News & Commentary

July 16, 2020

Minnie Che

Minnie Che is a student at Harvard Law School.

Following up on a Trump administrative policy that would have deported international students whose colleges shift to remote learning in the fall, the administration agreed yesterday to rescind that policy. This also resolves the lawsuit filed by Harvard and M.I.T. in Boston federal court. Over 60 colleges filed amicus briefs, followed by companies including Adobe, Microsoft, and Twitter. The rescission will allow foreign students to enter and stay in the United States even if their education is completely online in the fall semester. While this is a great victory for international students and universities thinking about a fully remote fall semester, the Trump administration could still issue a modified policy in the coming weeks, or choose to apply a more restrictive rule only to newly enrolled students. Officials in the administration say that a final decision has not been made. If another restrictive policy is issued, Harvard President Lawrence Bacow has already announced that the university would again seek judicial relief. 

Over 1,000 C.D.C. employees have signed a letter demanding the agency to address “a pervasive and toxic culture of racial aggressions, bullying and marginalization” against Black employees. The letter speaks about how Black employees are still experiencing lack of inclusion in the senior ranks of the agency as well as ongoing and recurring racism and discrimination. It notes that there has been little real progress after decades of underfunded, albeit well-meaning, diversity efforts. This call to action for the agency comes at a time when the C.D.C. is confronting its most significant public health emergency. Its response to covid-19 has been criticized by some for failing to explain the effects of the pandemic on Black and Latino communities. This is also coming at a time of widespread demonstrations against the racial injustice of George FloydBreonna Taylor, and Tony McDade’s deaths, amongst others. A spokesperson for the agency has said that the letter has been received and responded to by the director, Dr. Robert D. Redfield. 

While news of racial and social injustices has been at the forefront of the nation’s attention, perhaps what has not been highlighted are the journalists behind the stories — particularly, black journalists. Black journalists may experience vicarious trauma and suffering from reporting on stories about violence against their own communities, the disparate effects of the pandemic on minorities, and ongoing racism in the workplace. These journalists are especially vulnerable from repeated exposure to such trauma. The New York Times is highlighting resources and ways for those journalists to self-care and stay sane during this tumultuous time. In addition to being called upon to write about deaths and acts of hatred within their own community, black journalists are also underrepresented in their own newsroom, making up only 7% of newsroom employees. Dr. Monnica Williams, a clinical psychologist and expert in race-based stress and trauma, has recommended coping strategies that include social support, limiting exposure to cues of racism, engaging with spiritual practices, and finding distractions from trauma through relaxing activities.  But taking time off can mean foregoing income. To address this, relief funds have been started to help black writers recover with time off, therapy, or other resources. 

California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing has sued Cisco Systems for discrimination based on caste. The lawsuit centers around an engineer who immigrated from India to the United States stating that he was denied work promotions and opportunities because of his low caste, Dalit. His managers, who are also from India, are described as high-caste Brahmins and are accused of harassing the engineer because of their superiority in the Hindu caste system. The Dalit make up 25% of India’s population and are referred to as “untouchables” in their society based on their history of suffering through violence, discrimination, and disenfranchisement under the caste system. The prejudices of this caste system are present in Indian communities abroad, including the United States. In the mid-1990s, American companies were hiring close to 100,000 technology workers annually from India. A majority of those employees were from higher castes. One Dalit employee from Cisco said that because a large percentage of the profession was Indian, castes were discussed openly and knowledge of a person’s caste could ruin their career. Cisco’s human resources department responded to the Dalit engineer’s grievances saying, “caste discrimination was not unlawful” without taking any further remedial action. With this lawsuit, Dalit Americans hope to rise in cultural and political visibility, rather than being forced to hide their identity due to fear of persecution.

JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and Wells Fargo, three of the nation’s biggest banks, have announced that they are stockpiling billions of dollars to cover potential losses on loans in the upcoming months, suggesting that they do not expect consumers or corporations to have the capacity to pay back debts due to the pandemic. While federal programs and government aid has helped to cushion the economic impact of the virus, the programs will begin to expire in a few months and banks are bracing themselves for defaults that may happen. Both JPMorgan and Wells Fargo are predicting a protracted recession with unemployment in the double digits for the rest of 2020. As the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke believes that the solution to this economic downturn is for Congress to approve a new aid package, significantly larger than the $150 billion of the CARES act, for state and local governments to support their unemployed, make investments in public health, and take necessary action to stabilize the economy. 

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