By Thomas Sheffield
The economy is consistently changing. The economy has been growing for the past 10 years since the great recession. The 45th President will lead you to believe that he has been responsible for the economy’s extraordinary growth. He brags that he is responsible for the lowest black unemployment rate in history. However, in spite of this growth, many of the statistics still show people in our community at the bottom.
People of color are still at the bottom of every economic category. The black unemployment rate is still almost twice that of the white unemployment rate at 5.5%. Black workers are still more likely to be unemployed or underemployed. The wage gap between blacks and whites continue to get wider. The homeownership rate of black millennials stands at 13 percent compared to 37 percent for white millennials. Aren’t our lives just as valuable?
There are many reasons we are stuck at the bottom. It can all be traced back to slavery. This year marks the 400th year of our existence in this country. The first slaves were kidnapped and brought to America in 1619. We were made to believe the slaves were subhuman. Then upon emancipation that we were still unequal to whites and second class citizens. During the civil rights era we were angry, dangerous and addicted to welfare. Today, our lives continue to be as radio host Joe Madison says: undervalued, underestimated and marginalized as we try to make better lives for our families.
What can we do to get out from the bottom? First we must realize that we are in control of our own destiny. We do not need anyone’s permission to be our own self appointed leader. Secondly, let’s stop settling for seconds. We deserve and must demand that we are treated as first class citizens. Voter turnout must continue to grow. We must vote not just for national elections but for local ones. We must also demand a return on our investment. Financially support people and organizations working to solve issues besides the ones dealing with race. Finally, we must demand accountability from our leaders. Not only should we hold our politicians accountable, but our business leaders, preachers, and entertainers. If you want to see my money, you must add value to my life.
Being at the bottom will lead you to believe you belong there or deserve to be there. DO NOT believe this. We must change our mindset to cut costs and add value. We have done it before. We woke up to seeing cigarettes as being disgusting and deadly. We fasten our seatbelts without thinking about it. And environmentalism is now everyone’s business because we see the value and it has become second nature. It will not be easy but we have a moral obligation to our children to do better and be better. Working together, we will no longer be at the bottom.