A Crisis Without Management
The numbers are shocking. According to a new study by the Community Service Society, just 52 percent of New York City’s black males between the ages of 16 and 64 were employed in 2003. Compare that to the rates in the same age group for white (76 percent) and Latino (66 percent) males, and the term crisis comes to mind. Throw in the fact that only 57 percent of black women in the same age range are employed, and even the word epidemic seems too mild a description of the current state of poverty in black America.
So what’s being done? Who’s speaking out? Where do populations of color fit in terms of the city’s current patterns of growth? Does Mayor Bloomberg have a plan to address poverty in the city? Sometimes, the answers are more important than the questions.
Here, briefly, are three possible initial remedies:
1) Renew affirmative action programs across the city. Among other things, what the report by the Community Service Society shows— once again—is that, left to their own preferences, private employers will reinforce existing patterns of discrimination, not break them down. So the choice is simple: the city both demands that, and creates strong incentives for, employers to hire people of color, or the ranks of the unemployed in black America will continue to grow.
2) Invest public money in public works projects. One of FDR’s first acts to overcome the Depression was to create the Civilian Conservation Corps, which put the unemployed from urban areas to work in rural areas. How about a City Conservation Corps, which puts the unemployed to work at home, repairing streets and parks, and building schools, across the city? Paying real wages, of course, would help boost local businesses, and in general create more tax revenue for the city.
3) Stop pushing for two-tiered wage and benefit systems from the city’s public sector unions. The public sector has historically been one of the few avenues of advancement into middle class stability for the city’s populations of color. Politicians and labor officials who sellout the next generation of workers thus need to be held accountable.
Obviously, there’s about a zillion other things that need to be done, in terms of education, job training, the shattering of glass ceilings, and so on. But right now, all we’re getting from the Mayor in terms of economic vision is stadiums from downtown Brooklyn to the west side of Manhattan. Such projects promise to create a relatively small number of long-term jobs, mostly at the lower end of the service sector. They also utilize public funds that could be used to subsidize more long-term growth, in high-tech, manufacturing and other areas.
Will a rising tide lift all boats? The Community Service Society report’s author Mark Levitan, for one, fears that that problem of black unemployment is "more deeply structural." What this suggests is that the remedies must begin with government action. Rather than building stadiums, perhaps the Mayor should start figuring out how to create level playing fields.
Xaviera Simmons: Crisis Makes a Book ClubBy William Corwin
NOV 2022 | ArtSeen
In the comprehensive survey exhibition Crisis Makes a Book Club, Xaviera Simmons explains with brutal clarity the need for real gestures; land acknowledgments without Land Back will not do, and there can be no equality without reparations. As the title calls out, starting book clubs to read the literature of the oppressed without yielding the social and economic capital demanded in those very texts means nothing.
Who’s Counting? How McKinsey Hyped California’s Housing CrisisBy Zelda Bronstein
APRIL 2023 | Field Notes
When Gavin Newsom was running for California governor in 2017, he famously vowed to lead the effort to build the 3.5 million new housing units we need by 2025. Newsom conceded that the goal was audacious but argued that our solutions must be as bold as the problem is big.1 Everyone agreed that Californias housing problem was big. What drew skepticism was the prospect of building 3.5 million homes by 2025.
Judah Schepts Coal, Cages, CrisisBy Jarrod Shanahan and Abby Cunniff
SEPT 2022 | Field Notes
A crumbling strip of asphalt winds through the craggy countryside of eastern Kentucky, striated with power lines sagging in every direction. Wobbly pavement markings and errant skidmarks vanish at a hairpin bend buffered by low guard rails framing a rolling, sparsely tree-spotted expanse of hills. On one side of this road stands a roughly chiseled open coal seam, marking the remnants of a former mine. On the other, a bowed chain link fence capped in razor-wire announces the outer periphery of Otter Creek Correctional Facility. This remarkable image by photographer Jill Frank adorns the jacket of prison scholar Judah Schepts Coal, Cages, Crisis (New York: NYU Press, 2022), confronting the reader with the books central preoccupations.
A Study of the BodyBy Candice Thompson
JUNE 2022 | Dance
Five rectangular screens hang down like stair steps hovering over the stage of Jerron Hermans VITRUVIAN. Extending in a diagonal line, each screen displays the same drawing by contemporary artist Chella Man. A big nod to Leonardo DaVincis Vitruvian Man (c. 1490), the image depicts two superimposed sketches of Hermans body. In an obvious departure from the classical image, the body is drafted as a quick sketch with legs of differing lengths that push past the circular frame, and shorter arms that fail to reach it.