Number 20 - December 12, 2002
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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.
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 decade.
The 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.
Black 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 ultimate outcomes.
In 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.
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:
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."
The 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.
The 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.
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.
States 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.
Having 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.
NNPA 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.
Did 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."
As 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."
Bob 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.)
Black Press USA
for BET story