The last calendar year was an interesting and progressive one for President Barack Obama on the economic front. The president took over a struggling economy, even though he refused to openly address racial economic inequality. At the same time, it’s easy to see that during the last calendar year, the Obama Administration has a few things to brag about in the area of Black unemployment.
SEE ALSO: Tackling The Black Obesity Crisis
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Black unemployment has dropped from 15.8 percent this time last year to 13 percent today. Black men experienced the strongest decline, decreasing from 17.3 percent to 13.6 percent, while Black women saw a decline from 12.8 percent to 10.8 percent. Black teens, however, saw their unemployment rate rise over the last year, from 37.5 percent to 38.2 percent.
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While the improvements in Black unemployment are commendable, an overwhelming racial gap remains. Little has been done to address the persistent difference between Black and White unemployment, and African Americans remain at the back of the economic bus in a multitude of ways. White unemployment holds steady at 7.4 percent this month, a rate that still has many White Americans highly upset at President Obama. Ironically, the rate that Whites complain about so readily is one that African Americans would be expected to celebrate; in fact, we probably won’t even have 7.4 percent Black unemployment after a full recovery has occurred.
That, my friends, is White Privilege 101.
The consistency of the race gap in unemployment is highly reflective of one of the most glaring signs of institutionalized racism in America. The idea that African Americans should be pleased with 13 percent unemployment, while White Americans are allowed to complain about 7.4 percent, reminds us that there are democratic rights that White Americans are given that are rarely afforded to the Black community.
When activists, such as Cornel West, speak up on the need to address double-digit Black unemployment, they are told to remain silent. All the while, there is little effort to silence those in the White community who express disappointment over their far more comfortable economic situation.
Even though African Americans remain in serious economic pain, the improvements from horrible to bad are going to play out well for the Obama Administration. The state of the economy is typically the factor that determines the outcome of most presidential races, and this is going to drive Obama’s re-election. The administration deserves credit for doing more than it had to do, but it also deserves to be criticized for not doing more. Black people should not be afraid to speak up when they are suffering.
What do you think?
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and author of the forthcoming book, “The RAPP Sheet: Rising Above Psychological Poison.” To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.