Brandy Melville’s partnership with Pacsun is in jeopardy amid allegations of racism and sexual exploitation at the ‘one-size-fits-most’ brand

Pacsun's Brandy Melville page
Pacsun said it is considering the next steps in its partnership with Brandy Melville after Insider’s report

Pacsun, long the sole Brandy Melville wholesaler in the US, is reevaluating its partnership with the teen fashion brand in light of an Insider report detailing allegations of exploitation and racism.

The brand is “deeply troubled by the allegations raised, as the conduct described runs fully counter to Pacsun’s values,” a company spokesperson told Insider in an emailed statement. “We are taking this matter very seriously and looking into the situation to make a determination on next steps.”

On Tuesday, Insider published an investigation into the fast-fashion brand, known for its “one-size-fits-most” motto. According to 32 current and former US employees, Brandy Melville’s hiring and firing practices are significantly influenced by apperance. All but a handful said that race also played a role.

“People don’t realize how corrupt this company is,” a current employee at a Massachusetts store said. “It’s a disgusting company, and the company needs to be shut down.”

Leaked screenshots show Brandy Melville executives exchanging racist and antisemitic jokes in a group chat, including a photo in which founder and chief executive Stephan Marsan edited his face onto Hitler’s body, according to a former business associate.

Employees told Insider that executives regularly crossed professional boundaries, flirting with and buying alcohol for teenaged staff. One former manager told Insider she was assaulted by an Italian store owner.

Brandy Melville representatives, attorneys, Marsan, and other executives did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Pacsun has been the exclusive Brandy Melville wholesaler in the US for years. In 2014, Vox’s Racked reported that Pacsun started selling Brandy Melville clothing in stores around 2011, despite the brand’s controversial one-size-fits-most motto.

“Our customer has responded wholeheartedly in a very positive way to the brand in its entirety, and there really is no issue with the one-size-fits-all aspect,” Brieanne Breuer, vice president of women’s design and the acting head of women’s merchandise, told Racked at the time. “I think our customer really loves it.”

Read the full investigation into racism, Hitler memes, and sexual exploitation at Brandy Melville here

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The largest Confederate monument in the US is set for removal this week

Streets are closed around the Robert E. Lee statue ahead of expected protests in Richmond, Virginia on January 17, 2021.
A shot of Richmond’s Robert E. Lee statue, covered in anti-racist graffiti, in January 2021.

  • A 12-ton statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee will come down from its pedestal in Richmond, Virginia on Wednesday.
  • This move comes more than a year after Governor Ralph Northam ordered for the statue to be removed.
  • The statue, currently the largest Confederate monument in the country, will be moved to a state-owned facility.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The largest remaining Confederate statue in the US is coming down on Wednesday after towering over Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia, for more than 130 years.

A crew is set to store the six-story-tall, 12-ton statue of American Confederate general Robert E. Lee in a state-owned facility until officials decide what to do with it.

Taking down Confederate monuments has become a major focus of anti-racism activists in the US in recent years. In 2020, more than 160 Confederate symbols were renamed or removed from public spaces, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“Virginia’s largest monument to the Confederate insurrection will come down this week,” Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said in a statement. “This is an important step in showing who we are and what we value as a commonwealth.”

Northam ordered the statue to be taken down in June 2020, after nationwide protests erupted after white police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis.

The order faced legal challenges from a descendant of the family that gave the statue to Virginia, as well as from families that lived near the statue in Richmond. But last week, the Supreme Court of Virginia ruled in Northam’s favor.

The statue has towered above Monument Avenue in Richmond since 1890. Five other confederate statues previously stood there, but Lee’s is the last remaining, according to a press release from the commonwealth.

Virginia will leave the 40-food granite pedestal holding the statue in place for now, and the city of Richmond and the Virginia Department of Fine Arts will work to “reimagine Monument Avenue,” which is a tourism area in the city.

“Richmond is no longer the capital of the confederacy,” Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said in a statement. “We are a diverse, open, and welcoming city, and our symbols need to reflect this reality.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Video film of mutiny by passengers at the unfair removal of two Black men from a flight

EasyJet flight
EasyJet passengers objected to the removal of two Black men.

  • EasyJet tried to remove two Black men from a flight for refusing to put on their shoes for take-off.
  • A video shows passengers objecting to the treatment of the two men.
  • The men were ultimately allowed to stay on the flight, and the cabin crew was changed instead.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Passengers on an EasyJet flight reportedly staged a mutiny to stop the airline from unfairly removing two Black men from the flight.

The airline reportedly attempted to remove the two men for “huffing at a member of the crew” when they were asked to put their shoes on for take-off.

The incident took place on a flight from London Gatwick Airport to Malaga in Spain, and passenger Luke Gayle posted a video of it on Twitter.

The argument took place during the flight’s taxi on the runway, forcing the plane to turn around.

An attendant called the police to report two “disobedient passengers,” leading to four armed officers entering the plane, taking the two men’s passports, and offloading their luggage.

In the video passengers can be heard objecting to the treatment of the men, telling them “no, don’t get off” and “sit down.”

After the complaints of the other passengers, the two men were permitted to remain on the flight and the cabin crew was changed instead.

EasyJet said that the crew was replaced because their shift was over and not because of the passengers’ objections, according to The Daily Mail.

Gayle wrote on Twitter, “After all the backlash and objections from the entire flight, except for that one member of cabin crew, they gave in and allowed them to stay on board. The cabin crew were swapped over.”

He added that he believed the men’s “skin color [played] a part in the over reaction of EasyJet.”

In a statement to The Daily Mail, a spokesperson for the airline said, “EasyJet does not discriminate against any individual. Safety is our highest priority and there is nothing to suggest that discrimination played any part in the issue onboard.”

“The primary responsibility of our crew is for the safety of everyone onboard.”

“Our crew must ensure that safety requirements are followed by all passengers and as part of their role must check prior to take-off that everyone is compliant with these”.

“This is particularly important for passengers seated in emergency exit rows where crew ensure there are no loose items during take-off.”

The airline said they will be reviewing the incident internally after receiving complaints from customers onboard the flight.

Read the original article on Business Insider

How I learned to swim

A women swims freestyle as another looks on.
Aaricka Washington swims at her local Y as her teacher, Christy Durbin, looks on.

  • In April, the writer Aaricka Washington set a goal that she would learn to swim before her 30th birthday.
  • Inspired by Black women trailblazers such as Olympic gold medalist Simone Manuel, she took a leap of faith.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The moment I vowed to learn how to swim came in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

It was 2019. I was with a group of friends for a destination wedding in Mexico and we were on a little boat excursion having the time of our lives, drinking, eating, and taking pictures. The boat’s captains stopped for a chance for us to swim.

Most of the wedding party seemed unafraid to jump in the water, so they put their life jackets on and jumped in.

Even though I had no idea how to swim, not even in the shallow end of a public pool, and had always had a visceral fear of being surrounded by water, the daredevil in me won out. I fastened my life jacket and decided that I would be courageous.

But as soon as my whole body met the ocean, I panicked. I’m by nature a control freak, and I had totally lost control. I didn’t know what to do.

I wailed to my friends for help. Two of them, one on each side, helped guide me safely to shore, which looked like it was thousands of miles away. After what felt like hours, I fell to the ground, praising God’s sand and land that welcomed me.

A swimmer is seen on the deck of an indoor pool preparing to put on her goggles
Washington at the start of a swim lesson.

But what inspired me, two years later, to actually walk into my local Y and sign up for swimming classes? It could have been the adventurous friend I was trying to impress, who was shocked to learn I didn’t know how to swim. It could have been that I was inspired to see Simone Manuel become the first African American woman to win an individual Olympic gold medal in swimming at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Or maybe it was the burst of determination I felt after reading Jazmine Hughes’ personal essay in The New York Times about mastering swimming at the age of 28.

I know now that deciding to learn to swim was fueled by something more personal. I wanted to be able to sink my whole body in the water, and still feel in control.

Swimming is a life skill that everyone should know. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 4,000 people die from drowning every year. When it comes to Black kids from 5-19 years old, the rates for drowning are 5.5 times higher than white kids in the same age group. A whopping 64% of African American children do not know how to swim, compared to 40% of white children.

Also, swimming always seemed like a luxurious way to relax. Not knowing how to be at total peace in water was something particularly frustrating to someone like me, who loves to accomplish challenging tasks. There was this freedom I was missing out on.

There’s also a long, tragic history of institutionalized and structural racism in this country, where Black people were seen as dirty, ridden with communicable diseases and sexually threatening to white swimmers. Segregation, violence, and lack of funding and upkeep of public pools after integration kept Black people from enjoying the same privileges that white people experienced.

A woman floats on her back in a pool with the help of instructor.
Washington and Durbin.

Racist pool operators were sometimes known to “suddenly declare some nebulous malfunction,” as Snopes put it, or even drain the pools, rather than allow Black swimmers to take a dip (that kind of behavior was memorialized by actress Halle Berry in the 1999 movie Introducing Dorothy Dandridge). There’s a historic picture of James Brock, a Florida motel owner, pouring muriatic acid on a group of Black and white protesters who were staging a “swim-in” to integrate the pool.

There are issues we face even now, like the ban on Soul Cap, a brand of swim caps that are designed to fit natural Black hair in all it’s different forms, at the Tokyo Olympics. All because, according to the International Swimming Federation, the caps do not fit “the natural form of the head.” The line, as The Washington Post columnist Karen Attiah noted, sounded like something from an “1890s phrenology manual.”

I know I’m not the only Black woman who grew up not liking the idea of getting my hair wet, especially with chlorine. My thick, tightly coiled hair takes time and money to maintain, wash, condition and style, and chlorine can be extremely damaging to our hair if we don’t style and condition it before plunging our head into the water. But, I didn’t want my hair to stop me.

The Soul Cap, which I bought before the controversy, is the best cap for the long box braids or crochet hairstyles that I like to wear. Before Black-owned swim cap brands like Soul Cap and Lock Journey, swim caps designed without naturally thick, afro-textured hair in mind were keeping Black women out of swimming pools, Marissa Evans explained in her 2018 article in The Atlantic.

Two women stand facing one another in the pool, laughing.
Durbin and Washington during their lesson together.

I think about all of the stereotypes: Black people don’t want to swim. Black people can’t float.

But, we’ve been defying that ever since Black American swimmers like Cullen Jones, Maritza Mclendon, Lia Neal, and Simone Manuel came on the scene winning Olympic medals. We are beating the odds that have been set against us.

And so, back in April, I decided I would learn how to swim before I turn 30 in December.

I signed up to take eight 30-minute lessons at my local YMCA. These would be private lessons, to minimize the COVID-19 risk for me and the instructor. On the first day, I met my teacher, Christy Durbin.

Durbin, who at 48, has a background in nursing and has been teaching at the Y on and off since 2007. She’s an inspiration all by herself. Swimming has helped her manage rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and tarsal tunnel syndrome. She has regained motor control, strength, and it’s been physically and mentally good for her. “It is a good environment to heal in,” she told me.

Coaching beginner swimmers, especially adults, is her passion.

Durbin was firm, but motherly. When she asked me how comfortable I was in the water, I told her I was scared, even though I had once jumped into the Pacific Ocean. Every single lesson felt like I was conquering an unknown fear.

A woman swims down one lane of the pool while another looks on.
Durbin looks on as Washington swims breast stroke.

The very first day, we did head bobs, which Durbin said teaches you to keep the water out of your nose.

You hold your breath, dunk your head in the water, and then blow out through your nose so bubbles rise to the surface. Only then do you bring your head up for air. That came easy to me.

“For someone who is afraid of water, you did swimmingly,” Durbin told me.

Kicking took me a few lessons to get the hang of. After taking a water aerobics class, I was able to kick halfway down the pool with very little resistance. I felt powerful. I felt in control. There is simply no greater feeling than learning how to do something you previously didn’t have any idea how to do.

After that, the lessons grew more challenging. I panicked at the loss of control when my instructor tried to get me to float on my back, or remember to breathe while moving my arms and legs in a crawl stroke.

A woman swims, face down, with the help of a kick-board in one hand.
Washington practices her freestyle kick.

It was hard to know where the stress from losing control in the water ended, and where the stress from the grief I felt from losing control in my personal life began. This seemingly never-ending coronavirus pandemic, experiences with racism and misogynoir, loneliness, stress, and the loss of loved ones who died tragically – all of it was weighing on me during the time I was learning to swim.

Learning these new reflexes that often come naturally for children, but not for adults who’ve had decades to learn fear, was life-changing for me. Durbin always ends our lessons with something that I mastered, which lights up the dopamine part of my brain that had been inactive for so long. It was the therapy I never knew I needed.

It’s August now, and I’m so surprised at my progress.

I can float on my back and face-up, kick my way halfway down the pool, and swim the backstroke. Durbin sends me videos of swimmers doing the freestyle and backstroke. She tells me that it’s all about repetition and visualization.

A woman sits on the edge of an indoor pool, looking at the camera with a broad smile
Washington rests on the edge of the pool.

Durbin has gotten to know me a little and she has this saying, “progress not perfection.” I’ve started saying that in my daily life.

According to my coach, I still have a lot of learning to do. She still wants me to better manage my muscles so that I can relax what I’m not using. Windmilling through the freestyle has also got to end.

My personal goal is to swim 100 yards without stopping – front or back – and to tread water for one minute. I want to be able to dive off boards and compete in triathlons.

I want to feel in control while doing anything I please in the water – not only for me, but for every Black person who wants to feel accomplished doing things that were previously forbidden. In order to do that, I’ve learned I have to be okay with losing a bit of that control, too.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Alabama local GOP politician called a Black colleague the N-word, prompting calls to resign

A still from a Tarrant City Council meeting showing councilman Tommy Bryant
A still from a Tarrant City Council meeting showing councilman Tommy Bryant

  • A council member in Tarrant, Alabama, faces calls to quit after using the N-word at a meeting.
  • Tommy Bryant used the term “house [N-word]” to indicate a Black fellow councillor.
  • Bryant said he was only repeating what the mayor, a Black man, had said about her.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A GOP Alabama council member has caused outrage by using the N-word in a public debate to refer to one of his Black colleagues.

Democrats called for the resignation of Tarrant City councilman John Bryant – who goes by “Tommy” Bryant – after he used the slur at a Monday council meeting. Local Republicans also condemned Bryant for what they called a “racially charged outburst.”

Bryant made the comment as part of a discussion raised by members of the public about Facebook posts by Bryant’s wife.

When a member of the public said that she had used the N-word, Bryant said: “Let’s get to the N-word,” which he referred to indirectly at first. He then used the word, saying “Do we have a house [N-word] in here?”

“Do we? Do we? ” he continued, appearing to indicate a Black colleague, Veronica Freeman. “Would she please stand up?”

A still from a Tarrant City Council meeting showing councilman Tommy Bryant appearing to indicate Black colleague Veronica Freeman.
A still from a Tarrant City Council meeting showing councilman Tommy Bryant indicating Black colleague Veronica Freeman.

Video of him using the slur can be heard in this clip posted on YouTube by the outlet Bama Politics.

Bryant later sought to explain his use of the word, saying that it was what Wayman Newton, the city’s first Black mayor, had called Freeman in a previous meeting.

Soon after, Freeman appeared visibly upset and left the meeting sobbing.

The Alabama Democratic Party released a statement calling for his resignation. “He is a racist and unfit to serve,” it said.

Defending his comments afterwards to NBC affiliate WVTM 13, Bryant said that “the city ought to know what kind of terminology the mayor uses,” going on to call Newton “a racist.”

“It’s time for those people who are going to get mad about what I said, they need to get mad that the mayor said it, not that I said it,” he added, saying that Newton bullies Freeman.

He said he is not a racist “according to the true meaning of what a racist is.”

Freeman’s attorney in a statement to CBS42 described the incident as “unconscionable racial discrimination and harassment.” It continued: “Such statements are also deeply hurtful and absolutely unacceptable in our society.”

The Alabama Republican Party Chair John Wahl told local outlet in a statement that Bryant’s comment was unacceptable.

“The Alabama Republican Party is deeply troubled by the racially charged outburst and disrespect shown by Councilman Tommy Bryant,” said Wahl.

“Such language is completely unacceptable in any setting, and even more concerning coming from an elected official.”

He added that the party is proud to have Newton, a Republican, as a member.

Earlier in the meeting, Bryant also falsely stated that Muslims are compelled by their religion to kill non-believers.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Democrats introduced a bill to rename more than 1,000 forests, lakes, and mountain peaks named with racist slurs or offensive language

A natural spring with rising steam and surrounded by snow.
East C—-man Spring and Cascade Geyser as seen across the Firehole River, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, 2015.

  • Over 1,000 places in the US, like streams and mountain peaks, have been flagged for offensive names.
  • Democrats in Congress introduced a bill aimed at reviewing and revising the offensive names.
  • Places that have been flagged include slurs for Black people, Native Americans, and Mexicans living in the US.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Congressional Democrats introduced a bill Friday to rename more than 1,000 places in the US named with offensive language and racist slurs.

Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Edward Markey, and Rep. Al Green introduced the bill along with 25 cosponsors in the House of Representatives, all Democrats.

Lawmakers first introduced the bill last year with Rep. Deb Haaland, who now serves as the secretary of the interior as the first Native American cabinet secretary in US history.

“We need to immediately stop honoring the ugly legacy of racism and bigotry, and that’s why I’m introducing the Reconciliation in Place Names Act with my colleagues,” Warren said in a statement.

Read more: White farmers blocked a much-needed federal relief program for Black farmers. The saga proves Black farmers won’t overcome racism unless they take their economic future into their own hands.

The bill would take aim at land units and geographic features, like forests, streams, and wilderness areas, with racist or bigoted names. It would create a process to review and rename places with inoffensive names. According to the statement from the lawmakers, questionable names have been identified for 1,441 federally recognized places.

More than 600 places have the word “n—-,” a slur for Black people, in their name, according to a database from the US Geological Survey. In Oklahoma there is Dead N—- Spring, so-named because a deceased Black person was found there, according to the USGS.

In New Mexico, there is a reservoir called W—— Tank, named with a slur for Mexican people living in the US. Nearly 800 results are returned by the USGS database when searching for the term “s—-,” an offensive word for Native American women.

“These terms are harmful relics from the era of invidious yet lawful discrimination that must be removed from public property,” Congressman Green said. “Racism, even in geography, cannot be tolerated in a country that strives for liberty and justice for all.”

The bill would establish an advisory board of civil rights experts and tribal organizations and solicit comment from the public on name change proposals. The board would then make renaming recommendations to the proper government body, such as Congress in the case of federal land units.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Facebook employees are reportedly begging the company to do more about racist comments attacking English soccer players after the team lost the Euro Cup final

english soccer player bukayo saka is seen on a field
Bukayo Saka on July 11, 2021.

  • Employees are frustrated with Facebook as racist comments fill Black soccer players’ accounts.
  • Employees said the company needs to act faster and “can’t be seen as complicit in this.”
  • One employee said they’ve reported so many comments that they are now disabled from doing so.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Facebook employees are begging the company to take more aggressive action against racist comments on the accounts of English soccer players Bukayo Saka and Marcus Rashford, according to journalist Ryan Mac.

Mac said on Twitter that Facebook employees told him they have been alerting the company of racist comments for more than 12 hours now. Many of the comments include monkey emojis, according to Mac, and an employee inquired if it’s “possible to remove known racist emojis from comments.”

The company told Insider that a banana or monkey emoji on its own doesn’t necessarily violate the rules, but the context is considered when Facebook reviews content.

The comments also appear to be coming from anonymous and spam accounts that intend to abuse people online, an employee said.

Another employee said they had reported so many racist comments that their personal Instagram account has been disabled from reporting anymore.

“We MUST act faster here,” one employee said, according to Mac.

A Facebook spokesperson told Insider that “we quickly removed comments and accounts directing abuse at England’s footballers last night and we’ll continue to take action against those that break our rules.”

The spokesperson also said, “no one thing will fix this challenge overnight, but we’re committed to keeping our community safe from abuse.”

Other employees said they are confused as to why Facebook didn’t anticipate such racist remarks leading up to the sporting event since they have been a common occurrence throughout the season, according to Mac.

“We get this stream of utter bile every match, and it’s even worse when someone black misses… We really can’t be seen as complicit in this,” one employee said in an internal forum, Mac said.

Insider viewed the comments sections under both Saka and Rashford’s Instagram posts and viewed various racist comments, such as one user who referred to Saka and another as “baboooooons.”

Many users called for the racist hate to stop and expressed support for both players, as well as advised others to report racist comments that they see.

Facebook uses both human moderators and AI to sift through posts. Content moderation has long been Facebook’s Achilles Heel, and public pressure for the company to more heavily police what users post has picked up steam in the last year specifically.

Facebook’s content moderation policies have typically taken center stage in political discourse, especially in regard to former President Donald Trump’s posts, the 2020 presidential election, and the right’s belief that Big Tech censors conservative users.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A Tesla factory worker said he was called the N-word ‘100 times’ by coworkers, according to a sworn testimony

tesla factory reopening coronavirus
Workers in orange vests are seen outside Tesla’s primary vehicle factory after CEO Elon Musk defied local restrictions by reopening the plant in Fremont, California, May 12, 2020.

  • Protocol obtained sworn testimony from Tesla workers who said they were routinely called the N-word.
  • The testimonies were part of a 2017 lawsuit filed by former Black workers at Tesla’s Fremont plant.
  • Former workers at multiple US plants sued Tesla, alleging racial harassment.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Former Tesla workers routinely used racial slurs against Black employees, according to sworn testimonies obtained by Protocol.

Aaron Craven, a Black worker at Tesla’s Fremont factory, said in a sworn statement he had been called the N-word “approximately 100 times,” and saw KKK signs and swastika graffitied in bathroom stalls. Workers submitted 103 declarations in March 2021 as part 2017 lawsuit suing Tesla for racial harassment.

“I was directly called n—– and n—- approximately 100 times at the Fremont factory,” Craven said a sworn statement reviewed by Protocol. “I heard the terms n—– and n—- used over 100 times by coworkers, and by my lead Auggie, in the Tesla factory.”

Read more: A top battery startup just tapped a Tesla veteran to lead manufacturing. Here’s her plan to dominate EVs.

Additionally, ex-contractor Aaron Minor stated he heard Tesla employees refer to the Fremont factory as a plantation and Black people as “cotton workers,” Protocol reported.

Two separate lawsuits filed against Tesla in 2017 alleged racial harassment and discrimination at the Fremont plant. Former Tesla worker DeWitt Lambert said coworkers regularly called him the N-word and made sexually explicit comments.

In 2019, Black and Latino workers at a Tesla factory in Buffalo, New York, filed discrimination complaints with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the New York Division of Human Rights. The six former workers said they heard racial slurs and racist comments at the factory.

Tesla admitted the firm has “work to do” to be representative of the evolving US population after an internal diversity report showed Black people hold just 4% of leadership roles at the transportation company.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Women and people of color are missing out on June’s celebrated wage and job growth

Unemployment benefits line
People line up to receive unemployment benefits.

  • June’s jobs report showed promising signs of recovery, with gains exceeding expectations.
  • But women and people of color are still seeing a different story as recovery continues.
  • More women rejoined the labor force, but the vast majority are unemployed.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

June’s jobs report brought some surprisingly optimistic figures. The economy added 850,000 jobs, healthily beating expectations and signaling that recovery may be on the horizon.

But, as with much of the pandemic recovery, the economic benefits are still uneven. For women and people of color, the unemployment situation is much more disparate – and it signals who might still be getting left behind amidst recovery.

‘We’re still in a crisis’

Insider’s Joseph Zeballos-Roig reported that June’s unemployment rate for Black Americans increased from May. Latino unemployment also remains far higher than the national average of 5.9%.

Those elevated unemployment rates come as 26 states move to end federal unemployment benefits ahead of their scheduled September expiration, which will impact about four million workers around the country.

“I do think we’re still in a crisis, we’re still looking at really high unemployment rates, especially for Black women and Latinas again, and for Black men, it’s back in the double digits. So it’s 10% for Black men in June,” Jasmine Tucker, the director of research at the National Women’s Law Center, told Insider. “If white men were at a double-digit unemployment rate, we would not be talking about ending these unemployment benefits in these states. We just 100%, we would not be doing it.”

Broadly, 148,000 women rejoined the labor force in June, and, according to an analysis from the NWLC, women made up 47.6% of jobs gains. But rejoining the labor force doesn’t mean that all of those women have a job – it means that those women are actively working or looking for work. In fact, the NWLC found that 97% of the women who rejoined the labor force are unemployed; the same is true for just 12% of the 232,000 men who rejoined. Tucker attributes that to sexism, and women potentially being judged harshly for leaving the labor force to be caregivers.

According to Tucker, women will need to see gains at this rate for nine months to reach pre-pandemic employment.

“That’s only going to get us back to February 2020. That’s not going to account for all of the people – just population growth – all of the people who would have entered the labor force between February and now,” Tucker said of those hypothetical nine months of gains. She added: “It would get us where we were, but not where we should have been.”

Those unemployed female and Black workers may also be missing out on the wage growth workers have seen in the past few months; it’s growth that’s likely temporary, according to a note from a Bank of America research team led by Michelle Meyer. That could only exacerbate pre-existing wage gaps.

Black families were also already at an economic disadvantage coming into the pandemic, according to new research from the JPMorgan Chase Institute. They had 44 cents to every dollar white families held in January 2020; Latino families had 58 cents. Throughout the pandemic, people of color were disproportionately impacted by the virus itself – which came with its own economic burden.

The inequities that still persist are on the radar of the Biden administration. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh told Insider that “our work has to be more focused, more intentional” in creating opportunities for people of color.

“Certainly, the unemployment rate for communities of color and women remains essentially unchanged in this report,” Walsh said. “I think, and the president feels, that we have a potentially once in a lifetime opportunity to make some significant changes to the unemployment system, as far as for people of color.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

America’s housing market is racist. Congress could easily help fix it if they wanted to.

A sign showing that a house has been sold.
  • Black borrowers are 80% more likely to be denied a mortgage than white borrowers.
  • The Fair Lending for All Act would establish a new federal office to ensure discrimination in lending is not happening.
  • The bill would help end discriminatory practices by clarifying that discrimination based on zip code or census tract is prohibited under ECOA.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In 2020, Black borrowers were 80% more likely to be denied a mortgage than white borrowers. While this statistic is jarring, it is hardly surprising to those of us familiar with the US mortgage industry. A holistic look at America’s housing market shows that it disadvantages people of color in some startling and systemic ways that are not always obvious at the loan level.

The Fair Lending for All Act aims to change that. Introduced by Congressman Al Green, a Democrat from Texas, the bill clarifies the language of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) to better address systemic discrimination in mortgage lending. At the same time, it establishes a new bureau within the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to test whether lenders are following federal guidelines as set out in the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) and ECOA. While seemingly obscure and legalistic, the Fair Lending for All Act will go a long way to making mortgage lending fairer and ending racial disparities in home ownership.

Disparate impact

Historically, Black homeowners have had to contend with systemic racism in the mortgage industry, contributing to lower levels and slower growth in homeownership among Black Americans. Through redlining – a process in which real estate agents and mortgage lenders steer Black renters and buyers into specific communities, contributing to de facto segregation – “agencies deemed Black communities too risky for federal home loan assistance, regardless of the income, wealth, or education of the inhabitants, or the quality or location of its housing stack,” Jim Carr, a former senior vice president of the Fannie Mae foundation, wrote last month.

According to Carr, this drastically slowed the rate of homeownership among Black Americans. The Black homeownership rate has increased only 4% over the past five decades. Meanwhile, the gap in homeownership between white and Black Americans was 5% lower in 1920 than it was in 2020.

This problem is then compounded by further economic inequalities Black Americans face. A recent study from the McKinsey Global Institute found that Black Americans make on average 30% less than white Americans. A disproportionate number of Black Americans have student loan debt, representing 13.4% of the population but nearly a quarter of all student loan debt incurred in 2019. Black borrowers also inherit less and receive fewer financial gifts from family members than do white Americans.

Debt-to-income and loan-to-value ratios have been higher for Black and Latino Americans. Data from the Federal Reserve shows that the median Black family has less than 15% the wealth of the median white family. What this means in practical terms is that Black and Latino borrowers have a higher amount of debt relative to their income. They, in turn, must borrow more on their homes, having less of a down payment to put towards the purchase.

Many lenders and underwriters will argue that there is no inherent racism here. If you qualify, you qualify, and if you don’t, you don’t. But in my own experience in the mortgage industry over the past decade, this kind of discrimination is not always apparent, even to the folks being discriminated against.

There are three types of discrimination which ECOA forbids: overt discrimination, comparative discrimination, and disparate impact. Overt discrimination is when a lender blatantly treats an applicant differently based on a protected characteristic, such as race or sex. Comparative discrimination results from “differences in treatment that are not fully explained by legitimate nondiscriminatory factors,” according to the Federal Reserve. The last type of discrimination, disparate impact, “occurs when a lender applies a racially (or otherwise) neutral policy or practice equally to all credit applicants but the policy or practice disproportionately excludes or burdens certain persons on a prohibited basis.”

If someone says “we don’t lend to Black people” or “unmarried women are charged a hire origination fee,” that’s overt discrimination. Other types of discrimination are not always so apparent. Some financial institutions may have policies which take into consideration a borrower’s census tract or zip code, which, due to racist practices like redlining, can have a discriminatory effect. This is one of the practices the Fair Lending for All Act hopes to curtail, making it clear that it is unlawful to discriminate based on census tract or zip code.

This clarification is welcome, as it will help loan officers and underwriters better understand the law. It will also require lenders to assess and even change policies which are currently leading to discrimination within the mortgage industry, whether unintentional or not. In doing so, it will make lending fairer to those who have been historically locked out of equal access to credit.

Giving Black homeowners a chance

A lot of the discrimination currently keeping Americans of color from equally accessing credit comes from seemingly race-neutral policies that are applied evenly but have a disparate impact. Loan officers make commissions based on the loan amount, and originating a smaller loan on a less-expensive house may not be as enticing as lending on a bigger loan in a more expensive neighborhood. I certainly heard “it’s not worth the work” several times in my mortgage career, though never in relation to an applicant’s race.

Still, given the income and wealth disparities previously discussed, the possibility for comparative discrimination is obvious but would only be apparent to someone looking at the totality of a loan officer’s or company’s production. As such, lenders “on the ground” may well not see that what they’re doing is discrimination, and borrowers who are covertly or comparatively discriminated against – and certainly those experiencing disparate impact – may not realize it, either.

That does not mean the results are not just as pernicious. In fact, these practices are making it harder to close the racial wealth gap. Last month, I was horrified but not surprised by the story of a Black woman in Indiana who discovered her home value doubled when she had a white friend stand in as the homeowner. Earlier this year, a study of house prices in Chicago’s Black and Latino neighborhoods showed there was a gap of $324,000 in the values of those homes between comparable properties in white neighborhoods. While this may seem astronomically high, the same sociologists who looked at Chicago’s study found last year that this is a national problem, with the gap being $245,000 nationwide. This, in turn, costs minority sellers hundreds of thousands in equity, which has a considerable impact on the racial wealth gap.

Minority buyers are also disadvantaged. The pandemic has exasperated gentrification, with home prices skyrocketing in even once-affordable communities. Carrying higher debt-to-income ratios (thus limiting the amount they can borrow) puts them at a disadvantage in bidding wars. On the other hand, borrowers with generational wealth and less debt might be able to either put more money towards the down payment, thus decreasing the LTV, or be able to borrow more because of a lower DTI. But again, minority borrowers are disadvantaged compared to their white counterparts. A Brookings Institute study last year found that “the net worth of a typical white family is nearly ten times greater than that of a Black family…” In a booming seller’s market, this disparity in wealth can leave minority borrowers unable to compete for housing.

These realities make ensuring lending is fair and unbiased a top priority for the federal government and lenders alike. An agency tasked with looking at the problem from a bird’s eye view – and therefore able to get a fuller picture of the situation – is needed. For these reasons, I am so encouraged by the Fair Lending for All Act. This bill establishes within the CFPB an Office of Fair Lending Testing. Charged with ensuring these disparities disappear, the Office of Fair Lending Testing would utilize what essentially amounts to “secret shoppers” to assess whether lenders are complying with ECOA and all other applicable antidiscrimination laws.

In doing so, CFPB can better assess individual loan officers’ and appraisers’ intentions, weeding out the ones who are overtly discriminating and addressing the companies which allow this. It can also correct behaviors which are leading to comparative discrimination or disparate impact, helping companies to develop best practices which ensure a fair lending process for all Americans.

Ending the racial income and wealth gap is an intergenerational project, and one we must start today. The Fair Lending for All Act can help Black and Latino Americans better secure a slice of the American dream that white people have already largely had access to. Congress must not pass up this opportunity to repair a broken rung on our nation’s housing ladder.

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