that Americans deal with work and economic integrity.
It seems that we have all sipped on the Kool-Aid that deifies the rich. They must have it going on, and why don’t we? Why can’t we spur a populist economic movement that says something else, instead? Why can’t we embrace Dr. Martin Luther King’s message when he said “I have the audacity to believe that people everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, peace and freedom for their spirits.” In other words, how come we can’t decide that everyone can eat and be educated? How come we can’t make eating and educating a cultural imperative?
To put some meat on the official numbers we should note that nearly 14 million people are officially unemployed, with 6.5 million (45 percent) of them being unemployed for more than half a year. These are just the official numbers. The unofficial numbers make these look miniscule. This is not a double the flavor, double the fun situation. It’s called double the pain.
What do we do with all this pain? How do we begin to respond to our fellow citizens? The future of our nation hinges on our ability to engage more people in the business and the work of this economy. We engage people by involving them, educating them, empowering them. Yet, we are cutting education funds because we can’t raise the debt ceiling, because we are broke.
At the end of the day, here is what we need to know. When work doesn’t’ work, life doesn’t work for too many Americans. When work doesn’t work, too many people are kicked to the curb, told they are useless and left to their own devices. In an entrepreneurial culture that can be a good thing. If we encourage entrepreneurship, people can invent, and promote their ideas. But when there are no open arms for those who have been sidelined, they are likely to engage in activities that can be interpreted as less than wholesome.
Too many people speak of the centrality of work without understanding how to make work happen. The most recent unemployment rates remind us that too many of our friends and neighbors have been placed outside the economic mainstream. What must we do to make it better, especially when this is a burden that falls heavy on the African American community?
Julianne Malveaux is president of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.