April V. Taylor
Time is reporting on a study completed by University of Chicago researchers Derek Neal and Armin Rick that has uncovered data which shows that unemployment and incarceration rates put black men in a position that makes them not much better off than they were fifty years ago, when compared to white men. These findings come despite the fact that the 50th anniversary of such landmark events as the March on Washington and the signing of the Civil Rights Act have recently come to pass.
The study uses census data revealing that more than 10 percent of black men who are in their 30s will be sent to jail at some point during the current year. This number is only 2 percent for white males in their 30s. The study states, “The growth of incarceration rates among black men in recent decades combined with the sharp drop in black employment rates during the Great Recession have left most black men in a position relative to white men that is really no better than the position they occupied only a few years after the Civil Rights Act.”
In trying to look at what has caused these negative impacts, the study cites increasingly punitive criminal-justice policies as a reason for incarceration having such a negative impact. The study also cites the Great Recession that occurred between 2008 and 2010 as a major contributing factor to more than a third of black men between 25 and 49-years old being unemployed since 2010. In reference to the unemployment findings, the study states, “Recent levels of labor market inequality between black and white prime-age men are likely not materially different than those observed in 1970.”
It is sad to think that all of the blood, sweat, and tears poured into ending segregation and Jim Crow have essentially yielded no long term, substantial economic benefits for black men in America.
Financial Juneteenth lessons from this story (from Dr Boyce Watkins):
1) The greatest setback to the black family in America has been the War on Drugs and Mass incarceration. US incarceration and arrest policies, and their impact on African American families, have created a holocaust in the black community no less severe than the one put onto the Jewish community during World War II. The only difference is that this oppression has lasted longer. So, while the United States has often pointed to other countries and protested their human rights violations, the international community has been consistently disturbed by the way America continues to treat the black male.
2) The solutions to this problem are both systemic and idiosyncratic. Systemically, the most important step in the civil rights movement of the 21st century is to deal with biased incarceration policies. Also, since black male unemployment always has been and continues to be triple or even quardruple that of white Americans in most urban areas, we cannot wait for big corporations to give jobs to black men. Instead, every black child in America must be taught the fundamentals of running his/her own business. This is a matter of socioeconomic urgency and must not be ignored.
3) If you want your sons to avoid these economic and social traps that are set for him at birth, you must train him to avoid the standard pitfalls that destroy the lives of so many African American men. From the time that he is born, he is being bombarded with marketing messages that encourage alcoholism, drug use, violence and other forms of illegal behavior. Also, anti-intellectualism is a huge problem, leading to millions of young boys believing that they are going to be rappers and athletes when the grow up. To hell with that! Teach your son something different so that he can be different. Don’t allow him to become yet another black male statistic.