Haiti digs out from another massive earthquake

Photo courtesy of MGN.

This article first published 8/18/21 by the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder  https://spokesman-recorder.com/2021/08/18/haiti-digs-out-from-another-massive-earthquake/

Island nation, diaspora determined to overcome latest natural disaster

Hours after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattled the Caribbean Saturday morning August 14, social media was abuzz with Haitians in the U.S. and Canada offering to pitch in and lend a hand to the relief effort.

“Hello ladies,” began one Facebook post. “[Are] there any nurses, doctors, volunteers, who want to go help in Haiti [?] I’m down for it. Haiti needs our help right now.”

“I’m down. For like a week or two,” wrote one of the respondents.

“I’m interested.” wrote another.

“Let’s go Haiti need[s] us,” responded a third.

“Is it possible to Zoom meeting to discuss how we can help Haiti [?]” one woman posted in her Facebook group.

As of Sunday, Haiti’s Civil Protection agency had counted almost 1,300 dead and 30,000 injured in the country’s southwest corner near the earthquake’s epicenter. More than 1,000 homes, seven churches, two hotels and three schools have been destroyed.

The devastation, of course, comes only five weeks after gunmen burst into Haiti’s presidential palace and assassinated President Jovenel Moïse.

But if the myriad catastrophes have left the Haitian diaspora feeling what Western psychologists refer to as “compassion fatigue”—an indifference to charitable appeals resulting from the frequency of pleas for help—there are no outward signs of emotional burnout. Rather, resiliency seems to be the default position among Haitians, both at home and abroad, who are heirs to a complicated legacy of struggle and perseverance that includes the first successful slave revolt in history.

“There’s a collective feeling of being overwhelmed, but we’re pushing through it,” said Nedjhy Dominique, a 42-year-old Haitian-born American who lives in South Florida. “The sense of community is our strongest connection.

“I spoke with my cousin today, and she’s already trying to figure out how to temporarily house those left homeless in the southern part of the county by creating a network of host families who have rental properties there and are willing to allow them to stay there for at least 30 days at no charge,” said Dominique.

“A friend of mine has already spoken with her employer—a medical supply manufacturing company—and has them agreeing to donate $50,000 worth of medical equipment. We’re resourceful.”

That is largely by necessity, however, says Dominique and other Haitians who contend that funds raised by the international community for Haitian relief efforts tend to disappear. When an earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale struck just west of Haiti’s capital city of Port-Au-Prince in 2010, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was appointed by Congressional lawmakers to oversee $4.4 billion in disaster relief.

Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, was named co-chair of a government committee tasked with formulating spending priorities. Despite the Clintons’ promises to jumpstart Haiti’s economy, however, critics say that the largest post-earthquake project—a $300 million, 600-acre industrial park on the country’s northern coast—is nothing more than an amalgam of foreign-owned sweatshops that produce cheap clothing for consumers in the U.S.

Similarly, executives with the International Red Cross claim that with the $500 million in charitable donations it raised following the 2010 earthquake, the agency provided housing to 130,000 displaced Haitians. But a 2015 investigation by National Public Radio and ProPublica found that the charity had only built six homes.

“Five hundred million in Haiti is a lot of money,” Jean-Max Bellerive, Haiti’s prime minister in 2010, told NPR. “I’m not a big mathematician, but I can make some additions. It doesn’t add up for me.”

“A lot of the people who are trying to get help to those in Haiti are very clear on their distrust of the Red Cross and other organizations with a proven track record of squandering resources and money meant to serve those in need,” said Dominique. “We aren’t just waiting to be saved; if that were the case we’d die waiting.”

In total, the United Nations reported that non-governmental organizations, U.S. tax dollars, and charities worldwide raised $13 billion for relief following Haiti’s 2010 earthquake. Yet the yawning gap between that figure and daily life for 10 million Haitians living in the poorest country in the Western hemisphere left many Haitian Americans ambivalent about Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential run.

Trump campaigned heavily in South Florida’s Haitian community during the campaign alleging that “Friends of Bill” Clinton received sweetheart contracts from the ex-president and his wife. Trump won the state by a slim margin in 2016.

Haitian authorities Sunday declared a state of emergency and said they had no preliminary tally of those missing after Saturday’s earthquake. Hospitals in Haiti are at full capacity, and the Health Ministry asked people to donate blood.

“The needs are enormous,” Prime Minister Ariel Henry told reporters. “We must take care of the injured and fractured, but also provide food, aid, temporary shelter and psychological support.”

In a Facebook chat this weekend, another Haitian American echoed concerns that Haitians could not wait on international assistance: “Please count me in. Let’s use our strength in numbers to help Haiti. Hopefully, the mistakes of 2010 will not be replicated as an influx of funds earmarked for rebuilding efforts poured in from all over the globe yet not much had changed.

“We need to brainstorm ways to help the communities affected by the earthquake and raise funds to do so,” the post continued. “A small donation of $1 per person would be helpful…There must be accountability for any funds or goods donated for these people cannot be preyed on as is often the case with ‘us’.”

July job report: jobs are plentiful but the wages are few

This article first published 8/13/21 by the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder  https://spokesman-recorder.com/2021/08/13/july-job-report-plenty-of-jobs-but-for-low-wages/

There was good news and bad news in the July jobs report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday. The good news is that employers added nearly one million jobs to their payrolls for the month; the bad news is that most of the jobs are bad.

It is a classic tale of two worlds. The addition of 943,000 jobs to nonfarm payrolls in July exceeded economists’ expectations by almost 75,000 jobs and represented the largest monthly increase in nearly a year.

In a Friday press conference, President Biden asserted that the jobs report was evidence that his administration had the U.S. economy on the right track. “What we’re doing is working,” he said.

Employees, on the other hand, are not impressed, African Americans least of all. Of the 943,000 jobs created in July, 380,000 were in the hospitality sector, where wages are notoriously low, and employers are often exempted from federal minimum wage laws, allowing them to pay as little as $2.13-per-hour to bartenders and wait staff who receive tips.

Devastated by the pandemic, bars and restaurants began reopening in the spring and since May, have accounted for 1.1 million new jobs, or 40% of all job growth nationwide.

That mirrors larger macroeconomic trends dating back to the Reagan White House, with each successive administration pursuing monetary, labor, tax and trade policies that discouraged capital investment in the manufacturing sector and its heavily unionized workforce.

What was once the most industrialized country in the world is now home to more maids, short-order cooks, and Amazon customer service reps than assembly-line workers.

Just a glance at the job openings in the Twin Cities proves the point: food servers, housekeepers, and customer service reps dominate the online help wanted ads, the vast majority of which pay less than $20-per-hour.

“People have to work three and four jobs to be able to pay the rent and eat,” said 66-year-old Lee Patterson, who is African American and an activist for affordable housing in Baltimore. Noting that the Amazon warehouse in the city pays most of its 2,300 employees an hourly wage of about $15-an-hour, Patterson says a worker fortunate to get 40 hours per week is going to clear $1,800-a-month after federal, state, and local taxes, leaving just enough to pay rent, food, and utilities.

“It’s hard to find a one-bedroom apartment in the city for less than $1,200 -a-month these days,” said Patterson. “You certainly won’t be able to afford a car, new or used, let alone put gas in it.”

Patterson’s math is consistent with the findings of a new monthly indicator that tracks the quality of jobs and not just the quantity. The US Private Sector Job Quality Index—or JQI—measures the ratio of what the researchers call “high-quality” versus “low-quality” jobs, based on whether the job pays more or less than the average income.

A reading of 100 means that there are equal numbers of the two groups, while anything less implies relatively lower-quality jobs. From a peak of about 95 in 1990, the JQI stood at about 82 last month, which means that the economy is churning out roughly 82 jobs that pay decently, for every 100 that don’t.

Poor quality jobs, especially in the fast-food industry, are attracting a younger workforce with little job experience and fewer options. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the unemployment rate for teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19 dropped below 10% for the first time since 1956.

While the mainstream media has celebrated this development as positive, there is growing evidence that stressful workplace conditions in the industry are beginning to impact the number of employees willing to work so hard for so little pay.

Last month, the entire staff of a Burger King in Lincoln, Nebraska, walked off the job after posting a sign that read “We all quit” and “Sorry for the inconvenience.” Similarly, Sophia Cargill, the African American general manager in training at a Wendy’s restaurant in Kalamazoo, Michigan, recorded a White assistant manager named Michael yelling insults at her and repeatedly calling her a b—-.

When Cargill reported the incident, company executives initially suspended her for two weeks without pay, although when the videotape of the incident went viral, the company fired the White assistant manager and offered Cargill her job back; on social media she said she had declined.

In fact, workers have been leaving jobs in restaurants, bars, and hotels at the highest rate in decades. Nearly 5% of the industry’s workforce has quit their job each month of this year, including 706,000 fast-food employees in May alone.

More than a million jobs in the sector remain unfilled, forcing employers to raise wages. Brands such as Chipotle, Olive Garden, White Castle, even McDonald’s, are now offering entry-level pay between $11 and $17 an hour, paying people just to show up for interviews, adding signing bonuses, and recruiting young workers on TikTok.

In May of this year, the average hourly pay for nonmanagers in the hospitality industry surpassed $15 for the first time in May.

Still, that is not enough for everyone. While surveys indicate that low wages are the most common reason cited by employees for quitting their jobs, in one recent survey, more than half of hospitality workers who’ve quit their jobs said that the workplace was so stressful that no amount of pay would get them to return.

Said Patterson: “Man, most of these jobs don’t pay enough for you to buy toilet paper.”

Racism, patriarchy taint Japan Olympics

Photo NBC Sports / YouTube / MGN. “Track and field star Sha’Carri Richardson”

This article first published 7/21/21 by the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder  https://spokesman-recorder.com/2021/08/13/july-job-report-plenty-of-jobs-but-for-low-wages/

The suspensions of several high-profile Black female athletes from the Olympic Games that begin in Tokyo this week have raised questions about racism and patriarchy in sports, and perhaps even more troubling, who is a woman, and who decides?

Earlier this month, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency suspended the sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson for 30 days for a positive marijuana test after she won first place in the 100-meter dash at the Olympic trials with a time of 10.86. Richardson, who is African American and self-identifies as queer, acknowledged that she did indeed smoke marijuana to help her cope with grief after learning of the death of her mother.

But the timing of the ban struck many on social media as suspicious and seems more like an assertion of control over Black women’s bodies in an effort to insulate White women athletes from competition. Richardson’s defenders noted that research consistently shows that marijuana does not enhance athletic performance.

Activist and writer Laura Schleifer, who is White, told the MSR that the message sent to Black women is, “Do not outdo White women, who of course have never, ever had an unfair advantage themselves in life. Never.”

More problematic than Richardson’s suspension, however, is a decision by World Athletics—the international governing body that includes track and field-related sports—to ban the South African middle-distance runner Caster Semenya from Olympic competition unless she agrees to take drugs, or undergoes surgery, to suppress her testosterone level. The winner of two gold medals in the 800-meters at London in 2012 and Rio de Janeiro in 2016, Caster has repeatedly refused to do either, but earlier this month Switzerland’s Federal Supreme Court denied her appeal.

At issue is an assertion by World Athletics that it has a right to enforce a rule limiting the amount of testosterone female athletes competing in the women’s 400m to 1,500m events can have. Semenya’s natural testosterone levels reportedly surpass that threshold. The ruling effectively means she cannot defend her gold medal in the 800 meters in Tokyo.

“I am very disappointed by this ruling, but refuse to let World Athletics drug me or stop me from being who I am,” Caster Semenya said in a statement. “Excluding female athletes or endangering our health solely because of our natural abilities puts World Athletics on the wrong side of history.”

“I will continue to fight for the human rights of female athletes, both on the track and off the track, until we can all run free the way we were born,” Semenya said. “I know what is right and will do all I can to protect basic human rights for young girls everywhere.”

Several other Black female athletes have experienced similar setbacks, including runners Christine Mboma and Beatrice Maslingi, both from Namibia. They have been ruled ineligible to compete in the women’s 400-meter sprints based on their natural testosterone levels. The two will be able to compete in the 200-meter race, however.

Scheifler and others see the testosterone limits as an attack on transgender athletes, and Black transgender athletes specifically, even though Semenya and the two Namibian runners are not transgender.

“All of a sudden they are obsessing over women’s ‘hormone levels’ in ways they never would have before, and that’s likely because of the attention that the anti-trans panic has brought to the whole subject of how hormones might influence athletics,” said Scheifler, who promotes both racial justice and trans rights in her advocacy work.

“I also see big-time echoes of eugenics in this, and of Black women being forcibly sterilized. And racist tropes about Black women being ‘hyperfertile.’ and having ‘superhuman strength.’” She said there is a long, disgusting history of White people being obsessed with controlling Black women’s hormones.

The history of anti-Black racism in sports as it affects Black male athletes is rather well-known. White lawmakers managed to drive the invincible African American boxer Jack Johnson from the ring by convicting him on charges of transporting a woman—his own wife—across state lines for “immoral purposes.”

When African American sprinters Tommy Smith and John Carlos raised their black-gloved fists in a Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympic Games, Avery Brundage, president of the International Olympic Committee, suspended them from the U.S. team. And the NCAA banned the dunk after the all-Black Texas Western College defeated the all-White University of Kentucky in the 1966 championship game.

But women, generally, and African American women specifically, experience discrimination differently, because they are often exploited for both their labor and their sexuality. The ghost of Sarah Baartman—a South African woman paraded around Europe as a freak show in the early 19th century by French and British captors who named her the Venus Hottentot—looms large over the debate about the Olympics.

Ben Carrington, a sociologist who focuses on issues of race and culture, wrote in a tweet that the many challenges Black athletes are experiencing at the Olympics underscore a gross imbalance of power.

“Hoping those upset by the Sha’Carri Richardson situation become aware of the power of WADA [the World Anti-Doping Association] and those following Caster Semenya and the other women banned focus attention on the IAAF [World Athletics]. Sport is about power; not the ‘power’ on the field but the power to decide who plays and who doesn’t.”

Sending her support to Semenya, the U.S. gymnast Simone Biles, who has also struggled with racial double standards in her sport, tweeted: “This is wrong on so many levels. Once again men having control over women’s bodies. I’m tired.”