I’m in the Big Apple, but I’m not in an “Empire State of Mind.”
A new report from the Fiscal Policy Institute found the unemployment rate in New York City varies by race and neighborhood. The findings underscore Jay Z’s observation: “City, it’s a pity, half of y’all won’t make it.”
James Parrott, FPI’s deputy director and chief economist, said:
In some cases, great disparities exist within neighborhoods. For example, in the West Brooklyn neighborhood stretching from Brooklyn Heights to Red Hook and Park Slope, white male unemployment was 3 percent, while in the same neighborhood, 46 percent of black men were jobless.
Until recently, I lived in Park Slope but I grew up in Bed-Stuy, where a lot of jobless mothers and fathers will not be able to buy gifts for their children this Christmas.
I know what it feels like to wake up on Christmas morning with no presents under the tree. So, Santa Claus, please go straight to the ghetto hood.
April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks sat down with President Barack Obama for an interview yesterday.
Obama dismissed criticism leveled by, among others, the Congressional Black Caucus and Danny Glover:
While downplaying the need for targeted programs, Obama acknowledges racial disparities:
Q: Speaking of the African American community, this seems to be a shift in black leadership, as it relates to supporting you. You have the CBC that’s upset with you about targeting on the jobs front -- African Americans, 15.6 percent unemployment rate, expected to go to 20 percent; mainstream America 10 percent. Then you have black actors who supported you -- Danny Glover, who’s saying that you’ve not changed, your administration is the same as George W. Bush. What are your thoughts about the fact that black leadership is grumbling, and the fact that people are concerned with you being the first African American President, and they thought that there would be a little bit more compassion for black issues?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, April, I think you just engaged in a big generalization in terms of how you asked that question. If you want me to line up all the black actors, for example, who support me, and put them on one side of the room, and a couple who are grumbling on the other, I’m happy to have that.
Of course there’s grumbling, because we just went through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. And everybody is concerned about unemployment, everybody’s concerned about businesses not hiring, everybody’s concerned about their home values declining. And in each of these areas, African Americans have been disproportionately affected. We were some of the folks who were most affected by predatory lending. There’s a long history of us being the last hired and the first fired. As I said, health care -- we’re the ones who are in the worst position to absorb companies deciding to drop their health care plans.
So, should people be satisfied? Absolutely not. But let’s take a look at what I’ve done.
And what Obama has done is “made sure that states didn’t engage in budget cuts to cut teachers and firefighters and police officers, many of whom are African American.”
Meanwhile, the black unemployment rate is 15.6 percent, minority businesses are shut out of SBA loans and no black-owned firm has received a direct federal contract from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Still, as Obama noted, polls show “there’s overwhelming support for what we’ve tried to do.”
The complete transcript is available here.
As a lifelong political activist, I got an early Christmas present. Black folks’ reluctance to criticize President Barack Obama is giving way to reality. And the reality is, power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.
Let me be clear: I am not interested in second-guessing Obama. Instead, it’s about accountability.
Yet in the name of being “president of the entire United States,” Obama refused to respond to the demands of the Congressional Black Caucus and address issues especially important to black folks. Are we not citizens of the United States?
The whispered criticism has apparently been heard. Obama is scheduled to make his first appearance as president on “The Tom Joyner Morning Show” this morning.
While Joyner will show Obama some love, Smokey Fontaine of NewsOne.com told TV One’s Roland Martin, “the Obama love fest is over”:
Well, we’ve lost the passion. We’ve lost the emotion, and we should not be above criticizing the President. Just because he’s African-American, that does not mean he’s above our criticism; but what’s true is when he wants to rally us to get behind him – and he needs our support right now – we’re not there, because he hasn’t given us the attention that we deserve.
For Martin and Fontaine, the Gannett interview was the turning point:
You can listen to a livestream of the Tom Joyner show, here.
MR. MARTIN: And – and I think you’ve got to get those questions in. When – when you give an interview with Gannett News Service, we talked about when he said that was a mistake having a – a direct economic plan for African-Americans. No. You’ve got to speak to us on our issues, on our terms, whether it’s this show, whether it’s Joyner and Harvey, Baisden, Sharpton – all those shows. You[‘ve] got to communicate with us in our way.
MR. FONTAINE: And it’s got to be more than communication, too. We – we know that the brother can make a nice speech. We’ve seen –
MR. MARTIN: Right.
MR. FONTAINE: -- that all over the world.
MR. MARTIN: We need the policy to back it up.
I want to give a shout-out to the Congressional Black Caucus for staying on the J-O-B and insisting that Congress and President Barack Obama address racial inequalities and the jobs crisis in the African American community.
Following passage of the $150 billion “Jobs for Main Street Act,” CBC Chairwoman Barbara Lee released a statement:
While this bill makes targeted investments in certain key areas highlighted by the CBC, there is still important work that must be done. We will continue to work with President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, and the Senate to ensure that the final jobs package strengthens the economic security of all Americans, particularly those communities that have been hardest hit by this recession.
I also want to recognize a new coalition in the fight for justice, Jobs for America Now, whose members understand the fierce urgency of now:
The U.S. unemployment rate exceeded 10% in October for the first time in a quarter century. Over 15 million Americans are able and willing to work but cannot find a job. More than one out of every three unemployed workers has been out of a job for more than six months. The situation facing African American and Latino workers is even bleaker, with unemployment at 15.6% and 12.7%, respectively.
These grim statistics don’t capture the full extent of the hardship. There are another 9 million people working part time because they cannot find full-time work. Millions of others have given up looking for a job, and so aren’t counted in the official unemployment figures. Altogether, over 17% of the labor force is underemployed—more than 26 million Americans—including one in four minority workers. Last, given individuals moving in and out of jobs, we can expect a third of the workforce, and 40% of workers of color, to be unemployed or underemployed at some point over the next year.
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