Monroe Anderson: Black teen unemployment comes with a price

Monroe Anderson
Monroe Anderson


This summer threatens to be long and hot. Not climate change hot but heated and angry, Baltimore Spring hot.

Three days ago, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll reported that 96 percent of us believe that there will be more racial disturbances as seen on TV.

After we see more episodes of police routinely showing up on the nightly news after they’ve killed yet another Black male, there will be more repeats of Black teens with little more than time on their hands and outrage on their minds acting out their frustration. We’ll see more squad cars stomped to death. More buildings going up in smoke. More stores ransacked and looted.

“A resounding 96% of adults surveyed said it was likely there would be additional racial disturbances this summer, a signal that Americans believe Baltimore’s recent problems aren’t a local phenomenon but instead are symptomatic of broader national problems,” the Journal reported.

That’s the Fourth Estate’s way of saying poor Black people are about to behave poorly and that while everybody knows it, not everybody knows why. So the opinions are about as racially divided as the nation. Sixty percent of Blacks saw the urban uprising as “long-standing frustrations about police mistreatment of African Americans,” while 58 percent of whites said the riots were an excuse to engage in looting and violence.”

There are all sorts of evidence and reasons that underscore the Black interpretation while undermining the white one. There are also studies and events to inform us that the frustrations go far beyond the wanton and routine police killing of unarmed Black males to these core problems: No jobs and no hope.

There’s this year’s annual report released jointly by the Chicago Urban League and the Alternative Schools Network in January titled, “A Frayed Connection: Joblessness among Teens in Chicago,” revealed that from 2012-13, just one in ten of Chicago’s Black teens had a job–nine out of 10 did not.

“One half of 20-to 24-year old Black male residents of the city are not working and not enrolled in school,” the report warned, adding that “Black teen employment rates in Chicago have reached historically low levels.”

A Kids Count policy report that was a dead ringer to the one in Chicago told the same sad story about young Black males in Baltimore in 2012, “unemployment among those ages 16 to 24 is the highest in the country since World War II.”

The Supreme Commander of the Allies during WWII, Dwight Eisenhower, in his farewell address as POTUS warned Americans about the future dangers of massive military spending, especially deficit spending and government contracts to private military manufacturers. The unemployed Black males are getting short-changed by the military-industrial complex Ike warned us about.

Less than two years after President Lyndon Johnson launched his ambitious War on Poverty in 1964, those resources were shifted to the war in Vietnam. A generation later, President Bill Clinton managed to downsize the military but Republicans later took their pound of flesh, forcing him to end the Summer Youth Employment and Training Program as a stand-alone initiative which resulted in 600,000 kids being laid off.

The bulk of today’s economic challenges in our urban areas can be traced directly back to President George W. Bush. The 43rd president’s surplus-busting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which were never in his administration’s budget, sucked up much of the tax dollars that had been returning to the cities and states.

Depending on who’s calculating, those two wars have cost America between four and six trillion dollars. American commanders handed out $3.5 billion with next-to-nothing oversight purportedly to rebuild the country we illegally invaded.

Meanwhile, back at home, our pavements feel like something out of a war zone. Our outdated bridges are in danger of collapsing. Our transportation system is last millenium. And, of course, our urban areas are teeming with Black men who want and need jobs that they can’t get.

In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is making jobs available for 24,000 Chicago teens through his One Summer Chicago initiative. In the scheme of things, that’s not a big number.

Maybe all those other, unemployed teens, will understand it’s the thought that counts. We’ll see soon enough. Summer is just around the corner.

Monroe Anderson

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