Biden was quite out front about it. On the same day the newspapers
were trumpeting the news that President Obama had felt a “glimmer
of hope” in the economic situation, the Vice-President was telling
CNN that we can expect unemployment to increase each month for the
rest of the year. Joblessness stands at 8.5 percent at the moment;
if it continues to climb at anything like its current rate it could
be over 10 percent by Christmas. That’s bad news for working people;
very bad news for African Americans and catastrophic news for African
American men. At present a little less than one out of every six
black men is without a job.
statistic, as horrendous as it is only underscore a larger disaster,
one too often downplayed or ignored: the disproportionate negative
consequences of the current economic crisis on African Americans
and other people of color.
bad as today's unemployment news is for the nation, for the African-American
community it's much worse,” Isaiah Poole wrote the other day on
for America’s Future website. “African Americans as a group
continue to bear a disproportionate share of the damage done to
the economy by misguided conservative policies. It consequently
needs a much greater focus from the Obama administration, Congress—and
now stands at 13.3 percent among African American – 15.4 percent
for black men. There were 124,000 fewer black people at work in
March than in February.
workers’ unemployment was 11.4 percent last month, up from 7.0 percent
a year ago. The rate for white job seekers stood at 7.9 percent
in March, up from 4.5 percent a year ago.
caveat here: the government figures are understatements; they don’t
count the people who have given up looking for work or are too young
to have ever had a job or who are working part time because that’s
all the work they can find.)
are national figures, however. Seven states now have jobless rates
of over 10 percent and many are states with large African American
recently on Democracy Now!, Dedrick Muhammad, senior organizer
and research associate at the Institute for Policy Studies, said
there are suggestions that African American unemployment could eventually
reach 20 percent or more. He cited a projection by William M. Rodgers,
a professor in the School of Management and Labor Relations at Rutgers
University that black male joblessness will reach 18 percent by
2012 after figuring in the effects of the Obama Administration’s
economic stimulus program; without it the rate could rise to 23
you look back a year ago, every estimate of how bad things are going
to be underestimated how bad things currently are,” said Muhammad.
“And I think that’s still going to be true. So—and if you look—I
mean, the current unemployment rate of about 13 percent is a higher
unemployment rate that—white Americans haven’t had such a high unemployment
rate since about the time of the Depression. So we’re truly in a
Muhammad is co-author of the
new report “State of the
Dream 2009: The Silent Depression.”
disgrace of the Reagan-Bush era is that despite the emergence of
a highly visible black middle class and the shattering of some racial
barriers, African Americans as a group were casualties of conservative
economic policies and the misguided notion that race is no longer
a significant determinant of economic well-being,” said the researcher.
is not the only area where capitalism’s current crisis is battering
African American individuals and families. Taken as a whole black
people are getting poorer as a result of developments over which
they have no control. The mortgage crisis has hit especially hard
with housing foreclosures reducing economic assets that people had
worked hard to acquire and was key to their plans for the future.
African American median family income has actually declined over
the past decade.
Meanwhile, the country awaits word of the next shoe top fall
in the auto industry with the expectation that General Motors will
file for bankruptcy, be forced to pare down its operations, close
additional plants and thus further contribute to unemployment in
the regions where the company operates. Unemployment in Michigan
reached 12 percent in February having reached the highest level
as any state the previous month.
Detroit-Warren-Dearborn area of Michigan has the highest jobless
rate - 14.6 percent - for a metropolitan area of more than one million
in the nation.
labor force has declined every month since January 2007 with 88,000
people joining the jobless rolls the first two months of the year.
Mass layoffs, restricted
credit availability and shrinking pay envelopes are acknowledged
to be the reason housing foreclosures are on the rise. A similar
situation exists in other parts of the country.
the situation to the steps being taken in Washington to arrest the
economic decline, Poole of the Campaign for America’s Future wrote,
“In education, labor, social services, energy, transportation and
urban development, Congress and the Obama administration will have
opportunities to put in place programs specifically designed to
close the employment race gap between African Americans, especially
men, and the rest of society.
can lead in this area by explicitly addressing the plight of black
men and challenging the nation—not just elected officials in Washington
but grassroots organizations, think tanks and educational institutions—to
make a central goal of economic recovery ending the decades-long
pattern of black men being almost twice as likely to be unemployed
as white men. That gap should be reduced to zero well before 2016.
would tell the rest of the world that we have entered a new racial
situation facing African Americans and other people of color in
the U.S. has a global corollary. The policies carried out by the
major industrialized countries amid the expanded process of globalization
have for decades increased the inequities both between and within
many countries. Now, amid a staggering world economic upheaval,
those policies stand in disrepute. Insecurity and deprivation are
being experienced nearly everywhere. But the greatest burden is
falling on the most vulnerable countries and people. In Asia, Africa
and Latin America leaders and social movements are exploring new
way of responding and are insisting upon bold initiatives to fashion
and regulate economic relations on a more equitable basis. The current
crisis in employment and shelter must compel us to do the same at
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member Carl Bloice is a writer in San Francisco, a member of the National Coordinating Committee of
the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism
and formerly worked for a healthcare union. Click here
to contact Mr. Bloice.