by Dr Boyce Watkins

I don’t have much to say, because I’ve said some of this in the past.  I also talk about this a bit in my book, “Black American Money,” as well as numerous forums, articles, conversations, interviews, blog posts, and status updates.   But the point is worth reiterating and I am hopeful that this time, people will get what I am trying to say.

Black unemployment has long been the quiet national crisis that no one will talk about, including the black people in the White House.  There are some members of Congress who might bring it up periodically, but the insensitivity to black economic pain is both sad and appalling.

According to recent data from The Bureau of Labor Statistics, black unemployment for the month of August was 11.4%.  This is more than double the rate of white unemployment, which stands at 5.3 percent.  According to the Washington Post, the gap between black and white unemployment is persistent national problem that politicians almost never address:

In fact, it has always been at least two-thirds higher. Five years ago last month, the rate of unemployment for black Americans was only 66 percent higher than that for whites, thanks to the rocketing overall unemployment rate due to the recession. That was the smallest difference in 42 years. The largest difference was in February 1989, when the unemployment rate for blacks was almost three times that of whites — 11.9 percent to 4.3 percent.

Beyond the obvious, here are some other reasons why these numbers are both insulting and disgusting:

1) If you look at historical data from the BLS (in the chart above), you’ll see that over the last 65 years, whites have not had an unemployment rate that is as high as the rate that black people are seeing right now.  In fact, whites have never endured the “horror” of a double digit unemployment rate.  At the same time, double digits are the norm for black people.  So, just like in slavery, we are expected to be comfortable eating the poisonous  slop that white people wouldn’t eat in a million years.  This is White Supremacy 101.

2) We are expected to celebrate unemployment numbers that would have whites rioting in the streets. If there were ever a clear indicator of black second-class citizenship, it would be the fact that I often see messages in my box from the Obama Administration seeking to claim a feel-good moment for the fact that black unemployment has improved over the last few months.  That’s like someone saying, “I know you’re upset that you had to eat horse manure last week, but this week, we’re serving rotten eggs.”  When political leaders engage in progressive action that reduces the black unemployment rate to below 7 percent, then I’ll be impressed.  Until then, the numbers can be seen as nothing more than borderline criminal economic negligence.  If they were to put the money they’re spending sending drones to countries that don’t want us there and use that to address inner city unemployment, we could make huge progress on this very serious problem.

3) This is not even the real unemployment rate.  When one considers the socioeconomic tragedy of the black family in America, we can’t forget that there are millions of marginalized black people, mostly men, who are not even included in these unemployment numbers.  Many of these individuals are in prison and not being counted (other than the fact that they are contributing to the workforce via corporate slavery of incarcerated Americans).  Also, there are millions of black men who can’t find work and have stopped looking.  Some find that they must support themselves in the underground economy.  This is a tragedy for our community, but it persists because we are afraid to speak up.

4) The saddest part of it all is that much of this tragedy has occurred and worsened under a black president.  If Bush were doing the same thing to black people, we’d be rioting as if he’d shot Michael Brown in broad daylight. Because the Obama Administration is well-aware that persistent hero worship of the president has created the perception that they owe nothing to black people, they’ve figured out that they don’t have to do much of anything for people of color.  The guarantee of black votes, in conjunction with the fact that black people are accustomed to this kind of political abuse, makes it easy to ignore a level of economic pain and suffering that would be unacceptable for whites.

You don’t have to agree with what I’ve said here, I encourage you to study the numbers for yourself.  But I can only leave you with this:  If you’re somehow conditioned to believe that black people brought this economic crisis on themselves or that our politicians owe us nothing, just realize that if whites were facing even a fraction of what black people are facing right now, it would be considered to be no less than a complete national crisis.  There would be jobs programs everywhere, and not at one point would any politician have the audacity to say that whites are experiencing 11.4% unemployment because they’re lazy (as has been implied about blacks in some o the president’s speeches).

The fact that we readily accept such double stands is embarrassing and insulting.

It’s time to start telling the truth about this economic crisis.  While the political elite eat caviar and celebrate their prosperity, there are millions of frustrated black people can’t feed their children.  This is truly, truly sick.

Dr Boyce Watkins is a Finance PhD and author of the book, “Black American Money.” He has taught Finance at five leading business schools for the last 20 years and was the only African American in the world to get a PhD in Finance during the year 2002.  To find our more, visit www.BoyceWatkins.com.

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