Barack Obama: The Audacity Of Hope. Reclaiming The American Dream; Chapter Seven: RACE; Book Review. Racism Leads To Joblessness Which leads to Gangs, Drugs, Crime And The Decline Of The Inner City.
BLACK MEN IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
In this chapter Obama looks at the current status of race in America. Because of the 1966 Civil Rights Act and programs like Affirmative Action and the Unearned Income Tax Credit and other programs Blacks have made economic advances as well as other minorities most notably Latinos. However while legal equality has mostly been achieved by Blacks social acceptance and equality has lagged behind.
While many Blacks have become educated professionals and moved to the suburbs the majority of Blacks are stuck in the inner cities where crime, drugs, unemployment, teenage pregnancy and childbirth mortality rates are still much higher in comparison with whites and other minorities.
The inner cities are declining because the blue collar manufacturing jobs that once supported the blacks who lived there are vanishing as a consequence of Globalization and the industries still here have modernized so they need fewer workers to manufacture their products. This is why unemployment is so high in the inner cities and as a consequence a feeling of hopelessness exists among young Blacks. This leads to gangs, drugs, crime, teenage pregnancy, and a high rate of school drop outs. Thus this has become a self repeating downward cycle which at the present has become acute.
Blacks are often the last hired and the first fired. As a Senator he is called to vote on bills making it easier for businesses to hire undocumented workers or for undocumented workers to become documented. However when he looks at the statistics on Black unemployment he questions his conservative colleagues why they sponsor such bills. The answer is that their small business supporters prefer illegal or undocumented workers because they are cheaper and since they are not citizens, less apt to assert their rights for benefits when they are injured or apply for unemployment benefits if they are discharged.
Obama believes that laws compelling employers to pay equal pay to undocumented or non citizen employees would help alleviate Black unemployment. (One has to ask if Blacks have a competitive advantage of citizenship, speaking the language and being born in the United States why they would not take the available jobs that Latin’s and others come long distances to take, far from their cultural roots and with the handicap of not speaking English?)
Obama believes that by limiting undocumented workers, continuing and strengthening the unearned income tax credit, providing better schools and more diligent police work these would go a long way towards eliminating black inner city poverty and the downward spiral it causes.
Over time the poverty in the inner cities would be eliminated and the cost to society would be less. At the present time inner city unemployment stands about one third for Black men. Also one in three Black men can expect to go through the criminal justice system at some time in their lives. While some of these men are hardened criminals most are not and if they had an opportunity to find a job with sufficient income to support a family the other problems would decrease in time. It is well established that the two parent nuclear family is the most successful at raising children that grow up to lead successful lives, marry and raise children of their own. He believes given a chance Blacks would better themselves. He believes racism even with all the protections against it is the cause of Black unemployment as well as the willingness of undocumented immigrants to work for less are a significant cause of Black unemployment.
(This is hard to believe when the writer is half Black went to Harvard Law and became President of the United States. Perhaps he is different from most Blacks whose ancestors arrived here by force after being captured by Black raiders and then sold to British merchant seaman for transport to the United States and elsewhere where they wee resold into slavery. Also Obama’s parents did not have roots in slavery. One was a white PhD and the other a Black Harvard trained economist from Kenya, neither they or their ancestors had slavery in their past but came here of their own free will looking for an education or a better life. Also he was raised in Hawaii by white grandparents who saw to it that he went to an elite college preparatory school in Hawaii where there is little racism in a melting pot society.
He came of age after most of the legal restrictions against racism had been won by others. So in this chapter he is omitting cultural factors in assessing black unemployment like Blacks will not accept work, usually menial, that Latinos and other immigrants will or their ancestors never came here voluntarily looking for opportunity and work but were brought here by force after being sold into slavery by competing tribes in their homeland. Also there is a a belief held by some Blacks that current society owes Blacks for the their ancestors slavery. However they never stop to consider that over six hundred thousand Northern soldiers died in the Civil War and that hundreds of thousands lost limbs or were wounded in other ways. So any alleged debt, if there was a debt was paid in blood long ago. Other groups notably the Irish in the 1800’s and more recently the Jewish, Koreans and the Americans of Japanese descent have survived and prospered after severe discrimination.
The psychological blows to the Black communities self esteem brought on first by slavery and then the subsequent decades of racism and now that current society is responsible for there welfare are also part of the explanation why statistically Blacks are at the bottom of the heap.)