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Missing Children Inequities

Today is Missing Children’s Day, a reminder for all of us to look out for the well-being of the young people in our lives. We first observed this day in 1983, per a proclamation from the desk of President Ronald Reagan, following the disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz in New York City. Ever since, community groups have used today to spread the word about nearby missing children and make our country safer for all kids.

It’s also a great time to discuss “Missing White Woman Syndrome,” or our country’s fascination with some missing persons cases over others.

A 2017 Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology study examined the validity of that trend first coined by reporter Gwen Ifill. The study, which marked the first empirical analysis of Missing White Woman Syndrome, ultimately found massive disparities in news coverage of missing persons reports. For example, news outlets tended to not cover Black missing persons cases as often as their white counterparts. This dissonance becomes even more apparent when you compare the frequency of news coverage to the FBI’s data, which tracks missing children. The Hispanic population is similarly underrepresented in relevant news coverage.

The disparities don’t stop nor end with media coverage. According to the Black and Missing Foundation, Black people make constitute 40% of all missing persons despite being only 13% of the overall population. Experts say this inequity goes all the way back to slavery and pre-civil rights society, during which white women were often portrayed as victims in fear campaigns against minorities. Despite the historical foundations of this issue, it’s clearly relevant today.

On this blog, we tend to stick to public policy issues with real-life impacts on communities of color. After all, Black and Brown citizens have grown tired of our leaders offering little more than empty rhetoric following injustice after injustice. It’s only by discussing substantive policy solutions that we can truly improve our communities.

Our discussion of Missing White Woman Syndrome may seem like a departure from the norm. We assure you that we don’t see it this way.

Discussion alone is worth our time, simply because it demonstrates the pervasiveness of racial disparities in our country. They’re often small, invisible, and difficult to discern from related issues. Thus, it’s our job to make sure we point them out.

Additionally, our elected officials look to their constituents for guidance. It may not seem like it all the time, but bottom-up, community-driven pressure still works. After all, the Biden administration extended the pause on federal student loan repayment after immense lobbying from community groups. We can similarly thank community organizing for improvements after the Flint water crisis, the conviction of Derek Chauvin, and federal recognition of the Tulsa Race Massacre. In all these scenarios, and many more besides, vast public opinion outweighed our pro-status quo institutions.

We still believe in organizing as a means of doing good. Talking about Missing White Woman Syndrome is the best way to raise awareness of the media’s preference to cover more sensationalized stories, effectively ignoring the thousands of Black and Brown children in the same boat. Of course, none of this is to say that any missing child is not a tragedy. But where there is smoke, there’s fire. We must influence the press and decisionmakers to keep minorities in the conversation about missing children’s cases.

May 20 NF Legislative Roundup: Resources in Minority Communities

Providing resources to underdeveloped communities is of the utmost importance. Here are some relevant examples in the news!

Colorado

  • SB 150
    • Why we’re watching: Not too long ago, we wrote about the epidemic of missing and ignored Indigenous individuals. Thankfully, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis will sign SB 150 into law, creating the Office of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives to investigate and provide resources to Indigenous groups and families alike.

Connecticut

  • Eviction Prevention
    • Why we’re watching: Amid rising eviction totals, the Connecticut Department of Housing now has an additional $5 million for eviction prevention programs and resources. For example, the “rent bank” will distribute up to $3,500 over an 18-month period to families facing eviction, saving thousands from homelessness and a lower quality of life.

Federal

  • Permanent Child Tax Credit
    • Why we’re watching: During the pandemic, the White House spearheaded the Child Tax Credit, a supplementary income program based on the number of children living in a household. The program lifted millions of children out of poverty overnight. Now, for several reasons, it’s defunct, something many progressive legislators want to rectify.

Maryland

  • Urban Tree Program
    • Why we’re watching: Tree inequity is a serious problem in majority-minority neighborhoods, significantly affecting community health. In Maryland, the Urban Tree Program looks to overturn that legacy by planting 500,000 trees over the next eight years, fostering a better environment and more equitable society.

New York

  • Rikers Island
    • Why we’re watching: News outlets have heavily covered the predictable meltdown at Rikers Island over the past few months. A federal monitor has been dispatched to oversee implementation of solutions to those issues. Right now, that federal monitor is satisfied with the progress thus far and is not recommending a federal takeover.

What do you think of the news in this week’s legislative roundup? Did we miss anything? Drop us a line on any of our social channels or hit us up through our contact us form. Let us know what’s happening in YOUR neighborhood!

The Benefits of Teacher Representation

Around this time every year, an entire class of high school graduates walk across the stage, grab their diploma, and leave their alma maters behind. It’s an exciting tradition that marks the start of a new stage of life for tens of thousands of students. And while everyone is cheering on their family members on stage, we want to talk about the importance of a group sitting in the audience.

We want to talk about the teachers.

Being an educator is likely the most difficult, rewarding, and important job in our society. They help shape young minds and communicate important values like equity and pluralism, debate over critical race theory aside. It’s often a thankless gig but wholly vital to our communities. Not all our elected officials agree, however. Even fewer will agree that racial disparities in the teaching profession are harmful for students and that it’s in our country’s best interest to support teacher representation and diversity.

We aren’t the only group that feels this way, either. In 2017, the Brookings Institute released a study finding that minority students perform better on standardized tests, have better attendance, and are subject to fewer disciplinary measures when they have at least one teacher of the same ethnicity. The study also claims Black male students with Black teachers in either third, fourth, or fifth grade are less likely to drop out of high school and more likely to seek a postsecondary education. It even goes so far as to assign a probability to this phenomenon, arguing that exposure to just one Black teacher reduced a Black student’s likelihood of dropping out by 40%. So, the benefits of having a diverse teaching workforce are educationally substantive.

Isn’t that the only factor to consider? When debating public policy in education, the conversation should stop and end with asking what’s best for students. What can provide them with the best education? What can set them up for success beyond the classroom? It’s time we implement policies with this in mind rather than what we’ve been told is important by talking heads.

Local and state leaders can start by creating a pipeline for minority teachers. Some communities have already done so, collaborating with historically Black colleges and universities, implementing more equitable human resources guidelines, and creating intra-school support groups for minority teachers that provide mentorship and camaraderie. All these fixes are, in the grand scheme of things, free for schools and the taxpayer. So why haven’t we adopted them more widely?

There’s no real reason for the infrequency of these initiatives, rather than a lack of urgency. Most elected officials don’t see teacher representation as a pressing issue, let alone one deserving of investing time and resources. We must help them realize that once you take steps to fix this issue, it may largely take care of itself.

In short, we can create a positive feedback loop for Black and Brown communities. Improving teacher representation creates better educational outcomes for minority students, enabling the latter to become teachers, which further empowers their students. It’s a problem that once fixed, it’s self-sustaining. Hence, it’s important to make a massive, concerted, one-time push in this arena. By doing so, we can help communities break the cycle of poor education and little to no intergenerational wealth.

May 13 NF Legislative Roundup: Notable Disparities

Disparities in our education, the environment, and the economy surround us. Here are a few we noticed in this week’s news.

California

  • AB 1961
    • Why we’re watching: Applying for affordable housing is complicated in California. One must fill out old-school paper forms in different developments. For thousands of homeless Californians who do so, the process can be long and often fruitless. AB 1961, currently under consideration of the California Legislature, would create an online database for individuals to apply for such coveted housing.
  • Climate Change Roadmap
    • Why we’re watching: California has garnered a reputation for poor air quality caused by smog and other pollution. Now, the California Air Resources Board is on a mission to capture carbon dioxide and increase dependence on electric vehicles. Their plan commits to eliminating 91% of California’s oil usage by 2045 – a plan we can certainly get behind.

Missouri

  • Abortion Disparities
    • Why we’re watching: We’ve known for a long time that abortion carries significant racial disparities. In the case that the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, Missouri would automatically ban abortions in most cases, which would hurt Black women more than any other group, according to recent studies. Black women are three times as likely to die giving birth as white women, giving this liberty significant importance.

New York

  • Clemency Reform
    • Why we’re watching: Our country incarcerates more of its citizens than any other. Around half of these prisoners are locked up for drug-related offenses that don’t exist anymore in several states, thanks to the recent wave of cannabis legalization efforts. It’s time we seriously consider reforming clemency through efforts like New York’s Fair & Timely Act, which would give thousands a second chance at freedom.

Texas

  • Disaster Planning Disparities
    • Why we’re watching: Just recently, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development gave Texas $1 billion to protect communities from future disasters, such as frequent flooding in Houston neighborhoods. A recent audit of the disbursement of those funds found that Texas didn’t allocate enough toward Black and Brown neighborhoods, favoring their white counterparts instead.

What do you think of the news in this week’s legislative roundup? Did we miss anything? Drop us a line on any of our social channels or hit us up through our contact us form. Let us know what’s happening in YOUR neighborhood!

Disparities in Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is the transportation or coercion of people to benefit from their work or service, typically in the form of forced labor or sexual exploitation. It’s a global issue affecting millions of people worldwide, but disproportionately impacting communities of color. Like all things that do, the underlying cause is a lack of economic opportunity.

When people think of human trafficking, scenes of kidnappings and interstate travel spring to mind. But that’s not always the case. In fact, it’s hardly ever the case. Most traffickers trick, defraud, manipulate, or blackmail victims into providing labor. In many cases, the trafficker is someone the victim knows and doesn’t require crossing borders. Thanks to movies, shows, and pop culture, our concept of human trafficking is slightly warped. Often, it involves leveraging victim’s vulnerabilities to create dependency, according to the Polaris Project.

Now that we’ve defined the problem, let’s look at how it impacts communities of color.

Even though human trafficking data is woefully incomplete, smaller jurisdictions provide a glimpse into the issue. For example, in Louisiana, 49% of child human trafficking victims are black girls, despite constituting only 19% of the state’s youth population. Across the country in King County, Washington, 84% of trafficking victims are Black, while only 7% of the population there is Black. Additionally, human trafficking disproportionately hurts migrants from Central and South America, mostly Latinos.

Communities of color disproportionately fall victim to trafficking schemes. Experts agree this is due to a widespread lack of economic opportunity, furthered by institutional racism. Redlining prevented Black families from settling in mostly white neighborhoods where their property could appreciate. Decades-old medical misconceptions prevent families of color from receiving proper medical care. Minorities’ reliance on low-income jobs leaves them more vulnerable to COVID-19.

All these undeniable aspects of life in our country, and dozens more, paint a picture of low economic opportunity for communities of color. This makes such neighborhoods targets for human trafficking. Trafficking is a manifestation of racism in our society. It wouldn’t disproportionately impact minorities but for the effects of institutional racism.

So, when you trace it back, racism is the primary reason people of color experience trafficking.

This is different than the racism spewed by people on social media and in grocery stores. It’s a permeating, underlying, almost invisible racism built into our institutions, social services, political discourse, and legal system. Of course, all of that was borne from the racism of individuals, whether they were aware of it or not. But today, it touches all our lives almost imperceptibly.

The root cause of trafficking demands our attention. By improving social support systems and widening opportunity, we can undercut the vulnerabilities on which traffickers rely. We can simultaneously help people live better lives and end this terrible, global, oppressive practice forever. But only if we recognize the institutions that created these environments and discuss how to fix them.

May 5 NF Legislative Roundup: Equitable Ideas

As state legislatures wrap up session, we’re taking a look at some equitable ideas across the country! Check them out!

California

  • Cannabis Farmers Market
    • Why we’re watching: Barriers to entry for the legal cannabis industry are too high, especially for Black and Brown citizens. We believe the policy is a good one, but only if we can make the sector more equitable. California is doing that by permitting cultivators to sell cannabis directly to consumers at farmers markets, letting entrepreneurs into the growing industry (pun unintended).
  • Homebuying Assistance
    • Why we’re watching: California just launched a program to help first-time homebuyers with their down payments. The program, called California’s Forgivable Equity Builder Loan, allows qualified buyers to borrow up to 10% of a home’s purchase price and forgives the debt if families live in that home for five or more years.

Connecticut

  • HB 5042
    • Why we’re watching: Just two months ago, Connecticut legislators advanced a bill to stem the ballooning cost of healthcare. As the sessions draws to a close, activists are calling for the Legislature to pass the bill, which would cap primary care prices – an all-too-expensive cost for underserved populations.

Maryland

  • Montgomery County Heat Map
    • Why we’re watching: Summertime is discriminatory. Majority-minority neighborhoods are on average hotter than mostly white neighborhoods. Montgomery County is launching an investigation to map these inequities and create solutions for these urban heat islands. We wish every county in the U.S. undertook such equitable ideas!

Missouri

  • National Park Foundation Grant
    • Why we’re watching: The National Park Foundation recently granted Black People Who Hike, a St. Louis-based group, $120,000 to experience parks across the country that have historically excluded Black people. This is a much-needed program considering only 6% of all national park visitors are Black.

What do you think of the news in this week’s legislative roundup? Did we miss anything? Drop us a line on any of our social channels or hit us up through our contact us form. Let us know what’s happening in YOUR neighborhood!

Credit Disparities for Small Businesses

You’ve probably heard a thousand times that “small businesses are the backbone of the economy.” It’s become a stump speech staple for politicians courting the votes of small-town America and pro-business groups alike. Their point is certainly not without merit. In fact, 58.9 million employees, or 47.5% of all Americans work for small businesses. Those same companies comprise 99.9% of all U.S. businesses. These mom-and-pop shops and local favorites are vital to our community and economic health. And yet, we see massive credit disparities demanding our attention.

There’s almost no facet of small businesses without inequity. We’ve examined such trends on the blog before, ranging from pandemic-related financial assistance to ownership. We have yet to discuss lending habits, however.

Recent studies almost singularly focus on the Paycheck Protection Program, a lifeline for small businesses throughout COVID-19. We can’t necessarily blame researchers for doing so. After all, the pandemic dominated our lives for the last two years. But we’d prefer to highlight some more systemic, pre-pandemic trends in small business support practices.

According to a 2019 report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 76% and 70% of Black and Hispanic-owned businesses reported financial challenges, respectively. For white small business owners, that figure was only 59%. To remedy such inequality (which is another discussion in and of itself), small businesses sought small business loans from various sources. Unfortunately, such sources use the business owner’s private credit rating and individual wealth as the main determinants of loan worthiness.

There are huge gaps in those metrics for white and nonwhite groups. In fact, as of 2016, the median Black family owns $3,500 in family wealth while the median white family owns $147,000. The median Hispanic family fares slightly better, holding $6,500 in wealth. Since 1983, white families’ wealth has skyrocketed from around $110,000. Black and Brown communities have not enjoyed the same benefits to our trickle-down economy.

So, when Black and Hispanic business owners approach lending institutions to fund their small businesses, they’re starting with a hand tied behind their back. Only 17% of businesses belonging to the former group reported sufficient business funding while 25% of the latter group did so. In total, 39% of small businesses reported sufficient funding in 2019, lending credence to the idea that white small businesses have an easier time securing private credit.

These trends hold true in the negative as well. When it comes to applying for financing, 36% of white-owned small business reported receiving none despite trying. Conversely, 54% of Black-owned business reported the same, and 45% of Hispanic-owned did so.

Across all means of securing funding for small business ventures, white owners have it easier. Of course, this goes back to clear disparities in wealth generation over the last four decades. It even goes back further than that to redlining, wherein Black families were denied fair home loans by large banks. I suppose when the deck is stacked against minority-owned small businesses this badly, we shouldn’t be surprised when they can’t secure sufficient funds to operate.

There are, however, useful solutions out there.

Despite its failures, the Paycheck Protection Program can serve as a blueprint for helping Black and Brown small businesses. Adding qualifiers and conditions based on previously discriminated against groups can help them secure funding not available to white small business owners. We’d rather see more systemic changes in how our government deals with its ugly past, but this is a good first step. Not to mention, this will help minority families create intergenerational wealth and better overall credit.

This Small Business Week let’s make sure these concerns aren’t lost in the weeds of pro-business campaigns. Then, let’s hold our elected officials accountable to their promise of helping all small businesses, not just some of them.

April 29 NF Legislative Roundup: Maryland Focus

Happy Friday! This week, we’re looking at some recent news and legislation from around Maryland in several areas of reform!

Maryland

  • Baltimore County Tree-Planting
    • Why we’re watching: Today is Arbor Day, so it’s only right that we discuss tree inequity! Communities of color, through chronic divestment and redlining, don’t boast the same number of trees as other neighborhoods. This leads to higher average temperatures and negative health outcomes. Now, Baltimore County is expanding an initiative to plant 450 trees in highly populated, low-income areas.
  • HBCU Investment
    • Why we’re watching: Earlier this week, Maryland’s gubernatorial candidates praised their state’s four HBCUs, calling them a means to advance equity throughout the state. They called for expanded funding – a contentious issue in a state that’s seen several HBCU-led equity lawsuits.
  • Incentives for Homebuying
    • Why we’re watching: In the past, Baltimore offered $5,000 to first-time homebuyers to spur community growth and support low-income populations. Now, Mayor Brandon Scott is doubling the incentive to $10,000 to make buying a home more affordable. On top of that, the city is offering $20,000 for those who buy homes in “Impact Investment Areas.”
  • Police Accountability Boards
    • Why we’re watching: Baltimore County police officers are no strangers to calls for reform and for good reason. In response, the county is creating a resident-led accountability board to oversee police-related issues. Activists are busy making sure the body has real power and won’t be just a figurehead. A vote is scheduled for May 2.
  • Sports Wagering Equity
    • Why we’re watching: As states rapidly approved mobile sports betting, brick-and-mortar stores, many of them owned by minorities, were left behind. Now, Maryland legislators are hosting informational sessions with the goal of supporting these small businesses through grants. Observers have likened the sports betting industry to the legalized cannabis industry, which also has its fair share of entry barriers for minority entrepreneurs.

What do you think of the news in this week’s legislative roundup? Did we miss anything? Drop us a line on any of our social channels or hit us up through our contact us form. Let us know what’s happening in YOUR neighborhood!

Why isn’t cannabis legal?

As we speak, almost 50,000 people are incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses. For most, their charges include low-level possession, crimes often subject to minimum sentencing guidelines. If you want to read about the inequity of that facet of our criminal justice system, you can check out our blog from last year. Although mandatory minimum laws are largely illegal now, the sheer size of the cannabis-related incarcerated population demands our attention.

What’s worse is that people are incarcerated while the legal cannabis industry is booming.

Last year, it was estimated that the U.S. cannabis industry was worth $61 billion. Hundreds of dispensaries and corporations are profiting from the newly legalized industry, albeit state by state. And right now, state by state is the only avenue for legalizing cannabis. The White House has made it clear, over several administrations, that it doesn’t intend to remove marijuana from its list of “Schedule 1 Drugs,” or those not considered to boast any research potential. This is all it would take to swiftly fix our system of overincarceration due to marijuana-related offenses – but it hasn’t happened.

It’s time we federally legalize the recreational use of cannabis.

For starters, doing so would generate revenue for the government. When you make a product legal, governments can tax it. States that have done so, like Colorado, have seen huge contributions to state revenue. In 2020, Colorado brought in $387,480,110 in marijuana-related taxes and fees. The opportunity here is tremendous, especially for those talking heads and elected officials so concerned with sacrificing equity for supposed frugality. A recent study by New Frontier even suggests federally legal marijuana could rake in $105.6 billion in federal tax revenue by 2025. Just imagine the possibilities if the White House simply changes its mind on legalizing cannabis.

Additionally, it would clear the names of those incarcerated for doing something that might be legal across nearby state borders. In addition to letting people out of prison for low-level crimes, federal legalization would also reduce recidivism. The premise is simple: The less time people spend incarcerated, the less likely they’ll return to incarceration. This would give families once-in-a-lifetime chances to achieve economic prosperity. A part of this discussion we don’t discuss enough is the purely economic impact of locking 50,000 people up for low-level offenses. Legalization can help low-income families struggling to survive.

Lastly, legalizing the recreational use of marijuana would be a boon for voting rights. Right now, several states boast laws preventing felons from voting, even after release. These laws are in effect across the entire justice system, no matter what the charge is. The only thing that matters to these states is the length of time served. For many, low-level marijuana offenses meet this oppressive threshold. If marijuana were federally legal, the corresponding boost in voting rights would be among the largest in our history, mostly concentrated in the Black and Brown community.

In short, legalizing the recreational use of cannabis would be a step forward for our economy and voting rights. Even further, it’s the right thing to do. The phony war on drugs of the 1980s is responsible for cannabis’ currently illegality. We now know this initiative was a war on Black and Brown communities more than anything else. In the name of equality, it’s time we reverse this terrible policy. It’s time to federally legalize the recreational use of marijuana.

April 22 NF Legislative Roundup: Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day, y’all! This week, we’ve collected some stories related to our environment. Check them out!

Arizona

  • Department of Interior Funding
    • Why we’re watching: Just before Earth Day, the Department of Interior announced it will invest $46 million in tribal communities. These funds are meant for climate resilience, including addressing rising tides, erosion, and flooding – all effects of climate change that disproportionately impact communities of color and Indigenous groups.
  • Tree-Planting in Phoenix
    • Why we’re watching: Tree inequity is an issue that plagues communities of color across the country. Underdevelopment and other systemic concerns have created Black and Brown neighborhoods devoid of greenery, leading to higher average temperatures. This recent event in Phoenix addresses such inequality and we hope we see similar events in the future!

California

  • California Air Resources Board
    • Why we’re watching: Did you know California is home to 11% of all new passenger car sales? Well, the California Air Resources Board wants to increase the proportion of electric vehicles by phasing out the sale of gas-powered cars by 2035. This is an ambitious goal, but one that should yield returns in the areas of environmentalism and equity.

Connecticut

  • SB 214
    • Why we’re watching: Buying an electric vehicle ought to be a lot easier than it is now. We’re looking at you, Connecticut! A law there has prevented EV manufacturers from selling their products directly to consumers for years, potentially driving up prices. SB 214 would allow EV companies to sell their cars directly to buyers.

Federal

  • Environmental Studies
    • Why we’re watching: The Trump administration once scaled back rigorous environmental reviews of major infrastructure projects. Now, the White House Council on Environmental Quality has reinstituted these guidelines, ensuring that major projects such as roads and bridges are constructed with the environment in mind.

What do you think of the news in this week’s legislative roundup? Did we miss anything? Drop us a line on any of our social channels or hit us up through our contact us form. Let us know what’s happening in YOUR neighborhood!

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