Updated: Jan 31
A few million of the United State’s 30 million labor-able African Americans are unemployed. Cuts in manufacturing and construction jobs, layoffs and meltdowns in retail, poor social and academic preparedness in schools, and a host of other factors play a part in the 15.5% rate of black unemployment while the country as whole has a rate of 8.6% unemployment.
So, how do black people overcome this challenge to our lifestyles? Perhaps a change of thinking will do the trick.
I believe the overarching reason why black people have this issue is our unwillingness to show unity. The community has classically been selfish and sought only to serve the individual and not the whole of us. Sometimes we dwell in group-think, but its often in excited utterances or some sort of protest. Roll your eyes all you want, but it’s the inability to unite with others that not only divides the black community, but black wealth. We’re really good at trying to distinguish ourselves, “do our own thing”, and downplay whites when learning to adapt to some of everyone else’s winning scenarios. Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Beyonce are great examples of this. Oprah acknowledges her blackness, but clearly does not constrain herself in a black circle of living. Oprah acknowledges worldly human and social issues on her shows, regularly gives time and money to a passion (i.e. her new girl’s school in South Africa), and does business with relevant, helpful, and educated minds. The late Dr. King, the well-known leader who spoke about national unity in the 1960s between blacks and whites, is quoted as saying, “My young friends, doors are opening to you; doors of opportunities that were not open to your mothers and fathers – and the great challenge facing you is to be ready to face these doors as they open.” Even simple superstar Beyonce out of Houston, with a voice as sweet, soulful,and undeniable as a siren’s hymn (probably not the best example, but bare with me), cast her net to wide, multi-ethnic audience and has benefited greatly from their admiration. Instead of hating, talking and cutting one another down, let’s lift each other up.
The summer following graduation, I interned for a news organization whose focus was at the heart of what I wanted to do with my career as a journalist. Coincidentally, I wrote a lot about the debilitating economy and how college graduates were going overseas to make sure they had work coming out of college; about the skyrocketing homelessness rates across the country and about my generation’s need for some resolve in the personal finance department. I was good at what I did, and had huge plans for myself as a writer. However, once the internship ended, I had no job to look forward to. I did not prepare myself. I became a good example of the black unemployment struggle for nearly two years. Plus, I had piss-poor credit, a fat pile of school loans, and not enough money saved to get me through a one-year apartment lease. BUT two years later, I prevailed.
It was a long, treacherous, often depressing journey through self-love, humility and stepping out of my comfort zone. The woman that I was raised to be did everything in her power to stay afloat. I moved from the nation’s capitol to Los Angeles. I moved to Oakland. I switched my career focus from journalism to graphic design to teaching to apartment management. I did more “go-sees” than “apply-and-waits”. I reached out to all of my college and familial connections for any job leads. I was angry that I’d stepped miles off the road that I hand-bricked for journalism, but now that I’ve found a small mountain top to rest on, I can look down and find that path once again at my own leisure.
My advice to black folks across the nation: Get up and get out of your heads. Life is about growing up, acknowledging a higher power, and nurturing our families. There is nothing else.