“If a man doesn’t have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Ferguson is at war with itself. The city is burning, its citizens are outraged, the police have militarized and we, the rest of the country, are wondering how and why a violent confrontation between a police officer and a young man has sparked a national crisis.
Then, last Friday, a story came out that offered some insight.
According to the CBS Evening News, unemployment for young Black men in Ferguson is nearly 50%. One out of every two young men of color in the city has no work; no way to support themselves or their families; and none of the dignity, economic equality, or independence that comes from employment.
When we talk about unemployment as a nation, we talk about the financial impacts: slumping industries, a receding GDP, an increase in poverty. But unemployment causes more than financial hardship; it causes a terrible, aggressive form of social decay. Without the hope of prosperity, how can people hope for justice? Without the self esteem that comes from work, how can people aspire to better lives?
Chronic unemployment and the poverty that comes with it is toxic to the American ideals of equality and freedom. And when unemployment endures, we should expect nothing less from Americans suffering under that kind of economic oppression than revolt.
To restore peace in Ferguson, we must restore opportunity. The young men there are Ready, Willing & Able to work; not only that, they’re asking us, right on the evening news, for the chance to work.
It is time for us as a nation to stop wondering why and how Ferguson erupted in violence. While Michael Brown’s death was surely the spark which ignited the city, the suffocating fumes of unemployment and poverty have been building for years.
Let us come together to give the people of Ferguson the hand up they need, the prosperity they hope for, and the opportunity they deserve. No city will go to war with itself when everyone has the dignity and security of work.