3 Presidents, no solution: NAACP president Benjamin Jealous, President Obama, and National Urban Leage Marc Morial

On Thursday July 21, 2011, President Obama held a meeting at the White House, with NAACP president Benjamin Jealous, and National Urban League president Marc Morial. These are the two oldest and largest Black organizations in the country. The purpose and goal of the meeting was vague, but the leaders had an opportunity to share their opinions on a variety of subjects with the president.

The meeting lasted for about 30 minutes to an hour, and President Obama reiterated that reducing unemployment, which disproportionately burdens the African-American community, remained a top priority for him and his administration. It is important that the president has acknowledged that there is a crisis in unemployment in the Black community, and his administration is willing to confront the problem.

Presidents Morial and Jealous

On July 17, 2011, Marc Morial said on NBC’s Meet the Press, “We have a job crisis in America, and the nation needs a job plan. We have 14 million out of work. The Black unemployment rate is at stifling levels. It’s in fact, increased since the recovery has been begun.”

In June 2009, the unemployment rate for African-Americans was 14.9% and in June this year,

 the rate is 16.2%. White unemployment has dropped from 8.7% to 8.1%, and the Hispanic rate has dropped from 12.2% to 11.6%. Also the Asian rate has dropped from 8.2% to 6.8%.

Marc Morial has pointed out that certain segments in the Black labor force showed even higher rates of unemployment. The most recent unemployment rate for Blacks between the ages of 16 and 24 years was 31.4%. In certain cities, the unemployment rate for Black men is over 50%.

 

Representative Emmanuel Cleaver

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus recently publicly accused the Obama administration of failing to adequately address a veritable epidemic of African-American unemployment. “Can you imagine a situation where any other group of workers, if 34% of white women were out there looking for work and couldn’t find it? There would be rallies, congressional hearings, and protest marches; there is no way that would be allowed to stand,” says Representative Emanuel Cleaver, a Missouri Democrat.

The Congressional Black Caucus has introduced many different bills to attack Black unemployment rates. Debates about Black unemployment persist, but the Obama administration has focused on broad based initiatives aimed at lowering unemployment in general. It appears that the Obama administration needs a specific plan to address Black unemployment.

At the meeting with Morial and Jealous, the president discussed the efforts his administration  has made to address urban economic development through initiatives such as Strong Cities and Strong Communities. These programs act to spur economic growth in urban centers while ensuring taxpayer dollars are used wisely and efficiently.

Morial and Jealous shared their ideas with President Obama for resolving high unemployment in the Black community. The leaders say the president indicated he was willing to consider some of their ideas about job creation and employment discrimination when he is done with the debt crisis.

The two leaders also discussed with the president their opinions on the debt reduction plan. “We emphasized that no steps should be taken that gonna cost this nation jobs. No steps should be taken that’s gonna force vulnerable Americans to pay the cost of a debt reduction plan,” Morial said of the meeting. He said the president nodded his head in agreement.

It is significant that President Obama is taking time out to access and discuss the mood of the African American community. But the wheels of the federal political machine turn slowly and take time. It is important that our political leaders and Congressional Black Caucus continue to apply pressure to the White House, and mobilize the different state, local, and community Black political organizations.

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