Thursday, April 27, 2006
By Kenneth J. Cooper
NATIONAL NEWSPAPER PUBLISHERS ASSOCIATION
I’ve got a job for Ted Kennedy. The senior senator from
Massachusetts, descended from Irish immigrants, holds
the issue of immigration dear. He championed it in his first
major piece of legislation as a senator four decades ago.
Now he is the lead Democrat negotiating with Senate
Republicans on a bipartisan compromise to clear up the
status of 11 million undocumented immigrants, most of
Throughout his long career, Senator Kennedy has also
been a valuable ally of African- Americans, stoutly backing
civil rights legislation and education, health and welfare
programs for the poor and disadvantaged that have bene
fited many black people. He needs to remember these citi
zens as he works to pass an immigration bill.
From his ornate office in the Russell Office Building in
Washington, it may be hard for Kennedy to hear exactly
what many African-Americans are saying to each other
about the possibility of so many people without proper
papers becoming recognized as "guest workers” and, even
tually, fellow citizens. From a bright Harvard imdergradu-
ate to an established lawyer visiting Boston from
Cleveland, I hear economic insecurity in Black voices, a
fear of being passed up and ‘left behind” by yet another
wave of immigrants, as happened in decades past with yes,
the Irish, the Italians and Jews from Europe.
The undocumented Latino immigrants, unlike those
groups, are not White by definition. For that reason, they
may not fare as well in a country still obsessed with race.
Already, though, there is evidence that African-
Americans who are the most vulnerable economically
because they have limited education and skills are being
hurt by the presence in the job market of millions of immi
grants who entered the country unlawfully, Advocates for
immigrants like to say the undocumented are taking jobs
that no Americans want. That cannot be true. The various
estimates I have seen put immigrants at no more than 25
percent of the nation’s workers in any of the jobs where
they are clustered — construction, hospitality, landscap
ing, building maintenance and agriculture. That means
the majority doing those jobs are American citizens.
Nor is it true, as Mexico’s President Vicente Fox once
asserted, that Black workers won’t take such jobs. Three
Latino academics, who in 2002 published a study of Black-
Latino relations in Houston, reported that the dt/s house
hold maids and servants went from majority Black in 1980
to majority Latino in 1990, according to U.S. Census data.
Where did those former Black servants go to work instead
or did they?
A few months ago, a restaurant manager in St. Louis told
me kitchen staffs there tend to be either Black or Latino,
because the two groups of low-skill workers don’t get along.
The White manager further confessed that kitchens tend
to be all-Black if the restaurant is in a Black neighborhood
and all-Latino if it is in a White neighborhood. The last cat
egory would cover most restaurants in the St. Louis area.
Where did those Black kitchen workers in White restau
Competition for low-skiU jobs between Blacks and undoc
umented Latino immigrants is an economic fact. That
competition depresses wages, and not only because fearful
immigrants are willing to work for less — which to them is
much more than they could earn back home. Any increase
in the supply of labor depresses pay for that work.
This is where Tbd Kennedy needs to step up. The North
American Free Trade Agreement authorized funding for
training and other transitional assistance for workers
whose jobs literally went south, to Mexico. He should insist
the Senate’s irhmigration legislation do the same for
Americans who lose their jobs to undocumented workers
from the south.
It is not easy to prove that someone has been displaced
from ajob by other workers. But eligibility could be based
on a track record in a particular type of low-skiU job and an
inability to find work for a period time. The aim of the
training would be to prepare the displaced for better jobs '
than they had; the ones subject to the most intense com
petition are dead-end jobs an}nvay.
Though Congress has rarely approved federal programs
directed at a specific racial group, targeting could be done
to get around that. Kennedy could insist the legislation
requires the trainees to reflect the racial-ethnic composi
tion of the nation’s low-skill workforce and target grants to
areas of the coimtry with the largest influx of undocu
mented immigrants or highest unemployment rates.
A federal job training program of this l^d, authorized in
the immigration bUl and adequately funded, could cause
this wave of immigrants to stimulate the upward mobility
of African Americans,for a change.
KENNETH J. COOPER is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist
who is researching Black-Latino relations at the Harvard's Institute-
of Politics, which is part of the Kennedy School of Government.
What ails black
folks isn’t always
reduced to race
After the Duke rape scandal broke, I knew it wouldn’t be long
before we heard from the Reverend Jesse Jackson.
As if this case is not already weU on its way to becoming a three-
ring circus, Jackson has thrown in yet another act by annoimcing
that his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition wiU pay the college tuition of
the aUeged victim regardless of the outcome of the
Under more normal circumstances, such an offer
by a so-called social change organization would be
commendable. After all, pasdng for college can be
expensive, and this victim clearly needed the
money. But that is not the issue. Given that it is '
stUl very early in the investigation of the facts of
this case, it leads one to question the motives of
Jackson’s offer. Jackson has been known to mate
rialize wherever there has been a headline-grab
bing story. Unfortunately, this situation does not seem to be any
different, and that does not bode well for the state of today’s black
Instead of adequately addressing issues affecting the black com
munity, some of today’s so-called African American leaders have
opted to jump on whichever unfortimate situation seems to smack
of oppression, using their status and influence for personal eleva
tion and financial gain. This pattern of opportunism and manipu
lation is destructive and renders to the past the notion that just
any voice, by virtue of it simply being an Afiican American one,
still speaks for us all.
Not since the civil rights era has America seen effective and gen
uine black leadership on a national level. Jackson and a few
African American leaders who still linger today were products of
the civil rights era and placed themselves at the forefront of the
struggle for equality and justice. But some of the antics of black
people in leadership positions today have become embarrassing
and wholly ineffective.
Take, for example, the, case of Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia
McKinney. According to reports, McKinney walked into the
Capitol building and went around the metal detector, which is cus
tomary for lawmakers. However, the police officer on duty appar
ently did not recognize McKinney and asked her to stop and walk
through the metal detector. McKinney ignored the officer’s
requests more than once, and the officer either placed his hand on
McKinney’s shoulder or grabbed her arm. But instead of trying to
clear up the mistake like a rational being, McKinney turned
around and hit the officer in the chest with her cell phone. Then
what did McKinney do? She immediately cried racism. Such fiiv-
olous usage of the race card tends to negate the validity of true of
cases of race discrimination when they arise.
What some black leaders have to realize is that everything is not
always about race. Though the Duke case understandably has
strong racial overtones, the bottom fine is that race should not
matter if indeed a crime took place. But given the sweeping nature
and timing of Jackson’s offer, it is hard not to think that it was
made because a black girl cried “Wbitey”. You have to think about
what kind of message that sends.
I have never known the Rainbow/Push coalition to have the giv
ing of college scholarships as one of its routine programs. If that
was the case, there are plenty of other strippers .. .and waitresses
... and store clerks .. .who are working their way through college
and could use such assistance. So one has to wonder why Jesse
chose this particular student to assist. He says that he made the
offer so that the alleged victim would not “have to stoop that low
But did he have to stoop that low for publicity? It aU seems con
trived and self-serving. We have yet to see if he will even follow
through with the offer, but I do know that using unfortunate situ
ations like this one as a platform to “get involved” before thor
oughly investigating it or contributing anything useful to its reso
lution can render the contribution of some black leaders moot.
Given the diversification of the socio-economic, ideological and
political state of African American people over the years, some
doubt that one or two leaders can, or should, be looked upon as
speaking for the black community. But if there is to be effective
leadership, African Americans would benefit more from the type
that actually fosters change rather than that which perpetuates
archaic rhetoric finm 40 years ago.
Hopefully, the wisdom and guidance of everyday leaders will be
there for future generations to look up to. There are nnanng lead
ers who fill our chirrches, schools, homes, and communities and
serve selflessly on a daily basis, not just when they can be recog
nized for it, and lead powerfully by example. It is their under-
appreciated efforts which can groom others to be future leaders or,
at best, develop them into decent human beings.
ANGELA LINDSAY is a Charlotte attorney. E-mail her at lindsay-
Connect with Poit
Send letters to The Charlotte Post, P.O. Box 30144'Charlotte,
NC 28230 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
We edit for grammar, clarity and space. Include your upnie and
daytime phone number. Letters and photos will not be returned
by mail unless accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped enve
Should we care
polar caps are
I heard a story on the news the other day that shook
me. It appears that polar bears may be extinct by the
end of the 21st century. Why? Because they are pro
ducing fewer cubs. Why? Essentially because the
polar ice cap in the Arctic is melting and the bears are
running out of territory - solid ice -
You may not care much about polar
bears, and I can understand that
because who would want to be within
clawing distance of such a mammoth
creature. The problem is that the pos
sible extinction of the polar bears con
nected to the melting of the polar ice BILL
caps - both Arctic as well as, the Fletcher
Antarctic ice shelvesare all indica ¬
tors of a looming catastrophe. What we are looking at
is not only the disappearance of a species, but as well
the disappearance of coastal cities as ocean levels
Despite overwhelming evidence of the source of this
melting in global warming, the Bush administration
has repeatedly frustrated aU serious discussions
about this crisis. News, a few weeks ago, that gov
ernment scientists who were warning of the dangers
associated with global warming were being censored,
was iUustrative of the cynicism of this administra
This practice, however, has been consistent with the
stand of the Bush administration against any sub
stantive actions to address climate control since Bush
first took office in 2001. The U.S. withdrawal from
the Kyoto environmental protocol was a harbinger of
active denial on the part of this administration with
regard to anything connected to ecological peril.
The administration, along with its supporters in the
media, has gone out of its way to disparage concerns
about globed warming and to cloud the issue through
clever rhetoric that seems to call into question
whether global warming is underway.
Yet as we sit here, the polai* bears are becoming
There is a way of telling the story of global warming
that at first scares the reader (as it should), but then
paralyzes them. This is actually not helpful, because
action is demanded. But the reality is that we wUl
not know whether actions we take today wiU halt
global warming. What we do know is that by ignor
ing the danger of global warming, it is inevitable that
a catastrophe awaits us.
What we need to do right now revolves mainly
around getting governments to act; indeed, to act
quickly. This means that it truly matters what
administration sits in Washington, DC, as well as in
state Capitols across the U.S.A. (not to mention lead
ership in other countries). While it certainly makes a
difference to the planet that you and I recycle our bot
tles and cans, what is more important is whether gov
ernment policy promotes a declining use of fossil
fuels, and promotes other actions that factor in the
fragility of the environment.
Here are some challenges that we need to place
before government; does government promote acces
sible public transportation vs. an expansion of roads
and cars; does government promote planned commu
nity development vs. the destruction of rural land
and the building of homes everywhere imaginable;
does government invest in alternative energy sources
(e.g., solar polar; wind; hydrogen) vs. providing sup
port and encouragement to the oil industry; does gov
ernment back fuel efficient cars, buses and trucks vs.
do we go wild with each person having a SUV; does
government promote job creation in environmentally
friendly industries, vs. the promotion of job creation
in industries that devastate the environment; indeed,
on a very basic level, do we have government action
that promotes the building of sidewalks in our newer
communities vs. isolated communities where we are
forced to drive cars for ever3fthing further than 20
yards from om homes?
What individuals can do certainly includes chang
ing one’s behavior, but most importantly we need to
be supporting politicians who are not afraid to ask the
hard questions about environmental priorities, and
further, are not afraid to take courageous actions to
confront the dangers we face.
Actually, we probably need not worry about
whether the Earth will survive. It has been aroimd
for a Iqng time and undergone many a change. The
problem is that we may not survive.
BILL FLETCHER, is a Washington. DC-based writer and
activist involved with labor and international issues.