When work disappears

May 7, 2015
dr an

By Dr. Andrew Calhoun, Ed.D. Special to the Milwaukee Times


To most of us “baby boomers” (1946-1964), this is nothing new: community uprisings, civic unrest, looting, riots, burnings, marching, shootings, injustice, militarization of law enforcement, poor housing, lack of quality health care and unsafe neighborhoods. But to a new generation in the 21st century, this is a wakeup call as they try to push forward a new agenda and a new future for America. As some in the millennial generation (1980- 2000) are finding out, it’s going take some tough calls, rough roads and will require a new mindset to effectively deal with what is happening. At the heart of what is so wrong in America these days is the fact that finding a livable wage job for African American men in particular and most people of color in general is hard. During the old days during the mid-1900 through the 1980s, there were countless jobs available in manufacturing, construction and support industries located in cities. In fact you could just finish high school and literally walk across the street and begin working in a blue-collar job the next day. Today, that is not the case due to outsourcing, business closures, consultation and relocation of core industries to the suburbs and overseas. Over the past few decades these business transitions and more left thousands of people living in urban America out of meaningful work and with no other means in which to survive. In addition, even if you had the skills to work in the new factories built in the suburbs, getting to work also was a challenge. William Julius Wilson, a noted sociologist and faculty member at the University of Chicago, wrote a book entitled, “When Work Disappears: The World the New Urban Poor” in 1997. In his research and writings he highlights the devastating effects that the disappearance of work has on individual, family and neighborhood life in the urban ghettos. The loss of these blue-collar jobs from urban America affected how things unfolded and soon became one of the leading underlining root causes to urban problems. As he sees it, this unique isolation, concentrated unemployment was further hindered due to a lack of local available training and education. In addition, he examines the attitudes of employers toward residents from the inner city, regardless of their skills and talent and its effects on hiring policies. He also dismantles the conservative argument that the people of the ghettos lack drive and aspiration, but on the contrary found out that those living in the ghettos or urban centers had the same desire for a success and a stable life as anyone else. More remarkably, this upcoming new generation of leaders is finding out that in order to turn things around in urban America, there must be livable wage employment. This employment must be both available and accessible. While many of the jobs from a generation ago have disappears from urban America, the majority of the people and their descendants are still there. It is my hope that these new leaders not only see the need for meaningful employment in urban American, but also do something about it. What do you think? Dr. Andrew Calhoun, can be contacted at andrewiiicalhoun@ gmail.com, Twitter #AC53, and Facebook. You can hear Dr. Calhoun each Sunday at Grace Fellowship Church, 3879 N. Port Washington Rd. Milwaukee 414-265-5546. The opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the writer and not of the Milwaukee Times Weekly Newspaper or NCON Communication, its staff or management. “Rebuilding Our Community” is a weekly column exclusive to the Milwaukee Times Weekly Newspaper.