Social and Economic Rights

The Making of Ferguson: Public Policies at the Root of Its Troubles

In August 2014, a Ferguson, Missouri, policeman shot and killed an unarmed black teenager. Michael Brown’s death and the resulting protests and racial tension brought considerable attention to that town. Observers who had not been looking closely at our evolving demographic patterns were surprised to see ghetto conditions we had come to associate with inner cities now duplicated in a formerly white suburban community: racially segregated neighborhoods with high poverty and unemployment, poor student achievement in overwhelmingly black schools, oppressive policing, abandoned homes, and community powerlessness.

Media accounts of how Ferguson became Ferguson have typically explained that when African Americans moved to this suburb (and others like it), “white flight” followed, abandoning the town to African Americans who were trying to escape poor schools in the city. The conventional explanation adds that African Americans moved to a few places like Ferguson, not the suburbs generally, because prejudiced real estate agents steered black homebuyers away from other white suburbs. And in any event, those other suburbs were able to preserve their almost entirely white, upper-middle- class environments by enacting zoning rules that required only expensive single family homes, the thinking goes.

No doubt, private prejudice and suburbanites’ desire for homogenous affluent environments contributed to segregation in St. Louis and other metropolitan areas. But these explanations are too partial, and too conveniently excuse public policy from responsibility. A more powerful cause of metropolitan segregation in St. Louis and nationwide has been the explicit intents of federal, state, and local governments to create racially segregated metropolises.

http://www.epi.org

Beyond Gay Marriage

“I absolutely think housing for poor, homeless, and low-income queer folks is a huge issue for us, as is doing anti-violence work...” —Kenyon Farrow,

Editors note: The June 26, 2015 Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 States shifts the terms of the debate about where the gay rights movement should be putting organizing energy and money. This 2010 article and podcast by Lisa Dettmer looks beyond the issue of gay marriage and examines how homophobia intersects with racism and classism and suggest new directions for gay rights rooted in the history of queer liberation politics.

Phillipine Domestic Worker Rights. A primer on ILO CONVENTION No. 189

The Philippine Migrants Rights Watch (PMRW), with the support of the International Labour Organization’s ASEAN TRIANGLE project, has developed this educational booklet on Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers and RA 10361 otherwise known as Batas Kasambahay or Domestic Workers Law.

Often performed by family members, particularly women, domestic work is neither recognized as a formal component of the economy nor properly compensated. When done by hired labour, it is often not included in the labour laws of the country. Therefore, domestic workers do not enjoy the full protection of labour laws and they are often underpaid and asked to work extra time.

http://www.ilo.org

History of Exploitation: from Slavery to Domestic Work

An interview with Sheila Bapat
“The roots of domestic work are deeply connected to the history of slavery in the U.S. It’s no accident that a vast majority of domestic workers were African American women to begin with, and increasingly now, immigrant women of color.”

 

Interview by Preeti Shekar

Sheila Bapat, author of Part of the Family? Nannies, Housekeepers, Caregivers and the Battle for Domestic Workers’ Rights offers remarks on domestic workers' rights. Learn about the challenges and successes of South Asian worker organizing efforts in the United States.

Floodlines: Preserving Public Housing in New Orleans

Among the roughly 15,000 people gathered in Detroit for the U.S. Social Forum (USSF) this year were some 250 grassroots activists and organizers from New Orleans. They were seeking insight from activists in Detroit—the other U.S. city with the largest percentage of empty or unlivable housing—albeit the Rust Belt took several decades to achieve what Hurricane Katrina did overnight.

Of all the housing issues that New Orleans faced following Katrina, the battle over public housing developments stands out for its blatant bigotry and unfairness. Not long after Katrina, politicians, developers, and planners began talking about tearing down all the remaining public housing in New Orleans because, as Baton Rouge Congressman Richard Baker gloated, they had “finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans! We couldn’t do it, but God did.”[1] In truth, a lot of the public housing had made it through the storm in solid condition and with a few repairs could have been used for many years to come. But the decision-makers had their own agenda and chose to follow their prejudices and stereotypes with city council president Oliver Thomas (who later went to prison for a corruption scandal involving bribes related to a city contract for a parking lot) stating, “There’s just been a lot of pampering, and at some point you have to say, ‘No, no, no, no, no’!.. We don’t need soap opera watchers right now.”[2]

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