Thaddeus Howze gives an in-depth explanation of how Black men have been excluded from the jobs recovery in New York City.
The article that lead with the title “Black Men Missing Out on Jobs Recovery” made it sound as if Black men were not represented because they are deciding to be someplace else. That article’s title makes it sound as if they have other viable employment choices. They don’t.
No, I don’t intend to go into the nature of work and how it is being redirected overseas, (because it is, we know that and it is a problem), nor will we be talking about technology and how it creates unemployment. If you doubt that, check Google for the number of robots world-wide and the industries they have taken over.
My issue is that Black Men have 1.3 to 3.4 times the level of unemployment than other groups in the United States and I believe that is done intentionally (maybe subconsciously, maybe not) in either case it HAPPENS and that is enough for it to be an issue.
Let’s just, for the sake of argument here at the Good Men Project, where we are supposed to be willing to “speak the unspeakable” call this Black Male Jobless Recovery what it is:
- An opportunity for a racially-divided society to further disadvantage a segment of the population who are already disadvantaged by having Black skin and a history of chattel slavery in their past.
- Descrimination against a population who have struggled to reach some level of economic parity in this society. Starting from a humble beginning, they have risen to some level of prominence but as we will see, it was a precarious perch at best.
- An opportunity to attack those who might otherwise vote for a leader who is not White; a simple premise – if you are too busy struggling for your existence you won’t be worried about who the president is.
- An attack against a subgroup of the population that does not support the agenda of our corporate-driven government to drive the populace further into abject poverty
- A systematic exploitation of the lower classes and minority groups while reaping fantastic profits and providing minimal services to an over-stressed segment of the population.
I made a list for a reason, to make sure you understand that it isn’t just one thing that is affecting Black Men returning to the workforce but a combination of forces. The effects can be seen below:
- Long term exclusion from the workforce: Black professional men have an unemployment rate of 9-13% depending on the state. These are men who have degrees and/or significant years of experience. When they are unemployed they may be out of work for 6-18 months. Older Black men (50+) are unemployed even longer and may never be able to return to the workforce again.
- Graduates wait longer for work and work for less: Younger Black men who are out of work but recently graduated may have a slightly better chance at finding work but are still disproportionately represented at 18-25% depending on where you live in the nation. Their opportunities are slightly better since they may be able to be hired, for far less money, and often with no benefit packages.
- Starting later and making less: Young Black Men right out of high school may be unemployed in parts of the nation at 30-50% of the population of that area. This lack of early employment can affect the long time earning potential of these individuals as they get started later and start off earning less money than their peers who started work earlier.
- Racially-divided poverty levels: This long term unemployment promoted several terrible events in the Black community that are not discussed in common media. The Federal Reserve figured out that in the last three years, the net worth of the average American Family had fallen 40 percent over three years (2007-2010). Black families and their economic wealth have been devastated since the housing collapse and financial crash of 2008. The median wealth of White families is now $131,000 while the median net worth of Black families was $5,677 – about one-twentieth of white families net worth.
- Erasing the gains of decades: Black families have been driven back to the economic levels of housing and income circa 1970. Homes lost during the crisis were disproportionately felt among the Black and Latino communities who were purposely steered toward the high-interest, adjustable rate mortgage and other riskier arrangements. Lawrence Mishel, an economist and president of the Economic Policy Institute says “It’s like someone opened a drain on most of the economic progress made by black families in the last 30 years.
- Collapsing the already struggling Black Family: The economic hardships have had negative effects on existing Black families and on the potentials for forming new ones. Families whose holdholds have lost a wage-earner and whose income been cut due to long-term unemployment, lose financial stability, often lose their homes and when a home is lost, everything in it is at risk, as well. Long-term unemployment has affected entire enclaves of people of color forcing them from their homes and their communities. Families who were fortunate enough to have children in private schools are forced to return to, often lower quality local education. As funds tighten, maintenance issues like home repairs and automobiles slowly break down and are unable to be repaired or replaced. This increases stress and that increased stress breaks up families. Younger Black adults are forced to wait ever-longer as their college debts build up interest while they look for work that is slow in coming.
With these devastating effects and many others, I turn to the answer of why many of these men are not working:
- Fair hiring practices are only available in some jobs: Some of these men worked for the government. Their work paid well and was very stable, often employed for decades. Since many government agencies had to meet pre-defined quotas of people of color in their government-controlled workspaces, so there was far greater representation in those workplaces than in private corporate offices. Those offices now, many under Republican-ruled govermnents, laid off huge numbers of employees, often disproportionately Black workers. The longer those workers are unemployed, with the depressed private market, the greater the likelihood they will fall off the grid (out of public life and sight of mainstream America, permanently marginalized).
- A large portion of Black men work in industries that are currently frozen: Many of these men worked in construction and other blue-collar related work. This work has been frozen since the housing bubble burst and there is no major drive to begin working on the hundreds of thousands of infrastructure projects the nation could be engaged in employing these men. Roads nationwide are in absolutely terrible shape, rated a D by most city infrastructure development agencies but without government support those programs are not able to be staffed. Bridges, power lines, sewer systems, forest planting, and energy grid infrastructure programs also would employ thousands of Black men if they were being developed. Hell, such a series of programs would employ millions of Americans, period. Yet, nothing is done. Why?
- Education, one of the challenges in the Black community, is one of the primary factors used in determining employability: One of the largest groups are the young, undereducated, high-school educated, or black men with limited work experience. These men may make up to 50% of the adult Black male population in most inner cities. These men are destined for the service industry, at best, but the service industry in America is already overburdened and unable to employ such relatively lower-skilled employees in great numbers.
- Good old fashioned racism with a twist. We don’t have to tell you why we won’t hire you. With all of the technology being directed toward employment, self-selection is not discussed in any great detail. This is the process, using new technologies like web searches, online and video resumes to pre-screen employees. How convenient it must be such technologies let you know right away whether you are dealing with a White or Black potential employee. The same can be said of social media, with its emphasis on photographic images and the insistence of companies to FORCE potential employees to release their social media passwords. It is not a mistake you cannot find pictures of Black employees online. It is sometimes their only chance at getting an interview in an increasingly segmented and diversity-averse workforce. Yes, they are still Black at the interview. But at least they are not PRE-SCREENED out of a chance to appear at one.
- Last but not least, they are Black Men in America. No social group is more maligned, more imprisoned, more frisked, more often stopped and searched, has more media attention directed to misrepresenting, demonizing, shown in overalls and handcuffs, beaten in public without any form of penalization for the police, killed in police shootings even when they are unarmed, over-sexualized in media, rage-represented in films as over-the-top violent and overall considered the most dangerous citizen in America, whether educated or incarcerated. There are no positive representations of Black Men in common media, no healthy representations of Black Family since the Cosbys, few professional representations other than sports, music or comedy, and fewer healthy relationships are emphasized with the focus on Black rappers (and their rump-shaking video dancers), Black musicians (and their libidinous lifestyles) and Black sports stars with their misogynistic lifestyles and often dubious tastes in White women.
What American has a rational representation of Black Men in his head that has not been poisoned by the media representation of Black men as violent, uneducated, disobedient, recalcitrant, difficult, and incompetent in the workplace? When I hear news stories that mention Black Men can’t find work, I am not surprised, and no one else should be. There are so many factors that have only been exacerbated since Barack Obama became the President of the United States, and supposedly removed the racial barriers to anyone being anything in America. The “Obama Effect” was supposed to inspire Blacks to greater levels of achievement, but it seems to have had a corresponding effect in workplaces to drive diversity OUT of places of employment.
The sad truth is the president being Black has only ensured that no other Black Male will be given any opportunity to affect the lives of White people as long as Obama is in office. White people in power cannot do much about him. They can spend billions to try to run him out of office. They can suppress the workforce artificially saying there is no work in order to damage the economy and perhaps paint a spin that Barack Obama is not doing his job. But beyond that, they’re stuck.
But to employ a Black man as long as there are White men out there without jobs? They can control who they hire, never have to report why they don’t hire Black men, even if they interview them, and ultimately will NEVER hire a Black man as long as there are White men, White women, Black women (a two-fer, black and female, covers two diversity groups AND has half the racialized-cultural baggage that Black men have had engineered around them) and then any other acceptable minorities, Asians, Visa-holding foriegners, Mexicans, and then Black men… Count on it.
It’s not personal or that’s what they tell People of Color. It’s what been done here for four hundred plus years; making life as hard as it can legally be for People of Color. At one time that meant the only job a Black man could get was working on sleeping cars on trains (Pullman Porters, look it up.) Nowadays, if we aren’t shooting Black men, imprisioning them, or marginalizing them, then it’s legalized invisibility. “We just don’t find any ‘qualified Black workers’” is the phrase on every big companies lips.
I call it as I see it. Bullshit.
And let me save you from yourselves by writing back and telling me, I am only painting half the story, that there ARE violent, dangerous, misogynistic, monstrous Black men out there and they should NOT be allowed the same opportunities as good, virtuous, Church-going White People because I am not interested in that lie today.
There are plenty of (dare I say a lot more than most people realize) good, hard-working, family-oriented, non-violent, capable, educated, loving Black Men out there who have lost their jobs, not because they were incompetent, but because they were Black and the axiom “Last hired, first fired” is one they have had to live with their whole lives. For some of the best Black men who are out there working, that one axiom defines their entire work existence, for good or ill.
So spare me the rants about how I am misrepresenting Black people as PEOPLE worthy of recognition because you don’t know any, haven’t seen any, and likely never thought there could BE any. Today, I want you to take my word that they exist and deserve the same opportunities as anyone else who is willing to work in this nation.
If you have some indignation left, use it to help a Black family get back to work. Shame your local mega-corporations who don’t have any Black employees, especially where YOU work. Direct your rage at a system that is attacking a Black President, the only one this nation has ever had, and have worked since the day he took office to drive him out for the simple reason that he was Black (This means you, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner). Gather that bile and repudiate THOSE forces.
These are the same forces Black men contend with everywhere no matter how powerful they are in this nation. The treatment Barack Obama gets doing his job is the same kind of treatment Black men put with everywhere they work, if they get to work, no matter how skilled they may be, no matter how knowledgable they have shown themselves to be. There is always someone who is certain they can do better and its usually a White man who has never done anything of note to warrant having an opinion at all.
White men get the benefit of what I call the “illusion of competence.” They are assumed to know everything about anything, especially if they have a degree or two. Let them have a doctorate and they are considered nearly all-knowing no matter what their doctorate might actually be in. They are an unimpeachable authority. No matter how educated a Black man may be, no matter how many years he may have under his belt, he suffers from the socially-defined “illusion if incompetence,” that somehow he achieved his office by “affirmative action” or some other program that unfairly catapulted him ahead of “deserving” White men who didn’t get a particular job. A Black man should be second-guessed by anyone with the power to say “but” even if they have never done the job that Black man is doing. No, you don’t have to admit this is part of the social fabric. Why start now?
Anytime you see a Black man doing a job, know he is probably there doing that job because he was the best he could be, more often than not, because he had not choice in the matter. It’s either be the best or lose your job. People of color don’t talk about this, ever. But we all know the expression: “To be considered half as good, we have to be twice as good.”
Black men contend with the cultural limitation they are inferior in every way and yet managed to get and keep jobs for decades, against forces who daily assault their skill, their competence, their self-esteem in an effort to drive them from whatever every other American has no problem feeling entitled to.
If there is anyone who should be angry it’s Black men who are being held from finding work, due to the accomplishments of one Black man, President Obama, trying to show we are equal in every way that matters. Yes, I spoke the unspeakable. Post-racial society, my ass. Racism isn’t dead yet. Not even close.
So spare me your rage and indignation. I am too busy choking on my own.
Unemployment falls … but not for blacks – http://money.cnn.com/2012/01/06/news/economy/black_unemployment_rate/index.htm
Foreclosure Crisis Erases Hard-Won Wealth, Dreams Even In Center Of Black Affluence – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/31/foreclosure-crisis-prince-georges-county_n_1243151.html
A good credit score did not protect Latino and black borrowers – http://www.epi.org/publication/latino-black-borrowers-high-rate-subprime-mortgages/
Fed report on family finances issues inconvenient truth for both parties – http://articles.philly.com/2012-06-18/business/32282953_1_family-wealth-mitt-romney-fed-report/3
Fixing the Black Male Unemployment Problem – http://www.bet.com/news/national/2011/10/17/fixing-the-black-male-unemployment-problem.html
Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm
Unemployment climbs among black men even as nationwide jobless rates level off – http://www.mlive.com/business/west-michigan/index.ssf/2010/04/unemployment_climbs_among_blac.html
Study seeks to explain disproportionately high unemployment numbers in Black communities. – http://www.theblaze.com/stories/study-seeks-to-explain-disproportionately-high-unemployment-numbers-in-black-communities/
Image of young man working courtesy of Shutterstock