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Current economic recovery is crushing Black America

October 4, 2009

by Phillip Jackson, The Black Star Project

The Detroit Rebellion of 1967, though sparked by police violence, is attributed largely to rising unemployment. This was the scene at 12th Street and Clairmount on Saturday, July 23, 1967.
The Detroit Rebellion of 1967, though sparked by police violence, is attributed largely to rising unemployment. This was the scene at 12th Street and Clairmount on Saturday, July 23, 1967.
As bad as the last recession has been for Blacks in America, recovery might be worse. In the absence of federal policy interventions and without an effective “trickle-up” stimulus plan, Blacks will not only have lost ground during this recession, they will also continue to lose ground during and after the recovery.

An April 2009 analysis of the Illinois Department of Transportation’s stimulus dollar spending shows a paltry 1.67 percent, or $4,346,507 out of $260,472,254, went to Black contractors. Instead of narrowing the racial wealth gap, federal stimulus dollars are actually expanding that gap!

Whether Black America is being systematically excluded from the recovery or whether Black Americans are just so far behind economically that the recovery funds will collectively slip through their fingers, the effect is the same. If everyone else benefits from the recovery more than those who need it most, then the current recovery is actually making things worse, far worse, for Black Americans.

In every economic downturn, recession or depression, Black Americans are more negatively impacted than Whites. A 2008 report by United for a Fair Economy, a research and advocacy group, shows that from 1998 to 2006, before the subprime crisis, Black Americans lost between $71 billion and $93 billion in home-value wealth from subprime loans. For people of color, this has been the greatest loss of wealth in history.

The official Black unemployment rate is 15.1 percent, compared with 8.9 percent for Whites. The official unemployment rate among Black Americans is projected to reach 20 percent by next year. In New York City, the official Black unemployment rate has been rising four times as fast as that of Whites. And a 2006 Joint Economic Committee Study chaired by Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., reported that 37.7 percent of Black men in the United States had no jobs.

Even before Black America sank into the current recession, Blacks were hovering at double-digit unemployment rates, abysmally low savings rates, devastatingly low asset and business ownership rates, and had the lowest personal wealth net worth in the country. Now with the recession, a massive, perfect storm of unemployment, mortgage foreclosure and wealth loss has hit Black America with the negative economic force of 100 Hurricane Katrinas. Black America might never return to its previous precarious perch in the old economic pecking order as a middle-class entity.

There are several ironies here. One is that America has 36 million Black American descendants of African slaves who were shipped to American shores 400 years ago for their economic value. Today, however, their heirs have lost that value and have not yet found a way to contribute substantially to the American economy. The second irony is that Black Americans can no longer cry racism or blame the “system,” since the “system” is headed by its first African American president. Even with a Black president, the United States is still a dangerous and unkind place for most Black Americans.

In 2009, and going forward, there are only two kinds of people: not Black and White, not Asian and Hispanic, not even rich and poor. In 2009 there are 1) those who understand and respond to forces of globalization and 2) those who will be crushed and destroyed by these forces! The current economic recovery is crushing Black America.

The current recovery is not designed to stop the economic free-fall of Black America. In fact, without proper controls and interventions, it will accelerate that free-fall and annihilate Black Americans economically. Because many Black Americans do not have in-demand technical skills, sufficiently high education levels, and cannot compete in the global market place, Black Americans have collectively lost value in the American economy and are being systematically ejected from it.

In addition to what government should and must do to help ensure that Black America survives the recovery, Black Americans must take control of their own economic destiny. As a way to improve their personal finances, family wealth, community economies, and to help lift Black America out of this downward economic spiral, please consider the Ten Key Solutions for Black Economic Well-Being:

  1. Start your own business. Few people acquire wealth working for someone else. By starting your own business, you will be able to hire family, friends and community members. Additionally, you will build the economy of your community. You will also be able to pass on your successful business as a family inheritance to your children and grandchildren.
  2. Get as much education as you can. Higher levels of academic and technical education readily translate into more and better employment opportunities, higher income and more wealth. Education begins when you teach your children to value learning and to read well. The new hierarchy of human needs is air, water, food, shelter and education. Without education, existing viably today becomes virtually impossible. Educate or die!
  3. Stop renting apartments. Save enough money to make a down payment on a house. Then BUY A HOUSE! The largest portion of the net worth of most families is in home equity, not cash assets.
  4. Open savings accounts for your children. Teach your children the value of money and how to earn, save and invest it at an early age. Take personal finance classes so that you will become the best teacher for your children on the issues of money – saving it, investing it and not buying anything on credit.
  5. Invest. First, invest your money and your time to enhance your skills and knowledge base and to improve your overall well-being – not in cars, clothes, furniture, frivolous electronics, sports, games and the lottery. Second, learn how to make big companies work for you through stock ownership, rather than you only working for them. And third, invest your money in the U.S. and global stock markets. The world is much bigger than the United States.
  6. Manage your credit carefully and avoid unnecessary debt. Beware of spending excessive amounts on holidays, birthdays, vacations, weddings and funerals. Learn to pay cash for what you need OR DON’T BUY IT! And forget about what you want. Create a household budget that includes food, living space and utilities – and live by it. Save for a rainy day. It’s coming!
  7. Get married. Two-person headed households are more viable economically than one-person headed households. Marriage can be an economic advantage when both parties are aligned on financial priorities and fiscal realities. Sixty-five to 70 percent of Black children are born into single-parent households and begin life in poverty. Most of them never make it out.
  8. Create a life-enhancing strategy. Include good nutrition, plenty of exercise, and proper rest so that you can share your good fortune and a long, healthy life with your family and friends.
  9. Tithe. Give to your church or to a social cause that improves your community.
  10. Create a will. Ensure that your accumulated wealth is passed on to the next generation. Studies suggest as much as 70 percent of most households’ current wealth was inherited from a previous generation.

Phillip Jackson is executive director of the Black Star Project, 3509 South King Drive, Suite 2B, Chicago, IL 60616, (773) 285-9600, blackstar1000@ameritech.net.

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