By Sikivu Hutchinson
“This is the worst I’ve seen it in a long time,” Cecil McLinn, the principal of Duke Ellington Continuation School in South Los Angeles, told me recently after one of our students missed a week of school because she didn’t have shoes. A highly-regarded administrator and longtime advocate in South L.A., McGlinn has been on the frontlines of progressive education for several decades. As the economic depression in our community deepens he’s had to fill out more housing relief forms and aid vouchers for students who struggle just to make it to school every day. Activist administrators like McGlinn know that their schools fill vital resource gaps in social welfare, health care and economic aid assistance for poor and working class families. Because of racial disparities in wealth, schools are especially important as social welfare centers and safe zones for black and Latino children. In L.A. County, black children comprise fifty per cent of the homeless youth population and thirty per cent of foster care youth. Foster care youth are disproportionately more likely to be incarcerated, drop out of school and experience teen pregnancy. According to the Economic Policy Institute, 45% of black youth in the U.S. and 35% of Latino youth, versus 12% of white youth, live in communities of “concentrated poverty”.
Duke Ellington is located at the edge of Westmont, a predominantly black and Latino high poverty community. Westmont was recently the subject of an extensive L.A. Times report, cited as having one of the highest homicide rates in a city where violent crime is purportedly decreasing. Latino and African American males between 17 and 25 are the main victims of murder-violence in the neighborhood. The majority of the businesses in the immediate community offer minimum to sub minimum wage non-unionized retail jobs with no benefits. Nonetheless, a recent L.A. City Council proposal to boost the minimum wage to $15 (potentially the highest in the nation) would only target hotel workers. Most of these workers commute long distances to wealthier neighborhoods on the Westside and downtown Los Angeles.
Some liberal and progressive pundits are fond of trotting out the term income inequality to support their thesis that class immobility represents the deepest divide in American society. Echoing Barack Obama’s Middle America-appeasing claim that income inequality is just as much about class as it is about race, these pundits assiduously avoid the role institutional racism and white supremacy play in economic injustice. In the shadow of the 2016 presidential election, the catch-all “income inequality” has become the national bromide du jour. As his term aiding and abetting the Wall Street robber barons draws to a close, President Obama has belatedly homed in on income inequality in an effort to deflect from slumping poll numbers and mounting left/liberal disillusion. But lost in the political rhetoric from the White House and mainstream media is any true [Read more...]