How reformed economies are affecting black life

Published 4:30 pm Friday, January 3, 2020

We’ve grown seemingly impervious to all the redefined economies that presently surround us.

They have been with us and pretty much developing the same way all our lives. Though there are frequent recessions and sometimes painful and even shattering corrections, we expect them to grow, and they do.

Economies expand. That’s what they’ve always done. Except that’s not happening now.

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There was recently a report that employers over time have managed — and prefer — to direct their dollars and corporate giving to established charities rather than pay raises, or even adequate wages to employees working their jobs. Charity as an impulse rather than fairness as a requirement now operates in our business lives.

Then, too, business success in our time seems more dependent on downsizing and decreasing the numbers of workers rather than increasing or expanding them.

Profits are made and often increased by fewer workers, not more of them in today’s economies. This is a function of technology too as it’s taken over our whole lives and economies.

Robots are far more pervasive in the workplace than many of us imagine. Thus, work-based economies are growing smaller, not larger in our communities.

So does everyone still have a right to work and be paid?

And increasingly the answer is no.

Even corporate giving announced on plaques and inscribed on nameplates, is more likely to benefit donors than pay equity does in the workplace.

So what happens when that person has no job?

Or one that he can do?

Throughout our history to date, we have faced massive and dire needs.

And the one that comes most readily to me is the achievement of black literacy after the Civil War.

At the end of that war in 1865, most blacks, certainly, most of the freed ones, were not able to read and write. They simply didn’t know how. Most of my people were illiterate.

But by 1930, just 65 years later, blacks here were near totally literate. I don’t mean they were reading Shakespearean plays. But most could read their Bible; most could — and did write letters — to their children and could “cipher” (or count) so they couldn’t be cheated by store owners.

All that in 65 years. I’m 79.

So in far fewer years than I’ve been alive, black people were totally literate. It was a gigantic, collective act of the will.

Today, though, we’ve lost a lot of that will and even a minimal awareness of the things that are happening to us.

Now there’s a movement to abort federal programs of government assistance for the needy. This follows naturally, almost logistically, when the government begins downsizing its share of the public good and increasing the individual’s.

But what happens when that individual has no job?

Or one that he can do?

What happens to those who’ve been generationally dependent three or more generations?

Twenty, 40, 60 years?

And have no jobs they can work?

We had better start paying better attention to the new, quiet economies.

As well as preparing for them.

Yolande Robbins is a community columnist for The Vicksburg Post.