By Jeff Thomas
Joblessness and crime are intimately linked. Contrary to the American narrative bias against black men that incorrectly maintains that criminality is a congenital condition, societal nurture provides ample breeding grounds and structure to support criminal activity. In New Orleans, the only thing more persistent than high crime is even higher unemployment in the lives of too many African American men. In fact only the innate industriousness and honesty of the vast majority of most black men explains the fact that unemployment amongst black men in NOLA is around 46-48% while the New Orleans is ranked the 84th most dangerous city in America.
This year, our nation will celebrate the 54st anniversary of the march on Washington. Reverend King gave his most highly regarded speech that day, and we all can quote the part when he said, “I have a dream today” …that my children will be judged not by the color of their skin, but the “content of their character.” And while the significance of those great words resonates today, lost in their enduring greatness over the expanse of time is their original context as well as the context of the historic march. The march was officially the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. And the issues initiating the need for over 250,000 people from all over the country are disconcertingly comparable today.
Current unemployment rates reveal rampant employment discrimination remains in America today. In 1963 African American unemployment was around 10% compared with 12.6% today. Even more disturbing is that rate is equivalent to unemployment during a recession. And according to a 2013 National Urban League study, only once in the last 50 years has African American unemployment been below recession level rates. While many areas of life in America have improved since Dr. King gave his historic speech, employment in the African American community has been the most difficult challenge America has faced. Without a good paying job, men cannot raise their families to enjoy their best lives. Hopefully our new mayor can address this in New Orleans.
One of the best ways you and I can address unemployment is to support local businesses that provide good products and services and while treating customers with respect and dignity. Supporting our local businesses helps these businesses grow and expand. Our community must buy from local entrepreneurs who invest in our communities. These businesses will in turn hire local community members and provide a living wage. With constant support from the local community, local businesses will offer more jobs and better services to the community. By recirculating dollars in our local communities, the quality of life for everyone is improved.
Intentionally supporting black owned businesses in New Orleans is one way we can all make our city a great place to raise every family. The current disparities can all be removed by helping grow our black business community. Restaurants, contractors, attorneys, doctors, dentists, accountants, lawn maintenance, computer consultants, and mechanics are just some of the available resources available in abundance in the black community. Finding these services in our communities strengthens our neighborhoods and reduces crime. Who knew you could fight crime and save on taxes at the same time?
Doing business with our neighbors is good for all of us.