SPECIAL TO NEW AMERICA MEDIA
After five years of nonstop bad news regarding Black unemployment, the Obama administration was finally able to celebrate some good news last month, or so it seemed.
In July, African-American unemployment dipped to 12.6 percent, a small but significant change from June’s 13.7 percent unemployment rate and substantially lower than the high of 16.5 percent that it reached in January 2010.
But any celebration was likely short-lived. While the national unemployment rate decreased slightly in August, to 7.3 percent, reaching a five-year low, that same month, African-American unemployment rose to 13 percent.
So at this point, who is to blame for the seemingly unshakable epidemic of unemployment in the Black community? Bob Woodson, a Black conservative, generated headlines for his fiery speech at a Republican National Committee luncheon commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. During his address he argued that when it comes to policy and progress, all other demographic groups have taken precedence over poor African- Americans.
Woodson said, “Everybody has come in front of them on the bus — gays, immigrants, women, environmentalists. You never hear any talk about the conditions confronting poor Blacks and poor people in general.”
But does that mean Republicans could do any better? History paints a mixed picture.
According to an analysis in Forbes magazine, when Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter for the presidency in 1980, Black unemployment hovered at 14.5 percent.
But Black voters did not fare much better under the Reagan presidency. Black unemployment stood at 14.3 percent when he faced re-election in 1984, although that number was an improvement over the nearly 20 percent of African-Americans who were unemployed at one point in Reagan’s first term.
The Obama administration points to heavy investments in higher education for minorities, including doubling Pell Grants and increasing investments in Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Education certainly plays a key role in determining long-term career success. more ethnic-sounding names are less likely to be interviewed.
The only way to address the issue is to speak honestly about it. Whichever party does that first, Democrats or Republicans, will be judged most successful in leading the Black community out of this crisis.