Hello to Jack and Jill Politics Readers. Rinku Sen here from the Applied Research Center, a racial justice think tank that also publishes ColorLines magazine. We’re huge fans and friends of JJP because we share the goal of popularizing solutions to the racial divide and preparing people to fight for them. This is my first post, and I look forward to your comments and feedback.

As GM sinks and the city of Baltimore prepares to sue banks that targeted Black people for subprime mortgages, I’ve been thinking about the stories of Detroit residents featured in our new report, Race and Recession: How Inequity Rigged the Economy and How to Change the Rules. There’s Leo Shipman, a 24-year-old Black man, who had recently lost his job in an auto parts factory in Detroit, whose biggest worry is proving for his 3-year-old son. Shipman graduated from high school but hasn’t been able to enroll in a technical college. Because he was underemployed, Shipman couldn’t rely on unemployment benefits either.

Sandra Hines was in better shape than Shipman when the crisis hit, but that made too little difference. Her family, starting with her father, had gathered their little bit of wealth over 40 years, and then lost it in a fraction of that time when she couldn’t pay the rising mortgage on a subprime refinancing loan. Her sister took out the refi loan after losing her job in an auto parts factory. The house Hines and family then rented, also owned by a Black person, was itself foreclosed upon. Now they’re homeless.

As one of the last strongholds of union jobs shrinks, we have to confront a brutal truth about work in the U.S.. Across the economy, workers of color are overrepresented in occupations with high unemployment rates: the service sector, construction and transportation. That’s a great deal of the reason why Black workers have been hit especially hard by layoffs and closures. Losing auto industry jobs strikes a massive blow to the ability of workers, especially Black workers, to earn middle-class incomes, to save enough to pass on to their children and to achieve some financial stability.

In his press conference last month, President Obama was asked how the stimulus would affect Black homeowners who had suffered so much from the mortgage crisis. His response – that the disproportionate hit they took would bring a disproportionate amount of relief, and that a rising tide would lift all boats — was better than it could have been, yet not what it should have been. His answer gave the impression that sending temporary relief toward Black families would bring about their recovery. He didn’t mention the need to prevent the targeting of communities of color in the first place, nor what made Black families so vulnerable to this exploitation.

Nor did he mention the real length of time it will take to rebuild their lost wealth. In a deeply racialized economy, a “rising tide” approach is too general to drive a fully inclusive recovery. The only way to true universalism is through full inclusion, and full inclusion requires a detailed look at the conditions and causes of the crisis in each community we’re trying to uplift. That’s why the first recommendation in our report is to insist on racial impact analyses — modeled after Enviromental Impact Statements — of all legislative and program proposals coming out of Congress, corporations and local and state governments. It’s too late to prevent the crisis from hitting, but it’s not too late to ensure that communities of color aren’t left out of this recovery, as we have been from so many others.

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