Too many Americans are hurting.

Last month, the national unemployment rate hit a high of 8.9 percent, with close to 13.7 million people unemployed.

For blacks and Latinos, the situation is even more dire. Black unemployment reached 15 percent, while the rate for Hispanics was 11.3 percent.

Given the high levels of poverty that already afflict black and Latino communities, these unemployment rates ensure that the impact of the recession on those communities will be felt for years to come.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is supposed to create or save 3.7 million jobs by 2010. However, due to the underrepresentation of blacks and Latinos in targeted occupations, the stimulus is likely to leave the average unemployment rate for these two groups at about 10.7 percent. In order to cut the unemployment rate in those communities to the projected national rate of 6.5 percent, an additional 1.7 million jobs would have to be created and go directly to blacks and Latinos by 2010.

The recession is especially brutal for blacks and Latinos because, compared to whites, they have virtually no net worth to fall back on. About 68 percent of black households and 56 percent of Latino households have no net financial assets.

So, what should be done?

First, the Obama administration should target significant new resources to decrease the unemployment rate among blacks and Latinos and in the hard-hit cities.

Second, the Obama administration should ensure that the jobs created by any stimulus pay a living wage, thus creating a clear pathway out of poverty.

Third, the Obama administration should increase training and education programs for young adults so they can acquire the skills needed to succeed in today’s work force.

And fourth, the Obama administration should create and enforce policies that counter racial and gender discrimination. For instance, black men make up only 5 percent of the work force in construction. There is no good reason for that.

To date, the Obama administration has missed the boat in terms of ensuring that the jobs created through the Recovery Act will reach the most vulnerable. It has also failed to correct for historic patterns of discrimination in the labor market that have blocked access to higher-paying jobs and opportunities for blacks and Latinos.

Paying lip service to fairness and equality is not enough. We need action.

, is a political scientist and the executive director of the Women of Color Policy Network at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. The group just published a report entitled “ Race, Gender and the Recession.” She can be reached at

Add new comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.


The new head of the Environmental Protection has a history of suing the agency for trying to do its job.

The reach of this story extends from the lowliest working stiff to the highest court in the land.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

Public School Shakedown

Progressive Media Project