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Commentary :: Civil & Human Rights

FACING SOUTH: The Two Americas


A progressive Southern news report

July 15, 2004 – Issue 84

Facing South is published 40 times a year by the Institute for Southern Studies and Southern Exposure magazine. To join the Institute and get a year's worth of Southern Exposure and Facing South, visit www.southernstudies.org

> INSTITUTE INDEX – The Two Americas
> DATELINE: THE SOUTH – Top Stories Around the Region
> PERSPECTIVE: Who's Losing Most from the Recession?

INSTITUTE INDEX – The Two Americas

Amount that job growth is lower than Bush Administration predicted in February 2004, in millions: 1.5
Of 13 Southern states, number that have had a net job gain since 2001: 0
Percent of African American teens jobless in June 2004: 77
Percent by which number of millionaires in U.S. increased last year: 14
Percent that financial wealth grew for richest 1 percent from 1983-2001: 109
Percent that it fell for bottom 40% during same time period: 46
Cost of new tax breaks given to richest 1% since 2002, in billions: $197
Cost of state budget cuts and tax increases since 2002, in billions: $200
Amount of lost government revenue each day this decade due to Bush tax cuts, in millions: $300

Sources on file at the Institute for Southern Studies.

DATELINE: THE SOUTH – Top Stories Around the Region

The 2000 Florida elections set in motion a makeover of the nation's voting systems. Yet three-quarters of American voters will cast ballots Nov. 2 using the same equipment they voted on four years ago. One in eight will be using the same type of punch-card voting machines blamed for many of Florida's problems. Electronic voting, initially seen as the best way to modernize balloting, is now the subject of questions about its security and reliability. (USA Today, 7/13)

Texas Congressman Tom Delay (R) faces ethics charges alleging he illegally solicited campaign contributions in return for legislative favors and laundered illegal corporate contributions for use in Texas elections. Lucky for him that four of the House ethics committee members charged with investigating DeLay have taken money from him. (Alternet, 7/15)

Lockheed Martin may have discriminated against black employees at its Meridian, Miss. plant by failing to address racial tensions that erupted into a deadly shooting rampage last year, a federal agency concluded. Six Lockheed Martin employees -- five of them black -- were killed and eight wounded by a white employee in July 8, 2003. Plaintiffs say Lockheed knew the white worker was hostile to African Americans. (Clarion-Ledger, 7/13)

Fifteen tanks holding deadly atomic waste at a nuclear weapons complex along the Savannah River have cracked, rusted or leaked, according to federal inspection reports. Some of the cracks date to the 1950s, but inspection reports say some leaks have been found in the past three years. (Associated Press, 7/10)

State colleges and universities will raise tuition by an average 10 percent for the coming school year, according to new projections by a higher education organization. (Stateline.com)

Lobbyists, public relations counselors and confidential advisors to senior federal officials who pressed for war in Iraq are now collecting tens of thousands of dollars in fees for helping business clients pursue federal contracts and other financial opportunities in Iraq. For instance, a former Senate aide who helped get U.S. funds for anti-Hussein exiles who are now active in Iraqi affairs has a $175,000 deal to advise Romania on winning business in Iraq. (Los Angeles Times, 7/14)

At a time when many other states have been questioning their death-penalty systems, why has the death-penalty machinery in Texas been steaming right along? (The American Prospect, 7/1/04)

PERSPECTIVE: Black Job Loss Deja Vu

Think the typical job-loser in today’s economy is a white computer programmer whose job has been outsourced to India? Think again.

Dollars and Sense
May/June 2004

In July 2003, Mary Clark saw a notice posted by the time clock at the Pillowtex plant where she worked: the plant was closing down at the end of the month. The company would be laying off 4,000 workers. "They acted like we was nobody," she said; Pillowtex even canceled the workers’ accrued vacation days. Clark had worked at the textile plant in Eden, North Carolina, for 11 years, inspecting, tagging, and bagging comforters. By 2003, she was earning more than $10 an hour.

Clark’s unemployment benefits don’t cover her bills. Because Pillowtex had sent her and her coworkers home frequently for lack of work in the final year, her unemployment checks are low, based on that last year’s reduced earnings. She lost her health coverage, and now she needs dental work that she cannot afford.

It’s happening again.

In the 1970s, a wave of plant closings hit African Americans hard. Two generations after the "Great Migration," when millions of black people had left the South to take factory jobs in Northern and Midwestern cities, the U.S. economy began to deindustrialize and many of those jobs disappeared—in some cases shifted to the low-wage, nonunion South.

The recession of 2001—and the historically inadequate "recovery" since—has again brought about a catastrophic loss of jobs, especially in manufacturing, and once again African Americans have lost out disproportionately. Jobs that moved to the South during the earlier era of deindustrialization are now leaving the country entirely or simply disappearing in the wake of technological change and rising productivity.

Media coverage of today’s unemployment crisis often showcases white men who have lost high-paying industrial or information-technology jobs. But Mary Clark is actually a more typical victim. Recent job losses have hit black workers harder than white workers: black unemployment rose twice as fast as white unemployment in the last recession. Once again, African Americans are getting harder hit, and once again, they face a downturn with fewer of the resources and assets that tide families over during hard times.


The tight labor market of the late 1990s was very beneficial for African Americans. The black unemployment rate fell from 18% in the 1981-82 recession, to around 13% in the early 1990s, to below 7% in 1999 and 2000, the lowest black unemployment rate on record. But the 2001 recession (and the job-loss recovery since then) has robbed African Americans of much of those gains.

"The last recession has had a severe and disproportionate impact on African Americans and minority communities," according to Marc H. Morial, president of the National Urban League. In its January 2004 report on black unemployment, the Urban League found that the double-digit unemployment rates in the 14 months from late 2002 through 2003 were the worst labor market for African Americans in 20 years.

The 2001 recession was hard on African American workers both in relation to earlier recessions and in relation to white workers. Unemployment for adult black workers rose by 2.9 percentage points in the recession of the early 1980s, but by 3.5 in the 2001 recession. White unemployment, in contrast, rose by only 1.4 percentage points in the early-1980s recession and by 1.7 in the recent downturn. The median income of black families fell 3% from 2001 to 2003, while white families lost just 1.7%. Today, black unemployment has remained above 10% for over three years.

Official unemployment figures, of course, greatly understate the actual number of adults without jobs. The definition doesn’t include discouraged people who have stopped looking for work, underemployed part-timers, students, or those in prison or other institutions. In New York City, scarcely half of African-American men between 16 and 65 had jobs in 2003, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ employment-to-population ratios for the city. The BLS ratios, which include discouraged workers and others the official unemployment statistics leave out, were 51.8% for black men, 57.1% for black women, 75.7% for white men, and 65.7% for Latino men. The figure for black men was the lowest on record (since 1979).

Manufacturing job losses in particular have hit black workers harder than white workers. In 2000, there were 2 million African Americans working in factory jobs. Blacks comprised 10.1% of all manufacturing workers, about the same as the black share of the overall workforce. Then 300,000 of those jobs, or 15%, disappeared. White workers lost 1.7 million factory jobs, but that was just 10% of the number they held before the recession. By the end of 2003, the share of all factory jobs held by African Americans had fallen to 9.6%. "Half a percentage point may not sound like much, but to lose that much in such an important sector over a relatively short period, that is going to be hard to recover," said Jared Bernstein of the Economic Policy Institute, a progressive economics think tank. Latino workers increased their share of manufacturing jobs in 2002 and 2003 slightly, though their unemployment rate overall rose.

Some of the largest layoffs have occurred in areas with large African-American populations—just this April, for example, 1,000 jobs were cut at a Ford plant in St. Louis and 300 at a Boeing plant in San Antonio. Textile plants with mostly black employees have closed in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., Columbus, Ga., and Martinsville, Va. The states with the greatest number of layoffs of 50 workers or more are black strongholds New York and Georgia.

When Autoliv closed its seat belt plant in Indianapolis in 2003, more than 75% of the laid-off workers were African Americans. Many of these workers are young adults who got their jobs during the labor shortage of the late 1990s even without a high school diploma; now they have few options. "They were taken from the street into decent-paying jobs; they were making $12 to $13 an hour. These young men started families, dug in, took apartments, purchased vehicles. It was an up-from-the-street experience for them, and now they are being returned to their old environment," said Michael Barnes, director of an Indiana AFL-CIO training program for laid-off workers.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce executive vice president Bruce Josten isn’t too worried about layoffs: "We’re talking about transformational evolution—successful companies remaking their own operations so they’re able to better focus on what their core mission is. It’s not a deal where everyone gains instantly. At a micro level, there’s always going to be a community that’s hurt." The communities that are hurt come in all colors, but several factors make the micro level pain more severe in communities of color.


Prolonged unemployment is scary for most families, but it puts the typical African-American family in deeper peril, and faster. The median white family has more than $120,000 in net worth (assets minus debts). The median black family has less than $20,000, a far smaller cushion in tough times.

Laid-off workers often turn to family members for help, but with almost a quarter of black families under the poverty line, and one in nine black workers unemployed, it’s less likely that unemployed African Americans have family members with anything to spare. Black per capita income was only 57 cents for every white dollar in 2001.

When homeowners face prolonged unemployment, they can take out a home equity loan or second mortgage to tide them over. But while three-quarters of white families are homeowners, less than half of black families own their own homes.

And thanks to continuing segregation and discrimination in housing, it’s more difficult for black families to relocate to find work. New jobs are concentrated in mostly white suburbs with little public transportation.


The term "deindustrialization" came into everyday use in the 1970s, when a wave of plant closings changed the employment landscape. From 1966 to 1973, corporations moved over a million American jobs to other countries. Even more jobs moved from the Northeast and Midwest to the South, where unions were scarce and wages lower. New York City alone lost 600,000 manufacturing jobs in the 1960s.

As today, the workers laid off in the 1960s and 70s were disproportionately African-American. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights found that during the recession of 1973 to 1974, 60% to 70% of laid-off workers were African-American in areas where they were only 10% to 12% of the workforce. In five cities in the Great Lakes region, the majority of black men employed in manufacturing lost their jobs between 1979 and 1984. A major reason was seniority: white workers had been in their jobs longer, and so were more likely to keep them during cutbacks.

Another reason was geography. The Northern cities that lost the most jobs were some of those with the largest populations of people of color, and those inner-city areas sank deep into poverty and chronically high unemployment as few heavily white areas did.

The race and class politics of deindustrialization are also part of the story. The pro-business loyalties of the federal government dictated policies that encouraged plant closings and did very little to mitigate their effects. Tax credits for foreign investment and for foreign tax payments encouraged companies to move plants overseas. While Northern cities were suffering from deindustrialization, the federal government spent more in the Southern states than in the affected areas: Northeast and Midwest states averaged 81 cents in federal spending for each tax dollar they sent to Washington in the 1970s, while Southern states averaged $1.25. Laid-off black factory workers had no clout, so politicians faced little pressure to address their needs.

As dramatic as the movement of jobs from the North to the South and overseas was the shift from city to suburb. The majority of new manufacturing jobs in the 1970s were located in suburban areas, while manufacturing employment fell almost 10% in center cities. In the Los Angeles area, for example, older plants were closing in the city while new ones opened in the San Fernando Valley and Orange County.

The new suburban jobs were usually inaccessible for African Americans and other people of color because of housing costs, job and housing discrimination, lack of public transportation, and lack of informal social networks with suburban employers. In a study of Illinois firms that moved to the suburbs from the central cities between 1975 and 1978, black employment in the affected areas fell 24%, while white employment fell less than 10%. In another study, some employers admitted to locating facilities in part so as to avoid black workers. One study of the causes of black unemployment in 45 urban areas found that 25% to 50% resulted from jobs shifting to the suburbs. Even the federal government shifted jobs to the suburbs: although the number of federal civilian jobs grew by 26,558 from 1966 to 1973, federal jobs in central cities fell by 41,419. Over time, suburban white people gained a greater and greater geographic edge in job hunting.


Mary Clark has been looking for work for nine months now without success. Stores get applications from hundreds of other laid-off workers; there aren’t enough jobs for even a fraction of the unemployed. "It used to be that if one plant shut down, there’d be another one hiring. Now they’re all laying off or closing," she says.

For years Clark had helped her grown daughter support her two small children. "Now the roles are reversed, and they help me." She has turned to charities to make ends meet, but some give aid only once a year, and others won’t help a single woman without children at home. "It breaks your self-esteem to have to ask for help," Clark says.

Some of her former coworkers are in more desperate straits than she is. Some have lost their homes or gone into bankruptcy. Some people have found jobs far from home and commute for hours a day. Clark sees crime, divorce, and family violence all rising in the area.

What job growth there’s been has been concentrated in the low-wage service sector, which pays less than the shrinking manufacturing sector. There’s no law of nature that says service jobs are inevitably low paid and without benefits. Or that manufacturing can’t revive in the United States. The recent wave of union organizing victories in heavily black industries such as health care represent one source of hope for creating more decent jobs for African Americans.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said in 1968, "When there is massive unemployment in the black community, it is called a social problem. But when there is massive unemployment in the white community, it is called a depression." The New Deal response to the Great Depression included public works jobs and a strengthened safety net, most of which excluded people of color. Mary Clark clearly recognizes what happens when there is no New Deal for unemployed African Americans: "North Carolina has people who want to work, but we don’t have anyone pushing work our way. We need the mills back. We’re people used to working, and when you take the work away, what do you have left?"


Betsy Leondar-Wright is the Communications Director at United for a Fair Economy and co-author of UFE’s 2004 report, "The State of the Dream: Enduring Disparities in Black and White." http://www.dollarsandsense.org/0504leondar.html

CORRECTION – The Institute Index improperly reported last week that Ken Lay and Enron gave $623,000 to the Bush Campaign in 2000. That is the amount that Enron has given to George W. Bush's campaigns since 1993.

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Commentary :: Civil & Human Rights

New law intrudes in affairs of the heart

Today, Virginia began denying basic protections to thousands of people.

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News :: Globalization

Iraq Leader Promises Insurgency Crackdown

"Terrorism isn't just killing and blowing up bombs, whoever threatens the ordinary life of the people is a terrorist," al-Yawer told reporters. "We have a very sharp sword ready for anyone who threatens the security of this country."

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Commentary :: Civil & Human Rights

Voting rights still threatened

Voting rights still threatened
Monday, July 12, 2004

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge warned last week that al-Qaida is planning a major attack in the United States to disrupt the November elections.

Meanwhile, domestic sources threaten to disrupt the legitimacy of the elections and the health of our democ racy no less than the poll taxes and literacy tests of yesteryear.

Once again, Florida - a key state in the upcoming presidential election - is using a flawed process to purge people from its voter rolls.

The state whose governor happens to be the brother of the president compiled a list of nearly 48,000 people it believed to be felons. Of those, more than 22,000 were black and only 61 were Hispanic, according to wire reports.

In Florida, 90 percent of the state's black voters are registered Democrats. Hispanics there tend to vote Republican.

The list was to have determined who was eligible to vote in the November election. Florida scrapped the list last week after concluding that the method used to compile it was flawed in leaving off some Hispanic felons, possibly allowing them to vote.

Is this why the state had tried to hide the list from view? Florida's Republican-controlled legislature had passed a 2001 statute limiting public access to the purged-voter list. CNN and other news organizations challenged the statute and were granted unfettered access after a judge ruled the statute unconstitutional.

In 2000, Florida pared 94,000 voters from its rolls in another process rife with errors. Many of those barred from voting were black. Bush won the pivotal state by a mere 537 votes.

Florida, like Virginia, does not restore voting rights to felons upon their release from prison. Once again, I'll pose a question: When felons pay their debt to society, why shouldn't their voting rights automatically be restored?

In their disproportionate impact on black citizens, voter scrub lists and ballot disqualification appear to have followed the poll tax and literacy tests as the latest means to disenfranchise citizens.

Anyone who would dismiss outright the plausibility of a concerted effort to deny suffrage to a class of U.S. citizens should recall that for most of our nation's history, America either denied or did not protect the right to vote for women, black people and the poor.

Unfortunately, this problem isn't confined to Florida.

Greg Palast, an investigative reporter for the BBC and author of the best-selling book "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy," wrote that 1.9 million Americans' ballots were rejected in the 2000 presidential election. About 50 percent of those rejected ballots were cast by blacks, even though black voters make up only 12 percent of the electorate.

"It's easy to lose your vote," Palast writes, "especially when some politicians want your vote lost."

This problem wasn't lost on 13 black congressmen, all Democrats, who asked the United Nations to oversee the upcoming presidential election. The U.N. politely declined last week.

We should be concerned about our electoral process being hijacked by terrorists. But can our democracy survive a repeat of the doubts surrounding the 2000 election?

Contact Michael Paul Williams at (804) 649-6815 or mwilliams@timesdispatch.com

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News :: Elections & Legislation

Government Proposes to Halt the Fall Elections in case of Terror Attacks

The Department of Homeland Security is preparing to halt the fall elections if a terror attack occurrs on US soil. The Wind Up ... and the pitch...

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Commentary :: International Relations : Media : Peace & War

Michael Moore and Richard Perle Combine Forces: Who Really Wants to Invade Saudi Arabia, and Why?

Michael Moore’s new film “Fahrenheit 9/11? has done a tremendous favor for some proponents of a war upon the Arabian Peninsula. The film achieves what endless pages of conservative think-tank studies and panel discussions, hours of PR time and books can not: spill gasoline on the anti-Saudi sparks already ignited within the United States. Moore's film lambastes the Saudis not only for their business relationships but also for leaving the US after the attacks of September 11th 2001 as did other non-Saudi officials on the same day when specific flights were permitted. The overwhelming popularity of this documentary takes the anti-Saudi message to a whole new market. It is the latest manifestation of a rationale for war that could finally execute a long-term plan to invade and occupy the Kingdom. In spite of its progressive producer and target audience, “Fahrenheit 9/11? falls lock-step in line with the stated agenda of neoconservative hawks: rid Arabia of the House of Saud thereby granting the US and allies full access to the Middle East's biggest prize.

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News :: Civil & Human Rights : Elections & Legislation : International Relations : Peace & War

John Edwards — Bulldog Grip on ‘Underdog’ Israeli Nation

John Edwards would have liked to be US President in 2004. But he’s an extraordinarily talented plaintiffs’ trial lawyer. If he can’t win, he’ll settle.

Being John Kerry’s vice president would be enough. For now.

Why should Muslims care?

Because Edwards voted for the Patriot Act, voted for giving President Bush authority to use military force in Iraq, and is obsessed with militarily defending Israel through war in the Middle East.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers defend underdogs to the death, and Edwards sees Israel, a nuclear-armed munitions factory, as the underdog. And Edwards will fight to the death for Israel.

And like all great trial lawyers, he doesn’t have to know a whole heck of a lot about any issues. He’s a bulldog. He just has to know what his goal is, get a good grip with his jaws, and not let go.

On the Middle East “situation,? Edwards avers there are “no easy answers here,? but in fact, that isn’t true. Edwards has an easy answer.

The US should be a “strong supporter of Israel.? No why, no because, no indication that he understands any of the issues. Just get that bulldog grip and not let go.

Edwards the bulldog is tenacious alright. But how smart is he?

On US Senate’s elite Intelligence Committee, Edwards comments on the 9/11 attacks often painfully belabored the obvious: “If we can predict where, when and how attacks will occur, we can stop them before they happen.? What? No “who??

And during his nomination run, Edwards’ Middle East remarks turned decidedly odd. Edwards called for the United States to lead an “international effort? against Iraq at all costs, even if the UN Security Council was somehow “prevented? from supporting it. That “prevention? here would mean the exercise of voting rights of the actual Security Council Members does not seem to have even crossed Edwards’ mind.

And why should it? It takes every muscle just to hold that grip.

“Hussein’s got to be gone,? Edwards barked before the war, even though he acknowledged that Iraq had made no “direct provocation? against any state in over a decade.

“Osama Bin Laden is no criminal mastermind,? Edwards scoffed. Bin Laden is, rather, “a common thug who was able to thrive in an environment of political despotism, religious extremism, and economic instability.?

In Edwards’ bulldog eyes, Bin Laden is just a simple crook.

To Edwards, Israel is “our vital ally? to which Iraq under Saddam Hussein “pose[d] a mortal threat.?

But toppling Saddam was not enough for Edwards. His website announces: “Senator John Edwards believes that this is not the time to send mixed messages about the special relationship between America and Israel.?

When interviewer Tim Russert asked whether, as president, Edwards would urge Ariel Sharon “to stop building settlements on the West Bank,? Edwards responded: “I don’t think our responsibility is to make demands on a sovereign nation, particularly an old, deep, passionate ally like Israel.?

He also declared that Israel “made the right decision to reject? the UN’s proposal on Jenin. Edwards added that Israelis rightfully escalated violence against Palestinians because “I think that the very existence of Israel is being threatened.?

Why tell Israel “to stop the military incursion,? Edwards continued, “when we [the US] were attacked [9/11] we went half a world away to go after

the people who were responsible for it??

In his October, 2002 speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., Edwards twice pronounced things in the Middle East would change “when we’re [i.e., the US] engaged on the ground in Israel: “It’s also important for us to send a clear signal to the Arab world that we care about what’s happening in Israel, that we’re willing to have people on the ground over extended period of time to do what needs to be done to ease tension and hopefully ultimately result in peace.?

US troops “on the ground? in the Middle East for ‘Israel?’? Edwards’ admission that the Iraq war was all about Israel is an idea worth watching, as Edwards’ begins his odyssey to power.

(Sarah Whalen is an expert in Islamic law and taught law at Loyola University School of Law in New Orleans, Louisiana.)


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Commentary :: Elections & Legislation

The Unnamable: The Kerry Factor in the Platform Index

The Anybody But Bush crowd may succeed in allowing Bush to snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat by depressing the voter turnout and decreasing votes for both Nader and Kerry.

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