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Friday, May 20, 2022

Politicians Preoccupied, Blacks Must Lead Selves

Politicians Preoccupied, Blacks Must Lead Selves

By EARL OFARI HUTCHINSON

The latest Census report finally confirmed what many have warned. The poor are getting poorer and there are more of them now then at any time in the past decade. While household income for whites, Asians, and Latinos dropped, the black poverty rate raises the greatest alarm.

Nearly one out of four blacks is below the poverty line, and their media household income is far below that of all other groups. At one time, it was thought that blacks had finally turned the economic corner; some even predicted that in the next decade or so the colossal gap between black and white wealth would evaporate.

The Census figures show that this is wishful thinking. But more ominously, chronic black poverty has done much to reverse a decade of decline in the crime and violence rate, particularly among young black males in California’s urban areas. The California Assembly Commission on the Status of the African-American Male reports that four out of 10 felons entering California prisons are black males. Less than half of lower income black males under 21 live in two parent households. Among young black males, 16 to 24, the most vulnerable and crime prone group, unemployment is three times greater than that of white males.

Black leaders in Los Angeles have implored banks, corporations, and state and federal officials to pump more funds into job training, drug and anti-gang prevention programs, build more stores and plants in black neighborhoods, and make more loans to black homebuyers and businesspeople.

Some banks and corporations have marginally increased the number of business and home loans in South Central Los Angeles. California National Bank and Hawthorne Savings Bank recently announced that they would transform two non-profit financial counseling centers into full service bank branches in the area.

Also, the Chesterfield Square shopping center, which was the first major development since the 1992 L.A. riots, opened recently, and next year Wal-Mart will open a big outlet in the Baldwin-Hills Crenshaw shopping center. They will provide hundreds of jobs for residents, and give black-owned businesses a shot in the arm.

Even the Community Redevelopment Agency has made soundings about jumpstarting the much-delayed Santa Barbara Plaza project. The new plan is to bankroll the construction of a mix of moderate-income housing, food, and retail stores.

This is all welcome news. But ballooning deficits have forced state and local officials to desperately search for more ways to cut local programs and services. The war on terrorism, and a possible Iraq war, will drain even more billions from education, health and job programs. The Democrats have been critical of President Bush for spending too much time and money on the terrorist fight, and too little on domestic needs. But they haven’t put forth any plan to deal with the crisis of the black poor.

What this means is that blacks must stop looking to government and business and look to themselves to do more for the black poor.

In L.A., there are more black professionals, businesspersons, and educators than ever and they have the skills and economic clout to make a real difference.

They can organize or conduct workshops that emphasize math, science, data processing, reading and writing skills. The workshops also could offer pointers on proper grooming, dress, manners, as well as instruction in job search, application and interview techniques.

Also, black entrepreneurs can train and counsel young blacks in business management, marketing, leasing, franchising, financial planning and investments. African-American churches, neighborhood centers, service agencies and businesses could donate facilities, reading materials and equipment.

Even with these efforts, the volatile mix of unemployment, poverty, frustration and despair will continue to drive many poor, desperate, and alienated young blacks to the streets. Government and business can and will do only so much to stem the poverty tide. The grim new Census figures on poverty demand that blacks do the rest.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and columnist. He can be heard on KPFK (90.7 FM) on Tuesdays from 7-8 p.m.

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