Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Color of Employment

This summer I wondered in a couple of posts whether the African American middle class is an endangered class. Another sobering story from the New York Times has got me wondering again:

"That race remains a serious obstacle in the job market for African-Americans, even those with degrees from respected colleges, may seem to some people a jarring contrast to decades of progress by blacks, culminating in President Obama’s election.

But there is ample evidence that racial inequities remain when it comes to employment. Black joblessness has long far outstripped that of whites. And strikingly, the disparity for the first 10 months of this year, as the recession has dragged on, has been even more pronounced for those with college degrees, compared with those without. Education, it seems, does not level the playing field — in fact, it appears to have made it more uneven.

College-educated black men, especially, have struggled relative to their white counterparts in this downturn, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate for black male college graduates 25 and older in 2009 has been nearly twice that of white male college graduates — 8.4 percent compared with 4.4 percent." (Read the whole thing here)

It seems that the color line continues its mischief, making sure that the burden of suffering is unfairly distributed among Americans according to race. Whether the experiences of the men in this article are due to conscious or unconscious discrimination I will leave to others to debate. As I have said before, that's simply not the point. The race gap in employment is a problem of social structure and not just personal attitudes. As such it will require structural efforts to remedy it.

Regardless of the source of this gap, if even college educated black men can't find work the future of the African American middle class, and thus African Americans generally, is in question. This. Has. To. Stop.

"The wrong in the world continues to exist just because people talk only of their ideals, and do not strive to put them into practice. If actions took the place of words, the world's misery would very soon be changed into comfort...My hope for you is that you will ever avoid tyranny and oppression; that you will work without ceasing till justice reigns in every land, that you will keep your hearts pure and your hands free from unrighteousness. This is what the near approach to God requires from you, and this is what I expect of you." (Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 16)