The Silent Depression:Young, Black and Jobless
On November 24, 2009 in an article form the Washington Post, it has been reported that joblessness for 16 – to – 24 year old black men has reached proportions similar to the Great Depression; i.e., 34.5 percent of black men between the ages of 16 – to – 24 are jobless, which is three times the rate for the general U.S. population. Additionally, young black women between the ages 16 – to – 24 unemployment rate is 26.5 percent. These sobering statistics speak to the forked-tongue nature of the American Dream, and who historically have been its favored sons and daughters.
At the start of the Century Foundation clip, Anya Kamenetz says at second 0:09:
“The American Dream has always been that young people are going to do better than their parents did. At least for a couple of centuries, we’ve agree that/we’ve hope that/ and we’ve wanted that to be true/and it has usually turned out that way.”
As I watch this clip, I immediately get their message; it is one of self-sufficiency. Yet, this commitment to self-sufficiency is predicated on the American Dream which was never fully extended to everyone equally. Unfortunately, the starting points for opportunities historical (and presently) have always been tiered due to classism, sexism and racism. These three comprise an ‘axis of evil’ that can be felt like the noose of joblessness snapping the economic futures (read: necks) of black American youths.
At minute 1:47, William M. Rodgers III says to the students in the audience:
“[A]s the economy recovers/ the cream of the crop/ those who are the most creative/ the most resourceful/ ….. you’ll be the ones who will rise to the top…”
Mr. Rodgers is speaking about the rights to the American dream. I understand him to be saying that in tough economic times one has the right to the American dream when you are college educated; when you have proven yourself as the best and you have risen above the fray (read: your peers). This statement sums up entirely the forked-tongue nature of the American Dreams and who among us is qualified to obtain it. When the American dream is only meant for “the cream of the crop,” how do others obtain the Dream?
We confront, in this clip, a young black man who doesn’t fit the schema laid out by Mr. Rodgers. He was recently let go of at work. Although this young man did four years of college, he didn’t graduate. He identifies as “…just a regular dude, average guy /went to college for four years/don’t have a degree…just trying to find my way in the world.” Not to call a bro aimless, because he does have ambition and drive, but he is in a state of transition. He makes no claim to being “the cream of the crop,” but he too still wants to partake in the American Dream. Too often black youth face silently the economic turmoil, which deprives them of opportunities at improving their life chances.
In the Washington Post article, we learn just how common it is for black youth to be the first fired even when not the last hired. Interestingly, the article-
highlights that “for young blacks—who experts say are more likely to grow up in impoverished racially isolated neighborhoods, attend sub-par public schools and experience discrimination—race statistically appears to be a bigger factor in their unemployment than age, income or even education. [In fact,] lower-income white teens were more likely to find work than upper-income black teens, according to the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University.” Furthermore, the article provided evidence that even black college graduates experience joblessness at twice the rate of their white peers. All of which suggest that racism acts as a linchpin that holds many blacks back to lower rungs of the economic ladder.
Folks we all can admit that in these United States being black hasn’t always been tied to one’s own best economic interest to say the least. There is a long history of economic inequality that has for centuries placed blacks, specifically descendants of slaves and their offspring at the lowest rung of the economic ladder. There are countless books, articles, TV show([s?] I could only think of ROOTS) and movies that depict the centuries of economic, social, political and almost genocidal nature of oppression endured by black folks in these United States. With that acknowledged, I diverge “in a yellow woods” from the liberals and start my own “just as fair” path. I diverge because the past is what has been. The question always left is: what is the way forward.
For me and hopefully others, the way forward is becoming a young entrepreneur. At the same time, we must support the creation of more trade schools and/or community colleges, because this could become a viable source of future workers. NO, I am not going to run you through the “pull yourselves up by your boots strips” routine; however, I am going to agree with Matthew Segal in the century foundation clip. He rightfully states that “Ultimately, it will be young entrepreneurs that help pull us out of a recession, help innovate our economy, and help create jobs through the private sector. But we ought to have an environment that is more receptive to young people, who want to start companies.” I think this part of Matthew’s idea is brilliant.
The Small Business Administration should provide opportunities for young people who suffer the impact of racial discrimination and economic disparities. The Small Business Administration could provide these young people with the opportunity and the resources to create business plans. Then it could fund the ventures that are most apt to make a difference and create jobs, especially if it creates jobs in an impoverished and racially isolated neighborhood. Yet, the goal would be to attract a wide array of consumers.
My belief is that we have to look at innovative ways to get 34.5 percent of black young men and the 26.5 percent of young black women to develop new skills and networks. It is imperative that we don’t rely solely on social-welfare policy and programs of yester-year. Please share your thoughts!!