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DANIELS: Economy Continues to 'Tread Water Underwater'

Lee A. Daniels | 11/6/2013, 3 p.m.
Lee A. Daniels

That connection was starkly evident during the Civil Rights years of the 1950s and 1960s because the widespread bigotry Blacks endured resulted in their being locked out of many blue- and white-collar jobs in the North and West as well as the South. The continuing impact of discrimination of the past and present on Black Americans’ job-holding and economic status can be seen in the fact that their unemployment rate at nearly every rung of the economic ladder has been at least twice that of Whites for more than half a century.

For example, the federal jobs report found that while the September unemployment rate for Whites was 6.3 percent, it was 12.9 percent for Blacks (compared to 9.0 percent for Hispanic Americans) — a figure that is more than 3 percentage points above the highest level the national unemployment rate hit during the Great Recession.

So, we should recognize that the battle between the Obama administration and the Republicans in Congress this month actually underscores the message of the 1963 March: the connection between economic justice and social justice: jobs and freedom — is more important than ever.

A half-century ago civil rights activists and labor movement activists pooled their talents and resources to help produce a different distribution of power that enormously benefited Black Americans and Americans workers in general.

Today’s political and economic landscape is even more complex; but the fundamental point still holds: It still is about jobs and freedom.

Lee A. Daniels is a longtime journalist based in New York City. His latest book is "Last Chance: The Political Threat to Black America."