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 James Thomas Jones III, PhD, MA
James Thomas Jones III, PhD, MA

There is a popular saying that has historically been bantered throughout the American Labor Movement that goes something like this, “Without work, all is rotten.” And for anyone who has ever lost a job, or lived under the same roof as someone who has lost a job, they can attest to the fact that unemployment changes people in ways that could never be considered positive.

One must remember that without employment, particularly after unemployment benefits have been exhausted, an individual is unable to participate in the American economy. Making matters worse is the reality that the vast majority of Americans, regardless of their economic class (poor, working, or middle) are not only tenuously employed — meaning subject to the whims of company executives who would move their operation overseas if it meant even a slight increase in profit — but also living ‘check-to-check’; translation, precariously standing on the verge of homelessness.

There is no doubt that a critical aspect of maturation into adulthood is being gainfully employed and learning to manage one’s money. The management of one’s money is a process that one can be educated upon; however, it is only experience, meaning much trial and error that allows one to accomplish this feat. Most financial experts believe that the sooner that our children are introduced to work, finances, and economic matters, the better.

Unfortunately for the majority of African-American youth, many of them are not being provided an opportunity to secure gainful employment, earn a decent paycheck, and learn how to balance their personal financial budget through no fault of their own. The largest obstacle to their successfully engaging what many consider the gateways to adulthood according to Democratic Party Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders is “for young people who have graduated high school or dropped out of high school, who are between the ages of 17 and 20, if they happen to be White, the unemployment rate is 33 percent. If they are Hispanic, the unemployment rate is 36 percent. If they are African-American, the real unemployment rate for young people is 51 percent.”

There is a logical explanation for why African-American youth are less likely to find employment than their White or Hispanic counterparts. That being, since the 1950s and 1960s Civil Rights Movement led the charge for Blacks to integrate with an openly hostile White community, the African-American community has seen Black owned businesses initially decline and eventually disappear. This decision to pursue integration with Whites was not only unwise, but also made African-Americans the odd ball in regards to racial uplift. Other racial/ethnic groups may publicly espouse the common rhetoric that all Americans should have the same rights and live as equals, yet, these groups are not foolish enough to abandon their communities, political base, or businesses in the hope that a dominant White class would welcome them in as equals.

The current plight of unprecedented unemployment numbers for African-American youth is a direct result of African-American leaders’ unwise decision to attempt to integrate within White society. Such a decision has left the Black community in a beggars position pleading with Whites for employment, education, and political representation.

Although I am certain that many are bothered by these facts and will rely upon the foolish position that we are all equal and race does not matter. Such thinking has left the African-American community in a parasitic position, meaning forced to live by sucking the blood of others as they have been incapable of sustaining themselves on their own. If we continue such thinking, the African-American community will never be able to lift themselves up economically via economic solidarity and unable to employ its own youth. As previously mentioned, ‘without work, all is rotten.’

Our youth deserve so much more.