Dr. Boyce: Black Unemployment Rises To Rates Nearly as High As the Great Depression

What's Going On


by Dr. Boyce Watkins

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released the unemployment data for the month of December, and while things are getting better for whites, African Americans continue to suffer from unemployment rates that would be unimaginable if those being affected were of any other race.  White unemployment rose slightly from 6.8 percent to 6.9 percent, with white males seeing a decline from 6.4 to 6.2.  White women saw a slight bump from 6.2 to 6.3 percent as well.  These numbers are mildly uncomfortable, but have led to a tremendous backlash from those who feel that this is evidence that the Obama Administration has not been entirely effective in securing sustained economic growth.

While white Americans are enjoying single digit unemployment (and still angry about it), black Americans are experiencing unemployment rates that are nearly as high as they were during the Great Depression.  Black unemployment rose from 12.9 percent to an astonishing 14 percent.  Black male unemployment is highest between the genders, at 14 percent, while black women are grappling with a 12.2 percent unemployment rate.  Black teens are getting the worst of it, with an unemployment rate of 40.5 percent, nearly double that of white teens (21.6).

The numbers continue to beg the question of whether or not legislators and the Obama Administration should be expected to utilize targeted economic policy that accepts the reality that there are racial disparities in employment opportunities in America.  While the Democratic Party scoured the nation going into every black church and community organization they could find to get us to vote, they are ignoring these very same institutions when their members call for some kind of help with the unemployment crisis which exists in black America.  Billionaire Bob Johnson, among others, has openly stated that when it comes to black unemployment proposals presented to the White House, the officials agree that the proposals are a good idea and then never agree to do any follow-up.  What if black America never agreed to follow-up with the Democrats when they came begging for our votes?

One problem for the Obama Administration is that they seem to think that racism simply doesn’t exist, at least that is what is implied through their actions.  They, like some other Americans, seem to be thoroughly convinced that black people don’t have jobs because we don’t want to work, or that we don’t care about feeding our children.  But this is contradicted by stories like the one about the unemployed woman who pretended to be white and found that the number of job interviews she received suddenly skyrocketed.

I know people with PhDs and law degrees who struggle to keep employment, so the myth of the lazy negro who doesn’t want to work needs to be squashed in exchange for policy recommendations that respect our rights to equality as members of the American family.  I’m sorry people, but Al Sharpton and Ben Jealous aren’t going to be able to convince the Obama Administration to do the right thing:  They will personally benefit from having access to the White House, but the rest of us do not.  As it stands right now, the old adage of “taxation without representation” is an excellent way to describe the state of affairs in black America. Our taxpayer dollars are being taken so we can help white women get jobs and to pay for Al Sharpton to have a show on MSNBC.

Memo to the White House:  Racism is real, and we need your support.  You have hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer resources at your disposal, much of that drawn from the black community, and it is required that you utilize some of those resources for targeted economic policy which calls for the support of black-owned businesses and economic support to urban areas that are hardest hit by the unemployment epidemic.  If white Americans have the right to scream and complain about a “wonderful” unemployment rate of 6.9 percent (which black people won’t even have after our recession is over), then black people certainly have the right to be outraged about 14 percent.  Any other perception of the situation is nothing less than entirely racist.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Finance Professor at Syracuse University and author of the book, “Black American Money.” To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

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