I have always counted myself as one of the lucky one’s to have been raised in a home with a father who was a hard-working member of the United Steel Workers of America. It was this experience with the American Labor movement that undoubtedly led to my studies of Labor History at The Ohio State University under the tutelage of Dr. Warren Van Tine. Most importantly it led to what many term my ‘radicalization’ in regards to Labor issues.
There is a great saying that emanates from the American Labor Movement that has always stuck with me, that saying is that “Without work, all is rotten.”
A recent report focusing upon the embattled city of Chicago, Illinois, has highlighted this very thing and gone a great distance toward linking up the absence of work with the occurrence of violent crimes among young African-American males. The alluded to report from the Universiy of Illinois at Chicago’s Great Cities Institute relates that nearly half of young Black men in Chicago are neither engaged in the educational system nor gainfully employed.
47 % of Black men (ages 20 – 24) were out of school and out of work.
20% of Hispanic men (ages 20 – 24) were out of school and out of work.
10% of white men (ages 20 – 24) were out of school and out of work.
Although the numbers in Chicago are particularly daunting, cities throughout this nation are not far behind as the national average is 32%. The individuals that I speak of are afflicted by an American economic system that long ago transitioned from a manufacturing economy to its present status as a service economy.
Although I am not certain if figures such as Malcolm X, Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey, Claud Anderson, and Louis Farrakhan are the type of people who would stand in our presence, smirk, and say, “I TOLD YOU SO!!!!!!” The truth of the matter is that considering the present discord between gainful employment and young African-American males, the above leaders have every right to do so as their warnings that one day the American economy would no longer be willing to employ our people has come to fruition.
Now I am certain that there are many of you reading this who are allowing irrational seeds of doubt and distrust to lead you down a path that will not end until you label me a ‘racist’, however, I can not let your irrationalities stop me from addressing this matter as we can no longer afford to ignore the cavernous gulf between young African-American males and their peer groups. In some cities, the unemployment rate for young African-American males quadruples that of their white peers.
Anyone interested in saving the race should be prepared to ask the simple question of ‘Why is this so?’ The most basic answer to this query is that white folk have the means to employ their own whether it be via international corporations or local mom and pop stores, while young African-American males are forced to go forth as little more than beggars with our hat in hand praying that someone will give us even a minimum wage job that we desperately need to provide for our families.
My primary question is haven’t we suffered enough, beaten our head against the wall enough, to come to the conclusion that whites have neither duty nor desire to employ young African-American males; the alluded to resistance grows exponentially more stringent when young Black males are towing around a criminal past with them. An African-American male with a criminal past is going to face a hurricane of frustration and disappointment in his pursuit of employment opportunities.
Fortunately for young African-American males the solution to their employment woes is a relatively simple one. However, it can only occur if they, and by extension the entire African-American community, alter their present mindset regarding the real purpose and utility of education.
It is time for African-Americans to adopt the mindset that their foremost goal and preoccupation has to revolve around one primary question; “How do I start my own business?”
I am certain that the vast majority of readers have had an involuntary reaction to the suggestion that entrepreneurship should be young African-American males ultimate objective due to no other reason than intra-racial social conditioning that has historically led to a “I just want a job” mindset.
Joy DeGruy would call such a reaction a natural by-product of ‘Post-Traumatic Slave Disorder.’
It is time that young African-American males cease viewing the world from a pessimistic position and turn their attention toward entrepreneurship via the building trades (plumbing, electrician) or look around their neighborhoods and cities with a keen eye toward carving out their own occupational niche. Booker T. Washington pointed us toward this direction over a century ago when he remarked that our salvation would be found in our ability to “do something common in an uncommon way.”
For example, there is a white lady in my neighborhood who has done exactly this as she offers on-site washing and detailing of the interior and exterior of your vehicle for approximately $85.00.
It is such ingenuity that appears to be the only balm that ails young African-American males. However, only time will tell if they are able to trump the hindrance of a largely useless and ineffectual educational system and an even more stifling and pernicious mindset that has taught our children that they merely “need to go out and find a job.”
Trust me when I say that ‘a job just won’t get it done today.’
Shoot for the stars young brothers, the stars.
By: Dr. James Thomas Jones, III