Most of us are aware that African Americans face the most dire job prospects of any ethnic group in America. As of last month, black unemployment stood at 15.4 percent, compared to 8.6 percent among white Americans. Additionally, the economy is showing signs that it may not recover the way everyone had hoped. Job creation has become the unsolvable puzzle for the Obama Administration, and if he can’t make things better for everyone, he’s certainly not working overtime to make things better for black folks.
The solution to all this? We have to find a way to save ourselves. Even if black unemployment drops within the next year, it is still likely to remain in the double digits. Black America lives within the grips of a permanent recession, and that’s not going to change anytime soon.
Black folks are being naïve to expect that we might have the same unemployment rate as whites in this economy, in this nation, as it exists today. Non-black people own most of the businesses that are doing all the hiring, so do you really think they are going to, on average, hire a black person over an equally-qualified white candidate? Well, nearly every academic study in the world says this is not going to be the case. Also, most of us are fully aware that white America has had an affirmative action program in place for hundreds of years called “The good old boy system,” where opportunities are created for friends, cousins, children and nephews. Black folks don’t have access to this system because we’ve been denied the opportunity to build our own institutions.
So, the first step toward making long-term progress on black unemployment is for us to own more businesses. When you teach your children where babies come from, they should also learn where jobs come from and how to create them. Entrepreneurship not only makes you financially independent, it also makes you socially independent and secure. We must find ways to make our own money.
Secondly, a greater commitment to education is always a great defense against joblessness. We should cheer for academic champions the way we cheer for sports champions. Right now, black America doesn’t value education the way we should, so when confronted with the weight of modern capitalism, we end up showing up to a gun fight with a butter knife and unable to compete. Set the educational bar high for your kids, and force them to know the power of knowledge and preparation.
Third, managing our money more effectively is a critical key to obtaining our financial freedom. African Americans are consumers like no other, and the money we need to continue consuming and living paycheck to paycheck turns us into economic crackheads looking for our next fix. Corporate America, the place that isn’t willing to give us jobs, becomes the financial dope dealer we need in order to survive. That’s why black people still aren’t free.
The bottom line is threefold (three words, all starting with the letter “E”): Entrepreneurship, Education and Economic responsibility. That’s what will help us find the jobs we are looking for without frustrating ourselves perpetually. We’ve got to try something different, since we’ve now learned that the government is not going to save us.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and the initiator of the National Conversation on Race. He is also the author of the book, “Black American Money.” For more information, please visit BoyceWatkins.com.