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Will Missouri Governor Pull St. Louis PD Out of Ferguson?

Thu, 08/14/2014 - 08:48
Will Missouri Governor Pull St. Louis PD Out of Ferguson?

It took Missouri Governor Jay Dixon five days to get to Ferguson after the shooting of Michael Brown. Dixon, a Democrat, finally announced in the middle of the night that he would be altering his schedule to head to St. Louis County. The governor says he's listening at Christ the King United Church of Christ in Florissant, Missouri.

Police have arrested some 60 people in and around Ferguson since Saturday--including two journalists and alderman and community journalist Antonio French. The local police department has meanwhile declined to release the name of the officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, which is one of the few modest demands demonstrators have been making. One of several Anonymous accounts on Twitter has claimed to have the officer's name, but it hasn't been independently verified.

It appears that Governor Dixon will soon announce that he'll be relieving St. Louis County police officers of their duties in the county. Bloomberg's Derek Wallbank tweeted that Representative Lacy Clay (D-Missouri) told him as much:

Clay: "The gov. just called me and he's on his way to St. Louis now to announce he's taking St. Louis County police out of the situation"

-- Derek Wallbank (@dwallbank) August 14, 2014

It's unclear which agencies would replace the St. Louis police department:

Gov. Jay Nixon, D-Mo., didn't say whether state police or FBI would be taking over: Clay to @jonallendc #Ferguson

-- Derek Wallbank (@dwallbank) August 14, 2014

President Obama is expected to issue remarks on Ferguson later today. 

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Watch Journalists Get Arrested in Ferguson McDonald's

Thu, 08/14/2014 - 07:45

Police in Ferguson appear to have crossed a clear line and jeopardized freedom of the press--which is protected by the First Amendment--Wednesday evening. Washington Post's Wesley Lowery and Huffington Posts's Ryan Reilly were both arrested while they were working at a local McDonald's by people who look more like soldiers than they do police officers.

Lowery published his account of the night's events over at the Washington Post:

As they took me into custody, the officers slammed me into a soda machine, at one point setting off the Coke dispenser. They put plastic cuffs on me, then they led me out the door.

I could see Ryan still talking to an officer. I said: "Ryan, tweet that they're arresting me, tweet that they're arresting me."

He didn't have an opportunity, because he was arrested as well.

The officers led us outside to a police van. Inside, there was a large man sitting on the floor between the two benches. He began screaming: "I can't breathe! Call a paramedic! Call a paramedic!"

Ryan and I asked the officers if they intended to help the man. They said he was fine. The screaming went on for the 10 to 15 minutes we stood outside the van.

"I'm going to die!" he screamed. "I'm going to die! I can't breathe! I'm going to die!"

Lowery and Reilly were eventually released without charge--and without the names or badge numbers of the officers involved in their arrest.

You can read Lowery's full account at the Washington Post

Categories: Diversity Headlines

New Witness, New Video in Michael Brown Shooting

Thu, 08/14/2014 - 07:41

A new witness to Michael Brown's shooting has emerged--and she's also got new amateur video from Saturday in Ferguson. Her account of what happened corroborates what Dorian Johnson says he saw on Saturday.

Tiffany Mitchell told KMOV News 4 that she saw an officer inside a police vehicle wrestling with Brown through the car's window before a shot rang out. That's when she says that Brown began running away. Mitchell says the officer fired again and Brown raised his hands in the air before being fired upon until he was killed.

"The cop just continues walk up on him and shoot him until he goes all the way down," she recalls. Mitchell also has new video, taken from her cell phone.

Mitchell has been dealing with the trauma of witnessing Brown's shooting and says that she cries herself to sleep as a result of what she saw. 

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Chaos in Ferguson, New Michael Jackson Video and More Salt for a Healthy Heart

Thu, 08/14/2014 - 07:39
Chaos in Ferguson, New Michael Jackson Video and More Salt for a Healthy Heart

Here's some of what I'm reading up on this morning:

  • A new app called Spring will supposedly make online shopping more fun and beautiful. 
  • The massive arapaima, an Amazonian fish that can weight up to 500 pounds, may soon go extinct due to overfishing. 
Categories: Diversity Headlines

Why the GOP's Black Voter Outreach Won't Stick

Wed, 08/13/2014 - 14:39
Why the GOP's Black Voter Outreach Won't Stick

The Republican Party's overtures to black voters have been awkward. And with newly re-established College Republican chapters on historically black college campuses and a calculated deployment of Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus to the National Urban League and the National Association of Black Journalists, they continue. In an op-ed for the New York Times, University of Connecticut historian Jelani Cobb takes the GOP to task for its ongoing and seemingly blithe racial ignorance.

Cobb writes:

The party that hopes to attract black students is the party whose congressional leadership filed a baseless lawsuit against the first African-American president. It is the party whose representatives allied with birthers who demanded that the president prove his citizenship. It is the party that has endorsed the evisceration of the Voting Rights Act and made it more difficult for the very people it is courting to actually cast a ballot for its candidates. Senator Paul himself has expressed ambivalence about enforcing the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Read the rest for a quick history lesson on why the GOP has a long way to go before it can really win black voters.

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Police Dispatch Tapes From Michael Brown's Shooting

Wed, 08/13/2014 - 13:37

Anonymous has obtained and released St. Louis police dispatch audio from the day Michael Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson Police Department officer. The audio is largely unedited and contains police codes throughout the recording. 

It appears that Ferguson police called for additional cars, officers and K-9s from different precincts to control crowds--and waited several hours before calling in an ambulance for the 18-year-old Brown. His body lay on the ground for hours, uncovered before it was attended to. 

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Following Ferguson: What's Being Said Today

Wed, 08/13/2014 - 13:36
 What's Being Said Today

Referring to his late but hard-won graduation this summer, one of Michael Brown's high school teachers told the Washington Post, "In the last two months, man, Mike was there every doggone day and he was giving it his full effort." In the past 24 hours, more details are filtering out about the life of 18-year-old Brown, cut down in Ferguson, Missouri, by a still unreleased number of police-issue bullets. Below, here's today's wrap-up of reporting or commentary that helps cut through the noise of this national story (or, that just makes me think). Let's go.

"We don't need to keep talking about [Mike Brown's] college plans to communicate that his killing was dead wrong." Or do we? Would Ferguson have protested under similarly suspicious shooting circumstances for a more questionable kid? Would Ferguson be national news if Brown wasn't a "gentle giant?" Whatever your position on the need for victims to be innocent in order to get justice, check out parent Jasmine Banks's provocative essay.

Writing for, ProPublica's Nikole Hannah-Jones calls out national media for overlooking critical details in Ferguson and hewing to the official police version of events last Saturday. "The reliance on law enforcement to provide the official record of a shooting it was involved in is highly problematic," she says. "Over and over again, we've seen the first reports on police shootings contain errors or just be plain wrong. For instance, in the July death of Eric Garner in New York, an internal police report did not mention the chokehold used on Garner and said that Garner was not in 'great distress.'"

Why did Ferguson explode this weekend? The definitive account is still a ways off. But in the search for answers, it appears that local concerns about racial profiling, residential segregation, police diversity and more are being explored with a new intensity and purpose.

And finally, in "Why you've been seeing young kids at Ferguson crime scenes," Post-Dispatch reporter Aisha Sultan gives voice to families in the neighborhood.

As always, feel free to add to this list. See you back here tomorrow.

Categories: Diversity Headlines

No Fly Zone Lifted in Ferguson

Wed, 08/13/2014 - 10:55
No Fly Zone Lifted in Ferguson

Journalists covering the unrest in Ferguson following the killing of Michael Brown have warned that authorities there are preventing them from doing their jobs. The issue became more concerning when Ashon Crawley, a professor and writer, tweeted that the Federal Aviation Administration had designated the airspace over Ferguson a restricted area:

yall. #Ferguson is listed as restricted airspace. it has literally been zoned for warfare.

-- #EatBaéLove (@ashoncrawley) August 12, 2014

Authorities claim the move was prompted by shots fired at a police helicopter on Sunday--and restricting flights would keep police safe. But that didn't ease the fact that media helicopters were also banned from flying over Ferguson through Monday.

But, according to the Lambert-St. Louis Airport's Twitter account, the no fly zone has been lifted:

.@FAA lifted flight restrictions moments ago. The airlines will resume normal flight paths. #flystl

-- Lambert-STL Airport (@flystl) August 12, 2014

Police and media helicopters have presumably resumed their flights. 

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Will Demanding Justice for Mike Brown Land You a Visit from the FBI?

Wed, 08/13/2014 - 10:54

An unnamed caller recorded himself placing a phone call to the publically listed phone number for the Ferguson Police Department, demanding justice for Mike Brown. The person who answers the phone--in all likelihood a Ferguson police officer--sarcastically answers that "justice isn't here right now" before threatening to show up at the caller's home with the FBI. 

Categories: Diversity Headlines

10 Tweets: Munitions in Ferguson

Wed, 08/13/2014 - 10:51
 Munitions in Ferguson

It's getting hard to distinguish Ferguson, Missouri, from a war zone these days--a war in which one side has its arms up in the air with signs demanding justice for Michael Brown, while the other is armed with more conventional weapons.

Local police, backed by other authorities, roam the streets in tanks and armored trucks, and have been dispersing crowds with tear gas and rubber bullets. Every morning, residents and journalists take to Twitter to post photos of the canisters, magazines and bullets left behind from the previous nights:

Volunteering in action on W Florissant in #Ferguson Saw rubber bullets in street

-- Stefanie D. (@_StefanieD_) August 13, 2014

A volunteer cleans up rubber bullets from the street


Brian Schellman of St. Louis PD confirms these were shot at protesters. They are "less lethal wooden baton rounds"

-- Jon Swaine (@jonswaine) August 12, 2014

Wooden batons used to disperse protestors


From same street: remains of "Triple Chaser" CS gas canister, "60 cal stinger" rubber bullet magazine; rubber bullets

-- Jon Swaine (@jonswaine) August 12, 2014

Tear gas canister, magazine and rubber bullets


What remains of last night in #Ferguson: tear gas canisters, broken glass, discarded signs, rubber bullets

-- Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 12, 2014

Another tear gas canister and more rubber bullets


#Ferguson not sure who fired these rounds but Missouri Highway Patrol armored truck was at this site on Monday

-- David Carson (@PDPJ) August 12, 2014

And more rubber bullets


#Ferguson police ordering people to go home, people mad say they can't because blocked by cops

-- David Carson (@PDPJ) August 12, 2014

Unknown munition


#Ferguson rubber bullets? Lots of them in grass at Lang and Gage also found more pepper balls?

-- David Carson (@PDPJ) August 12, 2014

And even more rubber bullets


#Ferguson pepper balls? found in grass at Lang and W Florissant crowd here reported be shot by rubber bullets

-- David Carson (@PDPJ) August 12, 2014

Peppershots, filled with hot chili powder and designed to
burst on impact 
to irritate the nose, eyes and throat.


#Ferguson found this discarded in grass on scene where I thought I heard rubber bullets being fired yesterday

-- David Carson (@PDPJ) August 12, 2014

Rubber bullet magazine


Remnants of last night. Rubber bullets found on the ground outside #Ferguson @QuikTrip. #MichaelBrown

-- Eli Rosenberg (@EliKMBC) August 13, 2014

And, of course, even more rubber bullets

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Witness to Michael Brown's Killing Explains What He Saw

Wed, 08/13/2014 - 08:31

Dorian Johnson was walking down the middle of the street in Ferguson, Missouri, with his friend Michael Brown on Saturday--just moments before Brown was shot and killed by a still unnamed police officer. Johnson says that police officer began cursing at them and emerged from the car with his weapon drawn. He says he remembers no fewer than seven shots fired. He recalls that Brown's hands were in the air as the officer fired.

MSNBC is reporting that Johnson's attorney, Freeman Bosley, says that police declined the opportunity to speak with Johnson during their investigation. In this video, Johnson recounts the violence he encountered the day his friend Mike Brown lost his life.

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Trial Underway for North Carolina Sheriff Accused of Targeting Hispanic Drivers

Wed, 08/13/2014 - 08:16
Trial Underway for North Carolina Sheriff Accused of Targeting Hispanic Drivers

A non-jury federal trial began yesterday in the case of a North Carolina sheriff accused of jailing Latino drivers in order to boost deportations, the Justice Department says. Two retired deputies have already testifed that Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson ordered them in 2007 to 2008 to lock up Latino drivers for traffic violations instead of issuing citations. One reportedly spoke to investigators because, according to the AP, "he worried the sheriff's priorities would be adopted by young law officers."

Johnson, a Republican, is running unopposed for a fourth four-year term in November. His defense says the Justice Department will not be able to prove a pattern of racial profiling.

(h/t The Guardian)

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Clashes Continue in Ferguson, Apple's 'Diversity' and Baby Panda Triplets

Wed, 08/13/2014 - 08:11
Clashes Continue in Ferguson, Apple's 'Diversity' and Baby Panda Triplets

Here's some of what I'm reading about this morning: 

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Chef Roy Choi is Getting His Own Food Show on CNN

Wed, 08/13/2014 - 07:19
Chef Roy Choi is Getting His Own Food Show on CNN

He became a celebrity chef when he introduced his Korean taco truck to Los Angeles, and now Roy Choi is taking his craft national with a new show on CNN called "Street Food."

From Eater:

This weekend, Choi -- who just last week opened an impressive new restaurant in Los Angeles -- broke the news on Twitter: "I got my own show&it's from the heart on the biggest platform down2the smallest detail. #CNN #StreetFood thank YOU!" After telling the WSJ that it was in the process of partnering with "a protege of Anthony Bourdain," CNN confirms that Choi has joined the network. A rep was tight-lipped: "I can confirm that a collaboration with Roy is in the works but we're not prepared to release details about the project." 

Read more

Choi's national prominence has grown in recent years thanks to his 2013 memoir and cookbook "L.A. Son." In an interview with Colorlines, he talked about his writing process and finding a "voice, a perspective and an honesty that was pretty rare."

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Police Officer Calls Ferguson Protestors 'Animals'

Wed, 08/13/2014 - 06:44

As Jamilah King explains, Michael Brown's death at the hands of police officers isn't an isolated incident in Ferguson, Missouri--where black residents face disproportionate stops, searches and arrests. The community has come out into the streets in protest to Brown's killing, but it seems authorities don't yet have a basic understanding about the outrage residents are feeling.

In a video report posted on CNN, a local police officer is heard yelling at protestors, "Bring it, all you fucking animals! Bring it!" You can hear it in the video above, with the expletive censored out, at 00:15. Ferguson's mayor James Knowles tells CNN, "The officers did their best. They're only human."

Another protest is scheduled this morning outside of the Ferguson Police Department. 

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Michael Brown's Death Didn't Happen in a Vacuum

Wed, 08/13/2014 - 06:39
Michael Brown's Death Didn't Happen in a Vacuum

Michael Brown should be starting freshman orientation at Vatterott College today. Instead, his body is laying in a St. Louis-area morgue pending an investigation into what drove a police officer to shoot and kill the unarmed 18-year-old on Saturday.

Residents of Ferguson, Missouri, the black St. Louis suburb where Brown lived and died, confronted police officers on Sunday in a scene that's since been described by the national media as one that quickly devolved into "looting." In photos, black residents stood in front of police with their hands up to show that they were unarmed. They chanted the slogans we've all become too used to over the years: "What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!" Brown's stepfather, Louis Head, carried a message scrawled in sharpie on a piece of cardboard: "Ferguson Police Just Executed My Unarmed Son!!!"


The St. Louis Post Dispatch's editorial board unearthed some of the embers that lit Sunday's fire. "Michael Brown didn't get due process," they wrote. "The still unnamed police officer who shot the 18-year-old black teenager dead in Ferguson will get plenty of it."

And you can quantify that anger. Here's more from the editorial board:

Last year, for the 11th time in the 14 years that data has been collected, the disparity index that measures potential racial profiling by law enforcement in the state got worse. Black Missourians were 66 percent more likely in 2013 to be stopped by police, and blacks and Hispanics were both more likely to be searched, even though the likelihood of finding contraband was higher among whites.

Every year these numbers come out to little fanfare, in part because there isn't enough political will to do the further study to break them down by precincts and individual officers to determine whether there is a cultural or training problem in entire departments or just a few rogue, racist cops who need to find another line of work.


...In Ferguson, the city where Michael died, the police in 2013 pulled over blacks at a 37 percent higher rate than whites compared to their relative populations. Black drivers were twice as likely to be searched and twice as likely to be arrested compared to white drivers.

In January, the local chapter of the NAACP filed a civil rights complaint against the St. Louis County police, alleging that "racism is rampant in the department's hiring, firing and discipline." Now, NAACP leaders and local residents are asking that the FBI take over the investigation into Brown's death. They don't trust that justice, however it's defined at this point, will be served.

As he was readying for college orientation last week, Brown posted one last message on Facebook: "if i leave this earth today," he wrote to a friend, "atleast youll know i care about others more then i cared about my damn self."

The ensuing days and months will who just how much America cared about him. 

Scenes from Sunday's protests in Ferguson, Missouri:

brown1_081114.jpgBlack residents in Ferguson, Missouri, protest Michael Brown's shooting. Photo from @SunnyHostin

brown3_081114.jpgResidents march through the streets of Ferguson. Photo from @Lnonblonde

brown5_081114.jpgPhoto from @AntonioFrench

brown6_081114.jpgCrowd at Ferguson Police Headquarters. Photo from @MichaelCalhoun 

Categories: Diversity Headlines

10 Social Media Shares About the Horrors in Ferguson

Wed, 08/13/2014 - 06:32
10 Social Media Shares About the Horrors in Ferguson

Tensions remain high in Ferguson, Missouri, following the killing of 18-year-old Mike Brown Saturday—and the F.B.I. has now opened a civil rights investigation into Brown’s death.

Protests are expected to continue today in Ferguson today, as local residents and the press take to social media to chronicle the police department’s massive show of force. Officers in riot gear, sometimes riding massive armored trucks through the streets and armed with what appear to be M-16s, have been using tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protestors. One local resident also captured the police pulling a pregnant woman out of a car and slamming her facedown on the ground.

Here are 10 posts from Twitter, Instagram and Vine that illustrate some of the horrors in Ferguson:

#Ferguson Regardless of what color you are; the militarized police response here is BONECHILLING

— LiNCOLN PARK (@linc0lnpark) August 10, 2014

Police began patrolling streets in Lenco armored trucks on Saturday, the day Brown was killed.


By Monday, gas-masked officers were screaming, “Get the fuck out of here!”


Police use tear gas to scatter rioters in St. Louis suburb #Missouri #US

— KHOU 11 News Houston (@KHOU) August 11, 2014

Officers in traffic. 


Police used tear gas and rubber bullets to clear the area.

— Antonio French (@AntonioFrench) August 12, 2014

Tear gas and weapons. 


Riot police point a gun into a yard

— FOX2now (@FOX2now) August 12, 2014

Officer pointing a weapon into a yard. 

Additional police vehicles entering Ferguson. 



Man taken away in ambulance from #Ferguson Police brought him to ambulance after he was bit by rubber bullet @FOX2now

— Andy Banker (@andybankertv) August 12, 2014

Man hit by rubber bullet taken in ambulance gurney. 


Steve Walsh, 26, who says he was shot in the neck with a “wooden pellet” by police in Ferguson tonight

— Jon Swaine (@jonswaine) August 12, 2014

26-year-old Steve Walsh says he was shot by a wood pellet. 


Shot by rubber bullet directly between the eyes.

Pregnant woman screaming, “I’m six months pregnant, I cannot lay on my stomach!” after officers slam her facedown on the ground.  

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Ferguson Police Won't Release Name of Officer that Killed Michael Brown

Wed, 08/13/2014 - 06:29
Ferguson Police Won't Release Name of Officer that Killed Michael Brown

Protestors in Ferguson, Missouri, denouncing Michael Brown's death at the hands of a police officer have made requests. A group known as The Ad Hoc Committee for Justice on Behalf of Michael Brown has handed out flyers with four demands:

  1. The officer involved in the shooting death of Michael Brown be IMMEDIATELY identified.
  2. The same officer should be immediately fired and charged with murder.
  3. The Ferguson Police Department "Protocol Handbook" be distributed throughout the Ferguson community.
  4. The racial composition of the Ferguson Police Department should reflect the racial demographics of the community.

It's unclear if the officer involved in the shooting will be terminated or charged, if the department's handbook will be made available to the public, or if police department employees will engage in any meaningful discussions about race. But the first demand, to know the name of the officer who killed Brown, seems doable.

Ferguson's police chief, Thomas Jackson, promised reporters that his office would release the name of the officer that killed 18-year-old Michael Brown by noon local time on Tuesday. Apparently he's changed his mind. Time reports that, citing safety concerns, officer Timothy Zoll says the department is declining to make the officer's name public:

"A lot of threats against the officer were made on Twitter, Facebook, all social media," Zoll said. "We are protecting the officer's safety by not releasing the name."

Time adds that St. Louis police says they "will not ever release the name of the police officer," because doing so is at Ferguson's discretion. 

Police, often roaming in tanks and armored trucks with various weapons, have made dozens of arrests in Ferguson since Saturday, the day Michael Brown was killed. News of the police department's refusal to release the officer's name to the public could lead to more unrest. 

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Understanding What's Happening in Ferguson

Wed, 08/13/2014 - 06:23
Understanding What's Happening in Ferguson

If you're catching up on the shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer, the day's must-read is this exclusive Trymaine Lee interview with Brown's friend. It describes 22-year-old Dorian Johnson's last image of Brown. With police brutality and the apparent cheapness of black life making national news again, reaction and commentary are coming at a furious clip. Here are a few items to guide you through the noise.

As my colleague Jamilah King wrote yesterday, Michael Brown's shooting did not occur in a vacuum. Besides racial profiling, police shootings and lack of transparency surrounding their investigation has for the past few years been a subject of local concern. According to a January 2012 Post-Dispatch analysis, "St. Louis officers fire their guns at a higher rate than those in many other metropolitan forces.... And unlike many other departments, St. Louis has no third party checking the process." 

What's up with the PD's tank-like vehicles and full-on riot gear? Local police departments all over the country, according to a June New York Times article, have been tricking themselves out with surplus Iraq and Afghanistan war gear, blurring the line between police officer and soldier. Welcome to the new normal.

Creative push-back against mainstream media portrayals of young black men as thugs or criminals came via trending hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown. But see, too, Journal-ism's interview with a top Post-Dispatch editor concerning newsroom diversity. Ferguson's PD may be overwhelmingly white--but so too are area newsrooms. It raises questions about local media's responsibility to not only cover the accretion of abuses leading up to Brown's death but to measure and track the community's growing unrest. 

Over on The South Lawn blog, guest columnist S. Lorén Trull gets personal and responds to one popular question asked after suspicious police shootings: why don't victims just comply?

And finally, on Medium, organizer Melissa Byrne explains, "How the [Ferguson] police are doing everything wrong and how it's dangerous for everyone." Be sure to check the solutions that round out Byrne's 7-point don't list, including:

Sending in the dogs. On the evening of the murder of Mike Brown, the police responded to the first wave of community anger and protest with German Shepherds. First, for historical reasons it is wrong for white police officers to show up in a predominately black community with attack dogs at a protest. Secondly, over policing creates an environment where anger accelerates.

Dressing up in riot gear. You don't wear your party shoes if you don't want to dance. When the police dress up in their riot gear and plastic shields, they are sending the message that they are ready to fight the crowd. 

Those links should get you started. Feel free to add your own must-reads. See you back here tomorrow.

Categories: Diversity Headlines

For Once, Common-Sense Ideas to Stop Income Inequality

Tue, 08/12/2014 - 17:04
For Once, Common-Sense Ideas to Stop Income Inequality

In two separate reports issued over the past week, a strange thing happened in the fight over America's economic future: The nation's big-city mayors and Wall Street got on the same page about the need for broad-based economic fairness. This policy record-scratch came in the form of different documents issued by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and Standard & Poor's, the ratings agency after whom one of the world's major stock market indices is named. Far and apart on other issues, these distinct bodies somehow managed to agree within days of each other that income inequality is holding the economy back and that the time has come for something to be done about it.

Given the dramatic and disproportionate impact that income inequality continues to have on communities of color, the alarms raised by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and Standard &Poor's are a potential turning point in the debate over the drastic steps required to reverse income inequality. Since the growing growing gap is a direct result of policy choices that the United States has made since the 1980s, it can be turned around.  But there's not a second to waste because, as the Standard & Poor's reports states plainly, the forces behind income inequality "go long way" to explain why the current recovery hasn't taken off.

The core problem, as the U.S. Conference of Mayors lays out, is not only the long period of economic stagnation for nine out of 10 Americans but the fact that, even in years of economic growth, only a handful benefit. As Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has stated repeatedly since 2000, nine out of 10 dollars from the nation's economic growth have gone to the top 1 percent. What this means is that even though the economy has recently been growing at 2 percent annually--already a low number--less than 10 percent of that is left for the remaining 99 percent of the people. The bottom line is that the wealthy are capturing the lions share of income.

What this actually translates into for all but a few is lower income and less money to take home. As the Mayors' Conference's report highlights, jobs created this year pay on average $20,000 less than those lost before the downturn--$47,0000 now versus $60,000 before. But there's a reason for this: Most of the new post-recession jobs that have been created are low-wage or part-time.

Lower incomes are only part of the problem. As high-income earners continue to surge ahead, the explosion in low-wage jobs actually widens the gap between those at the very top and everyone else. In fact, the current gap in wages is now twice as large as in a similar period after the last recession in 2002.

The trend of lower wages and a widening income gap is a bad for the economy as a whole, but it has unleashed a full-scale crisis for people of color. Why's that? Well, first-of-all a huge chunk of middle-income jobs lost during the recession were in construction and in the public sector. A disproportionate number of construction jobs were held by black and Latino men. Jobs such as teaching, firefighting and other key government functions formed the backbone of the black middle class. Those jobs have been whittled away.

Moreover, people of color--specifically women of color--are more likely to hold most of the jobs at the bottom of the income scale such as home healthcare workers and restaurant workers. That means that the growth of the lowest wage part of the workforce is actually a surge in the number of lower-wage people of color in those jobs. Add to this difficult mix of wrong things colliding together the disastrous collapse of post-recession black and Latino wealth to the lowest levels ever recorded and it's clear that the situation in communities of color is dire.

What's refreshing is that this dysfunction at the heart of our current economic system is increasingly recognized not as a problem that we can ignore but as a threat to the very promise of America itself. As New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, chair of the Mayors' Conference's' task force on economic opportunity, said in response to their report, "The inequality crisis facing our cities is a threat to our fundamental American values." What's odd is that now a titan of Wall Street agrees with him.

Echoing the argument of those concerned about economic justice, Standard & Poor's argues that the nation has approached a "threshold" where "income inequality can harm sustained economic growth." While Standard & Poor's touches briefly upon well-worn conservative arguments about the reasons for inequality--educational differences, global trade and the impact of technology--surprisingly the heart their argument is devoted to showing what progressives have argued all along. Namely that the government's policy to lower taxes on income from investments and effectively raise them on income from work starting in the 1980s set us on the path of where we are today.

The good news is that the increasing consensus on the causes of income inequality may now lead the possibility of movement on solutions. Given the political power of Wall Street, their increasing acknowledgement of where things went awry might create the opportunity to begin to change them. The proposals to do so are wide and varied. On the list of the mayors' priorities are things that make solid economic sense. They include a higher minimum wage, pre-K educational opportunities, protections for part-time workers, a push for affordable housing and access to capital for local entrepreneurs.

Whatever we chose to do about income inequality the need is for speed. That's because as, Standard &Poor's concludes in their report, a "rising tide lifts all boats...but a lifeboat carrying a few, surrounded by many treading water, risks capsizing.

Categories: Diversity Headlines