by Yvette Carnell
Appearing on NBC’s Today show, Martin Luther King III said it is only right that African-Americans view his father’s “I Have a Dream” speech with pride and celebrate the Civil Rights movement, but that black unemployment is an urgent issue that must be tackled.
Although King says he views Obama’s election as a breakthrough, he believes blacks today still “are first judged by their color and then the content of their character.” He says the country should confront what he calls “staggering unemployment” among black males 18 to 30 years old.
According to Pew research, black unemployment is consistently twice that of whites, and now stands at 13.4 percent. This is a historical trend that has remained unchanged:
In 1954, the earliest year for which the Bureau of Labor Statistics has consistent unemployment data by race, the white rate averaged 5% and the black rate averaged 9.9%. Last month, the jobless rate among whites was 6.6%; among blacks, 12.6%.
The widest gap between black and white unemployment came in the 1980s when manufacturing jobs began to disappear. According to William A. Darity Jr. of Duke University, the cause has to do with the fact that blacks are “the last to be hired in a good economy, and when there’s a downturn, they’re the first to be released.”
Also, as The New Yorker reported on Tuesday, blacks have not moved ahead as it relates to wealth:
Pew found that the median black household had about seven per cent of the wealth of its white counterpart in 2011, down from nine per cent in 1984, when a Census survey first began tracking this sort of data.
It seems that we’re still far from achieving MLK’s dream.