas at San Antonio and Dudley L. Poston, Jr., Texas A&M University

Demographers project that whites will become a minority in the U.S. in around 2045, dropping below 50% of the population.

That’s a quarter-century from now – still a long way away, right?

Not if you focus on children. White children right now are on the eve of becoming a numerical minority.

The U.S. white majority is shrinking. 

The U.S. Census Bureau projects that, by the middle of 2020, nonwhites will account for the majority of the nation’s 74 million children.

Children in 2018

The share of the U.S. non-Hispanic white population has fallen since the mid-20th century.

Between 2010 and 2018, the number of white children fell by 2.8 million, or 7.1%. In contrast, nonwhite children grew by 6.1%.

In 2018, the last year for which data are currently available, the proportion of people in the U.S. under 18 years of age was just barely more white than nonwhite.

However, children under 11 were more nonwhite than white.

In almost one-third of U.S. states, nonwhite children outnumber all white children under 18 in 14 states – including Nevada, Hawaii, Georgia and Maryland – plus the District of Columbia.

Nonwhite children currently outnumber white children ages 0 to 4 in these 15 states and in Louisiana. In the next few years, the same will be true in North Carolina, Illinois and Virginia, followed a little later by Connecticut and Oklahoma.

In the coming decades, the percentage of all white children will drop – from 49.8% in 2020 to 36.4% in 2060.

A growing trend

Why will white children become the numerical minority?

We draw on the insights of demographer Kenneth Johnson and his colleagues to understand this trend.

First, the declining number of white children reflects the significant aging of the white population.

Whites in the U.S. have a median age of 43.6, much higher than those of all other racial or ethnic groups. Latinos, in particular, are much younger, with a median age of 29.5.

Slightly more than one-fifth of whites are age 65 and older, while elders account for only about one-tenth of nonwhites. Indeed, today in the U.S. there are more white elders than white children.

The older age of whites is mainly due to fewer white births than white deaths. Between July 2017 and July 2018, there were 0.88 white births in the U.S. for every 1 white death. In the case of Latinos, the ratio was 5 births for every 1 death.

Whites also have lower fertility rates than most other racial and ethnic groups.

Even if white women increased their fertility levels, their actual numbers of births would not go up that much, because there is a shrinking number of white women of childbearing age.

Only 41% of white women aged 15 and older are in the childbearing ages of 15 to 44, when most births occur, compared to 57% of nonwhite women.

What the future holds

In the coming decades, people of color will have an increasing presence in all U.S. institutions, in higher education, the workforce and the electorate.

Americans are already seeing the consequences of these demographic shifts in higher education. Between 2009 and 2017, the number of white undergraduate students in the U.S. dropped by 1.7 million, while the number of Latino undergraduates rose by 1.1 million.

In addition, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projections show that, between 2014 and 2024, the white share of the civilian labor force is declining, while the share of nonwhites is estimated to rise.

Furthermore, people of color will increasingly be part of the voter rolls and slates of political office seekers in the coming decades.

Despite these expected changes, one thing is certain. The white population is not going to disappear. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that whites will still be the largest racial or ethnic group, accounting for 44.3% of the nation’s population in 2060 and outnumbering Latinos, the second largest group, by 67.9 million.

The reality is that whites will not dominate demographically as they have throughout most of U.S. history, when they accounted for as much as 90% of the country’s population. Roughly speaking, the share of the U.S. white population in 2060 will be the same as it is now in Las Vegas, about 44%.


Republished with permission under license from The Conversation.

The made-up crisis behind the state takeover of Houston’s public schools

by Domingo Morel, Rutgers University Newark

If the state of Texas had its way, the state would be in the process of taking over the Houston Independent School District.

But a judge temporarily blocked the takeover on Jan. 8, with the issue now set to be decided at a trial in June.

The ruling temporarily spares Houston’s public school system from joining a list of over 100 school districts in the nation that have experienced similar state takeovers during the past 30 years.

The list includes New York City, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, New Orleans, Baltimore, Oakland and Newark. Houston is the largest school district in Texas and the seventh largest in the U.S.

While the state of Texas claims the planned takeover is about school improvement, my research on state takeovers of school districts suggests that the Houston takeover, like others, is influenced by racism and political power.

States fail to deliver

State governments have used takeovers since the late 1980s to intervene in school districts they have identified as in need of improvement. While state administrations promise that takeovers will improve school systems, 30 years of evidence shows that state takeovers do not meet the states’ promised expectations. For instance, a recent report called Michigan’s 15-year management of the Detroit schools a “costly mistake” because the takeover was not able to address the school system’s major challenges, which included adequately funding the school district.

But while the takeovers don’t deliver promised results, as I show in my book, they do have significant negative political and economic consequences for communities, which overwhelmingly are communities of color. These negative consequences often include the removal of locally elected school boards. They also involve decreases in teachers and staff and the loss of local control of schools.

Despite the highly problematic history of state takeovers, states have justified the takeovers on the grounds that the entire school district is in need of improvement. However, this is not the case for the Houston takeover because by the state’s own standards, the Houston school system is not failing.

Low threshold for state intervention

Following a 2015 law, HB 1842, the state of Texas was granted authority to take over a school district if a single school in that district fails to meet state education standards for five or more years. The bill was passed by the Republican controlled state legislature with Democratic support. However, Democratic state lawmakers representing Houston argue that the law was a mistake and urged for it to be revised.

Although the state has given the Houston Independent School District a B rating, it plans to take over the Houston schools because one school, Wheatley High School, has not met state standards for seven years. According to state law, the state can take over a school district or close a school if it fails to meet standards for five years.

The Houston Independent School District has 280 schools. The district serves over 200,000 students. It employs roughly 12,000 teachers. Wheatley High School serves roughly 800 students and has roughly 50 teachers.

So why would a state take over a school district that has earned a B rating from the state? And why base the takeover on the performance of one school that represents fewer than 1% of the district’s student and teaching population?

In order to understand the logic of the planned state takeover of the Houston schools, it pays to understand the important role that schools have played in the social, political and economic development of communities of color. Historically, communities of color have relied on school level politics as an entry point to broader political participation. School level politics may involve issues like ending school segregation, demanding more resources for schools, increasing the numbers of teachers and administrators of color, and participating in school board elections.

The process of gaining political power at the local level – and eventually state level – often begins at the schools, particularly the school board. For instance, before blacks and Latinos elect members of their communities to the city councils, the mayor’s office, and state legislatures, they often elect members to the school board first.

Political representation at stake

In Texas, communities of color are politically underrepresented. Although blacks, Latinos, and Asians represent nearly 60% of the population in Texas, their political power at the state level is not proportional to their population. Whites make up 64% of the state legislature. The Republican Party controls the governorship, state House of Representatives and state Senate, but only 4% of all Republican state legislators are of color. Communities of color in Texas have filed lawsuits arguing that they have been prevented from gaining political representation at the state level by Republicans through racial gerrymandering and voter identification laws that disenfranchise black and Latino voters.

However, despite years of systematic exclusion of people of color, the political landscape is changing in Texas. Texas is increasingly urbanizing as a result of population growth in the state’s cities. Since urban voters are more likely to vote Democratic, the growth in the urban population may potentially alter political dynamics in the state. Also, while African Americans have solidly identified with the Democratic Party in Texas, Latinos have not. But that, too, is changing. Polls show that Latino support for Republican presidential candidates in Texas went from a high of 49% during George W. Bush’s reelection in 2004, to 35% for McCain in 2008, 29% for Romney in 2012, to a low of 18% for Trump in 2016.

Houston, as the largest urban center in Texas, is at the forefront of this challenge to the Republican grip of state power in Texas. The Houston schools, in particular, are representative of the state’s demographic and political future. The nine-member Houston school board is reflective of the community it serves. It has four Latinos, three African Americans, one Asian and one white. This, in my view, is what has put the Houston public school system and school board at the forefront of a battle that is really about race and political power.

The Houston public school system is not failing. Rather, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, Education Commissioner Mike Morath and the Republican state legislature are manufacturing an education crisis to prevent people of color in Houston from exercising their citizenship rights and seizing political power.


Republished with permission under license from The Conversation.

What everyone should know about Reconstruction 150 years after the 15th Amendment’s ratification

by Tiffany Mitchell Patterson, West Virginia University

I’ll never forget a student’s response when I asked during a middle school social studies class what they knew about black history: “Martin Luther King freed the slaves.”

Martin Luther King Jr. was born in 1929, more than six decades after the time of enslavement. To me, this comment underscored how closely Americans associate black history with slavery.

While shocked, I knew this mistaken belief reflected the lack of time, depth and breadth schools devote to black history. Most students get limited information and context about what African Americans have experienced since our ancestors arrived here four centuries ago. Without independent study, most adults aren’t up to speed either.

For instance, what do you know about Reconstruction?

I’m excited about new resources for teaching children, and everyone else, more about the history of slavery through The New York Times’ “1619 Project.” But based on my experience teaching social studies and my current work preparing social studies educators, I also consider understanding what happened during the Reconstruction essential for exploring black power, resilience and excellence.

During that complex period after the Civil War, African Americans gained political power yet faced the backlash of white supremacy and racial violence. I share the concerns many writers, historians and other scholars are raising about the shortcomings of what schoolchildren traditionally learn about Reconstruction in school. Here are some suggestions for educators, parents and others interested in learning more about that time period.

Reconstruction amendments

As most students do learn, the U.S. gained three constitutional amendments that extended civil and political rights to newly freed African Americans following the Civil War.

The 13th, ratified in 1865, banned slavery and involuntary servitude except for the punishment of a crime.

The 14th, ratified three years later, granted citizenship and equal protection under the law to all people born in the United States, as well as naturalized citizens – including all previously enslaved individuals.

Then, the 15th Amendment asserted that neither the federal government nor state governments could deny voting rights to any male citizen.

The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the 15th Amendment on Feb. 3, 1870. The anniversary is a good opportunity to learn about how the amendment was supposed to guarantee that the right to vote could not be denied based on “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

African Americans celebrated the 15th Amendment’s ratification. Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

African American politicians

What few history and social studies classes explore is how these changes to the Constitution made it possible for African American men to use their newfound political power to gain representation.

Hiram Rhodes Revels, the first African American senator, represented Mississippi in 1870 after the state’s Senate elected him. He was among the 16 black men from seven southern states who served in Congress during Reconstruction.

Revels and his colleagues were only part of the story. All told, about 2,000 African Americans held public office at some level of government during Reconstruction.

White supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan also formed following the Civil War. These terrorist groups engaged in violence and other racist tactics to intimidate African Americans, people of color, black voters and legislators. They thus made the accomplishments of African American politicians even more impressive as they served as public officials under the constant threat of racial violence.

The first African American members of Congress were elected after the Civil War. Currier and Ives via the Library of Congress

Black activist women

African American women technically gained the right to vote in 1920, when the 19th Amendment passed. However, their constitutional right was limited in many states due to discriminatory laws.

Mary Church Terrell, an educator, fought for the rights of women of color. National Archives Docs Teach collection

Many black women were activists and women’s suffrage movement leaders. Through public speaking, prolific writing and developing organizations dedicated to racial and and gender equality, they fought for equal rights and dignity for all.

Among the black women who were activists during Reconstruction were the five Rollins sisters of South Carolina, who fought for female voting rights; Maria Stewart, an outspoken abolitionist before the Civil War and suffragist once it ended; and Mary Ann Shadd Cary, the first black woman in North America to edit and publish a newspaper, one of the first black female lawyers in the country and an advocate for granting women the right to vote.

Other women of color who played key roles in the suffrage movement included Ida B. Wells, the journalist and civil rights advocate who raised awareness of lynching, and Mary Church Terrell, founder of the National Association of Colored Women.

Higher education

Before the Civil War, many states made teaching enslaved individuals to read a crime. Education quickly became a top priority for black Americans once slavery ended.

While northern, largely white philanthropists and missionary groups and the U.S. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, better known as the Freedmen’s Bureau, did help create new educational opportunities, the African American public schools established after the Civil War ended were largely built and staffed by the black community.

Many new institutions of higher education, now called Historically Black Colleges and Universities or HBCUs, began to operate during Reconstruction.

These schools trained black people to become teachers and ministers, doctors and nurses. They also prepared African Americans for careers in industrial and agricultural fields.

Public and private HBCUs founded during Reconstruction and still operating today include Howard University in Washington, D.C., Hampton University in Virginia, Alabama State University, Morehouse College in Georgia and Morgan State University in Maryland. These colleges and universities train a disproportionate share of black doctors and other professionals even today.

Morehouse graduates from the class of 2013 celebrated in the rain when President Obama delivered their commencement address. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Historical experiences

Storytelling, multimedia experiences and trips to historic sites and creative museums help get people of any age interested in learning about history.

Depending on where you live, you may want to embark on a family outing or school field trip.

The National Constitution Center in Philadelphia has a new permanent exhibit on the Civil War and Reconstruction.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened in Washington, D.C. in 2017, contains artifacts from the Reconstruction era. It’s also making the records of the Freedmen’s Bureau, including the names of formerly enslaved individuals following the Civil War, available online.

Another option is the Reconstruction Era National Historic Park in Beaufort County, South Carolina.

I also recommend watching the PBS documentaries about Reconstruction by the scholar and filmmaker Henry Louis Gates Jr. and reading the young adult book Gates co-authored with children’s nonfiction writer Tonya Bolden about the era. Gates has also compiled a Reconstruction reading list for adults.

In addition, the organization Teaching for Change curates a booklist on Reconstruction for middle and high school students. And the Zinn Education Project Teach Reconstruction Campaign offers a variety of resources including readings, primary sources and even lesson plans.

Henry Louis Gates Jr.‘s documentary series delves into the history of what happened in America after the Civil War.

An incomplete transition

As the renowned black scholar W.E.B. DuBois observed, racist laws and violent tactics in many states actively limited black freedom.

“The slave went free; stood for a brief moment in the sun; then moved back again toward slavery,” he explained.

This was by no means voluntary. Intimidated and threatened by black enfranchisement and excellence in the era of Reconstruction, white supremacists attempted to enforce subordination through violence, such as lynching; and in systemic ways through Jim Crow laws. African Americans continued to assert their civil and constitutional rights as activists, politicians, business owners, teachers and farmers in the midst of white supremacist backlash.

With the latest voter suppression efforts restricting access to the ballot box for voters of color and the resurgence of racist violence and vitriol today, DuBois’ words sound eerily familiar. At the same time it’s reassuring to recall how quickly formerly enslaved African Americans made their way to schoolhouses and public offices.


Republished with permission under license from The Conversation.

GI Bill opened doors to college for many vets, but politicians created a separate one for blacks

By Joseph Thompson, Mississippi State University

When President Franklin Roosevelt signed the GI Bill into law on June 22, 1944, it laid the foundation for benefits that would help generations of veterans achieve social mobility.

Formally known as the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, the bill made unprecedented commitments to the nation’s veterans. For instance, it provided federal assistance to veterans in the form of housing and unemployment benefits. But of all the benefits offered through the GI Bill, funding for higher education and job training emerged as the most popular.

More than 2 million veterans flocked to college campuses throughout the country. But even as former service members entered college, not all of them accessed the bill’s benefits in the same way. That’s because white southern politicians designed the distribution of benefits under the GI Bill to uphold their segregationist beliefs.

So, while white veterans got into college with relative ease, black service members faced limited options and outright denial in their pursuit for educational advancement. This resulted in uneven outcomes of the GI Bill’s impact.

As a scholar of race and culture in the U.S. South, I believe this history raises important questions about whether subsequent iterations of the GI Bill are benefiting all vets equally.

Tuition waived for service

When he signed the bill into law, President Roosevelt assured that it would give “servicemen and women the opportunity of resuming their education or technical training … not only without tuition charge … but with the right to receive a monthly living allowance while pursuing their studies.” So long as they had served 90 consecutive days in the U.S. Armed Forces and had not received a dishonorable discharge, veterans could have their tuition waived for the institution of their choice and cover their living expenses as they pursued a college degree.

This unparalleled investment in veteran education led to a boom in college enrollment. Around 8 million of the nation’s 16 million veterans took advantage of federal funding for higher education or vocational training, 2 million of whom pursued a college degree within the first five years of the bill’s existence. Those ex-service members made up nearly half of the nation’s college students by 1947.

Colleges scrambled to accommodate all the new veterans. These veterans were often white men who were slightly older than the typical college age. They sometimes arrived with wives and families in tow and brought a martial discipline to their studies that, as scholars have noted, created a cultural clash with traditional civilian students who sometimes were more interested in the life of the party than the life of the mind.

Limited opportunities for black servicemen

Black service members had a different kind of experience. The GI Bill’s race-neutral language had filled the 1 million African American veterans with hope that they, too, could take advantage of federal assistance. Integrated universities and historically black colleges and universities – commonly known as HBCUs – welcomed black veterans and their federal dollars, which led to the growth of a new black middle class in the immediate postwar years.

Yet, the underfunding of HBCUs limited opportunities for these large numbers of black veterans. Schools like the Tuskegee Institute and Alcorn State lacked government investment in their infrastructure and simply could not accommodate an influx of so many students, whereas well-funded white institutions were more equipped to take in students. Research has also revealed that a lack of formal secondary education for black soldiers prior to their service inhibited their paths to colleges and universities.

As historians Kathleen J. Frydl, Ira Katznelson and others have argued, U.S. Representative John Rankin of Mississippi exacerbated these racial disparities.

Racism baked in

Rankin, a staunch segregationist, chaired the committee that drafted the bill. From this position, he ensured that local Veterans Administrations controlled the distribution of funds. This meant that when black southerners applied for their assistance, they faced the prejudices of white officials from their communities who often forced them into vocational schools instead of colleges or denied their benefits altogether.

Mississippi’s connection to the GI Bill goes beyond Rankin’s racist maneuvering. From 1966 to 1997, G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery represented the state in Congress and dedicated himself to veterans’ issues. In 1984, he pushed through his signature piece of federal legislation, the Montgomery GI Bill, which recommitted the nation to providing for veterans’ education and extended those funds to reserve units and the National Guard. Congress had discontinued the GI Bill after Vietnam. As historian Jennifer Mittelstadt shows, Montgomery’s bill subsidized education as a way to boost enlistment in the all-volunteer force that lagged in recruitment during the final years of the Cold War.

Social programs like these have helped maintain enlistment quotas during recent conflicts in the Middle East, but today’s service members have found mixed success in converting the education subsidies from the Post-9/11 GI Bill into gains in civilian life.

This new GI Bill, passed in 2008, has paid around US$100 billion to more than 2 million recipients. Although the Student Veterans for America touts the nearly half a million degrees awarded to veterans since 2009, politicians and watchdogs have fought for reforms to the bill to stop predatory, for-profit colleges from targeting veterans. Recent reports show that 20% of GI Bill disbursements go to for-profit schools. These institutions hold reputations for notoriously high dropout rates and disproportionately targeting students of color, a significant point given the growing racial and ethnic diversity of the military.

In August 2017, President Trump signed the Forever GI Bill, which committed $3 billion for 10 more years of education funding. As active duty service members and veterans begin to take advantage of these provisions, history provides good reason to be vigilant for the way racism still impacts who receives the most from those benefits.The Conversation


Republished with permission under license from The Conversation.

Cities with more black residents rely more on traffic tickets and fines for revenue

By Akheil Singla, Arizona State University 

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the last time I got a speeding ticket. It was nearly a decade ago and it’s a pretty unremarkable story: I was on my way back to Columbus, Ohio, from a friend’s wedding and was going something like 15 mph over the speed limit. An officer pulled me over, asked me if I knew why he did, walked back to his squad car and returned with a ticket for US$90.

At the time, I didn’t think much about it. I was 22, I was speeding, and that is what happened when you got caught. I didn’t consider the motives of the officer, his law enforcement agency or the financial status of the city he worked for. And I definitely didn’t consider the fact that I was a brown man driving through rural Ohio.

But now that I’m a scholar of public finance, it’s all I can think about. My recent research – and that of others – shows that communities with more residents of color are more likely to rely on revenue coming from traffic tickets and other minor fines.

Fines as revenue

Local governments on average don’t rely all that much on revenue from things like traffic citations, termed fines and forfeitures.

According to data from the Census of Governments, the average city generated about $21 per person from fines in 2012, the last year for which there is national data. For reference, the average city generated about $150 per person from sales taxes at the time.

But there is a lot of variation: Some cities get more than 10% or 20% of their revenue from fines.

Why might some communities rely on fines way more than others do? One reason could be higher incidences of crime. Another might be that certain governments make a strategic choice to target passersby via speed traps. It could be a response to budgetary shortfalls or fiscal stress. And still another might be the race of the population or law enforcement agency.

If it’s not clear how or why this could involve race, you should take a look at the Department of Justice report on in Ferguson, Missouri. After Michael Brown, a black man living in a majority-black community, was shot and killed by a white police officer serving in a majority-white police force, the department investigated.

It found that officers in Ferguson were focused on revenue generation, a practice known as “policing for profit.” Police aggressively fined residents, primarily black residents, without much consideration of whether doing so enhanced public trust or safety.

According to the report, “The harms of Ferguson’s police and court practices are borne disproportionately by African Americans, and there is evidence that this is due in part to intentional discrimination on the basis of race.”

But was Ferguson an isolated case? And, more generally, what explains the variation in city use of fines? My colleagues – Charlotte Kirschner and Samuel B. Stone, also scholars of public finance – and I set out to find out.

Who relies on fines

In our study, we looked at a representative sample of 93 California cities from 2009 to 2014 to determine what affects how much cities fine residents and rely on fines for revenue.

We examined how fines were affected by levels of crime and public safety, city financial health and budgetary stress, and the racial composition of both the population and the law enforcement agency serving it.

We found no relationship between crime or budgetary stress and fines. However, we did find that cities with larger black populations fine residents more on a per capita basis and are more reliant on fines.

All else equal, our results showed that a 1% increase in black population is associated with a 5% increase in per capita revenue from fines and a 1% increase in share of total revenue from fines.

Furthermore, the cities seemingly most reliant on fines are the ones with the highest percentages of black residents being served by law enforcement that is whiter than its community.

Take Inglewood: In 2010, it was 43% black and 23% white, but its law enforcement agency was flipped, at nearly 40% white and 16% black. The city generated nearly 5% of its revenues from fines, more than double the average city in California.

Despite the similarities to Ferguson, it is really important for me to emphasize that our research isn’t accusing anyone of being racist or intentionally discriminating against minorities – though, to be fair, our results don’t preclude this explanation either. Rather, I’m just highlighting that even seemingly colorblind policies, like a $90 traffic citation for speeding, can have outcomes that are very much not colorblind.

Fixing the problem

Unfortunately, I wasn’t very surprised by our results. Even setting aside the Ferguson case, there’s a lot of research that points in this direction.

First, policing for profit via civil asset forfeiture and traffic tickets is, unfortunately, a documented phenomenon that alters police behavior.

Second, studies persistently find that minority residents and communities of color are more common recipients of law enforcement action and punishment.

And third, government agencies that are more representative of their communities along gender and racial dimensions have been demonstrated to reduce unfavorable outcomes for minority groups across many studies. The only thing we did was show that these things are all connected.

So, how can Americans solve this issue? I think we should start by eliminating the incentives governments might have to fine for revenue generation. Do this by pooling money from fines at the state level and redistributing it evenly instead of letting local governments make their own decisions.

Then, elect more ethnic and racial minorities to be mayors or serve on city councils and proactively focus on ensuring meaningful representation in the unelected bureaucracy. Our research demonstrates these changes should alter the distribution of fines, but making them so would probably have other beneficial effects for underserved communities as well.

If nothing else, the next time you get pulled over for speeding – especially if it’s for doing 55 in a 54 – you should ask yourself why it’s happening. It might be a lot less about how fast you were going than you’d think.


Republished with permission under license from The Conversation.

Racism shortens lives and hurts health of blacks by promoting genes that lead to inflammation and illness

By April Thames, University of Southern California 

Negative social attitudes, such as racism and discrimination, damage the health of those who are targeted by triggering a cascade of aberrant biological responses, including abnormal gene activity. It is not surprising that reports documenting lifespan and causes of mortality have demonstrated a clear pattern: African Americans die sooner and bear a heavier burden of many diseases, including hypertension, heart disease, dementia and late-stage breast cancer.

Scientists have searched for genetic causes to health disparities between blacks and whites but have had limited success. The strongest evidence to date points to social-environmental factors such as poverty, health care inequities and racism.

Our society is plagued by racism and racial inequality which is not fully recognized by all, according to a recent study showing that many Americans overestimate our progress in fixing racial inequality. On the other hand, more Americans (65%) are aware that it has become more common for people to express racist or racially insensitive views, according to a U.S. survey.

Racism is not merely negative attitudes or treatment from one person to another. Racism has deep historical roots in American society, sustained through institutional policies and practices, whereby people of color are routinely and systematically treated differently than whites.

As an African American/white individual, I often experienced comments growing up like “You don’t sound black,” and “What are you?” that made me cringe. In college, I became intrigued by the field of psychology as it was a field that explained how prejudices, stereotyping and racism arise. My research as a clinical psychologist at USC is focused on understanding how societal factors interact with biology to create disparities in health outcomes. A recent study I co-authored showed that racism promotes genes that turn on inflammation, one of the major drivers of disease.

Less overt, but entrenched

Although racism may be less overt today than during the early 20th century, government policies and norms, unfair treatment by social institutions, stereotypes and discriminatory behaviors are sobering reminders that racism is still alive – and contribute to earlier deaths in addition to poorer quality of life.

For example, blacks are more likely than whites to receive drug testing when prescribed long-term opiates even though whites show higher rates of overdose. African Americans have shouldered the burden of racism for decades, creating a level of mistrust for societal systems, be it health care or law enforcement.

Terms such as “driving while black” illustrate how racism and discrimination have been deeply embedded in African American cultural experience. Just imagine trying to buy a home and being turned down because of your race. This is too common of an experience for African Americans. Nearly half (45%) reported experiencing discrimination when trying to find a home and in receiving health care, according to a Robert Wood Johnson survey that was developed by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and National Public Radio.

From macro to micro, the effect is widespread

Blacks’ exposure to chronic stress has often been cited as a reason for worse health outcomes. 

Until recently, we scientists did not know the mechanism linking racism to health. The new study from my lab here at USC and colleagues at UCLA shows that the function of genes may explain this relationship. As it turns out, our study showed that genes that promote inflammation are expressed more often in blacks than in whites. We believe that exposure to racism is why.

We previously showed how activating racism, such as asking people to write down their race before taking an exam, in the form of stereotyping impairs brain functions such as learning and memory and problem-solving in African Americans. This may partly explain the higher rates of dementia in African Americans compared to whites.

Researchers have well documented that chronic stress alters the function of brain regions, such as the hippocampus, that are targeted in brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. This work has been expanded through the field of social genomics, largely pioneered by my colleague Steve Cole at UCLA. A relatively new field called social genomics demonstrates how the function of genes – termed gene expression – is influenced by social conditions.

Genes are programmed to turn off and on in a certain manner. But those patterns of activity can shift depending on environmental exposures.

Certain marginalized groups demonstrate abnormal patterns of gene activity in genes responsible for innate immunity. Innate immunity is how the body fights off and responds to foreign pathogens. Dr. Cole named this pattern/sequence of gene activity the Conserved Transcriptional Response to Adversity. It refers to the how genes controlling innate immunity behave under positive or negative environmental conditions.

When environmental stresses like socioeconomic disadvantage or racism trigger the sympathetic nervous system, which controls our fight-or-flight responses, the behavior of our genes is altered. This leads to complex biochemical events that turn on genes, which may result in poor health outcomes.

The Conserved Transcriptional Response to Adversity profile is characterized by increased activity of genes that play a role in inflammation, and decreased activity of genes involved in protecting the body from viruses.

We found that blacks and whites differed in the pattern of which pro-inflammatory and stress signaling genes were turned on. Our findings are particularly important because chronic inflammation ages the body and causes organ damage.

As my colleagues and I pulled this study together, we took into consideration the health disparities such as socioeconomic status, social stress, and health care access. For example, we recruited African Americans and whites with similar socioeconomic status. We also examined racial differences in reports of other types of stress events. Both groups reported similar levels of social stress.

For this particular study, none of these traditional factors explained why African Americans had greater expression in pro-inflammatory genes than whites. However, we found that experiences with racism and discrimination accounted for more than 50% of the black/white difference in the activity of genes that increase inflammation.

So what do these results mean for future health? I believe racism and discrimination should be treated as a health risk factor – just like smoking. It is toxic to health by damaging the natural defenses our bodies use to fight off infection and disease. Interventions tailored toward reducing racism-associated stress may mitigate some of its adverse effects on health. As a society we cannot afford to perpetuate health inequities by undermining or disguising the biological impact of racism.


Republished with permission under license from The Conversation.

HBCUs pay higher fees to borrow money. Research links that premium to racism.

by Clark Merrefield

Historically black colleges and universities looking to raise money for major projects face higher fees than their non-HBCU counterparts, even when agencies that rate credit risk give HBCU-issued bonds their highest scores, according to research recently published in the Journal of Financial Economics.

There’s one big reason for the additional cost, according to the authors: racial discrimination.

Colleges and universities typically issue bonds to pay for big-ticket items, like a new dorm or athletic facility. Bonds are loans, paid back over time with interest. Multimillion dollar bonds are usually split across different investors, but schools don’t track down those investors. Instead, they pay underwriters. An underwriter buys an entire bond and then finds investors to buy chunks of it.

Out of the pool of bonds the authors studied, non-HBCUs pay on average 81 cents of every $100 raised to underwriters. For a $10 million non-HBCU bond, that’s $81,000 in fees going to an underwriter.

But HBCUs pay on average 92 cents per $100 raised to underwriters — about 14% more, the paper finds.

That’s $92,000 in underwriting fees on a $10 million HBCU bond. HBCUs are higher education institutions founded before 1964 primarily to educate black students, many of whom were barred from predominantly white institutions.

“The underlying notion is it’s harder for an [HBCU] underwriter to find a buyer and they pass the cost on to the schools,” says Bill Mayew, professor of accounting at Duke University and one of the paper’s authors. “That’s where the difference comes from.”

The financial premium is even higher for HBCUs in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, where racial animus runs higher than in other states, according to data the authors analyze. In those three states, the cost to HBCUs for bond underwriting is 106 cents per $100 raised. That’s $106,000 going to an underwriter on a $10 million HBCU bond.

Understanding two types of discrimination

Economists point to two things that typically underlie actions a reasonable person could perceive as racist: statistical discrimination and taste-based discrimination.

Statistical discrimination happens when people take actual or perceived aggregate information and apply it to a specific situation. This happens sometimes in labor markets. A hiring manager considering two candidates from two different demographic groups might believe people from one group are less productive on average than people from the other. The hiring manager might argue they are not being racist in relying on stereotypes. They might say they are simply considering the company’s bottom line productivity.

Taste-based discrimination is discrimination based on personal taste. Someone, “simply has a preference for working with one type over the other,” as economists William Neilson and Shanshan Ying wrote in 2016 in a paper on the relationship between these types of discrimination. The hiring manager’s decision is based purely on distaste or preference for a candidate’s skin color.

“When you think of the notion of race discrimination, that’s a taste-based preference,” Mayew says.

Differentiating between statistical and taste-based discrimination is difficult to do, but important toward understanding why people make decisions that might appear discriminatory.

Credit ratings and insurance: disentangling HBCU discrimination

The authors look at a sample of 4,145 tax-exempt bonds issued from 1988 to 2010 from 965 four-year colleges totaling $150 billion. HBCUs, both public and private, issued 102 of those bonds.

Creditworthiness scores make it possible to parse the two types of discrimination. Ratings agencies like Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s rate higher education institutions’ credit risk. They provide a score that tells investors how likely the school is to default on its bond payments. A triple-A rating, the highest possible, means the college or university is practically assured to make their payments on time.

“You might say it’s not that buyers of bonds are racist, it’s they think those bonds are more likely to default,” Mayew says. “It’s really hard in most settings to disentangle those indications. But in the bond market, we can measure that really well with the credit rating so we can dig into and isolate race effects.”

Insurance is another way the authors rule out statistical discrimination. Universities can get bond insurance, so if they default the bond financer still gets paid back. Credit ratings and bond insurance give financers a sense of an institution’s likelihood of defaulting.

Still, the authors find that “identical [fee] differences are observed between HBCU and non-HBCUs with AAA ratings or when insured by the same company, even before the 2007–2009 financial crisis.”

HBCU bonds also take longer and cost more to offload in secondary markets. Those are markets where investors trade bonds that have already been financed. The authors find that HBCU bonds are 20% pricier than non-HBCU bonds to trade in secondary markets. Larger bonds — those over $50,000 — face a 60% premium. HBCU bonds overall linger 25% longer on secondary markets.

“If you’re going to say you’re talking about race discrimination you’ve got to provide a lot of evidence to make that case," Mayew says. "That’s a tough piece of evidence to refute.”

Premiums are much higher in parts of the Deep South

If racism were the main driving factor behind higher HBCU bond fees, then HBCUs in states that are more racist should face even higher fees, according to the authors. Broadly capturing racism is not necessarily straightforward. The authors try to do it using a variety of data to rank racial animosity in the 50 states plus the District of Columbia.

They use survey responses capturing resentment and opposition to affirmative action from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, a large yearly survey of American adults by county. They also turn to state-level data on racist Google searches, and the percentage of white voters in each state who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 compared with the share of white voters who chose John Kerry in 2004. And they consider geocoded racist tweets just after Obama was reelected in 2012.

Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi scored highest for racial animosity. Georgia was next, but with a sharp drop-off. Those top-three states for racial animosity account for 4.7% of all bond issuances in the sample studied — but 26% of HBCU issuances. In those states, HBCUs pay about three times as much in bond underwriting fees as non-HBCUs, the authors find.

Tax exemptions limit the size of the market

The U.S. municipal bond market is worth almost $4 trillion. Though higher education bonds are a fraction of the total, that submarket is still big enough that taste-based discrimination shouldn’t matter. Anyone can finance a university bond issuance. If a racist investor doesn’t want to finance an HBCU project, there should be plenty of other investors to pony up capital.

But tax exemptions tend to limit university bond markets to the state a school is in. Interest payments are tax exempt if the bond is issued by an entity in the state where the financer is based. Someone living in Louisiana would receive tax-free interest payments by financing a Xavier University of Louisiana bond but not an Alabama State University bond.

The authors argue that a triple tax exemption — with interest payments on university bonds exempt from federal, state and local taxes — could take racism out of the equation. Triple tax exemption would allow HBCUs to, “tap into a larger market where racial preferences are different,” Mayew says.

Barriers to bonds

There’s no good way to quantify how much higher education institutions pay insurers and credit rating agencies, Mayew says, but those entities need to be paid in addition to underwriters. So there are costs to entering bond markets — and when it comes to underwriting, those costs are higher for HBCUs. That may mean some HBCUs pass up raising money through bonds, potentially forgoing major campus improvements.

“Bond markets should be one of the cheapest forms of capital,” Mayew says. “It’s many individual investors, and schools should be able to raise lots of money. And maybe 25 years ago, an HBCU passed up renovating a dorm. These are the opportunity costs schools face.”


Republish with permission under license from Journalist's Resource.

Body camera footage suggests police treat black drivers with less respect

By Denise-Marie Ordway

A larger percentage of black drivers than white drivers are stopped by police, according to a 2013 report from the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. A higher percentage of black drivers are searched. And black drivers are much less likely than white drivers to believe police had a legitimate reason for pulling them over.

Researchers have studied interactions between police and motorists to try to understand such disparities as well as the reasons black people are far less confident in local police than white people are. Meanwhile, the nation continues to grapple with the high-profile deaths of several black drivers shot by police in recent years. In September 2016, a black driver was fatally shot in Tulsa, Oklahoma after an officer found his vehicle parked in a street. The officer was prosecuted, and a jury acquitted her in May 2017. Also in 2016, a black driver in Minnesota was shot seven times during a traffic stop and his girlfriend broadcast the aftermath on Facebook Live. The officer involved in that shooting has been charged with second-degree manslaughter.

A new study uses body camera footage to examine differences in how police communicate with black and white drivers during traffic stops.

An academic study worth reading: “Language from Police Body Camera Footage Shows Racial Disparities in Officer Respect,” published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), June 2017.

Study summary: A group of Stanford University researchers sought to determine whether there are differences in the way police officers speak to black people and white people during routine traffic stops. The team, comprised of scholars from the university’s linguistics, psychology and computer science departments, analyzed transcripts from 183 hours of body camera footage taken by police officers in Oakland, California in April 2014. (Oakland is a racially diverse city, where about 40 percent of residents are white and more than 30 percent are black.) The authors examined the language and phrases used by officers during 981 traffic stops, 682 of which involved black drivers and 299 of which involved white drivers.

Key findings:

  • Police officers spoke less respectfully to black people than to white people during traffic stops. Officers were more likely to use informal titles with black drivers and formal titles with white drivers.
  • White drivers were 57 percent more likely to hear a police officer use phrases that were considered the most respectful — apologies, for example, and expressions of gratitude such as “thank you.”
  • Black drivers were 61 percent more likely to hear officers use language considered to be the least respectful, including commands for drivers to keep their hands on their steering wheels.
  • Disparities remained even after the researchers controlled for the race of the police officer, the severity of the offense for which a driver was stopped and the location of the traffic stop.
  • Officers tended to use more formal language when interacting with older drivers and women.
  • Officers tended to use less respectful language with all drivers while performing searches.

Other resources:

  • The National Conference of State Legislatures tracks legislation on body cameras and provides a searchable database of state laws on body cameras. As of April 2017, five states — California, Florida, South Carolina, Nevada and Connecticut — require at least some law enforcement officers to wear body cameras.
  • The vast majority of law enforcement agencies in the United States plan to use body cameras or are already experimenting with them, according to a 2015 joint report from the Major County Sheriffs of America, the Major Cities Chiefs Association and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
  • The American Civil Liberties Union has spoken out against proposals to limit the public’s access to officers’ body camera footage.
  • The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of civil and human rights organizations, created a scorecard to evaluate the body camera policies in place at 50 major police departments nationwide.
  • The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics gathers data on traffic stops and surveys U.S. residents every several years about their experiences with police.

Related research:


Republished with permission under license from Journalist's Resources.