Are Blue Collar Jobs the Answer to the Shrinking Black Middle Class?

Friday, July 29, 2011

(Spencer Platt/Getty)

This week, we've been talking about the impact of the recession on the wealth of minority groups in America. Early in the week a new Pew Research Center report showed that Hispanics were the group hit hardest by the recession, with a 66 percent drop in personal wealth, and African-Americans saw a 53 percent decline since 2005. The public sector is the leading employer for African-American men, and the second-largest employer for African-American women — which means public sector lay-offs have disproportionately affected the black middle class. What is the solution?

John McWhorter, linguist at Columbia University, contributing editor at The New Republic, and author of the forthcoming book "What Language Is: And What It Isn’t and What It Could Be," thinks he has an answer. In an article he wrote for The Root, McWhorter suggests more black people should be steered toward blue collar jobs. Kai Wright, editorial director at ColorLines, disagrees with McWhorter's argument, saying it ignores the many people and organizations trying to change the economy to make it more equitable for all.


John H. McWhorter and Kai Wright

Produced by:

Susie Warhurst

Comments [10]

Margaret from Manhattan

Jobs that should be happening: manufacture solar panels; install solar panels;manufacture and install wind (and water?) turbines; construct bike paths; urban farmer; urban farming/vegetarian nutrition/basic botanical and biological science lecturing; farming botanical dyes; building railroads as people start to believe how much airplanes pollute matters (unless new fuel is clean); collect and re-manufactture waster restaurant oil for vehicles; re-tool the enginnes for that....

Jul. 30 2011 03:51 PM

So? Unemployment for college grads of EVERY color is high. Join the club.

Jul. 29 2011 05:28 PM
Scott from Southampton

See for a solution to the economic problem.

Jul. 29 2011 09:46 AM
Steve Greene from Ann Arbor, MI

The general movement away from domestic North American manufacturing toward low cost countries has long lasting consequences. It may be cheaper in the short run to build things in China or Southeast Asian countries like Viet Nam, etc.
The consequence is the loss of domestic jobs that add value commensurate with the abilities of the citizen.

Jul. 29 2011 09:45 AM
Bill Harrison from Tennessee

There is a huge disconnect between the jobs employers need to hire for and the jobs minorities have been educated to do.

Solution? A cheaper credentialing system! We live in an age in which all videos, textbooks, and interactive tutorials can be recreated at zero marginal cost. Yet, we still require poor people to pay tens of thousands of dollars to be certified for a degree.

As a society, we can either acknowledge and use the miracle that is Internet access to create a modern, flexible workforce/economy, OR we can continue to allow outdated 20th century academic institutions to limit the potential of our country and our citizens.

Jul. 29 2011 09:35 AM
Mark S from Albany

The government is the employer of choice in a moribund economy.

The Government is a non-profit entity. It needs to spend all the money (and more) it receives. This isn't the case for corporations.

They can invest money in stock, bonds, hedge funds etc, pay fat bonuses and salaries to executives, distribute money to shareholders, etc. Corporations have a disincentive to hire, because it reduces their profitability.

I wonder how many jobs/$1million in revenue the government generates vs a public sector corp like Exxon, AT&T or Pfizer?

Jul. 29 2011 09:31 AM

I am glad your commentator acknowledged that there are just "not enough" jobs for anyone. White students are more often born with their jobs at their door i.e. family and community. It should be understood that African Americans are represented in the public sector largely because they have been educated to know about these jobs considered "public" because segregation seemed to have ended in the public. But African Americans are still playing "catch-up" economically in the American world which remains intentionally segregated on the most intimate levels of community development, i.e. church, neighborhoods, and schools. There not enough African American "super rich" to really believe segregation has ended. Labor options as well as those of options of disbursement are tainted by a racist ethos that is maintained in most American commununities, sanctified in religion, and realized in the acquisition and maintenance of land based wealth. Too few African American children have college educated parents or live in communtiies of that calibre to expect things to be much different than they are.If everybody hurts, blacks will still hurt more.

Jul. 29 2011 08:18 AM
Peg from Southern Tier NY

We need the jobs of the future. Mass Manufacturing in energy efficient alternative technologies like windmills, solar, led lighting, greenhouses, biofuels, energy efficient housing design and construction. mass transportation, infrastructure redesign and repair, medical workers ... really the list is endless.

We seem to have lost the will to believe that YES WE CAN DO THIS.

Jul. 29 2011 07:45 AM
phyllis from New York

Before the break you stated - shouldn't we be doing something to protect these public sector middle class jobs so people can raise a family"

Well these public sector jobs are paid for by taxes collected - If it continues that all the jobs being created are minimum wage how can there be enough tax revenue to support middle class gov't jobs??

Jul. 29 2011 07:42 AM

This conversation is alarming. What historically makes this so? Did the end of segregation contribute to less black-owned businesses and home /land ownership?
Additionally, how did the "programs" post civil rights contribute to a level of dependency on the government to promote "equality"?

Jul. 29 2011 07:42 AM

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