as infant mortality rates are the best indicators of the overall
health of a society, unemployment rates reflect a range of social
ills. When a particular group suffers persistent joblessness over
the course of generations, the problem is systemic and closely related
to the value the society assigns to the group.
unemployment among Black men hit 12% in November, twice the overall
jobless rate. The pattern has been consistent for the last forty
years, varying little and never for long. Journalists and social
scientists have grown old discovering the same Black-white jobless
ratios "in good times and in bad." The numbers paint a
general picture of African American status in the national life:
Blacks are twice as likely to be jobless because they are effectively
viewed as half-men, the verdict that society renders in myriad ways
filled with caveats and diversionary details, but that consistently
results in the same racial breakdown in unemployment, decade after
infant mortality analogy is useful. Even dramatic expansion of emergency
medical services, for example, will put little dent in the infant
mortality rates of societies where sewage flows in the streets,
shelter and diets are inadequate, and civic structures, weak. In
such societies, babies will be stillborn or die before their fifth
year because of many reasons, but they will surely die in large
numbers with or without emergency clinics. The frequency of their
deaths reveals the overall health of the society.
infant mortality in the U.S. is roughly two and one-half times that
of whites, a figure as maddeningly consistent as racial unemployment
ratios. Taken together, these numbers sketch the outlines of a matrix
of societal oppression that does not change in its essentials and
this context, the only thing that is dramatic about November's double-digit
Black unemployment is that more whites are becoming disconnected
from the workforce - a harbinger of discontent among those whom
the society values at the full-man rate.
Bush-Cheney-Halliburton eagerly anticipate their $200 billion Iraqi
war-and-occupation-for-profit (see Rule
of the Pirates, December 5), an alarming number of state governments
face insolvency. According to the Dec. 9 issue of Time magazine:
states are running an aggregate deficit that is expected to reach
$68 billion by June 30. In the meantime, the states have pressed
Washington for money to pay for things it has demanded - among
them, homeland-security initiatives, election reform and broader
Medicaid benefits for the poor. Beset by federal deficits, the
Bush Administration is unlikely to provide much help at a time
when it is focused on tax cuts and a possible war with Iraq."
proverbial "crunch" is coming. For California, the crisis
means $10.2 billion in cuts to virtually every program of value
to poor and working people, and the certainty of a further round
of reductions. Education will be gutted under Governor Gray Davis's
budget, thousands of the poor will lose health care coverage, and
state workers face massive layoffs.
picture gets darker. The Bush version of Homeland Security excludes
issues of job security, health security, or any of the basic essentials
of a just and secure society. Rather, the states are facing a federal
mandate to find yet more dollars to protect the "vital national
infrastructure" from terrorist attack. The potential cost of
defending these domestic corporate "targets" is... limitless.
Security officials alerted state executives to the scope of the
new burdens they are expected to bear, at a meeting of the Western
Governors Conference, in Las Vegas. Public dollars must be found
to protect "150 refineries, 152,000 miles of oil pipelines,
194,000 miles of gas pipelines, 4,194 offshore refinery platforms,
100 ports that receive foreign oil, 10,800 bulk storage plants and
170,000 gas stations," according to American Petroleum Institute
spokesman G. William Frick. And that's just the oil industry list.
are not equipped for these kinds of duties, but private security
firms will mushroom to meet the demand - at public expense. Add
untold billions to the cost of eternal war between "us and
them." Be sure to list who profits and who loses.
very little historical experience with the ways of Black billionaires,
African Americans reacted with disappointment, sadness and some
anger to news that BET will soon purge its programming schedule
of the few items of value currently offered. "BET Tonight with
Ed Gordon" and "Lead Story" will be terminated this
month. "Teen Summit" will air until tapes of the show
run out early in the new year.
News Service national correspondent Artelia C. Covington provides
an excellent article on the final but logical collapse of all pretense
of community service by BET. The cable channel's nightly news show
will survive, Covington reports, "because it has a production
contract in place with CBS News, whose parent company also is Viacom."
BET founder Bob Johnson sold the company to Viacom for $3 billion
two years ago, pocketing as much as $1 billion dollars in the deal.
the big white corporation impose its will on Johnson? It is painful
to hear this question posed seriously. The sale was the culmination
of Bob Johnson's career as a dealmaker. In that, he has been wildly
successful. BET has been a universal disappointment to African Americans
because of Black expectations of Johnson. He has acted no
differently than any other player in the ever-merging communications
industry. As long as African Americans cling to the dream of group
salvation through the individual efforts of Black businessmen, they
will find themselves repeatedly "betrayed."
Bob Johnson once told C-Span, "If I help my family get over
and deal with the problems they might confront, then I have achieved
that one goal that is my responsibility to society at large."
Johnson is far more concerned about George Bush's opinion than that
of BET's viewers or the Black public at large. (See BET's
Black Billionaire Trojan Horse," October 3.)
Press USA for BET story