The parishes and counties in the Mississippi Delta are home to some of the greatest concentrations of poverty in the United States, driven by profound racial disparities in wealth and resources. But poverty in the Delta didn’t come from nowhere: Federal policy from the New Deal onward systematically dispossessed Black landowners, transferring between $3.7 billion and $6.6 billion in capital from Black to White hands, between 1950 and 1964 alone. Now, as Vann R. Newkirk II reveals in a weighty investigation for The Atlantic, large corporate entities, including the retirement fund giant TIAA, continue to profit from investments in land taken from Black agricultural landowners:
The land was wrested first from Native Americans, by force. It was then cleared, watered, and made productive for intensive agriculture by the labor of enslaved Africans, who after Emancipation would come to own a portion of it. Later, through a variety of means—sometimes legal, often coercive, in many cases legal and coercive, occasionally violent—farmland owned by black people came into the hands of white people. It was aggregated into larger holdings, then aggregated again, eventually attracting the interest of Wall Street.
Landry defends unjust convictions
When Evangelisto Ramos was convicted of murder on a 10-2 vote by an Orleans Parish jury, Louisiana was one of only two states not to require a unanimous verdict to send a person to jail for life. Louisiana voters opted to end this practice in 2018, and now the U.S. Supreme Court is set to rule on whether Ramos’s conviction, and all others decided by a split jury, should be allowed to stand. Louisiana’s split jury rule grew out of the state’s 1898 constitutional convention, and was explicitly designed to disenfranchise Black jurors in integrated juries. Meanwhile, as The Advocate’s Gordon Russell reports, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry is defending split jury convictions, dismissing claims that racism is an underlying factor within Louisiana’s split-vote law:
Landry brushes off concerns about racism being baked into Louisiana’s split-verdict law, even though his brief concedes it was birthed in a notoriously racist 1898 constitutional convention, and extensive data gathered by The Advocate show that it continues to exert a disparate effect on black defendants.
The effects of lunch shaming go beyond the lunchroom
Some schools have gone to great lengths to recover money from children whose parents owe money toward their school lunch accounts. Policies that shame students in the lunchline or elsewhere in order to compel their parents to pay are allowed under federal law, but several states have banned schools from shaming kids over lunch money, recognizing the harm of policies like stamping kids’ hands with the statement “I need lunch money,” and threatening parents with placing their children in foster care. As Jameelah Nasheed reports in Teen Vogue, lunch shaming can cause long-term psychological harm to the students it affects:
“From a physical-growth perspective, lunch shaming can impact disordered eating patterns and inadequate intake, particularly if a child is more prone to skipping a midday meal altogether rather than risk inability to meet the financial expectations,” Bridget Murphy, a registered dietitian at New York University’s Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital, told Teen Vogue. “This stigmatization can shape overall nutrition, impacting proper growth, particularly as children approach and enter puberty.”
The stress of “sometimes” work
Median wages have slowly increased across the United States in recent decades. But for people who make their living in the service industry, pay has remained stagnant. The tipped minimum wage has been stuck at $2.83 an hour since 1991, leaving workers to rely on unreliable tips spread over unstable hours to make ends meet. Alana Semuels and Malcolm Burnley with Time Magazine have more on how the stresses of service industry work are increasingly the norm for working Americans:
This “sometimes” work has put the stress of earning a weekly wage, paying for health insurance and saving for retirement squarely on the shoulders of workers. Munce is on food stamps and Medicaid, and many days doesn’t make it to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. One of her recent paychecks read $58.67 for 49 hours worked. Add in the $245 she took home in tips, and she made about $6.20 an hour. She wants to work 40-hour weeks, but some days the diner is slow and she gets sent home early. “I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, all I do is save money,” Munce says.
Number of the Day
3.8% – The unemployment rate in the United States as of June 2019. (Source: USAToday)