Keith Biennial Lecture with Spencer Overton – Law School – Wayne State University

Keith Biennial Lecture with Spencer Overton – Law School – Wayne State University

September 18, 2019 0 By Stanley Isaacs


Good evening, I’m Richard Bierschbach. I’m
the dean of Wayne State Law School, and we’re so excited to have you all here with us tonight.
Tonight we proudly welcome Spencer Overton to our campus and home to Detroit. One core
part of our identity here at the law school and at the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil
Rights is to try to build connections between our community and the civil rights leaders
and movement of the past. And that’s part of what tonight’s about. That’s a big part
of tonight. And I wanna take just a moment to tell you a few things about the law school
that we’re proud of and that contribute to that effort on a daily basis. And really,
one big one is just our location here in the heart of Detroit. We’re here at a transformative
time for the city right now, but we’ve been here for a long time. And throughout that time, being in Detroit
has given our students access to the kind of hands-on experience in public interest,
in civil rights with real impact, serious, palpable impact that is very hard to get anywhere
else. And that’s something that’s very meaningful to us. Of course, we try to give them that
experience in other fields as well, ranging from corporate law to intellectual property
to economic development, whatever it may be. And whenever we do, we try to connect it to
the city and we’re proud of being a part of the recovery and the transformation of the
city. As part of that, we’re also proud that we
do everything we can to make sure that every student who walks across the stage at our
commencement graduates with the tools that they need to make a difference and without
a debt that will really break the bank. And for four years in a row, Wayne State Law School
has been recognized as a best-value law school by The National Jurist and by its sister publication,
preLaw magazine. I’ve seen the law school ranked as high as number seven nationally
in terms of best-value law schools. And rankings like that are designed to recognize law schools
whose graduates have excellent chances, not only of passing the bar but having a meaningful,
fulfilling career without coming out encumbered with the sort of financial burden that’s gonna
constrain their ability to go on and do good. And so we see that as a core part of our mission
because if we can get the best and the brightest of Detroit to come to Wayne Law and can get
the best and the brightest from around the country to come to Wayne Law and Detroit,
we can have a big impact on the city. And in that regard, one opportunity of which we’re
especially proud is the Damon J. Keith Scholarship. And that’s a scholarship that provides substantial
tuition support for students to attend Wayne Law. Many of our Damon J. Keith scholars are
here tonight. Many of them, like Judge Keith, attended Detroit public schools and historically
black colleges and universities. I’d like to ask any of the scholars who are here tonight
to please stand so we can recognize you. If you’re a Damon J. Keith scholar, please stand
up. (applause) We’re proud to be the home of the Keith Center, the Damon J. Keith Center
for Civil Rights, which was founded at the law school in 2011 to honor the life and the
legacy of Judge Keith by carrying out his vision for civil rights through our programs
and through our students. We’re really gonna be the civil rights advocates of the future.
And we’re proud that as part of the Keith Center, we’re also home to the Detroit Equity
Action Lab known as DEAL, which is a special initiative of the Keith Center and which promotes
racial equity and justice by bringing together diverse, intergenerational groups of leaders,
of innovators, of community organizers who work to address issues of structural racism.
DEAL was established in 2014. And since its establishment, it’s convened three cohorts,
creating a network of more than 80 people representing 75 organizations that deploy
diverse methods to end structural racism. And in January, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation
awarded Wayne State University $2.4 million to expand the program and continue to pursue
the work of DEAL because they think the work is so important and meaningful. This is the
second grant we’ve received from the Kellogg Foundation, bringing the total to $3.9 million
invested in ending structural racism here in Detroit, but also across the country. (applause)
Yeah, I think that’s worth a round of applause. A big force behind that effort is someone
who we’re also immensely proud of, and that’s the director of the Damon J. Keith Center,
Wayne Law faculty member, Professor Peter Hammer. Just this week, (applause) we officially
named Professor Hammer the inaugural A. Alfred Taubman endowed chair at Wayne State University
law school. I think many of you might know Mr. Taubman passed away in 2015. He was a
dear friend of Judge Keith’s. He was instrumental in the construction of the Keith Center building,
and we’re honored to celebrate his legacy and his friendship with Judge Keith with this
appointment a Professor Hammer to the chair. We think it’s fitting that the first person
to receive the title of Taubman chair is someone who’s at the forefront of civil rights initiatives
at Wayne Law and who really lives and breathes and embodies the mission of the Keith Center.
So please join me again in thanking and in welcoming the director of the Damon J. Keith
Center for Civil Rights and our new A. Alfred Taubman endowed chair, Professor Hammer. (applause)
– So good evening. – [Audience] Good evening. I love being in Detroit, right? You go around
the world, and you don’t get the same reaction and warmth when you get that greeting. Thank
you so much for coming tonight. It’s wonderful to see old and new friends.
Fun to see people from… Some of the students, younger undergraduates, which is great, because
we got to get this to be a multi-generational lesson. But welcome to the Seventh Damon J.
Keith Biennial Lecture generously supported by Comerica Bank. The mission of the Keith
Center, as the dean was saying, is easy to say but quite difficult to fulfill. We strive
to do justice to the life and legacy of Judge Damon J. Keith, but to do so in a contemporary
setting. We certainly wanna know the judge’s history, but I keep asking my students to
say what would Judge Keith do today in Detroit if he was a law student? What would Judge
Keith do today if he was a young lawyer? And it’s that perspective and inspiration that
we try to take to address new challenges. The Keith Center takes very seriously the
belief that structural racism is a civil rights challenge of our generation and that Detroit
really is ground zero of that struggle. And therefore, we have a particularly specific
obligation. I tell my students that we are the new SOMA of the structural racism struggle
and that we have to act with the awareness and the responsibility that that historic
obligation entails. And here at the Keith Center, we do our best to struggle in that
direction, recognizing that there aren’t necessarily clear answers, clear strategies, and the law
is not behind us. But then I remind them that was a situation that Charles Hamilton Houston
and Thurgood Marshall faced when they wanted to (mumbles) the 14th Amendment, and we’re
told you can’t do that because of Plessy versus Ferguson. We can’t accept those answers is
real. The Keith Center, we’ve introduced new courses to train the next generation of civil
rights lawyers. We teach courses on reimagining development in Detroit. We teach courses on
race law and social change in southeast Michigan, and we teach a course called the collaborative
study of structural racism to get the students out of the building and dealing with people
in the community that are making this struggle. With the generous support as you heard from
the Kellogg Foundation, we’re running the Detroit Equity Action Lab, saying it’s not
enough to be on campus, we’ve got to be engaged in the community and take our leadership from
community. We have learned so much by working with people and listening to them and being
instructed about the issues in Detroit from their life experience and their expertise
even if they don’t hold degrees and are graduates of major universities. We’re also committed
to public educational programs and addressing vital issues like racial equity and the future
of work. We’re incredibly grateful for Comerica Bank for the support of the Speaker Series.
We’re excited to welcome Spencer Overton, who you’ll hear more about and get a more
specific introduction, but I wanna celebrate the lecture series. You get moments to reflect,
and I’ve gone back and looked at our former speakers going back over the years, and it’s
an amazing who’s who of experts, of leaders, of visionaries in civil rights. We had Professor
Lani Guinier, former Keith clerk as well, graduate or first African-American woman to
be a tenured law professor at Harvard Law School. We’ve had the luminary Professor Derek
Abell. We’ve had Ted Shaw, we’ve had Constance Rice. We’ve had Harry Belafonte, we’ve had
Julian Bond, and we’re living in that same tradition now as you’ll hear later with Spencer
Overton. But back to you, Dean, and thank you so much for coming this evening. (applause)
– Thank you, Professor Hammer. Our next speaker is Wayne State University President M. Roy
Wilson. Since assuming the leadership of the university in 2013, President Wilson has made
enormous strides in moving the university forward and upward to the next level. Among
many other things, he realigned the university’s numerous research divisions to emphasize team
science and cluster hiring of scientists, an effort that’s reflected in the IBio multi-disciplinary
research facility which opened in 2015 and which some of you may have seen just up the
street on Woodward. He also developed a strategy to improve the pipeline of underrepresented
students in the biomedical sciences. And as part of that strategy, he formed a coalition
of Detroit-based universities and colleges to launch the NIH-funded Building Infrastructure
Leading to Diversity program at the university in 2015. As part of a plan to increase the
diversity of Wayne State’s campus, present Wilson also created the position of Associate
Provost for Diversity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer in 2014. And he also established
a separate office, the Office of Multicultural Student Engagement, to foster an inclusive
environment and to promote initiatives that encourage academic success for underrepresented
minorities and historically marginalized students. I’ve been in this job 13 months now, and I
can attest from personal experience that President Wilson is a dedicated supporter of the law
school and of the Keith Center, and that we couldn’t be doing the good work that we’re
doing here without that support. So please join me in both thanking and welcoming to
the podium President M. Roy Wilson. (applause) – Well, thank you very much, Dean. I can see
that from now on I need to pay more attention to the entire flow of things so we can delete
unnecessary introductions and things like that. But let me just also join in thanking
all of you for being here tonight. I know that many of you were not at the dinner that
we just came from, so let me acknowledge my wife, Jacqueline, who’s here both at the dinner
and in here now. And also at the dinner, the dean started off his comments by talking about
how honored he was to be among such distinguished jurists and attorneys and other legal types,
and I was kind of sitting there and as a physician and a surgeon at that, just thinking how I
never would have dreamed of being so comfortable with so many lawyers in the room. (audience
laughing)⁣Just all lawyers. But I thought, well, these are all good people, so it’s all
good. Judge Keith was not able to be with us today. I was so looking forward to seeing
him, but I do wanna thank Judge Eric Clay for coming here on behalf of Judge Keith and
offering some comments on his behalf. I also just wanna say that the thing about Judge
Keith is that everyone that he touches feels that they and they alone have a special relationship
with him. So I know all of you know what I’m talking about. So I am just so honored to
say that since my arrival here at Wayne State, Judge Keith has become my best friend and
someone I greatly admire. But certainly on a serious note, I think everybody knows that
he really is a very special man who holds an iron clad conviction, that liberty and
justice for all shouldn’t be just a concept but a reality. And he spent really an illustrious
career on the bench defending and enforcing them. We’re grateful not only for his contributions
to this great city but also certainly to Wayne State. What he has accomplished and what he
has stood for are so vital to us all in our country, and forever we will be indebted for
his bold actions on behalf of equality. Perhaps the best tribute we can pay to his great work
is to carry on in spirit and action his deep, his really deep commitment to equal justice
for all. And that’s why certainly we established the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights,
as well as this biennial lecture in his honor. Seven years ago we celebrated the opening
of the Keith Center. And in that time, it’s really become a locus for addressing civil
rights issues, particularly in Southeast Michigan, but also beyond. And here on campus, it’s
a place for civil rights teaching, research and action, and it’s a place of inspiration
and learning that’s fueling the next generation of civil rights leaders. And in that vein,
I also wanna add my congratulations to the Keith scholars who we acknowledged earlier
and the dean also mentioned just now. I also just wanna thank Comerica Bank for sponsoring
this evening’s event. We’re very grateful for their support. And I’m particularly excited
about our featured speaker this evening, Spencer Overton. I happen to know that he grew up
in both Detroit and I think, if I’m right, I think it was somewhere like in the suburbs
of Detroit. – Southfield.⁣- Yes, Southfield, okay. (audience chuckling)⁣So I knew that
because I read that somewhere, Detroit and Southfield. But what I didn’t know until this
evening is that his parents both went to Wayne State. So we wanna also indirectly (applause)
claim him because⁣(audience laughing) without his parents, he wouldn’t have been here. And
without Wayne State, you know… (audience laughing) So with that, let me just conclude
and just mention that Jacqueline and I would love to stay for the lecture but we do have
an eight o’clock, another event that we have to go to at eight o’clock so we’re gonna have
to leave. But again, thank you all for being here and being a part of this. We really appreciate
it. Thank you. (applause) (indistinct chattering) – Thank you, President Wilson. Our next speaker
is native Detroiter, Michael Cheatham. While attending the University of Michigan, Mister
Cheatham was a member of the Army Reserve. After college, he joined Comerica Bank and
he spent 19 years working in the banking center system. During that time, he also earned an
MBA, and he now serves as the bank’s Corporate Contributions & Community Reinvestment Act
Manager for the State of Michigan. He’s a very active in the community. He serves on
the board of directors for several area non-profits and community-focused professional associations.
He joins us this evening to give remarks on behalf of our sponsor, Comerica, whose generous
gift has supported the Damon J. Keith Biannual Lecture Series going back to 2008. So please
welcome, Michael Cheatham. (applause) Michael. – I’d like to meet that guy you all are talking
about. (audience chuckling) Good evening, I am Michael Cheatham and I serve as Comerica’s
Statewide Corporate Contributions Manager, but I also have the privilege of being responsible
for our community reinvestment activities here in Metro Detroit. On behalf of our market
president, Mike Ricci and my colleagues here tonight, I would like to welcome you to what
promises to be a very timely and thought provoking conversation with our native son, Spencer
Overton, President of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. If you are
a Comerica customer, I’d like to say thank you for your business. We look forward to
continuing to serve you in the coming years. If you’re not a customer, we hope to get to
know you better. (audience laughing) And to that end, I’d like to have my colleagues that
are here with me to stand to be recognized. You all here, stand up. (applause) Feel free
to speak with them after the lecture (audience laughing) to talk about how Comerica can contribute
to your success. We’re proud to be sponsors of the lecture series and similar events as
they reflect our continuing commitment to education, to diversity and the community
at large. We believe that our community is strengthened when there is a greater awareness
of, respect for and sensitivity to diversity. So we wanna thank Wayne State, a jewel in
this city. We wanna thank the Damon J. Keith Center for providing this platform, and thank
you to you the audience for your attendance tonight. Enjoy the lecture. (applause) – Thank
you, Mr. Cheatham. Before I introduce our next speaker, I want to echo President Wilson
and say a few words about the reason we’re all here tonight, and that’s Judge Damon J.
Keith. Last year, as you all know, Judge Keith celebrated 50 years on the federal bench.
50 years. And on July 4th of this year, he turned 96 years old. For more than 50 years,
he has persuasively and movingly defended the constitution as a bulwark of civil liberties
for all people. For all people. For some of the students in this room, Judge Keith is
the reason they came to law school. And specifically for some of them, to this law school. He’s
the inspiration behind what they want to do with their lives, and he’s really an inspiration
for all of us. This past spring, we celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the Damon J. Keith
Scholarship and our annual alumni magazine. I’d like to quote one of the students we featured
in that issue, Keith Scholar, Monique Eubanks. She said, “Judge Keith is proof “that we all
can achieve the unimaginable. “The Damon J. Keith scholarship afforded me “the opportunity
to attend law school, “and it’s a continuous reminder that the doors “have been opened
for me to accomplish my biggest dreams.” Now while he couldn’t be here with us tonight,
please join me in a round of applause for Judge Keith. (applause) Thank you. It’s now
my honor to introduce Judge Eric Clay, who will introduce our keynote speaker. Like so
many here tonight, Judge Clay is a former clerk of Judge Keith. He then went on to join
him on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Last year, when we celebrated Judge Keith’s
50th anniversary on the bench, Judge Clay said the following to the Detroit News. He
said, “Once you’ve worked as a law clerk for the judge “or become a fixture in his circle
as a close friend, “you become, in perpetuity, a member of the Keith family, “a network of
people with shared values “characterized by a desire to contribute “to the well-being
of their community “and society as a whole.” And I really can’t think of a better way to
express what this evening is about. And I can’t think of anyone better to welcome our
speaker here tonight than Judge Clay. Judge Clay. (applause) – Good evening.⁣- Good
evening. I’m here this evening first to introduce Professor Spencer Overton. Before I proceed
with that however, I’d like to read to you a statement that I was given by Judge Keith
with a request that I share these remarks of his with you this evening. And Judge Keith
sends all of you these greetings. Regretfully, due to unforeseen circumstances, I will not
be able to attend with you this evening but I wish to share with you the following remarks.
Dr. Wilson, Peter Hammer, Gary Spicer, Professor Blanche Cook and those of you gathered for
this very special occasion, thank you for being here tonight to celebrate the Damon
J. Keith’s Center Seventh Biannual Lecture. We are honored to have Detroit’s own Professor
Spencer Overton as our keynote lecturer this evening. Spencer has garnered national acclaim
in the field of law and hits one of the nation’s most essential black think tanks, the Joint
Center for Political and Economic Studies. He is a prolific thinker and innovative leader
and a crusader for justice in his own right. He also happens to be one of my former law
clerks. You are in for a treat this evening, with a smile. I would like, and believe me
I didn’t ask him to put this in, I would like to thank my dear friend Judge Eric L. Clay
(chuckles) who I have the pleasure of sitting with on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals,
for his willingness to give remarks on my behalf. I am honored to serve alongside him
on the nation’s second highest court in the land. And he too is a former clerk of mine.
I also want to acknowledge my personal lawyer, advisor and close friend, Alex Parrish. Alex
is senior partner at the law firm of Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn, has been singled
out as one of the best lawyers in the country. And you guessed it, he is also a former law
clerk of mine. (audience laughing) As I have always said, my law clerks are going to make
me famous. Lastly, I want to give a special note of thanks to Peter Hammer, the Director
of the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights. Peter has brought honor, prestige and most
importantly, finances to the Keith Center. He has done an outstanding job in bringing
awareness to the Keith Center, and I congratulate you, Peter, for a job well done. Thank you
all for coming tonight and enjoy your evening. Now for the introduction of my dear friend,
Professor Spencer Overton. In Professor Overton, we have a distinguished American who is our
speaker for the evening and is someone very familiar with Detroit, his hometown. The challenge
in introducing someone like Spencer is that he has such a lengthy record of accomplishment
that many of his achievements have to be omitted in order to do the introduction within a reasonable
time frame. Let me say at the outset that I have a bond with and I’m part of a community
of interest with him because we both started our careers as law clerks for the honorable
Damon J. Keith. Of course I proceeded Professor Overton as Judge Keith’s law clerk by more
years than I would like to acknowledge. In that regard, I first met Spencer Overton when
I was practicing with my law firm of Lewis, White & Clay over in the First National Building.
I see here tonight Judge Ulysses Boykin, who I think also got to know Spencer at that time.
At that time, Professor Overton was working at the firm as a law clerk intern. But even
then, he was no typical intern. And I was so impressed by him that I wrote a letter
of recommendation on his behalf to Judge Keith, recommending that the judge hire him as a
law clerk, which he did. I don’t often get a chance to remind Professor Overton about
that letter. (audience laughing) so I’m glad to have this opportunity. And Professor Overton
has gone on to make Judge Keith exceedingly proud of him because of his contributions
in the areas of voting rights and social policy, as a law professor and as a civil rights leader
in his own right. Those of us who started out as law clerks to Judge Keith have heard
the judge talk about such things as the value of widening the circle of opportunity for
all citizens, including the most vulnerable among us; the value of promoting diversity
in education and the workforce and in vindicating the right to vote. Professor Overton has excelled
and been a leader in all of those areas. He is a graduate with honors of both Hampton
University and the Harvard Law School. He is the President of the Joint Center for Political
and Economic Status in Washington D.C. and is a tenured professor of law at George Washington
University. He is also a senior fellow at Demos, a member of the President’s Advisory
Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans; and the National Chair of Public
Policy for the nation’s oldest African American fraternity, Sigma Pi Phi. During the Obama
administration, Professor Overton served as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General
of Legal Policy at the Department of Justice and had several other significant leadership
in policy positions at the Department of Justice. I think during the time that Professor Overton
was with the Obama administration, he and Eric Holder spent so much time together that
they got to know one another better than their own spouses. He has served on many boards
and commissions concerned with issues pertaining to voting rights, including service as a commissioner
on the Jimmy Carter James Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform and the board of
advisors of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. He is the author of the book Stealing Democracy:
The New Politics of Voter Suppression, which was published by W. W. Norton, as well as
academic articles on education, strike that, on election law, which have appeared in several
leading law journals. Some of you may have seen Professor Overton in the news in recent
days in connection with the study released by his organization regarding the lack of
racial diversity on congressional staffs and the impact that has on congress’ legislative
process. I understand that Professor Overton’s lecture this evening is entitled Racial Equality
and the Future of Work. I will leave it to Professor Overton himself to explain the meaning
of that title. In Spencer Overton, I introduce you to a worthy inheritor of the legacy of
Honorable Damon J. Keith. (applause) I might have destroyed this. – Well, thank you so
much, Judge Clay, for that introduction and for that letter. (audience laughing)⁣I appreciate
that (mumbles). So it’s great to be home, and it’s very special to be at Wayne State.
As President Wilson mentioned, both of my parents are graduates. As you all know, Wayne
has been central to the economic mobility of African Americans in Detroit, and it’s
really special to be here. Dean Bierschbach, thank you so much for being here and for hosting
us, and thank you for building on this legacy and continuing to lead Wayne State into the
future. Thanks to all of you for just taking a Friday night and coming out. Michael Cheatham
of Comerica, thanks so much for your support. I told you a little earlier, my first memory
of a bank was Manufacturers Bank, my mother’s bank. Manufacturers Bank. Manufacturers and
Comerica have merged and Comerica has the logo from Manufacturers Bank. I’m also appreciative
to see so many friends from various places, from my church at Plymouth UCC including the
first lady of the church here, Judge Denise Page Hood; from Judge Keith’s biological and
legal family here, folks like Alex Parrish and Blanche Cook. From the legal and the civic
community, people like my best friend Terrance Thomas and people like my mentor, Mayor Dennis
Archer and Judge Archer, appreciate you all being here. Thanks also to Robert Sadler,
who lived his values. I didn’t appreciate it back then. He lived his values and he moved
into an integrated neighborhood in the 70s, and I grew up with his son, Eric. He’s a very
good friend here. Thanks to all my mother’s friends who came.
I certainly appreciate you stepping up to the plate for her and for me. And also to
many of the family members who came out. I wanna just take a moment and lift up one family
member in particular, my father-in-law, Oreese Collins. Oreese Collins, you can wave your
hand, yeah, you can raise your hand. He’s been committed to this community from the
beginning. He has two degrees from Wayne State, one in math and one in urban planning. He
was purchasing director of the City of Detroit under Coleman Young. And really, through all
the years here, he’s been ethical, committed to the city, committed to quality work. He’s
been incredibly smart, but also just very low key. He doesn’t need to be the center
of attention. I’m very thankful to have him as my wife’s father, as my father-in-law and
as a wonderful grandfather to my two boys. So just on this day, I just want to lift you
up and say thank you. Your entire family loves you. (applause) Now I wanna turn to another
figure that others have talked about, but I want to, even though he’s not here in terms
of Judge Keith. As mentioned, he’s been instrumental in my life. I was fortunate enough to clerk
for him. I learned so much working for him. Got a lot of confidence. Got really a front
row seat to see both good lawyering and bad lawyering in terms of the folks who appeared
before us, right? And it also just gave me exposure to how to make decisions that have
big consequences. I’ve gained a lot personally from Judge Keith. It’s the fifth day of the
month, and this morning I read Proverbs 5 because I learned long ago that Judge Keith
has this practice in terms of reading a proverb for every day of the month. I also learned
a lot watching his love for his wife, Dr. Rachel Keith, who’s also super smart and professionally
accomplished in her own right. And 22 years ago, I married the former Leslie Collins at
Plymouth United Church of Christ by Nick. Nick Hood married us. And so I’ve gotten a
lot out of him both professionally and personally. In my talk today, I wanna make three points.
All these points apply to the nation as a whole, but they have special relevance right
here at home right in Detroit. First, in our history as a nation, work has shaped race
and race has shaped work. Work and race have shaped the world that we experience today.
That’s point number one. Point number two. Right now, work is changing. Technology is
driving great changes to work, from automation to the gig economy. The meaning of work is
changing. Third, the policy decisions we make right now about work will determine whether
racial disparities expand in the future or whether we can reduce and eliminate them.
So to this first point, this work and economics shaping race in the United States, we could
tell this story right through Judge Keith and his family, right? European demand for
sugar and later molasses, rum, tobacco, rice, indigo, right, drove the desire for cheap
labor in the New World. And the legal, the legal creation of slavery based on race satisfied
this demand. Between 1492 in 1776, only 15% of those who survived the crossing of the
Atlantic and settled in the New World we’re European. 85% of those survivors, Ulysses
Boykin, were African. As you know, slavery also shaped the original U.S. Constitution
that was ratified by the 13th state, Rhode Island in 1790, right? And we talk a lot about innovation today,
but just three years later, after Rhode Island was the 13th state to ratify, innovation,
right? Innovation would give this new nation a strong economic foundation that would also
increase the demand for black slaves. In 1793, Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin. It’s
a machine that sped up the process of removing seeds from cotton fiber and cotton became
the number one export from the United States. The British textile industry depended on it.
The American financial and shipping industries, they depended on cotton grown by slaves, right?
And this expanded the demand for slaves to work in cotton fields. And by 1850, 70% of
the slaves working in agriculture were on cotton plantations. Now according to Trevor
Coleman in Peter Hammer’s book on Judge Keith, Judge Keith’s father and mother had parents
who were slaves. I’m saying Judge Keith had grandparents who were slaves. I’m not talking
about 18 generations ago. I’m talking about grandparents here. Innovation continued throughout
the 1800s. And after the Civil War and the reconstruction amendments, the continuing
Industrial Revolution started to automate farming and reduce the demand for labor while
increasing the demand for labor in factories, particularly in urban areas. This innovation
shifted wealth and opportunity and led to the Great Migration (mumbles). And in 1915,
Judge Keith’s father, Perry Keith, migrated from Atlanta to Detroit for Henry Ford’s $5-a-day
wages. Two years later, his wife, Annie Keith, and their five children came to Detroit. And
five years after that, Judge Keith was born on July 4th 1922. Now despite these new opportunities in the
north, in Detroit, race was used to preserve a cheap pool of talented black labor for menial
jobs and to reserve more lucrative positions for white families. In 1930 for example, Judge
Keith’s 21-year-old brother, Perry Keith Jr., was a chauffeur. Judge Keith, you all know,
attended Howard Law School in the 1940s where there was a legal revolution afoot that would
challenge the racial and economic order. But even though he had a front row seat on that
battle, Judge Keith personally experienced the economic implications of this system that
relegated blacks to low wage jobs, right? In 1949, as a graduate of both college and
law school who was studying for the bar, right? He was working in a job scrubbing toilets
in Detroit News. Throughout his life and his career, he would continuously personally experience
the effects of the relegation of blacks to low wage jobs. In 1991, while a federal court
of appeals judge, while serving as the national chairman of the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution,
a hotel guest assumed that Judge Keith was a valet and tossed a 69-year-old Judge Keith
his car keys and ordered here boy, park this car. Judge Keith also grappled with race and
economics while he was on the bench. You all know in the Stamps case, this is Detroit
Edison kept blacks in jobs like washing cars, chauffeuring, cleaning floors, operating elevators
and used black dots on job applications to identify blacks to keep them out of more lucrative
jobs. The labor union was complicit in preserving certain jobs for whites. Judge Keith on the
bench ruled against Detroit Edison. He was also at the center of it in cases like Davis
versus School District of City of Pontiac, where Pontiac was about 25% black but the
schools were nearly 100% segregated. Pontiac explained that segregated housing patterns
naturally resulted in segregated neighborhood schools. Judge Keith ordered busing to remedy
the segregated system, again kind of this convergence of economics, housing patterns
and values, opportunity and race. We all know the rest, front row seat, right? Globalization
and deindustrialization, flight, blight, racial polarization, political dysfunction, an eroding
tax base and other economic and racial factors that interacted to shape Detroit and, to a
certain extent, our country, right? My overall point is whether the demand is for sugar,
tobacco, cotton, cheap consumer goods or good paying jobs with minimal competition from
blacks, work has shaped race and race has shaped work, right? Along the way, innovation
has played a critical role, whether it’s the cotton gin, the automobile or the interstate
highway that facilitated flight. And while I use black and white, because it’s something
that many of us live and understand in this metropolitan area, racial equality and economics
is not just a black and white story. Manifest Destiny in moving across the continent meant
that Indian Removal was required from much of the country and relegation of communities
to reservations. The U.S. obtained California and other territories through the Treaty of
Guadalupe Hildalgo after a war with Mexico, but the U.S. relegated Latinos who lived in
the territories to second-class status. The Bracero programs were used to import Mexican
workers on one hand for cheap labor, but Operation Wetback was used to deport them. We’ve seen
a similar phenomenon with Chinese immigrants who are imported as labor and then the Chinese
Exclusion Act was passed, right? There are some things that may be happening today in
the country I understand and get reports about here. (audience chuckling) So race and work
are interconnected. Now I wanna move to my second point, Phyllis. Work is changing right
now. We’re in the midst of an economic transformation. Technologies, they’re moving out beyond Silicon
Valley and we’re seeing the implications in our everyday lives across the United States,
right? Grocery stores are installing self-checkout
lanes. Manufacturing plants are increasingly using industrial robots. Retail is being transformed
by Amazon. Threatened with the emergence of new models like Airbnb and Uber, traditional
companies are rushing to reduce costs and increase efficiencies by automating their
processes, right? And with Detroit leading the way, driverless trucks, buses and cars
will soon be commonplace. And there are various interacting technologies that are driving
this. Artificial intelligence, big data, robotics, widespread access to smartphones in terms
of us being connected. The Internet of Things, like this Fitbit that’s on my wrist that tells
me how many more steps I need to take means that innovation is not just about somebody
sitting in a office in Silicon Valley coding who captures something on the screen, but
the Internet is connecting us to the real world and allowing us to interact with the
real world. Now these changes certainly may have benefits to consumers, right? I still
need to get another 1,500 steps today here. Right? (audience laughing) But there are also
some questions. With the new self-checkout lanes at the grocery store, what happens to
the cashiers? Sure we can repatriate manufacturing and produce goods for less money than in China
and then producing them in China and shipping them over here, right? But what if we no longer
need 500 workers to do that but only 50 due to automation? What do autonomous vehicles
mean for truck drivers, for bus drivers, for taxi drivers, for chauffeurs? Right now, the
common discussion about this, about technology and work, it’s limited, right? One extreme
argues that robots will replace workers and that this will either mean mass unemployment
and poverty or that we’ll all get a check from the government and we’ll just have a
lot more leisure time while robots feed us grapes and attend to our every need. (audience
laughing)⁣Like that’s one vision. The other camp says that just as the reduction in agricultural
jobs during the Industrial Revolution was met by an increased demand for work in factories,
the argument is there’ll be many new jobs and increased growth in the economy. I think
this existing debate is limited because it doesn’t take into account what we’ve talked
about in my first point, this relationship between work and race, right? We could have
overall economic growth, but we could also have increased racial inequality. So for example,
the current changes in technology could have a significant impact on black workers. My
organization, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, we found that 27% of
all black workers in the United States are concentrated in just 30 jobs at high risk
to automation. So let me just say this, Bureau of Labor Statistics, they track like 700 jobs,
right? 700 jobs various folks are in. Over a quarter of black folks are in just 30 jobs
that are at high risk to automation, right? So for example, compared to white workers,
black workers are 1.5 times more likely to be cashiers, cooks and fast food workers.
Black workers are over three times more likely than white workers to be bus drivers, taxi
drivers, chauffeurs and security guards. These jobs to which we’ve often been relegated,
even that may no longer exist, right? And even at full employment right now, black unemployment
rates are almost twice as high as white unemployment rates, right? And the displacement we found,
if we were to displace just half of these black folks who are in these 30 jobs, abuela,
right, if we would displace just half of them, that that would triple the African-American
unemployment rate to over 20%. So if we do nothing, automation could increase racial
disparities. Now this doesn’t all just cut one way, right? Economic disruption will both
eliminate jobs and will create new jobs. So for example, e-commerce companies like Amazon
reduce the sales and the number of employees at traditional retail stores, right? And this
is a big source of employment for black folks, particularly young black people. On the other
hand, Amazon creates new jobs by hiring workers at fulfillment centers and other parts of
its distribution network. Michael Williams, your namesake, Michael Mandel at PPI, the
Progressive Policy Institute, found that from 2007 to 2016, the general retail sector lost
50,000 jobs but that Amazon added, or not just Amazon, the e-commerce sector, added
350,000 jobs. A question though is how can we ensure Detroiters are getting a healthy
number of those new jobs? How can we ensure that e-commerce retailers build a healthy
number of fulfillment centers in places like Detroit? Autonomous vehicles are another area
of opportunity. On one hand, it’s possible that black drivers will lose jobs here, and
we need to be concerned about that. But we also have to deal with this problem, a lack
of transportation. It’s one the most significant barriers to employment by black folks, is
a lack of transportation to work. And if autonomous vehicles are properly deployed, presumably
they could reduce the cost of transportation and provide the mobility black communities
need to get to work, right? Now there are those who would argue that race is irrelevant
to the future of work. They’d say hey, this isn’t a racial issue. It’s exclusively about
low-income Americans or less-educated Americans who lack skills, right? So here’s why that’s
wrong for a number of reasons. Number one, automation’s gonna affect other people. These
folks will be hit the hardest. But certainly, like radiologists, a machine, AI, does that
better than a radiologist today, right? Accountants, financial planners, there are some people
who are trained who are at risk to automation, right? But then there’s this other piece where
it’s not just about low income and it’s not just about low education. Black workers face
unique challenges that make them particularly vulnerable during labor market transitions.
Implicit bias in evaluation and hiring makes it more difficult for black workers to transition
to new jobs. You all have seen the studies about Jamal versus someone who does not have
a black name. – And Brett.⁣- And Brett, thank you. (audience laughing) So
limited social networks make finding new jobs and finding out about new jobs more difficult
for black workers. Residential segregation and transportation challenges mean that a
lot of folks don’t live near where the jobs are. We talked about that. Median household
net worth that’s 1/10 that of whites. I’m not talking about income. I’m talking about
net worth. That means that when you’re unemployed for a while and you got to make ends meet,
it’s difficult to make ends meet because you don’t have the net worth. You can’t take out
an additional mortgage on your house or something to that effect to make ends meet. Duke economist
Sandy Darity also talks about this. He says, the very reason blacks have been traditionally
relegated to many of the low-paying jobs, the cooks, the fast food workers, the retail
sales, the drivers, these that’ll be the first to be automated, is because of discrimination.
He says it’s the discrimination that presumably kept a Judge Keith mopping bathroom floors
at the Detroit News as a graduate of law school, and the implicit bias that presumably caused
the gentleman to toss him some keys 40 years later and assume he was a valet. This is the
reason or one of the reasons that people are in these jobs that are at high risk. Automation
in the first place. So now some of your friends may say, why should we care about race and
the future of work? They may not say it to your face or maybe they’re good friends and
they do say it to your face, but they may say hey, why should we care about this? We’re
all concerned about putting food on the table. We shouldn’t make any special effort to deal
with this. Here’s why that’s wrong. Eliminating racial disparities helps everybody, helps
a nation as a whole. It expands the skilled workforce, it ensures companies have the talent
they need to be productive. It makes the U.S. more competitive globally. And this is real
money. You all may have seen the Kellogg Foundation report that showing, it showed that eliminating
discriminatory practices in Michigan alone, this is just in Michigan, would yield an additional
$8 billion in consumer spending per year, and that state and local governments would
receive an additional $1.5 billion in tax revenues. And as Rip Rapson of the Kresge
Foundation and Amy Liu of Brookings wrote recently, places with high racial exclusion
experience slower economic growth and squandered talent and entrepreneurial growth. So it hurts
everybody. Now I can hear some of my friends. Some of these are my critical race nationalist
friends here, many of them African Americans here skeptical about the future of work in
innovation. They may believe that increased racial disparities
are an inevitable consequence of innovation, that this thing is just happening no matter
what we do. Look, they say, we started off by you saying we were 85% of the people who
survived the voyage, and that was back when we could be used as slaves. Now we’re only
13% of the population and automation threatens to take the few low-paying jobs we had before.
Just like Native Americans have dwindled to just 1% of the U.S. population, others will
not invest in our communities but just confine us to reservations with limited opportunities
and let us wither on the vine over time. And I understand this perspective. To be very
personal, I came to the first Crain’s homecoming a few years ago and I was initially impressed.
Detroit came out of bankruptcy in just a year. It’s attracted $7 billion in private market
investments. It’s reframed its image as a strong, scrappy, creative, innovative city.
But when I talked to a few of my friends about this, at least two of them are in this room.
I won’t point any fingers. They noted that black entrepreneurs were not at the table.
They weren’t in the loop. Much of the growth and prosperity is enjoyed by new residents
in the central business district rather than neighborhoods and communities around the city.
And no doubt the entire city benefits from an enhanced tax base and supporting jobs.
But the vast majority of Detroiters don’t wanna indirectly benefit from growth or be
bit players in their own hometown. I thought about it, my friends were right. There weren’t
a lot of black entrepreneurs featured. And there are a lot of neighborhoods that have
not seen growth. But I still don’t think increased inequality is an inevitable component of innovation,
even though my friends have legitimate points about that. One of the reasons many of us
love the movie Black Panther is because of the Afro futuristic nation of Wakanda, right?
In the movie, Wakanda isn’t just some broken country that has to be fixed up according
to a Western imperialistic model. Some imitation, right? The goal is not to be an imitation
of France or the U.K. or the U.S.. Instead, Wakanda is a significantly more prosperous,
innovative and technically advanced nation. And this powerful concept is not just in comic
books. In real life, black workers have discerned, they’ve discerned the future and strategically
positioned themselves for relevance and success. Uly Boykin and Hamiltonians, right? Black
female NASA mathematicians. People like Dorothy Vaughan depicted in the movie Hidden Figures
speculated that an incoming IBM computer would displace her team of mathematicians in the
1960s. So what did she do? She learned Fortran. And she didn’t just learn it herself so she’d
be special. She taught Fortran to her entire team. And
when they brought the IBMs in there, the NASA black female mathematicians were prepared
to take over new jobs operating the IBM. We also see the same thing happening in other
parts of the world. When Judge Keith was appointed to the federal bench, Singapore and South
Korea were developing countries, what some would call third world, right? Through strategic
planning, focused effort, capital investment and investment in education and skills of
their people, Singapore is now the financial center of Asia. South Korea is home to leading
companies like Samsung. In 1991, when the man threw his keys at Judge Keith, Estonia
became free of Soviet occupation. It was in tatters and ruins. Food was rationed, inflation
skyrocketed to over 1,000%. In 1992, a 32-year-old historian was elected prime minister and he
focused on fostering an innovative business culture. Only half of Estonians had telephone
service. And rather than just install an analog telephone system, they skipped, they leapfrog
straight to a digital network that was designed for them. Every school in Estonia was online
by 1998. And in 2000, parliament enshrined Internet access as a human right. Estonia
became a center for global investment. It built an innovation economy and it produced
notable companies. Has anyone heard of Skype? Estonia, right? Its GDP is now 15 times what it was at the
fall of the Soviet Union. There’ll be some people, they wouldn’t say this out loud but
they might say it to me after the conversation here, the discussion. They might say hey,
those aren’t black countries. You’re talking about some white countries. You’re not talking
about black countries. Rwanda is a black country. When I was clerking for Judge Keith in 1994,
Rwanda was undergoing a brutal genocide in which 800,000 people were murdered. Since
then, Rwanda’s rebuilt itself. The objective was for Rwanda to move from an agricultural
country and leapfrog the industrial stage and move to a knowledge-based economy. All
of Rwanda’s 30 districts are now connected with fiber optics. GDP growth has averaged
about, the growth has averaged about 8% per year. Gender equality has been a key focus,
and women now make up a larger percentage of leaders in public and private sector in
Rwanda than they do in the U.S. And while inequality has decreased in Rwanda in the
last 15 years in the United States, inequality has increased, right? One of my friends from
the Obama campaign, Alec Ross, he wrote a book called Industries of the Future and he
basically, he was the tech guy on our campaign and then he became Secretary Clinton’s tech
person at the Department of State and he basically traveled the world looking at these countries.
It’s a good book. These numbers come from that. I encourage you to check it out. So
this is a key moment in our nation in Detroit. Great change is happening. No one is entrenched.
There’s a new frontier of opportunity that’s not been staked out or claimed by one group.
All this goes to my third point, which is depending on policy choices we make right
now, racial disparities can grow or they can be eliminated. How do we bake racial equity
into the design so it’s not just an afterthought? We’ve seen companies like Amazon growing,
quickly transform entire industries. We’ve seen the same thing happen in Singapore, South
Korea, Estonia, Rwanda. How can the same thing happen in Conant Gardens in Detroit where
my parents grew up and where I lived until I was eight? How can we turn this disruption
into opportunity? These are questions we’re trying to work on at the Joint Center. While
the purpose of an advocacy group is to respond to the 24-hour news cycle, right? We’re trying
to think about what the next five or 15 years look like and what’s the plan for the next
five, 15 years. Now we’re just staffing up and we’re starting to think about these questions.
We don’t have all the answers. Here are some key principles. One, skills. Black workers
have to acquire new skills that are increasingly in demand locally, because job openings are
highly dependent on locale. What’s in demand in Memphis is gonna be different than what’s
in demand in Detroit. Local implementation is key. You all probably all know this already
and you’re doing a great job probably in Detroit, but some would say in some places got to coordinate
community leaders, local government, employers, labor unions, educational institutions to
collectively identify what’s in demand and how do we quickly get skills to people in
an effective way that works with their lives? How do we have clear pathways to jobs? Another
element is what some call shared prosperity here, right? One component is regionalism,
recognizing we wanna work together. Wanna have regional transportation plans so that
we cultivate skilled talent in Detroit and everyone in the region can benefit from that
talent, people can get to work. Also, got to develop both the central business district
and the neighborhood. And somebody who really embodies this is Judge Keith. I mean, you
think about how many friendships he has in terms of knowing people in different areas
of this community. He really embodies that notion. Another thing that’s kind of a platitude
but it’s just true, sometimes platitudes are, Stephanie, lifelong learning, right? Constant
innovation means that we got opportunities to get in and folks aren’t entrenched. But
it also means that things are always changing here. And from manufacturing worker to the
accountant to the radiologist, all got to develop, acquire, refresh in-demand skills.
Let me also just mention employer accountability. Employers that are eager to fill open positions
are prone to pointing a finger of blame at the workforce, basically saying hey, employees
are responsible for obtaining the right skills and closing the skills mismatch. I’ve got
the jobs if they just have the skills is the argument. And too often, companies use this
point to deflect responsibility when they automate and they displace existing employees.
Companies that benefit from automation should take responsibility, a fair share at least
of responsibility, create a culture. As opposed as just letting folks go, creating a culture
that says look, change is coming. Here’s how we’re gonna help you get some skills if you
want to get skills here. And here’s how this is gonna be financed. Another key concept,
future of work is not 25 years from now, it’s now. It certainly involves strengthening the
educational system for children. But sometimes what happens is that people write off parents,
and that’s wrong. Nobody wants to hear, okay, well, we’re going to just write you off and
your kids we’re gonna take care of. But your dreams, you don’t deserve dreams. Nobody wants
that, and it’s just wrong. It’s got to be strong K-12, but there also has got to be
education and skills, training for their for parents, moving people into $25,000-a-year
jobs to kind of learn how to interact and socialize with people and then moving people
into skilled jobs that are $60,000 a year. All of that would have tremendous impact in
terms of wealth creation in our community. Also and Booker T. Washington versus W.E.B.
Du Bois debate. Economic security, black economic security is not this binary choice between
trade school versus college or blue collar versus white collar. The choice is never mutually
exclusive. We definitely have to fight the implicit bias of teachers who treat and trap
black children away from their full potential. We definitely have to do that. At the same
time, we deprive millions of black workers’ dignity and opportunity if we limit our definition
of success to a BA or an MBA. I’ve got an aunt who has some successful children and
big degrees and stuff. She’s incredibly proud of her son who had some trouble with drugs
and law enforcement but now he’s got his house, he’s got his lawn he takes care of, he got
his job he goes to work every day. Like, there are some real dignity in that,
and we don’t wanna undercut or dismiss that or take value away from that. So black community
has to compete for certainly BAs and PhDs, but also for information technology, advanced
manufacturing and a host of other good jobs that don’t require a BA. Entrepreneurship,
how do we convert these new skills into new businesses? 3D printing, for example, may
allow a black business here in Detroit to supply auto parts on demand and immediately
as opposed to them coming from China. Robotic bricklaying, manpower. A black bricklayer
to start a business with minimal overhead here. So technology gives rise, Oreese, to
new possibilities every day. So this incredibly important moment for racial equality. To ignore
this opportunity is to risk mass displacement of black workers to automation and expanded
racial inequality. We’ve got to grapple with this question of improving neighborhoods,
and it is inextricably tied to the question of the future of work. This is a moment for
fresh starts, to create new opportunities and to disrupt entrenched race-based socioeconomic
hierarchy. Singapore, Estonia, Rwanda have embraced innovation to leapfrog ahead. We
can do the same thing in Detroit, in Gehring, in Baltimore, in Memphis, in New Orleans.
Indeed, Detroit, Detroit, Peter said this is ground zero. Detroit can lead the nation
not just in industry, not just in racial segregation, not just in recovering from municipal debts.
Detroit can lead the nation in grappling with and improving this relationship between economics
and race that we’ve been struggling with since the beginning of our nation. So thanks for
your patience, and I’m opening nay quick questions we’ve got here. Pete, I don’t know how much
time we have for questions. (indistinct chattering) And I say questions, but I really mean comments.
We’re all in the process of learning. And comments, insight, certainly both questions
and comments shape our work that we’re doing. Hello! How are you doing, you all right? – Yeah,
I’m fine.⁣- That’s good. – [Man] One topic you didn’t touch on is the criminal justice
system. We all have relatives who have made mistakes in their early lives. And whether
you go to family members or church members, in Michigan, if you wanna get your charges
reduced or expunged, it’s five years minimum. And should that, from a state wide or from
a national standpoint be cut to two or three? Because these are minor offenses, but these
individuals, whether they’re black, Hispanic or white, are being punished an extra step
because many employers won’t hire them if they have a background check. Or we need to
address the drug culture in our neighborhoods. Because first thing, talking to our pastor,
his daughter a relative, there’s a lot of hiring. He said, the problem, you have all
these jobs available but nobody can pass the drug test. And so those two factors need to
be addressed, and nobody’s talking about it, is reducing the (mumbles) have your license
(overlapping dialogue) your record expunged from five years, a long time, because if you’re
23, 22, you almost 30 before you can get a break. And the drug culture is messing up
our community no matter where you live. – Yeah, that’s right. So here, a couple points on
that. Number one, I agree with you wholeheartedly. When I was at the justice department, I led
a group that focused on reentry and dealing with the collateral consequences of people
who wanna work. And there’s no reason that they should not be able to work, and that
there are these artificial restrictions on them. It’s something we’ve got to definitely
deal with. As a voting rights person, I believe that with regard to voting as well, and there’s
some movement afoot in Florida right now to address their problem with that issue, right?
On the other topic here, I have had mayors of major cities come to me and say Spencer,
I’ve invested all this money in job training and guy goes through the whole program then
he fails a urine test. We spend all this money, he spent all this time and then he doesn’t
get the job. I think that’s a real issue that we’ve got to figure out a solution to. I don’t
think that it’s about pointing fingers. I think that there’s a policy solution and it’s
incumbent on us to figure out what the policy solution is. I don’t think it is people operating
heavy machinery under the influence, but I do think that there is a policy solution that
can help us figure out how to avoid and prevent that problem in terms of people getting back
in that situation or relapsing. – [Rick] Hi, I’m Rick Smith. Excuse me. I’m a physician
in Detroit. Right over here? – I thought you were a comedian down here. That was good!⁣(audience
laughing) – [Rick] No, not a comedian, no! – That was good. You must keep your patients
entertained here. – No, I’m okay, okay. President Wilson left me alone (overlapping dialogue)
I haven’t had a lot of legal training per se in everything. I think the last class I
had was taught in the basement of Dr. Julia Cohn’s house and we got a little journal club
here and the speaker was this young, vibrant lawyer with a big Afro. I think his name was
Dennis. (laughter drowns out dialogue) Yeah, back there, and he came and talked to us (mumbles)
so this is my first class since then, and I do appreciate this. When you started out,
you said there were three points. I would venture to say there’s a fourth point you
should have made, and that runs through all those things and that was the power of knowledge
and education that links all those points that you talked about, because all that stuff
is driven by knowledge, and knowledge is passed (mumbles) through education and in systems
here. We have a problem with that in our country, particularly in our communities here. We put
a lot of money into but it’s not doing anything. My little legal experience, I know that some
of the bigger cases was Plessy versus Ferguson, Brown versus Board of Education, the affirmative
action cases in Michigan all had to do with education and the power to obtain that sort
of thing. When that stuff happened in Michigan, Michigan at that time was second only to Howard
and Meharry in producing physicians. It’s nowhere near that now, and that’s the impact
that these laws have upon our community. It’s easier to become an NBA player or any basketball
player than it is to become a surgeon. And in fact in the last decade, we’ve produced
probably scores of basketball players out of Detroit, and I can count maybe one, two
surgeons that have come out during that same period of time. It’s just not in medicine.
It is the pipeline to all of these technologies that you’re talking about. We’ve got great
engineering schools right down the street here. Derek Scott’s doing a great job in Michigan
trying to recruit African Americans with the skills at that level to get into it. Howard
is producing great engineers, but we need more in order to take advantage of those things.
So whether it’s medicine, whether it’s engineering, with all the high tech things you’re talking
about, people want talent, and that talent comes from preparation and it comes from education,
and that’s gonna drive all that. I just wish you can comment upon what we need to do to
get things going. – So I would just say that I think lawyers try to do things in threes,
right, rather than fours. (audience laughing) So that’s (mumbles) here, right? As opposed
to just being objectively right. So I agree with you in terms of the skills piece. One
thing I would say is obviously, we wanna help people make a transition. But at the end of
the day, education, skills come on the table. People have talked to me, and we talked a
little bit about UBI and there’s some value in terms you UBi, universal basic income,
right? But my response has been, UBI is not gonna create Wakanda. The skills that you
talk about, education, that is something unique in terms of bringing the table, that’s what’s
gonna create Wakanda. So I agree with you. Who’s up next? You guys determine. – [Woman]
Good evening. You on here touched briefly about how drugs can impact employability.
One thing that’s on the ballot in Michigan is legalized marijuana. Have you been able
to observe any racial implications with respect to legalized marijuana in other states? We
haven’t focused or looked in that in particular. We haven’t. There’s certainly been some people
who have said this is the future of work, and this is a cutting edge thing and you all
should look at that if you’re focused on future of work, but we have not looked at it yet.
– [Woman] All right, thank you. – [Man] Spencer, you’re right on the money in terms of thinking
about the three concepts. This past weekend, I was in Washington D.C., the National Association
of Corporate Directors, our annual meeting. And it was about transformation and disruption
and what’s occurring. And speaker after speaker was talking about how computers are changing
our lives and how things are going to change and what it is that we will need to have appreciation
for to be able to take advantage of it. You made some other point about 30 jobs where
the majority of those are those with color may be employed or are employed. And one speaker
talked about Uber, Lift, et cetera and how we all use it today, and he talked about how
in New York a taxi cab, Medallion, several years ago worth $1.3 million, today it’s about
$130,000 because all of that, you’re gonna be seeing a different approach. Coming back
home, I’ve been appreciative of what’s going on in our community, both black, white, as
well as blacks in terms of looking at opportunity for investment in our community. And just
this week, there was a program that was sponsored by black enterprise at the Detroit Historical
Museum, and the title is Money: is it Black or White? And they had young people there
who were entrepreneurs, who are in business, talking about what they did and how they are
successful in their businesses and encouraging others to consider it. There is a path forward.
– Thank you so much, Mayor Archer. – [Man] Spencer, first of all, I wanna commend you.
I mean, you are just phenomenal. Great analysis, especially with the historical context, drawing
parallels between the past and present. Of course, as you can imagine, very appreciative
of it. For those of you who don’t know me, my name
is Peter Boykin, I teach history, Wayne County Community College district. I’ve been there
14 years, and I’ve seen a lot. – And you are also a–⁣- A Hamiltonian, yes. I was gonna
get to that. (laughs) Of course. I’ve seen a lot of changes over the last 14 years. One
of the major changes has been with online learning. A lot of our classes now are going
to online learning. While that’s a great innovation, we still have the digital divide with a lot
of students not having access to computers. So what I wanna know is has your organization
reached out to the community colleges throughout the United States, especially in urban America,
to basically elaborate on the digital divide along with promoting community college education?
You’re talking about entrepreneurship, that’s one of the things that WC3 is promoting in
terms of giving students options. And another thing I wanna say to is, you covered it, I
would say about 80% of the students at Wayne County Community College district are working,
and they are in these minimum wage jobs. They’re going to be hurt, as you’ve said. So what
can be done? When they enter the realm of the community college, what can be done to
keep them focused in school but, at the same time, they have to meet financial obligations?
And I’ve had students who unfortunately had to drop out because they were taking care
of family members. How do we basically keep hope alive with them and keep them focused?
So that’s the question I have. What has your organization done with respect to looking
at the community colleges? I know President Obama had an awesome initiative, you probably
know, with community colleges. But what is being done to keep that initiative alive from
your perspective? – Yeah, so one, thank you so much for your service. I mean, you really
are on the front lines with regard to students and the future here. A couple of points to
respond. We’re in the beginning stages of this. And I don’t mean to sound too academic,
but we have a survey in the field right now and we’re gonna get results in October 15th,
that has a lot of questions about learning and interest in learning and community colleges
and different pathways and the future of work. The reason this is a significant survey is
we have an intentional over sample of African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans. And so there’ll
be 600 of each of those groups and 600 whites. So it’s a total of 2,400 people. That large
sample size allows us to basically say well, what do black women ages 25 to 35 who have
incomes under $50,000 will have enough in that group to pull that out to see where they
are in terms of these questions. So right now, we’re really just trying to understand
the challenges that folks face. How much they would spend on education, what kind of benefits
they want from their employers? So we’re in the beginning pieces of that. The one interesting
thing we’ve down on this piece is that twice as many, not twice as many but twice the percentage
of African-Americans as whites use their cellphone as their primary access to the Internet because
they don’t have broadband at home. So this can be an important tool. And the numbers,
a larger percentage of whites have home access to broadband. But in terms of this phone,
it’s about 77%, 78% across the board in terms of Latinos, whites, et cetera, right? And
that’s really because of the low cost. I mean, you can get a cellphone, Maurene, for $150.
It may not be an iPhone, but you can get a cellphone that works, smartphone, right? So
that’s a significant factor in driving things. – [Man] Could you share with us what the Joint
Center for Political and Economic Studies is doing to share their research information?
I remember years ago when Eddie Williams at your organization, you had the quarterly magazine,
Focus. Do you have that now? How do we stay on top of the insights that your think tank
develops? At the local level, we really need insights as to what the highest priority change
efforts should be or could be that work. – Well, thank you for that question. So we do not
have Focus right now. I’d certainly like to start it up. I thought it was a great magazine
when I look back at old issues. I came in about four years ago and kind of dealt with
some restructuring issues and some financial issues, and things are on the upswing from
a financial standpoint at this juncture. We’ve got a monthly newsletter that goes out. So
right afterward, hopefully we can be in touch and we can make sure that you’re on the newsletter
list. Right now we’re focused on three big issues. And the thought is kind of like Amazon,
starts with books and then you spread out to everything. We’re starting with three issues.
One is future of work in black communities. Second is congressional staff diversity. I
think we’re already the leader on that. We’re continuing to go deep on that. That strategically
helps us because it also gives us a footprint throughout congress in terms of a web of people
that we’re connected to, right? Now we’re doing a one-stop policy shop that’s focused
on issues that are emerging like surveillance, light FinTech? – [Man] FinTech? – Yeah, so
this is financial technology issues, right? So if you think about there are a host of
issues where… So you think about the payday lender, right? You get the payday lender who
is charging a huge rate, and then when you leave the store you might get knocked over
the head with the cash in your pocket. FinTech can give you a different type of rating that
may be more accurate, and you won’t be charged as much. And the money comes to you electronically,
and so it’s safer for you. So the whole point is really, the bottom line is emerging technologies
that can help communities, thinking about those issues in that third bucket. And so
let’s please connect, and I’ll make sure (overlapping dialogue)– – [Man] If I can just follow through,
Elaine, if you don’t mind. At one time, there were organizations like yours in D.C. that
frequently tried to develop insights to help people at lower communities develop a black
agenda. I don’t know if there are any such efforts now. Do you know (mumbles) I know
the National Urban Coalition used to do a lot of that and there were other organizations.
Is there any major national organizations focusing on helping local communities identify
what the priorities are for social change action? – Right, so here’s what we’re trying
to do. In 2016, we brought together about 25 African-American groups, including the
National Urban League, NAA, just a variety of organizations. And we thought about what
are the big priorities on a federal level? We kind of have things teed up. And the ideas
we have are receptive in the current federal environment. So we kind of pulled that together
and the Joint Center was at the center of that in terms of organizing it. What we’re trying to do right now is work
directly with the National Organization of Black County Officials, the African American
Mayors Association, the National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials and basically help
them. So as opposed to us being in direct contact with these elected officials, strengthening
those organizations by giving them content. So we’re not a membership organization, we’ll
be a policy organization. We’ll be the think tank for these organizations and support them.⁣-
And how do their information disseminate to local areas so we know what’s coming out of
that intelligence? – Yeah, so largely, they focus on their members. Many of those are
electeds, that kind of thing. I’m open, we’re just finishing up a strategic plan. The Ford
Foundation was nice enough to support a strategic plan for us, and it’d be great to just talk
kind of one on one and get some thoughts from you because frankly, from a strategic standpoint,
and I’ll just say this also from a money standpoint, there are a lot of foundations that say, okay,
it’s great that you’ve got the black elites, or you’ve got a relationship with the pastors.
What are you getting from the community here, right? And so we’ve got some things like some
focus groups. And I told you about the polling. But there may be some other avenues in terms
of really hearing; I definitely think there’s a role for academics and policy analysts,
but I also think there’s an incredibly important role, as Peter mentioned, in terms of community
voices so it’d be great to talk about that. – [Man] Thank you. – [Woman] Thank you. I
would just like to sort of introduce into the discussion the idea of equality or the
loss of opportunity for people being displaced by technology. But Detroit is academically
now bottom in the nation in terms of our public schools due to the last over 10 years of state
takeover. And the schools now, we’ve lost our funding for the future techs captures
because we had to pay for Little Caesars Arena with that money. And I don’t think that people
really understand the structural inequality that’s been baked into the new Detroit. And
the opportunities that we’re seeing, the difference between now and before is that there weren’t
this many rich white people in Detroit before. That’s where the money is, and it doesn’t
mean anything to the regular people living in the neighborhoods. Maybe there’s higher
income in Detroit, but it’s not distributed across the population. People are still poor.
The only difference is there’s more people rich, and rich people are able to access things
that poor people can’t get, like their houses. So there’s a tremendous amount of resentment
and inequality. And there’s also now, with this going on to 10 years, not even an expectation
that there’s gonna be anything better because there’s an entire generation of young (mumbles)
that teaches at Wayne County Community College, and those of us older people that are here
are here because we remember things being better. There’s a generation of people that
are just completely waiting for a bus that may not come, that never had a driver’s license,
that have gone to schools that have been under state take over. They have 45 students in
their classrooms, and this has been their reality for now 10 years. This is a real,
real thing, and I’m really concerned about the future for all of Detroiters. And I’m
gonna sort of combine the Latino community in here as well because we’re in the same
boat in terms of the schools. But in terms of opportunity, it’s really, really uneven. – Mm-hmm. (applause) Thank you. I really don’t
have anything to say other than I hear you, and I think, when we talk about the DJK scholars,
I mean, this is like a purpose. I think it gives all of us purpose that there is certainly
something for us to work on now that’s relevant, that’s not a waste of our time here. So I’m
with you. And these are the issues that we’re trying to grapple with and get started on,
and I look forward to continuing the conversation and getting your information. (distant indistinct
muttering) How are you doing? (distant indistinct muttering) Okay. My Uncle Dennis! (distant
indistinct muttering) Was that at Frank Murphy Hall of Justice or was that before Frank Murphy?
(distant indistinct muttering)⁣Okay, all right, all right. – Still working every day.⁣-
Okay, all right. I wanna point your attention to (distant indistinct muttering) One of the
issues that we talk about now is access to capital. We know that Detroit (distant indistinct
muttering) right now, I mean in terms of entrepreneurhip, (mumbles) have always been entrepreneurial.
They haven’t had access to legitimate experience of entrepreneurship and haven’t had access
to capital. What are you doing to address that lack of access to capital? And is there
a study to focus on that particular issue? – Yeah, there is a study, it’s put out, you
may have already seen this. It’s put out by a group called AEO, and it was funded by the
Kellogg foundation and it focuses on black businesses. And one interesting thing is that
like 54% of all black businesses are in just like seven areas. So these are like barber
shops, beauty salons, house cleaning services, et cetera. By comparison, only 17% of white
businesses are in these areas here. And so access to capital was one of the primary issues
that was identified. And lack of access to capital. The average black business is less
than two people. So it’s not a mom and pop shop. It’s like a pop or it’s just a mom shop.
(audience laughing)⁣And that’s because the lack of access to capital really prevents
scaling here, increasing in size. We’re doing a piece right now on the use of apps by black
and Latino businesses, and we will move in this area more as we deepen our work in terms
of the future of work. – [Man] Let’s give a huge round of applause to our (audience
applause drowns dialogue) – Hey (mumbles) thank you so much, I appreciate it.