Black Unemployment

A couple of weeks ago, Black Entertainment Television founder Bob Johnson, speaking at The National Press Club, said the nation “would never tolerate white unemployment at 14 and 15 percent.” Black unemployment has been double that of white Americans for more than 50 years. The black youth unemployment rate is more than 40 percent nationally. In some cities, unemployment for black working-age males is more than 50 percent. Let’s look at this, but first let’s look at some history.

From 1900 to 1954, blacks were more active than whites in the labor market. Until about 1960, black male labor force participation in every age group was equal to or greater than that of whites. During that period, black teen unemployment was roughly equal to or less than white teen unemployment. As early as 1900, the duration of black unemployment was 15 percent shorter than that of whites; today it’s about 30 percent longer. To do something about today’s employment picture requires abandonment of sacred cows and honesty.

The typical answer given for many black problems is racial discrimination. No one argues that every vestige of racial discrimination has been eliminated. But the relevant question is: How much of what we see can be explained by discrimination? I doubt whether anyone would argue that the reason for lower unemployment, higher labor force participation and shorter duration of unemployment among blacks in the first half of the 20th century was that there was less racial discrimination. I also doubt whether anyone would argue that during earlier periods, blacks had higher education and greater skills attainment than whites. Answers must be sought elsewhere.

I was a teenager during the late 1940s, living in North Philadelphia’s Richard Allen housing project. Youngsters in my neighborhood who sought after-school, weekend or summer jobs found them. I picked blueberries in New Jersey, caddied at Cobbs Creek Golf Club, shoveled snow for the Philadelphia Transportation Co., delivered packages for a milliner, performed janitorial work at Horn & Hardart restaurant, and huckstered fruits and vegetables.

As a high-school student, Christmas employment for me included after-school and weekend work at Sears, Roebuck and Co.’s mail-order house, and one year, I delivered mail for the U.S. Post Office.

Such opportunities for early work experiences are all but gone for today’s teens living in Richard Allen homes. A major reason is the minimum wage law, which makes hiring low-skilled workers a losing economic proposition. In 1950, only 50 percent of jobs were covered by the minimum wage law. That meant the minimum wage didn’t have today’s unemployment effect. Today nearly 100 percent are covered. Today’s child labor laws prevent youngsters from working in perfectly safe environments. The minimum wage has destroyed many jobs. That’s why, for example, in contrast with the past, today’s gasoline stations are self-service and theater ushers are nonexistent.

Then there are super-minimum wage laws, such as the Davis-Bacon Act, which were written for the express purposes of excluding blacks from government-financed or -assisted construction projects. Labor unions have a long history of discrimination against blacks. Frederick Douglass wrote about this in “The Tyranny, Folly, and Wickedness of Labor Unions,” and Booker T. Washington did so in “The Negro and the Labor Unions.” To the detriment of their constituents, black politicians give support to labor laws pushed by unions and white liberal organizations.

Then there’s education. Black youths are becoming virtually useless for the increasingly high-tech world of the 21st century. According to a 2001 report by Abigail Thernstrom, “The Racial Gap in Academic Achievement,” many black 12th-graders dealt with scientific problems at the level of whites in the sixth grade; they wrote about as well as whites in the eighth grade. The average black high-school senior had math skills on a par with a typical white student in the middle of seventh grade. The average 17-year-old black student could only read as well as the typical white child who had not yet reached age 13. That means an employer hiring the typical black high-school graduate is in effect hiring an eighth-grader.

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  • PhillipGaley

    The 3rd paragraph should be corrected for the omitted negative: "No one argues that every vestige of racial discrimination has been eliminated.", should read: "No one argues that every vestige of racial discrimination has not been eliminated.", . . .

    • PhillipGaley

      But perhaps better for preventing confusion, would have been a comma after "that" because it is in conjunctive placement—for, my: ". . . . has NOT been eliminated.", would, of course, run counter to the article's theme

      • THulting

        Mr. Galey:

        Is English your second language? I don't know of anyone "who argues that EVERY vestige of racial discrimination has been eliminated!" And, NEITHER DO YOU! Yet, here you are, sanctimoniously attempting to nit pick a non-existent grammatical error rather than discussing the gist of Dr. William's assessment! You are a PHONY!

    • @stevenfelix259

      If you think Robert`s story is nice…, last month my friends bro brought home 5372 just sitting there seventeen hours a week from home and the're best friend's sister`s neighbour did this for eight months and brought in more than 5372 part-time on- line. applie the steps here,

  • Greg Drill

    Unemployment is a major issue in many countries and we should overcome this situation as soon as possible.

    • PhillipGaley

      Yes, . . . we need that change in consciousness which will better equip us for good use of leisure time; for, as in the 30s, Scott and Helen Nearing proved, to provide for daily needs just doesn't take all the many hours in labor, . . . we are moving toward that time spoken of by the prophet, in which every man shall sit under his own fig tree, and eat the fruit of his own vine, . . .

    • PhillipGaley

      And then too, it is sought to manage the world as a global village, labor and manufacturing being sent, "over there", . . .

  • Ken

    Why do big time Americans of African descent like Sharpton, Jackson, the Black Caucas, etc., etc turn their backs on their fellows. How could black legistators vote for and encourage illlegal and legal immigration that directly competes with Americans of African descent for jobs? Are they just lackeys or maybe they have unmitigated self hate. We need some very competent psychiatrists to explain this nonsensical and dire situation.

    • ltcdmward

      Easy explanation: What they do is a business. They sell "government wares" (solutions) and take their cut/commission. Conductors on the Gravy Train deciding who gets on and who gets off the train to nowhere.

    • ltcdmward

      And by the way, what Dr. Williams outlined above grieves me. And nothing seems to be getting better. As a young Army Soldier, entering in the late 1960s (who eventually became an Officer), I was trained and molded by Black Officers and NCOs right from the start. Patriots all. I probably wouldn't be alive if not for them.

  • lehnne

    black unemployment and gloomy 21st century prospects are the result of the black electorate's decision to place all their economic, political and academic prospects in the hands of one party rather than leverage the black vote against the competing dominant white political parties in furtherance of black interests. This decision empowered one party to take them for granted and the other to ignore them.

    • Dan

      I don't think one ignores them I think they ignore that party. Consider the 97 % vote for the democrats?

      • lehnne

        leaving aside for the republican party's cowardice in refraining from simply citing the historical record in regards to the vicious racism of the democratic party, better descriptors would be write off, concede, discount, etc.

  • Jack Rescoe

    Professor Williams, you are so on target in defining a problem, I never cease to be amazed. I have known about the Richard Allen Homes for 60 years & thank God they were built in '41 so great minds such as yours could develop. Yes, I know about Bill Cosby too.

  • Obama Guy

    I know Williams, lets solve all these problems with a tax cut for the rich, destroying the social safety net, and
    bringing back those semi-slave jobs blacks had in the South from 1900 to 1954. The good old days.
    And all blacks must be savages because a black man is saying it, so we can all feel good. GOP
    Conservatism is just sad. And we are not racists. Plus, it's all Obama 's and Saul Alinsky's fault.

    • Indioviejo

      You forgot to mention why the Public school system continues to fail our youth, blacks in particular.

    • Mary Sue

      Logic error. Fail.

      Tax cuts =/= for the rich
      "Tax cuts for the rich" =/= "cuts to the social safety net"

      Overspending is a bigger threat to the country than you realize. You wanna turn USA into GREECE?! Or CYPRUS?!!!!!

    • Mary Sue

      Alinsky is a bad, bad, bad, bad man. Just sayin'.

  • Obama Guy

    It can be very lucrative being a black man who attacks his own people so white conservatives will cheer. And they will pay you a lot of money. Make sure you find any blacks engaging in the worst behavior and
    imply all blacks are like that. And conservatives will love you. Otherwise, why do you think stormfronters
    come to this site and David Duke changed his registration from Democrat to Republican? The GOP
    is their home.

    • Indioviejo

      Your spurious attack on Dr.Williams disregards the statistical facts behind his article. Typical leftist stuff. You people are destroying the world one country at at time, and blacks in America are only incidental to the plan. Most are just useful idiots. Latinos and whites who suffer under our public eductional system are just as bad off. And after all is said and done, you cower under your trite charges of racism, sexism, classism, etc., etc. A true Alinskyite.

      • nightspore

        Remember, liberals have a lot of trouble with cause and effect. It's something they don't seem to be able to get their heads around.

    • Mary Sue

      attacking "his own people"??? No, he's attacking the race hustlers such as Jesse Jackson, NOT "all blacks".

      Is a white person who speaks out against David Duke "attacking his own people"?

    • Al Zanco

      "Obama Guy" is just a typical black racist, he thinks he can win any debate merely by whining that "whitey is racist". By the way, he stubbed his toe the other day and sure enough, he thought of a way that that was whitey's fault.

      In fact, I hope he comes back and calls me a"racist", that would make me laugh right out loud. He'll be stuck in his simple mindset his whole life long.

      • Obama Guy

        "Whitey" is not racist, just some White Conservatives are racist, and Williams is their apologist. And
        paid rather well. Watch him defend Dilorenzo, the Abe Lincoln hater at this very site. Now why would
        Dilorenzo, who speaks before White Supremacist organizations, hate Lincoln. I can't figure it out.

        • Al Zanco

          Obama Guy, are Blacks ever racist (against Whites)? If so, would you be good enough to name a few. If not, how can that be?

          What about Rev Jesse Lee Peterson? Is he a "racist" (against Blacks)? I ask because I once saw him on C-Span, and a Black guy quickly called in to say that he was a racist.

          Are Mexicans ever racist against Blacks? You know the story, right, about how a carfull of them gunned down two innocent 12 yr old Black girls in their driveway? In L.A.

          When KRS-1 says that Obama is an oreo working for whitey, is that racist?

          Since you seem somewhat reasonable (you haven't used the 'Uncle Tom' etc), I'm trying to get a gauge on what you consider to be racist.

          Btw, are you a Christian? From what I've seen (and aside from racial issues and conflicts such as Rev Wright), Black Christians are generally more Christian than White liberal Christians.

  • Jim

    The Movie "Lean On Me" portrayed a big part of the problem of education of Blacks in the Cities.

    What ever the new principal tried was resisted every step of the way by some very vocal people in the Black community.

    When the real life principal came here he was met by screams of protest and accusations.

    I asked our Black Principal "It seems that every one why tries and solves the problem is hated by some for doing so".

    She agreed that such was the case.