Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, sitting at the Labor Monument in Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit on September 27, 2008. (Photo: Alan Pollock)., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
African American Unemployment at Depression Levels
U.S. administration emphasizes austerity and militarism, not jobs for workers and oppressed
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
As the word “recession” has faded completely from the annals of the corporate and allied government media in the United States, a recent jobless report shows that the unemployment rate has risen again to 9 percent. Even though the employment figures for April claimed that over 200,000 jobs were created, the overall rate of joblessness went up indicating that there are still many corporations not hiring in the current period.
Nevertheless, the unemployment rate among African Americans went up at an even higher rate than the population in general. Whereas the unemployment rate generally rose from 8.8 to 9 percent in April, the rate for African Americans jumped from 15.5 to 16.1 percent for the same time period.
African American women have an unemployment rate of 13.4 percent while their male counterparts face a rate of 17 percent.
In select states such as Michigan, which has been adversely impacted by the economic crisis since 2007, African Americans are experiencing a jobless rate in excess of 20 percent every quarter since 2009. For 2010, the annual unemployment rate for African Americans was 23.4 percent rivaling the figures that characterized the Great Depression of the 1930s.
For 2010, the African American unemployment rate for Michigan was 47 percent higher than the overall rate of joblessness for the entire demographic group throughout the United States. A recent report by the Economic Policy Institute says that “The Michigan economy has a long way to go to a solid recovery.” (EPI)
The report continues pointing out that “With the future of the U.S. auto industry remaining precarious, Michigan’s economic future will continue to be fragile for some time. The pain and uncertainty of the Great Recession has been felt disproportionately by Michigan’s African American workforce. Until the Michigan economy gets solidly on track, these disparities are likely to persist.”
In another state with a substantial African American population, North Carolina (21 percent), both the Economic Policy Institute and the Raleigh-based North Carolina Budget & Tax Center said that the unemployment rate for this nationally oppressed group stood at 17.2 percent in 2010, which was nearly twice as high as the 8.6 percent average for whites within the same state. This is down slightly for the highest level which hit 17.6 percent during the first quarter of 2010.
According to Alexandra Forter Sirota, the director of the North Carolina Budget & Tax Center, “Every community in North Carolina has suffered through the Great Recession but African Americans have taken a particularly painful hit.” (bizjournals.com, April 28)
In neighboring South Carolina, which also has a significant African American population, the unemployment rate for this community was reported at 15.5 percent in March. Such a set of figures paints a grim outlook even for recent graduates of colleges and universities.
Keisha Krider, who graduated from Orangeburg’s South Carolina State University in May, the job market for marketing her master’s in business administration is “tough.” Krider noted that “Even at career fairs, a lot of companies will come, but they’re not hiring.” (The Post and Courier, May 9)
Unemployment, Poverty and the Obama Administration
These high unemployment rates for African Americans illustrate one of the main contradictions of the Obama administration which was voted in with overwhelming support from this community across the U.S. Although many African Americans celebrate Obama’s ascendancy to the highest office in the country, he has consistently refused to adopt any programs that address the special oppression of people of color.
In an essay by Boyce Watkins of Syracuse University in New York, “President Obama has a problem, a very serious one. The president’s problem is what I would call ‘The Great Black Disconnect.’ This divide is the place where black America’s love and appreciation for the Obamas disconnects from the intense economic suffering of the African American community.”
This problem is further highlighted by the growing rate of poverty inside the U.S. and its devastating impact on African Americans, where according to the U.S. Census Bureau, “an astonishing 47 million Americans out of a population of about 310 million live in poverty in the United States, a number equivalent to one out of every seven people.” (Press TV, May 8)
However, the Teheran Times points out that the “poverty rates for African Americans and Latinos are close to three times that of White Americans. African Americans suffered disproportionately during the recession with unemployment rates in that community reaching near depression levels.” (Cited in Press TV Report)
Of course under the present course this problem will grow even further with the ongoing attacks on public sector employees and their unions which have provided employment and job benefits to large numbers of African Americans and women. These ruling class assaults on public workers take on a rabidly racist and sexist character by blaming the most oppressed within class society for the economic crisis that was created by the banks, the transnational corporations and the Pentagon.
Consequently, the program of action to fight the austerity budgets imposed on public employees must include a strong emphasis on the role of the ruling class in not only creating the global crisis of capitalism but its worsening of the social situation through the ongoing bail out of the financial institutions and the corporations along with the escalating war drive that the imperialist are engaged in Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa.
The workers and oppressed are saying even louder that the money utilized for bank bailouts and wars of occupations must be utilized instead to provide jobs, housing, quality education, healthcare, child and senior services to people living and working inside the U.S. This cannot be done as long as the federal government prioritizes the interests of the ruling class and the Pentagon at the expense of the masses of people.
The peoples of the world are not the enemies of the workers and oppressed of the U.S. but their natural allies in the struggle for a decent life free of war, economic exploitation and national oppression.