Social movements and economic inequality highlight the need for policy change – WWD

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As the Black Lives Matter movement maintains its intensity as communities across the United States simultaneously struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic recession it has triggered, scholars, civil rights advocates and activists see the current social unrest as a clear call for political reform that not only addresses racial inequality, but also the economic inequality that underpins it.

In framing a recent webinar on the subject, the Economic Policy Institute said that “police killings of black people and subsequent protests against systemic racism, [has] shed light on the nation’s long anti-Blackness history.

PPE said as protesters across the United States “flood the streets to call for social, political and economic change, the similarities between Black Lives Matter and the civil rights movement are becoming clear. Both movements, despite 60 years apart, demand political reforms that advance justice, racial equity and accountability of those in power…[and] why politics must be changed in order to reverse the nation’s anti-black culture and the economic inequality that surrounds it.

And while policy change and reform implementation are monumental challenges, the private business sector could play a key role.. Michael Graetz of Columbia Law School, who is a recognized expert on income and wealth inequality, unemployment, the social safety net and taxes, and the impact of COVID-19 on inequality and insecurity, told WWD that the business sector must take a leadership role. and empower policy change.

Graetz — who has held senior positions in the Treasury Department, including assistant to the secretary, special adviser and deputy assistant secretary for tax policy — published a book on the subject earlier this year titled “The Wolf At the Door: The Threat of Economic Insecurity and How to Combat It. It is a dense yet easy-to-read 340-page revelation for anyone wishing to trace the origins of economic insecurity in the United States. unemployment and “re-employment” as well as low wages, high taxes and lack of childcare – issues that particularly affect blacks and minorities.

Rukhsar Sharif, author and founder of a consulting and collaboration company Creativeecundity Inc., said economic and income inequality “has an intersectional impact on issues of social justice” that dates back to early US history. resources compared to their American European counterparts.

“They were always held back, which is the reason for the growing discontent and massive protests,” Sharif told WWD. “People in the United States are seeing with their own eyes through digital media how people of color, especially black people, are discriminated against and shunned to survive on abysmal means. by George Floyd [alleged] presentation of a counterfeit [$20] The bill represents the financial desperation of African Americans from struggling socioeconomic and financial backgrounds as they remain neglected by mainstream society.

Sharif said this neglect and its resulting “buried frustration triggers the human behavioral tendency to explode during stress and release pent-up frustrations through resistance and protest movements to regain balance and justice in life.” Black Lives Matter is a social justice movement that recognizes not only the lack of equality of African Americans with people of other races in terms of social status, but also in terms of economic status.

Both Sharif and Graetz say the government has failed to create policies to address these issues. Sharif said US policies have failed to address “long-term socio-economic inequalities by not actively taking a stand to help African Americans and people of color earn higher wages so they can afford humane and respectable ways of life”.

Veronique Ehamo, a black community human rights activist and member of the United Nations Association of Emerging Leaders, also sees economic insecurity and income inequality as part of a systemic problem that policymakers don’t failed to resolve.

“As in any market society, the structure of the American labor market is the central institution of social protection,” Ehamo told WWD. “Income is the fundamental mediator of standard of living, housing, health care, access to education and the quality neighborhoods. Due to the consistent neglect of some communities, historically and currently, one can only assume that the next direct action will result in unconventional ways of venting frustrations and resentment.

Reneé Carr, policy and business adviser, said that IIncome inequality has long been “a component of persistent and pervasive social injustices in America” ​​and has now intensified. “Modern unemployment and low wages are a continuation of belief systems and damaging thought patterns that hold African Americans and other people of color to be less intelligent, less capable and less trustworthy,” Carr told WWD. “This produces the growing financial gap between racial groups and social classes and is the basis of the systemic oppression that movements such as Black Lives Matter are fighting against.”

Carr noted that there is a significant psychological impact that also needs to be understood and addressed as well. “For oppressed people and the allies who support them, the psychological motivation for social unrest is the extreme fatigue of seeing countless incidents of racism, cruelty and murder,” Carr said. “When people see or learn of the repeated unjust verdicts for gross acts of brutality, or witness the continued protection of people who repeatedly abuse power, these people experience a significant increase in frustration, anxiety and fear, their emotions merge with repeated thoughts of insecurity and uncertainty for their own survival, regardless of the color of their skin.

When it comes to implementing change, Carr said most often, policies and programs “only correct the surface of economic inequalities and do not address the fundamental problems. The historic blind eye and deaf ear to practices that make black unemployment, underemployment, and underpayment common are the very reasons why the voices and actions of social unrest are growing.

Dr. Roger McIntyre, CEO of AltMed and Co-Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, agreed that current socioeconomic conditions have a detrimental effect on mental health.

“What is particularly concerning about this is the persistence of unemployment given the ongoing pandemic as well as the uncertainty about its end,” McIntyre told WWD. “If we go to the Great Recession, the Great Depression, or the Asian financial shock, we see all of these psychological and stress reactions, which we see happening now.

McIntyre said it was important to keep in mind that “when you lose your job, you lose your health care – so we’re seeing tens of millions more people who have lost their health care, which adds still to their insecurity”.

“All of these factors together – unemployment, economic insecurity, the length of it, the effect on self-esteem, family fragmentation, as well as the lack of health benefits – it creates a mix fuels stress and misery and likely contributes to unrest and depths of despair,” McIntyre said.

Brenda D. Wilkerson, CEO and President of global nonprofit organization AnitaB.org, said must create policies that address and prioritize the needs of “low-income Americans” and provide accessible support systems and resources to reduce social class disparity.”

“The Paycheck Fairness Act and the Wage Raise Act are important building blocks to help close the pay gap; however, they are progressive at best,” Wilkerson told WWD. “We also need to reallocate secondary and tertiary money that has slipped away from important programs, like our education system, to places where people who really need support can get it.”

Regarding the role of business leaders in taking a leadership role to help facilitate social change, Graetz encouraged the formation of coalitions that can then lobby and pressure policy makers. And he says while writing a big check to a cause is generous, philanthropy isn’t enough to move the needle. In Graetz’s book, he concludes by saying that people need “help to deal with well-founded worries about being rejected, and they need resources to deal with a future that has already happened.”

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