The national conversation and activism surrounding racial inequality has a major blind spot, says Bernie Sanders: the link between unemployment and civil rights.
“How do you discuss Ferguson and not know that, in that particular community, unemployment is off the charts?” the presidential candidate said in an interview with the Nation published Monday. “How do you discuss Baltimore and not know that, in that particular community, unemployment is off the charts?”
Sanders connects civil unrest in black communities, police shootings, and violence to soaring black youth unemployment. “I do not separate the civil-rights issue from the fact that 50 percent of African-American young people are either unemployed or underemployed,” Sanders told the Nation.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, black youth unemployment in the United States was a staggering 24.8 percent in 2014, compared to 12.2 percent of their white counterparts. And more than half of recent black college graduates are underemployed, meaning that they hold a job that does not require a college degree, according to a study by the Center of Economic and Policy Research, a left-leaning Washington think tank.
Youth unemployment is not just a problem for young black Americans. The Bureau of Labor Statistics counts 3.4 million Americans between the ages of 16 to 24 years old as unemployed in 2014.
Last month, Hillary Clinton addressed America’s youth unemployment problem in a speech at South Carolina’s Trident Technical College to a predominantly black crowd. But where Sanders, a socialist, identified black youth unemployment as a civil-rights issue, Clinton portrayed it as solely an economic one, and did not identify specific proposals for black youth in her speech.
The Clinton campaign said last month it plans to outline economic policies proposals related to young black adults sometime this summer.
Clinton proposed a $1,500 tax credit to businesses that brought on young apprentices. “We have a long history of apprenticeships in our country going back into the 19th century,” said Clinton to Trident Tech. “When employers invest in on the job training, workers are more productive and businesses are more profitable,” she said.
“This is one of these economic strategies that is win, win, win for everybody,” said Clinton.
Both candidates, however, agree that youth unemployment is a problem. “The numbers are really troubling,” said Clinton in her speech. “And in addition we have a lot of young people who are underemployed.”
“I support high quality job training programs,” she said. “On the job training can raise pay by thousands of dollars every year, apprenticeships by even more.”
“Remember the March on Washington—what was it about? ‘Jobs and Freedom’,” said Sanders.
And 52 years later, “jobs and freedom” still haven't been achieved.
Collier Meyerson is a reporter at Fusion with a focus on race and politics. She lives in Brooklyn.