The statement “The higher you build your barriers, the taller I become” pretty much sums up the collective experience of people of African descent in the U.S. economy. It also sums up why our heads sit high amid the loud noise of smallness.
The statement is the opening line of “Something Inside So Strong,” the 1986 hit song of Black British singer/songwriter/poet Labi Siffre. In April, the Supreme Court of the United States voted 6-2 to uphold Michigan’s voter-approved proposition banning affirmative action in public employment, public education or public contracting. In so doing, SCOTUS overturned the earlier finding of a federal appeals court that the ban stripped racial minorities of their rights and therefore was unconstitutional. There was no weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth in the Black community over this new “blow to affirmative action.” We were used to this. Many, if not most of us, saw it coming.
In America today, economic data show, if you’re a white male or white female, with no disabilities and no time spent serving the country in the lower ranks of the armed forces, you hold a privileged ticket to economic well-being. Every month, Professional Diversity Network publishes a “Diversity Jobs Index and Report” that statistically shows corporate appetite for ethnic minority, women, veteran, and disabled workers and the level of unemployment in these specific “workforce segments.” PDN is an online recruitment community that pairs its members with top companies in various industries and geographic regions that post their job openings on the PDN platform. It releases its report the day before the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics issues its monthly Employment Situation Summary, which includes national employment numbers for the previous month.
PDN describes the companies that post jobs on its website as employers who are “serious about building a diverse and inclusive workforce.” Based on job postings by these companies, PDN’s April 2014 “Diversity Jobs Index and Report” (the most current before this issue of TNJ went to press) shows a 10.7 percent drop in overall demand for diverse talent in March compared to February, with African-American talent seeing little or no movement. The report also shows that while the national unemployment rate for African-Americans is 12.77 percent, second only to the unemployment rate of the disabled, the percentage of all unemployed Americans who are African-American is 21.62 percent.
And still we grow. “Don’t be discouraged by recent setbacks in measures to advance African-American higher education. There has been important progress on many fronts,” the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, declares, noting that Harvard University’s Class of 2013 was the most racially diverse in its history to date, with 10 percent of the incoming students African-American. By every U.S. socioeconomic yardstick, TNJ’s 2014 class of 40 Under Forty Achievers Award recipients, like the 16 preceding classes, exemplify excellence. Earlier this year, the entire country learned of Kwasi Enin, a YOUNG BLACK MALE with an SAT score of 2,250 out of 2,400, who was accepted to all eight Ivy League universities — an unprecedented feat.
Cliven Bundy, the armed-militia-protected Nevada rancher, ruminates about Blacks being “better off as slaves” while he and his cows poach on the government’s grass, SCOTUS kicks affirmative action to the curb, and another rich white influencer spews his true feelings about Black people. We can grow taller than the smallness. Touch the sky, even. Who’s the president? Who runs Xerox Corp. Nyeh! Nyeh!