AFRICANGLOBE – A series of policy decisions by the United States government has brought into stark reality the continuing oppression of the African American people. Despite claims that the country is in a gradual economic recovery, millions are being thrown into poverty and prolonged joblessness.
In a study conducted by the Center for American Progress the research group says that continuing gaps in wealth accumulation and job opportunities between the White population and the oppressed Black and Brown nations, are hampering productivity and the overall standard of living in the U.S. Since the beginning of the Great Recession, African Americans and Latin Americans have trailed behind Whites in regaining employment and raising household incomes.
This document entitled: “The State of Communities of Color in the U.S. Economy” notes that “African Americans and Latinos persistently suffer from high unemployment rates. The unemployment rate of African Americans is typically twice as high as that of Whites, while the Latino unemployment rate is about one-third greater than the rate of Whites.” (October 2013)
Moreover, “It took four years into the recovery for African American employment to reach its prerecession levels. African American employment in the second quarter of 2013 was 101 percent of its employment at the beginning of the recession in December 2007—that year’s fourth quarter—Latino employment was 109.62 percent, and White employment was 96.2 percent.”
However, “These populations, particularly communities of color, have grown at the same time, such that reaching prerecession employment levels masks the real weakness in job growth. African Americans enjoy fewer job opportunities than other groups.”
In other words the actual impact of the downturn beginning in 2007 has far more severe than what statistics absent of analysis tend to indicate.
This report illustrates clearly that “The employed share of African Americans in the second quarter of 2013 was a low 53.3 percent, compared to 60.2 percent for Latinos, 60.9 percent for Asian Americans, and 59.5 percent for Whites.” Such a high degree of real unemployment and underemployment reveals that for many communities of color around the country the recession is still very much in evidence.
Opportunities Stolen and Reversed
Behind these statistics there exist a worsening political atmosphere for African Americans in particular and all other oppressed groups in general. One area of grave concern is the declining opportunities in higher education directly resulting from cut backs in allocations by the federal and state governments.
In an unprecedented protest action, the football players at the Historically Black College and University campus of Grambling State in Louisiana refused to play a game against Jackson State University of Mississippi. The students were demonstrating against the slashing of resources needed to maintain their once outstanding sports program which is recognized nationally.
An open letter written by the president Frank G. Pogue said that the boycott by the football players pointed to what he and other administrators of HBCUs have been saying for some time. The fact that the federal government has actually reduced funding for these institutions which have in decades past provided the bulk of skilled and professional African American youth points to the crisis of race relations today even under the leadership of President Barack Obama.
Pogue stressed that “Drastic budget cuts in recent years have pushed many of the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to the financial brink. Yes, we have reduced athletic budgets, we are buying fewer uniforms, our football teams ride buses instead of flying and we have many more cutbacks.”
This administrator goes on to reveal that “Frankly, that is a small part of our pain. We have furloughed faculty and staff, asked faculty to take on larger teaching loads, trimmed academic degree offerings and delayed building repairs.”
These institutions, which grew out of the Reconstruction period after the end of slavery and the Civil War, should at this period in history when African Americans are bearing the brunt of the economic crisis, be provided with additional funding rather than less. The predicament of the HBCUs is reflective of the lack of commitment of the present Congress and administration to the education of African Americans.
Pogue points out that “At Grambling State, our annual appropriation from the state of Louisiana has been slashed from $31.6 million about six years ago to $13.8 million this academic year — and we anticipate another state budget cut next month. Meanwhile, annual increases in tuition since fiscal 2008 have resulted in a 61% increase in tuition and fees. The head of the Louisiana’s nine-university system has acknowledged that our university has the worst financial situation of them all.”
The president says that the alumni of the 105 HBCUs primarily based in the South help out tremendously but it is not enough to offset the drastic cuts over the last few years. While these cuts in higher education funding are taking place African Americans are still being driven into prisons and jails at a phenomenal rate.
Anger Rises Against National Oppression
The response of the African American and Latin American communities across the U.S. and Puerto Rico has been rapid, massive and angry. In July after the acquittal of George Zimmerman, immediately thousands hit the streets from New York City and Detroit to Los Angeles and Oakland.
A recent outbreak of unrest in Austin, Texas when hundreds of African American youth took over a shopping area leading up to the Halloween season, left the authorities and the corporate media in shock. To dismiss the relatively minor show of discontent which grows directly out of the national oppressive conditions of the majority of working people in the community, the corporate media labeled the incident a “riot.”
Even in their derogatory characterization of the youth outbreak in Austin, a sense of foreboding and alarm comes through in the ruling class analysis. David Paulin wrote in a blog for the conservative American Thinker website that “From America’s small towns to urban metropolises, black mob violence has been on the rise in recent years, despite President Barack Obama’s pledge, as the first black president, to bring hope and change to a post-racial America.“ (October 30)
Paulin continues saying “Some of the violence has involved rowdy black youths simply raising hell, coming together in threatening flash mobs or converging for events like Miami’s Urban Beach Week; yet many gatherings of black mobs have involved vicious and unprovoked attacks on whites, such as one that recently occurred in Brooklyn, New York. Ten black youths blocked a white couple’s car while shouting racial slurs, then beat up the husband and pulled the wife by hair onto the street.”
Of course the system of racism and capitalist exploitation knows that the response to national oppression is not unprovoked. Nonetheless, any admission that retaliatory violence is somehow justified or even understood, would mean that the entire system is brought into question.
With another wave of protests surrounding the demand for federal intervention in the death of Lowndes County, Georgia high school student Kendrick Johnson, African American youth are proving that they are sensitive and concerned about the rise in racist violence against their communities.
When these youth, allied with working adults, organize and mobilize along national and class lines, the struggle for genuine equality and self-determination will make a significant advance. All of these various efforts must be unified in a mass movement that extends beyond reliance on the two dominant ruling class parties.
By: Abayomi Azikiwe