The Chicago Urban League’s Workforce Development Director Andrew Wells recently issued the following statement in response to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) November, 2016 jobs report:
“Over the past few months, we have become accustomed to the dwindling trend of the national unemployment rate which today dipped to 4.6%, the lowest in 9 years. Bravo! But not really.
In wake of the recent Presidential election results and the overall racial climate in our country sparked by negative campaign rhetoric targeting minorities, I, and surely others, have pondered the employment outlook and economic stability of African-Americans, particularly in Chicago. Unemployment among Blacks in our city continues to escalate at a rate that drastically outpaces the national average.
Economic mobility has been a never-ending struggle for people of color. For many Blacks, economic well-being is primarily tied to a paycheck from an employer, and despite some progress, wage gaps persist. A recent study by the Pew Research Center showed that in 2015, Black and Hispanic men on average earned approximately 33% less than white men. Black and Hispanic women on average earned 29% less than their white counterparts.
More disturbingly, the percentages don’t differ much with educational attainment. Blacks and Hispanics have made little progress in narrowing the wage gap with their white counterparts since the early 1980’s. According to a study authored by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and the Corporation For Economic Development (CFED), the average Black family would need 228 years to amass the wealth of a white family today.
In the midst of this inequity comes the changing of the guard in the highest office in the country. Our economic stability, both as a people and a nation, greatly depends on our elected officials whom we elect to enact laws that level the playing field, giving all citizens access to economic opportunity. Situations already exist nationwide where Blacks are disproportionately represented on corporate boards, C-suites, ownership class and even in some blue-collar workforce environments.
While the jury is still out on what is yet to come under the new administration, we must play a visible and active role in ensuring a seat at the employment table for African Americans. This will be easier said than done. After 100 years in existence, the Chicago Urban League is here serving as a catalyst, voice and convener to address the problems of racial inequity so apparent in Chicago.
Collaboration among non-profit organizations, government officials, the faith community, law enforcement, corporations, small business owners and citizens who truly want a better Chicago is necessary to ensure that African Americans have access to employment opportunities alongside all other Americans.
Racial injustice and economic disenfranchisement don’t make America great. Elevating humanity does.”