A just-released report on the economic recession documents that the crisis is hitting African Americans, Latinos and other people of color much harder than the general population with millions falling through the safety net. The report calls it a “State of Emergency.”

Titled, “Race and Recession: How Inequity Rigged the Economy and How to Change the Rules,” the report charges that African Americans, Latinos and other people of color have been hit hardest because of long-standing discrimination including “last hired, first fired” job practices, a flood of subprime mortgage foreclosures among Black and Latino families and a catastrophic loss of health insurance that hits people of color hardest of all.

Prepared by the Oakland-based Applied Research Center, the report declares that while all Americans worry about the economic recession the effects are “unevenly distributed.”

People of color “are unemployed, hungry, homeless and without healthcare at alarming rates.” Many have fallen through the “safety net” and millions more are about to go under. “This dire and worsening situation amounts to a State of Emergency,” the report warns.

It goes beyond graphs and statistics, offering profiles of the hardships of jobless Black and Latino workers in Washington State, California, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, New York and Rhode Island.

Maria Cecilia Osorio, a mother of two children, employed as a factory worker in Nogales, Arizona, was struggling against exploitation and abuse even before the recession, the report declares. She and her fellow-employees, many undocumented, are paid only $6 an hour, less than the minimum wage. “They discriminate a lot when you don’t have papers,” she says. “They did everything but crack the whip to make us work.” She charged that the boss routinely threatens to call the Border Patrol if the workers do not do exactly as the employer demands.

Farrah Hassan, an Iraqi-American mother of four told the researchers she was laid off from her job as a teacher’s assistant. After her unemployment benefits ran out, she applied for cash assistance. Two months later, the state claimed she was not meeting the “work requirement” and benefits were terminated. At the same time, Hassan’s mortgage bill doubled. The mortgage company foreclosed. Now she faces the immediate threat of eviction and homelessness.

“Communities of color were saddled with predatory sub-prime loans at a very high rate,” the report charges. “Many were sold sub-prime loans when they could have qualified for prime loans. The foreclosure epidemic has plagued communities of color and caused as loss of wealth that will have lasting generational effects. Disproportionate rates of foreclosure compound the deep and growing racial wealth divide.”

L.W. Vincent is a Black man in his mid-40s who cannot land a job. Two decades ago, he spent time in prison and his criminal record follows him everywhere. “When he does get an interview, he is often turned away, told that his criminal record makes him ineligible,” the report declares. “Homeless, Vincent spends his nights on other people’s couches…he faces the prospect of being permanently poor.”

The inequitable impact of the recession “is not random,” the report charges. “Rather, the conditions that create this disparity are structural, deeply embedded into the rules, the histories and the cultural currents of this country.”

The report continues, “As the country unites to recover and rebuild, the time has come for new rules so that everyone can engage on fair and even terms. To avoid repeating this crisis, we must recognize and combat the compounding effects of racial inequity.”

The first “key finding” is that people of color “have been relegated to precarious, low-wage work—or no work—at disproportionate rates. Black, Latino, Asian and American Indian communities face barriers to employment including discrimination in hires and promotions, unfair criminal background checks and the lack of protections for immigrant workers….”

This finding is buttressed by a graph, “Unemployment by Race, 1973-2009.” It shows that in March 2009, the jobless rate for African Americans was 13.3 percent compared with 11.4 percent for Latinos and 7.9 percent for whites. Thus, the African American unemployment is nearly twice that of whites, and the Latino jobless rate nearly two percent higher than for whites, a pattern for the entire 37-year period covered.

The report offers recommendations for addressing the crisis that would benefit not only people of color but all workers of whatever race: Expand use of the Racial Equity Impact Assessments in public policy planning “so that we can anticipate and prevent racial inequities before adoption of new policies and practices.”

On “immediate actions” to alleviate the “State of Emergency” the report calls for:

* A moratorium on foreclosures
* Suspension of lifetime limits in the Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) act
* Moratorium on workplace immigration raids
* Expunging criminal records for most past offenders
* Enforcement of anti-discrimination laws.

The report also urges enactment within a year of:

* The Employee Free Choice Act to make it easier for workers to join unions
* Enactment of the Community Reinvestment Act to create millions of infrastructure repair and rebuilding jobs
* Immigration Legalization
* Green Jobs, Good Jobs
* Raise the Minimum Wage
* Enact Comprehensive Universal Healthcare.

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