A 24-Year High on Black Unemployment Means that It’s Time to Wake Up

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Your Black World

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has released its most recent unemployment data.  We knew that black folks (especially men) would be at the bottom, we just didn’t know how bad.  Well, it turns out that the numbers exceed even the most pessimistic predictions.

Black unemployment shot up like a rocket during the month of August, rising from an abysmal 15.9 percent to an even more shocking 16.7 percent.  Much of the increase was driven by black male unemployment, which rose from 17 to 18 percent.  Black female unemployment remained steady at 13.4 percent, and black teen  unemployment experienced a dramatic increase from 39.2 percent to an astounding 46.5 percent.

If you were white in America, the month of August was pretty good.  White unemployment remained consistent across the board, and went down for white males.  Overall white unemployment dropped from 8.1 percent to 8 percent.  White males saw a decline from 7.9 to 7.7 percent.  White women and teens saw their unemployment rates remain unchanged at 7 percent and 23 percent, respectively.

The Obama Administration has a serious problem.  Every time the numbers show that chronic black unemployment has reached crisis levels, I think back to the Obama Administration’s delusional assertion three years ago that a “rising tide will lift all boats” (that targeted economic policy would not work as well as a general policy that helps everyone – after all, he is “everyone’s president”).  Well, I’m here to report to the Obama Administration:  The tide not only missed our boat, but black folks are sinking to the bottom of the economic ocean.

One of the most telling signs of racial inequality in America is the fact that African Americans are not only subjected to the very worst economic circumstances in the country, but we are also not allowed to be upset about it.  Middle class Tea Partiers can gather in Washington to complain about health care, wealthy white folks can get upset about a tiny spike in taxes, and white Americans can remain justifiably outraged over a measly eight percent rate of unemployment.  But when African Americans say a word about widespread and virtually unprecedented economic suffering in the presence of a black president, we are referred to as Uncle Toms or told that we are demanding too much.

Perhaps it’s time to grow up and get a political education.  Instead of being pacified by a beautiful statue of Dr. King or appearances by President Obama on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, it’s time that we force all of Washington (including Barack Obama) to have their “Beyonce Moment”:  Say my name.  Let me know that you are with me in my suffering.  Don’t force my people to live in the socioeconomic basement in painful silence so as not to offend a powerful black man from an Ivy League University.  The call to consciousness within black America is not a matter of attacking or hating President Obama.  It’s a matter of getting the Obama Administration to admit that they were wrong.

Like wide-eyed children, we trusted the Obama Administration and their Wall Street-wired economic advisers to incorporate policies that would make life better for our people, in addition to the rest of America.  Well, the evidence is clear and the verdict is in:  Those policies have not worked.  The president would be wise to let go of the charade, admit that mistakes were made and profess that it’s time to take the country in another direction.

Additionally, African American leaders who continue to work to elevate the Obama campaign without demanding true reciprocity in exchange for the black vote risk being perceived as political slum lords.  Again, this is not to say that one does not have the right to aggressively campaign for President Obama.  But it’s another thing to present the president as “the really cool brother you should vote for.”  Instead, addressing administration policies and gauging their sensitivity to our community’s needs should be mandatory before simply pulling out the “black man card” for the next election.

One of the most painful challenges of demanding our rights from Washington is that we are forced to confront the possibility that the black man we loved so much may not have our best interests at heart.  Also, with every mention of black unemployment comes the predatory glance of blood-sucking Republicans, who are waiting with open arms.  Finally, there is the uncomfortable reality that we are harming the progress of one of the greatest black men in American history.  To have Barack Obama in the middle of the government that has played a powerful role in building this cesspool of political neglect is like a slave’s best friend guarding the master’s house on the night of the revolt.

In spite of our respect for Barack Obama, there must come a time when our love for black folks must supersede any quest for personal or political gain.  There must be a time when empty excuses  go out the window, and where African Americans engage in individual and collective action that will get us out of this hell hole.   Times have gotten too critical for us to worry about protecting Barack Obama or anyone else – I just want to protect our people.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition.  To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here. Follow us on Facebook by visiting this link.



Filed under african american professors, African American Scholars, black professors, black speakers, boyce watkins, syracuse university

31 responses to “A 24-Year High on Black Unemployment Means that It’s Time to Wake Up

  1. Pingback: A 24-Year Peak in Black Unemployment? Time to Wake Ourselves Up | Scholarship in Action

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  7. Regina

    Excellent piece! There is nothing else to say. Period,

  8. Pingback: A 24-Year Peak in Black Unemployment? Time to Wake Ourselves Up « Your Black Politics

  9. Pingback: A 24-Year Peak in Black Unemployment? Time to Wake Ourselves Up | africanamericanscholars.com

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  11. Williams

    Way to go Mr. Watkins, keep bashing the President, you’ll surely get a white Republican as your next President. Let’s see what you have to say then…they don’t give a damn about the people of color.

  12. SPOT ON! Time for most to get real and learn what time it is. Too many non-politcally educated people have given too many empty opinions for far too long. POLITICAL EDUCATION is a must and we African Americans need to wake up…like yesterday!

  13. Leroy Avery Jr

    Why do you think the CBC and Ms. Waters blame the repubs and the teaparty for our toubles, it is because they think blacks are so unpolitical educated that they will just go along with them because they are stupid. By now it is safe to say Obama is no friend to black people no matter how much blacks want him to be he is not. Obama wants nothing from us but votes, then leave me alone. If whites unemployment was sky high and they had bad schools, only a future on welfare, and the presiednt has white they would not hesitate about going against him and asking why he wants to give 20 to 30 million illegals amnsty knowing that it would destroy their job chances. Black people will not, because he is a brother.

  14. Well okay

    I am still a STRONG supporter of Obama, but those numbers don’t lie. Something has got to give. And soon.

    It’s both what you say and how you say it, to get your point across. And I hear you loud and clear. I finally see things from your point of view Dr. Boyce, because your point of view was connected to something really really serious in our community.

    **Singing song** What’s goin on…what’s goin on?

  15. WizardG

    I could keep saying it until my last breath and it seems very few will ever understand. Mr. Obama is not in charge of this country! Bush wasn’t in charge nor any of the others. They are merely stand-ins to cover for the super-rich all powerful Anglo-elite and their Jewish-elite cohorts etc. We are all led to believe that this social structure was built for us. It was not. We are made to lovingly consider the ruthless tyrants who took this country as “forefathers” They are not yours or my forefathers and they were never a loving caring group of men. Think about the history of this country and what they continue to do around the world. They do not want “blacks” to live happily ever after in this country, in fact they would prefer we weren’t living at all! So again. The government isn’t being controlled from the ‘white’ house and it is not a government of people who will ever hear our pleas..We will more than likely see more death and destruction just to get back the crumbs we had before and woe be to the Africans across the diaspora..they are sitting ducks for this white supremacist death machine. One of our main problems is that many of us have been too sold on this social structure as something we can actually change and make better for ourselves..Hell the last time I checked even whites are getting busted upside their heads for rebelling against this roguish lopsided system! So if they are abusing whites and others who rebel..imagine what they have in store for us. Here’s the catcher..There’s not a damn thing the few of us who are aware can do about it and the others aren’t asleep they are just completely brainwashed and conditioned beyond recognition. Who are these black people?
    Although Obama hold no real power he still represents the power/warmongering whites. So if any of you want to move up a little it behooves you to stay on Obama’s good side because right now he has the most powerful friends in the world! If you remain on his bad side you will get nowhere. Ask Tom Joyner, Al Sharpton and those who are all kissy huggy with Obama if their pocket books are getting fatter. Now ask Dr. West how many of his colleagues are staying clear of him and how his social position is shrinking. Ask Tavis Smiley if he would like a job on MSNBC like Al Sharpton. To late, he’s on the peoples side and that means he’s not on Obama’s side.

  16. Pingback: A 24-Year High on Black Unemployment Means that It’s Time to Wake Up | The Invisible Dragon

  17. malgal1973

    There is no escaping the fact that black unemployment is at record highs and that our teen employment is also there. And, I suspect that this administration , led by Obama, may have certain policies that either contribute to the problem, or at the very least, have not addressed the contributory factors. What I would appreciate hearing is an analysis that compares current hiring practices, education as a contributory factor, and some data on the specific characteristics of our unemployed. Rather than continually critiquing black celebrities, self-appointed leaders and Obama, we need to be better informed to empower ourselves to address problems at the community as well as national level. Our vision needs to be both micro and macro, not clouded by who brings the message and that person’s skin color.

  18. Well okay

    If there was a targeted jobs bill that encouraged African American men, or minority men in general, to be teachers, the administration would help 2 generations at once. Possibly 3 generations. The black men who are teachers will now have jobs to support their family. And these black male teachers would be teaching our young black men in the classrooms, allowing for mentoring and guidance.

    It could only be a positive thing if our youth were to see more men as teachers, men who care about the survival and progression of our race. We desparately need more black male teachers, and black educators at all levels.

  19. bree

    I hear you, but you forgot to mention the school drop out rate, especially amongst black males in our community. Note I did not specify high school as our young men are dropping out as early 7th grade. This is unacceptable. Most of them can’t read well enough to fill out an employment application. I know this for a fact because I am a human resources professional. We need to start addressing this issue in homes, communities and schools, then we can blame the Government.

  20. I am an oldtimer with a lot of years watching the political wars between the Democrats and Republicans in Washington. I was also a strong backer of Senator Obama when he decided to seek the presidency. However I became quite concerned when the newly elected President announced who he had chosen as his White House Staff Director and in particular his senior Advisors. Why? Because you can always remember the names of the advisors to most controversial presidents, like Haldermann and Erlichman for President Nixon. IMHO Obama’s choices for his senior advisors has been the cause of all of his problems since he became President. David Plouffe and Valerie Jarrett may be wonderful gracious people but in Washington DC they are just inexperienced novices who are incapable of providiing quality political support for their President.

    For example, if they know that Barack has a tendancy to give away “the country store” when he is put in a pressure political position, then if you are his senior advisor it is you job and #1 no compromise motivation to make sure that the flow of political events and issues in and around the White House never reach a point where Barack Obama is personally put in such a position. If you are the President’s senior advisor it is also your job to protect the President from himself and his affinity to make mistakes.

    The political performance record of this President is actually a report card on the performance and effectivity of his senior advisors. This is the reason why there has been confused mixed messages coming out of the White House. It is also the reason we see Barack Obama in too many high level closed doors with the wolves of the Republican Party. It is also the reason why the White House always appears to be reacting to Republican initiatives rather than setting agendas that the Republicans have to respond to. Lastly it is also the reason that the President finds himself isolated from having a strong relationship with the Democratic caucus in the Senate and in the House. Even if Presiednt misunderstand what the role of his senior advisors should be, his advisor must understand exactly what their obligation to the President must be and they should discharge this duty faithfully even over the President’s objections.

  21. Reality

    Boyce…..shut the fuck up.

    That is all…..

  22. A Sojourner's Truth

    President Obama could drop ship one million jobs in every black community and many of them would go unfilled. Let’s ask Cornell and Tavis who just completed their caravan of fools – as well as other self-appointed black leaders – to take on some of the real issues of high black unemployment: high school dropout rates among young black men, crime – it’s difficult for many to get hired because of their felony records.

    And poverty will remain high in the black community as long as we are not confronting high school dropout rates and crime. Maxine Waters and the rest of the Obama critics make the movie Birth of a Nation seem more like a documentary. Too bad they were so silent under Bush as they not only allowed black unemployment and poverty to escalate, but also the horror of New Orleans.

  23. Pingback: A 24-Year High on Black Unemployment Means that It’s Time to Wake Up « The Industry Cosign

  24. This is probably the BEST article I have read in terms of how Black people blindly follow a politician simply because he is Black…and even get violently disagreeable towards anyone who criticizes a politician who happens to be Black.

  25. Lawrence Campbell

    Wow!!! What a revelation…House Nigga vs White House Nigga. Now we see the impact of being divided not on issues, but race. At Field Nigga level, we always knew that anything in/from, or around a seat of government called “The WHITE HOUSE” could not/would/will not produce Clarity, the now infamous term used to deceive those of us blessed with computers/smart assed phones, jobs, electricity, programmification/degrees and a better than them attitude, referring to our own brethren/progeny. Who(m) are we fooling? Every one of us (not just Black, not just young or old) are at risk of being rounded up like the chattel we’ve become, spirited away without so much as an indication we’ve disappeared!! The opportunity to participate in what’s going on all around us is not an option – it’s Corporate! We are still wagering that it is somehow is a function of government to provide us with employment opportunities, a voice in what goes on – not just here in America, but globally. Even the armies sent to “provide Democracy” to “Our Global Partners” is corporate, fronted in death by our sons and daughters. By the way, there are no shortage of drones at one million dollars a copy replacing the only jobs recently available to the less educated of us. Ask yourself this question…How long are “We” going to be negatively impacted by “Oh Somebody’s Been Lying, Al K Duh?” and the Tourism and Sports Authority’s allegations about who’s out to get us? The whole economy of this nation is held hostage to an ideology, culminating in our being disengaged from the system entirely.

  26. S.Layton

    Black America’s economic, social and political problems will never be solved by any government entities or the President, no matter the color of his skin. Education is at the root of all of our problems. Politically us as blacks need to wake up and educate ourselves on how the government policies cannot impact our lives positively, but more overwhelmingly in negative ways. We need to look at how the liberal agendas continually keep us trapped on the lowest economic scale. Liberals in Washington who are doing well and have opportunities and money in their families don’t care about the plight of the steep black unemployment rates and high crime and school dropout rates. What motivation do they have to do anything to help a group of people who were brought to this country to work as slaves in the first place? It’s easier for them to watch us destroy each other through our own lack of education, murdering each other, and crimes thus creating records that prohibit us from competing in the workforce. We have the responsibility to help ourselves by starting at home with how we raise our children. Our values have eroded down to virtually nothing in many areas of the black community overall. When is it time for our people to stop reacting to everything that happens with emotions alone and start responding with a clear solution of personal responsibility that has to be created from within?

  27. What I find interesting is that the MSM is now finally reporting on what we have known for years, Black unemployment is nearly double the national average, and worse for Black men. What’s also interesting to note is the that the Black male drop-out rate in 1984 was right around 15%, compared to over 50 percent today. There is a correlation to Black joblessness, as well as the increasing number of Black men who are disproportionately branded as felons and cannot find meaningful employment

  28. rudyabdul

    Mr. Watkins, you need to stop drinking the Smiley/West kool-aid and come back to reality. You know that President Obama and his Administration is not the sole cause of the high unemployment rate within the African-American Community, nor is it the cause of the increase of employment among White Americans. I swear, you have more dumb criticisms than you have solutions to this solve this problem.

    My first permanent job came from working through a temp agency. It helped me get my feet through the door and gave me an opportunity show off my skills which the company liked and they hired me full time. Blacks who are waiting for their old job to come back is waiting in vain. Most of those jobs is not coming back. Work for a temp agency or do research to find viable jobs out there they can get into. If they are unskilled in it, go to a vocational school or junior college to learn. If they don’t have a high school diploma, there are centers that prepare folks to get their GED so they can get a higher education. If you don’t have the money, the federal government provides financial aid, most of it they don’t have to pay back that helps people get into school. There are a plethora of opportunities and resources that can help our people get back into the work force if they just stop complaining and make a fucking effort. There is no excuse.

    Blacks that can’t find a job because they have a criminal record, that’s their fault not anyone else. They made a wrong choice and they are suffering the consequences for it.

    The reason why Hispanics seem to get all the jobs is not because they are getting some special treatment from the government. Companies are willing to hire folks who are willing to work for less. Black folks must be willing to do the same. $10 an hour is much better than $0.

    We need to show some initiative and stop waiting for the Government to solve this issue. There are too many ways to get back into the work force without government intervention.

    Watkins, you are not helping us with your bullshit.

  29. GDH

    Seems to me, that “the solution to our problems, rests within us”. We as a people terrorized by the legacy of slavery, torn apart by the principals of
    the “willie lynch” syndrome that to this day still causes a wedge of disunity
    among our people here in America, have in our possession collectively on a yearly basis, a minimum of $400,000,000,000 dollars, imagine if we collectively decided to stop wasting the extra money that we have on foolish purchases, and we all know what it is that we buy, that is of no real & true benifit to us collectively. And develope a National United AA Fund to help
    ourselves as we found we had to do during segregation, not that we are not still segregated, with a requirement of just $30.00 per year per those able to contribute, an amount so small that it should easily be affordable, could we not then take care of our own people without being at the behest of the “powers that be” who are now in the process of trying to eliminate
    food stamps, aid to children & families, and the social security along with other crucial & vital programs that our dollars have helped to fund.
    We are the solution to whatever our problems are, but we must have unity in order to accomplish this.
    vital services that we have all paid into, let us not forget our senior citizens.
    We are capable my People of much more than we allow ourselves to see,

    social service governmental programs that benifit families, women & children

  30. AMEN, AMEN, and AMEN. This is the core problem that has continued to enslave African American peoples even now in the 21st century. Thee problem as you rightly stated is UNITY among ourselves. Once we become unified as a people we will be the captains of our destiny. If it was easy it would have been done already! After more than 258 years of brutal slavery it is perfectly normal for the descendants of slaves to find it nearly impossible to come together in unity. The slave owner has had two and half centuries to BEAT distrust of one slave for any other slave virtually into our genes. This tactic was the commonly accepted method to assure the safety of the slaveholder and his people from any possible slave uprising. The slavemaster REWARDED examples of NEGROES hating and committing violence upon each other, while punishing any instances of goodwill and cooperation between slaves. Now we have the awesome task of deprogramming all of that hate and mistrust out of our minds and the minds of our children, especially those who are destined to spend their lives behind bars.

    How can we succeed where so many others have tried and failed? People like Marcus Garvey, Malcom X, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.giants in their time tried to solidify UNITY within the national population of the African American people and yet they all failed. We have an opportunity today to establish the framework that could be seeded for the harvast that will lead us to a state of national unity. In the hands of virtually all of us modern African Americans are the new high technological instruments such as IPads, Tablets, and cell phones all running that ubiquous software which provides 24/7 direct access to international social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Unfortunately even now the slavemaster’s ancient legacy of black-on-black mistrust is starting to creep into the African American conversations during our contacts within the social media. Comments about each other are starting to turn into capricious negative snarky statements designed to “diss” or “trash” another African American person who we assume wil be emotionally distressed by our targeted remarks.
    Often on African American blog sites the descendants of white slaveholders will join in to fan the flames of distrust simply because it pleasures them to contribute to the debacle of Negroes cutting each other up verbally.

    WE as a people must wake up and realize that we are living in the “NOW MOMENT” and we can start this long journey to UNITY right now in the way that we engage our personal relationships with each other on the respective interface provided by social media in cyberspace. Now is the time to start to build that communication vehicle for the start of that trip to African American national unity using the technology of today and apply it in the format of our choosing to meet the communication needs of our people starting right now, this instant.

  31. Kwame A. Ross

    To W. Beckett, how eloquent your words of reason are.

    We need to envision, as a race of people, a sound and concrete platform of unity, may I add, purpose to our agenda. We as a people are living on survival mode, living from paycheck to paycheck or unemployment benefits to other benefits. Time is spent on cooling the energy of our homes temperament and not allow the energy of despair to take over our homes. This crisis has led us into a uncertain obstacle course of confusion.

    We need to engage as a race of people a spiritual rebirth of intention, accountability and renewal in order for any further dialog to emerge. We are not as transparent as we should be, for our truths have been co-opted into being disillusioned myths. It is time to be still, reflective, strategic and proactive. for a more purposeful existence

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