February is Black History Month.
What does it mean to you?
There are well-known established sheroes and heroes of all sorts and stripes that might deserve mention in this month. However, I want to discuss the month from a slightly different angle.
One of the events likely to occur under rightist governments, such as the previous one we just endured, is the erosion of children’s rights. Right-sided governments are more likely to work under the premise that children’s rights are those of the parents, rather than the children themselves. One example is the constant struggle over whether to allow young people the right to privacy in their visits to doctors and their personal health choices.
We are the keepers of the largest prisoner base in the world. As is prevalent elsewhere in other age groups, minority children are still more likely to suffer the brunt of unequal treatment. In this light, The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) took particular hopeful note in January of President Obama’s stated intention over increased enforcement in his State of the Union Address.
It’s Time to Step Up Enforcement of Children’s Rights
By Richard Cohen
[After a drastic decline in civil rights enforcement by the U.S. Justice Department over much of the past decade, President Obama’s declaration during last night’s State of the Union Address that his administration is “once again prosecuting civil rights violations” is a promising sign…]
We will have to wait and see whether the SPLC’s hope is fulfilled. In any event, one my heroes for the month would include the folks at SPLC.
A recent event on a different subject deserves scrutiny. As expected, the unemployment numbers, for the Nation as whole, in January looked better than previous months at 9.7%. I doubt this number truly represents the actually unemployed, since January, as will March, represented merely an end to those folks whose unemployment simply ran out. This is one of the great scams perpetrated by the cycling of employment funds, as people are dropped off the employment dole.
The DOL’s Economic News Release, dated Feb. 5, 2010 contains this tidbit:
[..In January, the number of persons unemployed due to job loss decreased by 378,000 to 9.3 million. Nearly all of this decline occurred among permanent
job losers. (See table A-11.)
The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks and over) continued to trend up in January, reaching 6.3 million. Since the start of the recession in December 2007, the number of long-term unemployed has risen by 5.0 million. (See table A-12.)…]
Upon review of Table A-11 one learns:
[…Among the marginally attached, there were 1.1 million discouraged workers in January, up from 734,000 a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them. The remaining 1.5 million people marginally attached to the labor force had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities…]
That means the number of discouraged workers is up by 366,000 people or 33% from a year ago. Since the long term unemployed is also trending up, and they are the next to be changed to discouraged workers and chopped off the unemployment figures, unless Congress acts, two things are likely to happen. The unemployment figures will get better shortly and most of these people will still not have found jobs.
While several other groups are higher (Black 16-19 ears old of both sexes was 43.8%!), for Black American men, January’s seasonally adjusted rate was 19.7%. The Root says “Despair has become Banal”, in their article on Black unemployment.
Today, I saw a commenter on another blog asking why there is no “White History Month”. Although, the commenter was attempting to be flip, it is a fair question from another viewpoint.
[.. Some African radical/nationalist groups, including the Nation of Islam, have criticized Black History Month. Some critics, including actor Morgan Freeman, contend that Black History Month is irrelevant because it has degenerated into a shallow ritual. He says that it serves to undermine the contention that black history “is” American history...]
We all need rituals and traditions. The comfort us and are shorthand touchstones for our memories and self-awareness. They remind us of the struggles we have endured and sacrifices we have made. They provide us with aspirational models of humanity. However, they can also lull us into somnambulism over our current position. So I think that Black History Month is a commemoration that can still raise our consciousness. As a shorthand symbol for a few well-known people, also can prevent our growth.
Out of the history of the Civil War, the movement of Black Americans into the industrial cities that first offered employment as a consequence of the industrial age, and then the world wars, stratifies Black Americans today in those same cities: Chicago, Oakland, Richmond, Detroit, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, etc. When we gave up our own industry to cheap land, cheap and unorganized labor, non existent safety and health standard of other countries, and greed, we did something else. We left that labor pool behind with the hazardous waste of non-modernized factories. This is just as, right on schedule, after a twenty-year depreciation valuation ends, Toyota is now doing with NUMMI plant in Fremont, CA. Another 20 years and Texas will weep for her squandered land as well.
We are not there yet. I agree that Black History is American History. I also agree with President Obama’s premise that regions SHOULD be targeted to reduce unemployment. However, this CANNOT be the only thrust. Does he really mean that little sop over being a president for ALL the people meant that he could not push for employment from a civil rights perspective? I think it showed real fear on his part.
This statement simply does not track with the recent health bill that included line items galore toward insuring that minorities, tribes, veterans and women got dispensation in the package. This is a bill he would have signed and continues to promote in some version.
Black history is being made right now. History in the making is murky and often unclear. However, here are my employment sheros and heroes for the month: Al Sharpton, Benjamin Jealous, Marc Morial, and Dorothy Height, who even though the snow prevented her attendance, had the right message to deliver to this meeting.
I hope Congress will listen to them when the time comes, as well. Civil rights is an ongoing “becoming” backed by those who are willing to demand it.