Despair and Nihilism

h/t to Chris Chambers at Nat Turner’s Revenge

“It’s tough to convince white people [and people of color, added by LAWC] to open their ears and brains and shut their mouths with this Ellis Close-esque Rage of the Privileged Class stuff. Especially when they see Lebron, Beyonce, Lil Wayne and OchoCinco and Oprah, of course living well. Now, 20 years ago, during fact-finding on the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act and anti-redlining hearings (uh-oh, better cut down ACORN!), similar trends came to light, backing up what we already discussed around the dinner table: blue collar uneducated white couples where getting bank loans easier than professional, uppity blacks (must be our extravagant spending on cars and hair weaves?). In other words, banks were more likely to “work with” them folks. Even them folk with credit blemishes. That stuff’s long buried. Reviled, even, by GOP zealots and a citizenry that still wants to blame everything on behavior, not structure, because that’s easier to swallow.

The Washington Post has ressurrected this monster and put it on the front page. Uncaged, here it is: per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, joblessness for 16-to-24-year-old black men has reached Great Depression proportions, 34.5 percent in October, more than three times the rate for the general U.S. population, The Washington Post reports Young black women have an unemployment rate of 26.5 percent, while the rate for all 16-to-24-year-old women is 15.4 percent. If you’ve listened to NPR today, you see things are horrific for Latinos as well [emphasis added by LAWC] –the folk who supposedly will take jobs blacks won’t. There’s another myth, broken.

Of course there is a broader problem of under-employment, dependence on part-time or temp work. That’s not counted in unemployment figures even for white males–our prize and solely competent demographic, correct? Feed that into the formula and the numbers are more frightening than “2012.”
To paraphrase the Post’s sources: For young blacks, race statistically appears to be a bigger factor in their unemployment than age, income or even education. Lower-income white teens were more likely to find work than upper-income black teens. Even blacks who graduate from college suffer from joblessness at twice the rate of their white peers. Some studies examining how employers review black and white job applicants suggest that discrimination may be at play.
Does this absolve the legions of young men we see loitering around, getting into trouble, bartering in an undeground or criminal economy that only discriminates against the weak, the unarmed, the upright and moral? No. But nor does it absolve the hypocritical, even nonsensical view–now even feeding stereotypes of others around the world (see the Chinese reaction to Obama and black folks)–that there are always bootstraps to pull up. And when even the best of us are sneered upon, feared, pushed aside for Joe the Plumber or (or a Sarah Palinesque lamebrain) then why should the least of us even try?”


This certainly puts swagger into perspective, doesn’t it?  Puts a new frame on opting, dropping and checking out.
When I left for work this morning, I was annoyed to see some young men hanging around.  Annoyed and a little worried.  Were they clocking our movements.  And then I had to reflect on how very fortunate I am to have somewhere to go.
I remember me and my two master’s degrees working at an assistant job where an African American colleague told me that it wasn’t going to get any better for me.  The rage that her hopelessness engendered gave me the momentum to get the job I hold as a budding entrepreneur and college professor today.  And I temped for years.
For those whose world is unbelievably fragile — I can’t imagine how they face these Depression level numbers with the constant pressures to buy, buy, buy!  And the unceasing contempt shown toward the poor and working class.  I have friends and relatives who are constantly vigilant against any victimhood claim whether appropriate or not.
Entrepreneurship will solve some of this certainly.  But not all.  We should pray but we can’t sit around praying ourselves into irrelevance.

About liftingasweclimb

Mildred Lewis writes and directs for theater, television, film and the web. She's also a full time professor, Christian, activist and troublemaker with a passion to save as much of the world as she can.
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