All Articles Tagged "unemployment"
My Own Battle With Depression: Why People Should Empathize With, Rather Than Criticize, Karyn Washington
“Yeah, tell me about it. Stuff around here has been crazy for me too. I can’t even begin to explain. But I can tell you that there ain’t no crystal staircases around here,” I said in a telephone mouthpiece.
I knew I had butchered Langston Hughes in my attempt to sound profound, but I was too broken to care.
And so was the long-lost girlfriend on the other end of the line. We were never super-close really, only knowing each other in a professional manner. But we were cool enough to the point that I didn’t mind her reaching out to me for help not too long ago. At the time, I just didn’t understand what she thought I could do. “Yeah I know. I’m just going through everyone in phonebook. It’s just really bad right now,” she said, as her voice trailed off into a whisper.
Admittedly, it has been a tough period in life for the both of us. She, a part-time artist, lost her full-time job back in August 2012; Me, a part-time writer, I lost my full-time gig a few months after she did in October. I was saddened to learn that, like me, she too had been struggling to make ends meet while trying to forge new paths in life. The news was somewhat stunning at the time, considering that my colleague always seems to be involved in one thing or another. If she isn’t volunteering for park projects, she is organizing events in the community or having an artist showcase. I see her name and face tagged in all sorts of happy pictures on social media, and the times I had run into her, she always seemed to be extremely positive, optimistic and in good spirits. But she was actually feeling the opposite way.
“Somedays I can’t even get out of bed. And I’m starting to think I have depression,” she confessed.
I was pissed at my friend for not reaching out to me sooner. But that annoyance quickly evaporated when I looked inward and reflected on my own inability to reach out. Then I understood: Who am I to judge?
I think this is why I find myself irked when reading the threads and conversations around the passing of Karyn Washington, founder of For Brown Girls and #DarkSkinRedLip. In particular, it is the lack of empathy and casual dismissals, which have found their way under my skin. I’m not going to call anyone out specifically, because I’m not trying to accidentally throw these specific cowry shell hawking, anti-black women ministrants anymore publicity than they already don’t deserve. But I want to speak to the less opportunistic lot of you, who seem confused about how someone can act as a beacon of empowerment for other women, and not be that for herself. Although I admired her work, I never met Washington, so I can’t tell you her whys and hows. But I can share with you my own battle with depression, which hopefully will give you insight:
I was convinced that losing my job was a universal sign that it was the time to go out and give my part-time dreams a full-time whirl. All of them. I was going to excel professionally (and more importantly, financially), find love and travel. For a while I was really believing that. And then winter arrived – both literally and figuratively. First the heater went. Then the polar vortex happened. Then my plumbing messed up because of the polar vortex. Then the parking authority had it out for me. Then my dog got injured and I had to put him to sleep. Then my grandma died. Then money wasn’t adding up…
Basically, the grand investment in myself, which I was sure the universe had co-signed, had turned into the sequel to Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Incidents.
And yet, I was walking around with a fake smile. When anybody asked how things were going, my response was always, “fine.” That’s what we are suppose to do. That’s what we are taught to do: Think positive thoughts. Think so that one day you become. Don’t give into the negative. Negative thoughts become you.
Abracadabra, laws of attraction and all the rest of the self-help jazz hands.
But by mid-February – after the umpteenth snowstorm, fifth personal crisis and the second blue letter from some utility company threatening to cut-off my lights and heat like I wasn’t still living there – I finally snapped.
I went around the house, cursing the heavens, throwing stuff and turning over furniture. It was actually quite therapeutic–until I smashed one vase too many and a fragmented piece ricocheted off the hardwood floor and smacked me right in the eyeball (To this day, I still think I have a piece of porcelain in my eye, but medicaid hasn’t expanded in my state, and I’m too poor for Obamacare, so if there is glass in my eye, I just have to make due with looking around for it right now). Man, I felt like I had hit rock bottom. I couldn’t even get angry and throw s**t, correctly? I curled up into a ball on the floor and wailed from both the emotional and physical hurt of it all.
I thought about it. I thought about the box of over-the-counter sleeping pills in the cabinet. At the time, it totally made sense. What was it all for? What am I doing here? Nothing I do seems to matter. I don’t feel like I matter, and if this is the case, I might as well make an early retirement and find out for sure what is on the other side.
I would like to say that it was faith, which told me not to take those pills that night. Believing in others, and truthfully, even myself, has not always been a strong suit of mine. Rather, I think it was actually hope that kept me strong that night–the hope that I’m wrong about everything, and that I do matter and what I do matters out here.
And it is that contradiction within myself, which inspires me to write daily on principals of justice, equality and empowerment, even at times when I feel powerless. And I imagine it is also why my friend volunteers her time and energy into the community; and why poor people in general tend to be more charitable and helpful to others than their more wealthier counterparts; and why some of us, who harbor the most personal insecurities and hang-ups, teach the virtues of loving yourself to others; and why those in lockdown are often the ones who sing the loudest about black folks gaining their freedom from racial oppression. It’s the hope that whatever we put out into the world will find ways to manifest in our own lives. Maybe.
Some folks may think I’m weak and a hypocrite. But while we ponder over the strength and vitality of those, who have thought about taking their life, and those who have actually given in to the thought, let us also remember those times when we criticized, mocked, denounced and sometimes angrily confronted people, who talk too much. You know who I’m talking about: the over-sharers on Facebook with baby-mama/daddy drama; The random lady with the frowny-face on the subway you just commanded to “smile” because, “it ain’t that bad”; The sensitive guy, who you laughed at because he dared to show tears after a hard breakup or some other personal loss. As a society, we are good at being judges and jurors, but suck really badly at being good stewards and helpmates to one another.
“Honestly I think the answer is that we have to stay connected with each other. Like, that is the only way we can get through life,” said my long-lost girlfriend on the other end of the phone line. I listened to her wax poetic some more about the emotional and physical value of interconnectedness. She made some solid points. I told her that if she is ever feeling down, I don’t care the time or day, to give me a call.
Then I hung up with her and reached out to another girlfriend, who too is part of the long-term unemployed, on top of her other personal problems. She told me she was happy I called because she was, at that moment, going through it. We talked old-school style with a single bottle of malt liquor on a park bench, unloading on each other. She listened without judgment and I listened without fake concern trolling. Nothing in any of our lives was solved that night. But at least we helped each other to not feel alone.
One of the latest political/social issues to grab a lot of attention is the inequality gap. But the discussions often dance around the notion of how race affects the gap. In 1967, in throes of the Civil Rights movement the median household income was 43 percent higher for white, non-Hispanic households than for black households. Things have changed, but for the worse! In 2011, median white household income was 72 percent higher than median black household income, according to a Census report from that year.
The gap is even more glaring when you look at the median household wealth instead of yearly income, reports MSN. The Pew Research Center found that in 1984, the white-to-black wealth ratio was 12-to-1. It narrowed by 1995 when the median white income was 5-to-1 to black income. But incredibly, by 2009 the ratio shot up to a whopping 19-to-1.
Despite this, politicians are avoiding discussing race and the inequality gap. A new 204-page analysis of the federal War on Poverty, led by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), barely mentions racial disparity. And remember Ryan recently said poverty is due in part to the fact that “inner cities” have a culture of “men not working,” a comment he ultimately called “inarticulate.”
While President Obama did note that “the painful legacy of discrimination means that African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans are far more likely to suffer from a lack of opportunity—higher unemployment, higher poverty rates” during a December 2013 address, it was just one line.
So why the deliberate avoidance of race? “I think it doesn’t make for good politics,” Color of Change executive director Rashad Robinson says. “It’s messy and requires us to be deep and think about much bigger and more long-term solutions than Washington’s oftentimes willing to deal with.” But when taking about employment and home ownership it is hard to keep out the issue of race.
A recently study from Brandeis University found that the disparities in homeownership are a major driver of the racial wealth gap especially due to “redlining, discriminatory mortgage-lending practices and lack of access to credit.
And for those black families who finally owned homes, the Great Recession reversed the advancements, many losing their homes in foreclosure.
And when it comes to employment, black unemployment is still twice as high as white unemployment—a ratio that has been solid since the mid-1950s.
“The underlying narrative that many people share is that whatever inequities still exist, they’re due to the misbehavior or dysfunctional behavior of black folks themselves,” said William Darity Jr., the director of Duke University’s Consortium on Social Equity. “So there’s no reason to pay attention to racial disparities because one doesn’t believe they’re still significant, or there’s no need for public policy action by the government because it’s just a question of black folks changing their own behaviors.”
Even Obama often likes to stress personal responsibility when addressing the black community. His new “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative emphasizes it in its effort to help young men of color.
Darity argues that self-perpetuating inequality will only be broken through wealth transfers.
“People’s behaviors are largely shaped by the resources they possess, and if their resources altered, than they might change their behaviors,” he said.
Democrats in the House are trying to restore long-term unemployment insurance to two million workers by using a rare parliamentary maneuver, reports The Huffington Post.
Called a “discharge petition,” the procedural move must capture a majority of House members to support a discharging of the bill from a committee that has been stalled. But there really is not much hope the Dems can pull this off. They already failed once on another recent discharge petition concerning minimum wage legislation. They couldn’t gather the necessary 218 votes. However, they already have 100 Dems who say they’re ready to sign on.
In general, discharge petitions are unsuccessful. “Since 1931, when the maneuver took its current form, 563 discharge petitions have been filed but only 47 received 218 signatures, according to the Congressional Research Service. Over the past 30 years, seven petitions have made it to the signature threshold, and all of them received floor votes,” reports HuffPo.
However there is some strategy behind the latest move by the Democrats: they want to put pressure on Republicans.
“If my colleagues want to vote against the extension, I respect their right to disagree; but failing to even allow a vote goes against the very progress that families and our constituents demand,” said Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), who will file the discharge petition. “Partisan politics must not be allowed to get in the way of doing the right thing for our middle class families. That’s why I’ll be filing a measure to end the gridlock and force a vote on extending unemployment insurance.” In an election year, this could be a powerful message.
Rep. Sander Levin’s (D-Mich.) unemployment insurance measure is stuck in the House Ways and Means Committee and it hasn’t even made it to the floor for a vote. Under Levin’s bill federal unemployment insurance would be restored until year’s end. Benefits would be available for workers who have used up six months of state compensation. At the end of December, benefits ended for 1.3 million workers and since then another 700,000 workers have lost theirs as well. Levin’s legislation gives workers lump-sum payments for missed benefits.
The move would help millions, as nearly four million workers have been unemployed six months or longer, according to the Labor Department.
But House Republicans want GOP-friendly provisions to be added to the bill.
“The Speaker has said repeatedly that if Senate Democrats can produce an extension of temporary emergency unemployment benefits that is not only paid-for, but also does something to actually create jobs, he will be happy to discuss it,” Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in an email.
But the projections say otherwise; the Congressional Budget Office’s estimates say 200,000 jobs would be added if the insurance bill was enacted.
Democrats are taking it directly to the people with Sen. Cory Booker’s (D-NJ) sending an email asking voters to sign a petition to force Speaker of the House John Boehner’s hand. You can read more here.
We all pretty much live on our cell phones. And these days, you can use your phone for pretty much everything from ordering food, to booking a flight, and even managing your personal brand. But can you use it to apply for a job? You can if you have the right tools.
Although mobile sales are outpacing PC sales, just 26 of the Fortune 500 companies have recruitment via smartphone opportunities available. But numbers show that the practice is likely to increase. While just 20 percent of top companies have a mobile-friendly recruiting site, those who do post jobs that are optimized for mobile tend to have a faster response time.
“Applying online is now requisite in most pre-hire situations, and with over 7 billion mobile devices out there, applying via mobile should be an obvious standard,” explained Rayanne Thorn, a spokesperson for global talent management software platform, in an interview with Mashable. Job sites like Simply Hired, Career Builder, Monster and LinkedIn are all mobile-friendly.
According to comScore, mobile job searching has grown 108 percent. Yet, 40 percent of mobile job seekers abandon an application when the site or job posting is not mobile friendly. Often job board sites, mobile submissions utilize resume and applicant information already stored on the site from the profile the user created when they signed up using their computer.
“If a company accepts mobile applications, their recruitment strategy is ahead of most companies, including most Fortune 500 companies. Companies that ‘get’ recruiting respond to top talent the same day a candidate applies, reply to all rejected candidates with an invitation to connect on LinkedIn or Twitter and close all interested talent within two weeks.” explained David Smooke, director of content and social media for SmartRecruiters, a collaborative and social hiring platform, in an interview with Mashable.
Here are some tips to make applying for a job using your smartphone easier.
“Your BFF’s new husband just got dropped from the 49ers,” my sports fanatic boyfriend matter-of-factly informed me one evening.
He was all too aware of the friend-in-my-head that is Kerry Washington. With me working in media and his undying love for all things sports, athletes and the women who love them, it always seems to be where our worlds collide.
“So like, what does that mean for him? Is his career like, over? You know they supposedly have a baby on the way,” I asked nervously.
“It’s a tough call,” he said before giving me the run-down on Nnamdi Asomugha’s athletic performance history.
“That’s absolutely awful. I really pray they can survive it. I mean, that kind of burden has to weigh
heavily on a relationship. They’re newlyweds. She’s at the top of her game right now and his career might be over.” I said that with enough concern to convince anyone who may have been listening in on our conversation that Kerry and I actually had a friendship somewhere other than in my head. But I meant it. Unemployment is hard on any relationship.
The call grew eerily silent. We had both temporarily escaped into our own thoughts.
“So how long?” he finally asked, breaking the silence.
“How long what?”
“How long can your man be out of work after a layoff before you get fed up?”
That was a great question—one I’d never put much thought into and one I tried to answer with caution. You see, I have an extremely low tolerance for able-bodied men who get knocked on their butts and decide to stay there, leaving their significant other to carry the burden of an entire household alone. In the same breath, I must admit that I realize how sucky the job market is right now and I’m fully aware of our country’s alarming unemployment rate. Securing a new gig can be pretty challenging.
“Six months to a year and a half, depending on the circumstances,” I eventually said, estimating my breaking point. I’d happily hold my family down in the interim, but I think between six months and a year and a half is a reasonable amount of time to secure a new job for someone who is actively and aggressively seeking employment,” I continued.
He, of course, felt that anything past six months was too long for a man to leave his wife carrying such a heavy burden alone.
“Hell, even six months is too long. I may not be able to get the job that I want, but I’d rather hand out flyers and scrub toilets than leave my woman paying all of the bills,” he said.
I let out a sigh of relief. Unemployment in a relationship isn’t always a money thing, but more so, a partnership thing. In my years on this earth, I’ve encountered my share of men who seemed a bit too comfortable with being chronically unemployed—family members, friends and unfortunately, some ex-boyfriends. We then began discussing a mutual friend, who recently revealed that her husband was not only unemployed for more than a year, but despite being home all day while she went to work, was even reluctant about helping out with household chores. This friend, who was never shy about professing her love for her hubby in the past, confessed that his laziness was slowly stirring up a bit of resentment within her that sometimes made it difficult to be around him.
“Kerry and Nnamdi will be fine. They have millions to fall back on,” my boyfriend eventually said.
They probably will be fine. Hopefully our friend will be too, I thought to myself.
All relationships have their challenges and rough patches, but I believe that two people wholeheartedly committed to working through those tough times and focusing on the light at the end of the tunnel are what the best love stories are made of. However, it has to be pretty tough when you’re struggling just to keep Con Edison from shutting that light (and the rest of them) off.
Follow Jazmine on Twitter @jazminedenise.
Have black women been forgotten by the political machine even though they vote in high numbers? Yes, say many. According to a new report from the Center for American Progress (CAP) entitled “The State of African-American Women in the United States,” the crossroads of racial and gender disparities meet at the experience of black women. Yet, in the last presidential election, black women had the highest voter turnout of any comparable group in the country.
Despite experiencing socioeconomic inequity more than anyone else, African American women vote more than all others (and generally in favor of the Democratic candidate). This is important for two reasons notes Theodore R. Johnson in Salon. First, the policy concerns of African American women have gone largely unaddressed. Second, although there is evidence of the black electorate leader, there is not much effort by candidates to work hard for those votes. And the Republican Party assumes it is impossible to grab the black vote. The Democratic Party knows it can depend on overwhelming support from the black community.
In a 2011 poll from the Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation, the issues that black women were most concerned about included employment/personal finances, healthcare, and crime. Even exit polls from last month’s Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial elections highlight the same concerns.
Stats will tell you these concerns are not being met. The CAP report reveals that 1 in 4 black women are uninsured. In education, African American women are underrepresented in college degrees, have the slowest increase in graduation rates of all women, and are the most severely underrepresented in technical fields, reports Salon. Economically, black women have a higher rate of unemployment than white women. This rate rose in 2013. Also, black women’s income is less than all men and white women, and their poverty rate is the highest in the country.
Even will all these disparities, the Washington-Kaiser poll discovered that nearly 3 in 4 black women felt it was a good time to be a black woman in America, and 85 percent say they are happy with their lives in general.
“Perhaps most interesting, black female entrepreneurs are the fastest growing segment of the women-owned business market. They are starting up at six times the national average, grew in number by 258 percent over the last 15 years, and generated nearly $45 billion of revenue this year,” reports Salon.
The surprising thing is that even with this political alienation, black women still vote. A Harvard Journal of African American Policy paper titled, “Political Cynicism and the Black Vote,” points to an important difference in black voting behavior. The authors theorize that unlike other races, when black voters have high cynical attitudes – such as the feeling of political alienation – they vote in higher numbers. So this could explain why black women voting rates consistently rise despite their political alienation.
“The political alienation of black women may prove beneficial to the winners who are swept into office from their high turnout, but the failure to adequately address the disparities they experience dooms any attempt at sound social policy,” notes Johnson in Salon.
What do you think?
‘You Collect Your Unemployment And Then You Pray:’ Melissa De Sousa Talks Dry Spells And Being Rejected By Hollywood
Best Man Holiday actress Melissa De Sousa recently sat down with Rolling Out Magazine to discuss her rise to fame and the struggle that it took to get there. She also dishes on being rejected by Hollywood producers for being “too pretty.” Check out her interview highlights below.
On being by Hollywood rejected because of her look:
“Tons of rejection … [so] much I can’t even count. I mean most of the time [I get] more “nos” than “yeses.” I never really had anyone say anything real horrible to me. I had to prove myself. I remember when I auditioned for Hustle & Flow, which is the one [movie] Terrence got his nomination for. You know they thought I was “too pretty” and I wouldn’t be able to play a down-on-her luck stripper. But I begged them to see me. You know I went in and did my thing. I ended up screen-testing. The person who got it was Paula Jai Parker. I think Regina Hall also screen-tested. All of us ultimately screen-tested. You know I had to fight for them to even look at me in that way, because they thought I was too nice and would not be able to get gritty and dirty. You have to prove yourself because people always want to put you in a box. I am just the one not to do that to.”
On her rocky start in acting:
“It’s not always easy to get in the “door.” You know when I first came to Los Angeles, I slept on my girlfriend’s floor for a year. I got my first agent and I sent my pictures out to everybody and since I had no experience and I had nothing on tape or even seen, some of the [agencies] sent my pictures back to me [laughs]. So one agency would see you in person and they want you to come in and audition in their room and once again I had to prove myself in person. You have to have an attitude that nothing’s gonna stop me. I think that’s just my New York kind of attitude — survival of the fittest. That’s why I love that song [Empire State of Mind] so much because that’s how it is when people go off to New York.”
On stints of unemployment:
“Then there were times I didn’t work for maybe two or three years. There was a time I didn’t have an agent for one reason or another. When the agent dropped me I was like ‘OK, maybe I am not in the business anymore.’ God-willing you can collect unemployment from the residuals from other things you have done in the past. You collect your unemployment and then you pray. You still go out and do your hustle. I always would save money because you never know when that dry spell is gonna hit — and it did. Just go and keep auditioning and keep trying and keep believing things will turn around and it always does.”
Jobs numbers for October were released yesterday, with the government reporting an additional 204,000 jobs, showing little change in the number of people out of work (11.3 million) and the unemployment rate (7.3 percent, up from 7.2 percent the previous month). But what was surprising was the lack of great impact from the 16-day government shutdown. In fact, the slight uptick in the unemployment rate could be attributable to the furlough of government workers during the shutdown, according to the AP. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the number of people who reported being temporarily laid off was 448,000, which included those furloughed employees.
Long-term unemployed numbers (27 weeks or more) remained at 4.1 million. And the unemployment rate for blacks held steady at an unfortunate 13.1 percent.
Job gains were seen across retail (food and beverage and electronics retailers were particular highlights), leisure and hospitality, health care and professional and technical services. Wal-Mart added 55,000 workers this year for the holiday season versus 50,000 last year.
In a plus for the holiday season, the report also shows that small increases in pay and lower gas prices could give shoppers more to shop with in the next couple of months.
Moreover, the AP says a lot of employers hired new staffers irrespective of the shutdown, though those communities nearest DC were the hardest hit, a fact that became an election issue in the recent governor’s race in Virginia.
Despite the relatively good news, the millions of unemployed are still concerned, particularly with the threat of unemployment benefits ending at year’s end. Congress would have to renew the emergency unemployment program that adds 37 weeks to the 26 already granted in most states if they are to continue.
There’s no denying the stress of not having a job. It can make you lose your mind. Still, thousands work to pick up the pieces for a promising future. Unemployment has rocked this nation with many of us filing for jobless claims to make ends meet or even exceeding the number of weeks and struggling to figure things out once the assistance ends.
Hopefully you are one of the lucky ones that can score a job interview in this economy as many times they are few and far between. However do you know what to say should questions regarding your employment gaps arise? We already know how to survive while unemployed. Now it’s time to talk about landing that position. Here are some tips on how to explain unemployment at a job interview along with takeaways to get you through.
While a new survey by CareerBuilder finds that fewer U.S. workers are dependent on their next paycheck to make ends meet, can the same be said for African Americans?
According to the study, 36 percent of workers said they always or usually live paycheck to paycheck, which is an improvement from 40 percent in 2012 and a peak of 46 percent in 2008 at the beginning of the Great Recession when layoffs were rampant.
The data was a mixed bag regarding savings and retirement. Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder says, “The report shows 25 percent of workers do not set any funds aside for savings each month. This is a slight improvement from 27 percent in 2012. In terms of retirement saving, 65 percent of workers participate in a 401(k), IRA or comparable plan, down from 67 percent last year,” reports TheGrio.
While, the CareerBuilder survey did not identify respondents by race, Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, author of Zero Debt, warns the middle class and low- to moderate-income households have been squeezed. That includes a broad swath of African-Americans.
Khalfani-Cox says she does not get the sense fewer African Americans are living paycheck to paycheck based on questions posted to her website, AskTheMoneyCoach.com.
“I can’t believe for a moment that they don’t feel cash strapped and living paycheck to paycheck,” she says.
According to Khalfani-Cox, we are becoming more of an hourglass economy. The upper middle class and above felt the recovery sooner. The true middle class are seeing rising costs for food and healthcare, wages however have not seen a change. Then you have those that are struggling so that, according to this weekend report from 60 Minutes, disability payments are a major source of income for some.
Also, debt levels continue to increase and student loan burdens are still part of the mix.
Many African Americans view homeownership and a college degree as important parts of the American dream. “The problem is you typically have to finance them,” Khalfani-Cox explains.
“It will take a while for the economic recovery to trickle down to average folks,” she says.