Black Unemployment At Crisis Level

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[Fleming’s View]

Where are the jobs in the Black community?

Without meaningful employment, a community cannot sustain itself. Without meaningful employment, a community falls into economic and psychological disrepair, opening itself to crime, poor housing, insufficient medical care, horrific schools, and welfare.

Poverty reinforces itself. Unemployment often leads to a multitude of desperate choices, poor decisions, and self-defeating behavior among the citizens of a community. In every major urban center with low-income neighborhoods and many small towns in the so-called “Black Belt,” African American families are hurting in a very real way, just trying to survive, and there is no relief in sight.

Labor Statistics data indicated that the unemployment rate for Whites was 9.3 percent, while the unemployment rate last month for Blacks was 15.5 percent and 12.7 percent for Hispanics. Black teen unemployment is over 21 percent. While more Whites are going back to work, ethnic minorities are facing a resistant job market.

Recently, the Congressional Black Caucus sent a blistering message to President Barack Obama, forcefully reminding him of the overwhelming support of the African American community, and pressuring him to do something about the job blight in Black America. “Our job is to make sure the legislation that gets to the president’s desk responds to the degradation and the crisis in our community,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas). “Our community is bleeding. And we are the worst hit.”
Even House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) admitted the current job initiatives have fallen short of attacking the job crisis in minority communities.
Some members of the Congressional Black Caucus stymied a financial regulations bill which the president supported, but they relented after pressurized talks behind closed doors with Obama officials. The Black lawmakers saw the concession by the officials and the Congressional House Financial Services Committee, chaired by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), as a victory.

Conservatives, including some of the ardent Republican foes in Congress, cheered that there was trouble in paradise, that Obama “the Black president” was having difficulty with his own folks. Fox News commentators sneered that Obama was losing support among Black America, where a powerful asset of the coalition which elected him was becoming increasingly frustrated with his centrist policies.

“I will tell you that I think the most important thing I can do for the African American community is the same thing I can do for the American community, period, and that is get the economy going again and get people hiring again,”  President Obama said in a recent interview with USA Today.

A recent New York Times article showed that racial inequities in the job market have become entrenched and qualified African American candidates with college degrees are often passed over for under-qualified white applicants for employment opportunities. Prospective White employers are tossing out any resume that smacks of anything Black. As a result, many job applicants are disguising resumes to reflect more white skills or playing up white academic backgrounds. No Blackness allowed if you want to work.

This trend is not new. In 2005, a study by two Princeton University professors, found that white job applicants with criminal records had the same employment opportunities as Black job candidates.

The White employers surveyed said they gave the white applicants with prison histories over the minorities a chance so they could restore the ex-prisoners’ faith in the work world. What about the qualified Black applicants?

Sure, President Obama has a lot on his plate. He is trying to clean up a huge Republican mess at home and abroad. However, his victories must not just include regulating Wall Street or making the banks loan to small businesses and people in danger of losing their homes, but convincing the rigid American establishment to let go of traditional racial and cultural stereotypes.

Intolerance, bigotry and a stubborn sense of entitlement are making an economic recovery that much harder. It is also further dividing our society and threatening our national security.

Fleming is a Black Star News columnist.

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