US and World Politics

Unemployment Drops Because People Stop Looking

The New Normal in the Age of Black Political Empowerment

By Bruce A. Dixon

Normal things are the ones we don’t think or talk about much, not because they are unimportant, but because they are, well, normal.

It’s important, though, for us to interrogate some of these old normals, and to question why some new things are also passing into the never-mentioned land of the normal as well.

Take Black unemployment. For as long as the stats have been kept, since well before the enforcement of the Voting Rights Act and the election of thousands of Black faces to offices high and low across the country, Black unemployment has never been less than double white unemployment. As recently as the 1970s and 1980s Black politicians used to inveigh about fighting for full employment and something they used to call “a Marshall Plan for the cities” to turn it around. But now, with the numbers and supposed influence of Black politicians at an all time high, addressing Black unemployment isn’t just off the table, it’s somewhere out of the building. Both catastrophic Black unemployment and the silence of the Black misleadership class on the issue have been normal for a good while now.

Whenever the general unemployment rate drops a tenth or two of a percent nowadays, the talking heads at MSNBC and other outfits whose job is cheerleading for this administration fall over themselves to praise this president and his administration for their wise and far-seeing economic leadership. That’s normal as well. But underneath those small reductions in unemployment is something ugly, something that’s becoming another new normal.

Incremental reductions in unemployment, now more than ever before, seem to be driven by people giving up the job search as hopeless, people dropping out of the labor market to do whatever it is poor people do when they can’t find work on the books. This has routinely become a large part of current reductions in unemployment, a new and disturbing normal in this, the supposed age of Black political empowerment. If this were true under a white Republican, our Black political leaders would be up in arms, at least long enough to mobilize us to vote one of their own into office. But in this, the age of the first Black president, at what we are told is the pinnacle of Black political power, is a new age, and there is a new normal.

Black Agenda Report, December 4, 2013