Friday, April 30, 2010

Dr. Boyce Watkins: NAACP Lending Principles for Banks


From Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University

In light of the article I wrote challenging the partnership between the NAACP and Wells Fargo, the company accused of predatory lending in the Black community (click here to read the article), I thought I'd publicly share the NAACP lending principles that were sent to me by one of the NAACP spokes people.   In spite of the fact that I am not accusing the NAACP of illegal or unethical behavior, I still hold to the fact that the following must be true in order for me to become comfortable with this partnership:

1) There should be public accountability and transparency regarding the nature of the deal between the NAACP and Wells Fargo.  That includes the amount of the sponsorship and all WRITTEN contractual commitments between the NAACP and Wells Fargo.  Only specific terms in writing are relevant and can be properly enforced.

2) Simply agreeing to stop predatory lending is not enough, since there must be compensation given to the African-American community for tens of billions of dollars in lost wealth due to the racially discriminatory practices of Wells Fargo.  If a senior citizen on the South Side of Chicago who lost her home is not given relief from her situation, then this partnership does very little for our community.  A person cannot simply apologize for a crime and refuse to commit the crime again; there must be an effort to make right on the crimes that have been committed in the past.

The NAACP Banking Principles on Fairness in Lending are Below:


Mortgage foreclosures, excessive subprime mortgage interest rates, and hindered access to prime mortgage loans have had an inordinate impact on people of color and other historically disadvantaged borrowers. These practices have resulted in adverse effects even beyond the actual borrowers themselves. Home values have been depressed as a result of these practices, and in general people of color and their families have become increasingly vulnerable to loss of shelter, home security, equity, and wealth—even if they do not have subprime loans. To encourage transparency and fairness in the processes associated with obtaining quality loans and improved relationships between financial institutions and people of color and other historically disadvantaged borrowers, the NAACP has developed the following principles.

1. Loan terms will not be determined by a borrower’s race, ethnicity, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, language preference, disability, religion/creed, or age, except as otherwise permitted or required by law. Additionally, loan terms will not be determined by factors designed to serve as proxies (e.g., zip codes) for the above categories. Loan terms will not be determined by subjective underwriting without controls to prevent inappropriate bias or discrimination. Similarly situated borrowers (i.e., borrowers with similar underwriting characteristics, including credit scores, debt ratios, loan-to-value ratios, etc.) will receive comparable loan terms on identical or comparable loan products.

2. Every borrower will have the option of selecting a loan product that is appropriate for his or her circumstances. Borrowers will first be presented with loan product choices that are consistent with their financial circumstances. Lenders will determine whether borrowers are eligible for prime loan products and, if so, the borrowers will be presented with prime product options. Additionally, information will be provided to the borrowers about available conventional and Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan products in order for the borrowers to fully understand their options. Borrowers with good payment histories and demonstrated improvement in credit performance and other risk factors will be considered by their existing lenders for loan refinancing that result in improved loan terms.

3. Institutions will seek to eliminate policies or practices that encourage biased and exploitive behaviors toward borrowers. Lending institutions will disclose in good faith the loan fees associated with each loan and will conduct periodic audits of files, policies, and practices to ensure an environment—in lending, credit, and payment options—that is free of bias toward borrowers. Additionally, lenders who sell loans on the secondary market to third parties will also observe these fairness principles and will refrain from charging usurious interest rates.

4. Borrowers will be approved only for loans they have a current ability to repay. Borrowers will receive loans that they demonstrate the ability to repay, even in the event of a rate increase. Adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) and other loans will not be underwritten at the “teaser rate,” but rather at the fully indexed interest rate. Standard adjustable rate loan products will be clearly identified as such to borrowers, so they are fully aware of the terms of the ARM loan products and the possibility of interest rate and payment increases.

5. Each policy may be maintained and monitored for its racial impact. Fairness is measured not only in terms of intent, but also impact. Policies will reflect a demonstrated effort to ameliorate negative outcomes based on race or ethnicity. Each institution will have internal controls to determine overall, and within the subprime community of loans issued by the institution, that its neutral practices do not have an unlawful adverse impact based on grounds of race, sex, color, or ethnicity.

6. All borrowers will have access to free information, online and in print, that will help them understand and improve the quality of their loans. The terms of each loan will be provided to the borrower and explained in plain and simple language. The terms of the loan will be in a large font and easily legible to those who are not severely vision-impaired. If the borrower is fluent in Spanish but not English, the loan disclosures and documents will be translated. In the case of other languages, borrowers without access to loan translation expertise will be referred to phone-based or other translation services that are familiar with loan terms and conditions. All borrowers should be able to clearly understand the terms of their loan products.

7. Lenders will work with borrowers to prevent foreclosures. Loan servicers will consider foreclosure to be the “last resort” and will explore all appropriate alternatives before completing a foreclosure sale. Because these matters impact borrowers, their neighbors, and the institution, we believe it wise for the institution to engage in extended good-faith efforts to do all that it can to prevent foreclosures. Lenders and their affiliates will not operate using a business model intentionally designed to profit from a foreclosure.

8. Lending institutions will support and implement the inclusion of diverse suppliers in their contracting and partnership decisions. Financial institutions will establish aspirational and measurable goals and develop supplier programs that ensure the inclusion of businesses owned by women- and people of color wherever contracting and partnership opportunities present themselves. Goals will be, at the very least, to reflect the various racial, ethnic, and gender compositions of the general population.

9. Workforce diversity is important to fair decision making and expanded opportunity for economic development. From the boardroom to the cubicle, the workforce continuum will reflect the diversity of the nation. As financial institutions establish inclusive business policies, so too will there be a measurable effort to employ a workforce that is reflective of the growing diversity of the nation—at all decision-making levels within the institution.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Latest from Dr. Boyce on MSNBC's - 4/27/10

Friday, April 23, 2010

Henry Louis Gates Gives Weak Slavery Argument in the New York Times

Henry Louis Gates gets slavery's history all wrong

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Your Black World

Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. recently wrote an interesting piece for the New York Times called, "Ending the Slavery Blame Game." In the piece, Gates effectively argues that the fight for reparations is convoluted and somewhat mitigated by the fact that African elites participated in the slave trade. While describing complex business deals made between some African leadership and the Europeans who brought Africans to the New World, it almost appears as though Gates is saying that this disturbing relationship somehow undermines the right of African-Americans to hold our government accountable for its involvement in crimes committed against our people.

At very least, I am under the assumption that by "ending the slavery blame game," Gates is arguing that we should stop blaming the United States government and white America for the rape, murder, castration, lynching and beating of our ancestors.

Sorry Dr. Gates, but I must respectfully (or perhaps not so respectfully) disagree. If a young girl is sold into prostitution by her own parents, the pimp must still pay for the suffering he caused the young woman. He can't simply say, "Her parents made a deal with me, so you should stop the blame game."

In other words, the United States, as a broad and powerful industrial entity, benefited from slavery to the tune of several trillion dollars. Much of this wealth was passed down from one white man to another, and was always out of the grasp of the black men, women and children who gave their lives on American soil in order to earn it. As a result, the median net worth of the African-American family is roughly one-tenth that of white American families and we have consistently higher unemployment due to our inability to create jobs, since white Americans own most businesses. These facts hold true without regard to how the African-American holocaust started in the first place. They also hold true because wealth and power are commodities that are passed down inter-generationally, and we missed out on all of this because we were slaves. What occurred after we left Africa can and must be considered independently from what happened while our forefathers were in the mother land.



Click to read

Sunday, April 18, 2010

What is the Black Agenda? Lola Adesioye and Dr. Boyce Watkins Talk it Out

by Lola Adesioye, Huffington Post -

Should there be a "black agenda" in America? And if the answer to that question is 'yes,' what is the black agenda?

These are the questions that black leaders and black people have been discussing more and more since President Obama took office. Last week, Reverend Al Sharpton hosted a leadership summit addressing this very issue. Today a group of black leaders got together on an MSNBC special to talk about this issue in more detail. And many will remember the on-air argument that Tavis Smiley and Rev Sharpton had a few weeks ago about this topic.

Tavis believes that Obama isn't doing enough. Sharpton believes that Obama need not 'ballyhoo' a black agenda. I think most agree, though, that something needs to be done.

With a 16.5% unemployment rate (compared to 9.7% for white Americans), an education system that is under serving black children, higher than average rates of death from diseases like breast cancer, and continued social issues, it is hard to disagree that there is need for some kind of targeted and focused approach to dealing with the issues that affect African-American. But many are divided on whether or not the president is doing enough for black people, whether or not it's incumbent on him to do anything at all, and what should or shouldn't be done.


Click to read

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Should This Man Be Released After Spreading HIV Deliberately?

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University

You may not know the name Nushawn Williams, but it's probably a name you need to know. You would especially want your daughter to know his name, as well as anyone else in the community who has reason to fear a more disturbing style of sexual predator for the new millenium.

Williams is in prison right now for knowingly infecting women with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. His victims were as young as 13 years old, and authorities believe he may have infected as many as 50 women prior to going to state prison in 1998. Police are working to keep Williams behind bars because they fear what might happen if he is released to the American public.
"He is prone to further sexual contact with underage individuals because of deficits in his emotional capacity to understand why this is wrong and attitudes that support these types of exploitive encounters. His emotional callousness, lack of remorse and impulsivity undermine important internal mechanisms for managing his sexual behavior," said examiner Jacob E. Hadden from the New York State Office of Mental Health. Authorities have determined that Williams suffers from a mental health abnormality that makes him incapable of understanding why his actions are wrong or harmful.

The possible release of Williams reminds us of the urgency of managing the public health alarm called HIV infection. African Americans are taking the lead in HIV infection rates, and what is also true is that the experience in our community is nothing less than a precursor to what is eventually going to happen all throughout America. What is most frightening about the case of Nushawn Williams is that he is probably not the only person deliberately spreading the disease: there are likely women and other men doing the same thing. To make matters worse, there are many in our community (and others) who are being incredibly irresponsible with their sexual behavior and infecting scores of people in the process.

As I felt empathy for celebrities like Magic Johnson and Eazy-E for their battles with HIV/AIDS, I wondered how many of us thought about the long list of partners they infected before finally getting their own positive test results. Did you ever think about the fact that many of those people are out in the community right now, quite a few of whom may have taken years to become aware of their HIV positive status? This is scary indeed, so the truth is that to protect yourself from the silent community killer, a general strategy of protection must be put into play.


Click to read

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Your Black Social Commentary - 4/10/10

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Dr. Boyce Watkins: Why Black Men Aren't Graduating from College



by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University

Last week, the American Council on Education issued a report on the state of black males in the higher education system.  The report reveals some interesting and disturbing trends.  It turns out that black men are graduating from college at a rate which lags significantly behind other ethnic groups. When determining graduation probabilities over a six-year period, black males were found to have a graduation rate of 35 percent.   This compares with rates of 59 percent, 46 percent and 45 percent for white males, hispanic males and black women, respectively.  In other words, black men are a little more than half as likely to finish college when compared to their white male counterparts.

I have been a black man for my entire life now, and I’ve taught at the college level for the past 17 years.  So, perhaps I can shed some light on the nature of these problems and how we might work to solve them.  Some of the factors are institutional and some are cultural, so prepare to be offended by at least one of the things I have to say:

RELATED: Why Aren’t Minorities Graduating From College?

1) Most American universities refuse to hire or retain African American professors, including many HBCUs: If your professors look like you, you are more likely to relate to that individual and enjoy the class.  When I went to The University of Kentucky, Indiana University and The Ohio State University (where I earned my PhD), I didn’t see one single professor who looked like me (and I took A LOT of classes).  This made for an incredibly awkward and damn near traumatic educational experience.  When I first noticed institutions like Morehouse College presenting images of black males in the front of the classroom, I was envious after realizing what I’d been missing.  Rather than finding excuses for firing or not hiring black professors, most universities would be well-advised to stop lying to themselves and become serious about diversity.  Yes, black professors are out there to hire if you are looking for them, but many academic departments find a reason to believe that they are not qualified.  Just look at the experiences of myself, Cornell West and Michael Eric Dyson as cases in point.  Each of us has received significant resistance in our careers because our work is connected to the black community. Our stories are just the tip of the iceberg, since there are thousands of black professors who’ve gone through the exact same experience when dealing with the entrenched racism of academia.  Many HBCUs are not immune to this trend, as most of them don’t have very many African American professors (Don’t believe me?  Go to the Computer Science Department or Business School at any random HBCU and count the number of African American professors).


Click to read

Monday, April 5, 2010

Al Sharpton, Boyce Watkins, Tom Joyner Meet with Obama Administration in NYC on 4/17


New York, New York – Rev. Al Sharpton and the National Action Network (NAN) will host its annual national conference from April 14th - 17th at the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers in New York City. This four-day event will convene hundreds of delegates and prominent leaders in civil rights, business, politics, labor, entertainment and the religious community from around the country to address key issues impacting people of color. Among some of the confirmed notable participants are United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Housing Shawn Donovan, Michael Steele, Chairman of The Republican National Party, Dr. Bill Cosby, Mariah Carey, Wyclef Jean, Ben Jealous, President of the NAACP, Marc Morial, President of the National Urban League, Tom Joyner, Roland Martin, Michael Eric Dyson, and many other high profile attendees.

Among the highlights will include the annual Keepers of the Dream Awards on Wednesday, April 15th honoring those who are committed to furthering the ideals and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The event will be hosted by Tamron Hall, MSNBC and honorees include Wyclef Jean, humanitarian and world-renown musical artist, Jeff Zucker, President and CEO of NBC Universal, Mariah Carey, Award-Winning Actress and internationally acclaimed Singer, Dr. Robert M. Franklin, President of Morehouse College, Kimberly Davis, President of JPMorgan Chase Foundation and more. There will be a special keynote address by Dr. Bill Cosby.

The National Action Network convention will include discussions about health care policy in the wake of the historic passage of the President’s Health Care Reform Bill, Media and whether the press is covering issues fairly that involve people of color, education as a civil rights issue and combating the racial achievement gap, labor and employment, the state of the Black Church and assessment of the public response to African-American achievement, issues crucial to young professionals, and much more.

A major convention highlight will be leadership forum entitled: Measuring the Movement: Black Leadership’s 12-Month Action Plan featuring Black leaders of constituencies across the country who will assess where we are and what they and their respective organizations will pledge to do over a 12-month time-frame to further critical issues impacting people of color including, but not limited to, education reform, unemployment, health care and more. The event will air on TV One, MSNBC, C-Span and other forums, and the collective will discuss the real problems and how we will not only hold the President and Administration of the United States accountable, but how we will hold ourselves accountable and tangibly measure our movement over a 12-month period to enact change. The event will be hosted by Tom Joyner and Roland Martin and will be co- hosted by Boyce Watkins, Assistant Professor of Finance, Syracuse University and Warren Ballentine from "The Warren Ballentine Show." Among the featured panelists will be Reverend Al Sharpton, President, National Action Network, Marc Morial, CEO of the National Urban League, Congressman James Clyburn, Dr. Charles Ogletree, Harvard Law School professor, Dr. Elsie Scott, President and CEO, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF), Jeff Johnson, BET Personality, Ben Jealous, President & CEO, NAACP, Michael Eric Dyson, recording artist Chuck D, Angela Sailor, Coalitions Director for the Republican National Committee, and others.

A complete schedule of NAN’s annual national convention is below and updates will be posted regularly on NAN’s website For press credentials please contact Rachel Noerdlinger, President of Noerdlinger Media (646) 981-5903 or

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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Blacks Far More likely to be Incarcerated than Whites

This data was gathered from the prison initiative and shows that there is more racism in the US prison system than there was in South Africa During Apartheid:


Incarceration is not an equal opportunity punishment

by Peter Wagner
Updated June 28, 2005

On June 30, 2004, there were 2,131,180 people in U.S. prisons and jails. That's a rise of 2.3% during the 12 previous months. Federal prisons are growing almost 5 times faster than state prison populations.

As of June 30, 2004, the U.S. incarceration rate was 726 per 100,000 residents. But when you break down the statistics you see that incarceration is not an equal opportunity punishment.

U.S. incarceration rates by race, June 30, 2004

incarceration rates by race graph

Gender is an important "filter" on the who goes to prison or jail:

incarceration rates by gender graph

Look at just the males by race, and the incarceration rates become even more frightening

incarceraton rates for males by race

If you look at males aged 25-29 and by race, you can see what is going on even clearer

incarceration rates for young males

Or you can make some international comparisons

International rates of incarceration graph

South Africa under Apartheid was internationally condemned as a racist society. What does it mean that the leader of the "free world" locks up its Black men at a rate 5.8 times higher than the most openly racist country in the world?

Statistics as of June 30, 2004 from Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2004, Tables 14; except for the race rate statistics which are calculated from Table 13 and Census Bureau population estimates. South Africa figures from Marc Mauer, Americans Behind Bars: The International Use of Incarceration. All references to Blacks and Whites are for what the Bureau of Justice Statistics and U.S. Census refer to as "non-Hispanic Blacks" and "non-Hispanic Whites".)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Dr. Boyce Watkins on MSNBC's TheGrio - 4/1/10

Supporting the right for Felons to Vote

Here is a form letter you can use to write your Congressman about the Democracy Restoration Act, an act sponsored by Russ Feingold and John Conyers.  The act would restore voting rights to ex-convicts in federal elections.  In case you are unaware, slavery in the United States was never fully abolished.  Actually, it was only abolished for those who were not convicted of a crime.  Therefore, many hundreds of thousands of African Americans are still victims of slavery and involuntary servitude.  This has got to stop now.  To read more on this issue, please click here.


Here is the sample letter you can cut and paste to send to your representative.


To whom it may concern,

I am a member of the Your Black World Coalition, as well as a concerned American.  I would like to write to express my support for HR3335 - The Democracy Restoration Act, sponsored by Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI).

I strongly believe that when felons have paid their debt to society, they deserve an opportunity and incentive to become a part of that society again.  Voting and participating in federal elections is an important part of being an American, and would serve to reduce recidivism, which hurts us all.  Additionally, it would ensure that these men and women receive the representation they deserve from elected officials, since most of us would agree that taxation without representation is fundamentally unfair and unAmerican.

We will continue to campaign on this matter, and hold our officials accountable.  Please do the right thing and vote "yes" on the Democracy Restoration Act.