In today’s economic turmoil we are looking for jobs that will help put food on our table, pay for our homes, and enable us to put our children through college. We faced daunting unemployment rates before, but our nation’s leaders put people to work. The Public Works Administration of the New Deal Era employed 3.5 million workers. Wise decisions to pursue public programs, like Social Security, helped people buy homes and build a retirement system, helping to create the American middle class. Unfortunately, these programs discriminated against far too many hard working Americans based on the color of their skin. Imagine if we make these wise decisions in a way that ensures that all of our people could benefit from these solutions, no matter our race or ethnicity, more of us could invest in a strong economy and nation.
But it will require that we help people get to quality jobs and address the Jim Crow in jobs. As we know, Jim Crow was a system that relegated Black Americans to second-class citizenry, segregated their participation in social, civic, and economic life, and hindered access to education and prosperity. Today, Jim Crow exists in the job market as more Black and Latino workers are cast as second-class workers: over-represented in low-skill, low- wage occupations with limited chances to move up the ladder of opportunity.
We can start addressing Jim Crow by making education affordable and high quality, so that more people can get good paying jobs with good benefits. And we can build public transit in neighborhoods that don’t have jobs, so that people can get to the neighborhoods that do. Further, we must challenge ourselves to move beyond policies that focus on decreasing the unemployment rate towards polices that create sustainable jobs. This means quality pay guaranteed through an increased minimum wage, healthcare, and benefits so a person is not preoccupied about the cost of food or a doctor’s visit.