When President Franklin Roosevelt addressed the United States Congress in January 1941, he called for “a world founded upon four essential freedoms”—freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from fear, and freedom from want. Popular conceptions of rights at the time moved beyond the constitution’s narrow framing of civil and political rights to include basic social and economic rights.
When Roosevelt gave this speech, the depression still lingered on. The official figure for unemployment in California was at 11.7 percent. As it happens, in March 2009, California was once again facing an unemployment rate of over 11 percent, the highest since 1941. Today, the politics of fear and the ubiquity of want have many calling for a new “New Deal.” In this issue of Race, Poverty and the Environment we take a look at the kind of organizing needed to win social and economic rights for all.
As the current recession deepens, fundamental rights to housing, employment, healthcare, and safety continue to retract. As usual, low income people and communities of color bear the brunt of the economic crisis. Foreclosure and unemployment rates in African American communities are double the national averages. The tragic murder of Oscar Grant on New Year’s Day in Oakland by a transit police officer is emblematic of how even straightforward civil rights to life and liberty are in daily jeopardy. More...
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