Blacks suffer economic struggle

By Daniel Klefstad

In the 22 years since Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.‘s death, the struggle for equality has charged ahead politically, but slipped economically.

Blacks have made political strides, including the election of black mayors in New York City and Chicago and the appointment of the first black justice to the United States Supreme Court.

Yet the black unemployment rate has increased and the per capita income for black Americans remains less than the national average.

“Politically there have been gains,” said Admasu Zike, faculty adviser to the Black Student Union. “Political parties now have some recognition of the power of the black vote.”

Zike said many black politicians seeking office are gaining the support of republican voters by distancing themselves from Jesse Jackson.

“Jesse Jackson raises issues about the poor and the underprivileged that will not get you elected,” Zike said.

Yet these issues are important to black voters. According to the 1989 Statistical Abstracts, the black unemployment rate was 10 percent in 1988, compared to 4.7 percent in 1970.

“I think it is a result of the ’80s,” Zike said. “There isn’t a lack of jobs, but a lack of job training programs. When President Reagan opened up the newspaper and said ‘There’s plenty of jobs’ he wasn’t looking at the number of training programs available to teach vocational skills to blacks in the inner cities.”

Tendaji Ganges, director of the Office of Educational Services and Programs, doubted the accuracy of the unemployment figures.

“That is an undercount. What is not recorded is the number of African-Americans who are underemployed, who lack technical training or a college education.”

Ganges believes higher education will help blacks increase their standing in the economic community.

“The goal of the Office of Educational Services is to improve education, to increase the graduation rates of the university.

“We are committed to developing a leadership pool, economic- wise and role-model wise which, by virtue of the people who do participate, will have a ripple effect to encourage more African-Americans to seek higher education,” Ganges said.

Black Student Union President Chris O’Banner said black politicians in office can contribute to higher education for minorities.

“Obviously, there is a duty for black politicians to help the constituents that helped put them in office.”

But O’Banner said political support is not enough. “Black entertainers and other role models can donate not only money, but books and other equipment to universities.”

Ganges reiterated the importance of role models. “Role models are far more powerful than politicians, for both the young and adults…They are important to younger people in that young people tend to emulate what they see. They also help remind adults of their responsibilities.”