Commentary: A Nation That Pays Too Little Attention to Black Unemployment

Commentary: A Nation That Pays Too Little Attention to Black Unemployment

Commentary: A Nation That Pays Too Little Attention to Black Unemployment

The latest employment figures reveal the continued need for Congressional action and national solutions to African-American joblessness.

Published September 6, 2013

One of the problems of having an all-consuming international debate about the need for the United States to intervene militarily in Syria is that it completely obscures other issues of huge magnitude that are important components of the national fabric.

In the best of times, high Black unemployment hardly if ever rises to the level of being a significant national story. But in times like these, not only doesn’t it command much national attention, but solutions to the stubbornly high rate of joblessness are never even part of the American discussion.

The employment numbers that have been in the spotlight reflect the lowest level of joblessness in five years, with the national unemployment rate dipping to 7.3 percent.
However, tucked underneath the more glowing news is the fact that the unemployment rate in the African-American community climbed from 12.6 percent in July to 13 percent in August, according to data released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

More chilling are the numbers regarding youth unemployment in the Black community. The Labor Department numbers indicate that the number of African-American youth, aged 16 or older, who held full-time jobs fell from 16,318,000 in July to 16,108,000 in August, a drop of 210,000.

It is time to do precisely what the conveners of the 50th anniversary March on Washington called for so forcefully. It’s time for Congress to take on legislation that will address the situation of jobless in the country and, more specifically, for African-American workers.

Of course, the Republican-led House of Representatives, in its current makeup, seem to have but one significant agenda: to oppose tooth and nail any initiative, bill or idea that springs from the Obama administration.

But at some point even these Tea Party infused politicians will have to recognize that, in a nation undergoing dramatic demographic shifts, bolstered employment prospects for non-white Americans will only help the overall economic picture for the nation as a whole.

Despite their antipathy toward the nation’s first African-American president, they must be made to understand that the plight of unemployed Black and brown Americans will remain part of the nation’s legacy long after the Obama administration is relegated to the history books.

And so, the reality of 13 percent Black unemployment – as unacceptable as it is to progressive sensibilities – must be made equally unpalatable to the Republican leaders in Congress who must be led to lead beyond their narrow constituencies’ interests. If they could only get that message, the nation as a whole would move forward far more robustly.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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(Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Written by Jonathan P. Hicks


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