Will Congress Spark a New Great Recession?

By Orson Aguilar

Four years before the subprime mortgage meltdown devastated the U.S. economy, my organization warned Federal Reserve Board Chair Alan Greenspan that a deregulated financial sector was hurtling us toward disaster.

The New York Times, in recounting this 2004 meeting, noted that representatives of Greenlining Institute “implored Mr. Greenspan to use his bully pulpit and press for a voluntary code of conduct.” He was not interested.

Astonishingly, similar warnings are being ignored all over again.

After the 2008 crash, Congress passed a series of reforms known as the Dodd-Frank Act. While many of us felt this law should have gone farther, it did put in place a series of common-sense protections designed to curb the “wild west” atmosphere on Wall Street.

In mid-March, the U.S. Senate acted to slash those protections, passing a financial deregulation bill known as S.2115, rightly derided by critics as the “Bank Lobbyist Act.” Among other things, the bill would exempt some truly massive banks—up to $250 billion in assets, big enough to include American Express—from regulatory oversight designed to keep them from driving the economy into a ditch again.

The Senate passed the bill despite a warning from the Congressional Budget Office that it would increase the likelihood of a federal bank bailout and increase the budget deficit.

As in the Great Recession of 2008, the impacts of this policy would likely hitcommunities of color the hardest. A recent investigation by Reveal foundthat banks continue to practice illegal forms of race-based discrimination, a.k.a. redlining, in home mortgage lending. Obtaining home lending data is key to shining light on this bias, and hiding that data is exactly what the banks would prefer.

Because black, Latino and Asian American borrowers were specifically targetedby predatory subprime lenders, Congress beefed up reporting requirements under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, to be effective this year. Increased public reporting of statistics like borrower credit scores, mortgage loan terms and the assessed points and fees would help regulators find patterns of discrimination and stop redlining.

But the Bank Lobbyist Act rolls back these new reporting requirements for banks and credit unions making under 500 home mortgage loans per year—even though lenders still must collect this information for their underwriting files. By allowing banks to hide data they’re already collecting, the bill will make it harder to detect and prevent patterns of discrimination. Effectively, it’s a Redliner’s Bill of Rights.

Now that the Senate bill has passed with a bipartisan majority (sixteen Democrats joined all Republicans in voting “yes”), consideration moves to the House of Representatives. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, Republican of Texas, chair of the House Financial Services Committee, has indicated he wants to combine the Senate bill with existing House legislation that’s also regarded as dangerous by consumer advocates.

It’s time to sound an alarm. We need to remember what caused the Great Recession, and let Congress know we’ll be watching to see whether it proceeds with this mad experiment in bank deregulation.

California Shows How to Fight Climate Change and Help Underserved Communities

By Emi Wang

Something amazing is happening in California. The Golden State has taken bold steps to act on climate change, including regulations to cut carbon consumption and charging polluters for the carbon that they emit. The money from polluters is placed into a fund called the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF), where it goes to work promoting the clean energy economy in communities across the state.

Of course, California isn’t the only place to put a price on carbon. A group of northeastern states, as well as Ontario and Quebec, have taken similar action, generally using some form of cap-and-trade mechanism like California.

But California took its effort a step farther, recognizing that poverty and pollution go hand in hand—and that smart policies can help tackle both.

Thanks to the work of the California Climate Equity Coalition, of which my organization the Greenlining Insitute is a part, 35 percent of those resources must be invested in the state’s most polluted and economically disadvantaged communities, communities that have experienced decades of disinvestmentredlining and heavy pollution.

As of 2016, this has meant $419 million invested directly in projects in neighborhoods to help families save money on their energy bills, get solar panels or purchase an electric vehicle. Grants to community groups and local governments help them transform concrete city blocks with tree-lined streets, create community gardens, build permanently affordable housing close to public transit and more.

These investments don’t just reduce carbon emissions. They help ensure that even poor Californians enjoy the savings and health benefits of the clean energy economy, while creating jobs in the communities that need them most. This remarkable achievement can be a model for other states and nations fighting climate change.

What’s not so amazing is that the infrastructure that California has created is enormously complex and hard to understand, even for someone like me whose job it is to track this stuff. And for the everyday renter, community-based group or local city planner, it can be dizzying to try to understand what resources are available to you and your community. So we’re trying to solve that problem.

The Tool: UpLift Resource Finder

These resources can’t help people and communities fight climate change or embrace clean energy if they don’t know about them. That’s why we created the UpLift Resource Finder, to help folks navigate through the complicated world of California Climate Investments. The Resource Finder contains a comprehensive database of over 40 grants and rebates that individuals, families, community-based organizations, schools, municipalities, tribes and businesses can use to act on climate locally.

Whether you’re a community group looking to plant trees or a family wanting to find electric car rebates, the Uplift Resource Finder makes it easier to find out how California’s climate investments can help you. It also has an interesting story for non-Californians. We offer the tool in two views:

  1. Guided Tour: Don’t know where to start? We’ll walk you through four questions to get you to your results.
  2. Full Database: Want to look at the full database? Skip ahead to the full listing and filter your results manually.

We hope that this tool will make it easier for anyone to see what grants and rebates are the best fit, so that all California communities can participate in our fight against climate change. But even if you’re not from California, it’s still worth a look to see all the ways dollars collected from polluters can make life better for people and communities. We’re showing that the fight against climate change isn’t something distant and abstract; it can change lives for the better and make a real difference in neighborhoods that have suffered from decades of neglect.

How Money from Polluters Helps Californians

San Francisco Chronicle
By Orson Aguilar

If you follow the news, then you’ve seen repeated arguments about California’s efforts to fight climate change — fights over cap-and-trade, effects on consumers, funding for high-speed rail and more. But there’s a hidden story you may have heard less about.

It’s the story of people like Richmond resident Kendra Tramiel, who got help trading in her old, gas-guzzling clunker for a much more reliable and far less polluting hybrid. It’s a story about the residents of West Gateway Place in West Sacramento — a complex that provides affordable housing for dozens of families and whose energy-saving features and proximity to transit, bike and pedestrian routes are estimated to be equal to taking more than 140,000 cars off the road.

These stories happened because of how California uses the money it collects from polluters for the carbon they put into our air.

All over California, low-income families are getting their homes weatherized, getting help buying an electric or plug-in hybrid car and much more. Communities and local governments receive grants to plant trees and create community gardens, build affordable housing near public transit and replace smoke-belching diesel school buses with clean electric buses, among other benefits — all because of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, powered by cap-and-trade dollars.

Some $614 million has already been put to work on projects benefiting disadvantaged communities, two-thirds of which has gone to projects directly located within those communities — with more added every day.

In a state that combines remarkable wealth and economic vitality with unacceptable levels of poverty and a growing affordability crisis, these smart greenhouse gas reduction expenditures not only clean the air in neighborhoods that need it most, they help address wealth inequality and tackle some of California’s most urgent problems.

Putting affordable homes near transit — like West Gateway Place, the MacArthur Park Apartments in Los Angeles and other projects happening statewide — not only eases our affordable housing crisis, it saves energy and cuts traffic and air pollution while reducing the amount of climate-changing carbon dioxide going into our atmosphere. Projects like this make life better for the whole neighborhood and also create good jobs.

California’s approach is unique. While a few places — including a group of northeastern states — have programs in place to put a price on carbon, none has made the sort of concrete commitment that California has made to use the money generated to attack the combined, interwoven problems of poverty and pollution. Our governor and Legislature have actually written it into law that 35 percent of carbon proceeds must benefit disadvantaged communities or low-income Californians. And it’s working.

If there’s one drawback to all this, then it’s that the public has had no easy, convenient place for individuals, local governments or community groups to find out which of these benefits they qualify for. But now they do: Resource Finder lets users answer a few short questions and be directed to the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund-funded resources that meet their needs.

Despite fierce opposition from fossil fuel interests, California has mounted a unique and successful effort to simultaneously fight climate change and uplift our most economically stressed and pollution-burdened communities. The nation and world should follow our example.

Orson Aguilar is president of the Greenlining Institute. The Resource Finder is at http://upliftca.org/resource-finder.

Sessions Reboots the Failed War on Drugs

The Progressive
By Orson Aguilar

Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions seem hell-bent on reviving one of the worst policy failures in U.S. history, the disastrous “War on Drugs.”

As Americans increasingly embrace common-sense reforms—Vermont is in the process of becoming the ninth U.S. state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana— the administration wants to waste resources on policies that will worsen the opioid crisis and increase racial disparities.

Trump recently touted the need for tough drug policies, claiming that “very harsh” countries “have much less difficulty” with drugs. The opposite is true. In 2001, Portugal decriminalized possession of drugs, even heroin, so that essentially no one goes to jail for personal possession of small amounts of drugs. The result? Drug use went down, and drug-overdose deaths plunged by about 85 percent.

Portugal shows that when you treat drug abuse as a health problem, you can save lives.

Instead, Trump and Sessions want to double down on policies that have failed for decades. Sessions recently rescinded an Obama administration policy that gave states with legalized marijuana—either for medical reasons or for general adult use—considerable leeway to experiment without federal interference. That will allow federal prosecutors across the country to go after pot possession, distribution and cultivation even in states where it is legal.

It’s hard to imagine what there is to gain from this policy change. In Colorado, which pioneered full marijuana legalization, pot use by teens dropped sharply after the law took effect—perhaps in part because it lets law enforcement focus on preventing drug dealing to minors.

Any increase in marijuana prosecutions will take resources away from truly serious drug problems, like the opioid crisis that now kills tens of thousands of Americans each year. But it’s even worse than that.

Multiple studies have shown marijuana to have pain-relieving properties that may enable reduction in the use of narcotic painkillers. In a 2014 study published by the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers compared drug overdose deaths in states with and without legal access to medical marijuana.

“We found there was about a 25 percent lower rate of prescription painkiller overdose deaths on average after implementation of a medical marijuana law,” said lead author Dr. Marcus Bachhuber when the report was published.

One more point: The drug war that began more than a century ago is rooted in overt racism, fueled by hysterical stories about “Negro cocaine fiends” and claims that “under marijuana, Mexicans [become] very violent.” Decades later, President Richard Nixon declared a “War on Drugs” as a pretext to target blacks and antiwar protesters, an aide later admitted.

In practice, anti-drug enforcement has been massively uneven. When the ACLU crunched the numbers a few years ago, it found that, although official surveys consistently find that blacks and whites use marijuana and other drugs at similar rates, blacks are nearly four times as likely to be arrested on marijuana charges. The difference in imprisonment is even worse, with African Americans being nearly six times as likely to be imprisoned for drug offenses.

The good news is that Sessions’ recent move on marijuana triggered bipartisan pushback. If the public keeps up pressure on the politicians, sensible policies may yet prevail.

Orson Aguilar is president of The Greenlining Institute, a national nonprofit group working for racial and economic justice. This column was written for the Progressive Media Project, affiliated with The Progressive magazine, and distributed by Tribune News Service.

Racist Code Talk: After a Year, Trump Is as Bad as We Feared

Huffington Post
By Orson Aguilar

Earlier this year, I wrote a series of posts about how Washington in the Trump era had effectively declared war on people of color, albeit mostly hidden under a veil of populism and pretending to stand up for “forgotten Americans.” Now, as year one of the Trump presidency nears its end, we can say with certainty that this administration’s racism is a feature, not a bug – even as the president and his spokespeople continuing to try to hide it by talking in code.

In an era when even Trump, Steve Bannon and their ilk don’t dare say the n-word in public, they still manage to crank their racist dog-whistles up as loud as an air raid siren.

When NFL players kneeled during the national anthem to protest police killings of African Americans, Trump went on a tirade, tweeting angrily about “the disrespect the NFL is paying to our Country” and telling an Alabama rally that “when somebody disrespects our flag,” team owners should “get that son-of-a-bitch off the field now!”

Or course, no one was disrespecting the flag, as Colin Kaepernick, who started the protests, as well as current players who continued them, have made clear. In fact, they specifically chose kneeling because it was respectful.

But none of that matters to a president whose purpose is to arouse and exploit racial hatred. After all, this is the guy who kept stumping for Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore even after Moore said America was better off under slavery.

In a Dec. 15 speech to the FBI, Trump again made a big show of deporting members of MS-13, a loose gang network whose threat, in the view of most experts, has been wildly exaggerated, but which may actually be made worse by Trump’s posturing. As with the NFL players, this is a cheap shot aimed at sowing hatred – this time aimed at Latino immigrants.

Of course, sometimes Trump can’t resist an actual racial slur like his repeated references to Sen. Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas” – most recently (and appallingly) at an event honoring the Navajo “code talkers” who literally helped save this country during World War II.

Behind Trump’s thinly veiled racist language we continue to see policies that disproportionately hurt communities of color, communities that still live at the wrong end of America’s growing racial wealth gap. Trump’s FCC is not only killing net neutrality – itself an attack on anyone who’s not a wealthy corporation. It’s also dismantling crucial elements of the Lifeline program that guarantees affordable telephone and broadband services to low income Americans and rolling back protections for those who still depend on the old copper phone networks for voice and internet services.

The administration’s recent move to drastically shrink Bear’s Ears National Monument is, among other things, a direct assault on Native American sacred sites.

Under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Trump’s Department of Justice has been systematically rolling back civil rights enforcement.

And don’t forget the continuing attacks on Obamacare, which has dramatically shrunk the disproportionately high uninsured rates among African Americans, Asian Americans and Latinos. One such attack is buried in the just-passed tax bill that will be terrible for Americans of color in a variety of ways. But even without legislation, Trump has done his best to sabotage the Affordable Care Act by cutting the enrollment period in half and slashing funding for advertising and outreach.

But a funny thing happens when you attack people again and again: They start to fight back. Politicians who think they can get ahead by exploiting racial hatred might want to take a long, hard look at the recent Senate race in Alabama, where Black voters turned out in massive numbers and made Doug Jones the first Democratic senator from this deep-red state in a generation.

Race-baiting may have helped get Donald Trump into the White House, but it has already begun to backfire spectacularly. That said, we’re in for a lot more ugliness before this is over.

Are Banks Abandoning Fresno Home Buyers?

The Fresno Bee
By Vedika Ahuja and Tate Hill

If you or someone you know bought a home in Fresno recently, chances are the lender wasn’t a bank. That raises a number of concerns.

Recently, The Greenlining Institute and the National Community Reinvestment Coalition analyzed federal data on California home mortgage lending for 2015, examining statewide figures and looking specifically at lending patterns in Fresno, Oakland and Long Beach. Each city had a different story.

In Fresno, the story might be titled, “The Rise of the Non-Banks.” Surprisingly, nine of Fresno’s top 10 home purchase lenders weren’t banks – a much larger presence of non-banks than in the statewide figures, and a huge difference from 2013 when five of the top 10 lenders in Fresno were banks.

Why does this matter? Traditional financial institutions like banks and credit unions don’t just make loans. They take deposits and offer savings and checking accounts, ATM services, etc. The non-bank lenders writing most of the home purchase and refinance loans in Fresno don’t offer those services.

Just as important, banks holding Fresno residents’ deposits have an obligation to the community under the Community Reinvestment Act, an important law which requires banks to meet the credit and borrowing needs of the communities they serve.

The CRA has brought billions of dollars in investment to underserved communities that financial institutions had largely neglected, including rural communities here in the Valley.

One question our findings raise is, “Where are the banks?” Wells Fargo, California’s top lender, was also Fresno’s leading home purchase lender in 2015. But no other bank – not even giants like Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase – made the top 10.

What’s going on? Many banks, including Bank of America, Bank of the West, and MUFG Union Bank hold substantial deposit shares in the area. However, we see banks pulling out of the home-lending business in Fresno, and also closing branches here. Since 2008, California has lost five percent of its bank branches while Fresno County has lost 15 percent.

That is why we are working with numerous organizations on the San Joaquin Valley Economic Justice Campaign, an effort to hold banks accountable to meeting the credit needs of low-income communities and people of color in the area.

We urge banks to increase affordable home lending to underserved populations and support housing counselors and other local organizations that build the financial health and wealth of Valley communities.

We should also consider how non-banks impact the Fresno community. These non-banks aren’t covered by the Community Reinvestment Act and don’t technically have an obligation to meet the needs of the community. Many of these non-banks are more effective at reaching communities of color than banks, with three such lenders making over half of their Fresno home purchase loans to Latinos.

This could be a good thing, but could also pose a risk, depending on the terms and rates of those loans. From the little research available, non-banks appear to charge slightly higher rates than deposit banks for similarly situated borrowers.

We did not compare rates and terms of loans given by Fresno’s non-bank and bank lenders, but this question definitely needs further research, and will become increasingly important. Immigrant communities, especially those who speak and read only limited English, could be exploited if we’re not careful.

Homeownership remains one of the most crucial ways to build intergenerational wealth. Cities, community leaders, and nonprofit organizations must work together to ensure that communities of color and low-income people throughout the Valley are not left behind as the financial industry evolves.

Vedika Ahuja is Economic Equity Senior Manager at The Greenlining Institute. Tate Hill is Senior Manager of Administration at Access Plus Capital in Fresno and a Greenlining Institute board member.


Trump Seeks to Neuter Financial Watchdog

The Progressive
By Orson Aguilar

The Trump administration would like to make it easier for shady Wall Street firms to rip you off. To this end, it is working to undo one of the smartest things that Congress ever did.

Recognizing that dishonest lending practices led to the 2008 financial crash, Congress created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to crack down on such financial sleaze. It wisely designed the CFPB as strong agency with built-in independence from political pressures and big-bucks lobbying.

Now, President Donald Trump has tapped one of the CFPB’s leading opponents to run it, a move that will absolutely harm literally every American who uses money—to the delight of shady subprime lenders, payday loan firms and credit card companies that gouge their customers.

Trump’s pick, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, has called the CFPB “sick, sad” and “the very worst kind of government entity.”As a member of Congress, he co-sponsored legislation to eliminate it. He arrived on the job Nov. 27 with donuts for staff, proclaiming that his charge was to make the agency stop “trampling on capitalism.”

Under just-departed Director Richard Cordray, the CFPB has defended ordinary Americans from rip-offs in mortgages, credit cards, student loans, payday lending and more, securing $12 billion in relief for Americans gouged by shady financial firms. It has forced banks and other financial businesses to make clearer disclosures so that those getting mortgage loans, for example, can actually know what they’re agreeing to.

Before leaving, Cordray appointed his chief of staff, Leandra English, as deputy director. The law that created the CFPB specifies that the deputy director shall act as director in the event of a vacancy at the top, and the law’s legislative history makes it clear that’s exactly what Congress meant. And English unmistakably has the capacity, experience and skills to serve as acting CFPB director and keep the bureau running effectively.

But Trump has instead installed his designated hatchet man as acting director to dismantle consumer protections. English has filed a lawsuit to block this power grab. A federal judge appointed by Trump has refused to block the appointment, but English’s attorney says he is determined to continue the fight.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is some obscure legalistic squabble. It will affect all of us.

The American economy works better when financial markets work to serve, not harm, ordinary Americans. We saw in 2008 what happens when abuses run rampant. The American people, particularly low-income Americans and people of color who have been historically targeted by unscrupulous financial firms, deserve to have their pocketbooks protected by a strong consumer watchdog led by a director who genuinely looks out for regular folks.

That’s precisely what we won’t have if Mick Mulvaney is allowed to run the CFPB despite the legal clouds over his appointment. Watch your wallet.

In The Fight For Greater Solar Access, California Can Be A Guiding Light

Solar Industry
By Noemi Gallardo

More than ever before, states need to step up in the fight to save our planet. California is leading the charge to fill this void, but we can – and should – do more.

Thankfully, Californians are starting to take action and show what it means to be good, responsible global citizens. Earlier this year, state lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown approved a package of laws that seek to continue California’s climate leadership.

We are also a national leader for energy innovation and clean energy choices. As a state, we have committed to obtaining at least 50% of our energy from renewable sources by 2030, and state leaders had even proposed increasing that number to 100% by 2045.

But this isn’t enough. We know that climate change will continue to disproportionately impact minority and low-income communities. One clear way to make a difference is by increasing access to affordable clean energy to our most vulnerable populations. Our state has a great chance to lead this charge and show our country a path forward.

Empowering low-income Californians to participate directly in the clean energy economy will not only help our planet, but also boost local communities and diversify our companies. It will open the door for more good jobs with pathways to sustainable careers to the people who need them most, as well as enable folks to serve and represent the communities they live in.

For example, solar jobs represent a significant segment of the American workforce. According to The Solar Foundation, solar jobs have increased at least 20% per year for the past four years, and such jobs have nearly tripled since 2010. In 2016, there were over 260,000 solar jobs in the U.S., and industry leaders estimate a 10% growth in the coming year. California alone accounted for more than 100,000 of those jobs.

No more “greenwashing”! We must create a groundswell and make California’s movement toward 100% clean energy about empowering people and communities, providing clean energy choices, and creating more jobs.

This opportunity is why I’m excited to be chosen to serve on The Greenlining Institute’s board of directors while taking on a role as senior public policy manager at the California-based national solar energy company Sunrun. As a former Greenlining Leadership Academy fellow working with the organization’s energy policy team, Greenlining inspired me to break down economic barriers on a variety of issues, including energy.

At Greenlining, it’s our mission to amplify the voice of low-income communities and communities of color. We want to defend energy consumers in these underserved areas and advocate for programs that will expand access to renewable energy choices, while making them affordable.

Greenlining works with a coalition of nonprofits like GRID Alternatives and Rising Sun, as well as private-sector companies like Sunrun to enable more clean energy options to more people. We want to bring together communities and uplift their voices so that policymakers listen to their needs. Access to clean air and affordable energy is not a luxury; it is a human right.

The solar industry is already making progress. In California, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts alone, estimates suggest that there are now more than 100,000 lower-income solar households – or families who make less than $45,000 annually.

But, again, there’s still a long way to go. We plan to collaborate with stakeholders from across the industry and, most importantly, with the communities themselves to empower families with clean, affordable, reliable energy that will lead to brighter days for everyone.

California can’t change what happens in Washington, but we can set an example for the nation to follow.


We Need More Women Physicians Of Color

Huffington Post
By Orson Aguilar

We’ll not only have a better health care system, we’ll have a healthier, more equitable society.

In an increasingly diverse America, patients of all racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds urgently need physicians who understand them and can relate to their situation. Unfortunately, they don’t always get what they need. In one study, researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that “racial and ethnic minority respondents are more likely to perceive bias and lack of cultural competence when seeking treatment in the health care system overall than whites.” That, in turn, can lead to lower quality care.

So we should be troubled that the most recent figures available show that women of color – nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population ― make up just 11.7 percent of active M.D. physicians. Recently, the health policy team at The Greenlining Institute joined forces with the Artemis Medical Society to try to better understand why, interviewing 20 women physicians of color from around the country and exploring their experiences in great detail. What they found, documented in our new report, “Breaking Down Barriers for Women Physicians of Color,” should disturb anyone who cares about quality health care.

The doctors our team interviewed faced consistent barriers throughout their education and training, often starting in childhood. Forty percent recalled at least one high school or college counselor who tried to discourage them from pursuing a medical career. Some were told that medical school would be too difficult for them, and some were pressured to abandon their dreams of a career in medicine and start a family instead. Nearly half told us that a lack of access to science and math education left them at a disadvantage.

Too often, educators seemed to operate based on stereotypes and unwarranted assumptions. “The challenge with being a little brown girl is that when you tell people it’s your aspiration to be a doctor, they don’t believe you can do it,” one physician told us. “They try to push you into nursing or something else where they have seen someone like you.”

Cost also works to keep women of color out of medicine. While scholarships and other financial aid may help with the cost of college, prospective medical students face thousands of dollars in expenses that they must cover on their own. These include exam preparation courses, Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) registration fees, application fees for medical schools, and travel to and from multiple interviews. While these fees apply to applicants of all races, the racial wealth gap means they hit students of color harder: In the latest figures available, for every dollar of wealth a white family owns, the median Asian-American family has 68 cents, the median Latino family has 10 cents and the median black family has just 8 cents. For those on the wrong end of that wealth gap, thousands of dollars in application costs can be a deal-breaker.

Once they get to medical school and residency, many students experience racism and sexism. One Latina physician recalled that her male co-residents circulated a vulgar and derogatory video demeaning Latina doctors: “The other residents were laughing as they shared the video with each other even though I was in the program, and even if I was in the room while they watched,” she remembered. “Moments like that made me feel like program faculty didn’t care about me. Even though I reported these incidents, there were no consequences.”

For these women, sexism reared its head in multiple forms. Some felt discrimination and harassment for starting or wanting to start a family. More than one third recalled instances during medical school and residency in which male students were encouraged to voice their opinions while women were more likely to be silenced.

All of these pressures – and many more laid out in our report – keep the numbers of women of color in medicine artificially low. That’s bad for patients as well as these aspiring doctors. So what can we do?

For one thing, medical schools can diversify their faculties. Institutions training physicians for a diverse nation should not be an “old white boys club.”

Second, residency programs – which more often lack the detailed rules about discrimination and sensitivity training for faculty that most colleges and universities have – need to get serious about curbing discrimination. Among the doctors we interviewed, 40 percent said that at times they felt unclear about how to report offensive or inappropriate behavior during residency. Of those who understood the reporting system, many felt uncomfortable filing a report because they did not believe their work environment would support or understand their grievance.

On a more basic level, we need better access to math and science education for girls and young women of color. And colleges and medical schools must do more to provide support structures and mentorship for diverse students – something that nearly everyone told us they didn’t get enough of.

If we start doing these things, we’ll not only have a better health care system, we’ll have a healthier, more equitable society.

Opinion: Uber’s Not Coming, What Did We Learn?

Oakland Post

In August, Uber announced that it’s probably not coming to Oakland after all and will likely put the former Sears building back on the market. Since the issues of gentrification and displacement that caused The Greenlining Institute and others to form the No Uber Oakland campaign haven’t gone away, this might be a good time to ask what we’ve learned, and how we move forward.

When Uber announced its initial plans that would likely move 2,000-3,000 highly paid tech workers into downtown Oakland, we were alarmed about the impact on Oakland’s residents, workers, small businesses, nonprofits and artists. We’ve all seen what happened when San Francisco rolled out the red carpet to big tech companies: Skyrocketing housing costs left even families with six-figure incomes struggling to find adequate housing, while soaring commercial rents priced out nonprofits – and all of this badly undermined the city’s diversity and character.

Much the same continues to happen in Oakland, where the average one bedroom apartment currently rents for $2,025 per month  – making it the country’s seventh most expensive rental market, according to Abodo, an apartment rental listings website. That’s just not viable when Oakland’s median household income is $54,618.

We launched No Uber Oakland only after months of unsuccessful efforts to meet with Uber’s leadership and have a serious dialogue about the company’s plans for supporting Oaklanders. While the company made some token gestures, it became clear it was never really serious about listening to Oaklanders or being part of our community. On the No Uber Oakland site, we laid out a 10-point platform that Uber could adopt if it was really serious about working with the Oakland community.

Meanwhile, Uber continues to struggle with bad press, declining market share, questions about whether it will ever be profitable, and leadership struggles. Arrogance and insularity don’t constitute a long-term growth strategy. For tech companies to truly succeed, they must embrace good corporate governance and responsibility, and uplift – rather than just exploit — the local communities that surround them and make up their customer base.

That also means opening up good tech jobs and leadership positions to all of California’s diverse population. Right now, tech remains a fortress where Latinos and African Americans are drastically underrepresented and leadership remains overwhelmingly white and male.

But we’ve also learned that companies won’t reform on their own. Local governments, including Oakland’s, must look at the broader picture when any big corporation – not just tech – wants to move into town. Of course we want companies to grow and invest in Oakland, but no good will come from pretending there won’t be downsides in a town where working families, artists and community groups already struggle to keep a roof over their heads. In the future, city leaders must work with the community to make sure companies act responsibly and that the rising tide of corporate investment doesn’t drown ordinary Oaklanders.