May 17, 2018 

By Phillip Jackson 

 

If Howard Shultz wasn’t the founder of Starbucks, he would have been one of the boycott protesters with us.  He said he was “embarrassed” and “as­hamed” by the arrest of two Black men in a Starbucks store in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania who were taken away by police and subsequently held for nine hours in a Philadelphia jail for the crime of sitting in a Starbucks store and not ordering coffee. 

 

Starbucks is widely known as a good operator and an overall good guy in American business circles with its clean stores, open meeting spaces, free Wi-Fi, strong community relations, and its great business model consisting of good jobs with fair benefits. 

 

But the Starbucks decision to fix this public relations problem with “diversity training” is not the Howard Schultz or even the Starbucks way.  Rather than work with the Black community towards a solution to this potentially international issue, Starbucks turned to themselves and created a program for diversity training that includes closing their stores for one day and hiring the highest-priced diversity trainers money can buy. 

 

The Black community wanted to know, “How will we, the Black community—aggrieved by this incident and aggrieved every day—how will we be better because of your “diversity training?”  The only answer Starbucks could give was, after the training “You will be better because we will be better.”  Sorry!  Not good enough!

 

Numerous studies by Harvard University, MIT, Tel Aviv University and others show that diversity training doesn’t work and can produce the opposite of intended outcomes.  These studies conclude that decades of cultural, racial and environmental bias and prejudice cannot be eradicated with one or 50 or 100 “diversity trainings.”  In fact, such “trainings” can cause those hard-wired feelings to become more deeply entrenched thus resulting in the opposite of the sought-after effect. 

 

The Chicago Boycott – Case Study

 

In Chicago, The Black Star Project organized a 12-store boycott of Starbucks.  During the boycott, no anger was displayed.  No one was arrested.  No windows were broken.  No stores were firebombed.  Instead, there was plenty of dialogue.  Dialogue is the Starbucks way.  There were reports of Starbucks’ employees offering the boycotters free coffee and standing with the protesters.  Protesters held doors open for elderly customers who did not honor the boycott.  One protester even offered to buy a Starbucks coffee for the sick father of a man who expressed guilt about violating the boycott, but explained that his dad could only drink one kind of coffee—only available at Starbucks.  It seemed as though boycotters and boycottees had reached a human accord — The Starbucks Way.

 

The Chicago boycott organizers are now planning community forums at more than 300 Black-owned or managed coffee houses, as well as at faith-based and community-based organizations across the U.S., especially near the 12 Starbucks stores previously boycotted.  These community forums will serve as “Black Economic Empowerment Forums,” where attendees will develop plans to improve the economic vitality of their communities.

 

We wanted Starbucks to be part of this initiative. So far, they have said no.  Starbucks is really one of the “good guys” in corporate America but working with the community will only make them better. It’s important to understand that even with over 9,000 stores throughout America, Starbucks shops are really only guests in these communities. 

 

Meet Howard Schultz, Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors

 

Schultz, Foun­der and Executive Chairman of the Starbucks Board of Directors does understand Starbucks culture and he understands America.  He knows that the Starbucks success is tied to communities’ success.  He is unafraid to try new ideas even though those ideas might fail. However, this seems not to be the Starbucks way today.  In 2015, Starbucks tried to convene a “Race Together” dialogue through its stores.  America was not ready then.  In 2018, America is coming apart racially, socially and religiously.  America is now ready for Schultz’ ideas.  But this effort cannot be owned by Starbucks alone.  Other corporations, government agencies at all levels, foundations, faith-based and civic organizations along with social institutions and others must partner with Starbucks to make America and the world better.  

 

Schultz’ leadership style has been described as transformational.  He does not think like a businessperson.  He thinks like a person wanting to make the world a better place.  But even he, super-rich, powerful, and well-intentioned, needs the help of the world to achieve this transformational vision and reality.  Starbucks, well established in business history, now has a chance to establish itself in human history.   

 

In the words of Schultz: “…if we think about the country today — and I’m not talking about politics — I think the country needs to become more compassionate, more empathic.  And we can’t speak about the promise of America and the American Dream and leave millions of people behind.  And it’s my view that — leave Washington aside and all the politics aside — businesses and business leaders need to do a lot more for the people we employ, the communities we serve, and we can make a significant difference.”

 

So where does Starbucks go from here?

 

Schultz says that he knows the Starbucks chain “won’t bridge the racial divide on its own” and that a coffee company “can only do so much.”  However, he hopes to keep pushing forward and pursue initiatives that matter to him with the “same vigor he pursues corporate profits.”

 

The Montgomery Bus Boycott that changed America forever lasted 381 days.  The Starbucks Boycott is only 33 days old.  Only 348 days to go.   

 

Phillip Jackson is the Founder and Chairman, Board of Directors of The Black Star Project. Address: 3509 South King Drive Chicago, Illinois 60653. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Category: Opinion

May 03, 2018 

By Charlene Crowell 

 

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) is both a historic driver of the nation’s persistent racial wealth gap and a necessary part of any solution for the nation’s housing market, finds new research from the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL). Although FHA has been and remains central in creating homeownership opportunities for borrowers of color, low- to moderate-income borrowers, and lower-wealth borrowers, that was not the case in its early development. CRL’s research report is being discussed in today’s symposium honoring the 50th year of the Fair Housing Act.

 

Beginning from its inception in the 1930s, FHA perpetuated racial discrimination in its facilitation of broad mortgage credit by favoring white borrowers and excluding African-Americans and other people of color. This discrimination is a key contributor to the differing rates of homeownership between whites and people of color today, as well as a contributor to the persistent racial wealth gap.

 

“These homeownership rate disparities did not occur by chance,” argue Peter Smith and Melissa Stegman, authors of Repairing a two-tiered system: The critical but complex role of FHA. “The homeownership rate gap between whites and people of color is in large part due to historic federal housing policy choices that created decades-long impacts.”

 

The report, however, credits FHA mortgage lending as an important aid to the nation’s economic recovery following the Great Recession. FHA increased its purchase market share to 42 percent in 2009, as much of private mortgage lending retreated. Prior to the housing crisis, FHA’s market share was only 8.8 percent of the market.

 

According to CRL’s report that examined mortgage origination data and market participation among banks and non-depositories between the years of 2004 and 2016:

 

FHA market share for Black and Latino borrowers now approaches half of all purchase mortgage lending to these borrowers.

 

Tight and expensive credit in the conventional market has led to FHA becoming the only mortgage option for many borrowers of color, low-to-moderate income families, and lower-wealth families.

 

Of the top 10 FHA home purchase lenders in 2004, five were banks and five were non-depositories; by 2016, eight of the top 10 FHA lenders were non-depositories.

 

“Throughout its history, the Federal Housing Administration has served as a gateway for many Americans to reach a safe and stable middle class,” said Hilary O. Shelton, Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and its Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy.  “Unfortunately, that history is soiled by its racially discriminatory housing policies that stripped many Americans of their opportunity to build wealth simply because of the color of their skin.”

 

“The resulting uneven playing field must be undone,” continued Shelton, “and FHA should be sustained and leveraged toward making the American dream available to all Americans regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, place of national origin, sexual orientation or other differences.”

 

“Homeownership is key to the American dream, but for far too many people of color, that dream has remained deferred. Improving the quality and effectiveness of the Federal Housing Administration is critical to ensuring that marginalized communities have the resources they need to purchase and refinance their homes,” said Marc Morial, President & CEO, The National Urban League.

 

“As a civil rights organization focused on the economic empowerment of African Americans,” continued Morial, “the National Urban League looks forward to working with our partners in civil rights and the Center for Responsible Lending in protecting and improving FHA for years to come.”

 

With limited evidence of conventional mortgage loans accessible to consumers of color, and the strong emergence of non-bank mortgage lenders, CRL views inclusive federal public policy reforms as the key to future of mortgage lending, particularly as the nation becomes increasingly diverse.

 

Other leading consumer and civil rights advocates agreed.

 

“We must commit to making every neighborhood a place of opportunity for its residents and to making all communities open to all people, regardless of race, national origin, disability, or other protected status,” said Lisa Rice, President and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance. “We cannot build a thriving society as long as our nation is plagued by discrimination, segregation, and severe economic inequality.”

 

“As our nation grows more diverse than ever, and the housing affordability crisis continues to grow worse than ever, the FHA’s role in advancing homeownership and building stable communities remain critical,” said Rob Randhara, Senior Counsel with the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights. “We need the FHA to maximize the delivery of safe, sustainable mortgage credit.”

 

“For low-income families looking to purchase in high-cost markets – particularly those with credit challenges – FHA is the safest way to enter home ownership,” said Seema Agnani, Director of the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Develop­ment. “Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders often live in multi-generational households and the FHA program enables many to purchase a home and begin to build assets for the family in the long run.”

 

“In markets where there are limited mortgage options, such as the Native Hawaiian Homesteads,” Agnani continued, “the FHA program becomes most critical in ensuring equitable access to tools that facilitate building wealth.”

 

The report concludes with specific recommendations to ensure the long-term health of the FHA program. Included in these recommendations, CRL calls for:

 

Increased resources for staffing, technology, and operations to enable the FHA program to operate soundly and implement needed reforms; The elimination of FHA’s life of loan premium; and Ensuring FHA remains available to a broad group of borrowers and the program is not restricted by income or first-time homebuyer status.

 

“In the year that marks a half century of the Fair Housing Act,” noted Mike Calhoun, CRL President, “it is appropriate to acknowledge the journey traveled in five decades. But also, a look ahead to the hundreds of miles yet to travel before fair housing is a reality for all.”

 

For more information, or to arrange an interview with a CRL spokesperson on this issue, please contact Charlene Crowell at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Category: Opinion

May 03, 2018 

BY REV. JESSE JACKSON 

 

If we don’t know the whereas, the therefore doesn’t make sense. Witness the ovens in Auschwitz and Treblinka, and then you can understand the creation of Israel.

 

Last week, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice opened in Montgomery, Ala., demanding a reckoning with one of this nation’s most repressed atrocities: the lynching of thousands of black people in a campaign of racist terror that lasted for decades.

 

Lynching is an act of violence that, to this day, is not a federal crime. Visit the memorial in Montgomery, where Jefferson Davis reigned as the architect of slavery, succession and sedition, where Dr. King preached, and you’ll understand the therefore, from the civil rights movement of Dr. King to the current calls for equal justice, police reform and an end to mass incarceration.

 

The museum, set on a six- acre site overlooking the Alabama State Capitol, has a haunting majesty. The open- air museum features 800 steel monuments, suspended from a high ceiling, one for each county where a lynching occurred. Each is engraved with the name of the county and the names of the victims, some 4,400 in total.

 

Lynching was domestic racial terrorism. It wasn’t accidental or incidental. The terrorism grew after the Civil War in fierce reaction to the Reconstruction that gave the freed slaves the right to vote and to own property. Terrorist groups like the Ku Klux Klan weren’t outliers; they enlisted some of the white gentry to terrorize blacks into subservience.

 

Lynchings varied, but many were public affairs, announced in the newspapers, gathering large crowds to watch the mutilation of often innocent victims, while the local authorities turned their heads. Their gruesome nature was purposeful, designed to instill fear, and thus help perpetuate white supremacy. The lynchings spread even as the memorials honoring Confederate generals and leaders proliferated to reinforce the point.

 

Bryan Stevenson, the extraordinary director of the Equal Justice Initiative that gave birth to this project, is clear on his intent. “I’m not interested in talking about America’s history because I want to punish America,” he said, “I want to liberate America.

 

“This shadow cannot be lifted until we shine the light of truth on the destructive violence that shaped our nation, traumatized people of color and compromised our commitment to the rule of law and to equal justice.”

 

Everyone wants to celebrate the resurrection, but you can’t embrace the resurrection unless you acknowledge the crucifixion. As Stevenson puts it, we all want reconciliation, but “truth and reconciliation” are sequential. “You can’t get to reconciliation until you first get to truth.”

 

The lynchings accelerated in the 1880s, peaked in the early 1900s and continued until the beginning of World War II. They helped enforce segregation and Jim Crow laws with blood and fear, an apartheid system that lasted until the Civil Rights Movement freed the South in the 1960s.

 

This isn’t ancient history. To this day, African- Americans live with entrenched inequalities: greater poverty, greater unemployment and lower life spans. African-American men are more likely to be stopped by police, more likely to be searched if stopped, more likely to be jailed if detained, more likely to be shot by police.

 

“Black and brown people are still presumed dangerous and guilty,” says Stevenson. “There are these terrible disparities in quality of life for people of color, and you begin asking questions about why these things persist, and I think it inevitably leads to wanting to talk more concretely about history.”

 

Near the memorial is the Legacy Museum, located in a warehouse that once was part of Montgomery’s slave trade. That museum documents with artifacts and narrative the transition from slavery to segregation to voter suppression and mass incarceration. Stevenson’s hope is that the truth can help foster greater reconciliation. At the memorial, each county marker has a duplicate, with every county invited to use to create its own memorial.

 

A first step would be to finally make lynching a federal crime. More than 200 attempts were made to pass an anti- lynching law in Congress that would allow federal prosecution of perpetrators and hold local officials accountable if they did not act to protect the victims. With Southern senators armed with the filibuster, the Congress never acted. Finally, in 2005, a Senate resolution was passed that expressed regret for the failure. Yet to this day, lynching is still not a federal offense.

 

Similarly, Congress and the administration could proceed with bipartisan efforts to end mass incarceration and to reform discriminatory police practices. Real progress was beginning— with the cooperation of both parties— during the Obama years. Now, the Trump administration, with a Justice Department led by former Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, has begun to reverse these vital reforms.

 

The reckoning that began with the Civil Rights Movement has continued; the memorial is a testament to that. People of good will want the healing to continue. The vibrancy and prosperity of the New South requires that the healing continue. But to heal wounds, you have to take the shrapnel out first. To move to reconciliation, you must start with the truth.

 

Bryan Stevenson has courageously built a memorial that helps us do just that.

Category: Opinion

May 03, 2018 

By Derrick Johnson 

 

“Mr. Zuckerberg, would you be comfortable sharing with us the name of the hotel you stayed in last night?” That was a question Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) posed to Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional hearing in which the latter responded with an awkward “no.”  It is likely that Mr. Zuckerberg found this question too intrusive, yet when 87 million users lost their privacy under Facebook’s neglectful watch; its CEO doesn’t bat an eye, offering only an insubstantial, “I’m sorry.” 

 

The Cambridge Analytica hack is just one of many transgressions by Facebook, in which an apology will simply not suffice. Facebook’s laissez-faire attitude toward privacy protection is not just a betrayal and insult to its user base, but it is compounded by its lack of vigilance to protect one of the platform’s most vulnerable user demographics—African Americans.  

 

For example, late last year, Facebook hosted Russian sponsored ads that portrayed African Americans in a less than flattering light. The ads had political motives and aimed to sway viewers to vote for then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. Another example arose just this month when the news broke that the largest Black Lives Matter group on the social media platform was in fact a fraudulent page, created by a White man in Australia designed to discredit the youth-based civil rights group.

 

Either of the above examples is enough to seriously question the general disposition and integrity of the social media juggernaut. However, Facebook’s lack of transparency, reliability, and accountability in these two situations also substantiates the increasing doubt regarding the fairness of the 2016 presidential election. Specifically, Cambridge Analytica worked with the Trump campaign, and among the data it misused were pictures, profiles, and even direct messages between users. This data mining—which used the personal information of 87 million people without their consent—was used to develop techniques for the firm’s work on the Trump campaign. This combined with the racially charged Russian ads, some of which explicitly purporting that Black Lives Matter activists were murderers, is not only wholly unscrupulous, it also carries the stench of voter manipulation. Swaying voters toward one candidate based on racially exploitative lies smacks of a type voter suppression that, while more insidious, is not unlike the voter ID laws that currently attempt to suppress the Black vote.

 

As a pioneer in the tech industry serving 1.4 billion users each day, Facebook has a moral and ethical obligation to protect those most vulnerable on its sites, including minors, women, and LGBT, Brown, and Black communities. As a whole, Americans are more tolerant of hate speech than others in the world; however, this does not and should not permit Facebook to turn a blind eye to the copious amounts of hate speech the Black community, and other vulnerable communities experience on Facebook. These communities cannot be satiated with an apology, but rather require a clear and thorough plan of defensive and offensive action. More care needs to be taken by Facebook and its tech industry peers to ensure that in connecting people with one another, these connections are positive—a sentiment which Mr. Zuckerberg said his company strives to achieve.

 

Moving forward, companies like Facebook can take a greater stance against those who wish to use online spaces to corrupt. First, they must be on the offense, not just deleting but reporting and perhaps even fining advertisers with such ill intent. Second, they should also be more aggressive on the defensive front, removing the burden of reporting hate speech from the user and instead placing it on themselves. While Facebook has already started this approach, devoting more resources to this effort would allow for a quicker and more intelligent sweep of bad content. Additionally, these resources must include hiring more people of color across all levels of the company—an initiative that would address Silicon Valley's failure to take real steps towards embracing diversity. This is an issue brought up on Day 2 of Zuckerberg's hearing, when Rep. G.K. Butterfield mentioned that the company’s Black representation has only risen from 2 percent to 3 percent. Furthermore, while 67 percent of African Americans are Facebook users, the company’s C-suite remains entirely White.

 

Lastly, in a “clear and concise” manner, users should be made aware of their privacy terms, including instances when their information will be shared and how the information will be used. Facebook may or may not feel a moral imperative to protect the users that allow it to exist, but that does not mean it should not be held accountable for its actions, inactions, and indifference to user privacy.

 

Derrick Johnson is the President and CEO of the NAACP.  Follow him on Twitter @DerrickNAACP and @NAACP.

Category: Opinion

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