Pa. has some work to do on racial equity, new report finds | Tuesday Morning Coffee

January 21, 2020 7:18 am

Teacher writing word Inclusion on school blackboard with chalk. Getty Images.

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

On Monday, the nation paused to honor the life and work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In church services and service projects, Pennsylvanians from all walks of life heeded the call to service and racial justice that King issued so urgently a half-century ago.

And while there’s no doubt that America has made strides in racial harmony in the intervening decades, we’ve been reminded, all too vividly at times, of how much work remains to be done. This struggle can be difficult to quantify in simple numbers or mere words.

Nonetheless, analysts at the financial literacy site, WalletHub, attempted to give some shape to racial progress in America by examining a number of metrics, from median annual income to standardized test scores to voter turnout.

Below, a look at where Pennsylvania finished, and what experts say we have to do next.

Source: WalletHub

Pennsylvania finished 44th nationwide in the WalletHub ranking, putting it in the lower rank of states with racial integration, according to its analysis, finishing behind all of its neighboring states. Only New York, at 35, was close in the ranking list.

Here, then, the Top 5 most racially integrated states, according to the WalletHub analysis:
1. New Mexico
2. Hawaii
3. Wyoming
4. Texas
5. West Virginia

It’s important to note that integration in the states can also be explained, in part, by the racial homogeneity of each’s state population.

In West Virginia, for instance, whites make up 93.5 percent of the state’s population, while Blacks comprise just 3.6 percent of the Mountaineer State’s population, according to Census data. New Mexico, which finished first, is 82 percent white, according to Census data. It finished near the top in the metrics that WalletHub weighed, including employment and wealth, and educational attainment.

And the Top 5 least racially integrated states, again, according to the WalletHub analysis:
1. Washington D.C.
2. Wisconsin
3. Iowa
4. South Dakota
5. Illinois

In Washington D.C., conversely, Blacks make up 46.9 percent of the District’s population, compared to 41 percent for whites. But as the WalletHub analysis makes clear, the nation’s capital finishes at or near the bottom for most of the metrics it weighed, including employment and wealth; educational attainment, and health.

Source: WalletHub

Charted over time, Pennsylvania fared a little better, finishing 37th in the WalletHub ranking list.

Asked what states can do to close racial gaps on wealth, employment and education, Paul Van Auken, chair of the sociology department at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, said it’s important to avoid the temptation to seek simple solutions.

That’s because “these questions relate to an entrenched system of oppression that has operated for over 400 years, it may be another 400 before they are solved. I hope it doesn’t take that long. And we certainly have to try. But we’re talking about huge, thorny social issues without any simple solutions, and we – and particularly elected officials – tend to seek simple solutions, for obvious reasons.”

He continued:

“The key is that public authorities start from a place of honest recognition of the structural causes of these problems and then work with coalitions comprised both of people who are oppressed and people who are privileged by those structures (as they have the power and resources to make structural change start to happen) to craft strategies that attack the systemic sources of inequality in their particular areas,” he said.

Our Stuff.
From our partners at, here’s a look at how lawmakers are eyeing up tax breaks for seniors as a source of revenue.

Stephen Caruso has what you need to know about the candidates for the March 17 special election in Bucks County’s 18th House District. And he stays on legislative retirement watch. This time, it’s Rep. Tom Murt, R-Montgomerywho’s decided to head for the exits.

From our partners at the Pittsburgh Currentwhat appears to be some ‘Pro-Trump’ social media postings by a Democratic candidate for state House in W.Pa. are raising eyebrows among local Democratic officials.

And from our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune, local officials and activists who walk in MLK’s footsteps were honored at a luncheon. And Mayor Jim Kenney’s plan to offer free community college has been met with support — and plenty of questions.

On our Commentary Page, opinion regular Fletcher McClellan, joined by Elizabethtown College student Caitlin Olivaswonders whether time might have passed the Equal Rights Amendment by. And a UMass/Lowell scholar says the SCOTUS’ DACA decision is about more than just the dreamers — it’s about making the Trump White House tell the truth.

(Facebook photo)

Hail and Farewell: Tony May.
I was saddened to learn Monday of the passing of veteran Harrisburg public relations executive, former journalist, and onetime Casey administration aide, Tony May. That’s him, seated next to CBS-21 anchor Robb Hanrahan, in September 2017, for his last appearance on “Face the State.”

A conversation with Tony May was like a walk through the back pages of Pennsylvania’s political history. Whether I needed to confirm an obscure bit of political arcana, or was looking for the view from 30,000 feet on an important issue, Tony was among my first phone calls.

Drawing on decades of experience inside and outside of state government, he was almost always able to expand my understanding of a key issue or policy development.

More importantly, because of his longevity and depth of knowledge, he was able to contextualize issues, making them fit within the grander narrative of Pennsylvania political history. Sadly, that’s a dying art. And Tony was among its master practitioners.

On and off, for about 10 years, we sat next to each other on set at “Face the State” on CBS-21. And nothing was more fun than watching Tony and Charlie Gerow go head to head on issues.

Even in his later years, when a series of health challenges had taken a bit out of his step, Tony was still able to give as good as he got. And he did it with a warmth and humor too often missing from the dialogue.

And as someone who edited his “Donkeys & Elephants” columns for most of my six years at PennLive, I never had to worry about the quality of his copy. Tony might have left journalism far behind, but it had never left him. His copy was clear and he always knew how to hit a deadline.

It was a distinct honor and privilege to call him a colleague and a friend. All of us at the Capital-Star offer our most sincere condolences to Tony’s friends and family on this loss.

(Photo via Flickr Commons)

The Inquirer
 looks at Philadelphia’s plans to combat opioid abuse in 2020.
The Post-Gazette explains how a state rule change could boost electric bills and hinder the development of renewable energy.
PennLive looks at the Harrisburg school board’s struggle to redefine itself with its power diminished by a state-appointed receiver.
Officials in one suburban Allentown community are considering putting a question on the November ballot that would ask local residents’ permission for a tax to buy and save open space, the Morning Call reports.

WHYY-FM caught up with state officials who spent MLK Day trying to build public awareness of the 2020 Census.
The PA Post looks at statewide efforts to study juvenile justice issues.
explains the ‘five factions’ in the U.S. Senate that could determine impeachment.

Dept. of Fundraising:
A quick update from the campaign trail: Democrat Eugene DePasquale, who’s seeking the nomination in central Pennsylvania’s 10th Congressional District, starts the new year with nearly $500,000 on-hand, after raising more than $300,000 in the fourth quarter of his last year, according to his campaign.

DePasquale, the two-term state auditor general, faces Tom Brier, an attorney and author from Derry Township, in the spring nominating race. The winner faces U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th District, in November.

In a statement released by his campaign, DePasquale, of York, said he “continues to be inspired by the strength of our grassroots campaign.”


What Goes On.
9 a.m., Rachel Carson Office Building: 
Environmental Quality Board meeting
9:30 a.m.: Media Center: Reps. Curt Sonney and others on reforming state system schools.
10 a.m, Main Rotunda, Rep. Tom Murt urges stakeholders, legislators, and the community to rally together in support of HB1696.
10 a.m., Main Rotunda: Pa. Partnerships for Children releases its Pre-K state comparison report.
11 a.m., Capitol Steps: White Haven/Polk Center lawsuit announcement

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
Rep. Matt Dowling, R-Fayette, holds a 5:30 p.m. reception at 500 N. 3rd St., Harrisburg. Admission runs a flat $250 a head.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s some new music by the Aussie band U-Bahn. It’s ‘Beta Boyz.’ Get your Kraftwerk on for this one.

Tuesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
Florida beat Minnesota 5-4 in a late one on Monday night.

And now you’re up to date. 

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.