Friday, May 24, 2024

Black America Needs a War on Unemployment…

December 3, 2009 by  
Filed under News, Weekly Columns

( Whew. I’m glad that’s over.

Last night President Obama, struggling to get a grasp on the proverbial broom he needs to clean up the incompetence and corruption left by the Bush-Cheney administration, finally laid out his plans for a troop surge in Afghanistan.

He told a skeptical nation that he plans to send 30,000 troops to help secure that country in what is supposed to be the beginning of the end of U.S. involvement there.

I had hoped for a different outcome.

I had hoped that Obama would pull the troops out. I had hoped that he would see the futility of prosecuting a war in a place where there are no good guys to side with; a war for which the original purpose – the capturing of Osama bin Laden – no longer exists.

Then again, since it’s now his war, I guess it’s only fair to give him a chance to try things his way.

Yet as we wait to see how Obama’s plans to secure Afghanistan play out, we can’t wait too much longer for a strategy on how he plans to deal with another explosive issue.

That issue being the instability that could come if nothing is done to stem the rampant joblessness plaguing black America.

Nearly a year after black voters put Obama over the top and made him the nation’s first black president, black people are grappling with an unemployment rate of nearly 16 percent. For young black men, many of whom still proudly sport T-shirts emblazoned with Obama’s image, that unemployment rate looms at an obscene 34 percent.

Things have gotten so bad that some experts believe that even as the economy recovers, black joblessness will linger. And that has the potential to carry consequences not just for the stability of black families, but for the black communities that supported him.

I say this because for decades, black people have lived with the specter of unemployment. They’ve suffered as work has evaporated from inner cities – largely because of white flight and, more recently, because of the exportation of manufacturing jobs to China and other low-wage countries.

In some neighborhoods, black men don’t work a typical week. Without the structuring that work provides, their lives will continue to be a trajectory between incarceration and the corner.

Now we have the recession, and more blacks have joined the ranks of their hardcore unemployed counterparts. Life is painful for them.

But so far, they aren’t making Obama feel their pain in the polls.

While the president’s approval among whites has plummeted from 61 percent in February to 39 percent now, his approval among blacks soars at 91 percent – the highest among all groups, according to Gallup. Black people are the only group, in fact, in which his approval ratings went up a point since February.

Among all the other groups, Obama’s ratings declined. In fact, if it wasn’t for the strong support from black people, his overall ratings would languish even lower than 50 percent.

What that says to me is that black people are, for the time being, probably feeling Obama’s anguish more than their own. I mean, when you see your first black president being constantly harangued by racists, when you see wingnuts bent on trying to destroy him mostly through otherization and stereotypes, it’s easy to put grumbling aside for the sake of solidarity.

But at some point, even solidarity tends to wear thin.

That’s why I plan to hold Obama to something he said during his Afghanistan speech last night; that the only nation-building he plans to do is for his own.

The place he needs to start doing that is in it the cities, with targeted jobs programs and directives that ensure that stimulus funds go where they are most needed: In the job-strapped black communities that believed in him enough to cast aside their apathy and stand in line for hours to vote for him.

Right now, Obama may not have delivered on the hope and change that many progressives had hoped he’d deliver on by ordering a quick withdrawal from Afghanistan. But now that he’s announced his war strategy, he needs to start working on a jobs package – and deliver on his promises of hope and change for black people.

The only constituency that, at least so far, has continued to deliver for him.

Written By Tonyaa Weathersbee

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