Dion M. Harris

There is honor in work.

Work feeds the body, mind, soul and wallet. Is there anything more pleasing than enjoying our toys after a good day’s work? Honestly, I bet it is one reason we even bother getting out of bed in the morning: to afford our lifestyle.

Still, well into the second decade of the 21st Century, too many of us find ourselves stuck in mind-numbing jobs that we don’t enjoy. Working where we aren’t appreciated. Where our talents are under-compensated. Where we labor in poverty, merely going through the motions of earning a living.

I took notice last year when Wal-Mart workers walked out on Black Friday and again earlier this year when fast food workers went on strike for better pay. I listened with interest and in horror as low-wage workers talked about stagnant wages, erratic work schedules, retaliatory diminishment of scheduled work hours and living homeless while holding down full-time jobs. Oftentimes, two or three part-time jobs are chiseled together these days to make one full-time paycheck in the growing service sector ranks. This is corporate America’s dirty little secret, as profits mount and poverty spreads.

It’s not supposed to happen in the United States of America. In the land of the free and the home of the brave. Especially not in 2013.

Open your eyes.

Despite the Dow’s three 1,000-point milestones this year, The Great Recession hasn’t let up for many of us, especially in the African-American and Latino communities. For much of this year, economists and scholars have painted a rather bleak picture of economic progress for black people, in particular:

  • continuing double-digit unemployment (13.8 percent vs. 7 percent for whites; 7.9 percent overall);
  • growing rolls of those living below the poverty line (27.6 percent in 2011, the most recent data available – and two years into the so-called Recovery vs. a national average of 15 percent for all races.) You should know that in 2000, African-Americans enjoyed record low employment: 22.5 percent. Comparatively, in 1963, the year of the historic March on Washington, 42 percent of black Americans lived below the poverty line;
  • a persistent 20:1 wealth gap, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and information released by the African American Economic Summit at Howard University in February.

Societies become much less stable when so many live in misery. I don’t have all the answers, but I am a very strong proponent of early-childhood education/socialization, educational choice, equal funding of school districts, rigorous national standards, arts instruction, recess, mandatory parental involvement, financial literacy and entrepreneurship. America cannot win when so many are being left behind. It’s foolish and wasteful not to utilize all that we have.

I encourage all unemployed and underemployed people to start a business. Any kind of business, instead of wasting time all day sending out résumés and scouring the want ads for work. Most of us will never get rich working for someone else, and we’re oftentimes  miserable working the standard-issue job. Few large employers will ever hold our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness in the esteem with which we do. We can no longer afford to expect them to.

©Dion M. Harris/Be Right Books
Published in: on November 25, 2013 at 4:57 am  Comments (14)  
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