The Dillard Doctrine

Urban Conservative Commentary on Politics & Life

Where Are The Jobs?

Last month, the American economy added no new jobs at all. This is the first time since 1945 that there’s been no gain in employment in a single month. While the national unemployment rate remained at 9 percent, the unemployment rate for African Americans actually rose, from 15 to 16.7 percent-the highest it’s been since 1984, when I was all of four years old.

How has the black community ended up with such a high unemployment rate, and-perhaps more importantly, what can we ourselves do to reverse this trend at a time when the ability of the government to intervene is at best limited, and at worst nonexistent?

The roots of this recent rise in black unemployment are many and varied. A lack of basic education that prepares children for more than just standardized testing is to blame, as are a lack of educational options-access to private and charter schools-in too many urban environments. Broken black families-72% of our children are raised in single parent homes, mostly by single mothers-are another symptom. Also to blame is the inability of our youth to prepare for the job market, either by attending college or job-training programs. And yes, a degree of racism that’s existed as far as many can remember, has a role in this epidemic as well.

Unfortunately, too many in our community make this racism into the sole factor into why, as the saying goes, black Americans are the “last hired and first fired.” We assume that the sinister motivations of some-and in reality, very few, are the only things that keep us from leveraging our full worth in the job market. The reality is that we ourselves often fail to prepare-and fail to prepare our children-for employment. We damage our own marketability long before others try to use our skin color against us.

Instead of working to improve ourselves, too many look to the government to solve our self-inflicted wounds. We demand our government to provide jobs, job training, assistance with higher education. When those things fail, we then demand our government place us in positions or companies in an attempt to promote a “more diverse workforce,” with little consideration of whether we are qualified for the positions handed to us. This prompts a discussion about what the proper role of government is in providing employment to its citizens. Is government, at any level, supposed to exist as a job creator?

Most of us know that the government, outside of those people hired for its own operations, is not a job creator in the sense of creating and filling positions. That’s the responsibility of the private sector; those industries and companies that drive our economy. The role of government is to create conditions for these employers that create a desire and benefit to hire more people. Beyond providing tax incentives to spur hiring, government’s role in creating those positive conditions involves putting in place sensible regulations that minimally intrude of a private company’s ability to operate-and yes, profit from their operations. In this sense, the government can create and spur a desire for the private sector to provide jobs. This is the only role of the government in job creation. Ask yourself: are our elected officials fulfilling that role? Have they created an environment where employers want to hire? I believe that if you examine closely, you’ll find they haven’t.

While there is a role for government, there is a responsibility that lies with us. What can you-and I, and everyone in our community-do to create jobs?

First, we can begin to hold all our political leaders accountable for failing to create the conditions needed to boost the job market. An honest examination of the lack of jobs-not just in our community, but especially in our community-would lay blame at not just those in my party, but at those of the Democrats as well. When Republicans held control of the government during the latter years of the last decade, the nation began losing jobs. It continued losing jobs when Democrats took control. Who’s lost more is largely irrelevant to those who have been without jobs for months. There’s more than enough blame to go around, and contrary to what you’ll hear from either, it’s an equal failure of both parties.

Second, we can begin to take education-for ourselves and for our children-seriously. Education is not only the passport to the future, as Malcolm X said; it’s also the passport to sustained, meaningful employment. For our children, we must work to not only improve our public schools-their buildings as well as the teachers and materials inside them-but work to give options to those students who are trapped inside school systems that, by any reasonable standard of measurement, are failures. Instead of writing off those students who just want to enter the workforce after high school, we must steer them to training programs that will prepare them for careers, and not just the most menial of jobs. For those of us pursuing higher education-whether right out of high school or as part of a career change-we must view our education as more than a series of classes taken to maintain financial aid eligibility, but as preparation for a workforce that will demand the best of us.

Lastly, we can begin to leverage our own economic power by frequenting and supporting businesses in our community. It is estimated that African Americans hold a purchasing power of approximately one trillion dollars-more than many of the world’s nations. Imagine the number of jobs we could create in our own neighborhoods by supporting the businesses of those people we sit next to in church every Sunday. If we look at Asian and Hispanic communities, they thrive by being largely self-sustaining. There’s no reason why the black community can’t do the same; we can make our communities recession-proof by frequenting more than just our local barber and beauty shops.

We as black Americans must begin to distance from the notion that government is supposed to provide all of our needs, especially when the ability and resources to provide these needs lies within each of us as well as our communities.  As private citizens, it is our responsibility to create jobs, and the government has a role to support our efforts-not the other way around.

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Written by Coby Dillard

September 20, 2011 at 8:00 am

Posted in Editorials

Tagged with , ,

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