As we bask in the ascension of President Obama to his second-term, it’s easy to feel positive and giddy about the future of this country and black people’s possibilities in it.
Especially since a Mitt Romney victory would have meant a Tea Party takeover and four years of backlash for us even daring to use our vote to elect a president who shattered their notions of superiority.
But now, it’s time to get back to reality. And right now, the reality for black people in this country, when it comes to economic prosperity, is bleak.
Black unemployment is at 13.8 percent – nearly double that of whites. According to The Washington Post, a group of scholars who convened at Howard University recently basically said that the recovery is passing black people by; the black-white wealth disparity is 20 to 1 and fewer blacks own homes.
Some of the scholars said that targeted, large scale efforts, like public jobs programs, are needed to combat persistent black unemployment. Others said that institutional racism remains a problem for most black people when it comes to getting jobs.
Me, I think the problem is a lot more complicated than that. And unless we grasp what much of the real problem is – job-killing technological advances – then it’s bound to worsen in a big way.
The Associated Press just completed an investigation that was enlightening as much as it was depressing. What it found was that millions of middle-class jobs – think store sales clerks, meter readers and assembly line workers – are being replaced by technology.
Customers no longer have to deal with rude, sour-faced cashiers at supermarkets, because many stores now have kiosks where customers can scan their own items.
Trains can now run without conductors, and whole employment categories, like secretaries and receptionists, are disappearing.
If you order clothes and goods over the Internet, well, there goes a sales person’s job.
So what that means is that we’re now in a world in which it won’t be enough to be able-bodied, because computers are taking those jobs. And computers don’t need lunch breaks or union concessions.
They also don’t need to be told everything to do because they’ve been programmed to know what to do.
Even the scientists who are developing the technology are cringing at the thought that it is developing too fast for workers to keep up with, and that it could continue to lead to persistent, high unemployment.