“Do I gotta sell me a whole lotta crack, for decent shelter, and clothes on my back? Or should I just wait for help from Bush, or Jesse Jackson, and Operation Push.” – Ice Cube, “Bird In The Hand”
I read a recent story in the Washington Post featuring a local Memphis kid, Kenneth Roberson, and his struggles to find employment. The dramatic irony or should I say the hard reality of this story, is that the young man featured happened to be a member of the graduating class of Memphis’ Booker T. Washington High School, the school who won president Obama’s Race To The Top commencement challenge. As the winner of said challenge, president Obama was the key note speaker at their commencement ceremony a few weeks ago. I watched the event myself, and I must say he left a group of kids in one of this cities most impoverished zip codes inspired and full of hope. However, as the saying goes: reality bites; and for ypung Black males like Roberson, that promising future looks rather bleak.
Just in case you haven’t been paying attention to this site or any legitimate news source via the media, the economy, though slowly getting better, hasn’t and isn’t recovering fast enough. Unemployment is still relatively high; but you’d probably not know that considering all the talk of Medicare, Paul Ryan, deficits, and Sarah Palin’s American short-bus tour. Yes folks, it’s still pretty bad. Want to know how bad? OK, lemme tell you. According to the government reports, Black male employment has hit it’s lowest levels in forty years. Did you get that? Black male unemployment has hit a forty year high.
If the election of America’s first African-American president was expected to give blacks an economic boost, it hasn’t emerged yet. Indeed, the percentage of African-American men with a job has dropped to its lowest level since records began in 1972, according to the government’s monthly jobs report released last week.
Even as the economy added a better-than-expected 244,000 jobs, the percentage of black males over 20 who are currently employed dropped slightly to 56.9, the Labor Department’s April report shows. For whites, the equivalent figure is 68.1 percent.
Before this recession, the percentage of black adult men with a job had never dropped below 60 percent, according to Labor Department statistics.
And among blacks, it’s not just men who are suffering. Just 51.5 percent of African-Americans across the board–compared to 59.5 percent of whites–have a job, the numbers show. That’s the lowest level for blacks since 1984. (That group includes 16- to 19-year-olds, who are employed at a far lower rate than their elders.)
These employment rates are calculated differently from the top-line unemployment rate, which includes only those actively looking for work, and inched back up last month to 9 percent.
[…] And employers’ hiring practices may be making the problem worse. As we’ve reported, online job listings telling the unemployed not to apply have proliferated in recent years. The federal government is currently probing whether such listings illegally discriminate against African Americans, who are disproportionately likely to be among the jobless.
Nonetheless, much of the media has focused on the travails of educated white men–still a comparatively flourishing group–during the downturn. (source)Look, the way I see it, there’s nothing wrong with being hopeful as the young man featured in the Washington Post piece who even graduated in the top five of his class. Sure, he has a parial scholarship to attend college, and yes, his future may look brighter than others in his graduating class. But the truth is, hope doesn’t pay the bills. And especially if you’re a Black man with a family, or the responsibility of financially supporting and providing for your kids? Hope won’t feed them, nor is hope acceptable by the child support court.
So just what exactly are Black men to do? Well, outside of going back to school and becoming better or higher skilled to secure a not-so-shitty position the next time the economy tanks (currently there aren’t regulations to prevent it). The only advice I have to give to brothas is simple. Fellas, you only have two options at this point. That would be, you either join the military, or figure out a way to spend time in prison. But if you have a better idea, I’d love to hear it.
A continued hemorrhaging of jobs in urban areas, a decline of jobs that pay well but don’t require lots of education, and a decline in government jobs in cities, , have all combined to hurt black males, he said.
Losses in good-paying manufacturing jobs also have hit black men hard, said Harry Holzer, author of “Where Are All the Good Jobs Going?” and public policy professor at Georgetown University.
Even though we’re in a recovery, he said, “it’s been very, very slow, and black men are showing the least progress with little sign so far that unemployment rates are improving.”
[…] Georgetown’s Holzer said low-income black men are among the biggest casualties of the recession. “Less-educated black men have been taking a beating for decades,” he said. “They are more likely to drop out of labor market, and more likely to get into the justice system.”
Because many lag in the classroom when they’re young, he said, “they’re having the most difficulty transitioning to a new service-based economy where education matters more.”
Many face long-term financial problems and criminal records, he noted, and these two factors can spell doom for job seekers.
[…] It’s not just poorer men who are suffering, said Chad Dion Lassiter, president of the Black Men at Penn School of Social Work at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy & Practice. Middle- and upper-income educated black men, he said, are also feeling the job-market squeeze.
“There’s unemployment and underemployment among men with degrees and credentials,” he said. “They are not getting jobs, or (they are) getting jobs at a lower salary than their white male counterparts.”
Michael, 34, of Washington, D.C., is a college graduate but still can’t find a good job after being laid off from a $70,000-a-year job in 2008. He did not want his full name used for fear it would hurt his chances of landing a job.
“My unemployment benefits expired over one year ago and I am staying with my girlfriend in her cramped apartment, dependent on her support,” he said. “Black men are the first to suffer from unemployment and the last to recover. No programs exist to help us, and I cannot think of a single policy in place beneficial to the black man — I’m angry, depressed, frustrated and helpless.” (source)Sounds messed up I know. But the government fails to talk or produce a real jobs bill, what else is there. I mean hell, look at the White House’s proposed budget for 2012. In it, they are proposing an increase in spending on the military, as well as an increase in funding for federal prisons (they’re gonna build more of them). So again, for young Black males this seems to be the only viable option. I would say slinging crack might not be a bad idea since they’ve reduced sentencing guidelines, but crack devastates our communities.
Of course Wall Street has done a better job of destroying our communities; hell, when crack was king, at least there was “wealth” in the hood unlike today after the housing bubble burst. But anywhichaways, while some of you still continue to tout arguments against a “Black Agenda”, do checkout what some well educated and Progressive white folks are saying in the following clip, as to how and what government (lead by the White House) can actually be doing to create jobs, much to the benefit of unemployed Black men and other minorities.
Sure the White House cannot do anything specifically for Black people or Black men. However, as the following clip from economics professor, L. Randall Wray, much can be done to put funds into the hands of the unemployed in the most affected areas via government funded jobs programs. He is developing policies to promote true full employment, focusing on Hyman P. Minsky’s “employer of last resort” proposal as a way to bring low-skilled, prime-age males back into the labor force. Wray’s research has appeared in numerous books and journals including Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, Journal of Economic Issues, Review of Political Economy, Review of Social Economy.
Whether Obama has the political will to push something like this through is the question. But I tell you what, doing nothing about the issue only costs us in the long run. The crisis is not behind us, folks; and how long Black men must suffer before proclaiming enough is enough is the question; this ain’t a game, folks..