Today, we need a comprehensive agenda for African Americans with ambition that matches the scale of the challenge and with recognition that race-neutral policies are not a sufficient response to race-based disparities. 

The Biden Plan for Black America will: 

  • Advance the economic mobility of African Americans and close the racial wealth and income gaps.
  • Expand access to high-quality education and tackle racial inequity in our education system.
  • Make far-reaching investments in ending health disparities by race.
  • Strengthen America’s commitment to justice.
  • Make the right to vote and the right to equal protection real for African Americans.
  • Address environmental justice.

ADVANCE THE ECONOMIC MOBILITY OF AFRICAN AMERICANS AND CLOSE THE RACIAL WEALTH AND INCOME GAPS

Invest in African American Businesses and Entrepreneurs

Approximately 4% of small business owners are African American, even though African Americans make up approximately 13% of the population. To build wealth in African American communities, we must invest in the success of African American businesses and entrepreneurs. 

Ensuring equal access to credit and capital. African American businesses often lack the capital they need to succeed. African American businesses are rejected at a rate nearly 20% higher than the white-owned firms. Even worse, African American businesses that do get funding receive only 40% of the funds requested as compared to 70% for white businesses. To increase investment and access to capital, Biden will:

  • Double funding for the State Small Business Credit Initiative. The Obama-Biden Administration created the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) to support small businesses, driving $10 billion in new lending for each $1 billion in SSBCI funds. Biden will extend the program through 2025 and double its federal funding to $3 billion, driving close to $30 billion of private sector investments to small businesses all told, especially those owned by women and people of color.
  • Expand the New Markets Tax Credit, make the program permanent, and double Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) funding. The New Markets Tax Credit has helped draw tens of billions of dollars in new capital to low-income communities, providing tax credits to investors in community development organizations that support everything from supermarkets to real estate projects to manufacturing plants.  As part of his plan to reinvest in communities across the country, including in rural areas, Biden will also double funding for the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund, which supports local, mission-driven financial institutions in low-income areas around the U.S. This builds on Biden’s proposal to support entrepreneurs in small towns and rural areas by expanding both the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program and the number of Rural Business Investment Companies, to help rural businesses attract capital.
  • Improve and expand the Small Business Administration programs that most effectively support African American-owned businesses. The Small Business Administration’s (SBA) programs have been and remain one of the most effective ways of accessing capital for African American-owned businesses. Biden will strengthen these existing programs by:
    • Ensuring the SBA has the funding it needs to support African American-owned business and others in the current crisis and beyond. Trump has once again proposed a massive cut of 25% in the SBA budget for FY2021, including a 35% cut in funding to Small Business Development Centers, a 20% cut to the SBA Microloan Program, and significantly increased fees for the 7(a) loan program, which is SBA’s main loan program for small businesses.
    • Making permanent the successful Community Advantage loan program, originally created during the Obama-Biden Administration. The program, which provides capital for startups and growing small businesses located in particularly underserved communities through CDFIs and other mission-driven lenders, has been run as a pilot program since 2011. Biden will make this program permanent and reverse rules enacted by the Trump Administration that are making it more difficult for lenders to participate in the program and lend to African American-owned businesses and other businesses located in underserved communities.

Increase opportunities for African American-owned businesses to obtain or participate in federal contracts. In the aftermath of the 2008-2009 financial crisis, well over $100 billion of federal prime contracting dollars were awarded to minority-owned small businesses. And, between 2013 and 2016, the Obama-Biden Administration increased federal prime contract dollars going to Small Disadvantaged Businesses by nearly 30%, from $30.6 billion to $39.1 billion. The Obama-Biden Administration also created an Interagency Task Force on Federal Contracting Opportunities for Small Businesses, which included a focus on contracting opportunities for minority-owned businesses. The Obama-Biden Administration implemented its vision of more equitable access to federal contracts through a variety of channels, including by launching the Federal Procurement Center (FPC) as part of the Commerce Department’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA). The FPC, a first-of-its-kind program, helps minority-owned firms apply for and win federal government contracts. As President, Biden will build on these efforts to support the expansion of opportunities for minority-owned small businesses.  

Increase funding for the Minority Business Development Agency budget. MBDA plays a critical role in supporting the development and growth of minority-owned businesses around the country, as well as providing needed assistance to federal and state agencies so that they award minority-owned businesses procurement contracts. The Trump Administration has pushed for a 75% cut in MBDA’s budget. Biden would protect and call for increased funding for it.

Protect small and disadvantaged businesses from federal and state contract bundling which often locks out African American-owned smaller firms from effectively bidding on procurement contracts. Biden will build on the anti-bundling provisions of the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, by having the Office of Management and Budget, SBA, and MBDA conduct a government-wide review of existing contract bundling to determine whether agencies are following existing rules and whether agencies have the ability to further ensure small business participation in federal and state procurement opportunities.

Make sure economic relief because of COVID-19 reaches the African American businesses that need it most. The first installment of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) largely left out minority-owned businesses. The Center for Responsible Lending estimates that more than 90% of small businesses owned by people of color will not receive loans. The program is not taking into account the specific challenges that African American businesses face in accessing funding and complying with the program’s requirements. The financial institutions best positioned to help African American small businesses don’t have the systems to quickly deploy the funding in a first-come first-served approach. The second phase set aside $60 billion for community banks and CDFIs, as well as mid-sized banks, which can better serve smaller businesses and minority-owned firms. This is a good start, but more needs to be done:

  • Provide African-American entrepreneurs and other small business owners technical assistance to help them apply for funding, as well as legal and accounting support to ensure their documentation (such as their financial records, tax filings, and other legal documents) is all in correct order. The Trump Administration and Congress should provide an additional infusion of operating capital to these CDFIs and community-focused lenders to ensure all African American entrepreneurs have access to the technical assistance and support they need.
  • Reserve half of all the new PPP funds for small businesses with 50 employees or less, so the bigger and more well-connected aren’t able to win in a first-come, first-served race. While this will help the vast majority of small businesses, it should also help target more funding to minority-owned businesses, given 98% of all minority-and women-owned businesses have fewer than 50 employees. 
  • Produce a weekly dashboard to show which small businesses are accessing loans. Such a dashboard would help drive better data collection on the beneficiaries of small business support related to the COVID-19 epidemic, including in particular collecting data by gender and race, in order to ensure that the program isn’t leaving out communities, minority- and women-owned businesses, or the smallest businesses.
SUPPORTING AFRICAN AMERICAN CHURCHES DURING THE COVID-19 CRISIS
Shelter-in-place orders, while critical to protecting the health of parishioners, have hit churches hard as collection revenue has virtually stopped. African American churches are especially at-risk during the downturn. One survey put the typical African American membership at just 75 congregants, while others have noted that annual revenue is down since much of it is typically collected during Easter season. At a time when many Americans will seek spiritual assistance and social support, we must ensure the preservation of religious institutions. The decision by Congress to include non-profits, including religious institutions, in the Paycheck Protection Program and Emergency Injury Disaster Loan programs was a critical first step. But the support has not flowed to these institutions the way it should. Well-connected companies were first in line for the support funding.Biden’s True Small Business Fund would also apply to non-profit groups like African American churches. 

Expand African American Homeownership and Access to Affordable, Safe Housing 

The gap between African American and white homeownership is larger today than when the Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968. This has contributed to a jaw-dropping racial wealth gap—nearly 1,000%—between median white and African American households. Because home ownership is how most families save and build wealth, the disparity in home ownership is a central driver of the racial wealth gap. As President, Biden will invest $640 billion over 10 years so every American has access to housing that is affordable, stable, safe and healthy, accessible, energy efficient and resilient, and located near good schools and with a reasonable commute to their jobs. Biden will:

Help families buy their first homes and build wealth by creating a new refundable, advanceable tax credit of up to $15,000. Building off of a temporary tax credit expanded as part of the Recovery Act, this tax credit will be permanent and advanceable, meaning that homebuyers receive the tax credit when they make the purchase instead of waiting to receive the assistance when they file taxes the following year.

Tackle racial bias that leads to homes in communities of color being assessed by appraisers below their fair value. Housing in communities primarily comprised of people of color is valued at tens of thousands of dollars below majority-white communities even when all other factors are the same, contributing to the racial wealth gap. To counteract this racial bias, Biden will establish a national standard for housing appraisals that ensures appraisers have adequate training and a full appreciation for neighborhoods and do not hold implicit biases because of a lack of community understanding. 

Roll back Trump Administration policies gutting fair lending and fair housing protections, strongly enforce fair credit reporting laws, and create a new Public Credit Reporting Agency. Being able to obtain a credit report is a critical step for homeownership. Biden has long been an advocate for eliminating discrimination in the provision of credit, including his legislation amending the Equal Credit Opportunity Act which prohibited creditors from discriminating against consumer applicants for credit. Today’s credit reports, which are issued by just three large private companies, are rife with problems: they often contain errors, they leave many “credit invisible” due to the sources used to generate a credit score, and they contribute to racial disparitieswidening the African American homeownership gap, Biden will create a new public credit reporting agency within the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to provide consumers with a government option that seeks to minimize racial disparities, for example by ensuring the algorithms used for credit scoring don’t have a discriminatory impact, and by accepting non-traditional sources of data like rental history and utility bills to establish credit.

Protect homeowners and renters from abusive lenders and landlords through a new Homeowner and Renter Bill of Rights. This new Bill of Rights will prevent mortgage brokers from leading borrowers into loans that cost more than appropriate, prevent mortgage servicers from advancing a foreclosure when the homeowner is in the process of receiving a loan modification, give homeowners a private right of action to seek financial redress from mortgage lenders and servicers that violate these protections, and give borrowers the right to a timely notification on the status of their loan modifications and to be able to appeal modification denials.

Roll back Trump Administration policies gutting fair lending and fair housing protections for homeowners. 

  • Give local elected officials the tools and resources they need to combat gentrification. Biden will implement the Obama-Biden Administration’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule requiring communities receiving certain federal funding to proactively examine housing patterns and identify and address policies that have a discriminatory effect. The Trump Administration suspended this rule in 2018. Biden will ensure effective and rigorous enforcement of the Fair Housing Act and the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. And, he will reinstate the federal risk-sharing program which has helped secure financing for thousandsof affordable rental housing units in partnership with housing finance agencies.   
  • Hold financial institutions accountable for discriminatory practices in the housing market. In 2013, the Obama-Biden Administration codified a long-standing, court-supported view that lending practices that have a discriminatory effect can be challenged even if discrimination was not explicit. But now the Trump Administration is seeking to gut this disparate impact standard by significantly increasing the burden of proof for those claiming discrimination. In the Biden Administration, this change will be reversed to ensure financial institutions are held accountable for serving all customers. 
  • Restore the federal government’s power to enforce settlements against discriminatory lenders. The Trump Administration has stripped the Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity, a division of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, of its power to enforce settlements against lenders found to have discriminated against borrowers – for example by charging significantly higher interest rates for people of color than white individuals. Biden will return power to the division so it can protect consumers from discrimination.

Strengthen and expand the Community Reinvestment Act to ensure that our nation’s bank and non-bank financial services institutions are serving all communities. The Community Reinvestment Actcurrently regulates banks, but does little to ensure that “fintechs” and non-bank lenders are providing responsible access to all members of the community. On top of that gap, the Trump Administration is proposing to weaken the law by allowing lenders to receive a passing rating even if the lenders are excluding many neighborhoods and borrowers. Biden will expand the Community Reinvestment Act to apply to mortgage and insurance companies, to add a requirement for financial services institutions to provide a statement outlining their commitment to the public interest, and, importantly, to close loopholes that would allow these institutions to avoid lending and investing in all of the communities they serve. 

Eliminate local and state housing regulations that perpetuate discrimination. Exclusionary zoning has for decades been strategically used to keep people of color and low-income families out of certain communities. As President, Biden will enact legislation requiring any state receiving federal dollars through the Community Development Block Grants or Surface Transportation Block Grants to develop a strategy for inclusionary zoning, as proposed in the HOME Act of 2019 by Majority Whip Clyburn and Senator Cory Booker. Biden will also invest $300 million in Local Housing Policy Grants to give states and localities the technical assistance and planning support they need to eliminate exclusionary zoning policies and other local regulations that contribute to sprawl. 

Increase access to affordable housing. Biden will invest in expanding the supply of affordable housing by: 

  • Establishing a $100 billion Affordable Housing Fund to construct and upgrade affordable housing. He will ensure funding supports community development efforts, expanding the HOME program and the Capital Magnet Fund, which spurs private investment in affordable housing and economic development in distressed communities.
  • Providing tax incentives for the construction of more affordable housing in communities that need it most. As President, Biden will expand the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit – a tax provision designed to incentivize the construction or rehabilitation of affordable housing for low-income tenants that has created nearly 3 million affordable housing units since the mid-1980s – with a $10 billion investment. Biden will also invest in the development and rehabilitation of single family homes across distressed urban, suburban, and rural neighborhoods through the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act

Protect homeowners during the COVID-19 crisis. Biden has previously called for a rent freeze for qualifying individuals for the duration of the crisis, and a halt to foreclosures and evictions as people get back on their feet. Some banks are raising mortgage borrowing standards and requiring significantly higher down payments. Biden would also restrict the big banks’ ability to abandon the African American community by withdrawing from housing markets for all but the best-off buyers. 

Read Joe Biden’s full housing plan at joebiden.com/housing.

Promote More Equitable Wealth Building and a More Secure Retirement

The typical white family holds approximately ten times the wealth as the typical African Americans family—a disparity that dramatically increased over the past half century. Today, the typical wealth of a white family is $171,000, compared to just $17,600 for the typical African American family. This inequity means that many African American families have insufficient wealth to enjoy a secure retirement. In fact, in 2016, the average African American family had just $25,000 saved for retirement—due in part to a retirement saving system that affords limited incentives for middle-class African American families to save for retirement. To make the U.S. retirement system more secure and equitable, Biden will:

Equalize the tax benefits of defined contribution plans. The current tax benefits for retirement savings are based on the concept of deferral, whereby savers get to exclude their retirement contributions from tax, see their savings grow tax free, and then pay taxes when they withdraw money from their account. This system provides upper-income families with a much stronger tax break for saving and a limited benefit for middle-class and other workers with lower earnings. 

The Biden Plan will equalize benefits across the income scale, so that low- and middle-income workers will also get a tax break when they put money away for retirement.  

Remove penalties for caregivers who want to save for retirement. African Americans are more likely to be caregivers than whites. They also bear disproportionate caregiving responsibilities relative to white caregivers. Biden will support informal caregivers by allowing them to make “catch-up” contributions to retirement accounts, even if they’re not earning income in the formal labor market, as has been proposed in bipartisan legislation by Representatives Jackie Walorski and Harley Rouda.

Give small businesses a tax break for starting a retirement plan and giving workers the chance to save at work. Half of African American workers lack access to a retirement saving plan at work. Biden calls for widespread adoption of workplace savings plans and offers tax credits to small businesses to offset much of the costs. Under Biden’s plan, almost all workers without a pension or 401(k)-type plan will have access to an “automatic 401(k),” which provides the opportunity to easily save for retirement at work—putting millions of middle-class families in the path to a secure retirement.

Make Social Security benefits more generous and equitable. Older African Americans disproportionately depend on Social Security benefits for retirement income. To bolster retirement security for older African Americans who have spent a lifetime working, the Biden Social Security reform plan will raise benefits for vulnerable beneficiaries—including widows and widowers, low-wage workers, and long duration beneficiaries who may have exhausted all other assets. In addition, Biden proposes to boost average benefits across the board while putting Social Security on a long-term path to solvency by raising payroll taxes for workers with more than $400,000 in earnings. 

Invest in Communities that Need it Most

Fully implement Congressman Clyburn’s 10-20-30 Plan to help all individuals living in persistently impoverished communities. To tackle persistent poverty in all communities, in both urban and rural America, Vice President Biden supports applying Congressman James Clyburn’s 10-20-30 formula to all federal programs, targeting funds to census tracts with persistent poverty.

Create a White House “StrikeForce” to partner with rural communities to help them access federal funds. The Biden Administration will create a White House StrikeForce consisting of agency leaders who will partner with community-building organizations in persistent poverty rural communities and help them unlock federal resources. This approach is modeled on the StrikeForce Secretary Tom Vilsack successfully established in the U.S. Department of Agriculture during the Obama-Biden Administration.

Drive additional capital into low-income communities to spur the development of low-income housing. The New Markets Tax Credit draws in $8 of private investment for every $1 of federal investment in low-income communities by providing tax credits to investors in community development organizations that support everything from supermarkets to real estate projects to manufacturing plants. Biden will expand the program to provide $5 billion in support every year, and will make the program permanent so communities can take the credit into account in their long-term planning. 

Build and modernize infrastructure in communities that need it most. Biden has offered a transformational $1.3 trillion plan to create millions of good-paying, union jobs—roads, ports, waterways, schools, broadband, schools, and more. His plan includes specific measures to close the resource gap in communities of color. Biden will:

  • Invest in historically marginalized communities and bring everyone to the table for transportation planning. Biden will create a new Community Restoration Fund, specifically for neighborhoods where historic transportation investments cut people off from jobs, schools, and businesses. And, he will work to make sure towns and cities directly receive a portion of existing federal transportation investments.
  • Bring broadband to every American household. As President, Biden will close the digital divide. First, he will invest $20 billion in rural broadband infrastructure. He will triple funding to expand broadband access in rural areas, and ensure that the work of installing broadband provides high-paying jobs with benefits. He will encourage competition among providers, to increase speeds and decrease prices in urban, suburban, and rural areas. Biden will also work with the FCC to reform its Lifeline program, increasing the number of participating broadband providers, reducing fraud and abuse, and ultimately offering more low-income Americans the subsidies needed to access high-speed internet. Finally, Biden will work with Congress to pass the Digital Equity Act, to help communities tackle the digital divide.

Read Joe Biden’s full plan to invest in infrastructure and our communities at joebiden.com/infrastructure, and his full plan for older Americans at joebiden.com/older-Americans.

Support African American Workers 

Biden is proposing a plan to grow a stronger, more inclusive middle class—the backbone of the American economy—by strengthening public and private sector unions and helping all workers bargain successfully for what they deserve. Biden knows that African Americans face unique challenges as workers. Biden will support these workers by:

Fight for equal pay. African American women earned 61 cents for every dollar earned by white men in 2017. This totals $23,653 less in earnings in a year and $946,120 less in a lifetime. The Obama-Biden Administration protected more workers against retaliation for discussing wages and required employers to collect and report wage gaps to the federal government. As President, Biden will codify this into law, and he’ll make it easier for workers to join together in class action lawsuits, shift the burden to employers to prove pay gaps exist for job-related reasons, and increase penalties against companies that discriminate, as called for in the Paycheck Fairness Act. And, he’ll hold companies accountable by increasing funding for investigators and enforcement actions.

Ensure federally funded projects protect workers. Biden will propose infrastructure legislation that incorporates labor provisions contained in Senator Merkley’s Good Jobs for 21st Century Energy Act, adopting all basic labor protections, ensuring that all investments meet Davis-Bacon wage guidelines, and banning anti-worker provisions like forced arbitration and the overuse of temporary staffing agencies. He will require federally funded projects to employ workers trained in registered apprenticeship programs, and to prioritize Project Labor and Community Workforce Agreements in federal procurement procedures. His proposal will make sure that national infrastructure investments create millions of middle-class jobs, benefiting union and non-union workers across industries. Read Joe Biden’s full plan to encourage unions and collective bargaining at joebiden.com/empowerworkers.

Encourage diverse hiring and promotion practices. To push companies to look hard at their hiring practices and root out discrimination, Biden will require companies to make public their overall workforce diversity and senior-level diversity. He will support employers in increasing diverse hiring and promotion by providing federal grants to states, cities, and organizations to develop and implement evidence-based practices and innovative solutions, such as ban the box legislation, to push employers to hire and retain diverse employees and end discriminatory hiring policies. And, he will hold companies accountable by increasing funding for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), and the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to increase the number of investigators. 

Restore the federal government’s role in setting the bar for other employers to advance opportunities for all workers. Biden will restore and build on the Obama-Biden Administration’s Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order, which Trump revoked, requiring employers’ compliance with labor and employment laws be taken into account in determining whether they are sufficiently responsible to be entrusted with federal contracts. And, he will mandate that contractors publicly disclose plans to recruit and advance people of color, women, people with disabilities, and covered veterans and will increase enforcement efforts, including pursuing debarment where contractors refuse to end discriminatory practices. 

Protect essential workers in the COVID-19 crisis. report published in April found that “Black Americans are overrepresented in nine of the ten lowest-paid, high-contact essential services, which elevates their risk of contracting the virus.” Joe Biden has released a plan to protect these essential workers, and give them the respect, dignity, and pay they deserve.  If he were President, he would:

  • Ensure all frontline workers, like grocery store employees, qualify for priority access to personnel protective equipment (PPE) and COVID-19 testing based upon their risk of exposure to the virus, as well as child care assistance, and other forms of emergency COVID-19 support.
  • Expand access to effective personal protective equipment, including through use of the Defense Production Act.  
  • Establish and enforce health and safety standards for workplaces. 
  • Enact premium pay for frontline workers putting themselves at risk. There is no substitute for ensuring worker safety, but all frontline workers putting their lives on the line should receive premium pay for their work. This premium pay should be in addition to paid sick leave and care-giving leave for every worker, which Biden called for in his plan, and $15 minimum wage for all workers. 

Turn unemployment insurance into employment insuranceAfrican American workers are more likely to work in jobs subject to reduced hours, furloughs, and layoffs during the pandemic. Biden would transform unemployment insurance into employment insurance for millions of workers by getting states to adopt and dramatically scale up short-time compensation programs. Under short-time compensation—also known as work sharing—firms in distress keep workers employed but at reduced hours and the federal government helps make up the difference in wages. The Obama-Biden administration championed this approach in the U.S., and so far more than half of states have established short-time compensation programs. For the current crisis, the administration should move rapidly to scale up short-time compensation in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to save or restore millions of jobs. 

EXPAND ACCESS TO HIGH-QUALITY EDUCATION AND TACKLE RACIAL INEQUITY IN OUR EDUCATION SYSTEM

As President, Biden will ensure that no child’s future is determined by their zip code, parents’ income, race, or disability. Biden will build an education system that starts with investing in our children at birth and helps every student get some education beyond a high school diploma, whether a certification, associate’s degree, or bachelor’s degree. Biden will:

Provide high-quality, universal pre-kindergarten for all three- and four-year-olds. For families with young children, finding highly quality pre-K is a major financial, logistical, and emotional burden, with potentially lifelong consequences for their children. As President, Biden will work with states to offer pre-K for all three- and four-year-olds. 

Eliminate the funding gap between white and non-white districts, and rich and poor districts in order to give teachers a raise and expand STEM curriculum in underserved school districts. There’s an estimated $23 billion annual funding gap between white and non-white school districts today. Biden will work to close this gap by nearly tripling Title I funding, the federal program funding schools with a high percentage of students from low-income families. This new funding will first be used to ensure teachers at Title I schools are paid competitively, three- and four-year olds have access to pre-school, and districts provide access to rigorous coursework—including computer science and other STEM subjects—across all their schools, not just a few.

Improve teacher diversity. For African American students, having just one African American teacher in elementary school reduces the probability of dropping out. Biden will support more innovative approaches to recruiting teachers of color, including supporting high school students in accessing dual-enrollment classes that give them an edge in teacher preparation programs, helping paraprofessionals work towards their teaching certificate, and working with Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions to recruit and prepare teachers. 

Reinstate the Obama-Biden Administration’s actions to diversify our schoolsAs President, Biden will reinstate the Department of Education guidance that supported schools in legally pursuing desegregation strategies and recognized institutions of higher education’s interests in creating diverse student bodies. And, he will provide grants to school districts to create plans and implement strategies to diversify their schools.

Ensure that African American students are not inappropriately identified as having disabilities, while also ensuring that African American students with disabilities have the support to succeed. African American students are 40% more likely to be identified as having any disability, and twice as likely to be identified as having certain disabilities, such as emotional disturbance and intellectual disabilities. The Obama-Biden Administration issued regulations to address racial disparities in special education programs, including disproportionate identification. The Trump Administration attempted to illegally delay the Obama-Biden Administration’s regulation. Biden will fully implement this regulation and provide educators the resources that they need to provide students with disabilities a high-quality education by fully funding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  

Address the African American student debt crisis. The student debt burden has a disproportionate impact on African Americans. The typical bachelor’s degree graduate has about $16,000 in debt compared to $23,400 for African Americans students. According to a recent Brookings Institution study, African Americans graduating with a four year degree are 5 times more likely to default on their student loans than white graduates. African American students are three times more likely to default on their student loans than white student borrowers. The inequitable burden of student loan debt contributes to the stark racial wealth gap that exists in society. Biden’s plans to address student loan debt will alleviate student debt burdens by:

  • Including in the COVID-19 response an immediate cancellation of a minimum of $10,000 of federal student loan debt.
  • Forgiving all undergraduate tuition-related federal student debt from two- and four-year public colleges for debt-holders earning up to $125,000. This will also apply to individuals holding federal student loans for tuition from private HBCUs and MSIs.
  • Forgiving loan payments for individuals making $25,000 or less per year and capping loan payments at 5% of discretionary income for those making more. 
  • Fixing the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program and forgiving $10,000 of undergraduate or graduate student debt for every year of national or community service, up to five years. 
  • Cracking down on private lenders profiteering off of students by empowering the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to take action against private lenders who are misleading students about their options and do not provide an affordable payment plan when individuals are experiencing acute periods of financial hardship.
  • Permitting the discharge of student loans in bankruptcy. 

Increase college completion by making college affordable for African American students. Our postsecondary education system has not done enough to help African American students access, afford, and succeed in high-quality postsecondary education. 64% of white students graduate from four year institutions, compared to only 40% of African Americans. To help African American students access and complete college, Biden will:

  • Make public colleges and universities tuition-free for all students whose family incomes are below $125,000, including students at public HBCUs.  
  • Providing two years of community college or other high-quality training programs without debt for any hard-working individual looking to learn and improve their skills to keep up with the changing nature of work. This commitment includes two-year public HBCUs. Individuals will also be able to use these funds to pursue training programs that have a track record of participants completing their programs and securing good jobs, including adults who never had the chance to pursue additional education beyond high school or who need to learn new skills. 
  • Targeting additional financial support to low-income and middle-class individuals by doubling the maximum value of Pell grants, significantly increasing the number of middle-class Americans who can participate in the program. According to the Department of Education, almost 60% of African American undergraduates received a Pell grant during the 2015-2016 academic year. Biden also will restore formerly incarcerated individuals’ eligibility for Pell.

 Invest over $70 billion in the Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions that will train our next generation of African American professionals. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are key to educating our next generations of African American leaders. They enroll about 10% of African American students, while accounting for more than 20% of African American bachelor’s degrees awarded. 40% of African American engineers and 80% of African American judges are HBCU graduates. But these institutions do not receive the investment that reflects their importance. The Thurgood Marshall College Fund estimates that the typical HBCU endowment is one-eighth the average size of historically white colleges. As President, Biden will take steps to rectify the funding disparities faced by HBCUs so that the United States can benefit from their unique strengths. Biden will:

  • Make HBCUs more affordable for their students. Biden will invest $18 billion in grants to four-year HBCUs and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs), equivalent to up to two years of tuition per low-income and middle class student. He will invest additional funds in private, non-profit HBCUs and under-resourced MSIs so they are not undermined by the Biden proposal to make four-year public colleges and universities tuition-free for students. Schools must invest in lowering costs, improving retention and graduation rates, and closing equity gaps year over year for students of color.
  • Reduce disparities in funding for HBCUs and MSIs. 
  • Invest $10 billion to create at least 200 new centers of excellence that serve as research incubators and connect students underrepresented in fields critical to our nation’s future – including fields tackling climate change, globalization, inequality, health disparities, and cancer – to learning and career opportunities.
  • Build the high tech labs and facilities and digital infrastructure needed for learning, research, and innovation at HBCUs and MSIs. 
  • Invest $5 billion in graduate programs in teaching, health care, and STEM and will develop robust internship and career pipelines at major research agencies. 

Create a “Title I for postsecondary education” to help students at under-resourced four-year schools complete their degrees. The Biden Administration will establish a new grant program to support under-resourced four-year schools that serve large numbers of Pell-eligible students. The funds will be used to foster collaboration between colleges and community-based organizations to provide wraparound support services for students, including additional financial aid to cover textbook and transportation costs that often keep students from staying enrolled, to child care and mental health services, faculty mentoring, tutoring, and peer support groups.

Make a $50 billion investment in workforce training, including community-college business partnerships and apprenticeships. These funds will create and support partnerships between community colleges, businesses, unions, state, local, and tribal governments, universities, and high schools to identify in-demand knowledge and skills in a community and develop or modernize training programs – which could be as short as a few months or as long as two years – that lead to a relevant, high-demand industry-recognized credential. 

Read Joe Biden’s full education plans at joebiden.com/education and joebiden.com/beyondHS.

MAKE FAR-REACHING INVESTMENTS IN ENDING HEALTH DISPARITIES BY RACE

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the long-standing, pervasive disparities that exist across our health care system due to unequal access to treatment. An early analysis indicates that counties with majority-African American populations have coronavirus infection rates three times higher than counties with majority white residents, with death rates nearly six times higher. Although COVID-19 can hit anyone anywhere, it does not affect every community the same. African Americans are more likely to be uninsured and report higher rates of chronic health problems, and these factors increase their chances of becoming seriously ill and dying from this disease. This is unconscionable. Biden calls on Congress to immediately enact Senator Kamala Harris’ bill to create a task force to address the racial disparities that have been laid bare by this pandemic. As President, he will do everything in his power to eliminate health care disparities.

Ensuring access to health care during this crisis. In the short-term, Biden’s COVID-19 response plan calls on the Trump Administration to drop its support of a lawsuit to overturn Obamacare. Millions of Americans may lose their health insurance because they lose their job, and millions more may find health care increasingly difficult to afford. During this crisis, Biden would expand access to quality, affordable health care for all through:

  • Creating a public option;
  • Providing full payment of premiums for COBRA plans;
  • Increasing Affordable Care Act subsidies;
  • Reopening Obamacare enrollment so uninsured individuals can get insured;
  • Increasing federal investments in Medicaid;
  • Ensuring that every person, whether insured or uninsured, will not have to pay a dollar out-of-pocket for visits related to COVID-19 testing, treatment, preventative services, and any eventual vaccine. No co-payments, no deductibles, and no surprise medical billing.

Ensure access to affordable, high-quality health care beyond the crisis. Because of Obamacare, over 100 million people no longer have to worry that an insurance company will deny coverage or charge higher premiums just because they have a pre-existing condition – whether cancer or diabetes or heart disease or a mental health challenge. Insurance companies can no longer set annual or lifetime limits on coverage. Roughly 20 million additional Americans obtained the peace of mind that comes with health insurance. Young people who are in transition from school to a job have the option to stay covered by their parents’ plan until age 26. As President, Joe Biden will build on Obamacare. He will help address racial disparities in the health care system in the following ways:

  • Reducing the uninsured rate for African Americans by creating a public option health plan. Nationally, 11% of nonelderly African Americans are uninsured, compared to 8% of white people. This disparity is far greater in states with Republican governors who have not expanded Medicaid. Biden will give all Americans a new choice, a public health insurance option like Medicare. And he will ensure the individuals who would be eligible for Medicaid but for their state’s inaction are automatically enrolled on to the public option, at no cost to the individual.
  • Improving care for patients with chronic conditions, by coordinating among all of a patient’s doctors. This is particularly important for patients with chronic conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension, which disproportionately impact African Americans.
  • Lowering costs for African Americans enrolled in Obamacare plans by increasing the value of tax credits to lower premium and lowering deductibles by making other changes to how the tax credits are calculated.
  • Lowering drug prices, by allowing Medicare to negotiate with drug prices and stopping drug companies from price gouging on new drugs. 
  • Reducing our unacceptably high African American maternal mortality rate. African American women are 2.5 times more likely to die from pregnancy complications than non-Hispanic white women. California came up with a strategy that halved the state’s maternal death rate. The Biden plan takes the California strategy nationwide.
  • Expanding access to reproductive health care, including contraception and protecting the constitutional right to choose. Biden supports repealing the Hyde Amendment. He will also restore funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides services necessary to address health disparities, including breast cancer screenings and HIV/AIDS counseling, screening, and treatment. The breast cancer death rate is over 40% higher for African Americans than white women, and in 2016, African American women comprised 60% of new HIV cases.
  • Doubling the nation’s investment in community health centers. Community health centers provide primary, prenatal, and other important care, and their patients are disproportionately members of racial and ethnic minority groups, including African Americans.
  • Expanding access to mental health care. African Americans are far less likely to receive mental health services or compared to white adults.  Biden will ensure mental health parity and eliminating the stigma around mental health are critical to closing this gap.
  • Tackling social determinants of health. Because racial health disparities are the result of years of systemic inequality not only in our health care system, but across our economy, other parts of Joe Biden’s agenda are also necessary to improve the overall well-being of African Americans. For example, African Americans are more likely to face exposure to air pollutants that cause respiratory illnesses that make them particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.

Invest in the diverse talent at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) to solve the country’s most pressing problems, including health disparities. As part of Biden’s more than $70 billion investment in HBCUs and MSIs, he will invest $10 billion to create at least 200 new centers of excellence that serve as research incubators and connect students underrepresented in fields critical to our nation’s future to learning and career opportunities. He will develop robust internship and career pipelines at major research agencies, including National Institutes of Health. He will also dedicate additional and increased priority funding streams at federal agencies for grants and contracts for HBCUs and MSIs. And, he will require any federal research grants to universities with an endowment of over $1 billion to form a meaningful partnership and enter into a 10% minimum subcontract with an HBCU, TCU, or MSI. 

Build a diverse pipeline of health care professionals by investing in health care graduate programs at HBCUs and MSIs. As part of Biden’s more than $70 billion investment in HBCUs and MSis, he will invest $5 billion in graduate programs in health care, along with teaching and STEM, at HBCUs and MSIs. 

Read Joe Biden’s full health care plan at joebiden.com/healthcare.

STRENGTHEN AMERICA’S COMMITMENT TO JUSTICE

Today, too many people are incarcerated in the United States – and too many of them are African American. To build safe and healthy communities, we need to rethink who we’re sending to prison, how we treat those in prison, and how we help them get the health care, education, jobs, and housing they need to successfully rejoin society after they serve their time. As President, Biden will strengthen America’s commitment to justice and reform our criminal justice system. 

The Biden Plan for Strengthening America’s Commitment to Justice is based on several core principles:

  • We can and must reduce the number of people incarcerated in this country while also reducing crime. Reducing the number of incarcerated individuals will reduce federal spending on incarceration. These savings should be reinvested in the communities impacted by mass incarceration.
  • Our criminal justice system cannot be just unless we root out the racial, gender, and income-based disparities in the system. African American mothers and fathers should feel confident that their children are safe walking the streets of America. And, when a police officer pins on that shield and walks out the door, the officer’s family should know they’ll come home at the end of the day. Additionally, women and children are uniquely impacted by the criminal justice system, and the system needs to address their unique needs.
  • Our criminal justice system must be focused on redemption and rehabilitation. Making sure formerly incarcerated individuals have the opportunity to be productive members of our society is not only the right thing to do, it will also grow our economy.
  • No one should be profiteering off of our criminal justice system.

Biden will call for the immediate passage of Congressman Bobby Scott’s SAFE Justice Act, an evidence-based, comprehensive bill to reform our criminal justice system “from front-end sentencing reform to back-end release policies.” The Biden Plan will also go further. Biden will take bold action to reduce our prison population, create a more just society, and make our communities safer. He will: 

Expand and use the power of the U.S. Justice Department to address systemic misconduct in police departments and prosecutors’ offices. Using authority in legislation spearheaded by Biden as senator, the Obama-Biden Justice Department used pattern-or-practice investigations and consent decrees to address circumstances of “systemic police misconduct” and to “restore trust between police and communities” in cities such as Ferguson. Yet, the Trump Administration’s Justice Department has limited the use of this tool. Under the Biden Administration, the Justice Department will again use its authority to root out unconstitutional or unlawful policing. In addition, Biden will push for legislation to clarify that this pattern-or-practice investigation authority can also be used to address systemic misconduct by prosecutors’ offices. 

Establish an independent Task Force on Prosecutorial Discretion. The Biden Administration will create a new task force, placed outside of the U.S. Department of Justice, to make recommendations for tackling discrimination and other problems in our justice system that results from arrest and charging decisions.

Reinvigorate community-oriented policing. Policing works best when officers are out of their cruisers and walking the streets, engaging with and getting to know members of their communities. But in order to do that, police departments need resources to hire a sufficient number of officers. Biden spearheaded the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program, which authorized funding both for the hiring of additional police officers and for training on how to undertake a community policing approach. However, the program has never been funded to fulfill the original vision for community policing. Biden will reinvigorate the COPS program with a $300 million investment. As a condition of the grant, hiring of police officers must mirror the racial diversity of the community they serve. Additionally, as President, Biden will establish a panel to scrutinize what equipment is used by law enforcement in our communities.

Invest in public defenders’ offices to ensure defendants’ access to quality counsel. Defenders’ resources and support are too decentralized and too hard to access. Biden will expand the Obama-Biden effort to expand resources for public defenders’ offices.

Create a $20 billion grant program to support criminal justice reform at the state and local level. Funds can be used by cities and states on measures proven to reduce crime and incarceration, and require states to eliminate mandatory minimums for non-violent crimes in order to receive funding. 

Reform sentencing. Biden will work with Congress to reform federal sentencing and provide incentives to state and local systems to do the same. He will end, once and for all, the federal crack and powder cocaine disparity, decriminalize the use of cannabis and automatically expunge all prior cannabis use convictions, and end all incarceration for drug use alone and instead divert individuals to drug courts and treatment. He will work to eliminate mandatory minimums and the death penalty. 

End the criminalization of poverty. Cash bail is the modern-day debtors’ prison. Biden will lead a national effort to end cash bail and reform our pretrial system by putting in place, instead, a system that is fair and does not inject further discrimination or bias into the process. And, he will work to end the practice of jailing people for being too poor to pay fines and fees.

Stop corporations from profiteering off of incarceration. Biden will end the federal government’s use of private prisons, building off an Obama-Biden Administration’s policy rescinded by the Trump Administration. And, he will make clear that the federal government should not use private facilities for any detention, including detention of undocumented immigrants. 

Eliminate existing barriers preventing formerly incarcerated individuals from fully participating in society. For example, Biden will eliminate barriers keeping formerly incarcerated individuals from accessing public assistance such as SNAP, Pell grants, and housing support. The Biden Administration will incentivize states to automatically restore voting rights for individuals convicted of felonies once they have served their sentences. He will also expand access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment, as well as educational opportunities and job training for individuals during and after incarceration.  

Reform the juvenile justice system. Biden will invest $1 billion per year in juvenile justice reform. He will expand funding for after-school programs, community centers, and summer jobs to keep young people active, busy, learning, and having fun. Biden will double the number of mental health professionals in our schools so behavioral and emotional challenges can be addressed by appropriately skilled psychologists, counselors, and social workers, not our criminal justice system. And, he will restore the Obama-Biden Administration guidance to help schools address the high number of suspensions and expulsions that affect students of color at a higher rate than white students.

Make our communities safer. Biden will pursue evidence-based measures to root out persistent violent crime. Violent offenders need to be held accountable, and survivors need to have access to support to deal with the physical, psychological, and financial consequences of violence. Biden will tackle the rise in hate crimes through moral leadership that makes clear such vitriol has no place in the United States. And, in the Biden Administration, the Justice Department will prioritize prosecuting hate crimes. Additionally, Biden will address the daily acts of gun violence in our communities that may not make national headlines, but are just as devastating to survivors and victims’ families as gun violence that does make the front page. These daily acts of gun violence disproportionately impact communities of color. Biden will create a $900 million, eight-year initiative to fund evidence-based interventions in 40 cities across the country – the 20 cities with the highest number of homicides, and 20 cities with the highest number of homicides per capita. This proposal is estimated to save more than 12,000 lives over the eight-year program.

Read Joe Biden’s full criminal justice plan at joebiden.com/justice and his plan to reduce gun violence at joebiden.com/gunsafety.

MAKE THE RIGHT TO VOTE AND THE RIGHT TO EQUAL PROTECTION REAL FOR AFRICAN AMERICANS 

President Trump has rolled back civil rights enforcement across the government and cut staff for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.  In the first two years of the Trump Administration, the Division started 60% fewer investigations than during the Obama-Biden Administration. As President, Biden will reverse the damage done by Trump and increase funding for civil rights enforcement. He will ensure that the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, the EEOC, and agency civil rights enforcement offices have the resources they need to root out and stop discrimination. He will also: 

Ensure that political appointees, including the President’s Cabinet, look like the country they serve, and ensure that our federal workforce is representative of the demographics in our country. The Obama-Biden Administration made great progress in building a diverse federal workforce, but Biden knows work remains for the country to fully realize the benefits of the talents, abilities, and perspectives of a workforce that looks like the country. As President, Biden will nominate and appoint people who look like the country they serve and share Biden’s commitment to rigorous enforcement of civil rights protections. He will reissue and mandate strict compliance with the Obama-Biden executive order to promote diversity and inclusion. He will rebuild the pipeline of workers into the federal government and incentivize more qualified workers to choose public service by forgiving $10,000 a year in student debt for up to five years of public service. He’ll tap into the best and brightest talent from every source by developing career pipelines from Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions into federal agencies. Biden will also provide more training and mentoring opportunities to improve retention, and collect better data about who is applying for federal service positions as well as being promoted.

Appoint U.S. Supreme Court justices and federal judges who look like America, are committed to the rule of law, understand the importance of individual civil rights and civil liberties in a democratic society, and respect foundational precedents like Brown vs. Board of Education and Roe v. Wade. Biden has also pledged to appoint the first African American woman to the U.S. Supreme Court, a move which is long overdue. We can’t have four more years of Trump appointees filling lifetime judiciary seats. Trump has already appointed 193 federal judges – including two Supreme Court justices. Only eight are African American. Seven Trump appointees were rated “not qualified” by the American Bar Association.

Ensure every vote counts. Since the Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder, an increasing number of states have passed laws with no apparent purpose besides making it more difficult to vote, especially for people of color. It’s just as un-American now as it was during Jim Crow. As President, Biden will strengthen our democracy by guaranteeing that every American’s vote is protected. He will start by passing the Voting Rights Advancement Act to update section 4 of the Voting Rights Act and develop a new process for pre-clearing election changes. He also will ensure that the Justice Department challenges state laws suppressing the right to vote. Biden supports automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration, and many more steps to make exercising one’s right to vote easier. Biden will ensure that the Justice Department has the resources and authority to enforce laws that protect our voting rights. Biden believes we need to end gerrymandering and we must protect our voting booths and voter rolls from foreign powers that seek to undermine our democracy and interfere in our elections. And, the Biden Administration will incentivize states to automatically restore voting rights for individuals convicted of felonies once they have served their sentences. 

Combat the epidemic of violence against transgender women of color. As a direct response to the high rates of homicide of transgender people—particularly transgender women of color—the Biden Administration will make prosecuting their murderers a priority. And, during his first 100 days in office, Biden will direct federal resources to help prevent violence against transgender women, particularly transgender women of color. Recognizing that employment and housing discrimination lead to increased risk of homelessness and violence, Biden will also work to pass the Equality Act to reduce economic barriers and social stigma and the LGBTQ Essential Data Act to help collect a wide variety of critical data about anti-trans violence and the factors that drive it.

Tackle systemic racism and support a study of the continuing impacts of slavery. We must acknowledge that there can be no realization of the American dream without grappling with the original sin of slavery, and the centuries-long campaign of violence, fear, and trauma wrought upon African American people in this country. As Biden has said in this campaign, a Biden Administration will support a study of reparations. Biden will begin on day one of his Administration to address the systemic racism that persists across our institutions today. That’s why he developed educationclimate change, and health care policies, among others, that will root out this systemic racism and ensure that all Americans have a fair shot at living the American dream. 

ADDRESS ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE

Biden knows we cannot turn a blind eye to the way in which environmental burdens and benefits have been and will continue to be distributed unevenly along racial and socioeconomic lines – not just with respect to climate change, but also pollution of our air, water, and land. The evidence of these disproportionate harms is clear. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and the National Pharmaceutical Council, African Americans are almost three times more likely to die from asthma related causes than their white counterparts. People of color are more likely to live in areas most vulnerable to flooding and other climate change-related weather events. They are also less likely to have the funds to prepare for and recover from extreme weather. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, African American and Hispanic residents were twice as likely as non-Hispanic white individuals to report experiencing an income shock and lack of recovery support. 

As President, Biden will stand up to the abuse of power by polluters who disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities. He has asked his campaign to commence a process to more deeply engage with environmental justice leaders and develop additional policies related to environmental justice. The policies, to be announced in the weeks ahead, will build on the proposals he has put forward to date:

Reinstate federal protections, rolled back by the Trump Administration, that were designed to protect communities. Biden will make it a priority for all agencies to engage in community-driven approaches to develop solutions for environmental injustices affecting communities of color, low-income, and indigenous communities. 

Hold polluters accountable. African American children living in poverty are more likely than wealthier white children to live in a community that borders toxic chemical facilities. Extreme weather can increase the health risks of being co-located with these toxic structures. Under the Trump Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has referred the fewest number of criminal anti-pollution cases to the Justice Department in 30 years. Allowing corporations to continue to pollute – affecting the health and safety of both their workers and surrounding communities – without consequences perpetuates an egregious abuse of power. Failure to reduce emissions disproportionately hurts African American and Hispanic residents who experience 37% higher exposure to nitrogen dioxide (a toxic pollutant) compared to non-Hispanic whites. This leads to an increased rate of premature death due to heart disease. As President, Biden will direct EPA and the Justice Department to pursue these cases to the fullest extent permitted by law and, when needed, seek additional legislation as needed to hold corporate executives personally accountable – including jail time where merited. 

Ensure access to safe drinking water for all communities. Biden will make water infrastructure a top priority, for example, by establishing systems to monitor lead and other contaminants in our water supply and take necessary action to eliminate health risks, including holding polluters accountable and support communities in upgrading their systems. In addition, Biden will double federal investments in clean drinking water and water infrastructure, and focus new funding on low-income rural, suburban, and urban areas that are struggling to replace pipes and treatment facilities – and especially on communities at high risk of lead or other kinds of contamination. In addition, Biden will reduce the matching funds required of local governments that don’t have the tax base to be able to afford borrowing to repair their water systems.

Monitor for lead and other contaminants and hold polluters accountable. As President, Biden will also require state and local governments to monitor their water systems for lead and other contaminants, and he will provide them with the resources to do so. Biden will also work with the EPA and the Justice Department to hold companies that pollute our waterways accountable, aggressively enforcing existing regulations and prosecuting any violations. Corporations and their executives cannot break the law and expect to get away with it.

Prioritize communities harmed by climate change and pollution. Low-income communities and communities of color don’t equally share in the benefits of well-paying job opportunities that result from our clean energy economy. As President, Biden will make sure these communities receive preference in competitive grant programs in the Clean Economy Revolution. In addition, Biden will pursue new partnerships with community colleges, unions, and the private sector to develop programs to train all of America’s workforce to tap into the growing clean energy economy; incorporate skills training into infrastructure investment planning by engaging state and local communities; and reinvigorate and repurpose AmeriCorps for sustainability, so that every American can participate in the clean energy economy. We also know that resiliency investments can raise property values and push lower-income families out of their neighborhoods. Climate change mitigation efforts must consciously protect low-income communities from “green gentrification.”

Source: https://joebiden.com/blackamerica/

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New Orleans Must Improve the Lives of ALL African Americans

By Jeff Thomas

Many people often say I’m too focused on race. But look around our city. Most of the big social problems are in the African American community. Murder. Car jackings. Poverty. Covid hospitalizations. Drug abuse. Unemployment. The list goes on and on and on. Fixing these problems in that part of the African American community that struggles makes the city great for EVERYBODY. So if you are black or white or Asian or Hispanic and doing pretty good want to live in a safer cleaner city, let’s fix the problems in the ailing parts of our city. Helping poor black people benefits everybody.

Good news is we can do it. And it is not that hard. New Orleans should be a sanctuary city for the poor and struggling African Americans.  Every policy and regulation possible should support this notion.  And given the egregiously regressive and burdensome past, city government should fast track all current, available solutions.   Even a cursory glance at   the plight of  hard-working African Americans  in the city provides ample evidence of the urgent need for change.

Broken Paradigm

Our current paradigm has created and sustains the crime-plagued, underperforming city. Low-performing schools contribute to the highest dropout rates in the country.  Gentrification and low-paying jobs force many into the rental market in our city.  And people who own their homes are nearly 90% less likely to commit crimes compared to those who rent. Though the murder rate is once again the highest in the country per capita.  African Americans in NOLA die at alarmingly high rates. Especially when it comes to young people.  We must fix serious and deeply-entrenched problems here quickly.  It can be done with surprising ease if a coordinated attempt is employed.

THE SANCTUARY CITY MODEL

Characteristics of the sanctuary should include

Combined, these targets will dramatically reduce poverty and improve the quality of life for all our citizens.  With access to good-paying jobs and pathways to home ownership, crime will drop precipitously.  Working men, who earn living wages, will fatten city coffers via property and sales tax payments.  Needing fewer police officers, more money could then be shifted into job training programs. These programs prepare young people to enter the workforce and become taxpayers.

SWB JOBS PROGRAM

The Sewerage and Water Board can be the greatest jobs program in city history.  Billions of FEMA dollars are scheduled to be spent repairing crumbling infrastructure. The board must hire, train and demand excellence from its repair people.  Our ability to pump water is our lifeline. We must invest in training our people to protect our property. The SWB is more important than the NOPD.  SWB must pay enough to enable employees to purchase homes. 

HOME OWNERSHIP

Eighty five percent of people who commit crimes do not own their homes. Neighborhoods where people own their homes are cleaner, safer. And they provide ancillary activities (kids sports programs, block parties, etc.) that promote healthier living.  Living wages help people qualify for mortgages.  City-sanctioned home ownership classes would motivate and inspire people to save for down payments and improve their credit scores.  The soft second mortgage programs should also be expanded.

NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOLS

Working families need close and convenient good schools for their children.  Our experiment with charter schools must shift to emphasize local school excellence.  Good neighborhood schools reduce stress, increase participation and reduce dropout rates, which in turn strengthen families.  Parent-school partnerships are easier when parents are able to access school personnel close to home.  Friendly rivalries centered around athletic and academic achievement will transform educational achievement[  in The Bowl.  Businesses could offer cash prizes to the students who perform best and the schools which achieve great successes.

COMMUNITY POLICING

Police Chief Shaun Ferguson rose through the ranks. And he is a man from our streets who now leads the men and women who patrol our streets.  He says, “The community and police must form a partnership.”  He is correct when he says the NOPD needs citizen support.  Right now, our NOPD is dangerously understaffed. Shifting to 12 hour shifts increases presence on the streets. Good move Chief. Also moving more desk and clerical jobs from police to citizen staffing will enable more officers to get out. And top brass should patrol our neighborhoods. They are our best and brightest. They have the experience and authority to effectively decipher complex situations. Is a shouting match serious?

We know arresting and jailing people for minor crimes, even for short periods of time, has dramatic and real effects. And ironically results in yet more crime.  Instead, community policing operates in an atmosphere of cooperation and respect.  Too often, police have operated with rigidity and oppressiveness. That stifles the community support it needs, desires, and deserves. 

For too long, New Orleans and other municipalities have focused on fines and fees to finance government.  Police decide who gets pulled over and issued a ticket.  Furthermore, rigid rules and immediate late fees from municipal utilities create undue stress in an already overburdened populace. 

In the 21st century, our cities must uplift the lives of all the citizens who make these places home.

It happens everyday in America!

By Jeff Thomas

Black men kill each other at alarming rates all across America every day. Nearly every city’s daily news casts reports, “Today in our city three (or thirty depending on the size of your city) men were shot and killed in three (or thirty) separate shootings.  Police have no suspects in any of the cases.”  And immediately and innately you know that the people killed were black and the killers were black.  This has been going on for the last 30-40 years and no end is in sight.  New Orleans has one of the highest murder rates nationally.  Why do black men kill each other?

First Let’s Dispel a Racist Myth

First thing you have to know is that 99.999% of black men do not commit murder ever in their lives.  That is a fact!  This is not a black man issue.  There is nothing genetically or intrinsically wrong with black men. But the fact remains that daily hundreds of black men across this country are murdered everyday by another black man.  Why does this happen with this subset?

Common factors to Black men murdering other black men

RACE

The first thing about murder is that people usually kill people who are similar to them in many ways, particularly race.  White men normally murder other white men and black men normally murder other black men. 

PROXIMITY

In the black community, these killings are normally city events.  Rarely do you hear of a drive by in the country.  Most of these daily killings occur on the city streets.  People kill others who they interact with.

AGE

Young men engage in risky and violent behavior.  Most of the men dying on our streets are between the ages of 17-35. 

EDUCATION

Nearly 95% have not graduated from college and 65% have not completed high school.   

Socioeconomic Status

100% were not upper class in America. The links between poverty and crime are well documented.  And black men have lived in depression level economic conditions for the last 50 years.

But these are often cited, unsurprising factors.  More salient is what goes into the psyche of a guy who can look into the eyes of another man and pull the trigger at close range or jab a knife with the intent to murder another man?  What are the other factors that contribute to becoming a murderer? Why do Black men kill each other

Habitually Hostile Men

The guy who ain’t never scared and always looking to escalate a situation.  Down for whatever.  Nothing to live for and anticipating the day he will either kill or be killed.  This mindset is cultivated in a limited option, few chances, success deprived life.  This guy has had a number of arguments and fist fights throughout his life.  He hates authority and frequently feels angry or resentful towards people.  He often seeks to overcome a feeling of powerlessness.  This guy is a walking heap of rage.  He is always nothing but a gun and an argument away from murder.

The Disrespected Man

A man who feels like everybody but him gets respect.

For this guy, respect is everything and options to express anger or refutation are often limited.   He often seeks to overcome a feeling of impotence. If another who seems unworthy of disseminating criticism or scorn or generally crosses the line of imagined respect, then a high level of response will be meted out.

The Wannabe

When challenged by a non-believing skeptic, this man often acts in unnecessarily violent ways in unnecessarily violent situations.  Often seeks to overcome a feeling of powerlessness.

Self-Hate

The daily feeling of isolation, powerlessness and impotence is like being a prisoner of war.  One reason black men grab their genitals is to stress their vitality.  Men who have been literally stripped of the ability to display their manhood – great jobs, big houses, educational attainment and all the other accoutrements of modern society- are literally killing to express their power in life.  Twisted but true.

by Mark Travers Ph.D.

Sometimes, we need to unlearn basic conditioning by splurging the right way.

Many of us are taught to avoid conversations around the topic of money. As such, we struggle to understand the relationship we have with it. We may ruminate on questions such as:

It’s good to reflect on these questions, as they tell a deeper story about how you view money and its role in your life. Below I will discuss three ways money can actually buy happiness, according to new research.

1. Spending money on your partner pays happiness dividends.

We often feel nudged to think of creative ways to show our commitment to our partner. This might mean making an unexpected thoughtful gesture, crafting a handmade gift, or thinking of new ways to spend quality time together.

While all of these methods are great, there’s nothing wrong with buying your partner something they want or could use. Or, even better, something they want but would never buy for themselves.

One recent study shows that partners who regularly spend money on each other are more satisfied in their relationships. Spending on your partner increases partner responsiveness, which contributes to the health of the relationship and to both members’ individual psychological health.

Moreover, buying something for your partner does not mean you didn’t devote time or effort into the gesture. Purchasing something nice takes effort, too — you might have had to save up money, plan around a sale, or make a reservation.

When it comes to investing in your relationship, both time and money make a difference.

2. Spending money on a furry friend can be delightful.

Yes, pets are huge responsibilities. Yes, they can make a mess. And yes, they sometimes leave bite marks on brand-new furniture. Yes, veterinary visits can be expensive. But pets are not (only) money pits. On the contrary, research shows that spending money on your pets — be it for training, toys, or accessories — can significantly increase your level of happiness.

There are other positives as well. Petting a dog can have stress-busting effects on your mind and body. Keeping your pet active forces you to stay active. Perhaps most importantly, pets also play an emotionally supportive role for you and your family.

People who own pets are known to be more sociable and tend to create vibrant communities with other pet owners, which can be a powerful antidote to loneliness and isolation. It was no surprise that when the pandemic hit and the world went into hibernation, pet adoption and sales reached record highs.

3. Spend your money on experiences, not things.

While spending on others is a great way to increase your happiness, spending on yourself is not a crime. In fact, buying new and interesting experiences for yourself is a great way to achieve long-lasting happiness that is not rooted in materialism.

Investing in experiences like a solo trip, a concert, or even a music lesson can add meaningful milestones to your life’s narrative. The value of experiences increases as the years go by and continue to enrich you in different ways — something new clothes or jewelry rarely achieve.

Not convinced? Think about your honeymoon, the time you took your child or younger sibling to an amusement park, or the time you went to a book reading by your favorite author. Would you trade those experiences for anything else in the world?

Conclusion

Money is no more than a token of value. You are allowed to use it when you want to tell someone that you value their love, their labor, and their presence — even if that person is you.

What can The Road to Damascus teach us about White Supremacy?          

By Orissa Arend        

            White supremacy is a term that has come into the public discourse in the last few years. I first heard it decades ago at a People’s Institute Undoing Racism Workshop. Back then for me, a white person, it was a startling, new idea – revolutionary and challenging. But the intervening years have brought seminars, books on the subject, lists of its manifestations, and an emerging awareness of the attending powers and privileges.

            In some circles, white people have discussed it ad nauseam in an effort to understand, to undo racism, and to assuage guilt. But being white, our attempts have been mostly in the head, the intellect,  generally our processing mechanism of choice. We often don’t engage the heart or our body.

            Kathy Randels’ new one-woman play, The Road to Damascus, is an antidote to that. At once intensely personal, and at the same time universal, Kathy embodies Little Red, Grandmother, the Wolf, the Horseman, Saul, and Paul, weaving in our insidious tendency toward white supremacy throughout. She moves fluidly among characters with poetry, song, narrative, and dance. She invites us into the integration she is seeking between her family’s Baptist preacher history and her work in drama with women in prison over the last 25 years.

            The play was directed and co-created by Odile Del Giudice who uses her background as a professional performance artist to address ancestral and collective trauma. What is our true embodied nature, she prompts us to ask. How can our true nature integrate divergent perspectives on God, race, and structures of dominance? This is where my brain, with all its “white” conditioning, begins to fog over. So let me give you a few snippets from the play that perhaps will tempt you beyond the usual rational, linear ways of dealing with good and evil, prey and predator, racism and conversion.

            Imagine a stage whose props consist mainly of books – which belonged to Kathy’s preacher father and preacher grandfather – and stones which can be used for protection, revenge, killing, games, or divination. Other props include an extraordinary wolf head and a dazzling red cape.

            Little Red ventures into the woods as an innocent, bearing gifts and cookies. She is tricked by the wolf, to whom innocence is an aphrodisiac.  She is also lured by Saul as the Horseman. Saul leaves Red’s “present” in shreds after an ecstatic encounter, and rides off.

            But Little Red’s innocence morphs into complicity with predators as she plays “cops and robbers,” and “cowboys and Indians” with the wolf. He reminds her that those games have always been sick. She gets confused about the rules and who is good. Confusion is a common fall-back position when white people feel uncomfortable.

            Later still in the play she wields the sacred, deadly stones of white supremacy which Saul, in his bureaucratic obsession and religious zealoutry, has orchestrated against the “darkskins.”

            Grandmother, the wisdom figure, is based to some extent on Gloria Williams (aka Mama Glo) whose recent release from prison Kathy worked with many others to achieve. Mama Glo served 52 years. Little Red doesn’t realize until late in the play that Grandmother is a “darkskin”. Grandmother tells Red that after Damascus, Saul is dead. She assures Red that he has paid for his racism and his violence in the name of the Lord. Red is not satisfied with that. She wants Saul and the King, who has imprisoned Grandmother, killed. But Grandmother says no, that wouldn’t do any good. They would just find another. Besides, she is free, she claims, even if she dies in prison. If she were white, she ruefully explains, she would be sitting on a throne.

            She understands that each of us has to tame the wolf inside of us, so he can protect us and keep us honest. We cannot kill the wolf. She brings hope for a new system. But she cautions that she can’t tell the white ones what to do.

They’ve got to figure that out for themselves.

            Kathy is masterful at embodying all these characters and the archetypal, dream-like associations that they carry. The music, the stage set, and the costumes assist her brilliantly. But I would have to be way beyond my present capacity for understanding Bible stories, racial history, and church dogma to really “get” the complex web of images in this play. Maybe that’s the point: Maybe I’m not supposed to be able to figure it out. Enlightenment for Paul is preceded by blindness. The play challenges me to surrender my cognitive ways of knowing in order to really see.

            Kathy would like to bring the play to white churches here and elsewhere throughout Louisiana, in an effort to encourage white Christians to look at the role we have allowed Christianity to play in the creation of our inequitable legal system. She wants to invite those same folks to work on ways to repair the damage to generations of families who have been harmed by that system. The play could be part of a discussion series. I feel sure that would move the needle for any aspiring anti-racist church. If your church is interested, you can contact Kathy Randels at kathy@artspotproductions.org.

New Orleans is one of the most poor and obese cities in the country.  And if health is wealth, then the city is sick.  Maybe even ICU sick in some instances.  If only we could create jobs in healthcare that focuses on improving the community’s health. And train and hire people from the community.  Then we could kill two birds with one stone.  Reduce poverty and simultaneously improve our health. The proposed New Orleans Biodistrict can do that and more.  That’s the kind of creative thinking our city needs. 

Crime leads the daily news cycle. We see senseless killing on our streets daily.  The mayor’s long-term approach to invest in youth training has yielded mixed results.  The short-term result is an increase in homicides.  But as terrible as these heinous crimes are, they pale in comparison to the destruction and devastation from health-related deaths.  We willingly invest in more police and police technology.

The “if it bleeds it leads” media obsession highlights the  300 tragic murders but completely ignores the thousands who needlessly die annually from poor health. Diabetes, heart ailments, and stroke kill more black men than all the shootings in all the metro parishes combined. People point to crime as a reason to recall the mayor.  But we struggle to form and fund an innovative corridor that will not only improve health but also reduce crime.

The Biodistict New Orleans was created in 2005 by the state legislature.  It is a business and health corridor from Carrollton Ave to Loyola and from Iberville to Earhart.  It incorporates

New Orleans Working BioDistrict

Their vision is simple.  It will make us healthier and safer.  The district will make our city a better place to live.  It promises not to gentrify the neighborhoods.  People won’t be displaced.  In fact their lives will be enhanced by the jobs and access to healthcare that our city sorely needs now.  According to their literature the BioDistrict –

Problems Exist

The biggest holdup had been an unclear vision and lack of oversight.  The mayor, the governor, state representatives, economic agencies and university leaders appoint the board. But as they say, the devil is in the details. But issues still exist-

If this is not possible, then the current CEA is not the correct agreement. The BioDistrict can transform our city. We have to do it right. It’s been 17 years in the making. Be intentional. Get it right.

We need new ideas and projects in order to grow the city.  The BioDisrict will attract startup companies.  Included in the new proposal is a startup incubator that helps local young business people become startups that will anchor the community.  Imagine out people healthy.  Imagine our people transformed.Then imagine out people enriched.  That’s a New Orleans we can all love. New Orleans needs the BioDistrict. But it needs the BioDistrict properly configured.

Maybe the mayor should show them a little leg. Maybe give them a lil extra twist in her hips when she walks by. Yeah. They’d like that. Or on conservatively dressed days, maybe cuff her pants to expose a bit of ankle, revealing the smooth contours of bone. Whew. That’ll get a rise out of them, those creepy white men.

Mayor Cantrell has a creepy white man problem.

If I was a creepy white man, I wonder if I’d stalk the mayor, too. I mean, she does look mean in a pair of jeans. On the dance floor, she does sway something sassy. She definitely got that black as you-know-what-attitude. Who knows, maybe I’d join them, those fellow creepy white men, tongue wagging and dripping saliva, nose to the pavement like a bloodhound. Who got that scent?

How does one become a creepy white man? Have you ever wondered? Do you merely have to do something creepy, like sift through 630 hours of surveillance footage, all just to catch a glimpse of the mayor? Is there an entrance fee? Some type of initiation? A ball? Do you get a discount if you donate to the Metropolitan Crime Commission? Can I simply identify as one?

Should the mayor be flattered? In this land of the free, selfish, cut-throat, and brave, creepy white men reign supreme. They’re the powerful possessors of privilege. And just think, here she is, little ole LaToya, the apple of their affection, the dimple of their desire. An explanation is required.

Ever since the mayor began doing an incredibly incompetent job of running the city, creepy white men have come out of the closet and become — well…increasingly creepy. Things they put up with under previous administrations are absolutely intolerable under this one.

Like possessive husbands, they now need to know when she comes and goes. They need to know how she’s spending “their” money (what you doing with those Wisner funds and first class flights?). Lately, her staying downtown in a city owned apartment without paying rent has become the most pressing infatuation. Even though city law possibly says she doesn’t have to. Is she staying there alone? Maybe……

This has clearly sparked creepy white man arousal. They can’t take it – visions of her black ass getting away with imagined atrocities. It’s just too much. So what do they do? They follow her, snapping pictures with telescoping lenses. They monitor her mail. Then they monitor her maintenance requests. They even camp out waiting to catch a glimpse of her sunbathing on a balcony, annoyed because she put up the privacy screen.

Do Powerful White Men Lust After the Mayor

Remember when the mayor said she flies first class to protect her mental health and safety as a black woman? Initially, that sounded utterly ridiculous. But who knows? She is being stalked, photographed, surveilled. And her picture is blasted on the evening news like a mugshot. Who knows? Maybe she’s onto something.

Sad.

Imagine what it is to be a creepy white man though. To get away with this, to live free with zero repercussions or judgment. It’s a facet of the American dream, one almost as old as white men lusting after black women.

Jeff Somers 

There’s little doubt that there’s a huge wealth gap in the U.S. along racial lines. As noted by Bloomberg, Black Americans have, on average, one-sixth of the wealth held by their white counterparts. And the racial wealth gap is getting wider every year. 

As noted by the Harvard Gazette, this disparity is the result of nearly 160 years of systematic racism in the wake of the end of the Civil War. After General William Tecumseh Sherman’s Special Field Order Number 15 gave freed slaves acreage of their own, there was a moment of hope that the newly-freed Black Americans would be given the resources to build wealth and achieve true equality — but after President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination and the ascent of Andrew Johnson to the presidency, those efforts were reversed — and more than a century of Jim Crow laws and other racist policies essentially made it nearly impossible for most Black Americans to accumulate wealth. 

Nearly impossible — but not totally impossible. A remarkable handful of brilliant Black Americans managed to become incredibly wealthy and successful despite these organized efforts to hold them down. Their stories are remarkable considering that Black Americans still face innumerable barriers to gaining wealth even in the modern day. (Of the 2,755 billionaires in the world as of 2022, only 15 are Black — and of the 724 billionaires in America, only nine are Black.) Here are America’s first Black millionaires.

William Alexander Leidesdorff

Portrait of William Alexander Leidesdorff© Wikimedia Commons

As The Washington Post reports, America’s first Black millionaire was William Alexander Leidesdorff — a man Afro News notes is considered one of the founders of what would eventually be known as San Francisco. In 1845, President James Polk named him American Vice Consul to a Mexican outpost in California, making him the first Black American diplomat as well.

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According to The Daily Beast, Leidesorff was mixed-race and claimed to have been born on St. Croix in the Danish West Indies — though there’s some speculation he might have been born in Hungary. Whatever the truth of his early life, Leidesdorff was incredibly successful. He worked in imports and made a tidy fortune, then moved to San Francisco and became one of its leading citizens, launching a general store, building ships, and running the city’s first hotel. When he died, the city flew its flags at half-mast. His estate was worth about $1.4 million at the time — or close to $60 million today

One of the most remarkable aspects of Leidesdorff’s life is the fact that he lived openly as a biracial man in Antebellum America, which was not a time known for its racial tolerance. Legally, anyone with Black ethnicity in their background was considered Black, and as therefore subjected to racist policies and laws, even outside of the Southern states.

Mary Ellen Pleasant

Photo of Mary Ellen Pleasant© Wikimedia Commons

The New York Times reports that Mary Ellen Pleasant was born into slavery in 1814. In the 1820s, she moved to Nantucket, Massachusetts — and according to Investopedia, worked to assist the Underground Railroad, which helped those fleeing enslavement find their way to safe areas in the North of the country. She married a man named James Smith, and when he died, she inherited a small fortune. 

In 1849, she moved to San Francisco, possibly due to the blowback she received for her work on the Underground Railroad. There she found work as a cook — and eavesdropped on her wealthy employers for investment tips. She soon became the richest woman in the city through a combination of smart loans and businesses, including a chain of boarding houses in a booming city. She was known as “Mammy Pleasant,” and designed and built a fine mansion in the city.

Despite the change of location and her growing fortune, Pleasant remained committed to the abolitionist cause, and secretly donated money — an incredible $30,000, nearly a million dollars in today’s money — to John Brown, whose raid on Harper’s Ferry was intended to spark an uprising and is a key moment in the lead-up to the American Civil War. When Brown was hanged, the authorities found a note in his pocket from Pleasant promising more money — but no one suspected she was the note’s author.

Robert Reed Church

Photo of Robert Reed Church© Wikimedia Commons

According to BlackPast, Robert Reed Church was born in 1839 to steamboat captain Charles B. Church, who was white, and a woman named Emmeline, who was enslaved by Charles. His father never legitimized Robert, but he trained him and hired him as a steward on his boat — the highest position a Black man could hold at the time.

Investopedia reports that Robert Church was forced to serve as a steward on board the steamboat Victona during the Civil War, but was emancipated after the war ended. He moved to Memphis, where he began to invest in real estate, quickly amassing a fortune and a business empire that included hotels and a bar, and co-founded the Solvent Savings Bank and Trust Company.

Church’s fortune rested on his personal resolve and bravery. During the 1866 race riots, Church was shot in his own bar and left for dead. Yet he refused to leave his adopted home. When Yellow Fever swept through the city, property values plummeted — and Church began buying land. By the time of his death, The Washington Post notes that Church was one of the largest landowners in all of Tennessee — possibly the largest. In 1879, Church was so rich that he led the charge in buying municipal bonds when the city of Memphis teetered on the edge of bankruptcy, helping to save the city, and in 1908 he personally paid the debts of the historic Beale Street Baptist Church to prevent its creditors from seizing the property.

Hannah Elias

The© Detroit Publishing Co./Wikimedia Commons

According to Afro News, Hannah Elias was born in Philadelphia in 1865. Twenty years later, author Angus McLaren reports in his book “Sexual Blackmail,” she met the wealthy and highly respectable John R. Platt while working as a “courtesan” in San Francisco. Twelve years later, Platt met Elias again on the East Coast when she was working in a massage parlor — and the two began a relationship.

Platt helped Elias start a boardinghouse business in New York City, but the relationship soon soured, and Platt eventually accused Elias of extorting nearly $700,000 from him, threatening to reveal their sordid relationship to the world. Platt paid the blackmail for years, but in 1904 he’d finally had enough and had Elias charged. When the police arrived at her Central Park West home, she barricaded herself inside. Morbidly, her home then became a stop for early tour buses (pictured) for several days as she held the police at bay.

As noted by Investopedia, Platt’s lawsuit was eventually dismissed. Elias used the money she received from Platt and from her businesses to buy up real estate in Harlem, New York — quickly becoming one of the richest Black women in America at the time. The Atlanta Black Star reports her wealth at $1 million at its height. As noted by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Elias is credited with helping to establish Harlem as an iconic Black neighborhood in New York City. She vanished in 1915; although rumored to have traveled to Europe, no one knows her final fate.

Annie Turnbo-Malone

Recipe for hair pressing oil from Poro College© Heritage Images/Getty Images

As noted by Vox, Annie Turnbo-Malone is an often overlooked figure in Black American history, but her achievements as one of the first Black American millionaires deserve more attention.

According to authors Ayana Byrd and Lori Tharps in their book “Hair Story,” Turnbo-Malone was born in 1869 in Metropolis, Illinois, and was orphaned as a young child. Raised by her sister, Turnbo-Malone became interested in chemistry, specifically seeking solutions to the common hair problems Black women face, typically — even today — without much help from mainstream beauty companies. Self-taught in chemistry, she initially created a product called Wonderful Hair Grower and began going door to door in her hometown to sell it. It was an immediate success.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Turnbo-Malone later hit upon the idea of using lanolin ointment on damaged hair. She debuted her treatment at the 1904 World’s Fair, and by the end of World War I in 1918, she had a net worth of at least a million dollars, thanks to her Poro label of beauty products. The name “Poro” is a Mende (West African) word for “devotional society.” Turnbo-Malone soon had an international business that empowered other Black women, who could be trained to sell Poro products and even open their own hair salons under the Poro brand. The business was strong enough to withstand the Great Depression and was still going strong in the 1950s when Turnbo-Malone passed away.

Madam C. J. Walker

Photo of Madam C.J. Walker in a car with friends© Wikimedia Commons

Often (incorrectly) called the first Black American millionaire, Madam C.J. Walker was mentored by another Black millionaire — beauty products legend Annie Turnbo-Malone. Born Sarah Breedlove in 1867 to parents who had once been enslaved, Walker was the first person in her family to be born free. History reports that Walker became an orphan at the age of seven, was married at age 14 — and a widow at age 20.

She became interested in hair care after experiencing the trauma of hair loss. According to Vox, the treatments marketed to women suffering her condition were known to actually make things worse — something Walker learned from beauty legend Annie Turnbo-Malone when the two met in the early 1900s as Turnbo-Malone was getting her Poro beauty product empire off the ground. Walker followed Turnbo-Malone’s advice, and soon her hair was healthy and growing again — inspiring her to launch her own beauty and haircare business, modeled very closely on Poro.

As noted by authors Ayana Byrd and Lori Tharps in their book “Hair Story,” Walker introduced the “Walker System” for straightening hair, which became the foundation of the Black beautician industry. By the time of her early death in 1919, at just 51 years of age, she was not only incredibly wealthy, but she had also eclipsed her mentor in terms of fame and cultural impact.

O. W. Gurley

According to Forbes, Ottowa W. Gurley was born in 1868 in Arkansas, where he dreamed of a future far away from the Jim Crow laws of the South. In 1893, when Gurley was 25, that dream took him to the Cherokee Outlet Opening, a land run that gave away acres of land on a first-come, first-serve basis in Oklahoma. According to Inc., Gurley lived there until 1905, when the discovery of oil near Tulsa lured Gurley and his family there.

Investopedia reports that Gurley bought 40 acres of land and built a grocery store. Over the next decade and a half, Gurley was instrumental in developing the area into what would become the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa — which was also known as Black Wall Street, an incredible success story for Black Americans during a period of hateful racial oppression elsewhere in the country. The residents of Greenwood were prosperous and lived comfortably, seemingly in community with their white neighbors. Gurley thrived as well, and at its peak, his net worth was about $150,000 — about $5 million in today’s money.

As noted by History, Black Wall Street was destroyed on May 30, 1921, when a race riot of incredibly violent proportions broke out in Tulsa. Black families were murdered, buildings were burned, and within days the whole neighborhood had been wiped off the map. Gurley left Tulsa and moved to Los Angeles, where he died in apparent poverty 14 years later in 1935.

James Forten

Portrait of James Forten© Wikimedia Commons

OZY reports James Forten was born in Philadelphia in 1766 as a free man. He was strongly affected by the rhetoric of the American Revolution; despite the racial oppression that existed at the time, Forten didn’t hesitate to enlist to fight against the British Empire. Having worked in a sail loft since the age of eight, it made sense that Forten served in the nascent American Navy.

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Forten was captured by the British while serving on board an American ship. The British captain had his own son on board, and paired Forten with him to act as a companion. When it came time for the ship to return to England, he offered to take Forten with him — but Forten would not betray his country, and refused the offer, winding up living on a prison ship for several months.

As reported by BlackPast, Forten was released in Philadelphia, where he resumed his job. After the war, Forten returned to sailmaking, and eventually took over the business from his employer. Forten grew incredibly wealthy — by 1832, his net worth was estimated at $100,000, which would be close to $3.5 million today. He remained both a patriot and an anti-slavery activist. When he passed away in 1842, his funeral was one of the largest ever seen in Philadelphia — and the crowd was decidedly multi-racial, as every aspect of society came out to pay their respects to a man who never betrayed his values.

John Stanly

Photo of John Stanly© WITN-TV/Youtube

According to author Loren Schweninger in the book “Black Property Owners in the South, 1790-1915,” John Stanly was born into slavery as the son of a merchant named John Wright Stanly and an Ebo woman born in Africa who had been transported to America by Wright. History Collection reports that Stanly was eventually enslaved by Alex and Lydia Carruthers, who allowed him to train as a barber. This, in turn, let Stanly earn enough money to purchase his freedom when he was 21 years old, and to purchase the freedom of his wife and two children a few years later.

Stanly’s business as a barber thrived, and he soon enslaved two Black men himself. He began purchasing property in North Carolina — and enslaving even more Black people. Despite knowing firsthand what it was like to be considered property, at the peak of his business empire, it’s estimated Stanly enslaved 163 people — according to Investopedia, Stanly was one of the richest men in his county at the time. At the same time, NCpedia notes that Stanly also helped many enslaved persons in North Carolina gain their emancipation, personally purchasing and freeing at least a dozen people.

In 1830, Stanly co-signed a loan for his half-brother, who promptly defaulted, forcing Stanly to mortgage all of his holdings — including those he held in bondage. By 1843, he’d sold off most of his property in order to pay his debts.

Jeremiah Hamilton

According to The Atlantic, when Jeremiah Hamilton died in 1875, he was the richest non-white man in America, with a net worth of about $2 million — more than $250 million in today’s money. Yet Hamilton is remembered as no one’s hero. In fact, BlackPast reports that Hamilton was known as “The Prince of Darkness.”

The first mention of Hamilton — which probably wasn’t his real name — comes when a counterfeiting scheme in Haiti fell apart, forcing Hamilton to flee to the United States. He became involved in Wall Street and padded his income by committing serious insurance fraud that involved buying ships, insuring them, and then purposefully sinking them in order to collect settlements. He lost his fortune at least once, but clawed his way back and eventually created what some believe was the prototypical hedge fund, pooling money from investors so he could borrow aggressively and dominate the market.

Hamilton was not well-liked, but in New York, respect for his financial acumen defied racism, and white New Yorkers happily sent him gifts and begged for his favor — in fact, Cornelius Vanderbilt (pictured), another man legendary for his ruthless approach to business, reportedly admitted that he respected Hamilton after the two tangled in court over control over a company.

Sarah Rector

Photo of Sarah Rector© Wikimedia Commons

Sarah Rector is one of the most unlikely millionaires, period, full stop. According to BlackPast, she was born in 1902 on Muscogee Creek land to a family that had been enslaved by the Creek Indians decades before. As reported by The Telegraph, an 1866 treaty granted all the former Creek slaves 160 acres of land, but by the time Rector’s family made their claim, there wasn’t much left, and according to The Washington Post, the land allotted specifically to Sarah was considered virtually worthless.

But the taxes had to be paid, so Sarah Rector’s father leased the land to the Devonian Oil Company — and in 1913, a miracle happened: The company struck oil on Sarah’s land. A lot of oil. In a matter of months, 10-year-old Sarah Rector was receiving roughly $300 a day from her oil lease — close to $9,000 today, or somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 million per year in today’s money.

The reaction of the white establishment was, of course, virulently racist. She was described as “an orphan, crude, Black and uneducated” in a local paper, and was often referred to using racial epithets. Rumors that Sarah was being mistreated by her federally-appointed guardian and her family began to circulate — but the truth was Sarah went to school and had control over her wealth. By the time she was 18, Sarah was officially a millionaire. She lived well until 1967, when she suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and passed away.

Charlie Brown

One of America’s first Black millionaires was also a driving force behind one of its most emotionally powerful holidays: Juneteenth, the day that celebrates the emancipation of slaves in the U.S. According to Forbes, a man named Charlie Brown was born into enslavement in Virginia and moved to Texas around 1865. It’s uncertain when Brown attained his freedom, but it’s known that he helped organize the first Juneteenth celebration in 1866.

As noted by the Houston Chronicle, despite his time in bondage and subsequent illiteracy, Brown was a shrewd businessman. Brown purchased land — including the plantation where he and his wife were once enslaved — and often saw opportunities no one else did. One of his first purchases was a plot of land no one saw much value in, but Brown cleared the land of trees and sold the lumber to a furniture company at a great profit. He quickly became one of the richest men in the country, dying a millionaire in 1920.

What makes Brown’s achievements more remarkable is the fact that Texas was not a friendly place for freedmen at that time. Very few emancipated Black people managed any sort of success, much less attaining incredible wealth, and Brown was himself kidnapped and beaten by members of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) on several occasions. The fact that Brown died one of the first Black millionaires in the U.S. despite all that hatred and racial violence is incredible.

by Robert Weiss Ph.D., MSW

What are the keys to a great sex life?

When sex therapists and researchers discuss what makes for a truly great sex life, their lists are mainly composed of emotional or psychological factors, not physical ones. Communication is vital to a satisfying sex life, as are being intimate, vulnerable, and transparent with a partner; allowing oneself to be open to new experiences, and to fun; being in sync with each other, emotionally and sexually; and an ability to be in the moment and to be open to transcendent feelings

Do people enjoy sex less now than they used to?

Some researchers believe that the pace of contemporary life, as well as distractions like cellphones, are leading couples to derive less pleasure from their sexual encounters. Therapists suggest that individuals and couples spend more time becoming open and attuned to their bodies, and to their bodies’ signals of arousal and pleasure before, during, and after sex, to restore higher levels of satisfaction

Is foreplay equally important to women and to men?

Contrary to the stereotype that men are primarily interested in rushing into intercourse and climax, research shows that men desire an average of 18 minutes of foreplay, very close to the average of 19 minutes sought by women. Women, however, significantly underestimate how much foreplay their male partners wanted. Other research has found that longer foreplay leads to greater relationship satisfaction for men and women.

How important is kissing before sex?

For women, kissing can be very important. Much more than men, women report finding it important to kiss a partner before sex, and they are more likely to report using kissing as a way to evaluate their interest in a new partner when considering having sex with them or not.

Are makeup and breakup sex really better?

They may be. The theory of arousal transfer suggests that powerful stimuli in one area can be transferred to another. Anger, for example, is an arousing emotion. In relationships, that high arousal state may be transferred to a high arousal state during makeup sex after a fight is resolved. Similarly, a couple breaking up may transfer the painful emotions of deciding to separate into intense sex as they say goodbye. Couples report intense lovemaking at these times, but there is a downside if, say, a couple rushes to makeup sex without truly resolving their conflict, or if a couple extends the life of a failing relationship because of great breakup sex.

Should couples schedule sex?

According to many sex therapists, they should. Different levels of sexual desire challenge many couples, but for others with high levels of desire for each other, the calendar becomes the enemy of satisfying sex because of conflicting work schedules, child care, or other commitments. Scheduling sex even days ahead of time can help a couple restore sexual goodwill, block out time for greater affectionate touch during sex, and, after the fact, elevated relationship satisfaction.

What is simmering?

For any couple, but especially one that has been experiencing challenges with sexual arousal, sex therapists recommend a practice known as simmering. It involves a couple scheduling sex and then taking moments throughout the course of the selected day fantasizing or daydreaming about sexual or erotic encounters to maintain a low “simmer” of arousal before going to bed together.

Orgasm

What is orgasm?

An orgasm, or climax, is the intense and usually pleasurable release of sexual tension after sexual arousal and stimulation. During orgasm, one’s heart rate and blood pressure rise, breathing becomes faster and heavier, and involuntary muscle contractions occur, not only in the genitals but often in the hips, chest, head, and limbs. In men, orgasm typically involves the ejaculation of semen, though not always. In some women, orgasm also leads to the release of ejaculate.

How often do people achieve orgasm?

Research suggests that only about one in four women regularly reach orgasm during vaginal sex, while more than three quarters of men do. For males and females alike, orgasm occurs faster and more reliably through masturbation. There are distinct health benefits in orgasm, including higher levels of oxytocin, which promotes bonding between partners, and increased blood flow to the brain.

For between 10 and 40 percent of women, reaching orgasm is difficult or rare. Causes include stress or anxiety, especially relationship anxiety; a lack of arousal or sexual stimulation or not enough time to reach orgasm during sex with a partner; poor body image; and pain during intercourse. PTSD, or reactions to certain medications, can also lead to struggles with orgasm. Many of these issues can be addressed in therapy that addresses emotional issues around sex, relationships, and self-esteem.   Why might women not have orgasms?

What Happens After Sex

What is sexual afterglow?

Some researchers believe that the most important part of sex occurs after climax. The term sexual afterglow refers to the positive feelings that follow pleasurable sexual experiences, and some research suggests that it, and not the sex itself, determines how positively people feel about their sexual partners. Cuddling, kissing, and other expressions of intimacy after sex can increase afterglow, boost satisfaction, and extend the positive effects of sex on a relationship.

What do couples talk about after sex?

Research on “pillow talk” following sex has debunked the myth that men fall asleep first after sex: There’s no evidence of a gender difference. Also, women who reach orgasm during sex tend to talk more intimately after sex, revealing more about themselves. The release of the hormone oxytocin during sex, which promotes bonding, may foster this effect. Men with higher levels of testosterone after sex, however, appear to talk less, limiting bonding.

How long do partners feel good about each other following sex?

About 48 hours. Research on post-coital sexual and relationship satisfaction has found that partners experience elevated positive feelings about each other, and about their connection, for an average of two days following sex.

Is it more important for men or women to experience great sex?

Women. Research into relationship satisfaction finds that a woman’s sexual desire for her partner is more closely linked to relationship satisfaction than a man’s. Women’s levels of satisfaction with a relationship are also much more variable than men’s, which tend to remain at a consistent high level.

So now you know!

Hey, remember when Brett Favre sent that Jets sideline reporter a picture of his penis?*
No? Ok.

Well remember when Brett Favre sent the Saints to the Super Bowl after throwing that horrible interception towards the end of the NFC Championship game? **
Yes? Cool.

Well the gun/dick slinger is back in the news again. Once known for playing fast and loose with the football, Favre is now doing the same with Mississippi’s welfare money.

Quick question: What do Brett Favre and people on welfare have in common? Quick answer: Nothing. Favre is world renown athlete who also happens to be a retired millionaire. Most welfare recipients are people just trying to make a living.***

Yet, the Mississippi Department of Human Services has decided that Favre is the person more in need. Actually, Human Services has determined that Favre needs run so deep that it directed $8 million his way to fulfill them.

Brett Favre’s Daughter

Brett Favre is a Welfare Queen

While mere mortals on welfare depend on Human Services for basic stuff like – I don’t know – food, Favre faces a greater existential dilemma. Like whether Human Services can direct $5 million towards a new volleyball stadium for his alma mater and daughter. Or whether Human Services can direct $1 million his way for speeches he’ll never give. Or whether Human Services can direct $2 million to a pharmaceutical company he’s invested in.

John Davis, the then director of Human Services, was like, of course we can. And just to make sure that a prideful man like Brett Favre wasn’t ever put on the spot, it was agreed that this “aid” should be discreetly laundered through fees for those speeches he never gave. Favre even once asked, “if you were to pay me is there anyway the media can find out where it came from and how much?”  The reply was, of course not. Now, John Davis and others are facing criminal charges.

Ever since the federal government, via TANF, started giving states block grants for welfare causes, some states have played fast and loose with what constitutes a welfare cause. Now, instead of distributing money directly to the people who need it, states can throw the money to some non-profit and claim its fighting welfare and poverty on a different front, like through a Brett Favre speech.****

Mississippi, because of Favre, has become the poster child for welfare fraud. But the case expands beyond him. It expands to the director’s nephews, in-laws, and other athletes. A state auditor has found almost $77 million in fraud over a 3-year span. Who knows what fraud is waiting to be unearthed nation-wide.

The pharmaceutical company Favre stole money for is into concussion research. That makes sense considering Favre once confessed to being knocked senseless at least 1,000 times in his career.  

Speaking of concussions, that raises a question: does the sports media have one? Does it have some type of CTE post-Favre infatuation syndrome that has left it unable to do what the media normally does with stories like this, which is make a proper spectacle out of it. Right now, we know more about Tom Brady’s marriage than we know about Favre defrauding $8 million from needy families and the federal government.

Brett Favre is a Welfare Queen

Let’s be clear though: Brett Favre is a welfare queen. Instead of prancing through the grocery store in slippers and a robe dumping filet mignon in his basket, he’s assumed a more nefarious stereotype – the hypocritical white man in a business suit. He’s the republican talking about hard work and bootstraps. He’s the white man claiming black people on welfare are moochers bringing down the moral fabric of this country. But clearly, he’s not worried about boot straps or morality.  He’s just worried about getting his. Well hopefully the next time he hears a ringing in his ears and sees lights flashing before his eyes, it’s coming not from a concussion but from a squad car pulling up to his door signifying he’s about to get just that.

*clear indication that he lacks good judgment and character (he was married at the time).  
**that horrible pass was also a clear indication that he lacks good judgment. I’d be surprised if any self respecting Minnesotan has ever spoken to him again.

****maybe his words are nutritious 🤷🏿‍♂️?

Betsy’s Pancake House Blames Crime for Business Drop

Betsy’s Pancake House has been serving breakfast and lunch in New Orleans for 35 years.  But now Betsy’s pancake house business is suffering.  And Betsy’s Pancake House blames crime in New Orleans. This is a real problem.  If local businesses can’t attract customers because of crime, then New Orleans has a survivability problem.  Small businesses create 2/3’s of new jobs nationally and nearly 90% of new jobs in New Orleans.  If crime kills small businesses in New Orleans, then we can pack it up. 

Betsy’s daughter, Mary Murdock, now runs the restaurant. She said customers “are afraid to come and park their cars because of the carjackings and the break-ins,” Murdock said. “It’s not only us, it’s any place in the city that you go to.”  She also adds that hiring employees is difficult because of crime.  “We cannot get employees because people are afraid to come to work. We open at 5:30 in the morning and our girls and our guys in the kitchen have to be here at 4:30, 5 o’clock in the morning.”

New Orleans has a major crime problem.  And according to Betsy’s, crime is the reason for everything.  You get the idea.  If you let Betsy’s tell it, then their dry thin greasy bacon is because of crime.  The sticky old, cracked tablecloths in Betsy’s – crime.  The horrible smell just outside the door of the restaurant kitchen -crime.  The dirty cups and bent old silverware – you guessed it crime in New Orleans.  And let’s not forget that shiny clean new 24 hour Waffle House restaurant on the next corner.  Its always crowded and has a smooth new parking lot.  But the reason Betsy’s business is declining- that horrible crime in New Orleans.

Awning at Betsy’s Pancake House

The Betsy’s crime claim is a calamity.  You can either be a part of the problem or a part of the solution.  Betsy’s blaming their business failing on crime is as bad as their dry oatmeal.  We need business leaders to offer good paying jobs with clean working conditions.  Calling the grown women who work in their kitchen “girls” is emblematic. Respect your employees and pay them a good wage.  Waffle House is less than 200 feet away and is fully staffed 24 hours a day.  The brand new hospitals with thousands of employees is easy walking distance.  Maybe market to those people?

There’s an old pancake joke that goes, “Did you hear what happened to the angry flapjack?  It totally flipped.”  Betsy’s flipped.  Instead of looking in the mirror, they are blaming the community that could support them.  And ironically they now beg for some community welfare.  Their dog whistle for customers as they threaten to move to Metairie is as appalling as the dangerous, slippery and greasy sidewalk by their side entrance.

Yea crime is bad.  But Betsy’s business is failing for about 20 other more significant reasons than crime.  No, these aren’t the first people to mess up their inheritance.  But them blaming crime is shameful. Listening to them whine flop around is like a short stack of pancakes without the syrup.

It really is that simple to make yourself a little happier.

by Alison DeNisco Rayome

Here’s a sad statistic: 45% of people say they haven’t felt true happiness for more than two years, according to a June Oracle report that surveyed more than 12,000 people. Perhaps worse, 25% say they don’t know, or have forgotten, what it means to feel truly happy.

While money can’t buy happiness (though it does help), spending just a few minutes of your day on one thing actually can make you happier right now, and into the future. And no, it doesn’t involve a meditation app or buying anything. 

A common misconception about happiness is that it’s fixed and we can’t change it. In reality, at least part of it is within your control. Sure, your circumstances (your job and your material possessions) matter, but not as much as you may think. Several science-backed methods can help you boost your own feelings of contentment. (If you have clinical anxiety or depression, these aren’t a replacement for professional help, though research suggests they can be a beneficial supplement.) 

Here’s one of the easiest ways to make yourself happier in just a few minutes a day. 

Write down 3 things you’re grateful for 

It’s that easy. 

Writing down three good things that happened to you — and why those things happened — at the end of each day leads to long-term increases in happiness and decreases in depressive symptoms, according to a 2005 study from Martin Seligman, director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. 

The things you write down can be major, simple or somewhere in the middle — whether you got a job promotion or just saw a cute dog on your walk. You can write them on a piece of paper, in a note-taking app, in a journal or wherever you like. 

Your list might look something like this: “Finished a project at work, because I worked hard on it. Had a nice conversation on the phone with a friend, because she called me. Went for a walk and saw some beautiful flowers, because it was a nice day.” 

In the 2005 study, participants who were assigned to write down three good things and their causes each night started to see beneficial effects quickly. After one month, they reported feeling happier and less depressed than when they started, and they stayed that way through follow-ups at three months and six months, when the study concluded. 

The point is to train your mind to think about the parts of your life that are good, instead of focusing on the parts that are stressful or annoying, Emiliana Simon-Thomas told me back in 2020. Simon-Thomas co-teaches the course The Science of Happiness at the University of California, Berkeley, and is also the science director of Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center

So take time to count those blessings, large and small. Science says it could have a real impact on your well-being. 

by Dave Smallen Ph.D.

Studies show that responsiveness benefits relationships and personal well-being.

KEY POINTS

In the world of relationship science, a growing trove of studies shows how a specific kind of experience between two people is crucial for satisfying relationships and individual moments of human connection. Researchers refer to this experience as responsiveness.

Consider the following scenario related to me by a recent study participant:

I have been struggling and have had many hard times emotionally due to my anxiety the last few weeks…The other night [my husband] called me on his way home from work and I just broke down in tears and explained how I needed him more than ever right now…He listened to everything I was saying. He validated my feelings and told me he understood. He made me feel like he got it. It brought me comfort just knowing he was hearing my feelings…

She describes a near textbook example of responsiveness. When you feel understoodvalidated, and cared for by another person–especially when you have disclosed something personal and emotional–psychologists would say you experienced this person as responsive.

Responsiveness Gets Results

Study after study shows that treating each other with responsiveness keeps our social lives healthy. Researchers have examined responsiveness between romantic partnersroommatesstrangers, and parents and teens, among others, and find that experiencing understanding, validation, and care in most kinds of relationships has measurable benefits–for the relationship itself and the two individuals who make it up.

Responsiveness especially helps us to cultivate the closeness and trust of intimacy by responding with understanding, validation, and care when others open up and share vulnerable thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Responding to one another’s vulnerability responsively creates a shared culture between two people of emotional safety and openness. This is imperative to quality long-term relationships and personal mental health.

Even more striking, people who feel their romantic partners are highly responsive across the arc of a relationship even experience better long-term physical health. This is likely because a generally responsive partner helps us manage stress, whereas perceiving our partner as unresponsive keeps us stressed. Throughout a long relationship, chronic stress can take a toll on a person’s body–for example, a lack of responsiveness may be related to poorer sleep, which adds up night after night.

Let’s call it a layer of complexity instead: Despite our best intentions, it is not always easy or straightforward to be perceived as responsive when we try to show up for another person.

All communications between two people must cross multiple thresholds: In my attempt to be responsive to you, I first must mold my thoughts and feelings into verbal or physical expressions; then, you must hear, see, or feel those expressions, and finally, make your interpretation of the meaning of my expression. This happens quickly and often automatically, yet in each stage, some of my original intended meaning is likely to be lost or misconstrued.

So, it is not enough for me to genuinely understand you and care for you; I must successfully communicate that understanding and care so that you interpret me as responsive. Only then do you feel that subsequent openness, closeness, trust, and comfort. This is why studies generally focus on perceived responsiveness–measuring people’s subjective experience of how responsive others are.

How we perceive another person’s engagement with us depends on many things, such as our feelings in that moment or our hopes for the interaction. If we are experiencing a stretch of loneliness, we also are more likely to interpret people with skepticism as to the sincerity of their care, making it more challenging to take to heart their attempts at responsiveness.

Because each of us has a different personality and past, our individual preferences for what feels responsive will be different: Some people feel cared for when they get a big hug, others prefer care served up with a dose of humor, and some appreciate the time to verbally process. We also differ in how we tend to display care to others, so it may be easier or more challenging to be responsive depending on who we are with.

How to Communicate Responsiveness

We can do things to ensure better that our understanding, validation, and care get across to another person. For example, a recent set of studies explores what the researchers call high-quality listening, showing how listening well to others promotes perceived responsiveness.

High-quality listening first involves paying attention, which is key to understanding someone. Attentive listening also demonstrates validation–that you respect the thoughts and feelings someone is sharing (whether or not you can relate), especially when you show your attention by avoiding interruptions, directing eye contact and posture in their direction, and practicing what psychologists call back-channeling: nodding and “mhm-ing” to show you are still there with them.

The effort we take to understand each other also matters to high-quality listening. Seeing that another person is motivated to understand you shows that they value you. Asking non-judgmental, open-ended questions and gently asking people to elaborate to help you understand also shows you care about them feeling seen and heard.

Practice, Not Perfect

We should neither expect to give nor receive responsiveness perfectly. Even if two people have an easy time conveying mutual understanding, validation, and care, they will still miss the mark much of the time.

Human connection is an ever-evolving practice in each of our relationships, not a puzzle with a perfect solution. What matters is our honest attempts to show up for each other day after day, developing a unique and imperfect shared culture of care.