Dr. Boyce: Black Unemployment Stays High While Whites Get Another Decline
by Dr. Boyce Watkins
The recent jobs data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics was not necessarily a boost for the Obama Administration. Black unemployment remained steady at 14.1 percent this month. The number is not as high as the 16.7 percent mark from one year ago today, but is still more than twice as high as the unemployment rate for both white men and white women.
Black men saw their unemployment rate drop from 14.8 percent to 14.3 percent. With the drop, African American males still have the highest unemployment rate among any gender/racial group in the country. Some see the decline as a sign of relief, but the rate is very high compared to the unemployment rate for white men, which stands at 6.9 percent.
Black women saw an increase in their unemployment rate from 11.5 percent to 12 percent. Black females have an unemployment rate that is 76 percent higher than white women, who saw their unemployment rate drop from 6.8 percent to 6.5 percent. White males witnessed a drop in their unemployment rate from 6.9 percent to 6.8 percent.
Black teens saw their incredibly high unemployment rate rise from 36.6 percent to 37.9 percent. This compares with 22.8 percent for white teens.
We can see from the data that both white men and white women experienced declines in their unemployment rates. African Americans, as a whole, saw their rate remain steady. We can express some degree of appreciation for the fact that black male unemployment declined, but this must be measured against the fact that the rate was incredibly high to begin with.
One of the most interesting things about the recent presidential campaign is that the Obama Administration is being attacked consistently by mostly white constituents, who are angry about having a white unemployment rate of 7.2 percent. This has led to even the president’s supporters saying that his administration has been weak on economic policy.
So, this leads to the obvious question: If whites have a right to be angry about 7.2 percent unemployment, how should African Americans feel about 14.1 percent? Does it make sense that the strongest supporters of President Obama (African Americans) are the ones who are suffering the most economically, the ones most likely to remain silent and also the last ones to be mentioned in Obama Administration’s policies?
Another point to chew on is this: The unemployment rates that many whites are complaining about today are the same rates that African Americans would be expected to celebrate. If African American unemployment were to reach the 7.2 percent mark enjoyed by whites and black people were to complain as much as whites are doing right now, they’d look at us like we’re crazy. So, just like during slavery, African Americans are expected to feast and enjoy the scraps that whites would gladly throw in the trash.
The black teen unemployment rate, which stands at an unacceptably high 37.9 percent, likely plays a role in the large numbers of teen homicides taking place right in President Obama’s hometown of Chicago. When I went to visit the city this year, there were some who were outraged over the fact that the president and senior advisor Valerie Jarrett used the services of 300 police officers to protect their wealthy friends at the wedding of Valerie’s daughter, all while black children were being murdered right down the street. Sadly enough, the president didn’t mention a word about the genocidal violence in his home city and instead went to console the small number of victims at the shooting in Aurora, Colorado.
When young people have jobs, educational opportunities and programs for engagement, they are less likely to be out in the streets getting killed. The Urban League’s recommendation of targeted economic policy for communities hardest hit by the recession is one of those Black Agenda items that the president could have pursued that would have improved the black unemployment rate. Part of the reason that black folks are put at the bottom of the economic priority list is that some of us enjoy being at the bottom of the list. When we don’t open our mouths, our community does not get fed, and perhaps we should get away from our love of style over substance.
These thoughts are not meant to rain on the parade of those who are in a perpetual love affair with President Obama. He is a great man, and makes a lot of people happy (these remarks are not personal). It’s to highlight the blatant hypocrisy that many of us have come to accept and that many politicians serve to perpetuate. The bottom line is that if whites have a right to complain about 7.2 percent unemployment, then blacks have the right to scream and holler about 14.1 percent unemployment. Anyone who disagrees with this assertion is probably a racist.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here. To check out Dr. Watkins in the Janks Morton Film, Hoodwinked, please visit this link.
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