The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

1965 act helps blacks improve economic status, role in businesses

By John Harden/sports editor

Part three in a four-part Black History Month series on the theme of progress.

The 1900s practice of keeping blacks and whites separate in the workforce economically prevented blacks from thriving in America, but blacks saw great improvement in later years.

Jobs with pay equal to whites was not necessarily easy for blacks to obtain.

“My parents were school teachers in the segregated schools,” said SE professor Andrew Jackson. “When they started, black teachers were not paid the same as white teachers. Under the dual salary system, black teachers earned about 7/25 of what white teachers made.”

Black communities usually suffered from poverty because of low earnings, and most families had to spend accordingly.

“We lived a little above poverty level,” said South counseling director Clifton Dobbins. “There were five boys, so there wasn’t much money in the house.”

Long civil battles occurred during the civil rights era in hopes to end the discrimination.

“By the time I graduated, any employer would have been idiotic to admit discrimination openly,” Jackson said. “Usually when it happened, other excuses would be used. Unfortunately, I became well aware of pervasive and sometimes obvious discriminatory hiring practices through some of the people I would represent later as an attorney starting in 1976.”

The NAACP along with many other civil rights leaders challenged many forms of discrimination trying to gain equality.

“The greatest injury to black persons was what such a society teaches one from birth to think of oneself,” Jackson said. “This official stigma of inferiority was so damaging that many of its remnants remain today. When brilliance and excellence is described as not acting black, for instance.”

In 1965, under the Johnson administration, an executive order was issued, “to correct the past and present effects of discrimination.”

It prohibited companies from discriminating against an individual based on race, skin color, gender, religion or nationality.

“I never thought about being president,” Dobbins said. “I knew that wasn’t for me, but I knew once I got to college and graduated, the sky was the limit. When I graduated, I knew I could pursue anything I wanted.”

A few whites received the order with goodwill while many met it with dismay. But blacks saw Johnson’s order as a chance to achieve a dream they never believed would happen.

However, blacks have historically been closed out of equal employment opportunities beginning with their noted inequality derived from slavery, and discrimination still continued.

“But I still think we’re a long ways away from a perfect society. With no doubt, [discrimination] still exists,” Dobbins said. “Certainly a lot has been done to improve job opportunities,”

Even with new opportunities, blacks in the 1970s continued to face barriers to integrating labor unions, private corporations and government agencies.

“I had a friend that felt like he was overlooked,” Dobbins said. “He felt he was overlooked because of his race. The only evidence he had was that he had more experience than the white female candidate.”

Almost four decades later, statistically, blacks have begun to improve on their economic status and their role in American markets and businesses.

In 2000, the black middle class grew substantially. In that same year, 47 percent of blacks owned their homes.

The poverty rate among blacks also saw improvement, dropping from 26.5 percent in 1998 to 24.7 percent in 2004.

Blacks became the second-largest consumer group in America with a combined buying power of more than $892 billion. And they will pump $1.1 trillion annually into the economy by 2012, according to a 2008 article by Reuters.com.

The site also states that in 2002, black-owned businesses accounted for 1.2 million of the 23 million businesses in the U.S.

Even though the nation witnessed major economic success among blacks, more work has to be done to prevent losing ground.

“I think there was some great momentum being gained before the recession,” Dobbins said.

“With all the layoffs and downsizing, African-Americans have been hit pretty hard and are, in a sense, standing still.”

According to the Bureau Labor of Statistics, the October 2008 nationwide unemployment rate for African Americans was 11.1 percent while the average nationwide rate was 6.5 percent.

To rebound from the economic recession, Dobbins said young African-Americans should take this time to evaluate future goals.

“I think this is a perfect time for them to focus and determine their situation,” Dobbins said.

“I think we should begin to find our business niche and look beyond the barber and beauty shops and try to develop our own gaming system and fashion labels. It may seem impossible to start a business but nothing is impossible with a good education.”

Dobbins said that Obama’s presidency has created a push for blacks socially and economically and sparked a movement reminiscent of a time when he was younger.

“I think that he has already sparked a new kind of movement and created a sense of hope and possibility,” he said. “Within the next four years, I believe we’ll see a growth in black businesses and black leaders. Whatever hard time African-Americans are going through, I believe we’ll rise from it as history has shown us.”

Jackson said Obama’s presidency will likely inspire the next generation.

“His [Obama’s] big impact on black youth, particularly males, may give them an example to what is now possible,” he said. I became a lawyer largely because of Thurgood Marshall. If the president can similarly inspire young black males, think of what can be possible.”

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