Jobs Crisis for Black Teens in America

Seeds of Peace Participants

Been working lately in America? It's much less likely if you're a black teen. The facts of the case are clear.

This November's jobless rate was 5.7 percent in the U.S., the highest level of unemployment in 75 months. For America's black teens, however, their jobless rate in November was 32.2 percent, up over 10 percent from Nov. 2000. This data was unreported in Dec. 8 news articles in the Washington Post and New York Times, economist Dean Baker noted.

Presumably, black teenagers being unemployed at nearly six times the national rate isn't newsworthy to such papers. Unless, of course, a voice for power and wealth can score points by distorting America's social reality.

Consider George Will, in an editorial recently distributed by the Washington Post Writers Group. He wrote, "How much would the life chances of blacks in urban slums or rural poverty be improved if by the wave of a magic wand their skins were made white? Not much."

For Will, white-skin privilege in living and working conditions across America is largely an illusion. To be sure, people are more than their skin color in big and small ways. Nevertheless, what Will doesn't see about the weight of the color line reveals his blindness about social reality in America under the market system.

Under this system, workers must compete with other workers for jobs. At the same time, their bosses compete with other bosses for profits. A few competitors win. Many lose, some more so than others.

Just ask America's black youth about their experiences in the job market. In other words, do what Will hasn't done as a pundit with regular access to the corporate news media.
Was the federal money that could have been used to create jobs for them spent instead to bomb Afghanistan into dust?

My father came of age during the Great Depression. In 1933, one-quarter to a third of American workers were out of a job, historian Howard Zinn estimated. Then, people greeted each other by asking, "Are you working?"

My father was fortunate. He was able to help support his family, working for a time in FDR's Civilian Conservation Corps. Where is today's equivalent for chronically unemployed black youth? Was the federal money that could have been used to create jobs for them spent instead to bomb Afghanistan into dust?

As Congress debates an economic stimulus package, some Americans are living in depression-like times. The silence from Capitol Hill about the bitter fate of black teens unable to find work speaks loudly.

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