1. JOBS AND BLACK BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT – Even before the 2008 recession, the Black Press was reporting Black male unemployment rates of 50 percent or more in pockets of high-density Black urban areas like New York and Milwaukee. Black unemployment has increased during the Obama administration, and, when the number of people who are no longer looking for jobs is considered, overall Black unemployment easily exceeds 25 percent nationwide.
Various studies show that Black-owned firms hire a greater percentage of Black applicants than do otherwise similar White-owned firms. But because small Black business owners have difficulty getting investment capital, many have used home equity loans to start or improve their businesses. With the foreclosure crisis that peaked in 2008, Black entrepreneurs find it more difficult than ever to start or grow their businesses.
Government policies must target the disproportionate impact “The Great Recession” has had both on Black workers and on Black businesses. President Obama must enforce minority business preferences already on the books in federal government procurement – something that did not occur during the first four years, leading some Black business leaders to conclude that his administration is hostile to small Black businesses. Helping Black businesses succeed will have a direct impact on reducing Black unemployment, which is critical to improving the condition of Black America.
2. ‘ENTITLEMENTS’ (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment insurance, welfare, public housing) – According to the Pew Research Center, about one-third of all Americans have benefited from two or more entitlements program during their lives. Social Security is the sole source of retirement income for too many African-Americans because of a lack of income from pensions and other assets.
A disproportionate number of Blacks rely on entitlements because they are poor.
That dependency grew with the housing foreclosure crisis that robbed many Black families of their largest financial asset: their home. The Pew Research Center indicates that “the median wealth of White households is 20 times that of Black households and 18 times that of Hispanic households,” the largest disparities since Pew began publishing the data more than 25 years ago.
The growth and length of entitlements must be reduced so that America’s budget deficit will be eliminated over time. However, such reductions should not cause disproportionate pain to the young, the old, and the sick. Focusing on jobs and Black business development can help Black people accumulate wealth, which reduces the number of poor people in Black communities who need government help.
3. EDUCATION – According to a report released in September 2012, the racial achievement gap between Black and White students is narrowing so there’s progress to report. But Black boys are still woefully underperforming academically. Black students continue to be disproportionately disciplined by being suspended or expelled from school, which puts them directly into the school-to-prison pipeline.
The level of a person’s education is the single best predictor of economic success in America. Regardless of whether a child attends a public school or a private charter school, the factors of academic excellence are well known: focused, motivated teachers with the tools to get the job done, good administration, parental support, high expectations of students’ abilities, and accountability all around.
Ivory A. Toldson, Ph.D., a professor at Howard University, suggests improving counseling and advisement in predominantly Black high schools; ensuring that every high school has a college-bound curriculum; supporting Black male initiatives in college; advocating for funding for Pell Grants and needs-based scholarships; and advocating for universal access to public institutions of higher education and historically Black colleges and universities. The Obama administration should continue to encourage and fund such solutions.
4. HOUSING – A study by the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) cited by the Washington Post found that Whites made up about 56 percent of the 2.5 million foreclosures completed between 2007 and 2009, but that non-White communities had significantly higher foreclosure rates. Blacks and Latinos were more than 70 percent more likely to lose their homes to foreclosure during that period, the study found.
Overall, Blacks lost about 240,020 homes to foreclosure between 2005 and 2008, according to the CRL study. A Pew Research study found that “from 2005 to 2009, median wealth fell by 66 percent among Hispanic households and 53 percent among Blacks, compared with 16 percent among Whites. The losses left Hispanic and Black wealth at their lowest levels in at least 25 years,” according to the Christian Science Monitor. The high rates of home foreclosures among African-Americans also damages credit scores, making it harder to borrow money for college, business development, or other beneficial personal investments.
The Obama administration’s foreclosure assistance programs were weak and left too much control in the hands of banks who were content to let the foreclosures proceed. Much of the recent multibillion-dollar settlement with “banksters” will go to lawyers, consultants, and to states. It comes too late for many who lost their homes to bogus foreclosures or filed bankruptcy to stay in their homes. The second round of foreclosure assistance targeting distressed homeowners was not well-publicized. The administration must target assistance to Black homeowners, who were disproportionately hurt, and use the Black Press to do so.
5. DISPROPORTIONATE INCARCERATION – America’s failure to deal with jobs, Black business development, education and housing leads directly to racially disproportionate imprisonment.
According to the Sentencing Project, there are approximately 2.3 million people incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails; more than 60 percent are non-White. Many of the millions who are locked up struggle with mental health issues and drug addiction, low levels of educational attainment, and have histories of unemployment or underemployment.
For Black males in their thirties, 1 in every 10 is in prison or jail on any given day. A Black male born in 2001 has a 32 percent chance of spending time in prison at some point in his life; a Hispanic male has a 17 percent chance; a White male has a 6 percent chance.
Solutions include changing draconian “three strikes” and minimum mandatory laws, investing in mental health and drug rehab treatment, reinstating parole and community release, and supporting probation and non-imprisonment alternatives.