On Friday, CNS News posted a story quoting Black Entertainment Television (BET) founder Bob Johnson as saying that America would “never tolerate white unemployment at 14 or 15 percent” and yet unemployment for the black community has been double that of white Americans for over 50 years. That statement is true, and that fact is evidence of something wrong with our education and employment system as it currently exists. However, before we yell racism, let’s look at some of the things that surround black unemployment.
In 1962, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a Senator from New York who was very concerned about how American welfare programs were impacting the black family, noticed that because of the changes made to the welfare system, the number of black households without fathers present was increasing dramatically (City Journal Summer 2005). Before then, welfare was provided to families below a certain income whether or not the husband and father was living in the house. Welfare was changed in the 1960’s so that it was financially advantageous for a husband and father not to be living in the home. At that point, the black culture changed from one of strong families to one of single mothers. (Just for the record, much of the white culture is following the same path). Single-parent families are statistically much more likely to live below the poverty level than two-parent families.
High unemployment rates for blacks are a problem. High unemployment rates for anyone are a problem. If Bob Johnson is truly concerned about black unemployment, he needs to move within the black culture to support families, family values, and good education from kindergarten through college. One attempt at this, the Head Start Program, has yielded unimpressive results. We can do better.
On July 11, 2007, Time reported:
It is now 45 years later. We spend more than $7 billion providing Head Start to nearly 1 million children each year. And finally there is indisputable evidence about the program’s effectiveness, provided by the Department of Health and Human Services: Head Start simply does not work.
According to the Head Start Impact Study, which was quite comprehensive, the positive effects of the program were minimal and vanished by the end of first grade. Head Start graduates performed about the same as students of similar income and social status who were not part of the program. These results were so shocking that the HHS team sat on them for several years, according to Russ Whitehurst of the Brookings Institution, who said, “I guess they were trying to rerun the data to see if they could come up with anything positive. They couldn’t.”
So how do we change the black unemployment numbers? Actually, the place to start is the government. First of all, Obamacare is having a negative impact on employment for everyone–repeal it. Second of all, we need to take a good look at welfare programs and how they impact the people who receive the money (and while we are at it, examine the administrative cost). Third, we need community leaders who support black families and encourage black children to speak proper English, get a good education, get married after they finish school, and have children after they get married–not before. We then need to revise our welfare programs so that they promote intact families, and do not promote dependence upon the government. We need workfare programs–first of all to make welfare less attractive, and secondly to provide the experience (and expectation) of getting out of bed every morning and going to work. Workfare also provides experience in doing some sort of work–whatever it is. We need to re-educate both the black and white communities on the free enterprise system to allow those who can be entrepreneurs to do so (we also need to modify our tax system so that it pays to be an entrepreneur).
We need black leaders who do not preach dependence. We need black leaders who do not preach hatred and blame. We need black leaders who want to bring the black community into equality with the white community in the areas of education, housing, opportunities, and success. That can be done by promoting responsibility, patriotism, cooperation with authority, and basic values. Racism, hatred, and blame will get us nowhere. We need a positive approach.